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Many people know some stories from the Bible, but not how the narrative fits together. The Bible is one story that begins in a garden, ends in a city, and all the way through points to Jesus Christ. Open is your guided journey through this powerful, life-transforming story.
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Dead to Sin, Alive to God

6:1 What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it? Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.

For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his. We know that our old self1 was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin. For one who has died has been set free2 from sin. Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. We know that Christ, being raised from the dead, will never die again; death no longer has dominion over him. 10 For the death he died he died to sin, once for all, but the life he lives he lives to God. 11 So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus.

12 Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, to make you obey its passions. 13 Do not present your members to sin as instruments for unrighteousness, but present yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life, and your members to God as instruments for righteousness. 14 For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace.

Slaves to Righteousness

15 What then? Are we to sin because we are not under law but under grace? By no means! 16 Do you not know that if you present yourselves to anyone as obedient slaves,3 you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin, which leads to death, or of obedience, which leads to righteousness? 17 But thanks be to God, that you who were once slaves of sin have become obedient from the heart to the standard of teaching to which you were committed, 18 and, having been set free from sin, have become slaves of righteousness. 19 I am speaking in human terms, because of your natural limitations. For just as you once presented your members as slaves to impurity and to lawlessness leading to more lawlessness, so now present your members as slaves to righteousness leading to sanctification.

20 For when you were slaves of sin, you were free in regard to righteousness. 21 But what fruit were you getting at that time from the things of which you are now ashamed? For the end of those things is death. 22 But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God, the fruit you get leads to sanctification and its end, eternal life. 23 For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Footnotes

[1] 6:6 Greek man
[2] 6:7 Greek has been justified
[3] 6:16 For the contextual rendering of the Greek word doulos, see Preface; twice in this verse; also verses 17, 19 (twice), 20

(ESV)

Overview

A Christian is a person who has been united with Christ in His death and resurrection. When you were united with Christ by faith, the person you were before ceased to exist, and a new person came into being. You still have many struggles and you will fail in many ways, but since Christ has set you free, you are in an entirely new position.

Discovering your new position in Christ is one of the most important keys to living the Christian life. Sin will always be your enemy, but it is no longer your master. You are now in a position to put up a fight.

Pete and Mary, Tom and Sandra, and Dave and Linda all became friends at college. After graduation, each couple settled in a different part of the country, but before saying good-bye, they agreed to have a reunion after twenty-five years. They made a covenant that when they met, they would tell the truth about their lives.

When the great day came, the three couples settled down to hear the truth about each other. Pete and Mary went first. They had arrived separately and the others wondered why. “We moved in together after college,” said Pete. “We felt that marriage wasn’t for us, but we wanted to be together, and so we decided to see how things would work out. The truth is, we got on each other’s nerves, and so we went our separate ways.”

Then it was Tom and Sandra’s turn. They had a long discussion in the car. “We agreed to tell the truth,” said Tom. “What are we going to say?” Sandra told the others how she and Tom married after college. “Now we have a beautiful home and three grown children. Everything seems so good,” she said, “but the truth is that it’s not. We are committed, but there is something missing. I feel as if this marriage is an empty shell.”

Then it was Dave and Linda’s turn. “We married straight after college,” said Dave, “and we’ve had our struggles. We had three children close together, money was tight, and that put a strain on our relationship. But we weathered the storms, and the truth is that we are closer now than we have ever been.”

Three relationships—one is like an open door, one is like an empty shell, and one is a growing union. Which of these is most like your relationship with God?

Open Doors and Empty Shells
Some people would like to have an open-door relationship with God, in which they come to Him when they feel they need Him without making any long-term commitment. But God doesn’t enter that kind of relationship. God makes covenants. He says, “I will take you to be my people, and I will be your God” (Exodus 6:7).

But there is more to God’s covenant than commitment. Tom and Sandra had a committed relationship, but it seemed like an empty shell. When God brings us into His covenant, He invades our lives with His love.

A good marriage is both legal and relational. It is both a binding agreement and an intimate union. It promotes deep security and deep affection. Pete and Mary had no security. Tom and Sandra had no affection. But God wants to bring us into a relationship of covenant love that is both secure and intimate. It is secure because God makes a covenant with us, and it is intimate because it involves “union” with Jesus Christ.

Jesus spoke about this union when He said, “I am the vine; you are the branches” (John 15:5). Just as the sap rises from the vine and flows into the branches, so the life of Christ will flow from Him into His people. This is much more than a legal transaction in which your sins are forgiven and your passport is stamped for heaven. This is the life of God entering into you. It’s hard to imagine a more intimate picture.

A Day at the Driving School
Some time ago, I was issued a traffic ticket. The officer explained that the offense would be on my driving record, but then told me that the state of Illinois had provided a way in which the offense could be removed. “You can take the class,” he said. “And it will be as if this had never happened.”

Now think about the way in which this system works. We can reasonably assume that one day a rather tired administrator yawned as he or she scrolled through a long list of all the “Smiths” driving in Illinois to find the wretched one against whose name an offense should be recorded.

Then, a few weeks later, another administrator would have the laborious task of scrolling through the same list for the purpose of pressing the delete button and erasing all record of the offense. The process is legal, but it is profoundly impersonal. No relationship is involved.

It is a wonderful truth that Jesus died to erase the record of our sins. But if that is all we grasp, our love for God will be as weak as the affection I have for the computer operator who erased my offense.

Christ died not only to clear your record of sin, but also to bring you into a loving relationship with God. Salvation is not an arm’s length transaction performed by an unknown heavenly administrator. It is God reaching out to establish an intimate union with you.

Discover Who You Are!
When you come to faith in Jesus Christ, the Holy Spirit makes a connection between the death and resurrection of Jesus and your life today. “Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? … If we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his” (Romans 6:3, 5).

The word baptized literally means plunged, immersed, or saturated. When you are “baptized into Christ,” you are plunged into Him, and the benefits of His death and resurrection flow into your life. The Holy Spirit brings you into a deep spiritual union with Christ that is formed through the bond of faith. The Bible often refers to this union as being “in Christ” (see, for example, Romans 8:1; 1 Corinthians 1:30; 2 Corinthians 5:17).

Being baptized into Christ’s death means that the person you were before ceases to exist. I find it helpful to think of it like this: There once was a fellow by the name of Colin, and certain things were true of him—he was under the reign of sin, he was alienated from God, and he was powerless to do anything about it (Romans 5:21; Ephesians 2:12; 2:1). If he had stayed in that condition, he would have ended up under condemnation (Romans 8:1). But that fellow no longer exists. He died. He went down with Jesus at the cross. That’s what Paul means when he says, “we have died with Christ” (Romans 6:8).

But it doesn’t end there. Paul also wrote about being “united with [Christ] in a resurrection like his” (Romans 6:5). When the Holy Spirit plunged me into Christ, He brought a new Colin into being—this fellow is under the reign of grace, he is a child of God, and his destiny is everlasting life (Romans 5:21; Galatians 4:4-7; Romans 6:22-23). This new person still fails in many ways, but no matter how often he fails, he cannot ever revert to the person he was. That person is dead and gone forever. He has ceased to exist.

This is the consistent teaching of the New Testament. “If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come” (2 Corinthians 5:17). “You have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God” (Colossians 3:3). “I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me” (Galatians 2:20).

Union with Christ is so much more than turning over a new leaf or making a decision; it is the life of Christ flowing into you by the power of the Holy Spirit.

The Socks and the Trousers
Consider the difference between a pair of socks and a pair of trousers. You know what happens when you put a pair of socks in the wash? One of them gets lost. The problem, of course, is that there is nothing that unites them together. Thankfully, trousers are different. I have never known a pair of trousers to come out of the wash with one leg missing.

Some people have the idea that the blessings of God are like socks, as if God threw out isolated blessings: “Would anyone like forgiveness? Any takers for everlasting life?” But God’s blessings do not come to us like that. God has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing (Ephesians 1:3). All of the blessings of salvation come to us in Jesus, and none of them come to us apart from Him.

Forgiveness is found in Jesus, eternal life is found in Jesus, holiness is found in Jesus, and victory over sin is found in Jesus. These gifts are all joined together inseparably in Him, and if you are in Christ, all of these blessings are yours.

Your New Freedom in Christ
Being in Christ equips you for your battle against sin. Once you were destined for defeat in the battle, but now, in Christ, you are positioned for victory. “Sin shall no longer be your master, because you are not under the law, but under grace” (Romans 6:14 NIV).

Picture yourself on a field of battle. Your unit comes under heavy fire, and you are taken captive. You surrender your weapons, and you are carted off to what looks like a massive cage. The man in charge of the cage looks quite terrifying. When he shouts orders, the people inside do what he commands. You value your life and so you decide to do the same.

For the next year, your whole life is in the cage. You sleep, you are fed, and you exercise, but all the time you are under the power of your enemy, and as long as you are in the cage, there is absolutely nothing you can do about it.

Then one night, you hear the roar of an engine and the sound of gunfire. Your captain has come with all his forces to set you free. As you climb into his jeep, he hands you a gun: “Take this,” he says, “you’re back in the battle now.”

The next day the man who runs the cage comes looking for you. He shouts orders, but you no longer have to do what he says. You are not in the cage. You are free. When you are in Christ, you are in an entirely new position. You are free, and that means you are in a position to fight. Sin will always be your enemy, but it is no longer your master.

“Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, to make you obey its passions … but present yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life, and your members to God as instruments for righteousness” (Romans 6:12-13).

  1. Three relationships—one is like an open door, one is like an empty shell, and one is a growing union. Which of these is most like your relationship with God?
  2. What kind of relationship does God want to have with us? How does that make you feel?
  3. What does “baptized” mean? What are the two parts of being “baptized” into Christ? What would each of these mean for you, personally?
  4. In your own words, what does the illustration of the socks and the trousers tell us about how God’s blessings come to us?
  5. React to this statement: “Sin will always be your enemy, but it is no longer your master.”
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