What is it that has happened to those who have come to believe in Jesus? What is the common, widely shared implications for life for those who have trusted in Jesus as their Savior?
It seems that one of the typical answers to such questions is simply this: Jesus died for my sins so that I can be forgiven and go to heaven when I die. Maybe not that exact phrase, but something like it is what you will probably hear in reply. And, of course, there is truth in that statement.
In speaking to Cornelius, a God-fearer that the Spirit was drawing to faith, Peter spoke of Jesus saying: “Of Him all the prophets bear witness that through His name everyone who believe in Him receives forgiveness of sins” (Acts 10:43). In his letter to the Ephesians, Paul similarly affirmed: “In [Jesus] we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of His grace (Ephesians 1:7).
But as we continue to read and live in the Scriptures, is that what we are told is the full extent of Jesus’ saving work? As significant as forgiveness is, is that the whole of it? It would seem not. There appears to be more . . . much more.
In unpacking the fullness of Jesus’ work on behalf of those who have come to trust Him, Paul describes the efficacious result of His work as recorded in Romans 6:1–10:
What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin so that grace may increase? May it never be! How shall we who died to sin still live in it? Or do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus have been baptized into His death? Therefore we have been buried with Him through baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life. For if we have become united with Him in the likeness of His death, certainly we shall also be in the likeness of His resurrection, knowing this, that our old self was crucified with Him, in order that our body of sin might be done away with, so that we would no longer be slaves to sin; for he who has died is freed from sin.
Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with Him, knowing that Christ, having been raised from the dead, is never to die again; death no longer is master over Him. For the death that He died, He died to sin once for all; but the life that He lives, He lives to God. Even so consider yourselves to be dead to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus.
There is a reality described here that is true for all who believe. By union to Christ Jesus through faith, something radical has happened–something that, while including forgiveness, takes us far beyond that.
Those who believe in Jesus have died to sin. Those who believe have been united to Him in His life. Those who believe can now walk in newness of life. Those who believe have had their old self crucified. Those who believe are to consider–as the new reality–that they are dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus.
That raises another, a different, question. Am I living in the reality of the new life I share in because of what Jesus has done?
In writing that we must “consider” ourselves dead to sin, he doesn’t use a word that means to wish that it were so, hope that one day that will happen, or daydream about what life would be like if such a thing should ever happen. “Consider” means to have a settled determination to live as this is true because it is. Paul intends for believers to live in this new reality–to see ourselves dead to one way of life and alive to an entirely different way of life.
That’s either true or it’s not. Either Jesus accomplished all that’s needed for our lives to be lived out of a radically different reality or we’re still waiting for Him to do something more. But, if all that Paul says is true, we should live in it.