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"The Wages of Sin is Death"

Romans 6:1-23

Jim Davis

Death is a theme, which runs through the heart of Romans. The death of which Paul speaks is due to living life on our terms. In chapter one Paul explained how God turned humanity over to its own depraved desires. (1:18-32) The result was flagrant immorality, which in reality is the worse type of death. Immorality brings death by self-destruction. Paul assures us that sin brings death. (5:12, 17) Paul understood how sin wreaked havoc in his life. He said, "What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death?" (8:24) We're all guilty of bringing death to our world. (3:23)

Our greatest fears revolve around physical death and dying. We try to sanitize and rationalize it because of its dread. Over the years I have observed several persons take their last breath on earth. I can never stand at the bedside in such a case without thinking about how humiliating Satan’s tactics are. Death is the ultimate humiliation of mankind. It comes to all in the same way, rich and poor, young and old. When they take their last breath, they all look alike. That is the end result of sin in our world, but praise God, it is not the end for the child of God.

Nothing reveals our inability to direct our lives more than physical and spiritual death. Whether it is physical death or spiritual death it comes through sin. (5:12) Both are very humiliating. Humiliation has to do with human pride. Often we become so humiliated with our sin we no longer care. We become dead to the world around us. We don't care because we have died to whatever was humiliating us. Our pride will eventually humiliate us. We are often afraid of humiliation as we let go of an old way of living for a new life. It is then we discover the road to humility. This was precisely the reason we were baptized into Christ's death so we could have a new life in Christ. Jesus Christ suffered the humiliation for our sin in his death. Now we are offered a new life without humiliation. Why should we continue to live under sin’s humiliation?

At age 36, Tolstoy was thrown from his horse while hunting. When he came to his senses, a thought hit him like a thunderbolt. "I am a writer!" And joy welled through his mind, while he felt a searing pain in his shoulder. He began his novel War and Peace. We are Christians. We are no longer subject to the death of sin. Why on earth would we want to continue in sin?

"Shall We Go on Sinning?"

Romans chapter six is about Christians desiring to continue in sin so grace may abound. They are thinking the grace of forgiveness abounds as they continue their sinful lifestyles. They think, not only does grace abound, the very act of sinning causes grace to be more effective in our lives. If we are saved -- not because we have not sinned, but because, in our sin, we have received grace -- then let's sin all the more so that God can be even more gracious! (Rom. 6:1). God is in the business of grace and forgiveness; let's give God something big to forgive! Let us "sin in order that grace may abound."

In the final verse of chapter six Paul writes, "For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord." (6:23) Paul makes it clear as he opens and closes the chapter that you cannot seek life and death at the same time. They are as opposed to each other as night and day. The question is not whether we are saved by grace; but will grace allow us to continue live and die in sin?

The Romans thought grace was really great! And you expect Paul to say something like, "It's not nice for Christians to say things like ‘Shall we continue in sin.’" But what Paul says is, "You can't continue in sin. You have died." Paul says what? "Dead people can't sin. In baptism you were buried with Christ. You're dead. You can't get resurrected to a new life if you haven't yet died. In baptism, you die."

Has anybody here ever had to die to be a Christian?

Our self-seeking world tells you, living is when you get what you deserve out of life. Living is getting what is rightfully yours. So stand up for yourself. Demand your rights. How many relationships have died because those involved desired what was rightfully theirs? How many organizations have crumbled beneath the load of everyone wanting his or her own way? How many churches have divided because of the same problems?

Too many have accepted ruin and misery as a way of life. It is hard for God to impart life to those who do not realize they are dead. Sometimes we find ourselves wanting to impart the life of the gospel without telling a person that he or she is dead. It is even harder to impart life to those who refuse to die to themselves.

The gift of God is eternal life through Christ. The life of God is imparted through grace, but how graceful would God be if he allowed us to continue practicing lifestyles, which bring death and destruction? It wouldn't be any different than sending your children to play a soccer game on the Howard Franklin bridge during rush hour. It might sound exciting, but it will surely lead to destruction.

Deuteronomy 30:19-20
This day I call heaven and earth as witnesses against you that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Now choose life, so that you and your children may live and that you may love the LORD your God, listen to his voice, and hold fast to him. For the LORD is your life, and he will give you many years in the land he swore to give to your fathers, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. (NIV)

What do you want to reap? There is an unalterable law of life: We reap what we sow. That is a law by which we are forced to live. "Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows. The one who sows to please his sinful nature, from that nature will reap destruction; the one who sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life." (Galatians 6:7-8 NIV) There is no mocking God. Try planting wheat seed and reaping corn. It won't work. If we want eternal life, we must sow the seed of the Spirit in our hearts and then we will reap eternal life. It is just the simple law of reaping what we sow.

We cannot sow to the flesh and reap a spiritual harvest in the end. Paul says, "The acts of the sinful nature are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God. But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the sinful nature with its passions and desires. Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit. Let us not become conceited, provoking and envying each other." (Galatians 5:19-26 NIV) The fruit of the Spirit and the fruits of the flesh are much different. You can’t sow one are reap the other.

It is not a matter of earning our salvation, but of reaping what we sow? Paul asks, "What shall we say, Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase?" Can we continue to seek death and have life at the same time? When the seeds of destruction are sown in the world, destruction is what is reaped. If the same seeds are sown in a Christian's life, destruction is inevitable. God cannot be mocked. Jude writes, "'In the last times there will be scoffers who will follow their own ungodly desires.' These are the men who divide you, who follow mere natural instincts and do not have the Spirit. But you, dear friends, build yourselves up in your most holy faith and pray in the Holy Spirit. Keep yourselves in God's love as you wait for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ to bring you to eternal life." (Jude 1:18-21 NIV)

Motivation for Change

Have you ever wanted to tell someone to get a life? The reason we come to Christ is that "we too may have a new life." (6:4) Try reaping a harvest without planting the seed. It won't work. We must give up living as we are and strive to gain a new life. "Jesus replied, 'The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. I tell you the truth, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds. The man who loves his life will lose it, while the man who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life. Whoever serves me must follow me; and where I am, my servant also will be. My Father will honor the one who serves me.'" (John 12:23-26 NIV)

We can't receive a new life if we refuse to live life on God's terms. There was a song, which hit the charts a few years ago: "My Way!" The song says, "I lived a life that is full I traveled each and every highway, I took the blows and did it my way! --- I stood tall and did it my way! -- The record shows, I took the blows and did it my way!" The song leaves the impression that the most important thing in life is doing things my way. Who better to direct my life to fulfill my desires than myself? Some will be completely satisfied when they reach the end of the road, if only, they can look back and realize they did it their way.

Yet, Jesus says seeking to live life my way brings destruction. The powerful gospel of Christ cannot impart life until we are willing to die to our way. There is a cry among churches to give everlasting life--without any cost. Pardon for sin is offered to those unwilling to admit they are sinners! Of course, we do not actually say this, but it is what is being lived. We can preach a gospel, which appeases the spirit of lawlessness.

Death to sin is a great liberator. Once we die, we have everything to gain. Death to sin is a death, which brings an end to sin's destructive force in our lives. The thing about death is we don't have to do it but once. Christ only died once. Christ's death liberated him. He received a life unencumbered with this world's concerns. He faced death with blood sweating tears, but it was the greatest joy of his life. If we desire to share in his glorious joy we must die with him to sin. Once we die we gain it all. Once we die to sin we have a solid foundation upon which to build a holy life.

Dying to our old self clears the mind for decisive action. The great war novelist, James Jones, author of From Here to Eternity, being interviewed shortly before his death, answered a reporter's question, "How, in the middle of the horrors of war, do soldiers keep going? What enables them to fight on?"

Jones replied, "What you do is you decide that you are dead. Right. Every soldier I knew, in the horrors of war, just decides, 'I'm dead.' That enables you to live. You go ahead and die, so you can be surprised when, at the end of the battle, you're still alive."

"By No Means!"

In verse 15 Paul emphatically ask, "What then? Shall we sin because we are not under law but under grace? By no means!" He emphatically reiterates the same point he made in the first verse of the chapter: "What shall we say, then? Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase? By no means!

In the religious world there is a lot of tension between the concept of grace and law. (This very fact gives rise to what Paul says in chapter 7, which we will be dealing with in the next sermon.) In God's eyes there is no conflict between law and grace. Grace simply does for us what the law can't. Grace saves! Grace in no way diminishes the law. Souls are lost because they have transgressed God's law. Transgression of God's law is sin. (1 John 3:4) In a true sense God's law is still effective because the law brings condemnation and seeks justice as we break it. If grace nullifies the law, then there is no sin. (5:13) If there were no sin there would be no need of grace.

We would like to believe grace and law cancel each other out. The very need for grace tells us the law is alive. Grace recognizes the condemnation the law brings and pays the debt for us. Paul makes it clear grace does not cancel the law; it meets the law's strict demand for justice. If it is essential for grace to meet the laws strict demand for justice today, the law is still in effect. If the law were not in effect there would be no sin and no need for salvation from sin. Therefore both grace and law are very much alive.

Romans 13:9-14
The commandments, "Do not commit adultery," "Do not murder," "Do not steal," "Do not covet," and whatever other commandment there may be, are summed up in this one rule: "Love your neighbor as yourself." Love does no harm to its neighbor. Therefore love is the fulfillment of the law. And do this, understanding the present time. The hour has come for you to wake up from your slumber, because our salvation is nearer now than when we first believed. The night is nearly over; the day is almost here. So let us put aside the deeds of darkness and put on the armor of light. Let us behave decently, as in the daytime, not in orgies and drunkenness, not in sexual immorality and debauchery, not in dissension and jealousy. Rather, clothe yourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ, and do not think about how to gratify the desires of the sinful nature. (NIV)

Paul summed up the law in one statement: Love your neighbor as yourself . . . Therefore love is the fulfillment of the law." To dimiss the law would be the same as dismissing the need to love your neighbor as yourself. The law tells us how to love our neighbor as ourselves. The law is an instrument of God's grace for the Christian, the law just demands points us to Christ for forgiveness. (Galatians 3:24) After accepting Christ's sacrifice, the law continues to be an instrument of God's grace as it directs us to love our neighbor as our self.

Grace releases us from the impossible burden of seeking justice on the law's terms. Before we are saved grace demands we recognize the condemnation of the law. Once we are saved we must recognize as a means to bring more fully into God’s grace. But now we are free from condemnation. We have the law simply as a means to direct and salvage our lives from ruin as we rely on grace to save us as it meets the laws strict demands for justice. The law points to the pitfalls in life and seeks to show us another way without pitfalls. When we fail to see the pitfalls and fall headlong into them grace saves us. If it were not for grace, the law would have a death hold upon us.

Once we are saved, what benefit is there in sowing to the flesh and reaping its reward? Most of us have sown a few wild oats, how many of us have spent a lifetime reaping what we have sown. How much fun is it to live in regret? How gracious would God be if his grace encouraged us to continue such lifestyles?


The question is, who is the master of your life?

Are you enslaved to sin or God?

Romans 6:19-23
I put this in human terms because you are weak in your natural selves. Just as you used to offer the parts of your body in slavery to impurity and to ever-increasing wickedness, so now offer them in slavery to righteousness leading to holiness. When you were slaves to sin, you were free from the control of righteousness. What benefit did you reap at that time from the things you are now ashamed of? Those things result in death! But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves to God, the benefit you reap leads to holiness, and the result is eternal life. For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. (NIV)

Therefore we died with Christ in baptism to experience the power of a new resurrected life with Christ. Why would we want to continue in sin?


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