In What Way Did Jesus Cross Over From the Dominion of Sin?

Romans 6:7–“For one who has died has been freed from sin. Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that Christ being raised from the dead will never die again; death no longer has dominion over him. For the death He died to sin He died to sin once for all…”

M Loyd Jones and Tim Keller agree that “death to sin” means not only legal status but ultimately the death of the sin nature. This of course means that the justified elect are not free yet, even though there is now no condemnation. Loyd Jones warns us that any other reading (Haldane’s for example) of Romans 6 is hasty triumphalism and will cut the moral nerve which moves on to more than “justified from sin”.

Christ was never under the power of sin in the sense of being unable not to sin. Christ was always unable to sin. The only way Christ was ever under the power of sin is by being under the guilt of sin. The guilt of the elect’s sin was legally transferred by God to Christ.

So Christ’s death to sin was death to the guilt of sin, and since the elect are united with a death like his, the death of the elect is also a death to the guilt of sin. And this is what Romans 6:7 teaches: “For one who has died has been justified from sin.”

Yet many commentators tell us that “set free from sin” must mean the elect’s sanctification by the Spirit so that the justified elect cannot habitually sin (or that their new nature cannot sin) They tell us that justification was in chapter five and that chapter six must be about something more if it’s to be a real answer to the question “why not sin?”.

But Christ was never under the power of habitual sin or any sin, and the death of the elect is like His death.

Romans 6:10, “For the death He died He died to sin.” When the elect consider themselves dead to sin and alive to God, they think of themselves as dead to the guilt of sin. Death to the guilt of sin means legal life before God.

Romans 6:14 does not say, For sin shall not be your master, because the Holy Spirit has changed you so that you cannot habitually sin, but only occasionally and always with repentance. Romans 6:14 says, “For sin shall not by your master, because you are not under law but under grace.”

I have no desire to talk now about which law we were under and which we were not. Nor do I have any interest at this point in discussing what is now God’s rule of life for Christians (except to say of course that God does have commandments for Christians.) But to understand the nature of the justifying death of Christ, we must see that being joined to that death means “not being under law”.

Sin not having dominion over the elect simply means the guilt of sin being removed from the elect. Why would anybody not be content with this explanation of Romans 6:14?

Do they think that their living is better and more important than Christ’s death? (Or as they say, some theory or information about Christ’s death). What does Christ’s death do? If Christ’s crossing from death to life does nothing for you unless you add your own kind of crossing to it, then what did Christ’s death really do?

If our crossing is our accepting His crossing, then His crossing is not our crossing, and God has not yet joined us to His crossing. We only have a crossing of our own, which we think makes His crossing work.

I agree that Christ also died to purchase every blessing, including the giving of the Spirit and our believing the gospel. But it is not believing which frees the elect from the guilt of sin. It’s being joined (by God’s placing the elect into it) to the death which frees from guilt. Christ’s death is the exodus “accomplishment” which causes the justified elect to cross over from the dominion of sin.

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3 Comments on “In What Way Did Jesus Cross Over From the Dominion of Sin?”

  1. Dan Says:

    This is a great essay Mark! I agree with you 100%.


    Alec Motyer, p 251, From Heaven He Came—Isaiah’s “Behold, my servant shall succeed” matches the great cry, “It is finished (John 19:30) and forces us to ask what “finished” means in John and what “succeed” means in Isaiah. On any “open-ended” view of the atonement–that is, that the work of Christ only made salvation possible rather than actually secured salvation–“finished” only means “started” and “succeed” only means “maybe, at some future date, and contingent on the contributions of others”.

  3. markmcculley Says:

    Tim Keller in a sermon about crossing the Jordan at the Gospel Coalition, taught that Christ’s death makes salvation possible, and the difference depends on how you respond to this possibility. He says that you can be included if your faith “unites” you to Christ’s death. They tell you that grace and Christ’s death has no effect until you believe. But the true gospel does not leave out the offense of election, and explains that God’s love for the elect exists before Christ’s death, and that Christ’s death is what purchased faith for all for whom Christ died. But the Gospel Coalition avoids the offense of denying that the lake of fire will be filled with those for whom Christ died.

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