Juneteenth commemorates the day that Union General Gordon Granger announced to former slaves in Galveston, Texas, that the Civil War had ended, and they were free. The announcement came two and a half years after Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation. This was life-changing good news; those who had once been slaves were now free!
In today’s text, Paul delivers good news: the believer’s emancipation from slavery to sin. Paul begins with a practical question: Does our sin magnify God’s grace? The thought that a Christian would ignore sin was unthinkable to the apostle. Continuing to let sin reign means we do not fully understand our freedom in Christ (vv. 3–4). The believer’s union with Christ is key to overcoming sin. Christ’s death and resurrection fundamentally change the believer’s relationship to sin. Although we are still capable of sinning, we are no longer enslaved by it (v. 6). Sin no longer holds power over us. Overcoming sin begins with an act of faith by which we “count” ourselves dead to sin and alive to God. Our sinful nature may try to reassert its former dominance, but we do not have to let it rule us (vv. 11–12). In a sense, every act of sin is a denial of our true identity in Christ. Sin is a kind of amnesia.
Paul strengthens his theological argument with a practical question based on personal experience: “When you were slaves to sin, you were free from the control of righteousness. What benefit did you reap at that time from the things you are now ashamed of? Those things result in death!” (vv. 20–21). Sin entered human experience in the Garden of Eden with a false promise. It continues to entice us with boasts that it cannot fulfill.
>> Do you want a practical strategy for dealing with temptation? When you are tempted, slow down and think about your prior experience with sin. When has it ever been your friend? Why should this time be any different?
We are free from sin’s domination, yet so often we still choose sin over righteousness. Lord, please help us to turn to you when we are tempted. Cultivate in us a craving for holiness.