Date: 25 Jun 2017
Text: Romans 6:1-14
Next week at the Baptist Free Church I will be starting a new series of eight sermons under the general heading of Living in Christ. These sermons will be looking at how we should live our lives as believers in and disciples of Jesus Christ. That statement assumes of course that we are Christians in the New Testament sense of the word in the first place. It may seem strange to say but we can’t live in Jesus Christ if we aren’t Alive in Christ in the first place! So today I want to briefly explore that thought of being Alive in Christ something that Paul is talking about in these few verses in Romans 6.
Sin & Grace
In the second half of Romans 5 Paul had been describing how sin came into the world through one man, Adam; and then how life came through one Man, Jesus Christ. As descendants of Adam, mankind inherited his sin and so lived lives of sin. Since people didn’t realise they were sinning God gave them the Law in order to identify sin. However, whilst the Law could identify sin it couldn’t lead people away from sin and so God sent His Son Jesus into the world to point out our sin, lead people away from those sins and towards faith in Him. That meant that all who chose to follow Jesus were able to look forward to life eternal, a life without sin and the death that goes with it.
Paul was writing this letter to his Roman friends from Corinth; a city that was full of sin and temptation which meant that he was able to observe that the more that believers gave in to temptation, the more grace they received from God. I should point out that grace is that wonderful undeserved and unmerited gift from God. Paul found this abundance of grace to be a strange thing to happen as it implied that believers could take advantage of God and carry on sinning so as to receive yet more grace. His reply to that conundrum comes in 6:2 where he answered the question “Shall we go on sinning?” with an emphatic “By no means!”
Meanwhile, we live in a world that is full of sin and it seems to me that many people don’t really appreciate that they are sinners; in fact they barely seem to know what sin is; sin and sinners having become non-words in our 21st century politically correct culture. In recent years, possibly since the early 1960s, and most definitely since the early 1970s, there seems to have been a decline in morals in this country and possibly around the world. Attitudes and ways of behaviour that were at one time regarded as sinful now seem to be taken for granted and are seen as a normal way of modern life; for example, we seem to have changed our ways of thinking on marriage and the relationship between men and women. Why should that be? Why should the morals of a nation decline so much and so rapidly? I have a feeling that this may have been what Paul observed in Corinth; a total and utter decline of the morals of a whole society leading to more and more sin.
Dead not Alive
Here in these few verses in Romans 6 Paul is talking about there being two versions of ourselves; there is the old self that lives a life in sin, and there is the new self that lives a life in Christ. What Paul is pointing out here is our need to be alive in Christ and thereby become our new self. The Apostle later wrote to the Corinthians and told them, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: the old has gone, the new is here!” (2 Corinthians 5:17). The way that I read this passage in Romans 6 tells me that Paul is writing to those who already believe in Jesus Christ as their Lord and Saviour rather than to any non-believers in the hope of bringing them to faith. He begins 6:3 with the words, “Or don’t you know that...” which suggests to me that he is about to remind them of a profound truth. In 6:3 Paul tells us how, as we are baptised, we are buried with Christ, and how as we come up out of the waters of baptism we are raised from the dead just as Jesus was. In that way we identify ourselves with Christ both in His death and His resurrection. Now, many people, particularly us Baptists, me included, get hung up on baptism of believers by immersion. We regard it as both Biblical and important since in being baptised we believe that we are following a command from the Lord Himself. However, for many people that can be a stumbling block and can act as a means of preventing them coming to faith in the first place. Let me make clear that baptism, whilst important, is not vital to salvation. The transformation from our old self where we live a life in sin to our new self where we live a life in Christ comes as a result of the act of salvation itself. The most important change in our lives comes as we accept Jesus Christ as Lord and Saviour. It is at that moment that we become a new creation, made whole again in and by Jesus Christ.
What in effect Paul is saying is that it is as if we are two different people. Our old self lived a life of sin, whether knowingly or unknowingly, and we knew no other way of life. I realise that we all live our lives differently and may have different attitudes towards sin and wrongdoing, but just consider some of the things that go on. There is a lot of hate in the world; sometimes between religious groups, sometimes between race groups, sometimes even between families. That is a sin since Jesus gave us the greatest command when He said “A new command I give you: love one another.” (John 13:34). By not obeying His command we are sinning. Then there is a growing lack of morality in the world. I’ve already mentioned the decline in morals including the levels of promiscuity that exist today, the lack of discipline in general, the lack of deference from old to young and young to old. They may not seem to you to be sins as such but in God’s eyes they most certainly are since He wants us to obey Him, love one another, and live by His commands. The commands He gives aren’t onerous it’s just that people today do not like being told what to do, especially by Someone they don’t acknowledge even exists! Paul tells us in a famous verse later in Romans 6 that “the wages of sin is death” (6:23). If we continue to live as sinners then we will surely die and be cut off from God for all eternity.
As soon as we realise that we are indeed sinners we recognise that we need to change our ways. The only real way that we can change is to turn to Jesus Christ and acknowledge that He died to pay the price for our sins. I’ve just quoted the verse in 6:23 that sin must be paid for and it must be paid for by death. Jesus paid that price for us so that we don’t have to; He died a cruel and painful death on the cross of Calvary so that those who accept Him as Lord and Saviour no longer need to worry about paying that very heavy price.
Alive not Dead
That’s all the heavy stuff, the bad stuff! All of what I have just said relates to our old lives of sin, the way we were and the future we faced before we came to know Christ. We can now move on to the good stuff, the good news of a new life in and with Christ.
Paul opens the paragraph from 6:8-10 with by reminding us that, “...if we died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with Him” (6:8). Hopefully, we have seen from the earlier verses that by continuing to live in a state of sin we are actually dead; that is, dead as far as God is concerned and there is nothing that we can do about that without the help of Jesus Christ. Now, by coming to faith in Jesus we have a new life and it is a life lived with Jesus. By knowing Jesus as Lord and Saviour we can no longer die. Let me explain: in a recent sermon at the Baptist Free Church, I mentioned an old saying that goes like this, “those who are born once will die twice, whilst those who are born twice will die once”. What that is saying is that those who are born again by coming to faith in Jesus will only suffer a physical death whereas those who haven’t been born again will suffer both a physical death and a spiritual death. That spiritual death means that they will be cut off from God for all eternity with no chance of escape.
In 6:11 Paul makes it clear that by coming to faith in Jesus and knowing Him we can, “count (y)ourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus”. What a great state in which to find ourselves. In being slaves to sin God regarded us as dead, now because we know Jesus Christ He regards us as being alive. It should follow then that if we are now dead to sin we should no longer be interested in sin; we should no longer act as sinners. It is true to say that we are surrounded by sin and by temptation and it is all too easy to succumb and as Paul says “obey its evil desires” (6:12b). However, we should do our utmost to avoid falling into sin’s trap and continue to focus on Jesus Christ and live the life that He wants us to live. Earlier in this passage Paul referred to our being “slaves to sin” (6:6b). Now in 6:14 he reminds us that “sin shall no longer be your master”. Because of our faith in Jesus Christ and because we have new lives and we are alive in Christ, we should no longer allow ourselves to be dominated by sin.
What if we do sin?
This leads to a difficult question though, what if we do sin? We could worry ourselves sick if we think too much about the consequences of sinning again. Sadly, of course, even though we may, as believers, be alive in Christ, it is all too easy for us to give in and sin from time to time; it happens to the best of us! We think the wrong thoughts; we say the wrong things; we do the wrong things; all of which are against God’s will for our lives. We may not intend to carry on sinning but we do. You see, when He created us, God gave us free will, the ability to make our own decisions. Sometimes we make the wrong decisions, perhaps without meaning to, and those decisions lead to sin. Whilst that isn’t good it is not necessarily fatal since God loves us and being a forgiving God; He will forgive us. We need to acknowledge what we have done and approach Him in a contrite way to seek His forgiveness and He will be there with forgiving arms open wide. When, rather than if, we do sin then He will always be there and will shower us in grace to help us recover and get us back on the right road.
That doesn’t mean though that we should go on sinning just so that we can receive more grace. Paul dealt with that way of thinking at the very opening of this chapter and made his views more than clear. We need to remember that we are now new people, alive in Christ and we should always want to obey God and live the life that He wants us to lead. However, if we do stumble along the way, He will be there to pick us up and help us rather than condemn us.
In these few verses Paul has contrasted life between our old self; that is, a life lived in sin; and our new self; that is, a life lived in and with Jesus Christ. By identifying ourselves with Jesus we are no longer dead in sin but alive in Christ. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if more and more could hear God’s word and forsake their old self and become a new creation through Jesus Christ, thus becoming alive in Christ.