An Identity You Must Embrace

The Point:  Sin is no longer your master, Christ is.

Dead to Sin and Alive to God:  Romans 6:8-11.

[8]  Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. [9]  We know that Christ, being raised from the dead, will never die again; death no longer has dominion over him. [10]  For the death he died he died to sin, once for all, but the life he lives he lives to God. [11]  So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus.  [ESV]

[8-11]  “Now carries the argument along: that union with Christ in His atonement involves union with Him in spiritual life and sanctification. Certainly the two must not be separated. Paul makes clear what follows if we have decisively died with Christ. With Christ is grounded in the historical fact of the death of Christ, a death that was not simply a historical fact, but a death for sinners, a death that is the basis of the whole experience of salvation. Our death with Christ is not an end in itself; by faith we go on to life with Christ. Paul strongly emphasizes the reality of Christ’s death, which is the basis of faith for the apostle. Here he speaks of the faith that those who died with Christ will also live with Him. The Christian way is not negative. There is a death to an old way, it is true, but as the believer identifies with Christ in His death he enters into newness of life. Day by day he lives with Christ. The future tense (will also live) applies from the standpoint of the death we died with Christ. It thus refers to the continuing life of the believer, though it is not confined to the here and now. Paul is saying that the believer lives with Christ now and that the union will be even more wonderful in the life to come. Again in verse 9 Paul appeals to the knowledge believers share. What he is saying is common knowledge for Christians, so there can be no doubt about the force of his argument. Christian faith is always viewed as grounded upon knowledge, upon fact. Our belief that we will live with Christ is not baseless: it rests upon our knowledge of His resurrection life. For Christ death is over and done with: death no longer has dominion over him. The way Paul puts it (no longer) implies that death once did have dominion over Him. As Christ trod the lowly path of suffering on behalf of doomed sinners He submitted to the rule of death. But that is all past. There is no more death for Him. For [10] carries on the chain of reasoning. It is because of what follows that Paul can say that death had no mastery over Christ. His death with all that it means had to do with sin, and His life with all that it means has to do with God. The context makes clear that Christ died for our sins; He had none of His own to which He might die. But dealing with our sins meant coming into this world of sin and then dying the death that put sin away. That death was a death to sin, for it meant the end of Christ’s being in the realm of sin. It was a death to his whole relationship to sin. Jesus’ death to sin was once for all. Believers face a new contest with sin every day; as long as we are on this earth we are never free from it. But Christ’s death was unique, a once for all dealing with sin. God made Him sin for us [2 Cor. 5:21], and His death dealt decisively with sin, took it out of the way, paid its penalty, removed its sting [1 Cor. 15:55-57], won the victory over it. Paul goes on to Jesus’ risen life. The resurrection marks the victory, the end of the conflict with sin. The life that follows is a life singularly devoted to God. This does not mean that on earth Jesus did not live singularly devoted to God. He did. But on earth He lived in sin’s realm. God’s purpose for Him was directed to the defeat of sin; it meant that Jesus identified Himself with sinners. Now all that is over. His life is beyond the reach of death and every evil. It is a life lived positively in and for the glory of God, no longer with the negative aspect of putting away sin. Verse 11 gives the consequences of Christ’s death and life. Faith means seeing things as Christ sees them and then acting on the vision. Consider or count is a favorite Pauline word; it conveys the idea of reckoning or calculating. Paul is arguing that his readers should come to see the truth of their situation. Christ’s death and resurrection has altered their position, and they should live in accordance with the new reality. The present tense points to a continuing process; this goes on throughout the Christian life. The believer is to take seriously his death with Christ [8] and Christ’s death to sin [10]. Since Christ died to sin and since the believer is dead with Christ, the believer is dead to sin and is to recognize 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 consider 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 recognize 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 the believer 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. The Christian way is not just an emotional experience (though, of course, the emotions are involved). It is a life of service. Paul speaks of all this as being in Christ Jesus. Paul never explains what he means by this expression, but clearly it points to the close tie that unites believers to their Lord. The blessings Christians receive they receive because of their contact with Christ. Here in this verse we should see that it is only as we are in Christ Jesus that we live to God. And the expression reminds us that God sees us not as we are ‘in ourselves’ but as we are ‘in Christ’.” (Morris, pages 253-257).

Present Yourselves to God:  Romans 6:12-14.

[12]  Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, to make you obey its passions. [13]  Do not present your members to sin as instruments for unrighteousness, but present yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life, and your members to God as instruments for righteousness. [14]  For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace.  [ESV]

[12-14]  “Therefore ties verse 12 closely with the preceding. In the light of the truth Paul has been setting forth certain things follow. The apostle is addressing believers, not the general public. It is the duty of those who do know the redeeming power of Christ to live in the way Paul is suggesting here. Godly living is a necessity, not an option. They are no longer sin’s slaves. They must not let sin reign. This of course assumes that sin is still there; believers do not have a serene existence from which sin has been blissfully excluded. They are still in the flesh as well as in Christ. Sin is still a force, but Paul’s point is that it is not supreme. Believers are to make sure accordingly that they do not deny their freedom by allowing sin to rule them. Paul specifically mentions the body in connection with this reign. And the folly of letting sin reign is subtly brought out by characterizing the body as mortal. Sin’s pleasures take place in a body which is at best mortal and will soon pass away, whereas Paul has been speaking of the life in Christ that brings eternal joy. It is stupid to allow that which will die to have the supreme position. Paul is not arguing that the body is the cause of sin, but that it is the organ through which sin manifests itself, so that believers obey it. Paul adds another negative command in verse 13: Do not present your members to sin as instruments for unrighteousness. Once more sin is personified; it is sin that is the potential recipient of the members of the bodies of Paul’s readers. If used in this way, these members would promote wickedness. But introduces a strong contrast. There is a change of verb tense and a change from the members to the whole person. The aorist tense signifies a wholehearted and total commitment: present yourselves to God. They are to do this as those who have been brought from death to life, a striking and vivid way of referring to Christians. They have died to sin with Christ. But now your members are to be presented to God as instruments for righteousness. Since the believer belongs to God, his body is to be used for God’s righteous purposes. For in verse 14 introduces the reason. There is a great fact which Paul sees as justification for what he has just said. Again he personifies sin, and views it as a master of slaves. But this time there is a negative: sin will have no dominion over you. Believers are no slaves to sin. In verse 9 Paul has said that death no longer has any lordship over Christ; now he adds that sin has no lordship over those who are Christ’s. Verse 14 is a promise, not a command. Here Paul is pointing to the reason why commands like those he has just given can be obeyed. Believers can present their members to God for righteousness precisely because sin has no lordship over them. They are free. Since introduces the reason. Paul saw clearly that law and grace do not go together. If one is under the one, he is not under the other. Paul held that the law was given, not as the way of deliverance, but in order that every mouth might be stopped and all people be held accountable to God [3:19]; it gives knowledge of sin [3:20]; it makes the offense abound [5:20]; it works wrath [4:15]; no one will be justified by law [3:20]; sin brought about all kinds of lust through the commandment, indeed sin is dead apart from law [7:8]; it was through the commandment that sin deceived and slew Paul [7:11]; people’s sinful passions work through the law [7:5] the law is weak through the flesh [8:3]. But Christians are not bound. Their salvation is God’s free gift. They are not dependent on their own ability to keep the law. They are free from the tyranny of sin and of law.” (Morris, pages 257-259).

Slaves of Righteousness:  Romans 6:15-18.

[15]  What then? Are we to sin because we are not under law but under grace? By no means! [16]  Do you not know that if you present yourselves to anyone as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin, which leads to death, or of obedience, which leads to righteousness? [17]  But thanks be to God, that you who were once slaves of sin have become obedient from the heart to the standard of teaching to which you were committed, [18]  and, having been set free from sin, have become slaves of righteousness.  [ESV]

[15-18]  “Verse 15 is clearly parallel to verse 1. Substantially the same question is being asked in both verses, namely whether grace sanctions sin, and even encourages it. And in both cases it calls forth from the apostle the same vehement protest: By no means! There are two significant shifts of emphasis in Paul’s argument. First, although he develops the same argument that freedom to sin is fundamentally incompatible with our Christian reality, he describes this in terms of our being united to Christ in verses 3-14 and of our being enslaved to God in verses 16-23. It is not only the figure of speech which is different. It is also and secondly how these radical changes came about. The emphasis of the former is on what was done to us (we were united to Christ), while the emphasis on the latter is on what we did (we offered ourselves to God to obey Him). The passive statement alludes to our union with Christ (we were baptized into His death [3]), whereas the active is properly called conversion (we turned from sin to God [19]), although of course only grace enabled us to do it. What Paul does in the second half of Romans 6 is to draw out the logic of our conversion, as in the first half he has drawn out the logic of our union with Christ. In both cases his argument begins with the same astonished question, Do you not know [3,16], and continues by probing our understanding of our Christian beginnings. Since through baptism we were united to Christ [3-4], and in consequence are dead to sin and alive to God, how can we possibly live in sin? Since through conversion we offered ourselves to God to be His slaves, and in consequence are committed to obedience, how can we possibly claim freedom to sin? The principle that Paul lays out in verse 16 is that self-surrender leads to slavery: you are slaves of the one whom you obey. The notion of slavery to sin is readily intelligible, and so is the fact that it leads to death (separation from God both here and hereafter). It is less easy, however, to understand his apparently inexact parallels. As the alternative to being slaves to sin one might have expected slaves to Christ rather than slaves to obedience, and as the alternative to death the expectation would be life rather than righteousness. Yet the idea of being obedient to obedience is a dramatic way of emphasizing that obedience is the very essence of slavery, and righteousness in the sense of justification is almost a synonym of life. At least Paul’s general meaning is beyond doubt. Conversion is an act of self-surrender; self-surrender leads inevitably to slavery; and slavery demands a total, radical, exclusive obedience. Once we have offered ourselves to Christ as His slaves, we are permanently and unconditionally at His disposal. Having laid down the principle that surrender leads to slavery, Paul applies it to his Roman readers, reminding them that their conversion involved an exchange of slaveries. Indeed, so complete is the change which has taken place in their lives that he breaks out into a spontaneous doxology: But thanks be to God. He then sums up their experience in four stages, which concern what they used to be (slaves to sin), what they did (wholeheartedly obeyed), what happened to them (set free from sin) and what they had become (slaves to righteousness). First, you were once slaves of sin. Paul does not mince his words. All human beings are slaves, and there are only two slaveries: to sin and to God. Conversion is a transfer from the one to the other. Secondly, you have become obedient from the heart to the standard of teaching to which you were committed. This is a most unusual description of conversion. That they had obeyed is understandable, since the proper response to the gospel is the obedience of faith. But here it is not God or Christ whom they are said to have obeyed, but a certain standard of teaching. Paul evidently sees conversion not only as trusting in Christ but as believing and acknowledging the truth. Moreover, Paul writes not that this teaching was committed to them, but that they were committed to it. Thirdly, the Romans have been set free from sin, emancipated from its slavery. Not that they have become perfect, for they are still capable of sinning, but rather that they have been decisively rescued out of the lordship of sin into the lordship of God, out of the dominion of darkness into the kingdom of Christ. In consequence, fourthly, they have become slaves of righteousness. So decisive is this transfer by the grace and power of God from the slavery of sin to the slavery of righteousness that Paul cannot restrain himself from thanksgiving: But thanks be to God [17].” (Stott, pages 182-184).

Questions for Discussion:

1.         Follow Paul’s logic in 6:8-11 as indicated by the words now … that … for … but … so. You may need to read 6:1-7 to understand the full force of Paul’s argument. What does Paul mean by with Christ … with him [8]? In what sense have you died with Christ and now live with him? How can you apply Paul’s conclusion in verse 11 to your daily Christian walk?

2.         According to 6:12-14, sin is still present in the believer’s life. But it must not have dominion over us. Think about the contrast Paul presents in verse 13 with the word but. What point is Paul making? How can you apply his teaching to your Christian life?

3.         Conversion involves an exchange of slaveries: from sin to righteousness. What four stages does Paul give in 6:16-18 to describe this exchange of slaveries?


The Epistle to the Romans, Douglas Moo, Eerdmans.

The Epistle to the Romans, Leon Morris, Eerdmans.

Romans, John Stott, Inter Varsity.

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