Text: Romans 6
One text I like to return to every Easter is 1 Corinthians 15. In that chapter, which we looked at in detail last Easter, Paul makes the argument that the resurrection of Jesus Christ is the most important truth of the entire Christian faith. In that chapter Paul gives at least 7 reasons why the resurrection is so significant. I want to look only at one this morning, which he refers to in verse 17: And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins. Now Paul doesn’t go into a lot of detail here in 1 Corinthians 15. Many Christians struggle hard to understand Paul’s logic here because we connect our salvation with what Jesus did on the cross. It was there that Jesus paid the penalty for our sins and purchased our salvation. But here Paul is not focusing on the cross but the resurrection as to what secured our freedom. What do you mean Paul? How is the resurrection connected to me being free from my sins?
Romans chapter 6, I believe he works out for us this connection. Not only does he work out this connection between Christ’s resurrection and our freedom from sin, but he also uses the illustration of baptism, which we are also celebrating today.
Romans 6 starts out by referring to a fair question. Romans 6:1 What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? In the first five chapters of Romans, Paul has explained how we are save completely by God’s work, not ours. There was nothing that we could do to earn God’s love and acceptance, but he freely gave it to us in Christ by his grace, a gift to be received by faith. So here’s the problem: if we are saved by grace, apart from anything that we have done, than what does it matter how we live?
Romans 6 has only two main points, but if we really reflected on them to be changed by them, we would be renewed people. Both answer demonstrate how silly the question being asked is. These are both truths of the resurrection life of the believer.
1) The believer is dead to sin’s power.
2) The believer is freed from sin’s bondage.
To answer the question Paul asks a question of his own: How can we who died to sin still live in it? You see, the question that was asked at the beginning of the chapter fails to comprehend the spiritual transaction that takes place within the believer upon coming to faith in Christ. He uses the language of baptism, because baptism is a picture that we all can see of our identification with Christ. When a person is baptized, it is a symbol that they have inwardly fully identified with the death, burial and resurrection of Christ. This is why each of those who are being baptized today have gone through a time of reflection and testing. They had to answer four questions.
1) They had to show that they understood the gospel, that they were not trusting in themselves and that they believe that Jesus is the only way man can come to have peace with God.
2) They had to show that they understood the meaning of baptism. That this does not save them, but it is a powerful symbol of their new life in Jesus.
3) They had to write out their personal testimony – particularly focusing on how they know that Jesus has given them a new life.
4) They had to write out a plan for growing in their new life.
Each of these are important to drive home the understanding that baptism is the outward ceremony through which you express the new life Christ is creating within you. Paul stresses this identification with Christ death and his life in verses 3-5: Romans 6:3-4 Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.
In verse 5-11, Paul draws out the connection between our new life and the resurrection of Christ. For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his. Now usually when Paul talks about being united with Christ’s resurrection, he means that someday, after we die, we will be raised to life. But that is not what he means here. But let’s read on in verses 9-11.
We know that Christ, being raised from the dead, will never die again; death no longer has dominion over him. For the death he died he died to sin, once for all, but the life he lives he lives to God. So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus. Here is the life-changing truth of this passage. The resurrection life of the believer has already started. You don’t sit around waiting for heaven to be resurrected – you already are living the resurrection life now!
People say, but my flesh is weak so I still sin. No! Your flesh is made strong through the resurrection power of the Lord Jesus. People say, but my sinful nature is too strong. No! Your sinful nature is dead crucified with Christ. People say, it’s only natural for me to sin, I’m human. No! Your no longer only natural, you are spiritual! People say, but I can’t help myself. I am a slave to my sinful passions. No! You are only a slave to them if you present yourself to them.
The spirit tells us to do two things in this passage to really experience the resurrection life and freedom.
1) Consider yourself dead to sin: Romans 6:11 So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus. This is a mindset-change. Instead of living weak, faithless, sin-stricken Christian lives, understand that you are dead to sin. Don’t make excuses for yourselves by saying that my flesh is weak. Own it that you gave your flesh life again by not trusting in the resurrection of Jesus. Kill your flesh every day by praying for renewed faith in the truth that you are dead to sin.
2) Present yourself as slaves to righteousness: Romans 6:19 I am speaking in human terms, because of your natural limitations. For just as you once presented your members as slaves to impurity and to lawlessness leading to more lawlessness, so now present your members as slaves to righteousness leading to sanctification. Present yourself daily to God. Ask him to teach you his ways. Start following his spirit’s leading. Bring your burdens to God.
Those who are being baptized today are going to practice this. They have each written down at least one thing that they want to nail to the cross today. Then they come up to be baptized, signifying the new life and freedom that they are to walk in.