This study is based upon the New City Catechism.

Text

For none of us lives to himself, and none of us dies to himself. For if we live, we live to the Lord, and if we die, we die to the Lord. So then, whether we live or whether we die, we are the Lord’s. (Romans 14:7-8)

Exposition

In Romans 14:1-6, Paul wrote concerning laws of liberty for Christians. Being in Christ, the Christian may enjoy a certain freedom that Jews under the Law of Moses had not enjoyed.[1] One’s conscience is of great importance in these matters (v.5) and of utmost importance is the principle that whatever is done, let it be done to honor the Lord (v.6). Our daily activities – even something as regulative as eating – should be conducted for God’s glory.

Now what does Paul mean in verses 7-8, that we live and die to the Lord? He is not speaking of intentions, as he has been in verses 5-6. If we do not know the number of our days, then how can we intend our death be for God’s honor?[2] Paul is not speaking of our intentions here, he is speaking of reality. Paul is now (vv.7-8) giving the basis for what he wrote before about behaving always for God’s honor (vv.5-6).

The reason we are to work in all things to honor God is that we belong to God: “We are the Lord’s,” (v.8b). We should live for God’s honor because we are already alive for Him, and even after death we shall be His. That reality should motivate us to live our lives for the glory of God. This first requires that we stop living to please ourselves. Our own reasoning and desires must not determine what we decide to do. How can one arrange his life to how he believes will best benefit himself, and yet come to church every Sunday and sing, “All to Jesus, I surrender – all to Him I freely give?” Calvin admonishes us well: “In so far as we can, let us forget ourselves and all that is ours.”

Second, this requires that we start living to please God. What better way to honor God than to take His Word seriously? Let us all strive to read Scripture and then obey what it says. If we are truly concerned with pleasing God, then we will not care about those who scoff at our new ways of life. Obeying God’s Word means not only taking it seriously, but taking all of it seriously, and taking it all seriously in all corners of our lives. We will be about the business of honoring our Lord when we are not simply concerned with abstaining from adultery, but also intent on sanctifying our movie watch-list. We honor God when we are not only serious about keeping our hands from murder, but equally serious about repenting of gluttony. Surely there is no vice in our cabinets worth keeping, as Jim Elliot said, “He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose.”

Obeying God’s Word means not only taking it seriously, but taking all of it seriously, and taking it all seriously in all corners of our lives.

So, we know that verses 5-6 point to our intentions while verses 7-8 point to our reality. Ponder this reality with me – I notice three things. First, God rules over us in benevolence, not in wrath. By saying, “we are the Lord’s,” Paul is pointing simply to the Lordship of Christ. Jesus is Lord over everything – including believers and non-believers. However, His Lordship means something different to Christians than it does to non-Christians. To non-Christians, Christ’s Lordship means that they will one day be punished for their sins. To Christians, Christ’s Lordship means that we will forever be redeemed from our sins. It all depends on how God knows you: as friend or foe.[3] Believers means belong to God as a son belongs to a Father, not as a murderer belongs to a prison. Our Lord is likewise our Savior.[4]

Second, death cannot break this bond. Paul clearly explains that “if we live, we live to the Lord, and if we die, we die to the Lord,” (v.8a). What claim does death have upon us, if Christ has claimed us as His own (1 Corinthians 15:55-57)? What charge is there to be made against us, that would cast us into eternal hell, if Christ has paid all our debts and imputed to us His perfect righteousness (Romans 8:31-39)? We belong to God, and death will not change that.

Third, this bond depends upon God’s power, not our own. Notice where our hope lies: not in that we have laid-claim to God, but that God has laid-claim to us. Our hope is not that we are holding fast to God, but that He is holding fast to us. So, while we’re obeying Romans 14:5-6 and doing all we do to please God, let us not forget that our pleasing God does not contribute to whether or not we belong to Him. No heavenly blessing depends on your performance – it all depends on whether you belong to God. Amen.


Question: What is our only hope in life and death?
Answer: That we are not our own, but belong to God.


[1] e.g. eating pork (see Acts 10:9-16).

[2] One may willingly enter into a situation where death is assured (e.g. Roman Christians entering the coliseum to die as martyrs), and do so with intentions to honor God. Yet this cannot apply to all Christians, and even then one is not committing the act of dying for God’s glory. The only way to literally do this is to commit suicide. Paul is probably not encouraging Christians to kill themselves.

[3] See Romans 5:1.

[4] Later in verse 9 Paul writes, “For to this end Christ died and lived again, that he might be Lord both of the dead and of the living.”

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