"The old man and the new - how to live out our faith here and now..."


Romans 6:1-14

(NETFull) ​1 What shall we say then? Are we to remain in sin so that grace may increase? 2 Absolutely not! How can we who died to sin still live in it? 3 Or do you not know that as many as were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? 4 Therefore we have been buried 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 may live a new life. 5 For if we have become united with him in the likeness of his death, we will certainly also be united in the likeness of his resurrection. 6 We know that our old man was crucified with him so that the body of sin would no longer dominate us, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin. 7 (For someone who has died has been freed from sin.) 8 Now if we died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. 9 We know that since Christ has been raised from the dead, he is never going to die again; death no longer has mastery 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 too consider yourselves dead to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus. 12 Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its desires, 13 and do not present your members to sin as instruments to be used for unrighteousness, but present yourselves to God as those who are alive from the dead and your members to God as instruments to be used for righteousness. 14 For sin will have no mastery over you, because you are not under law but under grace.

Introduction:

Remember Paul is writing to the Roman Church - one besieged by the judaizers and the pagan roman culture of the day. Each one trying to attack this new faith growing in Rome and spreading around the empire, each trying to foil its message and stop its success.

Over time these pagan influences would be incorporated into Christian thought and would eventually become known as the "Gnostics" who believed that the physical world is an illusion, and what we do with our bodies is separate from what we are in our real selves - spiritual beings trapped in a material world.

By the late 2nd century this influence would become a threat to orthodox Christianity requiring the church fathers to engage with it for very good reason - it had influenced the newly established church in profound ways that were walking it away from the Jesus of history to a new Christ who never was material, but a phantom.

One of those terrible by products in this teaching was that the body was separated from the real person so what happened to it was irrelevant, so pleasure and sin in the body were not the same as sin and pleasure of the soul, which is the real "you". The end result is this "Who cares what you do in your flesh, for it is not real and therefore not judged."

Inside this discussion Paul is having we meet something of this influence that had popped up in Pauls day in what might be Gnostic infancy:

Romans 6:1 (NETFull) 1 What shall we say then? Are we to remain in sin so that grace may increase?

Now, this influence still exists in modern times.

The new hyper grace movement is spreading all around the world saying "You don't need to anything do once you are saved, just do as you wish for grace conquers everything so be free and do whatever you want."

I meet such a person a few years ago. She told me that when she accepted God's grace she discovered such freedom that was superior to the Christianity others lived, now she was free to be herself and to do as she pleased for God's grace had covered all her sin, and freed her from all rules and religious activity. This meant she did not need to read the Bible, pray or worship God for He had set her free to enjoy whatever she felt was good in her own eyes.

This attitude I oppose as both anti-Christ and just theological mumbo jumbo. In today's lesson we examine what our part is when it comes to living "towards" God - are we passive in our activity of faith, or is confidence and trust in God an inspiration for activity towards God and away from our old living patterns?

Point 1: A question that reflects human condition.

We are so fortunate in our Christian thinking and thought - we know that we are saved by God's activity towards us. This "toward-ness" comes to us in a much more way that does what is simply impossible for us to achieve - it credits the rightness of Jesus towards us, and frees us from sins judgement upon us.

Our last lesson we learned that through grace we have been redeemed, saved and promised eternal life through Jesus Christ:

Romans 5:17 (NETFull) ...how much more will those who receive the abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness reign in life through the one, Jesus Christ!

Such is the nature of God's care and concern for us that He reaches towards us through the Incarnation, and does what is impossible for us - deals with sin "once and for all".

But does such a gift make any demands on us?

Are we free from responsibility?

Well, no. As Paul says "Absolutely not..."

Romans 6:2 (NETFull) 2 Absolutely not! How can we who died to sin still live in it?

All actions towards us require a response from us - one that is not exactly like the action towards us, but none the less an action that responds to the greater action. God's grace is perfect and complete, it is never lacking and never thwarted by opposing action. Grace abounds not because it is magic, but because of its source - God completes what He starts, and is capable of achieving all He sets out to do.

Our nature is not like this - we battle with our inner person in conflict with what we know we ought to do and the things we end up doing.

When God imputes or credits grace to us it is complete, but all our action all our "righteousness" is plagued with the struggle of our bad attitudes and selfish desires. And this is what Paul addresses here - The imputation of righteousness and our response towards it.

Put in a simpler way "I am nothing like God, how could I possible live a life that reflects His grace to me?"

Point 2: A change in status/relationship.

Romans 6:3-5 (NETFull) Or do you not know that as many as were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? 4 Therefore we have been buried 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 may live a new life. 5 For if we have become united with him in the likeness of his death, we will certainly also be united in the likeness of his resurrection.

Paul starts of his discussion about who we are in Christ by establishing an important two word phrase - we are "into Christ". Here Paul links the idea of Baptism, the symbol used to show acceptance into the Church is perfect to express our new relationship with God - we are buried with Him in His death so we might be raised with him in new life.

Simply put "Dead people cannot be judged by law" and therefore cannot be sentenced by it. Our sin and our deserved judgement is "imputed" to him, passed to his body on the cross. This means that we are dead to sin, and this is how we ought to consider how we live daily, dead to sin and its rule over us.

And just as Christ was risen from the dead we ought to see ourselves in a new life, a new relationship with reality and existence. Let's not be fooled here, there is no utopian thought here, we have not yet stepped into the literal new Kingdom of God, but we are stepping towards it in the choices we make in our here and now.

In this new life we have a new relationship with God through Jesus Christ, but we also have a new relationship with sin and the desires it stirs in us.

Romans 6:6-7 (NETFull) 6 We know that our old man was crucified with him so that the body of sin would no longer dominate us, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin. 7 (For someone who has died has been freed from sin.)

There is a movement we make when we come to the cross of Jesus, where we repent and seek forgiveness. We move from and towards, and in this movement from the old nature we move towards a new life. And in this new life we seek to not be dominated by the power and influence sin has had over us.

Notice Paul uses the phrase "the body of sin" and how it might "dominate us" and "enslave us". To Paul sin is personified and therefore in relationship with us. Think of it this way, before we came to the cross sin was our partner in life, it seduced us, influenced us, enslaved us and then condemned us - like a toxic relationship it dominates and destroys all that is good. But now, on the other side of the cross we have divorced it and are in the process of intensive counselling to remove all its negative influence from us.

Sin, like anything we have formed deep relationships with, cause echoes and patterns of behaviour in us that are hard to move from when we separate from them. Paul's teaching shows sin as a personified influence that we deal with is a deep relational manner.

Let me express Paul's thinking on sin through what we have covered up to today:

Sin entered the world through one man (5:2) and dominated all people no matter who they were (2:12). Its influence on us and effect causes us to "fall short of God's glory" and His intention for us (3:23), making us helpless and out of relationship with God (5:8).

Law came and exposed the existence of sins influence on us (5:13) it showed us that there is a drive within us that enjoys our friendship with sin called the "old nature" (6:6) that the "body of sin" (6:6) can dominate us through.

But we who are in Christ have now a new life (6:4) that allows us to move towards God and away from this influence that would dominate, enslave, rule and destroy us (6:6).

God made us in His image, and the true nature we have within is not sin but sinful. In God's salvation the image of God is restored, and through our moving towards God we bring into alignment or morality, ethics and living with this. We move continually towards the kingdom of God within till it becomes literal in Gods good timing.

We are therefore to see ourselves in a new relationship separated from sin and all its enticements, walking with God in Christ - moving towards a life that aligns itself with the imputed righteousness God has given us. Even more simply, we love to love God so we live a life that loves God.

Point 3: Consider...

If this is the case then we must live a life in a considered manner. We are bound to have what is within us fall upon the streets we live in because true faith is lived from within but expressed in our "being and doing". James put it this way "Faith without works is dead" (James 2:17) - trust and confidence that does not express itself is not trust and confidence, it is a myth and mysticism at worst and emotionalism and foolishness at best.

If I say I have confidence and trust in something don't I express this in the action I take towards it?

Paul expresses this action by saying:

Romans 6:8-11 (NETFull) 8 Now if we died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. 9 We know that since Christ has been raised from the dead, he is never going to die again; death no longer has mastery 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 too consider yourselves dead to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus.

He turns to the historical event of Jesus death and resurrection to set a lesson before us. We are to consider ourselves dead with Christ to sin - to have no more to do with sin and its mastery over us - isn't this an impossible task? Is Paul setting us up for failure?

No - we are to consider it. The Greek word here is the same word we saw in Romans 4:3 where Paul says "Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness." So, we are to think of ourselves as dead, logically understand what that looks like and then live as it was so.

Then we are to consider ourselves alive to God in Christ Jesus - which means to live according to our Lords example.

Dead to sins mastery, logically choosing to show this towards each other and our Lord.

So, not an impossibility but a movement towards. Not an expectation of fully arriving here and now, but an expectation of moving towards and becoming more like.

Point 4: The therefore of Paul:

Romans 6:12-14(NETFull) 12 Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its desires, 13 and do not present your members to sin as instruments to be used for unrighteousness, but present yourselves to God as those who are alive from the dead and your members to God as instruments to be used for righteousness. 14 For sin will have no mastery over you, because you are not under law but under grace.

Our new position calls for a new action - a new expression lived as new people. Paul summarizes what this new life looks like:

Moving away from the order of Adam and Eve which is rebellion and self worship expressed in:

  • allowing sin to reign in our bodies through its desires.

  • allowing our bodies to be used as instruments of evil or in opposition to the goodness of God

Moving towards by:

  • allowing our bodies to be used as instruments of evil or in opposition to the goodness of God

So, grace does not give us permission to surrender to our old nature, but rather inspires us to live towards God, and therefore living radically different lives moving towards the kingdom of God until it becomes the kingdom of God literally in our reality in Gods good timing.

Conclusion:

How does this look in the here and now, in all of our being and doing?

Pauls advice to us is best expressed in verse 13 when he calls us to "not present your members to sin as instruments to be used for unrighteousness..."

Paul calls us to act in such a way that opposes any movement towards sins enslavement and dominance in our lives. More specifically to be used as a weapon against God and His purposes, which is always relationship based. Remember Jesus said all the law is summed up, or perfected in the commandment, to "Love God and love others."

The real work of Christianity is relational and involves being vulnerable, caring, meaningful and seeking the best - the perpetual action of care and concern towards others.

This Greek word Paul uses for 'instrument' also implies directly the idea of a weapon - the deliberate choice to act aggressively against God and His purposes, and yes the Church does this when it moves away from Jesus towards something else.

If you like, the ethical outworking of Pauls lesson here is to seek to live as Jesus did, which is summed up in Pauls words found in Philippians 2:4 when he gave practical advise in living Jesus example:

Philippians 2:4 (NETFull)

4 Each of you should be concerned not only about your own interests, but about the interests of others as well.

This old nature leans towards sin as it acts deliberately in rebellion against God and His purposes. The new nature always seeks to grow towards God and His purposes in concrete real ways on the streets we live in.

Ethically, how do we live this reality in this current age and our current experience?

  1. By acknowledging the struggle we are in as we move towards God.

  2. By joining in the struggle together and for each other.

  3. By acknowledging our part in each other's struggles, at times we all act poorly.

  4. By acknowledging our part in each other's struggles, at times we all act poorly.

  5. By accountability and through care and concern - called maturing in faith.

We are all moving towards God, and this requires us to understand each other when we act badly or when we struggle with this old nature. It is our responsibility to move towards each other in our pilgrimage, and support each other as we move towards the Kingdom of God - as Jesus Christ moved towards us through the incarnation and set the example of what this new life looks like in our "being and doing" towards those in Christ.


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