Lovers of Love

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Love as an uncontrollable force.

Near the end of the Song of Solomon the bride speaks of love as an uncontrollable force that cannot be quenched or overpowered.

Set me as a seal upon your heart,
as a seal upon your arm
for love is strong as death,
jealousy is fierce as the grave.
Its flashes are flashes of fire,
the very flame of the LORD.
Many waters cannot quench love,
neither can floods drown it,
If a man offered for love
all the wealth of his house,
he would be utterly despised. (8:6-7)

ds-132x132The power of love is rarely acknowledged in our everyday lives as the indomitable force behind all that we think and do. In other words, we don’t see the Bible describing a reality where we have a free will that chooses between two opposing opposites. Rather it assumes our minds and wills are mere instruments of our hearts.  The heart, as the motivational center, controls and dictates to the mind what to think and the will what to choose. Therefore, the object of our affections controls us.  With this in mind, I want to take a look of one particular danger about having a tameless tiger in our chest–that is, the danger of loving love.
lovers of loveAs a pastor I became aware that many might be attracted to Christianity, not on account of Christ, but the love they received from those who love Christ.  Now you may think, isn’t this the way it should work? As we love people won’t they often eventually come to love Christ?  Yes we should evangelize by offering love to others!  But as we invite people to love Christ by loving on them, potentially they could come to love the love they receive and not Christ.
Given the reality of us being bound by the affections of our hearts, and our fallen hearts being completely bent on loving self, it shouldn’t surprise us that someone might love being loved.  Let’s face it, someone might function like this, “I love me and I love it when people love me.”  Not that this is a conscious thought, but people who’ve experienced abuse or abandonment might easily fall in love with the love they’ve rarely received.
In some situations its obvious that one loves love: they begin to take advantage of others, they only show up when they’ve had a rough day and they need to be loved, or they just don’t really seem to want to know why you’ve loved them.   But in others cases, the lover of love begins to play the part of a Christian. They begin to come to everything, they begin to read their Bibles, and maybe profess a belief in Christ. But when the person who has loved them goes away for a time the lover of love gradually, if not quickly, goes back to their old ways.

This reminds me of Philip Melanchthon (1497-1560).

He was a brilliant humanist scholar who fell in love with love.  As one of Martin Luther’s most devoted followers, he was swept up by the wave of Luther’s passion for Christ, zealous rejection of Scholastic Theology, and the need for reformation.  “All of Aristotle’s works,” according to Luther, “are the worst enemy of grace.”  It was a tectonic shift for Melanchthon to agree with Luther’s “Aristotle was to theology as darkness is to light.”  Prior to Melanchthon’s encounter with Luther his main ambition was to compile a Greek edition of Aristotle’s works that hadn’t previously existed in the West.  Instead he wrote his 1521 Loci Communes, a book that summarized Luther’s theology so well that Luther, with tongue firmly in his cheek, suggested it should have been canonized.
Yet this rejection of Scholastic Theology and his full devotion to Luther’s theology didn’t last.  In Luther’s absence and under the pressure of other events, Melanchthon retreated back to Aristotle. The three latter editions of his Loci Communes completely abandoned the bondage of the free will, which according to Luther was the “hinge” at the center of his reformation.  Melanchthon had gotten caught up in the tidal wave of the man, but when the wave was gone Melanchthon made his way back to his first love, Aristotle.
Knowing the powerful dictator inside, we can’t be subtle about the reasons for our loving others.  Being aware that people could fall in love with love or really just make the giver of love into a Christ-like figure, we must make it clear that we love because we are loved.  Love isn’t the end or the goal; rather, pleasing Christ is our motivation, he is the end and he is the goal. We must be clear that it’s a love for Christ, who loved us and esteemed us first, that frees us to love. This won’t stop fallen people from being lovers of love, but it makes Christ the source and reason for our love of others.  This isn’t mechanical or fake, but as we love Christ, who has loved us first, we begin to love what Christ loves. Thankfully he loves all of us with a love that cannot be measured nor exhausted even when we get an eternity to explore it.
~ David

You are invited to comment on David’s article at Cor Deo UK
 
David Searight
David is a student of historical theology and seventeenth-century puritanism. He came to love the Puritans while studying at Multnomah Biblical Seminary under the tutelage of Ron Frost. Prior to his time at Multnomah, David and his wife Erin graduated from Western Michigan University. They’ve since been blessed with three wonderful children. Following his days at Multnomah he received his Masters of Theology at New College of the University of Edinburgh. In Scotland, David enjoyed reading Puritans who were captivated by God’s loved and wanted their followers “to warm their hearts by the fiery coals of God’s love.” Alongside his studies at New College, he also served as a Theology Network Associate Staff Worker with UCCF mentoring undergraduate theology students. Then David and his family returned to the United States to pastor youth in a rural church in eastern Oregon. Now David, as a missionary with Operation Mobilisation, has a role in leading a church plant in Chippenham, England.
For more information on Cor Deo, including the weekly theological blog, please visit www.cordeo.org.uk.
 

Jesus, God With Us (Matthew 1:22-23)

 

Introduction

Jimmy SnowdenBefore digging into the contents of these verses, let me remind you of what we have seen thus far. We have seen an engaged (betrothed) couple, Mary and Joseph. Before Mary and Joseph were fully married Mary was found to be with child by the Holy Spirit. Joseph naturally thought that Mary had been unfaithful to him so he planned on divorcing her quietly. As Joseph was contemplating on how to move forward with Mary an angel from God appeared to him in a dream and told him to take Mary as his wife, that she will bear a son, and that this son is to be named Jesus. The angel then tells Joseph why he is to name him Jesus, “for he will save his people from their sins” (Matthew 1:21). We learned that Jesus’ name literally means, “Yahweh (God) Saves.” This name tells us both about who He is and about what He came to do. He is Yahweh (God), and He has come to save His people from their sins.The birth announcement of this angel to Joseph ends in vs. 21. In vs. 22 Matthew goes on to explain how this birth announcement fulfills one of God’s promises, the Immanuel promise from the book of Isaiah. This morning’s sermon can be broken up into three parts:

1. We will look at this promise from Isaiah 7
2. We will consider how Jesus fulfills it
3. We will consider what it means for us today

1. The Promise (1:22-23)

Read vss. 22-23 with me.

[22] All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet: [23] “Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel”

So Matthew tells us that “All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had spoken.” To what is Matthew here referring? All what took place? He is referring to everything that has happened thus far: Mary conceiving of a child as a virgin, the angel appearing to Joseph, etc. As we already know Matthew is extremely interested in showing us how all of the promises of God find their ‘Yes’ in Christ. So here he tells us not just what happened there 2000 years ago, but demonstrates how all of this is the fulfillment of a particular promise of God in the Old Testament. And there is no doubt that Matthew’s first readers would have been well versed in their Old Testament Scriptures. Part of my goal in preaching through Matthew is to spend a good deal of time considering how the promises of God in the Old Testament are fulfilled in the New. So this morning the majority of the sermon will be spent in Isaiah 7.
Turn with me to Isaiah 7. The particular passage that Matthew references is Isaiah 7:14. Although the promise is not found till vs. 14, I want to start in vs. 1 so that we can get an understanding of the context in which this promise is given.
Now the events recorded here in Isaiah 7 take place around 735 B.C. or so (that is, 735 years before Christ). I want you to see four things about the context in which this promise is found.
1. In vs. 1 we see that this was a time of battle.

[1] In the days of Ahaz the son of Jotham, son of Uzziah, king of Judah, Rezin the king of Syria and Pekah the son of Remaliah the king of Israel came up to Jerusalem to wage war against it, but could not yet mount an attack against it.

At this time Israel was a divided nation. Just as America was divided between north and south in the civil war, Israel was also divided between north and south. The focus here is on Ahaz (see Matthew 1:9), king of Southern Israel/Judah. Ahaz was not the best king in the world. In fact, he was an evil king. God has absolutely nothing good to say about Ahaz at all (see 2 Kings 16 and 2 Chronicles 28). Just as we saw with Manasseh a few weeks ago, Ahaz also offered up his children as sacrifices to foreign gods. He rearranged the entire temple. He gave much of the gold in the temple of God to the king of Assyria. He destroyed much of the temple to make it more acceptable for the worship of idols. Ahaz was an evil king. But here we see Ahaz king of Judah. Ahaz was facing a time of war. We see in vs. 1 that the kings of Northern Israel and Syria were combining their forces to wage full scale war on Judah. So here we see war brewing on the border of Judah. It is a classic game of 2 against 1 and Judah was outnumbered
2. In vs. 2 we see that this was a time of fear.

[2] When the house of David was told, “Syria is in league with Ephraim,” the heart of Ahaz and the heart of his people shook as the trees of the forest shake before the wind.

When Judah heard that Northern Israel and Syria were on their doorstep, ready to pounce, they were filled with great fear. The fear was so great that “the heart of his people shook like the trees of the forest shake before the wind.” Only with poetry can you get an image like that. You have seen trees before a big storm comes in. The leaves shake. This is what a person does when in shock. When I was in college I lived in a quad with three other guys. We used to play pranks on each other all the time. One night I went to bed early, which was my first mistake. My three roommates thought it would be a good idea to sneak into the room where our bunk beds were with the lights out, hold me down without waking me up, and then scream at the top of their lungs. They did so successfully. I woke immediately but couldn’t move. I literally couldn’t move my body. I couldn’t even yell. I just laid there with my body trembling without being able to say a word. It is no wonder why I have sleeping issues. But this is the picture. They were trembling like a leaf. They were terrified. They knew that they would never be able to withstand the combined strength of Northern Israel and Syria.
3. In vss. 3-9 I want you to see a promise of protection and deliverance. In vss. 3-9 the Lord exhorts Ahaz through Isaiah the prophet to not be afraid, but to trust the Lord.

[3] And the LORD said to Isaiah, “Go out to meet Ahaz, you and Shear-jashub your son, at the end of the conduit of the upper pool on the highway to the Washer’s Field. [4] And say to him, ‘Be careful, be quiet, do not fear, and do not let your heart be faint because of these two smoldering stumps of firebrands, at the fierce anger of Rezin and Syria and the son of Remaliah. [5] Because Syria, with Ephraim and the son of Remaliah, has devised evil against you, saying, [6] “Let us go up against Judah and terrify it, and let us conquer it for ourselves, and set up the son of Tabeel as king in the midst of it,” [7] thus says the Lord GOD: “‘It shall not stand, and it shall not come to pass. [8] For the head of Syria is Damascus, and the head of Damascus is Rezin. And within sixty-five years Ephraim will be shattered from being a people. [9] And the head of Ephraim is Samaria, and the head of Samaria is the son of Remaliah. If you are not firm in faith, you will not be firm at all.’”

Isaiah is sent to deliver this message to Ahaz at a particular place, “the conduit of the upper pool on the highway to the Washer’s field” (vs. 3) And the Lord exhorts Ahaz to be quiet, fear not, nor let your heart grow faint in vs. 4. Here Ahaz and all Jerusalem are terrified at the great military that is ready to pounce. And Israel had no chance of withstanding an attack from these two enemy nations. On paper—from a worldly perspective—Ahaz had reason to shake in his boots. And the Lord tells Ahaz what he often needs to tell us, “be quiet.” You can hear Isaiah telling Ahaz, “Ahaz, stop rehearsing all the possible scenarios. Stop it! Stop looking at the enemy on your border. Fix your eyes on the Lord!” We need to be told to be quiet sometimes as well. Sometimes we become so overwhelmed by the size of the enemy or by the size of the problem that we become paralyzed, and instead of trusting the Lord and His ability we become filled with an ungodly anxiety.
Isaiah then, in vs. 4, goes on to size up Northern Israel and Syria from God’s perspective. From an earthly perspective the combined forces of these two nations were a force to be reckoned with, but from God’s perspective they were “two smoldering stumps of firebrands.” You know what this looks like. You have been camping and you wake up to a fire that has gone out. There in the fire pit is a log that is still smoldering, but has absolutely zero fire making potential. It isn’t putting off any heat, just a small amount of warmth. But it is smoking. It has the appearance of being hot, but there is really nothing there. It is like a dog that is all bark and no bite. That is how God sees Northern Israel and Syria. They are no real threat to Judah. Now on paper—from an earthly perspective—that isn’t true. Judah has no hope of withstanding an attack against these two enemy nations. But the Lord is on Judah’s side.
Have you ever read Pilgrim’s Progress?
There is a point in the story where Christian is coming to the house Beautiful. In order to get to the house Beautiful he has to stay on the narrow road. You get to the point in the story where Christian can see the house, but right in front of the house is a large lion on both sides of the road. The lions were roaring and were ferocious. Christian knew that he would be a goner if he tried to walk on the narrow road to the house. But just as Christian was about to turn back one of his traveling companions, Watchful, tells him that although he cannot see it, the lions are chained. So Christian moves on down the narrow road right past the lions afraid for his life. And yet he presses on through the fear and finally makes it to house Beautiful. This is Ahaz’s situation. There are two roaring lions on the border of Judah. The Lord is telling him that he has nothing to fear—that they cannot touch him. That is just what he tells him in vs. 7, “It shall not stand, and it shall not come to pass.” Syria and Northern Israel will be destroyed. God will protect Judah.
But then the Lord offers Ahaz a warning in vs. 9, “If you are not firm in the faith, you will not be firm at all.” In other words, if you are looking for strength in anyone but the Lord, you will be flattened. If Ahaz will not look to the Lord for strength and protection, Ahaz will be destroyed. And what you will learn if you read the rest of Ahaz’s story in 2 Kings 16 or 2 Chronicles 28 is that Ahaz was not firm in the faith, and because of that Judah suffered greatly under the thumb of the Assyrians (see 2 Chronicles 28:16-21).
4. In vss. 10-14 we see a time of unbelief.  In vss. 10-14 the Lord offers Azah a sign confirming His promise of protection and salvation from their enemies.

[10] Again the LORD spoke to Ahaz, [11] “Ask a sign of the LORD your God; let it be deep as Sheol or high as heaven.” [12] But Ahaz said, “I will not ask, and I will not put the LORD to the test.” [13] And he said, “Hear then, O house of David! Is it too little for you to weary men, that you weary my God also? [14] Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.

It is amazing in vs. 11 isn’t that the Lord offers to do whatever Ahaz needs Him to do to be able to put his trust in Him. A sign is basically a basis for belief. God is saying to Ahaz here, “I want you to trust me, and I will go to whatever length you need Me to go prove to you that you are safe trusting in Me and in Me alone.” You will remember that Gideon needed a sign in Judges 6. He laid out a piece of fleece one night and it was sopping wet while the ground was dry. Then the next night he laid out the fleece and it was dry and the ground was sopping wet. Ahaz could have asked for something like this.
Ahaz could have asked for God to move the big dipper clear across the sky so that it looked like Orion was holding a frying pan. God was willing to do whatever for Ahaz to give him reason to trust Him. Ahaz could have asked for God to bring Jupiter within 10 feet of the earth and then remove it back to its resting place. He could have asked for God to cause a herd of pigs to stand up on their hind legs at the same time and do perfect line dancing to a chicken singing a Garth Brooks country western song. He could have asked for anything. And what is so amazing in this is the mercy of God. That God would condescend to a man like Ahaz. What is amazing about Gideon and Thomas was not their lack of faith in needing evidence or a sign. What is amazing, rather, is the mercy of God in stooping to their level. Here God is stooping to Ahaz’s level. God wants Ahaz to trust Him and is giving him every reason to trust Him.
And how does Ahaz respond to this offer? See vs. 12. He rejects it! But why does he reject it? On the face of it, it looks like he rejects it out of a heart for God. He said, “I will not ask, and I will not put the Lord to the test.” This looks so godly and so spiritual. Ahaz is too spiritually mature to ask God for a sign. But here’s the problem. Ahaz won’t ask God for a sign, but its not because he doesn’t need one because his faith is so strong. No. Ahaz won’t ask for a sign because he doesn’t want to trust God. He knows that if God gives him a sign that he will be obligated to trust Him. Imagine if Ahaz took God up on His offer and God brought Jupiter within 10 feet of earth. Wouldn’t that demand a response of faith on Ahaz’s part? Of course it would.
To make matters worse, God told Ahaz to ask for a sign. You never tell the Lord, “No.” Ahaz spoke as if he knew better than God. At the end of the day, Ahaz didn’t want to trust the Lord. Why? Because trusting the Lord is difficult. It is so much easier to trust a powerful nation like Assyria than it is to trust the Lord. Trusting the Lord takes faith. When you trust in Assyria to go to bat for you, you can see their swords, chariots, and fighting men. When you trust the Lord you can’t see His army or His arsenal. Trusting the Lord demands that you walk by faith, not by sight.
Look in vs. 13-14 at how the Lord responds to Ahaz. He rebukes Ahaz for wearing Him thin. God saw through Ahaz’s pseudo-spirituality. He knew that Ahaz was bent on not trusting Him. So the Lord basically says, “Ahaz, if you won’t ask a sign from Me, I will give one to you.” And the Lord promises to do something that is absolutely impossible, a virgin will conceive and bear a son, and the child this woman will have will be God incarnate. Imagine if Ahaz would have asked for this sign. “Lord I will believe you and trust you if you take on flesh—become one of your own creatures—in the womb of a virgin.” This blows all would-be signs out of the water!

 images2. How Jesus fulfills the promise

And this is where our promise from Matthew 1comes. The sign is the virgin birth. The virgin birth of the one named Immanuel. God gave this sign to Ahaz in a context of war, fear, and unbelief. Judah was surrounded by enemies. God wanted king Ahaz to trust Him. And he wanted to give Ahaz a reason to trust Him and not look to the Assyrians. Ahaz didn’t want to trust God and so God gave Ahaz a sign, the virgin birth. This promise was given in a context of war, fear, and unbelief. Judah was in need of God’s salvation and deliverance. What was the purpose of this sign—what was this sign signifying? It was signifying a God wrought deliverance—the fact that God would save His people.
Think of the context in which the promise was given in Isaiah 7. The sign was given to provide Judah a reason to believe that God was going deliver them from their enemies. So Jesus is born and He is given the name Jesus, which means, “God Saves.” That is the whole point of the sign of the virgin birth—to confirm that God will save His people. And He is called Jesus because “he will save His people from their sins.”
You will see in vs. 23 that Matthew takes the time to give us the meaning of the name Immanuel. This tells us that Matthew thought it was important that his readers know and mark it down. The name Immanuel literally means “God with us.” And that is who Jesus is. He is Yahweh in the flesh. He is God incarnate. This is one of the most important passages to point to in demonstrating the fact that Jesus is God, not a demi-god, but God Almighty in the flesh. And this is how we know that our salvation is secure, because it is the work of God. God didn’t save us from afar. No. He took on flesh and dwelt among us. He became one of us to save us from our sins.

3. The promise for today

I think we have to ask what this means for us today, because we live in a completely different period in God’s plan on redemption. God is no longer with us in the person of Jesus. Does this mean that God is no longer with us? Immanuel, you see, ascended to heaven over 2000 years ago. Does this mean that God is no longer with us? Absolutely not. Turn with me to Matthew 28:18-20.

[18] And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. [19] Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, [20] teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

Notice the promise at the very end of vs. 20. Jesus commissions His disciples with a massive task, worldwide evangelism. And then He promises His disciples, “And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” You see, God is still with us. It’s not like Jesus exited stage left at His ascension, leaving us with the tools to build the church and figure it out on our own. “I have taught you all I can teach you, now it is up to you.” No! If anything, our situation has improved since Jesus left the earth. Jesus, speaking of the Holy Spirit, says in John 14:17, “He dwells with you and will be in you.” Do you see how Matthew 1:23 and Matthew 28:20 are bookends for the Gospel of Matthew? God was with us in the person of His Son, and He remains with us by His Spirit. Jesus ascended to heaven, but He is with us in the most intimate way possible, by indwelling us by His Spirit. You see, Jesus didn’t stop His ministry when He ascended to heaven. No. He continues His ministry through His people.
So we can encourage and exhort one another with the very words that God exhorted Isaiah with, “Be careful, be quiet, do not fear, and do not let your heart be faint.” Why? Because God is with us! He is with us! He hasn’t left us as orphans. “What have I to dread, what have I to fear, leaning on the everlasting arms? I have blessed peace with my Lord so near, leaning on the ever lasting arms!”
Friends, this is why you need to come to Wednesday night Bible study.
I know some of you can’t make it because of work. But you need to come if you can. I am not saying this to brow beat you. I am saying this because you are missing out on the presence of God. I am telling you that Wednesday night is like a free steak at Longhorn. Why wouldn’t you come? Why would you rob yourself of the presence of God? Sure,Matthew 18:20 is first and foremost about church discipline. Nonetheless, there is a principle in it, “Where two or more are gathered in my name, there am I among them” (Matthew 18:20). God with us! And there is a special presence when God’s people gather together for worship and prayer and to sit under the teaching of the word. I am just like you. I work a 10 hour day every Wednesday. I am beat at the end of the day every Wednesday. When I come to Bible Study I am just as tired and worn out as you. Usually my goal for Wednesday night—of no fault to the teaching or music or praying—is to not fall asleep. And yet no matter how tired I am, somewhere along the line—usually when the word is taught—God fills me up to overflowing. Sure, I leave the church building just as tired as I was when I got there, but my heart is filled with joy and thanksgiving. Why? Because God is with us. There is a special presence of God when His people gather under the preaching of His word. My friends, God is still with us today. He is with us this morning. He is here right now! He will be with us to the end of the age. What a blessed reality!
You see, in the Old Testament God lived in a building, the temple, in the midst of His people. Things changed when Jesus came. When Jesus came God took up residence in the person of Jesus. But when Jesus ascended to the Father, what did He do? He poured out the Spirit. And now God no longer lives in a building, a literal temple, but in His people. Thus the church is referred to as “God’s temple” because “God’s spirit dwells in you” (1 Corinthians 3:16). So God is still with us, but in a more intimate way than ever before in the history of God’s dealings with man. God is no longer outside of us. He is no longer in a location outside of ourselves. No. He indwells us by His Spirit.
Jesus says, “I am with you always, to end of the age.” And He is with us by His Spirit, both as individuals and corporately. And so Jesus tells us that our situation is better now that He has gone. “I tell you the truth: it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you. But if I go, I will send him to you” (John 16:7). No. God is no longer with us in the physical person of Jesus. But He is with us by His Spirit. He is with us in the most intimate way possible. God sent His Son to die for us to make payment for our sins. But God did not stop there. No. He has actually taken up residence within us by His Spirit.


*An unedited sermon preached by Pastor Jimmy Snowden at Sovereign Grace Fellowship in Boscawen, NH on June 29, 2014. Click here to watch or listen to this sermon.
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I am always glad to hear from readers. Just write me at jimmy.snowden [@] gmail.com.

~ Jimmy

Visit Jimmy’s Chosen In Christ Blog Soon!
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Jimmy Snowden
Jimmy serves as pastor for “Preaching and Vision” at Sovereign Grace Fellowship in Boscawen, New Hampshire. Previously he fulfilled leadership roles in both Kansas City, Missouri and Las Vegas, Nevada. Jimmy received his Bachelor of Arts degree in Biblical Studies from Hannibal-LaGrange College and a Master of Divinity degree from Liberty University.
 

Union with Christ

Romans 6:1-14 ESV

Brief Review & Introduction

David FramptonIn our series in the Bible, the story of God, we come now to the letters written by Christ’s apostles and prophets by the Holy Spirit. In them we read God’s commentary and application of the redemption that Christ accomplished. The first letter to read is Romans. Every Christian should read, study, meditate on, and strive to apply the truth written in it.

Structure of Romans

  • Introduction (1:1-17)
  • God’s wrath against sinners (1:18-3:20)
  • God’s righteousness for believers in Christ (3:21-11:36)
  • God’s righteousness in the daily life of believers (12:1-15:13)
  • Conclusion (15:14-16:27)

Ideas and features of Romans

  • Paul wrote this letter to tell them about the message he preached before he visited Rome and to seek support for a proposed missionary journey to Spain; he sought to strengthen unity in the gospel among believers
  • Paul wrote the letter about AD 57; with Colossians, they are the only letters in the Bible that he wrote to a church he did not start
  • About 20% of Romans contains quotations from the OTS; 104 verses from 14 books are quoted; about half those are in chapters 9-11
  • The key words in Romans are righteousness and justification; the theme verses are 1:16-17; the most important verses, not only in Romans but in the whole Bible are 3:24-26
  • Romans is the “theological skeleton” of the whole Bible; however, it is not a textbook on theology but a letter, the greatest letter ever written
  • Romans is very valuable because it is a completely developed presentation of the good news (gospel); after years of preaching and teaching the good news, Paul had taught people of many people groups and had heard countless objections to this message; for this reason he raises them and answers them

Exposition:

I. A very important matter (6:1-2)

A.We cannot understand what the apostle is saying unless we understand the reason for the objection.

1.Instead of sin, condemnation, and death in Adam, in Christ we have obedience, justification, and life. Christ alone did all that everything necessary to provide life for all those who trust in him (5:12-19).

2.Through Christ, we are not in a position of law (the old covenant) where sin increased; instead, we are in a position of increasing and reigning grace. We have eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord (5:20-21). As incredible and amazing and wonderful you think that is, it is much more than any of us can imagine.

B.At this point Paul knows that an objection comes: “Ah Paul, are you not saying that since you are justified, you can sin as much as you want to? Sure you are—where sin increases, grace overflows; so then, let’s sin more so we can experience grace more!  If we have such amazing grace, then believers in Christ can live however they want.” We ought to notice that only those who preach justification by grace alone will ever have to answer such a question. Paul answers it two ways.

1.By flat denial –“By no means!” This is a very strong expression that means “may it never be” or “not at all” or more idiomatically, “no way!” Anyone who seriously raises this kind of objection reveals that they do not understand the nature of salvation from sin to righteousness.

2.By restating the purpose of saving grace – We died to the reign of sin under which we lived in Adam. There has been a radical break with sin. How can we live in sin any longer?

Transition: The question is, “When did we die to sin’s controlling power?” Paul explains the reality of the believer’s union with Christ.

II. Basic facts about our union with Christ (6:3-10)

A.Every believer is “baptized” into Christ (6:3-4). First of all, we must understand what “baptize” means. It clearly means “to dip” or “to immerse” or “to submerge”. So then, when we were united with Christ, we were joined to him in the fullness of his saving work.

1.This is true of every believer—“don’t you know?” He did not write “some of you might know”. It is the true position of everyone who is saved (cf. 8:9-14). This is not something you feel, but your spiritual position.

2.When Jesus died, he died to his relationship with sin. He came to die for sinners, and he took our sin on him. And when he died, he died completely to sin and its reign. Therefore, in Christ we have died to the reigning power of sin (6:7).

B.Every believer is also united to Christ in his resurrection (6:4-10). While it is true that in Christ we died to sin, yet that alone is an insufficient explanation of our position and the reason that we cannot continue to live in sin. Christ’s death and burial were steps onward to his resurrection through the glory of the Father.

1.The future tense is used (6:5) to speak of our resurrection with Christ in order to say that it is certainly true. In our union with Christ we receive a new, glorious position. We are no longer the “old self” that we were in Adam. We are the resurrected “new self” that we are in Christ. The old self was crucified so that we might not be slaves to sin. Instead, the new self is to be a slave of God that we might live lives that are set apart to righteousness (6:19-22).

2.Therefore, we must understand that we cannot continue to live in sin, as the objection suggests. Instead, we are united to Christ by faith that we might live a new life (6:4) and live for God (6:10). The key point is to know and to act on what you are in Christ. The Lord Jesus is the master over sin and death. Therefore, we must not think of ourselves as under the reign of sin and death. We are alive and new in Christ and we need to act according to what we now are and not in conformity with what we used to be.

Transition: In order to live the Christian life properly, we must live in conformity with what we are in Jesus Christ. The apostle next presents how to do this.

III. The proper response to this teaching (6:11-14)

A.A command to consider what you are in Christ: “count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus” (6:11).

1.This is a continual responsibility (present tense).  If we falter in this matter, we will reap problems. But we are to count as true what we already are in Christ. For example, football players might say, “We’ve got to be men today.” What are they saying? They’re saying that they must act like the physically gifted men that they are and play according to their potential. Likewise, Christians must remember who they are in Christ and act consistent to their union with the risen Christ.

2.Therefore, act in faith on the truth that you are alive to God in the reign of grace. Do not allow every temptation and sinful failure to shake your confidence. Yes, you will still sin, but sin can no longer destroy you. You died to the old realm and its condemnation (cf. 8:1). Remember that and live in hope.

3.Therefore, when confronted with sin, tell yourself who you are. “Who am I that I should sin? I am new in Christ, a child of God, the Holy Spirit lives in me, and I have great spiritual armor that I can stand against the evil one and sin. My Father has provided the way of escape for me (1 Cor 10:13). I should not sin.” Then we are living in our new freedom that Christ has given us, we can rejoice in the Lord.

B.A command to apply the truth about who you are in Christ (6:12).

1.It prohibits us from letting sin reign in our bodies. Notice that this prohibition comes out from the previous teaching. Sin isn’t your master; don’t act like it is.

2.We must keep this command because sin wants to act like it is still in control of you. It uses evil desires to make you feel like it is. However, we must apply the truth to our lives by the power of the Spirit and refuse evil desires.

C.Two more commands in order to make the application of the truth (6:13).

1.Don’t offer the parts of your body to sin.

2.Offer yourself and the parts of your body to God.

D.The great reality of the believer’s new position (6:14).

1.We are not under law (the old covenant).

2.We are under grace (the new covenant).

~ Dave

 

About David Framptom
The faithful and spiritually profitable labors of Dave Frampton are featured here at CMC. As a Bible teacher he excels. Teacher and student alike will profit much from his labor in God’s Word. Visit Newtown Square Baptist Church.