The verb reckon (Greek logizomai, “consider” ESV) is an accounting term that Paul used 11 times in Romans 4. The meaning of the term there, where God did the reckoning, is that God deposited righteousness into the accounts of people on the basis of their faith. Now the reckoning is our responsibility. Paul commands us to reckon that what God has placed into our account is truly ours so that we properly appropriate its riches.
Paul began verse 3 with “Do you not know,” and he began verses 6 and 9 with “We know.” In verse 8 he spoke of our life with Christ as something “we believe.” By the process of reckoning, we position ourselves to act on what we know and believe: We are dead to sin and alive to God in Christ. Let us seek to understand this often neglected yet powerful tool God has given for our sanctification.Reckoning as a prelude to action
This verse marks a transition from truth to action, from statements of what is to what ought to be (from indicative to imperative, as theologians like to point out). The remarkable thing about reckoning is that it is a command not to do but to think. Paul sees this kind of thinking as a necessary prelude to the action he commands in the following verses. Thought is father to the act. As I say in my book, “Reckoning stands at the nexus between accomplished fact and commanded action.”
Reckoning engages the mind, heart, will, and imagination. It combines active thinking with insistent faith and willing cooperation to help us imagine our present and future life in Christ. Through it we enforce in our experience what God declares about us. As Everett Harrison points out, reckoning makes the fact of union with Christ operative in our lives.
Because this declared righteousness seems contrary to our experience, reckoning puts us in the frame of mind to enforce that reality in the way we live. You can explore the meaning of this word here, and you can learn how to apply this verse to your life in my book.
The following four translations of the verse draw our attention to several important details (see my underlining).
Like Christ, dead to sin’s power
The opening phrases “In the same way” (NIV) and “Likewise you also” (NKJ) make clear Paul’s comparison with Christ. Just as Christ died to sin and lives to God (verse 10) so we enjoy this status through our union with Christ.
The NLT rightly specifies that we are dead to “the power of sin.” I noted in the previous message that Paul speaks of sin as a ruling power, which he again makes clear in verse 12 with the command to not let “sin therefore reign in your mortal body, to make you obey its passions” and in verse 14 with the statement that “sin will have no dominion over you.”
As the New King James and Young’s recognize, Paul included a word to emphasize that we are “dead indeed,” or truly dead, to sin. We cannot make ourselves any deader to sin than we are in Christ. Met with any temptation, we are to regard ourselves as a corpse, insisting, “I am dead to that through Christ!”
If you are in Christ, the positions of power are reversed. Sin no longer has power over you. You have authority over it, no matter how long it has been in your life.Living to God
The phrase “alive to God” is literally “living to God” (see Young’s). The difference is minor, but the present participle emphasizes continuing action. We reckon ourselves to be in constant fellowship with God, worshiping and serving him and finding out what pleases him so we can satisfy his desires and make his passion our passion.
Reckoning ourselves dead to sin and alive to God may seem contrary to the way we feel or the circumstances we find ourselves in, but Paul’s command underscores the necessity of living not according to how we feel but in alignment with truth. And remember, reckoning is not a command to die to sin and live to God; it is a command to think of ourselves as now dead to sin and alive to God. Through reckoning we enforce truth that God has already brought into existence, and this is a truth that “leads to sanctification and its end, eternal life” (6:22).
Dear Lord, please show us how you see us through your eyes.