As we enter a new year, there are two things Paul says we can count on: First of all, we can “count ourselves dead to sin,” and secondly, that we’re “alive to God,” Romans 6:11, both of which have been done for us by Jesus – the first one by his death, and the second by his life.
We do not travel through the new year, then, in our old body of sin. Jesus nailed it to the cross and rendered it powerless. We are free of it once and for all (verse 7). The typical human evils Paul talked about in chapters 1 and 2 “no longer have mastery” over us, just like they had no mastery over Jesus (verses 9-10).
But that’s not all we can count on. We can also count on the fact that Jesus rose from the dead to lift us into a completely new life that’s just like the life he lives. And what kind of life is that? Simply put, Jesus “lives to God,” verse 10. And so can we, verse 11, because we’re “alive to God” too.
It’s at this point a Christian may well ask, “But what’s our part in all this?” – because Jesus seems to have done everything for us. “He was delivered over to death for our sins and was raised to life for our justification” (4:25), so what’s left for us to do? We’ve already been credited with righteousness (4:24), we’re already at peace with God (5:1), we’ve already been saved from God’s wrath and reconciled to him (5:9-11), and now we discover sin has no power over us either, so now what? What part do we play in all this?
Paul has an answer: “Therefore,” Romans 6:12, now that we know we’re dead to sin and alive to God, “do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its evil desires.” It’s a nasty shock to discover that even though we’re walking in eternity with the living Christ, evil still exerts a strong influence on us in the here and now.
It’s like the children in Narnia. They live in a wonderful new world, in which Aslan the great lion rules, but there’s also an evil witch in Narnia trying to thwart Aslan’s purpose, and the children still fall prey to their own desires and fears. It’s not a bed of roses for them; it’s a constant battle, but Aslan encourages them to keep pressing on, forget the mistakes and mishaps – count themselves dead to them – and be alive to him, because he is with them every step of the way, and he will get them through.
And that’s just as certain for us too, all through this new year.