Word for Today Archive

Pastoral Commentary for Romans 6
Author: Pastor Bob Nordlie

"Baptism -- A Kill Switch that Works"

Yesterday I did some weed whacking in the greenbelt behind my house. The weeds out there were about three feet high, and although I can't see them on the other side of my privacy fence, the neighbors across the way on the other side of the green belt have to look at them all the time. After whacking away for a while I tried to shut down my gas powered line trimmer by hitting the kill switch. Unfortunately, nothing happened. It just kept on whirling. After repeated attempts with no success I finally had to reach underneath the engine and pull the spark plug wire in order to stop the trimmer.

I thought about that episode when I read Romans 6 today. Paul asks: "What shall we say, then? Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase? By no means! We died to sin; how can we live in it any longer?" (Romans 6:1-2) What a wonderful thing it is to be forgiven. By God's grace, through Jesus' death on the cross for our sins, we have been forgiven. That's incredibly Good News. How shall we react to such Good News? Some people seem to think that the best thing might be to just go on sinning. After all, I like to sin and God likes to forgive sin. It's a nice arrangement, right? Besides, the more I sin, the more God's grace is on display in the forgiveness of my sins. So shouldn't I just continue on in my sinful ways so that grace may abound?

Paul's answer is strongly worded: "By no means!" In Greek it's actually a double negative. "NO! I'll say it again: NO!" God didn't forgive us so that we could go on sinning. He forgives us in order to set us free from sin, not just sin's guilt but also sin's power to control us and dominate our lives. Because of our sin nature, however, sometimes we're like that trimmer that just wouldn't quit. We love to just keep on keeping on in sin.

Fortunately, God has given us a "kill switch" for sin that does work, unlike the one on my trimmer. It's our baptism. Paul writes: "We died to sin; how can we live in it any longer? Or don't you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life." (Romans 6:2-3) By our baptism, we were baptized into Christ's death. Therefore, we died to sin. In fact, Paul says: "For we know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin." (Romans 6:6)

Because our old self was crucified with Christ, sin can control us no more. All we have to do when faced with temptation to sin is to hit the "kill switch." And how do we do that? Paul says, "In the same way, count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus. Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its evil desires. Do not offer the parts of your body to sin, as instruments of wickedness, but rather offer yourselves to God, as those who have been brought from death to life; and offer the parts of your body to him as instruments of righteousness." (Romans 6:11-14)

In other words, Paul says, remember that in baptism your sin nature was nailed to the cross and died with Christ. Therefore, consider yourself dead to sin. Hit the "kill switch" by counting on what God has told you about your baptism as being true. Then, take the positive step of offering the parts of your body to Christ, who set you free, as tools of righteousness. In this way, you will have His power to overcome sin and live a new life in Christ.

Pastoral Commentary for Romans 6
Author: Pastor Zach

In 1848, the wife of an Anglican clergyman from Ireland, Cecil Frances Alexander, penned these now famous words concerning the wonder of God's creation:
All things bright and beautiful,
All creatures great and small,
All things wise and wonderful,
The Lord God made them all!
These words constitute what has proven to be one of history's most beloved Christian hymns. Perhaps you have even sung these words before.

The portrait that Alexander paints of God's glorious creation throughout this hymn is stirring. She speaks of "each little flower that opens" and "the purple headed mountains." Indeed, the imagery is so rich that you almost feel as if you're the one gazing with wonder on what she describes.

As much as I appreciate hymns which celebrate God's creation, I have always found them to be a little disingenuous. All thingsbright and beautiful? Really? Honestly, I can think of several things that I would call neither bright nor beautiful. Take fire ants, for instance.

During my college years, I worked at a country radio station in Austin. One evening, as I was pulling the night shift, I decided to step out for a breath of fresh air when my foot, which was protected by no more than a flip flop, landed right in the center of a massive fire ant mound. The burning bites began instantaneously. I quickly searched for relief. Thankfully, there was a fountain at the entrance to the radio station. And so, I flung off my flip flop and doused my foot in the fountain's cooling water, all the while screaming, "Die fire ants! Die!" The hymn may call fire ants "bright and beautiful," but I prefer my fire ants "cold and dead."

Unfortunately, as I learned that evening, fire ants are quite hearty creatures. They just wouldn't die. Their stings continued even with my foot in the fountain. I finally had to carefully search my foot while it remained submerged in the water and ruthlessly pry everylast fire ant I could find from my now red and swollen skin.

In our reading for today from Romans 6, Paul writes these glorious words: "For we know that since Christ was raised from the dead, he cannot die again; death no longer has mastery over him" (verse 9). Some 2,000 years ago, Paul says, Satan consorted with the evil entities of this world to make an attempt on the life of Christ. They accused him, arrested him, mocked him, beat him, and finally murdered him on a cross. And they thought they had the Savior just the way they preferred him: not "bright and beautiful," but "cold and dead." But three days later, much to the surprise and chagrin of Satan and his minions, they discovered that Jesus was heartier than they ever imagined. For Jesus could not and would not stay dead. And now, upon his resurrection, Paul reminds us, "He cannot die again." For he has conquered death.

But that's not all. Because the Savior's incredulity toward death marks our lives as well: "Now if we died with Christ, we also believe that we will live with him as well" (verse 8). In other words, just as Christ cannot die again, we, at our own resurrections on the Last Day,will also not die again. Indeed, not even a suffocating dip in a fountain can rob us of this life. In fact, drowning water is actually the very vehicle which God uses to give us a resurrected life: "We were therefore buried with Christ through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life" (verse 4).

So today, celebrate the Savior who just can't seem to stay dead. And hold out hope that he will keep us from staying dead too. For he, in the midst of a broken world in which so much is dark and ugly, is truly "bright and beautiful."

Read Today's Scripture and Commentary on the Concordia website.

2020-06-05 08:13:53