This is the third week into our series on Romans. We haven’t been going through the whole Book of Romans verse by verse. Some churches will do that, but instead, I’ve been highlighting a few passages. I would encourage you, as we go through this series, to take the time and read the whole book of Romans. You can easily read a chapter a day if you want. Maybe more. Though, I would also encourage you to take the time to read it slowly and let it sink in. Maybe read some commentary on it, pray through the scriptures as you read it so that you can glean from it as much as you can, and seek what The Holy Spirit wants to reveal to you through this.
Again, this is all about going back to the basics of what we believe and to fortify ourselves in the Word and in Truth.
Today, since this is communion Sunday, I thought we would go to a passage that speaks about Christ’s death and sacrifice, what it means for us and what we are to do about it.
So if you have your Bibles, please turn with me to Romans 6, we’ll read the first 14 verses.
As you’re turning there, let me read to you something that was published in Moody Press. I’ve mentioned Martin Luther a few times recently.
Someone confronted Martin Luther, upon the Reformer’s rediscovery of the biblical doctrine of justification, with the remark, “If this is true, a person could simply live as he pleased!”
“Indeed!” answered Luther. “Now, what pleases you?”
Now that’s something to think about, but let’s go on:
Augustine was the great preacher of grace during the fourth and fifth centuries. Although his understanding of the doctrine of justification did not have the fine-tuned precision of the Reformers, Augustine’s response on this point was similar to Luther’s. He said that the doctrine of justification led to the maxim, “Love God and do as you please.”
Because we have misunderstood one of the gospel’s most basic themes, Augustine’s statement looks to many like a license to indulge one’s sinful nature, but in reality, it touches upon the motivation the Christian has for his actions. The person who has been justified by God’s grace has a new, higher, and nobler motivation for holiness than the shallow, hypocritical self-righteousness or fear that seems to motivate so many religious people today.
Let’s look at what The Bible actually has to say about justification through grace. Romans 6:1-14 says:
6 What shall we say, then? Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase? 2 By no means! We are those who have died to sin; how can we live in it any longer? 3 Or don’t you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? 4 We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life.
5 For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we will certainly also be united with him in a resurrection like his. 6 For we know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body ruled by sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin— 7 because anyone who has died has been set free from sin.
8 Now if we died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. 9 For we know that since Christ was raised from the dead, he cannot die again; death no longer has mastery over him. 10 The death he died, he died to sin once for all; but the life he lives, he lives to God.
11 In the same way, count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus. 12 Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its evil desires. 13 Do not offer any part of yourself to sin as an instrument of wickedness, but rather offer yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life; and offer every part of yourself to him as an instrument of righteousness. 14 For sin shall no longer be your master because you are not under the law but under grace.
So what is Paul saying here to the Roman church? It ties in with what we discussed two weeks ago. We are to not keep sinning. We are to move on in a new direction through repentance. And it is God’s grace which gives us the ability to do so.
There’s a story about a man who was told by a prominent preacher that by trusting in God’s justifying and preserving grace, he would end up living a life of sin before long—and thus, lose his salvation and be consigned to hell.
See, this prominent preacher didn’t understand grace. Not fully. He thought that if we were saved by grace, then we would take it for granted and slip back into a sinful lifestyle.
Now, there’s some truth to that. Many times, people will go to the altar and accept Christ as savior, and then go back into the same world in which they were once in––the same friends, the same family; not go to church, not read their Bible, not repent, not do anything different, and the next thing you know, they’re back to their old habits.
But that’s not what Paul was talking about here.
Paul anticipated that same reaction that the famous preacher had from the religious community of his own day. So he asked the question he expected them to ask: “Shall we continue in sin that grace may abound?” (6:1) In other words, “If people believed what you just said, Paul, wouldn’t they take advantage of the situation?” That’s a fair question. But it reveals a basic misunderstanding of the nature of God’s saving grace. Paul’s response is unmistakable: “Certainly not! How shall we who died to sin live any longer in it?” (Romans 6:2, NKJV).
So the idea isn’t that we have permission to do whatever sins we want because all we have to do is rely on God’s grace. That’s called ‘cheap grace’ and it’s taking God’s love for granted. It’s a form of mocking God and God will not be mocked.
To state it again, we have died to sin through God’s grace. Why through God’s great grace? Because we couldn’t die to it any other way. God had to have a hand in our death to sin. How was that accomplished? God had to become sin himself and die. Through his physical death, we are able to spiritually die.
Verse 3 says, “don’t you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death?” That means we are to die to sin.
Verse 4 says, “4 We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life.”
You know, it took me the longest time to understand what Baptism was. I had seen it as a child, but I didn’t know what it was. And then one day, I’m not sure when––maybe it was reading this scripture, I don’t know––but it hit me. “Oh, it symbolizes our spiritual death and resurrection!”
Okay, but now why do we do it? Why is it so important? Why is it commanded? Why did Jesus do it? He was baptised and he didn’t even need to. Why are we to do it? I don’t think the Bible says that. What does it accomplish?
Well, one day it hit me. I found out as an adult that it’s symbolic. It’s ceremonial. It’s an outward expression of an inward decision, and we are proclaiming that publicly so that others get to rejoice with us. That’s why so many churches make a point of dunking because the symbolism is there in a greater way than in pouring or sprinkling. Now, the past two baptisms that we’ve had in this church have not been dunking, and that’s okay. It’s the inward decision that we are rejoicing.
We have been baptized, or we died to our sins, and have been raised a new creation in Christ.
Scripture is filled with descriptions of the believer’s new spiritual life. We are said to receive a new heart (Ezek 36:26), a new spirit (Ezek 18:31), a new song (Ps 40:3-note), and a new name (Rev 2:17-note). We are called a new creation (2Cor 5:17), a new creature (Gal 6:15), and a new self (Ep 4:24-note).
We have these things as believers in Christ. We are dead to our former person and alive as a new person in Christ. Paul said to the Galatian church, “20 I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.”
Paul said that to the Galatians and…
He says something very similar to the Romans.
“6 For we know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body ruled by sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin—7 because anyone who has died has been set free from sin.”
Now, this scripture is kind of bothersome in some ways, because it gives the implication that we will literally never sin again. And if we take it that way, we will live our lives wondering if we’re really saved or not. This isn’t what Paul is saying here. Our old selves have been put to death. John MacArthur said, “Christians sin because of the vestiges of sinful flesh, not because they have the same old active sinful nature. Certainly, we sin, but when we sin it is contrary to our [new] nature.”
Have you noticed a difference in your life? Have you noticed you’re not the same person you were? Certain things you thought were fine are now sickening? Certain things you hear now sound like nails on a chalkboard? Certain things you used to see you can’t stand to see anymore?
Maybe it’s movies, maybe it’s music, maybe it’s cursing, maybe it’s…fill in the blank.
Our spiritual nature has changed. Our new nature is in Christ. We may not be perfect, but we have been set free from the slavery of sin and are in the process of being renewed.
The phrase in verse 6 that says, “…the body ruled by sin might be done away with” literally means to reduce to inactivity. It’s not a complete overhaul overnight, but it’s a work in progress.
I did this last week, and I’m going to do it again––I’m going to get eggheady. I’m going to get academic in order to hopefully bring clarity to this verse. The phrase, “might be done away with” in the Greek is one word, katargeo. Vine dictionary explains that katargeo “does not mean to annihilate. (= to destroy utterly and completely and thus cause it to cease to exist) Instead, the general idea is that of depriving a thing of the use for which it is intended.
So by the power of the cross, katargeo literally means “to render inoperative or invalid,” to make something ineffective by removing its power of control. Sin has no power or control over our lives anymore. Not in any lifelong, natural way. There is victory over sin through the cross and redemption of Christ, whereas we had no victory over it any other way before. We were slaves to it. It controlled us.
The ESV Study Bible comments that “Paul does not argue that Christians do not sin at all (a view called sinless perfection cp 1Jn 1:8); instead, the tyranny, domination, and rule of sin have been defeated for them. This means that the normal pattern of life for Christians should be progressive growth in sanctification, resulting in ever greater maturity and conformity to God’s moral law in thought and action.
Let’s move on. Verses 8-10 say, “8 Now if we died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. 9 For we know that since Christ was raised from the dead, he cannot die again; death no longer has mastery over him. 10 The death he died, he died to sin once for all; but the life he lives, he lives to God.”
That’s kind of odd how Paul phrases this. It’s a little hard to understand. Peter even admitted that Paul was hard to understand sometimes. What is he saying here?
Another John MacArthur quote: “The assurance that we shall also live with Him obviously applies to the believer’s ultimate and eternal presence with Christ in heaven. But the context, which focuses on holy living, strongly suggests that Paul is here speaking primarily about our living with Him in righteousness in this present life.”
We often sing the song, “In the Garden.” And in it, the chorus says, “He walks with me and talks with me.” This isn’t something that can be done in our sinful nature. We don’t have a relationship with Christ and our old, sinful self at the same time, we have one or the other. This is why The World doesn’t understand us Christians. We say we hear God. We say we talk to God. And they think we’re either crazy or we’re using some figure of speech.
We actually have a relationship with Christ. He is alive, and now we are alive in Christ. We have a newfound relationship with God that we never had before. We have been opened up spiritually, in a sense, to God.
There’s a line in Raiders of the Lost Ark where the bad guy, Belloq, sits down with Indiana Jones and says, “Do you know what the ark is? It’s a transmitter. A radio for speaking to God.” Do you remember that line?
As much as I like that movie for its adventure, I wish George Lucas and Steven Spielberg knew that the ark of the covenant doesn’t have to be discovered in order to speak to God. We have that as Christians. And the ark wouldn’t have that power because we have that power. We are the Ark of the Covenant, now. We carry God with us, now. We are alive in Christ.
“11 In the same way, count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus.”
So if we are dead to sin and alive to Christ, how then shall we live? Again, this leads to the concept Paul began his letter with––repentance.
“12 Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its evil desires. 13 Do not offer any part of yourself to sin as an instrument of wickedness, but rather offer yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life; and offer every part of yourself to him as an instrument of righteousness. 14 For sin shall no longer be your master because you are not under the law but under grace.”
Paul says, “Do not let.” In other words, we have to give sin permission. We’re still tempted. Because we’re in Christ doesn’t mean we’re not tempted. Even Jesus was tempted. He never sinned, but because we have a sinful nature, we give in sometimes.
Before we were born again and delivered from the dominion of Satan, we chased after sin, but now, sin chases after us.
Martyn Lloyd-Jones offers a helpful illustration of this. He pictures two adjoining fields, one owned by Satan and one owned by God, that are separated by a road. Before salvation, a person lives in Satan’s field and is totally subject to his jurisdiction. After salvation, a person works in the other field, now subject only to God’s jurisdiction.
As he plows in the new field, however, the believer is often tempted by his former master to come back and work in his fields again––at least do a small favor or side job. Satan often succeeds in temporarily doing so. But he is powerless to draw the believer back into the old field as his worker once again.
We aren’t in Satan’s field anymore. And we have no desire to go back. Satan chases after us, and tempts us, and tries to at least get us distracted and off the field for a little while––hopefully a long while. But we are no longer his slave or servant.
It has been said that ‘sin is a harsh taskmaster.’ We don’t need sin anymore. We know what it’s like to live without it, to be free from it. We are better off being free from Satan’s field and working for Christ, where our yoke is easy and our burden is light.
It takes repentance to do that. It takes a daily, committed turning away from Satan’s temptations to be not swayed from where we are now, even for a little bit.
To conclude today, I want to read to you something that Dennis DeHaan wrote for Our Daily Bread. He said,
Pulling weeds from my lawn can be a struggle. Whether it’s unearthing a string of ivy or digging up dandelions, it’s often difficult to overcome God’s curse from the Garden of Eden (Ge 3:17, 18).
When the ground is hard and dry, weeds are highly resistant to being uprooted. But when a soaking rain softens the soil, they yield quite readily. I’ve also noticed that the youngest weeds are easier to remove and the older ones are more stubborn.
Bad habits are like that. The longer they remain, the more difficult they are to remove. If we uproot them early, when our heart is tender toward God’s love, we will have the best chance for success.
Paul tells us of God’s great love and abundant grace to us (Ro 5:20, 21). These truths can soften the soil of a hard heart. And when we understand that Jesus died to free us from the penalty and the power of sin (Ro 6:1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14), we will see the need to fight aggressively against sinful habits.
A passive faith won’t kill a bad habit. Faith must actively apply these truths. “Pulling weeds” is often a painful process of multi-failures followed by the success of failing for the last time.
Prayer: Dear Lord, I pray that you would help us pull those weeds. Some are stuck in the ground and hard to pull. Help us to get those weeds out of our lives. We recognize that the only way these weeds can be pulled from our hearts is to repent from letting these weeds grow and give you permission to pull them from us.
I pray that the call and temptations from Satan’s fields would not distract us or draw us back to an old habit, but would become something we no longer pay any attention to. May it become easy to ignore. May we be fully committed to being your servant. May we receive a greater blessing and joy in your field in such a way that what Satan has to offer pales in comparison. May we fully forget that old self.
In Jesus’ name, amen.
This is an updated edition of a post originally published on First Baptist Church of Watkins Glen