Scripture Text: Romans 6:1-11
Last week, I spoke from the last portion of Romans chapter five and mentioned how two men had greatly changed the course of human history. Adam, the first person, sinned against God and brought sin, death, and condemnation on the whole human race. The second person was Jesus Christ, who came to earth, splitting time in half, and died on a cross for the sin of mankind in order to restore us into fellowship with God. One man’s disobedience brought death and condemnation, the other man’s obedience brought justification leading to eternal life. Today, we read about another significant event in history, one that is greatly debated and often denied by those skeptical of miraculous things. Today we read about the resurrection of Jesus Christ.
Some people say Jesus was a good man who had many good teachings, but He was not resurrected. For others, the resurrection of Jesus Christ may have happened, but it had very little significance. Is the resurrection of Christ important? Should we celebrate it? There were other people in the Bible who died and were resurrected, such as Jairus’ daughter and Lazarus. Why was Jesus’ resurrection different? His resurrection was of an entirely different order. He died to deal with mankind’s sin and was resurrected and restored to the Father in Heaven. The Apostle Paul wrote the following in another letter:
1 Corinthians 15:14 If Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain.
If Jesus was not raised from the dead, if there was no resurrection, then our faith is in vain. If we can agree the resurrection is important then maybe another question is what does Jesus’ resurrection mean for you? How has it changed you? Jesus’ resurrection should mean something to you today, not just something in the past or the future. If you believe in the resurrection and have trusted in Christ as Lord and Savior, then it should mean something for you today. The main issue Paul was addressing here was what does the Gospel mean for you right now. Not just in the future. Not just when Jesus comes back to take us home. What does the Gospel, and more specifically the resurrection of Jesus Christ, mean for you today? I offer three things from this passage that speak to the importance of the resurrection:
- The Resurrection Means Life
- The Resurrection Means Freedom
- The Resurrection Means Death
The Resurrection Means Life
I’ll begin with the most obvious meaning for the resurrection — it means life. To be resurrected means to have life where death had occurred. For instance, Jesus died on a cross and was buried in a borrowed tomb. He was dead. But, on that first Easter morning, God the Father raised His Son to new life and Jesus walked out of that tomb alive forevermore. The tomb is empty. But what does that mean for us?
Romans 6:4–5 4 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. 5 For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his.
Paul wrote that just as Christ was raised from the dead, we too might walk in newness of life. There are two possibilities about what Paul meant in these verses. The more obvious meaning here is that Paul was talking about the resurrection we all will experience when God finally raises us from the dead. For those who have trusted in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior and follow Him, they will experience a resurrection similar to Jesus’ resurrection. Just as Jesus was raised from the dead, they, too, will be raised from the dead. This is certainly true. There will be a resurrection of these earthly, mortal bodies into new, eternal, glorified bodies.
However, I would like for you to consider another possibility. Paul was referring to the “newness of life” we have right now by knowing Jesus Christ. Unless you have accepted Jesus Christ, then you are still dead in your sin. You are the walking dead, a person who has the appearance of life but is dead inside. In the Walking Dead television series, several people struggle to stay alive by fighting these zombies who are dead. These zombies, called walkers in the show, walk around not realizing they are dead and killing those around them. Sin is like that. It makes us feel alive, but in reality, we are full of deadness. We also seek what we want no matter the consequence, and often hurt others in the process. When we trust in Christ, though, we receive the Holy Spirit and an infusion of life and righteousness from Jesus Christ. We begin to live a new life. Our desires change. We become more alive because we are in fellowship with the Source of Life. In fact, you do not really begin to live until you live for God.
The Resurrection Means Freedom
Freedom is a natural desire for mankind. Ask any teenager and he or she will confirm this. We naturally seek to be free and human history is full of people fighting to the death to be free. The Israelites understood this as they were once enslaved in Egypt. Our American forefathers understood the natural desire to be free and lead the English colonies to become, as the Declaration of Independence says, “Free and Independent States.” Unfortunately, freedom for all Americans was not complete and was a major factor of conflict in the Civil War. Freedom is still being fought around the world. There is still bondage in various places in the world, even in the United States of America. Sometimes, though, we do not realize that we are in bondage. We think we are free but we are not. The resurrection means freedom for mankind, but what kind of freedom?
Romans 6:6–7 6 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. 7 For one who has died has been set free from sin.
Our mortal bodies confine us to this life. To be released from this fleshly prison, we must pass through the gates of death to enter a new reality. When you leave this life, when death releases you, you will either enter eternal freedom and life with God, or you will enter eternal punishment in prison. There is freedom in death, if you know Jesus Christ. Otherwise, you will leave one prison to go into a much, much worse prison. In verse seven, it reads that the “one who has died has been set free from sin.” Sin enslaves us. We are condemned to die because of sin. The resurrection, however, means freedom from slavery and condemnation for those who respond in faith to Jesus Christ. For those who look to Christ as the only Way to eternal freedom, they will be free indeed.
The theologian Karl Barth once wrote that our identity in Jesus Christ means that we have forfeited our old identity — the old man. We are free of the power of sin and free of the status of sin. Sin no longer has any power and dominion over us. Now, if you were imprisoned and had been set free from that bondage, would you go back to it? If you were once enslaved and then set free, would you go back to that slavery? Probably not! That brings us to the third point of this message.
The Resurrection Means Death
Jesus died on the cross of Calvary and was buried in a borrowed tomb. He remained there, dead and lifeless, until the first Easter morning when God the Father raised His only begotten Son to new life. For those who trust in Christ, they too will die like Christ but they will also be raised one day to new life, like Christ. Earlier, I stated that the resurrection means life. How can I now say that it also means death? This may not be so obvious, at least it is not obviously seen in many Christians. Oftentimes, we speak about our faith in terms of what we receive — forgiveness, eternal life, hope and peace — but we may not talk about what we should give up. Faith in Christ is not all about receiving, but also about letting go of something — things that are not Christ-like.
One of the dangers of preaching salvation by grace through faith is that some may interpret it as license to do whatever they want. Toward the end of chapter five of Romans, Paul wrote, “Where sin increased, grace abounded all the more.” (Romans 5:20) Paul most likely knew that some people would read that statement and say, “If sin brings more grace, then let’s sin!” Some false teachers in the church have actually said that you can receive more grace by committing more sin. But Paul was not saying that and the Gospel does not empower us to sin. In fact, it is quiet the opposite. Paul essentially asked this question: Can those who have declared their allegiance to Jesus Christ, continue to live in sin? Another way to say this is can someone remain the same person after being saved by grace? The answer is a resounding “No!”
We were all born into the world as sinners, and our bodies were ruled by sin. Sin’s rule over us, however, was broken when we died with Christ, when we believed in Him. We are, therefore, no longer enslaved to sin. We are free! The power of sin has been broken in those who believe, for their old self was crucified and put to death with Christ. If we have died to sin, it should be unthinkable that we would live in it. Therefore, Paul issued the first command in the letter to the Romans:
Romans 6:11 So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus.
If you have received the grace of a God through faith in Jesus Christ, you are now dead to sin. This is a slightly different statement than what I said earlier. Those who need the grace of God through faith in Jesus Christ are “dead in sin” — they are the walking dead. Here, Paul wrote that those who have believed in Jesus Christ for salvation are “dead to sin”. In regard to how sin influences you or entices you, you should be dead to it. For a Christian to remain in sin after receiving the grace of God is like a fish being out of water — it just does not belong there. To continue living in sin is to remain in a prison from which Jesus Christ has freed you. Put another way, it is impossible to continue living unchanged if you have genuinely been changed by the grace of God. You cannot continue to live as you once did where sin ruled your life. If you have been united with Jesus Christ, your lifestyle will change.
Now, I need to clarify something here. I am not suggesting, and neither did Paul I believe, that you will live a perfect Christian life once you accept Christ as your Lord and Savior. When you become a Christian, you are saved and you are being saved. The domination of sin has been defeated. The Holy Spirit comes to live within you and mold you into the image of Jesus Christ. It is a process. This means that your normal pattern of life should be a progressive growth in sanctification, resulting in ever greater maturity and conformity to God’s moral law in thought and action. In both Ephesians chapter four and Colossians chapter three, the Christian, not the unbeliever, is told to “put on the new self” and not act like the old self. We are to daily crucify the old man, those desires of the old self, and pursue the desires of the new man. We are to put to death sin!
In closing, I was reading an article yesterday from a famous pastor about several reasons why he believes the resurrection is true. Two of his reasons struck me. Jesus’ disciples were almost immediately transformed from men who were hopeless and fearful after the crucifixion, into men who were confident and bold witnesses of the resurrection. Even the Apostle Paul’s testimony supports the truth of the resurrection. Paul was violently opposed to the Christian faith, but once he encountered the risen Jesus Christ, he risked his life for the gospel. What does the resurrection mean to you? More importantly, what has the resurrection done to you? How have you changed?
Is your life different now as a result of the resurrection? Do you have hope for the present as well as the future? Are you living a life that represents the life, freedom, and even death that Paul mentioned here in this passage? Maybe you have said “no” to using your body for sin. Maybe, by God’s grace, you resist the sin that once enslaved you. Those old temptations are not as tempting. That’s great. But what about the positive action of that statement? Have you said “yes” to God that He use your entire life? Have you offered your entire being to Him? Let me offer this prayer to God for you:
God, here I am, alive from the dead! Thank you, Jesus! I have died with Christ and have been resurrected with Christ. Praise your name! Now here is my body (my arms, my feet, my voice, my eyes). Take them all, that they might be instruments of righteousness and not instruments of sin.
The resurrection means new life with God. The resurrection means freedom from the bondage and condemnation of sin. And the resurrection means death to the old man, to the former self, that was ruled by sin. Therefore, present yourselves to God as someone who has been brought from death to life, and your body to God as instruments for righteousness. Live as righteous people serving a holy God. That is what the resurrection means for us. Praise be to God. Amen!
This sermon was delivered at Good Hope Baptist Church in Wake Forest, NC. More information about Good Hope may be found at the following site: www.GoodHopeBC.org.