Friday, January 12, 2007

Romans 6:5-8

If we have been united with Him like this in His death, we will certainly also be united with Him in His resurrection. For we know that our old self was crucified with Him so that the body of sin might be done away with [or rendered powerless], that we should no longer be slaves to sin -- because anyone who has died has been freed from sin. Now if we died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with Him.

V5,8 – United to Christ in death and life. Paul says ultimately that we should not continue to live in sin because Christ has risen. Christ’s death and resurrection are the grounds for both our justification and our sanctification. We who are united to Christ have died to sin as He died, and we have risen to new life as He has risen. Without the resurrection, there is no Christianity. And Paul says that it is certain for those who have been united to Christ by faith that they will be raised to new life. And it begins immediately. Sanctification is certain, because Christ has risen. See, believers experience the first resurrection before they experience the first death. We are granted a foretaste of resurrection, glory and power to come in our present experience, so that we are no longer under the domination of sin. This is the first resurrection. And Paul is saying, “When you believe on Jesus Christ, God grants you new life that flows from the resurrection of Christ. It’s yours because you’re united to Him.” Does it mean you never sin? No. Does it mean you never have a desire to sin? No. We’ll see how this works when we study Romans 7. Does it mean that you are no longer under the dominion of sin? Yes. New life is immediate in Jesus Christ.

The Christian life is an “already” and a “not-yet” experience of this sinless position and identity in union with Christ. What happened to Christ Jesus historically and finally and unchangeably—and to us in Him—is applied to us not all at once in its fullness, but some now completely, and some now progressively, and all fully in the age to come. We are already fully forgiven and acquitted and declared righteous and justified in our union with Christ by faith alone. And we are already delivered from the slavery to sin, from the power of sin as the defining direction of our lives. And we are already able by faith to grow more and more triumphant over sin in our daily life. But we are not yet perfected in our daily, earthly experience. We must fight the fight of faith and become in experience, by faith, what we are perfectly in our union with Christ. Paul put it like this in Philippians 3:12, “Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me.” You see the “already” and “not yet.” Christ has laid hold of Paul for perfection and everlasting blessing. That secures Paul. Now Paul confirms that great work of God in Christ by laying hold of that for which he was laid hold of by Christ. 2 Corinthians 5:17-21 “In Christ” = new creation; united to Him, in union with Him. Ephesians 2:10 Created in Christ for good works = Justified for sanctification.

The union between Christ and Christians, so that what happened to Christ is counted by God as happening to us, is established by God. 1 Corinthians 1:30 “It is because of [God] that you are in Christ Jesus.” God establishes a union between believers and Christ in a way that makes it fitting for Him to count Christ’s death to be our death. It is applied to us now through our faith, but since Christ died only once, and we were united to that, our death happened, in God’s way of seeing things, on the day Christ died. Just as God established a union between Adam and his people, through which condemnation came, and a corresponding union between Christ and His people, through which justification came (as we saw in Romans 5:12-21), so now in Romans 6:5, Paul makes that union explicit and relates it to sanctification as well as justification. Even though we have died to sin, and therefore cannot “live in” or “continue in” sin, we can sin, and we do sin, and we must lay hold on the reality of what has happened to us in our union with Christ and confirm it in our daily lives.

Finally, notice the word “believe” in v8. “If we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with Him.” That is what we believe. That is our confidence, that our future is secure and firm and unshakable and happy in Christ. Faith is how we consciously experience the transforming benefits of union with Christ.

V6-7 – No longer slaves to sin = Freedom. True freedom is simply not being bound to sin. In eternity, we will have true freedom, because there will be no possibility of sinning. God is truly free because He cannot sin. Here we are finally back around to whole slavery / freedom thing again. Apart from union with Christ, we are under the dominion of sin. Now we believe that we are perfectly free to do as we please. And we are. But Paul is making it clear in this passage that if we are apart from Christ, we are under sin and even willing slaves to it; we are dominated by it. And we can’t just look deep within, and find something to pull ourselves out of it. We need new life from the outside implanted inside, and Paul in v5-7 says, “That new life comes from the resurrection of Jesus Christ.” God does not save and forgive us in order to get us back to a neutral position and then let us kind of take it from there. He saves and forgives us, and He grants us new life so that we will walk in that new life. And we will!

God made the Son of His love to be the object of His wrath in order that we who were the objects of His wrath, might be made the Sons of His love, but also that we would be made like the Son of His love. God makes us to be like Christ. He conforms us to His image, not physically, but morally. We have moral freedom.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Romans 6:3-4

Or don't you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death? We were therefore buried with Him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life.

Paul suggests another reason not to continue living in sin: the meaning of our baptism. Paul has a confused audience wondering when they died to sin. They don’t remember dying to sin. And this angers Paul. He thinks these people should already know this! Surely they knew the meaning of baptism. Paul had never been to Rome, but he knows that all Christians have been baptized by the Holy Spirit. And he knew that water baptism was a symbol of the union with Christ. And so Paul asks his audience to reflect on their baptism, which was a symbol of their union with Christ, and not only with Christ personally, but also to His death. We died to sin, not when we were water-baptized, but when we were united to Christ and His work and His death by faith, which came when we were baptized, or regenerated, by the Holy Spirit. And even more, we were united also to His life! And this newness of life, this break with sin is not something temporary, but it’s permanent because Christ was raised never to die again, and so we who are united to Christ are dead to sin and alive to God (Galatians 2:20).

Note the historical event of Christ’s death at Calvary as the time when God saw us in Christ, so that His death was our death. This was the accomplishment of our death with Christ. Note that we were united to Him by faith in our lifetime experience, so that our death with Him became personal to us. This was the application to us through faith of what God accomplished for us at Calvary. We were baptized in Christ’s name. This was the signification of our death with Christ. So there was the historical accomplishment of our death with Christ at Calvary, then the experiential application of our death with Christ by faith, then the symbolic signification of our death with Christ by baptism: Accomplishment in history, application by faith, signification through baptism.

Some folks, like Jack Cottrell, a teacher at Cincinnati Bible College, where Bob Russell and Dave Stone were educated, might say here that baptism does not merely signify our death in Christ; rather, baptism effects or causes or brings about our death in Christ. He has said, “Baptism is not the symbol of our death with Christ, but the instrument of our death with Christ. We have been buried with Him through baptism into death. Baptism is when and how we died with Christ, and before baptism, we were not united with Christ and not justified and not saved. Those who say that our union with Christ in His death, and thus our own death to sin, occurred before baptism are simply not taking the text at its word. Every Christian has come within the scope of this sin-destroying force of the death of Christ; we have tapped into its lethal power. When did we do this? In our baptism. There is absolutely no indication that this union with Christ in His death happened as soon as we believed or repented. We did not believe into His death; we did not repent into His death.” I am not sure whether or not this is the view of Southeast.

Nevertheless, I do not agree with Cottrell. Here’s an analogy to explain: All of us who have put on the ring of marriage have, by putting on this ring, forsaken all others to cleave only to our wives. Therefore by this ring I am united to my wife alone and dead to all others. Now you could press the language and say, “Aha, it was the actual putting on the ring that caused your forsaking all others and cleaving to your wife alone. You said it explicitly: ‘By this ring, I am united to my wife alone.’ What could be plainer? The ring does it all.” But that is not what I would mean by these words. I would mean that putting on the ring is a sign of my forsaking all others and cleaving only to her. The decisive leaving and cleaving is in the promise, the covenant, the vows. “I promise you my faithfulness.” Then comes the ring, the symbol. In that analogy, the vows stand for faith in Christ, and the ring stands for baptism. And the point is that we often talk this way. We often speak of the symbol as though it brings about what it only signifies. It seems only logical that Paul was doing the same.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Romans 6:1-2

What shall we say, then? Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase? By no means! We died to sin; how can we live in it any longer?

We died to sin. Paul’s focus in all of chapter 6 is to overcome the objection that would be common after what he said in chapter 5, v20, that immoral living is fine according to Paul’s doctrine of justification by faith. Some of his audience, now called Antinomians, thought that it really should be okay to continue living in sin, since God justifies, or declares righteous, people based on nothing in them or nothing they do, but based on the work of Christ. And Paul said that just because justification is by faith alone, and not by works, does not mean that justification is by a faith that is alone. Paul goes to great lengths to fight off this view of justification. Antinomianism suggests that a genuine one-time profession / confession of faith in Christ is enough to save, regardless of how a person lives their life afterward. And Paul disagrees. Paul says that those of us in Christ have died to sin. So how can we live in it any longer?

Secondly, this objection that Paul spends so much effort refuting is proof enough that his doctrine of justification really is by faith alone. Here Paul also fights of the Legalists. It’s not by faith plus works. If it was, then Paul wouldn’t have received this objection. So the Catholic Church and all other denominations or preachers teaching a faith-plus-works justification are clearly misunderstanding Paul’s teaching. If Paul was teaching that justification was by faith plus works, nobody could have said to him, “Well, shouldn’t we continue to sin so that grace might increase?” It is precisely because he is not teaching justification by faith plus works that he gets this objection. Do you understand that? It’s important, because many of the arguments that Paul refutes are keys to understand his actual teachings. We’ll see that especially in chapter 9.

The point here in v1-2 is that we cannot continue in sin, not because our works have something to do with our justification—they don’t—but because we are united to Christ, and we carry His name in the world. To continue living in sin would be a contradiction because of who we are. Christians have died to both the penalty and power of sin, and having been reborn, they live a new life free from bondage to sin. All of us are sinners and guilty because we are united to the first Adam. We will be saved or not based on whether we are united to Jesus Christ, the second Adam, by faith. And there is a kind of life that comes from being united to Christ. That’s what Romans 6 is about. And so Paul’s rhetorical questions at the beginning of chapter 6 are to make a statement. “Shall we go on sinning?” No. “How can we live in sin any longer?” We can’t. Why not? Because we died to sin, and dead people don’t live, much less live in sin.

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Romans 5:20-21

The law was added so that the trespass might increase. But where sin increased, grace increased all the more, so that, just as sin reigned in death, so also grace might reign through righteousness to bring eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.

V20 – The law was added so that sin might increase; and grace increased more. Paul, at this point, introduces the law again. He’s anticipating the objection that his audience will bring up. They’ll say, “All you’ve done, Paul, is explain about Adam and Christ. Where does the law fit in?” And Paul gives a brief answer here in part A of v20. Then he elaborates in chapters 6-7. For the moment, Paul suggests again that one, not the only, purpose of the law was to convince and convict us of sin. He says it in harsh and offensive language. He wants to be argumentative here. Was the law given to make the Jews special among the nations, as they thought? No. Paul says it was so that sin would increase. Nothing more offensive could have been said to Jews. Paul deliberately says this to shock them, and he succeeds.

Again, the law is given to teach us what sin is. It serves to expose sin in us and our need for grace. It is not our Savior; but if properly understood, it leads us to our Savior. Finally, Paul is saying that the law provokes sin. You know how this works. The minute boundaries are set, people want to cross them. In a fallen world, once the righteous boundaries of God are laid down, there is an inclination in the wicked, human heart to find those boundaries and transgress them.

In part B of v20, Paul means that God actually takes advantage of the negative functions of the law in order to exalt Himself and His grace, which serve to foster His saving purposes. The more sin is multiplied, the more it is shown to us, the more aware we become of it, the greater the grace that conquers it is to us. We know and appreciate more the grace that conquers sin, when we see how great our sin is. The reign of sin is trumped by the triumph of grace. Grace meets sin head on, and it defeats it. And that’s what we see in v21.

V21 – Sin reigned in death; grace reigns in righteousness to bring eternal life through Christ. The function of Paul’s words in this little verse is to tell us the purpose of super-abounding grace. Why did grace increase all the more in comparison to sin? Grace increased so that grace might reign over sin’s reign of death through the righteousness of Christ in order to bring eternal life through the mediation of Jesus Christ our Lord.

Notice that sin reigns in death. Evidence of the power of sin is the fact the human/death ratio is 1:1. But grace has conquered sin and its effect, death, to provide eternal life, which is the effect of grace. All of this is through Christ. Our slavery to sin is ended by grace through the work of Christ. God doesn’t forgive us and then leave us in bondage to our sin. He breaks the power of reigning sin. If grace reigns through righteousness to eternal life, does that not in and of itself speak of the assurance, security, and perseverance of the believer? If the purpose of grace for reigning is to overcome sin and give eternal life, does that not comfort you that God will bring to completion that which He has begun in you?

Monday, January 08, 2007

Romans 5:18-19 (Continued)

Consequently, just as the result of one trespass was condemnation for all men, so also the result of one act of righteousness was justification that brings life for all men. For just as through the disobedience of the one man the many were made sinners, so also through the obedience of the One Man the many will be made righteous.

First, God was gracious in the way that He arranged the covenant of works in give Adam to us as our federal representative. In giving Adam as our representative, it would be like you’re in a million-dollar contest at half time of the NCAA Championship game. You make the half-court shot, and you win. But God says, “Look, you’re not going to have to take this shot in order to win salvation. I’m going to bring out Michael Jordan for you. I’m going to let Michael Jordan take that forty-five foot jump shot for you.” Or, maybe you’ve got to sink a snaking putt from 100 ft. away. God says, “I’m going to bring out Tiger Woods to take that shot for you.” When God made Adam our representative, He gave us someone of extraordinary capacities that we cannot even grasp. He was an optimal representative. We can’t even concede what an un-fallen human being had with regard to intellectual and moral potential. God was generous even in the construction of the covenant of works. You might say, “Well, I would have done better.” We’re sinners, and we can’t even think about how we would have functioned as non-sinful people. We can’t think in those categories. God gave us an optimal representative in Adam, and even Adam failed.

Second, why is it that the imputation of Adam’s sin is fair? Because God shows meticulous concern for justice in His covenant of grace. Think about it. In the way that God goes about saving us through Jesus Christ, He shows meticulous concern for justice. He doesn’t say, “Okay, look, I’m going to sweep those sins under the closet. He doesn’t just forget.” God says, “Okay, I love you so much that My Son is going to bear your sin.” Why does He do this? Because He is concerned for justice and fairness. So if, in the way of grace, God is concerned for fairness and justice, is it not reasonable to work back to the fact that in the original relationship that He sustained with man, that He was concerned with fairness and justice? And in that original relationship, what did He do? He appointed Adam as our representative as the representative of all humanity. It’s clear that the covenant of grace and imputation is fair. And, therefore, looking back, you can see that the covenant of works is fair. Consider the imputation of Christ’s righteousness. It’s the same with Adam’s sin. In other words, we were constituted sinners in Adam, but we were constituted as righteous in Jesus Christ. You might say, “It’s not fair! I didn’t exist when Adam was brought into being in this world. Adam died at least 5000 years before I was brought into being. It’s not fair that what he did would impact me. And Paul will ask, “Do you believe in Jesus Christ? Do you believe in Christ alone for salvation? Do you trust in what Jesus did and was for your salvation? Were you alive when Jesus was alive? Did you exist when Jesus came to this earth to live and die on your behalf? Is Jesus’ righteousness imputed to you? Then I don’t know what you’re complaining about.” Are you willing to accept the gracious imputation of the righteousness of Christ, but unwilling to accept the imputation of Adam’s sin?

Thirdly, once again, there are biblical patterns that establish and teach us to expect this kind of representation. There are numerous Biblical examples that show us the principles of representation: David and Goliath, Abraham and his descendants, David and the 70,000 people of Israel (1 Chronicles 21), Pharaoh and the Egyptians, etc. Over and over in the Bible we see these principles of representation.

Finally, consider that you’re not in a position to judge. You are standing in the dock, before the bar of God’s justice. You’re not here to judge the Judge. God is so sovereign that even if it were unfair for Adam’s sin to be imputed to you, there would be nothing that you could do about it. Here’s the song we sing in church sometimes: “You are not a god created by human hands. You are not a god dependent on any mortal man. You are not a god in need of anything we can give. By Your plan, that’s just the way it is. You are God alone, from before time began, You were on Your throne, You were God alone. And right now, in the good times and bad, You are on Your throne, You are God alone. You’re the only God whose power none can contend. You’re the only God whose name and praise will never end. You’re the only God Who’s worthy of everything we can give. You are God, that’s just the way it is.” So accept the condition explained in Scripture: that you are a sinner on account of the sin of the first man Adam, that his sin was imputed to your account the moment he sinned, long before you were even born. One sin = the condemnation of all people. And then rest in this: One work of Jesus Christ, the God-man, guarantees the justification of all His people, of which you are one by faith.