25 Sep Quarter Three Lesson Five
In our last lesson, we began our study of how our union with Christ enables us to overcome and live a victorious Christian life. We will continue our study of this topic today.
It is absolutely amazing to consider the good news of the Bible, isn’t it? It seems that it gets better and better the more we study and understand it. When Jesus miraculously changed the water into wine in Cana (read the account in John chapter 2), the master of the banquet said to the bridegroom that he’d “saved the best for last”; likewise, it seems that everything a believer learns in Scripture gets better and better, until we finally go to heaven and see Jesus’ face. When we see Him, it will be much like the Queen of Sheba, who upon seeing Solomon’s temple for the first time exclaimed “not even half was told me!” (1 Kings 10:7). Oh friend, we can’t even accurately imagine the joys of being face to face with our Savior for “no eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has planned for those who love Him” (1 Corinthians 2:9). Of course it’s quite the opposite with the devil, who shows everything up front, makes bad look good, gets worse over time, leads to slavery and ends in death.
A common experience for believers is that their heart “burns” from the love Jesus pours into it (Luke 24:32), and often feels as though it may burst (Psalm 23:5). This comes from the Holy Spirit as He opens up the Scriptures and sheds abroad the love of Jesus in them (Romans 5:5). We hope this will be your experience while studying through your lessons here at Gospel Growth Ministries.
Let us now continue studying the good news of our identity in Christ, and we will see that it gets better and better as we study.
Previously, we discussed freedom from sin through our union with Jesus as found in the first part of Romans chapter 6. Today, we will continue this study by considering the second half of Romans chapter 6.
You will remember that we concluded our study of the first section in Romans 6 with verse 14, “for sin shall not be your master, for you are not under law but under grace” (Romans 6:14).
Question 1. What do you think it means to not be under law, but rather to be under grace?
This truth, once again, is tremendously good news for all who believe. It means that God does not deal with us according to our sins, does not judge and condemn us as lawbreakers, but rather He treats us according to grace. He forgives all our sins, removes all our guilt and accepts us as His children.
Under law we would have had to be perfect, never falling to sin one time nor even thinking of it, always living righteous and holy, always measuring up. Under grace we are “accepted in the Beloved” (Jesus—Ephesians 1:6) just as we are, loved by God forever, and treated as if we had lived perfect like Jesus did. This is God’s marvelous grace which saves us.
God’s grace is also life transforming. By grace, we have a new identity in Christ; we now belong to Jesus and “sin shall not be our master”. Oh how glorious this truth is, especially to those of us who have lived many years under the harsh taskmaster of sin.
We now understand that where sin abounds, grace increases and the question comes:
What then? Shall we sin because we are not under law but under grace? By no means! Romans 6:15
Paul here is answering an expected question: “Since God accepts me in Christ and treats me according to grace, and since I’m not under the Law as a means of salvation, can’t I just stay as I am, live in my flesh and go right on sinning? Wouldn’t God actually get more glory if I keep sinning and His grace abounds more and more?” Paul’s obvious answer is “by no means” and then he proceeds to help us understand why this isn’t possible.
Don’t you know that when you offer yourselves to someone to obey him as slaves, you are slaves to the one whom you obey–whether you are slaves to sin, which leads to death, or to obedience, which leads to righteousness? Romans 6:16
Question 2. According to Romans 6:16, what happened to us when we believed in Jesus, and what principle is Romans 6:16 teaching?
Romans 6:16 teaches us that when we believed in Jesus, we offered ourselves to Jesus to become His “slave” and to live in obedience to Him. This “offering” leads to “slavery.” But we aren’t talking about the “slavery” of which we are commonly familiar which is abusive and typically connected to race or gender. No, Paul has in mind a practice from biblical times that went like this:
When someone in the nation of Israel owed an enormous debt—a debt so large it was unpayable based on the individual’s current situation—the debtor could offer himself up as a slave to someone who could afford to resolve the debt. The debtor would then become the slave of the one who paid his debt and would serve him based on the set terms of the agreement: five years, ten years, maybe even for life.
Friend, this is similar to what happened to you and to all of us believers. At some point in our lives, we acknowledged we had a very large, unpayable debt of sin, so we came to Jesus and offered ourselves to Him understanding that He alone could resolve our sin debt. We believed the good news that on the cross Jesus paid it all; He freed us from the penalty of sin, and we were happy to have a new Master.
Question 3. Paul says that offering ourselves up to something leads to enslavement. What are the stated results if we offer ourselves to sin verses if we offer ourselves to obedience?
It is clear that if we offer ourselves to sin, it leads to death; but if we offer ourselves for obedience, it leads to righteousness. This has very practical applications for us today. When we turn from offering ourselves to sin, and instead continue offering ourselves to Jesus, our lives will demonstrate increasing obedience and righteous living. By believing in Jesus, we were united with Him. Jesus paid off our sin debt, rescued us from slavery to sin and became our Master.
Oh friend, this Master Jesus is unbelievably kind, treating us only with grace and love, and defending our honor and protecting our lives. He is too gentle, loving and gracious for words. To those who have experienced the tremendous cruelty and harshness of sin as a master, we now have an overwhelmingly kind and good Master.
Question 4. Have you offered yourself to Jesus, not holding anything back? If not yet, will you do so now? If you have, will you share what that means to you personally?
But thanks be to God that, though you used to be slaves to sin, you wholeheartedly obeyed the form of teaching to which you were entrusted. Romans 6:17
Question 5. What is this “form of teaching to which you were entrusted?” And what have believers done with it?
The “form of teaching” which we were given is the gospel, and all believers have “obeyed” it. The gospel is the good news that God loved the world and gave His Son, and that Jesus loved us and gave Himself to die on a cross. He died for our sins and rose on the third day for our justification. He took on our sin and gave us His righteousness.
And we are called to believe this message, to put our faith in Jesus and trust Him, to offer ourselves to Him. This is how we obey the gospel. Now notice the next verse: “You have been set free from sin and have become slaves to righteousness.”Romans 6:18. As we obey the gospel by believing and following our Master Jesus, we find freedom from sin and become happy slaves of righteousness.
I put this in human terms because you are weak in your natural selves. Just as you used to offer the parts of your body in slavery to impurity and to ever-increasing wickedness, so now offer them in slavery to righteousness leading to holiness. Romans 6:19
Question 6. According to Romans 6:19, what are we in our natural selves? What are we to do about this natural weakness?
It is important to remember that a believer is and always will be weak in our natural selves. That is, in our flesh (human bodies), we are still susceptible to any form of temptation that comes our way. We are prone to wander, slipping to idolatry of all kinds at the drop of a hat.
This is the very reason we are instructed to change our offering. We used to offer the parts of our body in slavery to impurity and ever increasing wickedness, now we are to offer them in slavery to righteousness leading to holiness.
Question 7. How can you offer the parts of your body in slavery to righteousness? What are your thoughts?
When you were slaves to sin, you were free from the control of righteousness. 21 What benefit did you reap at that time from the things you are now ashamed of? Those things result in death! 22But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves to God, the benefit you reap leads to holiness, and the result is eternal life. 23 For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. Romans 6:15-23 (NIV)
Question 8. What is the contrast, in Romans 6:15-23?
The contrast in Romans 6:15-23 is between being a slave to sin and a slave to God; the results were also contrasted, one leading to death the other to eternal life.
We see, then, that there are absolutely awesome benefits that come from our union with Jesus Christ, and from our ongoing offering of ourselves to Him. The contrast is between slavery and freedom, death and life.
We have seen through the past two lessons that our union with Christ accomplished many wonderful things. Our past is dead and buried, our sins are removed from us having been crucified on a tree and buried in a tomb, and our “sinful self” died. We rose with Christ to a new life with Jesus, and we will live forever with Him. In light of this good news, we are to go on offering ourselves to God, and our body to live in righteousness. We have died to our old master and have risen to new life with a new Master. What absolutely unspeakable joy this union with Christ really is.
Did you know that nearly all the teachings in New Testament are illustrated in the Old Testament in story form? Well, such is the case with this subject of our union with Christ. Let us look at how the Old Testament teaches us this same truth:
“Come, let us return to the LORD. He has torn us to pieces but he will heal us; he has injured us but he will bind up our wounds. 2After two days he will revive us; on the third day he will restore us, that we may live in his presence. 3 Let us acknowledge the LORD; let us press on to acknowledge him. As surely as the sun rises, he will appear; he will come to us like the winter rains, like the spring rains that water the earth.” Hosea 6:1-3 (NIV)
Question 9. From Hosea 6:1-3 above, what had the Lord done to His people, and how long would it last before He restored them?
This passage teaches that God was angry with His people over their sin and rebellion, that He had disciplined them mightily, but that He would restore them so they could again live in His presence. It is a reference to God’s dealings with the nation of Israel as He tore them apart, sent them into captivity, but then promised to restore them as a nation.
But if we look closely at the words we see that they not only apply to Israel, God’s “firstborn son” (Exodus 4:22), but also to the Lord Jesus, God’s “only Son” (John 3:16). We know by now to look for the Lord Jesus Christ in the Word of God. He is “the Word” (John 1:1) and if we leave “the Word” (Jesus) out of the Word (the Scriptures), we miss the point.
So let us see him. As described in Hosea, Jesus was “torn to pieces” when Pontius Pilate handed Him over to be flogged by Roman soldiers. He was “injured” when they stripped Him of his clothes and beat Him, and finally when they crucified Him on the cross to provide for the forgiveness of our sin debt.
But “after two days” Jesus was revived and raised from the dead, and “on the third day” Jesus was restored to live in God’s presence, having secured eternal salvation for all who believe. This is how the Old Testament weaves the wonderful gospel news into its narratives.
But notice the words, “us” and “we”, for in them we can see our union with Jesus. Two thousand plus years ago, the Lord tore us to pieces, He injured us and crucified us on a cross. But on the third day we were “restored to live in His presence.” We died with Jesus, we rose with Jesus, and we will live forever in His presence. Hosea chapter 6 in the Old Testament is in many ways the counterpart to Romans chapter 6.
One final helpful illustration is to consider the life of Augustine, who lived in late 300 to early 400 A.D. He was a known womanizer given to sexual impurity, but then he was united to Jesus Christ by faith and began growing in grace. One time, as he was walking along the street he passed by one of the immoral women he used to patronize. Because he did not acknowledge her as he used to do, she turned around and said, “Augustine, Augustine, it is I!” And Augustine said with much kindness, “Yes, but it is not I.”
What he meant by that is that he no longer existed as the man who used women for selfish purposes. He no longer was the “I” who lived to gratify the lusts of his flesh, at the expense of others, but rather was instead united with Jesus in death and resurrection to new life. This is the power of our union with Jesus, it changes our past identity and makes us new. “If anyone is in Christ, He is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come” (2 Corinthians 5:17).
Question 10. Please summarize the teaching of the past two lessons in your own words. Also, let us know of any changes that are being made in your heart and life as you begin to apply the teaching of God’s Word in this area.