7 For none of us lives to himself, and none of us dies to himself.
8 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.
9 For to this end Christ died and lived again, that he might be Lord both of the dead and of the living.
We should not expect others to please us by their behavior (by what they eat or drink, for example), for they live for the Lord, not for us. Our concern is to please the Lord by our behavior. We do not owe approval to others, nor should we expect it from them. The approval that matters is what we receive from the Lord, both now in life and later in death.
Not rules, but Christ
When a person comes to Christ, a learning process begins. A mistake I sometimes made was to expect more of a new Christian than God expects. Sanctification is a process, and we who are more mature ought to stand back and let the Holy Spirit guide that process. Believers have done great harm by imposing on others their own image of what a Christian is or does. Missionaries have shaved the heads of Native Americans, for example. A friend of mine grew up in a foster family who attended a rule-based church. He was horrified to witness an elder of that church rip a ring off the ear of a young man who was visiting. What an atrocity against not only that young man’s body but also his heart.
Churches should be cautious about instituting rules concerning smoking, alcohol, playing cards, movies, music, grooming, and dress. We can instruct new believers from the word of God and help them see that they now live to and for the Lord. By the Spirit they will grow in adoration of Jesus Christ, the one to whom they must give account. Rules teach how to please others; Christianity is about pleasing our Savior.
The opening phrase of verse 7 (“For none of us lives to himself”) has been wrongly used as an exhortation to serve the church, but this application does not fit the context. It is true, though, that if we live for Christ we will also live for one another. “By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers” (1 John 3:15).
Avoiding the second death
Friends, you must be born twice to die only once. If you are born only once, you will die twice, and the second death is more to be feared than the first.
Paul speaks of dying to the Lord, and he means dying in right relationship with him by having been “born again.” Only those who experience this spiritual rebirth will avoid what Scripture warns as “the second death” (see Revelation 2:11, 20:6, and 20:14–15). All who reject Christ in this life will experience the second death, which is separation from Christ. The Bible speaks of this final judgment as being thrown “in the lake of fire.”
In contrast, we who trust in Christ will go to be with him immediately after physical death. We will be resurrected with glorified bodies and live eternally with him on the renewed earth. Everett Harrison says of verse 9, “His triumph included victory over death, so that even though his people may be given over to death’s power temporarily, they have not ceased to be his, as the future bodily resurrection of Christians will demonstrate.”
“He died for all, that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised.” (2 Corinthians 5:15)
“You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.”
(1 Corinthians 6:19–20)