In all the CA State Prison chapels where I work, the current passage before us is the sixth chapter of Romans, in which are the words, “sin will have no dominion over you”. And there, among men who have a keen and intense familiarity with what it means to not be free, we’ve been exploring the fundamental release from bondage inherent in the nature of our salvation, release not only from transgression’s final penalty but from sin’s cruel dominion now.
Does our battle with sin rage on? If we were to say that we have risen above such battle, we would be deceiving ourselves (1 John 1:8), and the call in Scripture upon believing souls to “put off your old self” (Eph. 4:22) presumes that we who have been redeemed continue to wrestle with the deceitfulness of that which we still can crave. But God’s word in Romans six speaks of an anchor of encouragement, an objective act of God, on the grounds of which we can, by faith, engage as freed persons.
In Romans five, with reference to those looking to the hope of Christ by faith, crucial things were spoken of in the past tense as being already actual …
we have been justified (5:1),
we have peace with God (5:1),
we have… obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand (5:1),
God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit
who has beengiven to us (5:5),
we were reconciled to God (5:10),
Romans six also speaks of that which is objective and accomplished. In chapter six we hear that we who believe in Christ have …
died to sin (6:2).
We are spoken of as ones who have been…
buried therefore with him by baptism into death (6:4)
united with him in a death like his (6:5)
crucified with him (6:6),
… and because the power and efficacy of His death has been applied to us; because God has united us with Christ in His crucifixion; we can live in the reality of the truth that…
one who has died has been set free from sin. (6:7)
As it relates to sanctification, the reasoning is like that found in Hebrews 10:14 …
…by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified.
All that belongs to the process of our being “transformed by the renewal of (our) minds” (Rom 12:2) is grounded in a freedom already purchased and applied. We engage the wrestling match with sin not as persons who, by our efforts, may or may not achieve the necessary threshold of righteousness to be accepted, but as those who have been purchased and accepted through Christ’s sacrifice. Why can it be that sin’s dominion can no longer exercise its dominance and ultimate control? Here is Paul’s reasoning…
“sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace.” (Rom. 6:14)
Does that reality constitute somehow an invitation to sin, as though continuing in sin were liberty? “By no means!” Paul responds. To serve sin and sin’s master is a slavery that belongs to death! The Gospel is much better news than that! A God-given taste of His grace can open our eyes to see the emptiness and tragedy of what sin is, and see the restoration to meaningfulness that salvation is.
One last note. If we have ever feared that we have, by a given sin or by shortcoming of progress in sanctification, forfeited our freedom; if we have wondered if there is such a thing as being turned back over to belong to the slave master, hear Paul’s words in verses eight and nine.
…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. (Rom. 6:9-8)
If God has chosen to apply Christ’s sacrifice to your soul’s sins and unite you with Christ in His death, the keys never turn in the other direction. For men who know much about doors that are locked, we likened the implication of this passage to what we could call the “permanent unlock”.
It seems that much of the call in Romans six is the call to live the purchased freedom and life.
consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus. (Rom. 6:11)