Buried and raised with Christ. 6:1-14
In chapters 5-8 Paul deals with the business of living the Christian life. In the passage before us Paul makes the point that "newness of life" (right living) is a natural consequence that flows from a person's right-standing before God. We are no longer "enslaved to sin", but are "alive to God in Christ Jesus", such that through the power of the indwelling Spirit of Christ we begin to "walk in newness of life."
v1. Paul, using his own words, outlines a criticism raised by law-bound believers who felt that his teaching on justification (of an eternal right-standing before God which rests on the faithfulness of Christ, apart from the law) inevitably leads to libertarianism. They argued that his teaching devalued the sanctifying power of the law and thus promoted sin. In fact, when the logic of Paul's position is extended it implies that sin is good because God's grace in forgiveness is activated in proportion to the sin.
v2. "Rubbish", says Paul. There is no way that Paul is going to accept that his teaching on justification promotes libertarianism - an anything-goes form of Christian living. "How can we who died to sin still live in it?" Paul goes on to explain how a believer has "died to sin" apart from the law.
v3-4. Our justification identifies us with Christ's death and resurrection. In his death we die, we die to sin; in his resurrection we live, we live to God, we begin to live a new moral life for God. Paul is using the word "baptism" in the sense of "immersed" to illustrate identification with Christ.
v5. Paul again restates the point he is making, using the word "united with" - grafted together. Given that believers are united with Jesus in his sacrificial death on their behalf, there is a sense where believers are also united with him in his resurrection.
v6-7. The consequence of dying with Christ involves a death to sin, "freed from sin", that "we might no longer be enslaved to sin." A believer is, in Christ, freely released from the power of sin, not so that we can go on sinning, or even be more sinful, but rather that we might no longer live a sinful life.
v8-10. The consequence of rising with Christ involves a life lived to God. Christ is alive, never to die again, and "the life he lives, he lives to God." Since we are identified with Christ in his resurrection, alive with him, we too will live to God. Paul will later explain that it is through the power of the indwelling Spirit of Christ that a believer possesses the potential to live for God rather than self.
v11. Paul now refocuses on his readers, probably with an eye to his law-bound readers - "you must identify yourselves with Christ's death and resurrection." It is essential for a believer to rest in faith on Christ's death, with its consequences, and Christ's resurrection, with its consequences.
v12-13. This being the case, Paul calls on his readers to yield themselves to God as his obedient slaves, free from sin's dominion.
v14. A believer is quite able to do this because we "are not under law, but under grace." Whereas the law prompts rebellion, the gift of Christ's indwelling Spirit prompts love.
Dead to the power of sin
I well remember a brother telling me that Christians should worship God on the Sabbath, not Sunday, for, as he put it, obedience to God's law brings with it divine blessings. The trouble is, this is not what the Bible tells us. Paul the apostle, when explaining the teachings of Jesus, stressed the fact that righteousness, holiness, with all its accrued blessings, is freely ours in Christ - his righteousness, his faithfulness is ours as a gift of divine grace through faith, and this apart from obedience to the law. There is nothing that we can add to what Christ has done for us.
It is not unreasonable to think that we earn brownie-point for being good and so there were many believers in the New Testament church who opposed Paul's teaching. For them, the law restrains sin and so progresses holiness for the appropriation of divine blessings. In verse 1 of our passage for study Paul actually records one of their counter arguments against him: If the Christian life is all of grace then obviously law-obedience is unnecessary. In fact, what we should actually do is be disobedient so that the grace of God's forgiveness may abound. It's a good argument, but as Paul points out, it is very difficult for a believer to live in sin when they are dead to sin.
In the passage before us Paul tells us that believers have "died to sin", v2, 7, 11, or as he puts it later, are "set free from sin", v18, 22. Earlier in the book of Romans Paul explains that we are free from the guilt of sin, but here he explains that we are free from the power of sin. His argument is actually summarized in verse 14. Sin's power over our life is weakened because:
i] We who are untied to Christ in his death are dead to the authority of the law. God's law primarily serves to expose sin, make sin more sinful, and so drive the sinner to God for mercy; the law serves to lead us to Christ, Rom.5:20, Gal.3:23-25. Having served this purpose we are freed from the authority of the law, and so sin's power over us, once stirred up by the law, is weakened. Of course, we must remember that free from the power of sin does not mean that we are free from sin. "We acknowledge that regeneration is so effected in us that, until we slough off this mortal body, there remains always in us much imperfection and infirmity, so that we always remain poor and wretched sinners in the presence of God." The Geneva Confession.
ii] We who are united to Christ in his resurrection are alive to God through his empowering grace. Christ's resurrection power, his resurrection life (a life lived to God, pleasing to God) is imaged in us through the renewing power of the indwelling Spirit of Christ. "Christ in us" becomes life to our fleshly bodies, Gal.2:20, 3:14, 5:16; His indwelling-compelling love shapes us and so sin's power over us is weakened.
So, don't let sin rule your lives, but rather, give yourselves to God as people raised from death to life.
1. Why doesn't "free from sin" mean we are actually free from sin, ie. a sinless Christian?
2. Why isn't "lead us not into temptation" a prayer to take away temptation and therefore promote a sinless life?
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