1What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? 2By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it? 3Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? 4We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.
5For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his. 6We know that our old self was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin. 7For one who has died has been set free from sin. 8Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. 9We know that Christ, being raised from the dead, will never die again; death no longer has dominion over him. 10For the death he died he died to sin, once for all, but the life he lives he lives to God. 11So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus.
“Yeah, well, you know they check your giving records before you can get into the temple!? That’s why they have so much money.” I was serving as a pastor in Utah and so the conversation at Bible study had turned, as it often did, to the LDS and their deficiencies. What this person said was true. Only Mormons who have faithfully tithed are given the letter of recommendation which grants them access to one of the many temples. The rites which are conducted in these temples comprise a significant part of their religious observance. Admission to the temple is used as leverage to get people to give to the LDS church. I am glad that my church does not do that. I find it interesting, however, that we critique them and do not think about ourselves.
“So, let me get this straight,” I responded. “The LDS have a terrible motive for giving, it is wholly based in the Law. You, on the other hand, are moved by the Gospel, the very love of God, a far more potent motivator to generosity. And you give…? Should it not be more than the 10% which they give?” It got much quieter in the room at that point. The truth was we had done a little survey of our congregation shortly before and if everyone had simply tithed their income, we would not have had to charge any tuition for our preschool.
Paul responds in this passage to the concern that his message of God’s freely given love will let people continue in their selfish and sinful ways. Paul disagrees and says so strongly. The man or woman baptized into Christ is a different person, someone for whom that old selfish and sinful way of life has died. They are “no longer enslaved to sin,” he says in vs. 6. We need to read this passage in light of chapter 7 in which Paul speaks of the struggle of the old sinner and the new person. It would be too easy to come to simple conclusions on the basis of one passage like this. But at the same time, Paul speaks to us. We need to repent of all the days and moments when we have let the grace of God become a license to do, give, and say so little. We have been baptized into the love, generosity, and life of Jesus. The old ways of the world are dead to us. Our life is found in Him.