Identity is everything. And how we perceive our identity is just as important. As Christians, our relationship to Jesus changes our identity in such a drastic manner that it would take years to truly unpack the riches of it! The book of Romans follows a long argument of Paul’s in how the righteousness of God has been revealed through faith in Christ because of the faithfulness of Christ (Romans 1:16-17). And really, the whole sixteen-chapter letter is about salvation; unpacking the plot, drama, and resolution of the gospel. Romans 6 finds itself in the midst of that argument, showcasing how God’s grace has changed our identity. Following Paul’s argument, here are the two ways grace has changed our relationship to sin according to Romans 6.
1) You died with Christ, and were raised with Him too!
4 We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life. 5 For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we will certainly also be united with him in a resurrection like his. 6 For we know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body ruled by sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin— 7 because anyone who has died has been set free from sin. (Romans 6:4-7, NIV)
Paul tethers this part of his argument to the analogy of baptism. We are incorporated into the death and resurrection of Christ.
Your physical baptism is a tangible picture of what spiritually (but really!) happened the moment you trusted Jesus.
You see, the act of being dunked underwater resembles dying with Christ, being buried in the tomb with him. But of course, the act of baptism doesn’t end there, because Jesus’s story didn’t and neither does yours! The act of being brought up from the water resembles the new life of resurrection. Yes, what happened to Jesus on that first Easter will happen to you too! And in some sense, it already has. Not that your body has been resurrected to immortality (that is for a future day). But your inner-self (call it your spirit or your soul) has already been elevated to a new form of life, following the pattern of Christ’s resurrection and stamped with the authenticity of the presence of the Holy Spirit (see Ephesians 1:13-14).
And I would highlight, circle, or underline verse 7. The fact that we have vicariously died with Christ means that sin no longer holds us in captivity. The penalty of sin, being “death” (Romans 6:23), has been rendered ineffective. Sure, we may die but not really, as death becomes a comma, but not a period to our story. We are given eternal life, with the future promise of resurrection!
2) You are under new management.
17 But thanks be to God that, though you used to be slaves to sin, you have come to obey from your heart the pattern of teaching that has now claimed your allegiance.18 You have been set free from sin and have become slaves to righteousness. (Romans 6:17-18)
Everyone is a slave to something—or someone. Why not fall under the ownership of God? He is the only “owner” who makes His slaves into sons and daughters (see Romans 8:14-17). Plus, being under “new management,” so to speak, means that sin does not have the power over us it once had.
Admittedly, we still are tempted to sin every day, and we give in to temptation far more than we wish we did. But that struggle does not change the objective fact that we are not slaves to sin anymore!
If we believe the Bible we need to believe the tail end of Romans 6:18 when it says that we “have become slaves to righteousness.” Remove your categories of perfection for a moment. And if you think legalistically—put that aside too. Because our new identity doesn’t mean we are now suddenly perfect. What it does mean is that we have a new identity and with that identity comes new power to live a new way. It will take time to learn to walk in the empowerment of grace, and the Holy Spirit will help, but that is the focus of another conversation. For now, rest in the truth that grace has set you free from sin.
Through the powerful act of grace, God has rid us of sin’s penalty, power, and presence.
The penalty of sin is dealt with decisively since we died with Christ. The power of sin is steadily losing its grip on us as we learn how to walk in this new life empowered by the Holy Spirit. And the presence of sin—well—that will one day be absent from God’s universe when God finishes what He started in making all things new (Revelation 21:5). And until then, we can hold tight to an identity that does not call us “sinners,” but saints—not because of who we are or what we have done but because of who Jesus is and what He has done. After all, that is the whole point of our identity being “in Christ.”
We challenge you: read all of Romans 6 for the next week and allow the powerful truths to encourage you to live in the light of your Christ-identity.