Genuine Believers Are Dead to Sin but Alive to God

by Mike Ratliff

1 Εἰ οὖν συνηγέρθητε τῷ Χριστῷ, τὰ ἄνω ζητεῖτε, οὗ ὁ Χριστός ἐστιν ἐν δεξιᾷ τοῦ θεοῦ καθήμενος· Colossians 3:1 (NA28)

1 If, therefore, you were raised with Christ, seek the things above where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Colossians 3:1 (translated from the NA28 Greek text)

One of the most unpopular Christian teachings is summed up in Colossians 3:1 and Romans 6:1-4. I have been in discussion with some professing Christians who detest any teaching calling for repentance and walking before the face of God in the power of the Holy Spirit, denying self, taking up one’s cross and following Christ. These same ones look at sermons such as Jonathan Edward’s “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God” with disgust. They claim this is self-righteousness and calls for salvation by works. Nowhere do we teach salvation by any means other than Justification by faith alone. On the other hand, we do teach that from that moment of rebirth into God’s family, He begins the sanctification process in the life of the believer that will not end in this temporal existence.  This sanctification, unlike our justification, is synergistic. We cooperate with God in our spiritual growth. This is where we learn to walk in repentance through the fires of tribulation, to abide in Christ as we are pruned, to work out our salvation with fear and trembling, and to put on the new self.

Here are various translations of Romans 6:1-4:

1 Τί οὖν ἐροῦμεν; ἐπιμένωμεν τῇ ἁμαρτίᾳ, ἵνα ἡ χάρις πλεονάσῃ; 2 μὴ γένοιτο. οἵτινες ἀπεθάνομεν τῇ ἁμαρτίᾳ, πῶς ἔτι ζήσομεν ἐν αὐτῇ; 3 ἢ ἀγνοεῖτε ὅτι, ὅσοι ἐβαπτίσθημεν εἰς Χριστὸν Ἰησοῦν, εἰς τὸν θάνατον αὐτοῦ ἐβαπτίσθημεν; 4 συνετάφημεν οὖν αὐτῷ διὰ τοῦ βαπτίσματος εἰς τὸν θάνατον, ἵνα ὥσπερ ἠγέρθη Χριστὸς ἐκ νεκρῶν διὰ τῆς δόξης τοῦ πατρός, οὕτως καὶ ἡμεῖς ἐν καινότητι ζωῆς περιπατήσωμεν. Romans 6:1-4 (NA28)

1 What then will we say? Should we continue in sin that grace may increase? 2 May it never be! How will we who died to sin live in it? 3 Or are you ignorant that as many as were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death? 4 Therefore, we were buried with Him through baptism into death that just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father so we also should walk in newness of life. Romans 6:1-4 (translated from the NA28 Greek text)

1 What shall we say then? Shall we continue still in sin, that grace may abound? God forbid.
2 How shall we, that are dead to sin, live yet therein?
3 Know ye not, that all we which have been baptized into Jesus Christ, have been baptized into his death?
4 We are buried then with him by baptism into his death, that like as Christ was raised up from the dead to the glory of the Father, so we also should walk in newness of life. Romans 6:1-4 (1599 Geneva Bible) 

1 What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound? 2 God forbid. How shall we, that are dead to sin, live any longer therein? 3 Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into his death? 4 Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life. Romans 6:1-4 (KJV) 

1 What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin so that grace may increase? 2 May it never be! How shall we who died to sin still live in it? 3 Or do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus have been baptized into His death? 4 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. Romans 6:1-4 (NASB) 

Who is the “you” in v1 of Colossians 3:1 and the “we” of Romans 6:1? Paul is speaking of Christians. What does it mean that Christians “have been raised with Christ?” The words “have been raised” in English are one Greek verb, συνηγέρθητε (synēgerthēte) the aorist tense, passive mood, indicative voice of συνεγείρω (synegeirō). This word literally means, “to awaken together, both with cooperation and common activity.” Christ assumed a “new” life after His resurrection. As we see in Romans 6:10, this also involves at the same time revivifying those that are His. It refers to the delivery from the state into which they have been brought by sin and which brought death to them (Romans 6:4,10). Therefore, συνηγερθητε expresses not merely the similarity of the deliverance from death of sin to new life in Christ, but it affirms that it is connected with Christ’s resurrection. It also refers to an effect brought about on God’s part through His death and resurrection of it in baptism (Romans 6:4). Practically, the meaning of συνηγερθητε coincides with the Christian’s justification (Romans 4:25; 5:1; Colossians 2:12,13). All of that to say, “since we have been raised with Christ…”

Because we have been raised with Christ, Paul tells us that we must obey his command to seek those things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Genuine Christians are not simply religious. They do not believe that religiosity alone is sufficient for them to be in obedience to God. No, the genuine Christian is drawn closer and deeper in their relationship with the Saviour. As Paul says in v2, “Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth.” This is telling us to pursue a deeper knowledge of Christ Himself (Philippians 3:10) and all that belongs to living with and for Him (Matthew 6:33). It also involves living a life worthy of His name (Colossians 1:10; 2:6).

What does it mean that Christ is seated at the right hand of God? He is in a position of authority where He can make intercession with the Father for His people. Therefore, Christians should be focused in all they do with their hearts focused on Christ instead of the teachings of men (the things that are on earth.) In other words, the God ordained teacher/preacher that Christians should follow will rightly divide God’s Word with them. He will teach/preach expository lessons and sermons. These teachings will be exegetically correct. On the other hand, the teachings of men that we are not set our hearts on will be based on human philosophy and will be man-focused. What we learn from the Word of God is that we are unable to obey God outside of His grace, but He is gracious and gives us the ability to abide in Christ, take up our crosses, and follow Him. On the other hand, the man-focused teachers will look at the commands in God’s Word like we just read in these verses and say, “we can’t do it so God really only wants me to be religious.”

Look carefully at vv3-4. This is talking about the security of the believer. As Christians trust in their Saviour, they are hidden in Him. Also, genuine believers know that Christ is their all, their whole life. They know that they will never be perfect in this life so the objection by those with a temporal, man-focus saying that the call for an obedient, humble walk before the face of God is ludicrous, is itself a sign that there is a huge problem with their relationship with the Saviour. The genuine Christian knows that perfection is what awaits in glory and will be theirs when Christ returns. Therefore, they will seek to obey God in their humility by prayerfully denying self and walking through each day keeping all they do within His Lordship. Yes, there will be failures because the flesh is weak and we are easily distracted, but that is why God gave us 1 John 1:9 and prayer.

5 Νεκρώσατε οὖν τὰ μέλη τὰ ἐπὶ τῆς γῆς, πορνείαν ἀκαθαρσίαν πάθος ἐπιθυμίαν κακήν, καὶ τὴν πλεονεξίαν, ἥτις ἐστὶν εἰδωλολατρία, 6 διʼ ἃ ἔρχεται ἡ ὀργὴ τοῦ θεοῦ [ἐπὶ τοὺς υἱοὺς τῆς ἀπειθείας]. 7 ἐν οἷς καὶ ὑμεῖς περιεπατήσατέ ποτε, ὅτε ἐζῆτε ἐν τούτοις· 8 νυνὶ δὲ ἀπόθεσθε καὶ ὑμεῖς τὰ πάντα, ὀργήν, θυμόν, κακίαν, βλασφημίαν, αἰσχρολογίαν ἐκ τοῦ στόματος ὑμῶν· 9 μὴ ψεύδεσθε εἰς ἀλλήλους, ἀπεκδυσάμενοι τὸν παλαιὸν ἄνθρωπον σὺν ταῖς πράξεσιν αὐτοῦ 10 καὶ ἐνδυσάμενοι τὸν νέον τὸν ἀνακαινούμενον εἰς ἐπίγνωσιν κατʼ εἰκόνα τοῦ κτίσαντος αὐτόν, 11 ὅπου οὐκ ἔνι Ἕλλην καὶ Ἰουδαῖος, περιτομὴ καὶ ἀκροβυστία, βάρβαρος, Σκύθης, δοῦλος, ἐλεύθερος, ἀλλὰ [τὰ] πάντα καὶ ἐν πᾶσιν Χριστός. Colossians 3:5-11 (NA28)

5 ,Mortify therefore your members which are on the earth, fornication, uncleanness, the inordinate affection, evil concupiscence, and covetousness which is idolatry.
6 For the which things’ sake the wrath of God cometh on the children of disobedience.
7 Wherein ye also walked once, when ye lived in them.
8 But now put ye away even all these things, wrath, anger, maliciousness, cursed speaking, filthy speaking, out of your mouth.
9 Lie not one to another: seeing that ye have put off the old man with his works,
10 And have put on the new, which is renewed in knowledge after the image of him that created him,
11 Where is neither Grecian nor Jew, circumcision nor uncircumcision, Barbarian, Scythian, bond, free: But Christ is all, and in all things.

5 Mortify therefore your members which are upon the earth; fornication, uncleanness, inordinate affection, evil concupiscence, and covetousness, which is idolatry: 6 For which things’ sake the wrath of God cometh on the children of disobedience: 7 In the which ye also walked some time, when ye lived in them.
8 But now ye also put off all these; anger, wrath, malice, blasphemy, filthy communication out of your mouth. 9 Lie not one to another, seeing that ye have put off the old man with his deeds; 10 And have put on the new man, which is renewed in knowledge after the image of him that created him: 11 Where there is neither Greek nor Jew, circumcision nor uncircumcision, Barbarian, Scythian, bond nor free: but Christ is all, and in all. Colossians 3:5-11 (KJV) 

5 Therefore consider the members of your earthly body as dead to immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and greed, which amounts to idolatry. 6 For it is because of these things that the wrath of God will come upon the sons of disobedience, 7 and in them you also once walked, when you were living in them. 8 But now you also, put them all aside: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and abusive speech from your mouth. 9 Do not lie to one another, since you laid aside the old self with its evil practices, 10 and have put on the new self who is being renewed to a true knowledge according to the image of the One who created him— 11 a renewal in which there is no distinction between Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave and freeman, but Christ is all, and in all. Colossians 3:5-11 (NASB) 

Here is the passage that so many object to. Suffering with Christ severs the hold sin has on us. When we suffer as Christians for Christ’s sake, et cetera, we are participating in His death. Yes, we died with Him if we are in Him, but we must continue to walk through this temporal existence. In this, we are called to live and work and witness and make disciples, but we are also called to put to death (νεκρωσατε) sinful practices that our flesh loves. This Greek word literally means to make something dead that is alive. Our flesh loves the ways of the world and the sin therein. We were born fallen and grew up serving our flesh. This command is made in light of the fact that all in Christ have died with Him (Colossians 2:20; 3:3). Therefore, they can get rid of sinful practices (Romans 6:11; 8:13).

How are we to do this my brethren? We must take several measures. The first are watchfulness and prayerfulness.

41 Keep watching and praying that you may not enter into temptation; the spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.” Matthew 26:41 (NASB) 

Then we must follow with self-discipline:

29 If your right eye makes you stumble, tear it out and throw it from you; for it is better for you to lose one of the parts of your body, than for your whole body to be thrown into hell. 30 If your right hand makes you stumble, cut it off and throw it from you; for it is better for you to lose one of the parts of your body, than for your whole body to go into hell. Matthew 5:29-30 (NASB) 

This is deliberate overstatement by our Lord during His Sermon on the Mount. We must take sin seriously. We must become self-disciplined to the point of cutting out of our lives the things and people our enemy and our flesh are using to draw us into sin. We do not expose our members to the things that would tempt us to sin. We do this prayerfully and in worship of our Lord. We place our devotion, prayer, and worship higher than the earthly things that make us stumble. We put more priority on being delighted in God than in watching TV. Friends that cause us to stumble should be avoided. In any case, we must prayerfully live our lives before the face of God in such a way that He is ruler and what He values, we value. What God hates, we hate. What God loves, we love. Do you see it my brethren? Thankfully, God did not leave us with just a set of things to kill. He also gave us what to actively do that will replace these evil things. We learn to put off and kill the evil things and put on what is of God.

12 Ἐνδύσασθε οὖν, ὡς ἐκλεκτοὶ τοῦ θεοῦ ἅγιοι καὶ ἠγαπημένοι, σπλάγχνα οἰκτιρμοῦ χρηστότητα ταπεινοφροσύνην πραΰτητα μακροθυμίαν, 13 ἀνεχόμενοι ἀλλήλων καὶ χαριζόμενοι ἑαυτοῖς ἐάν τις πρός τινα ἔχῃ μομφήν· καθὼς καὶ ὁ κύριος ἐχαρίσατο ὑμῖν, οὕτως καὶ ὑμεῖς· 14 ἐπὶ πᾶσιν δὲ τούτοις τὴν ἀγάπην, ὅ ἐστιν σύνδεσμος τῆς τελειότητος. 15 καὶ ἡ εἰρήνη τοῦ Χριστοῦ βραβευέτω ἐν ταῖς καρδίαις ὑμῶν, εἰς ἣν καὶ ἐκλήθητε ἐν ἑνὶ σώματι· καὶ εὐχάριστοι γίνεσθε. 16 Ὁ λόγος τοῦ Χριστοῦ ἐνοικείτω ἐν ὑμῖν πλουσίως, ἐν πάσῃ σοφίᾳ διδάσκοντες καὶ νουθετοῦντες ἑαυτούς, ψαλμοῖς ὕμνοις ᾠδαῖς πνευματικαῖς ἐν [τῇ] χάριτι ᾄδοντες ἐν ταῖς καρδίαις ὑμῶν τῷ θεῷ· 17 καὶ πᾶν ὅ τι ἐὰν ποιῆτε ἐν λόγῳ ἢ ἐν ἔργῳ, πάντα ἐν ὀνόματι κυρίου Ἰησοῦ, εὐχαριστοῦντες τῷ θεῷ πατρὶ διʼ αὐτοῦ. Colossians 3:12-17 (NA28)

12 Now therefore as the elect of God, holy and beloved, put on the bowels of mercies, kindness, humbleness of mind, meekness, longsuffering:
13 Forbearing one another, and forgiving one another, if any man have a quarrel to another: even as Christ forgave, even so do ye.
14 And above all these things put on love, which is the bond of perfectness.
15 And let the peace of God rule in your hearts, to the which ye are called in one body, and be ye thankful:
16 Let the word of Christ dwell in you plenteously in all wisdom, teaching and admonishing your own selves, in Psalms, and hymns, and spiritual songs, singing with a grace in your hearts to the Lord,
17 And whatsoever ye shall do, in word or deed, do all in the Name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God even the Father by him. Colossians 3:12-17 (1599 Geneva Bible) 

12 Put on therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, bowels of mercies, kindness, humbleness of mind, meekness, longsuffering; 13 Forbearing one another, and forgiving one another, if any man have a quarrel against any: even as Christ forgave you, so also do ye. 14 And above all these things put on charity, which is the bond of perfectness. 15 And let the peace of God rule in your hearts, to the which also ye are called in one body; and be ye thankful. 16 Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom; teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord. 17 And whatsoever ye do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God and the Father by him. Colossians 3:12-17 (KJV) 

12 So, as those who have been chosen of God, holy and beloved, put on a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience; 13 bearing with one another, and forgiving each other, whoever has a complaint against anyone; just as the Lord forgave you, so also should you. 14 Beyond all these things put on love, which is the perfect bond of unity. 15 Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body; and be thankful. 16 Let the word of Christ richly dwell within you, with all wisdom teaching and admonishing one another with psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with thankfulness in your hearts to God. 17 Whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through Him to God the Father. Colossians 3:12-17 (NASB) 

We are commanded to put on (ενδυσασθε) a list of Christian attributes. In other words, Paul is calling us to a holy lifestyle. This genuine Christian lifestyle is consistent with our new identity in Christ. Each one truly in Christ has been chosen personally by God to stand before Him as His beloved holy ones. This command is to live up to what we are in Christ. Now, before we go into these Christian attributes remember that if these mark our lives then those sinful attributes in vv8-9 will not. We are to put those things off and put on these godly attributes. These attributes are actually Christ’s very character being manifest in us as we surrender more and more to the Lordship of Christ. We become living sacrifices whose minds are continually being renewed through Bible Study, prayer, worship, reading Godly books and hearing Godly preaching and teaching. As our minds are renewed, we will become transformed or changed into those who match up with this list of godly attributes (Romans 12:1-2). The fruit of the spirit will be manifest in and through us. I personally love v16 very much. If we let the word of Christ dwell in us richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, et cetera then God will change us.

This new life in Christ is one that God grows in us in order that we become in reality what we are spiritually in Christ. Nowhere have I ever taught that we must legalistically do these things, follow certain steps, et cetera in order to become a spirit-filled Christian. However, we must learn to put to death the parts of our lives that draw us into sin. Then we must walk in repentance and expose ourselves to what is good in God’s eyes. That means that we become separate from the world and its ways. We pursue God and shun the world and our former sinful lusts. We do this by His grace and the more we do it, the more He changes us. Over time, we will find that He has taken us on a journey down the narrow path. He has taken us through fiery trials and tests and protected us through it all that we would not fall away. When we reach the end of this journey, we will be ready to enter into eternity with our Saviour. We are able to walk this narrow path each and every day only because we keep our eyes on our Lord and cherish what awaits us in eternity (Hebrews 12:1-2).

Lastly, even though the visible church seems to be growing sicker and sicker every day and former seemingly solid Christian leaders are now outwardly backing worldly philosophies such as Wokeism (Critical Race Theory & Intersectionality) and at the same time telling those of us who refuse to be part of their “broadway” path that they are the true Christians and we are not, we cannot stop focusing on who is seated at the right hand of God and that we have both died to sin (with Him on the Cross) and were raised with Him (at His resurrection) and we await our reuniting with Him in eternity. This world is not our home. Also, be aware that the real Church is not defined by denominations, buildings, institutions, etc. No, the real Church is made up of those who were Chosen by God in Love and He saves them and will keep all of them. Rejoice in this my brethren regardless of apostates like Rick Warren Ordaining women pastors or the SBC leadership such as Russell Moore trying to force churches to ignore the clear teaching in sacred Scripture about what is sin such as homosexuality.

Soli Deo Gloria!