Today’s selected reading continues in the New Testament epistle of the apostle Paul the saints which were at Rome, and more specifically, is found in verses nine through twenty-three of the sixth chapter. I am convinced that before we can even transition into the language that is found beginning with the ninth verse, we must first begin a few verses prior to that beginning with the sixth verse. Beginning at and with the sixth verse we read these words written by the apostle Paul unto these saints which were found at Rome: “Knowing this, that our old man is crucified with Him, that the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin. For he that is dead is freed from sin. Now if we be dead with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with Him: knowing that Christ being raised from the dead dieth no more; death hath no more dominion over him” (Romans 6:6-9). Upon reading these four verses one has to come to the conclusion that there are some profound and powerful truths that are contained therein. What’s actually quite challenging when you read the sixth chapter of the epistle of the apostle Paul to the saints which were at Rome is the repeated use and the direct concept of death that is contained within it. Beginning with the first verse and continuing throughout the entire chapter death seems to be one of the foundational truths and principles that governs and guides the pen of the apostle Paul. When writing concerning sin within the life of an individual, the apostle Paul could view it one one light and one light alone—death. For the apostle Paul the concept of death could and would be connected to sin in one of two different lights—either sin could produce death within the heart, the mind, the soul, and even the body of an individual, or one could be completely dead to sin, and thus death can no longer produce death within their life. EITHER YOUR DEAD TO SIN AND SIN CAN THEREFORE NO LONGER PRODUCE DEATH WITHIN YOUR LIFE, OR YOU CHOOSE TO BE ALIVE TO SIN AND SIN CAN THEREFORE PRODUCE DEATH. The question you and I must ask is which side of sin we are going to be on—either the side of sin where sin is permitted to produce death within our lives, or the side of sin where we are dead to it, and therefore we experience the life that is freely given and offered through and by Christ according to the grace of the Father.
When you read this particular chapter contained within the epistle to the saints at Rome, you will notice the repeated use of “death” in direct relation to sin. In the second verse we find the apostle Paul writing these words: “How shall we, that are DEAD to sin, live any longer therein?” (Romans 6:2). In the third verse, the apostle Paul goes on ask the saints at Rome “know ye not, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into His death” (Romans 6:3). In verse four the apostle Paul continues with these words: “Therefore we are buried with Him by baptism into His death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life” (Romans 6:4). In the fifth verse, these words are present: “For if we have been planted together in the likeness of His death, we shall also be in the likeness of His resurrection” (Romans 6:5). Perhaps what we find and what we read in the seventh verse is the crux of this entire concept, for within this verse the apostle Paul emphatically declares that “he that is dead is freed from sin” (Romans 6:7). In verse eight Paul goes on to write “Now if we be dead with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with Him” (Romans 6:8). Transitioning to the eleventh verse we find these words written by the apostle: “Likewise reckon ye also yourselves to be dead indeed unto sin, but alive unto God through Jesus Christ our Lord” (Romans 6:11). It isn’t unto we find ourselves reading the sixteenth verse that we find these words: “Know ye not, that to whom ye yield yourselves servants to obey, His servants ye are to whom ye obey; whether or sin unto death, or of obedience unto righteousness” (Romans 6:16). In the twenty-first verse the apostle Paul pens these words: “What fruit had ye then in those things whereof ye are not ashamed? For the end of those things is death” (Romans 6:21). Finally, in the twenty-third and final verse of this chapter the apostle Paul writes these words: “For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord” (Romans 6:23).
The entire premise of this chapter is centered upon the concept of whether or not we are truly and indeed dead unto sin within our hearts, within our minds, within our souls and within our lives. The apostle Paul brings his audience and his readers face to face with the question of how we shall indeed and how we shall in fact continue in sin. The apostle Paul could not understand why anyone would even think about continuing in, and continuing to sin within their lives in light of the tremendous work of Jesus Christ upon the cross. The apostle Paul could not fathom how anyone would ever choose to continue in sin—even in spite of and in light of the free gift of grace that is made available through the person of Jesus Christ from the Father of lights who dwells in heaven and inhabits eternity. In fact, in the second verse, the apostle Paul asks the question “How shall we, that are dead to sin, live any longer therein?” Pause for a moment and truly consider the full weight and magnitude of those words. Allow the full weight and meaning of those words to penetrate deep within your heart, your mind and your spirit, and ask that question of yourself. It is quite obvious clear from and when reading this particular chapter found within the epistle of the apostle Paul that there was a mindset that was so pervasive within the church—the false mindset that it was somehow acceptable to continue in and persist in sin in light of the free gift of grace. There were actually those who were using grace as a license, as an excuse, and even as freedom to continue in sin, because grace was freely available through Christ to bring about foreignness unto those who sin and transgress against the commandment and law of the living God. Within this passage of Scripture the apostle Paul connects the death of Jesus Christ with the act of baptism, and the act of coming up out of the waters of baptism unto the resurrection of Christ from the dead. For the apostle Paul the waters of baptism were essentially waters of death, for it was beneath and within those waters that death would occur and take place within the life of an individual. It is absolutely unmistakable that the cross is indeed an instrument of death within the life of an individual, but the waters of baptism are indeed an instrument of death unto themselves. It’s actually quite astounding to consider that the entire act of baptism isn’t a lengthy process and that almost as quickly as one is submerged beneath the waters, they are quickly brought up out of those waters.
In order to take our understanding of the words of the apostle Paul to an even deeper level, it’s necessary to turn and direct our attention to the third chapter of the New Testament gospel of Luke. Within this particular chapter found within the gospel of Luke we find Luke providing his audience and readers with an account of the life and ministry of John the Baptist: “…the word of God came unto John the son of Zacharias in the wilderness. And he came into all the country about Jordan, preaching the baptism of repentance for the remission of sins; as it is written in the book of the words of Esaias the prophet, saying, The voice of one crying in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make his paths straight. Every valley shall be filled, and every mountain and hill shall be brought low; and the crooked shall be made straight, and the touch ways shall be made smooth; and all flesh shall see the salvation of God. Then said he to the multitude that came forth to be baptized of him, O generation of vipers, who hath warned you to flee from the wrath to come? Bring forth therefore fruits worthy of repentance, and begin not to say within yourselves, We have Abraham to our father: for I say unto you, That God is able of these stones to raise up children unto Abraham. And now also the axe is laid unto the root of the trees: every three therefore which bringeth not froth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire. And the people asked him, saying, What shall we do then? He answereth and saith unto them, He that hath two coats, let him impart to him that hath none; and he that hath meat, let him do likewise. Then came also publicans to be baptized, and said unto him, Master, what shall we do? And he said unto them, Exact no more than that which is appointed you. And the soldiers likewise demanded of him, saying, And what shall we do? And he said unto them, Do violence to no man, neither accuse any falsely; and be content with your wages” (Luke 3:1-14).
BAPTISM IN AND OF ITSELF IS NOT ENOUGH! THE SINNER’S PRAYER IN AND OF ITSELF IS NOT ENOUGH! The reason I present the words which Luke wrote concerning the ministry of John the Baptist is because if we are to truly understand the reality and concept of baptism we must understand that baptism—while it is an external manifestation and demonstration of an inward reality—is in and of and by itself not enough. I fully recognize that I am being incredibly bold in declaring that “the sinner’s prayer” is not enough within the life of an individual, but the truth of the matter is that that simply isn’t the case. How many times have you been a part of a service where during the altar call the minister, the preacher, the teacher, the evangelist, and the like, has encouraged any within the congregation to raise their hands if they wish to accept Christ into their hearts? How many times have you been in a service where the minister and preacher has asked everyone in the congregation to “repeat these words after me?” There have been countless times when the minister and preacher has asked all those in the congregation to repeat his words together with those who raised their hands, so as to not isolate and possible cause those who raised their hands to become uncomfortable. What’s more, is that more often than not the minister will ask everyone to bow their heads and close their eyes, and will even encourage no one looking around, so those who are ready and willing to make the decision to follow Jesus can raise their hands without being seen by others, or even to made to feel uncomfortable. HANDS RAISED WHEN EYES ARE CLOSED! PRAYER PRAYED IN THE COMPANY OF OTHERS! Here’s an honest question that might seem kind of absurd when I ask it, but I can’t help but find it swirling around within my head: How many “sinner’s prayers” have you prayed throughout the course of your journey of following Christ? A dozen? Two dozen? Fifty? A hundred? Two hundred? I do not make this next comment with any sort of arrogance or boasting concerning myself, but growing up in church, and even growing up in a pastor’s home, I have perhaps prayed this “sinner’s prayer” countless times. Truthfully, I can’t even recall or even remember how many times I have prayed these words. What’s more, is that the words contained within this prayer are different depending on the Sunday, and depending on the minister who is attempting to lead others into praying them. The strange reality is that there are ministers who suggest and speak of this prayer as being the means whereby men and women are saved, and that once men and women pray the words contained within this prayer, they are automatically saved. I, however—after hearing this “prayer,” and these “words” spoken and prayed countless times again—am convinced that these words in and of themselves aren’t enough.
For John the Baptist, I would dare say that he viewed baptism as an outward expression of an inward reality that was found within the hearts and souls of those who would come unto him. The beloved physician Luke brings us face to face with the reality that John came into all the country about Jordan, preaching the baptism of repentance for the remission of sins. Luke also records how there were multitudes who came unto forth from the surrounding region to be baptized of him. What’s actually quite astounding concerning this very public ministry of John the Baptist is that John himself was not convinced that baptism in and of itself wasn’t enough. While John the Baptist did preach the baptism of repentance for the remission of sins, I am convinced he did not believe the work somehow concluded the minute those who came unto him to be baptized came forth out of the waters. This seems to be suggested and confirmed when he spoke to the multitude that came froth to be baptized of him, declaring unto them, “O generation of vipers, who hath warned you to flee from the wrath to come? BRING FORTH THEREFORE FRUITS WORTHY OF REPENTANCE…And now also the axe is laid unto the root of the trees: every three therefore which bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire” (Luke 3:7-9). For John the Baptist, being submerged and immersed in the waters of the Jordan River wasn’t enough, for he would go on encourage them to bring forth fruits which were worth of repentance. What’s more, is John would go on to declare that every tree which does not in fact bring forth good fruit is hewn down and cast into the fire. If you continue reading verses then through fourteen, you will find the people, the publicans, and soldiers coming unto John to hear him preach, and to be baptized, but also to ask of him what they should do. Within this set of verses you will find John the Baptist instructing them on what they should do and how they should live in light of their baptism. HOW THEN SHALL WE LIVE IN LIGHT OF THIS BAPTISM? I’VE BEEN BAPTIZED—NOW WHAT! I’VE SAID THE SINNER’S PRAYER—NOW WHAT? It’s interesting and worth noting how John the Baptist directly connected baptism with bearing and bringing forth fruit—fruit unto repentance. BAPTISM OF REPENTANCE AND FRUIT UNTO REPENTANCE!
There is a question I can’t help but find myself asking as I am sitting here right now and considering the ministry and words of John the Baptist. If you read this chapter carefully, you will undoubtedly begin to see a direct connection between the waters of baptism and the bearing and bringing forth of fruit unto repentance. The question I am finding myself asking is whether or not the waters of baptism are the waters from which the fruits of repentance are actually produced from. There are two specific passages found within the Old Testament that I can’t help but be reminded of when considering this reality. The first passage is found in the first chapter of the Old Testament prophetic book of the Psalms: “But his delight is in the law of the Lord; and in his law doth he meditate day and night. AND HE SHALL BE LIKE A TREE PLANTED BY THE RIVERS OF WATER, THAT BRINGETH FORTH HIS FRUIT IN HIS SEASON; His leaf also shall not wither; and whatsoever he doeth shall prosper” (Psalm 1:2-3). The second passage is found in the seventeenth chapter of the Old Testament prophetic book of Jeremiah, and is found beginning with the seventh verse: “Blessed is the man that trusteth in the Lord, and whose hope the Lord is. For he shall be as a tree planted by the waters, and that spreadeth out her roots by the river, and shall not see when heat cometh, but her leaf shall be green; and shall not be careful in the year of drought, neither shall cease from yielding fruit” (Jeremiah 17:7-8). It should be noted and pointed out that immediately following these two verses we find these words written by the prophet Jeremiah under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit: “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can. Know it? I the Lord search the heart, I try the reins, even to give every man according to his ways, and according to the fruit of his doings” (Jeremiah 17:9-10). There is a passage that is found in the New Testament gospel of John which I believe helps to further illustrate this reality within the hearts and lives of an individual. Beginning with the twenty-third verse of the twelfth chapter we find these words: “The hour is come, that the Son of man should be glorified. Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except a corn of wheat fall into the ground and die, it abideth alone: but if it die, it bringeth forth much fruit. He that loveth his life shall lose it; and he that hateth his life in this world shall keep it unto life eternal. If any man serve me, let him follow me; and where I am, there shall also my servant be: if any man serve me, him will my Father honour. Now is my soul troubled; and what shall I say? Father, save me from this hour: but for this cause came I unto this hour. Father, glorify thy name” (John 12:23-28).
Jesus spoke of a corn of wheat falling into the ground and dying, and how if and unless it falls into the ground it abides alone. If the corn of wheat does, however, fall into the ground and die, it bringeth forth much fruit. It is absolutely necessary and imperative that we recognize and understand this concept of bearing and bringeth forth fruit—especially in direct connection with the concept of death. Within this particular phrase Jesus Christ our Lord seems to directly connect death with the bringing forth of fruit—much like John the Baptist also seemed to connect baptism with the bringing forth of fruit. The apostle Paul directly connects baptism and death, thus it follows suit that the waters of baptism are the grounds and soil into which the corn of wheat falls, and it is through death beneath the waters that the process of bringing forth much fruit is actually made possible. In all reality, I would dare say that one cannot even expect to bear and bring forth fruit within their hearts and lives until and unless they first enter into the waters of baptism. What’s more, is that until and unless one is willing to enter into and allow themselves to be submerged in the waters of baptism, they cannot expect to bring forth the fruit of the Spirit, and fruit worthy of repentance. What’s more, is that I can’t help but get the strong sense that when one goes down into the waters of baptism—not only does the process of death take place beneath the waters, but there is also the process of planting and sowing that takes place. There beneath the waters there is a process of death that takes place and occurs within the life of a believer, and there is something that is left behind. I am convinced that there beneath the waters there is something an individual leaves behind to be planted beneath those waters in order that that believer might not only be planted beside those waters, but also that that individual might bring forth and bear fruit in its season. I have written before concerning the work which takes place beneath the waters—the work of death which takes place beneath the waters—but I would also suggest that there is another work that takes place beneath the waters as well. There is the work of death which takes place beneath the waters, but there is also the work of depositing that also takes place beneath the waters. The work of depositing that takes place beneath the waters is the believer leaving something behind beneath those waters—something that beneath those waters will ultimately spring forth from those waters a plentiful tree that brings forth much fruit before the true and living God.
Consider the words of the apostle Paul unto the saints which were at Rome, and then consider them in light of the words of Jesus which the apostle John recorded for us in the fifteenth chapter of his gospel account of the life and ministry of Jesus.
“How shall we, that are dead to sin, live any longer therein? Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into his death? Therefore we are buried with Him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life. For if we have been planted together in the likeness of His death, we shall be also in the likeness of His resurrection: knowing this, that our old man is crucified with Him, that the body of sin mighty be destroyed, that henceforth we should nor serve sin. For he that is dead is freed from sin. Now if we be dead with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with Him: knowing that Christ being raised from the dead dieth no more; death hath no more dominion over Him. For in that He died, he died unto sin once: but in that he liveth, he liveth unto God. Likewise reckon ye also yourselves to new dead indeed unto sin, but alive unto God through Jesus Christ our Lord. Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, that ye should obey it in the lusts thereof. Neither yield ye your members as instruments of unrighteousness unto sin: but yield yourselves unto God, as those that are alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness unto God. For sin shall not have dominion over you: for ye are not under the law, but under grace” (Romans 6:2-14).
Now consider if you will the words which Jesus Christ our Lord spoke unto His disciples in the Upper Room just prior to His betrayal into the hands of sinners, and His death and crucifixion upon a cruel Roman tree by the Romans: “I am the true vine, and my Father is the husbandman. Every branch in me that beareth not fruit he taketh away: and every branch that beareth fruit, he purgeth it, that it may bring forth more fruit. Now ye are clean through the word which I have spoken unto you. Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine; no more can ye, except ye abide in me. I am the vine, ye are the branches: he that abideth in me, and I in Him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing. If a man abide not in me, he is cast forth as a branch, and is withered; and men gather them, and cast them into the fire, and they are burned. If ye abide in me, and my words abide in your, ye shall ask what ye will, and it shall be done unto you. Herein is my Father glorified, that ye bear much fruit; so shall ye be my disciples. As the Father hath loved me, so have I l over you: continue ye in my love. If ye keep my commandments, ye shall abide in my love; even as I have kept my Father’s commandments, and abide in His love” (John 15:1-10). IN ORDER FOR FRUIT TO BE BROUGHT FORTH, SOMETHING MUST DIE! IN ORDER FOR FRUIT TO BE BROUGHT FORTH, SOMETHING CANNOT BE PERMITTED TO LIVE! I am utterly and completely convinced that fruit can only be produced through and according to the process of death, and that until and unless we are willing to die, we cannot hope or even expect to bear and bring forth fruit before the true and living God. It is the work of death beneath the waters that causes the seed to be released, and once that seed is released, it is then permitted to remain beneath the waters where it begins to grown until it bursts forth from those very same waters and bring forth fruit that is pleasing before and unto the living God. Are you aware of the work of death that takes place beneath the waters of baptism? Are you aware of the work of death beneath the waters that causes the seed to be released beneath the waters in order that that seed might conceive and bring forth fruit and life before the God of heaven and earth? John the Baptist directly connected baptism of repentance with bearing and bringing forth fruits unto repentance, and thus we are to conclude that baptism in and of itself is only a means to bring about an end. The problem is that we have stopped with just baptism, and even with “the sinner’s prayer’ alone, and have not recognized that there is a much deeper work that only just begun with those two acts.
I absolutely love the words of the apostle Paul found in the seventh verse of this particular passage of Scripture within the epistle to the Romans, for the apostle Paul declares that “he that is dead is freed from sin.” In all reality, this very verse perfectly summarizes the only way for us to be truly free from sin, and that is through and by death and death alone. There would be those who would think, believe and even assume that they can be freed from sin through some twelve-step program, or through some intervention, or through therapy or counseling sessions, or even through praying and reciting some prayer at an altar in the house of God. The truth of the matter is that there is and there has always only been one way to be freed from sin, and that is through death. The danger and problem is that we have preachers, and ministers, and teachers, and leaders, and evangelists, and the like who preach and suggest that we can somehow be freed from sin through our own means and through our own efforts. There are countless men and women who think and believe that there is another way to be freed from sin outside of and apart from death. The truth of the matter is that just as there is no other name under heaven and on earth whereby man can be saved, so also there is also no other way under heaven and upon the earth whereby man can be freed from sin. The only way you, the only way I can be freed from sin is through death, and a death which begins with, at, by and through baptism. Perhaps the underlying question and reality that is presented within this particular chapter is whether or not we are ready for the tyranny and the dominion of sin to end within our lives. I would dare say that until and unless you are ready for the dominion and tyranny of sin to come to an end within your life, you cannot and will not give yourself to the work beneath the waters. Oh, it is true you might have entered the waters of baptism at least once within your life, but you have not given yourself to the work of death which sets you free from sin. The apostle Paul emphatically declared that our old man is crucified with Christ, in order that the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin. THE BODY OF SIN DESTROYED; SIN SHALL NO LONGER HAVE DOMINION OVER YOU!
This entire chapter should bring us to that place where we come to the understanding that there are in fact two essential works which need to take place within our hearts and lives. The first work is the work of the body of sin being destroyed within our lives, while the second work is the work of sin no longer having dominion over us. The only way either one of these works can take place within our lives—and remain present within our lives—is through the process of death, which does in fact begin at and beneath the waters of baptism. The work of death and destruction took place beneath the waters of the Red Sea, as well as beneath the flood waters during Noah’s day, for during Noah’s day the Lord destroyed everything that had breath in its nostrils. Beneath the waters of the Red Sea the Lord destroyed not only horses and chariots, but the Lord also destroyed Pharaoh’s soldiers which sought to pursue the children of Israel through the waters of their salvation. There beneath the waters of baptism the Lord not only destroys that which would seek to enslave and ensnare us again, but the Lord also puts to death that which would seek to remain alive in direct opposition to Him. It’s imperative that we recognize and understand that the apostle Paul never spoke of sin itself being destroyed, or even of sin being put to death, but rather of our being put to death, and our body of sin being destroyed. Even though we enter into the waters of baptism, and even through we enter into and experience the manifestation of death within our lives, it is we ourselves who die and are put to death, and not sin. In the sixth verse the apostle Paul not only declares that our old man is crucified with Christ, but also that the body of sin might be destroyed. It is only when our old man is crucified with Christ, and the body of sin is destroyed that we can truly be freed from sin. I would present before and present unto you one more time at this very moment the question of which side of sin you would choose to be on—the side when sin has dominion over you, and thereby produces death within your life, or the side where sin no longer has dominion over you, and you are completely and totally dead to sin. If we leave with two distinct and powerful realities within this passage of Scripture, it’s that sin should no longer have any dominion over us, and death should no longer have any dominion over us. If we allow ourselves to die to sin, and if we allow ourselves to be buried with Christ in His death, then not only can sin no longer have dominion over us, but not even death itself can have any dominion over us. Oh that we would rise up in newness of life in order that neither sin, nor death would have any dominion within, upon, and over our lives.