SUNDAY MORNING WORSHIP SERVICE, 16 August 2020
Sermon Text: Romans 6:1-7
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I. We cannot continue in sin because we are the living (vs. 1-2)
II. We cannot continue in sin because we are baptised into Jesus (vs. 3-4a)
III. We cannot continue in sin because we are risen with Jesus (vs. 4b-7)
What is the best way of persuading anyone, or to cause a person to adopt a certain position, belief or idea? The best way to do it will be to talk to the person, especially in a kind and friendly way. But a coercive speech or intimidating conversation would be the least effective way. About how to persuade people effectively, a business magazine gave a list of advices. The first on the list was to ‘Be confident.’ Then, ‘Introduce a logical argument,’ ‘Make your point seem beneficial to your listener,’ ‘Choose your words carefully,’ ‘Use flattery,’ and finally, ‘Be patient, but persistent.’ That list of advices sounds pretty good and accurate.
In fact, that’s what we find from the chapters and verses of Romans as the Apostle Paul explains to us what it is to believe in Jesus. Our apostle sounds truly ‘confident’ and truly ‘logical’ in his arguments. He also tells us that knowing Jesus and understanding His saving grace is a rich blessing of God for us as much as it is for him. He’s ‘patient and persistent’ in his sharing. Ah, Paul the Apostle is a great, if not the best, communicator and preacher!
In Romans, however, especially from the first chapter and up to what we’ve just read from ch. 6, he seems to violate or miss at least a couple of important general rules of persuading people. He seems to dissent from the rules, that is, ‘Choose your words carefully’ and ‘Use flattery.’ In other words, you speak kindly, not coercively; you deal your listener gently and not offensively. But Paul seems to disregard these rules completely in these early chapters of Romans.
Let me tell you in what way he does that. Paul spoke that ‘all in humanity are sinful and under the curse of sin.’ Although he is so confident in what he speaks about and so logical in his delivery, he gives no ‘flattery’ toward the ears of his readers, but tells them that all alike are sinners. I think you know how offensive this message is to many people in our generation as much as it was to the ears of those in the former generations. But Paul doesn’t seem to care but speaks straightforwardly and tells the truth to all people. In that, he disregards an important rule of business of persuasion, but follows the wisdom of God as revealed in Prov. 12:17 which says, “Whoever speaks the truth gives honest evidence, but a false witness utters deceit.” Prov. 29:5 re-emphasises this wisdom, saying, “A man who flatters his neighbour spreads a net for his feet.”
Truly, the message Paul delivers is the truth of Jesus and His saving grace available for all sinners. So, listening to his message and taking it to our heart gives us the life of Jesus and His rich blessings. For this reason, I want you to focus on the first seven verses of Rom. 6 and hear the apostle’s message which is the Lord’s. And it is about ‘sanctification,’ in other words, how we should live a holy life from the moment we’re saved by faith in Jesus alone. And he delivers to us the message of why we, Christians who are justified by faith alone in Jesus, cannot continue in sin. By believing in the Son of God, we’re justified, then, why we cannot linger about sins but live a godly life – this is the message in these verses of Rom. 6. And especially, Paul presents to us three obvious reasons.
I. WE CANNOT CONTINUE IN SIN BECAUSE WE ARE THE LIVING (VS. 1-2)
The first reason Paul gives to us is in vs. 1 and 2, and that is, ‘we cannot continue in sin because we’re the living.’ His reasoning is this; ‘You and I can no longer continue in sin; the time for us to sin is over; the bridge is broken and no way you and I who believe in Jesus, thus, are saved could go back to the other side and continue in sin.’ He means that, from now on, any attempt to go back to the other side where sinners belong or any wish to continue in sin is foolish because it is impossible.’ So, the only way that is available for Christians is to live a holy life in the Lord Jesus.
It might sound strange to some people’s ears because no one on earth is free from sinning, no one can live a perfect holy life so long as that person is in flesh. But the apostle’s point is not how we CAN do anything, but how God HAS RESCUED us from sin and MOVED us to the side of life and blessing of Jesus Christ. The apostle points us to where we belong.
So, why does he say that we cannot continue in sin? Why is sinning no longer an option for us in our life? Because we have died to sin, as v. 2 reads, “How can we who died to sin still live in it?” The bridge has been broken and no longer are we on the other side but on this side where the living are together with Jesus.
When Paul tells us about our death to sin in v. 2, he means it in a legal sense – we have no part in holding sin or even playing with sin. The issue here is that once you and I are saved by faith in Jesus, we’re literally dead to sin. The point our apostle makes here is that you and I must know and never forget the legal and final decision made on us by God the Judge and on which side we are. We’re on Jesus’ side and no longer on Satan’s. Putting it in another word, we’re now citizens of Jesus’ kingdom, holding that kingdom’s passport. So, the law that affects from now and on is the law of heaven, not of this world.
It’s a call for changing your perspective, if you like. Look at yourself differently from a different point of view – I mean, from the viewpoint of where you’re standing since your salvation, since your justification by faith. You’re holding Jesus’ hand now and no longer under the reign of sin; you’re listening to Jesus’ words now and no longer can sin whisper its curse to your ears. You’re smiling and laughing in your heart and soul as Jesus’ grace fills you. You confess that you’re content with all things of your life – in both joy and difficulty, you learn how to be content. No longer is even death a threat to you because you know that you’re in Jesus now and forever!
So, look at sin from this new perspective you’ve received. You’re dead to sin. Yet, a more accurate statement is that sin is dead to you. You’re looking at sin which is lifeless to you. You look at what you’ve once indulged and find no joy at all now. And the question is, ‘Would you keep holding that dead, lifeless thing called ‘sin’? Would you enjoy it? Would you relish that?’ This is the apostle’s message and this is why the apostle quickly answers, ‘By no means!’ in v. 2. Because we’re the living, we cannot continue in sin.
II. WE CANNOT CONTINUE IN SIN BECAUSE WE ARE BAPTISED INTO JESUS (vs. 3-4a)
Being inspired by the Spirit of God, the Apostle Paul gives us another important reason why we cannot continue in sin. That is, we’re baptised into Jesus, as vs. 3 and the first half of 4 say.
Someone might wonder why our baptism is so highly regarded here like an antidote to our habit of sinning. He might say to himself, ‘It’s just a ceremony everyone receives and, once everyone receives it, that’s it and there’s no further spiritual significance in the life of individuals, is there?’
Well, that’s not right. Water baptism has a truly important role in our faith. And as much as it is important in our faith, so is it in our way of life in Jesus. Simply put, our water baptism is the visible sign of the invisible seal of Christ’s eternal kingdom. Of course, water baptism does not save a sinner, but his/her faith in Jesus saves. But, because water baptism signifies that invisible salvation, it is important. It is like, your new passport that declares at everywhere and to everyone that you belong to a kingdom. It is like the new outfit you’ve put on and your new attire shows to whom you belong. In this sense, water baptism formalises, visualises your invisible salvation, invisible justification in the world. So, as the baptised Christians, we can no longer sin.
Moreover, our baptism signifies Christ’s blood that is sprinkled on us and washed all our sins away. Yet, it means more; it tells us a deeper spiritual significance. Our baptism means our ‘union’ with Jesus Christ. Baptism points out that we’re united with Jesus and Jesus with us. We know that Jesus was and is sinless. He fulfilled all requirements of the law on our behalf. And He died on the cross, although He was sinless. Then, if we’re united into sinless Jesus, how could we continue in sin? This is why Paul the Apostle answers quickly, ‘By no means!’ This is why he repeats in these verses of Rom. 6 some rhetorical questions, saying, ‘Are we to continue in sin …? How can we …? Do you not know …?’ He doesn’t expect anyone’s answer because the only possible answer anyone could say to these questions is, ‘By no means!’
It is like the marriage covenant between husband and wife. They get married before God, saying their vows. Then, they exchange a ring. Once they receive their rings, they’re to everyone in the world a married couple, husband and wife to the end of their life. Their rings signify their vows and, more than that, their union before God. So, about the spiritual significance of water baptism, the Apostle John says in 1 Jn. 5:6, “not by the water only but by the water and the blood. … there are three that testify: the Spirit and the water and the blood; and these three agree.” John’s point is that our water baptism points us to the blood of Jesus and His cleansing us of our sins about which the Holy Spirit once again testifies. In a word, our union into Jesus.
Let me point this out to you that we’re united not only ‘with’ Jesus, but also ‘into’ Him, meaning that our union with Jesus is not in a form of ‘attachment’ but in a form of ‘merger’ or ‘consolidation.’ This reminds us of the sinlessness and righteousness of Jesus into which we’re merged, united and consolidated.
So, like the way a married person is removed from any form of adultery or unfaithfulness toward his/her spouse, all baptised Christians cannot continue in sin. Yet, this is not a burden but a pure joy in a similar way a married man rejoices in his relationship with his wife and the wife with her husband. Also, this is not a hard toil but a fun thing to do and continue like the way a married person has a power to resist many and all temptations due to the love of his/her spouse. With out baptism into Jesus, we have our love for the Lord and receive His everlasting love which this world can never understand.
So, because of our baptism into Jesus, our union into our Lord, we cannot continue in sin.
III. WE CANNOT CONTINUE IN SIN BECAUSE WE ARE RISEN WITH JESUS (vs. 4b-7)
The third reason why we cannot continue in sin is because, through the same baptism, we’re risen with Jesus. As much as we’re dead to sin together with Jesus, we’re risen together with Jesus. In fact, the reason we’re dead with Jesus is to enable us to rise and walk in ‘newness of life.’
If the first reason – that is, we’re unable to continue in sin because we’re the living – is about where we are now, about our permanent affiliation, and if the second reason is about the significance of our union with Jesus through baptism, this third reason is about our way of life on Christ’s side and being united into Jesus. In a word, we cannot continue in sin because we’re risen with Jesus and ‘walk in newness of life.’
This ‘newness of life’ is a way of life different from the one we had in the past. Eph. 2:1-10 explains this new way of life well and thoroughly by comparing it to our old way of life. In the past, we followed ‘the prince of the power of the air – Satan, in a word – living in the passion of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind as the children of wrath.’ The main point of our past way of life is that we were in a cage, if you like. Our eyes and heart were covered, and we could not see what was going on in our life. We were like a herd of wild animals rushing toward a cliff only to fall and be crushed and doomed. While we were in that way of life, we had no idea of who we were and where we were and for what we had come into the world.
But, now, we no longer are in that rush of wrath. Instead, we walk in newness of life. Our life continues with what we’ve been doing previously, but all things have a new and fresh meaning to us. We eat and drink and have our usual being, and we all will end up and face death, but all these have a fresh meaning and we now eat and drink for the glory of Jesus, and have our being in the presence of our Heavenly Father in His grace! Now, even death has become to us a blessing, hasn’t it?
In this sense, our present way is ‘new’ and ‘fresh’ and ‘different’ from the past. But, while it is new and fresh and different, this ‘newness of life’ is a familiar way of life to God’s true church in both the Old and the NTs because God has frequently spoken about it to His church. For example, in Ex. 18:20, God spoke to Moses this, “you shall warn [Israel] about the statutes and the laws, and make them know the way in which they must walk and what they must do.” This is the way the psalmist prayed and desired to learn as he said in Ps. 86:11, “Teach me Your way, O LORD, that I may walk in Your truth; unite my heart to fear Your name.” This is the way of the Spirit; this is the way that reflects the ‘glory of the Father.’ This is the way the prophets of the OT had foretold and this is the way Jesus enabled for all penitent sinners and this is the way we rejoice in Him, the Lord!
We’re risen with Jesus and now walk in newness of life. ‘The old has passed away and look, the new has come,’ says 1 Cor. 5:17. So, we cannot continue in sin.
Brothers and sisters in Christ Jesus, so, the challenge is weighty for us as much as the joy we’ve received through our justification by faith is deep. We cannot continue in sin; we cannot continue in sin. This is why in so many places in the Bible we’re told and urged to fight against sin and its temptation, and not only as a lone fighter but as a body of brothers and sisters. We’re to wage war against our inclination to sin and that ‘together’! This is our mutual building up; this is why we ought to “consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together … but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.” ***