Romans 6:1-11 United in Death and Life (Rev. Erik Veerman)

Jun 11, 2023    Erik Veerman

Romans 6:1-11

United in Death and Life

Rev. Erik Veerman


United in Death and Life

As some of you are aware, in between our main sermon series, we have been coming back to the book of Romans.

In fact, when we launched our church, we started in Romans chapter 8. That was because the pandemic had just started and we needed a Romans 8 kind of encouragement - God’s sovereign assurance.

After Romans 8, we took over a year to go through the book of Acts. That was a great book for us as a new church, because Acts is the history of the church as it was being established. Acts ends with Paul arriving in Rome. So, next, we studied Romans chapter 15 and 16. That was a nice postscript to Acts because those chapters highlighted the church in Rome.

Next, we went to the Old Testament book of Zechariah. Visions of flaming walls, a candelabra, flying objects as well as prophecies. All of it looking forward to the life and ministry of Jesus, the consummate priest and king.

Well, after Zechariah, we were again back in Romans. That was last fall. We went through chapter 12. It was about not conforming to the world, but instead being transformed by the Gospel. It also included the unity that we have with one another in Christ and the marks of a true Christian.

As you know, we then went through 1st, 2nd, and 3rd John, which we just finished last month.

And now, we’re back in Romans. This time, chapters 6 and 7. That will be our focus this summer. These two chapters relate because they are about the implications of God’s grace and law for the Christian.

Anyway, I wanted to give you a little reminder of where we’ve been and what you can expect over these next two months.

This morning, we’ll focus on the first 11 verses of Romans 6. You can find that on page 1120 in the pew Bible. As you are turning there, let me note one important phrase in chapter 5. The apostle Paul concludes chapter 5 by saying, “where sin increased, grace abounded even more.” In other words, the more sin, the more grace of Christ. That’s important to note because chapter 6 opens with a question about that.

Stand. Reading of Romans 6:1-11.


Catherine the Great, as she was known, reigned as Russia’s monarch from 1762 to 1796. Many describe her as the most influential Russian leader in their entire history. She enacted several cultural reforms, including expanding cities, establishing new school and universities, and reforming Russia’s legal system. Literature and arts flourished due to her support of learning and enlightenment ideals. 

Catherine’s reign also included several aggressive military campaigns. Under her control, Russia’s army seized control of Crimea (sound familiar?) and parts of Poland. Russia dominated Eastern Europe and had a growing political influence in the world. In fact, Catherine’s aggression started back when she staged a coup against her own husband, Peter III. He had been emperor of Russia for only 6 months until Catherine forced him to abdicate his throne. To this day, his death is a mystery.

Throughout her time as empress, several of her adversaries received the death penalty after being convicted of crimes against the state. Despite that, Catherine the Great considered herself a Christian. She’d been raised in a protestant church. She converted to Russian Orthodoxy when she ascended to power and she participated in orthodox practices and worship services.

The question is, how did Catherine reconcile her Christian beliefs with her actions? Which, as you can tell, often betrayed her beliefs. Well, she gave this answer: “I shall be an autocrat: that's my trade. And the good Lord will forgive me: that's his.”

I guess she never read Romans 6.

“Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound?”

I think it’s a natural question. If God has forgiven and will forgive us when we sin, and if Romans 5 says that the more we sin, the more grace God gives us, then it seems to follow that if we want more grace, we should sin boldly.

That in essence is what Catherine the Great believed. “I am the dictator of a great nation. That requires at times cruel acts for the sake of my country, which, by the way, God has given me. Since God is a gracious God, he will forgive me, and the more he does, the more grace I receive.”

You see, the apostle Paul had anticipated this line of thinking. He had just laid out in chapter 5 the sinfulness of our estate as descendants of Adam. Next, he revealed the free gift of life and righteousness through Christ. In him we abound in grace.

From that point, the apostle Paul could have jumped right to chapter 8! “There is therefore now no condemnation for those in Christ Jesus.” I mean, it logically flows, doesn’t it? Sin and death through Adam, life and grace through Christ. “Therefore, there’s no condemnation for those in Christ!”

But before going there, the apostle Paul knew that he had to address the question of sin in the life of the believer. He had to first answer the question, “should we continue to sin?” and as part of that, he had to give the reasons for the answer. How do grace, sin, and God’s law relate in the life of a believer?

In short, that’s what Romans 6 and 7 answer for us. And I think you’ll find it’s so helpful. Not just because these chapters explain how sin and grace and God’s law relate, but because they reveal the most profound truths about your relationship to Christ. Truths that will change you.

Ok, let’s go back to the apostle’s opening question:

“Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound?”

What is the answer at the beginning of verse 2? If you have the ESV, let’s read the three word answer together. “By no means!”

Here are some of the other English translations of that phrase:

•God forbid!

•Certainly not!

•Absolutely not!

•Heaven forbid!

•Far be the thought.

•May it never be!

•Of course not!

•That’s unthinkable!

•Or my favorite: “What a ghastly thought!”

What is Paul saying here? He’s saying that grace does not give us license to sin. Grace is not a free pass to do whatever you want. Sin, by the way, is breaking God’s commands in what we do or don’t do... or say or think.

So, in verse 2, he answers the yes/no question. The simple answer is an emphatic “no!” But what’s really important is to know why and then to apply that to our lives. Again, that’s what these two chapters do. They work out the answer. Just glance down to verse 15. Notice it is a very similar question with a very similar short answer. It shows that Paul is working out the answer.

The reason we’re just starting with the first 11 verses is that they give us the foundation to the answer. Paul is explaining what actually happens to someone who comes to know and believe Christ. There is a profound change in his or her life – your life, my life. And it’s more than just what our hearts and minds believe. Something changes in us.

The apostle wants us to know and grasp what that change is.

In fact, that word “know” is used three times in these 11 verses. Look at verse 3. “Do you not know” and it goes on to explain something about baptism. Look next at verse 6. It starts out “we know” and talks about death. Verse 8 also starts out “we know” but it talks about life. And look at verse 11. It says, “so you must also consider yourself…” That word “consider” means understand. So, in other words, these first 11 verses emphasis knowing what happens in us when we come to Christ. And that knowledge has a profound impact on how we live.

Given that, let’s look at this in three points. Those three points line up with the three uses of the word “know.” By the way, those three points are on the back of your bulletin, if it helps.

1. Know that you are united with Christ. (verses 3-5)

2. Know that your old self died with Christ (verses 6-8)

3. Know that your new self is alive with Christ (verses 9-10)

1. Know that you are united with Christ.

So first, know that you are united with Christ. When you come to faith in Christ, something amazingly mysterious happens in your life. And these verses describe it for us. We can’t fully understand it, but we can know it to the extent that God describes it here for us.

These verses describe that mystery in terms of our baptism. You see that right there in verses 3 and 4. We’ve been baptized into his death, and by implication, raised with him to new life.

I want you to see something. Notice that there’s a parallel here between the word “baptism” and the phrase “united with him.” Verse 3 says “baptized into his death” and verse 5 says “united with him in a death like his.” Similarly, part of this baptism includes being raised from the dead. Verse 5 includes the phrase “united with him in a resurrection like his.”

So, to put these elements together, this baptism is about being united with Christ.

By the way, that word baptism has been interpreted in two different ways in these verses. The first interpretation is that it refers to your baptism with water. You know, that sacrament when the minister baptized you in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. The sign of water is used to signify the cleansing of Christ. That’s one interpretation. The second interpretation is that the word baptism here refers to your spiritual baptism – what’s happening on the inside. Meaning when you came to Christ and received the Holy Spirit. That word baptism can also mean that. In other words, it can mean that time when God opened your heart to believe and you professed faith in Christ. That’s when God cleansed you – you were justified in his sight through Christ. So, spiritual baptism in that internal sense.

I definitely lean toward that second understanding. Baptism in these verses is about those who have the blessings and benefits of Christ in his death and resurrection. That’s emphasized in the parallel between baptism and this idea of being united to Christ. 

But here’s the million dollar question: what is this union with Christ? Because it’s the thing that ties all of this together. All of these verses. Really the whole chapter. United in his death. United in his resurrection. And the implications of that for us.

That word “united” in the Greek includes the idea of being grown together or grafted together. The best way to understand this union is that we have been ingrafted into Christ. Jesus spoke about it in these terms. He said that he is the vine, and we are the branches.

Think of a how a branch is grafted into another tree. It’s a very cool thing. All kinds of fruit trees can be grafted into a different root system. Apple trees as well as citrus, peach, pear, olive, cherry, and others. If you cut off a branch of one of those trees, and you slice it in just the right way, and then pair it to the root system of another tree, at the precise angle and cut, then the fibers of the trees will fuse together. That branch becomes part of a different tree. 

The thing is, when you cut off a branch from a fruit tree, it’s dead. It may look alive, it may still have leaves on it. But there’s no more nutrients feeding it. It can’t sustain itself. Even if you stick it in the ground, it’s not going to grow new roots.

But when that branch is grafted into that new root system, it has new life. The nutrients from the roots feed that branch. Remember from your biology class days. The xylem and phloem flow back and forth between the roots and the leaves and fruit. The branch becomes one with the tree.

That’s how our union with Christ is described. The Holy Spirit unites us to Christ. We’ve been grafted into him. Jesus said that apart from him, a branch will wither and not bear fruit… It will die and be thrown into the fire. But in him, the branch will have new life.

We were dead but now we’re connected to a vibrant tree with the nutrients flowing through us that give us life. Christ is in us, and us in him – united together. And that union comes with all the blessings and benefits of salvation in him.

And think about this question, how do we actually receive the benefits of Christ’s death for us? And how do we actually receive the benefits of Christ’s resurrection? Well, we receive those benefits through our union with Christ. It’s through that union, that my sin, your sin, is transferred to Christ, and his righteousness transferred to you. That’s the benefit of being united in Jesus’ death. And it’s through that same union in his resurrection that we have and we will be resurrected to new life in him, forever.

If you know and believe in Christ, you have been grafted into him in a mysterious way that only God knows. But he’s assured us of it! And isn’t it amazing to think about? He is in you, united to you and you to him. The blessings of his death and his resurrection are yours.

Think about it this way: Salvation was accomplished through the death and resurrection of Christ. Your union with Christ is how God applies that salvation to you, believer in Christ. It’s an amazing mystery for us to behold and wonder and embrace.

Know that you are united with Christ. Ok, that’s the first “know.”

2. Know that your old self died with Christ (verses 6-8)

And that union has significant implications for us. Those implications revolve around two things. Jesus’ death and his resurrection.

That brings us to the second and third “know.” #2 - Know that your old self died with Christ - your old self died with Christ. The whole point of the cross is that Christ bore your sin. He took on your sin and all its consequences for you. Your old self, before your union with Christ, was imprisoned by your sin. You needed to be freed from the chains of your sin.

That’s what verse 5 is talking about. “We know that our old self was crucified with him in order that the body of sin [meaning your sin and its consequenes] might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin.”

Through the death of Christ, our sin died with him. Therefore, we are freed from our sin. It no longer identifies us. We’re not bound by it. Christ has paid the penalty for sin, and because of our union with him, we’re no longer slaves to sin, we’ve been set free.

It’s like that great line in the hymn, And Can it Be. “My chains fell off, my heart was free, I rose, went forth, and followed Thee.”

If the whole point of the cross is to deal with our sin, to put to death its consequences, to free us from its bondage, then why would we think that in this new found freedom, we should sin even more? That goes back up to the second half of verse 2. “How could he who died to sin, still live in it?” Do you see that incongruity? Do you see the disconnect with the idea to sin more so that grace abounds more? Heaven forbid! We’ve been united to Christ, we’ve died with him to our sin.

Now, there’s an underlying assumption here. Sin is still present in the Christian life. The Christian can still sin. And, actually, that goes along with what we studied in 1 John. “If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves.” The difference between our old self and our new self is that our new self is not bound to sin. We have the ability in Christ to pursue righteousness.

Ok, let me summarize point #2 this way: Because our old self and our sin died with Christ, we should die to our old self and seek to put to death our sin.

So that’s one implication of our union with Christ… letting our sin die with our old self, which has died in Christ.

3. Know that your new self is alive with Christ (verses 9-10)

The other implication is like the flip side of the coin. It relates to the new life we have. In that mysterious union, we have all the blessings and benefits of Jesus’ resurrection. We live because he lives.

Point number 3 is this: Know that your new self is alive with Christ.

You see, in our union with Christ, we are one with the risen Lord. One in the sense that just as he will never die, so we have eternal life in him. That means, not only should we turn away from the temptation of sin, but we should embrace that we are alive in Christ. We’ll experience the death of our bodies, but we will live forever. What a great joy and hope!

And I want you to think of the phrase that’s in verse 10. “The life he lives, he lives to God.” Because we are united to God in Christ, our life should be about him. Do you follow me? It should no longer be about sin and death, but rather our life should be about living for the purpose of God, living in the grace of God, and living to glorify him with our words, our intentions, our actions, and our desires. Because of our union with Christ and the eternal life we have in him, our whole being should be one of worship to God in Christ.

That is our new self. IN other words, if we are united with Christ, our life should be about him. We are alive in him.

Do you see the two sides of this mysterious union? Our old self in all of our sin, dead in and through Christ. Our new self, alive in him, living for him and through him. 

And that’s why verse 11 compels us to reflect on our union with Christ. “So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus.”

It doesn’t matter whether you are a monarch of a powerful country, or whether you live a retired quiet life at home, or whether you are a student, a teacher, a professional, a pastor or whether you’re a parent or a child. It doesn’t matter whether you are 9 or 99. The call is the same, “consider yourself dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus.”


As we come to a close, you may have noticed, there’s one thing that is overwhelming in these verses. And when I say overwhelming, almost every single verse focuses on it. It’s the emphasis on death and life. The death and crucifixion of Christ, our death, the death of sin…. and life! The resurrection and life of Christ and our life in him. 

•Dead, death, and die are referenced 14 times in these 11 verses. Add “crucified” to that and it’s in every single verse starting in verse 2.

•The reference to “life” is similar. If we include “raised” and “resurrection” and “alive,” there’s 10 references in these 11 verses.

And every single one of these is directly or indirectly connected to the death and resurrection of Christ. The death of sin was accomplished through the death of Christ. The new life we live was achieved through the resurrection of Christ.

There’s nothing more central to our faith and to our union with Christ than Jesus’ death and resurrection. You take away either and there is no death of sin, no life, no hope for eternity. These verses are clear, they are referring to Jesus’ actual physical death and resurrection. His death and resurrection are the key in our union with Christ which drives us away from sin and to God in Christ to live in him.

So, may we know of the great union that we have with Christ. And through that union, may we put to death our old self and our sin. And may we turn our lives to Christ and live in and for him, all because of his death and resurrection for us. Amen?