Romans 6:1-11 (The Baptism of Our Lord—Series C)
“Our Changed Reality”
Lutheran Church of Our Redeemer, Enfield CT
January 10, 2016
In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Our text is the Epistle lesson recorded in Romans 6:
What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? 2 By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it? 3 Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? 4 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. 5 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. 6 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. 7 For one who has died has been set free from sin. 8 Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. 9 We know that Christ, being raised from the dead, will never die again; death no longer has dominion over him. 10 For the death he died he died to sin, once for all, but the life he lives he lives to God. 11 So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus.
In the original Star Wars, Episode 4, Darth Vader confronts his old teacher and mentor, Obi-Wan Kenobi, one last time. Vader comments, “I’ve been waiting for you, Obi-Wan. We meet again, at last. The circle is now complete. When I left you, I was but the learner; now I am the master.” Obi-Wan replies, “Only a master of evil, Darth.”
We were once ruled by a master of evil. It was not a fictional Sith lord, but a very real master called sin. Sin, every thought, word, deed, and desire that goes against God’s Law, controlled our thoughts, words, deeds, and desires. Paul speaks of “the body of sin” in our text. By this the apostle means “the whole person who is controlled by sin.” Indeed, it is the whole person who is enslaved by sin—in slavery to our evil inclinations, under the curse of God’s Law for failing to keep it perfectly.
What does enslavement to sin look like? The Bible gives us the answer. “Sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry” (Col. 3:5). Having sin as our master is living “in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind” (Eph. 2:3). Being mastered by sin produces the works of the flesh, “sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these.” To which Paul says, “I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God” (Gal 5:19-21).
In this way the Word of God describes for us the Old Self, the Old Adam, the body of sin which enslaved us. What an awful, unpleasant, disastrous reality—mastered by forces beyond our control! What a horrible and frightening reality that would end with eternal death, being separated from God forever, rightly condemned to hell because of our sins of thought, desire, word, and deed. And yet so many wish to deny reality. “Oh, God would never do such a thing! He’s loving and gracious. Besides, God likes to forgive, and I like to sin, so we are all set. He won’t really punish anyone.”
But the Word of the Lord tells us otherwise. “The wages of sin is death” (Rom. 6:23). The Lord says through Ezekiel, “Behold, all souls are mine; the soul of the father as well as the soul of the son is mine: the soul who sins shall die” (Ezek. 18:4). That is the reality given to us by a just and holy God, who is without sin and who hates sin. He must punish sin. But out of his lavish love for sinners, God graciously, of His own accord, without any merit or worthiness in us, decided to change your reality. He would indeed punish sin. His justice against your transgressions would be met. Only, it would not be you who received the punishment of death. God selected a substitute, One to die in your place, One to suffer hell and damnation on your behalf. God chose His one-of-a-kind Son, Jesus Christ.
In His Incarnation, Jesus allowed Himself to be placed under the burden of God’s Law so that He, true God and true Man, would fulfill it and keep it, and you would get the credit for having done so yourself. At His baptism in the Jordan River, Jesus identified Himself with sinners of all times and all places. He willingly, graciously, took on the role of substitute so that He might go to the cross, bearing the sins of the world. He carried in His own body your sins, too. He took upon Himself your immorality, your gossip, your cursing and swearing. He took to the cross your sins of anger and hatred, your lack of love for God and your neighbor. On Calvary’s cross, Jesus suffered God’s wrath and anger against sin. He was forsaken by the Father, enduring hell itself as He bled and died your death. Jesus died to sin once for all obtaining forgiveness for all your sins. He died for you. On the third day, Jesus rose again from the dead; He can no longer die again. Death is no longer lord of Him. The life He now lives He lives to God so that He might give to you a new reality.
You who have been baptized with water in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit have been baptized into Christ Jesus, into His death, burial, and resurrection. Baptism connects you with, and plugs you into, the death of Christ. Baptism is your death with Christ, inaugurating a relationship with Jesus, in whom there is no longer any condemnation. Thus, baptized into Christ, into His death, burial, and resurrection, you have died to sin. Sin is no longer your master. Sin is no longer your lord. Jesus Christ is Lord!
In Baptism, you became a sharer in Christ’s death and burial. As Christ died to sin once for all He liberated you from the mastery of sin. You are no longer enslaved by sin. Quite the contrary, you are enabled to battle the sin that once enslaved you. Sin and death used to reign. But not anymore! Jesus Christ is Lord! As surely as Jesus was raised from the dead, so also through the glorious power of God, there is a present renewal of life for you, a new reality! Instead of persisting in sin, instead of sin having control over you, it is now possible for you who are baptized into the death and burial of the resurrected Jesus to “walk the walk.” Jesus’ resurrected life enables you to walk in newness of life even now.
When you were Baptized into Christ Jesus, your reality changed. He died to sin once for all, and you were baptized into his death. Therefore, you have died to sin and are no longer slaves to it. As Christ lives to God, so you also, like Jesus, are “living to God in Christ Jesus.” Your life is continually being renewed by virtue of your baptismal connection with Christ. And what does this new reality look like, living to God in Christ Jesus? We read in Romans 13, “Let us walk properly as in the daytime, not in orgies and drunkenness, not in sexual immorality and sensuality, not in quarreling and jealousy” (Rom. 13:13). In Ephesians 4 we are encouraged to “walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace” (Eph. 4:1-3). Indeed, your new reality in Christ through Baptism is one in which you are empowered for holy living because sin no longer has mastery over you as you receive the gifts of the Holy Spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control” (Gal. 5:22-23)
Though Baptism into Christ, His death, burial, and resurrection, our reality has changed. You are dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus. Your Old Self, held in slavery to sin, was crucified with Christ. The body of sin has been brought to nothing. You are no longer slaves to sin. Jesus is Lord of your lives. You have a new reality, a new life, in Him. Count yourself to be dead to sin and living to God in Jesus. Walk in the newness of life by His grace and Spirit. Amen.