The Danger Of Familiarity

One of the dangers of being a long-time Christian is that you begin to think you know what a particular section of the bible is about — since you’ve read it so many times — before you sit down to encounter it once again.

Case in point: Romans 6-8.

For many years, I’ve been sure that these three chapters — in many ways the “summit of summits” of Paul’s writing — are all about sin, forgiveness, salvation, and eternal life.

Until I read them again in the not-too-distant past.

And one word through sheer repetition would not let me go:

  • Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its evil desires (6:12).
  • Do not offer the parts of your body to sin . . . offer the parts of your body to him as instruments of righteousness (6:13).
  • . . . the sinful passions aroused by the law were at work in our bodies, so that we bore fruit for death (7:5).
  • Wretched man that I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death (7:24)?
  • But if Christ is in you, your body is dead because of sin, yet your spirit is alive because of righteousness (8:10).
  • . . . he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit, who lives in you (8:11).
  • . . . if by the Spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the body, you will live (8:13).

So, then, this section centers on the relationship between sin, holiness, and our bodies. Yet another reminder of the earthy, physical nature of biblical writers. As I’ve posted here before, Scripture is much more interested in the resurrection of the body than in the immortality of the soul.

It’s also interesting to note that when you read Romans 6-8 with fresh eyes, Paul’s concern is less with receiving forgiveness for our sins (though that’s present) than in us attaining victory over sin itself.

We in American Christianity look at sin as inevitable in the life of the believer. So the object is to get forgiven of that inevitability.

Paul looks at sin as conquerable through the Holy Spirit. So the object is to live a life of holiness as a foreshadow of an eternity of resurrection.

It’s the kind of troubling insight you get into Scripture when you overcome the dangers of familiarity.