So here is how Romans chapter five closes:
God’s law was given so that all people could see how sinful they were. But as people sinned more and more, God’s wonderful grace became more abundant. So just as sin ruled over all people and brought them to death, now God’s wonderful grace rules instead, giving us right standing with God and resulting in eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord. (Romans 5:20-21 NLT)
God brings his law to “His people”, although they were not called Israel at this point, to show them how sinful they were.
Stop here and think about this for a moment. With little to guide them or show them a way to God, who were they? By the time Moses, as a baby, comes on the scene, most were, for all intents and purposes, Egyptians.
What if the only remaining family, that still held to the oral history – a history that takes them back to creation itself, is the one that brought Moses into the world? Do I know this is the way it happened? NO, but jump forward in time a bit, to where God’s people have barely escaped with their lives from Egypt.
Soon after setting up camp, Moses does not only the impractical but the impossible, as he goes up into the mountain without food and water. Gone for forty days the people effectively declare Moses dead.
Well, since God’s leader has to be dead, then it must be time for a return to what we know best, and they appoint Moses brother Aaron to make the god Molech for them.
Didn’t I just say Moses’ own family may have been the only remaining link to the oral history of these people; and what do we see? Aaron, at the demand of the people, gathers gold and fashions this half man – half calf altar with a hollow cavity and outstretched arms, that they used to sacrifice children.
Read through the account that Stephen gives to the Jewish council that is about to have him stoned to death.
“But our ancestors refused to listen to Moses. They rejected him and wanted to return to Egypt. They told Aaron, ‘Make us some gods who can lead us, for we don’t know what has become of this Moses, who brought us out of Egypt.’ So they made an idol shaped like a calf, and they sacrificed to it and celebrated over this thing they had made. Then God turned away from them and abandoned them to serve the stars of heaven as their gods! In the book of the prophets, it is written, ‘Was it to me you were bringing sacrifices and offerings during those forty years in the wilderness, Israel? No, you carried your pagan gods—the shrine of Molech, the star of your god Rephan, and the images you made to worship them. So I will send you into exile as far away as Babylon.’ (Acts 7:39-43 NLT)
In his speech, he says, “you carried your pagan god’s – the shrine of Moloch, the star of your god Rephan, and the images you made. ..” No one on the Jewish council disputed with Stephen over these words.
We are told in Exodus 32:28, that about 3000 men, and who knows how many women, died that day. Now, how sinful was Israel in this case? Sinful enough for at least 3000 people to die.
While that paints an ugly picture, Romans 5:20,21 has a more pleasant side to it.
“ But as people sinned more and more, God’s wonderful grace became more abundant.”
That being said, let’s look at Romans chapter six.
The NASB entitles this segment: Dead to Sin, Alive to God.
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 NASB)
What a great question: “Are we to continue in sin so that grace may increase? Well, it makes sense; if sinning causes God’s grace to become more abundant, shouldn’t we just keep on sinning, maybe God will love us more? Don’t be foolish; sin will get you killed, and then you are no use to anyone.
Paul answers his own question when he says,
“May it never be! How shall we who died to sin still live in it?”
Did you catch that? We who are in Christ, have died to sin. If you have died to sin, then theoretically, sin no longer exists to you. Sadly, we all know sin does still exist to us, so what is Paul trying to say? If you treat sin (Sin is an old English word meaning to miss the bullseye on a target – I include this terminology because it puts this idea of sin on an everyday playing field. It is common to all of us.) as though it is dead, then perhaps you won’t go out of the way to act out in sin. Try applying this concept to road rage, or having your own way – this also covers selfishness and showing mercy to others as Christ showed mercy to you.
Paul has more on this dying to sin.
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. For if we have become united with Him in the likeness of His death, certainly we shall also be in the likeness of His resurrection, knowing this, that our old self was crucified with Him, in order that our body of sin might be done away with, so that we would no longer be slaves to sin; for he who has died is freed from sin. (Romans 6:3-7 NASB)
- “Or do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus have been baptized into His death?”
My statement was, We who are in Christ have died to sin. Did that happen because we got baptized? I don’t think so, besides, there are many who did not get baptized, and yet this idea of dying to sin applies to them as well. So then, it leans itself to a spiritual concept. Since many of us cannot seem to comprehend this from a spiritual point of view, then it has to be put it into words people can relate to, such as:
- Christ’s death on the cross.
- His baptism in the Jordan, and in death; and that takes us to His burial.
- Paul wrote in Galatians 2:20a. NASB “I have been crucified with Christ, and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me;”
- Having risen from the dead, Paul tells us in 1Corinthians 15:5-7, that Christ appeared to over 500 people. I point this out as it adds to the tangible evidence.
- And although this is a little less tangible for most, His ascension into the heavens.
Acts 1:11 is one of those places that speak of this.
“They also said, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into the sky? This Jesus, who has been taken up from you into heaven, will come in just the same way as you have watched Him go into heaven.”
Sometimes, visualizing a concept causes it to become more of a reality to you.
- “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.”
Paul is using the Greek word baptízō here. It is a word that carries the meanings of to saturate and to overwhelm, but you cannot escape the fact that the word also means to immerse, submerge, and baptize. Based on this information, it is safe to assume that Paul is associating water baptism with Christ’s burial. In that case, it should prompt you to think more clearly about what you are doing when you get baptized. There is an old saying that goes a bit like this, “I am deadly serious.”
The phrase is intended to shock your thinking, as there are beneficial things that can kill you, like tractors and the edged implements that attach to them. While baptism is not going to kill you, you are putting yourself in a substitutionary state to demonstrate that you are burying the past, and rising to a new life in Christ. This life, whether you get baptized in water, or not, can if you will let it, change everything about your life; in the Apostle Paul’s case and in the lives of all the Apostles but one, it was deadly serious.
- “ For if we have become united with Him in the likeness of His death, certainly we shall also be in the likeness of His resurrection,”
This isn’t just focused on death, Paul also focuses on Christ’s resurrection. Our coming up out of the water represents such a moment of time. But here again, you probably did not grasp that concept the day you had your baptismal orientation.
What happened that day that Jesus resurrected? The writer of the letter to the Hebrews goes into great detail how Christ Jesus:
- was restored to full Son-ship;
- made the heir of all things;
- now shines with the radiance of the Father;
- is the exact representation of the Father;
- upholds all things by the word of His power;
- as our high priest made purification of sins;
- has had all things put under his feet;
- and ever makes intercession for us.
All this was done “so that we would no longer be slaves to sin.”
Paul opened this letter to the church in Rome by introducing himself as a slave of Christ Jesus. Many years ago, the singer/entertainer Bob Dylan came out as a Christian and made an album. One of the songs went like this, you may serve the devil, or you may serve the Lord, but you are going to have to serve somebody. Just know that you don’t have to be a slave to sin; however, if you are, it was most likely a choice you made.
Now, since we died with Christ, we shall also live with Him.
As we ended our last study on Romans with this:
“knowing this, that our old self was crucified with Him, in order that our body of sin might be done away with, so that we would no longer be slaves to sin; (7) for he who has died is freed from sin.” (Romans 6:6-7 NASB)
My mind takes me to a time when I was about 12 years old. Some of the boys from church that I tried to hang out with, went down front to accept Jesus Christ as their savior, and so I joined them; however, I cannot remember a time when I did not know Him – thank you, Mom. So, let’s say that at my age currently, I have always known the Lord.
If that is the case, how did I have such a catastrophic moral failure at midlife?
Doesn’t Paul say, that he who has died is freed from sin?
He does, and so the unmistakable fact is, the prodding that we have to sin is ever-present with us. The easiest way to understand “sin” is that it is genetic, passed down from Adam, and we will NEVER, while we live in these mortal bodies, be free from the attraction of “sin.”
If Christ is in you, though the body is dead because of sin, yet the spirit is alive because of righteousness. But if the Spirit of 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 through His Spirit who dwells in you. (Romans 8:10-11 NASB)
And if we are giving this an honest look, then we have to admit that Paul also struggled with this embedded sin.
For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh; for the willing is present in me, but the doing of the good is not. For the good that I want, I do not do, but I practice the very evil that I do not want. (Romans 7:18-19 NASB)
Paul explains all this as we weave our way through Romans, but allow me to follow my train of thought.
Since I can’t escape the sin that is a part of me – short of death, then my relationship with Christ must give me another solution, and it does.
Pay attention to the phrase, “for he who has died is freed from sin.” Obviously, I did not die, Christ did, but through His human activity that took place, and because of His death and resurrection, He eliminated all spiritual penalties associated with that sin; and, as the sacrificial lamb/scapegoat, He paid for and canceled all – past, present, and future compensation for sin – things that we habitually associate with God and punishment.
Note: this action on the part of Christ does not get you off the hook with local, state, and federal laws, although there have been instances where it has.
The most significant impact Jesus’ death and resurrection has is when religious zealots want to try to put sin, and the guilt associated with that sin, back on you through manipulation. Hey, if you are going to a church that does that, GET OUT and find another church.
Moving on with Romans 6:8 – We shall also live with Him.
Romans 6:8-9 NASB Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with Him, (9) knowing that Christ, having been raised from the dead, is never to die again; death no longer is master over Him.
Symbolically, we died with Christ when we got baptized or believed with understanding. In using the terminology “now if,” Paul may be trying to assuage some doubts, that he has, with the relationship some, who claim to be in Christ have demonstrated. In my own extended family circle, we have one who did all the religious things; however, it did not stop him from cheating on his wife several times; and, based on his actions, I would say that his fruit dies on the vine far too frequently. The Apostle John said something similar.
The one who says, “I have come to know Him,” and does not keep His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him; (1 John 2:4 NASB)
Only a few paragraphs later, there is this cryptic passage.
Children, it is the last hour; and just as you heard that antichrist is coming, even now many antichrists have appeared; from this, we know that it is the last hour. They went out from us, but they were not really of us; for if they had been of us, they would have remained with us; but they went out so that it would be shown that they all are not of us. (1 John 2:18-19 NASB)
Obviously, there are those in our congregations that really are not of us. But here is the problem with that, as Jesus said, we city folk can’t tell a stalk of wheat from the weed Downy Brome. Try to pull out the weed that looks very similar to wheat, and we may pull a few good stalks of wheat in the process. The details of this parable are found in Matthew 13:24-30 and I will leave you to pursue that.
There is, however, a context to Paul’s statement that he makes in Romans 6:8-9, as he is referring to what he had previously stated when he said, “he who has died is freed from sin.” Spiritually, in God’s eyes and the heavenly record books, this is blatantly true; if I can accept that Christ died for me, and have faith in all that He has done for me. (That is really quite a mouth full.)
What is it that gives first Paul, and now I, the understanding that we are now free from sin? Romans 6:9
“Knowing that Christ, having been raised from the dead, is never to die again; death is no longer is master over Him.”
Jesus Christ is never going back on the cross. The price He paid was enough; not the kind of enough that barely gets you through, but the kind that is seen as over-achievement.
Pay attention to the words “death is no longer master over Him.” While it is true that Jesus has conquered death and it is no longer master over Him, for the time being, death, and all its ramifications, still exists, humans continue to sustain injury and cease to breath; and, people still have the option of choosing spiritual death over life, this essentially brings about their separation from God.
If death is no longer master over Him, then death no longer has control over those of us who have chosen to follow after Jesus Christ.
Paul repeatedly makes this point about how our relationship is in Christ.
Romans 8:38-39 NASB For I am convinced that neither death nor life, … will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
1 Corinthians 15:22 NASB (22) For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ, all will be made alive.
Ephesians 2:13 NASB But now in Christ Jesus, you who formerly were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ.
I am of the belief that this information should be retaught frequently because we forget who we are, and who we belong to. Remember, YOU are in Christ and dead to this world. As one who struggles with anxiety and depression, then I am talking to me as well.
Have you ever heard someone say, “Thanks, I needed that.” Well, I needed to hear this again, and so do you.