baptism and the way out

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Romans 6:1-8

1 What should we conclude then? Should we keep sinning so that grace may increase? 2 Absolutely not! How can we who died to sin still live in it? 3 Or do you not know that those who were baptized into Christ were baptized into his death? 4 The conclusion is that we have been buried with him through baptism into death, so that in the same way as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we too may live a new life. 5 Because since we have become united with him in a death like his, we will certainly also be united in a resurrection like his. 6 We know that our old man was crucified with him so that the sinful body would no longer dominate us, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin. 7 (For someone who has died has been freed from sin.) 8 Now if we died along with Christ, we believe that we will also live along with him.

baptism and the way out

The legalistic Jews of Paul’s day saw obedience to the law as the way out of sin’s domination. Paul blew that notion out of the water. The law is not the answer. It is not the way out. In fact, if you have nothing but the law you are going to sin more and more. The knowledge of God’s will is going to produce more guilt and more sin. Sin dominates. Since that is the case, some might potentially believe that the way out is to just have confidence in the atonement to cover every sin, and sin willfully and continually. Paul replies to that potential objection in emphatic terms: absolutely not.

Instead, he points believers to the gospel that they proclaimed when they were immersed in the burial waters of baptism. The symbolic ordeal that those believers went through was an identification with Christ’s death by crucifixion. Just as Jesus submitted to being knocked down and nailed to a cross, so they submitted to being knocked down and submersed into the water. When they were lifted up to breathe air again, they were identifying with Christ being raised to life again. Christ’s death and resurrection was a victory over sin. In the same way, the believer was to see his or her life after baptism as a life of victory over sin, not one that must still be subjected to its dominion.

LORD, when sin wants to drag us down, remind us of the time when you raised us up. Remind us that sin no longer dominates us.

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grace reigning through righteousness

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Romans 5:18-21

18 Consequently, just as condemnation for all people came as a result of one transgression, so too by the one righteous act came righteousness leading to life for all people. 19 Because in the same way that the disobedience of the one man made many sinners, so also through the obedience of one man many will be made righteous. 20 Now the law came in so that the transgression may increase, but where sin increased, grace multiplied all the more, 21 so that just as sin reigned in death, so also grace will reign through righteousness resulting in eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.

grace reigning through righteousness

The reign of sin accompanied by the law only produced more sin, which led to more death. The reign of grace came as a result of Christ’s death and resurrection. It now produces what the law could not: righteousness. Because of the grace of God which removed our condemnation, we can now live righteously more and more in this life. We will not experience sinlessness or perfection, but we can be obedient to the commands of our savior in faith. That grace can now reign in our hearts, producing God’s righteousness, and giving us glimpses into the eternal life which is our destiny.

LORD, we have had enough of sin reigning in our lives and producing death. We surrender our hearts to your grace. Produce in us the righteousness you want to demonstrate.

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the next Adam

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Romans 5:12-17

12 Because of this, in the same way that sin entered the world through one man and death entered as a consequence of that sin, and so death spread to all people because all sinned– 13 because before the law was given, sin was already in the world, but there is no judgment upon sin when there is no law. 14 Yet death prevailed from Adam until Moses even over those who did not sin in the same way that Adam (who is a type of the next Adam) transgressed. 15 But the free gift is not like the transgression in one way. That is, since the many died through the transgression of the one man, how much more did the grace of God and the gift by the grace of the one man Jesus Christ multiply to the many! 16 And the gift is not like the one who sinned. Because judgment, resulting from the one transgression, led to condemnation, but the gracious gift led to justification from even the many failures. 17 For if, by the transgression of the one man, death reigned through the one, how much more will those who receive the abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness reign in life through the one, Jesus Christ!

the next Adam

Adam’s transgression brought condemnation to all those who were in him – that is, the whole human race. Christ’s obedience in dying on the cross did not change that. we still all die because of Adam’s sin. So, what did Christ’s death do? It changed the eternal outcome for all those who receive the gift of righteousness by faith. We who put our faith in the resurrected Christ will also be resurrected and will reign in life along with him.

The wages of sin is death, and that still applies to everyone in Adam. That still includes us. But the gift of God is eternal life in Christ. He is the next Adam, and because of his resurrection, we have hope of a new, eternal life in our future.

Thank you, LORD, for becoming the next Adam, giving us hope for a sinless eternity.

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resurrection reconciliation

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Romans 5:6-11

6 Because while we were still helpless, at just the right time Christ died on behalf of the ungodly. 7 (Because rarely will anyone die even on behalf of a righteous person, though someone might possibly dare to die for a good person, perhaps.) 8 But God proves his own love for us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. 9 So he did so much more, because we have now been declared righteous by his blood, we will be saved by him from God’s wrath. 10 For if while we were his enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of his Son, how much more, since we have been reconciled, will we be saved by his life? 11 Not only this, but we also delight in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom we have now received this reconciliation.

resurrection reconciliation

Christ sacrificed on the cross bought us reconciliation, but it is his resurrection which demonstrated that reconciliation. He did for us what we could not do – in our sinful state. Now, since he is raised, he gives us hope that we too will experience a resurrection unto eternal, sinless life.

When we feel helpless in our sinful broken lives, we can look up to the cross. And what we see is an empty cross and an empty tomb. It was necessary that Christ die for us, but it was not necessary that he stay dead. By overcoming death, Christ demonstrated God’s eternal plan for all those who put their faith in him.

Thank you, LORD, for the empty cross and the empty tomb.

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admission into grace

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Romans 5:1-5

1 Consequently, now that we have been declared righteous by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, 2 through whom we have also obtained admission by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we delight in the expectation of God’s glory. 3 Not only this, but we also delight in the things that we suffer, knowing that the suffering produces endurance, 4 and endurance, character, and character, more expectation. 5 And what we expect does not disappoint us, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us.

admission into grace

In the previous chapter, Paul put forth Abraham as an example of a person who had resurrection faith. Now, he shows why that faith worked for him. Behind Abraham’s faith was an act of God, a miracle that Abraham only saw from a distance: the death and resurrection of Christ. Because of what Jesus did for us by dying on the cross, we can look beyond our sin and expect God’s glory in our future. Christ’s death and resurrection bought for us admission into God’s grace by faith.

If suffering in this present life does not taint the delight we have because of our admission into God’s grace. In fact, it makes us long for the renewal of all things all the more.

LORD, thank you for the price you paid for our admission into your grace, and our expectation of your coming glory.

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resurrection faith

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Romans 4:18-25

18 Against hope Abraham believed in hope with the result that he became the father of a crowd of nations according to the pronouncement, “so will your descendants be.” 19 Without being weak in faith, he considered his own body as dead (because he was about one hundred years old) and the deadness of Sarah’s womb. 20 He did not vacillate in unbelief about the promise of God but was strengthened in faith, giving glory to God. 21 He was fully convinced that what God promised he was also able to do. 22 So indeed it was credited to Abraham as righteousness. 23 But the statement it was credited to him was not written only for Abraham’s sake, 24 but also for our sake, to whom it will be credited, those who believe in the one who raised Jesus our Lord from the dead. 25 He was sacrificed because we had transgressed and was raised because we had been declared righteous.

resurrection faith

Faith can be a nebulous thing if we do not pay attention to the concrete analogies that the scriptures use to describe it. One of those concrete analogies is found in Paul’s description of Abraham’s faith. He described Abraham’s faith as a trust in God’s ability to raise the dead. His own personal death was not in view. The death he feared was the deadness in Sarah’s uterus. She was absolutely too old to have children. Yet, God promised that she would not only have children, but that many nations would call her their mother. Abraham believed that God was able to do the impossible, so he trusted God to raise the dead.

Now, Paul turns to the present – first century Rome. He looked at a group of Christian believers – some Jews, the rest Gentiles. Their faith is like Abraham’s faith. Like Abraham, they faced an impossible reality. Their savior had been nailed to a cross, and died. But their savior was raised from the dead. Like their ancestor Abraham, they dared to have resurrection faith. That is the kind of faith that God gives – and responds to.

LORD, help us to reflect the resurrection faith of our father Abraham.

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father of us all

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Romans 4:12-17

12 And he is also the father of the circumcised, who are not only circumcised, but who also walk in the footsteps of the faith that our father Abraham possessed while he was still uncircumcised. 13 Because the promise to Abraham or to his descendants that he would inherit the world was not fulfilled by keeping the law, but through the righteousness that comes by faith. 14 Because if they become heirs by the law, faith is empty and the promise is nullified. 15 Because the law brings wrath, because where there is no law there is no transgression either. 16 For this reason it is by faith so that it may be by grace, with the result that the promise may be certain to all the descendants–not only to those who are under the law, but also to those who have the faith of Abraham, who is the father of us all. 17 (Scripture states, “I have made you the father of a crowd of Gentiles”).[1] He is our father in the presence of God whom he believed–the God who makes the dead alive and summons the things that do not yet exist as though they already do.

father of us all

Paul talks about two groups of saved people, and both are saved by grace, on account of faith in God’s promise. Abraham is the father of both groups.

  • First, there is the circumcised (Jews) who walk in the spiritual footsteps of their natural ancestor, Abraham. These do not trust in their own obedience to external things, but trust in the God of Abraham to save them from their sins.
  • Next, there is a “crowd of Gentiles” who also walk in those spiritual footsteps even though they are not under the Mosaic covenant, and do not possess Abraham’s genetic DNA. They came to faith in Christ are to be welcomed into the first group on the basis of that faith.

Paul had at least two reasons for bringing this up. He wanted the ethnic Jews who were Christians to stay true to their faith in Christ, and not fall back into the legalism and ethnic pride that might cause them to renounce him. He also wanted the whole church in Rome to unite around the same gospel – a gospel of salvation by grace through faith, untainted by this legalism and pride.

LORD, help us to keep the gospel message we preach pure from the contamination of legalism and ethnic pride.


[1] Genesis 17:4 (from the Hebrew).

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the sign as a seal

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Romans 4:6-11

6 This is how even David himself speaks regarding the blessedness of the man to whom God credits righteousness regardless of works: 7 “Blessed are those whose lawless works are forgiven, and whose sins are covered; 8 blessed is the one against whom the Lord will never count sin.” 9 Is this blessedness then for the circumcised or also for the uncircumcised? Because we say, “faith was credited to Abraham as righteousness.” 10 On what basis was it credited to him? Was he circumcised at the time, or not? No, he was not circumcised but uncircumcised! 11 And he received the sign of circumcision as a seal of the righteousness that he had by faith while he was still uncircumcised, so that he would become the father of all those who believe but have never been circumcised, that they too could have righteousness credited to them.

the sign as a seal

The Judaism that Paul was raised in had seen circumcision as one of the works of the law which had to be performed in order to get on God’s good side. Obedient people did these works, and then hoped that they would be enough to gain God’s favor and prevent their destruction in Gehenna. They saw those who were uncircumcised as hopelessly lost, regardless of any semblance of moral character they might pretend to possess. The sign was an essential, without which there was no hope of forgiveness.

Paul says, nah. The sign was supposed to be a seal of the forgiveness itself. Circumcision was intended to celebrate the forgiveness that Abraham received because of his faith in God’s promise. And, since Abraham believed and was saved before he (or any of his children) had been circumcised, salvation in Christ could now be preached to the not now nor ever circumcised!

LORD, we celebrate the inheritance we have from our spiritual forefather, Abraham. We celebrate the forgiveness you gave him before he was circumcised. We celebrate the message of forgiveness by grace that the act of circumcision signified.

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demythologizing Abraham

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Romans 4:1-5

1 What then should we say that Abraham, our forefather according to the flesh, concluded regarding this matter? 2 Because if Abraham was declared righteous by the works of the law, he has something to brag about–but not in God’s presence. 3 Because what does the scripture say? “Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness.” 4 Now to the one who works, his pay is not credited as a result of grace but because of obligation. 5 But to the one who does not work, but believes in the one who declares the ungodly righteous, his faith is credited as righteousness.

demythologizing Abraham

The Judaism of Paul’s day had been founded upon a myth: the myth that God approved of Abraham because he had perfectly kept the law – even before the law had been given at Sinai. Paul encourages the Jewish Christians in Rome to go back to the Torah. He argued that according to what the Bible actually says about Abraham,[1] God approved of him long before he had the opportunity to obey the law. His approval was a response to his faith in the promise of the God of grace.

The myth still persists. There are many who push religious observances as a way to “get right with God” and insist that this is the Christian message. It is not. In fact, Paul argued here that it is not even the message of Judaism as the Torah presents it. The law was not a means of salvation, because salvation preceded it. Salvation by grace through faith is the consistent message of both testaments. Abraham is our father because he dared to believe God’s promise of grace.

LORD, help us to demythologize our presentation of the gospel so that those who hear us understand that salvation is your work, not ours.


[1] Genesis 15:6.

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since God is one

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Romans 3:25-31

25 God publicly displayed him at his death as the atoning sacrifice accessible through faith. This was to demonstrate his righteousness, because God in his restraint had passed over the sins previously committed. 26 This was also to demonstrate his righteousness in the present time, so that he would be just and the justifier of the one who lives because of Jesus’ faithfulness. 27 Who, then, can boast? No one! Why? Because works make a difference? No, but faith does! 28 For we understand that a person is declared righteous by faith apart from keeping the works of the law. 29 Or is God the God of the Jews only? Is he not the God of the Gentiles too? Yes, of the Gentiles too! 30 Since God is one, he will justify those who are circumcised by faith and the uncircumcised on account of faith. 31 Do we then abolish the law by having faith? Absolutely not! Instead we uphold the law.

since God is one

There is not a separate God for the Gentiles, nor is there a separate gospel for the Jews. The plan was fulfilled by Christ, and now it is made clear that all come to salvation by faith in the same Christ.

On judgment day, unbelievers will have to pay for their sins with their own lives. They will suffer eternal destruction. But believers will walk into eternal life – all under the same banner, worshipping the same God and living in the same kingdom.

Thank you LORD for the equality we have in Christ.

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