Paul understood, like many of us do, the importance of going back to basics. Just like a golfer will return to the basics of a swing to improve their game, a Christian ought to regularly get back to the basics of our faith to avoid drifting spiritually from the fundamental truths of Scripture. Paul, in the Book of Romans, presents the basics of the faith. Its study benefits believer and seeker alike.
We discover in Romans 6 Paul’s foundational teaching on the practical difference, a believer’s new identity in Christ has in and through their life. This identity is the result of a Christian’s union with the Lord. This unity with Christ allows us to be sanctified, separated unto God, resulting in genuine lifestyle change as we become more and more like Christ.
Paul illustrates the believer’s life-changing relationship with Christ in two ways. The first example Paul gives is baptism. Baptism demonstrates that the believer has unity with Christ’s death and resurrection (Rom 6:1-11). Paul reminds us that Adam sinned, and humanity died; but Christ died, and because He died, we who believed in Him are alive now. This is sealed when we are baptized by the Holy Spirit. This is pictured in water baptism that signifies our identifying with the death of Christ, as the believer goes under the water, and our identifying with Christ’s resurrection (new life), as she comes up out of the water.
The believer’s identity in Christ, the Christian’s salvation, rests upon two historical points. A person’s salvation rests on the moment in space and time at which Jesus died on the cross. Their salvation rests on the moment at which they, by faith, have accepted Christ as Savior. Jesus died at a point in history. He was resurrected at a point in history. The believer accepts Christ at a point in history. The Christian will be raised from the dead at some real point in the future. So, Paul asserts, “live like it!”
The second example Paul gives is slavery. Slavery demonstrates that the believer being enslaved to God brings true freedom, not bondage (Rom 6:12-23). For Paul, the Christian life is not absolute independence from a master. Everyone serves a master, either godlessness or God. The believer now serves God and righteousness (“doing the right thing”) with the same intensity that they used to serve sin – impurity – lawlessness. Paul wrote, “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Rom 6:23). The former master, sin, gives wages for service to him (death); the new master, God, gives a generous gift to His slaves (life).
There are two differences one ought to understand. There is a difference between temptation and sin. Also, there is a difference between not being perfect in this present life and letting sin rule your life. Sin no longer has power in the believer’s life. Temptation continues, but the Christian is not a slave to sin, he can live in victory (1 Cor 10:13). However, the believer is freed from the wage of sin, death, living under forgiveness and grace, being identified in Christ. This ought to make a big difference in how we live. For instance, whenever God calls us to do something, we have three options. We can say, “I won’t do it.” Or we can say, “I’ll do it on my own strength and way.” Lastly, we can say, “I will die to self and allow the Holy Spirit to enable me to do it by the Lord’s strength and in His way.” Obviously, the latter is the right choice for a believer.
As we embrace our identity with Christ, a practical difference is made in our lives as we grow in Christ, are sanctified. When we yield to the Lord, He blesses us so that we can glorify Him and benefit others. I pray all of us will make the right decision right now, by the Spirit’s power, to live the life God has provided for each of us. I hope all Christians will embrace the life God has prepared for you and me, accepting our new identity in Christ, believing we are united with Him, deciding to live as one truly enslaved to Him. Soli Deo Gloria (Glory to God Alone)!