“Baptized into a New Life in Christ”

(Romans 6:1-11 – Pentecost 6 – July 12, 2020)

Romans 6:1-11 – 1What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin that grace may abound? 2Certainly not! How shall we who died to sin live any longer in it? 3Or do you not know that as many of us as were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death? 4Therefore we were buried with Him through baptism into death, that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life. 5For if we have been united together in the likeness of His death, certainly we also shall be in the likeness of His resurrection, 6knowing this, that our old man was crucified with Him, that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves of sin. 7For he who has died has been freed from sin. 8Now if we died with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with Him, 9knowing that Christ, having been raised from the dead, dies no more. Death no longer has dominion over Him. 10For the death that He died, He died to sin once for all; but the life that He lives, He lives to God. 11Likewise you also, reckon yourselves to be dead indeed to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Dear Redeemed in the name of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ:

Imagine a person being rescued from drowning. There he is, unable to swim, sinking in the deep waters, with no strength to save himself. But then, just as he is without hope – splash! Here comes the lifeguard to his rescue! He is pulled out of the waters and brought safely to shore. He regains his strength and is able to walk around. He thanks the lifeguard profusely. Now, can you imagine such a man, who is unable to swim, having just had his life saved, running down the pier and hurling himself into the deep waters again? Can you imagine him thinking, “I am so thankful to have my life back. I am so thankful to have such a lifeguard. And this will be my way to express my appreciation and confidence that he can save me every time.” Of course, we could not imagine that happening. A person who has been rescued from death shows thankfulness by acting in a way that shows love and honor to the one who rescued him. He shows his relief to have his life back, by walking in such a way that he remains in safety.

The apostle Paul is saying something similar when it comes to our spiritual life in Christ. Through the waters of baptism, we have been rescued from sin and death. We have been united with Christ in His saving work, lifted up in a new life with Him – spiritual and eternal life. Therefore how could we respond like that foolish man, jumping back into trouble, jumping back into the old life of sin, to test His grace, to see if we will get rescued? We are “Baptized into a New Life in Christ.” What a difference it makes as we see ourselves 1) Rescued from sin, 2) Freed from sin’s power, 3) Alive to God in Christ Jesus.

1) Rescued from sin and death

In the chapters leading up to our text, the apostle Paul has described how God rescued us from our sin and its wages of death. There we were as sinners, drowning in a sea of sin, with no strength to save ourselves. We were sinking down into eternal death. But in His grace God sent His Son, Jesus Christ, to our rescue. Our divine Lifeguard dove into the depths to pull us up. He embraced us, whom He came to rescue; He took our sin and death as His own. In His sacrifice on the cross, He drowned under the condemnation and punishment of our sin. He died and was buried, as our Substitute. Then He rose again, having won our salvation, having justified us before God. Jesus lives to pull us up out of the deep waters in the power of His resurrection – to give us His gift of forgiveness, His righteousness, and His eternal life.

Now, God has brought His gift of salvation to us in the waters of our Baptism. In this means of grace, Christ has embraced us personally – so personally that we became united with Him in His death and resurrection. It says: “Or do you not know that as many of us as were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death? Therefore we were buried with Him through baptism into death, that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life” (vs. 3-4).

In the waters of Baptism, Christ embraced us so personally that what happened to Him physically happened to us spiritually. As He died on the cross with our sins and was buried in the tomb, so in our Baptism, we were united with Him in death to sin. The old man, the sinful nature in us, could not be taught to swim so as to save himself. He could not be reformed; he was put to death. He was drowned and buried with Christ through Baptism into death; so that a new man might come forth and arise with Christ. In Baptism, our sins are washed away, the old Adam is drowned. All that is buried and gone from the sight of God.

Now, just as Jesus rose from the grave, so in Baptism we are united with Him in the power of His resurrection. We have been born again of water and the Spirit (John 3:3-5) – given faith and new life according to the new man. We have been given spiritual and eternal life in Christ. Therefore, even though this body of sin dies one day, yet we live in Christ forever. As it says: “For if we have been united together in the likeness of His death, certainly we also shall be in the likeness of His resurrection” (vs. 5).

We are baptized into a new life in Christ. Our divine Lifeguard has rescued us from sin and death. He has lifted us out of the deep waters in the power of His cleansing forgiveness. He has united us with Himself in the power of His resurrection and eternal life.

2) Freed from sin’s power

In view of God’s loving rescue in Christ, Paul asks: “What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin that grace may abound? Certainly not! How shall we who died to sin live any longer in it?” (vs. 1-2) How could we be like that foolish man, who thinks that having his life saved from drowning is a license to dive back into the deep waters, so he can get saved again? Why would we want to dive back into the old way, nurturing the desires of the sinful flesh, turning from Christ to that which brings death; all the while giving lip service to His salvation by grace! Yet this is the foolish way of our sinful nature. The old man wants to make the saving grace of God in Christ into a license to live however he pleases; as if he is secure in choosing to go on living in sin, because he will be saved anyway.

So Paul reminds us that we have been set free from our old way of life under sin’s power: “knowing this, that our old man was crucified with Him, that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves of sin. For he who has died has been freed from sin” (vs. 6-7).

The old man in us thinks he will find freedom in the old life of sin; but sin is slavery. As Paul reminds us, we died to sin. Christ set us free from living in bondage to sin, living under its power and condemnation. Christ set us free to live in His forgiveness and gracious rule. How could we want to go back and become slaves of sin all over again? How could our life be characterized by choosing to walk in paths that God’s Word condemns? That would be to push Christ away, to crucify Him anew. That would be to grieve the Holy Spirit, and finally to lose the repentance and faith He has given. (Hebrews 6:4-6; Ephesians 4:30)

What sins are we tempted to nurture? In what ways are we tempted to feel secure in sin? Don’t go there, Paul is saying. Don’t dive again into those old toxic waters of living in sin; you will not find life there, but death. “How shall we who died to sin live any longer in it?”

As Christians, we still wrestle with the old sinful nature every day. We will not be done with the old man until this body of sin dies and we are made perfect in heaven. In fact in the next chapter, the apostle Paul laments how he wrestles with his sinful nature every day. He wants to live according to the new man, the Holy Spirit-led nature; but he still finds himself deceived by the old sinful nature, and he feels the bondage and slavery that nature brings (Romans 7:21-23).

How do we find freedom from the power and condemnation of sin? It is not by looking to our own life of holiness; it is not by trusting our good intentions to live according to God’s will. As the apostle Paul can tell us, looking to one’s own life only reveals slavery to sin. But instead, we find freedom by looking to Christ, who saved us in the first place. He alone has died the death that takes away our sin. He alone has lived the perfect life by which God counts us holy.

In this regard, Paul brings us back to our Baptism into Christ, and the new life and freedom we are given in Him. Baptism is not just a one-time event in the past. Rather, being freed from sin’s power means returning to our Baptism’s saving power each day. It means dying to sin and rising with Christ, by repentance and faith. As we confess with Luther in the Small Catechism:

What does such baptizing with water mean?

“Such baptizing with water means that the old Adam in us should, by daily contrition and repentance, be drowned and die with all sins and evil lusts; and that a new man daily come forth and arise, who shall live before God in righteousness and purity forever.”

Where is this written?

St. Paul writes, Romans 6:4: ‘We are buried with Christ by baptism into death, that just as He was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.’ “

Thus we continue to live each day in the power and freedom of our Baptism. We crucify the lusts of the sinful flesh, confessing our sins; dying to the old man and his slavish service to sin. And we rise with Christ by faith in the power of His resurrection, freed from all condemnation by His cleansing forgiveness, clothed in His perfect righteousness and purity before God.

3) Alive to God in Christ Jesus

Baptized into Christ, we are alive to God in Christ. As Paul concludes: “Now if we died with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with Him, knowing that Christ, having been raised from the dead, dies no more. Death no longer has dominion over Him. For the death that He died, He died to sin once for all; but the life that He lives, He lives to God. Likewise you also, reckon yourselves to be dead indeed to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus our Lord” (vs. 8-11)

Christ “died to sin once for all.” When He took our sin, He made Himself subject to its penalty of death. But then, having taken away our sin and death, having won our forgiveness and eternal life, He rose again. Jesus is finished dealing with sin, and He can no longer die. Now in His glorified state, how does He use His life? “The life that He lives, He lives to God.” As He lives and reigns at the right hand of His Father, He brings Him glory in all that He does.

Likewise, now that we have been united with Christ in Baptism, we count ourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ. We have died to the old man, ruled by the guilt and power of sin, living under the dominion of death. We have been raised according to the new man, free of all guilt and condemnation, living in “the glorious liberty of the children of God” (Romans 8:21). How shall we use our freedom? How do we want to use our new life in Christ?

A person who has been rescued from drowning and death, pulled from the waters to safety, is thankful to his lifeguard. He wants to live his thankfulness by acting in a way that shows love and honor to the one who saved him. Our divine Lifeguard has rescued us from sin and death. In the waters of Baptism, He has embraced us and pulled us to safety. He has surrounded us in His forgiveness, and put on us the clean clothes of His righteousness. He has united us with Himself in spiritual and eternal life. How shall we show our thankfulness? His saving grace moves us to love Him who first loved us, to bring glory and honor to Him in all that we do.

This is the heart of the new man, baptized into a new life in Christ, alive to God in Christ. And this will be our heart for all eternity. Our Baptism into Christ will reach its culmination when this body of sin dies; and in the resurrection at the Last Day, we will be raised in Christ, body and soul, to the eternal joys of heaven – free of all sin, walking in perfect righteousness, living to the glory of our God and Savior forever.

Glory be to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit. As it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be. Amen.