In Romans 6:1-14 we are told that we are free from the tyranny of sin because in baptism, we died with Christ and we raised with him into life. This is why we have freedom. To explicitly make this point, we are told, “that our old self was crucified with him so that the body of sin my be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin” (v. 6).
That is a pretty graphic way of making the point but it needs to be made. As Christians, we still sin. It is one thing to still struggle with sin. But it is another thing entirely to still live as though the old self that was crucified with Christ is still alive.Read the rest of this passage Romans 6 and it becomes clear that as people who were crucified with Christ, we are no long to allow sin to master us (v. 12ff). If that seem difficult to do, it seems that way because it is. Ultimately, it is not us who overcome sin but God at work for us in Christ and then in us through the Holy Spirit. Having said that, we still have a choice in the matter when it comes to being mastered by sin. We can a live as though the old self is dead or we can live as though the old self is still alive. Choose the later and don’t be surprised when sin masters.
So who is the old self? The simplest answer, the old self is everything we were before we were baptized. Think about all the ways we identified ourselves in terms of ethnicity, nationality, culturally, politically, socially, etc… These all seem innocent enough but in many ways shape the way we behave and treat others (which ultimately is a sin against God). For example, if I happen to think that my white-anglo ethnicity is what identifies me then I am more likely to mistreat people of other ethnicities, even if it is only in minor ways.
And if you think I am stretching this, keep in mind that Paul is writing Romans to resolve tension between Jewish and Gentile Christians. Though Paul does not express it in such explicit terms in Romans, his baptismal view that renders ethnicity, social-status, and gender pointless in Galatians 3:28 is surely lurking.
So the real question we must ask…
Has the old self been crucified?