In examining Owen and Chalmers we have seen them answer the question of how one dies to sin and lives to righteousness by concentrating on either hating sin or supplanting it with satisfaction in Christ. However, they both overlook the verse Anthony Hoekema sees as the vital weapon in mortification and vivification, Romans 6:11: “consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus.”
Though both Chalmers and Owen mention it as a tool in combating sin, Hoekema believes it is more than that. Calling it “as clear a Biblical statement of the Christian’s self-image as I can find anywhere,” he sees it as the prime motivator in the Christian’s fight against sin and in doing so, he provides the antidote to the weaknesses of both Chalmers and Owen.
We noted that Owen’s preoccupation with sin neglects the ‘already’ in favour of the ‘not yet’. Yet, with Hoekema’s emphasis on identity, we know that, “When we do fall into sin, we are momentarily living according to the… old life-style. We are then living contrary to what we really are in Christ… We are living contrary to the new man, as if we were still the old man.” This is the strange and beautiful paradox of Romans 6: it is preoccupation with the newness of our self rather than its oldness that feeds the fight against sin. This does not negate the importance of fighting sin; rather, it gives power to fight it by magnifying our knowledge of how different from it we now are in Christ.
The difficulty with Chalmers’ view was that it was directed so externally that it did not speak to the discouraged believer who feels defeated in their struggle against sin. Hoekema’s highlighting of Romans 6:11 helps the believer to re-evaluate this feeling: “We are to look upon ourselves, therefore, not as partly old man and partly new man but as new man in Christ.”
If this is the case, then the Christian can die to sin and live to righteousness by remembering, not just the love of God with Chalmers, or how hateful sin is with Owen, but also who they actually are in Christ. This needs to be both the fuel and the motivation for putting sin to death. In the final post, I’ll make some practical suggestions about how to do this.
Tamie Davis is an Aussie living in Tanzania, writing at meetjesusatuni.com.