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Principles of Sanctification

The first step in our growth in holiness is to reckon or count as true what is in deed, true. God has taken us out of Adam and has joined us to Jesus Christ. We have been transferred from the reign of death to the kingdom of God. The apostle Paul has given us one easy to understand and easy to apply principle that says, “Count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus” (Romans 6:11, NIV). “Even so consider yourselves to be dead to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus” (Romans 6:11, NASB 1995).

Dead to sin

The basic fact in the mind of Paul is the believer having died to sin. It is the identity of the believer; he has died to sin. He cannot live in sin.

This is the first exhortation in the book of Romans. We really are dead to sin and alive to God. It refers to a past event; because we have died to sin, we are to count, consider, reckon, constantly be counting upon this fact. Since this is true about us we are transformed by the renewing of our mind (Rom. 12:1-2). What you focus your mind on will determine in a great manner what you will become as a Christian. Use your mind as an instrument of righteousness instead of a carnal mindset.

Paul is saying this is who you are “in Christ.” Be what you are to the glory of God. Don’t try being who you are not; that is hypocritical. Go ahead and reckon, count on, or calculate on the great fact of who you are “in Christ.”

Paul applies the great truth to our dealing with sin. “Reckon” is in the imperative position. We are not commanded to become dead to sin and live to God. We are to welcome the facts and reckon on what was obtained by virtue of our vital union with Christ. Being “dead to sin” is the result of the once-for-all decisive event of having died to sin by union with Christ in the efficacy of His death.  

The death and resurrection of Christ has eternally changed our position with God and we therefore should live in harmony with that new position with Him.

The present tense in the Greek and the context points to a continuing process. This is a reality that goes on throughout the Christian life. It is a fact and it changes not.

The apostle Paul is stressing that the believer is to take seriously his death with Christ (Rom. 6:8) and Christ’s death to sin (Rom. 6:10). Since Christ died to sin and since the believer is dead with Christ, the believer is dead to sin and is to recognize the fact of that death.

Paul says the believer is to count himself as dead to it. He feels temptation and sometimes he sins. The sin of the believer is quite out of character. He has been set free. He is like dead person. Where sin is concerned he is among the dead. Just like the dead person he has been delivered from its dominion. Death is permanent. Once united to Christ he must count himself as dead to the sin forever.

Alive to God

The Christian is to reckon also that he is alive to God. His life has now taken on a different direction; it is directed to the service of God.

The believer is “in Christ” denoting a living relationship that unites him to his Lord. We have an intimate relationship with our Savior. It is only as we are “in Christ” that we can live to God. God always sees the believer “in Christ.”

Because of this great fact Paul writes, “Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its lusts, and do not go on presenting the members of your body to sin as instruments of unrighteousness; but present yourselves to God as those alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness to God. For sin shall not be master over you, for you are not under law but under grace” (Romans 6:12-14, NASB 1995). 

Every mature Christian struggles with sin every day (1 John 1:8-10; 2:1-2). The more serious you are about your spiritual life the more sensitive you are to the presence of sin in your life. We are in a spiritual war and will be until we see Jesus face to face in heaven. It is our responsibility as believers to fight against sin. It is easy to yield our bodies to the sinful nature, but we have a choice. We live in these bodies of flesh, but we are also “in Christ.” The “new man” or new person in Christ will always abhor sin and long for righteousness.

Sin is still a force to be dealt with in the Christian life. It has its hold on us through our physical bodies. The struggle with sin is from within. It can control our bodies if we yield to it. I can become a slave to the desires of the flesh. It is possible for us to offer our bodies to sin as instruments of wickedness, but we do not have to.

The Holy Spirit works to produce the holy character of Christ in the believer. “Do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its evil desires” (Rom. 6:12). We do not have to yield to the reign of sin in our bodies. There is now a new principle at work in us because we are joined to Christ. “Christ in you, the hope of glory.” We have His life and power available to us. Jesus told His disciples, “I in you, and you in Me.” That is the secret and the principle for living above sin. We do not have to yield our bodies to sin. We are no longer slaves to sin.

When the apostle Paul said, “Do not offer” (Rom. 6:13) he is pointing to an end of an activity. “Do not keep on presenting your members to sin.” “Let not sin reign” is the imperative (Rom. 6:12). Sin does not have dominion over the believer; therefore do not let it reign.

Moreover, it is not all negative with Paul. He places the stress on the new life in Christ. We can now offer our bodies as instruments of righteousness. “Once and for all present yourselves to God” (v. 13).

Now that you know who you are “in Christ,” go ahead and act accordingly.

The believer has “died to sin,” but he is not dead; he is alive in Christ. Present “your members” to God “as instruments of righteousness.” Now that you belong to God use your body for God’s purposes and glory.

Believers are not slaves to sin, the flesh and the devil! Jesus Christ is your Master. We are to present ourselves to God as people who have risen from the dead. We are to present ourselves and our members in a once for all commitment to Him.

One of the things I have found so beneficial in my personal growth and in helping other believers is to make a once-for-all commitment of your life to Christ and then to begin each day with a renewed commitment of that day to Him. “Lord Jesus I commit this day to you. Here is my life; take it and live Your live in and through me. I make myself available to You to do as you please in and through me this day. In Jesus name I pray.”

Key Scriptures

Romans 6:1-25; 12:1-2; 

Abiding Principles and Practical Applications

1. What you focus your mind on will determine in a great manner what you will become as a Christian.

2. The believer has a new identity. He has died to sin and can no longer live in sin. He is alive in Christ.

3. Count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus.

4. Use your mind and body as an instrument of righteousness.

5. Realize your position in Christ and act accordingly.

For Further Study

Romans 7:14-8:4 A Saint’s Struggle with Sin
Romans 6 The Christian's Identity with Christ 
Vital Union in Jesus Christ
Ephesians 2:10 God's Masterpiece
Galatians 2:20 Our Vital Union of Faith in Christ
Romans 6:1-14 Free at Last
Romans 8:17-28 The Groan Before the Glory Great Assurance in time ...

Message by Wil Pounds and all content on this page (c) 2005 by Wil Pounds. Anyone is free to use this material and distribute it, but it may not be sold under any circumstances whatsoever without the author's written consent. Scripture quotations from the New American Standard Bible (c) 1973, and 1995 Update by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission. 

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