“A Christian Way of Life”

Rev. Ben Beasley
APC Sermon
Romans 6:1-5; 12-23
When I was in Seminary a friend of mine joked
About making and selling t-shirts based on this morning’s passage
She got the idea from Paul’s opening statement
“Should we continue in sin in order that grace may abound?”
The t-shirts would have “Sin Boldly” written across the front
And the words
“So that Grace May Abound” written on the back 

I actually think we could have sold a few around town
Even if people didn’t understand what was written on the back
They probably would have bought them for the “Sin Boldly” statement on the front 

We quickly recognize how absurd Paul considers such a statement from his very own emphatic answer immediately following the question
“By No Means!” 

It would appear Paul was responding to some pot shots being directed at his Christian ideas
Specifically concerning his concept of Justification
Which means:
God’s act of declaring or making a sinner righteous before God through God’s free gift of grace
Grace we receive through no act of our own
It seems some in the community were using Paul’s writings on this topic to justify their own sinful lifestyles
Therefore Paul felt he needed to clarify this concept so that people would not go about claiming that since we are justified by God’s free gift of grace
And not by anything we do ourselves
There is no reason for, or obligation to, ethical living

Maybe Paul even saw the phrase
“ Go Ahead & Sin Grace Abounds”
On a passing chariot bumper sticker
Or maybe he saw it as a headline in the local editorial page of the Daily Empire
And felt he had to respond
Whatever the case
Even if he created the argument as a rhetorical device
In order to argue against such a claim
We have his argument laid out here in Romans 6
Paul uses this question concerning sin and grace as the springboard to discuss his own theology concerning sin and the Christian way of life in relation to sin
Specifically in light of ones baptism, God’s grace, and our own sanctification
Which can be defined as being made holy and growing in God’s grace through Christ’s atoning act on the cross

In order to fully understand our Scriptural passage this morning
We really need to take into account
Paul’s own question:
How can we who have died to sin go on living in it?
For Paul still living in sin would be unfathomable considering our living a new life in Christ
For Paul the death of Christ to which we are intrinsically bound through the waters of baptism
Symbolizes the end of our old way of life
And the resurrection of a new way of life
This new life requires a decisive break from the old
This new life is born through our own faith
Symbolized and sealed through our Baptism
It is Baptism that is really the main crux of Paul’s argument
Looking back to verse 3 Paul argues
Do you not know (a little jab at his detractors)
That all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus
Were baptized into his death?
For Paul, the resurrection rocked his world, his faith and transformed him!
Paul realized that before he could live a new life in Christ
First he had to die to self.
Paul writes,
“We have been buried with Christ by baptism into death
So that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father
So we too might walk in newness of life
For if we have been united with him in a death like his
We will certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his
The death he died, he died to sin, once for all; but the life he lives he lives to God.” 

So as Christians we too must consider ourselves dead to sin
And alive to God in Christ Jesus.
And live our lives accordingly
As a gracious response to Christ sacrifice and God’s free gift of grace 

Paul is saying that for Christians
Baptism is the outward act
Which declares that our lives are yielded in loyalty and obedience to Christ
It is this obedience that Paul refers to in our passage this morning in verse 17
“But thanks be to God that you, having once been slaves to sin, have become obedient from the heart to the form of teaching to which you were entrusted…”

We are obedient
As a grateful response to this new life we have been given in Christ

Baptism is our being united with Christ
We have submitted ourselves to the waters of Baptism and have risen into new life
In a sense we die to self
Having been as Paul says, set free from sin
And having been set free from the bondage of sin
We have become slaves of righteousness
The grip in which sin held us has been broken
We take on a new outlook regarding our own lives
Through Christ we find a reason for and obligation to ethical living
We see things differently
And in response we act differently
When considering this idea of seeing things differently
And it being Summer
I immediately thought of the beach
You see when I go to the beach
There is something I like to do
I wade out into the ocean beyond the surf to about five feet of water
I then submerge myself under the water
Pull my knees up to my chest
And holding my breath
I stay under the water as long as I can
After a few seconds I am slowly able to hear the muffled sounds of the waves breaking against the shore
They are slow and rhythmical like a muffled heartbeat
I feel as if I am transported back into the womb and the embryonic bath from which we came
When I come up from the water
I look around at all the people playing in the ocean
And throwing Frisbees on the beach
And somehow things look a little different
Like I have been through this amazing experience
While those around me have not
It feels a little other-worldly

I believe this is similar to what Paul is saying in our passage this morning
Rising from the waters of Baptism we see things differently
But Paul takes it one step further
Not only do we see things differently
We inevitably live our life differently
In light of our gratefulness towards God’s gift to us

Considering Paul’s views
You may be wondering about what this means in relation to Infant or a child’s baptism
According to David Bartlett who teaches NT studies at Columbia Seminary
An infant or child’s baptism probably wasn’t even on Paul’s radar
The only possible evidence of it taking place in Paul’s time would be the writings that mention whole families being baptized together
But even then Dr. Bartlett believed this practice only involved the adults of the household
However, I believe Paul’s ideas on baptism
Not only as a covenant
But also as a lens
Through which we see things differently
And live our lives differently
Are instilled in children who are baptized through their parents
And the church community
Who accept the charge at the time of baptism
To guide and nurture them by word and deed with love and prayer
Helping guide them in their faith journey
Helping them to also live their lives differently

What this passage helps us ultimately understand, I believe, is this dichotomy presented by Paul of a worldly or secular outlook on life and a Christian one
Lived in graciousness towards God’s gift to us
Our Christian life is a gift from God in Christ
Who has cleansed us
Placed his seal on us and a right Spirit within us
Symbolized through our baptism
And Emerging from the Baptismal waters
We live our life in grateful response to God’s free gift of grace
For Paul says our former selves die through the act of baptism
The language of death here Paul pushes
Towards our new identity with Christ
Our old self is crucified
The past and what it meant to us is destroyed
That we may no longer be slaves to sin
“For we are dead to sin, and alive to God in Christ”
As Christians a new life is something we experience
Imperfectly of course
But genuinely enough
At least we try
We may fall, and we will certainly still sin
But we are also grateful and acknowledge that our new life in Christ carries an expectation
Of a life lived in obedience to our Lord and Savior
For to live in Christ is to desire to please God
And act according to God’s will
Our old life is gone
Our new life has begun
Slaves to sin no more
Our desire now is but to do justice
To love Kindness
And to walk humbly with our God
Our desire is to demonstrate the truth of our bold claim
That Christ died that we might have a new life and have it abundantly
My hope for you this morning is that you would accept God’s free gift of grace
And live in the knowledge and joy of being freed from the wages of sin and death
Living a new life re-committing yourself once again to Christ in faithful obedience
Obeying by reading God’s Word
Obeying by spending time daily in prayer
Obeying by living your life by the fruits of the Spirit in love, joy, peace, long-suffering, gentleness, goodness, faithfulness, meekness, and temperance.
Obeying by being faithful and loyal in every way to the Church
All these are ways we live our lives, obediently, faithfully, and differently
All these are ways we live in gratefulness to God’s everlasting gift to us
All these are ways we live in obedience to him

Reverend Samuel Porter Jones, the great Methodist Preacher and Evangelist
from Cartersville, Georgia
Famously used to say:
"Quit your meanness."
That's what it means to follow and serve Christ!

While the forces of the world are still strong among us
Our Christian way of life is to rise above them
In a sense “to quit our meanness”
Striving to make the world a better place
Through Christ centered lives
And helping to bring others to a new life in Christ as well
Changing the world one person at a time
Should we continue to sin in order that grace may abound?
In the light of our baptism, Christ sacrifice, and God’s free gift of grace
By No Means!

In the name of the Father and the Son, and the Holy Spirit

Categories Sermons | Tags: | Posted on June 26, 2011

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