Scripture: Romans 6:1-11
Key verse: (2)“How can we who died to sin go on living in it?”
Reflection: It’s spring break season. As empty nesters, that’s not as big a deal as it used to be for the Cliffords. Recently our kids returned safely from their college spring breaks— thanks be to God. Each time we got the chance to talk to them we would utter one of our go-to phrases. One is, “Make good choices!” Another is, “Remember who you are.” I didn’t make up, “Remember who you are,” as a phrase to say to my children. I heard about a mentor who would do that with her kids and I thought it was a great idea, so I did it with mine. My injunction for them to remember who they are was not to remember that they are the preacher’s kids and needed to protect my reputation — often that could be a bad thing. Thankfully, with our kids it never was. Nor was it simply to remind them that they were Cliffords and they needed to protect the family name. It was more about remembering their primary identity: children of God.
In the Presbyterian Church, our Calvinist roots keep us ever mindful of the reality of sin. We confess our sin together every time we worship. Our reputation for emphasizing total depravity gives us a somewhat dour reputation in the wider world. As the old prayer goes, “Our sin is ever before us.” We emphasize this so that we can appreciate the depth and breadth of God’s grace, and our total dependence on that grace for our salvation. We didn’t make that up; we got it from Romans. Romans 3 is quite clear— “All have sinned, all fall short of the glory of God.” That’s truth. And God alone can save us from ourselves. That’s truth. “While we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” Romans 5. But Romans doesn’t stop there. Sometimes we Calvinist do.
In Romans 6, Paul asks the question, “Should we continue in sin that grace may abound?” He realizes that all his talk about sin and grace in the first five chapters may open the door for some to believe that can live any way they choose. He answers his own question, “By no means!” The Greek is emphatic there—ABSOLUTELY NOT! Then he asks another question, “How can we who died to sin go on living in it?” Our justification by grace through faith is only the beginning of the story. It is not an end, in and of itself. We are saved for a purpose, to live life anew, “to walk in newness of life,” as Paul puts it. This is the act of sanctification, and by God’s grace we know this blessing too. Sin does not ultimately define us. New life does!
Paul is working his way toward Romans 12, where we are called “to present ourselves as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God.” We are not called to continue in sin. God embraces us in grace and frees us to live lives holy and acceptable to God.” Your primary identity is not as a sinner. Your primary identity is child of God, holy and acceptable to God. God’s grace frees us to live into this reality. As the old saying goes, “God loves us just as we are, but God loves us too much to leave us that way.”
By Romans 12, Paul is detailing what new life looks like in Christ. “Let love be genuine, hate what is evil, hold fast to what is good; love one another with mutual affection; outdo one another in showing honor. Do not lag in zeal, be ardent in spirit, serve the Lord. Rejoice in hope, be patient in suffering, persevere in prayer. Contribute to the needs of the saints, extend hospitality to strangers. Bless those who persecute you…rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. Live in harmony with one another; do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly…If it is possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.” Now that’s new life indeed. May God’s grace free us to such newness today!
Prayer: Thank you for embracing us in your love, O Lord. Thank you for freeing us to be who you created us to be. Help us live into the new life you will for us this day. In Jesus’ name. Amen.
Author: Joe Clifford
[Scripture quotations are from New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright © 1989 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved].