Positional Sanctification - Page 5 of 5 (series: Lessons on Romans)
by John Lowe
11 Likewise you also, reckon yourselves to be dead indeed to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Likewise you also, reckon yourselves. Knowing what has been accomplished on our behalf at Calvary is not in itself sanctification. It is only the first principle in the process of sanctification. Paul couples to that principle a second one—Likewise reckon ye also yourselves to be dead indeed unto sin, but alive unto God.
The word “reckon” means that we know something is true, and then, moment by moment, day by day, we consider it to be true, and we live like we know it’s true. We take as solid truth what God has promised.
“This ‘reckoning’ is no vain experience but one which is morally fruitful, because the Holy Spirit has come to make effective in believers what Christ has done for them, and to enable them to become in daily experience, as far as may be in the present conditions of mortality, what they already are ‘in Christ’ and what they will fully be in the resurrection life” (F. F. Bruce, The Epistle of Paul to the Romans, p. 139).
To “reckon” here means to accept what God says about us as true. Ruth Paxson writes: “It means believing what God says in Romans 6:6 and knowing it as a fact in one’s own personal salvation. This demands a definite act of faith, which results in a fixed attitude toward “the old man.” We will see him where God sees him—on the Cross, put to death with Christ. Faith will operate continuously to keep him where grace placed him. This involves us very deeply, for it means that our hearty consent has been given to God’s condemnation of and judgment upon that old “I” as altogether unworthy to live and as wholly stripped of any further claims upon us. The first step in a walk of practical holiness is this reckoning upon the crucifixion of “the old man.”
To be dead indeed to sin. The Greek word for “dead” is nekros. Here it describes the permanent spiritual condition of believers in relation to sin. The condition is not merely freedom from the penalty for sin; rather it amounts to the believer’s whole attitude toward sin. Whenever the old master claims our service, we are to reckon ourselves corpses. However, Paul does not suggest that the motivations to sin will no longer lead us to sinning, because we have the bad experience of responding to temptations. The fact that we must continue to reckon ourselves dead to sin, shows that the possibility of sinning is always there. One day Augustine was accosted by a woman who had been his mistress before his conversion. When he turned and walked away quickly, she called after him, “Augustine, it’s me! It’s me!” Quickening his pace, he called back over his shoulder, “Yes, I know, but it’s no longer me!” What he meant was that he was dead to sin and alive to God. A dead man has nothing to do with immorality, lying, cheating, gossiping, or any other sin.
But alive to God in Christ Jesus our Lord. The phrase “in Christ Jesus” expresses the believer’s spiritual and eternal position due to his identification with Christ. And because of our position we are called to holiness, worship, prayer, service, and fruitbearing. No man can be alive to God, unless he is in Christ Jesus.
This verse sums up the complete first section of this chapter. It describes the significance of baptism, and it makes a case against the preposterous idea of continuing in sin. When we daily count ourselves to be dead to the penalty of sin and alive unto God, there will be no temptation to continue in sin, because we will refuse that temptation out of thankfulness to God for counting us and treating us as if we were righteous. By God’s grace and power, we who are saved have been born again, and we actually possess a new life in God; because it’s God’s own life, we have been partakers of “divine nature.”
12 Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body, that you should obey it in its lusts.
Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body. The body is identified as being mortal, not simply because it is certain to be subjected to death, but because it is the organ in and through which sin carries on its death-producing activities. We saw in 6:6 that our old man was crucified so that sin as a reigning tyrant might be knocked out, and so that we would no longer be the helpless captives of sin. Now, due to our position in Christ, Paul is urging us not let sin reign in our mortal bodies (like it did before we were saved) by obeying its evil desires. When sin reigns in people’s lives, and bodies, they obey its evil desires. Sin enslaves making a person subject to his own desires. At Calvary the reign of sin was ended by death.
That you should obey it in its lusts. The word “lusts,” is used for a good desire only in two places in scripture. Everywhere else it is used in a bad sense. Here it refers to those evil desires which are ready to express themselves in bodily activity. They are “the desires of the flesh”—“But I say, walk by the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh…And they that are of Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with the passions and the lusts thereof” (Gal. 5:16, 24)—a phrase which describes the inner emotions of the soul, and the natural tendency to do evil. Such lusts are evil if they are inconsistent with the will of God. Lust is not only evil; it is dangerous, for several reasons:
1. Lust can destroy any normal desire. Craving or lusting is more than inappropriate sexual desire. It is an unnatural or greedy desire for anything (sports, knowledge, possessions, influence over others).
2. Lust can lead to bad decision making. Sampson is a good example. He allowed his desire for Delilah to cloud his thinking, and he ended up as a captive of the Philistines, as the result.
3. Lust itself is a sinful behavior. Jesus said that the desire to have sex with someone other than your spouse is mental adultery, and therefore sin.
4. Lust is often used as an excuse for further sin. Some people think that if lustful thoughts are sin, why shouldn’t a person go ahead and do the lustful actions too. There is great potential for harm when lustful thoughts become lustful actions—it causes people to excuse sin, rather than to stop sinning, it destroys marriages, and it is deliberate rebellion against God’s word, and it always hurts someone else in addition to the sinner.