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Sunday, April 7, 2013

The Resurrection Life - Buried and Raised (Romans 6.1-7)

Sermon by: Robert Austell - April 7, 2013

:: Some Music Used
Prelude: "This Joyful Eastertide" (Ronald Nelson)
Hymn of Praise: "I Will Sing of My Redeemer" (HYFRYDOL)
Song of Praise: "In Christ Alone" (Getty, Townend)
The Word in Music: "I Will Glory in My Redeemer" (Enfield)
Offering of Music: "The Day of Resurrection" (Smart, arr. Craig Curry)
Song of Sending: "You Have Been Raised" (Sovereign Grace)

Postlude: "We Know that Christ is Raised" (Craig Phillips)

"The Resurrection Life: Buried and Raised"
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Text: Romans 6:1-7

**Sermon audio is also accessible as a free podcast in iTunes - search for "Good Shepherd Sermons or Robert Austell"**

We are fresh off of Easter and for some a spring break. Spring itself is coming, and with it the promise of new life.  On Easter Sunday we talked about why the Resurrection of Jesus matters. It matters because Jesus goes before us, first fruits of something beyond death. It matters because the curse of sin and death, begun with Adam, is being undone. And it matters because God is working in those who trust and follow Christ to “make us alive.” So just like the vegetation and flowers and world around us coming to life again with Spring, so we are made new through the Resurrection of Jesus Christ.

And so, in these several weeks after Easter, we are going to look at Romans 6 and talk about the “Resurrection Life,” trying to understand better what that new life in Christ means, what it looks like, and how we can more fully live in it.

Life Looks Different!

The first thing to say is that because of Jesus Christ life looks different! He makes a difference in one’s life. If life with Christ and life without Christ look no different, then we have missed something crucial about who Jesus is, what he has done, and what he is doing even now. We could talk about that in a number of ways, but the place Paul picks up in chapter six of his Letter to the Romans has to do with sin. That is an appropriate place for us to start as well since one of the tangible ways we talked about Jesus’ resurrection mattering last Sunday was in the “undoing” of the curse of sin and death. It is logical then to ask, “What about sin?” If it’s been undone and all, why is there still sin? Why do I still sin?

One quick answer is one we still sometimes hear today, that sin doesn’t matter because God’s grace abounds! God has forgiven it all and we shouldn’t get wrapped up in naming sin, judging sin, or paying much attention to sin, because God will forgive it. But Paul nips that in the bud, asking “Are we to continue in sin so that grace may increase?” Paul’s response is: “May it never be!” Clearly, we not only continue to sin, but we should struggle against it. What follows is an explanation of how we are then to live, particularly with regard to sin. 

How Does that Work?

After Paul’s “May it never be!” he goes on to ask two more questions that will set up what follows. The first question is: “How shall we who died to sin still live in it?” The second is related to it: “Or do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus have been baptized into His death?”

Both are rhetorical, meaning the point is not just coming up with the answer, but understanding the answer and why Paul asked the question. What Paul is trying to remind us of with these questions is our new reality because of Good Friday and Easter. Jesus did not need to die and be raised for his own sake. If Jesus death and resurrection were not FOR US, then there was no point to them. Last Sunday we talked about what happened to Jesus; now we are focusing on the FOR US part.

Paul describes those who trust in Jesus Christ as those who have “died to sin” and are “baptized into Jesus’ death.” Those are not conditions of Jesus’s work; you don’t have to stop sinning for Jesus to die for you.  That wouldn’t even make sense because then he wouldn’t have had to die! No, these are the RESULTS of Jesus’ work. Because Jesus died, we have died to sin. That is one of things baptism signifies; that we are marked by his action.  That’s what Paul wants you to understand with his two questions. You have died to sin because you belong to Jesus and he died to sin… don’t you know it?

Let me try to illustrate. If the IRS sent Heather a tax bill next week that said she owed taxes on our family income, she or I could respond legitimately by saying, “How shall I who have paid my taxes still owe taxes?”  Did she do the Austell family taxes or send them anything? Not personally, but listen to this second question while you are looking at verse 3.  “Or do you not know that all of us who wear this wedding ring can file jointly and pay in that way?”  I realize that anyone can put on a wedding ring, but so can anyone splash water and say they’ve been baptized. The point is that the covenant of marriage, signified by a ring, enables one to be fully represented by another. So the covenant of baptism, rightly used, enables one to be fully represented by another. So, baptized into Christ, who has died to sin means that I have died to sin.

Now, living like that’s reality is another thing! Perhaps that’s why Paul offers several of his own illustrations to help us understand. This week we will look at the first of his illustrations, that with Christ we have been buried and raised

First Picture: Buried and Raised

Paul’s first illustration or picture is that we have been buried and raised with Christ. We have been buried with Him into death and raised to “walk in newness of life.” (v. 4) Clearly, this is not literal, as we have not been physically buried. But it is one of the things we illustrate in baptism, and baptism is specifically mentioned here. So we are joined to Christ in faith, signified through baptism, by God’s gracious love toward us. And so when Christ was crucified, our debt was joined to him; our “body of sin” was joined to him and put to death (v. 6). And when he was buried, our debt and the consequence of sin was complete. When God raised Jesus from the dead in victory OVER sin and death, we too were raised (still joined to him), but no longer under the curse of sin and death.

That doesn’t seem to jive with reality, does it? Sin and death still seem to be all around us, including IN us. And Paul would certainly agree; he wouldn’t have had to write this chapter if sinning no more was a done deal for Christians.

So what he HAS said is that there is a new reality. A new life and a new way of living has been secured by Christ, but we continue to struggle with the old patterns, the old rules, and the way things have always been.

We will see in the coming weeks that Paul uses words like “consider” and “remember” and “do not let” – there are still choices before us - choices of obedience. We have to CHOOSE to live as those who have been buried and raised with Christ.

Does that seem farfetched? Think again of the wedding ring. It signifies commitment, but we still have to choose commitment. The ring or even the reality of being joined in marriage doesn't do commitment for us. In the same way, we must choose obedience to honor our being joined to Christ.

So Paul declares a glorious reality: through Jesus Christ sin and the curse have been buried and we are raised to a new resurrection life. But as I said earlier, living like that’s reality is another thing.

I’d challenge you to read and re-read this chapter – the whole thing, not just the verses we looked at today. We’ll be returning to Romans 6 for the next two weeks. Keep soaking in the Good News reality declared there, even if it is a struggle to bear that out in our lives

Coming Next: Enlisting Rightly and Gracious Freedom

Next week we will focus on verses 8-13, in which Paul reminds us that we were “formerly dead” but now alive, and uses some imagery of presenting ourselves in service to a just cause to help us understand what it means to live out this Good News reality.

Then the next week we will focus on verses 14-23, in which Paul uses imagery of slavery, mastery, and wages to help us understand that our spiritual freedom is a gift and is life, again to help us understand what it means to live out the Good News reality of being joined to the Risen Christ.

As we come to the Lord’s Table today, be reminded of this union as well. We eat and drink Jesus Christ to signify that we are joined to him in death and in new life. These are tangible reminders of the Good News that in Christ we are forgiven, set free, and invited in. Amen.

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