Joe: Portrait of an American Christian
March 6, 2012, 3:33 pm
Filed under: Law/Gospel Distinction, Lordship Salvation

by David Bishop

Joe is of the opinion that Christ’s death did more than secure eternal salvation and faith for His people.   Joe is of the opinion that Christ’s death also delivered His people from the influence of sin in their behavior.  As Joe explains it:  “our old sin-loving nature was buried with Christ, and in His resurrection we were raised with Christ, new creatures with the Spirit-powered ability to not sin.” 

Joe is not alone in his thinking.  Millions agree with Joe.   Heck, I used to agree with Joe.  I know many brothers and sisters in Christ who also once believed it.  Joe doubts.  He doubts that he’s really going to be saved at the last day.  He should doubt.  But not because he sins.

Joe doubts.  He tries to deal with his doubt by altering his behavior in such a way that it will appear he is sinning less.  And who knows, maybe he is really sinning less.  This won’t change anything for him though when that last day finally does come.

The problem with Jim’s reasoning is that it stems from the thought that people who are dead to sins are also a people who are dying to sins.  In other words, Joe’s idea that Christ died to free His people now from the experience of sin perverts Scripture’s acid test of faith in the Christ.  Joe’s assertion plucks the gospel from the realm of the forensic and plants it down into the realm of the experiential, so that like the Lordship Salvationist, Joe concludes that if I am not actively resisting sin and getting busy with living an ethically moral life, then I cannot possibly be a Christian.  Justification by faith becomes justification by sight.   In Jim’s view, justification is contingent on a person’s behavior rather than the free and gracious imputation to Christ’s righteousness to their account.

Romans 6:
5 For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his. 6 We know that our old self was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin. 7 For one who has died has been set free from sin. 8 Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. 9 We know that Christ, being raised from the dead, will never die again; death no longer has dominion over him. 10 For the death he died he died to sin, once for all, but the life he lives he lives to God. 11 So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus. 12 Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, to make you obey its passions. 13 Do not present your members to sin as instruments for unrighteousness, but present yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life, and your members to God as instruments for righteousness. 14 For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace.

This may sound rather obvious, but allow me to point it out anyway.   Christ did not die to the influence of sin.  He was never influenced by sin to begin with!   He did not have a sin nature, nor did He sin His way to the cross.  He did not go to the cross having experienced sin from the viewpoint of a sinner.  Calvary knows nothing of sin by way of experience, other than the fact that Christ had been sinned against.  Christ died ignorant of what it feels like to break God’s law.  Says the apostle right here in Romans 6, verse 5, Christ’s people are united to Him in a death LIKE HIS.   Well, if Christ’s death was not death to the experience of sin, then what was it death to?  His death was a death to the punishment for sin.


2 Corinthians 5:21 For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.

God imputed all the sins of His elect to Christ at the cross.  He reckoned them to Christ, in other words.  He credited them to Christ’s account.  Christ then died for His people, in His people’s place.  He took the punishment for their sins to Himself.  Says the apostle, this death He will never die again. Why?  Because He forever perfectly and completely satisfied God’s wrath for these sins.


9 For we know that since Christ was raised from the dead, he cannot die again; death no longer has mastery over him.

I am united to Him, says the apostle, IN A DEATH LIKE HIS.   In other words, as Christ can never again be punished for the sins God had imputed to Him, so neither can I be punished for my sins.  Why?  Because Christ has satisfied that punishment.  He has died the death that my sins have and will earn.  I will never be punished for my sins!


Hebrews 10:

11 And every priest stands daily at his service, offering repeatedly the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins. 12 But when Christ had offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God, 13 waiting from that time until his enemies should be made a footstool for his feet. 14 For by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified.

The apostle continues in verse 11.   In the same way, count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus.

In the same way?  What way?  In the way verses 9 and 10 explain.  In the way, or for the same reason, that Christ cannot die again.  For the same reason that death no longer has mastery over Him.  Count yourselves dead to sin, in other words, for the same reason God counts Christ as dead to sin – because Christ has satisfied the death!

Because you agree with God that Christ has satisfied the punishment of death for your sins, count yourselves therefore unable to be punished with death for your sins.

It is within the context of this counting that the apostle instructs us to not present our members to sin as instruments for unrighteousness, but instead to present ourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life, and our members to God as instruments for righteousness.  Apart from the counting, these instructions become law used by the legalist in an attempt to sooth doubt.   Within the confines of the counting however, they are the loving, gracious directives of a glorious God.   The counting is impossible apart from faith in the Christ of the one, true forensic gospel.

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