Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Bethany Bullet - June 24, 2014

This summer we are going to walk through a large portion of the book of Romans. We will start with Romans chapter 6.

Up to this point in the book Paul has been making his case for Christ. 

  • In Chapter one he laid out the path for the righteous, “For I am not ashamed of the Gospel of Christ” (1:16) and “The righteous shall live by faith.” (1:17b) 
  • In chapter two he expounded on God’s Law and his character, “For God shows no partiality.” (2:11) 
  • In chapter three he exposed the truth of humanity, “…for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” (3:23)
  • Abraham was the example used in chapter four to talk about Justification that comes by faith and the effect of the law, “For the law brings wrath…” (4:15) “His [Abraham’s] faith was counted to him as righteousness” (4:23). 
  • Chapter five then connects faith to Christ, “Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.  Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand…” (5:1-2a) 
  • Paul also goes on to describe the amazing abundance of grace, “…where sin increased, grace increased all the more.” (5:20)
  • As chapter six opens Paul poses a question, “What should we say then? Should we continue to sin so that God’s kindness will increase? (6:1)

It is an enticing question that goes back a bit that verse in chapter five that I mentioned a moment ago.  “…where sin increased, grace increased all the more.” (5:20)

Paul knows the mind of sinful humanity.  If God likes to forgive so much and I like to sin so much, then we have a great relationship here.  I’ll just keep on sinning and God will bring more grace to cover it.  I love this idea!

But Paul squashes that idea as he continues with verse 2, That’s unthinkable! As far as sin is concerned, we have died. So how can we still live under sin’s influence?Don’t you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? When we were baptized into his death, we were placed into the tomb with him. As Christ was brought back from death to life by the glorious power of the Father, so we, too, should live a new kind of life. If we’ve become united with him in a death like his, certainly we will also be united with him when we come back to life as he did. We know that the person we used to be was crucified with him to put an end to sin in our bodies. Because of this we are no longer slaves to sin. The person who has died has been freed from sin.” (6:2-7)

Paul tells us that being connected with Christ makes a difference.  Through baptism we were buried with him into death so that we “should live a new kind of life” (6:4b).  It is Christ’s death and resurrection that is the basis of the righteousness required by the Father and credited to us and makes us children of God.
But our connection to Jesus does even more.  This connection, forged in Baptism is enabled to lead a new life, freed from sin and in faithful obedience to God’s will and not in rebellion to his law.

Moving on to verse 8, If we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. We know that Christ, who was brought back to life, will never die again. Death no longer has any power over him. 10 When he died, he died once and for all to sin’s power. But now he lives, and he lives for God.” (6:8-10)

If someone has fallen into a deep sleep and is totally oblivious to what’s going on, we might say, “He’s dead to the world.”  To be dead to something means that it makes no impression on us; it has no control or influence over us.  That is the situation between Christ and sin.

Christ died for sin.  Sin is now paid for, and we have been justified.  With the defeat of sin, the wages of sin, which is death, has also been taken care of.  Death no longer has any hold on Christ. 

Don’t get hung up on the apparent conditional statement, “If we have died with Christ…”  The original language is clear here.  We could with confidence say, “Since we have died with Christ…”

This new life is what Paul gets into next.  On to verse 11, 11 So consider yourselves dead to sin’s power but living for God in the power Christ Jesus gives you. 12 Therefore, never let sin rule your physical body so that you obey its desires. 13 Never offer any part of your body to sin’s power. No part of your body should ever be used to do any ungodly thing. Instead, offer yourselves to God as people who have come back from death and are now alive. Offer all the parts of your body to God. Use them to do everything that God approves of.  14 Certainly, sin shouldn’t have power over you because you’re not controlled by God’s laws, but by God’s favor” (6:11-14)

Paul is leading up to our grateful response for everything that has been done for us in Christ.  What Christ has done and what he continues to do is what enables us respond and offer our bodies to God to be used for his purposes. 
We can count ourselves dead to sins power and alive in God through Jesus.  This is possible because Jesus died first and rose again and gives us the gift of eternal life. 

We are called to use all of what God has given us our hands, feet, eyes, ears, and all our members to bring Glory to God.  Here at Bethany you might say we called to serve passionately and share intentionally. 

Moving on to verse 15, 15 Then what is the implication? Should we sin because we are not controlled by God’s laws but by God’s favor? That’s unthinkable! 16 Don’t you know that if you offer to be someone’s slave, you must obey that master? Either your master is sin, or your master is obedience. Letting sin be your master leads to death. Letting obedience be your master leads to God’s approval. 17 You were slaves to sin. But I thank God that you have become wholeheartedly obedient to the teachings which you were given. 18 Freed from sin, you were made slaves who do what God approves of.” (6:15-18)

Paul comes back to where he started in chapter six with the fallacy that just because we live in grace, we can continue to sin.  The German Lutheran pastor Dietrich Bonheoffer once called this cheap grace.  In his book The Cost of Discipleship he wrote, “Cheap grace is the grace we bestow on ourselves. Cheap grace is the preaching of forgiveness without requiring repentance, baptism without church discipline, Communion without confession...Cheap grace is grace without discipleship, grace without the cross, grace without Jesus Christ, living and incarnate.”

It was the living Jesus who said, “He who is not with me is against me, and he who does not gather with me scatters.” (Matthew 12:30) Jesus also said that no one can serve two masters, “either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other.” (Matthew 6:4)

No one is without a master.  Paul reminds us that our master was sin which leads to death, but is now obedience which leads to life.

This is not done on our own.  If left to ourselves, we would stay on the side of sin, but it is the action of a loving God on our behalf which changes us, gives us a new master and a new plan.  This grace was not cheap, it cost Jesus his very life.  Now, we can be slaves to righteousness. 

Let’s move on and finish out the chapter, back to verse 19, 19 I’m speaking in a human way because of the weakness of your corrupt nature. Clearly, you once offered all the parts of your body as slaves to sexual perversion and disobedience. This led you to live disobedient lives. Now, in the same way, offer all the parts of your body as slaves that do what God approves of. This leads you to live holy lives. 20 When you were slaves to sin, you were free from doing what God approves of. 21 What did you gain by doing those things? You’re ashamed of what you used to do because it ended in death. 22 Now you have been freed from sin and have become God’s slaves. This results in a holy life and, finally, in everlasting life. 23 The payment for sin is death, but the gift that God freely gives is everlasting life found in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (6:19-23)

Why would anyone want to enter slavery?  Paul outlines the alternatives. On the one hand everyone has a master.  There can be no disinterested neutrality toward God.  Also, no one can serve two masters.  If I can be so bold and paraphrase Paul a bit here, “When you were slaves to sin, you were free from the control of righteousness. What benefit did you gain from those things that you are now ashamed of?  Those things result in death!  But being a slave to God results in a holy life here on earth and live eternal in heaven.” 

Someone once told me a timeless truth, “Sin takes us farther than we ever want to go, longer than we ever want to stay, and cost more than we ever want to pay.” 

Paul is blunt here at the end of the chapter with one of the more recognized versed in all of Scripture.  Death is something we sinners can earn all by ourselves.  It is the wages that we have coming to us.  But Jesus took these wages for us and exchanged our life for his.  Eternal life is a free gift of God and is only available in Christ Jesus.  It comes by faith and is an absolutely sure thing, because it is guaranteed by God’s promise. 

Luther said it this way, “It is just as if you owed a debt to your overlord and could not pay it.  There are two ways in which you could rid yourself of the debt; either he would take nothing from you and would tear up the account, or some good man would pay it for you and give you the means to satisfy the account.  It is in this latter way that Christ has made us free from the law.  Our freedom is, therefore, no carefree fleshly freedom which is not obligated to do anything, but a freedom that does many works of all kinds, and is free of the demands and obligations of the law.”  (AE 35:376)

Although many people consider freedom to be the ultimate human right, no one is truly spiritually free.  We were slaves to sin and bound to death.  Knowing this, Jesus came to serve us by giving His life on the cross and rising for us.  Freed from sin, we can now serve God.  Only when we are slaves to God will we have the freedom to be the people he created us to be.

Paul said it this way to the Galatians’ believers, “Christ has freed us so that we may enjoy the benefits of freedom. Therefore, be firm in this freedom, and don’t become slaves again.” (Galatians 5:1)
I’m guessing you will hear plenty about freedom as we approach Independence Day, but nothing is better than the freedom we have in Christ. 

-Pastor Seth Moorman


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