Trinity 6, 2019

The Epistle – Romans 6:3-11

The Gospel – St. Matthew 5:20-26

 

In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost, Amen.

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It is a constant task of the Christian to go back again and again to the Scriptures. To hear them….to read them…to think about what they say to us.

 

We have to go to the Scriptures because they are the Word of God…the very words that God wanted to communicate to His people…and to us…as we are included in the group called His People.

 

And this is not only to know the history of mankind. The Fall. The promise of redemption and salvation.

 

To learn how God has dealt with His creation from the beginning. To learn how Israel was chosen by Him to model the human race….to model humans and their frailty.

 

To learn how God finally came in the person of Jesus Christ to fulfill all righteousness. To fulfill what Israel and all mankind failed to fulfil and live up to.

 

To then take all of this information and to live by it. To have the very words of God fill our minds and hearts and to have them shape us and guide us.

 

We do this because the human mind, left to its own devices …left to its own desires and whims…left to its own ideas of how things are or should be…. will always fall short of the reality that the Words of God bring.

 

The Scriptures present to us a full and complete picture of the world we live in and its condition as well as our condition.

 

They tell us how and why the situations around us exist and they also …maybe most importantly …they tell us how to handle them, understand them and cope with them….and how God in Christ has done the work to redeem it all.

 

So they are invaluable because they tell us the truth. They tell us the facts about our condition and of our need for God.

And they tell us precisely how God is here and has not left us. He is present through His Spirit and through His Word.

 

But in our current condition, we need to be reminded of what God says on a regular basis. We tend to forget. We tend to ignore. We tend to reinterpret and follow the devices and desires of our own hearts.

 

So, what Paul says today in this section from Romans is one of many that must be read over and over and brought to mind…because it has such valuable content.

 

What Paul says, when believed and acted on, is life-altering, life-changing and life-sustaining.

 

 

He even begins this by saying, “Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death?”

 

Do you not know? 
Are you not aware?

Are you thinking about this like you should?

Or, we can hear him saying, “Recognize this!” “Believe this” “Know this.”

 

All of us who are Christians who have received baptism, were baptized into Christ’s death.

 

Adam introduced death to humanity.

Christ brought life.

 

Those who are in Christ through baptism, share even in His death.

 

Christ was righteous in that He took on human flesh, despite flesh being cursed. He took on human flesh because that was the path by which we would be redeemed.

 

So, as we are now in Christ, we are no longer in the “sphere of Adam.”  We are removed from being in Adam by being in Christ.

“Those who are in Christ are no longer in the sphere of Adam, hence are “dead” to their former sin…”[1]

 

“Those who are in Christ (in whom Adamic sin and death died) should no longer identify themselves with the toxic legacy of fallen humanity, but rather with their eternal identity secured by Christ.”[2]

 

We should no longer identify ourselves with Adam, old man, former life.

 

This is why we need to preach this to ourselves and one another on a regular basis. It is not easy to understand.
It is not easy to remember.

It is not easy to live by.

 

We are to no longer identify ourselves with Adam. We are to identify ourselves as in Christ.

 

But Paul tells us this is a fact about ourselves.

 

“Do you not know?”  Do you not know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death?

 

As He died, so our old self died in baptism.

As He was buried, so our old self was buried.

As He was raised from the dead, so we too were raised from the death, the deadness of being in Adam to the new life of being in Christ.

 

All so that, as Paul says, so that we too might walk in newness of life.

 

So, there are two things here. A constant reminder of all that is true about us now that we are in Christ and a walking in newness of that life in Christ.

 

Every day we have to walk in newness of life. We have to walk as new beings because we are in Christ.

 

He lists here as he develops his thought by telling us this about ourselves.

As we are in Christ, “we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his.”

 

“We are no longer slaves to sin.”

 

“We have been set free from sin.”

 

“We will live with Him.”

 

“We will never die again.”

 

“So, you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus.”

 

These are all things that are the result of the grace given to us in baptism.

 

Commentator- “…we must remember that if we do not clearly teach the baptized that they have received grace we miss the strongest argument and motive for holiness.”

If it is not clearly taught to us and then embraced by us… that we have received the grace of God in baptism, then we miss the strongest argument and motive to holiness.

 

We miss the whole reason that we are to strive toward holiness.

 

If grace has been given, and it has, when we were baptized, then our motivation for holiness it spelled out for us.

 

We are new creatures…act like it.

 

We are saved. We are sanctified. We are set apart by God for God to a life of holiness.

 

So, we recall these things about ourselves all of the time, so that we are strengthened by them.  

 

Our baptism is key and that is why we keep harking back to it. That is the font, the fountain and the source of all that comes after.

 

Grace is poured out at baptism, so to recall our baptism is short-hand for all that it includes….saved….sanctified…buried with Christ…risen with Christ…holiness.

 

Keener (Background) - For Jewish people, baptism was the act by which non-Jews converted to Judaism, the final removal of Gentile impurity; by it one turned one’s back on life in paganism and sin, vowed to follow God’s commandments, and became a new person with regard to Jewish law.”

 

 

 

“A person who became a follower of Jesus likewise gave up his or her old life; through participation with Christ’s death, Paul says, their death to the old life in sin, which was crucified in Christ, is an accomplished fact.”[3]

 

So, we have given up an old life.  Paul says that is how we are to reckon ourselves. We have this new life to live.

 

Keener says this about the old man that used to indwell us. “The “old man” (“old self” in many translations) is life in Adam versus life in Christ (5:12–21). When a Gentile slave escaped from a Jewish owner and converted to Judaism by baptism, in Jewish legal theory his or her new personhood made the slave free from the former owner.”[4]

 

This is also true about us. We are no longer slaves to sin. We are no longer held captive. We have a new owner. We are now happy and willing slaves to a benevolent owner who grants us all of the freedom we need.

 

There is still in each of us to one degree or another an impulse to sin. An impulse for evil. An impulse to desire to live under the old slavemaster.

 

This is why this reckoning is so important. If we find that we are desiring the old ways, we are to quickly recall our baptism, again the shorthand way of reckoning all that has been done for us and all that we are now in Christ and let that return us to the right path.

But as we think about this life of righteousness we should strive toward, we turn to Jesus in the Gospel lesson for today.

 

It picks up with Jesus saying immediately, “…I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.” (ESV)

 

We turn now to the practical, day-to-day living this out.

 

Jesus brings in the Pharisees and Scribes. These were men who held strictly to the Law of God at every point. …at least they tried to outwardly.

 

 

 

Yet this life of separating themselves from others (which is what Pharisee means) unfortunately led them to fail to understand God’s Law and truly how to live by it. 

 

It is God’s Law that we strive to live by. But there is the letter of the Law and there is the spirit of the Law.  We are to find both.

 

Jesus then gives an example. “You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not murder; and whoever murders will be liable to judgment.’ [22] But I say to you…”

 

They had all been taught the Commandments of God. Thou shalt do no murder is one of them. We too are taught this Law and ask God each month in the service to incline our hearts to keep it.

 

But keeping it involves not only restraining ourselves from laying murderous hands on someone, but it also involves a love toward that same person…which is much harder.

 

The Law not only begins but brings to perfection a holy life. The holy life requires perfect love of God and of our neighbor.

 

The summary of the Law. Love God with all of our heart, soul, mind and strength and our neighbor as ourselves.

 

This kind of life holds the highest perfection. This is the rule of life for us.

 

Calvin – “From the very nature of the law we must conclude, that God, who gave it by the hand of Moses, spoke to the hearts, as well as to the hands and to the eyes.”[5]

So, it is true that we are to keep ourselves from outwardly violating the Law if we are pursuing righteousness, but Jesus says to us that we must ascend even higher.

 

This is what is meant when Paul tells us that love is the fulfilling of the Law. The Law is fulfilled when both outward and inward are in accord with it.

 

Look how Jesus shows us three ways or three degrees of obedience or failure of obedience.

 

If you physically murder someone you are liable to judgment.

But if you are angry with your brother, you are also liable to judgment.

 

Saying ‘you fool’ also puts you in a position where you are a law breaker as well. And, hence, a murderer.

 

Jesus says, ‘Go and make things right. Go and show true Law obedience by seeking harmony with all men, even those who persecute you in some way.

 

Our opening prayer today was this, “O GOD, who hast prepared for those who love thee such good things as pass man's understanding; Pour into our hearts such love toward thee, that we, loving thee above all things, may obtain thy promises, which exceed all that we can desire; through Jesus Christ our Lord, Amen.

 

It is only through the power of God, pouring grace into our hearts by His Spirit that we will love Him or neighbor.

He has prepared things for us, not only in the next life, but even here and now that pass our understanding.

 

We can never fully predict or anticipate what God has prepared for us because we are so slow at comprehending all of this said here this morning.

 

So, we always return to the only way that this can all be accomplished. God must pour love into our hearts. Love for Him, love for neighbor. Love for His Law. Love for righteousness.

 

We then must remind ourselves of these things again and again, for by reminder we build up desire to live it out. To live out truly what we have been declared to be.

 

By living out we find momentum to live more and more in the presence of God in holiness.  

 

God has made a provision for us in all of this. It is through His Son Jesus Christ.

 

He fulfilled all that is required to fulfill God’s Law. He has shown perfect love. He has then taken us, begun a good work in us and He will bring it to completion.

 

May God give us a daily reminder of who He has made us to be….. and is still in the process of making us to be. 

 

In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost, Amen.

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[1] Keener, C. S. (2009). Romans (pp. 79–80). Eugene, OR: Cascade Books.

[2] Keener, C. S. (2009). Romans (pp. 79–80). Eugene, OR: Cascade Books.

[3] Keener, C. S. (1993). The IVP Bible background commentary: New Testament (Ro 6:1–23). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.

[4] Keener, C. S. (1993). The IVP Bible background commentary: New Testament (Ro 6:1–23). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.

[5] Calvin, J., & Pringle, W. (2010). Commentary on a Harmony of the Evangelists Matthew, Mark, and Luke (Vol. 1, p. 284). Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.