Home Worship Planning Preaching Resources Book of Romans, Sermon Starters—Week 4

Book of Romans, Sermon Starters—Week 4

Lectionary Readings

Scripture Notes Romans 6:1b-11

In this week's passage, Paul addresses three main thoughts:

1. Christians should not presume upon God's grace by knowingly continuing in sin.

2. Baptism is an outward symbol of an inward death and rebirth.

3. The act of baptism marks a conscious identification with the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.


Presuming Upon God's Grace
Paul needed to confront an illogical argument of the day. In Romans 5:20-21, Paul mentions that where sin abounds, grace "superabounds." Some people believed that continuing in sin brought about a greater abundance of God's grace. Apparently people must have also believed that "knowing participation" in sin carried no personal consequences and created no rift in their relationship with God. Do people hold related views about participation in sin today?

Baptism: An Outward Symbol of an Inward Death and Rebirth
Baptism was a common religious practice for Jews and Gentiles in Paul's time. Adults were baptized. Those adults made the life-changing decision to live a new life according to the expectations of a particular religion.

When converts to Judaism were baptized, they cut their nails and hair to appear as newborns. At baptism, the convert made a public confession of faith. Following baptism, the Jewish convert was considered to be a little child just born. Converts to Gentile pagan religions also underwent initiation after which they were treated as children and fed milk.

Paul drew upon the prevailing understanding of death and new life to underscore Christian baptism as a conscious choice to die to sinful living and live a new life in Christ. The common method of baptism was immersion, which lent itself to the symbolic meaning of death and resurrection. Being immersed in water symbolized the death of one's former way of living. Being raised from the waters indicated a new birth and a new life.

Baptism is an Identification with the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
Paul's point about baptism is that believers identify with both the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Being baptized as a Christian carried the understanding of being "co-buried" with Christ; that is, participating in Christ's death to sin. Jesus' death would mean nothing, however, if God had not resurrected him. Christ's resurrection from the dead provides eternal hope for Christians in God's ultimate victory over sin and death.

Paul digs deeper into the meaning of Christian baptism. In Romans 5:12-21, Paul speaks about the "old self" or "old Adam." Baptism denotes the decisive break in solidarity with the old Adamic life. The death in Christ embraced at baptism launches the Christian on a one-way journey. Baptism "into Christ" is transportation from a world under sin's lordship into the world under God's reign.

Key Preaching/Teaching Points:

  • Some in the early church lived precariously -- as knowing participants in sin who presumed forgiveness through God's grace. In what ways do Christians presume upon God's grace today?
  • Christ's resurrection from the dead lies at the center of baptism. Take time to underscore the significance of Christ's resurrection in the religious world of Paul.
  • Identification with Christ is critical to understanding the significance of Christian baptism. Identification with Christ is also critical to embracing new life freed from sin's power. Explore ways for contemporary listeners to identify with both the death and life of Christ. What still needs to die? What aspects of Christ's life still need to be embraced?

Key Terms:

Does your audience know the following terms found or alluded to in Romans 6:1b-11?

Baptism -- In Paul's day, adult baptism predominated. Adult baptism involved a declaration of faith. The method of baptism was immersion. Baptism symbolized identification with Christ's death and resurrection.

Baptism Into Christ -- The one baptized was considered "co-buried" with Christ in death. The one baptized was now dead to his or her previous life, in which sin ruled. The identification with Christ also included being resurrected with Christ; that is, raised to live a brand new life.

For more on baptism, see the online resources below.

Resurrection -- Paul provides the most extensive New Testament teaching on the doctrine of Resurrection (See especially 1 Corinthians 15). He covers numerous aspects of Christ's resurrection including:

  • Christ's resurrection as the ultimate victory over the power of sin and death
  • A foreshadowing of the bodily resurrection that awaits believers
  • The power of baptism lies in Christ's resurrection

Resurrection initially was foremost in the teaching of the Eucharist as well. The early church celebrated Holy Communion on the Lord's Day -- the day on which Christ was resurrected. For more on resurrection, see The Resurrected Jesus by Kwasi Kena.

Evangelistic Preaching Tips
Paul's emphasis on the rich meaning of being baptized into Christ affords the opportunity to underscore the doctrine of baptism. This is also a great time to emphasize the importance of the role and function of confirmation. Consider taking time to speak personally with youth about confirmation.

Reading: Romans 6:1b-11 [An Evangelistic Approach -- to lead people to faith in Christ]

Dying to Live -- In casual conversation, people often say, "I'm dying to do this or that." A critical question for us is, "Are we willing to die to something so that we might live?" Invite people to recognize that there are choices involved with following Christ. Such choices involve recognizing the need for old ways to die in order to be in relationship with Christ. We need God's help with the ultimate relinquishment of unhealthy ways of living. That's where faith in Christ comes into effect. The laundry list of death-producing behaviors is long, but there is a remedy -- faith in Jesus Christ and ongoing support and fellowship with the body of Christ.

Aim: Help people choose to make the choices involved with following Christ.

Reading: Romans 6:1b-11 [A Renewal Approach -- to strengthen the faith of Christians]

Location, Location, Location -- Paul recoils in shock at the prospect of Christians remaining in sin so that grace may abound. The key concept here is location — in sin. One Bible commentator offers a metaphor of a country to drive home the point: If sin were a country and a person remained "in sin," there would be an expectation that the individual would need to speak the language of sin and engage in the culture of sin; that is, uphold the law of sin, behave as sinner, and think as a sinner. But if Christians have been baptized "into Christ," then the location of their residence has changed. The baptized Christian has changed status and location. The baptized Christian now resides, thinks, and behaves as a citizen in the location in which God reigns.

Aim: Help Christians to reaffirm their location in Christ as baptized believers and their renunciation of evil and sin as expressed in the baptismal vows.

Reading: Romans 6:1b-11 [A Reclamation Approach —to restore "de-churched" individuals to vital faith in Jesus Christ]

Are You Living Beneath Your Privileges? -- People sometimes imagine a very limited Christianity -- a religion of dos and don'ts. Others imagine Christianity as an "anything-goes" religion that presumes upon God's grace for blanket forgiveness. Both approaches fall far short of the place afforded Christians. Just like people who fail to take advantage of the full privileges available from membership in some organization, Christians often fail to live as people empowered by God's Resurrection power. Each time we hear the admonition, "remember your baptism," we have the opportunity to affirm the death of sin's stranglehold on our lives and to embrace a Christ-empowered life under God. Being baptized "into Christ" frees us from sin and thrusts us into life-giving relationship with Christ. To live otherwise is to live beneath our privileges as Christians.

Aim: Encourage people to reaffirm their faith in Christ's power to overcome sin in their lives and to embrace renewed life in Christ.

Provide Opportunities for a Faith Response

1. Consider using the baptismal vows found in The United Methodist Hymnal as a teaching device during the service. Decorate the sanctuary with images of baptism. Invite the congregation to read the baptismal vows and remember their baptism. To emphasize identification with Christ through baptism, invite people to write down behaviors or activities that still need to be buried with Christ. Similarly, invite people to write down the places in their lives that need the Resurrection power of Jesus Christ. Invite people to offer these prayer requests in response to the sermon. Give the prayer requests to prayer volunteers for intercession.

2. Invite people to form informal prayer partners to pray for one another daily for the next week. Tie the prayer focus to dying to unhealthy ways of living and embracing a new life as people under God.

3. Invite youth into a confirmation class.

Provide Opportunities for Follow Up

1. Consider developing an ongoing intercessory prayer ministry. Consider establishing a weekly prayer partner covenant ministry. Each Sunday, invite people to enter into a covenant to pray daily for a prayer partner. This could be an informal arrangement that could lead to increasing the prayer activity in your congregation.

2. Begin a confirmation class with youth who respond.

Online Resources

Helpful Print Resources

For Romans 61b-11– The Resurrected Jesus by Kwasi Kena

A Disciple’s Journal 2017 by Steven W. Manskar

Transforming Evangelism: The Wesleyan Way of Sharing Faith by Henry H. Knight III and F. Douglas Powe Jr.

General Evangelism Resources

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