On January 1, 1863, the Emancipation Proclamation freed the slaves in the United States. If only that had been the end of the existence of slavery, but sadly, slavery continues to be a scourge in the present day. BBC News World Service recently reported on the dramatic increase in slavery in western Europe, largely comprised of young women and girls from Central Europe who are held in brothels against their will. In countries around the world men, women, and children are forced to labor against their will and kept in physical bondage.
Spiritual slavery is even more widespread. According to the apostle Paul, it was the universal condition of all humanity prior to the coming of Jesus Christ. Now that Christ has come, His death has purchased the freedom of all who are in Christ. Unfortunately, although we have been freed from sin’s dominion by the death and resurrection of Christ, it is still possible for believers to live in voluntary slavery to sin. We do this every time we choose to offer ourselves as instruments of sin. Instead, we are to “reckon” ourselves to be dead to sin. This is not merely positive thinking. The language Paul uses here comes from accounting. We are to count on the fact that sin’s stranglehold on our lives has been broken as a result of the powerful grace of Christ (v. 11). Instead of considering ourselves to be dead in sin, we are to see ourselves as being dead to sin.
This does not mean that sin ceases to be a problem for those who know Christ. The command to consider ourselves as dead to sin implies that continuing presence of sin in the believer’s life. The reality of sin does not simply disappear when we place our faith in Jesus Christ. It may still entice us. But sin does not need to control us.
How do we experience the reality of the freedom Paul describes here? It begins with a choice. We are to “offer” ourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life and are to offer the parts of our body to Christ as instruments of righteousness (v. 13).