Remember Who You Are – Romans 6:1-23

YouTube video sermon

Romans 6:1-23

As many of you know, I really enjoy studying history; and one of the areas of history that I’m especially fond of is British history.  I was watching a documentary not long ago on King Edward VIII – he was the King of England that abdicated the throne in order to marry Wallis Simpson, the two-time American divorcee – and during that program there was a clip from an interview where he was reflecting upon his upbringing as the Prince of Wales.  He said, “My father [King George V] was a strict disciplinarian.  Sometimes, when I had done something wrong, he would admonish me saying, ‘My dear boy, you must always remember who you are.’”

How many of you remember your parents saying that to you?  How many of you said the same thing to your own children?  Now that our boys are in their mid-late teenage years, I find that I’m saying it more frequently – particularly as they’re leaving the house to be with their friends.  “Remember who you are and who you represent.”  That’s Paul’s message to the church in Rome in chapter 6, and it’s the message for us today.

Let me invite you to take your copy of God’s Word and turn with me to Romans 6.  Last week, we saw a few of the benefits that come to those who have been justified with God – and I encouraged you to use a made-up word in place of the word “justified” (does anyone happen to remember it: righteousize).  Because we’ve “been made right” with God by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone we have peace with God, we have access to God, and we have hope in God.

This week, Paul wants you to know who you are in light of this “righteousizing,” in light of being made right, in light of being declared righteous.  Four times in Romans 6 (vv. 3,6,9,16), Paul uses the Greek word ginóskó – a word that means “to come to know, to recognize, to perceive.”  I’m taking in knowledge…  I’m coming to know…  I’m learning (experientially) what this “being made right” with God means.  And Paul wants the church in Rome to know who they are, and then let that knowledge be reflected in their behavior.  Just like King George speaking to his son (Edward VIII), it’s like Paul wants to say, “Dear child, you must always remember who you are.”  If a future earthly king (King Edward VIII) could be called to account for his behavior on the basis of who he was, how much more should the believer in Christ be certain of whom he or she is and act accordingly?

Listen, King Edward VIII could trace his lineage back for centuries in England’s history in order to know who he was.  For the Christian there are two lineages to trace.  The first goes all the way back to Adam (that’s the end of chapter 5) and it ensured that we were slaves to sin, destined for death.  The second is rooted in the work of Jesus Christ and gives us a new identity, a new lineage, a new heritage.

The Apostle Peter would put it this way, “But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for [God’s] own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light.  Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy” (1 Peter 2:9-10).  Do you know who you are, today?  Do you know whose you are, today?  You’re either still bound up in Adam (a slave to sin leading to eternal condemnation), or you’re bound up in Christ (a slave to righteousness leading to life eternal).  That’s the issue at stake this morning.

Let me invite you to follow along as I read this morning.  And also, if I may, it’s easy to let our minds wander when someone is reading the Bible, so try to follow along and engage with the text.

1 What shall we say then?  Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound?  2 By no means!  How can we who died to sin still live in it?  3 Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death?  4 We were buried therefore with Him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.

 5 For if we have been united with Him in a death like His, we shall certainly be united with Him in a resurrection like His.  6 We know that our old self was crucified with Him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin.  7 For one who has died has been set free from sin.  8 Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with Him.  9 We know that Christ, being raised from the dead, will never die again; death no longer has dominion 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 also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus.

 12 Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, to make you obey its passions.  13 Do not present your members to sin as instruments for unrighteousness, but present yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life, and your members to God as instruments for righteousness.  14 For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace.

 15 What then?  Are we to sin because we are not under law but under grace?  By no means!  16 Do you not know that if you present yourselves to anyone as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin, which leads to death, or of obedience, which leads to righteousness?  17 But thanks be to God, that you who were once slaves of sin have become obedient from the heart to the standard of teaching to which you were committed, 18 and, having been set free from sin, have become slaves of righteousness.  19 I am speaking in human terms, because of your natural limitations.  For just as you once presented your members as slaves to impurity and to lawlessness leading to more lawlessness, so now present your members as slaves to righteousness leading to sanctification.

 20 For when you were slaves of sin, you were free in regard to righteousness.  21 But what fruit were you getting at that time from the things of which you are now ashamed?  For the end of those things is death.  22 But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God, the fruit you get leads to sanctification and its end, eternal life.  23 For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.

The Word of God for the people of God, thanks be to God.  The first thing I want us to see this morning is…

A Misunderstanding Of Grace

Paul concluded Romans 5:12-21 by comparing and contrasting Adam and Jesus.  Where Adam disobeyed, Jesus obeyed.  Where Adam’s disobedience brought death and condemnation, Jesus’ obedience brought life and righteousness.  Where sin increased with Adam, grace increased (all the more) with Jesus.  And Paul is using this back-and-forth technique to illustrate the radical nature of “being made right” with God by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone.

And Paul anticipates the argument that you and I (indeed the entire world) want to throw back at him, which is this: Look, Paul!  If grace abounds all the more where sin increases, then why not keep on sinning?  If we can receive radically abundant forgiveness through Jesus because of our sin, then why not keep on sinning so that more and more forgiveness is poured out?  Since we’re no longer under the law, but rather under grace, then we can do whatever we want even if it’s condemned in the Scripture.

That’s called antinomianism.  It comes from two Greek words: anti, meaning “against” and nomos, meaning “law.”  There’s a little rhyme that goes like this, “Free from the law, blessed condition, I can sin all I want and still have remission.”  It’s the logic that Paul anticipates the Romans will use.  It’s the logic that he anticipated we would use.  In fact, it’s the objection that chapters 6, 7, and 8 are all focused on answering.  And so, Paul responds not once, but twice (vv. 2,15): May it never be!  By no means!  Certainly not!  No way!  God forbid!

While it’s true that Jesus has redeemed us from the curse and penalty of the law of God, and while our relationship with the Father is now defined by our union with Christ and not a written code of regulations, it does not follow that the Lord’s moral commands are now somehow optional.  Folks, our God is a commandment-giving God, and both the Old and the New Testaments are filled with regulations that reflect eternal moral and ethical principles.  Jesus said that if we love Him, we will keep His commandments (John 14:15).

And it’s not just the Apostle Paul that speaks about this.  Listen to 1 Peter 2:16, “Live as free men, but do not use your freedom as a cover-up for evil; live as servants of God.”

And the author of Hebrews would put it like this: “If we deliberately keep on sinning after we have received the knowledge of the truth, no sacrifice for sins is left, but only a fearful expectation of judgment and of raging fire that will consume the enemies of God.  Anyone who rejected the law of Moses died without mercy on the testimony of two or three witnesses.  How much more severely do you think a man deserves to be punished who has trampled the Son of God under foot, who has treated as an unholy thing the blood of the covenant that sanctified him, and who has insulted the Spirit of grace” (Hebrews 10:26-29)?

If you’re ever speaking with someone who claims to be a Christ-follower, or you know someone that says they’re a Christian, and yet their attitude is that they can sin without any consequence, then you have mine and Paul’s and God’s permission to lovingly (yet firmly) tell them they’re flat out wrong.  There’s NO room for that based on the Bible!

That’s a grave misunderstanding of the gospel and grace.  And Paul wants to set the record straight for the Romans, for you, for me, for the entire church.  There’s no such thing as cheap grace.  It cost the life of the very Son of God, and we have absolutely no right to make a mockery of it by giving ourselves over to reckless behavior all because we walked an aisle…or said a prayer…or were baptized…or were confirmed…or whatever.

Now the second thing I want us to see is the answer.  “Why, Paul?  Why not, continue sinning?”

Dead People Don’t Sin

Look at verse 2.  I like how the NIV translates it, “We died to sin; how can we live in it any longer?”  Then, after giving his summary explanation – dead people don’t sin – he asks, “Or do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus have been baptized into His death?”  Do you not know?  Have you not been taught?  Surely you know these things.  Surely someone explained to you what your baptism means.  In other words, Paul believes that this is important to know and if we’ve failed you and not taught you this, let’s grow now in the knowledge and the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ (2 Peter 3:18).

The explanation Paul gives for dead people not sinning can be summed up in three steps.

  1. When Christ died, believers in some crucial sense died in Him and with Him.
  2. When Christ rose, believers in some crucial sense were made alive in Him.
  3. Therefore, believers are commanded to become in practice what we are in Christ: dead to sin and alive to God.

Let me point out these steps for you.  Look at Romans 6:5-6, 8:

  • Romans 6:5, “For if we have become united with Him in the likeness of His death . . .”
  • Romans 6:6, “Knowing this, that our old self was crucified with Him, in order that our body of sin might be done away with.”
  • Romans 6:8, “Now if we have died with Christ . . .”

So, when Christ died, Christians, in some crucial sense died in Him and with Him.  There’s a union with Christ that makes what happened to Him valid for us.  When He died, we died.  That’s the key to why those that have been made right with God don’t go on sinning.  Dead people don’t sin.  But, of course, that raises a question: Why do we still sin?  Hang on.  We’ll get to that in just a second.

Now look at Romans 6:4-5 for the second step.

  • Romans 6:4b: “. . . so that as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life.”
  • Romans 6:5, “For if we have become united with Him in the likeness of His death, certainly we shall also be [united with Him] in the likeness of His resurrection.”

So, when Christ rose, believers, in some crucial sense were made alive in Him.  The believer’s union with Christ not only means that we died when He died, but that in His resurrection our new life to God was secured.  In some sense we died with Him and came alive to God with Him.  Paul is cautious here, and doesn’t say that we rose [past tense] with Him.  We’ll talk about that in coming weeks.

For the third step in this dead-people-don’t-sin process look at verses 11 and 13:

  • Romans 6:11, “Even so consider yourselves to be dead to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus.”
  • Romans 6:13, “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.”

So, believers are commanded to become in practice what we are in Christ: dead to sin and alive to God.  Notice, Paul does not draw the conclusion of a mechanical or automatic obedience from our death and resurrection with Christ.  He does not say, “Since you all died to sin in Christ and are alive to God in Him, there is no need for me to command you to do anything, and there is no act of obedience involved.  There is only an automatic, mechanical outcome of sinlessness.  You died to sin; so you automatically don’t sin.  You are alive to God; so you automatically serve God.  No need for commands.”

No, that is not what he says.  Instead he says, you died, so consider yourselves dead.  You are alive, so consider yourselves alive to God.  Remember who you are.  That leads us to the final thing I want us to see this morning and that is…

We Must Choose Our Master

We have an idiom in our language that goes like this “Old habits die hard.”  In Paul’s language it’s the parts of our body, the members of our body that still have the old patterns of sin.  Because, for however long you’ve been alive, you’ve been participating in a world that works against God and you’ve been doing your fair share of that same thing.

You’ve trained your eyes to see things that aren’t honoring.  You’ve trained your mouth to say things that aren’t beneficial.  You’ve trained your hands to do things that aren’t pleasing, and your feet to go places that aren’t holy.  And Paul says that the parts of your body are wired in such a way that it WILL be a struggle.  He’s not saying it’s going to be easy; it’s going to be a struggle, but it’s a fight you CAN win.

Here’s the scenario.  It’s silly, I know, but just follow along.  Imagine that I’m a slave at the house of a guy named James.  And since James is such a common name let’s make it a little more specific.  Let’s say his name is James Fox.  I’m James Fox’s slave.  I have to do whatever he says.  I was born into it.  It’s been my entire life.  I’m a grown man, and my life is determined by what he tells me to do.  Mow my law…  I mow it.  Feed my fish…  I feed his fish.  Take out the trash…  Whatever he barks out I do it, right?  Go to the store…  (Some of you are staring at your spouses or poking them in the side thinking: “This sounds a lot like my house…”)

Let’s imagine that there’s a neighbor.  We’ll call him Doug.  Doug sees this and he wants to do something about it.  So, he saves up his money and eventually he buys my freedom.  And he says to me, “You’re free now.  James doesn’t own you.  You don’t report to him anymore.  You can go wherever you want.  You can leave, but I want to tell you; I know your skillset, I know you don’t have a lot of social connections, if you want to work here I have an apartment out back and you can live there.  If you want to work for me, then I’ll pay you.  You can do this if you want to.”

And I’m like YES!!!  This is awesome.  I’m living this new life.  I’m free.  James has no authority over me, but he still hollers out orders.  So, I’m outside cutting Doug’s grass and James says, “Hey, cut my grass!”  And like everything in me – my body even – instinctively moves towards that voice because that’s what I’ve always done.  But the fact of the matter is: I’m free.  This is what Paul is talking about.  Your body moves toward sin because that’s what you’re accustomed to, but in reality, you don’t have to sin any more.  And so now what you’re free to do, because of what God has done for you, is choose your master.

And there are two things that will help us choose the right master.  The first is that we listen to the right voice.  So, when I’m tempted I don’t listen to that voice that says, “This is better for you.  You’re going to enjoy this.”  I listen to the right voice.  I don’t listen to the voice that says, “You’re going to give in eventually, so just go for it.”  Instead, I listen to the voice that says, “YOU’RE MINE, and you don’t have to do this anymore.”  I listen to the voice of Jesus, the voice of grace, the voice of life, and truth, and holiness.

And the second thing we do is consecrate ourselves.  Most of our Bibles translate that word here as “offer” the parts of your body, and that’s fine.  It’s a sacrificial word.  Remember the old hymn, “Take my life and let it be, consecrated Lord to Thee”?  And what that looks like practically speaking is this.  When I wake up in the morning I say, “Lord, I know Romans 6 is true.  Therefore, God, I offer you my hands.  May they be used to comfort.  God, I offer you my feet.  May they take me to places that would honor you.  I offer you my mouth, Lord.  May I speak words of life and hope and encouragement.  I offer you my eyes, God.  Help me to see the things you desire for me today.”

Listen to the right voice.  Consecrate (or offer) yourself each day.  And choose your master.  Let me close with this.  The Emancipation Proclamation was a presidential proclamation and executive order issued by United States President Abraham Lincoln on September 22, 1862.  It went into effect on January 1, 1863.  But what was legally true did not become a reality for most slaves until much later.  Shelby Foote, authored a three-volume history of the Civil War called The Civil War: A Narrative.  Listen to how he described that scenario:

The word spread from Capitol Hill out across the city, down into the valleys and fields of Virginia and the Carolinas, and even into the plantations of Georgia and Mississippi and Alabama.  “Slavery: Legally Abolished!” read the headlines, and yet something amazing took place.  The greater majority of the slaves in the South went right on living as though they were not emancipated.  That continued throughout the Reconstruction Period.

 The Negro remained locked in a caste system of “race etiquette” as rigid as any had known in formal bondage.  Every slave could repeat, with equal validity, what an Alabama slave had mumbled when asked what he thought of the Great Emancipator whose proclamation had gone into effect.  “I don’t know nothing’ ‘bout Abraham Lincoln ‘cept they say he set us free.  And I don’t know nothing’ ‘bout that neither.”

Folks, if someone with the power, authority, and willingness to set the captives free does so, it makes little/no difference to the captives until they know that their freedom has been decreed – and what it means to live in freedom.  Now there are some of you here this morning that are thinking that very thing right now: “I don’t know nothin’ ‘bout freedom from sin.”  If that’s you, can I just encourage you to receive the free gift of God’s salvation through grace alone by faith alone in Christ alone.  No screaming.  No guilting.  No pressure.  Just an honest plea to get right with God by repenting of your sin and trusting Jesus as your Savior.  On the other hand, if you’ve already trusted Jesus Christ with your soul…  If you’ve confessed your sin and confess Christ as the Lord of your life, then you ARE FREE from sin.  Remember who you are, and begin living in that reality today.