21 days of prayer and fasting - Romans 6
Can we be free from sin? Really free. Not just forgiven from past sins but free from compulsion to sin? Is it possible?
Paul says “Yes it is!”
In verse 12 he writes “Do not let sin reign in your mortal body.” The next verse shows how - we offer ourselves to God not to sin because we have been brought from death to life. And verse 14 declares triumphantly that sin will have no power over you because you are not under law but under grace.
What does this mean? Paul is logical and progresses through his explanation carefully (but in the style of Jewish scholar, so it might not seem clear to us at first reading). His main theme is that through our faith we are reconciled to God and saved from sin. Keeping the Law does not achieve this, as chapter 7 will explain.
Paul is realistic, though. He does not pretend that sin does not matter - it cost Jesus his life to deal with the sin problem! He does not pretend that people are not really sinful - he has already explained to the Romans that they are (see chapter 2 in particular). Sin is real and in the second half of this chapter Paul writes of sin as though it is a living force - because it really is a demonic force at work in the world through people!
Sin leads to death (verse 23) and the answer to sin is death. But whose death? First, the death of Jesus on the Cross, through which He has triumphed over all demonic powers (Colossians 2:13-15). But then also ours. Yes, we too must die, not in the way we expect but die to self. Our old self, with its tendency to sin and independence from God, has to die. But how?
Paul explains in the first section of this chapter that we have died to sin. Our old self died when we became Christians and were born again. In Acts 2:38 Peter, who had just preached the first ever gospel message, told those responding how to enter the Kingdom of God: repent and be baptised and God will forgive and cleanse you!
That is how to be born again and to begin a life as a disciple. Repentance is often a last resort but it is God’s starting point. And baptism as a believer is not an option. It is not a nice thing to do after being a Christian for a while. It is part of the essential foundations of a life of discipleship.
In baptism we are identified with Christ spiritually so that we are considered dead to sin - our old life is dead so we cannot sin when we live filled with the Spirit! If we died with Him we also live with Him - and inherit along with Jesus and all other believers. In Ephesians 1 Paul explains what we receive “in Christ” or “in Him.”
Of course we can go wrong and sin. Paul is talking to people who are going wrong. But we do not have to. If we live according to the Spirit, full of the Spirit, led by the Spirit, then we do not have do.
That is freedom indeed!