August 5, 2018
My parents were sometimes concerned about the kids I hung out with. They pointed out that the people I identified myself with would have an influence on my character and behavior. And of course, there is much truth to that. In fact, in 1Cor.15:33, Paul writes, “Do not be deceived: ‘Bad company ruins good morals.” Or as the NIV puts it, “Bad company corrupts good character.” But the opposite is also true. Good company promotes good character. If I identify myself with people of good character it will encourage good character in me.
In our relationship with Christ we often point out that Christ is our life. Christ is dwelling in us. But in Rm.6 Paul speaks about the fact that by faith we are identified with Christ in some very important ways. In fact, Paul mentions that baptism shows in what ways we are identified with Jesus. With this in mind, as we look at the fine print of life with Christ, it is important to understand that our identification with Christ must extend to everyday living.
I. OUR IDENTIFICATION WITH CHRIST IS EXPRESSED IN BAPTISM. 6:1-11
Now I’m about to go a little doctrinal on you so hold onto your seats! In Rm.5:20-21 Paul writes, “Now the law came in to increase the trespass, but where sin increased, grace abounded all the more, so that, as sin reigned in death, grace also might reign through righteousness leading to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.” Last week I mentioned that law brings the knowledge of sin because it defines transgression. But in the mercy of God he extends his grace in Christ to cover our sins. I suppose it is possible that one could think, “O okay, if grace abounds because of sin, then it doesn’t really matter if I sin because the more I sin, the more grace abounds.” That is not at all what Paul is implying. And so he addresses this idea in Rm.6.
And interestingly enough he uses baptism to make his point. In my study I was reading Dr. Doug Moo’s commentary on Romans. I had Dr. Moo for a prof in seminary. He now teaches at Wheaton. Dr. Moo points out that here, “Baptism stands for our whole conversion experience.” A little later he writes, “Faith, repentance, water baptism, and the gift of the Holy Spirit are the four key elements of this ‘coming to Christ’ experience.” Now let me just explain that Dr. Moo does not see baptism as a sacrament. It is not a means to salvation. We are not saved by baptism. But Moo is known for being a careful exegete. His goal is to be faithful to the text. He points out that up to Rm.6 Paul has been talking about faith. But in Rm.6 Paul brings baptism into the discussion. Dr. Moo has concluded that in referring to baptism Paul is referring to the whole conversion process. Moo writes, “[Baptism] is the means through which we were identified with [Christ].” “It set the seal on one’s conversion.” Baptism is considered to be part of the faith process.
When we think about the gospel, we focus on Jesus’ death, burial, and resurrection. Here Paul tells us that in baptism we are identified with Jesus in each of these ways. In v.3 Paul says that in baptism we were baptized into his death. In v.4 we were buried and raised with Christ. That is what we see in baptism. We go under the water showing our death and burial with Christ and then we come up out of the water showing our resurrection life with Christ.
Look at v.5. “For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his.” This is important. Let’s think about it. The U.S. House of Representatives is made up of men and women who are elected by each state to represent the people of that state. In Illinois we have 18 representatives, 7 republicans and 11 democrats. Supposedly they are serving in our behalf. But in many ways we have little to do with those representatives. Everything they do is done far away from us and there is no personal relationship between what they do and what we do in our lives.
However with Jesus Christ it is different. He is also our representative. He died and rose again in our place. However, His life, death, burial, resurrection is such that we can actually enter into his reality. Through the Holy Spirit, through conversion, including baptism, we are actually united with Jesus in his death and resurrection. We are participants in his death and resurrection. In v.6-7 Paul elaborates on our death with Christ and in v.8-10 he elaborates on our being raised with Christ.
What does it mean for us to be crucified with Christ? Well in v.6 Paul says that in dying with Christ our old creation life that flowed out from Adam’s disobedience in Genesis, and which has caused our bodies to be dominated by sin, has been brought to nothing or rendered powerless to the point that we are no longer slaves of sin. Note in v.10 Paul mentions the death Christ died to sin. Well Jesus didn’t sin. Dr. Moo points out that in becoming man, identifying with human beings, Jesus came under the power of sin. He was tempted. He experienced the violence and rejection that sin promotes in this world, and so when he died for our sins he died to the power of sin. In dying to the power of sin he was set free from sin’s power. Back in v.7 P says, “For one who has died has been set free from sin.” If we died with Christ then we also are set free from the power of sin through Christ.
Likewise in v.8, Paul writes, “Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him.” And this is eternal living because having risen from the dead, death no longer has dominion over him. Jesus defeated death. And if we are identified with Christ in his resurrection, then death no longer has dominion over us who are in Christ.
Now I would not profess to fully understand all that Paul writes. But I think I understand enough to recognize that life with Christ is much more than the forgiveness and securing my place in heaven. Life with Christ is exactly that. It is my life with and in Jesus. Or, it is his life with and in me. Let me say it this way. In some ways Christ’s life in me and my life in him should be imperceptible because his life is my life. He is not me and I am not him, but we share his life. We have been baptized into his death, burial, and resurrection.
II. OUR IDENTIFICATION WITH CHRIST IS EXPRESSED IN RIGHTEOUS LIVING. 6:12-14
Now we can read all this and agree with it, but in v.11 Paul writes, “So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus.” The knowledge that through Christ we are dead to sin and alive to God must be embraced as our new reality and acted upon if we are going to actually live a righteous life. We must step into this reality.
Have you ever had woken up in the middle of a nightmare, but because the nightmare was so real it took you a moment to realize that you were awake and back to reality? Well, all of us know what it is to be under the nightmare of sin’s domination. But in coming to Christ we are rescued from slavery to sin. We are awakened to life with Christ. The nightmare of sin’s domination is ended. Paul says, ‘Regularly remind yourselves that you are actually dead to sin and alive to God in Christ.
But how do we live into these truths? There used to be an expression, “Let go and let God.” That expression sort of gives the idea that once we come to Christ we can now sit back and let the new life of Jesus just sort of happen in us. No! The sinful habits and desires that have become routine for our bodies are still very powerful. Letting go and letting God will not accomplish much in the way of righteous living. Paul says in v.12 that we must renounce and turn away from sinful actions. But it’s not just that we stop our sinful activities; we must also engage our bodies in righteous, God honoring activities.
Now let’s be candid. The truth about righteous living is that it is a process that we will be working on for our entire lives. The fact that in Christ we have died to sin and are alive to God gives us great hope that we can make good progress. But sinful habits of thought and deed are deep in us. I say this not to discourage us, but to encourage us. Sinful habits do not die quickly. In fact, a Christian may make progress in resisting a stubborn sin only to find that in a time of discouragement that sin comes roaring back with a vengeance. So don’t be surprised at the power of sinful habits and thoughts. But don’t encourage them either!
How do we stop letting sin reign in our bodies? Well, let me begin with the word, “confession.” And I’m not just thinking about confessing our sins to God. I’m thinking about the importance of confessing our sins to one or more believers who can help us be accountable. No one can keep us from sinning if we intend to sin. But other believers can help us. However confessing our sin is just a beginning. Is there something that regularly causes you to stumble? You may have to get rid of that thing. Or you may have to change some things in your lifestyle. In Rm.13:14 Paul writes, “But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires.” Often when we sin we already have a plan to facilitate that sin. We know how to make provision for our sin. Turning away from sin will often call for drastic measures. Privacy is often the seed bed for sin.
On the positive side, in v.13 Paul tells us to, “present ourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life, and your members to God as instruments for righteousness.” Last week we discussed the importance of presenting our bodies as living sacrifices to the Lord. Here Paul goes a bit further, suggesting that we engage our bodies in behaviors that will promote righteousness. We all recognize the importance of Bible reading and prayer. But in addition to Bible reading and prayer, we can add worship and acts of service and mercy the disciplines of silence, solitude, giving, etc. And we can fill our minds with all that Jesus taught and did so that we can do all that he commanded.
What we must not do is give up in discouragement and defeat. It will help us to keep in mind that our life in Christ is on the basis of grace. We are forgiven and live under a new Master, Jesus Christ, who is our life.
What better conclusion to this message than to gather to the Lord’s Table? The Lord’s Table is for those who through faith and baptism have identified with the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. He died to sin and in him we die to sin. Maybe this morning you don’t feel dead to sin. Maybe you find yourself struggling with sin. My encouragement to you is to confess your sin and then take some decisive steps to turn away from that sin. But as you confess your sin, come to the Table. Draw near to Jesus with a grateful heart. Amen