In the twenty-first verse of this chapter, we read that “as sin reigned in death, grace also might reign through righteousness leading to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.” Paul is quite emphatic and insistent. He repeats himself. He continues to point to the sin of Adam, saying that the evidence of the reign of sin, of faithlessness to God’s covenant and its associated commands, is death. He adds that the evidence of the reign of grace, the reign of Christ, is eternal life. That eternal life---the life of the age to come as a member of the covenant people becomes the place of the overlap of heaven and earth, bringing the life of the age to come into the present age---is manifested through the confession of Jesus as Lord and a life that conforms to that confession.
Do we believe it? Do we truly believe that the Christ reigns in this life, in our lives, in this world? Do we truly believe that Jesus is Lord, or is it something to which we merely pay lip service so as to avoid the punishment of hell’s fire upon our shaking off of this mortal coil? If we believe these things, then we must confidently declare that we are being made to share in eternal life in this moment, as these words are read. If we believe these things, then it is evidence of the Holy Spirit’s working, sharing the power of Christ’s Resurrection, to create the union with Christ that is the belief in and confession of Jesus as Lord and King and Master and Savior and Ruler. If we believe these things, then we have, participate in, and demonstrate eternal life, and we share that eternal life with this world through our engagement in the proclamation of the Gospel, in the making of disciples, and in all that we do as we do it in the name of the King.
With no arbitrary divisions in the original text, Paul moves seamlessly from the fifth to the sixth chapters of Romans. There we read, “We were buried therefore with Him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life” (6:4). So much hope! So much grace! Why do we bury that hope, and in the process of that burial, deny the great miracle of Christ’s Resurrection? The promise is that “just as Christ was raised from the dead…we too might walk in newness of life.” What does that mean if not what it says? When we use terms like “just as,” what we are communicating is “in the same way” and “just like.”
So, just like Christ, in the same way that Christ was raised from the dead, so too will we be raised from the dead. Just as Christ was completely restored and given a Resurrection body, right here in the midst of God’s creation, so too will each one of us that finds himself or herself as a part of God’s covenant people. How do we know if we are a part of that group of people? If we find ourselves saying “Jesus is Lord,” and therefore believing in Christ and the Gospel about Him, then we are part of that group, being moved to that belief through the working of the Holy Spirit, and so evidencing the possession of the faith that is to be possessed by the covenant people, which also stands as evidence of our sharing in eternal life.
A new, resurrected body, in the midst of God’s creation. That is our hope. A restoration from the state of futility and corruption to which it was unwillingly and through no fault of its own, but through the fall of the one to whom it was given over in dominion, that is the hope for which the entire creation groans, looking forward to the enjoyment of the same freedom (re-birth, salvation) that is experienced by those who are called the children of God. If we deny this as God’s intention for His people and His creation, and live in nothing more than an escapist dream in which we do not look forward to a new body in a renewed physicality, but simply speak only of heaven as the place where we will put on immortality and where the perishable puts on the imperishable, then we might as well deny that Christ rose bodily from the grave.