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 10, 2016
Dead to Sin, Alive in Christ - January 10, 2016 - The Baptism of Our Lord - Text: Romans 6:1-11
Yesterday was the end of our Christmas celebration. I hope everyone celebrated up until yesterday. Yesterday was the day we celebrated the Epiphany of our Lord. The word “epiphany” means appearing. Epiphany is the day we celebrate the appearing of the Savior to the first non-Jews, to the Gentile Magi who had traveled from the east to see the newborn King. We, as Gentile Christians, especially celebrate Epiphany because this day reminds us that Jesus was born, not just for His own people, but for all people, for Jew and Gentile alike.
To set the stage for our text for this morning, we want to make note that Paul’s words in our text come after his explanation of justification, that is that we do not justify ourselves, we do not make ourselves right before God, especially by anything we should think we do, but we are made right before God by grace, through faith. Again, we are made right, we are passively made right, even apart from anything we do. Now we move to our text.
Paul’s question is, “Does Grace give license to sin?” We begin at verse one, “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? 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” (v. 1-4). Our human thinking and logic is this, that more sin means more forgiveness means more grace, so in order to help grace abound we should sin more. And I guess, according our human, tainted by sin logic, that would be the logical conclusion. And we might add that this is the way of the law and of law thinking, which, again, is the way we, as sinful human beings, tend to think.
The fallacy of our law logic is that we have forgotten the gospel. We have forgotten that faith means one does not want to sin. Perhaps we have forgotten that when we live according to the law the temptation to sin is even greater. We all know how it is, when we are told not to do something the temptation to sin is greatest. “Don’t eat the cookies you will spoil your dinner.” “Oh, I have got to have one of those cookies.” However, to live according to the Gospel frees us from temptation. The Gospel reminds us that we are already forgiven. We are forgiven because Jesus paid the price for our sins, He died for our sins. Because we are forgiven, with the help of the Holy Spirit, we will want to not sin.
As Paul puts it, death causes one to no longer be susceptible to temptation, in other words, being tied to Jesus’ death means one is no longer susceptible to the stimuli of temptation. Certainly temptations will continue to come, but being reminded that our sin caused Jesus to die, the Holy Spirit stirs in us to resist temptation and sin.
But Paul is not finished, he continues, “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. 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” (v. 5-7). Paul reminds us of the importance of Holy Baptism. Holy Baptism is not simply a ritual. It is not an act of obedience, that would be pointing to us as if it were something we are doing. Holy Baptism is a sacrament, a sacred act, instituted by God and connected with His Word which ties us with Jesus. Paul says we have been united with Jesus. The word united literally means we have been planted with Jesus. When a seed is planted in the ground it dies and then comes to life. Likewise, through Holy Baptism, our old nature is drowned, is killed and we arise as new creatures.
In this uniting with Christ, His life is our life. Here we are reminded that this is the fulness of the Gospel, not simply that Jesus died for us, but that He lived for us. God’s demand is that we are perfect and we fail at being perfect. We fail miserably at being perfect, at it is getting worse. You know, I believe one of Satan’s greatest victories today is that our churches are beginning to look like the rest of the world. Instead of the Christian community shaping our society, too often our society is shaping our Christian community. Have you noticed that what was taboo and illegal in our society a few years ago is now legal and even encouraged. The same can be said for what was taboo and prohibited in our churches. Things that would not be thought of years ago as being allowed in church are now hailed as meet, right and salutary, and anyone who opposes such is called intolerant, a bigot and mean spirited. You may recall that this is indeed what happened to Jesus during His earthly life as He called all people to repent. The fact that Jesus life becomes our life through our being united with Him in Holy Baptism first and foremost gives us confidence in our forgiveness and salvation and it also gives us courage to stand up and, at least according to our society, be intolerant, bigoted and mean spirited.
Not only has Jesus’ life become our life, by faith in Him His death is our death. Remembering the fact that if we are born once (physical birth only) we die twice (physical death and eternal spiritual death), but if we are born twice (one’s physical birth and Holy Baptism) we only die once (physical death), we rejoice that Jesus has suffered eternal spiritual death for us in our place so that we will only suffer physical death, we will only fall asleep in the Lord. By His death Jesus has paid the price for our sins.
And finally, Jesus’ resurrection is our resurrection. Because Jesus rose again we know that death and the grave have no power over us, we know that we too will rise again. Thus, the fulness of the Gospel is that Jesus has taken care of everything for us in His life, death and resurrection and He offers everything free to us.
But Paul is still not done. He goes us to remind us that we need not fear. “8Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. 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. 8-11). We just celebrated Jesus birth. Today we celebrate His baptism and the beginning of His earthly ministry. In a few weeks we will begin the trek to the cross. On the cross Jesus defeated death. Not only did He defeat death, but He rose from the dead.
The reason Jesus was born was to give His life as a ransom for all. As our substitute, His death was once and for all, in other words, it never needs repeating. So, because He died, because we are united with Him in His death, we no longer need to fear death. For us, the only death we may face is a falling asleep in faith, a passing on from this world into heaven.
Again, Jesus’ defeat of death and our connection to Him means we never need to fear death. By faith in Jesus we are not subject to the second death, eternal spiritual death, because that is the death He faced and defeated for us.
What Does This Mean? Paul’s words remind us that Jesus took care of our sin. That Jesus took care of our sin does not give us a license to sin. That Jesus took care of our sin does not gives us a license to emulate the world. Yes, there are a lot of things that are legal in our country today, things that were not legal years ago, and for good reason. Just because something is legal does not mean it is good or not sin. And just because we know we are forgiven does not give us encouragement to go out and sin either. As a matter of fact, the fact that we are forgiven is what gives us the encouragement to not sin.
Temptations do abound in our world today. In times of temptation we fall back on our faith in Jesus who helps us especially during times of temptation. As we remember Jesus’ baptism this morning we might also remember that right after His baptism He was lead into the wilderness to be tempted for forty days and yet during those forty days He never sinned. And as He has suffered all the temptations we might suffer and even greater temptations, and never sinned, so we know that He is with us to help us to fight against temptation and sin as well.
This morning then, we are reminded that Jesus gives gifts. Jesus gives faith and forgiveness. Jesus gives these gifts through means, namely through the means of grace. He gives faith through His Word, the Bible as well as through Holy Baptism. He gives forgiveness through these means as well and through confession and absolution and through His Holy Supper.
And Jesus gives life and salvation, again, through His means of grace. What a great God we have. What a loving God we have. What a gift giving God we have.
Unfortunately the fact remains that we do continue to sin, that is our nature. We sin and then we come up with excuses, or exceptions as to why our sin is valid. Paul’s words to us this morning remind us of the good news, the Gospel, that through our baptism, through faith given to us, we are united with Jesus so that our sins have been taken care of, so that we do not need to be afraid of the consequences of our sins, eternal spiritual death, but instead we may be confident that we are forgiven and that we have life, even eternal life. It is this good news, this Gospel that encourages us to live God pleasing lives. And even when we fail, which we do daily, even when we backslide, which we do weekly, there is still forgiveness. As always then, we are pointed to Jesus who does all and gives all. To Him be all the glory. For His names sake. Amen.