It’s interesting to hear the Kuman talk about what the Christian life is like and what their responsibilities are. The younger Christians are very, very concerned with keeping the peace, doing good to one another, and the leaders practicing what they preach. Great stuff, but it got me thinking:
Right doctrine matters; It’s literally matter of life and death, even for the Christian. The typical, taken-out-of-context interpretation of Romans 6:23 is that it’s just a nice and tidy statement about justification (the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life). But Behold! Context is king, and by the end of Romans 6 we’re passed the wonderful justification section of Romans at the end of Romans 5.
So if Paul’s talking to Christians in chapter 6…ALL the way to verse 23, (which, why would he be asking unregenerate people to do regenerate-people things, anyways? 1 Cor. 2, yo), then there is a sense in which Christians can experience death in their Christian walks.
Our belief about how the Christian life is to be practically lived out is a matter of fruitfulness or fruitlessness for us. Just look at what Paul prays in Colossians, “I pray that you may walk worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing Him, being fruitful in every good work…” The apostle prayed that they would be fruitful in every good work — if it wasn’t possible for them to be unfruitful in “works,” why would he feel the need to pray that?
And again in Hebrews, “And may the God of peace…make you complete in every good work to do His will, working in you what is well pleasing in His sight, through Jesus Christ,” Heb. 13:21.
Jesus, who sent Judas away in order to meet alone with His regenerate disciples, tells them in John 15 that it’s impossible to bear fruit without right fellowship with Him. The author of Hebrews writes to a group of suffering believers that without faith it is impossible to please God.
Christians can do good things and still sin. It’s not enough to just not yell at someone or treat a poor person nicely. Not in God’s eyes.
The Christian, unlike their counter-parts, has two sources to live life by: The Old Man and New Man. The old man is still alive and kicking, the source of all evil and rebellion from God that we still experience. The unsaved only have this one, which is why they only and always sin, no matter how great they look on the outside, or what political party they identify with, or whether they support defunding Planned Parenthood. This Old nature has been condemned to eternal death already in Adam (Romans 5, 1 Cor. 15).
The “baby Christian” who only knows that they’ve been justified by the blood of Christ and hasn’t been discipled in Grace still chiefly operates out of the Old Nature. How could he do anything different? Though he knows he didn’t work for His justification but received it by faith, he still thinks sactification is accomplished through self-discipline and “not sinning.” Precisely the issue in Paul’s letter to the Galatian church, remember: “Are you so foolish? Having begun in the Spirit, are you now being made perfect by the flesh?” Gal. 3:3.
So about that other fruit-bearing Source? Paul tells us in Galatians 3:27 that we were clothed in Christ when we were baptized into Him. He also tells us that, in contrast to living like the lost, we need to put on the new man (Eph. 4:24; Col. 3:10). Colossians 3:12 commands to put on “tender mercies, kindness, humility, meekness, longsuffering.”
Apart from Christ we can do nothing (John 15:5), and as we live connected to and conscious of our oneness, association, and identification with Him, we will be fully clad with all the virtue of His blessed person. –Brian Borgman
Putting on Christ is grabbing what God has richly supplied in His Son and appropriating it personally.
As Miles J. Stanford wrote, “Christian living is not our living with Christ’s help, it is Christ living His life in us…our part is not the production, but the reception of our new life in Christ.”