Paul wrote of being alive in Christ in three of his epistles. In Romans, his main purpose was to establish that being alive in Christ meant being dead to and free from sin. In Romans 6, Paul used concrete language. A follower of Christ who has experienced the death and resurrection of Christ through the symbolic act of baptism doesn’t just hope that he can be free from sin. He is free from sin.
“For we know that since Christ was raised from the dead, he cannot die again; death no longer has mastery over him. The death he died, he died to sin once for all; but the life he lives, he lives to God. In the same way, count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus.” (Romans 6:9-11) In the same way? We’re really dead to sin?
Paul went on: “For sin shall no longer be your master…Don’t you know that when you offer yourselves to someone as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one you obey–whether you are slaves to sin, which leads to death, or to obedience, which leads to righteousness? But thanks be to God, though you used to be slaves to sin, you have come to obey from your heart the pattern of teaching that has now claimed your allegiance. You have been set free from sin and have become slaves to righteousness.”
Paul spoke in such absolute terms about being free from sin as a follower of Jesus that we can almost forget he said just three chapters earlier “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” (3:23)
The 6th chapter of Romans is a bit confusing, at least for me. However, there’s no question that accepting Christ as our Savior helps us to overcome sin and that being free from sin (as much as possible) makes us alive in Christ. Paul’s unqualified declaration about Christians being dead to sin is a forceful, aspirational way of encouraging us to be alive in Christ.