In childrenís residential settings, children get points taken off for not following directions, and/or children get points for following directions. The childrenís level for the next day is determined by how many points they have accumulated by the end of the day. Levels are usually labeled A, B, or C (A being the highest). Privileges for the next day are determined by the childís level. In one program, for example, children on Level B or A gets to play computer games.
Proponents of this system resist taking away the level system because they feel that it will take away the motivation for the children to do what is right. In this epistle, the Apostle Paul is responding to his listeners who were concerned with a similar problem, ďif Godís grace covers the sins of those who have faith in Christ, what would be the motivation to stop sinning?ď
We discover the Apostle Paulís answer by following the logic of this passage.
V3 It unites us to Christís death
V4 Signifies being buried with Christ
Paul is using the picture of immersion to describe an aspect of the doctrine of Union with Christ. The dipping of the person signifies the death and burial of Christ. Just as Christ died and was buried, the one who is baptized also died and was buried.
This does not suggest that immersion is the only proper way to be baptized. Although immersion was the most common form of baptism in Paulís day Ö
V6 The old self is described as the body that is slave to sin
Itís a body that is not able to stop sinning because its natural inclination is towards sin, which is what being slave to sin means. Just as the slave follows the masterís command, the body follows its sinful inclination. But I donít do anything wrong with my body, so how can I be called a slave to sin?
The body is emphasized, because of the identification of the human body with the body of Christ. Body and soul are aspects of the one self. In other words, body and soul are united to comprise the human self, and its separation is unnatural.
Therefore, sins of the inner person- anger, envy, lust, greed, covetousness, pride, gluttony- is the sin of the whole self, even though it may not manifest itself externally. It is not right to say that sins of the outer person (promiscuity) are significant and the sins of the inner person (lust) are insignificant.
The point of this passage is that, if you have been baptized, your old self thatÖ
Öhas died with Christ. Christ has taken up the old self of the believer and put it to death through his own death. That is an aspect of union with Christ.
Concerning infant baptism, the infant inherits the sinful inclination of his parents and infant baptism unites the infant to Christ. Therefore, her sinful self is also put to death. For both infants and adults who are baptized, the external manifestation of the death of the old self is a lifelong process. That lifelong process is called sanctification, which is made possible through the renewing work of Godís Holy Spirit, not through our own efforts. The promise of baptism is that, through union with Christ, the journey of sanctification is taking place. There are more that can be said about baptism but for now remember that baptism unites a person to Christ.
The old self died so that new life can come forth.
V5, 8 So that we could be united with Christ in his resurrection
V4, 10 That we may live a new life to God
The apostle Paul again uses the image of immersion. The person who is dipped in water, emerges from the water, signifying a new beginning. Just as Jesus emerged from death, was resurrected, and presented himself to God; the one who is baptized is given a new life. That new life is a new self. What characterizes this new self?
The new self is freed from sin (V7)
The new self is dedicated to God, just as Jesus dedicated himself to God. Whereas the old self has the sinful inclination as its master, the new self has Godís Holy Spirit as its master. Why then do those who are baptized still sin? It is because the renewing of the self is both a reality and a process. In other words, the new self is both a present and a future reality.
We say that the Kingdom of God is already here because Jesus is enthroned in heaven. We also say that the manifestation of the kingdom is not yet complete because Jesus is not yet universally recognized as Lord. In the same way, the believerís new self, which is under the influence of Godís Holy Spirit, is real. However, it is also true that the old self controlled by the sinful inclination is still in the process of being made new.
The new self is free from death (V9)
The new self is immortal just like Jesusí resurrected body is immortal. Why then do believers still die? It is because the end of death is not a present reality, but a future reality that is foreshadowed by the resurrection of Jesus. Because Jesus lives, the believer lives in the hope, that even though he dies, he will live again.
The challenge of the Christian life is to live in the reality that the old self, controlled by sinful inclinations, has died; and to live in the reality of the new self, controlled by Godís Holy Spirit (v11-14). What does this practically mean?
Think of the sin of holding grudges. A believer who holds grudges should reflect on the reality that his old self, which wallows in unforgiveness and hatred, has died and therefore should not be his master. He should then ask, ďHow should I act in accordance to my new self that is dedicated to God, who commands me to forgive as I have been forgiven?Ē I know it is hard to forgive someone who has hurt you, and I encourage you to ask God in prayer to help you act in accordance to your new self.
Some of you may know that the Chicago Blackhawks, the professional hockey team, has recently experienced resurgence. After many years of poor performances, they made it to the conference finals. Before this past season, it is rare to see people wearing Blackhawks shirts. After this season, it became more common to see Blackhawk shirts being worn, and the United Center being filled. The fans have also experienced resurgence.
The connection between the Chicago Blackhawks and its fans is similar to the connection between Christ and those who are baptized. Blackhawks fans wallowing in despair over their teamís poor performance have become proud again, displaying their loyalty to their team and watching them play. We can even say that they are foreseeing the emergence of a Blackhawks team that will win the Stanley Cup (Hockeyís ultimate prize). What is the source of the change?
The source of the change is the performance of the team. The fans have nothing to do with the performance of the team. They were never on the ice to play and they donít even know the players personally.
No believer living today existed when the fateful event more than 2,000 years ago occurred. No believer living today witnessed the death of Jesus. However, that event has great significance for those who believe today. It signifies a new beginning and a new future.
The old self, controlled by sin, has died. Jesus took the death that the old self is destined for, and then rose again to give those who believe in him a new beginning and a new future. The new self, freed from sin and death, is emerging, it is becoming more real.
Some of you may remember a movie where everything in a certain town was black and white. Then when someone does something that is against what is expected (For example, showing public affection), things become richer with color. This is how it is with the Christian life. When we go against the old self, the new self becomes more and more real.
Maybe some of you are tired of that self that is inclined to sin.
There is a way to be free from this self. Itís the way of union with Christ, expressed through faith in him. What is the motivation to stop sinning? Itís the reality of the new self, given to those united to Christ in his resurrection.
What does it mean to be a ďnew selfĒ? How can the ďnew selfĒ be a motivation to stop sinning?
Lord, enable us more and more to die unto sin, and live unto righteousness. Help us let go of the old self and live in the reality of the new self. Amen.