Full Text for Romans- Volume 23 - Understanding Romans 6 (Video)

No. 23. >> I find Paul's argument in Romans 6 to be very challenging and I had a few questions about this section. What does it mean that we were buried with Jesus and raised with him? Is Paul talking about water baptism here? And what does Paul mean when he says we know our old self was crucified with him? Finally, what does it mean to be dead to sin? Is this supposed to mean that a true Christian will stop sinning? >>PROFESSOR DAVID I. M. LEWIS: No problem, David. This is a very deep and important passage of Scripture that we get to when we enter into Romans Chapter 6. And there's a lot of questions to be asked. And I actually thank you for bringing all of these questions up for our discussion. And David, you mentioned that this particular section is very challenging. And I would agree that this is a very challenging piece of Scripture because we find out here that the Christian is not free to indulge their sinful nature. That we are not free to live as libertines, as if God's will didn't matter for our lives. Freedom from God's wrath and freedom from the law does not equal freedom to sin. And Paul makes mention earlier in Romans that this is how his Gospel had actually been characterized by some people out there. That there were actually people saying that what Paul was preaching was a form of grace that means that once you're saved, the law and sin don't matter anymore in the sense that you're free to do whatever you want. Let us sin so that grace may abound. In other words, they are turning Paul's rich Gospel into a Gospel of cheap grace where in effect all that happens is God declares the sinner is righteous when they believe. And nothing practical really happens in the sinner's life. Until they die and go into eternal life. And I think one reason Paul writes these three chapters in the book of Romans is I think Paul feels the need to defend himself against those false teachers who have been twisting his own Gospel. Because Paul makes it very clear in these chapters that indeed, our being saved, our being declared righteous, does have very practical implications on the new life that we live today. And this is why Fransman calls this section "The Gospel Creates a New Life." And I like the way he titles these three chapters because notice it's not David Lewis creating a new life now that he's been saved. But it is the Gospel that means God's power of salvation creating a new life. Now, once again, David, I must make note that 6:1 falls upon the end of Chapter 5 where Paul wrote: Now the law came in to increase the trespass. But where sin increased, grace abounded all the more. So that as sin reigned in death, grace also might reign through righteousness leading to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord. And so we see here the reality of grace reigning in righteousness. And the future reality of eternal life through Jesus Christ. And now this is where some people I think were twisting Paul's Gospel by saying: Well, what shall we say then? Are we to continue to sin that grace may abound? And Paul's answer to this is by no means. In other words, Paul is not one of those people who thinks the Gospel creates this notion of cheap grace where it has no practical reality, no practical effect upon the life of the believer today. And so yeah, this is a challenge that we're not to be lazy Christians to think our sin doesn't matter or that our sin even gives God the opportunity to forgive us some more. We should actually have a hostile relationship to sin. And in a sense we're freed from sin. And this is the reason why. Paul says: How can we who died to sin live in it? Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Jesus Christ 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. I would like to point out the passive verbs that are used here. How can we who have died to sin live in it? Well, that's an active verb. But dieing is a very passive thing. Dieing is something that happens to you. But then baptism, we have been baptized into Christ. That's a passive verb. That means we're the subject. But we're receiving the action. Someone else is doing the work. We were buried with Christ by baptism. In other words, we were buried with Christ. Passive voice. Again, it happened -- we're the subject. It's happening to us. But we're not active. Someone else is doing this. We're being acted upon when we were baptized, when we were buried with Christ. And just as Christ was raised from the dead, passive voice, we were raised in the sense that we walk a new life, too. Paul goes on in Verse 5: For if we have been united with him in a death like his, have been united, again, a passive voice verb. This is something that has happened to us. We should certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his. 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. And so we were baptized. We were buried. Christ was raised. We were crucified. Paul here is talking about how we have been acted upon in a very specific way. And who is the actor? Well, the actor is God. And we're receiving all of this action from God. And so what does it mean to be buried with Christ and to be raised with him? Well, this is now talking about the Gospel from a different vantage point. Paul has talked about justification. That's been his central theme. He's mentioned redemption, atonement, forgiveness and reconciliation. And now what we're talking about is what is called participation language. Now, participation language is the favorite motif of the new perspective. David, I know I mentioned the new perspective before, that this is an interpretation of Paul that's going on by some scholars today that tends to be very hostile to the Lutheran reading of Paul. Well, this is one place where I think they can be very helpful in helping us as Lutherans more fully see what Paul is talking about. They favor participation language because they say that in a sense what keeps you in the Christian faith is our participating with Jesus in his burial, his death, his crucifixion and his resurrection. And so what keeps the Christian life going is this sense of participation. Now, one place where they may err is they can actually make this participation seem like law to us. In other words, this is what you are supposed to do. You were supposed to crucify yourself. You were supposed to bury yourself. You were supposed to raise yourself. And of course, what's happening here as we see those are all passive verbs. That it's not really us doing it. But these are things that have happened to us. Someone else has done them to us. And so yes, indeed, we do participate with Christ. But this participation is really God acting upon us. And so I think participation can be a good way to understand the Gospel, especially as we see it expounded upon here in Romans 6 when we see indeed that God is the actor and we are the ones who are being acted upon in our participating with Christ in his crucifixion, his death, his burial and his resurrection. And the result of that participation is Gospel stuff. It's we have died to sin. And we have been raised to lead a new life. And as we'll find out later, that this new life is a new life that is led not by ourselves, not even by our new resurrected man, but by the Holy Spirit. And so this is, indeed, Gospel. God has acted upon us in a decisive way. As a result of his acting we are dead to sin and alive in Christ. I remember once preaching a sermon that some of my people thought was very powerful. It was a sermon based on Romans 6. And I began the sermon by saying: You're dead. And everybody went back shocked. And then I explained to them, that's good news. The good news is your old sinful nature has died with Christ. And God has given you a new life. And notice how Paul is focusing not specifically on the eternal life as to come but this is a new life right now. These are all past tense verbs. You have been crucified. Have died. Have buried. Have been raised. So right now this is a reality about the new life that you have now. You are freed from sin right now led by the Spirit right now because of what God has done to you. Now, David, you asked the question: Well, was Paul talking about baptism here? And of course a Lutheran would answer very quickly and decisively: Well, yes, he is. In fact Romans 6 is used in the Small Catechism. We will look at that later on where Paul references Romans 6 to explain baptism. When did all of this dieing and being buried and being raised take place? Well, Paul makes it very specific: When you were baptized into Christ. That is when it took place. And of course this was the understanding of the ancient can church. Baptism was practiced. And it was seen not only as the symbolic rite of initiation, but it was understood that baptism was indeed what we Lutherans say it is: It was the act of God making this person his child. And now, to speak in terms of Romans 6, when someone is baptized, it is God who is crucifying that person with Jesus. It is God who is killing that person, burying that person and raising a new man so that when the baptism has taken place what we have is a result of someone who has been crucified with Christ, who has died with Christ, who has been buried with Christ and who has been raised with Christ and is right now in the state of being dead to sin and alive with Christ. A Spirit filled Christian who is now living this life because God has acted upon them. And God continues to act upon them in this very decisive way. Remember, again, baptism for us is not just God infusing some grace to help us little a little better. Baptism is transferring us in terms of Romans 6 from being slaves to sin to being slaves to righteousness. Slaves to obedience. From being those people who were dead to being those people who were alive in the Holy Spirit. And he did it actually by killing the old man and raising the new Spirit filled man. Now, other interpretations, however, would say that baptism here is not specifically referring to water baptism. Another number of Reformed commentators that I've read have said that yes, Paul is referring to water baptism. But they see water baptism as only a symbol. So they would say behind that symbol is the greater reality of what God does when he converts somebody. So they would see sort of a disjunct between water baptism on the one hand and what actually happens with dieing with Christ and being raised with Christ on the other hand. And then I know a few interpreters who have simply said what Paul uses baptism here, he's not talking about water baptism at all. He's simply talking about the conversion experience. Well, again, I can remind you of the Great Commission. Jesus sent us out to baptize and to teach. Baptism has always been a part of the Christian missionary concern. Why? Well, because it's more than a symbol. It is God acting in this decisive way. And so David, as a result, the old man has died. And a new man has been raised as the result of baptism because God is acting upon us in these decisive ways. Now, David, you ask: What does Paul mean when he says: We know that our old self was crucified with him. Well, again he's saying that the sinful nature has died. And if the sinful nature has died, then it is no longer in control. So what does it mean to be dead to sin? Again, it means that sin is no longer in control. And so this is a description of the Christian life. Rather than be kind of passive and say: Well, I can't help but be a sinner, I've been declared righteous so I won't worry about my sins, that's kind of a cheap grace Gospel. Paul is saying: This isn't the Gospel I preach. Because the Gospel Paul preached is the power of God for salvation. So God has done even more incredible things than simply declaring us righteous. He's actually allowed us to participate this in Christ's death and resurrection in a very decisive way so right now we have a new Spirit filled life. Now, David, you also asked the question: Is Paul aware of our sin? In other words, does he expect the Christian to stop sinning? Well, you know, Paul does not expect us to stop sinning. He is aware of our struggle with sin. And Paul will develop this more fully in Romans Chapter 7. But his first point that we should not lose sight of here is that in the baptized believers, sin is not in control. We are free from it's power. And his conclusion in Chapter 8 is going to be we have the Holy Spirit and so that's the life we're to lead. In the baptized believer, it is God's Holy Spirit who is in control. And sin is no longer in control. And therefore, we should knowingly as Christians live our lives in such a way that we will knowingly struggle with sin. Not let sin be in control. Knowing that in fact, we have died to sin. God has acted upon us in a decisive way. And that if we were to give ourselves to sin, we would make ourselves slaves to sin. But because of what God has done, we are to make ourselves slaves of obedience instead. And so before we get into the struggle with sin, we have to see that struggle with sin within context. And the context is this: This is participation language that God has in our baptism caused us to participate in Jesus' crucifixion, death, burial and resurrection in such a way that right now we have a new Spirit filled life. We are not led by sin anymore. And so therefore, we shouldn't say: Well, then our sins don't matter. In fact our sins are good because they give God another opportunity to forgive us. No way says Paul. That's not the Christian life. Here is the Christian life. Well, now I would like to look at the way that this is described in the Small Catechism where Martin Luther references Romans Chapter 6. And notice that in Romans Chapter 6 Paul is talking about a past action, what took place in our baptism. And that it leaves -- it results in the fruit of this new life. This is how Luther develops the theme. This is in the fourth part of the Small Catechism's treatment of baptism. Luther asks the question: What does such baptizing with water indicate? It indicates that the old man in us should by daily contrition and repentance be drowned and die with all sins and evil desires and that a new man should daily emerge and arise to live before God in righteousness and purity forever. And notice Luther's explanation here. Paul sees this as a past act that has a present reality. And now Luther applies that past act to a daily reality. In other words, every day this is how Luther says we live. Every day the old Adam should die in daily contrition and repentance and be drowned and all sins and evil desires should die each day and that a new man should arise. And this is what we Lutherans mean when we say we live in our baptism. In other words, referring back to Romans 6, we live in the fact that God has acted upon us in a decisive way. And that this applies every single day. Every day through contrition and repentance my old man dies and the sins and evil desires and every day a new man rises to live for God. In other words, every day I'm not a slave to sin. I'm a slave to obedience, to righteousness. And then Luther cites Romans 6. Where is this written? Saint Paul writes in Romans Chapter 6: We therefore were buried with him 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. And so Luther very wonderfully takes that reality, that grace of baptism and says this is now a daily reality that applies to our lives each and every day we get up and we live. Now, this is why we see baptism as Gospel. And this is then one reason why we as Lutherans baptize infants. Following Romans 5, if it's true that in one man's sin death and condemnation came to all, including those newborn babies, and if it's true that in Jesus Christ righteousness and life come to all and if Romans 6 is correct in saying that God has accomplished this in our lives in baptism, then what great joy it is to take that newborn and to baptize them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Because God is giving this original sinner life and justification in the Holy Spirit. And allowing them to participate in what Christ did for them. And as a father of three, I remember the dates of my children's baptism. And I rejoice in my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ that I can say for certain based upon the Gospel that God has given his forgiveness, his salvation, he has allowed my three children to participate in what Christ has done for them. That they have the new life of the Holy Spirit. And that this is not their action. This is purely grace. This is God acting upon them. God acting upon you. God acting upon your people. And I think it helps us to understand, David, Romans Chapter 6 that this is grace, not law. Paul is stressing those passive verbs, this is what God has done to you that he has acted upon you. And because he has acted, this is the result: You are dead to sin and alive in Christ. And those are Gospel words. And what rich Gospel that is for us to teach and preach to our people who are also among the baptized believers that God has acted upon.