Romans 6:1-11 (The Baptism of Our Lord—Series A)
Lutheran Church of Our Redeemer, Enfield CT
January 9, 2011
In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Our text is the Epistle Lesson for today recorded in Romans 6:
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. 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.
Thomas Costain’s history, The Three Edwards, described the life of Raynald III, a fourteenth-century duke in what is now Belgium. Grossly overweight, Raynald was commonly called by his Latin nickname, Crassus, which means “fat.”
After a violent quarrel, Raynald’s younger brother Edward led a successful revolt against him. Edward captured Raynald but did not kill him. Instead, he built a room around Raynald in the Nieuwkerk castle and promised him he could regain his title and property as soon as he was able to leave the room. This would not have been difficult for most people since the room had several windows and a door of near-normal size, and none was locked or barred. The problem was Raynald’s size. To regain his freedom, he needed to lose weight. But Edward knew his older brother, and each day he sent a variety of delicious foods. Instead of dieting his way out of prison, Raynald grew fatter.
When Duke Edward was accused of cruelty, he had a ready answer: “My brother is not a prisoner. He may leave when he so wills.”
Raynald stayed in that room for ten years and wasn’t released until after Edward died in battle. By then his health was so ruined he died within a year … a prisoner of his own appetite.
We, too, were prisoners of our own appetites, but not our appetite for food. We were prisoners, even slaves, to our appetite for sin. Our spiritual appetite hungered for nothing but what the self desired. It did not seek God, nor was it able to. All our spiritual appetite pursued was greed, lust, selfishness, hatred, idolatry, cursing, swearing, and every form of evil and corruption. Our spiritual appetites were without love for God and devoid of love for people. We were enslaved by sin.
That was our real problem. Satan, the oppressive slave driver, drove us further from God. The world drew us deeper into slavery, enticing us with its fleeting and perishable things. Our own sinful flesh, the “old self” that Romans 6 mentions, constantly tempted us to lust after those things that cannot satisfy and that soon perish. We were held tightly in the strong chains of these masters. Without someone to win our freedom, we would have certainly died eternally in our spiritual slavery to sin.
Into a world of slaves, prisoners of our own sinful appetites, “stepped forth the Lord of all from His pure and kingly hall; God of God, yet fully man, His heroic course began.” (LSB 322:4) Jesus Christ, “very God of very God, begotten, not made,” became incarnate. He took on human flesh in the womb of the Virgin Mary by the power of the Holy Spirit. Christ identified Himself with us by taking on our human flesh, by becoming truly one of us, except without a sinful appetite. Christ indentified Himself with sinners in His baptism in the Jordan River. He who had no sin assumed the role of sinners and placed Himself under John’s baptismal waters. With John’s participation, Jesus performed “all righteousness.” He enacted God’s saving deeds for the people by literally standing with sinners, taking the place of sinners, and received from John the baptism that sinners received. Ultimately, all of Jesus’ ministry came to its head as the Scriptures were fulfilled in the arrest that led to His trial and condemnation and crucifixion. On the cross, Jesus the sinless One offered up His own life as the ransom payment for all people enslaved by sin’s appetite. That’s why it was fitting for Jesus to come and stand in the Jordan and be baptized, to stand literally in our place. (Gibbs, Matthew 1:1-11:1)
Jesus stood in the place of people enslaved to sin. That means that Jesus did stand in your place and in mine in His incarnation, baptism, life, sacrificial death, and resurrection. The eternally valuable blood of Jesus Christ shed on the cross, the priceless perfection of His obedience to God’s Word in life and in death, and the precious treasury of His merit on the cross are the price He paid to set us free from sin. Jesus bought us back from the evil taskmasters who oppressed us. We are no longer subject to the devil, the world, and our sinful flesh.
We have been freed from the slavery of our sinful appetite through Baptism into Christ’s death and resurrection. In the Sacrament of Holy Baptism, you and I are united to Christ’s death and burial so that we will be united to His resurrection and life. “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.” Christ’s death paid for our sins and His righteousness is credited to us. The result of this free gift of God to us in Christ Jesus is newness of life in and through Baptism. In Baptism God applies directly to you and me Christ’s death for us. We personally receive the benefits of Christ’s sacrifice on Calvary’s cross. What are those benefits? Those benefits are the “forgiveness of sins, rescue from death and the devil, and eternal salvation to all who believe this, as the words and promises of God declare.” (Small Catechism) God’s words of institution put these great blessings into Baptism. Faith, which trusts this word of God in the water, takes the blessings out and makes them our own.
We who have been crucified and raised with Christ in Baptism are freed from sin and sin’s guilt through the forgiveness Jesus won for us on the cross. In Baptism, God the Holy Spirit works faith in our hearts and creates in us a new spiritual life with the power to overcome sin. This forgiveness and freedom in Christ which is ours through Baptismal waters changes our lives, our lifestyles, our attitudes, and our actions. In Baptism, God makes us new creations through faith in Jesus Christ. We are set free from our sinful appetite, free to conduct our lives without that unholy influence.
How it grieves the heart of God when baptized Christians reject the blessings of their baptism and intentionally return to the enslavement of sin! Paul forcefully rejects the notion that we should ignore God’s will and deliberately sin, knowing that He will forgive. This is an abuse of grace. The freedom from sin and sin’s appetite in Baptism is not a license to sin boldly. We dare not use forgiveness as an excuse to sin. God forbid that we come to the conclusion, “Well, I can do whatever I want and feed my sinful appetite. I’ll just ask God to forgive me later.” Doesn’t this beg the question, “What if there is no later?” Instead of living in the freedom of forgiveness and the newness of life, you return to the slavery of sin to enjoy its fleeting pleasures only to have God say to you as He did to the rich fool, “Tonight, your soul will be required of you.” When will you then repent when time to do so has run out? Why jeopardize your eternal life for the things of this world, for the things of sin and death? God says in Galatians 5, “For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.”
Because Jesus has united Himself to us in Baptism, we do not use forgiveness as an excuse to sin. Instead, we joyfully live in service to Christ with all that we are as the forgiven and redeemed children of God. We demonstrate the fruit of the Spirit: love, joy peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. In the power of our Baptism, we “put to death therefore what is earthly in [us]: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry.” We “put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful.” (Col. 3)
This is the newness of life in which we conduct ourselves as Baptized children of God. We have been freed from sin and its burden of guilt. Why live in it any longer? Why go back and live as slaves when we are free children of God with a new life, empowered by the Holy Spirit, which we can successfully live as God’s people? We are dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus. Our sinful spiritual appetites have been satisfied by the life and death of Jesus. He was our substitute in His life and in His death to win our forgiveness and our freedom. Jesus identified with us in this life so that we can be indentified with His life now and eternally. Therefore, in the power of our Baptism, we walk in the newness of life because our appetite is now for the things of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. Amen.