4 Therefore we were buried with Him through baptism into death, that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.
5 For if we have been united together in the likeness of His death, certainly we also shall be in the likeness of His resurrection,
6 knowing this, that our old man was crucified with Him, that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves of sin.
7 For he who has died has been freed from sin.
I have never experienced the horrors of physical slavery such as existed in America for nearly 300 years. The trade in human lives was – and still IS – driven by money and greed, and the result has been oppression and death for millions of Africans and their descendants in America. After the Civil War, when the slaves in the United States were ostensibly freed, black people still suffered another century of legal oppression, and even today they still face systematic discrimination. But looking back to those days in 1865 when the slaves first learned they were free at last, can you imagine the joy and the surprise and the fear of having been given what is essentially a new life? Can you imagine being told that you no longer have to experience the whips and degradation of doing all that someone else demands of you? Imagine being given forty acres of land in a new frontier and being told, “You can start again here.” There was still persecution and anger from those who wanted to keep you enslaved, but the laws of the land were more and more on your side. Times changed with each generation, until the day came when the office once occupied by the man who signed the Emancipation Proclamation that freed the black slaves is now held by a free black man. Such is freedom from slavery that the new life of one generation can become a better life for the next.
3 Jesus answered and said to him, “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.”
4 Nicodemus said to Him, “How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born?”
5 Jesus answered, “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God.”
Having been born again, we are baptised in the Spirit, and that is when our new life begins. No longer slaves to sin, we have an opportunity for an entirely new life. There is joy in finding that new life, and there is surprise at our new lease on life. But when we have been born again through Christ, perhaps the greatest emotion we face is fear.
We fear this new life, unsure of its new demands and new freedom. We fear God as we never have before. We fear trading our slavery to sin and lawlessness for obedience to God and holiness. We fear the unknown future we face as our hearts are transformed by the gospel of Christ, unsure of who we shall be. After all, we were once at least accepting of our sinful fate, and we may even have been content to continue living as we once were. But now, having been made dead to sin and born again into life, we face the future with trepidation because we wonder if we will still be who we were before. Our identity was once tied up in that past life, and now we have a new one. Who are we now?
Here is something that many Christians forget or choose to ignore: Just as we are united with Christ in His death and resurrection, so, too, are we united with EACH OTHER. You see, this “newness of life” in which we are to walk is not just a new life for you or for me, it is a new life for ALL believers, and it binds us together with Christ and each other like no other bond on this earth. The bonds of “agape” love and brotherhood among Christians should be stronger than national pride, political parties and racial differences. Our common doctrine of dying to sin and living in salvation ought to unite us and give us strength. And when newcomers are freed from the bondage of slavery to sin, it is we free men and women who ought to be at their side to allay their fears and encourage their faith.
But do we do that? Do we embrace our freedom and use it as a license to free others and unite with them? Do we set an example for breaking the bonds of slavery to sin? Do we truly “walk with God in newness of life” or do we fall back into old habits, old sins, and old bondage? Do we use this new life to help others, or are we content merely to have been given this new life ourselves, and so leave others to fend for themselves?
10 For the death that He died, He died to sin once for all; but the life that He lives, He lives to God.
11 Likewise you also, reckon yourselves to be dead indeed to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus our Lord.
12 Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body, that you should obey it in its lusts.
13 And do not present your members as instruments of unrighteousness to sin, but present yourselves to God as being alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness to God.
14 For sin shall not have dominion over you, for you are not under law but under grace.
I have seen many a Christian who does not live as if he or she is born again. They still are bound to their old lives, and they still embrace the very things that promote sinfulness and deceit and anger and oppression. They still cater to their old tastes and their old desires as if their “old man” were not crucified with Christ, as if they were not given a new life but merely a new name. “Christian” means “little Christ.” Are we living as He would live? Are we taking up our cross daily with joy in our obedience to God? Or is our new life merely a new thing to do on Sundays – and that something we do only grudgingly?
Have you been saved from your past sinful life by the death and resurrection of Christ Jesus? Yes? Then show it! Live as if you have been saved! Embrace the righteousness of God that has been given us through Christ. Truly walk in newness of life – a whole life transformed by the glory of God.
Let us be no longer slaves but free men and women of God – people who will unite and fight for others’ freedom, too. Let us not be content to allow lawlessness and immorality become the norm, but let us fight for the absolute holiness that God has explained through His Word. Let us not be proponents of legalism, but let us show by our example the fruits of the Spirit and the glory of God’s grace. Let us show the world what it truly means to be born again, and let us embrace without fear this newness of life we have been given through Christ Jesus our Lord.
Gracious Heavenly Father, I come before You now, humbled by the example of those who have in the past embraced their new freedom from sin. Teach me how to live in that freedom, guide my heart to embrace this new life, to put off all of the old. Thank You for the gift of a Savior who lived and died and who now lives again so that I might live. To Your name alone be all glory and praise. Amen.