How We Regard Ourselves Romans 6:11
Right thinking about the gospel produces right living in the gospel. Vibrant Christianity does not exist in a mental vacuum; we must think right about God, about Christ, and about ourselves. In many ways, what we think about ourselves is the link between what we know to be true about the gospel and how we apply that to daily life. Simply said, how we regard ourselves is crucial to our sanctification, the effect of the gospel in our daily experience. The sad truth is that in our battle against sin we are too often our own worst enemy. The battle tends to rage most fiercely inside.
Romans 6 is a high-water text regarding the theology and procedure of sanctification. Significantly, Paul outlines three crucial and irreversible steps in the process: what to know, what to reckon, and how to behave. We are to know our union with Christ both in terms of His death and resurrection; union with Christ is our source of life (vv. 3-10). We are to behave by not letting sin rule and not yielding to sin’s dominion (vv. 12-13). What we are to reckon puts the two together:
reckon ye also yourselves to be dead indeed unto sin, but alive unto God through Jesus Christ our Lord.
Self-perception or how we view ourselves flows from what we know and leads to how we behave. Right thinking produces right living.
The verb “to reckon” is most suggestive. Our English word “logic” comes from this word, and the Greek verb means “to take into account,” “to consider,” or “to regard” something as true. The word emphasizes the vital appropriation of what is believed. What the Christian is to reckon is the same thing he is to believe: deadness to sin through union with Christ (v. 8). We must acknowledge the personal relevance of the truth. We must consider ourselves to be in experience what we are positionally and legally in Christ. The believer must never lose sight or thought of what he is and what he has in the Lord Jesus Christ.
Most remarkable is the fact that this word “reckon,” so crucial to the process of sanctification, occurs also in connection with the doctrine of justification (see Rom. 4:3-4). However, there is one difference. In justification, God is the subject of the verb. He looks at the merits of Christ’s atonement and considers (reckons) the sinner who believes in Christ to be legally free from sin, no longer liable to penalty or condemnation, and positively clothed in the robe of Christ’s righteousness. In sanctification, the saint is the subject of the verb. We look at the same merits of Christ’s atonement and consider (reckon) ourselves to be free from sin. Compare closely what we know about Christ in verses 9-10 (His irreversible resurrection, His emancipation from death, His living unto God) with what we are to reckon to ourselves (our death to sin and life unto God). What is true about Christ, we claim for ourselves. In other words, we are to regard ourselves the same way God regards us: in Christ.
How we see ourselves, then, is nothing more than thinking about the gospel and living in its reality. In Christ, we are united to both His death and His resurrection (v. 5). Regarding ourselves as God regards us means that we must factor into our constant experience the knowledge that when Christ died, we died. We must factor into our experience the purpose of the crucifixion: to put to death the “old man” with its bent to sin. We must factor into our experience the new life that we have in Christ with its bent toward holiness that frees us from having to sin.
To regard ourselves in union with Christ is the secret to sanctification and victory over sin. Sin loses its appeal in the shadow of the cross. How can it be attractive when we realize that sin is the reason Christ died for us and that we died with Him? We certainly are not to think more highly of ourselves than we ought to think, but we are to think “as God hath dealt to every man the measure of faith” (Rom. 12:3). It is by that faith that we see ourselves in Christ. That is right thinking.