“Sin shall not have dominion over you.” Romans vi.14a. NKJV
This declaration is one of the greatest promises in the New Testament for Christians. Every Christian who participated in the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ through water baptism is free from the power of sin.
This verse may appear to be a command, causing some Christians to worry how they might prevent sin from having dominion over them. The NAB is unique in rendering this verse as: “Sin is not to have any power over you …” However, such a rendering does not fit the context. This is a joyous declaration of a Christian’s independence from the lordship of sin.
Everyone – Jew or Gentile – is a sinner and is incapable of resisting sin indefinitely. Social, legal and religious barriers might prevent sin in many situations. In the absence of these barriers, every human being is capable of committing the worst of sins. This human tendency to break God’s laws is not merely the result of a lack of will power or personal refinement or education. It is a symptom of our enslavement to the principle of sin that operates within us. Jesus said to the Jews who argued with Him, “Most assuredly, I say to you, whoever commits sin is a slave of sin.” (John viii.34)
The only remedy for the dominion of sin is death. When a person dies, he is set free from every principle that operates within his body. But how can we experience liberty from sin while yet on earth?
The sixth chapter of St Paul’s epistle to Romans answers that question. A sinner who repents of his sins and believes in Jesus Christ is offered water baptism. This immersion in water is not just a symbol. Something significant happens when a repentant, believing sinner is immersed and brought back up from water according to Jesus’ command.
The apostle Paul makes this clear in Romans chapter vi.
We died and were buried with Christ by baptism. And just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glorious power of the Father, now we also may live new lives. Since we have been united with him in his death, we will also be raised as he was. Our old sinful selves were crucified with Christ so that sin might lose its power in our lives. We are no longer slaves to sin. For when we died with Christ we were set free from the power of sin. (Romans vi.4-7)
The death of Jesus becomes the sinner’s death. The resurrection of Jesus becomes the sinner’s resurrection. Thus, a sinner is set free from the dominion and lordship of sin. He need not commit even a single sin. He has every right to say “No” to the enticing voice of sinful desires. Unless a baptized believer willfully or through ignorance obeys the voice of sin, sin cannot rule over his life. The is the basis of St. Paul’s teaching on victorious Christian living.
Contrast this New Testament assurance against the uncertainty and struggle endured by some of our friends who do everything within their power to defeat sin. Their intention is laudable although their efforts are misplaced. Pilgrimages, painful penances, monetary sacrifice, animal (or even human) sacrifices, affliction of wounds on one’s own body, enforced celibacy, long years of solitude and silence … the list goes on. People go to great lengths to cast off the chains of sin (or, what they call ‘evil desires’) from their lives.
Thanks be to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who purchased our redemption through the Cross! Through participation in the death and resurrection of Jesus, we have forgiveness, liberty and eternal life. “Sin shall not have dominion over you.”