2 Certainly not! How shall we who died to sin live any longer in it?
who died [decisively at one point in the past] to sin
The word “died” refers to the point of our salvation that marks the beginning of the Christian life. Christians “died to sin” in principle when they became Christians. God set us free from sin’s power (vv. 18, 22). How can we continue to “live” in something to which we died?
Something decisive happened to the believer when he or she became a Christian. The tense (aorist) indicates something epochal happened to a Christian at the point of salvation. He passed from the epoch of being in Adam to the new epoch of being in Christ. Instead of belonging to the first Adam, he now belongs to the second Adam (federal head), Christ Jesus the Lord. This is a dramatic change. Christians are incorporated into Christ. There is a new realm in which they operate.
This new relationship to Christ is secure. Nothing can overturn it. Neither sin nor death can change it (Ro 8). The death and resurrection of Christ changed the relationship forever.
Christians died to sin in a legal or forensic sense. God calls on the believer to resist sin based on what is already a judicial reality. The believer died with Christ positionally or legally. Paul’s exhortation is not to cease from sin, but is a proclamation that Christians died to sin (indicative mood). The domination of sin has been broken and the believer now walks in newness of life (v. 4), the mastery of the sin capacity is now broken, and we are no long slaves of sin (v. 6). Sin should not reign (v. 12) in a person “in Christ.” Those who have forgiveness also have power over the sin capacity.
“Died” does not mean that sin died but that we died. Christians are no longer dominated by sin because our “old man” (6:6) died. Something so radical happened to the believer when he became a Christian that he is now regenerate. There is a change of control from sin or the old man to a new, regenerate capacity.
This does not mean that the Christian is free from the possibility of sinning. Sin still plagues Christians. When a Christian sins he does it out of character.
Our death in Christ broke the power of the indwelling sin capacity.
Christians died in their relationship to sin. We died not for sin but unto it. If Christ broke our relationship to sin by death, we do not live unto sin. This does not mean that Christians have victory over sin. Paul simply answers the charge of verse one that accepting grace means that you can live as you please. This a federal fact relating to our position “in Christ,” the Second Adam. This federal fact occurred in the past. The issue is not some state we are in.
Co 2:20, Therefore, if you died with Christ from the basic principles of the world, why, as though living in the world, do you subject yourselves to regulations . . .
Co 3:3, For you died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God.
Justification deals with the penalty of sins while sanctification deals with the power of sin. There are three different kinds of sanctification in the Bible:
Positional—what happened to us “in Christ” once for all.
Experiential—what we do about sin in our lives.
Ultimate—we are free from sin forever in eternity.
The way to deal with sin is to apply positional truth to experience. By faith we confess the sin Jesus already dealt with on the cross (1 Jn 1:9).