A Commentary by John Stott
Romans 6:11. (vi). We count ourselves dead to sin but alive to God.
We could put it this way. If Christ’s death was a death to sin (which it was), and if his resurrection was a resurrection to God (which it was), and if by faith-baptism we have been united to Christ in his death and resurrection (which we have been), then we ourselves have died to sin and risen to God. We must therefore ‘reckon’ (AV), ‘consider’ (RSV), ‘regard’ (NEB), ‘look upon’ (JBP) or ‘count’ (NIV) ourselves *dead to sin but alive to God in*, or by reason of our union with, *Christ Jesus* (11).
This reckoning is not make-believe. It is not screwing up our faith to believe what we do not believe. We are not to pretend that our old nature has died, when we know perfectly well it has not. Instead we are to realize and remember that our former self did die with Christ, thus putting an end to its career. We are to consider what in fact we are, namely *dead to sin and alive to God* (11), like Christ (10). Once we grasp this, that our old life has ended, with the score settled, the debt paid and the law satisfied, we shall want to have nothing more to do with it.
Let me revert to John Jones. We saw that his life was divided into two halves, his biography into two volumes. Volume 1 ended with the judicial death of his former self; volume 2 opened with his resurrection. He must remember these facts about himself. It is not to pretence that Paul calls him, but to reflection and recollection. He has to keep reminding himself: ‘Volume 1 is long since closed. I am now living in volume 2. It is inconceivable that I should reopen volume 1, as if my death and resurrection with Christ had never taken place’.
Can a married woman live as though she were still single? Well, yes, I suppose she could. It is not impossible. But let her remember who she is. Let her feel her wedding ring, the symbol of her new life of union with her husband, and she will want to live accordingly. Can born-again Christians live as though they were still in their sins? Well, yes, I suppose they could, at least for a while. It is not impossible. But let them remember who they are. Let them recall their baptism, the symbol of their new life of union with Christ, and they will want to live accordingly.’
So the major secret of holy living is in the mind. It is in knowing (6) that our former self was crucified with Christ, in knowing (3) that baptism into Christ is baptism into his death and resurrection, and in considering (11, RSV) that through Christ we are dead to sin and alive to God. We are to recall, to ponder, to grasp, to register these truths until they are so integral to our mindset that a return to the old life is unthinkable. Regenerate Christians should no more contemplate a return to unregenerate living than adults to their childhood, married people to their singleness or discharged prisoners to their prison cell. For our union with Jesus Christ has severed us from the old life and committed us to the new. Our baptism stands between the two like a door between two rooms, closing on the one and opening into the other. We have died, and we have risen. How can we possibly live again in what we have died to?
Tomorrow Romans 6: 12-14. (vii) We must therefore offer ourselves to God.
The John Stott Bible Study is taken from The Message of Romans: Christ the Controversialist. The Bible Speaks Today John Stott. Used by permission of Inter-Varsity Press UK, Nottingham. All rights reserved.