How Then Shall We Live?
This morning’s scripture lesson is taken from the revised common lectionary.
This morning we are going to do our scripture reading a little differently.
This morning we won’t read our scripture lesson and then speak to it during the sermon.
Rather we will read our lesson verse by verse during the sermon.
And after reading each verse we will comment on it in an attempt to shed some light on the often-difficult concepts this scripture lesson contains.
So, let’s get started.
The great gift of the Reformation was the rediscovery by the church that we are justified before God, or made right with God, by faith alone.
Martin Luther, regarded as the initiator of the Reformation, had an epiphany that revealed to him that no amount of human effort could change our standing with God.
This truth was then developed by others as more and more teachers in the church began to understand that righteousness, right relationship with God, could not be achieved, or even improved upon, through good works.
So, then the question became, “If our relationship to God, our justification before God, cannot be altered or improved upon by our good works; how then shall we live?”
Or to put it another way, “If we are justified by God’s grace alone what is the role of our human actions in the salvation equation?”
Do our human responses to the gift of faith that comes to us solely by the grace of God even matter?
If we are saved by faith, which is the free gift of God’s grace given to us through no merit of our own, should we not just say to God, “Thank you very much.” And go on sinning so that grace will have more opportunity to perform it’s saving work in this world?
In other words, saved by grace, how then shall we live?
It turns out that this question was not new to the church even way back in the 16th century.
The idea that salvation through God’s grace left us free to continue living in sin was already cropping up in the first century AD.
Listen to Paul’s response to this idea.
What then are we to say? Should we continue in sin in order that grace may abound?
Here Paul is asking us a rhetorical question. How could anyone possibly think that after having received God’s grace and responding to it in obedience by being baptised that it would then be a good idea to go on choosing to live in ways that are against what Jesus taught?
The answer to this question is simple.
By no means! In no way shape or form is it a good idea that having once tasted of God’s grace to return again to a life of sin.
Then Paul asks another question.
How can we who died to sin go on living in it?
The answer to this question is through following our own will not God’s. The only way we who are made dead to sin through our baptism can continue in sin is through willful disobedience; by choosing not to obey everything Jesus taught.
Paul will elaborate on this thought throughout this lesson as he gets into the concepts of letting sin rule in our bodies and allowing sin to have dominion over us.
Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death?
Baptism is a choice. We choose to be baptised (or we choose later in life after our baptism as infants to reaffirm our baptism)
God responds to our choice to obey Jesus commandment to be baptised by washing us from our sin in baptism and joining us to Christ which is to join us first to his death so that we become dead to sin and joined with Christ in the promise of the resurrection.
So, again how could anyone who has experienced this amazing work of God in their life possibly think the appropriate response to this miracle of grace is to go on sinning?
Therefore we have been buried with him by baptism into death, so that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life.
Here the key word is Might.
Faith and grace are the determining facts in our salvation. But the word might implies that human choice remains a factor in our salvation walk.
God in Christ has given us the power to walk in newness of life – power to do so, if we choose to (obey everything Jesus commanded).
For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we will certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his.
Our union with Christ is certain at baptism.
Our union with Christ grows daily as we learn to, through the power of the Spirit, mortify the deeds of the flesh so that we can obey everything Jesus commanded, which commandments are encapsulated in these words – love the Lord thy God with all your heart, with all your mind, with all your spirit, with all your might and love your neighbour as yourself.
We know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body of sin might be destroyed, and we might no longer be enslaved to sin.
Again, the word might.
That the body of sin might be destroyed – That we might no longer been enslaved to sin.
Might be = given the power to be – by the Spirit as we obey the Spirit’s leading in the living of our lives.
For whoever has died is freed from sin.
This verse entails us seeing your baptism as a death to sin, it entails seeing your baptism as your living into participation in Jesus’ death on the cross, it entails you taking up your cross and following Jesus (by obeying all the Jesus taught)
But if we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him.
This verse indicates that our believe our faith, our way of seeing our salvation matters .
It matters how we view or live into our baptism.
Do you see your baptism as a matter of cultural practice, the normal thing to do or to have done to your children?
Or do you see baptism into Christ as a mystical, yet very real, joining together with Christ, including with his suffering and death as we live in Christ mortifying (killing) the deeds of the flesh through the power of the Spirit?
We know that Christ, being raised from the dead, will never die again; death no longer has dominion over him.
A positive statement containing no qualifying words such as might or if. Jesus is, positively and absolutely, raised from the dead.
He lives right now as one raised from the dead.
His present life is eternal, death can no longer touch him.
Notice that these words apply to Jesus only.
The death he died, he died to sin, once for all; but the life he lives, he lives to God.
Again, a positive statement applying to Jesus’ sacrificial acts in the past and also to his glorified condition in the present tense.
But we too are included in this verse.
We are the all referred to here.
We are amongst the ones that Jesus died for.
By God’s grace, through the mystery of election we are included in the “all” for whom Jesus died.
We too, like Christ, are called to now live our lives, not to ourselves, following the desires of our mortal flesh, but to God who had set us free from sin and its wages, death.
So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus.
This is the answer to the question,
“If we are alive to God by grace alone,
How then shall we live?”
We shall live as those who consider them selves dead, nonresponsive, to sin. Bodies that are dead are nonresponsive, they do not react to stimulus.
Dead to sin means we are nonresponsive to the passions of our bodies.
How do we get to the state of nonresponse to sin?
Answer to follow in verse 12.
Therefore, do not let sin exercise dominion in your mortal bodies, to make you obey their passions.
We become dead to sin, nonresponsive to the desires of our flesh by not letting sin exercise dominion in our mortal bodies making us obey their (our bodies’) passions.
This is non-responsiveness to sin is accomplished not by the force of our wills but by choosing to love God for what God has done for us in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus, more than we love anything else, including our life itself.
Jesus said, “Those who love me keep my commandments.”
He also said, “You are my friend if you do what I command.” John 15:14
We make the choice to be Jesus’ friend through obedience to his commandments, first expressed in our baptism in which we are united to Christ including to his power over sin, sickness and death and then for the rest of our Christian lives as we choose daily to obey all that Jesus has taught.
We are helped in this daily choosing by the power of the Holy Spirit as the Spirit counsels us leading us daily into righteousness.
No longer present your members to sin as instruments of wickedness, but present yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life, and present your members to God as instruments of righteousness.
Remember the earlier question,
“How do we get to the state of being nonresponsive to sin?”
Verse 13 is a continuation of the answer to this question that began in verse 12.
We get to the state of living non-responsiveness to sin by presenting ourselves, our body parts, to God.
Doing so not out of obligation or out of will worship.
But out of love for the God who has brought us from death to life.
The operative word in this verse is “present”.
When you present yourself, it is an act, a decision, a choice to make yourself be present to someone or something.
In this case you are choosing to make yourself present in your flesh, and in your spirit, to the reality of Christ’s saving work in your life.
Your choice to enter into the presence of the reality of Christ in your life, empowers Christ to transform you into his likeness as daily you move from glory to glory, from faith to faith until you achieve the fullness of the stature of Christ when you too are raised from the dead on resurrection day.
For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace.
We live today under grace; therefore, sin has no dominion over us; period and amen.
Sounds good to me.
But then the next verse adds a qualifier to this very positive statement.
What then? Should we sin because we are not under law but under grace? By no means!
The qualifier is again our ability to choose.
If we choose to sin, sin will have its dominion over us in spite of God’s grace.
Listen to verse 16.
Do you not know that if you present yourselves to anyone as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin, which leads to death, or of obedience, which leads to righteousness?
There it is.
We choose who we will present our members to.
Through our own willfulness we can choose obedience to the desires of our flesh and sin, which leads to death.
Or through the grace of God and by the power of the Spirit we can choose obedience to Jesus’ commands, which leads to life.
But thanks be to God that you, having once been slaves of sin, have become obedient from the heart to the form of teaching to which you were entrusted,
Obedient from the heart to the form of teaching to which you were entrusted.
And that teaching is not based on will worship, but on love from the center of our being, your heart, love formed and informed by the teaching you have received concerning the commandments that Jesus entrusted to his disciples before he returned to the Father.
Which form of teaching we are now entrusted to live into and to pass on to the next generation of disciples.
“Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all strength and with all your mind; and love your neighbour as yourself.” Luke 10:27
and that you, having been set free from sin, have become slaves of righteousness.
Set free from sin through faith in Jesus as the Son of God we are now enslaved to the way of righteous living in Christ.
As slaves we are called to obedience, to obedient service to the One who enslaved us to the love and peace of God the Father through the miracle of grace
I am speaking in human terms because of your natural limitations. For just as you once presented your members as slaves to impurity and to greater and greater iniquity, so now present your members as slaves to righteousness for sanctification.
Again, the call to present ourselves to our God.
The call to make ourselves present to God until our will becomes God’s, until our will becomes that which God wills for us.
The call for us to live into, in the way we choose to live our natural lives, the supernatural reality of the presence of the nature of Christ growing within us, the mark of our discipleship, our hope of glory.