July 12, 2020 [Pentecost 6]  Romans 6:1b-11  J.D.Roekle

 

Shall we keep on sinning so that grace may increase? 2Absolutely not! We died to sin. How can we go on living in it any longer? 3Or don’t you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? 4We were therefore buried with him by this baptism into his death, so that just as he was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too would also walk in a new life.

5For if we have been united with him in the likeness of his death, we will certainly also be united with him in the likeness of his resurrection.

6We know that our old self was crucified with him, to make our sinful body powerless, so that we would not continue to serve sin. 7For the person who has died has been declared free from sin. 8And since we died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. 9We know that since Christ has been raised from the dead, he will never die again. Death no longer has control over him. 10For the death he died, he died to sin once and for all, but the life he lives, he lives to God. 11In the same way also consider yourselves dead to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus.

 

Baptism Unites Us with Christ

 

Dear Friends in Christ,

          Is Christianity an immoral religion?  Now you might be surprised to hear such a question.  For one, you know that Christianity teaches the 10 commandments.  They promote the opposite of immorality.  They promote living moral and upright lives.  Honor your father and mother and all others in authority; don’t hurt or harm anyone; don’t commit adultery; don’t steal but protect each other’s property; don’t bear false witness but defend the name of others; don’t covet.  And from the beginning, God made it clear that he didn’t put up with immorality.  God doesn’t put up with sin.  Instead, he made it clear from the beginning that sin must be punished.  And sin was punished through Jesus who gave his life for us.  He suffered for our immoral behavior.  And so, God forgives us our sins.  Each and every one of them.  We have full and free forgiveness whenever we sin. 

          And so, critics of Christianity will argue that Christianity is immoral, because it basically teaches people that they can do anything that they want, because Jesus is going to forgive it anyway.  In other words, we have been given a license to sin.  We can sin and do anything we want, and Jesus will forgive it.  So then, they say, Christianity promotes immoral behavior.  Do you buy that argument? 

          Maybe you should ask yourself if you’ve ever used forgiveness as a reason to do something wrong.  “I’ll do this just this one time, because I know Jesus will forgive me anyway.”  Have you done that?  Be honest with yourself. 

          The fact that we may have done that is not the fault of Christ or of his teaching.  At the very least, it is a misunderstanding of what Christ teaches.  That kind of an attitude is contrary to what being a Christian is all about.  Being a Christian means that you have been united with Christ.  In order to get a better understanding of what that means, we are taken back to our Baptism.  It is there that we have been united with Christ. 

 

          The apostle Paul asks the question: “don’t you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death?”  When you were baptized, you died to sin.  That means that a separation took place.  You were separated from your sin.  And Paul takes the picture even further. “We were therefore buried with him by this baptism into death.” 

          Dead and buried.  That describes a Christian and sin.  Remember what Jesus did with your sin.  He took it to the cross.  He died with it.  He was buried with it.  In being baptized, you were united with Jesus in his death and burial.  That means that your sin is dead and gone too.  It is something that no longer can control you.  Sin is something that no longer has reign over you. 

Instead, something new was created at your baptism.  In order to understand what that is, Paul reminds us: “We were therefore buried with him by this baptism into his death, so that just as he was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too would also walk in a new life.” 

          Remember that when Jesus died, it wasn’t his intent to stay buried in his tomb.  Instead, it was his intent to rise from the dead.  The sin he died with stayed buried behind him.  He rose to new life.  Life in the flesh.  Life that was no longer subject to sin around him or our sin he died with. 

          When you were baptized, you were not only baptized with Jesus in his death and burial, but also with him in his resurrection.  Something new came as a result.  A new life sprang up.  A life that was no longer ruled by sin.  A life that was ruled by a love for God and his will.  A life that seeks to fear, love, and trust in God above all things.  A life that seeks to love your neighbor in whatever manner possible.  The longer we are united with Christ in the baptism, the more that new life grows and flourishes.

          And with this new life that is united with Christ, we have a change in attitude.  Our attitude is no longer “what can I get away with?”  Being united in Christ means that we aren’t looking for loopholes in God’s law.  We don’t want to do things that would displease God.  Being united with Christ means that the sinful nature need not control us any longer.

          That being said, the sinful nature is still there.  It isn’t as if you are suddenly perfect.  No, your sinful nature still exists.  You still have daily struggles in following God’s will.  And if it goes unchecked, the sinful nature continues to grow and gets out of control. 

          That’s where Baptism comes in.  Martin Luther, in his Small Catechism, reminds us of how to keep our sinful nature in check as he speaks about the Meaning of Baptism for our Daily Life:

Fourth: What does baptizing with water mean?

Baptism means that the old Adam in us should be drowned by daily contrition and repentance, and that all its evil deeds and desires be put to death.  It also means that a new person should daily arise to live beore God in righteousness and purity forever. 

Where is this written?

Saint Paul says in Romans, chapter 6, “We were…buried with [Christ] through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life.”  

 

          Luther is very clear: while Baptism is a once in a lifetime act, the usefulness of Baptism lasts throughout our lifetime.  Today we are stressing Baptism.  You see that in the hymns and in this sermon.  You should also see that each time we begin the service in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.  We are reminded that we were united with Christ in baptism.  You should also remember that as you confess your sins here and as you hear that your sins are forgiven in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit

          While we do this regularly in worship services, Luther reminds us that this should be a daily exercise of our faith.  Go to the throne of God daily confessing your sins and come away once again with the assurance that they are dead and buried in Christ. 

          Of course, Satan is there tempting us to think that sin shouldn’t be such a struggle for us.  When you are tempted to believe that, remember this: where there is no struggle with sin, there is a need to be concerned.  The struggle will remain all the days of our life.  The struggle means that the new life created at our baptism is alive and well.  We will talk more about that struggle with sin next week.

 

          Let’s get back to our original question.  Is Christianity immoral?  Does the fact that Christ forgives all our sins give us a license to sin?  Baptism gives us the answer.  In Baptism we are united with Christ.  We are freed from the control that sin has over us as our sins are dead and buried with Christ.  Being united with Christ, we now have an entirely different attitude about sin.

          Think about it this way.  When a couple unites in marriage, they promise to work for the good of the marriage.  That is the intent from the outset.  The intent is not to try to sabotage the relationship that is created and nurtured.  Being united in Christ means that we work with Christ from the start.  Our sins are buried with him and so we work on the new life he began in us at baptism.  That should remind you of just how important your Baptism is.  It provides you with power and with motivation to regularly work on your relationship with Christ.  Amen.