As we stand, may I lead us in prayer. Lord God our Father we pray that your word would be our guide, that your Holy Spirit would be our teacher and that your glory would be our supreme concern, for Jesus sake, Amen.
Thank you very much indeed for your welcome and for your hospitality. It was a great privilege being involved in the wedding yesterday, and thank you also for the invitation to stay on and to preach this morning as you continue in your series in the book of Romans. We are in Romans 6 verses 1 to 14.
Well, within many places in the world there are sea defences. So imagine a place like Holland where land has been over the decades/centuries reclaimed from the sea, and yet the sea is relentlessly battling away to try to claim that land back. And it goes on, this battle, day after day, year after year. And of course if there are any weak points in the sea defences, well the sea will eventually try to exploit it and if it does get in past those defences, the sea will then flood over and spoil and change the landscape. Well perhaps we can use that as a picture of what it is like once we have come to know the Lord Jesus Christ. That land, as it were, Christ has now claimed. And yet sin is relentlessly battling away trying to claim it back, and we are that area where that fight is going on. And if there are weak points in our defences, well sin can often gain inroads, and it might be that the defences can crumble over time as temptation keeps on coming or the pressure of our peer group keeps on coming. But sometimes there’s a weakness because of our own thinking. Sometimes we can think like Romans chapter 6 verse 1, where we say to ourselves, “Well, we might as well go on sinning because God will forgive! God is gracious so there’s no real difficulty”. And God does forgive, and God is gracious. But nevertheless when sin comes in, it does spoil and it changes the spiritual landscape in so many ways. And so perhaps, like me, you also face this daily battle, this daily struggle. And what Paul is doing in these verses is that he wants us so to live in a way so that our defences against sin will be strengthened so that we will delight to serve Christ. And I think I need that encouragement, and I am sure that many of us here today need exactly that encouragement so that we will resist sin in this coming week and so that we will delight to serve Christ. So this is especially a sermon for those of us who are battling away with sin and are tempted to take the easy way out and to think, “Well, it doesn’t matter because God will forgive”. This passage, I hope, will give us new strength and confidence to resist sin and live for Christ. And that’s a great theme isn’t it?
Well, the way that Paul tackles things is that in verse 2 he immediately says, “By no means”. We are not going to go down that route, we died to sin. How can we live in it any longer? We died to sin. Now it sounds on one level very simple, very straight forward. We died to sin. But as Jonathan has already mentioned, as he led us very helpfully in the prayer of confession, the problem is – we do sin! So how can these two things be true at the same time, we die to sin and yet we do sin? How can we figure this out? What is Paul getting at in his argument?
Well what we are going to do over these next few minutes is we are going to divide the passage up, and I hope that you will see that Paul is actually building an argument in these verses. We won’t get to the end of the argument until 12 to 14, but hopefully as we build the argument up we will win the battle in our mind that will then enable our lives to be changed as a result as he wants in verses 12 to 14. Lets go through this and you might want to jot a few things down as we go through, but our first point is, from verses 3 to 5:
1) At our conversion we were united with Christ.
At our conversion we were united with Christ. In verses 3 to 5 Paul uses the word baptism. Now baptism is a sign of cleansing. It is a sign of new life. It is indeed a sign of conversion. But it is also more than that. And the way that Paul uses it here it is also a sign of being united to Christ, of being joined with Christ. So look at verse 3. It says there, “Don’t you know that all of us who were baptised into Christ Jesus were baptised into his death?”. In some way, when Jesus died, we also died. More than that it says in verse 4, that we were therefore “buried with Him through baptism”. So we were united with Jesus in his death, in his burial, and then in verse 5, it repeats but is also goes on and says that if we have been “united with him like this in his death”, we will certainly also be united with him in his resurrection. So can you see Paul’s argument? We need to tease out what it means, but at this stage what happened to Christ, happens, or will happen to us. Christ died, was buried and was raised, and because we are united with him, in a certain sense, to tease out, we die, we were buried and we will be raised. Perhaps think of a tree and a small branch or a twig is grafted into it. And as a result of being joined together, what happens to that tree happens to the twig. So just imagine, going through the seasons. The tree experiences autumn and, shall we call it death, and what happens to the tree happens to the twig and the leaves fall off. It goes through winter, and we’ll call that burial, and what happens to the tree happens to the twig. And then we come to spring, and we’ll call that resurrection, new life. What happens to the tree as it starts to bud happens to the twig. So there is a union between the twig and the tree. And there is a union between believers in our Lord Jesus Christ and Christ.
Perhaps to think of it in this way as well, just to throw out another illustration. We have already heard about the cup final coming up next week end, and today is of course the last day of the premier football season, so we will use one or two football analogies. But just imagine that having not supported a club before, you join a particular football supporter’s club. Now you have an allegiance with that club. You are joined with them. And as a result of that you start talking in a different way about that club. And you can talk about incidents that happened even though they happened in the past, and say, for example, “Oh yes! That was the year when we were relegated”, even though it happened a long time ago. It’s “we” because you are joined with them. Yes, “that was the day when we were relegated”. “That was the week when we were buried by the press”. And, “that was the year when we were promoted”. There’s a joining together, can you see, even though it was something or things that happened in the past. And so it is that our union with Christ, it’s a union that has present relevance, but is linked in with events that happened on the cross, in the tomb and through the resurrection many years ago. So there we have, as it were, the engine that drives what Paul is going to say in the next few verses. We were in some way united, joined with Christ. Now what does that mean in practice? Well lets move on, and our second point is, verses 6 and 7:
2) Christ died, your old life has ended.
Christ died, which means your old life has ended, or as it says in verse 6,
“your old self”.
Your old self has ended. Now Christ died, we died, but in what sense have we died? Well, just imagine my life before conversion, dominated by sin, regarding sin as my old boss or my old manager. And so my old boss, sin, controlled my decisions, worked through my desires, saying “Well, you are working for me!”. You know, do this, think that, do the other. Sin was in charge. But then we read that Christ died. And as a result of that, certain things have now happened to my life. Let’s use an illustration. No illustration is perfect, but let’s run with a particular illustration and than see how it applies. Just imagine a footballer, playing for a particular club. Things were OK at the start, but now he is unhappy and he is unfulfilled. He is in grip of his manager and he doesn’t treat him particularly well. But he can’t just leave because he is bound by contract to play for that club, and it would be extremely expensive to be released from that contract. So he is languishing at this club doing what he is asked to do by this manager. And yet one day, an expensive payment is made. And on the day when that expensive payment is made to release him from that contract. His old contract can be torn up. The old contract, if you like, dies. It comes to an end so that that player is now released from the grip of his old boss, released from his old club in order to start a new chapter of his career somewhere else.
Now can you see what happens there? The two decisive things are that an expensive payment is made and the old contract can be torn up. Let’s now transfer that into what is happening in verses 6 & 7, because the expensive payment is when Christ died paying the ransom for us. And on the day when Christ died, and then when we came to know him, our old contract was torn up, which means that we have died to sin. We no longer need to serve our old boss. So two deaths come together. Christ died paying for us and our old contract is torn up, we died to sin. Can you see how those two things are linked together? And so we go back to verses 6 & 7, we know that our old self (that’s our old self living under sin’s regime) was crucified with him. Those two deaths come together so that the body of sin, so that sin who was in charge of our lives before, might be done away with or might be rendered powerless. Because the old manager has got no grip over the footballer now – can’t do it because he is now contracted to someone else. So the body of sin might be rendered powerless that we should no longer be slaves to sin. We don’t have to do what our old boss says, because anyone who has died has been released, freed from sin. So can you see. I hope that that illustration is helpful just to show the way in which things have now changed. Through Christ’s death our old contract with sin has been torn up.
So now we need to move on to the next few verses 8 to 11 because not just Christ’s death is in view but now, verses 8 to 11, Christ rose again, your new life has started:
3) Christ rose again, your new life has started.
Now the question could be, if Christ rose, in what sense have I risen? I don’t have a resurrection body like Christ yet. So in what sense is it true that if Christ has been raised so have I been? Well it says in this passage, verses 8 to 11, that Christ has indeed died, once for all. Death has no mastery over him any more, verse 9. The death he died, he died for sin once for all, but the life he lives he lives to God. So Christ has died and has now been raised. So what does that mean for us? Well Paul says that since we are united with Christ we also have been given a new life. Not a resurrection body yet. Notice in verse 5 and in verse 8 that the tense is future. If we died with Christ we believe that we will also live with him. That we will have a resurrection body. But already we have the first fruits of this resurrection, because we are told that we have been made alive to God, there in verse 4 and also in verse 11, “Count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus”. So Christ has risen. We will physically rise in a resurrection body at the end, but already we have been made alive to God. Using that illustration we ran with before, the footballer, his old contract has been torn up, he’s died as it were to that old manager. But he is now going to play for that person who paid that expensive payment to set him free. He is now playing for this new team. He’s under new management. There are new opportunities for him to use his skills and to start playing for this new boss. And that is exactly what is being said here in verse 11,
“In the same way count yourselves dead to sin”
– you don’t need to play for that old team any more – “but count yourselves as alive to God in Christ Jesus”. There is a new person to live for. Or if you like, the words in verse 11 “count yourselves” or “reckon yourselves”, are accounting words, financial words. So it is like saying that the old bank account has now been closed. And if it is closed, well there is no need, as it were, to put money in that account any more for a new one has been opened. Start putting into that new account. There’s no point in serving sin any more. But there is a great point in living for God in this new part of your life.
Now let’s move on to our fourth point. We have looked at our 1st point, at our conversion we were united with Christ. We have now seen point 2, Christ has died, your old life has ended. Point 3, Christ has been raised. Your new life has started. And now in verses 12-14, Paul is now drawing the threads together in a practical way:
4) “Do not let sin reign in your mortal body”
He does so both negatively and positively. Negatively, he says in verse 12 & 13,
“Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its evil desires. Do not offer the parts of your body to sin”.
So imagine our footballer – sorry to go on, but we will run with him for a little bit longer. He’s been transferred from his old club to the new club with this great transfer fee. And as these things happen, the first club that they are drawn against in the new season is to play against his old club. And so, the old manager says a few things - “Come on! You know you can help us a little bit.” - and what is he going to do? Is he going to use his skills and his abilities to play for his old team again? Is he going to be so persuaded as to score a few own-goals in favour of this old club? Well, I guess it’s possible. But the apostle Paul is saying, no! That is the very last thing that he ought to be doing. And the last thing that we should be doing is, as it were, to be offering the parts of our body to our old master, sin. The last thing we should be doing, and he uses a military analogy, is to permit the parts of our body to be enlisted in sin’s campaign against our souls. No, rather, what is to happen positively in this last section, especially verse 13, is rather, “offer yourselves to God, as those who have been brought from death to life” and “offer the parts of your body to him as instruments of righteousness”. No! Now that you are drawn and playing against the old club, no! no! no!, play for the new boss, the one who has brought you from death to life. Play for him, serve him! He is the one you are to please. He is the one you are to score goals for. You are to be dead to sin and alive to every opportunity to serve the living God who has done so much for you.
Perhaps just to conclude these few verses here with one final illustration. I came up here yesterday to conduct the wedding for Paul and now Clare Sowerby, and it was a great opportunity to do that. So let me just imagine – this is probably a great slander on Paul’s character – but just imagine him as a bachelor a few weeks ago, going around Tescos. And you see him in the middle of Tescos with his trolley, and it is absolutely piled high with pot noodles, doughnuts, and all the other sorts of things that go with his bachelor life style. But now he is married. He is joined with Clare and he’s come back from his honeymoon and you meet him a few weeks later in Tescos. And there he is with his trolley, and once again its piled high with pot noodles and doughnuts. And then you see him suddenly hit his head and he realises this is not how it should be. And suddenly he gets the list out that Clare has given him – and suddenly he realises that although he has acquired this taste in his bachelor years for pot noodles, they have all got to go back on the shelf. All those doughnuts – they have all got to go back on the shelf and he gets out this list and he starts to please his wife who he is now united with. There is a new way of living that is appropriate. It’s not that it is impossible to put those pot noodles in the trolley, but now it is no longer appropriate for him to do so. And so it is with us. The old ways of living, the selfish ways of living that we are so used to, that we acquired a taste for - or as we go round, as it were, with our trolley – suddenly we start looking, as it were, at Christ’s list for us. The list of the word of the New Testament. And we start seeing that those are no longer appropriate. They are to be put aside, back on the shelf and there are other things that we need to start putting on the trolley, new ways to please the one we have been united with, our Lord Jesus Christ.
I do hope that as we leave this service we will be practical. That we will be thinking, each one of us, of at least one thing in our life at present that needs to go back on the shelf. And there might be at least one particular thing or attitude or way of speaking or something that needs to come into the trolley about how we can please our Lord Jesus Christ. Yes, we are to be those who count ourselves dead to sin - that’s an old way of living that we don’t need to do any more – and alive to God to live for our Lord Jesus Christ. One of the saddest things you see occasionally on television, perhaps you have seen it yourself, is a whale that has been beached. A whale beached is going to die. But there is a sadder thing even than that. It’s when you see a whale that has been set free from the beach and the rescuers have got it back into open water, and yet with all the ocean open before it hurls itself back again on the beach. And how tragic it is that we can be like that whale. Delivered from the beach by our Lord Jesus Christ with the prospect of life, life in all its fullness before us with the ocean, and yet insisting that we hurl ourselves back on the beach. And Christ is full of grace, verse 14. Yes we are not under law but under grace. Yes he does forgive, and he will get us back into the ocean. But we want to be those not who go back to the beach time after time, but who head out into that ocean looking for those opportunities to present our bodies, our minds, our soul, every part of our being, that we will live and enjoy living and delight in the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ. Let’s have that vision set before us in these coming days. Amen.