This is all about the relationship between our actions and grace. We are VERY big on our understanding that it is by grace you have been saved, not by works (I.e. what you DO), and we seek to put a scalpel between our faith and our actions.
A few things about faith itself.
So, I believe, being a Christian is not just about accepting a set of propositions (such as): “Christ is God” “Christ died for my sins” “Christ is risen” “Christ will come again” (and others). Though He undoubtedly is and did all those things.
Being a Christian is not just about declaring those beliefs verbally, either in song through our worship, or through declarations of faith or even by reciting the creeds. Though I believe that those things are important as well, because, as Jesus says, out of the things stored up in the heart the man speaks Matthew 12:33-35: “Make a tree good and its fruit will be good, or make a tree bad and its fruit will be bad, for a tree is recognized by its fruit. You brood of vipers, how can you who are evil say anything good? For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of. A good man brings good things out of the good stored up in him, and an evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in him”. Jesus is clear that our words reveal our inner man.
I also have to say that I do believe that, as Romans 10:9 asserts “If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved”. Romans 10:9 is scripture (and yet to come in our journey through Romans), so I DO believe it to be the truth.
When we link Romans 10:10 which explains Romans 10:9 (note the use of “for”), and says “it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you profess your faith and are saved.” with what I’ve just quoted Jesus as saying, and James’s teaching on the tongue in James 3, we learn that our belief, our and our actions, are intertwined to the degree that both our words and our actions reveal who we really are.
v1 “what shall we say?”
Firstly, Paul starts by saying “what shall we say then?”, he is effectively implying that the thing he is quoting is something which reveals the person inside. Asking “Shall we sin then, that grace may increase” reveals a heart which wants to sin and wants somehow to spiritually justify it.
Paul has already mentioned this attitude, and describes it as slander …
We all have a habit of trying to do this.
This illustration is from N.T.Wright, so it’s not original, but I think is very pertinent to v1. Imagine, if you would the prodigal son from Luke 15. He has come home, he has been welcomed back into the family and reinstated as a son, despite the grumbling of his elder brother. It’s now a couple of years later and life has slipped into a humdrum existence, probably fielding snide comments from big brother, and wondering – is this it? Thinking back to that welcome day, he wonders … what if? What if I gather together enough stuff to run away again for a couple of months and then come back again? Play the penitent son again? Maybe I’ll get another party!
Tom Wright says this is exactly the attitude people of today have. Sometimes they use this text to justify it, “when sin abounded, grace abounded more”, so the only thing to say to someone in sin is “that’s fine, God loves you!”
Some examples of sin which we tolerate under the guise of our loving God, but which reveal our inner man are…
- “White lies” – we like lying, and want to justify it by calling it a “white lie”, the justification being that we are telling a lie to protect someone, and God calls us to protect people. But if Jesus is the Truth and Satan is the father of lies, EVERY lie we utter (white or otherwise) is the language not of Jesus, but of Satan.
- “It’s all about love” (as God is love, He would obviously approve of my actions). The inference in the statement is that if you don’t, you’re not being Godly. This is an extremely common mantra today “love is love” people declare to justify living ungodly and promiscuous lives.
- “we must live in tolerance” Meaning that whether you agree or not, you must accept, tolerate and even approve of my choices. Many people (especially those who are not Christians, or those who are nominal) think, the church must be “inclusive” and that means we must tell people that God accepts them exactly as they are. Because you’re a Christian, the argument goes, you must tolerate who I am, that means you can’t say anything which challenges me and the choices I’ve made. Interestingly, that mantra doesn’t reciprocate though, they feel perfectly justified in their intolerance towards Christians.
- “God will forgive me” God is a loving, forgiving God, and we all know that the Gospel and the cross prove He is a forgiving God. So, I can live my life however I want, all I have to do is repent of my sin regularly and everything will be hunky dory.
Some questions or declarations can also be made by Christians and are more subtle, but they reveal that we are not truly submitted to Jesus.
- “We live under the New Testament, not the Old, so tithing is no longer required”. I have yet to find someone who has said that who follows it with “therefore I will give massively MORE than 10%!”. In my experience it has ALWAYS been used as a justification for reducing giving, not increasing it. Point out (AND THIS IS IMPORTANT), I am not teaching the tithe one way or another. I am pointing out that this argument made to avoid tithing shows a deeper attitude towards money.
- Finally, there is the modern equivalent of Romans 6:1, which is “I live under grace, not law!”, and therefore I have the right (in fact the obligation) to disregard any rules or regulations you might put into place in the church.
My point here is that we must guard against adopting an attitude which excuses sin—in either ourselves or in other people.
v2 We died to it.
The first way of guarding against this attitude is to realise this : we died to sin, so Dying to sin is a really significant thing to understand.
Firstly, we don’t have to be controlled by it any more. One thing about dying is that no one can control you when you are dead. If you are still being controlled by some sin or other, the implication from “we are those who have died to sin; how can we live in it any longer” is. If sin still has some control over you, you have not yet fully died to it. Paul clearly says that Romans 6:6-7 “For we know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body ruled by sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin— because anyone who has died has been set free from sin”. You can’t get much clearer than that.
In the past I’ve used an illustration about dead people not being able to do anything. The argument goes something like this: if you go into a morgue and try to tempt a corpse to commit some sin, you will not succeed because he is dead. Likewise, it is said, Christians are dead to sin. It can’t entice them.
However, I have this week in my reading been challenged to think a little more deeply about it. It has been pointed out that if we have died to sin, WHY is it that the Bible makes so much of exhorting us to resist it, to flee from it? There is no such Christian who has ever lived who hasn’t sinned in some way, and it makes all of the moral commands in the Scriptures irrelevant. Why command me not to sin if I can’t sin because I’m dead to it? This makes a nonsense of Paul’s teaching later on in Romans about our battle with sin living in us, it denies 1 John 1:8 which says “If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us”.
So, what does Paul mean here? He says, we died to sin (v2), we WERE crucified(v6) and buried(v4) with Christ. We HAVE BEEN set free from sin (v7). All past events. We died to sin as a way of life, we have died to an old way of life and now we live under grace, so our habit, our pattern of live is not driven by sin, but by God. We no longer “live in” sin. We no longer have to.
So sin as an action is still possible (that’s not to say we shouldn’t fight with every fibre of our being not to fall into it), but sin as a lifestyle is now a door that’s closed to us. Which is why Paul talks of not living in sin any longer because we died to it. In fact, Paul says we do not obey our “evil desires” (echoes of James 4:1 “What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don’t they come from your desires that battle within you?”).
V3,4 An outward evidence of that reality
Secondly, we are united with Christ. One of the marks of that uniting is our baptism Paul says. One of the mysteries of what baptism is when we were baptised, we we baptised into Jesus’s death, and we were buried WITH Him, and subsequently we are now raised WITH Him into a new life, we will be resurrected with Him.
The most important thing to realise: Getting baptised doesn’t get you saved. There are some theories that would say that baptism is a necessary part of being a Christian and that if you’re not baptised, then you have no assurance of salvation. Some people would say that baptism is an essential part of our salvation.
Dispel that idea – we DO NOT believe that! Our belief is that it is faith in Jesus rather than any kind of ritual that locks the gates of hell and swings wide open the gates of heaven. Baptism is what you do when you are saved. It doesn’t make you a Christian it shows you ARE a Christian It is an outward sign of in inner transformation There’s nothing magic in the water
So if Baptism doesn’t save us, what does it do? Well baptism is a mixture of declaration and symbolism of certain things, but for this morning we are going to settle on death.
It shows our death, burial and resurrection (spiritually speaking). It is where we very publicly say: “I was in Adam, and dead IN sin, now I am alive in Christ and dead TO sin” (cf. The beginning of Ephesians 2 says this “as for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins”, and then goes on to say “But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ”, The father in the parable of the prodigal son in Luke 15 says to the older brother “this brother of yours was dead and is alive again”. You can find this idea of having been made alive in Christ throughout the NT – these are just two examples.
Baptism symbolises our death to the old life and resurrection to a new life, so we have the sequence: death (into the water) -> burial (under the water)-> resurrection (coming out of the water).
Baptism is a PUBLIC event, like marriage it is a public declaration of a change in status. Marriage shows our change from being single to being married, baptism shows our transition from being an unbeliever to a position of faith in Christ. It shows our identification with Christ, in fact it says we have been baptised “into” Christ:
As well as in this passage here, Galatians 3:26-27 says much the same “So in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith, for all of you who were baptised into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ”.
Baptism says very practically, very publicly’ and very physically, “as I identify with Christ, I take my place in the body of Christ”. It also declares we are now part of the Body of Christ – In 1 Corinthians 12:13 Paul says “we were all baptized by one Spirit so as to form one body—whether Jews or Gentiles, slave or free—and we were all given the one Spirit to drink.” when we are baptised, we have started a new life and we have joined a new family. Baptism is about joining us to the Church, as well as to Christ.
Baptism is a very public declaration about our identification with a Jesus as Lord, our commitment to walk in His ways and our commitment to His body – the church.
Implications of what Paul is saying?
- We must not live in sin any longer (v2), we must count ourselves dead to sin (v11)
- We can live a NEW life (v4), WITH Christ (v8)
- We WILL BE resurrected (v5) with Christ, and ALIVE to God (v11)
V11 a new mindset —_“count yourself dead to sin”_, a CHOICE. “I con’t help it, it’s just the way I am” is not an excuse. It’s not the way you are – it’s the way you WERE, and you have died to that and been reborn in Christ.
V12 a new way of living —_“do not let sin reign in your mortal body”_. It’s not just volitional (in out wills), it is physical (in our actions) as well, and Jesus says very clearly that our physical actions reveal where our hearts and our will are. Not for nothing does he say in several places that it is people who understand the will of God and DO what it says who are blessed (Matthew 7:26, 12:50; Mark 3:35, Luke 6:43-49 amongst others).
V13 a new master —_“Do not offer any part of yourself to sin as an instrument of wickedness, but rather offer yourselves to God”. We have a new master, which people think will control and restrict us and the paradox is that the more we submit to the rule of God in our lives, the freer our lives will become. Romans 6:15-17 “What then? Shall we sin because we are not under the law but under grace? By no means! Don’t you know that when you offer yourselves to someone as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one you obey—whether you are slaves to sin, which leads to death, or to obedience, which leads to righteousness? But thanks be to God that, though you used to be slaves to sin, you have come to obey from your heart the pattern of teaching that has now claimed your allegiance”_. So, where does your allegiance lie?
If you want to live your life in freedom, this is the way to do it!