Over the years I have written several "book" or "booklets" and many, many, many newsletter and bulletin articles. Because the book market seeks writings to meet specific needs at specific times, my material has never been accepted. I have a tendency to write what is on my mind and so I am left with self publishing. So, with the encouragement from my wife and others, I am beginning this blog in order to put my "ramblings" "out there"! I hope you enjoy!
Please note that while my intentions are to use good grammar, because of the way in which some of the material presented here is presented (orally) the grammar and syntax might not always be the best English. Also note that good theology is not always presented in the best English so there may be times when the proper grammar rules are purposely broken.
Sunday, January 11, 2015
United with Christ - January 11, 2015 - The Baptism of Our Lord - Text: Romans 6:1-11
This morning we celebrate the Baptism of our Lord, Jesus Christ. Just last Tuesday we celebrated the end of the Christmas Season and I hope everyone celebrated until January 6, which was Epiphany. On Tuesday we celebrated the revelation of the Messiah, Christ the Lord, the Savior of the world, to the Gentile Magi from the East, or the wise men as they are called, as they came to the house where the toddler Jesus was staying. This visit reminded us of the fact that the Messiah was promised to all people, of all cultures, of all places, of all times. This morning we fast forward some twenty-eight years as we begin our trek, once again, to the cross, the focal point of this child’s birth.
Paul is writing, using one of the techniques he often employs in his writing, that is that he is writing asking and answering possible questions his opponents might be asking. We begin at verses one and two, “1What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? 2By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it?” (v. 1-2). So, in essence Paul is asking, “Is God’s grace an excuse to sin?” The logic is that if we sin there is more grace so we should sin more so that grace may abound more. Or perhaps as you have heard it said, “sin boldly.” Of course, here we see what happens when we let our logic get in the way of the gifts God gives. Paul explains the illogic of this in that we are not to go on sinning because we have died to sin.
Paul explains further with the his explanation of the great gift of Baptism and being Baptized with Christ. We pick up at verse three, “3Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? 4We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life. 5For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his” (v. 3-5). Here we see the illogic of human logic that baptism is something we do simply in obedience to God’s command, that is that we get baptized in order to show God that we have accepted Him or that we have dedicated our lives to Him and that this is a sign of our obedience. Here we see baptism as it is, a sacrament, a means of grace, a giving from God to us. Here we see that God is the one who is doing the doing, doing the giving and we are the one’s being done to and being given to. Through baptism we are given. We are given faith and it is this faith that grabs hold of and makes the rest of the gifts that God gives ours.
To be baptized means to be washed. To be baptized also means to be drowned. In our baptism we are drowned, we are literally killed. Our old sinful nature, our old Adam is drowned. In our baptism Jesus’ death becomes our death. Through His baptism Jesus identifies with us, doing what we need to do in order that He might be our substitute. In our baptism we identify with Jesus, giving Him our sins and being given His identity. Thus, through baptism, we identify with Jesus in that His death, His eternal spiritual death becomes our death, which is the penalty we owe for our sins.
But there is more, it does not stop with death, thanks be to God. Not only does Jesus’ death become our death, but more importantly, Jesus’ life becomes our life. Here again we see this complete substitutionary role Jesus plays. He came, not only to die for us, but also to live for us. Thus, when God looks at Jesus on the cross, He sees our sins. When He looks at us He sees Jesus’ perfection.
And as we know, Jesus did not stay dead, but He rose from the dead. Here, once again, through the waters of Holy Baptism, through Jesus completely identifying Himself as us, through His substitutionary role, His resurrection becomes our resurrection. When Jesus rose from the dead, we rose from the dead. Death and the grave have no power over Jesus. Death and the grave have no power over us. By faith in Jesus, given through the water and God’s name placed on us at our Baptism, we have been united with Jesus such that His work is ours and our sins are His.
But Paul is not finished. He goes on to remind us that we yet have a life to live in this world. We pick up at verse six, “6We know that our old self was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin. 7For one who has died has been set free from sin. 8Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him.” (v. 6-8). Paul reminds us of the fact that remains. We are slaves and we always will be slaves. We will either be slaves to sin or slaves to Christ.
We were slaves to sin, notice the past tense, we were. We were conceived and born in sin. Our sinful nature shows itself in our propensity to sin. Our natural desire is to sin, we do not even need practice. We do not even need to think about it. We do sin and unfortunately, we often sin boldly. We sin in thought, word and deed. We sin sins of omission, not doing what we should be doing and sins of commission, doing what we should not be doing. Yet, Paul reminds us, our old sinful self was crucified in Christ. By faith in Jesus, with His help we can and we do overcome temptation and sin. Certainly there are times that we yet fail, but, again, with God’s help we do win. So, again Paul reiterates, if we have died with Christ, we also are alive with Him. It is Christ who gives us the strength and power to overcome.
Paul concludes with words of our own assurance of eternal life. We pick up at verse nine, “9We know that Christ being raised from the dead will never die again; death no longer has dominion over him. 10For the death he died he died to sin, once for all, but the life he lives he lives to God. 11So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus” (v. 9-11). Christ was raised from the dead, never to die again. Jesus did what He came to do, identify with us, live perfectly for us in our place, obey all of God’s laws and commands perfectly, fulfill all of God’s prophecies and promises completely, take our sins upon Himself, suffer and die for those sins, substitute Himself for us and die. And He did. He died. He died the eternal spiritual death penalty, the price for sin, for us in our place. He died a physical death, which is also a consequence of sin and which awaits each one of us. Yet, Jesus did not stay dead, but He rose from the dead, victorious over sin and death.
By faith in Jesus, faith given to us through the means of grace, we are identified with Jesus so that He becomes us and we become Him. By faith in Jesus, then we will never die. We will never die the eternal spiritual death which He died for us, in our place. Certainly, we may die a physical death, that is, unless He returns first. Yet, we are reminded that eternal life is ours now. Eternal life is a present reality. We have eternal life, thus we need have no fear of death.
And please notice, Jesus’ death was once, for all, for all people. Jesus does not die again. He is never re-sacrificed. Jesus will never die again. And so, we consider ourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus.
What does this mean? This means we continue to live under God’s grace, His undeserved love for us. Even when we get confused, even when we get it wrong, He still gets it right. Thus, we have the constant reminder to let Jesus be Jesus in the way He shows Himself to be. You have heard me say it before, but it bears repeating, we get it right when we get right who is doing what. As we celebrate the Baptism of Jesus, we celebrate His identifying with us. We celebrate His subsitutionary atonement for us. And we look to our own baptism as His gift to us as well. Thus, by grace, God gives. God gives through the means of grace, through the Word, that this through Holy Scripture, as well as through the sacraments, Holy Baptism and the Lord’s Supper, and we would also include as a means of grace, confession and absolution. Through these very earthly means our Lord gives us faith and this faith is what takes hold of and makes all the other gifts and blessings the Lord gives ours as well, forgiveness, life and salvation.
Yes, through means our Lord gives faith and also through means our Lord works to strengthen us in faith. Faith is not something that is stagnant, but is alive and growing, or it begins to die and backslide. One cannot remain at one place in one’s faith life, for either we are growing in faith or we are losing faith. Thus, here again we see the importance of making regular, every day and every week and diligent, always, use of the means of grace, remembering our baptism, attending worship and Bible class, coming to the Lord’s Supper and confessing and hearing those most beautiful words of absolution, “Your sins are forgiven.”
Because, through these means, through faith, our Lord also gives eternal life. Think in terms of an eternal perspective. Our lives in this world are but a moment, a breath, a twinkle of the eye compared to our eternity in heaven and yet, unfortunately so often we spend most of our earthly life fretting about this world instead of making sure our lot in heaven is secure. Of course, our eternal lot is secure, by grace, through faith in Jesus. Heaven is ours and it is given to us. Yes, the Lord does it all and gives it all and we are done to and are given to.
I know you hear me continue to speak of making regular and diligent use of the means of grace and I will continue to encourage you in such manner. I do this because if we look at our lives we notice that, as Paul says in our text, we are Christ’s and we are slaves to Him and yet, we do continue to sin, to refuse and reject the gifts the Lord gives. So, I will continue to encourage you to be a slave to Christ, to continue to be given and done to as the Lord gives and does to you, regularly and diligently so there is never any reason to fret about your eternal inheritance. And so that ultimately we may all say, to God be the glory, for Jesus’ sake. Amen.