Dead to Sin

Romans 6:1-4

Seeing sin in our lives is discouraging, especially when it’s a pattern—it can seem like a broken record that repeats over and over. We berate ourselves, “I can’t believe I did it again!” But Romans 5 tells us of an abundance of overflowing grace. We were born corrupted in Adam, and death reigns over us because we all sin. But while we were still sinners, Jesus Christ died to save us from the wrath of God. Christ’s righteousness is the free gift of grace for all who repent and believe. In Adam we are bound to our sin, headed for death. But in Christ we receive Jesus’ righteousness, “leading to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord” (Rom. 5:21).

This righteousness is a free gift of grace, and Paul emphasizes over and over again the abundance of that grace. Romans 5 describes grace with words like “much more” and “abounded” and “for many.” The law came and “increased the trespass” as men willingly rebelled against God. But “grace abounded all the more” and grace reigns through the righteousness of Christ (Rom. 5:20-21)!

So Paul begins chapter 6 asking: Should we continue to sin so that grace will abound even more? Since salvation is by grace and not by any work of our own, does it matter how we live?

I grew up thinking it did not. I thought I had asked Jesus into my heart so I was saved, meaning I had my ticket to heaven—my fire insurance was paid. We’re saved by grace, so now I had God on my side and could use him in a pinch. What’s sin got to do with it? I didn’t have any obligation to God. He was up there in heaven for me—a sort of cosmic Santa Claus.

What joy I was missing out on! What danger I was in! Paul’s answer to the person who thinks this way is a firm “By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it?” When I “asked Jesus into my heart,” it was as a friend. There was no repentance involved. But Jesus is a friend to sinners. He’s a friend to people who know they have no other hope. And he is more than a friend. He is God and king over all. He is Lord. When we repent of our sin and put our trust in him, we are united to him. That is what 5:12-21 is all about, being transferred from humanity in Adam to humanity in Christ. When that happens, we die to sin. So how, then, can we continue living in it?

I continued in my sin. I let it have free reign in my life. My sinful desires motivated me. I was alive to them. I belonged to the family of Adam and did not walk in newness of life. My “fire insurance” wouldn’t have put out one flame. I needed to repent and trust in Christ alone.

Romans 6:1-4 speaks to those who are continuing to be alive to their sin. We must examine our hearts to see if we are in Christ. He died and was raised. If we are united to him, we died with him and have been raised to walk no longer in sin but in newness of life. If you are like I used to be—presuming upon grace, relying on your fire insurance, living life not worried about your sin—be warned by Romans 6.

But, if you are a dear sister who is discouraged about a pattern of sin in your life, feeling like it’s out of control, take hope from Romans 6:1-4 this week. These verses give us the foundation for fighting that sin. They tell us the war is over even while the battle rages on.  

To fight our patterns of sin, we must first realize who we are as Christians. Physical baptism is a picture of spiritual death and resurrection. I was dead in my transgressions and sins but was made alive in Christ Jesus (Eph. 2:1-5). When I was baptized into Christ, I died with him. In that Christ-Keri death, my sins were paid for in full and sin’s power over me was broken. My desire to rebel against God and place myself on the throne of my life died with Christ and was buried. A new power lives in me, giving me new desires to live like Christ. (Not just a power, but the person of the Holy Spirit!) Just as the glory of the Father raised Christ from the dead, his glory enables me to “walk in newness of life.” That means that instead of being powered by my sin, I am powered by God. Far from grace leading to more sin, grace is the gift of a new life no longer characterized by sin.

Christians still do sin. If we say we do not, we deceive ourselves (1 John 1:8). But we do not continue to live in sin. We “walk in newness of life.” Sin used to characterize us: “I’m an anxious person.” “I am angry!” “I can’t stop (fill in the blank).” New life now characterizes us. This realization is the foundation from which we fight our sin. Before we were in Christ, we were alive to sin. We had to succumb to it because everything in us was for it. But now, we are alive to God in Christ. We come to our fight against sin with the nuclear power of the glory of God. The same power that raised Jesus from the dead works within us to achieve victory.

Take hope, dear struggling sister! Just as Christ was raised from the dead, we walk in newness of life.

Bible study questions on Romans 6:1-4 are here. New questions will be posted weekly.

Order Keri’s book The Good Portion: Scripture. See her Delighting in the Word Bible Studies.

Summer in Romans 6

Part 1 – Romans 6:1-4

Fighting Sin During a Pandemic

What was the book that caused St. Augustine to repent of his sins and become the theologian of the early church? What was the book that opened the eyes of Martin Luther and lit the Reformation ablaze? What was the book that motivated William Carey to cross the seas and become the father of modern missions? And what is the book that countless Christians go to for comfort in difficult times?

It’s the book of Romans. The Apostle Paul’s letter to the Romans is known as the most theologically comprehensive book in the Bible. It covers General Revelation, God’s Sovereignty, Election, Justification, Substitutionary Atonement, Salvation, the Work of the Holy Spirit, Sanctification, Ecclesiology, Christian Ethics, and some Eschatology.

But Paul didn’t intend for Romans to be a systematic theology. Actually, Paul’s letter to the Romans was a pastorally-oriented missionary letter. Paul’s desire was for the Roman church to be a gospel-centered engine for missionary outreach. (See Romans 15:14 and 16:26.) Paul wanted to spur on the church at Rome to be unified in their theology, fighting sin and contending for the gospel.

During this pandemic, the ordinary means of grace of meeting together, hearing live preaching and enjoying fellowship are not available for many of us. But God has given us his word, and this time of struggling is perfect for examining our hearts. So join me, as you’re trapped inside your home, in studying through Romans 6, a chapter all about the freedom that grace brings.

I encourage you to choose a particular sin that you struggle with and pray each day for the Lord to use what you learn in your study of Romans 6 to battle that sin.

There are three types of questions in this inductive Bible study. Observation questions are in plain type. Answer these questions directly from the text. Interpretation questions are in italics. These questions require deeper thought and analysis with the goal of understanding the meaning of the text to its original hearers. They are based on your observations of the text. Application questions are in bold. They are personal to you. Application questions will apply the meaning of the text to your heart and life today.   

Begin by praying for insight into the Scriptures and for the Lord to help you fight sin.  

Read Romans 5:18 – 6:14.

Romans 6:1-4

1. In Romans 5, Paul has emphasized the abundance of God’s grace in Jesus Christ. What question does he ask about that grace at the beginning of chapter 6?

2. Why does he ask this specific question? What argument is he anticipating?

3. What is Paul’s clear answer to this question?

4. What question does he add?

5. Rephrase the second question into a declarative statement:

6. What were all who were baptized into Christ Jesus also baptized into?

7. According to verse 4, what happened in baptism?

8. What was the purpose of being baptized into Christ’s death?

9. Is Paul referring to physical or spiritual baptism in these verses?

10. How does the physical act of being baptized present a picture of us dying with Christ and being raised with him to new life?

11. Why would being baptized into Christ’s death mean that we’ve died to sin? What would you point to in the previous chapter, Romans 5:12-19, to explain your answer?

12. What does it mean to “walk in newness of life” and how is Christ being raised from the dead related to our walking in this newness of life?

13. How was Christ raised from the dead?

14. What does it mean the Christ was raised “by the glory of the Father”? And how does that phrase apply to our newness of life? See John 11:38-44 and 2 Corinthians 13:4.

15. How do verses 1-4 serve as a warning for women who call themselves Christians but are comfortably continuing in sin?

16. What particular sin are you praying about this week; and, if you are a Christian, how does knowing that you have died to sin in Christ’s death and walk in newness of life by the glory of the Father affect how you deal with sin in your life?

*Look for a devotional this Wednesday on Romans 6:1-4. Questions will be posted weekly on Mondays.

Pandemic Sin

Have you been irritable stuck in your home during this pandemic? Are you fearful about the future? Have you been reaching for food or drink to calm your anxiety? Fantasy or pornography to alleviate your loneliness?

Have you been making the most of your time at home, or are you drifting from God in complacency? Things are starting to open up. How is your heart?

In Dubai, we were under strict lockdown. One of us could leave the house every three days for groceries but only after obtaining a government issued permit. We couldn’t even legally walk around the block. Our flights to the U.S. were canceled. Our future plans were up in the air. We were waiting—in a holding pattern—with a son graduating from high school, a daughter graduating from college and another daughter with canceled summer plans.

We were finally able to get on a plane to move our son to America (after growing up in Dubai from the age of three). We made it through some precarious travel and things seemed to be going well. But then my son got a sore throat—doctors suspected COVID-19, so we got him tested. Now, we’re waiting again, quarantined. And often in our family of five, we’re rubbing each other the wrong way. We’re waiting, facing a lot of uncertainty like everyone else, and I can’t help but see patterns of sin.

I’m not surprised by the sin. It’s been my adversary for 54 years. I could euphemistically call it irritableness, but at root it’s anger that comes out in an unkind, sharp tone of voice toward my husband and kids and leaves them bruised. It happens when I don’t get my way—when I wake up tired to dirty dishes left around the house, when I’m interrupted while trying to get something done, when I’m disrespected or disobeyed. Anxiety makes it worse. These circumstances are like a petri dish where my ugly sin shows. Comfort, control, respect: these are the idols I worship.

In the goodness of God, I’ve been studying Romans. Chapter 6 is all about being transferred from bondage to sin to bondservant of God, obedience from the heart. So I’ve chosen a particular sin to work on while studying Romans 6—this sin that I regularly struggle with and that is particularly rearing its ugly head during lockdown.

What are your besetting sins? What are the patterns of sin in your life that feel like a broken record playing again and again over your days, months and years? The Bible teaches us that we all struggle with sin (Romans 3:23; 1 John 1:8, 10) so join me here over the next five Mondays in a Bible study of Romans 6 and use this summer and God’s word to fight that particular sin.

I’ll be posting an inductive Bible study each Monday with a related devotional the following Wednesday, beginning July 6th and continuing through the first week of August.

‘Of the Incomparable Treasure of the Holy Scriptures’

A dear friend, Mary Katherine, recited this anonymous poem to me by heart. Initially it appeared as a Scottish poem, and then began in 1578 to be included in the preliminary material of most Geneva Bibles.

Here is the spring where waters flow,
To quench our heart of sin;
Here is the tree where truth doth grow
To lead our lives therein;

Here is the judge that stints the strife
When men’s devises fail:
Here is the bread that feeds the life
That death cannot assail.

The tidings of salvation dear
Comes to our ears from hence;
The fortress of our faith is here;
And shield of our defense.

Then be not like the swine that hath
A pearl at his desire,
And takes more pleasure of the trough
And wallowing in the mire.

Read not this book in any case
But with a single eye:
Read not, but first desire GOD’s grace,
To understand thereby.

Pray still in faith with this respect
To bear good fruit therein;
That knowledge may bring this effect,
To mortify thy sin.

Then happy thou in all thy life,
Whatso to thee befalls;
Yea, double happy shalt thou be
When GOD by death thee calls.

Join us here at The Good Portion Books Blog for an inductive Bible study focused on mortifying our sin with knowledge that comes from Romans 6. We’ll introduce the study next Tuesday and begin the first week of July. A set of questions to think through the passage will be posted on Mondays followed by a devotional later in the week.

Sneak Peak Interview: Natalie Brand

Read Natalie’s Sneak Peak Interview on her new book, The Good Portion: Salvation, with Melissa Kruger:

Can you tell us a little bit about yourself?

I’m a Christian, wife, mom, and theologian. I just love a flat white in one hand and a book in the other! 

I’m married to a fellow bibliophile, Tom, who I met at a theological college more than a decade ago. Tom serves as the ministry director for the Evangelical Fellowship of Congregational Churches, and he’s involved in pastoring pastors and supporting churches in the U.K. 

When did you first start writing? What do you enjoy about it?

I read a lot as a child, and my reading has always turned into pen-on-paper. I remember writing “novels” when I was young. They were nothing profound like the juvenile literature of Jane Austen. They were just half-finished stories. 

I always wanted to be a writer—to create something from nothing with words. It really is grace upon grace that I can now serve the Lord in this way.

Is writing ever difficult for you? How so?

Every book has its own difficulties, and each one always surprises me. How can I make this book even more accessible? How can I powerfully illustrate this God-truth? What should I include? What should I not include? Writing is just as much about what you don’t say as it is what you do say. I always struggle with that.

George Orwell once described writing a book to be “a horrible, exhausting struggle” rather like a long “bout of some painful illness.” I know what he means! It gives you such joy but is a hard slog, like pregnancy. 

It’s the mental obsession and ill-timed waves of inspiration that possess you. I think C. S. Lewis understood this when he said, “I was with book, as a woman is with child.”

Read the rest of Natalie’s interview.

Mother’s Day Book Giveaway!

Mothers who delight in the doctrines of God are gifts to their children and models for younger women. At The Good Portion Books we want to increase your delight. So to celebrate Mother’s Day, we are having a drawing to give away two sets of the 4 books currently in our series.

To enter the drawing, Like our Facebook page and tag one other woman in the comments on the Mother’s Day post. You’ll be entered into the drawing along with the mother, daughter or friend you tagged, and if your name is drawn both of you will win the books!

You may enter as many times as you like, as long as you tag a different person each time.

We’ll draw the winner on Mother’s Day, May 10th.

Happy Mother’s Day!

Delighting in Doctrine: How Theology Supercharges Women’s Lives and Ministry

Going to The Gospel Coalition’s Women’s Conference this June?

Join Keri Folmar, Margaret Kostenberger, Jenny Manley, Courtney Reissig and Mary Willson as they discuss why understanding doctrine is crucial for life and ministry.

Do women in your church seem to be living for the moment instead of in light of eternity? Does your small group Bible study skim the surface without going deeply into the Word? Do you want to help women know how to suffer life’s trials with joy?

This panel is for you!

First 150 attendants will receive a complimentary book from The Good Portion Series.

Register for Delighting in Doctrine here.

The Sweet Rewards of a Quiet Ministry

By Erin Wheeler

Fall is a spectacular time for the senses. Our Creator’s glory splashes the world with vivid colors and woodsy smells. It’s also the time of year when I’m reminded that God is in charge of the seasons of our lives. As Christians, we know and trust that God ordains all things and is working out our sanctification as we move through these seasons. So whether you’re resting or wrestling in a season of quiet ministry as a woman yourself or you’re shepherding those in a quieter season of ministry, I hope to encourage you to delight in God’s timing. Jesus told us, “The Father who sees in secret will reward you.” There is much to gain in seasons of serving quietly.

As a woman, I’ve had to wrestle with God through some of the seasons where ministry opportunities took the backseat, where they were almost invisible. Days would go by when the only person who would see my labors was God himself. Those were challenging days. They were challenging for me because I longed to teach and train others in the truths of God’s Word. I wanted to be more active in the life and ministry of the church in a more visible and vibrant—at least to me—way.

Frustrations surfaced when I had women into the chaos of our home. Nap revolts, potty accidents, and distractions of every sort all seemed to come whenever I was trying to disciple another sister in the Lord. Wiping up messes or repeatedly correcting one of my children felt more like interruptions than opportunities. I wanted to be able to sit quietly over tea and discuss God’s word. But God was doing other things with those years. What I would later come to learn was how vital those “interruptions” were for others. By struggling to stick to God’s good design, I was teaching and training in ways I still don’t think I fully appreciate.

Erin Wheeler is a pastor’s wife, mother and nurse who is writing a book on the doctrine of the church for The Good Portion series. You can read the rest of her article here.

Joy for Joyless Pastors’ Wives

A young pastor’s wife sat across from me in tears, wondering how she would partner with her husband in ministry with three little ones in tow. She had a head for theology and a heart for women, but two babies had slowed her down in the last few years and now she was pregnant with her third.

I can remember the days of wanting to partner with my husband while running after little ones. When I was a young assistant pastor’s wife, I asked an older, wiser woman how to have spiritually encouraging conversations after church with tired and hungry kids clinging to me. Her answer wasn’t filled with the practical advice I expected. “Sometimes you just have to go home,” she said.

Often pastors’ wives feel like what we do is trivial compared to our husbands’ eternally significant work. It’s not just young kids that slow ministry wives down. Chronic pain, rebellious teens, or sick parents can drain time and energy. Or we may just be introverts who need time alone with our thoughts. Our husbands are at it full-time—studying the Bible and theology, preaching, discipling, sharing the gospel, and more. And what are we doing? There may not be much on our to-do list that feels very important.

Read the rest of this article in the 9Marks Journal.