During the Protestant Reformation Martin Luther was accused of many things, but one thing he was accused of perhaps the most was that he was an antinomian.[1] Have you heard this word before? The word antinomian literally means one who is against God’s law; ‘anti’ meaning against and ‘nomos’ meaning law. This was something the Roman Catholic Church called Luther and other reformers many times. Why? Because they feared people would hear Luther’s gospel and use it as a license to sin. Because Luther preached justification by faith alone, that one is saved by faith alone in Christ alone and not by works. Rome feared people would hear that message and believe that it doesn’t really matter what they did in life and because God’s grace is so abundant they can live however they want to. That’s really getting at what an antinomian is. Someone who uses the grace of God like a drunk uses a light pole, more for support of their own sinful habits rather than for illumination and direction toward a righteous and holy life. Luther responded to this accusation by turning to Paul. But where in Paul’s writings did Luther turn to? It just happens to be our passage this morning, Romans 6.

Now before we begin Romans 6, I’d like to point out that we’ve now arrived at another transition in Romans. Ever since chapter 5 began we’ve been on the theme of the Christian’s great assurance. That though we we’re made in God’s very image we fell into death in Adam. Yet, God was at work steering the course of history to the point when His Son, our Lord Jesus, appeared to be a new and second Adam, fully saving and forever securing all who have faith in Him. This theme of assurance continues on still here into chapter 6. But while chapter 5 was all about what God has accomplished for us in the gospel, chapter 6, 7, 8 are all about what God will accomplish in us through the gospel.[2] Yes indeed God welcomes us as we are in His grace, but His grace doesn’t leave us where we are, it transforms us and makes us entirely new. That’s where we’re headed this morning.

You heard our text read just now, it’s Romans 6:1-4. It easily divides up into three headings that form one big argument about who we are in Christ. It begins with a question, which is then followed by an answer and an explanation. So, see first…

A Question (v1-2a)

“What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? By no means!”

v1 is Paul’s way of answering the ‘so what’ question. After all the truth we just read in chapter 5, how we are to respond? Or, what are we to do in light of it? Look how careful Paul is.[3] He’s aware of our sinfulness and how our sin leads us to think in unhealthy ways. He knows what he’s just said in chapter 5, that where sin abounds God’s grace abounds even more. That Christ is more powerful to save than Adam is to destroy. These things are true, gloriously so. But Paul knows he might be misinterpreted, he has likely heard people arrive at wrong conclusions from right doctrines. This is what’s in view here in v1 with this opening question. The logic goes like this: since God’s grace abounds where sin abounds, then we should sin all the more so that we can receive grace in abundance.[4] Or, let us do evil that good may come!

Perhaps at first glance you hear this, think it’s ridiculous, and quickly say that you’d never believe that, or never arrive at such a conclusion. But pause and think about it. Are you sure of that? We Christians have indeed been saved by the grace of God revealed in Jesus Christ. He has taken all our sin, past – present – future, onto Himself on the cross, and has embraced the curse and the death we deserve. And at the feather touch of faith we’re forgiven because of the work of Christ. And more so, not only are we forgiven and our sins washed away by the blood of Christ, but we receive Christ’s very own perfect righteousness, and His righteous robe dresses us, covers us, and God now counts His righteousness as if it were our own, making us forever acceptable and pleasing to Him. Because of all this, we boast that God’s blessings to us in Christ are as secure as they are glorious.[5] This is God’s grace to sinners like us. We celebrate this grace! We make much of this grace! We glory and exult and rejoice in this grace! But, we can so easily move from celebrating God’s grace to abusing God’s grace.[6] How so?

For some of you maybe the move from celebrating to abusing God’s grace is subtle, and it looks like slowly beginning to believe that because you’ve been saved and are secure in Christ, obedience to God isn’t really that important and sinning against God isn’t really a big deal. Perhaps you think this subtle adjustment of opinion doesn’t really change how you live your life very much, but do you see how it does begin to lessen your idea of the gravity of sin? 

For some of you maybe the move from celebrating to abusing God’s grace is a bit more unrestrained, and it looks like becoming comfortable with certain sins in your life. Comfortable that they not only continually tempt you…but comfortable that you continually give in to them, that these sins are just a normal part of your life the people around you just have to deal with it. At this point you’re no longer making subtle adjustments to your life and doctrine, you’re beginning to go further astray into sin because you’re beginning to see sin as normal. But you console yourself, all is well, because you’re forgiven. 

And sadly, for others of you maybe the move from celebrating to abusing God’s grace is simply uncontrolled, and though your lips would never say it your life preaches one message, ‘God will forgive, that’s the business He’s in.’[7]

Whether it looks subtle, unrestrained, or uncontrolled all of these postures abuse the grace of God. If your life resembles one of these three postures, you’re an antinomian, one who is against God’s Law, one who abuses God’s grace to justify the sin you so love, resting in a false peace believing that grace will cover you in the end. See Paul’s response to the question of v1 at the start of v2. “Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? By no means!” or “Absolutely not!” or as the KJV puts it, “God forbid!” Any Christian who uses God’s super abounding grace to make peace with sin in their life, might just be displaying that they’re not a Christian at all.

So Paul has asked the question and emphatically denied that grace should ever lead to such wickedness. But he has more to say on this, so see next…

An Answer (v2b)

“How can we who died to sin still live in it?”

I’ve called this second point ‘An Answer’ knowing this is technically another question, but it really is Paul’s answer to the question in v1, that gets at the main reality of how the question of v1 is so outrageously wrong. Question: why should we not commit more sin to experience more grace? Answer: we died to sin! Just as a grown man can no longer live as a child. Just as a married man can no longer live as a bachelor. Just as a freed man can no longer live as a prisoner.[8] Just as Lazarus didn’t return to his grave, so too is the Christian. The Christian was once alive to sin and dead to God, blind to the Christ, bearing the penalty of sin, held in the power of sin, and under the rule and reign of the evil one. But now, by the grace of God the Christian is dead to sin and alive to God, awake to the beauty of Christ, saved from the penalty of sin, being freed from the power of sin by the Spirit, and now lives under the rule and reign of the Lord Jesus. The change that has occurred in the life of those who believe in Jesus is so radical – so decisive – so transforming that the only language Paul sees fit to use to describe it here is the language of life and death.[9]

Now, to be sure we get this let’s lean into it a bit more.[10] By saying “we died to sin” Paul does not mean Christians never sin. Christians do sin, and sadly, we sin a lot more often than we’d care to admit. So think about one of the examples we’ve already used today. A grown man can no longer live as a child. Yes, that’s true. But it is possible for that grown man to be childish. And in being childish, such a man would need to recognize himself or have kind friends remind him of the truth…what truth? That he is no longer a child! That he’s a grown man, and should act like one! From remembering the truth and seeing the error of his ways this grown man should, with all his might, stop being childish and immature, and should devote himself to press into a responsible manhood. In this situation that’s what repentance looks like. Turning from sin and turning toward obedience.

So back to Paul’s point in v2. By saying “we died to sin” Paul does not mean Christians never sin. By saying “we died to sin” Paul is saying Christians have been entirely changed. We’ve been transferred to another kingdom. We were born dead on arrival into the kingdom of darkness and are born again by grace through faith in Christ into the Kingdom of God. And once were in the Kingdom of God the world, the flesh, and the devil will try to allure us and tempt us to leave the Savior who bought us and go back into sin. Thus, the Christian life is so right to be viewed as a battle.

Perhaps an illustration will help.[11] Imagine a nation led by bad guys. Now imagine that the good guys came and invaded that nation, overthrew the bad guys, and gave control back to the people. Great right? Yes of course! But while that is great, now imagine that the good guys didn’t completely rid the nation of all the bad guys and so the bad guys kept on being bad in small little corners of the nation, creating chaos for the people and the new leaders. What’s the end result? The good guys are in power and ruling, but while the bad guys can never again retake control, they sure can do some damage in parts of the nation. This is what the Christian is like. “We died to sin” yes, but sin remains within us. It has not been totally obliterated yet. Where does that leave us? Sin, though present and nagging, can no longer rule over us or dictate our lives because Christ is enthroned in our hearts by His Spirit.

Can you see now what Paul is getting at in v2? When he asks the question, “How can we who died to sin still live in it?” he means it. It makes as much sense for a Christian who has died to sin to go back and live in sin, as it does for Lazarus to prefer the grave after being raised to life. Do you see the vile nature of sin in this? Sin isn’t just disobedience. Sin isn’t just rebellion against the King of kings. It is that, but it’s much more. For those who have been raised to new life, sin is a banquet in the grave. Why then would we return to it?

So Paul has asked a question and he’s answered that question. But he helps us out and in v3-4 he goes a step further and gives us…

An Explanation (v3-4)

“Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death? 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.”

In this explanation Paul uses something very familiar to these Roman Christians, something familiar to all Christians, to explain what he means, baptism. This is not a passage defining what baptism is, no. If you view it like that you might come away thinking that baptism saves you, and we know that’s not true because of a whole host of other passages in Scripture, especially what Paul has laid out in Romans so far. What then is in view? It’s not a definition of what baptism is and what baptism does, but rather, Paul is using baptism imagery, or the symbol of baptism to explain and describe what happens to each Christian when we’re saved. We often speak of the same things when we do the sacraments here at SonRise. Each time we do the Lord’s Supper or a baptism we say the sacraments are visible gospels. Meaning that, they are to our eyes, what the preaching of the gospel is to our ears. Paul does that here with the images of baptism. So what happens when we’re saved? We’re united to Jesus, made one with Him, brought into union with Christ. Which is a union so close that in v3 we die with Christ and in v4 we rise with Christ. That’s what v3-4 is doing. But let’s look closer in.

In v3 it’s all about death. Because we’re united to Jesus by faith Paul’s saying we died with Christ when Christ died on the cross. And what happened when Jesus died? He was buried. That’s where v4 begins. We not only died with Him on the cross we we’re buried with Him in the tomb. Buried, not in our own tomb but buried alongside Jesus in Joseph’s tomb.[12] And glory upon glory, we not only died with Him in v3, and we we’re not only buried with Him in v4a, we rose with Him when He rose in v4b! Church, this is what happens at the conversion moment, when one is born again and saved. And this is what is displayed to our eyes when we see a baptism. But don’t miss Paul’s main point. He ends with it in v4. Why are we so united to Jesus in these ways? “…in order that…we too might walk in newness of life.” In other words, a saved person is a changed person. We no longer walk like we walked before. In a true sense v3-4 simply says what v1-2 has said already. “Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it?” Why should we no longer live in sin? Because we’ve been raised to walk entirely new.

Conclusion:

So, as we wrap things up now, I wonder…do you hear a message like this and think, ‘I must try harder.’ ‘I must do better.’ You might walk away thinking that. I don’t want you to, but you might. I’d rather you walk away with this: remember who you are.

Lion King moment Mufasa speaks to Simba – “You are more than what you have become…remember who you are!”

Church, all who believe in Jesus have been raised, have been made entirely new. Why should you fight sin? Why should no longer give sin room in your heart? Why should you no longer live in sin? Because you’ve died with Christ and have risen with Christ! You’ve been resurrected from the grave, from death, why would you return to it now?! Church, remember who you are.


[1] R.C. Sproul, Romans, St. Andrew’s Expositional Commentary (Wheaton, Illinois: Crossway, 2009), 182.

[2] Timothy Keller, Romans 1-7 For You, God’s Word For You (The Good Book Company, 2014), 138.

[3] Sproul, Romans, 182.

[4] J. V. Fesko, Romans (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Reformation Heritage Books, 2018), 152.

[5] Valley of Vision, The Name of Jesus, 21.

[6] Douglas Moo, Romans, NICNT (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Eerdmans, 2018), 382.

[7] These words are attributed to the French philosopher Voltaire.

[8] Fesko, Romans, 154.

[9] Moo, Romans, 379.

[10] Fesko, Romans, 154–155.

[11] Keller, Romans 1-7 For You, 139–140.

[12] Moo, Romans, 388.

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