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Sermon for January 7, 2018

Romans 6:1-11 (The Baptism of Our Lord—Series B)

“United With Christ in Baptism”

Lutheran Church of Our Redeemer, Enfield, CT

January 7, 2018

 

In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.

Our text this morning is the Epistle Lesson from Romans 6:

1What shall we say then? Should we continue in sin so that grace should abound? 2By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it? 3Or do you not know that as many as have been baptized into Christ Jesus have been baptized into his death? 4Therefore, we have been buried together with him through baptism into death, in order that just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life. 5For if we have been united with him in the likeness of his death, we will certainly also be united in the likeness of his resurrection. 6We know that our old man was crucified in order that the body of sin might become ineffective so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin. 7For the one who has died stands freed from sin. 8Now if we died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him, 9knowing that Christ, being raised from the dead, will no longer die again. Death no longer has lordship over him. 10For the death he died, he died to sin once for all, but the life he lives, he lives to God. 11In this way also you should consider yourselves dead to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus.

          “Because God will forgive me, why not do what I want?” Does this question accurately reflect the Christian life that we live? If it does, there is a problem. The problem is deliberate sin, sinning on purpose with full and complete knowledge that you are sinning. The problem is ignoring God’s will, knowing that He will forgive. This is an abuse of grace. “Because God will forgive me, why not do what I want?” This attitude shows that sin is in control of your life. God’s grace is not an invitation to sin more so that God has more opportunities to forgive you. God’s grace is an invitation to a new life, a life that is not controlled by sin, but a life free from sin’s power and effects. 

          All of us were conceived and born sinful. We were all born slaves of sin, under its complete control and domination. Every thought, word, action, and desire was corrupted by sin, wicked, evil, selfish, and opposed to God’s Word. “For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God’s law; indeed, it cannot. Those who are in the flesh cannot please God” (Rom. 8:7).  To live to sin, therefore, means to obey the desires of sin. “You are slaves of the one who you obey,” St. Paul writes (Rom. 6:16).  We were slaves to sin and in bondage to death.  Knowing this, Jesus came to serve us by giving His life on the cross and by rising again. Freed from sin, we can now serve God, but not with the attitude that, “because God will forgive me, why not do what I want?” That attitude and lifestyle show that we are choosing to obey sin and remain under its power. 

          Christians are called to struggle against sin, not to simply give in to it. We might be tempted to make grace an invitation to sin—because God will forgive me, why not do what I want—but that immature attitude misses the point: Christ unites Himself to us. In His death and resurrection, we receive forgiveness and life. He calls us to live His life, not to turn back to a life dominated by sin. 

          So if you find yourself having the attitude that you can sin as much as you want and God will forgive you, or if you just find yourself really struggling with sin and temptation in your life, then it is time to return to your Baptism. It’s time to remember what God has done in and through your Baptism and what He continues to do in that washing of regeneration and renewal. It is in Baptism that we find the strength and the ability to die to sin daily and to be raised to newness of life through Jesus Christ. 

          We return to our Baptism because that’s where St. Paul returns us in our text. “Do you not know that as many as have been baptized into Christ Jesus have been baptized into his death?” In Baptism, God applies Christ’s death to us so that we receive the benefits of Christ’s sacrifice. It is Holy Baptism that connects us directly with Christ’s work of salvation. Christ paid the penalty for our sin by giving up His life into death. His death was on the cross; ours was in Baptism, which gives us the benefits of His work on the cross—forgiveness of sins and eternal life. Jesus’ work is applied to you and me in Baptism so that we also die to sin and are buried with Christ. As Jesus was buried by the earth in His burial, we are buried in baptismal water. Baptism unites us with Jesus’ death and burial so that we will also be united to His resurrection and life. 

          Paul makes the connection, “Therefore, we have been buried together with him through baptism into death in order that just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life.” The word “newness” really has the understanding of “strangeness,” and therefore, a change. The benefits of Christ’s cross applied to us in the water and Word of Holy Baptism changes us—we die to sin and rise to a strange, different, and new life in Christ Jesus. It is a life in which we are dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus.

          The presence of Christ in our hearts and lives through the power of the Holy Spirit enables us to live in the freedom of God’s grace. Baptismal faith and life in Christ mean that we are able to refuse to obey the desires of sin. It means that you and I have the ability not to turn back to a life dominated by sin or have the attitude that we make grace an invitation to sin. Paul writes in our text, “We know that our old man was crucified in order that the body of sin might become ineffective so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin. For the one who has died stands freed from sin.”

          Christ’s single death on the cross paid for our sins once for all. Jesus died so that we are now justified from sins—declared by God to be “not guilty.” So, if our sins have been paid for, they are dead and gone, left in the tomb to rot when Christ rose. You and I now have a new life set free from sin. Through the water and the Gospel Word in Baptism, the Holy Spirit works a renewal of our whole lives—in spirit, will, attitude, and desires—so that you and I now strive to overcome sin and do good works. “4Therefore, we have been buried together with him through baptism into death, in order that just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life”!

          This strange, new life we live freed from sin and the power of death is a life not controlled by the sinful nature but by the Holy Spirit (Rom. 8:9). Through Baptism we have been made to share in Christ’s death and resurrection. As Jesus has buried our sin, so we too can and must daily overcome and bury it. As Jesus is risen from the dead and lives, so we too can and must daily live a new life in Him.

Both of these are possible because of the work of God the Holy Spirit in and through our Baptismal faith. When you and I find ourselves having the attitude that we can sin as much as we want and God will forgive us, or when we are really struggling with sin and temptation in our lives, our Baptism is not something that happened long ago that is now forgotten. When we wrestle with sin and temptation, it is precisely at those moments when we are moved by the Holy Spirit to return to our Baptismal faith, calling to mind that we are baptized in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. When temptation and sin threaten, it is then that, by the power of the Holy Spirit, we die to sin, letting it be drowned and destroyed in the Baptismal waters that flowed over us, as by daily sorrow over our sins we repent and, in faith, come alive in Christ Jesus, again and again, resisting evil, fleeing from the devil and his temptations. 

          You see, Baptism is always a “now” thing for the Christian. Our Baptismal faith is what keeps us living in the grace of God. Our Baptismal faith is where the Holy Spirit gives us the Gospel power to take control of temptation and sin in our lives because it is the living Lord Jesus alive and at work in us through our Baptismal faith. We are empowered not to waste our lives pursuing opportunities to sin. Rather, we are called and empowered to faithfully follow Christ and to serve Him because we are baptized into Christ. 

          The new life we live in Christ, then, is the new life gifted to us in Holy Baptism. It is a life that overcomes both the struggles of temptation and the desire to continue to live in sin because baptism is God’s resource given to us for every day of our earthly lives. We are baptized once, it is true, but its effects are for time and eternity. And no one puts that into such an understandable perspective than Pastor Martin Luther. I’ll let his words finish out our time this morning: From the Large Catechism,

Therefore, every Christian has enough in Baptism to learn and to do all his life. For he has always enough to do by believing firmly what Baptism promises and brings: victory over death and the devil [Romans 6:3–6], forgiveness of sin [Acts 2:38], God’s grace [Titus 3:5–6], the entire Christ, and the Holy Spirit with His gifts [1 Corinthians 6:11]. In short, Baptism is so far beyond us that if timid nature could realize this, it might well doubt whether it could be true. Think about it. Imagine there was a doctor somewhere who understood the art of saving people from death or, even though they died, could restore them quickly to life so that they would afterward live forever. Oh, how the world would pour in money like snow and rain. No one could find access to him because of the throng of the rich! But here in Baptism there is freely brought to everyone’s door such a treasure and medicine that it utterly destroys death and preserves all people alive.

We must think this way about Baptism and make it profitable for ourselves. So when our sins and conscience oppress us, we strengthen ourselves and take comfort and say, “Nevertheless, I am baptized. And if I am baptized, it is promised to me that I shall be saved and have eternal life, both in soul and body.”[1] Amen.

 

         

[1] Paul Timothy McCain, ed., Concordia: The Lutheran Confessions (St. Louis, MO: Concordia Publishing House, 2005), 427.


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