UNITED WITH CHRIST FOR NEW LIFE
Romans 6:1-23, Key verse 4
“We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life.”
From the last Sunday’s passage, Romans 5, we learned how God’s righteousness brings fruitful lives. They are peace, perseverance, character, and hope, that enable us to transcend from the sufferings of life to eternal hope through the love and grace of God in Christ; the ultimate reconciliation between God and men and between men and men. Then Paul contrasted between the power of sin through Adam and the supreme power of Jesus’ grace, repeatedly saying, “How much more?” so that Christians do not live under the power of condemnation and of death but the gift of God’s righteousness and grace, leading to eternal life.
Today’s passage is response to 5:20-21, especially to those who abuse God’s grace. So the author, Paul, teaches us the reason why God saved us from sin and death, and how we can live in eternal life. In other words, he teaches us what Jesus’ death and resurrection means in Christian life, triumphant life over the power of sin and death.
I. The Meaning of Jesus’ Death and Resurrection
Look at verse 1, “What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound?” Where sin increased, the grace increased all the more. While we are still sinners, Christ died for us. This means that the more we come to know our sins, the more God’s grace we realize. But the problem is that some people in their sinful nature abuse God’s grace, living in sin even more to increase God’s grace more.
What is Paul’s answer to them? In the rest of the chapter, he explains that there is the purpose of God’s abundant grace. Paul is using the analogy of Jesus’ death and resurrection in our new Christians life. As the author, Paul, analyzed, in the same way let’s meditate this; meaning of Jesus’ death and in his resurrection, and living a new life in Christ. First, unite with Christ in his death. Look at verses 2-3, “By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it? 3 Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? Paul said that we died to sin, so we cannot live in sin any longer. Then, he said that we are baptized into Christ means baptized in his death. What does it mean to be baptized into Christ? Baptism is the baptism of repentance. Acts 2:38 says, “Repent and be baptized everyone of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.” When we repented of our sins and accepted the forgiveness of Jesus Christ, our sins are washed away through the blood of Jesus Christ. This means we died to our sin we just repented of. In verse 5, it is expressed that we are united with Christ in his death, and verse 6 explains directly, saying, “We know that our old self was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin. 7 For one who has died has been set free from sin.” We were slaves of our sinful nature, and we did not know how to be free from our sins. But when we repented of our sins and accepted Jesus’ forgiveness, our old way of life was crucified with Christ. Now we are done with our sinful way of life and free from the old bad habits, which enslaved us before. We have power to choose not to live according to old desire. We have been free from old sinful way of life.
In fact, Apostle Paul was challenging Christians in Rome to leave their old way of life, reminding them that their sins are crucified with Christ and they should die to their sins. Just as death is prerequisite of resurrection, leaving old way of life is beginning of living a new life with the power Jesus’ resurrection.
Here are examples from both New and Old Testament. When Jesus called his disciples, they also had to leave their old lives to follow Jesus. When Jesus called Levi, Matthew’s formal name, to follow him, he left his lucrative job, tax collector, who was considered as a traitor of the Jews and which was the source of his selfish and sinful way of life with prostitutes. Can you even imagine that Levi was trying to follow Jesus and keeping his old way of life? Could Jesus call him to be one of the 12 Apostles and would the gospel of Matthew exist?
In the Old Testament, Abram was the exemplary man of faith, the Apostle Paul write about all about him in the book of Romans. But how did he start his life of faith? In Genesis 12:1, the Lord had said to Abram, “Leave your country, your people and your father’s household and go to the land I will show you.” According to Joshua 24:2, Abram’s father, Terah, was an idol worshiper. At the ancient tribal time period, leaving one’s father’s household and people mean you are leaving natural security and putting yourself in danger. But what was Abram’s response? Abraham left as the Lord had told him, no questions asked, in order to start a new life with God. We do not know how much Abram struggled to obey God’s calling to leave his country, his people and his father’s household, but Hebrews 11:8 enlighten us, saying, “By faith Abraham, when called to go to a place he would later receive as his inheritance, obeyed and went, even though he did not know where he was going.”
Now the Apostle Paul challenging each one of us to leave our old sinful way of life and we should no longer slaves to sin. It does not mean that we should leave your current job or your father’s house or even a country unless God really called you to do so, but it means that we should repent and leave the old way of life which leads us to sin and thus disable us to follow Jesus or do what we should have done for Christ and for his church. This should be done not only once but continually as we live in Christ. This is being united with Christ in his death, walking continually by faith and experiencing the power of Jesus’ resurrection.
Secondly, unite with Jesus in his resurrection. Let’s look at verse 4 in ESV, “We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.” In this verse, Paul past tense, saying that these things were done. Just as Jesus died and rose again from the dead, revealing the glory of God, our sinful natures were buried with Christ in his death, so that we may walk in the new way of life, not living in death but in Jesus’ resurrection. From verse 5, being united with Christ in his death is conditional before being united with Christ in his resurrection. In other word, unless we bury our old sinful way of life, we will not experience the power of Jesus’ resurrection in life. In order to live a new life in Christ, we must die to our sinful nature. In Gal 2:20, Paul confessed, “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.”
Look at verses 8-9 in ESV, “Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. 9 We know that Christ, being raised from the dead, will never die again; death no longer has dominion over him. 10 For the death he died he died to sin, once for all, but the life he lives he lives to God.” Verse 8 is also conditional, starting with present tense and finish with future tense, explaining our new life with Jesus’ resurrection. If our sinful nature has died with Christ, we will live with Christ. Just as Jesus died once for all sins but rose from the dead and cannot die again, sin and death cannot rule over us again. Now we have the power of Jesus’ resurrection to overcome the sinful nature, and the power of death no longer affect our hearts and lives. Just as Jesus lives life to God after his resurrection, we too live our lives devoted to God; that is walking in the new way of life.
Then, Paul explains how we should live in the power of Jesus’ resurrection, the new way of life devoted to God. Look at verse 11-14. In fact, there is a struggle to choose between an offering of righteousness and of unrighteousness. Before we did not have power to choose to do what is right and were instrument of wickedness, but now we have the power of Jesus to choose, so that sin may not reign over our hearts and lives like before we came to believe in Jesus. Therefore, Paul is encouraging Christians in Rome to offer every part of their body as an instrument of righteousness instead of wickedness. When people are under the law, sin was their master they were living according to guilt and condemnation. But they were set free from sin and death under grace, which enabled them to live in a new way of life in Christ.
Practically speaking, we may ask, “What are we using our time and body for?” Before receiving Christ as your savior, you did not know how to be an instrument of God but live as slave of sinful nature. Now you know and there are only two choices. Are you offering your body and time as an instrument of Christ that God can use you to save lives? Or are you offering yourself as an instrument of sinful desires, being a slave of sin and death? Even if we are saved by faith in Jesus Christ, we will be a slave of sin if we offer any part of our body as an instrument of sin. Unless we choose to offer our body as an instrument of righteousness, we are in danger of choosing another. Here is an example. We know King David and God called him a man of God’s own heart. Though he was chosen and had lived a life of faith during the time of trials, he gave his eyes to sin. Instead of repenting, he dwelt in sin. Then, he became a slave of sin, and sin grew in him, committed adultery with Bathsheba and killed her husband, who was one of the most loyal generals in his army. Yet, when God sent Nathan to help him to repent of his sins, he repented of his sins and became free from guilt and shame though he suffered the consequences of his sins. It does not mean that we should study the Bible and preach the gospel 24/7. It means; however, we present ourselves to God, being ready to obey when God calls us to act. The action stems from the attitude of one’s heart. What is the attitude of your heart? What is in your heart?
II. Fruits of Obedient Life
Look at verses 15-16, “What then? Are we to sin because we are not under law but under grace? By no means! 16 Do you not know that if you present yourselves to anyone as obedient slaves,[c] you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin, which leads to death, or of obedience, which leads to righteousness?” Paul is restating the same question as in verse 1 but going in depth of two choices and its consequences. The results of two lives are very different. We are a slave of the one whom you obey. If we obey to sin, it will lead to death. If we obey God, it will lead us to righteousness, which means building the right relationship with God and with others. Paul emphasized the obedience to the gospel and explained further in verse 17.
Look at verses 17-18, “But thanks be to God, that you who were once slaves of sin have become obedient from the heart to the standard of teaching to which you were committed, 18 and, having been set free from sin, have become slaves of righteousness.”
Paul gave thanks to God, reminding them how they have been from their sin. It was because they have become obedient to the gospel of Jesus. He emphasized obedient heart so much so that he called them slaves of righteousness. A slave has no choice but obey his or her master. He used the word, “slave” 10 times in verses 15-23, emphasizing that we really do not have a choice but to obey either sin or God and the seriousness of two choices.
Look at verses 19 in ESV, “I am speaking in human terms, because of your natural limitations. For just as you once presented your members as slaves to impurity and to lawlessness leading to more lawlessness, so now present your members as slaves to righteousness leading to sanctification.” In this, Paul tried to explain in the way they can understand better, using human way. In this generation, committing sin seems a small matter. I was stunted that one young woman proudly announced that she sold her virginity to make money When we live a life of sin, we become more sinful. When we live lawless life, we become more lawless. When we offer our body to impurity and wickedness, we become more wicked.
Moreover, verse 20 says that when we commit sin, we cannot obey the desires of God because we become slaves of sin. Sin grows and bears fruit; the final fruit is death. This pattern showed in Genesis after Adam’s disobedience, sin grew in Cain who killed his brother due to jealousy and one of his descendants even boasted his violence, killing many. The death is spiritual death. In verse 21, Paul is reminding the consequences of their formal sinful way of life, saying, “But what fruit were you getting at that time from the things of which you are now ashamed? For the end of those things is death.” The results of sinful life is slavery of shame, of guilt and of death. What a horrible life? Paul is saying that living a life of sin we are freed from is like “We continue to follow the poisonous snake which bite us to die after being healed.”
Therefore, Paul encourages Christians in Rome to offer parts of their body to God as instrument of righteousness which will lead them to sanctification, growing in the holiness of Christ. Yes, it is not easy to offer ourselves as instruments of righteousness. We may have to struggle just as Abraham did, leaving our own country, our people and our father’s household. We may have to leave habits that we are used and things that we loved to, in order to offer ourselves to God as an instrument of God, wherever we go. We may have to not conform the pattern of this world but follow the word of God. Sometimes, we may have to pray just as Jesus prayed at the Garden of Gethsemane in order to deny our natural desire in order to obey God’s desire.
Why do we have to do all these struggles and become slaves to God? There are sweet fruits of such life? Look at verse 22, “But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God, the fruit you get leads to sanctification and its end, eternal life. 23 For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” The fruits are sanctification and eternal life. Just as sin made us more sinful. Freedom from sin in Christ leads us to more freedom from our sins, which is called sanctification.
In John 8:31-32, Jesus said to the Jews who believed him, “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth and the truth will set you free.” Remember that Jesus did say this only to the believers, not unbelievers. Among the believers there are two kinds; real disciples and not real. We can become real disciples of Jesus, if we hold onto Jesus’ teaching. One person asked that there are so many words of Jesus to obey, which one? In that case, the greatest commandment can be the starting point; love God and love his neighbor. Yet, there is always one convicting word of Jesus, opposite to our sinful nature. As you hold on to it, you will know the truth. The truth is that you are a sinner and Christ is the only Savior. Then the truth will set you from the sin you have struggled with. In this way, we free one slave at a time through one word of God. May God grant each of us one word of God and strength to hold onto it, experiencing freedom and the power of the Holy Spirit in renewing your heart and mind in Christ. Amen!
Eternal life starts from the time we believe in Jesus Christ because we have cross over from death to life. Yet when we must offer ourselves to God as instrument of righteousness, being slaves to God, we reap the benefit of spiritual life, grow in holiness of God and enjoy the gift of God that is eternal life at present. But I have witnessed that there are many people who have not opened the gift box God has given us freely through Christ to use while on earth.
Through today’s passage, we learned that we are united with Jesus’ death and resurrection, that is leaving the old sinful way of life and living a new life with the power of Jesus’ resurrection. Living a new life is being a slave to God though there is a struggle between two choices between offering as an instrument of wickedness and of righteousness. It is the struggle to hold onto the word of God. The consequences of our choice are like night and day; slaves of sin vs. freedom from sin, wickedness vs. sanctification, eternal death vs. eternal life.