Summary: A sermon for Ascension of the Lord Sunday.
THE RESURRECTION LIFE
It is decidedly unpleasant when anybody is subjected to false accusations and malicious rumours. Yet this was the experience of Jesus in Holy Week, and is the common lot of all those who uphold the mystery of holiness.
The Apostle Paul was aware that slanderous reports and unsubstantiated assertions were being made in relation to his own ministry. ‘Let us do evil, that good may come,’ some unfairly and unjustly represented him as saying (Romans 3:8).
As Paul unfolded his doctrine of justification by grace through faith in his Epistle to the Romans, he uttered the phrase ‘But where sin abounded, grace did much more abound’ (Romans 5:20), and he realised that he had to square up to his detractors on this point. Paul knew perfectly well how they would twist it, and both anticipated and answered their accusing sneer: “Shall we continue in sin that grace may abound?” (Romans 6:1).
This elicited an emphatic negation from Paul, the dynamic of which is caught in various translations: “God forbid!” “Certainly not!” “By no means!” “What a ghastly thought!” “No way!!!’ (Romans 6:2).
Paul's denial is substantiated in terms of death and resurrection. We who are Christians have “died to sin” just as surely as Christ our substitute died upon the Cross. If we have died to sin, then to sin we are dead. How can we live in what we are dead to? (Romans 6:2).
The key to Christian living is found in our union with Christ, both in His death and in His resurrection (Romans 6:3-4). In His death, Christ our substitute bore the full penalty of our sins, so sin no longer has any power or claim upon us. Proclaimed righteous by God, we are outside sin's domain. Our former, pre-conversion, sinful self has been crucified with Christ (Romans 6:6). This is a done deed which forensically justified us, freeing us from sin forever (Romans 6:7).
In Christ's resurrection we receive the ability to walk in newness of life (Romans 6:4-5). We live with Christ (Romans 6:8), and He lives towards God (Romans 6:10). We are dead to sin, but alive to God through our Lord Jesus Christ (Romans 6:11).
When Jesus rose from the dead, death itself received a mortal blow. He is risen indeed, as opposed to just being resuscitated to die again at a later date (as no doubt happened with Lazarus). Death has no more dominion over Him (Romans 6:9).
What we are, and whose we are, shapes what we do with what we've got. Negatively, Paul encourages us to resist any attempt that sin makes to usurp authority in our physical lives (Romans 6:12-13). The body and its faculties are still vulnerable to the attacks of Satan, but positively Paul exhorts us to yield ourselves to God and to offer our members in His service exactly because we are the alive from the dead! (Romans 6:13). Sin has no more dominion over us for whom Christ paid the wages of sin (Romans 6:14).
We may conclude by reading a passage which gives a practical commentary on how we should live having been ‘risen with Christ’ (Colossians 3:1-7).