February 2012 - Vol. 57

Freedom from Sin and Death
“A New Creation”
By Jeanne Kun
“For freedom Christ has set us free. Stand firm, therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery” (Galatians 5:1) 

“If anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation: everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new!” (2 Corinthians 5:17) 

Before Christ’s incarnation, sin and death ruled over humanity’s fallen nature and no one could break their stranglehold on us. But Christ took on our human nature – becoming flesh and blood like us – “so that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil, and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by the fear of death” (Hebrews 2:14-15). 

We were alienated from God and death and sin infected humankind through the disobedience of Adam: “sin came into the world through one man, and death came through sin, and so death spread to all because all have sinned” (Romans 5:12). But this infection was counteracted by the obedience and righteousness of Christ. For, “just as one man’s [Adam’s] trespass led to condemnation for all, so one man’s [Christ’s] act of righteousness leads to justification and life for all” (5:18). His act and its significance are so profound that Jesus is frequently called the “new” or “last” Adam, the beginning of a new creation and a “life-giving spirit” (1 Corinthians 15:22, 45).

By his crucifixion and resurrection Christ delivered us from the power of Satan, slavery to sin, and fear of death. When we are united with Christ’s death and resurrection through baptism, we actually experience this freedom, for we enter into communion with Christ, are buried with him, and rise to newness of life with him (Romans 6:3-4). As St. Basil the Great explains, spiritually we

imitate Christ’s death by being buried with him in baptism. If we ask what this kind of burial means and what benefit we may hope to derive from it, it means first of all making a complete break with our former way of life, and our Lord himself said that this cannot be done unless a man is born again. In other words, we have to begin a new life, and we cannot do so until our previous life has been brought to an end. When runners reach the turning point on a racecourse, they have to pause briefly before they can go back in the opposite direction. So also when we wish to reverse the direction of our lives there must be a pause, or a death, to mark the end of one life and the beginning of another. (On the Holy Spirit)
“Christ has set us free” (Galatians 5:1). Now we are “a new creation” (2 Corinthians 5:17). However, there is a difference between knowing these truths and seeing them applied in our lives. Concretely experiencing this freedom and newness of life depends upon our allowing the cross to do its work in us, breaking the strongholds of sin and replacing them with the fruits of the Holy Spirit. It is as we remind ourselves that “our old self was crucified with [Christ] so that the body of sin might be destroyed, and we might no longer be enslaved to sin” (Romans 6:6) that the power of the cross is released in us. It is as we place our faith and trust in Jesus’ cross that our slavery to sin – our bondage to anger, jealousies, and lying, to immoral patterns and harmful addictions – is broken. 

To live a life filled with the power of the cross and with baptismal grace – a life in which “sin will have no dominion over [us]” (Romans 6:14) – we must let go of our past way of life and open ourselves to God’s grace and transforming power. Although our dying is spiritual and symbolic – we have not been physically nailed to the cross as Jesus was – it is not simply theoretical. In a real way, we must commit ourselves to enact and actualize the “death” of our baptism daily, allowing our sinful nature to be crucified with Christ. In other words, baptism is a crucifixion of our sinful condition, so that the “old self” no longer controls our behavior. And the fruit of baptism is “a rich reality that includes forgiveness of original sin and all personal sins, birth into the new life by which man becomes an adoptive son of the Father, a member of Christ and a temple of the Holy Spirit” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1279).

Paul’s great declaration in Romans 6:3-11 is proclaimed each year at the Easter Vigil, following the seven Old Testament readings that recount our salvation history. The third reading in particular – Exodus 14:15–15:1, which describes Israel’s deliverance from the oppression of the Egyptian Pharaoh through God’s miraculous parting of the Red Sea –  foreshadows our deliverance from sin and death and the transformation effected in us by baptism. It is also, fittingly, at the Easter Vigil that the waters of the baptismal font are blessed, catechumens are baptized – dying and rising with Christ – and received into the Church, and the faithful renew their baptismal vows, rejecting Satan and all his works and empty promises as well as sin and the glamour of evil and resolving to live with Christ. 


1. In his Homily on Romans, St. John Chrysostom notes: “So as to stay dead to sin after Baptism, personal effort is called for, although God’s grace continues to be with us, providing us with great help.” 

 Reflect on the effects of the Sacrament of Baptism in your own life, and ask God for his grace and help in making the personal effort “to stay dead to sin” that John Chrysostom urges.

2. Read and meditate on the following passages to increase your awareness and appreciation of how God has set you free from slavery to sin through the sacrifice of Christ:

Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death came through sin, and so death spread to all because all have sinned sin was indeed in the world before the law, but sin is not reckoned when there is no law. Yet death exercised dominion from Adam to Moses, even over those whose sins were not like the transgression of Adam, who is a type of the one who was to come.

But the free gift is not like the trespass. For if the many died through the one man’s trespass, much more surely have the grace of God and the free gift in the grace of the one man, Jesus Christ, abounded for the many. And the free gift is not like the effect of the one man’s sin. For the judgment following one trespass brought condemnation, but the free gift following many trespasses brings justification. If, because of the one man’s trespass, death exercised dominion through that one, much more surely will those who receive the abundance of grace and the free gift of righteousness exercise dominion in life through the one man, Jesus Christ. 

Therefore just as one man’s trespass led to condemnation for all, so one man’s act of righteousness leads to justification and life for all. For just as by the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners, so by the one man’s obedience the many will be made righteous. But law came in, with the result that the trespass multiplied; but where sin increased, grace abounded all the more, so that, just as sin exercised dominion in death, so grace might also exercise dominion through justification leading to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord. (Romans 5:12-21)

[T]he message about the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. (1 Corinthians 1:18)

[When] you were dead in trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made you alive together with him, when he forgave us all our trespasses, erasing the record that stood against us with its legal demands. He set this aside, nailing it to the cross. (Colossians 2:13-14)

Since, therefore, the children share flesh and blood, he himself likewise shared the same things, so that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil, and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by the fear of death. (Hebrews 2:14-15)

In the Spotlight
Witnessing to the Power of the Cross

In this imperfect world, we often find that theory and reality don’t always see eye-to-eye. For instance, we can know in a theoretical way that our old life of sin was crucified with Christ and that through faith in the cross we can be set free from the power of sin. But when it comes to the reality of our daily lives, we can find ourselves subject to the same kinds of sins over and over again. Here is the story of a man who made the connection between theory and reality and experienced the power that flows from Jesus’ cross.

For twenty-five years, Jim had been a chain smoker. For most of that time, he tried countless strategies to kick his habit. He tried self-discipline. He made bets with his friends. He wore a nicotine patch. He even went to a retreat to help him quit. Eventually, after years of failed attempts, Jim resigned himself to being in the grip of this ugly habit.

A couple of years ago, however, a routine X-ray revealed a spot on one of Jim’s lungs, and he grew worried. He didn’t want to go back to the old failed attempts, but he knew he had to do something. That’s when his wife, Janet, told their parish priest about Jim’s X-ray. The priest told Janet that Jim didn’t have to feel hopeless. He told her about Jesus’ cross and about the freedom that Jim could experience if he turned to the Lord. He even gave her a simple prayer that she and Jim could pray: “Lord Jesus, we believe that you died to set us free. We ask you, by the power of your cross, to free Jim from his addiction. Jesus, we trust in you and in your love for us.”

Jim and Janet prayed this simple prayer every morning and night. Jim also prayed it every couple of hours at work especially when the urge to smoke was strong. As he got closer to the Lord through this prayer, Jim felt his desire to smoke gradually diminishing—to the point where it has been fifteen months since his last cigarette.

Jim’s story has a message for anyone who struggles with addiction, whether to cigarettes, alcohol, food, or even sex. Whatever the bondage, simple prayers like the one Jim prayed can be very powerful weapons to help break the grip of addiction. God doesn’t want to see his children in bondage. He is waiting for us to turn to him, to trust in the power of his cross, and to ask for the grace to be set free.

The Word Among Us, Lent 2007

Excerpted from The Life-Giving Power of the Cross: Sharing in Christ's Victory, by Jeanne Kun (The Word Among Us Press, © 2011). Used with permission. This book can be ordered online.

Jeanne Kun is President of Bethany Association and a senior woman leader in the Word of Life Community, Ann Arbor, Michigan, USA. 

Romans 6:3-14

Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? Therefore we have been buried with him by baptism into death, so that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life. 

 For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we will certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his. We know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body of sin might be destroyed, and we might no longer be enslaved to sin. For whoever has died is freed from sin. But if we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. We know that Christ, being raised from the dead, will never die again; death no longer has dominion over him. The death he died, he died to sin, once for all; but the life he lives, he lives to God. So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus. 

Therefore, do not let sin exercise dominion in your mortal bodies, to make you obey their passions. No longer present your members to sin as instruments of wickedness, but present yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life, and present your members to God as instruments of righteousness. For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace.


1. According to St. Paul, how are we “united with Christ in a death like his” (Romans 6:5)? What are the consequences of this? 

2. Note all the expressions that Paul uses to describe the effects and fruits of being buried with Christ in baptism. What dominant theme do you find in all these expressions?

3. Why does death no longer have dominion over humankind (see Romans 6:8-9)? 

4. Do you think that Paul’s statement, “There is a new creation: everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new!” (2 Corinthians 5:17), is an apt description of what is accomplished in us when we put our faith in the power of the cross? In what way do you think that Paul had personal experience of this truth?

5. Explain in your own words what Paul means when he says that we are to ”no longer present [our] members to sin as instruments of wickedness, but present [ourselves] to God as those who have been brought from death to life, and present [our] members to God as instruments of righteousness” (Romans 6:13). What happens when we follow Paul’s exhortation?

In the Spotlight
Baptized into Christ's Death

Being baptized into the death of Christ means having Christ dwell in us, now glorious and raised “through the glory of the Father.” In his power we are able to die to sin. The word sin refers not primarily to our individual acts of sin but to the whole regime of sin, that complex of human rebellion and inhumanity that finds expression in the structures of the whole mode of life that characterizes “the world.” When we die to sin, we are free of the power of that complex of social, political, cultural, economic, psychological, and spiritual forces that rule the world.

Our individual acts of sin are the ways in which we connive in and yield to these forces. We appropriate sin and make it our own. Paul tells us [in Romans 6:6-11] that we are free from this power if we consent to the new power at work in us. Jesus Christ, by his love and obedience in death, died to the forces that make up sin in the world. Because he lives in us, we, too, have been transferred to a new realm of existence. We can experience this, not as a theory but as an actual fact, if we call upon that power when we are faced with those memories and habits of sin that keep us slaves to sin.

—Francis Martin, The Fire in the Cloud: Lenten Meditations 


1. Choose several adjectives that you feel characterize you as a “new creation” (2 Corinthians 5:17) in Christ. What word best explains what has been accomplished in your life through the Sacrament of Baptism? 

2. In what areas of your life do you most need or want to experience God’s power setting you free? How might God help you (perhaps through prayer, confession, spiritual direction, a trusted friend, professional help, etc.) to break a sinful pattern or overcome an habitual failing?

3. In what concrete ways have you already “died with Christ to sin” and broken with your old life? In what ways has Jesus set you free? How can you best nurture this new life in you?

4. How often do you turn to the cross to be set free from habits and attitudes that, although not sinful in themselves, keep you from experiencing new life in Christ? What are some things that particularly plague you (maybe excessive anxiety, fear, pessimism, negativity)? When you are beset with such attitudes, how could turning to a crucifix help you?

5. Why is it significant that the church celebrates a renewal of baptismal vows with the congregation each year during the Easter liturgy? How can this renewal help us to deepen our relationship with Christ?


Set aside an hour or two of time to rest in a quiet place where you will not be interrupted by others. Clear your mind of distractions, and in the silence and stillness recall as many of the ways that Jesus has freed you from sin and healed you as you can. 

Make a mental or written list of the victories Christ has won for you and how he has transformed you. Then, in response, pray in your own words a “litany of thanksgiving.” 

In the Spotlight
Baptism Is a Symbol of Christ's Passion

You were led down to the font of holy baptism just as Christ was taken down from the cross and placed in the tomb which is before your eyes. Each of you was asked, “Do you believe in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit?” You made the profession of faith that brings salvation, you were plunged into the water, and three times you rose again. This symbolized the three days Christ spent in the tomb.

As our Savior spent three days and three nights in the depths of the earth, so your first rising from the water represented the first day and your first immersion represented the first night. At night a man cannot see, but in the day he walks in the light. So when you were immersed in the water it was like night for you and you could not see, but when you rose it was like coming into broad daylight. In the same instant you died and were born again; the saving water was both your tomb and your mother. . . . 

It was not we who actually died, were buried and rose again. We only did these things symbolically, but we have been saved in actual fact. It is Christ who was crucified, who was buried and who rose again, and all this has been attributed to us. We share in his sufferings symbolically and gain salvation in reality. What boundless love for men! Christ’ undefiled hands were pierced by the nails; he suffered the pain. I experience no pain, no anguish, yet by the share that I have in his sufferings he freely grants me salvation.

Jerusalem Catecheses


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