The Christian Life
Paul Clarke, Bishop's Stortford, England [SEE PROFILE BELOW]
The epistle to the Romans presents three aspects of God’s salvation:
Justification - salvation from sin’s penalty, chapters 1-5. 11
Sanctification - salvation from sin’s power, chapters 5. 11 to 8. 16
Glorification - salvation from sin’s presence, chapter 8. 17-39
This structure is seen in the following illustration. A son is speeding while being chased by the police and veers off the road. He smashes the car and ends up in the hospital in traction. The offending son now has at least three problems that need to be solved: 1) the judgement of the law that holds a heavy penalty, this is truth dealt with in Romans chapters 1-5. 11; 2) the repair of his body to function in life, the truth dealt with in chapters 5. 12 to 8. 16; the third problem is the ruined car, the truth dealt with in chapter 8, verses 17-39.
It is winning the war over sin that we want to consider. The content of Romans chapters 1 to 5 is pictured in the children of Israel who, saved from the judgement of God (i.e., death of the firstborn) by the blood of the spotless lamb, also needed to be saved from the ability of Pharaoh to keep them in slavery. God’s power in dividing the waters of the Red Sea accomplished this latter thing so they could be free to serve Him, Exod. 14. 15. Likewise, the believer is saved from the judgement of God by the blood of His dear Son, Rom. 1-5, and now in Romans 6-8 we will see how he is freed from the dominion of sin to serve God. Here we learn how the gospel provides power over sin in our daily lives. Not power to eliminate sin’s presence yet, but power to overcome its deeds now.
We need to come into the good of: the death of Christ that has dealt with sin’s penalty; the coming of Christ that will deal with sin’s presence; and the Spirit of Christ who now deals with sin’s power to control a life.
Romans chapters 6, 7 and 8 are a trilogy of thought and the following sets out the formative parts.
Chapter 6. Why we should not continue in sin and should serve God
Key question: ‘shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound’? 6. 1
The subject: the Christian’s life-style – not destiny
The purpose: to give the logic of ‘why’ a believer should not sin – not how to overcome sin
Dominant thought: Christ is our representative, not substitute – Christ as me, not for me
The Negative: ‘our old man’, not our lower self but our former self. Here sin is a master
Logic: judicial legality – not experiential
Chapter 7. How not to serve God – the obstacle to serving God
Key question: ‘Is the law sin’? 7. 7
The subject: the discovery of indwelling sin
The purpose: to vindicate God’s law. Law is good – but we (the flesh) are bad
Dominant thought: we cannot keep the law because of indwelling sin. Law arouses sin. Why?
The Negative: ‘sin that dwelleth in me’, 7. 17. Now it is our lower self (the flesh - natural body). Here we will see that living by law incites indwelling sin
Logic: experiential - a civil war inside the believer’s body
Chapter 8. How to overcome indwelling sin to live for God
Key statement: ‘that the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us’, 8. 4
The subject: Christian victory – not only from our body of death (future), but from sinful deeds (now)
The purpose: to show means of righteous living
Dominant thought: fleshly mind = death; spiritual mind = life. The Christian has the ‘Spirit of God’
The Negative: ‘body is dead because of sin’, 8. 10. Sinful deeds need to be put to death – and can be
Logic: spiritual law
Romans 6 - Why we shouldn’t continue in sin
6. 1 The question
There are a variety of answers to the question of verse 1 as to why a Christian shouldn’t continue in sin. Some say ‘so you don’t lose your salvation’, others, ‘so you don’t burn in purgatory’. But none of these is the answer that Romans chapter 6 reveals.
Romans 6 is presenting the legal aspect of the Christian life. Here one must think in judicial (court room) terms of legality. What is a legal separation and a legal union?
Two authorities with legal rights aren presented.
- The dominion (rule) of master SIN, vv. 14, 16, 20, 22. We were legally bound to sin’s dominion; condemned to judgement. The source of our status of sinnership is from being in union with Adam, chapter 5. This Adamic union is called ‘our old man’ (in contrast to newness of life in Christ), 6. 4-6. Our ‘old man’ is our former union not our lower self.
- The master of righteousness. GOD, vv. 13, 18, 19, 22. A believer is now looked at as being legally separated from Adam (the dominion of sin) and legally joined in union with God and His rule of righteousness. The source of our status of righteousness is from being ‘in Christ’. This is called ‘newness of life’. This is not our higher self but our new union with God.
How did it happen? How does the one in Adam under the dominion of Master sin and where all die, get separated from this and joined to the dominion of Master God where all live? The answer is not our present day experiences but historical – in the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Keep in mind the following legal terminology:
Death = a legal separation from authority, such as when a husband dies, the wife is now legally free to be remarried, 7. 1-3. She wasn’t before.
Burial = a formal putting away, out of sight.
Life (Resurrection) = a union to an authority, such as when a baby is born, the receiving of that family’s life brings the babe into the legal union with the family which includes all its authority, assets, privileges and responsibilities.
Romans chapter 6 points believers to two areas that help us understand our new legal union. These are the logic of our baptism and our conversion.
6. 2-11 - The logic of our baptism – knowing our position
Baptism symbolically identifies us with what we are being baptized into. The believer is baptized into Jesus Christ, His death, burial and resurrection.
Since Christ ‘died unto sin’, Christ is free from sin’s dominion and power – never to die again. Since the believer is in union with Christ, the believer is also dead (legally separated) to sin (its dominion or authority).
Since Christ was buried, so all that the believer was ‘in Adam’ is out of God’s sight. When the Lord Jesus arose to life, ‘he liveth unto God’ and is in union with Him. Likewise, the one in Christ is alive unto God, a new position and authority.
In summary, the good news concerning our ‘old man’ (what we were in Adam) is that he has already received the judgement (death) he deserves and his existence has ended. In co-burial with Christ, God sees our old man no more. God never views us in our Adamic position. In co-resurrection with Christ, God sees us only in Christ, alive unto Him and righteous. Praise the Lord!
Holiness begins in the mind, ‘knowing this’, not ‘experiencing this’, are the words of Romans 6. 6. Crucifying our old man or being dead to sin is not an act we do and experience now, but a position we have, being linked to the Lord Jesus Christ.
6. 12-14 The logic of living our position
The logic here is that the dominion or master you are legally joined to is the dominion or master that reason would expect you to obey.
For example, you legally terminate your employment with company A and sign a legal contract joining you as an employee of company Z. Company Z now calls you to go to Siberia for a project. But company A also calls and tells you to go to Hawaii for a project. Who will you obey? Reason will tell you to obey the company with whom you have a position. There certainly might be a tug of passion to go to Hawaii for company A, but the logic of your new position with company Z will determine who is to be obeyed. If company A threatens to withhold your paycheck and prosecute you if don’t obey them, you then realize that it is an empty threat because you’re legally free from their domain. Knowing your new position governs your decisions.
The believer is connected to God and not the dominion of death and sin. Therefore, one simply obeys the one we are in legal union with: ‘Reckon ye also yourselves to be dead indeed unto sin, but alive unto God through Jesus Christ our Lord. Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, that ye should obey it in the lusts thereof. Neither yield ye your members as instruments of unrighteousness unto sin: but yield yourselves unto God, as those that are alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness unto God. For sin shall not have dominion over you: for ye are not under the law, but under grace’, Rom. 6. 11-14.
6. 15-23 The logic of our conversion forms our attitude toward sin
Now the question is, ‘shall we sin, because we are not under the law, but under grace? The answer is ‘God forbid’. We further query the answer, ‘Why not, since grace (God’s undeserved favour) is not based on works (how I behave)? The reply is, ‘Because now we are in union to and under the authority of a new master!’ The logic that is brought before us is that of a slave in the Roman world. He could easily relate to the masterservant relationship and knew it to be a legal bond. When a person became a man’s slave he presented himself to a master and he submitted to the new master’s authority and therefore expected to obey him.
Paul reminded the Romans that they were converted by having ‘obeyed from the heart’ the message they had heard, 6. 17, and by the act of obeying God’s gospel doctrine of faith alone, they had confessed God as right and thus yielded to His authority. Thus by obeying God’s gospel they were acknowledging God as their new Authority. Thus they were made free from sin and made servants to righteousness. Now therefore, it is logical to obey only your new master. In like manner the children of Israel were not freed from Pharaoh to live their own lives but to ‘serve God’. God’s gospel does not simply free us from the old slavery to sin but changes our master. The mastery of sin yielded the fruit of shame with the wages of death but our new service is to God which yields the fruit of holiness with the gift of eternal life.
Now that the question as to ‘why we should serve God’ has been answered, the ‘how not to serve God’ question is dealt with in chapter 7, and the ‘how to’ serve God in chapter 8.
AUTHOR PROFILE: Paul Clarke Following senior executive roles within the Lloyds TSB Group, Paul took early retairement in 1998 to devote more time to teaching and pastoral responsibilies within his local church. He has been an Editor of Service since 1998.