TEXT: Romans 6:1-14
SERVICE VIDEO (link)
Since Easter we’ve been talking about why the Resurrection of Jesus matters. Today we are going to look at Romans 6 and talk about the “New Life,” trying to understand better what that new life in Christ means, what it looks like, and how we can more fully live in it. I am hoping we can better understand the implications that Jesus was raised from the dead FOR US. What are the implications of the “for us?”
Life Looks Different: a new reality
The first thing to say is that because of Jesus Christ life looks different! He makes a difference in one’s life. If life with Christ and life without Christ look no different, then we have missed something crucial about who Jesus is, what he has done, and what he is doing even now. We could talk about that in a number of ways, but the place Paul picks up in chapter six of his letter to the Romans has to do with sin. One answer we still sometimes hear today is that sin doesn’t matter because God’s grace abounds! God has forgiven it all and we shouldn’t get wrapped up in naming sin, judging sin, or paying much attention to sin, because God will forgive it. But Paul nips that in the bud, asking “Are we to continue in sin so that grace may increase?” Paul’s response is: “May it never be!” While we do continue to sin, we should also struggle against it. And what follows is an explanation of how we are to live in Christ, particularly with regard to sin.
After Paul’s “May it never be!” he goes on to ask two more questions that will set up what follows. The first question is: “How shall we who died to sin still live in it?” The second is related to it: “Or do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus have been baptized into His death?” Both are rhetorical, meaning the point is not just coming up with the answer, but understanding the answer and why Paul asked the question. What Paul is trying to remind us of with these questions is our new reality because of Good Friday and Easter. Jesus did not need to die and be raised for his own sake; it was FOR US.
Paul describes those who trust in Jesus Christ as those who have “died to sin” and are “baptized into Jesus’ death.” Those are not conditions of Jesus’s work; you don’t have to stop sinning for Jesus to die for you. No, these are the RESULTS of Jesus’ work. Because Jesus died, we have died to sin. That is one of things baptism signifies; that we are marked by his action. That’s what Paul wants you to understand with his two questions. You have died to sin because you belong to Jesus and he died to sin… don’t you know it? Paul then offers a series of illustrations to help us understand resurrection life.
First Picture: United in Baptism (vv. 4-7)
Paul’s first illustration or picture is that in baptism we have been buried into death and raised to newness of life. (v. 4) Clearly, this is not literal, as we have not been physically buried. But we are joined to Christ in faith, signified through baptism, by God’s gracious love toward us. And so when Christ was crucified, our debt was joined to him; our “body of sin” was joined to him and put to death (v. 6). And when he was buried, our debt and the consequence of sin was complete. When God raised Jesus from the dead in victory OVER sin and death, we too were raised (still joined to him), but no longer under the curse of sin and death.
Let me try to illustrate. I completed the tax forms for our family a few months ago. If the IRS were to send Heather a tax bill next week that said she owes taxes on our family income, she could respond legitimately by saying, “How shall I who have paid my taxes still owe taxes?” Now she did not do the Austell family taxes or send them anything, but listen to this second question while you are looking at verse 3. “Do you not know that all of us who wear this wedding ring can file jointly?” Now I realize that anyone can put on a wedding ring, but so can anyone splash water and say they’ve been baptized. The point is that the covenant of marriage, signified by a ring, enables one to be fully represented by another. So the covenant of baptism, rightly used, enables one to be fully represented by another. So if I have been baptized into Christ, who has died to sin, then I have died to sin. And I have also been raised with him to new life.
Now we also can ignore “resurrection reality” just as surely as we can ignore our “marriage reality.” The ring or even the reality of being joined in marriage doesn’t do commitment for us. In the same way, we must choose obedience to honor our being joined to Christ. So Paul declares a glorious reality: through Jesus Christ sin and the curse have been buried and we are raised to a new resurrection life. And with that covenanted union comes the opportunity to choose obedience and live it out faithfully in our lives. That indeed makes life very different – as different (even more so!) than being single and then being joined to another in marriage. That’s what the Apostle Paul is getting at in Romans. Through faith we are now united to the risen Jesus, so we have the opportunity to live for him.
Second Picture: New Lease on Life (vv. 8-10)
In verse 8 Paul moves from “here is what God has done” (buried and raised you) to the more active (for us) “here is the way to experience it” (die and live with Christ!) And so he repeats himself about being united with Christ, but now we must choose how to live. And we are to live our life like Christ did: “…the life that he lives, he lives to God.” (v. 10) I think of Lazarus in terms of that passive and active resurrection. Lazarus, much like we who trust Christ, was raised from death to life. It was beyond his power or control, and more than a little mysterious. But from that moment on, when he gazed upon Jesus’ face, he had to make his own decision to live life again, moreover to life it to God. He could have turned away, come to forget the miraculous as a hazy dream, or even figuratively crawled back in the cave to die. But part two of being raised in the power of Christ was choosing to live in grateful and loving obedience to Christ.
Think of someone who has survived a terminal diagnosis or dying on the operating table or being resuscitated after drowning. Those things don’t automatically result in a new perspective on life and living, but often they do. People talk about having a “new lease on life” or embracing life with new hope and purpose. That’s the kind of change of perspective Paul is talking about and what it means to “live to God.”
A Third Picture: Enlisted with Gratitude (vv. 11-14)
And so in verse 11, Paul charges his readers with that active obedience: “Consider yourselves to be dead to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus.” How are we to do that? Paul illustrates the answer with an image that is obscured a bit in English, particularly to our modern ears. Twice, when Paul uses the word “presenting,” that’s a military image. We still use it; it’s just not our first use for “presenting.” It is the image of presenting arms before one’s commanding officer. It is a picture of being prepared, primed, present, and ready. It is also a sign of respect, of willingness to obey, serve, and be led. And then also twice, Paul uses the word “instruments.” That word can mean “weapons” as in “instruments of war.” In this context, I believe this is what Paul has in mind.
How does that image of a soldier presenting his or her weapons as ready for battle describe the Christian’s daily choice to die to sin and live to God? We have a choice of whom to serve, of whom our “commanding officer” will be. Though Jesus has won the battle, literally saving our lives, we may yet not choose to present ourselves in service to him. In that case we are, in effect, presenting ourselves to sin as our commanding officer, even offering our bodies (and minds) as weapons to be used for unrighteous purposes. Or, in response to Jesus saving us (those “alive from the dead” in v. 13), we can choose to present ourselves to him as our authority, offering our bodies and minds as weapons… perhaps now rightly turned from weapons to “tools” or “instruments” for what is good and right.
Will our bodies and minds be weapons of destruction for sin or tools of righteousness in God’s hands? Having been saved from death to life, we have the opportunity for a kind of “grateful enlistment” in service to God, the One who saved us. Those words famously declared by Joshua in Old Testament times prove most appropriate now: “Choose this day whom you will serve!”
The Resurrection Life
As we continue to try to understand and experience the new life that is “resurrection life,” we are reminded that God invites us to choose obedience. Jesus Christ has done the hard work – the impossible work – of defeating sin and death and living to God. Jesus has changed reality itself and life is different for all who are united to him in faith! As with marriage, a new chance at life, or military service, life and reality are different, but we must still choose daily how to live and whom to serve. Amen.
Some Music Used
- Who You Say I Am (Hillsong)
- All I Have is Christ (Sovereign Grace)
- We Know that Christ is Raised (ENGLEBERG)
- Choral Benediction: The Lord Bless You and Keep You (Rutter)