The Triumph of Grace

The Triumph of Grace

Romans 6. What a great way to move from Easter back to Romans, just as Jesus died and was raised to life, so too we are dead to sin and alive to him. We look to the reading of God’s word if you join me in prayer. Living God, we ask you to help us to hear your Holy word that we may truly understand and that in understanding we may believe and believing we may follow in all faithfulness and obedience, seeking your honor and glory in all that we do. Father, we ask you give us more of your light to see, more of your spirit that he would enable us to walk in the newness of life that we have received through Christ Jesus, our Lord, and whose name we now pray. Amen. Looking at verses 1-14, reading the first eight verses. What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? By no means. How can we who died to sin still live in it? Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We 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.

For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his. We 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. For one who has died has been set free from sin. Now, if we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. The word of the Lord. Thank you, God. The great Welch preacher, Martin Lloyd Jones, was asked at one point why he hadn’t preached through Romans yet. And his response was that he would once he really understood Romans chapter 6. Now, 13 years, 1,600 sermons later on Romans, he got it figured out. But what about the chapter made it so hard? Certainly, it brings up many great Christian themes. Baptism, union with Christ, victory over sin, the triumph of grace. Paul describes the new life of a believer now because we have received what Jesus has done. The question, of course, is, well, how does this take place? More than that, doctrine aside, I think what is so hard is that there’s this disconnect between what Paul describes in most of our lives.

Rhetorical questions. Who here thinks they are far enough along in their walk with Jesus that they should be by this point in their life? Who thinks they have mastered victory over their own sins? Who here would want others to think of them as a shining example of what it means to be a Christian, both inside and out? To have a film crew follow you 24/7, documenting your victorious Christian living. At the same time, we hear what Paul is saying, and it’s truly amazing and life-transforming. Because we are now united to Jesus, we’re no longer under the power and the dominion of sin, and we then must offer ourselves to God in order for him to fulfill his purposes in us. Paul tells us these great realities of being in Jesus. We have died to sin. We are now alive to Christ. Here, this beginning, he tells us we are indeed dead to our sin. He begins with the objection that was raised back in chapter 3, verse 8. What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? Again, it’s all that talk of free grace. It brings up this frequent objection.

What does it matter what we do if everything’s about grace? Now, putting that objection in its most charitable light, as one writer has put it, Any religion worth its salt ought to make bad people good, or at least make them a little better. It seems that Paul is being careless about that. You’re taking away any incentive for a changed life, Paul. Remember, Christianity is at his heart a gift that you receive, while the world’s religions are about a gift that you must achieve. We receive because of what Christ has achieved. And that’s all the difference in the world. Paul responds, By no means. How can we who died the sin still live in it? How have we died the sin? Paul personifies sin here. He speaks of it as a power that has enslaved humanity. And Jesus has broken his power by his death. Yes, but how? Charles Cranfield, he’s considered one of the finest commentators on Romans, he speaks of four different ways or senses that Paul uses here about this. The first one in the how is in a juridical sense. God takes our sins, he places them on Jesus, and we’re given Jesus’ right consciousness.

There’s an exchange that takes place. Our status has now changed. Not guilty. Juridical. The second is a baptismal sense that Paul speaks of here. Our baptism represents this exchange this new identity. We are now identified with Jesus and also a moral sense. We have been given the freedom to live a new life free from the dominion of sin. And fourth, That big Greek word eschatological speaks of the end. That’s all it means, eschatology, the things in the end. What that is saying is that what we will be at the end when Jesus returns. Paul weaves all four of those in and out in his teaching, certainly here in Romans. Then he goes on. He says, You not know that all of us have been baptized into Christ? We’re baptized into his death. We were buried, therefore, with him by baptism into death in that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life. Now, baptism is a language that Paul uses to describe our being united to Jesus. In baptism, there’s a renaming that takes place, a new identity. Baptism is that initial part of any believer’s life.

It’s never a one and done, as if that’s all that mattered. We live out the reality of our baptism day by day. Elsewhere, Paul has said that you can be circumcised and completely miss the mark. So too is baptism. It’s never about baptism itself. You get baptized and then get out of jail free card. Paul uses it as shorthand, a picture being united to Jesus, the whole Christian experience. He’s saying, he’s speaking of the life of a believer. And then remember, when Jesus was baptized, he did so to to identify with us in our sinful condition. All that is ours, it fell on him. And we have been baptized into his name, so all that he has falls on us now. When Jesus first came to John to be baptized, John didn’t want to do it. He said, It’s fitting for righteousness to do so. In doing that, in becoming baptized, Jesus could identify with us so that one day Jesus would baptize us by the Holy spirit so we could be identified by him. All that is his becomes ours. All of it is mine, it is yours because he is all ours. That’s the good news of the gospel.

Think of it this way. If you marry a wealthy spouse, all their hard work and effort becomes yours without you doing anything. Think about it, people are like, Oh, I married that trust fund kid, or that person had all this wealth assembled and did all these things, and now it’s mine. How? Just by virtue of being married. By marrying me, Laura became the proud owner of a set of World Book encyclopedias, a library of 30 or 40 books. And she reminded me later, also two orange vinyl chairs. Who knew? All that is Jesus becomes ours. It’s everything. He gives that to us by being united to him. We did nothing. And Paul goes on, If we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him for a resurrection like his. Paul, he looks to what is still to come. The resurrection from the dead is at the end of human history when Jesus returns, and it’s the great hope that we all have. This world is not going to stay the same. We’re not going to be saying there’s going to be a transformation complete and total that’s still yet to come.

And we hold that by faith with the deposit of Christ, who has been raised from the dead, sending his spirit to us. And Paul goes on, We know that our old self was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing so that we’d no longer be enslaved to it. For one who has died been set free from sin. Now, people have described this in many different ways. Sin is detrown, but not yet totally defeated. The penalty is paid for, but the power is not fully removed. The presence of sin versus the reign of sin. There’s lots of ways to talk about the ongoing struggle that we have with sin. Paul speaks in many places that we are now something new and different in some substantial way because we are justified by Christ. A new relationship has taken place. We are reconciled to the Father. The relationship is different. We are dead to sin because its penalty has been removed once for all. But more than that, we are now alive to Christ. Verse 8, Now, if we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him.

We know that Christ, being raised from the dead, will never die again. Death no longer has dominion over him. For the death he died, he died to sin once for all. But the life he lives, he lives to God. So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus. That’s how God now sees us. It’s not for the super spiritual, amazing people who can get all that stuff together. It’s for all of us. Even when we don’t feel like it, it’s still true. Because it’s not based on how I feel or what I do. It’s based on what Jesus has accomplished. All of that through our being united to him. Now, this is how God sees us. Notice here that in this chapter, also through the first six chapters, Paul hasn’t really given us a command yet, an imperative telling us there’s something we need to do. So far, he has told us everything has been done by Jesus. Now, that’s a really good example for us. Because think about this, how long in a conversation, especially if they’re messing up, do you go from what Jesus has done to how they need to do stuff better?

Well, apparently, it’s okay to go six chapters telling someone about Jesus, and then, okay, now let’s talk about you. It’s a great example. Tell people about Jesus long before you start telling them about what they need to do for Jesus. Verse 12, Therefore, that’s the change. Let not sin, therefore, reign in your mortal body to make you obey its passions. Now, Paul, of course, is not in different to sin. We’re going to look at that in far greater detail next week. But one of the great tragedies sees a sin is that it enslaved us. Whatever we give ourselves to will control us. Now, it’s easy to see this with addictions. Those who live for the high of heroin or meth, they end up in a terrible place. The very thing that they’re taking for pleasure, in the end, it destroys pleasure. That’s easy to see. But it’s true of all of us and all of our sin. The things that we can start off that are good in themselves, we twist into idles of the heart. If we are driven by the approval of others, we’re devastated when we don’t get that approval or validation that we think we deserve or need.

We could actually do very shameful things in getting approval, and it enslaved us. That’s true of all sin. Cranfield, he gives a really good translation for verse 12. He says, Stop allowing sin to reign unopposed in your mortal selves. Is there still a struggle with sin? Sure. But we don’t let it reign unopposed without a fight. Paul goes on, he says in verse 13, Do not present your members to sin as instruments for unrighteousness. That word members is the way of speaking about the whole self. Don’t even give a part of yourself to sin. But present yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life and your members to God as instruments for righteousness. There’s a paraphrase I really like. It puts us together well. It says, That means you must not give sin a vote in the conduct of your life. Don’t give it the time of day. Don’t even run little errands that are connected with that old way of life. Throw yourself wholeheartedly and full-time in the God’s way of doing things. Don’t even run little errands connected with that old way of life. Paul now goes goes back to the truth for believers.

So he has told us what Christ has done. He’s telling us the new life we were to live, and now he’s going back to what Christ has done. The reality of this verse 14, For sin will have no dominion over you since you are not under law but under grace. Now, he’s not saying we won’t sin. He’s not saying that temptation is not tempting. It certainly is. He’s saying we’re not left helpless by sin since you are not under law but grace. Now, some have tried to use this to mean that we’re no longer under the moral commands of God. No, just no. Paul speaks of our moral obligation in many places. We’re not under the condemnation that he has been speaking about with the law. The law shows what is wrong with us, but it doesn’t change us. The law is good and right. As I said before, we put up a sign out there that says, Don’t walk in the grass. And the first thing, you’re I want to walk on the grass. It wasn’t the sign that did that. That was our sinful heart. Paul is saying that part in our sinful heart is now changed because of God’s transforming grace.

Some may recall, I said this a while back, telling of the life of Amy Tracy. Amy Tracy, at one time, she was a lesbian and feminist activists, even a press secretary for the National Organization of Women. She hated evangelical Christianity, picketed anything they were for and supported anything they were against. And yet she would go on to say, There were times I felt a profound sadness for something I couldn’t identify. And she was aware that joy, purity, and peace were missing from her life. And this yearning grew, and she gradually became aware of a profound hunger for God. She said, I didn’t ask for this hunger. I didn’t ask for the peace. I had a successful career, friends, respect. I was in a committed relationship with another woman. My world was hostile to Christianity. I despised Christians. But over the next few months, she found herself sneaking in and out of a church. She became a Christian. And for six months, she avoided any thinking about the social issues that had so defined her life. And one day, she’s standing in a Starbucks and she’s just flipping through The New York Times. And she saw several stories on controversial issues.

And she had this wave of panic sweep over her. She said, I realized that my positions on these issues that were once so integral to my soul were now changing. And she tried to avoid it. She’s stuck in traffic and she’s just doing the radio flip through. And she’s listening to a speech against partial birth abortion. Now, previously, no logical argument, no medical fact would ever sway her. Now, she felt that abortion grieved God. She said, It made me sad to think that every day women were destroying people whom God loved, and I repented for the part I played in that. That is a transformation of grace. No one told her that she had to change her views. But she who was once a slave to those things, Jesus was setting her free. That’s the work of the Holy spirit, the natural outflow of him working in her life, dwelling in her. That’s the power of Jesus at work, crushing the power of sin and death. She was dead to her sin and now alive to Christ. There’s a triumph of grace. Okay, if all that’s true, why is it so hard? Why does it seem so so hard and take so long for this change?

Sinclair Ferguson, he’s paraphrasing John Owens, and he said from John Owens, There are actually only ever two pastoral problems you will ever encounter. The first is this, persuading those who are under the dominion of sin, that they’re under the dominion of sin. That is a task of evangelism. The second, persuading those who are no longer under the dominion of sin, that they are no longer under dominion of sin because they are in Christ. That’s the ongoing life of discipleship. This is from the four First step of alcoholics anonymous, and it comes as really good advice. There it says, make a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves. A searching, fearless, and moral inventory of ourselves. Where you actually confront your life, the things you’re doing, and you’re looking at them honestly. I think that pairs well with verse 12, Stop letting sin reign unopposed. We often think that God is in the forgiveness business, so it really doesn’t matter how we live our life. No, God is in the complete human renewal business, and it certainly matters. We can’t break free without Jesus. But if we are united to him in Christ, then we have been set free.

Over a lifetime, we battle this out. We’re not alone. We don’t just ignore it. We do, we search and give ourselves an honest inventory of how are we doing? What are those issues that are hanging us up? And what then, by the power of God’s grace, can we do to start changing and redirecting that? That’s a part of our walk with Christ. And at the same time, when we look to others who are believers, we recognize they have the same spirit of Jesus in them. They’re not different spirits for different people. It’s the same spirit, the same baptism, the same Lord. And so we cannot look down and despise them. For they, too, are a temple of the Holy spirit. The glory of Jesus resides in them. And if they are not yet Christians, they are to be the object of our prayer and our pity, for we did not save ourselves. In this battle, we are fighting a defeated foe. It sure doesn’t feel like it at times. Sometimes it’s like, just defeated? Really? Yes, really, truly a defeated foe. Jesus has been victorious. And that means we can take even our worst besetting sin, and we can get right back up if it has knocked us down, and we can boldly proclaim, You do not have mastery over me.

I belong to Jesus. And get back up into the fight because you’re not doing it in your own strength. The Holy spirit in us, enabling us to stand against wickedness and darkness because God’s desire for our life is to be set free, to live a life of joy in him. And those things are joy stealers. They’re life stealers. They quench what he is doing, and he is committed to a profoundly changed life of his people because he loves us, and he wants our relationship to reflect the relationship between the Father, the Son, and the spirit. We’re brought into that. That enables us to fight, and we will fight until the end when that final sense takes place. When we are fully transformed at Jesus’ return, the victory is already won. Because I am dead to sin, I am now alive to God in Christ Jesus. Pray with me. Father, as we come before you this day, we thank you. We thank you for all the things that you have accomplished for us through your son, Jesus. And Father, we confess that we struggle. We confess that we often are tripped up by former patterns and ways of life and sin.

And we pray, Father, that you would continue to set us free, to show us the reality of all that your son has achieved, that we have simply received. And Father, we pray also that you would continue to open our eyes to the panorama of your grace and your goodness before us, that you would fill our hearts with boldness to say no to unrighteousness and say yes to Jesus. Fill our voice with praise and adoration for you. We bless you, our Triune God, Father, Son, and spirit. Amen. Please.

Discaimer: This sermon text was generated by an automated transcription service.