In Romans 6, Paul presented the framework of how we passed from death and into life through Christ. His death became our death, his life became our life. The ramifications of this reality — that is, how it all pans out for us — has been hotly debated ever since then. If Christ has done everything, then what are we supposed to do? If he has done everything, then why does it seem that it has so little effect in the lives of so many Christians? In other words, if we have already “been freed from sin and enslaved to God” as stated in Romans 6:22, if we already “became obedient from the heart” as it says in Romans 6:17, then why are Christians still having problems with obedience? Why do Christian preachers and teachers have to spend so much time and energy with sermons and rebukes and counseling in the attempt to convince their people to be obedient?
Jim, is it possible that all those sermons and rebukes and counseling are the very things that cause the trap that so many Christians find themselves in? Is it possible that the whole approach actually perpetuates the self-defeating cycles that so many believers find themselves caught in? Now, I’m sure that to even consider such a possibility would hit many Christians as being totally absurd. But is it?
I can tell you that I used to bristle at the very suggestion that such a thing could be possible. I mean, why would a preacher or teacher do such a thing … unless of course he was caught up in the very same cycle of self-defeat? Then again, haven’t we seen enough in the realm of the religious system to convince us that those who are dependent upon the system have to go along with many things they may or may not approve of? Now, before any of you who are listening simply cast this off as ridiculous, at least begin to observe what you see in whatever group you belong to. What I’m suggesting is that you just pay attention to the stuff that really matters to the leadership of your group. Is it the people … or do their concerns take back seat to more important matters — like money, staying afloat, improving the building, the program, your appearance, your productivity, the preacher, following the rules, towing the line, agreeing with certain doctrines, stuff like that. All I’m saying is, just pay attention to what’s really going on around you … especially as you’re being told, in so many words, that you are somehow deficient or disobedient.
I suggest that the main reason you’re having trouble with obedience comes from having been convinced that you’re supposed to view yourself that way. However, the picture Paul painted in Romans would have you start from the place of recognition that you are no longer under sin’s control, and that how it sneaks back in has to do with regarding yourself as still under the same failed system you came out of.
Even so consider yourselves to be dead to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus. Romans 6:11
The way many Christians see it, they are very alive to sin but are in question as to how their relationship with God is going at any given time. This perspective will parallel your view of obedience, for it is intrinsically connected. By the way, the word for “consider” comes from the same word the KJV translated as “reckon” which in the Greek — logizomai — is an accounting term. In other words, reckon was the word used when they did the books. If you made $1000 in your business you would then reckon that figure accurately into your log book. It’s just a simple accounting of what is true and accurate. To record that you actually made a million dollars would be a false reckoning. The way Paul wrote his statement discards the pathetic idea that we merely view ourselves a certain way even if it’s not true. Instead, the truth of our having died together with Christ so as to be raised together with him in new life is that which we need to reckon, to regard, to count as being true. How you view obedience is going to hang upon how your make your mental reckonings. If you’re buying into the false basis of the religious mind, you’re going to keep making those mental logs that reflect and falsely validate the lie that discredits the amazing grace brought about through Christ in his death and resurrection.
The problem that exists in much of what’s called Christianity stems from a false accounting of what is true in Christ. I’m not talking about the technical details of Jesus having hung upon the cross and having risen from the dead, for there are millions upon millions who accept the basic story of what HE did without having it affect them beyond its religious framework. A true accounting in Christ cannot be separated from our having been included in his death and resurrection to new life. Don’t flake out on me here and assume that I’m referring to the future (even though the future is not excluded), for this reality is all about the continual right now in Christ. This is all about our having been truly made alive outside of the religious scope.
For just as you presented your members as slaves to impurity and to lawlessness, resulting in further lawlessness, so now present your members as slaves to righteousness, resulting in sanctification. For when you were slaves of sin, you were free in regard to righteousness. (v19-20)
As we are not bound to every possible ramification one can make from Paul’s illustration, we cannot force doubt back into the confidence we have as those who are alive from the dead. In other words, those who speculate about what might happen if a believer ceases to present himself as a slave of righteousness is only a manipulation of the fleshly mind.
Paul’s words were designed to urge those who are alive from the dead to not only see themselves as alive from the dead, but also to present themselves before God as such. The reality of this presentation takes a mere intellectual perspective and moves it into the realm of living truth, where we as living ones in Christ recognize that we in fact stand before God and are encouraged to boldly take our place in God’s presence without any hesitation.
Now, what this has to do with obedience is that we can cease from the groveling position of those who crawl before God as beggars, for we stand eternally before him as those who are children of obedience. This is a far cry from what we’ve been taught in the religious system, is it not?
Notice also the distinction between presenting oneself and presenting one’s members.
Therefore what benefit were you then deriving from the things of which you are now ashamed? For the outcome of those things is death. (v21)
Consider the repeated simplicity demanded by the outcome of death. Just as Paul has told them over and over again, death is a final answer to all the propositions of the flesh and the sin that is inherent in it.
The things of which you are now ashamed. What has changed to make us ashamed of the former things that defined our previous existence in the temporal world? How about the life of God within us?
But now having been freed from sin and enslaved to God, you derive your benefit, resulting in sanctification, and the outcome, eternal life.
BUT NOW HAVING BEEN FREED FROM SIN AND ENSLAVED TO GOD! Forced into the religious framework, these verses have been turned into lifeless doctrines that only produce arguments and speculations regarding “sanctification” and “eternal life.”
Somehow, believers have been deceived into tripping all over the details of the religious mind so that they have difficulty recognizing the most profound simplicity of what it is to have been made freed from sin in Christ, as well as having been enslaved to God. And do not let the fact slip your consideration that our having been made obedient is just as certain as our having been made free from sin and made alive to God.
“And do not let the fact slip your consideration that our having been made obedient is just as certain as our having been made free from sin and made alive to God.”
I really like the sense of certainty that lurks behind this statement. I mean WHAT IF we actually ARE obedient now that we have been placed in the Son?!!!
Adam, let’s kick back and forth on the ramifications of having been made slaves of God and righteousness rather than the former state of being slaves of sin.
For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. (v23)
For years, I had learned to gloss over this verse with an I’ve-already-settled-that-issue perspective. In view of the whole passage, though, I have difficulty seeing it as I used to. how I ever let this verse get pulled out of context so as to force the truth of eternal life into the framework of the heaven versus hell scenario. Eternal life in this context refers to the whole reality of our right now salvation that is defined by our having been freed from sin and made alive to God and righteousness.
Remember, obedience is all in the hearing.