1What shall we say, then? Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase? 2By no means! We died to sin; how can we live in it any longer? 3Or don't you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? 4We 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.
5If we have been united with him like this in his death, we will certainly also be united with him in his resurrection. 6For we know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin— 7because anyone who has died has been freed from sin.
8Now if we died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. 9For we know that since Christ was raised from the dead, he cannot die again; death no longer has mastery over him. 10The death he died, he died to sin once for all; but the life he lives, he lives to God.
11In the same way, count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus. 12Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its evil desires. 13Do not offer the parts of your body to sin, as instruments of wickedness, but rather offer yourselves to God, as those who have been brought from death to life; and offer the parts of your body to him as instruments of righteousness. 14For sin shall not be your master, because you are not under law, but under grace.
15What then? Shall we sin because we are not under law but under grace? By no means! 16Don't you know that when you offer yourselves to someone to obey him as slaves, you are slaves to the one whom you obey — whether you are slaves to sin, which leads to death, or to obedience, which leads to righteousness? 17But thanks be to God that, though you used to be slaves to sin, you wholeheartedly obeyed the form of teaching to which you were entrusted. 18You have been set free from sin and have become slaves to righteousness.
19I put this in human terms because you are weak in your natural selves. Just as you used to offer the parts of your body in slavery to impurity and to ever-increasing wickedness, so now offer them in slavery to righteousness leading to holiness. 20When you were slaves to sin, you were free from the control of righteousness. 21What benefit did you reap at that time from the things you are now ashamed of? Those things result in death! 22But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves to God, the benefit you reap leads to holiness, and the result is eternal life. 23For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. (NIV)
Paul realizes a possible response to his statement from the end of Chapter 5 where he says as “sin increased, grace increased all the more,” might be that we should keep on sinning so that we get more grace. And the answer has to do with a spiritual death and spiritual rebirth. When we say yes to Christ, we die to the old self and a new self is created. And this new creation is to live for Christ, not for self. This is the hardest concept to understand, what does it mean to life for Christ. For Paul, the answer was very simple, to sin was to focus on self, to live for Christ, was to focus on the well beaning of others.
In this passage, Paul is focusing on what happens in baptism. A major part of baptism is the act of repentance. Repentance had a meaning derived from nomadic tribes. If one became lost, all one had to do was turn around and retrace one’s steps until you knew where you were. Thus, repentance is a turning around and going the other way. If you were sinning, then you would now leak of life of holiness.
In Baptism, there is a concept we call “regeneration” that happens. This is what Paul is describing. The old dies and a new self is born. A publication by the United Methodist Church puts it this way:
“Baptism is the sacramental sign of new life through and in Christ by the power of the Holy Spirit. Variously identified as regeneration, new birth, and being born again, this work of grace makes us into new spiritual creatures (2 Corinthians 5:17). We die to our old nature which was dominated by sin and enter into the very life of Christ who transforms us. Baptism is the means of entry into new life in Christ (John 3:5; Titus 3:5), but new birth may not always coincide with the moment of the administration of water or the laying on of hands. Our awareness and acceptance of our redemption by Christ and new life in him may vary throughout our lives. But, in whatever way the reality of the new birth is experienced, it carries out the promises God made to us in our baptism.”
“Baptism and Holy Living. New birth into life in Christ, which is signified by baptism, is the beginning of that process of growth in grace and holiness through which God brings us into closer relationship with Jesus Christ and shapes our lives increasingly into conformity with the divine will. Sanctification is a gift of the gracious presence of the Holy Spirit, a yielding to the Spirit’s power, a deepening of our love for God and neighbor. Holiness of heart and life, in the Wesleyan tradition, always involves both personal and social holiness.”
This is the essence of what Paul is trying to convey. There should be no reason to keep on sinning as we now have a new focus and a new way of living. And this new way of living we grow into over time just as we age as a person. Paul alludes to this when he writes, “I put this in human terms because you are weak in your natural selves.” Paul would write to the Corinthians that “I address you as “infants in Christ.”
This reminds us that while we should sin no more, there is the recognition that as we grow, we will still make mistakes, but God’s grace is there to keep us going.
How do you view living a life of holiness? What does it mean to you that you are new creation, the old has gone and a new self is not present?
Blessings and Peace