The words of Paul in this passage bring to mind this gruesome practice of carrying around a 'dead body', much like a man condemned. It's as if Paul felt that something dead was strapped to him and accompanied him wherever he went. We know he did not mean this literally! So what was he trying to say?
Paul was expressing the experience of every believer. Even though we long for purity and holiness, yet at times we feel bound helplessly to the "dead body" of our sinful nature. Even though we know that we are 'new creatures' in Christ, and that our physical bodies are not in themselves evil, the tendency to sin is always carried around with us. We often feel (like Paul), that we do what we do not want to do, and we do not do the things that we want to do. How often do we cry out like Paul "O wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?"
But Paul discovered the antidote to the feeling of carrying around this burdensome 'corpse'. We find his answer in Chapter 8. He declares that through the forgiveness of Christ he is freed from eternal condemnation (8:1). He recognizes that by the power of the indwelling Spirit he is empowered to do God's will (8:9). And finally, he finds encouragement in the hope that one day even his mortal body would be redeemed (8: 23).
As the condemned man was set free from the burden of the murdered victim by the death of the one who removed the corpse from his back, so also are we to 'reckon' ('count', 'see') ourselves free from the penalty of sin because Christ has died in our place. How we see ourselves is important; in order to resist sin, it helps to realize how much we've been forgiven!
Christ has freed us from sin's penalty. The Holy Spirit frees us from sin's power. This is the truth that sets us free. But mere mental assent to these truths will not liberate us. To enjoy freedom we need to apply these truths in our daily lives. We are 'believers' only to the extent that we act out of what we believe.
So here's something to believe in: " I have the righteousness of Christ!"
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