Romans 6:1-11 What should we say then? Should we continue in sin so that grace may multiply? 2 Absolutely not! How can we who died to sin still live in it? 3 Or are you unaware that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? 4 Therefore we were buried with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, so we too may walk in newness of life.5 For if we have been united with him in the likeness of his death, we will certainly also be in the likeness of his resurrection. 6 For we know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body ruled by sin might be rendered powerless so that we may no longer be enslaved to sin, 7 since a person who has died is freed from sin. 8 Now if we died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him, 9 because we know that Christ, having been raised from the dead, will not die again. Death no longer rules over him. 10 For the death he died, he died to sin once for all time; but the life he lives, he lives to God. 11 So, you too consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus.
A while ago, a grandmother of one of our Lutheran grade schoolers brought an issue to me. Her fourth-grade grandson had been in our school about 3 years. There he learned about sin, forgiveness, and Jesus. He had come from a troubled background, but he seemed to really grow and blossom in our school as he learned about Jesus every day in every subject.
However, this student started getting into more and more trouble, both at school and at home, over the course of his fourth-grade year. That’s why Grandma stopped me one day to talk about it. She said, “Pastor, I don’t know what to do. My grandson is getting naughtier and naughtier. I tell him that what he’s doing is wrong and that Jesus isn’t happy with him.”
She continued, “Do you know what he told me? He said, ‘Grandma, I can do whatever I want because Jesus will forgive me.’”
What this fourth grader was getting wrong about the Christian life is the same thing that the Christians in Rome were getting wrong about the life of the Christian. They both believed that Jesus’ full and free forgiveness was an open invitation to immorality.
After using the first five chapters of Romans to drive home that we are forgiven and saved through faith in Jesus, Paul anticipates the argument that a first century Roman citizen or a twenty-first century fourth grader could then make. Their question might be, “Can we keep on sinning so that we can keep on being forgiven” (Romans 6:1)? Paul rejects this perverse notion that we should ignore God’s will for holy living and deliberately sin, knowing that God will forgive us through Jesus. This is an abuse of God’s grace.
To our shame, no matter our age or the age in which we live, we fall into this same contradictory thinking. We claim to be Christian, but then we so often live like pagans.
· We know God’s will is for us to worship Him every Sabbath (Exodus 20:8), but we skip church when the weather is too nice or too awful or we are too busy or too sleepy.
· We know that it is the Christian’s responsibility to raise our children in “the training and instruction of the Lord” (Ephesians 6:4), but we don’t make morning prayers, evening prayers, or family devotion a priority.
· We know we are to respect and honor those whom God has placed over us in the government (Romans 13:7), but we just can’t bring ourselves to respect and honor certain individuals.
· We know we are to “speak the truth in love” (Ephesians 4:15) and “season our speech with salt” (Colossians 4:6), but when we are on social media, we just let the filth fly.
· We know we are to keep the marriage bed pure (Hebrews 13:4), but we’re in love and, besides, it feels good.
In all of these ways – and so many more – we deliberately fall into sin. Why? Because we know that Jesus is always there to catch and forgive us.
What is St. Paul’s response to this? “Absolutely not! How can we who died to sin still live in it” (Romans 6:2)?
Paul combats this wrong idea about sinful living by teaching about Baptism. “Or are you unaware that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death?” (Romans 6:3)
Whenever we feel like we are being driven to sin, we need to allow the Holy Spirit to drive us back to our Baptism.
Baptism is not just a one-time event that happened years ago when you were an infant at the font. Baptism connects you to Christ Jesus and His death. In Baptism, a new identity is created. We are no longer who we once were. In Baptism, we are in Christ and Christ is in us. Our sins become His and His righteousness now belongs to us.
We were baptized into Christ’s death. Christ was crucified. Roman crucifixions were reserved for the worst of criminals. The worst of criminals is inside of each one of us. It is our sinful nature, our Old Adam. The waters of Baptism kill our Old Adam. They nail it to Christ’s cross. All of our self-centeredness, apathy, misplaced priorities, filthy speech, and lusts are spread out and crucified. We put them to death.
We cannot reform our sinful nature. We cannot improve our Old Adam. We cannot fix what is broken inside of us. The only way to improve in our Christian living is to put our sinful nature to death. Crucify it. This happens daily when you remember you Baptism. When you confess your sins in worship, when you begin your day with confession and prayer, and when you end your day asking God to forgive all you’ve done wrong that day, it is as if you are being re-baptized. The Holy Spirit is once again pouring those baptismal waters over your head and washing you clean of your daily, dirty sins. You are drowning your Old Adam in your baptismal waters. The only problem is that your Old Adam is a good swimmer – he keeps coming back each day. So, you need to keep confessing, crucifying, drowning, and burying your Old Adam in your baptismal waters.
“Therefore we were buried with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, so we too may walk in newness of life” (Romans 6:4). Paul portrays Baptism as a funeral ceremony. Just as Christ was buried in the tomb, so He has buried our sinful nature in that tomb. Just as Christ rose from the dead to a new life, so we are raised to a new life in Christ. We were baptized to live a new kind of life – not to go back to our old way of life of sin. A new life filled with God’s love, forgiveness, power, and godly guidance.
“For if we have been united with him in the likeness of his death, we will certainly also be in the likeness of his resurrection” (Romans 6:5). Paul says that in Baptism, we fully participate in Christ’s life. Christ died. He was buried. He lives again. In our Baptism, we die to sin, our sinful nature is buried, and we are raised to live with, in and for Christ.
“For we know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body ruled by sin might be rendered powerless so that we may no longer be enslaved to sin, since a person who has died is freed from sin” (Romans 6:6-7). Our old self dies a criminal’s death. Our Old Adam is such a vile, sneaky, violent criminal that he cannot be reformed or trained to be nicer. Don’t even try. Just drown it. Kill it. Bury it. You do this by confessing your sin to God. Then, when your sinful nature is killed, you no longer want to keep on sinning. You are free from sin. Instead of living only for yourself, now you can start living for Christ.
“Now if we died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him, because we know that Christ, having been raised from the dead, will not die again. Death no longer rules over him. For the death he died, he died to sin once for all time; but the life he lives, he lives to God” (Romans 6:8-10). Our Baptism connects us to Christ’s death, burial, and resurrection. This is the way the Holy Spirit transforms us to become the godly children He intends us to be. This transformation happened at the baptismal font years ago. This transformation continues every time we remember our Baptism.
Through our Baptism, we are given Christ’s own capacity to bring death to the most destructive force that lives within us. Then, the Holy Spirit gives us the power to live a life pleasing to God. All because we have crucified and buried our Old Adam. All because our New Man has been raised to live for Christ. We no longer want to do whatever we want, just because we can be forgiven.
Does all of this really work? Is Baptism really that powerful to drown our Old Adam and raise a new life in Christ? Can we really kill our sinful nature every morning and be resurrected to live differently for Christ that day?
Let me tell you about one of the most famous Christian conversions in history – Saint Augustine. Augustine was a young man in the fourth century A.D., in northern Africa. In his own autobiographical writings, he admits that he was what we might call something of a womanizer. By his own admission, Augustine denied himself very little. He wasn’t happy with his sinful lifestyle, yet he didn’t want to break it, either. He had encountered the teachings of Christianity – they even appealed to him – but he could never change himself to live that lifestyle.
Eventually, Augustine began listening to the celebrated Christian preacher, Ambrose. These scriptural sermons greatly inspired Augustine, and he longed to give all to God, yet he still could not do it. He felt held back by his ambition and the irresistible pull of his sexual desires.
Augustine’s internal conflict came to a head in a garden in August of 386 A.D., as he sat tormented by his inability to change his ways. Finally, weeping with despair and crying out to God, he thought he heard a child’s voice chanting from a nearby garden, “Take and read! Take and read!” For whatever reason, Augustine took this as a sign from God. He went home and saw a copy of Paul’s letter to the Romans on a table. He opened the book and read the words of Romans 13:11-14: “Let us walk with decency, as in the daytime: not in carousing and drunkenness; not in sexual impurity and promiscuity; not in quarreling and jealousy. But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and don’t make plans to gratify the desires of the flesh.”
Augustine pointed to that moment as when he was converted to Christianity. He had struggled for a very long time with the lusts of the flesh, a guilty conscience, and where exactly Christ fit into his life. But, on that day he realized that when he had put on Christ, then he had also put on Christ’s love, forgiveness, joy and acceptance. That was what he had been looking for all his life! No longer would his sinful life define him. Now, Christ living in him would define him.
A short time later, the newly-converted Augustine was baptized, along with his son and a friend, on Easter 387 A.D.
Saint Augustine became influential in Christian theology. He was instrumental in resolving some major religious controversies. Martin Luther copiously quotes “the blessed Saint Augustine” in many of his own writings. We often go to the writings of Saint Augustine for quotes on original sin, Baptism, and the Sacrament of the Altar.
Do we know that Augustine, the former sex addict, believed in the power of Baptism to bury his old sinful nature and raise a new Augustine to live in Christ? Yes. There’s a story that after he was converted, he traveled to a town he hadn’t been to in many years. A woman, who had been in a former sexual relationship with him, approached him. Augustine was polite and respectful to her. But, he was also different. She didn’t know what to make of it.
After their conversation ended, Augustine continued walking. Suddenly it occurred to her, “Wait a second! Maybe he just mistook me for somebody else. Maybe that’s the reason he was so nice and courteous. What happened?!” So, as he walked away, she called to him and said, “Augustine! It is I!” He turned and said, “I know, but it is not I.”
We, like Augustine, are different. We are not slaves to sin any longer. We don’t have to sin. We don’t deliberately sin so that we can receive more forgiveness. Baptism changes all that! At the baptismal font, our sinful nature was crucified on Christ’s cross. Our Old Adam was buried in Christ’s tomb. Then, we were raised to live a new life in Christ. A new life where we are “dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus” (Romans 6:11). Amen.