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…”

Most students of Romans 6 agree that “death to sin” means not only legal status but ultimately the death of the sin nature. For them this means that the justified elect are not free yet, even though there is now no condemnation. Lloyd 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 sins was legally transferred by God to Christ.

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 Romans 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 justified 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 law 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 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 those not content with this explanation of Romans 6:14 think that their living is better and more important than Christ’s death? (Or as they say, some soteriological 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 plan on adding to Christ’s 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 being joined (by God’s placing the elect into ) to the death which frees from guilt. Christ’s death is the exodus “accomplishment” which causes the elect to become justified when God imputes that death to them and they cross over from the dominion of sin.

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4 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.

  4. markmcculley Says:

    Where then is boasting? It is excluded. By what kind of law?By one of actions and connections? No, on the contrary, by a law of faith. 28 For we conclude that a man is justified by faith apart from actions

    Now to the one who really does something, pay is not considered as a gift, but as something owed. 5 But to the one who does not act or do anything , but believes on HIM who merely (sola) makes a soteriological declaration about the ungodly becoming righteous in a merely soteriological status before God , the action of Christ’s death is credited for righteousness, even though death is not an achievement and even though Christ’s actions are not our actions.

    To the one who does not act but trusts Him who justifies those who actions are ungodly, Christ’s death is counted by God as their righteousness.”

    Though they were not yet born and had done no actions good or bad-in order that God’s purpose of election would be fulfilled in history , not because of our actions but because of God’s call.

    don’t you know that God does not “save his people in their sins but from their sins” and this does not mean “merely the guilt of their sins” but more more, from the “power of their sins”?

    This infection of nature doth persist, yea in them that are regenerated” (Article 9 of 39)

    Imputation assumes the same of Christians that it assumes of non-believers—they STILL need God COMPLETELY ).

    Is preaching the gospel to Christians to be dismissed as “evangelizing believers from the pulpit?”

    being both justified and sinners is the LAST WORD for all Christians in this age until they are raised up on the LAST DAY

    Infusion, indwelling, Christ now incarnate in us teaches us that now our actions are God’s actions

    John Zahl–“Psychologically, Imputation suggests repentance. Imputation believes in tears and despises false progress-solutions to problems. Imputation is passive and lets the individual cry without offering false hope. Our dreams and plans must COLLAPSE. Melancthon and others were quick to draw lines of separation between justification and sanctification. While justification was understood to be entirely based upon imputation, they assumed that sanctification was a process.

    –Imputation gives you the same church service every Sunday of our life, year in, year out, rain or shine. It is: “Welcome to the atonement (once again)”. There is no graduation, only Christ and Him crucified.

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