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By Rev Charles Seet

Preached at / Published Life BPC Easter Sunrise Service, 2006-04-16

Text: Romans 6:1-23

On this Easter morning we remember the glorious resurrection of Jesus Christ. And as we gather here so early this Sunday, we can just imagine ourselves coming with the women to the garden tomb where the body of Jesus had been laid two days before. We can feel the anguish and perplexity they felt when they found the tomb already opened and the body, missing. Then they heard the angels saying to them 'Why seek ye the living among the dead? He is not here, but is risen.' (Luke 24:5,6) What wonderful news this was to them. The joy of hearing this news was only surpassed by the joy of actually seeing, hearing and touching the resurrected Christ Himself when He appeared to them shortly.

Dearly beloved, you and I have every reason to rejoice because of the resurrection of Christ. It means that we are justified, since the one sacrifice He made has been fully accepted by God the Father. It means that He has conquered death. Death is swallowed up in victory. It means that we will one day be standing before God with incorruptible resurrected bodies like His.

The resurrection is the central tenet of Christianity. Everything we believe in stands or falls with it. Even the Apostle Paul said in 1 Corinthians 15, that if Jesus had not been raised from the dead, then our faith is empty, we are still in our sins, those who have died believing in Him are all perished. So important is Christ's resurrection in the whole of history that many scholars have debated over it. Volumes of books have been written about it. But till today, no one has ever been able to successfully disprove the resurrection of Christ. 

And the most compelling evidence of the resurrection of Christ are the countless lives that have been transformed as a result of it. The glorious power of Christ's resurrection alone can transform the lives of people, where other means and methods have failed. Neither education, nor rehabilitation, nor imprisonment have ever successfully and permanently changed the lives of people. But the resurrection power of Christ has seen great success. And we can still see it working in the lives of people today. 

Dearly beloved, you and I are also being transformed by the same resurrection power. But this transformation does not come passively. We are actively involved in the whole process of change. We are responsible to live out all that the resurrection of Christ has accomplished for us. Only then do we experience the power of the resurrection working in us and changing us from within. What we are going to do now is to consider how we should live our lives, in view of the fact that Jesus Christ is resurrected from the grave.

Let us turn our Bibles to the passage in Romans 6:4 'Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.' This verse gives us a majestic picture of our salvation - the picture of the glorious events of Christ's death and resurrection. The word 'baptism' here does not refer to water baptism but to our spiritual baptism, which took place at the time we were saved. According to the apostle Paul, when we were saved, we became spiritually identified with Christ in His death, His burial and His resurrection. It was then that we died to our old life of sin, and we were spiritually resurrected to the new life we now have in Christ. This must cause us now to walk in newness of life, to actually live out in our daily living, the results of our salvation from sin. Now what does it mean, to walk in newness of life? I would like to suggest that it means four things: 

Firstly, to walk in newness of life means to live a Resurrected life. In verse 4 the phrase 'newness of life' is actually connected to the idea of Christ's resurrected body: 'like as Christ was raised up from the dead . . . we also should walk in newness of life.' The resurrection of Christ was not the same as the earlier miraculous resurrections of people like Lazarus and the son of the Widow of Nain. In these earlier resurrections, those who came back to life had the same corruptible bodies they had before they died. But the resurrected body of Jesus was new, different, and superior in quality compared to his former pre-resurrection body. It was free from all the aches, pains and physical ailments of the former body. It was created for life in heaven, not on earth.

In the same way therefore, our life after salvation should be new, different and superior in quality to our former life. It should be free from all the sinful and corrupt habits of the former life. It lives for heavenly things and not for earthly things any more. This is what we mean by the Resurrected life. As 2 Corinthians 5:17 says, 'if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold all things are become new.' 

Dearly beloved, is your life different now from what it was before you were saved? Do you still love the things that you loved before? If you are walking in newness of life, your values in life will be different. You will be more concerned with the things of God than the things of the world, and with things that are eternal, rather than with things that are temporal, and with things that are above, rather than with things that are on the earth. 

Let us now go on to see the second thing that is meant by the term 'newness of life': v. 6,7 'Knowing this, that our old man is crucified with Him, that the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin. For he that is dead is freed from sin.' This verse shows how our identification with Christ breaks the power of sin in our lives. To walk in newness of life therefore means to live a Released life. The picture Paul uses is that of slaves who are liberated from their bondage. A slave is a person who is owned by another, without any rights at all. Like any other form of personal property, he was to be used and disposed of in whatever way the owner may wish.

Before Christ saved us, we were all slaves to sin. Sin dominated our thoughts and actions like a hard and cruel taskmaster and we were helplessly under its control. We served sin and suffered all the unpleasant effects that came with it: hatred, bitterness, deceit, strife, jealousy, rebellion, pride and lust. But all that has now changed. Through the death and resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ, we are liberated, delivered and set free from its power. Although sin may still be present in our lives, its power over us is broken. We do not have to serve sin anymore. To walk in newness of life therefore means that we are to live a life that is released from the power of sin. Only those who are truly saved will be able to do this. 

Those who are not saved, cannot succeed to live a released life, no matter how hard they may try, because they are still under the power of sin. Perhaps there may even be someone right here who is like that. Examine yourselves and ask this question: Do I still find myself helplessly under the power of sin? Is my life still controlled by sin and I can't seem to walk in newness of life no matter how hard I have tried? If your answer to both of these questions is 'yes' then perhaps you have not yet been saved. Then you must not delay any longer to come to Jesus Christ and ask Him to come into your life. Please make sure of your salvation before this day ends.

Let us now go on to look at the third thing that newness of life means: v.11 'Likewise reckon ye also yourselves to be dead indeed unto sin, but alive unto God through Jesus Christ our Lord.' We who are saved are now alive to God. That adds a meaning to the concept of newness of life: it is a Revived life. We were formerly spiritually dead, lifeless and alienated from the life of God. But now, through Jesus Christ, we are made alive to God. We now have a new principle of life that energises us and gives us the special ability to relate to God and to respond to God.

We all know that things that are dead have no ability to hear and respond. You may shout at them, scream at them, pinch them, shake them and still not get the slightest response from them. Jesus once said this to the spiritually dead Pharisees: 'Why do ye not understand My speech? Even because ye cannot hear My word. . . He that is of God heareth God's words: ye therefore hear them not, because ye are not of God.' (John 8:43,47) Those who are not alive to God have no ability to listen to God's Word, even though there may be nothing wrong with their ears. God's Word has no effect on their lives. They will often find it quite meaningless and hard to understand. 

But a person who is alive to God listens to Him when He speaks through His Word. He is ready to do His bidding. He takes God's Word seriously. Isaiah 66:2 tells us 'but to this man will I look, even to him that is poor and of a contrite spirit, and trembleth at My word'. He trembles at God's Word, and is moved and convicted by it. And then he responds to that Word with prayer, trust and obedience. He is not just a hearer of the Word, but also a doer of the Word. He is like the good ground in the parable of the sower of Matthew 13 who 'heareth the word and understandeth it and also beareth fruit, and bringeth forth some an hundredfold, some sixty and some thirty.' (v.23)

Dearly beloved, the question we have to ask this time is: Am I alive to God? Do I listen to Him when He speaks to me through His Word? Do I respond to Him readily? Or am I more like a dead person who does not seem to listen or respond at all? Let us not live as if we are dead, but alive to God, if we are to walk in newness of life.

Now we go on to look at our fourth and final meaning of Newness of life. In Romans 6:13 Paul says, 'Neither yield ye your members as instruments of unrighteousness unto sin: but yield yourselves unto God, as those that are alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness unto God.'

To walk in newness of life is not only to live a Resurrected life, a Released life and a Revived life. It also that we should have a Righteous life. We are to be instruments of righteousness which God can use to do His righteous works in this world. A life that is yielded to the Lord becomes a powerful tool in His hands. I am sure we all know how important good tools and instruments are to us, for anything we do. With the right utensils a good cook or chef can prepare a good-tasting nutritious meal in a very short time. With the right tools a good carpenter can shape and join pieces of wood into useful furniture items. With the right instruments a skilled engineer can design the strongest bridges and the tallest buildings in the world. And with a good musical instrument, a musician can produce beautiful melodies that move people to tears.

And when we yield our lives as instruments or tools of righteousness to God, we are really placing them in the hands of the master builder, the master craftsman, the most excellent and skilled performer, who can use them and bring out from them their fullest potential to produce great and glorious works of righteousness in this world. God can use our transformed lives to bring people to commit their lives to Jesus Christ. God can also use our lives as tools to build up and shape the lives of other believers and to build up the church, the body of Christ. Knowing now what wonderful works God can do with our life, let us not hesitate to yield ourselves fully to Him as instruments of righteousness!

Now besides being instruments of righteousness, the apostle Paul goes on to say that we are to be servants of righteousness. Look at vv.18,19 'Being then made free from sin, ye became the servants of righteousness. I speak after the manner of men because of the infirmity of your flesh: for as ye have yielded your members servants to uncleanness and to iniquity unto iniquity; even so now yield your members servants to righteousness unto holiness.'

It is interesting to note that the word 'servants' in these verses is actually the same as the word that was used earlier to describe our bondage to sin. V.18 can be translated 'Being then made free from sin, ye became enslaved to righteousness.' And someone may then say, 'what then is the use of being liberated from our slavery to sin, if in the end we still become slaves - slaves to righteousness?'

Well, the answer is found in the immense difference between the two kinds of slaveries. And that is literally the difference between life and death. Let us read vv.20-22 'For when ye were the servants [slaves] of sin, ye were free from righteousness. What fruit had ye then in those things whereof ye are now ashamed? for the end of those things is death. But now being made free from sin, and become servants [slaves] to God, ye have your fruit unto holiness, and the end everlasting life.'

The slavery of sin ends in death. Sin is the cruel slave driver that works all its slaves to death. But the slavery of righteousness is a good slavery because it leads to everlasting life. In ancient times when slavery was practiced, there were sometimes good masters who treated their slaves well and rewarded them with gifts. Some gave their slaves freedom after they had served them faithfully for a number of years. Some even grew to love their faithful and loyal slaves so much that they regarded them as part of the family, and graciously adopted them as their own sons, making them heirs of their estate. 

Abraham had a very faithful and trusted slave called Eliezer of Damascus, and before he had any children, Abraham actually planned to make Eliezer the legal heir to his whole estate (Genesis 15:2-4). Our status now as slaves of righteousness is quite similar to that. Let us read Romans 8:15-17 'For ye have not received the spirit of bondage [slavery] again to fear; but ye have received the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father. The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God: And if children, then heirs: heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with Him, that we may be also glorified together.'

What all of this means, dearly beloved, is that we must be good and loyal slaves of righteousness, serving the Lord faithfully because He is the most gracious and benevolent Master who has adopted us into his own family, treating us as His own children and He has bestowed upon us the gift of eternal life. And this wonderful Lord and Master whom we must now serve most willingly, and obediently has also assured us that we will one day be freed from our service, to enter into His glorious rest!

We now have the full, complete understanding of what it means to walk in newness of life: It means living a Resurrected life, a Released life, a Revived life, and a Righteous life. And this is the life we must all endeavour to live, since we have become identified with Jesus Christ in His death, in His burial and in His Resurrection. May the Lord help us.

Vision & Mission

 

To build a united church family that is committed to making disciples through Salvation, Sanctification and Service, to the glory of God.

Verse for the Week

December 3 & 10 - Holy Living

Seeing then that all these things shall be dissolved, what manner of persons ought ye to be in all holy conversation and godliness, 2 Peter 3:11