Earlier in this chapter Paul has stressed that believers were united to Jesus in his death and resurrection. The consequence is that they have spiritual power through union with Jesus, which means that they have a responsibility to serve Jesus wherever there is opportunity for service.
Paul mentions three essential responses to having this union with Jesus. The first we could describe as ‘Become a thinker about what Jesus did’: ‘So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus.’ The details that Paul has provided with regard to defeating sin belong to the doctrine of union with Christ. He has said that we were crucified with him then as our representative and that we are alive with him now. Before we were crucified we were in Adam and connected to the environment of dominant sin and death that belongs to him. Our union with Jesus when he died took us out of Adam and therefore out of the slavery of sin. Paul tells us to consider those matters, to think about them.
The second response Paul calls for is, ‘Be loyal to your Master.’ Each of us has a choice as to who will be our Master, and each of these choices demands total submission. The one we should not submit to at any time is sin, which wants to reign in and through our body. This reigning can be in what we regard as small matters or in big concerns. Take the inner sin of thinking wrongly about another Christian. If we let that thought progress, eventually it will work through our body when we use our tongues. We should not let the inner thought or physical word occur. If I let the thought occur, I am being disloyal to the Master who set me free by his death. Paul here stresses that it is our responsibility to deal with sin’s attempts to rule over us.
The third response is to have a life of ongoing consecration. Paul here describes our human features as instruments that either can be used in unrighteous ways or in righteous ways. He tells us that we should not use those features in unrighteous ways. Instead he mentions a twofold correct response that will produce righteous living.
First, we should present ourselves to God as those who have been brought from death (the world of Adam) to life (the world of Jesus). In English, it looks as if Paul is using the same verb tense when he says ‘do not present your members to sin’ and ‘present yourselves to God’, but he is not. The negative prohibition is in the present tense whereas the positive affirmation is an aorist tense. This change of tense probably means that we should devote ourselves to God in a definite, determined act of dedication.
Second, we present our members to God as instruments for righteousness. Paul’s point is obvious – give yourself to God and then you can give the individual features that belong to you.
Paul then gives a remarkable statement of encouragement, a great divine promise, to his readers: ‘For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace.’ He does not mean that they will become sinless, but he does say that they will not remain the slaves of sin. Why? Because they will be protected by, preserved by and provided for by the God of grace who united them to Jesus.