Tupac Shakur sold over seventy-five million records. Rolling Stone ranked him eighty-sixth on its list of the greatest 100 artists of all time. He is considered the greatest and most influential rapper of all time. On September 7, 1996 Tupac at age twenty-five was murdered in a drive-by shooting in Las Vegas. Tupac had a bad death. Is there ever a good death? Romans 6 says, “Yes.”
Romans 1-5 is about good news, not good advice. Romans 6 begins by anticipating a normal response to such radical grace: If salvation is by grace alone, then how do people change? Why be good and do good at all?
Paul’s answer is verse 2, “How can we who died to sin still live in it?” Notice what Paul is not saying. He is not saying, “Those of you struggling with rage and revenge, die to sin: or “Those of you struggling with pornography and romance, die to sin.” Paul’s answer is not an imperative or good advice…it is good news… it is something already done for you.
“Died” in the original language is a completed action already accomplished; it is finished. Being dead to sin is not something to be achieved, but rather something to be believed. What needs to be believed? If you are a Christian, you have died to sin, meaning you have died to sin’s universal and complete control, dominion, rule, power, tyranny, captivity, mastery, or bondage. You are no longer a slave to sin (verses 6-7). Paul’s answer to the struggle for life change is found in a good death.
How does a good death help us in our struggle for life change? First, a good death is already epic life change. Scottish pastor and theologian Sinclair Ferguson, says, “Paul is not saying to die to sin is to be immune to sin. Paul is not saying to die to sin is to be free of the struggle with sin. Paul is saying you have died to sin; therefore struggle with sin.” Christians have entered into a struggle with sin they ultimately cannot lose, whereas life outside a good death is a struggle with sin that cannot be won. Second, a good death is a call to believe, not achieve. It is a call to remember who you are, to be who you are (verse 6).
In the midst of a violent verbal assault with another man, Tupac had a life-changing encounter with Dr. Maya Angelou, who courageously intervened not knowing who Tupac was. What changed him? She said, “When was the last time that anyone told you that ‘it’s all for you,’ that we lived 300 years on the edge of a dime so that you can exist? When is the last time? Do you know that we stood on slave ship decks and stood on auction blocks and were hosed down like dogs for you, so that you can live?
When was the last time someone said to you, ‘It’s all for you. Jesus stood on the slave block for you. Jesus was beaten like a dog for you. Jesus was hung naked, publicly shamed for you. Jesus absorbed cosmic condemnation for you. Jesus died to break your bondage to sin, to set you free. It’s all for you. When was the last time?’’’ Remember who you are. Be who you are…because of Jesus.