now encounter a chapter which has caused some trouble to Christians over the
years. This is largely because Paul is trying to draw a picture for the Romans
– a word picture, an analogy of sorts. Like other analogies, it’s possible to
draw conclusions that aren’t really implied. We shall see if we can sort it
Romans 6:1-4 NIV
shall we say, then? Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase? (2) By no means! We died to sin; how can we live in
it any longer? (3) Or don't you know that all
of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? (4) We were therefore buried with him through
baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead
through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life.
heart of antinomianism is the idea that the Christian is freed from the Law –
or any kind of moral law. This ideal runs through church history, and its
nature has provoked a great deal of argument. At this time, however, the issue
was rather clear. The antinomians argued as follows:
sin – which is then covered by grace. Therefore, the more I sin, the more
God’s grace increases.
grace is a good thing.
we should sin more.
was sometimes restricted to sins of the flesh and the world, as these are
temporal sins as opposed to pride, a spiritual sin. Paul dismisses the
argument in “By no means!” It’s clear to him that to state this argument is to
prove its fallacy.
The appeal, however, is not gone. Throughout Christian history this idea has
arisen many times, usually in a more complicated formulation. Watch for it.
must take a detour to understand Paul’s argument. Let’s take this in three
communication. When human beings want to say things of ultimate
importance, they turn to symbols. A wedding ring is not just so much
jewelry; a flag is not just so much colored cloth. There is a difference
between what a thing is, and what it is made of. Hence symbols have
use of symbols comes with acting them out. For example, when her father
gives the bride away, it symbolizes the transfer of the woman from her
father’s authority to her husband’s. We call this a ritual. It is the
human way of acting out the profound.
Communion is a ritual; baptism is a ritual.
often use the principle of identification. By doing something
symbolically, I proclaim myself to be “like” someone else, or part of some
organization. (Initiation rituals are often based on this.) Paul, in
this passage, tells us that baptism is just such an identification ritual.
Paul gives us the symbolism used for baptism: it is first a symbol of death,
by identification with the death and burial of Christ. In so doing, we say that
we are like him in “dying” – and therefore benefit from the effects of death.
also say we will rise as he rose. Baptism proclaims, symbolically, the
resurrection of the dead, and our participation in it.
folks, is serious stuff.
now takes the symbolism and applies it to our lives. The argument is by
analogy, but nonetheless an answer to antinomianism.
died to sin
Romans 6:5-11 NIV If we have
been united with him like this in his death, we will certainly also be united
with him in his resurrection. (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. (8) Now
if we died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. (9) For we know that since Christ was raised from
the dead, he cannot die again; death no longer has mastery over him. (10) The death he died, he died to sin once for all;
but the life he lives, he lives to God. (11)
In the same way, count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus.
you ever heard someone say that the only response to temptation is to give in
to it? If that’s your guiding light, I have news for you: sin owns you. Sin
is what is guiding your life. You may think you’re “doing your own thing,” but
you are actually being controlled by something outside you. Don’t think so?
Temptation comes, and whose direction do you follow? Temptation comes from
outside – so it’s not your own direction.
tells us here that this is not so for the Christian. By this principle of
identification, we proclaim that we have died with Christ – so we are no longer
slaves to the body. It’s dead, so to speak. We have identified with his
atonement, and therefore are no longer under sin’s dominion.
was also raised – and as we identify with his death, we identify with his
resurrection. We are saying that not only are we free from sin, but the result
will be resurrection and eternal life. Your entire life is a walking symbol of
either death in sin or life in Christ – and we should know just what we are
Romans 6:11-14 NIV In the
same way, count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus. (12) Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal
body so that you obey its evil desires. (13)
Do not offer 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.
(14) For sin shall not be your master, because
you are not under law, but under grace.
so just what are we to do about this? Remember that when you are baptized, you
are a new man in Christ. So you have taken on a new Lord (you do remember
taking him as “Lord and Savior?”) If Christ is your Lord, then sin is not –
and therefore you should not let sin rule over you.
a test of that? Just what is your body doing? Paul doesn’t mention “parts of
your body” idly. The most prominent example is in sex. It has been many years
since I have heard a sermon that even faintly mentions sexual fidelity in
marriage, but the principle is eternal. It’s a test point.
issue is one of lordship. Just who’s in charge? It isn’t you; it’s either sin
or Christ. Be sure you know which.
might object, “I am the captain of my fate and the master of my soul.”
But are you really? Can you really determine your fate? Can you really tell
God where your soul belongs? It is a grand point of hubris to think so. It is
the point of saying to God that I’m in charge of me – and that I can make my
own results. It’s not that way in physics; you have no choice but to play by
God’s rules. It’s not that way in life either.
fact, you have no solo choice. To reject God is to select sin. If you think
not, look again at Invictus and see if you can read it with humility.
You are, in fact, going to be serving a master (as they would have seen it in
Paul’s time.) It may be something – gold, sex, pride – or it may be Somebody,
but serve you will.
do I know? Because whatever you obey – whatever controls you – is that which
you serve – by definition. That you have no choice in. You just get to choose
which lord you take. Choose wisely.
Romans 6:19-23 NIV I put
this in human terms because you are weak in your natural selves. 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. (20) When you were
slaves to sin, you were free from the control of righteousness. (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. (23) For the wages of
sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.
limits of analogy
is aware that there are limits to analogy, and that it’s possible to press this
argument too far. So he lets us know that he’s put this in human terms so that
we can understand it clearly. It is not wise, however, to press the matter
beyond our own understanding.
however, the more mature the Christian is, the more the analogy comes home.
It’s a matter of spiritual growth. The beginner can’t see sin as master, and
must be convinced by the analogy to slavery. The mature Christian is quite
well aware of the slavery of sin.
is a side effect of this principle in worship. It’s the beginner who is
instructed in liturgical worship; the mature saint is blessed in it. Spiritual
things grow sharper in focus as you mature. If I might offer an example,
consider the hymn Amazing Grace. When you first become a Christian you
see little more than the title in it; but read it over some time. It is full
of sound doctrine that touches the emotional heart of the beginner – and the
mind of the mature. Think not? Consider the word, “wretch.” To the beginner
it seems like poetic exaggeration; the mature Christian understands just what a
wretch really is. It’s the difference between the beginner saying, “I’m not a
Hitler” and the mature Christian knowing just what a sinner he is. If the artist
gets the hymn right, the impact grows with the Christian. So too with liturgy.
the matter down to daily living, Paul tells us. Look at the results. What do
you think of the man you were before you became a Christian? (Remember, he is
talking to a church largely made up of adult converts.) Are you really proud
of what you used to do? No, you’d really rather not talk about it, right? But
afterwards you see the fruit of the Spirit in your life. OK, which lifestyle leads
to death, and which to life?
has been telling us how things work in this universe. You’re a sinner, no
choice. You get to pick your lord – sin, or Christ. He ends with another fact
of the universe: for sin, you get the wages of sin – death. For repentance,
you get the gift of God. One you earn, one you don’t. That’s how the universe
is. Your work – or God’s grace. You choose. No other options are available.