Romans 6:1-13 Know: Count: Offer
The Evening Standard newspaper conducted a survey several years ago. One of their staff stood outside Oxford Street tube station handing out leaflets. Most people who took the leaflet didn’t even read it and just put it in the next bin. The leaflet offered a £5 note to anyone who came back and asked the person handing out the leaflet. The man gave out hundreds of leaflets over several hours. Only 11 people came back to claim their £5 note. Most people ignored the leaflet. They thought they knew what it said and didn’t think it would do them any good. Max Lucado tried this once in his church. He offered a bank note to anyone who would come and take it. “I’ll take it!” a lady yelled. Up she popped and down she went and he gave her the bank note. She took her seat, he made his point, and they all went home. My friend ran into Myrtle a few days later and kidded her about making money off his sermons. “Do you still have it?” he asked. “No.” “Did you spend it?” “No, I gave it away,” she answered. “When I returned to my seat a youngster asked me if he could have it, and I said, ‘Sure, it was a gift to me; it’s a gift to you.” As simply as she received, she gave. As easily as it came, it went. The boy didn’t beg, and she didn’t struggle. How could she, who had been given a gift, not give a gift in return? She was caught in the grip of grace. In Romans 6 Paul asks a crucial question: “How can we who died to sin still live in it?” (6:2).
How can we who have been made right, not live righteous lives? How can we who have been blessed not bless? How can we who have been given grace not live graciously? Paul seems stunned that an alternative would even exist! How could grace result in anything but gracious living? “What shall we say, then? Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase?” (Romans 6:1) The term for this philosophy is ‘antinomianism’. Anti, meaning “against” and nomos meaning “moral law.”
Promoters of the idea see grace as a reason to do bad rather than a reason to do good. Grace grants them a pass to do what ever they like. The worse I act the better God seems. What a scam. You mothers wouldn’t tolerate it. Can you imagine your teenager saying, “Mum, I’ll keep my room messy so the whole neighbourhood can see what a good housekeeper you are”?
A boss wouldn’t let the employee say, “The reason I’m lazy is to give you an opportunity to display your forgiveness.” We’d scoff at such hypocrisy. We wouldn’t tolerate it, and we wouldn’t do it. Or would we? Let’s answer that one slowly. Perhaps we don’t sin so God can give grace, but do we ever sin knowing we can always ask forgiveness? Do we ever compromise tonight, knowing we can always confess tomorrow? Is that the intent of grace? Is God’s goal to promote disobedience? Hardly. God’s grace has released us from selfishness.
Why return? How can we live the Christian life on the basis of grace without taking God for granted? I want you to associate three words with Romans 6 for the rest of your life. Three words that will give you a grasp of God’s grace. Three words that will help you handle temptation and sin. Three words will help you discover how to grow into the person God wants you to be. Are you ready? Here they are: Know; Count; Offer.
1. Know (know you were crucified with Christ)
“What shall we say, then? Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase? 2 By no means! We are those who have died to sin; how can we live in it any longer? 3 Or don’t you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? 4 We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life. 5 If we have been united with him in a death like his, we will certainly also be united with him in a resurrection like his. 6 For we know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body ruled by sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin— 7 because anyone who has died has been set free from sin. 8 Now if we died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. 9 For we know that since Christ was raised from the dead, he cannot die again; death no longer has mastery over him. 10 The death he died, he died to sin once for all; but the life he lives, he lives to God. (Romans 6:1-10)
The repetition of the word “know” in Romans 6:1, 6, and 9 indicates that Paul wants us to know, that is understand, a basic doctrine. Christian living depends on Christian learning; duty is always founded on doctrine. What we believe determines how we behave. If Satan can keep a Christian ignorant, he can keep him impotent. Paul wants us to know about our identification with Christ in his death, in his burial, and in his resurrection, for this is the foundation of the Christian life. Paul reminds us of the facts that are the basis of our relationship with God. “To know” means to be fully assured. Fully assured of the facts. When I was a small boy my father kept chickens in our garden. I loved getting into their large run and chasing them. I can remember the first time I came across a dead one. How did I know whether it was dead or asleep?
It didn’t run away as I approached it. I touched it gently with my foot and it didn't move. Only then did I dare touch its feathers. I was sure it was dead. So are we. Not to the presence of sin. Not even to the power of sin. But dead to the penalty of sin.
A tremendous fact is introduced here: the old self was crucified with Christ so that the body need not be controlled by sin. Think of it this way. Sin put you in prison. Sin locked you behind the bars of guilt and shame and deception and fear. Sin did nothing but shackle you to the wall of misery. The only way to be set free from the prison of sin is to serve its penalty. In this case the penalty is death. Someone has to die, either you or a heaven-sent substitute. You cannot leave prison unless there is a death.
Jesus satisfied the penalty and set you free. Near the city of Sao Jose dos Campos, Brazil, is a remarkable facility. Twenty years ago the Brazilian government turned a prison over to two Christians. The institution was renamed Humaita, and the plan was to run it on Christian principles. With the exception of two full-time staff, all the work is done by inmates. Families outside the prison adopt an inmate to work with during and after his term. Chuck Colson visited the prison and made this report:
When I visited Humaita I found the inmates smiling—particularly the murderer who held the keys, opened the gates and let me in. Wherever I walked I saw men at peace. I saw clean living areas, people working industriously. The walls were decorated with Biblical sayings from Psalms and Proverbs. . . . My guide escorted me to the notorious prison cell once used for torture. Today, he told me, that block houses only a single inmate. As we reached the end of a long concrete corridor and he put the key in the lock, he paused and asked, “Are you sure you want to go in?” “Of course,” I replied impatiently, “I’ve been in isolation cells all over the world.” Slowly he swung open the massive door, and I saw the prisoner in that punishment cell: a crucifix, beautifully carved by the Humaita inmates—the prisoner Jesus, hanging on a cross. “He’s doing time for the rest of us,” my guide said softly.
Christ has taken our place. There is no need for us to remain in the cell. Ever heard of a discharged prisoner who wanted to stay? Nor have I. When the doors open, prisoners leave. The thought of a person preferring jail over freedom doesn’t make sense. Once the penalty is paid, why live under bondage? You are discharged from the penitentiary of sin. Why, in heaven’s name, would you ever want to set foot in that prison again? Paul reminds us:
“For we know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body ruled by sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin— 7 because anyone who has died has been set free from sin.” (Romans 6:6-7)
The phrase, “done away with” in Romans 6:6 does not mean annihilated; it means “rendered inactive, made of no effect.” The same Greek word is translated “released” in Romans 7:2. If a woman’s husband dies, she is “released” from the law of her husband and is free to marry again. There is a change in relationship. The law is still there, but it has no authority over the woman because her husband is dead. She has begun a new life. Being born again, involves a similar death. The death of your former life, and starting all over again.
Next Sunday a group of children, youth, students and adults are going to be baptised at Ken and Gill’s home after the morning service. We hope you will come. The baptism service is also a funeral service. That’s why baptism is not to be taken lightly. Paul is not describing an experience; he is stating a judicial fact. The practical experience comes later. It is a fact of history that Jesus Christ died on the cross. It is also a fact of history that believers die with Him; and “anyone who has died has been set free from sin” (Rom. 6:7). Not “free to sin” as Paul’s accusers falsely stated; but “freed from sin.” The truest thing about you is what God says about you, not what your emotions tell you. Jesus died in our place so we wouldn’t have to. These are the facts about you. Know them, memorise them. Know you were crucified with Christ. The big question now is, “I believe the facts of history; but how do I make this work in daily experience?” This leads to Paul’s second instruction.
2. Count (count ourselves dead to sin)
“In the same way, count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus.” (Romans 6:11)
"Count yourself dead," says Paul. Or as it is in the RSV "Reckon yourself dead". Let’s try and understand what he means. In 1992 I made three visits to Russia for about six weeks in total. I went to help co-ordinate a major evangelistic project in Rostov on Don. In the newly formed Russian Republic, Christians could now share their faith publicly for the first time in 75 years. The biggest problem I found wasn’t the food or the language but adjusting to the time zone - six changes in a few weeks was quite disruptive. Rostov on Don was four hours ahead of the UK. Every morning my head told me it was 7:00am and time to get up. My body told me it was 3:00am and in the middle of the night. It was weird eating breakfast at 8:00am knowing that back home it was 4:00am.
Every morning there was a battle between my head and my heart. But I knew if I gave in to my body and waited until it told me it was time to get up would be no breakfast. I had to reckon with the facts and ignore what my body told me. It took ten days but it worked! In fact it worked so well that when I came home to England my body kept waking at three in the morning because I thought it was time to get up. My head told me it was the middle of the night, not breakfast time. For a whole week I woke up between three and four in the morning, and the battle was reversed. My head kept telling my body to go back to sleep, but my body was programmed to leap out of bed and get on with the day. Eventually my body submitted to the superior forces of what my head said were the facts and what my will choose to do. My body eventually submitted. Just in time for the second visit to Russia and then it started all over again.
As I have travelled more, I have learnt to set my watch to the time zone I am flying to, as soon as I get on the plane. I forget the time at home and live solely in the time zone I am travelling to, even before I have arrived, so I will acclimatise more easily. Paul is talking about a kind of spiritual jet lag here. Our souls are living in a spiritual world while our bodies are still living in this fallen world. It is as if we are living on two different levels, two different dimensions. One eternal, perfect and permanent, the other temporal, fallen and transitory. We are dead to the penalty of sin but not to the power.
That we must reckon on, we must work on. The problem is that our senses, our eyes, our ears, our noses tell us that this world is the real one and the unseen world is somehow less real. Our senses tell us that sin isn't really so bad after all, that there's plenty of time to be holy another day. "Counting" is not make-believe. Its not screwing up our faith to believe something we know isn’t true. Paul didn’t tell his readers to feel as if they were dead to sin, but to act on the knowledge that they are now dead to the penalty, so that by God’s grace, they may overcome the power of sin also. Counting is more than claiming a promise, it is acting on a fact. God does not command us to become dead to sin. He tells us that we are dead to sin and alive to God, and then commands us to act on it. It’s not a case of pretending but recognising. We must repeatedly count them true of us. We must tell our bodies who is in charge, which world we are living in, what time it really is. So when Satan whispers in your ear, "Go on, sin a little, God will forgive you....", we are to reply in the words of verse 2, "By no means, We are those who have died to sin, how can we live in it any longer?” Paul is not saying it is impossible for Christians to sin, just that it is out of character.
It is now incongruous. It is stupid. “It’s not so much a literal impossibility.. . but a moral incongruity”. Lucado asks,
“What does the prison of sin and death have that you desire? Do you miss the guilt? Are you homesick for dishonesty? Do you have fond memories of being lied to and forgotten? Was life better when you were dejected and rejected? Do you have a longing to once again see a sinner in the mirror? It makes no sense to go back to prison. Suddenly instead we find ourselves wanting to do good. The secret of holy living is in the mind. It begins in the knowing. Paul urges us to know we have died to the penalty of sin and to count ourselves dead to the power in order that thirdly, we can offer our lives to God.
3. Offer (Offer ourselves to God)
“Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its evil desires. 13 Do not offer any part of yourself to sin as an instrument of wickedness, but rather offer yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life; and offer every part of yourself to him as an instrument of righteousness.” (Romans 6:12-13)
The word offer is found five times in this section (Rom. 6:13, 16, and 19), and means “to place at one’s disposal, to present, to offer as a sacrifice, consciously, moment by moment” According to Romans 12:1, the believer’s body should be presented to the Lord as “a living sacrifice” for His glory. The Old Testament sacrifices were dead sacrifices. The Lord may ask some of us to die for Him, but He asks all of us to live for Him. Who are you offering your life to? This is not passive complacency but active yielding.
On the eve of “Operation Torch” which led to the Battle of Alemain, in October 1942, General Eisenhower…
As Jesus rose from the tomb, so we have risen to a new life and that new life means handling all I do, all I say, all I think, to God. From now on I must surrender myself to God, not to my own self-centredness. I must know… I must count… I must offer… Remember these three words may help you decide. Help you get a grip on grace. Help you withstand temptation. What were they? Know; Count; Offer. Remember that we received a free gift of God’s grace in Jesus. And remember that the call of grace is to live a gracious life. For that is how grace works. Lets Pray.