RECKONED AS RISEN
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When Paula and I were first married, we started a small Saturday morning Bible study with the children in the neighborhood. We played some games with them and taught them some songs and then I began to tell them about Jesus. I explained how that we have all sinned and fallen short of the glory of God and how that sin separates us from God; how God sent His only Son to die in our place so that our sins would be forgiven. I told them how God gives us heaven as a free gift through faith in Christ. At the end, I summed up, asking, “Can anyone tell me what you have to do to get to heaven?” One little girl wrinkled her brows in thought and suddenly brightened up and exclaimed, “Sin a lot!”
As we come to the sixth chapter of Romans, Paul deals with the question of continuing sin, not from the lips of a little girl, but from those who think that our liberty in Christ is a license to sin.
THE QUESTION OF CONTINUANCE OF SIN
What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace might increase?
May it never be! How shall we who died to sin still live in it?
Or do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus have been baptized into His death? (Romans 6:1-3).
Paul begins this section with four rhetorical questions. The answers to these questions are obvious. Each of these question catapults the reader further along the line of Paul’s logic. These questions deal ask about the believer’s practice of sin versus his relationship with Christ.
1. What shall we say then?
Notice the inclusion of the word “then.” It denotes a summary from the previous chapter. It connects the present four questions with the conclusions which have just been reached in the previous chapter.
Do you remember what were those conclusions? That “where sin increased, grace abounded all the more” (5:20).
The bad news is really bad. It is that sin is not only bad, it is infinitely bad. And to make matters worse, we have both our own individual acts of sin as well as the original imputed sin of Adam with which to contend.
Yes, the bad news is really bad. But the good news is really good. The good news is that there is a whole lot more grace than there is sin. If it is true that sin is infinite in demerit, it is also true that God's grace is infinitely sufficient.
“Where there was a lot of sin, there was a whole lot more grace” (the John Stevenson translation).
This brings us to an obvious question. If great sin leads to greater grace, then what's wrong with sinning a lot and therefore receiving greater grace?
2. Are we to continue in sin that grace might increase?
This is the key question. If grace increases in the presence of sin, then why not sin more? The question goes like this: If the increase of sin through the coming of the Law led to an increase in the grace of God (that is, if greater sin made grace that much more gracious as per 5:20), then does it matter if we continue in sin?
We could simplify this by asking, “If we are saved in spite of our sin, then why is it important to stop sinning?” In effect, this passage deals with the question of “easy believism” of much of modern evangelicalism.
Up to this point, Paul has been somewhat dispassionate in his discussion. But this change here. His emotions come to the forefront.
“May it never be!”
This is the first of six times that Paul will use this phrase (6:2; 6:15; 7:7; 9:14; 11:1; 11:11). Each time Paul uses this phrase, he is dealing with what he sees to be an over-reaction to prior teaching that he has presented.
3. How shall we who died to sin still live in it?
The argument which Paul will use against living in sin will be the fact that we are dead to sin. In what way are we dead to sin?
In what way are we dead to sin? The answer is seen in the form of a question.
4. Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus have been baptized into His death?
What is the significance of baptism? When we think of baptism, it is natural to speak of water. Water is the normal medium for baptism. But water is not even mentioned in this passage. And, while I think that we can include the concept of water baptism in this passage, it is not the rite of water baptism that is of most significance.
The major significance in baptism is IDENTIFICATION. When you are baptized, you are being identified with the movement or church or religion or system of beliefs held by those into whom you are being baptized.
How do you identify yourself? One obvious way is to see yourself as a member of the human race - one of mankind. You are identified with mankind because you are a descendant of Adam and Eve.
Now, there is something that you ought to know about baptism. When you were baptized, the significance of that baptism is that you were being identified with Christ's death. When you were saved, you were identified with a death. This is the basis of your justification. When Jesus died, you are also reckoned to have died.
Paul says that this has some very practical applications. If I am reckoned to have died, then I am also to reckon myself as being dead to sin. Sin doesn’t have any effect upon a corpse. If I have a problem with alcohol and then I die, you can put a bottle up to my nose and it will not cause me to sin. It is because I am dead. The only problem with this is that, experientially I am alive.
This is the arena of my spiritual battle. It is over what I BELIEVE. Do I believe the Scriptures and what they say about me, or do I believe in my sin nature and its experiences?
What is more real to you? Your sins, your emotions, your feelings, your circumstances? Or God’s promises?
THE ANSWER OF UNITED DEATH
Therefore we have been buried with Him through baptism into death, in order that as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life.
For if we have become united with Him in the likeness of His death, we shall be also in the likeness of His resurrection, 6 knowing this, that our old self was crucified with Him, that our body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin; 7 for he who has died is freed from sin. (Romans 6:4-7).
When we come to trust in Jesus as our Lord and Savior, we are united with Him. This union means that we now share certain attributes. In the same way He took our sin upon Himself, He reckons to us certain characteristics of His own.
Jesus died. We are reckoned to have died with Him. He was buried. We are also reckoned to have been buried. And just as Christ was raised from the dead, we are also to have a new life. Not just in the future. But NOW.
Here is a great truth. John Stevenson was judged to be guilty of crimes against God and he was condemned and sentenced to die and he was crucified as a common criminal. He is dead!
No, you aren’t looking at a corpse. I’m speaking of the person that John Stevenson used to be. He was so infected with sin that the only way to be rid of that sin was to kill the sinner. And that’s what God did. He killed John Stevenson.
That means any life which I now have, I hold only through the power of the resurrection of Christ. Now here is the point. If I believe that I live only in Christ, then I am also to believe that this new person has no business sinning because that old sinner is to be reckoned to have died.
Augustine taught that there are four aspects to man’s condition with respect to sin:
(1) Before Adam fell he was able to sin.
He had a will which was truly free. He could either sin or not sin. And he freely chose to sin, not as a result of anything innately sinful within himself.
(2) After Adam fell he was not able not to sin.
His will was bound by sin. It became his very nature to sin. To sin was as natural to him as breathing.
(3) Believers are able not to sin.
Because we have been set free from the bondage and the power of sin, we now have a choice and an empowerment not to sin.
(4) There is coming a day when we shall be not able to sin.
When we get to Romans 8, we shall see described the eventual redemption of our body, soul and spirit.
THE PROMISE OF PRESENT LIFE
Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with Him, 9 knowing that Christ, having been raised from the dead, is never to die again; death no longer is master over Him.
For the death that He died, He died to sin, once for all; but the life that He lives, He lives to God. 11 Even so consider yourselves to be dead to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus. (Romans 6:8-11).
Verse 8 begins with a contrast. The Greek word de is more properly translated “but.” The contrast is one of life and death. In the previous verses, Paul’s main focus is that we have died with Christ and so are considered dead.
Being dead isn’t a good thing. But being dead with Christ is good because He didn’t stay dead. He arose from the dead. And if we are united enough with Him to have died with Him, then we are also united enough with Him to rise with Him.
And to make good news even better, we read that He “is never to die again.” It is one thing to rise from the dead only to eventually die again. That happened several times in the Bible. There are stories of people who came back to life. But in every case, they eventually died.
There have also been stories of people who have died upon an operating table and who came back to life. But this is not such a good thing because they eventually died again. Their “resurrection” did not have any lasting benefits. But the resurrection of Jesus did. His resurrection put an end to death. And that has present results. This is seen in verse 10.
For the death that He died, He died to sin, once for all; but the life that He lives, He lives to God. (Romans 6:10).
It is important that we believe that Jesus died. But it is equally important that we know and understand that He LIVES. God is not the God of the dead but of the living. And because He is the God of the living, there are certain things that I must do in THIS life.
What are we to do as a result of this teaching? The first thing that we must do is to believe its truth.
Even so consider yourselves to be dead to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus. (Romans 6:11).
Imagine that a drunken bum is on the entrance ramp to I-95 asking for a dollar so that he can buy another drink. A well-dressed lawyer walks up to him and informed him that he has just inherited a fortune. He is handed a checkbook which he is told contains a balance of $100,000.00. What must he do? He must act on this knowledge by faith and draw money from the bank.
We are to do the same. Our bank account is Jesus Christ. He is our righteousness. And He is our life and source of power in THIS life. To partake of Him, I must consider that union of life and of death.
Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body that you should obey its lusts, 13 and do not go on PRESENTING the members of your body to sin as instruments of unrighteousness; but PRESENT yourselves to God as those alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness to God. (Romans 6:12-13).
Now Paul proceeds to make this practical. Up to this point, he has not given a single command except to believe what God says about you. But now this changes. This change is introduced by the word “therefore.”
Here is the principle. If you believe what God says about you, then you will live differently. Whenever you see sin, there is also unbelief. Real faith produces action. That is the message of James. It is that faith without works is dead. Real faith is accompanied by works. You can’t see faith. You can only see that which accompanies faith.
Paul has spent the last 5 chapters outlining God’s plan of salvation. The only thing he has called his readers to do is to believe it. But now they are called to action. Not in order to be saved. But because they ARE saved.
I have spent a lot of years working in a seaport. Something that you see a lot of in a port are sailors. When he is on duty, a sailor lives his life under orders - not usually the direct orders of the Captain, but rather at the word of the CPO - the Chief Petty Officer. The CPO says, “Mop the decks” and the sailor mops the decks. He says, “Scrape the hull” and the sailor scrapes the hull. He says, “Paint the forecastle” and out comes the paintbrush.
But finally the day comes when the sailor receives a letter from the United States Government. It informs him that his enlistment is up. He is free. He is no longer in the Navy. He no longer has to obey its orders. He is a civilian. He can go where he wants and he can do what he wants.
He changes from his uniform and he packs his bags and he goes up on deck. And there, he encounters the CPO. “Swab the deck!” orders the CPO. And our valiant civilian puts down his luggage and takes the mob and begins passing it over the deck. What would you say to him?
“What’s wrong with you?”
“You don’t have to do that any more!”
“That CPO doesn’t have any authority over you any longer.”
“Civilians don't swab the decks.”
“You don’t have any business doing that.”
The Lord says the same thing to us when we sin. So the next time that Satan's CPO tells you to live according to the flesh, you remember that you are no longer under his authority. Sin can no longer reign over you. And you have no business bowing before Satan’s throne.
This brings us to a question. What if I DO continue in sin after I am saved? What if sin DOES continue to reign over my life?
1. It won’t work.
Sin isn’t where I live anymore. It is like an adult trying to go back and live as a child. Such a life will be unsatisfying in its childishness.
2. God will stop you.
He will make your life miserable and empty. And if you continue to rebel against Him, He may put an end to your life.
3. If you DO return to your old ways and are able to live in sin as you previously did, this is a sign that you were not saved in the first place.
The word “present” is used twice in verse 13. But there is a difference between the two usages. The first time is in the present tense. The present tense indicates continuing action in the present time. “Do not go on continually presenting the members of your body to sin...”
The second time this word is used, it is in the aorist tense. This is quite different. This is punctiliar - point action. “Present yourselves to God right now in this single point in time...” This is the language of an invitation. Have you ever presented yourself as an instrument to God?
Here I am.
Let me be an instrument in Your hands.
Not existing for myself, but as a tool to do Your will.