The Following Study and Audio are by Keeley Chorn, Young Women’s Bible Study. Press play on the player below to listen to this message. Or to download to your computer – On a PC right-click “download audio” and select “Save As Target.” On a Mac Ctrl+click “download audio” and choose “Download linked file as.”
BELIEVERS ARE DEAD TO SIN, ALIVE TO GOD
Let’s begin tonight with a summary of what we’ve looked at so far in Romans…In the first week studying Rom 1-2, Ashley talked about Disconnected Religiosity, meaning our faith is not about how we outwardly look, whether we’re measuring up to being good and faithful Christians, but it’s what’s in your heart that matters and counts to God. In the second week in Rom 3-4, Paul lays out the gospel message. We saw that no one is righteous—we can’t follow God on our own, but we need God at the center of our lives. God in his infinite love and grace towards us, brings us out of sin and makes us righteous by giving us Christ’s righteousness. Ashley talked about living our lives as though we have been set free sin and then living in relationship to God. This will also be the subject of today’s lesson.
Tonight we’re going to focus on Romans 5:20-6:14, but before we look at Rom 6, I want to point out some of the groundwork that Paul is laying in Ch. 5. I’m only going to have time to briefly outline it here, so that we can get into Ch. 6, but Ashley’s lesson last week on Ch. 3 was also a great understanding of the groundwork of how God justifies believers. If you didn’t hear it, I encourage you to go to her blog and listen to it.
The main point of Rom 5:1-11 is that the major mark of justified believers is joy, especially joy in God himself (Stott, The Message of Romans, 148). What does it mean to be justified? Justification is a legal term. It refers to the divine act where God makes those worthy of condemnation (he makes those people) acceptable before God’s self, who is holy and righteous. A sinner is pardoned from the punishment of sin, and brought into relat. w/ God by faith in God’s grace alone (Pocket Dictionary of Theological Terms, 69). It is a legal act in which the truly guilty is pardoned and considered innocent, despite their guilt. This is what God has done for those who believe in Christ. This justification is the basis for Paul’s further arguments.
Next, in Rom 5:12-21, Paul’s main point is that man receives death by virtue of being in Adam, but receives life when joined in Christ. Paul talks about the difference between death and life in this second half of Ch. 5. First: death. All men are in Adam, are in his death, and are in sin. Paul lays out original sin here and in verse 12 notes that we all sinned in this act because Adam was the representative of all mankind, so we all partook of that sin and all received the sentence of death for it. Second, he talks about life. Many, that is, those who believe, are in Christ, are moved to life, are given Christ’s righteousness as their own, and are legally declared innocent: they are justified. So Paul sets up an absolute contrast here: you are either left in Adam and in death, or you are taken out and brought into Christ and given life. Paul carries this theme into Ch. 6 and builds on it, showing what this means for those who do believe. So Ch. 5 is about all people, nonbelievers and then those who are in Christ and are believers. But Ch. 6 is going to be specifically for those believers in Christ, those who have been taken out of life in Adam and in death, and who have been given true and eternal life.
Let’s preview the main point of Romans 6 (which is union with Christ means: dead to sin, alive to God). Paul is going to talk about the current state of believers who are no longer dead, but who have life in Christ. These believers are those who through faith have been united with Christ. Paul is describing what has been called union with Christ and what it means. There are two aspects to believers’ new state of union with Christ: first, they are dead to sin, and second, they are alive to God. Let’s look at Romans 6 and how Paul paints this picture for believers.
Ch. 6 presents two sides of the same pressing question. Our discussion of Romans 6 will focus on 6:1-14 as the question is addressed in the first part of ch. 6.
Read Romans 5:20-6:14
Verses 5:20-21 talk about grace reigning. Paul has been explaining that the law made sin more evident than before the law, sin existed in the world, but until there were rules and names attached to the sins, they weren’t counted against man in the same way as once the law came; but where sin increased (under the law) God’s grace, his free and unmerited favor, his undeserved, unsolicited, and unconditional love, was ever more apparent in his forgiveness. This comes to ultimate fulfillment in Jesus who moves us from the realm of law and death and into the realm of grace and life. It is God’s grace, this free gift, that brought about our justification, our acquittal from our sins, our being declared righteous because of Christ. So Paul makes the point that where there was sin, God’s grace was made ever more present and real because of his forgiveness of that sin.
In verses 1-5, we learn about union with Christ in his death and resurrection and what this means.
Verse 1: “What shall we say then? Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase?” Paul is answering his critics who think grace is cheap—just get it, then go on living life, but more importantly, why stop sinning if we get even more grace from God when our sins increase? This question is natural if the gospel is being taught well. God does freely forgive sins. If so, why should we stop sinning? Wouldn’t our further sinning just bring him more glory? What is sinning? Not just list of rules, but anything that takes you further from God. Ashley told a story last week of the girl at Young Life camp, who had been hearing the gospel, but then wanted to know if we’re forgiven already for our sins and we can’t lose our salvation, why would we need to stop sinning? or to put it another way: why not keep on sinning if God keeps on forgiving? This girl wasn’t the first to ask this question, and she won’t be the last. For mature believers, it may sound like a silly question, but it’s so important, that Paul wrote about it to the Roman Christians, and we have his message today about how to answer that same question that will come up in our day and sometimes even in our own hearts.
Verse 2 gives the simple answer to the question of whether we should continue in sin; “By no means!” or some translations say: “may it never be!”; (J. B. Phillips: “What a ghastly thought!”) This phrase is the 2nd strongest way of negating something in the Bible. Paul is clear that this way is not an option. Paul then sums up what this new life of the believer is and why we can’t go on sinning: “we died to sin; how can we live in it any longer?” Paul makes the assertion that we have died to sin, it is dead in our lives, dead. we should no longer live in it. But how??
Now, my personal experience doesn’t seem to tell me I’m dead to sin, in fact, I seem alive to it, I’m tempted by it often, I fall into its traps, and a lot of times I’m not even aware of its presence in my life until I’m convicted by my anger or by snapping at my husband or by him or someone else confronting me with it. Our immediate experience can’t teach us this cosmic truth. We have to begin to understand just how full the plan of God is and just how big it is and how hard it is to even understand. We must allow scripture to shape our understanding of who God is and to shape our experience.
So how can we be dead to sin? Verse 3 says “Don’t you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death?” Our baptism is the means by which we are united to Christ. An explanation about what Paul means by baptism here. He is not saying that you are saved by baptism. Faith is taken for granted in Paul’s argument. Baptism and faith are inseparable for Paul’s argument: baptism is outward, faith inward. Paul is referring to this dual event. So for adults who made a profession of faith and then were baptized, this would be the normal experience, but for covenant children (like many raised in the Presbyterian church), the order is a little different. The baptism of infants is into God’s family, making you a covenant child, you are promised to God, but only sealed with the holy spirit when you make a full commitment of faith. It’s this moment that we become full children of God and this moment that we are considered truly baptized into Christ Jesus and his death. So we see two things happening in this verse: One, Jesus death occurred at a point in time. And two, at our baptism/ conversion event, we enter into Christ’s own death. The benefits of it (such as the defeat of death and sin) are applied or given to us. So at our baptism/conversion, we enter into all that Christ’s death signified and accomplished.
So if our union with Christ happens at the time of our baptism and conversion event, what do verses 4 and 5 have to say about what the two aspects of our union might be? Verses 4-5 talk about the two aspects of our union with Christ: we are dead to sin and alive to God.
Verse 4: “we were buried with him.” Did you hear that, Paul says we were buried in the tomb, with Jesus, have you ever thought of this? Why does he say this? “So that, just as Christ was raised from the dead, we too may live a new life.” We have been given resurrection life. How would we live our lives differently if we thought of ourselves as literally lying in the tomb with Jesus and being raised with him? So, we are dead to sin and alive in God. And it’s God’s Holy Spirit that makes this possible. Romans 8:11 says: “If the Spirit of(A) him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies(B) through his Spirit who dwells in you.” It is the Holy Spirit that gives us this life which we received at the time point of our baptism/conversion event.
Verse 5: “If we have been united with him in a death like his” (and we have, that’s what verse 3 was saying), “we will also certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his.” We have a preview of what will happen to us—we have seen it in Jesus, it is possible because it has already happened, Paul isn’t just making this up. Jesus’ resurrection guarantees our own.
Now, verses 6-7 discuss the first aspect of union with Christ: what our death means, the results of dying with Christ.
Verse 6: “for we know that our old self was crucified with him, so that this body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin.” So before our baptism and faith conversion, we were slaves to sin. Last week, Ashley talked about Ch. 3, where Paul says “none is righteous, no, not one, no one seeks God, all have turned aside.., no one does good, not even one.” Not even one! What does it mean to be under the power of sin, or to be a slave to it? Do we think of ourselves as having been slaves to something? Probably not. We think: I can do this or I can do that, I choose. I could have pleased God if I tried, or if I didn’t break his rules, if I just live a good life, but we saw last week that no one could measure up, we need God to set us free from this. When Paul talks about our old self being crucified, or this body of sin, he means the body that was in Adam (Ch. 5) that was in death. This is what he means is put to death. Our slavery to sin ended on the cross and when we entered into Christ’s death on the cross, which became our own at our baptism/conversion. We moved in that moment from death to life (from a child of Adam, to a child of God). This is why people speak of being reborn: we died to the old way of life, where we were trapped in our old patterns, our old ways and methods, our own self-righteousness.
An analogy. Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, a British pastor of the previous century, spoke of the analogy of two fields. There are two fields, one of which everyone is born into. This field is dominated, controlled and run by Satan. We are all born into this field by virtue of being sons of Adam and being sinners (Rom 5). Next to this field is one loving controlled by God. The wall between the two fields is so high that no one can scale them. The only way to move from the field of Adam and into the field of God and Christ is to be lovingly picked up, by God, from the one field and transported into the other. And once in God’s field, you obviously can’t climb back into the other sin-dominated one. There is a shift in your status before God. This is what effect is being described in Ch. 6. Believers have been moved from the field of death into the field of life. One can still hear the Tempter’s voice over the wall, and sometimes we even obey it, but because we are in this new field we are no longer obligated to obey the Tempter’s voice. We are now God’s subjects and it is his voice that we obey.
Back to the passage, verse 7 answers why we should not be slaves to sin, because we can’t any longer, because we’ve died to it. We’ve been “freed from sin.” We have been picked up and put in the new field in which sin no longer reigns. So verses 6-7 talk about what this death means to us. It is a literal death to the old way of life, a death to being a child of Adam, a death to sin and to being controlled by sin; it is everything that Christ’s death on the cross meant. Hear that statement: our death is everything that Christ’s death on the cross meant. It is victory over sin because sin does not reign in us because we are dead to it.
A word about some extremes. We can’t assume that we no longer have a sin nature or aren’t tempted and pulled by it, and we can’t assume that because we are made new, that we will naturally live a pleasing life to God by just letting go and letting our new self take over. Neither of these will work.
Verses 8-10 discuss the second aspect of union with Christ: what new life means: the results of being raised with Christ.
In verse 8, Paul reiterates some of what he’s previously said. He says, “Now if we died with Christ,” which is true, he’s already said this in verses 2-4, so if this is true, and it is, “we believe we will also live with him.” This is similar to verse 4 and 5 which said: so we might walk in newness of life and be united also in his resurrection. Paul is getting into the results of union with Christ that we have.
So in verse 9, Paul plays on because Christ died, and we died with him, he was raised from the dead, he cannot die again, death no longer has mastery over him, and so therefore, all these things are also true of us—we have been united with him in his resurrection, but we haven’t yet fully experienced this yet. This is what we are waiting for, the ultimate and sure promise of God that he will bring us into full resurrection life, just as he already has for Christ, because we have been united to Christ. This is what gives him the basis for saying we have been crucified with him and freed from sin, because we experience even now as we await Christ’s return, even now we experience what resurrection life looks like. In our discussion groups tonight we’re going to look at instances of our own experience of this resurrection life, of moving from death to life, and if you’ve ever seen this work in your life.
Continuing in verse 10, Paul says “the life he lives, he lives to God.” Christ lives his life to God, not just because he is God, because when he became man, he became subject to death, just like we are, but on the cross, when he conquered death, it no longer held any power over him, and he is able to live every moment to God. Paul wants us to know that we already have this exact same power. We are united with Christ in this new life. We are to live our lives to God, not to get bogged down in the sin of life. Not to be tempted to do XYZ, and to do it, but to live. To truly LIVE. And living, means life given to God, life lived for God, love for God, following God, service to God…Because Christ is resurrected, he lives this life. Because we too have this newness of life, this is what are lives are to look like. But why don’t they then??
Let me tell you a story about they way I lived life when I first really started believing in the gospel after college. My life didn’t change overnight. I had always been a Christian, but I was just now starting to get what “the gospel” meant. I was starting to understand that Christ’s death and resurrection weren’t just abstract events that had been so stripped of meaning that I just took them for granted. The Bible wasn’t just a bunch of rules we followed because God said so. I began to understand what it meant for Christ to hang on the cross just for me, just because he loved me. I began to understand this. So, I was learning all this and understanding it, but my life still hadn’t changed. I lived in NYC and like most other New Yorkers, I was a partier. I would go out 3-4 times a week, sometimes (well, most of the time) until 4 in the morning. I would drink, look for guys, kiss guys, hope one of them would fall in love with me for who I was (but how could they when all they knew was the party side of me, which wasn’t what I wanted them to love …). One day a friend familiar with Christianity, but not a believer, challenged me and said something to the effect of why I lived my life the way I did if I truly believed in God. I offered some lame excuse to the extent of “Well, God forgives me for what I’m doing, and I’m not really sure everything I’m doing is wrong.” I knew that God had offered me unconditional grace and forgiveness and he would keep forgiving me, but I hadn’t yet realized that he had offered and given me so much more. This is what Romans 6 is about. He had given me the way to change and he had given me new life. I just couldn’t see it. But my friend’s question really stuck with me. It challenged me and it challenged the way I was living. It made me start to do some reevaluating and soul-searching about the difference in being forgiven and in living life for God…
So, verses 11-14 talk about how do we live this way? How do we put our new status into action?
Verse 11, “In the same way” (the same way!), “count yourselves dead to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus.” Romans 7:4 says the point of our union with Christ is so that we may bear fruit for God. “The major secret of holy living is in the mind…We are to recall, to ponder, to grasp, to register these truths until they are so integral to our mindset that a return to the old life is unthinkable.” (Stott, The Message of Romans, 180)
Verse 12: “do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its evil desires”– don’t let it rule you or control you; we don’t have to obey sin or its desires. Sure, sin is a strong tempter, and it can be fun, but ultimately it leads to separation from God and others, it leads to alienation, and this is just what Christ came to get rid of. Why do we keep going back to sin when Christ has already brought us to him? This question really brings out the Christian struggle…
Verse 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.” There is a contrast of loyalty: are you offering yourself to sin or to God, to wickedness or to righteousness? If you’re still offering yourself to sin, is it because you don’t understand that you have moved from darkness to light? We’re also going to talk in our groups about this: what changes we need to make. This will be one of the questions, always feel free to come talk to me or Ashley if you still don’t understand.
Finally, in verse 14, Paul says, “For sin shall not be your master, because you are not under law, but under grace.” So sin is not our master, “thanks be to God” (Rom 6:17). We are no longer under law, but we’re under grace in Christ Jesus.
Here is how we apply this message: So living our lives out in light of our union with Christ means that: One, we must recognize who we truly are, not who you feel like you are: we are dead to sin, we have died with Christ, our loyalties have already changed—we need to see them this way; we must change our mindset. Two, we must recognize what our true state is: alive to God and dead to sin, no longer in Adam but now in Christ, living in his death and resurrection. Three, we must change the way we live. Paul gives these commands to the believers, because he knows the power of sin and that they will be tempted to fall back to its power until they can understand their new life (and even then it will always be a struggle), but they must “count themselves dead to sin,” “not let it reign or rule,” and they must not “offer themselves to sin”- these are all active statements about what we must do. I love the passage in 1 Cor 10:13 where God says, “No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it.” We first recognize who we truly are and what our real state is, then we live this way by God’s power
A note: we also must recognize the power of sin in this world. Just because we have died with Christ and are dead to sin does not mean that we won’t ever be tempted again, or that if we act as if sin doesn’t exist then it won’t, or that we won’t fall, stumble, and forget, but this is where God’s grace and forgiveness come in. Sin and Satan are very powerful. He wouldn’t be called the prince of the power of the air (Eph 2:2), the ruler of this world (Jn 12:31) (as opposed to the ruler of all creation), or the powers, world forces of darkness, spiritual forces of wickedness (Eph 6:12). But thanks be to God that we are no longer subjects of him, but we are subjects of a most merciful ruler, king, and God, the one who came to die on our behalf, to rescue us from the pull of these forces. We have moved from death to life, so we should live this way.
Now in my own story, I began to experience this change from death to life. I didn’t understand it at the time, but God used this friend’s question in my life to make me question the way I was living. Who was I living for? Myself? or God? I was living as if I could keep on sinning so that God’s grace could increase in my life. I didn’t know then what life lived to God really looked like and I didn’t know how to live it either. But God pursued me. Over time, my life did begin to change. I would wake up with a crazy hangover on a Saturday and lie there all day, but the Holy Spirit would nudge me saying, this isn’t the way God wants you to live your life. You know this, why do you keep doing this? Eventually, that thought became so forceful, that after a series of bad incidents, I ended up giving up alcohol altogether. I joked with friends saying, “
Well, I wasn’t very good at drinking,” but the truth was that God was working in me to show me what a clear-headed life looked like, and from there I began to realize more his love for me, and his support for me in that transition time. God was working, as my mindset was changing, to move me from a life of death to one of life. To one that more truly reflects what it means to be “alive to God” (I want to make the point that I’m not saying alcohol is bad, but the way I was using it in my life was bad.)
Looking back on the girl’s question in Ashley’s story: why don’t we keep sinning? Because that would betray everything about who we now are. It would be foolish and contrary to God’s love. Why would we even want to stay in the way of life from which Christ has delivered us?
What are some practical ways that you and I can change our mindset? We must recognize sin in our life. We must repent. We must ask God and his Holy Spirit to further convict us of where we are living our life separate from God. And with repentance, we must hold onto the promises of God. Romans 6 is a promise of God. He promises to give you life and he tells us that we already have glimpses of that fullness even now. We must remind ourselves of these promises, pray these promises, teach them to ourselves, read the passage over and over thinking about where our life needs change. Ask believers who you trust for feedback. Most importantly, we must acknowledge our dependence on God for this change. If we continue in this way, know that God is faithful. He will convict us, he will remind us of his promises, he will remind us of who we truly are, he will help us change, and he will produce true life.
To close and summarize again how we live out our lives in light of Romans 6, I’m going to quote John Stott who puts it this way: “We should constantly be reminding ourselves who we are. We need to learn to talk to ourselves, and ask ourselves questions: ‘Don’t you know? Don’t you know the meaning of your conversion and baptism? Don’t you know that you have been united to Christ in his death and resurrection?…Don’t you know these things? Don’t you know who you are?’ We must go on pressing ourselves with such questions, until we reply to ourselves: ‘Yes, I do know who I am, a new person in Christ, and by the grace of God I shall live accordingly.’” (Stott, The Message of Romans, 187)
Questions for Discussion & Application:
1. How have you seen the resurrection power of Jesus in your life? Have you?
2. What changes do you need to make in your thinking to live in this way? What changes in your life? Be specific.