Today I have been meditating on the nature of man’s position relative to God and sin. This topic was made fresh in my mind by Romans chapter 6. This chapter is filled with practical truths about the redemption of man, and his newfound posture towards sin.
There are several themes throughout this chapter that reinforce the fact that we who are alive in Christ can no longer live in sin. The first of these is the idea of dying to sin. At the moment of acceptance, we die to our sin and are made alive with Christ (Romans 6:2;5;6;7;11). In each of these verses, Paul equates the act of atonement and justification through the cross with “dying to sin”.
The significance of this death is revealed in verse 12: Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, to make you obey its passions. The language of this verse is revealing the significance of our death to sin. In verse 11 Paul again mentions that we who are alive in Christ have died to sin. In verse 12, the word “therefore”, is referring back to this idea. It could be more clearly worded: therefore, since you must consider yourselves dead to sin, let not sin reign in your mortal bodies. (Personal interpretation). This command to inhibit the reign of sin in our bodies is a natural product of our death to sin. Paul speaks of this idea many times in the New Testament, perhaps most clearly in Colossians 2:20. If with Christ you have died to the elemental spirits of the world, why, as if you were still alive in the world, do you submit to [its] regulations? Once again the idea is presented: Redemption in Christ yields death to sin, which in turn yields the eradication of sinfulness in the heart. This is a clear picture of the process of sanctification through Christ. The justification we receive through the cross transforms our very being, beginning the journey towards Godliness in our hearts.
The second theme presented in this chapter is slavery. Paul seems to imply in the second half of this chapter that we as humans will always be slaves. Do you not know that if you present yourselves to anyone as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one whom you obey? (Romans 6:16a) The implication here is that we will always be serving someone, which is the nature of our status as creatures rather than creators. The warning in this verse is to choose carefully the one to whom we submit as slaves. He gives only two options of submission, either to God or to sin. Either of sin, which leads to death, or of obedience (to God), which leads to righteousness. (Romans 6:16b).
What a full verse! The implications of these words are staggering! First of all, Paul is saying that slavery to anything or anyone other than God is sin, which leads to death. This is profoundly reinforcing the supremacy of God and the sovereignty of His will – that to serve another will than His is the ultimate sin, inevitably sentencing us to eternal death. In addition, Paul is reinforcing the weight of His mercy. By grace, we have been saved; because we have been saved, we can choose to be slaves of righteousness, rather than sin. A slavery of this kind produces righteousness within us (sanctification through a transformation of our allegiances) and yields the fruit of the Spirit within us. But now that you have been set free from sin (justification through the cross) and become slaves of God, the fruit you get leads to sanctification and its end, eternal life. For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 6:22-23) Therefore, we can know that through the saving power of Christ, we are redeemed and transformed into the image of God, reflecting His glory throughout the earth. This is done in part through a death to sin, and a newfound slavery to God. These transformations yield the fruit of His spirit in our lives, further reflecting Glory back to Him who enables it all.