Romans 6:1-14: Shall we go on sinning so that Grace may increase? (“Hayl no!”) We’re the ones who have died to sin; how then can we live in it any longer? Or don’t you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life. For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we will certainly also be united with him in a resurrection like his. For we know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body ruled by sin might be done away with,[a] that we should no longer be slaves to sin— because anyone who has died has been set free from sin.
Now if we died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. For we know that since Christ was raised from the dead, he cannot die again; death no longer has mastery over him. The death he died, he died to sin once for all; but the life he lives, he lives to God. In the same way, count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus. Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its evil desires. Do not offer any part of yourself to sin as an instrument of wickedness, but rather offer yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life; and offer every part of yourself to him as an instrument of righteousness. For sin shall no longer be your master, because you are not under the law, but under grace.
I think that one of the biggest misunderstandings that we have today, as American Christians anyway, is the understanding of slavery in Biblical times. Because as Americans, regardless of race, I think the first example we look at is the African slavery.
African slaves in America’s early days were either forced or sold into their position by their tribal leaders or by capture from slave traders. We hear of such captors also in the history of St. Patrick’s life, who was kidnapped as a child and sold into slavery to the distant land of Ireland. We also hear of such sales in the Bible with Joseph. His own brothers threw him into a pit, then sold him off to some Ishmaelites, who later sold him off to Egypt.
Then there was also another type of slavery, which was slavery by choice. For example, if you took out a loan, you could pay it back by selling yourself to your debtor and becoming his slave, working until the loan paid off. If a slave by choice (or enslaved by debt if they could not pay it back), then you’re only so until your debt was paid in full. Hence Paul’s slave-talk for Christians’ redemption of us: Jesus paid in full for our freedom.
But now, as freed, former slaves, would it be right to take out another loan from the same previous slave-owner?
A wealthy person will spend money to help a person out of a situation. A thankful person will accept the gift and never return to that previous situation. But say now that the person, after being freed from their debt, returns to the person who previously enslaved them (say they enjoy the rich person’s attention, or they feel worth when the rich person bails them out, or whatever). Is this healthy? Is it right? Do you think the wealthy person wants to keep giving his money to the evil slave owner? Wouldn’t it be better for the redeemed person to stay with the wealthy person in his home and care? Don’t you think the wealthy person would prefer to share his wealth with the redeemed person than the evil slave owner?
Plus, if the person keeps going back so they’ll be redeemed, they’re never really experiencing the love of their redeemer. This is like the person who continues to return to their previous sins in order for Christ’s grace to increase (see my previous post: “Who’s Glorified in Your Actions?”). Sure you get to continue to experience His grace, but you never get to experience God, because you’re too busy going back to your sinful ways.
Also in Biblical times, baptism so closely followed conversion that the two were often considered parts of one event. So you believe, you accept Christ’s redeeming power and grace and you’re baptized into Christ’s death and resurrection…you become a new creation. You died to your sin and were raised to new life, as a new creation, in Christ. That old self died to sin in your baptism. So why will you return to the ways of death?
And this takes us back to the debt issue. In Matthew’s version of the Lord’s Prayer, it says, “And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.” These debts were recognized as such that were impossible to pay back. The forgiveness mentioned here also compares with that of one who completely erases the debt.
So we were slaves to sin by a debt that was impossible to pay back. Jesus came in and paid it in full.
In the same way that Jesus paid for us in full, erasing the debt, so we must also do so with those indebted to us, because it’s in Christ that we died to sin, and we’re to forgive others in the same fashion that we want God to forgive us.
So you died in Christ. Instead of your blood being shed, Christ’s blood was shed.
So the sinful body was done away with in order that we may no longer be slaves to sin. Because anyone who’s died has been set free from sin. How? Because obviously if you’re dead, you can’t continue to pay off your debt. So therefore, in death, we are set free. Our old, sinful self, died in baptism and we were made new creations, no longer slaves to sin, when we came up out of the water.
So in baptism, we died with Christ and were raised up new, “Born again” if you will, or “born from above”, under our new master, which is Christ. So now that we’re with our new master, why would you return to your old, evil master? Even Jesus said you can’t serve 2 masters, and Elijah said to choose one whom they’ll serve. Will you choose God, who is life and who saved you from sin, or will you return to sin whose bite is fatal and leads to death?