Imagine you owe a mountain of money—much more than you can repay. It’s all your fault—you spent a little too much here, a little more there. You went through credit cards like they were candy. You didn’t plan for certain expenses you knew were coming. Before you knew it, you were in a hole you couldn’t get out of. And after a while, you began to realize that you no longer have a life—your indebtedness owns you. It defines who you are and what you do (or don’t do).
The world doesn’t stop turning because you’re having a crisis so new obligations continue to arise that need to be met. You don’t have a clue about what to do—you’re way past the point of knowing how to handle the situation. Your coping resources are exhausted (as are your credit cards).
Desperation sets in and in exchange for some momentary relief you make a terrible decision—you “borrow” money from a loan shark. The relief of finally having some money is quickly surpassed by the realization that you now owe even more money to people who will hurt you. You wonder how your life got to this point and if you’ll ever be able to get past this point. The outlook is bleak.
What if someone could step in and deliver you from all of this? What if they had the resources to settle your debts? Do you think you might be interested in taking advantage of that? And the only condition you had to meet for all of this to happen was to renounce the lifestyle that brought you to this point. Do you think you be interested in that? Would you be willing to make that commitment? Would you sign a document to that effect?
It’s this kind of commitment Paul is speaking of in Romans 6:6 when he writes, “For we know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body ruled by sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin.” When we were united with Christ in baptism a lot of things happened, but one of them was that we said goodbye to the person we had been and all of the debts we had accumulated–not “I’ll see you later,” or “Let’s do this again sometime.” At baptism we signed off on the old self.
At baptism God took care of those debts and by doing so changed our status. We went from being a hopeless debtor to a new creation, from outside Christ to gloriously in Him. Like Israel when they crossed the Red Sea, we went from the slavery of the old life to the freedom of the new.
But He did none of this without our cooperation! Israel wasn’t dragged across the Red Sea. Baptism is a voluntary act where we put to death our former identity so that the orientation/way of life that went with it will also be changed. In Paul’s words the new self has replaced the old so that “the body ruled by sin might be done away with.”
This means we no longer have to pledge allegiance to sin. We don’t have to be bullied by its hopelessness and despair. Paul isn’t saying that it’s impossible for us to sin any more (everybody and his brother knows that’s not the case), but he is saying that at baptism we crucified the old self so we could live as free people in Christ rather than as the salves to sin that we used to be.
The majority of Israelites rejected their new orientation after they crossed the Red Sea (1 Corinthians 10:1-6). The doors to their cells were thrown open and when they stepped outside into the warm sunlight and fresh air, they decided that they were going to miss the prison food after all–so they went back to their cells and shut the door behind them.
At baptism we crossed state lines so we wouldn’t live as we did before. The old life was put in the rear view mirror and we’re looking at the new life through the windshield.
We have absolutely no reason to go back.