As we made our way through Romans 5, we learned that we are united in Adam by birth and we are united in Christ by grace through faith. Throughout Romans 5, Paul showed us that death has reigned since the time of Adam and that sin increased with the giving of the law during the time of Moses. With the giving of the law people became much more aware of their sin like we become aware that we are speeding if we are driving down the highway and we see a sign that says, “Speed Limit 55,” while we look at our speedometer and see that we are driving 70. Sin increased with the giving of the law, but Paul wrote in Romans 5:20,
20 …But where sin increased, grace increased all the more… (Romans 5:20 NIV)
There is no doubt that some of Paul’s listeners were like some of the folks that hear Paul’s words today and their minds begin to whirl. Their thinking goes something like this: “If sin increases the grace of God, then why wouldn’t we want to sin as much as we can so that God’s grace will come by the truck load?” Paul wasn’t naïve. He knew how wayward the human heart can be, so he addressed this twisted logic in Romans 6. Take a look at Romans 6:1-11 with me.
1 What shall we say, then? Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase? 2 By no means! We died to sin; how can we live in it any longer? 3 Or don’t you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? 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. 5 If we have been united with him like this in his death, we will certainly also be united with him in his resurrection. 6 For we know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin– 7 because anyone who has died has been freed from sin. 8 Now if we died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. 9 For we know that since Christ was raised from the dead, he cannot die again; death no longer has mastery over him. 10 The death he died, he died to sin once for all; but the life he lives, he lives to God. 11 In the same way, count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus. (Romans 6:1-11 NIV)
Paul is addressing, what later became known as “antinomianism.” “Antinomianism” comes from two Greek words, “anti,” meaning “against,” and “nomos,” meaning “law.” Put the two words together and you get, “against the law.” The term was used by those who opposed the “anti law” crowd. Antinomians were, and are, those who believe that since we are saved by grace we don’t have to live a moral life. Those who try and twist their mind into believing this unbiblical teaching take isolated Scripture from God’s Word to support their stance. In Romans 3:20-24, Paul wrote,
20 Therefore no one will be declared righteous in his sight by observing the law; rather, through the law we become conscious of sin. 21 But now a righteousness from God, apart from law, has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify. 22 This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference, 23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. (Romans 3:20-24 NIV)
Paul makes it very clear for us that keeping the law won’t get you and me in good standing with God. He also makes it clear that we are justified, made right with God, “freely by God’s grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.” If keeping the commands of God won’t get us in the good graces of God then why try to keep God’s commands at all? If you “cut and paste” these verses next to Romans 5:20-21 then you can easily arrive at the conclusion that if we make every effort to sin as much as possible, instead of working to keep the law, then God’s grace will be poured out in abundance. How twisted our thinking can become!
As twisted as it may be, this type of thinking was present in Paul’s day and it is still with us in our day. Paul takes time to address his detractors in Romans 6.
1 What shall we say, then? Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase? 2 By no means! We died to sin; how can we live in it any longer? (Romans 6:1-2 NIV)
This verse is a great example of why it is so important to know the true meaning of words and the context in which they are being used. Let me show you what I am talking about. If you will take a look at verse 1 with me you will notice that Paul asks, “Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase?” He then answers the question by saying, “By no means! We died to sin; how can we live in it any longer?”
The Greek phrase that is translated, “By no means!” is a very strong phrase that has been translated, “May it never be!” or “God forbid!” What Paul is saying is that even the thought that we should go on sinning given what God has done for us in Christ is preposterous! Does Paul mean that once we come to know Jesus as Lord and Savior that we will never sin again? Throughout the ages there have been those who have held to this view.
I remember when I was a brand new Christian. I was working a summer job at Halliburton in Duncan, OK. I met a man that summer who was a Christian. We were talking one day and he told me that he had not sinned since he became a Christian. Wow! I was in awe! I was a new Christian and I was struggling to live out what I was reading in God’s Word. The teachings of Jesus were so foreign to me since I had lived however I wanted to live for the first 18 years of my life. When he told me that he had not sinned since he had accepted Christ, I wondered if I was truly a Christian. Since that time I have realized that the man who told me about his sinless life was delusional and deceived. I’ve also wondered how he was able to convince himself that he had ceased sinning since Jesus came to live in his heart?
I discovered later on that there is a popular view that relates to the Scripture we are studying this morning that allows some folks to arrive at the position of my friend in Duncan. James Montgomery Boice says,
It is an argument from analogy, and it usually goes something like this: What is it that most characterizes a dead body? It is that its senses cease to operate. It can no longer respond to stimuli. If you are walking along a street and see a dog lying on the curb and you are uncertain whether or not it is alive, all you have to do to find out is nudge it with your foot. If it immediately jumps up and runs away, it is alive. If it only lies there, it is dead. In the same way (so this argument goes), the one who has died to sin is unresponsive to it. Sin does not touch such a person. When temptation comes, the true believer neither feels nor responds to the temptation. (James Montgomery Boice, Romans: Volume 2. p. 651)
How do those who hold this view come up with their reasoning? Well, they take the word “died,” used in verse 2, very seriously. The word “died” used by Paul is a verb used in the “aorist” tense. This means that it refers to a single action that has taken place and has been completed in the past. Those who are in Christ died to sin when Christ died on the cross in our place. These folks take Paul’s words very seriously, but they fail to take the whole counsel of God into consideration when trying to understand Paul’s words. To understand what I am saying all you have to do is take a look at Romans 6:11-13.
11 In the same way, count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus. 12 Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its evil desires. 13 Do not offer the parts of your body to sin, as instruments of wickedness, but 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. (Romans 6:11-13 NIV)
If our struggle with sin was over, finished and done, then there would be no need for Paul to include this instruction. If we were now unresponsive to temptation and immune to sin then Paul wouldn’t need to tell his readers to not let sin reign in their mortal body so that they obey its evil desires. He wouldn’t need to say, “Do not offer the parts of your body to sin…”
Remember, it is important to understand what words mean. Let’s turn our attention to the phrase, “Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase?” I want to take a moment to try and understand what it means to “go on sinning.” The King James Version reads, “Shall we continue in sin…” The New Living Translation reads, “Well then, should we keep on sinning so that God can show us more and more of his wonderful grace?” “Keep on sinning,” “go on sinning,” “continue in sin” –all of these translations are trying to capture the meaning of the Greek word, “evpimeno” which means, “to stay at or with, of tarrying in a place, to persevere,” or “denoting the action persisted in.” Let me show you a couple of places where this same word appears so that we can get a better grip on its meaning. Turn with me to Acts 13:43 where the people urge Paul and Barnabas to “stay with it.”
43 When the congregation was dismissed, many of the Jews and devout converts to Judaism followed Paul and Barnabas, who talked with them and urged them to continue in the grace of God. (Acts 13:43 NIV)
The people wanted Paul to stay in the grace of God. They didn’t urge them to not only appeal to God’s grace when they were in trouble or when they had messed up—but to remain, stay steadfast, in the grace of God.
Now, let’s turn to 1 Corinthians 16:7-9 and we will read about Paul’s plans to visit the Church in Corinth. Paul writes,
7 I do not want to see you now and make only a passing visit; I hope to spend some time with you, if the Lord permits. 8 But I will stay on at Ephesus until Pentecost, 9 because a great door for effective work has opened to me, and there are many who oppose me. (1 Corinthians 16:7-9 NIV)
The word we are looking at appears twice in this passage: once in verse 7 where Paul says that he doesn’t want to make only a passing visit, but that he wants to spend some time with the folks in Corinth—he wants to stay with them for awhile. It appears again in verse 8 where Paul says that he will “stay on” in Ephesus until Pentecost. He is going to stay there, plant himself in Ephesus, for awhile. Can you see that there is willful, intentionality behind this word?
When Paul asks, “Shall we go on sinning…” he is speaking about willful, intentional sinning as the given, acceptable lifestyle of the believer. It was this kind of lifestyle that characterized those written about in Jude 1:4. Listen to this.
4 For certain men whose condemnation was written about long ago have secretly slipped in among you. They are godless men, who change the grace of our God into a license for immorality and deny Jesus Christ our only Sovereign and Lord. (Jude 1:4 NIV)
It is not too hard to figure out that those who are mentioned in Jude are not living as though they had “died to sin.” They were living like the antinomians, using God’s grace as a license to sin in every conceivable way.
Let me ask you a question: If, in Romans 6, Paul is not teaching us to sin all the more so that God’s grace may increase and he is not teaching us that we will never sin again once we become a follower of Jesus, then what is Paul teaching? How can we understand and live out his teaching in Romans 6? For us to understand this we have to go back to Romans 5 to help us lay the foundation for Romans 6.
If you will remember, in Romans 5, Paul taught about our identification in Adam and our identification in Jesus as the representatives of old humanity and new humanity. Paul showed us that just as we were united in Adam, so that his sin and death became our sin and death, so we, those who have trusted in Jesus, have been united with Him. In Jesus death for sin we died to sin and His victory becomes our victory. Paul wrote in Galatians 2:20.
20 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. (Galatians 2:20 NIV)
Paul says that he has been crucified with Christ. In Romans 6, Paul goes beyond Jesus’ crucifixion to Jesus’ burial. Paul writes in Romans 6:3,
3 Or don’t you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? 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. (Romans 6:3-4 NIV)
All of us who have been baptized have been baptized into Jesus’ death. That is a strange statement to the ears of most of us today. Why is this so? Well, I believe it is because we have lost touch with the power, the incredible power of our baptism. Let me make clear to you that being baptized has never saved one person. I know there are those who disagree with me, but we have learned in Romans that salvation is by grace through faith, not by baptism. Don’t let that statement lead you to believe that baptism is unimportant.
In Romans 6, Paul paints for us a powerful picture of our identification with Jesus. Jesus was crucified, He died, and He was buried in a borrowed tomb. When we are baptized, laid in a watery grave, we identify ourselves with what Jesus has already done on our behalf.
Every time I have the opportunity to meet with someone before their baptism I read to them this passage of Scripture from Romans 6. It is such an important passage of Scripture to help us understand that when we come to Jesus we attend our funeral. Our old way of thinking and living comes to an end. We willingly die to our old self and our life becomes “hidden in Him.” When we enter into the waters of baptism and we are buried beneath its waters we are laying our old self to rest in the watery grave of our baptism. Charles Haddon Spurgeon wrote,
My burial with Christ means not only that he died for me, but that I died in him, so that my death with him needs a burial with him. (Charles Haddon Spurgeon)
Paul is not teaching us that baptism saves us, that would be contradictory to everything he has taught us so far in his letter to the Romans, but he is using our baptism to illustrate for us our death and burial, the death and burial of our life of sin. He doesn’t stop at the grave though. Paul goes on in Romans 6:5-7 to say,
5 If we have been united with him like this in his death, we will certainly also be united with him in his resurrection. 6 For we know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin– 7 because anyone who has died has been freed from sin. (Romans 6:5-7 NIV)
When we come to Jesus and place our faith in what He has done for us, we renounce our old life, we die to our old way of living, and we are given a new life in Christ. Why are we crucified in Christ? Why are we buried with Him in His death? So that we will no longer be slaves to sin and so that we can become slaves to God, obedient to God.
Before coming to Jesus we had no other options—sin was our master and we obeyed our master to the nth degree. We didn’t have to plan to sin, it came naturally to us, each and every one of us. Now, some of you may disagree with me and argue that you live a pretty good life. “Pretty good” doesn’t cut it on God’s scale of “good” my friends. If our goal is to lift 1,000 lbs over our heads then some of us may do better than others. By that I mean that some of us might be able to hoist 100 lbs over our head or even 300 or 500 lbs, but the fact of the matter is that 1,000 lbs will crush every one of us. And so it is with sin. You may appear more righteous on the outside, in your public persona, than others, but deep in your heart and in your mind sin is crushing you and you know it.
When we come to Jesus our old self is crucified with Him so that the power of sin may be broken in your life and mine. How does this happen? That is a great, important question! Paul writes in Romans 6:8-11.
8 Now if we died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. 9 For we know that since Christ was raised from the dead, he cannot die again; death no longer has mastery over him. 10 The death he died, he died to sin once for all; but the life he lives, he lives to God. 11 In the same way, count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus. (Romans 6:8-11 NIV)
We are no longer living on our own, mastered by sin, but we are living with Him. Christ lives in us. Jesus told His followers that He would never leave them or forsake them. He told them that when He left this earth that He would send the Holy Spirit of God to empower them and remind them of all of the things that He had taught them. In Corinthians Paul reminded the brothers and sisters of their identity when he wrote,
19 Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; 20 you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your body. (1 Corinthians 6:19-20 NIV)
We now have resources that we never had before we came to know Jesus as our Lord and Savior. Now that we know all of this, how can we ever turn back to our old way of living? Why would we even think of turning back to our old way of living, our old way of thinking?
Dying and rising with Jesus to a victorious life is a theme that permeates the New Testament. In Colossians 3:1-3, the folks in Colosse were reminded by Paul of their new life in Jesus by saying,
1 Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. 2 Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. 3 For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. (Colossians 3:1-3 NIV)
Paul doesn’t tell the folks in Colosse to get rid of their “stinkin’ thinkin’” or to get an attitude adjustment in their own strength. Paul says, “Because this has happened, because you have been raised with Christ, live out your new life, set your mind on the things above and not on earthly things.” You see the precedent is set in place. The transformation has already occurred, now live in your new reality, live out your destiny, and your destiny is in Christ.
Where do I get this type of thinking from? Well, I’m so glad you asked. It comes from Romans 6:10-11 where Paul lets us know that Jesus died to sin, not His own sin, but for our sin. As a result of what has already taken place we are to “count ourselves dead to sin, but alive to God.” The key to understanding this command is found in the word, “count.” The Greek word that is translated “count” is the word, “logizomai” and it means, “to reckon, to take into account,” or “to consider.” Used here in Romans 6:11 it means to think about and to take into consideration. There are a couple of other places I want to show you where the word means the same thing. Take a look at Romans 8:18 with me.
18 I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us. (Romans 8:18 NIV)
Now, any of you who have encountered suffering know that when the pain, anxiety, and questions overwhelm your mind it can be paralyzing. Your vision, your thought processes, can become so narrow so that you can’t see beyond today and your present suffering. For you to have the mindset that Paul is expressing for us you must “consider,” it is imperative that you regain control of your out-of-control thoughts and focus them on the fact that God is still God and He is at work, even in our suffering. You have to consciously think God-driven thoughts so that we can echo Paul and say that “our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.” You may say, “That is so hard.” No, it is impossible. Unless, your life is hidden in Christ and He is empowering you to set your mind on the things above.
The second Scripture I want us to look at is found in Philippians 4:8. Take a look at it with me.
8 Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable– if anything is excellent or praiseworthy– think about such things. (Philippians 4:8 NIV)
“Think about such things.” There it is again. Set your mind. Focus your thoughts. Consider godliness, holiness, and the things of God rather than the base and banal things of this world. When you are deluged with the negative stuff, the sensual stuff, the self-centered sermons that come to you through every avenue each and every day, how do you think about what is true, noble, pure, and praiseworthy? Remember, your life is hidden in Christ, your old life has been crucified and buried with Him. You have been raised to a new life, a new way of thinking, a new way of talking, and a new way of doing life. Live the life that you have been given. Consider yourself dead to sin, even though sin is still alive and well in our world today.
There are some of us who are here this morning who are still living life on our own. Let me urge you today to turn to Christ, surrender your life to Him, and allow Him to bury your old life so that He might raise you to a new life. There are others of you who are here this morning and you have professed faith in Jesus, you may have even been baptized in water, and it is evident that you are attending worship—yet you are like the antinomians and your life no more reflects the holiness and righteousness of Jesus than those who don’t profess any faith. You are not living in your new reality and my question is, “Why?” Why would you turn back to your old way of living when Jesus has made a way for you to walk in newness of life? Do you honestly believe that you can say that you are Jesus’ follower and yet follow your old way of living? No way! It is impossible! If you are in Christ, if you have tasted of the sweetness of fellowship with the Savior, then there is no way that you would ever want to go back to your old way of living. Won’t you confess your wayward heart this morning, turn from your ways, and begin to walk in newness of life?
Britton Christian Church
922 NW 91st
OKC, OK. 73114
November 5, 2013