Monday, May 22, 2023

How To Apply Identity In Christ To Daily Christian Living - Romans 6:12-23.


    In the last several posts, we have explored what defines the true identity of the Christian as detailed in Romans 6,7, and 8. So far we have done a detailed study of Romans 6:1-11. Today we plan to continue our study through the end of Romans 6. 

    We began by answering the question as to whether we are "sinners", "saints", or somehow both. In the initial posts of this series I gave a response to that question, which readers may review here and here 

    We also delved into understanding how Christians have a new identity in Jesus Christ and yet can still choose to sin in this life. Readers may review the two posts I devoted to the two realities of the new Christian identity and the propensity to still sin here and here 

    Then, in the last post, we introduced the Biblical teaching on "union with Christ", and how that roots Christian identity here

    In today's post I want to move forward in considering how Paul moves us from the principles to the applications of our new identity in Christ. First, let me begin with what he writes in Romans 6:8-12    

"Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with Him, 9 knowing that Christ, having been raised from the dead, is never to die again; death no longer is master over Him. 10 For the death that He died, He died to sin once for all; but the life that He lives, He lives to God. 11 Even so consider yourselves to be dead to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus. 12 Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its lusts."

God tells us who we are and then commands us what we need to do in light of who we are

    Theologians have noted that in the New Testament letters, such as Romans, the author will lay out statements of fact concerning the Christian life or Christ Himself - what they call "Gospel indicatives". Then, once setting forth these statements of fact, these "principles", the author will then issue commands that are feasible to do in light of the principles - called by theologians "Gospel imperatives".  
    When we speak of "Gospel indicatives", we are talking about "who I am and Whose I am". When we refer to "Gospel imperatives", we are addressing "how then shall we live in light of the Gospel indicatives?" To state it one more way. Gospel indicatives indicate the "truth", "doctrine" or "realities" of my new found position in Christ. Gospel imperatives deal with the application of such realities through imperatives or commands for daily Christian living. 

Christian Sanctification is all about Adjusting to a New Way of Life

    In life, a person experiences having to adjust to new ways of living, such as: marriage, parenting, new job, a move & health. The Christian-life involves the greatest spiritual adjustment. Why? One’s new identity in Christ ought to include the continual adjustment of a person’s priorities and practices. 

    Since we have defined "Gospel Indicatives" and "Gospel Imperatives", we have a grid for applying the insights we've gained thus far about Christian identity to daily life in Christian growth (i.e. sanctification). Thus, what components are involved in consistently adjusting one’s new-found way of life to align more with Jesus Christ, His Spirit and His Word?

Realities of Christian Identity. Rom. 6:9-11,15-19, 20-23. (These realities are “gospel indicatives”)

    The Gospel indicatives we find in Romans 6 spell out for us who we are and whose we are. 

1. Romans 6:3b "all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus have been baptized into His death?"

2. Romans 6:4 "Therefore we have been buried with Him through baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life."

3. Romans 6:5 "For if we have become united with Him in the likeness of His death, certainly we shall also be in the likeness of His resurrection."

4. Romans 6:6a "knowing this, that our old self was crucified with Him"

5. Romans 6:8 "Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with Him"

6. Romans 6:11 "Even so consider yourselves to be dead to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus."

7. Romans 6:23b ..."but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord."

    When it comes to one's identity or union in Christ, the idea of change and adjustment to that newfound identity lies at the core of Christian sanctification. There ought to be a difference in one how thinks, acts and talks because of who they are and Whose they are in Christ. 
The job of the Gospel indicatives is to remind and reinforce to the Christian the reality of who they are in Christ.

    To illustrate, in the area where I live, people are adjusting to warmer temperatures and the beautiful weather that characterizes Spring. Gone are the coats, boots, and snow shovels. In their place I notice people wearing light jackets or short-sleeved shirts. Weeks ago, one would not had seen many people on the sidewalks or at the near-by city-park. But now, when driving home from the church where I pastor, I'll notice numerous people walking their dogs, pushing strollers and enjoying the warmer temperatures. Why? The people understand that things have changed, and thus they adjust how they dress and act accordingly. Now keep this illustration in mind, since we will refer to it shortly in understanding the second thought associated with effective growth in Christian sanctification or adjustment to the new found way of life in Christ...

Responsibilities of Christian identity. Rom. 6:12,13,19. (These responsibilities are “gospel imperatives”)

    So, what is it that Christians are commanded to do or not do in Romans 6? Again, without the Gospel indicatives, the Gospel imperatives become burdensome. However, with the understanding of who one is in Christ, the Gospel imperatives or responsibilities become a delight to carry out. As 1 John 5:3 reminds us: 

"For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments; and His commandments are not burdensome." Note the following "Gospel imperatives" in Romans 6.

1. Romans 6:12 "Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its lusts"

2. Romans 6:13a "and do not go on presenting the members of your body to sin..".

3. Romans 6:13b ...."but present yourselves to God as those alive from the dead".... .

4. Romans 6:14a "For sin shall not be master over you".... .

5. Romans 6:19b ...."so now present your members as slaves to righteousness, resulting in sanctification."

    To return back to the illustration above, would it not be odd to see someone dressed in full winter gear on a warm, Spring-time day? Or worse yet, imagine trying to build a snowman in July or operating a snowblower along a sandy beach. We would not dream of doing such things. Yet, many Christians, when told to abstain from certain things, will attempt to carry out the prohibitions of the Gospel imperatives without first considering the change that has occurred in their lives. 

    Or to use the same illustration differently: do people on a warm spring-time day need convinced to "go outside and enjoy the sunny weather"? Or how about this: "go for a walk or open the windows and enjoy the smell of the fresh flowers and budding trees." 

    Why are such commands easy to carry out? Because the people carrying them out understand that the status of their situation is that of people living in what is now warmer, nicer weather. The behavior and actions match with the reality of the status in which one finds themselves. 

    When it comes to effectively adjusting oneself to the new way of life in Jesus Christ, such adjustment can only be enjoyed and truly possible when one understands the reality of their identity in the Lord. 

Closing thoughts

In today's post we explored what is necessary to be more effective in Christian growth in sanctification as spelled-out in Romans 6:9-23. We discovered the following two components...

1. Realities of Christian Identity. Rom. 6:9-11,15-19, 20-23. (These realities are “gospel indicatives”)

2. Responsibilities of Christian identity. Rom. 6:12,13,19. (These responsibilities are “gospel imperatives”)

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