By Mark D. Proctor
Pastor, Highland Park Baptist Church, Columbia
Sin might be rendered powerless. Dead to sin. Sin will not rule over you. Treat yourself to a study of Romans 6 by picking out phrases such as these that let you off the hook. What if sin couldn’t touch you? What if Satan the great puppeteer could pull the strings but the marionette didn’t dance? Paul describes just such a life — a life married to Christ so completely that our everyday actions are not governed by Satan, not even by us, but by the power of Christ. But how? “How” is the reason pastors’ counseling calendars are filled to overflowing with those seeking freedom from the day to day slavery to secret sin. How do we escape?
Paul gives us a deep explanation here and it is rooted in our identity with Christ. By understanding who we are we can behave differently. There was a student in my elementary school who was less popular than others and often the target of many jokes. I joined in one day and was caught by my teacher, a friend of my parents. Mrs. Bright said, “I know your parents and I know you. You don’t have to act this way.” She suggested others might have no choice but I did. I was my father’s child and I could choose a different road.
Paul takes the opportunity in this beautiful passage to tell us the same thing. First, he says, know who’s pulling your strings. “We know …” that the old was crucified and buried. The word Paul used was the word ginosko and it means “being aware.” We take the first step toward freedom from the power of sin when we are aware that we are being controlled by a powerless puppeteer. He may look like he’s pulling our strings but look more closely — there are no strings! The strings have been clipped, rolled, and thrown away. We are dancing to a phantom master.
Instead, Paul says in verse 11, know your family. We are alive — watch these words — to God in Christ Jesus, alive to God. Many people don’t act alive to God because they are busy playing dead to the world. Get up, Christians, sin hasn’t killed you; Christ killed sin. Now we’re free to behave like living children of the King.
Finally, you’ll note that Paul gives a more practical piece of advice on how to avoid the power of sin. “… Do not offer any parts of [the body] to sin …” (Romans 6:13). We can know who is really pulling the strings when we sin. We can understand we are free not to behave that way, but that news has to travel from the brain to the fingers that control the keyboard, to the eyes that watch the movie, and to the lips that speak into the phone.
Cut it off at the pass, Christians. That’s our part. The fingers, the eyes, the lips all respond to the right power if you’ll simply give them the chance. That’s a promise. “Sin will not rule over you,” says Paul. Good news indeed.