Sunday, July 24, 2022

Sermon for the Sixth Sunday after Trinity - Rom 6:3-11


Trinity 6

                                                                                       Rom 6:3-11



          Holy Baptism is water included in God’s command and combined with God’s Word. However, the manner in which that water has been applied has varied during the history of the Church. In our text, Paul says that we were buried with Christ through baptism. This language suggests that at least some parts of the Church used immersion as the means of baptism during the first century A.D.

          The first archaeological evidence of baptismal fonts that we possess from the third and fourth centuries, indicates that the Church was not immersing in those locations.  These are fonts that a person could down into for baptism. However, the water only came up to about the waist of the individual and the physical layout of the font indicates that it was not meant to immerse a person. Instead, from church art of the period we know that the person stood in the water of the font – usually naked – and water from the font was poured over the head.  This practice is known as infusion.

          The evangelism work of the Church in northern and northeastern Europe continued on even after a 1000 A.D. However, after about 500 A.D. Christianity was established in large parts of the Mediterranean world and increasingly in Europe.  Adult baptisms became less and less common.  Instead, the babies of Christian parents were being baptized.  During the medieval period the design of baptismal fonts changed into large, deep vessels.  The priest baptized by taking the baby by the feet and plunging it into the water of the font three times. This is how baptism was done at the beginning of the sixteenth century when the Reformation took place. Towards the end of that century, the practice with which we are familiar began to appear as water was poured on the baby instead of immersing it in the water of the font.

          The manner in which water has been applied in Holy Baptism has changed over time.  What has not changed is the reality that the apostle Paul describes in our epistle lesson this morning. Holy Baptism is water included in God’s command and combined with God’s Word.  Through God’s gracious gift he addresses our past, our present, and our future.

          Our text from Romans chapter six begins this morning as Paul writes, “Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death?” This question – for which the Greek indicates that Paul assumes they agree the answer is yes – picks up on a line of thought that began in the previous chapter.  There, Paul had discussed the source of sin and how it has impacted all people.  He said, “Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned.”

          The apostle tells us that Adam’s sin brought sin and death to all people.  This morning’s Old Testament lesson puts the mirror of the law right in front of us as we hear the Ten Commandments. We learn what life that follows God’s ordering is supposed to look like, and we know that certainly doesn’t describe us.  God’s word confronts us as sinners.  And in the same way, for many of us, the list of medications we take is a reminder that as we get older we aren’t getting any healthier.  Instead, as sinners, all of us are in the process of dying from the day we are born.

          However, just before our text, Paul declares the good news that God acted in the death of Jesus Christ to make us righteous before him.  He writes, “Therefore, as one trespass led to condemnation for all men, so one act of righteousness leads to justification and life for all men. For as by the one man's disobedience the many were made sinners, so by the one man's obedience the many will be made righteous.”  Christ’s obedient death on the cross means that God considers us to be not guilty – to be justified – and he will declare this on the Last Day.

          But then Paul says something that he doesn’t fully unpack until chapter seven. He adds, “Now the law came in to increase the trespass, but where sin increased, grace abounded all the more, so that, as sin reigned in death, grace also might reign through righteousness leading to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.”  Part of Paul’s explanation about why the law can’t be the way to salvation is that for us as sinful people the law actually becomes something that prompts more sin – it becomes something that sin uses.  Tell someone not to covet or lust, and that’s exactly what the sinful nature focuses upon doing.

          The good news is that even as our sin abounds, God’s grace – his undeserved love in Christ – super abounded.  Because of this, God’s grace ruled through his saving action in Christ to put all things right, and the result for us is eternal life.  God’s grace in Christ overcomes all sin. 

          Yet in the verses just before our text, this raises a potential question. Our sin is overcome by God’s grace in Christ, no matter how great it is.  God’s grace always superabounds to give us forgiveness. So Paul writes: “What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound?” Is the Christian life one in which I like to sin, and God likes to forgive?”  The apostle answers, “By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it?”  Paul says it can’t be this way because we have died to sin.  And in our text he sets forth what this means, as he recalls the Romans to something they already know.

The apostle says: “Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.”  Through the water of Holy Baptism you shared in Jesus’ saving death for you.  You were buried with Christ into death.  Jesus Christ’s sacrificial death won the forgiveness of sins.  Baptism is the means by which you have shared in Christ’s death and receive the forgiveness he won for you.  How do you know that you are forgiven and justified before God?  You have been baptized!

But notice, that in our text, Paul does not only talk about death. He affirms that we have been baptized into Christ’s death “in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.”  Jesus Christ died on the cross and was buried.  But on the third day, God raised him from the dead.  We have been baptized into the death of the risen Lord so that we can walk in newness of life – life that pleases God.  Baptism is not only about the death of Jesus. It is also about what the resurrection of Jesus means for us.

The key for understanding why this is so is found in chapter eight when Paul says, “If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit who dwells in you.”  It was the Spirit of God who raised Jesus from the dead.  As Paul tells Titus, in baptism we received “the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit.”  Through baptism we have shared in Jesus’ saving death and have also been given new life by the Spirit who raised Jesus.  The power that raised Jesus – the resurrection power of Christ – is now at work in us enabling us to live according to God’s will.

That is why Paul says in our text, “We know that Christ, being raised from the dead, will never die again; death no longer has dominion over him. For the death he died he died to sin, once for all, but the life he lives he lives to God. So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus.”  Christ died to sin in order to win us forgiveness. He rose from the dead by the power of the Spirit to defeat death.

We have shared in Christ’s death and so are forgiven.  We have received new life by the Spirit’s work in baptism, and by his power – the power that raised Jesus from the dead – we are enabled to live to God.  We live in the ways God intended. God gives us this ability, and that is why Paul says immediately after our text, “Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, to make you obey its passions. Do not present your members to sin as instruments for unrighteousness, but present yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life, and your members to God as instruments for righteousness.”

Paul is clear that through baptism the Spirit provides this ability. But at the same time, we also must consider the question: Why then does Paul feel the need to talk about it and exhort Christians to live in this way?  The reason is that while we are a new creation in Christ, we have not yet fully been freed from the old Adam.  The sinful nature is still present. There are times when we let sin reign in our mortal bodies.  There are time when we obey its passions. We present our members to sin as instruments for unrighteousness.

When this happens, we do what Christians do: we repent. We confess our sin. We return in faith to what God has done for us in baptism. In the fourth question about Holy Baptism in the Small Catechism, Martin Luther asks, “What does such baptizing with water indicate?”  We must understand that when says “such baptizing with water” he is referring to the practice of his day that I mentioned earlier, in which the baby was plunged down into the water of the font and then brought back out of it three times.

He answers the question by writing, “It indicates that the Old Adam in us should by daily contrition and repentance be drowned and die with all sins and evil desires, and that a new man should daily emerge and arise to live before God in righteousness and purity forever.”  We return to our baptism as through confession of sin and repentance we drown the Old Adam with his sin and evil desires. Confession and repentance put to death the Old Adam. 

We return in faith to the promise God has made that through baptism our sins are forgiven, and we have received the Holy Spirit.  The Spirit who raised Jesus from the dead is now at work in us.  He helps us to arise and live before God in righteousness and purity – in ways that are true to God’s will and please him.

You will note that Luther says “daily contrition.” The struggle against sin is an ongoing one. Through the work of the Spirit do we have success? Do we present our members to God as instruments for righteousness?  Yes, absolutely!  We make decisions of self-sacrifice and service toward others.  We choose to keep our mouth shut, instead of responding in anger or spreading gossip. But we never do this perfectly and, and indeed the more the Spirit is at work in us the more we also recognize the sin that is present.  Therefore we must return to our baptism every day. Luther says in the Large Catechism, “Therefore let all Christians regard their baptism as the daily garment that they are to wear all the time.  Every day they should be found in faith and with its fruits, suppressing the old man and growing up in the new.”

This we do in the confidence that our baptism provides the guarantee that the ultimate victory will be ours. After all, we have been baptized into the death of the risen Lord.  Because of baptism, the Spirit who raised Jesus from the dead is at work in us. Therefore Paul says in our text, “For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his.”  Or as he adds a little later, “Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. We know that Christ, being raised from the dead, will never die again; death no longer has dominion over him.”

Jesus Christ has defeated death in his resurrection.  The risen and exalted Lord will return in glory on the Last Day.  He will raise and transform our bodies to be like his. Freed completely from sin and death, we will live with our Lord in the renewed creation, and there will never be need for contrition or repentance again.





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