God’s war with sin is historic in our experience, who were entrapped in a personal world of hurtful passions and endless destructive decisions before we allowed the Savior into our lives to free us. How was that? There was no other way for God to accomplish this miracle of grace. We had to die!
For ye are dead, … with Christ… 1 For we know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body ruled by sin might be rendered powerless, that we should no longer be slaves to sin 2
Then God created us anew. 3
We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life. 4
This may sound more a metaphorical explanation in God’s mind than science. We like the theological phrase “imputed [credited] righteousness: ”Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness,…” 5 This suggests we are not perfectly righteous but because of our faith in God, and Christ’s righteousness, 6 He credits that faith toward a righteousness we will live by later in heaven. Our experience seems to confirm this. We still sin and we are not really “dead to sin”?
One of my college professors, Reverend Hobart Grazier, shared a story from his past that might explain how we could be dead to sin and yet sin. Hobart was a young lad who observed his dad “ring” a tree in the back yard. Ringing a tree, went the explanation, is cutting into the bark deep enough into the cambium layer to prevent the sap in the tree from flowing into the root system when Autumn comes. Hobart saw his dad ring the tree and he expected the leaves to whither and drop off but the summer went into Fall and the leaves were still there. Hobart thought to correct his dad, an excited boy about to prove himself right and dad wrong, “The tree was still alive, dad.”
“Hob, the tree is dead, son.” His dad spoke without hesitance. He had no interest in revisiting the tree.
Winter turned to Spring and small new leaves broke out on every branch of that tree, giving Hobart renewed confidence that the tree was not dead. He alerted his dad, who again reiterated in fatherly tones the lesson of the rung tree.
“Hob, the tree is dead, son.”
Dad didn’t need to look. The leaves turned brown and fell off. The tree was indeed …dead.
Reverend Grazier was saying that even if we sin from time to time, 7 the old nature, like the old tree, has been disconnected from any source of strength that would feed its ways. As we follow Christ and serve Him in relationship expect old habits, old ways, old thoughts, old feelings to drop off, that are not representative of the holiness of God and His kingdom.
Here is where faith comes in. During Jesus’s final days with His disciples, His words in their simplicity were an encouragement that embraced every spiritual grace they—and we—would ever need. He spoke of His return to receive them to Himself—such an assurance a child could understand. His thoughts were not cloaked in apocalyptic imagery nor were they an historical overview of His creation’s need of redemption—as He presented later to two disciples walking to Emmaus. His focused gaze must have captured their undivided attention when He pledged just two words, “Trust me!”8
We, who have done so, know what He meant.9
2 Romans 6:6
3 John 3:3 Jesus replied, “Very truly I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God unless they are born again.
4 Romans 6:4
5 James 2:23
6 1 Corinthians 1:30 It is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God—that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption.
7 1 John 2:1 My dear children, I write this to you so that you will not sin. But if anybody does sin, we have an advocate with the Father—Jesus Christ, the Righteous One.
8 John 14:1
9 Romans 3:25 God presented Christ as a sacrifice of atonement, through the shedding of his blood—to be received by faith.
Reverend John King’s ministry as a pastor/teacher spanned the years 1969-1993. Pastor King was known in Western Pennsylvania for his knowledge of Koine Greek and Classical Hebrew, having taught in Western PA Bible Institute in Butler, The Lighthouse Ministry in Washington, and Faith Seminary in Bethel Park, PA in the 1970’s. He also taught at the Charismatic Conference in 1979 at Duquesne University. He graduated from a four year ministerial program at Northeast Bible College, which is now Valley Forge Christian College, and later returned to complete a course of study for a B.S. in Bible. In 1982, he received a Master of Bible Theology from the International Bible Institute & Seminary. Currently retired from the pastorate, he lives with his wife of 50 years in their townhouse in Massachusetts.