By Roy Ciampa, Ph.D.
Armstrong Chair of Religion, Samford University
SET APART BY CHRIST
Believers are frequently called “saints,” which means people set apart, not because we live perfectly holy lives but because Christ has set us apart from the rest of the world to serve and follow Him.
But in setting us apart as His people, God has also promised us power over sin in this life and an eternal inheritance with Christ in this life and the next.
In Christ, we are set free from sin’s grip. (5–7)
In verses 1–4, Paul describes baptism as a picture of how Christ brings us from death to life through our union with Him by faith, which explains why we cannot continue to live lives governed by sin.
We have been “united with Him in the likeness of His death,” which is depicted when we are baptized, and that union endures so that it extends also to our experiencing “the likeness of His resurrection.”
Our union with Christ’s death is described as having “our old self … crucified with Him,” and that is so that we might “no longer be enslaved to sin” as we had been in the past.
Sin’s reign extends only to the border established by death, and no further.
In Christ, we are set apart with the promise of eternal life. (8–11)
Paul now looks forward to our ultimate experience of new life in our physical resurrection, modeled on Christ’s own resurrection.
Christ has died and come back to life, and having been united with Him through faith, we also died with Him and will experience resurrection with Him as well.
Resurrection life can never be overcome again by death. It is proof that death has been finally defeated. Death ruled over Christ temporarily but can do so no longer.
By dying to sin and then being resurrected to “live to God” — completely immersed in God’s presence and beyond the reach of sin and death — Christ established the ultimate defeat of sin and death.
We must now “consider [ourselves] dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus.”
In Christ, we are set apart to live in righteousness. (12–14)
Our union with Christ through faith has brought us into new life already, a new life that will be fully consummated when we experience the resurrection of our bodies like Christ’s resurrection.
Therefore, we must already live lives marked by the righteousness that will be the hallmark of our resurrection experience.
Sin will not be able to reign in our resurrection bodies, and we must not let it reign in these mortal bodies even though they are subject to both death and the temptations of moral life.
We feel the pull of sin’s desires but must not obey them. When we read that we must not offer any parts of our bodies as weapons of unrighteousness, we are expected to remember Romans 3:13–18, where Paul quoted biblical texts that describe body parts that the wicked employ as weapons of unrighteousness.
Our throats, tongues, lips, mouths, feet and all the other parts of our bodies should be employed as “weapons for righteousness” instead.
We are under the reign of Christ and His righteousness and grace, and sin cannot be allowed to reign over us or to use the law against us. Christ has eternally set us apart to be people marked by His righteousness.