of Sin is Death"
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
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
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
Has anybody here ever had to die to be
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.
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
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.
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
Are you enslaved to sin or God?
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?