Life, Death, and Sin: How Union with Christ Should Change How We Live. Romans 6:1–14.
Romans 6:2—"How can we who died to sin still live in it?"
Romans 6:11—"So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus."
One thing you may have observed following Christmas, many people are giving gift cards more and more each year. With so many cards being given people are losing track of what has been given to them. Sometimes hundreds of dollars in gift cards remain inactive because they have been misplaced or are just forgotten. The quite valuable gift that has been given is in practice, of no value at all because it is forgotten, ignored, or discarded. In much the same way Christians do not understand their salvation and the gift that has been given to them.
Dead to Sin, Alive to God
Chapter 6 of Romans is an important chapter in the letter. It plays directly into Paul's broader argument that is laid down in the epistle's key verse: 1:16 "For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek." We have been reciting this verse for months now, and it's time to unwrap the salvation proclaimed to us as the gospel of Christ.
As Paul is highlighting that the gospel is for Jews and Greeks the need is equal regardless of national origin or culture. 1. God has made His attributes known to humanity, and 2. since His Law is written on their hearts, no one can claim ignorance. Whether through the law, or some other philosophy no one can earn salvation.
The main message of the early chapters was simple "Righteousness comes from God" and "Righteousness is necessary to be justified". People who see God as only love and mercy, neglect His holiness and justice. Both laws (the one written on the heart and the one written in stone) are incapable of providing righteousness, which must be gained in order to stand before God. This righteousness is provided by Jesus Christ himself who is able to save all of humanity past present and future. This righteousness is applied to specific humans through faith, just as Abraham had faith and receives salvation because of his faith that is secured later on in Christ. This leads to Paul's affirmation that the application of righteousness needed (justification) comes only through faith, not the insufficient adherence to Law, and from that we are reconciled to God.
Paul then turns to how this justification/reconciliation occurs. The answer is Christ's substitutionary work. In Adam all have sinned and death has reigned through sin. Therefore, we are all sinners because of Adam's sin. However, in Christ, those who have faith are given the free gift that reconciles that sin. It is a simple (but not simplistic) substitution; the capable in place of the incapable, the righteous for the unrighteous. The application of this, however, is for those who are in Christ and no longer in Adam. Thus, there is significant emphasis here upon what we are unified with that is important in chapter 6. Furthermore, a false conclusion of what Paul asserts in chapter 5 is: since Jesus has done everything, and we cannot do anything, for salvation there no longer remains a need to live righteously. This is a false conclusion that Paul now confronts.
1 What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin that grace may abound?
Our particular text addresses a logical conclusion that may arise from the previous argument of chapter 5, mainly, "Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound?" Paul is asking this question in a similar way that he does throughout other parts of the letter that is purposes to confront possible mistaken conclusions from his arguments. Last week we looked at the inheritance of Adam a corrupt sin nature, leading to sin and death. But that unhappy introduction was turned by the core message "But where sin abounded, grace
abounded more" .
Christ's penal-substitutionary atonement (Christ substituted himself and paid the legal price for our sin) is the price that turns aside the wrath prepared for all guilty sinners. The free gift of salvation is much greater than the offense of sin (cf. 5:17) and, as such, some might say that since it encompasses every sin, past, present, and future, that one need not concern oneself with addressing the sin in one's life. The grace of God will cover it. Salvation is accomplished and secured, there need be no other "work" to be done since there was not any work for humanity to do in the first place. Now that sounds logical up to a point, and that point is God. Remember again last week we saw that sin was already wrong before the law was given, and the sin of mankind is and was an offense to God. Would God work against His own Holy nature to produce a salvation resulting in more sin because His saints are all running headlong into sin waving their "Get out of Hell free" cards?
2 Certainly not! How shall we who died to sin live any longer in it?
Sometimes it is good to answer a question with another question, "how can the dead continue living like nothing changed"?
The answer that we are given to this very important question is, "By no means!" This phrase is one that Paul uses throughout the letter to provide correction to mistaken notions that may arise from his argumentation. This particular phrase is a strong negation and is elsewhere translated "Not at all!" and "God forbid!" Needless to say that in the 14 instances that Paul uses it in the New Testament (mainly in Romans) the reader should pay close attention to what he is correcting.
A possible conclusion that one may come up with after reading chapter 5 is the heresy called antinomianism ("anti" = against, "nomos" = law). Those who hold to this belief basically say that since Christ has paid for every sin we can now do whatever we want since there is no law that condemns us anymore. And though we might be attracted to such a conclusion, we must pause to understand that God, now more than ever because we are His, has ethical demands for our lives.
The basic retort that Paul provides is simply, "How can we who died to sin still live in it?" This question is the corrective question to verse 1 and the concluding thought of chapter 5. It is the key verse of this passage and one that we must ponder if we are to grow deeply in our Christian walk. The best way to understand the import of the question is to realize our relationship to Jesus Christ, which is exactly what Paul does next.
3 Or do you not know that as many of us as were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death? 4 Therefore we were buried with Him through baptism into death, that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.
In verses 3–4 Paul brings up the allusion of baptism and union with Christ. Baptism, as we know from our own water baptism, is an immersion into water that represents our shedding away of our old life and a taking on of the new life in Christ. You hear verse 4 often during baptism "buried with Him in baptism, raised to walk in newness of live". Christ bore our sins in His own body when he died.
1 Peter 2:24 who Himself bore our sins in His own body on the tree, that we, having died to sins, might live for righteousness—by whose stripes you were healed.
So Paul is not out on a limb by himself here, Peter is in full agreement. Jesus died in our sins so that we could live in His righteousness. We bury the dead, not the living; the implication is that if in baptism we are buried with Jesus, then some part of us is supposed to be dead.
5 For if we have been united together in the likeness of His death, certainly we also shall be in the likeness of Hisresurrection, 6 knowing this, that our old man was crucified with Him, that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves of sin. 7 For he who has died has been freed from sin.
Here we have two relatives that died and left us an inheritance, but the terms of the will say we should choose which inheritance to receive as the two are incompatible. First poor uncle Adam left us a broken down house called "Sin Manor" that has black mold, termites, bad plumbing and foundation problems, and it comes with an upside down mortgage as the house is worth far less than uncle Adam paid for it, because he was duped by a dishonest snake of a real-estate agent; but like many men he took the deal because it was the house his wife wanted. Next we have rich uncle Jesus who has left us "Grace Estate", a perfect mansion on a rolling hillside free and clear, it even comes fully staffed with prepaid professional groundskeepers. So now we each must choose, and Paul is saying here, it's time to pick a house and live in it!
8 Now if we died with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with Him, 9 knowing that Christ, having been raised from the dead, dies no more. Death no longer has dominion over Him. 10 For the death that He died, He died to sin once for all; but the life that He lives, He lives to God. 11 Likewise you also, reckon yourselves to be dead indeed to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Most importantly though in this connection between our lives and Jesus' is the way in which He now lives His life. Verse 10 says, "but the life he lives he lives to God." Jesus' entire ministry was in submission to the Father and that has not stopped because He is in Heaven. He persists in that obedience to the Father. Since we have been united to Him it is essential for those who are of the faith to also live to God.
But sometimes we let our old sin nature live some weird zombie-like existence like it's walking around on its own and we have no control over it. It reminds me of the 1989 movie "Weekend at Bernie's", were this rich guy dies but his friends keep dressing him up and hauling him around so they can party using his boat and beach house and all the other rich guy toys. But we don't even do it with a rich guy, we do it with poor old broke uncle Adam. In verse 11 Paul is tapping us on the shoulder saying "hey guys, he's dead; it's time to put Uncle Adam back in the ground".
12 Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body, that you should obey it in its lusts. 13 And do not present your members as instruments of unrighteousness to sin, but present yourselves to God as being alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness to God. 14 For sin shall not have dominion over you, for you are not under law but under grace.
At work because of the position I hold, I am required to sign a code of conduct agreement. This says I won't work for competitors or vendors who might use my position at Pacific Life to their advantage, nor will I use inside non-public information to invest for my own benefit. In other words the agreement says "remember who is paying you". Paul is making a similar point, don't let your life and your body be used by the enemy, for something that is offensive to the God who saved you.
Paul concludes these prohibitions and commands by stating the reality of the power of the gospel of Jesus Christ. "For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace." The free gift that comes with union in Christ is powerfully effective to conquer sin in a believer's life, but the believer has to seek righteousness and actively put away sin. Paul declares that believers have moved from death to life, from law to grace, but still have the ability to allow sin to hold power in their lives. The part of us that is buried with Him in baptism should be our corrupt sin nature. It's time to stop dressing it up and carrying it around for one more party. It's dead, we need to reckon, to think and remember, that's not my life anymore; I have a new life following the Jesus who took my sin to the grave and left it there. Just as he arose victorious over death and sin, so should we live the same way.
- What mundane (non embarrassing) sins do we allow to exist in ourselves that keep us from holiness?
- When we commit these sins how in particular do they affect our lives? Or what do these sins keep us from accomplishing?
- Have you ever considered that by sinning we are not just being disobedient to God, but are allowing sin to control us again?
- How does the understanding of our union with Christ, our salvation in Him, affect the way we live our lives?