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  • Writer's pictureRev. Gerald (Jerry) Reiter, Emeritus

“Shall We Go On Sinning?”

Fourth Sunday After Pentecost

What shall we say, then? Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase? By no means! We are those who have died to sin; how can we live in it any longer? Or don’t you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life.

For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we will certainly also be united with him in a resurrection like his. For we know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body ruled by sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin — because anyone who has died has been set free from sin.

Now if we died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. For we know that since Christ was raised from the dead, he cannot die again; death no longer has mastery over him. The death he died, he died to sin once for all; but the life he lives, he lives to God.

In the same way, count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus.

Romans 6:1-11

Last Sunday our Epistle lesson told us that we are all in Adam by birth, inherit his sinful nature, and are condemned - and die. But that Christ came as the “Second Adam”, and by faith in Him we are justified – and live!

This week Paul kinda asks, “So what are we to do about it?”

The death and resurrection of Jesus Christ are not only historical facts, and they’re not only significant doctrines. The death and resurrection of Jesus Christ are personal experiences of Christian believers. They are events in which we ourselves have shared! All Christians – all of us – have been united to Christ in His death and in His resurrection. Now that’s not easy to understand!

And further, if this is true, if we have died with Christ and we have risen with Christ, then it’s inconceivable that we should go on living in sin. And that’s not easy to accept!

But this is what we just read in our Epistle lesson, so let’s look at it, and see what we can understand, and what we can accept.

The Apostle Paul begins this chapter with a question: “Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound?” Now that may seem like a ridiculous question, but people do think like that, you know – you and me included! Is it all right if I do this? Is it okay if I do that? Everyone else is doing it! What can it hurt, anyway? No one needs to know – and what you don’t know can’t hurt you! I’ve been justified by the grace of God. If I sin again, I’ll be forgiven again, by grace. And the more I sin, the more opportunity grace will have to show itself in my forgiveness. So – shall I continue in sin that grace may abound? And Paul answers, “No way!”

And then he asks another question: “How can we who died to sin still live in it?” The Christian life begins with a death to sin, whether in infant baptism or in adult conversion. So, it’s ridiculous to ask if we’re at liberty to continue in sin! How can we go on living in what we’ve died to?

That people can even think of asking whether Christians are free to sin shows a complete lack of understanding of what a Christian is! A Christian isn’t merely a justified believer. A Christian is someone who has entered into a vital, living, personal relationship with Jesus Christ! There’s no possibility of justification through Christ without union with Christ. And the Bible tells us that a Christian has been united with Christ in his death and resurrection. “Don’t you know,” says Paul, “that all of us who’ve been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death? We were buried therefore with Him by baptism into death, so that 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’re not to think of ourselves as just united to Christ in some vague, general sense. We need to be more particular than that. The Jesus Christ with whom we’ve been identified, and with whom we’ve been made one, is the Jesus who died and rose again. So, we have actually shared, whether we can understand it or not, in Jesus’ death and resurrection.

Now, to tell us what this means to us, in our everyday lives, Paul tells us something about Jesus’ death and resurrection. He says, “The death He died, He died to sin, once for all, but the life He lives, He lives to God.”

“The death He died, he died to sin, once for all.” What does this mean? It can mean only one thing: that Christ died to sin in the sense that He bore the penalty of sin. Whenever sin and death are spoken of in the Bible, the relationship between them is that death is the penalty for sin. Sin and death are linked in scripture as an offense and its just reward.

And Christ died for our sins. He took upon Himself our sins and their just reward. The death that Jesus died, was the wages of sin – our sin. He met its claim, He paid its penalty, He accepted its reward, and He did it once – once for all. As a result, sin has no more claim or demand on Him. So, He was raised from the dead, proving that His sin-bearing was satisfactory, and now He lives forever to God.

Now if Christ’s death was a death to sin (which it was), and if His resurrection was a resurrection to God (which it was), and if we have been united to Christ in His death and resurrection (which we have), then we ourselves have died to sin and risen to God; and we must consider it so. Paul says, “So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus.” Once we realize that our old life has ended – the score settled, the debt paid, the Law satisfied – we won’t want anything more to do with that old life.

John Stott looks at it as though our biography is written in two volumes. Volume One is the story of the old self, of me before my baptism or my conversion or, if I had drifted away from God, before my reawakening. Volume Two is the story of the new self, of me after I was made a new creation in Christ. Volume One of my biography ended with the judicial death of the old self. I was a sinner. I deserved to die. I did die. I received my just desserts in my substitute with whom I have become one. Volume Two of my biography opened with my resurrection. My old life having finished, a new life to God has begun.

And we are called to consider this – not to pretend it, but to realize it – it’s a fact! And we have to lay hold of it. We have to let our minds work on these truths. We have to meditate on them until we grasp them. We have to keep saying to ourselves, “Volume One has closed. You’re now living in Volume Two. It’s inconceivable that you should reopen Volume One. It’s not impossible – but it’s inconceivable!”

For example, can a single Christian man live as though he were a married man, with the privileges of marriage? Well, yes, I suppose he can. But let him realize how he is debasing the girl he says he loves – let him remember who he is – and let him live accordingly.

Can a married Christian woman live as though she were still a single girl? Well, yes, I suppose she can. But let her feel that ring on her left hand, the symbol of her vows with her husband – let her remember who she is – and let her live accordingly.

Can a Christian, who has been forgiven at the cost of Christ Himself hanging on the cross, refuse to forgive someone else? Yeah, I suppose so.

Can a Christian continue to lie, when Jesus paid such a great price to defeat the “Father of Lies”? I guess he can.

Can a Christian hate, which Jesus called murder, after Jesus died to conquer death?

Can a Christian enjoy pornographic pictures and movies and filthy songs, when Jesus has taken the world’s filth and sin on Himself and paid for it?

Can a Christian child go against all his parents believe in, and break their hearts?

Can a Christian neglect to worship Him who’s King of Kings and Lord of Lords?

Can a Christian fail to support the work of the Kingdom when people are dying in their sins?

In other words, can a born-again Christian live as though he were still in his sins? Well, yes, I suppose he can. It’s not impossible. But let him remember his baptism, his identification with Jesus Christ in His death and resurrection – and let him live accordingly!

We need to keep reminding ourselves who we are and what we are. When Satan whispers in our ear, “Go on, sin. God will forgive you. You like to sin, and God likes to forgive. Go for it!” Then we need to say, “No way! Buzz off, Satan! I died to sin; how can I live in it? Volume One is closed; I’m living in Volume Two!”

The Apostle Paul doesn’t say it’s impossible for the Christian to sin; we sin daily. But he asks the question, “How can we who died to sin still live in it?” To have died to sin and to still live in sin doesn’t make sense! A Christian should no more think of going back to the old life than an adult to his childhood, a married man to his bachelorhood, or a discharged prisoner to his prison cell.

In Jesus Christ our whole status has changed. Our baptism and our faith have cut us off from the old life and committed us to the new. We’ve died. We’ve risen. How can we live again in what we’ve died to?

Well, I guess we can, but with God’s help, we won’t!!


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