Hesham Shehab: Epiphany Sunday 2023… Dead to Sin, Alive to God
Sermon text preached by Rev. Hesham Shehab
Sunday, January 8, 2023
St. Paul Evangelical Lutheran Church, Whiting, IN
Text: Romans 6: 1-11
Dead to Sin, Alive to God
Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
1 What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? 2 By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it? 3 Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? 4 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.
5 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. 6 We know that our old self[a] 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. 7 For one who has died has been set free[b] from sin. 8 Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. 9 We know that Christ, being raised from the dead, will never die again; death no longer has dominion over him. 10 For the death he died he died to sin, once for all, but the life he lives he lives to God. 11 So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus. (Romans 6)
Usually, in every community, human behavior is organized or controlled through a system of reward and punishment. For example, cops don’t pull people over to complement their safe driving. There aren’t special courtrooms that acknowledge those who haven’t robbed or murdered anyone. It’s the threat of being punished that keeps most people in line.
Threats of punishment may be effective for the civil realm, or some religions, like Hinduism, have Karma, Islam has Sharia law. But as Christians, our behavior isn’t controlled with threats, rather it’s by the power of our baptisms that we live as Christians.
One way that baptism gives us power is that it makes us dead to Sin. In our baptism, our Old Adam, was crucified with Christ. Saint Paul writes in verse 6 of our text, “We know that our old self 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 power over us was so strong that nothing less than the crucifixion of the Son of God could destroy Sin’s power over us. Our sins died with Christ, so that we’re no longer enslaved by Sin, rather we have freedom and this freedom enables us to live as those who call themselves Christians.
Paul writes, “How can we who died to sin still live in it?”. What Paul is saying here is that it makes no sense to live in sin if our old sinful Adam has been killed. Our old sinful Adam is what leads us into Sin, and Satan tries to bring him back to life in us. But, through repentance and forgiveness though we remember that he’s dead, Christ killed him with the water of baptism, and so we can, and do, live as new men and new women.
As baptized Christians, we face constant temptations and Satan will use every trick imaginable to get us to reject our baptisms and to relinquish the power of Christ over the power of sin. As Christians, we fight to live in such a way that Sin doesn’t gain control over us.
One way that the “old self” tries to control us is by getting us to think that God’s grace is blind. St. Paul addresses this in the first part of our reading. He writes, “What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? By no means!” What he’s telling us is that we can’t just live anyway we want assuming that God’s going to forgive us all the more. Yes, God is full of grace and He does forgive our sins. However, we don’t try to obtain more of His grace by going out and sinning more. This is horrible thinking because the more you consciously sin in life, the less you want God’s grace. By sinning more and more you’re trying to resurrect the Old Adam and kill the creation of your baptism. What you must remember when you’re tempted by Sin is that your baptism has killed it. Paul writes in Galatians, “And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.” Christ broke the power of Sin and by having it nailed with Him to the Cross, gave us the power to overcome the desire to sin.
As the Father brought the Son back to life on Easter morning, so also, He brought us back to life on the day our baptism. This life, which is unlike our previous sinful life, is demonstrated by a new way of walking. In our baptisms we began a new walk, a new way of life. Paul uses the phrase in verse 4 when he tells us that through our death in baptism, we’ve been raised so that “we too might walk in newness of life”.
The evidence of this new way of life is seen in our daily walk. We no longer walk in hatred, violence, and the refusal to forgive. We don’t walk in jealousy or selfishness. Instead, we walk in forgiveness, love, joy, peace, and goodness. This is seen in the way that we treat others and it’s also seen in our relationship with God. Paul writes (in II Corinthians), “those who live might no longer live for themselves but for Him who for their sake died and was raised”. We put God first in all aspects of our lives for this is the greatest and the most faithful way of walking.
Now is this easy? Of course not. It takes hard work to put forth the effort to live as the new people that we are, and we certainly can’t do it on our own. But through the power of the Holy Spirit, who poured faith into our hearts and in our baptism where the forgiveness of sins drowned our Old Adam. Then we have the power to live as God’s children. Our baptism gives us the confidence to go to our God seeking His help and forgiveness and gives us a heart that clings to the instruction and consolation of God’s Word.
As St. Paul wrote, “Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him”. We live with Him here as we live a new life, but we also look forward to the day that we begin our eternal life with Him.
Our Lord’s baptism at the start of His ministry showed that He was one of us, that He would stand with us, so that He could wash us with the holy water of baptism.
Martin Luther once said that every time you wash your face you should remember your baptism. This is good advice, for by remembering our baptism we remember all that the Lord has done for us. We remember too that because we died and rose with Christ in our baptism, we get to walk with Christ; here in time and also for eternity. AMEN
Now may the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with you all. Amen
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Adjunct Faculty at College of DuPage, Formerly Adjunct Faculty at American University of Beirut and Pastor at Peace Lutheran Church Lombard, IL Name pronounciation: HI-shahm SHI-hab Hebrews 12: 4 & Philippians 1: 29