Bucky Kennedy, evangelist
The doctrine of regeneration is often lost in a culture driven by emotion and the preaching of self-help and felt-needs. Regeneration is the act of God providing the individual believer with a new spiritual vitality and direction to their lives when they accept Christ. It is described in 2 Corinthians 5:17, “Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; old things pass away; behold new things have come.”
Salvation is not a modification or adjustment, but about being made new by God. Scripture is filled with the believer’s new spiritual life:
- A new heart. (Ezek. 36:26)
- A new spirit. (Ezek. 18:31)
- A new song. (Ps. 40:3)
- A new name. (Rev. 2:17)
Paul is answering why life is different because of salvation, why a believer no longer lives a different life. Paul is teaching on when a man comes to understand why he is what he is and where it came from, his whole perspective changes. When he turns to Christ and puts his faith into Christ, he is never again related to sin like he used to be.
We need to understand Paul is not teaching salvation through the work of baptism. Baptism doesn’t save you. Baptism is an outward action of in inward transformation.
When I put my faith in Jesus Christ I chose to unify myself with His death on the cross whereby He paid my sin debt that I could not pay. He paid what He did not owe because I owed a sin debt I couldn’t pay.
Baptism is a picture of me burying my old nature and rising in life to my new nature that was given to me by grace through faith in Jesus Christ (Romans 6:4).
Most Christians understand that they have been delivered from hell and, as result of their faith in Jesus, will spend eternity in heaven. What many Christians don’t understand is that being unified in death and burial with Jesus also means that we are unified in the resurrection of Jesus.
Jesus took the penalty of sins to the cross but he never submitted to the power of sin. Think about it. Jesus paid a penalty for sins He never committed and knows the pain of sins that He never committed because Jesus never submitted to sin’s power which is why His sacrifice pays for my sins. When Jesus rose from the grave He had the marks of sin’s penalty in His hands, feet, and side but he was never mastered by sin.
As a believer, I carry some marks of my sinful past, consequences of sinful choices that have marked my mind and reside in lost relationships. But they can no longer master me unless I choose to let them. Because Christ was never mastered by sin and by virtue of His life and nature now living in me, I don’t have to live according to my old nature because I have the nature of Christ Who has given me His identity and His righteousness.
I don’t live my life in a tomb waiting to die and go to heaven. I live my life in Christ Jesus wanting to be in heaven.
Verse 7 informs me that if I died to my old nature, I have been freed from sin. The word “freed” actually means “declared righteous” in the Greek. But more than that, it means to be shown to everybody that you are declared righteous. What is Paul saying here? He who has died to sin, is freed from sin.
When you see a believer change his or her lifestyle, when you see a believer repent, when you see a believer break a habitual sin, and you see that person start living holy before God, you see a person who has been set free. You see a person who has been declared righteous.
In verse 11 Paul writes, “Even so consider yourselves to be dead to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus.” “Consider” is an accounting term that speaks to understanding the value or weight of a particular coin or commodity. Paul wants his readers to understand that not only are they free from sin but that they are free to live a life pleasing to God.
Paul doesn’t tell me that the presence of sin has been removed, but that I am free from the power of sin. That’s why, when I sin now, I have to confess it. It wasn’t something that just happened. Something didn’t make me do it. I chose to do it.
You don’t sweep sin under the rug as a Christian. You have to put it under the blood by confession and repentance because you’re responsible before a holy God for committing that sin.
We should no longer be slaves to the sin. Everything that used to control us, that old nature of Adam that was in us and still has the propensity, is still left in us. But listen, we have brand new hearts. The Spirit has come to live within us. We have been united with Christ’s life.
Something has changed from within. Therefore, the corrupt nature passed down from Adam has been broken and we now have a brand new heart. Something new is in us.
Being under grace is not God’s way of understanding that I am always going to be helpless against sin’s power but grace is God’s tolerance of that sin in my life. Paul said, “May it never be!” To live under grace and to live free from sin’s power and in fellowship with God’s presence empowered and equipped with His righteousness.