Question Response to Russ: Does a Christian Need to Die to Self?
Updated: Aug 19, 2022
I saw a preacher post on IG: “Christians don’t need to die to self. You’ve already been crucified with Christ. Romans 6:6” Praise God that we have already been crucified with Christ. But it is also clear we are also commanded to take up our cross daily. “Then he said to them all: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me.” Luke 9:23 Already crucified AND daily taking up our cross. What’s your take on what it looks like to live out both scriptures? My Response: Hi Russ, my first reaction to the post from this preacher is to be scandalized by how thoroughly a preacher could detach Jesus' own words from how we should live because of his theology. I wonder how serious this preacher actually is. What they seem to be saying is, "I know Jesus tells us we are to deny ourselves and die to ourselves, but we don't have to do what Jesus says any more because Jesus died for us on the cross." That's literally what he's saying. This is where a theology that detaches discipleship from the gospel message will eventually lead. I personally don't know how someone could stay a Christian with that much cognitive dissonance. In scripture, we are given much grace and forgiveness for our sins, both past and present. However, salvation involves our obedience and the Lordship of Christ. We are not just "saved" from hell but saved from our own propensity towards rebellion and disobedience, and empowered to live righteously, which will most definitely involve suffering and self-denial. In Romans 6:6, this preacher has cherry-picked one scripture from a chapter that might actually contradict his whole argument. If you go a little earlier to Romans 5, you see that Paul says we "boast in our afflictions, knowing that affliction produces endurance, and endurance, proven character, and proven character, hope." (Romans 5:3-5, NAB) In verse six, Paul gives the reason we endure affliction: "For Christ, while we were still helpless, yet died at the appointed time for the ungodly." In other words the fact that Jesus died for us is connected to the reason we endure suffering. Paul goes on to connect all this to our reconciliation to God (5:7-11), and connect our reconciliation to the whole of human history from Adam to Jesus (5:12-14). In 5:15-20, we see that salvation and grace is not only about our forgiveness, but also about us "being made righteous." (vs. 19) Paul clarifies himself more at the beginning of chapter 6. He wants to make it clear that salvation is not just about being forgiven and receiving mercy. It's about receiving the power and gift of "newness of life" (6:4). This newness of life involves the afflictions mentioned in chapter 5. It involves living the kingdom life that Jesus himself spells out for us in the gospels. In fact, I'll end my response by simply quoting Romans 6:6-14 in full to show how this preacher actually cherry-picked a couple words from a scripture, and detached them from the entire context of Romans 5-6: "We know that our old self was crucified with him, so that our sinful body might be done away with, that we might no longer be in slavery to sin. For a dead person has been absolved from sin. If, then, we have died with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with him. We know that Christ, raised from the dead, dies no more: death no longer has power over him. As to his death, he died to sin once and for all; as to his life, he lives for God. Consequently, you too must think of yourselves as being dead to sin and living for God in Christ Jesus. Therefore, sin must not reign over your mortal bodies so that you obey their desires. And do not present the parts of your bodies to sin as weapons for wickedness, but present yourself to God as raised from the dead to life and the parts of your bodies to God as weapons for righteousness. For sin is to not have any power over you, since you are not under the law but under grace."