Romans 6:8–10, “8 Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. 9 We know that Christ, being raised from the dead, will never die again; death no longer has dominion over him. 10 For the death he died he died to sin, once for all, but the life he lives he lives to God.”
God promises in the sign of baptism to regenerate His people, and the fulfillment of this promise occurs when He changes our hearts and unites us to His Son by faith alone (Rom. 6:1–4). This puts us in a new relationship to sin. In Adam, we made sin our “rightful” master, willingly rejecting the Lord’s authority for the reign of transgression. God allowed sin to have such sovereignty, but He purposed for it to last only as long as we were alive unto sin. Christ took our sin upon Himself at Calvary, dying to it, for it was God’s purpose to exhaust His wrath against sin on the cross, sovereignly wielding the authority death was given over humanity in order to exhaust death’s authority over His people. When Jesus died, sin, along with its consequence—death—lost any “proper” claim it had over the Savior and all who are united to Him (3:21–4:25; 6:5–7).
Those united to Christ in His death by faith alone are also united to Him as He rose from the dead by the power of the Spirit to eternal, glorified life. This is the point of today’s passage, which tells us plainly that if we are in Christ by faith alone, death does not have dominion over us any longer (6:8–10). Any delegated authority that sin and death had over us under the overarching sovereignty of God has been lost. We are under no obligation to sin if we trust in Jesus. Before Christ, we were bound to sin. We had to follow this evil master and could make no other choice, having decided in Adam that we would flee God’s beneficent rule for evil’s tyranny. But those days are past (1 Peter 4:3). We are in Christ and dead to sin but alive unto righteousness. As new creations, we are compelled to follow our new Master, our most holy Creator. Sin and death lost their rightful claim over us. We are dead to these masters but alive to God, and like Christ we can never come under their power again (Rom. 6:8–10). Of course, Jesus was never under sin in the sense of being forced to do evil, for He never sinned. The only “rights” that sin had over Jesus were by way of the imputation of our sins to Him (2 Cor. 5:21). His death, because it was the vehicle by which God punished our sin, destroyed our sin and thus our former master. Our legal obligation to follow sin’s way ended, but so too did the existential power sin has on our hearts and lives.
In other words, anyone who is in Christ does not have to sin. This is not to proclaim perfectionism, for sin is still present and we will not be perfected until we are in glory. But sin’s power has been broken. We are alive unto God and benefit from Jesus’ resurrected life.
We must live in the power of what Christ has done. Christ has put sin’s power to death, so we are to mortify our remaining sin, denying ourselves to serve God. And because we died to sin decisively in Jesus, we can truly grow in sanctification. John Calvin writes that though we continually die to sin throughout our lives, “we are yet said properly to die only once … when Christ, reconciling us by his blood to the Father, regenerates us at the same time by the power of his Spirit.”