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Romans 6 (Series week 4)

The video for week 4 can be watched at the bottom of this page.

Bible reading: Romans 6.

Chapters 1-3 established that all have sinned.  Chapter 4 established that faith in Jesus is credited to us as righteousness (right with God).  Chapter 5 introduced the peace we have with God through Jesus – that is, God has declared us no longer guilty and we are set free from the charges against us (the sins we have committed).

The second half of chapter 5 introduced the image of Adam versus Jesus – sin and death came to all through Adam, but grace (undeserved forgiveness) and life come to all through Jesus.

Paul completes chapter 5 by observing that just as sin had increased, so the grace of God increased.

Thus twice in chapter 6 Paul asks the obvious question – can we then do as we like, since God’s grace increases when sin increases?  Since he asks this question twice we can safely assume this is his primary purpose in this part of the letter.

So what are his two reasons why we should not continue to sin?

The first is that just as we have been included in Jesus’ death, so we also are included in his life.  So we should now be leading a life like his where sin no longer reigns.

The second draws on the language of slavery, with which we are less familiar in our own lives.  But we will come back to this.

Firstly, Paul says, “We are those who have died to sin.”  “Died to sin” is a new and important expression at this point, so he takes some time explaining what he means, in fact he is doing just this all the way to verse 14.

Hopefully you will be able to read Paul’s words and see how he is really saying the same thing over and over in slightly different ways, hoping the point will come clear.  I take it something like this:

Paul takes being spiritually “in Christ” very literally.  If we are “In Christ” then that which is his is also spiritually ours.  This includes his death on the cross, and also his resurrection.

Suppose I take my wallet, and in it I place some money.  Generally a very temporary arrangement, but I’m sure we can manage it for a moment.  Where is the money?  In the wallet.  Where is the wallet?  In my hand.  If I give it to you, doesn’t money go with it?  If I lose the wallet, don’t I lose the money?

In fact the only way that the fate of the money can be separated from the fate of the wallet is if I take the money out of the wallet.  But you are “in Christ” and that isn’t going to change.  So that which is true for Jesus is true for you.

Now we know from elsewhere, as Paul knew also, that Jesus was understood to carry the sins of the world in that cross, and that he took them to the grave.  Verse 7 – “anyone who has died has been set free from sin”  So Jesus took the sin of the world to the grave, but there sin achieves its end.  Jesus was raised to life, and the sin he had carried to the grave no longer had power.  We have been joined to Jesus, and what is true for him is true for us.

So verse 11 is critical and unfortunately inaccurate. In the same way (in Christ), count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus.  “Count” is meant in an accounting sense – reckon yourself, or account for yourselves, in the same way that you write a transaction in an accounting ledger, write yourself down as dead to sin.  Record it as an historical fact – you are dead to sin, because you have been joined to Jesus victory over sin.

Since you are dead to sin and joined to Jesus in his life, live the Jesus-life you’ve been given.  Why would you return to captive sin when you’ve been given life?

This flows easily enough into the language of slavery, because you were formerly captive to sin, so the language of slaves to sin fits easily enough.  If it is your condition, and there is no deliverer, that fits the description of slave.

You may not be so keen on the language of “slave to righteousness” because it sounds like you’re still not free.  But Paul is a realist – he knows we will be serving one master or the other.  Either we will be serving in the dirty dungeons of the devil or the glorious galleries of God.  He knows we can’t opt out and go our own way, as that would still be the old sin master.

So the language of slave suits reality well enough, but perhaps also serves to bring both the Jews and Gentiles in his audience down a notch in their self-importance.  Remember they were fighting over who should be in charge of their church – recognizing themselves as slaves to righteousness, together under God will hopefully help them remember their place.

What benefit did they reap from the ways of sin?  Brokenness, death, separation from God.  What benefit are they reaping from being right with God?  Deliverance, peace, joy, hope, life.  Why would you even consider going back to the ways of sin?  Why wouldn’t you entirely embrace a righteous and holy life.

For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.

But Paul is a realist, as we discover when we turn to chapter 7, which we will do next week.

But for now I want to most strongly leave with this true image – if, your faith is in Jesus, God has declared you righteous (right with God).  As such you are “in Jesus”, and being in Jesus, you are included in his death.  In Jesus, you are dead to sin.  But just as Jesus was raised to life, so you are also alive to God in Jesus.

That it is only “In Jesus” that you are dead to sin, and alive to God is not a limitation, because you are entirely “in Jesus” therefore entirely dead to sin and alive to God.

 

Video of week 4 readings and message, runs 23:31.

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