It was not to long ago that there was a major debate within evangelical circles over whether a person could have Christ as savior and not have Him as Lord. As I have studied the 6th chapter of Romans this last week, I realized that “Lordship” is really at the heart of the gospel.

In the closing chapter 5, Paul tells us “as sin reigned in death, even so grace would reign through righteousness to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord”  (Rom. 5:21). Paul has just informed us of one of the greatest contrasts in history. On one hand, you have sin and death entering into the world through the transgression of one man (Adam), and on the other you have righteousness entering into the world through one righteous act of one man (Christ). Paul wants us to understand that through Adam their came a “reign” of sin, while in Christ their has come a “reign” of grace.

In chapter 6, Paul then sets for this great truth that through Christ their comes a change in the reigning, or lording, influence in a persons life. Paul then develops how this change of “Lordship” takes place on both a theological level and a practical level.

Theologically: First Paul in 6:3-11 shows us that the change of ruling principal in a persons life comes from their union with Christ. Having been united with Christ, they have become shares in His death, so when Christ surrendered to the control of death, the believer did also. However, when Christ rose again in triumph over the reign of death, the believer arose to a new life with Him. To put it simply, the believer has been crucified with Christ and now Christ lives in them. (cf. Gal. 2:20)  As Paul explains later when a person becomes a believer they are not only freed from sin, but are also enslaved to righteousness. Sin is no longer the lord of their life, but God is.

Practically: Paul then devotes 6:12-21 to instruct the believer to act out this truth. They are to present their members as instruments of righteousness, rather than as instruments of evil. They are to act in such a way as will reflect this great truth. Sin is no longer the ruling principal in their lives. It does not tell them how to act or how to think or how to feel, but rather God becomes their sovereign and grace becomes their teacher. So Paul tells us in Titus,

For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all men, instructing us to deny ungodliness and worldly desires and to live sensibly, righteously and godly in the present age, looking for the blessed hope and the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Christ Jesus, who gave Himself for us to redeem us from every lawless deed, and to purify for Himself a people for His own possession, zealous for good deeds. (Titus 2:11-14)

It seems pretty clear to me that there really is a “Lordship” controversy going on the world today and it has everything to do with salvation. Those who are still under the reign of sin are also under the reign of death. Those whose lives are controlled by sinful desires are likely still in their sins and have not truly come to Christ despite any confession they may have made to the contrary.

But those who are truly united with Christ will show themselves to be no longer under the lordship of sin, but now under the lordship of God. The ruling principal in their hearts will be the grace of God, which was purchased at the cost of God’s only Beloved Son. And as the love of God is poured out in their hearts and the appreciation of this grace grows, they will be more and more conformed into the image of their Savior. And this change orignated in the heart, therefore, it cannot be produced by the will of man or human effort, but only by God effectually changing the heart of the man through His grace.