J. A. Trench.
Article 10 of 55 from 'Truth for Believers' Volume 2.
Romans 6:11. — It is asked what does reckoning ourselves to be dead to sin mean? There can be no truth of greater importance for the believer to enter into. For it is thus that our deliverance from sin that once held us as its miserable captives is realised practically in the daily life. At the opening of the chapter the Apostle meets by anticipation the opposition of the flesh to the doctrine to which we have been brought at the close of Romans 5, that where sin abounded grace did much more exceedingly abound. So that by the obedience of Christ, brought to its last test and consummated in His death, we that were of the fallen race of Adam have been constituted righteous. This involved that before God and for faith we have died with Him. Hence the idea that we should continue in sin that grace may abound is abhorrent. We have died to sin instead of living in it is the answer of the Christian; and this was explicitly set forth in the place we took in baptism at the very entrance of our path. We were baptised to His death, buried with Him by baptism unto death, henceforth to be dead to all we once were as having lived in sin.
But the truth of death to sin has to be learned experimentally. That is the significance of the conflict of the soul presented to us at the end of Romans 7. It is the process by which God brings us to the conviction of the hopeless, irremediable evil of the flesh in us. In principle all must go through it who would ever know deliverance from sin's power. I have to learn that there is a total absence of good in me, but light seems to be breaking through the darkness when I realise that there would be no conflict if I had not another nature from God as born again that desires good and hates evil; and I take my place with that nature, and judge that it is not I but sin that dwelleth in me, but only to find myself perfectly helpless against the evil. In vain I struggle against it, for it struggles against me and overcomes me, till at last, in the bitterness of my soul, I am brought to the necessity of one outside myself to deliver me from myself. The deliverer is near in such a case: I have only to lift my eyes from self to Him and thank God through Jesus Christ.
The principle of the deliverance is then found in Romans 8:3, that God sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and, as a sacrifice for sin, has condemned sin in the flesh. Such was the flesh morally that God had to carry out His early sentence upon it, "the end of all flesh is come before me." It was the only way God could deal with it. No wonder that with all my weary efforts I could make nothing of it. But oh! what rest when the soul is brought to the point of giving up itself as only fit for the judgment of God, and then to look back and see that judgment executed in the cross of Christ. It was the death of Him who had become my life, and so I am entitled to count it as mine before God; and death to sin becomes a reality to the soul. We now know that our old man — that is, all we were as characterised by the flesh and sin and law which was its strength — has been crucified with Christ, that the body of sin — that is, its whole system and force, as we say the body of a river — might be brought to nought, and we be its abject slaves no more. That we shall live with Him follows as a blessed inference from our having died with Him, knowing that Christ being raised from the dead dieth no more; death hath no more dominion over Him: for in that He died He died unto sin once for all, but in that He liveth He liveth unto God. As come into this world He had to do with sin on every hand, and went at last to the cross to be made sin for us. But such the perfection of His work when He suffered there for us, that He has no more to do with it for ever, and has only God to be before Him and live to. "Likewise" — that is the wonderful word for us — in like manner as Christ — "reckon ye also yourselves to be dead unto sin." Faith reckons with God that we have died to it in His death, and so have no more to do with it, but are alive to God in Christ, free now to live in blessed occupation of heart with Him to God alone.
Not that the flesh has ceased to exist in us, or that there is any change in its essential evil: that which is born of the flesh is so characterised to the end; but we reckon by faith that we have died with Christ to it. And how real and blessed the deliverance thus, from ceaseless occupation with the evil in us leading to no result but of being constantly subjected to its power, to that of being free to be occupied with Christ, in whose death we reckon that we have received our sentence, in whose life that we are alive to God, to breathe the atmosphere of His presence and bring forth fruit unto Him.
Thus it has pleased God to present the great fact of deliverance from the dominion of sin in our death with Christ, that faith may lay hold of it in that which is the sole basis and cause of it; while in Romans 8 we have the full positive resulting liberty, and the Holy Ghost indwelling as the power of our realisation of it.