Statistics
1469 sermons as of June 20, 2017.
Site Search powered by FreeFind

bottom corner

   
Author:Rev. Mendel Retief
 send email...
 
Congregation:Free Reformed Church of Kelmscott
 Kelmscott, Western Australia
 frckelmscott.org
 
Title:The power of Christ's death and resurrection
Text:Romans 6:14,15 (View)
Occasion:Regular Sunday
Topic:Unclassified
 
Added:2013-03-05
 

Order Of Worship (Liturgy)

* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. Mendel Retief, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.


Law and Grace                                                

Ps. 145: 1 – 3

Ps. 119: 1 – 3

Ps. 118: 4 – 6

Ps. 116: 5, 7, 9

Ps. 65: 2, 3

 

Scripture reading:       Rom. 6: 1 – 23

Text:                              Rom. 6: 14, 15

 

Beloved congregation of our Lord Jesus Christ,

 

Our salvation is not simply a ticket to enter heavenly glory, something that we may put in our pocket until the day of Christ’s coming.   No, the purpose and the glory of our salvation is a new life in communion with God.   Our salvation is about the restoration of a living relationship with God.   The death and resurrection of Christ is a power unto salvation, a deliverance and a restoration to restore the covenant relationship that has been broken.

 

We need to understand the gospel of our Lord Jesus within the framework of God’s covenant with us.   We were created in the image of God.   We were created to live before His face, with Him and unto Him.   And that is the purpose of our salvation and restoration – a new life with God, unto God.

 

After our fall into sin, God restores us in Christ and through Christ unto a new life in communion with Him, a life as spelled out in the covenant of grace that He established with us and with our children.  

 

Yes, all glory, and life itself, is only to be found in communion with God – that communion which we have with Him in and through Christ.    And now we have to listen carefully.   It is that glory in communion with God in and through Christ that is spelled out in His law.   His covenant law is a description of life in communion with God.   Outside of this law there is no communion with God.   

 

You realise, then, that in the gospel of our Lord Jesus there is no tension or contrast between God’s covenant grace and His covenant law.  By His grace He restores us unto a new life of obedience – a new life before

His face; with Him, unto Him!

 

It is only within this covenant relationship that we understand the relation between law and grace.   By the grace of God we obey His law.   He saves us from sin unto holiness.   By His grace we live unto Him according to the righteous requirements of His law.  

 

A misconception on this point is a misconception of the gospel itself.  

 

If we do not understand His covenant law, we cannot understand His covenant grace.   If we do not understand the relation between law and grace, we cannot understand the gospel.  

For this reason our text this morning is of the utmost importance:

 

            “…sin shall not have dominion over you, for you are not under law but under grace”.

 

To understand this text correctly, is to have full assurance of faith and to grow in true communion with God; a misunderstanding of this text, however, is a misunderstanding of the gospel itself.

 

Unfortunately this text is one of the most abused and misinterpreted verses in the Bible.

 

There is clearly a contrast between law and grace in this text, and it is of the utmost importance to understand this contrast correctly.

We need to look at this text, therefore, with careful discernment.   

 

The theme for the sermon will be:

The power of Christ’s death and resurrection

 

We will note…

1.      Our definitive deliverance from the dominion of sin

2.      Law and grace contrasted

3.      Through grace we are no longer lawless

In the first place we note…

Our definitive deliverance from the dominion of sin

 

            “…sin shall not have dominion over you…”

 

It is a statement.   In this statement the apostle is telling us that sin is not able to have dominion over us.   He says: it is not possible that we continue a life under the dominion of sin.

That is the essence of what the apostle is saying in this whole chapter.   When we were united to Christ, we were united in His death and resurrection.   His death is our death, and His resurrection is our resurrection.   Therefore, he says, we are dead to sin.   There came a final breach between us and sin.   It is impossible for the believer in Christ to live any longer under the dominion of sin.  

 

Yes, we continue to stumble and to fall and to sin, and our progress in sanctification remains in this life a small beginning – we come to that in a moment.    And yet, the apostle is saying that through Christ’s death and resurrection we were delivered from bondage, we are no longer slaves of sin, for our old man was crucified with Christ and died with Christ.   Our old man has been buried with Christ.   And we were raised a new man in Christ by His resurrection from the dead.    

 

Now, it is true that Scripture commands us to put to death the sin that still dwells in us.   But here in Romans chapter 6 where the apostle is speaking of our death in the death of Christ, he is speaking of something that is finish and complete.   In Christ our old man has been put to death and no longer lives.  

 

I know that there is a passage in Eph.4: 22 – 24 that seems to contradict this statement, but a careful study of that text, as it is found in the original language 1, will reveal that there also Paul is confirming the same truth which he states here in Romans chapter 6.   Also in Col.3: 9, 10 where he refers to the putting off of the old man and the putting on of the new man, he refers to it in the past tense.   It has happened, he says. 

 

We are not clothed with both the old and the new man simultaneously.   Our old man and our new man are not both alive in Christ.  After our old man died with Christ and was buried with Christ, it was not our old man that was again raised with Christ, but the new man!  

 

The apostle works with this concept everywhere when he uses the expression old man and new man.    Our old man died with Christ and is dead.   Yes, in Christ we are dead to sin, therefore we cannot live in it – verse 2.   Our old man was crucified with Christ, therefore we are no longer slaves of sin – verse 6.   We died with Christ, therefore we are free from the dominion of sin – verse 7.   Through our death in the death of Christ, we have been set free from slavery to sin – verses 17, 18

 

He speaks of our union with Christ in His death which happened only once.   It is final and irreversible.   When we were united to Christ our old man died a final death.   The death of   --------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

1.        Eph. 4:20 – 24 should be translated: “But you have not so learned Christ, if indeed you have heard Him and have been taught by Him, as the truth is in Jesus, so that you have put off, concerning your former manner of life, the old man who is corrupted according to the lusts of deceit, and are being renewed in the spirit of your mind, and have put on the new man who after God has been created in righteousness and holiness of the truth”.

our old man in Christ cannot be undone, just as the death of Christ cannot be undone.   And the death of our old man is not portrayed in this chapter as a process of dying; just as Christ Himself is not in the process of dying.    He says:

 

“…the death Christ died, He died to sin once for all; but the life that He lives, He lives to God.  Likewise you also, reckon yourselves to be dead to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus our Lord” – verses 10, 11.

 

The apostle is not telling us that we have to imagine that we are dead to sin, while in fact we are alive to sin.   No, he is proclaiming a fact: the absolute certain fact of Christ’s death and our union with that final death of Christ.   In Christ we are dead to sin.   In Christ it is impossible for us to live under the dominion of sin, for our old man has been crucified and has been buried.   In Christ it is final and finish.   And so, when we died with Christ we were once for all freed from the dominion of sin with a definitive, or irreversible, deliverance.

 

The apostle is not saying that we are totally freed from our old sinful nature.   He does not at all deny that we continue to have a fierce struggle against indwelling sin as long as we live in this body.   He clearly states in chapter 7 that in himself, that is in his flesh, nothing good dwells – 7: 18.   He also describes his fierce struggle with sin.   He continues to stumble and to do what he hates.   But, he says, “…if I do what I will not to do, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells in me” – 7: 20.   He reckons himself to be a new man, and that it is not the new man who sins, but the indwelling sin of his flesh that makes him to stumble and sin.  

 

That teaching in chapter 7 does not contradict what he says here in chapter 6.  

 

 

Dear congregation, the teaching of the apostle Paul here in chapter 6 is the very foundation for Christian ethics.  

 

“…our old man was crucified with Christ, that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves of sin.   For He who has died has been freed from sin” – verses 6, 7.

 

To understand Christian ethics we have to understand our union and communion with the death and resurrection of Christ.   When we understand Romans chapter 6 then we have a total different view of Christian ethics than the man who says: “Don’t try to be too holy, remember, we are all sinners!”   No, the logic of Romans chapter 6 is totally different: you are dead to sin and alive unto God, therefore sin shall not have dominion over you.  And: because sin does not have dominion over you, therefore, let it not have dominion over you – verse 12.  

 

We have to note this carefully.   The apostle is not saying that sin is reigning in the believer and that the believer must now stop sin from reigning in him.   No, that would be contradicting everything that the apostle has been saying in this chapter.

 

Sin does not have the dominion – that is the indicative.  Let sin not reign – that is the imperative.   The command (not to let sin reign) is based on the fact (that sin does not have the dominion).

 

It is only because sin does not reign that it can be said: Let it not reign!

 

If you would say to a slave: “Do not behave as a slave!” then you are mocking him.   How can you tell a slave not to act as a slave?!

But if the man has indeed been set free from slavery and you tell him not to act as a slave, then you are telling him to put into effect the privileges of his liberation.

 

In the same way the apostle Paul is telling us: sin does not have dominion over you, therefore: do not allow it to reign over you!

When he exhorts us, saying in verse 12 “…do not let sin reign in your mortal bodies”, then he is not mocking us.  The exhortation simply reckons with the fact of our deliverance to be a fact indeed.

 

Dear congregation, it is now in the context of this teaching that we have to understand verse 14:

 

            “…sin shall not have dominion over you, for you are not under law but under grace”

 

It is a statement; a declaration of a fact: sin shall not have dominion over you – at least, if you are united with Christ.

 

Now, the reason why sin shall not have dominion over us, he says, is that…

 

            “…you are not under law but under grace”.

 

To be “not under law, but under grace” is a summary of all that he has been saying in this chapter.

 

The apostle says that the dominion which sin had over us has been removed, and it has been removed not by our obedience to the law but by the grace of God in Christ – that saving grace by which we died to sin and was raised as a new man to live for God.

 

We look at that in the second place…

Law and grace contrasted

 

The apostle repeats the same statement, just in other words, when he says in chapter 8:

 

“…what the law could not do in that it was weak through the flesh, God did by sending His own Son…” – Rom. 8: 3.

 

While the law is perfect and holy and just and good, there is something that the law cannot do.   It cannot save sinners.    By the law sinners are condemned.    The law could not act as our Mediator.   The law could not deliver us from our slavery to sin.   For those who transgress the law, the law can only administer death.  

 

And, as the law exposes sin to be sin, our sin became all the bigger in the light of the law. 

 

Now, because the apostle Paul is zealous to guard the purity of the gospel from any distortion, he makes clear then that our deliverance from the slavery of sin was not achieved by our obedience to the law, but by grace alone – that grace which has been given to us in the death and resurrection of Christ.  

 

There you have the contrast in our text.   How was I delivered from the dominion of sin?  Not by law, but by grace!    In Christ we are under the saving power of God’s grace, and no longer slaves of sin under the condemnation of the law.

 

When he says: “not under law, but under grace”, he refers to the means and the cause of our liberation.  

 

To be “under law”, in this context, means to be helplessly lost in slavery to sin.   For the law, by its own power and working, is not able to set us free from sin.   Instead, it rightly condemns us with a righteous judgement.   To be “under grace”, in this context, refers to our union with Christ and our liberation from sin by His death and resurrection.  

 

Note, however, that the contrast which the apostle makes between law and grace is limited to this context – a context in which he deals with the means and the cause of our liberation. And thus it is a dangerous thing to quote this verse out of context.   The apostle is not saying: you are not under the obligation of law, but under grace.   No, such a contrast would be heresy.   Our obligation to obey the law still stands.    The apostle is not at all contrasting obligation and freedom.  

 

There is a tendency among many evangelicals to view duty and love as excluding each other.   True obedience to God, they say, is not exercised with a consciousness of duty, but by spontaneous love.   Such a contrast, however, is not Scriptural.   Love does not make us unconscious.   In fact, the highest and the most perfect obedience to God, is not that which is done with a non-awareness of law, but that which is purposely and intentionally done in obedience to God’s commandments.   Adam in his perfect state had to obey God’s commandment not only with his natural feeling, and unconsciously, but also with his will and mind.   And it is to that perfection that we will again be restored.  

 

Our duty and obligation to obey the law wholeheartedly, carefully and intentionally is not in the least removed by grace.   

 

Therefore also Paul does not leave grace alone to do its job, but he directs the resources of grace to purposeful and intentional obedience to God’s law.

 

 “…just as you presented your members as slaves of uncleanness, and of lawlessness leading to more lawlessness, so now present your members as slaves of righteousness for holiness” – verse 19.

 

Paul says: You were transgressors of the law, living lawless lives, but now you have to act as slaves of righteousness, serving God according to the requirements of His law.  

 

See how he does it: he puts righteousness and holiness over against lawlessness.   Lawlessness is sin; obedience to the law is righteousness.   That is the framework of the apostle Paul.  That is the paradigm with which the apostle works.   Grace establishes the law and brings its requirements to fulfilment.

 

Now that you are free from the dominion of sin, not by your own power to obey the law but through your union with Christ, you must now act as a slave of that righteousness which the law demands.

 

It is clear then how shamelessly this text is abused by those who think that grace deliver us from our obligation to obey God’s law.   Grace does not deliver us from law or from duty, but from sin.  

 

It is especially when we deal with a text like this one, that the warning of the apostle Peter applies where he says that there are people who are not rooted in the knowledge of Scripture, unstable men, who twist the writings of the apostle Paul to their own destruction – 2 Peter 3: 16.    And how do they twist the writings of the apostle Paul?   He is referring to the false teachers who change the grace of God into lawlessness.   They twist the letters of Paul to proclaim a gospel without law.

 

Now, if there is any text in the letters of Paul that is twisted by these people, it is this text in front of us:

 

            “…you are not under law, but under grace”.

 

It is misused and twisted by people who do not want to see themselves as under the obligation to live obedient to the law.   This text is abused by people who reckon that Christian liberty is in contrast to strict obedience to the law!   “Do not preach the Ten Commandments to us so strictly”, they say, “for we are not under law but under grace!”

 

But the apostle Paul is far from proclaiming such a heresy.

 

Let us therefore give our careful attention to what he does say in this chapter.    We were freed from the dominion of lawlessness.    We were made alive to serve God according to His commandments.   This is quite the opposite of what many has made of these words:

 

“…you are not under law, but under grace”.

 

Where then does the misunderstanding come from?

 

The answer has already been given by the apostle Peter when he said that it is unlearned and unstable people who twist the writings of the apostle Paul.   Unlearned and unstable people!

First of all they are unlearned, for they have no clear understanding of the gospel.  And therefore they are also unstable, quick to follow heresy.

 

If we have to read the Scriptures carefully and use it with accuracy, we have to do so especially with the writings of the apostle Paul.

 

He uses the word “law” in our text with a certain limited meaning.   The contrast between law and grace in this text is not a contrast between obligation and freedom, as if he said: you are not under obligation of the law, but under the freedom of grace!   No, the contrast is between law and grace as the means by which we were set free from sin.   We are free from the dominion of sin not by the working or by the doing of the law, but by the powerful working of God’s grace in Christ.  

 

This text, together with some other texts, is also misused by people who reckon that there is a contrast in doctrine between the Old and the New Covenant, as if the apostle had said: you are no longer under the law of the Old Covenant, but under the grace of the New Covenant.   Such a declaration would be heresy!

 

The contrast between law and grace which is meant here in our text, also applies to believers who lived in the Old Testament.     Moses was under grace, not under law. 

 

When the apostle uses the word “law” in opposition to “grace”, we have to realise that in that sense there is no difference between the Old and the New Testament.   Believers who lived in the time of the Old Testament were also under grace and not under law.  They too were delivered from the dominion of sin by grace alone.   

 

We find a certain kind of dispensationalism today which places the New Testament over against the Old Testament with regard to its doctrine.   Over against such heresy we again have to confirm that the Old and the New Testament contains only one covenant; one and the same gospel.  

 

The Old Covenant and the New Covenant does not differ in doctrine.   Not at all!   The Old Covenant and the New Covenant is in essence one covenant.  

 

The relation between the old covenant and the new covenant is that of progressive revelation and fulfilment.   That which is revealed in the old covenant, the same is revealed more clearly in the new.   It is a relation of promise and fulfilment, shadow and realisation.   That which the Old Testament taught, the same is worked out fully in the new.  

 

The Old Testament is not a testament of law, while the New Testament is a testament of grace.   Such a contrast between the Old and the New Testament is not Scriptural.  In fact, such a view totally destroys the gospel and produces a false gospel.

 

“…you are not under law, but under grace.”   Yes, there is still a third way in which this text is abused by many.    Many think that we are no longer to live according to the law, but according to the guidance of the Holy Spirit.    And so they separate the work of the Spirit from the instruction of the law.   They will therefore not say: “I do this and that in obedience to the revealed law of God”, but they will say: “The Spirit tells me what is right and wrong.   No law has to teach me!”   That they call the freedom of the Spirit and Christian liberty!  We are no longer under law but under grace, they say.   And so they change the grace of God to a mystic religion and a mystic obedience where one’s life is not directed by the revealed law of God, but by a mystic law of the Spirit. 

 

Paul, however, is very far from proclaiming such a heresy.

 

Dear congregation, when the apostle says that we are not under law but under grace, our obligation to obey the law is not in the least removed, neither is the teaching of the old covenant replaced by something different, neither is the revealed law of God contrasted to a mystic obedience through the Spirit.  

 

Positively, there is a very good reason why the apostle does make a contrast between law and grace in the context of our deliverance from sin.   The simple truth is that the law cannot contribute anything to our justification or acceptance with God, neither can it – of itself – empower us to break with sin and to obey God’s commands.     That happens by grace alone when we are united with Christ in His death and resurrection.   If the law could contribute anything to this deliverance, then the gospel is made void.   Therefore we must jealously guard the doctrine of grace against any teaching that we, by our obedience to the law, can contribute anything to our deliverance from sin.   That is what the apostle is doing in our text when he contrasts law and grace.

 

But the apostle is just as jealous to guard the doctrine of the gospel against lawlessness.   As soon as he starts to explain justification by faith, he immediately adds:

 

“Do we then make void the law through faith?   Certainly not!   On the contrary, we establish the law” – Rom. 3: 31.

 

Unfortunately there are not many in our day who share the same zeal of the apostle to establish the law, and therefore they are mislead by a false gospel and thinks that the law is outdated by the newness of grace.  

But the grace which Paul proclaims is deliverance from the dominion of sin; deliverance from that which transgresses the law.  

 

He proclaims a grace that makes us truly obedient to the law.

 

While we are not under law, in the sense that we are not turned over to the law for our deliverance, yet we are indeed under law with regard to our obligation to God.   Therefore the apostle says that he, Paul, is not free from the law of God, but that he is indeed under the law of Christ – 1 Cor. 9:21.   And then he is not contrasting God’s law with Christ’s law. No, the law of God and the law of Christ is the same law.   There, in 1 Cor. 9: 21, he simply states that he, Paul, is under the law.

 

So then, he is not under law, in the sense that he is not set free from sin by the doing of the law, but in another sense, he says, that he is indeed under the law: in the sense that he is not without the obligation to obey God’s law.

 

In fact, Paul uses the term “under the law” in various different ways.   Each time the context makes clear with which meaning the expression is used.

Sometimes the expression “under the law” refers to the outward administration of ceremonial laws, and as such the expression then refers to the old dispensation – 1 Cor. 9: 20.

And when he says in Gal. 3:23 that “…before faith came, we were kept under guard by the law”, the context makes it clear that he refers to the Mosaic economy which came 430 years after Abraham.   In that context “under law” means something totally different from “under law” in Rom.6: 14!

 

It becomes clear, therefore, how unlearned and unstable men are misusing this expression “you are not under law but under grace”, when they use it as a general statement and without careful discernment.   When these words are made loose of its context, the saying “you are not under law but under grace” becomes a most dangerous instrument for heresy.

 

Grace does not at all take away our obligation to obey God’s revealed law strictly and carefully.   Grace is also not something of the new covenant, while law is something of the old covenant.

No!   The apostle only contrasts law and grace as far as he is speaking of the cause of our liberation.   In all other ways law and grace is a twin, inseparably part of the same gospel.

By grace we are delivered from lawlessness unto obedience.  

 

By grace we are gladly under the law of God.  We note that in the third place…

Through grace we are no longer lawless

 

In all his teaching the apostle Paul is zealous and careful to guard the gospel against the idea that our obedience to the law can contribute anything to our justification before God, or that the law of itself can do anything to deliver the sinner from his sin.   But he is just as jealous to guard the gospel against lawlessness.   And therefore he immediately adds a correction to any possible misunderstanding.   He says, verse 15:

 

“What then?   Shall we sin because we are not under law but under grace?   Certainly not!”

 

Shall we now reckon ourselves free from the obligations of the law?   Shall we now live without law?    Shall we now be lawless?   Does grace make us indifferent to the requirements of the law?   Certainly not!

 

The grace of which our text speaks is not only God’s grace for us, but also His grace in us.   When the apostle says that we died with Christ and were raised with Him, he is not only speaking of our legal status before God, but he says that Christ’s death and resurrection has active effect in our lives.    There came a very real breach between us and sin.    The death and resurrection of Christ is an active power renewing us, sanctifying us, restoring us to the image of God, making us joyful servants of righteousness.

 

Doctrinally it is true that Christ’s death and resurrection provides the legal ground for our sanctification.   But we miss the point of Paul’s teaching here in Rom. 6 if we limit Christ’s death and resurrection to provide only the legal ground for our salvation.   When Paul is dealing with the newness of life which characterises the believer, his focus is not the fact that Christ died and rose again for believers, but the fact that all believers died and rose again with Christ.   That is his focus in this chapter.   Through faith we are so united with Him that His death is in a very real sense our death; his resurrection our resurrection.

 

Our new life in Christ does therefore not flow forth simply because of Christ’s once-for-all accomplishment for us, but most importantly also from our continued communion with Him and from Him, as He communicates to us the effect of His death, and the power of His resurrection.  

 

Our actual transmission from a life of sin to a life of obedience is just as real and just as final as the death and resurrection of Christ Himself.   Our old man died, and we rose as a new man.  This is what it means when he says: you are under grace!  

 

It is a grace by which the breach between us and sin was made final and definitive.  Through the effective power of this grace it became impossible for sin to have dominion over us.   In the death of Christ we died to sin once for all, and by the power of His resurrection we are made alive to serve God in a new life of obedience.

 

It is this grace that empowers us to live a holy life according to God’s commandments.  

 

That is the meaning of our text: sin shall not have dominion over you, for you are not turned over to the law which is unable to save, but you are engrafted into Christ, sharing in both the legal and the effective benefits of His death and resurrection.

 

By the grace of God your slavery to sin has been stopped, and by the same grace you were made alive to live for God.

 

Sin shall not have dominion over you.  Instead, by grace the law has its fulfilment in your life.  That is: a life liberated from lawlessness, a new life in obedience to God.  

 

Does grace make us lawless?   Certainly not!

 

By the death of Christ and by the power of His resurrection we were empowered to live a holy life – a life in communion with our covenant God.   By His covenant grace He made us obedient to His covenant law.   In Christ and through Christ we are no longer slaves of lawlessness, but liberated unto life itself.   It is the gospel of true and glorious life – life with God, unto God, as spelled out in His covenant law.   Amen.




* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. Mendel Retief, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.
(c) Copyright, Rev. Mendel Retief

Please direct any comments to the Webmaster


bottom corner