To Live The New Life
Re-Translated In January 2000
1. Two people are preparing to be baptized on September sixth at Osaka Nozomi Church. The baptismal ceremony is always a great joy for the entire church. The church has been baptizing in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit for as long as two thousand years. It is quite a marvel when you think about it that this [practice] has not ceased but has gone on continuously through out history. That it spans time and space and reaches us where we live in a corner in Japan at the close of the twentieth century surely seems as the miraculous work of God.
2. Today, as you look all the way through Christendom, baptism may not necessarily always be held in high esteem. The fact is there are many who don't see the importance of it. There are a number of people in this country who think that the main things are that you have a heart that believes in God, that you have conduct that has accomplished things by faith in God, but baptism (and things like communion at the Lord's supper) is one of the non essential ceremonies. But, if baptism were truly a non essential and if God also thought that way about it, then perhaps shouldn't it have been lost [somewhere] in the recesses of time? For the span of two thousand years the blood of many martyrs has been shed [over it] in that time, but even [without that] we should not lightly regard that we have something that has been handed down all the way to this day. God gave it, God valued it, therefore, we also must value what the church has passed on unchanged and without loss. Before handing down a hasty and an arbitrary judgment about it, I think we need to know its significance much more deeply. The truth is if one does not know the meaning of baptism it is possible for the faith life to go in the wrong direction.
3. The situation regarding this matter seems to have been the same in Paul's day and time when it was first on the horizon. Therefore, Paul opens his discussion on baptism in verse three with the words "Or don't you know?" because when someone doesn't understand precisely what he or she is expected to know, the person will propose something totally amiss or ridiculous based on an arbitrary understanding of the faith life. This should concern us, too, so I would like us to pay deliberate attention anew and again to the words which the Bible declares on baptism.
Baptism To Take Part In Christ's Death
4. To begin, let's read from verse one up to verse four.
"So, what is going on? As grace increases, should we stay in sin? That should never be so. Why are we, who died to sin, still able to live in sin? Or, don't you know, that everyone of us who received baptism to be joined to Christ Jesus has received baptism in order to take part in his death? We were buried with Christ in baptism and have been participants in his death so that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father we also would live in a new life," (verses one through four).
5. The mistaken idea that appeared by not knowing what they should have known went like this: "Should we remain in sin so that grace might increase?" Why did they ever say such a thing like that? Because Paul said that "Whenever sin increased, grace would all the more abound," (5:20). If the grace of God that saves sinners becomes clearer the more human sin shows its true nature and its sinfulness becomes clear, then shouldn't a person be as sinful as much as he or she can? In short, that's the way it went. There were some who had criticized Paul for that. [They must have said], "The gospel Paul is telling us makes people no good. It weakens a person's sense of moral responsibility. It leads to self indulgence and sensual depravity. Therefore, what Paul is saying is wrong." Or perhaps, some people interpreting according to their personal convenience might have used Paul's message to justify their sins. "No matter what I do it will be forgiven, any way. The grace of God will be abundant there [for me]." This may be something anybody might think at least once.
6. "Should we remain in sin for grace to increase?" But, in whatever sense this may be stated, Paul would resolutely shout a no to this point of view. [He says,] "That should never be so [which is translated, 'God forbid' in some versions]." What is his reason for that? He says: "We, who are dead in sin, how are we still able to live in sin some more?" Well, what does "dead in sin" mean? It is not necessarily a phrase with an obvious meaning. Paul himself seems to acknowledge that. So, he does not end his talk with this, but begins to speak on baptism because if [a person] does not understand baptism, he or she will not comprehend the saying of "we, who are dead in sin."
7. So then, what might baptism be? According to the words of Paul it is "being joined to Christ Jesus" and "participating in his death." This phrase translated literally is "into Christ Jesus." Therefore, by "entering into Christ Jesus" we are joined to Christ. Paul also calls it entering into Christ's death. Of course, this is not a personal idea of Paul. The church has been passing it on. It is something even the Roman disciples were expected to have known as part of basic Christian knowledge. Therefore, Paul was saying to them, "Don't you know?"
8. Well, can we understand what Paul says? There are many people listening to this who will think, "This doesn't focus right for me." But I don't see any problem at all because Paul clearly was not talking about a situation that is comprehensible experientially, existentially, or by sense perception. He's not talking about that, rather he was talking about how God sees things. Please give it some thought. The death of Christ was an event that specifically took place on a hill at Golgotha about A.D. 30. It is preposterous to claim that you enter into his death and participate in his death! If grasped from the human perspective this claim is nonsense. But the important thing is not how a human sees it. It is how God sees it and thinks about it. That's what Paul is saying here. God sees the person who received baptism as a person who is in Christ, as a person in Christ's death and as a person who is participating in his death. In short, when God sees a person as a participant in [Christ's] death, it means, that he considers that person as already dead.
9. We can understand what is written in verse four in the same way. It says that "we were buried with Christ in baptism." In the baptismal rite a person experiences water being poured out on him or her. Or, by the method that's called immersion a person receiving baptism is submerged under the water. A person does not die from having water poured on him or her. A person would die if submerged and held under water for fifteen minutes, but that's not what we do in baptismal ceremonies. Therefore, what actually happens is no one really dies or is buried. However, God sees the person as dead and buried with Christ. His arrangement truly is by far more important than any emotional-sensory experiences during baptism.
10. The meaning of "to die in sin" is visible from that. As we've seen in chapter five everyone of us is a descendant of Adam. In the sense of we are all under the control of sin, we are Adam's posterity. Furthermore, the consequence of sin is condemnation. We, therefore, all are under the control of death because of that condemnation. Adam's descendants must die. It means that the body does not simply rot but is separated entirely from God the source of life and is pitched away. That was the end of the sinner that you'd expect. But, here Christ the second Adam has come, the sinless and righteous one hung on the cross and died. Although we are the ones who really should have been condemned and destroyed, he was condemned. He died on the cross a death of judgment and condemnation. Furthermore, God permits us to enter his death. In actual practice, we do not die. But he considers us as participants in his death and as dead. He sees [us] as persons already judged in sin. This is what "died to sin" is about. What is the reason for this? The Bible says, "As Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father it was so we also would live a new life." Why are [our] sins forgiven? Because he looks at us as if we died. Why are we justified? Because he sees us as if we are raised from the dead. Thus, we begin to live a new life as persons once dead and brought back to life again.
Present Yourself To God As An Instrument Of Righteousness
11. It is clear from the above that the reason a person participates in Christ's death, is forgiven, and justified is not so that he or she keeps being slaves of sin. As we continue let's read to verse eleven.
"If we become one body with Christ and resemble1 his figure in death, let us resemble his figure in his resurrection. We know the reason our old selves have been crucified with Christ was so that the body that was ruled by sin would be destroyed and no longer be a slave to sin. The person who dies is released from sin. If we have died with Christ, we believe we will live with Christ. And, we know that Christ who has been raised from the dead will never die again. Death will no longer control Christ. When Christ died, he died just once for sin, and when he lives, he lives to God. In this way you yourselves also are dead to sin, but consider yourselves as joined to Christ Jesus and alive unto God," (verses five through eleven).
12. When we became persons joined to Christ, as we have already seen, it is the same as saying that what happened in Christ becomes our own. If we follow the figure of death in baptism, we will also follow the figure of the resurrection. When a person has taken a part in the death of Christ it is also the same as having been crucified with Christ. Paul is not making a speech here about so-called "crucifying the ego." What is translated as "the old self" is the word for "old person." This is the perishing self of the descendant of Adam. It has already been crucified. God sees it that way. Herein lies the basis of our salvation; for, in order to be saved the self of the old person only dies by being crucified once with Christ. And, that has truly happened. But, it was not only so that we as persons who have died would be forgiven of our sins. It was so that we "would no longer be slaves of sin." If the slave of a certain master dies, that person is no longer a slave. The master is no longer a master over that person. Likewise, sin can no longer be a master that can control us and finish us off in destruction.
13. So then, what is important [for us]? It is that we also see ourselves as God sees us. Christ died just once for sin and is living to God. If we are in him, then it follows that we are dead to sin, joined to Christ Jesus and are alive unto God. In verse eleven Paul says it like this, "Please consider it as." His saying "please consider it as" does not mean to imagine it as if things were that way. That's not what he meant, rather, what he meant exactly was to recognize the truth as the truth. It is about how we are to admit by faith -- the truth which right now only God can see -- the truth that we are already dead with Christ, resurrected with Christ, and we are living a new life with Christ. Because only this can make us proceed further.
14. With that let's read verses twelve and following.
"Therefore, do not let sin control your bodies which are to die and do not follow the desires of your bodies. Also, do not turn your limbs over to sin as instruments of unrighteousness. Instead, present yourselves to God as persons returned to life from the dead, and present your limbs to God as instruments of righteousness; so that, sin will no longer control you. You are not under the law but you are under grace," (verses twelve through fourteen).
15. Though we are dead to sin, sin is not dead to us. Sin is alive. Sin will still come [trying] to control us. At times we may even be made to yield to the great power of sin. This is what all Christians experience. But, we shouldn't be perplexed. When we stand in the correct awareness of verse eleven we will know what we should do. Sin is no longer our master. There is no need for us to be slaves and neither should we be. We should not turn our body parts over to sin as instruments for unrighteousness.
16. The only way not to be controlled by sin is to present ourselves to God. It is to offer our body parts to God as tools for righteousness. We couldn't offer to God the old person who was Adams's descendant. But, now, we are not the old person linked back to Adam, but we exist before God as persons who have died once. We are before him as justified and new creations. Therefore, we are able to present ourselves. As persons who have returned to life from the dead we are permitted to present ourselves to God. This very thing is nothing more than living the new life as persons who have been resurrected with Christ. Baptism is nothing more than the first step of a person's life in which one lives in this new life [in Christ]. If we get a proper understanding of this matter, the message ought not to appear [to us] as saying "Should we stay in sin so grace will increase?"
1 "Ayakaru" means "resemble, follow someone's example."