Summary: In this sermon, we look more closely at what it means to consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus.
In his commentary on Romans, James Montgomery Boice, from whom I am drawing today’s material, spends an entire sermon on one verse.
Today, I also want to look at Romans 6:11 in a more focused way because it is so important. Let me begin with a question.
How many times up until Romans 6:11 has Paul urged his readers to do something? That is, how many exhortations have there been? How many commands has Paul given to the Romans?
Five? Ten? Thirty?
What do you think? How many commands has Paul given so far?
The answer to this question is that there have been none at all! The reason I emphasize this is to call attention to the most significant thing to be noted about Romans 6:11. This verse is a command, and it is the first in this letter. This is the first time in 5½ chapters that the apostle has urged his readers to do anything.
What are they to do? Romans 6:11 says:
"So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus." (Romans 6:11)
We live in an age of instant gratification. Advertizing is geared to the “I want it now” attitude of consumers.
Earlier this week I heard a discussion on the O’Reilly Factor about a book to help young children whose moms undergo cosmetic surgery. I understand that about 11 million people each year undergo cosmetic surgery, and the book was designed to help young children understand how their moms could go out in the morning shaped one way and then come home in the evenings shaped in a completely different way! Part of the discussion of the panel centered on how so many people want a quick fix to change rather than go through the time and effort of diet and exercise.
Recently someone mentioned to me that Oprah Winfrey is involved in the fastest growing new religion. Apparently, she has been promoting a book titled, A New Earth: Awakening to Your Life’s Purpose by Eckhart Tolle. Oprah and Eckhart have teamed up for interactive web-training sessions that have drawn millions of people to each meeting. The blurb on the back cover of the book says, “Illuminating, enlightening, and uplifting, A New Earth is a profoundly spiritual manifesto for a better way of life—and for building a better world.” Millions of people are interested in getting a quick fix for the spiritual issues in their lives.
This past week I finished reading a book that is making the rounds in some Christian circles. The book is titled, The Shack, and it is written by William P. Young. It has been as high as number 2 on the Amazon.com bestseller list, which means it has sold tens of thousands of copies. What is disturbing about this book is the number of well-known Christians who have endorsed it. The most troubling one is by pastor, author, and theologian Eugene Peterson, who wrote The Message, a well-received paraphrase of the English Bible. He said, “This book has the potential to do for our generation what John Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress did for his. It’s that good!” Unfortunately, the book is riddled with theological error about the Trinity, which undiscerning readers will not pick up. Instead, in a desire to get a quick fix for tragedy, they will absorb the contents of the book—and suffer loss instead of gain.
The problem is that we want “quick fix answers” for all of life’s problems. Whether it is with how we look, or how we grow spiritually, or how we deal with tragedy, we just want answers—and we want them now!
It is extremely important for us to understand the apostle Paul’s approach. He never goes straight to solutions. He always lays a foundation of doctrine and teaching and instruction before he begins to apply it to our lives. Or, to put it in theological terms, the indicative always comes before the imperative.
What Paul wants his readers to understand in our text for today is the Christian’s union with Jesus Christ. Paul’s way of talking about this is to say that Christians are “in Christ,” “in Jesus Christ,” or “in him.” (Apparently, someone has counted that these phrases occur 164 times in Paul’s writings!)
One of them is in our text for today, and it is the first time this exact phrase has occurred in Romans. Yet it is what Paul has really been talking about for several chapters.
Romans 5 dealt with it directly, contrasting our former state of being in Adam with our present state of being in Christ. In Romans 6 this has already been presented indirectly in terms of our having died to sin and having been made alive in Jesus Christ.
This has been done for us by God. It has been his work, not ours. We have no more joined ourselves to Jesus than we died for our own sins. If we are Christians, everything that is necessary for our salvation has been done for us and to us by God.