Older translations of the Bible translate Romans 6:3 as “reckon yourself dead to sin”. To reckon is an old English accounting term for calculation or counting. Today we might say “consider yourself dead to sin”, or “realize” you are dead. The word carries with it a sense of certainty. You can count on it.
The importance of reckoning as a concept is that it is one of the main ways that sanctification progresses. It is the faith side of mortification. That is, all attempts at confession, contrition, repentance, self denial, etc, will fail if not mixed with faith. It is God who declares we are “dead to sin”. He commands us, saying “don’t let sin rule over you anymore”. How can we do that unless He gives us power over the sin nature? The good news is that the atonement contains within it just such power over sin.
What this means is that the born again believer does not have to sin. They can realize that the sin nature has been crucified and put to death with Christ. When tempted they do not have to yield. They are “free from sin”. If lied to by Satan and told that they have not really changed then they can use the word of God to hold their ground. It is a wonderful day when we realize we don’t have to sin anymore.
The ability to realize that we are dead to sin is a process. Usually, it is a long process and is part of maturation and sanctification. A person must come to realize that the continued presence of evil within them, after conversion, is not “a sin” unless they yield to it. That is, the presence of a dual nature is part of our walk and our warfare. Often times a Christian wishes that they did not have to suffer temptation, and wishes that that there was nothing in them that could drawn out in the temptation process. The truth is that we must suffer evil within us. We must suffer inner forces that are against God. Periods of evil thoughts, “bad moods’, oppressive turmoil and seeming endless battle all characterize our walk. Such warfare does not indicate we are failing. This warfare is part of suffering for Christ and if the sin within us is resisted and not yielded to then we are “reckoning ourselves dead to sin”. This is the message of Romans 6-8.
Thus, “reckoning” requires both faith and works. It is like an equation, where the experience of victory over sin results from a balance between faith and works. That is,the believer has to exercise his/her will in order to gain victory as well as receive the revelation, by faith, that they are dead to sin. Since “faith without works is dead” then reckoning by faith must be married to warfare, mortification and determination in order to obtain a victorious walk. This use of the will however is placed on following the indwelling spirit and not on attempting to use mere will power to obey a written command. This is the difference between legalism and New Testament obedience.
So, it is important to realize that reckoning is not a onetime activity. Even though the death of Jesus brings immediate life to the spirit and death to the sin nature, the appropriation of this power is obtained by a process. Continued resistance and faith are required. Each time we fight a moral battle we must both realize we don’t have to sin and then use our will to resist. When the will or faith is weak then the person must come to God and ask for help and more grace. With time a person learns to walk in victory and exercise this new life continuously.
Although reckoning is perfected over time it can also have instantaneous elements through inner revelation. For example see the essay entitled “Revelation of the New Man” in the Mystic Blog section.