Dead to Sin: Alive to God
© 2021, C. O. Bishop
1st Peter 2:21-25 (read it!); Romans 6:1-14; Galatians 2:16-21
We have been working our way through 1st Peter, and we see in 2:21 that we are to take Jesus as our example:
21 For even hereunto were ye called: because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that ye should follow his steps:
Whole books have been written about what it may mean to “Follow his steps:” I am not going to spend a lot of time on the subject, but I do think we should at least look at this particular context to see what is in focus, here:
In the first place, the subject at hand was the concept of “suffering for doing rightly.” Jesus certainly did nothing but good, righteous works, showing compassion and kindness to the poor, and holding the privileged and wicked religious leaders accountable for their sin. This passage is not suggesting that we all quit our jobs, and walk around attempting to imitate Jesus in His earthly ministry: I have no gift of healing, nor of any sort of miraculous signs. So I can’t imitate that portion. But, I can seek to imitate His righteousness, and I can strive to learn to use His Word, so that I can offer the same Hope He offered. And that is our actual assignment, according to Matthew 28:19, 20!
So: What did His Example Look Like?
22 Who did no sin, neither was guile found in his mouth: 23 Who, when he was reviled, reviled not again; when he suffered, he threatened not; but committed himself to him that judgeth righteously:
We can at least see (v. 23) that we are to trust God for justice, not other humans: they are flawed individuals just as we are. We can also see (v.22,) obviously, that we are especially to abandon the kinds of wrong behavior that could get us in trouble with civil law, because there is no glory to God in our suffering punishment for unrighteous deeds. Dishonesty and a vengeful, sharp tongue are both mentioned as things Jesus did not commit…not just overt sins.
But for believers, it goes further, as Jesus judges the hearts, not just the outward actions. There are people today who teach that “unless there is an outward action, it isn’t sin.” Sorry…every man knows what it is to sin in his heart. And, it is interesting to note that the specific sin Paul addressed in Romans 7 was covetousness! (What part of your body do we use to commit Covetousness?) It is specifically a sin of the heart and mind!
So, the One before whom we stand is not just giving us an outward “inspection” as it were, but literally sees through us! If it were not for His great Love and Compassion toward us, there is not a one of us who could stand before his gaze at all! Lamentations 3:22, 23 says, “22 It is of the Lord’s mercies that we are not consumed, because his compassions fail not. 23 They are new every morning: great is thy faithfulness.”
I can rejoice in my perfect standing before Him, rather than fearing His judgment, only because of my permanent position in Him which has been secured by His Grace, through faith! And, because I have that position in Him, secured forever, I not only am commanded, now, to walk with Him, but I am confident that it can be done, because His Holy Spirit now lives in me!
Peter goes on to remind us how that happened, and what the intended results are to be:
24 Who his own self bare our sins in his own body on the tree, that we, being dead to sins, should live unto righteousness: by whose stripes ye were healed.
This last phrase, “… by whose stripes ye were healed” is obviously a quote from Isaiah 53. But the conclusion is strictly New Testament: We could not be “dead to sin” in the Old Testament. However, according to this verse, and Romans chapter six and Galatians chapter 2, we believers of the Church Age truly are dead to sin, as we died with Christ; and the result is supposed to be that because we are alive to Righteousness and alive to God, we should live for God.
Let’s take a look at Romans Chapter 6:
1 What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound? 2 God forbid. How shall we, that are dead to sin, live any longer therein?
This is a clear statement that believers are dead to sin! So we need to start thinking about what that means: It certainly does not mean that it is impossible for us to sin.
3 Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into his death? 4 Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.
5 For if we have been planted together in the likeness of his death, we shall be also in the likeness of his resurrection:
Here is another point to consider: The above three verses have nothing to do with water! They all refer to the one REAL baptism, which was accomplished by the Holy Spirit at the moment of rebirth, when He placed us into (baptized us into) the Body of Christ! (1st Corinthians 12:13)Water baptism is only an outward “picture” of the real, inward change that has already happened. Anyone can be baptized in water, whether they are a believer or not. But, the Holy Spirit never makes a mistake, and unbelievers have never been “Baptized into the Body of Christ!”
What is baptism anyway? As far as the meaning of the word, it literally means to “dip.” When Jesus “dipped the sop in the cup” and handed it to Judas, the word, there, for “dip,” is “bapto.”
But what does Baptism signify? We could get a clue from how the word is still used today, in dyeing cloth: fabric is “dipped” in the dye, in order to permanently associate it with (or identify it with) that color dye-pot. Jesus was baptized by John to identify Himself with the message John was preaching: “The Gospel of the Kingdom.” He was the King! He was the One regarding whom John said, “He who comes after me is greater than I!”
We have been baptized into Christ by the Holy Spirit, so that we are identified with Him in His death and burial and His new, resurrected life. We are dead with Him. Please bear in mind that “death” always refers to some kind of “separation.” To be “physically dead” means that one’s physical body is separated from one’s non-physical self: the soul and the spirit. To be “spiritually dead,” (as we all were before our new birth) meant that we were spiritually separated from God; and, in fact, that we were His enemies! Romans 5:10 tells us that, whether we knew it or not, we were enemies of God.
There is an aspect of “spiritual death” which can occur in a believer’s life, too: when we choose to sin, we are separated from fellowship with God; and functionally, we are “dead,” again. We have not changed our position, but our condition has become bad: we need His cleansing through confession. (1st John 1:6-9) But a believer—even in terrible condition—remains God’s Child and will eventually be going home. If an unbeliever remains spiritually dead, never having received the Lord Jesus as Savior, then eventually, the Eternal Death (called “the Second Death”) is all that is left for them. (Revelation 20:14)
But! We are not talking about any of those forms of death, here! Here he says that we are dead to sin! So, keeping in mind that “death” has to correlate with some kind of “separation,” what can it mean to be “dead to Sin?”
What does it mean to be “Dead to Sin?”
6Knowing this, that our old man is crucified with him, that the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin. 7 For he that is dead is freed from sin.
In what way have I been separated from Sin? Take a quick look at Romans 7:7-17. Paul goes through a lengthy argument in the entire chapter, but an important conclusion for us to understand is in verse 17: he says that the sin is “…no longer I, but Sin that dwelleth in me!”
Is Paul attempting to “escape guilt” by denying that he was the one who sinned? No, because back in verse 14, he confesses that “…the Law is Holy, but I am Carnal, sold under sin!”
The issue is that, when Paul was born again, he acquired a new nature! And that New nature is the only nature God is willing to recognize! In fact, over in Romans 8:7, Paul affirms that the old sin nature cannot be healed! It cannot be brought into subjection to God. So, the new birth, and the new nature is the only hope for a sinner. And that new nature is the “new You!” God sees you (the new nature) as His holy child. He recognizes that we still have our old nature, and that it is incorrigibly wicked. So He considers it to be dead, and calls us to do the same: He calls to us, as in the Song of Solomon, “Come away with me my love!” And Romans 6 says we no longer have to sin!
8 Now if we be dead with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with him: 9 Knowing that Christ being raised from the dead dieth no more; death hath no more dominion over him. 10 For in that he died, he died unto sin once: but in that he liveth, he liveth unto God.
God says that, just like Jesus, we have been set free! But unlike Jesus, who never had a sin nature, we have choices to make, moment by moment, as to whether we will heed the call and walk with Jesus. So he calls us to see life through His eyes: to see ourselves as dead to sin; no longer under its authority.
11 Likewise reckon ye also yourselves to be dead indeed unto sin, but alive unto God through Jesus Christ our Lord.
And, on the basis of that faith, He calls us to turn away from temptation and not yield ourselves to the lure of sin. Rather, we are called to yield to God’s Holy Spirit, and become tools of righteousness in His hands.
12 Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, that ye should obey it in the lusts thereof.
13 Neither yield ye your members as instruments of unrighteousness unto sin: but yield yourselves unto God, as those that are alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness unto God.
14 For sin shall not have dominion over you: for ye are not under the law, but under grace.
The final word, there, is that we are not under Law, but under Grace. Why is that important? Because the first thing we tend to do is to make a “list” in our minds of “all the things we will not do,” and suppose that if we can “obey the rules” we will be walking with Jesus. This thought-pattern totally misses the point! The reverse is true: if we learn to walk with Jesus, walking in the Spirit, we will “obey the rules,” if you want to call it that! Paul said in Galatians 5:16, “Walk in the Spirit and ye shall not fulfil the lusts of the Flesh.”
Further, he says that, even as believers, our righteousness is not established by obedience to the Law, but by our position in Christ. Look at Galatians 2:16-21.
16 Knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Jesus Christ, that we might be justified by the faith of Christ, and not by the works of the law: for by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified. 17 But if, while we seek to be justified by Christ, we ourselves also are found sinners, is therefore Christ the minister of sin? God forbid. 18 For if I build again the things which I destroyed, I make myself a transgressor. 19 For I through the law am dead to the law, that I might live unto God.
20 I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me. 21 I do not frustrate the grace of God: for if righteousness come by the law, then Christ is dead in vain.
We have been permanently separated from our old sin nature, in God’s eyes, so that our new nature can freely respond to God. He no longer holds us guilty of our sins, even though, as saved sinners, we still sin! We are His saints, now, and that is the only way He sees us! It is our daily choice to either walk with Him and leave sin behind, or choose to go our own way, and quickly find ourselves back in sin’s grip. Turn back to 1st Peter 2:25, please.
25 For ye were as sheep going astray; but are now returned unto the Shepherd and Bishop of your souls.
This is another passage that reminds us that this letter was originally to Jewish Christians: the gentiles were very seldom referred to as “sheep;” but the “lost sheep of Israel” was a common theme. One time, only, in John 10:16, Jesus said “16 And other sheep I have, which are not of this fold: them also I must bring, and they shall hear my voice; and there shall be one fold, and one shepherd.” I believe that verse is talking about Gentiles who would eventually respond in faith. That verse is about you and me!
In the Church Age, there is truly one fold and One Shepherd. Jews who strayed from the God of Israel were considered “the lost sheep” of Israel. Gentiles were simply considered foreigners: heathens! In fact, the word “gentile” means “heathen.” So these Jews who had once been the “lost sheep” of Israel had been returned to the Shepherd and the “Overseer” or “Bishop” of their souls. The word translated “Bishop” is episkopos, and it means “supervisor” or “overseer.”
We gentiles have been born into the family of God, and He truly is the Shepherd and the Bishop of our souls as well, but we were not the lost sheep of Israel. We did not “wander away from God.” In fact, regarding the lost, in Matthew 7:23, Jesus said “Depart from me, ye workers of iniquity: I never knew you!” He does not say, “Well, I once knew you, but you just wandered off and got lost! (Too bad!”) No, He says he never knew them.
This is probably a good time to see what He says about those of us who have become His sheep: John 10:27, 28 says, “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me, and I give unto them Eternal Life, and they shall never perish.” Also, in John 6:39, he said “this is my Father’s will who sent me, that of all He has given me I should lose nothing, but should raise it up again at the last day.” In both of these passages, Jesus says that He will keep you for eternity! You will never be a “lost sheep!” You can never become lost again!
So how does all of this tie into 1st Peter 2:21-25? Remember that Jesus “suffered for doing rightly:” that is the immediate context, here. But it also says that he died so that we could live unto righteousness.
And that is what this passage has all been pointing at! If we can learn our position in Christ; “Finally free to walk with Him, and finally equipped to do His will,” then we can “live unto righteousness,” and be the Ambassadors He has called us to be.
Jesus walked in humility, living in physical poverty. We are sent out as redeemed and healed “beggars,” sharing with other beggars where to find free food, free clothing, free healing, and eternal life, freely given! Jesus did not “lord it over” anyone, and he spoke sternly only to the false teachers and the failed leaders of Israel. We are also sent in humility, to reach out with the Light and Love and Grace and Mercy of Christ, in a dark and dying world.
Lord Jesus, teach us to walk with you and to live in the newness of life, so that we may represent you in this lost world.