Freed from Sin

Translating the Gospel to Our Lives

Part 2: Freed from Sin

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Last night we began our time together by looking at a quote by Thomas Watson, a Puritan preacher from the 1600’s. And in this quote he talked about how as we go about our day to day activities, there are things in our lives that get in the way of our communion with God, causing us to, as he said, “forget God and our souls.” Our hearts become hardened and we struggle to move towards God. And then we talked about how the gospel is what brings us back to Him, causing our hearts to melt, reminding us of what God has done for us and therefore what that means in our lives, so that we are then able to move towards God once again.

And then we considered the subject of living out the gospel in our lives and what that means. If the gospel is the message of God reconciling us to Himself through the sacrifice of His son, doing for us what we were unable to do for ourselves, so that we could be made righteous…then, what does it mean for that message, for the gospel, to transform our lives? How does the gospel speak to our day to day lives? And those questions are what we are addressing this weekend.

Last night, we looked at one way in which the message of the gospel is meant to transform our lives….by reminding us of God’s love for us. That His love for us is the same today as it was the day He sent His son to die for us. That nothing, not even our own failures, can keep God from loving us fully. And that when we understand and grasp God’s love for us it empowers us and gives us perspective, changing the way we live.

And now, today, we are going to talk about two more ways that the gospel speaks to our day to day lives, both stemming from our “union with Christ.” First, this morning we will talk about how through our union with Christ we are freed from sin. And then this afternoon we will look at how through our union with Christ we are also freed to live for God. We’re gonna be in Romans again, this time chapter 6. So go ahead and turn there if you would like to use your Bible, or you can follow along on the handout.

“In Christ”

Just a little bit of context before we begin. Last night we looked at a passage in chapter 5 which spoke about how while we were still sinners God sent Christ to die for us, reconciling us to Him. The rest of the chapter, which we did not look at last night, talks about how all of mankind is considered “in Adam.” Adam was responsible for ushering in sin and death to the human race, so now all who come after him, all of mankind, is also going to face the same fate as Adam. So before Christ, our old status was “in Adam.”

But, then Paul goes on to tell us in Romans 5:17 (at the top of your handout)….

17 “…if, by the trespass of the one man, death reigned through that one man [so through Adam and his trespass death reigns], how much more will those who receive God’s abundant provision of grace and of the gift of righteousness, reign in life through the one man, Jesus Christ.” (NIV)

So just as sin and death entered the human race through one man, Adam, so now grace and righteousness have entered through one man, Jesus Christ. So those who receive God’s gift of grace and righteousness will no longer be considered “in Adam” but instead are seen as being “in Christ.”

And then, Paul also explains at the end of chapter 5 that while we were “in Adam” we were under the law which magnified our sin showing how powerless over it we were on our own. But now that we are “in Christ” we live under God’s gift of grace which leads to righteousness and eternal life. So entering into chapter 6, Paul’s now going to unfold what that means that we are now considered “in Christ,” what does that look like in our day to day lives?

Paul’s “Theory”

So Paul is going to break this down for us, but I must confess, he doesn’t break it down very easily for us. Chapter 6 is a very hard passage to understand, like a lot of Romans is. Paul uses complex language and ideas, and the way he structures his explantation isn’t easy to follow. So as I walk us through this passage I am going to attempt to break it down even more for us to help us understand it more easily. As you’ll see on the handout.

If you can remember back to elementary school science class, they taught us the scientific method which you used to test a hypothesis. A hypothesis is a “proposed explanation for a phenomenon” (wiki). So, you start with a hypothesis, then you prove it through observations and experiments. Then once you have verified your hypothesis, it becomes theory. Well, as I studied this passage I began to see a similar structure in Paul’s explanation of what it means to be “in Christ.” The way Paul explains this phenomenon in the Christian life, is very similar to how one would explain a scientific theory using their observations as proof. So that’s kind of how I want us to see his explanation of our union with Christ in order to help us understand it a little better. I hope that makes sense!

So if you look at the handout, the first section on your handout is titled “Died with Christ, Raised with Christ”, verses 1-5, and this is what I’m calling Paul’s “theory”. Then the next section is the proof, verses 6-11, which I’ve broken into two observations, number 1 and 2. And then following that, in verses 12-14, Paul makes a proposition based on his theory, which I have titled “Living Freed from Sin.” So, he basically says, therefore, if what I just said is true, if his theory is true, then this must be true as well…and he touches on how to respond to his explanation of what it means to be “in Christ.” Make sense so far? I think it will make more sense as we go through it and hopefully, this will help all of us understand what he’s saying a little better.

Died with Christ, Raised with Christ

Ok, so let’s get started. Look at verses 1-5, this is Paul’s theory to explain what it means to be “in Christ”…

6:1  What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound?  2 By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it?  3 Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus [by this he is referring to when they put their faith in Christ] were baptized into his death?  4 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. 5   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.

So this is Paul’s theory, that because we put our faith in Christ, we have died and been raised with Him. As verse 5 says, we are united with him in his death and united with him in his resurrection. This is what we call “union with Christ.” So, therefore, Paul says, because we are united with Christ, we no longer have to live in sin, but instead, we are able to “walk in the newness of life” – or- as the NIV puts it, we can “live a new life.”  So, he’s saying, through our union with Christ, we are freed from sin in order to live a new life.

If Paul’s theory has come in response to a question, then basically the question he’s answering is the same question that we’re asking today, which is: How do we live out the gospel in our lives in light of our union with Christ? How does being “in Christ” transform our lives day to day?

Now, we might be tempted to kind of gloss over what Paul is saying because we’ve heard it before….like last night when we talked about God’s love for us. But, just like last night, we’ve got to fight that. Because what Paul is explaining here is, how to live out the gospel in our lives. If we long to be transformed by the gospel, then we need to understand what he’s saying here about our spiritual standing, which is what enables us to live out the gospel.

Last night we read in Romans 5 that before we were “in Christ” we were “powerless, ungodly, sinners, enemies of God.” We had no hope. But now, not only has Christ done what we were unable to do, but through faith we are included in what He did. We too die to sin and to death, and now are raised to life. Romans 5:1 tells us that…

5:1   “…since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.”

You see, this is our new spiritual status, we are now at peace with God “in Christ”, we are no longer His enemy “in Adam.” This is our status in Christ regardless of what our lives look like. Really think about that and let it sink in. If you have put your faith in Christ then this is the spiritual reality you now live in. For some, this might be very hard to comprehend. Because, its hard to imagine that our spiritual status could be reversed without us doing a thing but put our faith in Christ and what He did. But that is the truth of the gospel, that’s why it’s called good news! Jesus did what we could not do, so that in Him we could now have a relationship with God.

So, now that Paul has laid out his theory for us, that we have died and been raised with Christ in order that we no longer have to live in sin but can walk in the newness of life, he’s going to move on to show the proof of this. He’s going to help us to understand why this must be true. Look at verses 6 and 7…

1. Died with Christ: Freed from Sin (verses 6-7):

6 We know that our old self was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin.  7 For one who has died has been set free from sin.

Paul begins his observation in verse 6, by describing what dies when we die with Christ…

    • First he says our “old self” is crucified. What is our old self? What is Paul referring to here? Well, it’s what he just talked about…It’s who we were when we were “in Adam.” Remember, chapter 5 described this, we were sinners, ungodly, unable to uphold the law, enemies of God. So what Paul is explaining is that when we die with Christ our old status dies as well. When we die with Christ, before God we are no longer helpless, ungodly, sinners, enemies of God.
    • Then he says, our old self dies in order that “our body of sin” is brought to nothing. Another translation I like to look at is the New English Translation (NET), and it says that our old self dies “so that the body of sin would no longer dominate us.” This statement is truly amazing. It’s a game changer. What it’s telling us is not that we are now without sin, but that now the sin nature that controlled us and dominated us, no longer has that power over us.
    • Try to picture that. On the cross, not only did our spiritual status “in Adam” get crucified, but also sin’s rule over our physical bodies was broken. Christ defeated sin’s rule over our bodies, as Paul says here in the end of verse 6, “so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin.”

And then in verse 7, Paul simply says, if we have died to sin with Christ, then we have been set free from sin. It no longer rules over us so we are no longer obligated to do what it says.

Imagine what this means for you in your life. Think of your “old self” “in Adam” and think of how that is manifested in your life. Perhaps you came to Christ a little later in life and you can actually remember what you were like apart from Christ. Or maybe you simply see it now in the sins you are most prone to, most tempted to? Who are you when you give in to sin’s temptations?

Example: My “old self”

I became a believer when I was 14 and had been raised in a good, but worldly and non-Christian home. So not only did I have a big conversion when I came to the faith, but I have also spent the years since recognizing all the ways that a non-Christ-centered childhood have affected me. When I picture myself without Christ of course I picture the things I did, outwardly, like drinking, smoking, shoplifting, skipping school, I was quite a rebel….but even more, I picture my heart before Christ, my desire to be better than others, to get my way, to put myself first. I picture the cruel and malicious thoughts I had towards people and how tearing others down made me feel better about myself. I remember what it was like to feel hopeless and alone, and to think that life was about what you achieved and acquired. And these are still the sins I am prone to, these are still the sins that tempt me. But they are also my “old self,” what I was in bondage to before Christ.

So think about this in your life. Picture this in your mind, close your eyes if that helps. If you remember yourself before Christ, what were you like? Or think of yourself today, when you are at your worst, living in selfishness and sin, what does that look like?

    • Do you seek to destroy others through slander and gossip? Do you find joy when others fail or face misfortune?
    • Do you covet what others have and resent God for what He has or hasn’t given you?
    • Do you strive to be accepted by others? Do you make possessions and appearance a priority in your life? Is your identity grounded in worldly things?
    • Do you water down your faith in order to be more comfortable in this world and to not stand out?

The list goes on and on…. Now picture that person who you are without Christ, your old self, your sin nature, being nailed to the cross, and dying with Christ. The truth is, when you were united with Christ through faith, that is what happened. Your body of sin, your old self, it’s control over you, died with Christ. And the result is that you are no longer enslaved by your old self and sin. Your body of sin was rendered powerless, it no longer controls you or dominates you. You no longer have to give in and do what it says, you have been set free from sin’s control over you.

2. Raised with Christ: Alive to God (verses 8-11):

The second half of Paul’s proof that he emphasizes next is that not only do we die, but we also live. He says, starting in verse 8…

8 “Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him.  9 We know that Christ, being raised from the dead, will never die again; death no longer has dominion over him.  10 For the death he died he died to sin, once for all, but the life he lives he lives to God.  11 So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus.”

Paul makes a very interesting observation here to prove his point. He explains that if Christ died and was raised from the dead, then it means he can’t go back and die again. Why? Because, it says, he mastered death, so that means, death can no longer master him. So when He died to sin it was complete and final, so that now, He lives for God. If He can’t be dead, then he must be alive, there’s no other option, right?!. Does that make sense?

So then in verse 11, Paul explains that if we have also died with Christ and been raised with Christ, then the same is true for us. He says we must consider ourselves in the same light, “dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus.” This means that in Christ, we too have mastered sin and death, and just as Christ can’t go back, neither can we. That “old self” that died on the cross with Christ can never come back to life. So, just like Christ, we must live! In Christ, we have died to sin once for all, it can never again have dominion over us. And therefore, we now live lives for God. As Paul says, we are alive to God.

So just to summarize this so far.

  • First, Paul explains that along with Christ we have died to sin and it no longer has control over us.
  • Then he adds that that death was final. So no matter what, sin can no longer be our master again, it can no longer control and dominate us. Which means, our new status of being “alive to God in Christ Jesus” is also final. Nothing can change that. Just like Christ, the life we now live we live for God.

So these are Paul’s two “proofs” he offers to show us that “in Christ” we have died and been raised with Christ so we no longer have to live in sin, but instead, we are able to live a new life.

Living Freed from Sin

Now the problem for us as we hear this, is that those sins that represent our “old self” are still the sins we struggle with today, “in Christ.” So if our “old self” was nailed to the cross, and died with Christ, and can no longer master us, then why do we still sin? Why does it not feel as if we are freed from sin’s control over us? This is what Paul is about to explain. And if you remember the new way I offered for us to view this passage, this section would be his final proposition. Basically he is saying, if what I said is true, then this must follow. Look at verse 12-14, he says….

 6:12   Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, to make you obey its passions.  13 Do not present your members to sin as instruments for unrighteousness, but present yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life, and your members to God as instruments for righteousness.  14 For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace.

Example: Abort mission!

When I was just out of college a friend of mine was starting her career in Dallas working for a large firm. And of course, there were lots of good looking men around her to develop crushes on. And eventually she developed a rather large crush on one guy she worked with who was a few years older than her. And as all girls do, during the work day she would find herself taking bathroom breaks so that she might run into him, maybe taking the long way back to her desk so she could walk by his, and sitting at her desk day dreaming about him instead of working. So we started a little email exchange during the work day to help her stay focused and keep her heart grounded. Basically anytime she started to day dream or make a plan to do a walk about to see him, she would shoot an email to me telling me what was going through her head. And then, all I would do was respond with two words: Abort Mission!!! And that’s really all she needed to wake her up and get her back on track.

In a sense, that is what Paul is saying here to the Romans. He’s saying, abort mission! Do not carry out these wrong desires, do not do what you are no longer obligated to do. Like a child Paul is saying to them, sin is not the boss of you so you don’t have to do what it says! When you sense your old self making a comeback, recognize this and abort mission, turn and run. Here Paul explains to them the two ways in which they act as if sin is still their master.

      1. First, in verse 12, he says, Do not let sin reign, or dominate, you anymore, so that you live in it’s ways and obey it. – The key word here is “let.” Paul is saying, you have been freed from sin, so when you do what sin says, you are “letting” it dominate you! The truth is, once we are in Christ, when we continue to live in sin, when we continue to obey sin’s passions, we are choosing to live under it’s rule instead of living in our new status as freed from sin in Christ.
      2. Secondly, in verse 13, he says, Do not present, or offer, your self as an instrument of unrighteousness, or sin. – So in verse 12 he commanded them to not continue to live as if sin still ruled over them, and now in verse 13 he also tells them to not return to their sin. Sin is no longer your master so don’t return to it.

So why do we still sin? Why does it not feel as if we are freed from sin’s control over us? Paul says it’s because we do not live as if we are free, instead we let sin continue to rule over us and we return to it, giving ourselves to it.

Example: Kutty in India (IJM Newsletter, Spring 2012)

Recently I received a quarterly update from the ministry of IJM, International Justice Mission, which if you’re not familiar with, is one of the world’s largest agencies fighting slavery in the world today. In this newsletter it tells the story of a man in India named Kutty who had been enslaved in a rice mill along with his wife and 4 children. He talks about what it was like to be a slave…how even when they were sick they had to work, and how they were never allowed to return to their village to visit their friends and family. Their owner truly ruled over them so that they had to do whatever he said, they belonged to him.

But in 2008, Kutty and his family were rescued from slavery. IJM partnered with the local government to set him free. So, he was legally and officially set free from his owner’s rule over him. So the story goes on to talk about how he returned to life as a free man, he secured a good job, and he even ran for public office so he could fight injustice and help others have a better life as well.

But, I want you to imagine how you would have responded, if after this great story of a man being freed from slavery, instead of telling you that he went on to live as a freed man, what if I told you that even though he was free he chose to return to his previous master, offering himself to him as if he still owned him? What if I told you that despite his legal status as a free man, he chose to live like a slave, oppressed and abused? What would you say to him if you had a chance to talk face to face with him after hearing that?

This is exactly what Paul is addressing with the Romans, and that is exactly what many of us do. We live like we are still slaves, we return to our sin nature as if it still has dominion over us. But as Paul explained, we are legally free from sin’s rule over us. In Christ, we are dead to sin, it is no longer our master. And no matter what, it can never rule over us again. Just as it would be absurd for a man like Kutty to continue to live as a slave, it’s absurd for us to continue living as if we are still slaves to sin. Just as Kutty was freed in order to live a new life, so are we. We have been freed so that we can now live for God in Christ. So Paul says, do not act like a slave anymore and do not return to slavery! But instead, live for God, offer yourselves to Him.

In the second half of verse 13, Paul says…

    • Present yourself to God as one who is alive from the dead, as one who is free. In other words, live like a free person because you are a free person! You were once dead, but now you are alive!
    • And then he says, instead of offering yourself to sin, offer yourself to God to be used for righteousness.

Then in verse 14, Paul tells them, sin is no longer your master, it no longer has dominion over you, because you are no longer under law, but under grace.

  • This is a fact. Whether Kutty lived like it or not, the fact was he was a free man. And this is the same reality that we have in Christ, whether we live like it or not.
  • Christ has redeemed the law, so we now live under the “rules” of grace and not of sin. We are now able to live for God, because of His gift of grace, offering ourselves to Him to be used for righteousness.

Galatians 5:1 is one of my favorite verses because it reminds us of this beautiful reality in our lives…

5:1 It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery. (NIV)

Kutty’s story is a picture for us of what this looks like. He was set free, and so he chose to live in his freedom, to stand firm. He did not allow himself to be burdened again by a yoke of slavery, but instead he chose to live as a free man, reflecting what had been done for him. Are you living a life that reflects the freedom you have in Christ? Do you live in a way that others would recognize that “in Christ” you have been freed from the bondage of sin?

Conclusion

As we end this morning, I want us to return to our original question that we’re asking this weekend, How does the gospel speak to our lives today? And so this morning, How do we live out the gospel in our lives in light of our union with Christ and our freedom from sin? How does being freed from sin transform our lives day to day?

It means not just understanding our new standing “in Christ,” but also living in that truth. Christ didn’t die for us to give us good theology, He died for us to change our lives. He died to free us from the control of sin so that we would live a new life here on earth. And as Paul says, that involves us making active choices to not live like a slave. Choosing to not return to slavery.

    • Right now, in your day to day life, would you say you are living freed from the control of sin?
    • Or have you returned to sin as if you are still in bondage?
    • Do you claim each day the freedom you have in Christ so that you might “walk in the newness of life”?

We are freed in Christ, and part of that freedom is being able to say no to sin because of the grace of God in our lives. And the other part is being free to say yes to God, which is what we are going to be talking about this afternoon.

Questions for Group Discussion & Personal Reflection:

    • What does our “old self” before Christ look like, generally and specifically? Now think about your “old self” and list or describe that person. Go through this list and recognize that God has freed you from the control of each one.
    • Why do we return to sin after we have been freed from it? Why is sin still attractive to us?
    • Looking at the list you just made, which sins do you struggle most to live free of? What are the sins that you tend to return to and why?
    • Discuss what it looks like, day to day, to live freed from sin. How can we keep ourselves from letting sin continue to rule over us or from returning to sin?
    • Using one or two of these examples in your own life, in those areas how can you offer yourself to God instead, to be used for righteousness?
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Romans 6:1-14 By Keeley Chorn

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.”

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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.