MESSAGE FOR DECEMBER 13, 1998 FROM ROMANS 6:1-11
This week, we continue our study of Romans chapter six. In chapter five, Paul has asserted the triumph of grace over sin. He reminds us that Adam brought sin into the world which created this worldly dominion or realm where sin mercilessly controls people. Christ, on the other hand has inaugurated a dominion or realm of grace on earth through his life, death and resurrection. And the power of sin can in no way overcome the power of grace. No matter how powerful sin is, grace will always overcome. Sin comes from Satan, grace comes from God...do the math! Grace triumphs over sin. As Paul begins chapter six, he simply moves from the triumph of grace in forgiving our sin to the triumph of grace in breaking the power of our sin. Not only does Christ’s work of grace on the cross pay the penalty of sin, that same grace breaks the controlling power of sin in our lives.
Last week, we said the way in which that controlling power of sin is broken in our lives is governed by Christ’s victory over the power of sin. That is Paul’s thrust in Romans 6:1-11. Who is Christ in relationship to sin? The answer is: Christ died to sin’s power on the cross. We said that means this; having successfully battled with sin in life and taking everything sin could dish out on the cross, Christ never succumbed to its reign. It went after him tooth and nail and he never bowed to its controlling power. When he died on the cross, he defeated sin. For 33 years he placed himself under this worldly realm or dominion of sin where the power of sin ruthlessly rules, but he never buckled under its power. When he died, he was transferred out of this realm. He once and for all separated himself from its power, he was released from the dominion of sin. That is what Paul means when he says Christ “died to sin.” Having decisively defeated it, he was permanently released from the realm of its controlling power. His resurrection provided the proof of his defeat of sin because when sin over powers and defeats someone, death, (which is sin’s 900 pound enforcer) steps in and permanently hold its victim down. Death couldn’t hold Christ down---because sin’s power had been broken. Christ will never again have to submit to its power. Paul says, “He died to sin, once for all...”
The ground of Paul’s argument is that our relationship to sin is governed by Christ’s relationship to sin because, as he repeatedly argues, we have been united with Christ. In the first 11 verses of chapter six, Paul refers nine times to the fact that true believers are one with Christ. His whole point in this section is; Christ died to the power sin--we are united with Christ, therefore, we died to the power of sin. Christ will no longer have to submit to sin’s controlling power and because we are one with Christ, we will no longer have to submit to sin’s controlling power. Because we are united with Christ, we share with Jesus in his triumph of grace over sin. The grace of God in Christ has not only freed us from the penalty of sin, but it has also freed us from it controlling power.
As we said last week, this still leaves many questions unanswered. Questions like, “If I’m free from sin’s enslaving power, how do I access this triumph of grace? Because there are some sins which sure do control me. I’ve battled with them for years and see little or no progress.” Another question is, “When a person is free from sin’s controlling power, does that mean they never sin again?” The short answer to that one is, “NO!” Another major question is, “If I have been free from sin’s controlling power, why does Paul indicate there is still a fight for me to fight against sin when he says in verse 11, “...do not let sin reign in your mortal bodies...” We will turn to those and other pertinent questions as we work through this text, but the question we will work through this morning is this: “Is being a Christian ONLY being free from sin’s controlling power? Is there anything more than simply being free from sin’s domination in my life? If the grace of God has liberated me from sin’s controlling power in Christ, what does that freedom allow me to do other than to simply be free?” For some of you who have been bound by sin’s power so long, it might seem that if just that were done, that would be enough. What more would I need, if I just wasn’t chained by this lust or deceit or greed or lukewarmness?
In his argument of the triumph of grace over sin, Paul doesn’t stop with us simply being freed from sin’s controlling power. Grace’s victory and our union with Christ gives us far more than freedom from the tyranny of sin. Being free from the controlling power of sin is simply the first step in the life of grace. The church is so defeated and compromised today, she often tends to view freedom from sin’s control as the end, when in fact it’s just the beginning. If, in your life, your goal is simply to be free from sin’s power, you are aiming far too low and you are settling for far less than what Christ purchased for you at Calvary.
The triumph of grace over sin gives true believers far more than that. We see this in verse four. “Therefore we have been buried with Him through baptism into death, in order that as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life.” Paul reiterates the point in verse 11, once again paralleling Christ’s experience of grace with ours. He says, “He [Christ] lives to God. Even so [you] consider yourselves to be dead to sin [free from sin’s controlling power] but alive to God in Christ Jesus.” The triumph of grace through Christ gives us much more than simply victory over sin’s power. It not only makes us dead to sin--separated from its dominion, it also makes us alive to God. That is, joined to HIS realm and His realm is characterized not only by the absence of bondage but by...LIFE--newness of life--life in Christ. I’m not just free—out from under sin’s tyranny, I’M ALIVE!! There is much more to this life than just freedom from sin’s oppressive rule in my life.
What is this life which is every believer’s birthright by virtue of Christ’s triumph of grace? Another way of asking the question would be, “What does this live within the dominion or realm of grace look like?” Romans six gives some of the specifics of what this life is like, but in John chapter ten Christ himself makes the definitive, broad, over arching pronouncement of what characterizes this life and what separates it from the existence lived out by those under the dominion of sin. He says it this way in John 10:10. “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life; and have it to the full.” Do you hear the distinction Christ makes between these two dominions of existence? The dominion where sin and death control is governed by the thief, Satan and it is marked by stealing, killing and destruction.
People under this tyrannical realm of sin are dominated by sin and they are helpless victims under their ruler Satan who gradually watches their hope shrivel up as they are hung up to dry in a world which steals the truth from them, kills their bodies and destroys their souls. These people may live in mansions in Bel Air, they may even be religious, but they are pathetic, sucking in the dust of this world for nourishment and starving for a life that is not found in this realm. They look everywhere for it, digging dry well after dry well, but it evades them. They are forced to feed on the wood, hay and stubble which is the only thing their master gives them. They know only sin, death and the grave and that only begins here. The consummation of this reign of sin and death is found when their heart stops and they are brought to a realm TOTALLY bereft of God’s touch—irreversibly and forever alone, tormented and without a hope.
But Christ says there is another realm--a realm over which HE is Lord. A realm characterized by life and not only life, but full, abundant life. Jesus said, “I have come that they may have life and they might have it abundantly." That phrase “abundant life” literally means “life with life left over” Its the same word used of the 12 baskets of bread left over after the feeding of the five thousand. There is an extravagant quality to this life--not materially, this life is spiritual. Life in this realm is a life running over with abundance. There is so much life you can give it away and still have an abundance left over—more life than you would ever need. Eugene Peterson translates this text, “. I came so they can have real and eternal life, more and better life than they ever dreamed of.”
This is the kind of life which characterizes this dominion of grace Jesus bought for us on the cross, an abundant, “life-left-over” life. Paul speaks of this kind of life in verse four and I’m reading out of the New American Standard Bible because their translation is more literal. Paul says, “Therefore we have been buried with Him through baptism into death, in order that as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life.” This life provided within the realm of grace is a new kind of life. This teaching of the newness of the life in Christ permeates the New Testament. The most familiar reference is 2 Corinthians 5:17, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!” Do you hear the connection between the newness and being united with Christ? This new life is only ours if we are joined with Christ. We are not remodeled creatures, we are new creatures--that which is old and of the realm of sin and death is gone--passed away--the new has come.
At the center of this newness is the new Covenant. We relate to God within this New Covenant. Second Corinthians 3:6 says, “He has made us competent ministers of a NEW covenant--not of the letter, but of the Spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives LIFE.” The life of this new covenant which makes us new creatures is the very life of Jesus in us by the Holy Spirit. Paul says the character of this ministry is glorious in verse eight. A glorious ministry is one that reveals the glory of God. It looks like God. The picture the New Testament paints of this life is an abundant life--a more than we need life, life to give away to others as we live out this glorious, God revealing ministry.
Another quality of this new life is there is continual renewal of this life. Its not as if when we become Christians, God plants this deposit of life in us and we, for the rest of our lives subsist on that initial deposit of life--like some stagnating pool of water. NO! Paul says in 2 Corinthians 4:16, “...we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day day.” Paul says, my body--this shell I live in--my physical life is falling apart, I have to wait for that to be renewed at the resurrection. But the place where my true life, my spiritual life exists--my life in Christ --that is constantly being renewed. Paul says, there is a fountain of life inside of me and God is constantly giving me new water. The more I give out, the more he puts in. He renews my supply every day. I have new life being pumped into me every day and out of my inner most being flows rivers of living water. This is a renewable supply of life and God’s store house is infinite because the source of life is nothing less than Christ Jesus who is the “way, the truth and the LIFE.”
Paul gives another quality of this life later on in chapter six. In verse 10, he says of Jesus, “The death he died, he died to sin once for all; but the life he lives, he lives to God. In the same way, count yourselves dead to sin but ALIVE to God in Christ Jesus.” This life which is Christ’s and which by the Holy Spirit we have is a GOD CENTERED LIFE. “He lives his life to God.” And we are to count ourselves ALIVE TO GOD.” Our lives are not wrapped up with our agenda’s plans and priorities, but they are to centered around God, his agenda, his plan, his priority. That is the quality of the life of Christ, he lives to God--it is God centered. It is a life lived for God, not self. We see this in verse 22 where Paul says, “But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves to God, the benefit you reap leads to holiness, and the result is eternal life.” There are two indications of this God-centered life in this text. First, our lives are enslaved to God. This is a willing enslavement. We delight to be enslaved by God. There is no such thing as personal autonomy in this world. Everyone is enslaved to someone. Its not a matter of whether I will be a slave or free. All humans are slaves—God created us to be servants. The question is who is my master? Those who have this abundant life of grace are love slaves of Jesus Christ. Like the beautiful old hymn says, “we sit at his feet in willing bonds” because He is our life. A slave’s life is centered around the life of His master. He lives to please His master—his success as a slave is judged by virtue of how he relates to His master. It is a Master-centered existence and when your master is God, it is intended to be a God-centered life.
A second indication in this verse that this life under grace is God-centered is seen in the fact that Paul labels this God-centered life given to us as “eternal life.” How does the phrase “eternal life” indicate a life centered around God? As we’ve said before, eternal life speaks of two truth. The first and most widely known is the fact that this kind of life is not bound by time--it lasts forever. That is the aspect of this life most people identify. Some translations even reinforce that aspect of this quality of life given by Christ, by translating it “everlasting life.” That is a blessed truth about eternal life, but it is the least important aspect of it. Eternal life speaks more of a quality of life than the quantity or duration of life. Let’s face it, every person on earth in some way has eternal life. That is, they will live forever. They will exist forever in either heaven or hell. Everyone, on that level has “eternal life.” The most precious and basic quality of eternal life is much deeper than simply the duration of life. We have spoken of it before, but I want to repeat this.
This eternal quality of life is defined by Jesus in his High Priestly prayer in John 17:3 where he says, “Now this is eternal life: that they may know you, the only true God and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent.” The essence of this eternal quality of life is “Knowing you, Jesus, knowing you, there is no greater thing. You’re my all, you’re the best, you’re my joy, my righteousness and I love you, Lord.” Do you hear the God-centeredness of that? We were created to know God--to relate to him. He is supposed to be the very best personal friend we have. He is the main supplier of our needs for fellowship and intimacy. The life that we have been given in Christ is a God centered life.
APPLICATION: We’ve seen five truths about this life that we have in Christ.
It is ABUNDANT--a life-left-over life--more than we could possible use--Is that You or do you feel like you are running on fumes? If you were to tell someone of the abundant life in Christ, would you be speaking from your experience or just throwing theology at them? God says its abundant and if it isn’t, something is WRONG.
It is NEW--Are you different than you were when you got saved--or does it feel like all your “Stuff” has just been wallpapered over. Is the smile on your heart real--Is the joy of the Lord your strength. There is NEWNESS of life in Christ--Do you experience this new life--or do the same things that drive your unbelieving neighbor up the wall bother you? Is your life radically different than the old life lived out by those apart from Christ or is there a vast difference between your “new” life and the old life apart from Christ?
Is the ministry which flows out of your life GLORIOUS?--That is--is it fueled by the power of the Holy Spirit, inexplicable apart from God--Does is clearly reveal Jesus Christ--are his finger prints clearly seen on it?
Is your life being RENEWED--is it like a fountain bubbling up within you and flowing out of your belly to others? OR, is it like a stagnating pond--is there a fresh supply every day for you--the life given to us in Christ is renewable.
Finally, is it God centered--are you ALIVE to God and dead to yourself?
Are you a willing love slave of Jesus Christ--delighting in your position at the feet of Jesus?
--Do you know God? When you pray, do talk at God or with God? When you sing that the greatest thing in all your life, are you convicted of that or is it just a song and if it is true, do you spend more time communing with Him in prayer and the word than you do with television or other media outlets?
We are free from the controlling power of sin, but that is just the beginning--we have been given newness of life. Are you living in it? May God give us the grace to live out ALL that is ours under the realm of Grace and which Christ purchased for us with His blood.
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