8 Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with Him,Romans 6:8-11
9 knowing that Christ, having been raised from the dead, is never to die again; death no longer is master over Him.
10 For the death that He died, He died to sin once for all; but the life that He lives, He lives to God.
11 Even so consider yourselves to be dead to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus.
What does it mean to “die to sin?”
This particular passage is not teaching that Jesus died a spiritual death to sin. As in, sin separated Him from God.
Another passage introduced by Paul later in Romans, as well as one from John, will help us better understand this text.:
For what the Law could not do, weak as it was through the flesh, God did: sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and as an offering for sin, He condemned sin in the flesh,Romans 8:3-4
4 so that the requirement of the Law might be fulfilled in us, who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.
And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we saw His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth.John 1:14
And a bonus from Hebrews:
Therefore, since the children share in flesh and blood, He Himself likewise also partook of the same, that through death He might render powerless him who had the power of death, that is, the devil,Hebrews 2:14-15
15 and might free those who through fear of death were subject to slavery all their lives.
So, when Paul speaks of Jesus “dying to sin” this is speaking of Him dying to the world in which He entered. Jesus’s gruesome death on the Cross is a perfect picture of this type of death. This is why Paul used the expression “crucified with Christ” to talk about his own death to the world (Galatians 2:20, 5:24, 6:14).
By “world” I do not mean the physical planet. Thomas Keating offers this wonderful observation on what John means by “world:”
When John says, “Leave the world,” he does not mean the world with its desperate needs that cry out to be served. He means the self-centered projects, programs, demands—rationalized, justified, and even glorified—of security, pleasure, esteem, and power, which hinder our growing up into full human personhood.Thomas Keating (Invitation to Love, Page 15).
So Jesus died to the world of Adam, a world that was built on a lie: “reach out and take the fruit so you can be like God. You will not surely die.”
The very action of reaching out and taking so that one can be like God fails to affirm the original goodness that is present within all creation. Once we begin the process of “reaching out,” we get stuck in a never-ending loop of trying to be like God through our own abilities. This lie brings death.
So, as Paul said in Romans 8 quoted above, Jesus entered into the world, took on the likeness of sinful flesh, and lived a perfect life in order that He could die to that world and offer us a more excellent way through the Spirit.
It may seem impossible to give up this old way of viewing the world, but if we don’t, we are bound to be stuck in the same anxious turmoil that Paul experienced before He died with Christ to the world:
14 For we know that the Law is spiritual, but I am of flesh, sold into bondage to sin.Romans 7:14-24
15 For what I am doing, I do not understand; for I am not practicing what I would like to do, but I am doing the very thing I hate.
16 But if I do the very thing I do not want to do, I agree with the Law, confessing that the Law is good.
17 So now, no longer am I the one doing it, but sin which dwells in me.
18 For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh; for the willing is present in me, but the doing of the good is not.
19 For the good that I want, I do not do, but I practice the very evil that I do not want.
20 But if I am doing the very thing I do not want, I am no longer the one doing it, but sin which dwells in me.
21 I find then the principle that evil is present in me, the one who wants to do good.
22 For I joyfully concur with the law of God in the inner man,
23 but I see a different law in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin which is in my members.
24 Wretched man that I am! Who will set me free from the body of this death?
The answer to Paul’s question is
Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, on the one hand I myself with my mind am serving the law of God, but on the other, with my flesh the law of sin.Romans 7:25-8:1
1 Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.
If there is no condemnation for those in Christ, then what need do we have to listen to the snake’s lie and reach out to be like God? That way only brings death. This does not mean that no action is needed on our part. Instead, our actions are performed as a response to the love of God and not through following a legal demand to earn God’s love.
In describing his own transformation, Paul goes into detail about all the things he had to give up to follow Christ:
4 Although I myself might have confidence even in the flesh. If anyone else has a mind to put confidence in the flesh, I far more:Philippians 3:4-11
5 circumcised the eighth day, of the nation of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; as to the Law, a Pharisee;
6 as to zeal, a persecutor of the church; as to the righteousness which is in the Law, found blameless.
7 But whatever things were gain to me, those things I have counted as loss for the sake of Christ.
8 More than that, I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them but rubbish so that I may gain Christ,
9 and may be found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own derived from the Law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which comes from God on the basis of faith,
10 that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death;
11 in order that I may attain to the resurrection from the dead.
Resurrection for Paul was putting all his faith in God and not in any program of so-called-righteousness.
When we die with Christ, we put to death all of our usual sources of happiness and security: being accepted by our community, the need to be right, legalistic righteousness, and even sinless perfection.
Instead, we understand that knowing Christ is more important than temporary relationships (Matthew 10:34-39), being known by God is better than knowing things about God (1 Corinthians 8:1-3), imputed righteousness is far superior than anything we think we can earn (Romans 4:1-8), and acknowledging that we make mistakes frees us from guilt associated with those mistakes (1 John 1:6-10).
This is what resurrection life looks like!