DEAD TO SIN BUT ALIVE IN CHRIST
God’s Invitation to Grace ❧ Part 34
Romans 6:1-14 ❧ Pastor, Dr. John Denney
The Apostle John tells of a time when he and the rest of the disciples skeptically followed Jesus to a small village called Bethany. They were skeptical because Jesus had told them they were going to the tomb of His good friend Lazarus who’d been dead now for four days. The Jews believed once a person had been dead for three days, it was impossible for them to come back to life. So, Jesus’ trip to the tomb of a man who’d been dead for four days seemed a complete waste of time in their minds. Once there, Jesus immediately ordered the stone covering the tomb’s entrance to be removed. Then it says He lifted His eyes toward Heaven and prayed out loud. Once He finished, He looked to the open mouth of the dark tomb and cried out in a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out!” (John 11:43, NLT). What happened next no doubt took everyone’s breath away. Lazurus, who’d been dead for four days and still bound from head to foot in heavy grave clothes, came out of the darkened tomb. He didn’t do this on his own, he couldn’t. The thick wrappings on his body would have made it impossible for him to walk. Lazarus was raised by the power of God. This same power not only gave him life, but also must have carried him to the entrance of the tomb. Immediately Jesus instructed those watching to unbind him and let him go (John 11:44).
This story, in many ways, is a graphic picture of what happens the moment someone places their trust Jesus as their Savior. The Bible says we were spiritually dead in our sins just like Lazarus was physically dead in the tomb (Eph. 2:1). But the moment we put our faith in Christ, we were raised to new life by the power of God (John 5:24; Eph. 2:5-6). And just as Lazarus was still bound by his grave clothes from head to foot, so we too are still bound by the grave clothes of our old sinful life. The difference is Lazarus was set free from the old grave clothes, while many of us are still bound by some of the old grave clothes of our sinful past. Worse, we’re often tempted to put our old clothes back on!
Today we’re going to turn back to our verse-by-verse study in Romans. In the past several weeks we took a brief parenthetical pause to think through some important words Paul uses in Romans 1-5 to strengthen our faith. Words like justification, propitiation, imputation, and reconciliation. Psalm 119 says: Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path (Psalm 119:105). What does a light do? It enables us to see. God specifically chose these key words to be used in the Bible to serve as lights to guide us in our understanding of Who the God of the Bible is. This morning we’re going to look at Romans 6. The key word in this chapter is sanctification – the process of God working in us to conform us into the image of His Son (Rom. 8:29; Phil. 2:13). In other words, Paul is going to show us how we’re to put the truths he’s taught us chapters 1 through 5 to work in our lives.
There are four things Paul shows us we need to do in this passage. There are some things we need; we need: 1) to guard, 2) to know, 3) to believe, & 4) to do. Guard, know, believe, do.
- Something we need to guard. We need to guard against counterfeit grace; a view that maintains grace is a license to sin. God did not give us grace to sin, but to save us from sin. In other words, grace that does not change your life is not going to save your life. Theologian Charles Allen correctly notes in the Bible grace has three distinct meanings; it means the mercy and active love of God; it means the winsome attractiveness of God; it means the strength of God to overcome.It is the third one Paul has in mind in Romans 6:1. Genuine grace gives us the power to overcome sin. Grace is God’s power to change. Without it, we’re helpless. What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin so that grace may increase? May it never be! How shall we who died to sin still live in it? (Romans 6:1-2). Paul is asking a question that has an obvious answer: How shall we who died to sin still live in it? When you trusted Christ, the old you, the old life, died. By God’s power you’ve been raised to a new life. You no longer need to wear the sin-rotting graveclothes of your sinful past that bound you from head to foot. If this is true, then what power does sin have over you? None! Your relationship with sin is permanently changed. It is impossible to be alive in Christ and also be alive to sin.
The verb tense of continue to sin(present active) points to someone who chooses to remain in sin as a habit, a way of life. Paul is not saying we’re no longer tempted by sin, or even give into sin at times. Rather, our lives are so changed we become like Lazarus; our daily lives become a witness of the life-giving, life-changing power of God. The controlling power of sin that once wrapped our bodies like Lazarus’ graveclothes is gone. 17th century puritan preacher Thomas Brooks said of grace: As heat is opposed to cold, and light to darkness, so grace is opposed to sin. God did not give us His grace to sin, but to save us from sin. We need to guard against living in a false grace.
- Something we need to know. Or do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus have been baptized into His death? Therefore we have been buried with Him through baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life (Romans 6:3-4). What is it we need to know? By your faith in Christ, you are now united with Christ in His crucifixion, resurrection, and newness of life. It signifies the old you died. You have entered into new relationship with Christ. You are now a new creation (2 Cor. 5:17), a child of God (Jn. 1:12), a saint (Eph. 1:1). As a new creation you are now permanently separated from the controlling power of your old sin-dominated life. This happened for me in 1973 when I asked Christ to be my Savior; I died to sin and came alive in Christ. I was separated from the power of my old sin nature I inherited from Adam and given a whole new nature in Christ. Put on the new self, which in the likeness of God has been created in righteousness and holiness of the truth (Ephesians 4:24)
Within a few short day after I trusted Christ, I was baptized. I remember it as though it happened yesterday. I was making my faith in Christ visible to the world that through baptism. This is exactly what Paul wants us to know. The historical fact of Jesus death, burial, and resurrection is not just a significant doctrine, it is also a significant personal experience. It means we personally died to sin and rose to newness of life in Christ.
We need to be careful here and not draw outside of the lines of what Paul is saying. He is saying physical baptism is an outward symbol of an inward truth. But he is not saying physical baptism in necessary for salvation (otherwise known as baptismal regeneration). It would not make any sense for Paul to have just spent the past three chapters making a clear case for justification by faith alone and then contradict himself by saying, “Oh yah, I almost forgot to tell you, you must be baptized to be saved.” Were Paul saying this, he would contradict everything he’d just said.
Why is it important we know this? Because this newness of life points not only to a new relationship with God, but a new way of living as well. J. Hudson Taylor got to point when he said: If your father and mother, your sister and brother, if the very cat and dog in the house, are not happier for your being a Christian, it is a question whether you really are. Just as it is a historical fact that Jesus rose from the grave, so we too rose to newness of life in Him.
- Something we need to believe. Even so consider yourselves to be dead to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus (Romans 6:11). The first two words, even so, point back to what we now know. We know the old self has been made powerless to control us. But what are we to do with this knowledge? Make a choice. Consider yourselves to be dead to sin, but alive to Christ.The word consider literally means to count on with certainty; to have an unreserved inner confidence of what God says is true. Because you are now dead to sin and alive in Christ, make the choice to start living that way.
You say, how? I believe this and want to live a new life, but how? Here is the key that many Christians miss about their relationship with Christ: Jesus not only gave you life, but He now lives it through you as well. I am certain that God, who began the good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns(Philippians 1:6, NLT). Who began this good work in you? God did. Who is going to continue it? God is. It seems the Philippian believers were not the only ones who needed to hear this. Paul asks the believers in Galatia, How can you be so foolish! You began by God’s Spirit; do you now want to finish by your own power? (Galatians 3:3, TLB). Surely, you’re not so foolish as to think what God began in you is now up to you to finish in your own strength? Making the Christian life work is not a matter of trying but trusting. You may not feel it, but you believe it. It is a personal choice.
Can you hear the flow of Paul’s logic up to this point? I want you to guard against misunderstanding what true grace is. True grace is God’s power to change. And that grace is based on the factual knowledge we are united with Christ in His crucifixion and resurrection through our faith in Him. But simply knowing this is not enough. We need to make a personal choice to believe with absolute certainty that what God says about us is in fact true. This leads to the fourth thing we need to do; we need to put these things to work.
- Something we need to do. Do not go on presenting the members of your body to sin as instruments of unrighteousness; but present yourselves to God as those alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness to God (Romans 6:13). Paul tells us there are two things we need to do. One, we’re to stop offering our bodies to be used as instruments of sin. Stop giving into your desires to serve sin. If God’s grace is the power to change and that power is Christ in me, then I cannot say, “I can’t help it.” Or “I can’t change.” Do not let sin go unchallenged in your life.
The story is told of a young girl who accepted Christ as her Savior and asked to be a member of a local church. “Were you a sinner before you received the Lord Jesus into your life?” inquired an old deacon. “Yes, sir,” she replied. “Well, are you still a sinner?” “To tell you the truth, I feel I’m a greater sinner than ever.” “Then what real change have you experienced?” “I don’t quite know how to explain it,” she said, “except I used to be a sinner running after sin, but now that I am saved. I’m a sinner running from sin!” The young girl was welcomed to the local church. She understood God’s power to overcome sin.
Second, not only are we to stop serving to sin, but instead serve God. Offer your body to the Lord. Why does the Lord want us to do that? As a believer, the Bible says you’re body is a temple and God wants to use it for His glory. Don’t you realize that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit, who lives in you and was given to you by God? You do not belong to yourself, for God bought you with a high price. So you must honor God with your body (1 Cor. 6:19-20, NLT). Our bodies belong to God. When I was in the service it wasn’t unusual for guys to get tattoos. I was tempted. But I chose not to. I was beginning to learn what it meant my body belonged to God, not to me or the world.
But Paul says something even more important here. Circle the word “instruments.” It’s a word the refers to a soldier’s weapons. Paul is literally saying offer your body to God as a weapon against evil. Paul used his mind and pen as a weapon against evil. He used his feet to carry the Gospel from city to city. David used his hands to sink a rock into Goliath’s forehead.
Our bodies can also be used for evil. The same David, a man after God’s own heart, used his eyes to lust after another man’s wife, his mind to plan the man’s death in order to marry his wife, and his hand to write the very note that had this man killed. How you use your body says a lot about who you’ve given it to. Whatever you yield to becomes your master. Let me ask you a question. What are you yielding your eyes to? Your mind? Your hands? Your ears?
So, what is Paul saying in these verses? The old command to sin no longer has authority over you. But to experience it, we had to know it, believe it, and act upon it.