Romans 6:8-18: December 29—An identity you must embrace
Dec 22, 2013

One way of identifying what separates Christian denominations is the way the followers understand the meaning of two of the rituals, the Lord’s Supper and baptism. How their adherents understand the supper can be described in four ways. First, some view the supper as a sacrament in which the essence of the supper, the “breadness,” not the bread, is transformed into the actual body of Christ. Second, others believe the body of Christ is in and around the elements as they are ingested. In a third view, adherents say Chris is spiritually present and therefore mediates grace in a unique way. Fourth, we Baptists, along with most other evangelicals, understand the supper as a memorial to Christ, looking back to the cross and forward to His second coming. The doctrine of baptism fares no better. Some sprinkle, some pour and some immerse. What baptism accomplishes widely varies. Some believe it washes away original sin. Hence, babies who die in infancy without being baptized, that is, sprinkled, go to “Limbo.” Others believe in baptismal regeneration. Only those baptized by officials of that particular denomination are saved. We pass over for now such issues as the proper mode, proper candidate, proper authority, or proper administrator and concentrate on its significance.

According to the Bible it symbolizes the most important event in time and eternity (vv. 8-9). The incarnation of Christ (John 1:14), began a serious of momentous happenings. We correctly celebrate the Virgin Birth of Christ, His sinless life, and unique personality. All of these, however, are prelude to what happened on the cross. In the words of Revelation 13:8, Jesus is “the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world.” Not only did sins not take God by surprise, He had already taken the condition of the human race as a part of His divine counsel. As the angel explained to Joseph, Jesus “shall save his people from their sins” (Matt. 1:21). Sin is still humanity’s number one problem and the death of Christ is still the only cure.

Gaining access to God’s provision requires our participation (vv. 10-14). Verse 10 sets the mood for what follows. Christ died only once for sin that He might live unto God. Just as He chose to die on the cross, even so must we make difficult decisions. The first concerns a change brought about by our new birth. The word reckon can be understood to mean “count it to be true” that we are dead to sin but alive unto God through our mystical union with Christ. We cannot trust our feelings at this point, but our feelings sometimes gain the upper hand in our battle against evil acts and impulses. When those passions arise, the Bible calls on us to resist them because unbridled lust destroy us. The Bible orders a second step, namely, never yield our physical desires (“members”) to sin, but instead, yield them to God. To illustrate, to attempt to conquer evil thoughts, deliberately turn your thoughts to thoughts that are spiritually up-lifting. As the saying goes, you cannot control what birds fly over our heads, but we can prevent them building a nest in our hair. Treat your inclinations as instruments of righteousness.

Remember that our bodies as corpses, are immune from worldly concerns. To illustrate, I once officiated at the funeral of a woman who was buried in a casket with a glass lid that covered the upper half of her body. After all the family had left, the funeral director released the lid to come down. I noticed that lid mashed her nose flat, but she protested not at all. We buried her with a flat nose.

In the light of what God has done in Christ to make eternity with God a marvelous possibility, God requires of us to make a choice (vv. 15-18). The unsaved person may be tempted to say. “Oh, boy, we can get saved and live lives like the devil!” The Bible squelches that kind of thinking. The proof lies in what master one chooses to follow. Just look at the one to whom you yield allegiance. If you say you are yielding to God while your actions reveal you are still under the dominion of sin, your way of life will end in hell. Those who are truly freed from sin are servants of righteousness (v. 18). Baptism, then is a physical testimony that one has abandoned one way of life in favor of another.

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