A Reflective Christian

All for God’s Kingdom

Death is not our Master – Sermon for 9-21-08

Therefore, just as condemnation came for all people through one transgression, also through one righteous act came the declaration of righteousness leading to life for all people. For, just as through the disobedience of one man many were made sinners, through the obedience of one many will be made righteous. The Torah came in with the result that the transgression increased. However, where sin increased, grace was greatly abundant so that, just as sin reigned in death, grace also will reign through righteousness leading to eternal life through Jesus the Messiah our Lord. – Romans 5:18-21

In chapter 5, Paul proceeds to talk about the salvation that is had in Christ from two problems that plague the world and are built upon each other, sin and death. It can be said that sin brings death, and the fear of death brings about sin. In verse 12, Paul refers to how Adam’s sin brought death into the world. He then goes on to write “death spread to all men, based upon which all sinned” (Your translation might say something like “death spread to all men, because all sinned” but the verses literally ends saying “upon which all sinned.”).

There is a cyclical problem. Sin brought death into the world. In the story of Adam and Eve, after they sinned they were expelled form the garden of Eden which had the tree of life. The tree of life was said to make one be able to live forever. But being expelled from that, they and their children were deprived of this source of life. So Adam’s sin is said to be responsible for death coming into the world.

But consider what happens what a person will do to stave of death. An extreme instance is in Nazi Germany many people were captured and used for experimentation to improve the health of their own race, the Aryan race. The problem of death (and pain) served as a motivating factor to commit some evil acts. Or the paranoia of Stalin in Communist Russia led him to believe everyone was conspiring against him and so he had many people who he was suspicious of to be killed.

But for Jewish belief, death isn’t a problem only in the idea that of the soul leaving the body. It is also believed that the force of death working in the world is responsible for pain, suffering, illness, etc. And such a belief isn’t way off. For instance, a person can go into shock if they experience a sudden rush of pain. If one increases even more so, the person may even die. And illness, if it isn’t healed, can also lead to death. Or a person who is extremely sad may die an earlier death. We all know of stories of people who have lost their spouse and soon died themselves.

And imagine a person who is extremely stressed. If someone does something that might frustrate them when it usually wouldn’t, they have the tendency to act very defensive in return. They may even throw a fit of rage. So a person who would otherwise be kind, acts without grace all because of the frustration with their current situation.

While the link between the problems of the world and death is much more detailed, the point is that many of the problems of the world can be associated with death and that all those things and death are often times motivating factors for us to do things that bring harm to another person, all in the name of preserving and satisfying ourselves. So while death entered the world because of sin, death also causes sin. This is both a biblical idea and an idea that plays true in our life experience.

So, in Romans 5 Adam is seen as responsible for the world being full of sinners, because he brought death into the world, and therefore everyone was condemned (or judged) as we can see in 18-19. However, Paul also declares that through Jesus’ obedience, people can be made righteous (or free from sin) and so be declared righteous be God, leading to life (or “the justification of life).

And we see that sin continued to be a problem, even when the Torah came to proclaim a holy way of living. As a matter of fact, sin continued to increase as we see in verse 20. It did not decrease. But despite that, the whole of humanity was never destroyed. God overlooked their sins when they didn’t deserve it, and so we see that God’s grace was working even before Christ came. God’s grace Paul says “was greatly abundant.”

But why was God so graceful? Because He wants to see sin’s reign over humanity that comes from death uprooted. In place of that, God wanted grace to reign. Not grace in the sense of us receiving it, but rather us acting with grace just as God showed grace to us. If you recall in chapter 3, God’s righteousness is revealed to us so that we can be, as Jesus says in the sermon on the Mount, “perfect as our heavenly Father is perfect.” But acting with grace (or showing undeserved loved towards others) just as God showed us grace would come through the doing of what is right (“through righteousness”), and then and only then would it lead to eternal life through our Lord Jesus.

So this might sound good to us, but to the people Paul is proclaiming this too, they may fail to see how what Paul says is true. So they ask a question to Paul in Romans chapter 6, verse 1.

What shall we say then? Will we remain in sin so that grace will increase? – Romans 6:1

The question here is not of “Do we have a license to keep sinning because of God’s grace.” Rather, it was a question of skepticism toward what Paul said. It might be rendered “Won’t we just continue to sin and God’s grace will just continue to abound?” The objector might agree with Paul’s logic that God was being gracious, but they didn’t understand how Paul thought this would lead to many people turning to do what is good. After all, he said the Torah didn’t decrease sin, so it seemed rather hopeless for people being to change and the world to become more righteous, more humane.

No, never! How can we who died to sin still live in it? Or do you not know that as many as were baptized into the Messiah Jesus were baptized into his death? Therefore we have been buried with him through baptism into death. The result is that just as Christ was raised from the death through the Father’s glory, we too may walk in a new life. – Romans 6:2-4

Paul’s response can be summed up like this: When we were baptized, we were baptized in Jesus’ name. In being baptized in his name, we were united with Jesus’ death. And so we will be raised from the dead just like Jesus did. The result is that we can have a hope of “walking in a new life,” which does not refer to some much the morally upright and changed life, but rather the hope of a new life being given to us after death.

Let’s think about this a second. If death and the things associated with it were the motivating factor for our evil actions, and we will be raised from the dead just as Jesus raise from the dead, how does this affect our motivations? Wouldn’t it remove the motivations for a lot of what we do? Wouldn’t we, if we accepted the reality of death because we knew we knew our bodies would be raised again, be free from many of the concerns that often times lead us to do what is good for us but harmful towards others? That is the logic behind what Paul goes on to say.

For if we were united to take part in the form of his death, we certainly will be part of his resurrection. By us knowing this the body no longer enslaves us to sin (since our old man was crucified with him so that the sinful body would be made powerless), because he who has died is freed from sin.

Now if we have died with the Messiah, we believe that we shall also live with him by knowing death is no longer master over him (since the Messiah by having been raised from the dead, is never to die again) because the death that he died, he died to sin one time. However, the life that he lives, he lives to God. And in that way, consider yourselves to be dead to sin, but alive to God in the Messiah Jesus. – Romans 6:5-11

The reason we are freed from the control of sin, the reason we will then live our life to God is founded upon the very fact that Jesus himself died and was raised from the dead. It is our very trust in this fact that our hope for freedom is to be had, the trust in what in our day and age is considered impossible and irrational. In a man dying and three days later coming back to life, and that we ourselves will follows the same example of Jesus in death and resurrection. Twice Paul says in these verses “by knowing.” In verses 5-6, by knowing we will be raised like Jesus, we will no longer be controlled by sin. In verses 8-9, by knowing that death is not master off Jesus, we believe that we will not just be raised, but live alongside him.

And so, just as Jesus suffered but did not wrongs towards one another despite people were taking him to his death, we too live our life for God and not our own concerns. And so we act with grace and love even to those who wish to harm us, just like Jesus did. We consider ourselves dead to sin because we accept the reality of death and do not try to prevent it and the things associated with death at the cost of hurting others and disobeying God. Love, grace, mercy, forgiveness, and things like those become easier because we do not fear what people can do to us. We trust that the world of death, pain, and hatred God will turn into a world of life, and through that, a world of joy and love.

So, there isn’t any excuse for the regular concerns about our life to control us. Instead, we can do as Paul continues to write.

Therefore, do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its desires. Nor continue to present your body parts as unrighteous tools. Rather, present yourselves to God as those alive from the dead, and your body parts to God as righteous tools. For sin will not be master over you because you are not under the Torah but under grace. – Romans 6:12-14

The conclusion is that our mortal body and the sinful principle because of its mortality is not to control us anymore. The feelings, or desires, that might lead us to act one way is no longer to affect us.

However, there is another thing that causes us to sin. It is the habits that we have developed over the years. A person who doesn’t want to get angry at people still might because over the years he got really angry and so he developed that habit. So while our feelings are one problem, another problem is our habits and Paul tells the people to cease to let ourselves continue to submit our body to those acts. Not to get ahead of ourselves for next week, but this is because in ceasing to do those things, we will then retrain ourselves to act with love.

And all this is because God didn’t operate toward us according to the Torah which called for death for disobedience, but rather operated towards us with grace in sending His Son when we did not deserve that. God acted with love towards us, and so we should reciprocate through loving God and loving others by doing what is right as he calls us to do.

So, let us put our trust that God raised Jesus from the dead and so will do the same for us. Death is not the end of this life, but only a temporary hiatus of this life. In due time, we will all be raised from the dead like Jesus, and it will be the ones who lived their lives for God who will live alongside Jesus. Or as Hebrews 2:14-15 says:

Therefore, since the children partake in flesh and blood, he himself also partook of the same. The result was that through death, he would make the devil who had the power of death powerless, and free those who through the fear of death were subject to slavery all their lives. – Hebrews 2:14-15

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September 20, 2008 - Posted by | Uncategorized |

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