Sunday, September 19, 2021

September 19 - Romans 6:15

 

Paul’s Epistle to the Romans

September 19, 2021

Opening Prayer

Almighty God and Father, we give you hearty thanks that you have sent the Holy Spirit to us and that he has called us through the gospel, enlightened us with his gifts, and sanctified and preserved us in the true faith. We ask that you would graciously permit his power to continue to dwell richly among us. Bestow this power upon all preachers and teachers, that they may rightly proclaim your Word, adding nothing to it and taking nothing from it, and not withholding the saving truth either from fear or to please people.

Give the Word proclaimed tomorrow fruitful soil in our congregation and our church. Bestow your Spirit’s enlightenment upon all hearers of your message, that they may bow before your judgement and rejoice in your saving gospel. Grant these gifts to all who desire Holy Baptims and receive the Lord’s Supper, and give all people the renewal that comes from faith and Christian life. Let the seed of your Word grow here on earth for our salvation and, though it, prepare us for your eternal harvest, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.[1]

Prolegomena

A reminder – Romans is one letter. We don’t want to lose the forest for the trees.

We are looking at little pieces with great detail. The little pieces come together into a larger whole that reveals an important message about the righteousness of God.

Romans 6:15-18

15 What then? Are we to sin because we are not under law but under grace? By no means! 16 Do you not know that if you present yourselves to anyone as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin, which leads to death, or of obedience, which leads to righteousness? 17 But thanks be to God, that you who were once slaves of sin have become obedient from the heart to the standard of teaching to which you were committed, 18 and, having been set free from sin, have become slaves of righteousness.

V.15

Go back to 6:1 – Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound?

Now – Are we to sin because we are not under law but under grace?

What is the logic here?

 

Antinomianism – anti = against, nomos = law

-        Rejects the law’s authority

-        Rejects morality – or, at least, a standard of morality the individual or group does not endorse.

-        “Morally the Church was far from perfect. Some of those who wished to be regarded as Christians were adopting the attitude, technically called antinomianism, which was drawn from a misconception of man’s response to God’s grace and which was to recur again and again through the centuries, that the Christian need not be bound by any moral law.”[2]

-        1 Corinthians

 

Learning from Jesus and the Pharisees – Matthew 23

-        What are the weightier matters?

-        Does that mean that the other matters don’t matter?

-        People tend to focus on:

o   Vices – “Don’t drink, don’t smoke? What do you do? (Subtle inuendo)” – Adam Ant

o   The obvious and scandalous. – “Big sins.”

§  Even these will vary by societal standards.

·       Prostitution vs. corporate greed

-        What is often missed is the heart of the matter – love.

o   Relationship to God

o   Relationship to Neighbor – my rights vs. my neighbor’s need

o   Idolatry and wisdom that is “earthly, unspiritual, demonic.” (James 3:15)

 

Graceless “Christianity” – Legalism

Lawless “Christianity” – Antinomianism

Living in the freedom of the gospel

-        Not a freedom to do whatever. (Antinomian)

-        A freedom from sin/death/guilt

-        A freedom found in Christ’s love and forgiveness

-        Free to become – not slaves, but – obedient from the heart.



[1] Adapted from a prayer that was quoted in the “Pray, Brothers”, which got it from “Everyday Morning Prayers.”

[2] Latourette, Kenneth, A History of Christianity, Harper and Row, New York, 1953, p. 114


Sunday, September 12, 2021

September 12 - Romans 6:12-14

 

Fair Warning - the recording picks up about 8 minutes in. Sorry for the inconvenience. 

Paul’s Epistle to the Romans

September 12, 2021

Opening Prayer

We give thanks to you, heavenly Father, for the rest and peace of this holy day in which we remember all your benefits and seek your face;

·       For all the tokens of your goodness in our homes and our lives, especially in this congregation;

·       For all the goodness which you have bestowed upon us through our brothers and sisters in the faith;

·       For the guarding grace with which you have watched over our bodies and preserved us in times of trial and trouble;

·       For fellowship with all who call upon your name;

·       For the goodness that continually greets and blesses us in the gifts of your creation;

·       For the greatest gift of all which you have given us in Jesus Christ;

·       And for the hope in which we begin this day in his name.

For these and all other gifts, we give you thanks, O God our heavenly Father. Amen[1]


Prolegomena

Today we will deal with the struggle with sin and the idea of living under grace instead of the Law.

 

John Donne (1572-1631)

Holy Sonnet 14

Batter my heart, three-person'd God, for you

As yet but knock, breathe, shine, and seek to mend;

That I may rise and stand, o'erthrow me, and bend

Your force to break, blow, burn, and make me new.

I, like an usurp'd town to another due,

Labor to admit you, but oh, to no end;

Reason, your viceroy in me, me should defend,

But is captiv'd, and proves weak or untrue.

Yet dearly I love you, and would be lov'd fain,

But am betroth'd unto your enemy;

Divorce me, untie or break that knot again,

Take me to you, imprison me, for I,

Except you enthrall me, never shall be free,

Nor ever chaste, except you ravish me.

Romans 6:12-14

12 Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, to make you obey its passions. 13 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. 14 For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace.

 

v. 12

Sin must not reign/rule in your mortal body, to obey its passions…

 

This is a little strange in its form. The word we translate “reign” is a third person imperative verb. So there is a command here, that sin must not reign/rule in our mortal bodies.

 

Sin is presented here as a hostile force working to force us (or guide us through misplaced allegiance) into obedience.

-        John 8:34 – “Everyone who sins is a slave to sin.”

-        There is an external pressure to keep us from living in righteousness

o   the forgiveness as a free gift kind of righteousness.

o   the living in relationship with God kind of righteousness.

o   the living in relationship to one’s neighbors kind of righteousness.

 

“We must engage in a constant, daily struggle not to obey those desires which are forbidden or improper. For from this sort of fault it comes about that the eye is turned to where it ought not to look, and if this fault grows strong and prevails, even bodily adultery is carried out, which is committed in the heart as much more quickly as thought is quicker than action and has nothing to hinder or delay it.” Augustine (354-430): On Nature and Grace  

 

We often think of rebels as those individuals who go their own way and do what they want – which is often sin. Real rebellion in this world is obedience of God’s Word, denying ourselves, taking up our cross, and following Jesus (Matthew 16:24). This is seen in resisting the desires that are rooted in our sin, and living in God’s grace.

 

Is there a sense here that our mortality is important in this conversation about sin ruling over us?

-           Look ahead to 6:23!

 

Is there value in thinking of sin having its own passions? (Its own desires, cravings, lusts.)

 

v. 13 (Part of the same sentence in Greek)

… and do not present your members (the parts of your body) as instruments of unrighteousness to sin (noun), but present yourselves to God as (one who is) living from the dead and your members as instruments of righteousness to God.

 

Instruments – 6 times in the NT – tools (2), weapons (3), armor (1)

-        I find the idea of translating this word in a military way interesting as it reflects the struggle of faith better than just talking about instruments or tools.

 

“Every part of the body can become a weapon of wickedness which will defeat righteousness if it turns its purpose to bad use.” Pelagius (360-420): Pelagius’s Commentary on Romans

 

By telling us to yield our members to God as instruments of righteousness, Paul teaches that the body is not evil but the creation of a good God. Therefore, if it is properly and correctly controlled by the soul it can serve God. Theodoret of Cyr (393-457): Interpretation of the Letter to the Romans.

 

v.14

For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace.

 

Sin will not rule/master/dominate you

-        It is a simple future tense verb.

 

There is an important parallel to this idea in Exodus 20 and Deuteronomy 5

-        The Ten Commandments

-        Exodus 20:1-2 - And God spoke all these words, saying,“I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery.”

-        The chapter then gets into the Commandments, which are often translated, “Thou/You shall not.”

o   Feels like an imperative verb.

o   They’re not imperative verbs.

o   They are simply future tense verbs.

-        “You will not (won’t) have other gods.”

o   Why not?

o   “I am YHWH your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery.”

o   In other words, “I am your God who saves you!”

o   Grace changes us and moves us to an obedience rooted in love.

o   “We should fear, love, and trust in God above all things.”

§  Fear – as in terror – is the response of our flesh – use Paul’s language.

§  Love is the response of our spirit.

§  Trust is faith that receives God’s Word and promise that acknowledges our slavery to sin and receives God’s salvation in Jesus.

-        So for the Christian – “You won’t have other gods.”

o   Why not?

o   Jesus, God the Son, is our God who saved me by dying and rising for me! Why would I want any other god?

-        This follows through all the commandments

o   You won’t …

o   Why not?

o   Jesus is your God and savior.

 

It is not about LAW – It is about GRACE!

Obedience flows from gratitude and joy because we have a loving Savior; Jesus.



[1] Hanns Lilje wrote this prayer in a German prayerbook in 1939. It was accessed through John Doberstein, The Minister’s Prayerbook, Fortress Press, 1986, p. 4


Sunday, September 05, 2021

September 5 - Romans 6:9-11

 

Paul’s Epistle to the Romans

September 4, 2021

Opening Prayer

Psalm 123

To you I lift up my eyes,
    O you who are enthroned in the heavens!
Behold, as the eyes of servants
    look to the hand of their master,
as the eyes of a maidservant
    to the hand of her mistress,
so our eyes look to the Lord our God,
    till he has mercy upon us.

 Have mercy upon us, O Lord, have mercy upon us,

    for we have had more than enough of contempt.
Our soul has had more than enough
    of the scorn of those who are at ease,
    of the contempt of the proud.

Prolegomena

In Romans 6:9 we get a glimpse of the logic of the world – death reigns

-        This notion is central to evolutionary theory – that which cannot adapt to reproduce dies.

o   There seems to be an assumption that evolution is upward.

-        This is the logic of karma – one gets what one deserves. But Christ did not deserve death.

-        This is the logic of political power with threats and punishment.

-        This is what Christ has overcome for us.

The new logic of Jesus is represented in John 10:10 – I have come that they may have life and have it to the full/in abundance.

Romans 6:5-11

 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. 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. For one who has died has been set free from sin. 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. 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.

v. 10

“In the Scriptures we learn that there are three kinds of death. The first is when we die to sin and live to God. Blessed is that death which, escaping from sin and devoted to God, separates us from what is mortal and consecrates us to him who is immortal. The second death is the departure from this life.… The third death is that of which it is said: ‘Let the dead bury their dead.’” Ambrose (340-397): On the Death of His Brother Satyrus 2.36.[1]

1.     When we come to faith – Baptism.

2.     When we stop breathing.

3.     When a person does not receive Jesus’ salvation.

Christ died to sin

-        He died in such a way as to atone for our sins.

-        “What does ‘died to sin’ mean? It means that he was not subject to sin but that, in order to destroy it and remove its power, he died for our sin. Do you see how Paul frightens them? For since Christ does not die twice, there is no second washing, so you had better steer clear of any inclination toward sin!” Chrysostom (347-407): Homilies on Romans 11.

Christ died once and for all.

-        The way he died, he died once and never again.

-        The adverb is translated - “once and for all” or “once and never again.”

-        Michael Card – “one final perfect word”

The life he lives he lives to God.

v.11

In the same way (as Jesus died to sin and lives to God) you also you also consider yourselves to be dead to sin and living to God in Christ Jesus.

 

How now shall we live?

-        The early leaders of the church emphasized this Christ died once and lives to urge believers to shun sin, and to not return to it over and over again.

-        Notice the quote from Chrysostom above, “…so you had better steer clear of any inclination toward sin!”

-        Dietrich Bonhoeffer – Cheap Grace

-        James 2 – faith without works is dead.

-        Romans 6:1 – Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? By no means!

-        This is at the heart of repentance.

o   “Repentance, therefore, is nothing other than a return and approach to Baptism. We repeat and do what we began before, but abandoned.” – Large Catechism

-        Psalm 23:6 – Surely goodness and mercy (lovingkindness/grace) shall follow (pursue! chase!) me all the days of my life; and I will dwell in (return to, repent to) the house of the Lord for ever.

 What is most difficult about this for us is that our repentance and changed life flow from the righteousness that comes by faith, and we often get it turned around thinking that to get the righteousness we must repent and change. They are two sides of the same coin.

 



[1] All quotes from the Early Church Fathers are from Bray, G. (Ed.). (1998). Romans (Revised) (pp. 155–159). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.

Sunday, August 29, 2021

August 29 - Romans 6:5-9

 

Paul’s Epistle to the Romans

August 29, 2021

Opening Prayer

Psalm 86

Incline your ear, O Lord, and answer me,
    for I am poor and needy.
Preserve my life, for I am godly;
    save your servant, who trusts in you—you are my God.
Be gracious to me, O Lord,
    for to you do I cry all the day.
Gladden the soul of your servant,
    for to you, O Lord, do I lift up my soul.
For you, O Lord, are good and forgiving,
    abounding in steadfast love to all who call upon you.
Give ear, O Lord, to my prayer;
    listen to my plea for grace.
In the day of my trouble I call upon you,
    for you answer me.

There is none like you among the gods, O Lord,
    nor are there any works like yours.
All the nations you have made shall come
    and worship before you, O Lord,
    and shall glorify your name.
10 For you are great and do wondrous things;
    you alone are God.
11 Teach me your way, O Lord,
    that I may walk in your truth;
    unite my heart to fear your name.
12 I give thanks to you, O Lord my God, with my whole heart,
    and I will glorify your name forever.
13 For great is your steadfast love toward me;
    you have delivered my soul from the depths of Sheol.

14 O God, insolent men have risen up against me;
    a band of ruthless men seeks my life,
    and they do not set you before them.
15 But you, O Lord, are a God merciful and gracious,
    slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness.
16 Turn to me and be gracious to me;
    give your strength to your servant,
    and save the son of your maidservant.
17 Show me a sign of your favor,
    that those who hate me may see and be put to shame
    because you, Lord, have helped me and comforted me.

Prolegomena

Wrapping up Ephesians in our sermons. Moving into James.

-        It has been interesting (to me) to dive a bit more deeply into these two letters written by St. Paul.

-        Similar themes: Grace, Faith, Reception, Baptism

-        Different emphases: Romans – Righteousness, Ephesians – Unity, Belonging

Romans 6:5-11

 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. 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. For one who has died has been set free from sin. 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. 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.

v. 5

united – adjective - bound together, of the same kind, grown together (like a cut grows together)

If we have become united with Jesus in the likeness of his death …

-        Buried with Jesus – having received his death

Emphatic – but/also we will be of a resurrection.

-        We will be united in the likeness of his resurrection.

v. 6

Knowing this, that our old man has been crucified together with [him],

-        Foundational knowledge.

-        Strange grammar – “Do you want to come with?” The translator has to supply the pronoun.

 

The purpose of this being “crucified with” is that it might cause the “body of sin” …

-        To be left unemployed, to be abolished, to be inactivated.

o   Shut it down!

-        What do we mean by the “body of sin”?

o   There is a danger that we will slip into a kind of dualism here.

§  Gnostic heresy: Flesh (and all things physical) is evil and spirit is good.

§  Paul recognizes the corruption of our human nature – and for many people their experience of this world is rooted in bodily/sensory experience.

§  Thus, for the sake of teaching, he locates sin in “the body” to contrast it to the new life that has come, which he will identify as being “in the spirit.”

 

The result of the old “man” being crucified with Jesus and the abolition of the body of death is that we are no longer to be slaves to sin.

-        The language of slavery is difficult for us. We are steeped in the idea of choice and freedom.

o   John 8:31-38

o   We are free apart from Christ to choose sin.

o   We are free in Christ to live in righteousness … which is a gift, and a gift connected to the reception and presence of the Holy Spirit.

v. 7

For the one who has died has been justified/passively declared righteous from sin.

-        English translations seem to all get this wrong.

-        They translate justified as freed. (ESV, NASB, RSV, KJV, and NIV)

-        What if enslavement to sin is punishment for sin?

o   Romans 1:24-25 - Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves, 25 because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen.

-        Freedom is not the central point of the letter.

o   Are we free to sin that grace might abound?

o   No way! You died and are passively declared righteous in God’s sight.

o   That is your confidence!

 

This section is the source of Luther’s teaching on baptism in the Small Catechism, specifically the fourth part.

What does such baptizing with water indicate?

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.

v. 8

For if … - And if – Paul is building on what he has said before.

-        The one who has died is justified from sin.

-        AND if we died with Chris, we believe that we will also live with/in him

o   Notice that all of this is about being connected to Christ.

o   Jesus is doing all of the work.

v. 9

Continues the same sentence in Greek.

And if we were raised with Christ we believe that we will also live with/in him, knowing that Christ, having been raised from the dead no longer dies; death no longer rules/dominates/masters him.

 

The idea that death rules in this world is both obvious and denied … as in we are in denial.

-        The word here is related to the word – lord – kyrie.

-        If the chief temptation is that we make ourselves to be gods, then this denial regarding death is just a continuation of the same attitude.

o   We seek to be lords over death.

§  Cryogenics

§  Transhumanism

§  Whole Brain Emulation – uploading a mind

§  Fitness, Vitamins, Dieting

§  Medical research - COVID

o   The best we might do is delay the inevitable.

§  Is the inevitable worth delaying?

§  Philippians 1:21

o   Two attitudes toward death - Compare the following poems. 

Do Not Go Gentle Into that Good Night

Do not go gentle into that good night,
Old age should burn and rave at close of day;
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Though wise men at their end know dark is right,
Because their words had forked no lightning they
Do not go gentle into that good night.

Good men, the last wave by, crying how bright
Their frail deeds might have danced in a green bay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Wild men who caught and sang the sun in flight,
And learn, too late, they grieved it on its way,
Do not go gentle into that good night.

Grave men, near death, who see with blinding sight
Blind eyes could blaze like meteors and be gay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

And you, my father, there on the sad height,
Curse, bless, me now with your fierce tears, I pray.
Do not go gentle into that good night.
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

-        Dylan Thomas (1914-1953)

 

Psalm 90:12-17

Lord, you have been our dwelling place
    in all generations.
Before the mountains were brought forth,
    or ever you had formed the earth and the world,
    from everlasting to everlasting you are God.

You return man to dust
    and say, “Return, O children of man!”
For a thousand years in your sight
    are but as yesterday when it is past,
    or as a watch in the night.

You sweep them away as with a flood; they are like a dream,
    like grass that is renewed in the morning:
in the morning it flourishes and is renewed;
    in the evening it fades and withers.

For we are brought to an end by your anger;
    by your wrath we are dismayed.
You have set our iniquities before you,
    our secret sins in the light of your presence.

For all our days pass away under your wrath;
    we bring our years to an end like a sigh.
10 The years of our life are seventy,
    or even by reason of strength eighty;
yet their span is but toil and trouble;
    they are soon gone, and we fly away.
11 Who considers the power of your anger,
    and your wrath according to the fear of you?

12 So teach us to number our days
    that we may get a heart of wisdom.
13 Return, O Lord! How long?
    Have pity on your servants!
14 Satisfy us in the morning with your steadfast love,
    that we may rejoice and be glad all our days.
15 Make us glad for as many days as you have afflicted us,
    and for as many years as we have seen evil.
16 Let your work be shown to your servants,
    and your glorious power to their children.
17 Let the favor of the Lord our God be upon us,
    and establish the work of our hands upon us;
    yes, establish the work of our hands!

Sunday, August 15, 2021

August 15 - Romans 6:3-4

 

Paul’s Epistle to the Romans

August 15, 2021

Opening Prayer

Psalm 6

Lord, rebuke me not in your anger,
    nor discipline me in your wrath.
Be gracious to me, O Lord, for I am languishing;
    heal me, O Lord, for my bones are troubled.
My soul also is greatly troubled.
    But you, O Lord—how long?

Turn, O Lord, deliver my life;
    save me for the sake of your steadfast love.
For in death there is no remembrance of you;
    in Sheol who will give you praise?

I am weary with my moaning;
    every night I flood my bed with tears;
    I drench my couch with my weeping.
My eye wastes away because of grief;
    it grows weak because of all my foes.

Depart from me, all you workers of evil,
    for the Lord has heard the sound of my weeping.
The Lord has heard my plea;
    the Lord accepts my prayer.
10 All my enemies shall be ashamed and greatly troubled;
    they shall turn back and be put to shame in a moment.

Prolegomena

God works through “means” – vehicles, a delivery system.

Means of Grace – Word, Baptism, and Lord’s Supper … and maybe absolution.

 

Some accuse Lutherans of “sacramentalism” – worshipping the sacraments.

It is more correct to say that we have a very high regard for what God does in the sacraments, so we cherish these moments as gifts from God.

 

This is also reflected in our worship services.

-        Confession and Absolution – which roots in Baptism.

-        Service of the Word – which includes our confession of faith.

-        Service of the Sacrament – The Lord’s Supper

-        Three peaks.

 

This attitude about worship and the sacraments is rooted in the Scripture’s teaching in places like Romans 6 – dealing specifically with Baptism.

-        Focuses on what God does

-        God’s salvation flows into repentance, that is, changing our thoughts and behaviors – or having them changed – to align with God’s will, truth, and new logic.

Romans 6:3-4

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.

Remember: This section begins with a question and answer: Should we keep on sinning so that grace might abound? No way!

v. 3

Do you not know, whoever of us has been baptized into Christ Jesus, into his death we were baptized?

-        What do you receive when you are baptized?

o   Jesus’ death!

o   Explores this more in ch. 7. – marriage and the widow

v. 4

Not only have we received Jesus’ death, we were buried with him through baptism into death.

-        To what end?

 

So that just as Christ was raised from death through the glory of the Father, so also we might walk in newness of life.

-        What does it look like to walk in newness of life?

o   Ethical change

o   Faith becomes foundational

§  Everything that is not of faith is sin. Romans 14:23

§  A major emphasis for Luther and the Lutheran Reformers.  

§  It both limits and broadens what we understand to be righteous acts.

·       Some actions which look righteous to us, are not so to God.

·       Some actions which seem mundane to us, are holy to God.

·       We tend to confuse these seeking our own righteous glory.

o   There is a question of focus here.

§  Does the ethical change evidence faith?

§  Does the faith lead to ethical change?