This is a special day for us as a congregation and particularly for those of you who are being baptized and received as members today. Of all the directions your life could and will take, today you are indicating a fundamental direction which is the direction you have chosen for the rest of your life. The commitment you are signifying by baptism is powerful because it has to do with life from now and through all eternity.
What will that life be like? We have seen people make this commitment before and most of them take this stand boldly and gladly and continue to grow and mature as followers of Christ. They are true disciples. But there are others, who just as boldly and strongly make this covenant, but then do not follow through. Some time later, we hear that they are not following the Lord. What will it be like for you?
This morning, I would like to remind you of the meaning of your baptism and encourage you to keep it clearly in mind so that you can continue to grow as a disciple of Jesus.
I. Shall We Continue In Sin? 6:1
Suppose a few years down the road a really interesting opportunity comes along which you know involves a compromise of faith. You may be so interested in it that you may reason, “oh well, I will sin a little and then later I can just repent.” Or perhaps after following God for a while you become tired and in a moment of weakness or discouragement you become spiritually vulnerable and you succumb to sin. It may happen that your thinking will be challenged and you won’t have an answer and you may begin to question your values and leave them behind. One thing we do know and that is that there will be temptations and challenges in life. Some of these temptations will lead to momentary lapses others can be so dangerous that they may lead to a path which is aimed increasingly away from God.
In Romans 6:1 Pauls raises a particularly devious reasoning which leads towards sin. He says, “What shall we say, then? Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase?” It may seem like a silly question, but it is not. There are people who have taken this idea very seriously. They teach that since God is so gracious in forgiving us, if we sin more, God will have more to forgive and He will be shown to be even more gracious. In other words, if we sin and ask for forgiveness, the grace of God is magnified, so we should sin a lot and then ask for forgiveness often.
This is not a hypothetical concept. Rasputin was a Russian monk who “taught and exemplified the doctrine of salvation through repeated experiences of sin and repentance. He held that, as those who sin most require most forgiveness, a sinner who continues to sin with abandon enjoys, each time he repents, more of God’s forgiving grace than any ordinary sinner.”
II. The Meaning Of Your Baptism 6:2-10
After raising this question, Paul negates it in the most emphatic way he can. He says, “may it never be!” or as we would put it, “No Way!”
Why not? Why can we not increase God’s grace by sinning? Why must we make sure that sin is never a part of our life?
The answer is found in the meaning of your baptism. In verse 3, Paul says, “or don’t you know.” Don’t you know what? Don’t you know the meaning of your baptism? Don’t you understand the significance of what you are enacting when you are baptized? Don’t you know how life changing the stand you are taking here today is?
A. Baptism Signifies A Death.
He goes on to demonstrate why baptism is such a significant illustration of the power of a changed life. He reminds them and us that when we are baptized, we are actually identifying with the death of Jesus.
Cartoonist Mary Chambers in Leadership - "Well, I haven't actually DIED to sin, but I did feel kind of faint once."
If we have been baptized, we cannot say that because the meaning of baptism is that we have died to sin. In baptism, we are saying that the actual physical death of Jesus on the cross is our death to sin.
This concept is repeated several times throughout this passage. Paul says, we “were baptized into his death”(3) “buried with him through baptism into death”(4) we have been “united with him in his death”(5) “our old self was crucified.”(6)
This is a powerful severance from sin. In verse 4, it indicates that we were buried with him through baptism. “Burial sets the seal on death; so the Christian’s baptism is a burial in which the old order of living comes to an end, to be replaced by the new order of life-in-Christ.”
What is the purpose of this death? The purpose of the death to sin is to make sure that we know that having died to sin and having given indication of that death through baptism, we now live free from sin. Verse 6 says, “so that the body of sin might be rendered powerless” and also that we might “no longer be slaves to sin.” Verse 7 demonstrates that “anyone who has died has been freed from sin.”
What a powerful statement! We can’t go on sinning after we become believers and particularly when we signify that decision through baptism because through these acts, we are saying that we have died to sin.
B. Baptism Signifies A Resurrection
But death to sin is not the whole picture. Instead when the “one world is lost, another immediately replaces it.” We die not to be dead, we die in order to live.
Not only are we identified with the death of Christ in baptism, we are also identified with the resurrection of Christ and so we become “people who already live, and belong to the future.”
In vs. 4 it indicates that Christ “was raised from the dead.” It does not say that Christ rose, but that God raised him. The implication is that it is God who has also raised us to totally new life.
“Although resurrection is still future, its effect is to be evident in the present time.” Verse 10 says that for Jesus, “the life he lives, he lives to God.” In the same way as we are identified with Jesus in His death, so we are also identified with Jesus in his resurrection and indicate that we have risen to a new life - a life apart from sin, a life lived in the resurrection life of Christ. “The risen life is life under the power and in the possession of God.”
The purpose of the resurrection is that as verse 8 says, “we will also live with Him.” Verse 10 reminds us that for Jesus “life he lives, he lives to God,” and since we identify with the resurrection life of Jesus, we also live to God.
Again, that is a powerful statement which you are making!
C. Power Of The Meaning Of Baptism
Do you see what that means in terms of what has happened to you? When you are baptized, it signifies what has happened in you. Baptism signifies that you have left sin behind. It means that you have begun a new life.
Does that mean we will never sin, that we have become perfect? The fact that we need to be reminded indicates that we have not yet become perfect and sin is still a possibility. But a huge change has taken place, a change which says that a life of sin is not inevitable. Because we have died to sin and been raised to a new life it is possible for us to have victory over sin. “We belong to the future, but we still live in the present - that is why we still need to be exhorted, but it is also why we can be expected to respond to the exhortation.”
Before you were a Christian, the law had its power over you. It said “don’t” to a lot of things, but gave you no power to obey. When Christ came into your heart, He did what the law could not do. He gave you the possibility of saying “no” and mean it.
In Birmingham, England, there is a group of institutions of higher learning that are federated as the Selly Oak Colleges. Among them is Crowther Hall. It's named for Samuel Crowther who began his life as a slave in Africa and ended his life as bishop of the Anglican church. We all began as slaves--slaves to sin. When we are baptized, we are saying that we have made a transition. We are no longer slaves to sin, but we have become servants of God. The change is just as radical as a slave becoming a bishop.
III. Living The New Life 6:11-14
The implication of this powerful thing that has happened to us is that we need to continue daily to make choices to live in a new way.
In verse 11 it says, “count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus.” Your baptism today signifies that you have chosen a direction. What verse 11 says is that you need to make that choice every day. Every day, you need to begin the day by saying, “I am dead to sin and alive in Christ.” When we count something, it is an exercise in including. The other day, I found Nettie Bartel counting the cups, plates and cutlery in the kitchen down stairs. She wanted to know how many there were. Each cup and plate she counted was included. When we begin our day, we should count ourselves among those who belong to God and have left sin behind. Such an identification at the beginning of each day, will help us live daily in the commitment we have made.
Verse 12 takes it one step further. It says, “do not let sin reign in your mortal body.” Having begun the day by counting ourselves in with Christ, we must make choices all day. Temptations will come. There will be times when in moments of weakness we may yield to those temptations. But, one thing we must never do and that is let any sin rule over us. If we yield repeatedly to any sin, it has mastery over us. Because of our identification with the death and resurrection of Christ, we do not need to let sin do that, we can have victory through the new life of Christ within us and that is what we must do.
Verse 13 tells us how to do that. There we read, “do not offer the parts of your body to sin, rather offer yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life; and offer the parts of your body to him as instruments of righteousness.” It is all a matter of how we give ourselves. If we give our bodies the opportunity to sin, we will sin, but if we give our bodies, our selves to God to serve him, to be examples of righteousness, then we will indeed live in righteousness.
As life goes on, there is no question that temptation and struggles will come. You may want to yield. You may be tempted to rationalize and sin and then repent. You may be tempted to think that sin isn’t serious.
Because of what is happening today, I would like to encourage you to think in a different direction.
When the temptation comes, remember what happened here today. Remember that as you are being baptized, you are saying, “I have identified with the death of Christ and have died to sin.” I do not need to let sin be my master. By the power of God’s Holy Spirit, I have the ability to say “no” to sin. Remember that when you were baptized you declared to all of us here today, “I have been raised with Christ.” Let that be an encouragement to live in that newness of life.
I want to encourage all of you to live your baptism and declare your life in Christ by the way you live every day.