Counting on Christ
I've been slowly working my way through James Montgomery Boice's The Glory of God's Grace. I'd thought I might blog my way through the book, carefully recapitulating its content from day to day. However, due to time constraints lately, that hasn't been happening. But today I do want to share a little of what Boice has to say about Romans 6:11: "So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin, and alive to God in Christ Jesus." That's the ESV rendering. Some of us may be more familiar with the King James version: "Reckon yourselves . . . "
Boice notes that this is the first imperative of Paul's letter to the Romans. We're 5 and a half chapters into the greatest theological treatise of Paul's life, and only now do we arrive at a command. Therefore, do this. Count yourself, reckon yourself, consider yourself, dead to sin . . . alive to God . . .
The word here translated "consider" in the ESV is probably better rendered "count" or "reckon." The idea is, this is an accomplished fact. Your death to sin and your new life in Christ has been won for you by Jesus, if you have put your faith in him. The Greek word is logizomai, from which we derive the English words log (as in a log book), logic, logarithm, and many others. As Boice says, this word "always has to do with reality, that is, with things as they truly are. It has nothing to do with wishful thinking. Nor is it an activity that makes something come to pass or happen. It is an acknowledgement of or an acting upon something that is already true or has already happened."
Boice is generally a rather dispassionate writer, but here he begins to write with real fervor:
This is so critical that I want to ask sharply: Do you really understand this? How can I say it clearly?I think that's something that bears repeating. The secret to a holy life is believing God.
How about: The first step in our growth in holiness is counting as true what is in fact true.
How about: The way to a holy life is knowing that God has taken us out of Adam and has joined us to Jesus Christ, that we are no longer subject to the reign of sin and death but have been transferred to the kingdom of God's abounding love.
How about: The secret to a holy life is believing God.
Now, this verse points out two things that we are to believe, to carefully count up and by so reckoning, to consider true of ourselves: 1) we are dead to sin, 2) we are alive to God in Christ Jesus.
Can it be so? What can Paul mean here? In the very next chapter he will speak of the power of sin even in his own flesh, causing him to do the very thing he does not want to do. How then can it be said that we, no less than Paul, may justifiably consider ourselves dead to sin? Although theologians have disagreed in their interpretation of these words, Boice (following Martyn Lloyd-Jones and John Stott among recent commentators), writes as follows: "It does not mean we are immune to temptation. It does not mean that we will not sin. It means that we are dead to the old life and cannot go back to it." It would be like a man deciding to become a child again. It cannot be. We can sin, but we can also NOT sin. Sin, in other words, shall not reign in our mortal bodies. There is a new power at work in us to transform us inwardly into the very likeness of Christ. We can count on it.
But not only are we dead to sin, we are alive to God in Christ Jesus. This is the given, the fundamental premise of Paul's teaching concerning sanctification. Boice lays out five aspects of this new life, which I hope to share with you tomorrow. Until then, peace.