Be And Live What You Already Are In Christ

 

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In Romans 6:6-12, Paul instructs believers with a mixture of teaching about our identification with Christ and our redemption through Him: “knowing this, that our old man was crucified with Him, that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves of sin. For he who has died has been freed from sin. Now if we died with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with Him, knowing that Christ, having been raised from the dead, dies no more. Death no longer has dominion over Him. For the death that He died, He died to sin once for all; but the life that He lives, He lives to God. Likewise you also, reckon yourselves to be dead indeed to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus our Lord. Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body, that you should obey it in its lusts.” Commenting on Romans 6:8 and 10-11, Leon Morris says:

“The believer is to take seriously his death with Christ (v.8) and Christ's death to sin (v.10). Since Christ died to sin and since the believer is dead with Christ, the believer is dead to sin and is to recognise the fact of that death. This does not mean that he is immune to sinning. Paul does not say that sin is dead but that the believer is to count himself as dead to it. He feels temptation and sometimes he sins.

But the sin of the unbeliever is the natural consequence of the fact that he is a slave to sin, whereas the sin of the believer is quite out of character. He has been set free. Paul tells him that he is to recognise that where sin is concerned he is among the dead. He has been delivered from its dominion. And death is permanent. Once united to Christ he must count himself as dead to the reign of sin forever. He is to reckon also that he is alive to God. His life now has a positive orientation; it is directed to the highest there is, the service of God.” [1]

 

Sin is no longer our master but we can sin

 

When Paul in Romans 6:12 says, “Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body”, he is recognising the fact believers can let sin rule them. But note Paul’s usage of “Therefore” at the beginning of the verse relates what follows to what he wrote in previous verses. In verse 12, Paul is saying that because believers died to sin as ruler or master through Jesus’ death, they must not let sin become their ruler again.

A person can have only one Master or Lord or Ruler – Christ or sin. So because they have been freed through Jesus’ death from having sin as their lord and now have Him as their new Master or Ruler, Paul instructs them to live in a practical sense in agreement with these facts.

The Roman Christians were familiar with slavery. There were multitudes of slaves in the city of Rome. The Roman believers obviously knew that when slaves died, they were no longer under the rule of their previous masters or lords. It was useless for their former masters to command them to do what they previously did. The slaves were dead and as a result were no longer under their previous masters’ rule. Their masters could whip them, scream at them and threaten them, but the slaves were dead.

The difference between dead Roman slaves and new believers in Christ who changed their masters at conversion, is the latter can still choose in their earthly lives to obey their old master. This is if they are foolish enough to do so.

 

Paul was not commanding believers to begin to have Christ as Master

 

When in Romans 6:12, Paul commanded believers to not let sin reign in their bodies as master, he was not commanding them to change their lords from sin to Jesus Christ. Neither was Paul saying, “You people who are still slaves to sin, stop behaving as slaves to sin”. It is impossible for those who are still slaves to sin to stop themselves from behaving as slaves. It is normal for slaves to behave as slaves.

Instead in this verse, Paul was saying, “Therefore because God has freed you from having sin as your master through Jesus Christ's death and through coming into union with Him, give up thinking and acting as a slave to sin and start behaving as the free person you really are.”

This is like a slave who previously had a Roman master who constantly commanded his slaves to have sexual orgies, to steal from free Romans, to get drunk and do other wicked things. If this slave was bought by a new master Jesus Christ, Christ would command him to no longer think and behave in the ways he did when he was in slavery to his previous wicked master.

Romans 6:19 instructs us: For just as you presented your members as slaves of uncleanness , and of lawlessness, so now present your members as slaves of righteousness for holiness.” One pitiful misinterpretation of Paul's words above is that because he here instructs believers to present their members as slaves of righteousness, this means they had not become a slave of the Lord and Master Jesus Christ before. But note in context, Romans 6:18 and 6:22 stress that God enslaved believers to Himself and His righteousness before.

The presenting of our members now as slaves of righteousness involves living in agreement now with what we already became at conversion – God’s love slaves. In other words, Paul is saying, “Be and live in agreement with what God has already made you in Christ”.

 

A common error to avoid

 

Romans 6:7-11 shows they had already been freed from the lordship of sin through Jesus’ death, and through coming into union with Jesus Christ. The expression “in Jesus Christ” in verse 11 reveals this union.

One common error is the idea the reckoning spoken of in Romans 6:11 is the cause of believers becoming dead to the rule of sin and alive to God in union with Jesus Christ. But these two latter things objectively occurred when Jesus Christ died and was resurrected and became a part of every believers’ experience at conversion. In Romans 6:11, Paul was telling them to reckon what was already true of them in these two senses.

This is similar to when in Romans 6:3, Paul said “do you not know that”, in verse 6 “knowing this”, in verse 9 “knowing that” and in verse 16 “Do you not know that”. In each of these verses, Paul was saying he wanted them to know and reckon what was already true of them in relation to Jesus Christ's death and resurrection and their union with Him.

Bible Study Questions

 

1.         Explain what Romans 6:8 and 10-11 teach us about the results of our redemption through Christ and identification with Him in His death and resurrection.

2.         What is a common error we can fall into about the reckoning spoken of in Romans 6:11?

3.         In Romans 6:11, what is Paul telling believers to reckon?

 

 


 

[1] Leon Morris, “The Epistle To The Romans”, page 256.


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