The Once-for-All Death of Christ

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“For in that he died, he died unto sin once: but in that he liveth, he liveth unto God” (KJV, Rom. 6:10).

“For in that he died”

The death of Christ is a resounding theme in Romans 6. However, it is essential to be reminded that what has happened to Christ has happened to the believer. The foundation of Romans 6 is the death of Christ and subsequent life.

From the foundation of Christ, Paul builds the walls of the believer’s house. He establishes the theological position that the believer has died and risen with Christ in a similar fashion.

Christ has died, but His death was not meant to be for Himself. Instead, the Bible says, “For the love of Christ constraineth us; because we thus judge, that if one died for all, then were all dead: And that he died for all, that they which live should not henceforth live unto themselves, but unto him which died for them, and rose again” (2 Cor. 5:14-15).

The love of Christ compelled Paul, but it is essential to know that the love Paul experienced was not mustered up through self-effort. Instead, it came through Christ dying for the believer and the believer dying in Him.

In other words, the love Paul experienced for Jesus came from His union with Christ. Thus, yet again, union with Christ is foundational. This does not mean that Paul did not choose to love because Paul did choose to love Christ. Nevertheless, if Paul had never been united with Jesus, he would never have loved Jesus.

Jesus commands love but then helps the Christian to love.

An example of God giving a command and assisting with its fulfillment can be seen in the book of Ezekiel. Scripture says, “And he said unto me, Son of man, stand upon thy feet, and I will speak unto thee. And the spirit entered into me when he spake unto me, and set me upon my feet, that I heard him that spake unto me” (Ez. 2:1-2).

Here one can see God commanding Ezekiel to stand on his feet. However, shortly after, the Spirit of God enters Ezekiel and sets Ezekiel on his feet. The death of Christ is astonishingly similar.

“he died unto sin”

The death of Christ is similar to what took place in Ezekiel’s life because the death Jesus died He died to sin. The structure of Romans 6:10 is intentional. First, Paul states that Christ died two or three times, depending on the translation. Then he speaks of Christ’s life two or three times, depending on the translation.

Death and life have been highlighted throughout Romans 6, but in no other verse are they so adamantly declared.

Jesus has died to sin. But what does that mean? Jesus died to sin in two respects. First, Jesus died to the penalty of sin. Jesus never sinned. However, the Bible states, “For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God” (2 Cor. 5:21).

Jesus Christ became a man to die in place of man. Thus, Jesus took the penalty for sin upon Himself and died to it.

Second, it is important to know that Jesus died to the power of sin. The way that Jesus died to the power of sin is by dying to the law. Paul has already made this point clear.

He has stated, “Knowing this, that our old man is crucified with, that the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin. For he that is dead is freed from sin” (Rom. 6:6-7). Jesus died and was freed from sin. He did not have a sinful nature, but through union with Christ, the believer died. Therefore his old sinful nature has died, and the power has been broken.

At the same time, Jesus was freed from sin through His death because He died to the law and exited the realm of sin.

Later, Paul will develop the concept more to include the law. Understanding the law as the power of sin is important. Paul says, “Wherefore, my brethren, ye also are become dead to the law by the body of Christ; that ye may belong to another, even to him who is raised from the dead, that we should bring forth fruit unto God” (Rom. 7:4).

Death to the law brings about a newfound relationship with Christ. Thus, the power of sin is broken, for Paul has said, “The sting of death is sin; and the strength of sin is the law” (1 Cor. 15:56). Since the strength of sin is the law, doing away with the law is removing sin’s strength. The Christian must understand the law is no longer an element of acceptance with God.

Through the death of Christ, the believer has died to the power of sin by dying to the law. Paul could say elsewhere, “For I through the law am dead to the law, that I might live unto God. I am crucified with Christ…” (Gal. 2:19-20).

The law only condemns and separates God and man. The law cannot sanctify but only imposes guilt. All mankind has sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. Thus, the law keeps man and God separate. As a result, man remains dead in his sin when the law is over him. But through death to the law, the law is removed.

Therefore grace abounds because, as Paul has said, the Christian now belongs to Jesus.


It is also crucial to understand that Christ has died once and will not die again. The implications of this one word are monumental for the Christian’s understanding of his identity in Christ.

Christ has died, and so has the believer. This is not something that takes a lifetime to complete. It has happened once with Christ, and so it has also happened once with the believer. It is not a process but an act.

Yes, other passages speak of picking up the cross daily, but this is not the same. The believer has died to the penalty of sin. He has also died to the law, which cannot be undone but is final. The believer has been declared not guilty.

An eternal judgment has been brought into time and issued for all time. The believer has died the law and the old nature. Therefore, the power of these two forces has been removed.

However, the believer is not entirely redeemed; therefore, an element of power remains. The believer can also submit himself again to a yoke of slavery and find there is power residing over him.

“but in that he liveth, he liveth unto God”

Therefore, the believer must look to not only the death of Christ but also the life. Jesus died, but He rose from the dead and ascended into heaven. While the death of Christ has many saving benefits, the life of Christ exceeds even the death.

It is a wonder why more time is not given to the life of Christ. Even Paul has said, “For if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by his life” (Rom. 5:10). The death of Christ initiated salvation and the forgiveness of sin.

However, the life of Christ keeps the believer by His divine power and brings the believer home to glory.

The life that Christ lives is for the glory of God. Thus, when the Christian has been united with Christ, he can finally begin to fulfill his purpose. Only through unity with Christ will someone realize his reason for being.

Christ will open His mind to the Scriptures as He did those on the road to Emmaus. He will impart His divine life as a vine does to a branch. He will sustain the Christian as the Bread of Life and lead the Christian home as the Good Shepherd.

Jesus saves by His life and by His death.

Final prayer

Father, I thank You for my union with Jesus. He is an amazing Savior, and I am thankful for His death for me on the cross. Help me to appreciate the work of Christ more. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

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