Tuesday, July 23, 2024

Mark's thoughts: Yahweh and Jesus - doing the unthinkable


On the Day of Pentecost Peter addressed the crowd and explained what they had been experiencing as they heard the disciples declare the mighty works of God in their own languages.  He said that it was a fulfillment of what the prophet Joel had written:

But this is what was uttered through the prophet Joel: ‘And in the last days it shall be, God declares, that I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh, and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams; even on my male servants and female servants in those days I will pour out my Spirit, and they shall prophesy.’ (Acts 2:16-18).

Peter announced that the outpouring of the Spirit was part of God’s end time action. He went on to quote from Joel: “And it shall come to pass that everyone who calls upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.” (Acts 2:21). Peter was quoting Joel 2:32 in which the Hebrew text has “Yahweh.”  “Lord” was the standard translation in Greek for “Yahweh,” and was understood to mean “Yahweh.”

In the rest of his sermon, Peter went on to talk about how Jesus had been crucified, but had been raised from the dead in fulfillment of King David’s words in Psalm 16 (Acts 2:22-32).  Peter then said, “Being therefore exalted at the right hand of God, and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, he has poured out this that you yourselves are seeing and hearing” (Acts 2:33).  He went on to say, “Let all the house of Israel therefore know for certain that God has made him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom you crucified” (Acts 2:36).

The apostle quotes a verse from the Old Testament that says, “everyone who calls upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.”  Then he says that Jesus is Lord and calls people to faith in Jesus.  In doing so, Peter identifies Jesus with Yahweh.  In addition, he says that Jesus is seated at the right hand of God and has poured out the Holy Spirit.  These are things that only Yahweh can do.

We find the same use of Joel 2:32 in Paul. In Romans 10:9 he says, “because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.”  Then Paul goes on to quote Joel 2:32 as he writes, “For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; for the same Lord is Lord of all, bestowing his riches on all who call on him. For ‘everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved’” (Romans 10:12-13).  This use of “call on the name of the Lord” is significant, since in the Old Testament it was used to refer to prayer and sacrifice offered to Yahweh (Genesis 12:8).  We see here that Jesus is being designated as the object of worship and devotion.


Because we are so used to confessing that Jesus Christ is true God, we easily miss what a radical and unprecedented action this was.  The Jews who lived at the time of Jesus were absolutely committed to worshipping only Yahweh, the God of Israel.  Richard Bauckham comments:

There is every reason to suppose that observant Jews of the late Second Temple period were highly self-conscious monotheists in this sense: they saw their worship and obedience to the one and only God, the God of Israel, as defining their distinctive religious way in the pluralistic religious environment of their time. In a world where people freely worshipped different gods side by side, Jews were committed to worshipping only Yahweh (Jesus and the God of Israel, 5; emphasis original)

 And yet in the New Testament we find that Jews are applying Old Testament texts that speak about Yahweh to a man.  They are offering worship and devotion to a man.  This action was unprecedented and incredible.  Larry Hurtado comments:

That is, we are dealing here with an innovation precisely in the area of religious behavior that was most sensitive in Roman-era Jewish tradition about protecting the uniqueness of the one God … In the historical context of this strongly held religious concern, therefore, the readiness of Christian Jews in the very first years of the Christian movement to extend cultic reverence to Jesus is astonishing (Lord Jesus Christ: Devotion to Jesus in Earliest Christianity, 199).

They did not do this with some ancient and revered figure.  Instead, they did so for someone who had lived in their own time. What is more, they did so for an individual who had been executed by the government and religious authorities in the humiliating death of crucifixion.

What caused these Jewish Christians to begin doing the unthinkable?  They did so because they had experienced the resurrection of Jesus Christ.  Peter said on Pentecost, “This Jesus God raised up, and of that we all are witnesses” (Acts 2:32).  Jesus was vindicated by the resurrection, and the Church recognized that in Jesus the resurrection of the Last Day had begun (1 Corinthians 15:20-23).  Through the work of the Spirit the Church learned that this man (1 Timothy 2:5) is more than just a man.  He is God (John 1:1, 14; Colossians 2:9). And the Church learned that the one God is Father, Son, and Holy Spirit (Matthew 28:19; 2 Corinthians 13:14). Through his saving action in Jesus Christ, God has revealed Himself to us.











Sunday, July 21, 2024

Sermon for the Eighth Sunday after Trinity - Jer 23:16-29


          Trinity 8

                                                                                                Jer 23:16-29



            God called Jeremiah to be a prophet at the end of the seventh century B.C.  He said to the Jeremiah, “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you; I appointed you a prophet to the nations.”

            Jeremiah replied that he was only a youth and did not know how to speak. But God said to him, “Do not say, ‘I am only a youth’; for to all to whom I send you, you shall go, and whatever I command you, you shall speak. Do not be afraid of them, for I am with you to deliver you, declares the LORD.”

            God’s command not to be afraid signaled that Jeremiah’s job would not be easy.  He told the prophet, “Do not be dismayed by them, lest I dismay you before them. And I, behold, I make you this day a fortified city, an iron pillar, and bronze walls, against the whole land, against the kings of Judah, its officials, its priests, and the people of the land.”

            Jeremiah’s ministry would be hard because the nation of Judah had turned away from Yahweh.  They were worshipping false gods.  Judah had even brought false gods into the temple in Jerusalem.  Yahweh told Jeremiah, “And I will declare my judgments against them, for all their evil in forsaking me. They have made offerings to other gods and worshiped the works of their own hands.” 

            It wasn’t just that the people were worshipping false gods.  They were acting in sinful ways that broke God’s law – the Torah that he had given them at Mt. Sinai.  Jeremiah said, “For from the least to the greatest of them, everyone is greedy for unjust gain; and from prophet to priest, everyone deals falsely.”

            The people were going through the motions of religion. They were coming to the temple.  But Yahweh said, “Will you steal, murder, commit adultery, swear falsely, make offerings to Baal, and go after other gods that you have not known,

and then come and stand before me in this house, which is called by my name, and say, ‘We are delivered!’--only to go on doing all these abominations?”

            This situation would have been hard enough for any prophet to face.  But what made Jeremiah’s calling so difficult is that there were others who claimed to be prophets.  They were not speaking God’s word to the people to turn them away from sin.  Instead Yahweh said about them, “But in the prophets of Jerusalem I have seen a horrible thing: they commit adultery and walk in lies; they strengthen the hands of evildoers, so that no one turns from his evil; all of them have become like Sodom to me, and its inhabitants like Gomorrah.”

            Worse yet, they were telling the people that everything was fine. They claimed to speak for God as they assured the people that all was well.  Jeremiah said to God, “Ah, Lord GOD, behold, the prophets say to them, ‘You shall not see the sword, nor shall you have famine, but I will give you assured peace in this place.’”

            In our text, God speaks through Jeremiah and addresses this situation.  He tells Judah: “Thus says the LORD of hosts: ‘Do not listen to the words of the prophets who prophesy to you, filling you with vain hopes. They speak visions of their own minds, not from the mouth of the LORD. They say continually to those who despise the word of the LORD, ‘It shall be well with you’; and to everyone who stubbornly follows his own heart, they say, ‘No disaster shall come upon you.’”

            God announced that the word from the false prophets was not his word. They had not received revelation from Yahweh. He says in our text, “For who among them has stood in the council of the LORD to see and to hear his word, or who has paid attention to his word and listened?”

            These false prophets had gone forth, even though God had not sent them.  They were misleading the people as they encouraged them to continue in their sinful ways by saying that all was well.  In response God says in our text, “I did not send the prophets, yet they ran; I did not speak to them, yet they prophesied. But if they had stood in my council, then they would have proclaimed my words to my people, and they would have turned them from their evil way, and from the evil of their deeds.”

            False prophets continue to speak to us today.  They don’t claim to be religious figures, but they promote a view of God and of life that attacks our existence as God’s people just as in Jeremiah’s day.  These false prophets are found in the songs and podcasts we listen to; in the Youtube videos, the T.V. shows, and movies that we watch; and in the social media we look at.  They are present in our schools, universities, and government.

            They say that a person should be “spiritual” but not “religious.” To be “spiritual” means that you get to make up your own god – to create a god in your own image who serves your needs.  It is the rejection of a God who would have the audacity to reveal himself to us – to speak to us.  For as soon as God speaks to us, now there is truth and error.  As soon as God speaks to us we find out that we are creatures who are under him.  We find that his will orders how life should be lived.  We learn that he determines how he comes to us and that we must receive him on his terms.

            The false prophets of our culture say that sexuality can be used in any way we want.  They say that sex is part of dating, and that living together before marriage – or apart from marriage altogether - is perfectly normal. They say that the pornography in which the internet is awash is a good thing.  They say that homosexuality is cause for pride – that it is completely acceptable even as two people of the same sex can get “married.”

            And the false prophets declare that the personal freedom and autonomy of a woman cannot be inconvenienced by the life of an unborn child.  “My body, my choice” it is said, as the murder of children in abortion is called “women’s healthcare” and “reproductive rights.”

            This is the false prophecy that presses in on us.  It seeks to wear us down – to cause us gradually to accept it.  In particular it is a threat to you young people in this congregation because it seeks to shape and form you in the world’s image instead of God’s will.

            In the end, Judah did not listen to Jeremiah’s call to repentance.  Jeremiah said, “Behold, their ears are uncircumcised, they cannot listen; behold, the word of the LORD is to them an object of scorn; they take no pleasure in it.”  The nation went through the motions of religion, even as they lived in their sinful ways. They believed that everything was fine.

In our text, Jeremiah warns Judah about the future of those who listen to the false prophets instead of God’s word.  He says, “Behold, the storm of the LORD! Wrath has gone forth, a whirling tempest; it will burst upon the head of the wicked. The anger of the LORD will not turn back until he has executed and accomplished the intents of his heart. In the latter days you will understand it clearly.” Those latter days arrived in 587 B.C. when God used the Babylonians to destroy the temple and take the people of Judah into exile.

            God continues to call us to repentance through his word today.  He says in our text, “Is not my word like fire, declares the LORD, and like a hammer that breaks the rock in pieces?”  His word reveals the false gods in our lives; the lust and coveting in our heart; the ways we fail to help our neighbor.

            Yet he does so in order to give us the forgiveness that Jesus Christ has won by his death and resurrection.  In this same chapter God promises, “Behold, the days are coming, declares the LORD, when I will raise up for David a righteous Branch, and he shall reign as king and deal wisely, and shall execute justice and righteousness in the land.”

            Jeremiah speaks of the Christ - whom God would send – the One who would bring God’s end time salvation.  Jesus was the Son of David – the Messiah sent by God.  He came to fulfill all that God’s word said.  On the evening of Easter the risen Lord opened the disciples’ mind to understand the Scriptures. Then he said, “Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, and that repentance and forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem.”

            In our text we learn that God is a God of anger and wrath against sin.  God punished Judah’s sin when he sent them into exile.  As the Small Catechism says about the Close of the Commandments, “God threatens to punish all who break these commandments. Therefore we should fear his wrath and not do anything against them.”

            God will judge in his anger and wrath on the Last Day with eternal consequences.  As Paul told the Romans, “But because of your hard and impenitent heart you are storing up wrath for yourself on the day of wrath when God's righteous judgment will be revealed.” 

            Jesus Christ suffered and died on the cross in order to receive God’s anger and wrath against our sin.  He received the judgment that we deserve, so that we can now we can stand before God as those who are holy and righteous in his eyes.  Through faith in Christ we are justified – we are declared innocent before God. 

            Paul told the Romans, “Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God.”  We live in the knowledge that we have peace with God as his forgiven children.  And the resurrection of Jesus gives us hope.  Death cannot separate us from life with God.  And we know that Jesus Christ will give us a share in his resurrection when he returns in glory.

            In our text God dismisses the dreams of the false prophets. And then he says, “Let the prophet who has a dream tell the dream, but let him who has my word speak my word faithfully.”  We listen to God’s word, for in that word we hear the good news of God’s love and forgiveness in the Lord Jesus.  And in that word we receive guidance and instruction as we live our life in Christ. 

















Sunday, July 14, 2024

Sermon for the Seventh Sunday after Trinity - Gen 2:7-17


Trinity 7

                                                                                      Gen 2:7-17



          It started with a simple request.  Amy asked if I could build a raised bed for a vegetable garden. By the next year, the gardening idea had morphed into an interest in raising flowers.  A garden area was prepared in the back yard for this purpose.  Since it was on a hill, eventually I had to build a retaining wall in one corner as it was filled with soil to level it out.

          But the flower idea just kept growing.  What began as a hobby became a hobby/business.  And then it became a business/hobby. And so in the next several years there were requests for more raised beds.  I kept building them because Amy was clearly enjoying it, and let’s face it: Happy wife, happy life.

          Today there are now nine raised beds behind our house.  There are plans to build three more.  And for the record, I am actually the one who suggested those when I heard about Amy’s need for more production and looked at the space available.

          The beds are filled with blooming flowers.  Especially at this time of year there is a veritable Garden of Eden in our backyard.  But that beauty comes at a cost.  There is a great deal of work that must be done in planting, watering, harvesting, and preparing the ground for the next season.  There is a great deal of sweat that has been invested by Amy.

          In our Old Testament lesson this morning we hear about the Garden of Eden created by God. Adam is placed in the garden to work and keep it.  Yet this work is not work as we know it.  It does not involve hardship or dread.  Instead, it is Adam living in the vocation for which he was created – Adam living in perfect harmony with God’s will and ordering.

          In Genesis chapter one we get the “big picture” of God’s work of creation.  We learn of how God creates the world in six days.  He makes a material world filled with land and water, and plants and animals.  Again and again we hear that what God made was good, until at the end of the chapter we are told, “And God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good.”

          Chapter two then gives us a close up that describes how God made the most important part of creation: man. In chapter one we are told that “God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.” In our text we learn more about the specifics of this.  We hear: “then the LORD God formed the man of dust from the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living creature.”

          God creates a physical body and breathes life into it.  In this action we see that God created us as the unity of a body and a soul.  Only in this unity can we be what God intended.    

          And just after our text we learn that God did not create Adam to be a solitary figure.  He says, “It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him.” God created Eve from Adam as the perfect companion for him.  In doing so God instituted marriage as the union of a man and woman for we hear, “Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.”

          In the context of our world today, it is important to pause here and reflect on what God’s word says.  God created man as male and female.  A person is one or the other.  God created the bodies of Adam and Eve to be male and female. He created them in their difference to be joined in sexual union with one another in order to create life.

God continues to create us a male and female – man and woman.  He creates us with bodies that identify us a man or woman – bodies created with differences that leave no doubt about what we are. God decides what we are by the gift of our body.  We cannot deny or reject the fact that God made me to be a man, or God made me to be a woman.  Instead, we receive our body as God’s gift, and live in the callings that God gives to men and to women – callings of being husband and wife, father and mother.

God provided the Garden of Eden, and put Adam there to work it and keep it.  This was work that was not work. Adam found fulfillment as he carried out his created purpose.  And then God commanded Adam: “You may surely eat of every tree of the garden, but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.”

God gave the entire Garden to Adam and Eve.  But he designated one tree from which they were not to eat – the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. This tree became the means located in their midst whereby they demonstrated that they feared, loved, and trusted in God above all things.  They showed that God was God, and they were not, by obeying God’s word and abstaining from this tree.

We know what happened. The devil tempted Eve by telling her that God was holding out on them.  They could be more – they could be like God if they would just eat of the tree.  So Eve ate, and then gave it to Adam and he ate.  Adam ignored what God had told him, the word that he had passed on to Eve.

The world we live in has been defined by this event.  God told Adam, “for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.” This sin has brought death to all of us.  We are all in the process of dying.  The aches and pains, the high blood pressure and elevated A1C are all signs that we are people who are headed for death.

And the life of work has become real work.  After the Fall, God said to Adam, “…cursed is the ground because of you; in pain you shall eat of it all the days of your life; thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you; and you shall eat the plants of the field. By the sweat of your face you shall eat bread, till you return to the ground, for out of it you were taken; for you are dust, and to dust you shall return.”  Pain and sweat - that is what life often involves as we do what must be done.

Adam brought sin and death.  Yet God’s reaction was not to cast aside this creature created in his own image. Instead, he acted in grace.  He acted in love. God sent his Son into the world as the second Adam – the One who would free us from all that first Adam has caused.

We learn in our text that God created Adam as body and soul.  To be the second Adam, Jesus Christ had to share in our existence in all ways apart from sin. He had to live a bodily life just as we do.  The Son of God became man, without ceasing to be God.  Conceived by the Holy Spirit and born of the virgin Mary he was true God and true man.  Paul told the Colossians, “For in him the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily.”

Adam’s sin had occurred by means of a tree. God sent Jesus to deal with sin by the tree of the cross.  Paul told the Romans, “but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” Christ’s death on the cross was the action that won forgiveness for all who have followed in Adam’s sinning ways. Paul went on to say, “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.”

          Yet death could not bring complete freedom from what Adam’s sin had done.  Instead, death itself had to be conquered.  And so on the third day God raised Jesus from the dead. Paul told the Corinthians, “For as by a man came death, by a man has come also the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive. But each in his own order: Christ the firstfruits, then at his coming those who belong to Christ.”

          In his death and resurrection, Christ has redeemed our whole person – body and soul.  As he delivers the benefits of his saving work he deals with our whole person – he engages our bodily existence. 

Through Holy Baptism we were baptized into Christ.  We shared in his saving death and our sins were washed away.  It was water that was poured on our body in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Our baptism into the death of the risen Lord becomes the guarantee that our body will also be raised.  Paul told the Romans, “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.”

In the Sacrament of the Altar Jesus uses bread and wine to give us his true body and blood for the forgiveness of our sins.  The risen Lord comes bodily into our midst as he gives us the very price he paid for our salvation.  We receive his risen body and blood into our bodies, and in this we have the assurance that our bodies will be raised to be like his.  Jesus said, “Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day.”

The Holy Spirit has given us new life in Christ.  Yet this life does not simply consist in the assurance of forgiveness and salvation.  Paul told the Galatians, “I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me.”    Because of this the apostle said that faith is active in love.  And it is here that we return to Adam’s charge to work and keep the Garden.

Our life in Christ is now one of service in the vocations – the callings where God has placed us.  You become the instrument Christ uses to bless others.  You do this as husband and wife, when you love and support your spouse, putting the needs of the other ahead of your own.  You do this as father and mother when you provide for your children and raise them in the Christian faith.  You do this when you do your best in your job, knowing that Christ works through you to help your neighbor.

These activities can be fulfilling. Yet unlike Adam in the Garden of Eden, sometimes this work really is work.  It’s not always fun.  Yet as we live in Christ we know that God uses this to crucify the old Adam in us.  Our service to others becomes the means by which God conforms us to the image of Christ.

We do so carried on by the hope that we have in Jesus’ resurrection. The risen Lord will return in glory on the Last Day.  He will raise our bodies and transform creation so that it is very good once again.  We will experience life in God’s presence just as Adam did, and we will know the joy of living in perfect harmony with God’s will.








Sunday, July 7, 2024

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


Trinity 6

                                                                                       Rom 6:3-11



          Well it’s not hard to find the Law in our Scripture readings this morning!  First, we have Exodus chapter 20 in which God gives the Ten Commandments to Israel.  We hear God say, “You shall have no other gods before me.”  He says, “You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain.”  Then he adds, “Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy.”

          After providing these three commandments that deal with God – all of which have additional explanation – God then lists in rapid succession commandments that deal with our neighbor: “You shall not murder. You shall not commit adultery. You shall not steal. You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor. You shall not covet.”

          We have here a comprehensive ordering for life lived according to God’s holy will.  We learn how we are to live in relation to God. We learn how we are to live in relation to our neighbor.

          And in case we may be inclined to think that we can handle at least some of these commandments, in our Gospel lesson Jesus gives us instruction about what the Fifth Commandment means.  He says, “You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not murder; and whoever murders will be liable to judgment.’ But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment; whoever insults his brother will be liable to the council; and whoever says, 'You fool!' will be liable to the hell of fire.”

          Jesus tells us that the Fifth Commandment does not simply deal with the physical killing of another person.  Instead, it includes what is in the heart – the anger that leads us to cause physical harm.  And of course what is true of the Fifth Commandment is true of all the commandments.  They all involve the deeper spiritual truth that fulfilling God’s will includes thought, word, and deed.

          These words – this Law – leave us in no doubt that we are sinners – that we violate God’s will and sin against God.  St. Paul told the Romans, “Now we know that whatever the law says it speaks to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be stopped, and the whole world may be held accountable to God. For by works of the law no human being will be justified in his sight, since through the law comes knowledge of sin.”

          The law shows us our sin.  We learn that it is not a means by which we can be justified.  That language of “justification” refers to the Last Judgment.  God will judge and Paul tells us how it will work.  He says, “For it is not the hearers of the law who are righteous before God, but the doers of the law who will be justified.” Those who do God’s law perfectly in thought, word, and deed are righteous before God.  They will be declared innocent.

          And those who don’t? They will receive God’s wrath and eternal judgment. Paul says “But because of your hard and impenitent heart you are storing up wrath for yourself on the day of wrath when God's righteous judgment will be revealed. He will render to each one according to his works.”

          This reality of sin encompasses us all.  Since the Fall of Adam we have lived trapped in its power.  Paul says, “For we have already charged that all, both Jews and Greeks, are under sin.”  Sin controls us and it shows up in what we do.  The apostle leaves no doubt when he says, “For there is no distinction: for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.”

          But Paul announces in Romans that there is more to the story than a sinful existence that leads to God’s judgment on the Last Day.  He says, “For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.”  The Gospel is the good news that God has given us what we don’t deserve and never could earn. Paul says that we “are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus,

whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith.”

          God has redeemed us. He has freed us from sin.  He did this by sending his Son into the world.  Jesus Christ died on the cross as the sacrifice for our sin. God is the just Judge. He judged our sin in Christ. And then he raised him from the dead.  Now by his grace he counts those who believe in Jesus Christ as being righteous. We who believe in the death and resurrection of Jesus receive what we don’t deserve and could never earn.  We are justified before God.  We know the verdict of the Last Day, and it is, “Not guilty.”  And so Paul tells us, “Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.”

          God’s grace has abounded to us in Christ and we are justified.  Yet in our text from Romans chapter 6 Paul vigorously rejects a false understanding of what this now means for how we live.  Just before our text he asks: “What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound?

By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it?”

          The Christian life is not one of security in salvation to go on sinning.  The apostle announces that something dramatic has happened to us.  It happened in Holy Baptism.  Paul asks,  “Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death?”  The apostle builds on what he knows is a common understanding about baptism in the Church.  We have shared in the saving death of Christ through baptism.  Notice how Paul just comes out and says that something happened in baptism.

          Yet Paul’s real purpose in mentioning baptism is not to talk about forgiveness. He goes on to say, “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.” 

You have been baptized into the death of the risen Lord.  He is the Lord whom God raised from the dead. Paul says that you have been buried with Christ through baptism so that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the Father, you too may walk in newness of life.  He says this because of the work of the Holy Spirit.

In chapter eight Paul declares, “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.” God raised Jesus through the work of the Spirit. The same Spirit dwells in you.  Through baptism he has given you rebirth and renewal.  Through the Spirit, the power of the resurrection is already at work in you. 

That is why Paul says in our text, “We know that our old man was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin.”  Sin’s complete power and dominion over you has ended. Through the work of the Spirit you are able to live in ways that reflect God’s will.

This is the “now” of God’s saving work that is present in your life.  Through the work of the Spirit you are a new creation in Christ.  At the same time we know that we also live in the “not yet.”  The presence of the sinful nature in us has not yet been completely destroyed. The old Adam still wants to put up a fight and drag us into sin.

And so the Christian life can’t be lived “in neutral.”  It is not as if the Spirit leads us along and we have no role to play.  That is why just after our text Paul says, “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.”

And it is here that the Ten Commandments take on a new role for us.  Because we are a new creation through the work of the Spirit we now find in them the guidance for the life that God has designed – the life God’s intends for us.  We find in them the way we seek to live as we present ourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life.

So we now seek to put God first in our life.  We call upon God’s name in all situations, and place his Means of Grace at the center of our life.  We honor our parents, and carry out our vocation as parents by raising our children in the faith.  We help our neighbor in his or her physical needs. We are faithful to our spouse as we love and support the one with whom God has made us one flesh.  We help our neighbor to improve and protect his possessions.  We defend our neighbor’s reputation. We are content with the blessings God has given to us. 

Will we do this perfectly? No.  Where we fail, we repent. We confess our sin and return to our baptism in faith.  There we find the assurance of forgiveness.  There we also find the source the Spirit’s work in our life by which the new man arises each day to live according to God’s good will for life.

We seek to walk in newness of life supported by the hope that the day is coming when the old Adam will be put to death forever.  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. 

In his resurrection, Jesus Christ defeated death.  He was raised by God with a body that can never die again.  Our Lord will give us a share in that resurrection on the Last Day.  Paul tells us that our baptism is a guarantee of this.  He says of baptism, “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.”  Our bodies will no longer be the setting where sin tempts us and requires struggle.  Instead, we will joyfully and constantly live according to the will of God – the good life that God intends for us.