The Narrative Lectionary points us to Romans 6:1-14 for our preaching text this week. Matthew 6:24 is the suggested Gospel text. My faith tradition emphasizes baptism and this text is one that I have reflected on many times. Of course, we should never let that stop us from taking a closer look. God’s Word is never explored fully … there’s always something new to find.
If you are reading Romans from chapter one, you get the sense that we are climbing toward a peak that will reveal an amazing vista view of the Gospel. In last week’s text we emphasized the beauty and power of grace. Paul is not through with that thought at all. If grace keeps covering our sin … then isn’t it a good thing that we sin so that grace keeps getting the attention that it deserves? Grace is amazing, but it was never an end to itself. Grace springs from the love of God. We do not thank grace, we thank God! So our goal is not to abuse the idea of grace and just keep on sinning … it is to engage the new life.
A new life is not captive to sin. Paul says we have died to sin (vs 2) – so any scheme or attempt to justify our sinful behavior by appealing to grace is misguided. The new life we live that is no longer under the dominion of sin is where Paul is pointing.
Our baptism is the signal of a new life no longer under the dominion of sin. Truly, we were baptized into his death (vs 3). The death of Jesus on the cross is the moment of sacrifice in which Jesus died for the sins of the world. There is something about our baptism that demonstrates our identity with that event by faith. We are buried with him (vs 4). In my faith tradition, we practice adult immersion, convicted that this aligns with the picture Paul paints here (and we see in other places as well). in our human lives, a death and burial are moments of finality. We visit the graves of loved ones who died and were buried. But Jesus changed the human experience by raising up from the dead. In the same way, we now can walk in newness of life (vs 4). In our baptism, we fully participate in the sacrifice of Jesus at Calvary and we participate in a new life no longer under the power of sin.
The promise of verse 5 is that there is a certainty that our lives are united with him. A great change has occurred within us (remember – this is why we who died to sin can no longer go on living in it). Our relationship with sin has changed.
*The body of sin has been destroyed (vs 6). In our identification with the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus our old self was crucified.
*We are no longer enslaved to sin (vs 6). Not that we no longer sin. Paul has already made it clear that we are all sinners. But the power of sin is broken by grace and we are no longer enslaved to its influence.
*We are to consider ourselves dead to sin (vs 11). Sin is personified here (and in much of Romans) as being in a battle with Christ. Christ took upon himself all of the sins of humanity, died, and rose again to live to God. Two choices are presented for our lives: live for sin, live for God. Jesus made his choice and all of us who were baptized into his death were raised to make the same choice.
*Sin is not to have dominion in our bodies. We are not to obey the passions. Somehow today that message has gotten turned around – even in some Christian faith families. It is popular to think we have no choice but to live for our passions. Instead, Paul says, we present ourselves to God as instruments of righteousness – not allowing sin to have dominion.
This can all happen because we are under grace … the gift of God that allows us to appear before Him as righteous through the blood of Christ. All of this section is based upon the work of Christ.
- Christ was raised from the dead (4)
- Christ lives and we live with him (8)
- Christ will never die again (9)
- Christ is who we look to for assurance of life (11)
Paul is not through talking about this subject… nor about the struggle with sin. But for now we know that we are experiencing a new life because of the sacrifice of Christ and the grace of God. As he climbs toward the top of the mountain in chapter 8, we are at one of the peaks along way. Paul is not ashamed of the Gospel … it takes all humans who believe from the depths of sin, through the journey of faith, to the commitment of baptism, and eventually to the stirring crescendo: There is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus (8:1).
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