“One must face the fact that all the talk about His love for men, and His service being perfect freedom, is not (as one would gladly believe) mere propaganda, but an appalling truth. He really does want to fill the universe with a lot of loathsome little replicas of Himself—creatures, whose life, on its miniature scale, will be qualitatively like His own, not because He has absorbed them but because their wills freely conform to His. We want cattle who can finally become food; He wants servants who can finally become sons. We want to suck in, He wants to give out. We are empty and would be filled; He is full and flows over. Our war aim is a world in which Our Father Below has drawn all other beings into himself: the Enemy wants a world full of beings united to Him but still distinct.” CS Lewis Screwtape Letters
In Romans 1 and 2 Paul concludes that God’s wrath is against all of sinful humanity, Jews and Gentiles alike. Romans 3 and 4 Paul concludes that God’s grace benefits all humanity, Jews and Gentiles alike. Romans 5 unifies us under peace and righteousness with God through work and life of Jesus. In Romans 6 Paul talks about the reality of being at peace with God.
6 What shall we say, then? Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase? 2 By no means! We are those who have died to sin; how can we live in it any longer? Romans 6
What is the logical question if our grace and peace with God comes through Jesus’ work? If grace and peace aren’t based on my works, then why can’t I just do whatever I want? God’s grace is sufficient right? Not really.
The word “cheap” grace has been used for this situation. Not that grace is cheap, but that people that continue to try to live their old lives view grace as cheap. Real grace costs something. Jesus died for that grace. And in a way, so do we.
3 Or don’t you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? 4 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
Paul is going to use baptismal language to make his point. Baptize (βαπτίζω) means “dip, submerge, baptize”. Let us restate the verse using this language. Those who are immersed in Christ were immersed into his death. Those who are submerged in Christ were submerged into his death. You and I have peace with God because we are submerged into Jesus. Like a submarine is swallowed by the ocean, so Christians are swallowed by the righteousness of Jesus.
If you and I are submerged into Jesus, then God no longer sees our sin, but Jesus righteousness. That means there is no condemnation and no punishment. It also means that our values, motivations, likes and dislikes are submerged as well. The person we were dies and becomes a new and distinct image or reflection of Jesus.
Lastly, it means the promise of evil could not be fulfilled in Jesus, likewise it will not be fulfilled in us. Death could not contain the glory and perfection of Jesus and it will not contain the glory and perfection of Jesus in us. You are a new and distinct creation. This is a big deal! The world wants to submerge all of your motives and values into itself. It wants to make you a robot of the culture. Jesus wants to fill you with life and glory. He died so you would be made full.
8 Now if we died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. 9 For we know that since Christ was raised from the dead, he cannot die again; death no longer has mastery over him. 10 The death he died, he died to sin once for all; but the life he lives, he lives to God. Romans 6
Your death or the emptying of yourself doesn’t make you less you, it makes you more. God created us as his image bearers. We are truly ourselves in the most distinct way when we identify ourselves with him or immerse ourself in the reality that is Jesus. God always wanted sons and daughters. He wanted relationship with Adam and Eve. Our culture doesn’t want sons and daughters, rather it wants bodies. God wants to fill us with the wonder of a relationship with him. Our new present changes our future. Once you die, death no longer has control over you. The fear and power of death and evil is gone.
15 What then? Shall we sin because we are not under the law but under grace? By no means! 16 Don’t you know that when you offer yourselves to someone as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one you obey—whether you are slaves to sin, which leads to death, or to obedience, which leads to righteousness?
Paul uses something the people in Rome would have been familiar with, slavery. We have a different understanding of slavery in our culture, than the Romans had in theirs. In the Roman culture you could become someone’s slave for a number of reasons. Maybe you owed a debt or you were too impoverished to live so you sold yourself. It was not racially or ethnically charged like our culture has been witness. The Roman government was progressive, but they didn’t have certain labor laws to protect employees. So slavery was common at Paul’s time. Paul uses this common and understood social convention at his time to display our loyalty. If we have offered ourselves to God, then we are loyal to his desires.
Once we were a slave to sin. And let us say someone did something horrible to you. As a slave to sin, you react in whatever way would benefit you. But as a slave to God we view this person as someone else that needs Jesus. And we love them. You see it changes our loyalty so that our life is filtered through the lens of grace.
22 But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of 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[b] Christ Jesus our Lord. Romans 6
You no longer are a slave to the same actions and motives that once ran your life. And the wage of that life is death. Death is the consequence of a life lived apart from God, but eternal life is the reward for those in Christ Jesus.
God cares about personal holiness. Grace is not an excuse for sin, rather a reason for devotion. Do you have some sin that plagues you? What do you need to do to submerge that sin?
What motivations, likes or values are you holding on to that need to be plunged? Don’t worry you don’t lose what makes you distinct. Read the CS Lewis quote at the top, if you haven’t already.
Read Luke 18:18-30, Are there parts of your life that you are afraid to submerge like the rich ruler?
The Brethren of the Feast is dedicated to meditation on scripture so we can be filled by the goodness and righteousness of God. If Jesus emptied himself and lived by God’s terms alone, then what does it look like for you to do the same?
Paul is attempting to take the Church he has unified through Christ and push them toward a unified holy life. He wants us to do the same. He wants us to live individually and communally as holy and set-apart people. We have been set apart, because we have submerged our values and motives, the building blocks of who we are, into the person of Jesus Christ. That we might be righteous in God’s sight, have eternal life and live a life worthy of his calling. Life as a reflection of Jesus this week.