Sermon on Romans 6:1-13 – “Walk in Newness of Life
November 25, 2018 at Dillingham Presbyterian Church
In chapter 5 Paul had argued that we are to be assured of our salvation in Jesus Christ, and that the forgiveness we have in Christ is far greater than the sin we have in and with Adam.
Paul is so positive here—so encouraging—that he feels the need to immediately—in our passage from Chapter 6—he feels the need to immediately quash an error that some might have in their minds after having heard his gospel.
Paul had taught in Romans 5:20, “Now, the law came in to increase the trespass, but where sin increased, grace abounded all the more.” (REPEAT: “where sin increased, grace abounded all the more.”)
Having preached this great news of the Gospel—that however bad you have sinned, there is forgiveness in Christ—having taught this in many places, from city to city, Paul knew what the common response would be from those who oppose him. And they would respond, “Are you saying that I should sin more so that God can more show how gracious He is?”
Addressing this error, Paul asks rhetorically, “Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound?” [REPEAT: Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound?”]
That is, should we sin more so that there will be more grace? Should we keep on sinning since God will forgive us anyways?!
And he answers: By no means!
The statement of Paul’s opponents is a terrible error. And it is by this error that even today some have thought that having once said a prayer to Jesus as God that they need not continue to live for Him. They might say, “If I’m saved by Grace, then I can live my life however I want to!”
But, as is Paul’s contention, we are not saved in order to be then left alone in a world of sin, but rather our salvation continues to a sanctification, a walking in the newness of life.
Paul is not the only Scriptural writer who confronts this antinomian error. Jude, verse 4, explains that he (Jude) was also writing against this error. Jude says that certain ungodly people “pervert the grace of our God into sensuality.” [REPEAT: certain ungodly people “pervert the grace of our God into sensuality.”] This is the same problem Paul is addressing.
Paul asks rhetorically, “Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound?”
By no means!
This is a perversion. It is an invalid deduction, a false inference.
A. Invalid inferences
By invalid inferences many errors arise in theology and indeed in all subjects of life.
If it is good to help those in need, should we favor policies that cause everyone to be needy, so that there will then be more opportunities to do good?!
If it is healthy each day to drink a gallon of a water, is it healthier to each day drink 25 gallons of water?
Of course not. These are invalid inferences.
Likewise, Paul is arguing against an invalid inference. God forgives sins, but this is not an invitation to sin more!
Invalid inferences are the root cause also of many theological problems.
For example, from the Biblical truth that we are responsible for our sins, some have invalidly inferred that man, in this present life, is able not to sin. I like to say “responsibility does not mean ability.” [REPEAT: responsibility does not mean ability.”]
Others have erred in thinking that because God alone causes the conversion of sinners, that man should not even preach!
These are terrible errors, caused by invalid inferences.
Because such errors of invalid inference are so commonly made, some have desired that no attempts at deduction be allowed at all. That is, they would prefer that we stick strictly to the text of the Scripture for all of our theological knowledge.
B. Valid Inferences
But, we should not, to use that proverbial saying, “throw the baby out with the bath water.”
Just because invalid inferences occur from time to time, this does not mean that all inferences are invalid.
We should reject the invalid, while we accept the valid.
The Westminster Confession of Faith tells us:
“The whole counsel of God concerning all things necessary for his own glory, man’s salvation, faith and life, is (1) either expressly set down in Scripture, or (2) by good and necessary consequence may be deduced from Scripture.”
That is, the confession tells us that we are not limited in our knowledge to only those exact things which the Scriptures tell us, but we can combine, arrange, and compare what the Scriptures tell us in order to understand more of God’s revelation to us. So long as this is done properly.
Jesus himself made such inferences. He saw and explained a proper implication of the Scriptures when he was talking with the Sadducees about the Resurrection.
Recall that it was the Sadducees who did not believe there would be a resurrection. The Pharisees believed in the resurrection, but the Sadducees did not.
And the Sadducees tried to trick Jesus. They came to him and asked:
“Teacher, Moses wrote for us that if a man’s brother dies, having a wife but no children, the man must take the widow and raise up offspring for his brother. 29 Now there were seven brothers. The first took a wife, and died without children. 30 And the second 31 and the third took her, and likewise all seven left no children and died. 32 Afterward the woman also died. 33 In the resurrection, therefore, whose wife will the woman be? For the seven had her as wife.” [Luke 20:28-33 ESV]
Jesus answered by inferring a solution from multiple Scriptural passages. He answered,
“The sons of this age marry and are given in marriage, 35 but those who are considered worthy to attain to that age and to the resurrection from the dead neither marry nor are given in marriage, 36 for they cannot die anymore, because they are equal to angels and are sons of God, being sons of the resurrection. 37 But that the dead are raised, even Moses showed, in the passage about the bush, where he calls the Lord the God of Abraham and the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob. 38 Now he is not God of the dead, but of the living, for all live to him.” [Luke 20:34-38 ESV]
This is Jesus’ inference: Because God is the God of Abraham and of Isaac and of Jacob, and because God is a God of the Living, therefore Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob—men who once died—are now alive! And if they have gone from death to life, then there is a resurrection.
Jesus’ conclusion is true. And he has shown the error of the Sadducees. There is indeed a resurrection. And in this example Jesus has shown that we can, by good and necessary consequence, properly deduce certain truths from Biblical truths.
C. Back to Paul
But not all inferences are valid. To the rhetorical question, “Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound?” Paul answers, “By no means!” But he does not merely negate the invalid conclusion, he argues against it. He asks in turn:
(1) How can we who died to sin still live in it?
(2) Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death?
He uses the very means of expression that Jesus himself used: “Do you not know?” [REPEAT: Do you not know?] Have you not read the Scriptures?
When we then look at the broader context of this passage ( Romans 6:1-13) we see that the central doctrine is Union with Christ. [Repeat: Union with Christ.]
Regarding this union, Paul tells us that:
(1) the believer has been baptized into Jesus Christ,
(2) has been baptized into his death,
(3) buried with him by that baptism into death,
(4) but also raised to a new life with him in resurrection.
Each of these are a union. Baptized into Jesus Christ, baptized into his death, buried with him by that baptism, and raised to a new life with him.
Along the whole line the believer is united to Christ.
And it is this doctrine of the union with Christ by which Paul proves the error of those who would say we should sin more. How can we sin more when we have been brought into a new life through union with Christ? If anything, we should sin less.
III. Union with Christ.
Let’s look more at this doctrine of union with Christ.
Now, in the first five chapters of Romans, Paul focuses on the doctrine of justification. Here in chapter 6, a major change occurs; the focus changes from justification to sanctification. But, both justification and sanctification can be put under the heading of “Union with Christ.”
A. Luther –justification.
Martin Luther so focused on justification that some have thought he overlooked sanctification. For Luther justification was rightly the most important teaching of Scripture. And he wanted to make sure that no doctrine of works snuck into the equation. He wanted to keep the discussion on the point of God’s grace to us in justification, and he quite limited any discussion on sanctification and the good works that are to flow out of the Christian life. Because of this, I even once saw a Lutheran—with self-deprecating or ironic humor—wear a t-shirt with the message printed on it: “Weak on sanctification.” Luther, of course, did not totally ignore sanctification. But at times it might seem lost in his strong emphasis on justification.
B. Calvin – Union with Christ – justification leading to sanctification.
John Calvin, on the other hand, had a different central focus in his theology. For Calvin the central doctrine was not so much justification, but Union with Christ. It is then from our Union with Christ that both justification and sanctification are understood.
We’ve seen this idea of Union with Christ already in previous passages in Romans. Recall that in chapter five, there was the doctrine of federal headship. And as Jesus is our federal head, our representative, we are united to him.
In the Gospels, Jesus had taught we are the sheep and he is the shepherd. Even more closely our union with Christ is described as “He is the vine, we are the branches” and “He is the head of the body (of us believers in) the church.” We are united with Christ.
From our union with Christ, we know that: where He goes, we go.
So Paul says we
(1) We are united to him in baptism (vs. 3, 4)
(2) We are united in His death.
(3) And so we are also united in His resurrection.
(4) And we are united in life.
This seems to be the pattern, the literary technique Paul uses in the passage: 14 times in these verse he uses the words “die, dead, or death” and another 7 times he uses the words “life, live, lives, or alive.”
The point is that in our union with Christ we are united to him in both His death and His new life. And that should give us great hope, because as Paul says “we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his.” For Paul it is certain; salvation is assured.
C. Dead to sin and alive in Christ
So Paul says “consider yourself dead to sin and alive to God in Jesus Christ.”
But what does this mean? “Dead to sin.” What does it mean to be dead to sin?
John Calvin explains that to be dead to sin means to be delivered from its power as a master, to be delivered from the servitude or bondage to sin.
The Christian life then is not one in which we are completely perfect and without sin, but rather it is a struggle against sin rather; not a desire for it. Paul, in the next chapter, Romans 7:14 admits that he does not understand his own actions; that he still sins. He says “I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate.” Paul, the apostle, the great Christian leader remained a sinner even after being justified in Jesus Christ. You too, even though you have been justified by Jesus Christ remain a sinner.
Our sanctification is never complete in this life. We will always be “working it out with fear and trembling.” This is not to glory in our sin, but to give you assurance that even though you sin and continue to sin, you are united with Christ and will, like Paul, certainly have a resurrection to life just as Christ did.
D. Present yourself as one as those who have been brought from death to life
And so Paul says also “present yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life.”
The transition is in Jesus Christ. You were dead to sin; you are now alive. So do not go back to sinning, to death, that grace may abound, but realize that you have been brought from death to life, and live accordingly. Walk in a newness of life. Have joy in what Christ has done for you, for your salvation, and live a sanctifying life not to merit salvation but to praise God for the salvation you assuredly have.
Our union with Christ has brought us from death to life. [REPEAT: Our union with Christ has brought us from death to life.] Therefore, do not live as one who is dead, but live as one who has a newness of life.
III. Walk in Newness of Life
So I’ve talked about the importance of valid inference, and the doctrine of the Union with Christ. But there is a third point which is the central direction of the passage. That is, Paul’s admonition to “Walk in newness of life.”
This is a result of the union we have with christ. We are to walk in newness of life leading to our sanctification.Whereas justification is an instantaneous declaration of pardon, sanctification is a process of being made holy. Justification is a one time occurrence, but sanctification is something to be worked out with fear and trembling. It is a continuous walking in the newness of life, being guided by the Holy Spirit who works in us both to will and to do.
This is our purpose now that we have been united with Christ. Let us walk in newness of life.
2 Corinthians 5:17 reads: “If any man is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.”
And so I must ask. And you must consider:
Is this a characteristic of your life? Are you a slave to sin, or a slave to Jesus Christ and his righteousness? Are you walking in newness of life, or are you held captive by the sin of this world?
If you are united to Christ then you should be walking in newness of life.
But what exactly does this mean? What does it mean to walk in newness of life?
I’ll try to answer that in the second of two practical applications.
APPLICATION # 1. Expect Objections to this teaching.
First, lets look at an application from this passage from the objections themselves.
The application is this: If you preach what Paul preaches, you should expect to hear the objections he heard. [REPEAT: If you preach what Paul preaches, you should expect to hear the objections he heard.]
The objections Paul addresses are objections that just cannot or will not be raised against false doctrine. Nobody says to the Roman Catholic, or the proponent of Federal Vision theology, no one says to them, “Should we then sin so that grace may abound?” because they do not teach Sola Gratia, salvation by God’s grace alone. This objection only makes sense in the context of sovereign grace.
Nor, could one say to the proponent of these views that which was said to Paul in Romans 9:19 – “You will say to me then, ‘Why does he still find fault? For who can resist his will?’”
This objection too is only only are possibly against the teaching of salvation by God’s grace, without any effort of man.
This confirms what we have always taught. Salvation is a gift of God. So expect opposition when you contend for that point. And expect the same objections that Paul heard.
APPLICATION # 2. Answering How do I walk in newness of life?
Now to the final application: If you are united to Christ then you should be walking in newness of life. But what exactly does this mean? What does it mean to walk in newness of life?
Later in the passage Paul explains what this looks like. He says: “ present yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life, and your members to God as instruments for righteousness.”
First, Present yourself to God. Do not try to impress your fellow man. Don’t do the right thing only when others are watching. But present yourself to God—who sees everything—as those who have been brought from death to life.
And as one who has been brought from death to life, you should be happy for sure, but also you should live not in deadly sin but in outflowing love.
Then finally, Paul then says to present “your members [the members of your body] as instruments for righteousness.”
God gave you all of the parts of your body. You are to use them for righteousness.
Consider your Eyes — What are you watching? What should you be watching?
Consider your Ears – What are you listening to? What should you be listening to? Do you listen to others? A great teacher of mine would always say: “Listen with your Eyes, Ears, and Brain.”
Consider your Arms. Are you landing blows on other people? Figurative blows, and not physical ones I hope!
And consider your Feet – Where are you going? What places should you avoid going to? Where are you not going enough? Walk in newness of life. If you are standing still, you’re not walking. If you are not producing Christian fruit, are you really a Christian tree as you suppose?
Do not use your bodily parts for wickedness but for good. Struggle against sin. Do not give in, for you have a new life in Christ. Let us walk in that newness of life, praising the Lord and giving Him the glory. Amen.