Our text is today’s Epistle (Romans 6:1–11): 1 What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? 2 By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it? 3 Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? 4 We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.
5 For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his. 6 We know that our old self was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin. 7 For one who has died has been set free from sin. 8 Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. 9 We know that Christ being raised from the dead will never die again; death no longer has dominion over him. 10 For the death he died he died to sin, once for all, but the life he lives he lives to God. 11 So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus. (ESV)
This morning and every Sunday morning, we gather together to celebrate the death and resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ. Around the world today, Christians are celebrating our Lord’s death and resurrection. But if we are to celebrate rightly, then it is not enough for us to merely listen politely to the Gospel accounts of Good Friday and Easter. Rather, we must experience Good Friday and Easter ourselves, not as mere stories but as an all-encompassing reality that touches every aspect of our lives. In the faith given us by the Holy Triune God at our baptism, we really and truly enter into our Lord’s death and resurrection. No, we don’t travel back in time to the first Good Friday and Easter, but in and through Holy Baptism, we die with Christ to sin and we live and walk with Christ in newness of life.
Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? And so the baptismal life is a blessed dying unto sin and a [blessed] rising in the grace of God, so that the old man conceived and born in sin is drowned, and a new man emerges or rises, born of grace (Luther, Day by Day, 273). As Luther writes in the Catechism: [Baptism] indicates that the Old Adam in us should by daily contrition and repentance be drowned and die with all sins and evil desires, and that a new man should daily emerge and arise to live before God in righteousness and purity forever.
Now this dying [to] and drowning of sin is not perfected in this life, not until the body dies and crumbles to death. A baptism is quickly performed in a few minutes, but the meaning of it, the spiritual baptism and drowning of sin is continued all through[out] our earthly life and cannot be fully achieved while we are alive on earth. Thus, we must die to sin and rise to newness of life daily until we die, for only at the hour of death is [our baptism] completed. And so Luther tells us that the life of a Christian, from baptism unto the grave, is nothing but the commencement of a blessed dying, for at the Last Day God will make him a new and different man (Luther, Day by Day, 273).
Now although our baptismal life entails a lifelong struggle against sin, Baptism is nonetheless a divine gift of great power. You see, in Holy Baptism God binds and knits together Christ’s death and resurrection and our baptism. And so, baptism should not be thought of a mere sign or reminder of God’s love; rather, in baptism is contained the very power of Christ’s death and resurrection. And so there should also follow in us both death and resurrection. For our sin is slain through [Christ’s] death, that is, [our sin is] taken away, in order that it may no longer live in us but die and be dead forever (Luther, Day by Day, 272).
Our Lord Jesus died; however, He did not remain in death but [He] rose again. So too, our baptismal life should not and cannot be a life in sin because sin has already been slain in us and we have died unto sin. And so our [baptismal life] must be a new life of righteousness and holiness, for having been united with Jesus in Holy Baptism, we [now] receive into ourselves both the power of His death and of His resurrection and also the fruit of the life He now lives to God (Luther, Day by Day, 273).
You who have been baptized into Christ, you have truly received the power of your Lord’s death and resurrection. To those without faith, the Good Friday and Easter accounts are merely stories about someone else’s death, someone else’s resurrection. But to you with faith in Christ, Good Friday and Easter are also the story of your death, your resurrection. To us with faith in Christ, Good Friday and Easter always point us to our baptism, for it is in our baptism that we receive the power of our Lord’s death and resurrection. In Holy Baptism, we receive power from our crucified and risen Saviour to die daily to sin and to rise up daily to walk in newness of life.
Jesus’ death and resurrection are events that occurred nearly two thousand years ago. And yet, we enter into our Lord’s death and resurrection today through Holy Baptism. In Baptism, we die to sin and we live to righteousness, just as Jesus died on the cross for our sins and to make us righteous in God’s sight. On Good Friday, Jesus died and was buried. We too died and were buried. We were … buried with [Jesus] by baptism into death… [and so] we have been united with him in a death like his. But we are also united with [Jesus] in his resurrection, for just as on Easter morning, Jesus rose from the dead, so too we rise up daily to walk in newness of life. This is not a mere figure of speech; we have really and truly been raised with [Christ] through … faith in the powerful working of God, who raised him from the dead (Col 2:12).
For you, then, every day is Good Friday. Every day you die to temptation and sin. And also for you, every day is Easter. Every day you arise as a new person who lives before God in righteousness and purity forever. On the cross, Jesus won salvation for you, and in your baptism, God forgave you your sins and gave you the hope of eternal life. And today, our gracious Lord continues to work through your baptism so that your sinful nature should by daily contrition and repentance be drowned and die with all sins and evil desires, and that a new man should daily emerge and arise to live before God in righteousness and purity forever (Small Catechism, Holy Baptism, IV).
What a tremendous gift God gives you in your baptism, for in your baptism, God gives you the power of your Lord’s death and resurrection, the power to not continue in sin. Oh yes you still sin, but you are no longer enslaved to sin as one who willfully practices sin without repentance. And so, through Holy Baptism, your life has been forever changed, for in your baptism you entered into your Lord’s death and resurrection, and through His death, you die to sin and through His resurrection, you live to righteousness. Jesus died and rose again for you, so that your sins may be forgiven and so that [you] may be His own and live under Him in His kingdom and serve Him in everlasting righteousness, innocence, and blessedness.
Do you know what are the two most important words in the Christian faith? They are the words “for you.” Jesus died on the cross for you. Jesus rose from the dead for you. Jesus gives forgiveness of all sins for you. Jesus gives eternal life for you. And in Holy Baptism, you have entered into and you have received the power of your Lord’s death and resurrection. By faith, you know that Good Friday and Easter are not merely about someone else’s death, someone else’s resurrection. You know that Good Friday and Easter are also about your death and resurrection—your death to sin and your resurrection not only to newness of life here on earth but also to eternal life in heaven. In spite of your great failures to resist temptation, in spite of your many sins, God keeps you in your baptism, intimately bound and knitted to your Lord’s death and resurrection so that you may live and walk with Him in newness of life forevermore. Amen.