This week I really needed to hear what Romans 6 had to say. And I think perhaps you do too. Here’s how my week went.
Someone hurts me, and I’m tempted to get revenge. To hurt as I’ve been hurt. Or I’m tempted to feel sorry for myself, and about how I don’t deserve to be treated like that. Or I’m tempted to take it out on the people I love most.
Or things don’t go my way, and I get frustrated, and I’m tempted to blow my stack. The old man wearing the hat is driving UNDER the speed limit. How inconsiderate! I just KNOW he’s deliberately trying to annoy me!
The new Harvey Norman catalogue arrives, and I’m dazzled by the new 3D TV’s, and the new 12 Mega Pixel SLR digital cameras. If I only had one of those, then I’d REALLY be happy!
It’s first thing in the morning. The newspaper’s just arrived. Do I read THAT first, or read my Bible? What’s more important to me – what the Sydney Morning Herald thinks, or what GOD thinks? I open the newspaper, and I’ve made my decision.
I see the immigrant family across the street. They’re struggling in lots of ways. They’re not Christian. I could help. Could build a bridge. But who knows what inconvenient things THAT might start! And, besides, I’m tired and it’s been a long week.
Countless decisions I’ve had to make this week. Decisions where it’s been CLEAR what the Christian response is. But decisions where, at least SOME of the time, I’ve deliberately CHOSEN to do THE OPPOSITE.
I’ve thought, “Does it really MATTER if I do the wrong thing? Can’t I just take the EASY option, the SELF-CENTRED option?” Does a little SIN really make much difference?
“After all, I’m saved by GRACE. My salvation doesn’t depend on my works. I can’t earn it. So why not just GIVE IN a bit. Then ask for forgiveness? Tomorrow’s another day. God still loves me. His grace is FREE.”
That’s how MY week’s been. So I really need to hear what God’s got to say to me in Romans ch 6. And I think perhaps you do too. Because Romans 6 is answering THIS VERY QUESTION. Why not just sin a bit more, and then get forgiven?
Paul’s spent chapters 3-5 talking about how you can’t earn your salvation. About how you can never do enough good things for God to declare you justified. And that the only way it can happen is if God does it FREELY, by his grace, because of the work of Jesus in your place.
And he’s finished chapter 5 by saying no matter how much sin there was. How far it spread. That there was MORE THAN ENOUGH GRACE to cover it all. There’s no such thing as TOO MUCH SIN for God’s grace to deal with.
Which begs the question Paul asks himself at the start of chapter 6. Verse 1. The very question I need to hear the answer to.
Why not just sin more/ to get more grace? Or, to put it another way. DOES GRACE HAVE THE POWER TO STOP SINNING? See the rhetorical question he’s asking there in v1?
6:1 What shall we say, then? SHALL WE GO ON SINNING SO THAT GRACE MAY INCREASE?
In some ways it seems like the obvious question. But when you understand WHAT GRACE DOES, you realise it’s getting things completely back to front and inside out.
Paul gives the strong answer, “By no means! No way! We DIED to sin, how can we live in it any longer?”
Sin is what you USED to live in. But now you’re a Christian, you’re DEAD to that. Actually entertaining the idea of WANTING TO SIN MORE – that’s not what you DO when you’re DEAD to sin. That’s for people who LIVE in sin. It’s a question from the HISTORY BOOKS. From the DARK AGES.
But exactly what’s it mean that we DIED TO SIN? Is it just a mental switch – like the shamed family who say to the wayward son, “You’re DEAD to us!” Is it like that? Just TREATING sin as if it’s powerless?
The answer lies in the idea of REPRESENTATIVES. And in particular how Jesus REPRESENTS us.
The Commonwealth Games starts in India on 3 October. And we’re sending a team of Australian REPRESENTATIVES. And, so, AUSTRALIA is going to take on a whole range of different countries on the sporting field. It will be Australia vs England on the cycling track. Australia vs New Zealand on the netball court. Australia vs Canada in the swimming pool. Australia vs Fiji in the Rugby Sevens.
Well, it won’t really be AUSTRALIA vs England, or NZ or Canada, will it? That would need a very big field, and a very confusing game. A whole country playing another whole country. When we say AUSTRALIA is playing in those sports, we mean our REPRESENTATIVES are playing those sports.
And so, in a sense, THEY play FOR us – on our behalf. And so we’ll be able to say WE won a gold medal. Because our REPRESENTATIVES won, WE WON ALSO.
And that’s the point Paul’s making from v3. We died to sin because OUR REPRESENTATIVE, Jesus, DIED TO SIN. Just jump down to v10 for a minute. That’s where you can see what Jesus did most clearly.
10 The death he died, he died TO SIN once for all;
Jesus died to DESTROY sin. He died to satisfy the demands of sin. Even though he’d never sinned, he suffered the punishment of death for sin. And thus destroyed its power. Sin is the hijacker with one bullet in his gun – death. Jesus takes the bullet, and leaves sin’s gun empty. And so destroys the power it holds over people.
That’s what Jesus did. So how does that affect US?
Because, if we’re Christian, then he’s OUR REPRESENTATIVE. Jump back up to v3.
3 Or don’t you know that all of us who were BAPTIZED INTO CHRIST JESUS were baptized into his death?
When you became a Christian, when you received by faith the forgiveness God offered, you became CONNECTED TO JESUS. And baptism was the visible SIGN of that happening. You were BAPTISED INTO Jesus. He becomes your representative. And HIS death becomes YOUR death.
But since his death was actually VICTORY. (His death DEFEATS sin, by taking it’s bullet, DEATH). And since we’re CONNECTED to him in his death, then HIS victory is OUR victory. That’s the point of v4.
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.
Our REPRESENTATIVE wins the victory, defeats death, and lives a resurrected life. And because we’re joined to him, WE DO TOO.
But it’s more than just THEORY. Head knowledge. Our Australian representatives winning gold in India doesn’t REALLY make much difference to me in my daily life. But that’s because I’m not CONNECTED to them the way I am to Christ through baptism.
The practical difference Christ’s victory makes. Is that our new life is about VICTORY OVER SIN. A genuine change in behaviour and attitude. That’s where Paul’s headed with all the complicated “baptism” and “dying” ideas. Look there in v6.
6 For we know that our OLD SELF was crucified WITH HIM so that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should NO LONGER BE SLAVES TO SIN- 7 because anyone who has DIED has been FREED from sin.
Every human was born a SLAVE TO SIN. Adam sinned, and we’re all descended from Adam. Our NATURE is to sin. Our basic orientation is to be boss, and to rebel against God’s rule over us. We can’t HELP it. We’re SLAVES. That’s original sin. And that’s what Paul was talking about in Ch 5.
But HERE, when we were joined to Christ INSTEAD of Adam. We died WITH Christ to sin. And we were FREED from sin. Not a SLAVE to it anymore. Actually CAPABLE of NOT sinning.
And Christ’s victory becomes the PATTERN for OUR victory. V8.
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.
Jesus’ resurrection doesn’t just guarantee our resurrection when we DIE, but also the power to LIVE an OBEDIENT LIFE for God NOW.
Count yourself dead (6:11-14)
And yet we keep on sinning. We’re no longer SLAVES to sin. But we keep GIVING IN to it. We have resurrection power to live for God, but we keep FAILING What’s the answer?
It’s there in v11. It’s about COUNTING YOURSELF DEAD to SIN.
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.
In other words, JUDGE yourself, CONSIDER yourself, RECKON yourself dead to sin. Do not LET sin reign because the reality is/ you’re DEAD to it.
But, what’s it MEAN – count yourself DEAD?
It’s not talking about some sort of POWER of POSITIVE THINKING. Like some Oprah special on how to succeed, and make all your dreams come true. It’s not talking about IMAGINING yourself free from sin, and then just CLAIMING it. Squeezing your eyes together really tight. That if you BELIEVE it strongly enough, it will happen. It’s about recognising what, in reality, is true.
The historical event of Christ’s death spelt the end of sin’s power. The historical event of your BAPTISM marks your joining to Christ. That means that “death to sin” and “life to God” have become REALITIES for YOU. RECOGNISE those things. That’s what it means “Count yourself dead to sin.”
It’s like when you’re married. You see someone else who catches your eye. You’re attracted to them. It’s not IMPOSSIBLE for a married person to chase after someone else. It happens. But it’s against the NATURE of marriage. You’re joined to your husband or wife.
And, so, the trick when you’re tempted like that. Is to look down at your wedding ring. And COUNT yourself MARRIED. Reckon yourself, Consider yourself. “No, I PROMISED in front of all my friends and family, and before God, ‘until death do you part’”. And then ACT ACCORDINGLY. And so, you walk away.
It’s the same with your CHRISTIAN connection. Make the mental switch. Acknowledge who you are because you’re joined to Christ. And then act accordingly.
I wonder if that’s why Paul mentions BAPTISM back there in v3. Because it’s such a MEMORABLE event. Whether it’s YOUR OWN baptism, or at least those of OTHERS you’ve witnessed.
When you’re being tempted to sin. And the connection you’ve got to Jesus seems a bit theoretical – a bit distant. Remember back to your BAPTISM. Remember how everyone in church was watching. Hearing you make those promises. That public declaration that you were joining yourself to Christ. A visible sign on the OUTSIDE of what God was doing on the INSIDE. It happened! Just as solid a historical fact as Christ’s own death and resurrection.
Remember it. And consider WHO YOU ARE.
Martin Luther has a famous quote. “When you’re tempted, remember your baptism!” Here’s some of what he says in his Larger Catechism:
“Thus we must REGARD Baptism and MAKE IT PROFITABLE TO OURSELVES, that when our sins and conscience oppress us, we strengthen ourselves and take comfort and say: NEVERTHELESS I AM BAPTIZED; but if I am baptized, it is promised me that I shall be saved and have eternal life”
That’s what it means in v11. COUNT YOURSELVES dead to sin, but alive to God IN Christ Jesus (BECAUSE you’re connected to Jesus).
And when you’ve done THAT, then the natural outcome is living for God. V12.
12 THEREFORE do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its evil desires. 13 Do not offer the parts of your body to SIN, as instruments of wickedness, but rather offer yourselves to GOD, as those who have been brought from death to life; and offer the parts of your body to him as instruments of righteousness.
Now if you’ve been a Christian for a few years, this may not sound quite as revolutionary as it should. But find someone who hasn’t been a Christian for long and ASK them. There’s CHANGE there, and it’s EXCITING. They really do start putting to death their sinful nature. Get excited by things that used to BORE them. Turn off things that used to interest them. Attitudes and thought processes start to change. Because they’ve started a whole new life. And it’s kind of sad that we ever get USED to it. And start dropping our standards, and lowering our expectations of what things should look like.
So don’t offer the parts of your body to sin, as instruments of wickedness, but rather offer yourselves to God, as those who have been brought from death to life; and offer the parts of your body to him as instruments of righteousness.
Think of a way today. Think of a way tomorrow. That you could put the parts of your body, that you could put your time and your energy and your talent and your emotions… Your brain and your muscles and your wallet. Your kitchen and your computer and your pen and your phone. All the different parts of your life. That you could put yourself to work as AN INSTRUMENT OF RIGHTEOUSNESS. That fits the NEW you.
You HAVE been brought from death to life. So LIVE like it.
Under new management (6:15-7:6)
You see, it’s all about serving your NEW MASTER. You’re now UNDER NEW MANAGEMENT. It’s not SIN you serve, but GRACE. V14.
14 For sin shall not be your master, because you are not under law, but UNDER GRACE.
But grace doesn’t sound like a hard task master. Grace sounds like the sort of boss you could slacken off for, and they’d turn a blind eye. Like the public service.
What incentive is there to do the right thing if GRACE is in charge?
When I first started teaching, my boss gave me this advice, “Don’t smile until Easter!” And the point was “Don’t try to be the students’ FRIEND. Be their TEACHER. If they think they can get away with anything, they’ll TRY it. Don’t give them the CHANCE. Let them know who’s boss!”
And as Paul writes v14, he can imagine the same sort of doubt in his readers. “Ok, grace is the boss! Then what’s to stop people TAKING ADVANTAGE of Mr Nice Guy?” Can you see the question he asks himself there in v15?
15 What then? Shall we sin because we are not under law but under grace?
It’s almost the same question as the one back in v1. “Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase?” In other words, does grace have the power to STOP SINNING. But this time I think he asks it the other way around. Puts it in the POSITIVE. Does grace have the power TO PRODUCE OBEDIENCE?
“Shall we sin because we are not under law but under grace?” The question might be slightly different, but his answer’s exactly the same. “By no means!” No way!
And it’s because we’re UNDER NEW MANAGEMENT. V17.
17 But thanks be to God that, though you USED to be slaves to sin, you WHOLEHEARTEDLY OBEYED THE FORM OF TEACHING TO WHICH YOU WERE ENTRUSTED. 18 You have been set free from sin and have become slaves to righteousness.
There’s a new owner. A new broom’s swept through. And things are different. When you see a big advertising sign on a restaurant, or a business, that’s what you expect. Changes. A new, improved way of doing things.
Perhaps you’ve WORKED in a business that’s changed ownership. You were used to doing things ONE WAY. Then the new owners came in, and said, “That’s not the way we do things NOW!” New procedures, new priorities. New OUTCOMES. Which is Paul’s point in v19.
Just as you USED to offer the parts of your body in slavery to IMPURITY and to EVER-INCREASING WICKEDNESS, so now offer them in slavery to righteousness leading to HOLINESS.
The new owners have got a completely different set of Key Performance Indicators. Productivity is now about increasing levels of HOLINESS, rather than WICKEDNESS.
And what about the new OUTCOMES BASED REPORTING? V21.
21 What BENEFIT did you reap at that time from the things you are now ASHAMED of? Those things result in DEATH! 22 But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves to God, the BENEFIT you reap leads to HOLINESS, and the result is ETERNAL LIFE.
Under new management. With new priorities, and new ways of doing things. To ask whether GRACE actually has the power to produce obedience – that’s a question from the old regime. A question from the old-school managers. If you’re going to think like that, if you’re not going to get with the new agenda, you might as well hand your notice in.
But if you’re part of the new regime, you OFFER YOURSELF as a slave to obedience. You get onboard with the new management. And if you do THAT, it leads to righteousness, holiness, and life.
Because we’re connected to Jesus, he’s our representative, and so we’re DEAD to sin. It’s got no power over us. We’re to COUNT ourselves dead to sin, and then to LIVE THAT OUT. Offer yourself as a slave to righteousness. Because you’re under new management.
That’s a lesson I need to hear this week. And I think YOU need to hear it too.