The person who belongs to and follows God learns from the mistakes and misunderstandings of others.

  1. In 49 A.D., Claudius, who was the Roman emperor, issued an edict that made it necessary for all Jews to leave the city of Rome.
    1. At the time of the edict, there was a significant Jewish population in Rome.
      1. The Jews formed close communities within Rome.
      2. Claudius expelled the Jews because their communities had intense internal confrontations, perhaps even riots, over a person the historian Suetonius called "Chrestus."
        1. Many think this is a reference to clashes in Jewish communities in Rome between the Jews who believed in Christ and the Jews who rejected Christ.
        2. That certainly is consistent with what occurred at other places.
        3. Before he became a Christian, Paul went to synagogues arresting Jews who believed in Christ (Acts 9:1,2).
        4. After he became a Christian, it was not unusual for Paul's preaching for Christ to cause intense disturbances, even riots in Jewish communities (Acts 13:44,45,50; 14:1-6).
        5. It seems Jewish disagreements in Rome were so intense that Claudius forced them to leave to promote order in that city.
      3. We know almost nothing about the beginning of Christianity in Rome.
        1. We know that Paul did not begin that work.
        2. We also know that almost every congregation of Christians began with Jews who believed in Jesus Christ.
        3. We know in the book of Romans that there were Jewish Christians.
    2. This seems to be what happened.
      1. Claudius made no distinction between Jews who did not believe in Christ and Jews who did believe in Christ.
      2. He just ordered all Jews out of Rome.
      3. This had a profound impact on the Christian community in Rome.
        1. For many reasons, including knowledge of the scriptures, Jewish Christians provided the bulk of leadership and teaching in many of the early congregations.
        2. Many early congregations had a distinctly Jewish character.
        3. Many things were done in distinctively Jewish ways.
      4. Evidently this was the time Aquilla and Priscilla were forced to leave Rome (Acts 18:2).
        1. Quickly the church in Rome lost much of its leadership and many of its teachers.
        2. Converted non-Jews took over the vacated roles, and the basic character of the church in Rome changed from the ways Jewish Christians did things to the way Gentile Christians did things.
      5. Claudius died in 54 A.D.
        1. The kind of order that he made which forced the Jews to leave Rome automatically ended at his death.
        2. After Claudius died, many Jews returned to Rome, including many Jewish Christians.
          1. They returned with two basic expectations.
          2. First, they expected to assume roles in the church they had before leaving Rome.
          3. Second, they expected the church to do things the way they were done before they left.
        3. A major conflict developed between the Jewish Christians and the non-Jewish Christians in Rome.
          1. One of the basic things Paul does in his letter to the Romans is discuss that conflict.
          2. The conflict in that church was very much a control issue.
          3. Who would control: would the church do things the way Jewish Christians wanted them done, or would the church do things the way non-Jewish Christians wanted them done?

  2. I want to encourage you to look at Romans 6 in this context.
    1. Often Romans 6 has been our "go to" chapter to emphasize the nature of baptism.
      1. The first thing I ask you to remember is this: there were not different "modes" of baptism in the first century: sprinkling, dipping, and immersing.
        1. At this time the word baptism had one meaning: immersion.
        2. At this time baptism played a key role in a person's acceptance of forgiveness of sins in Jesus Christ.
        3. Since Paul is writing to Christians, and since baptism meant immersion, Paul's basic lesson could not be the mode of baptism.
        4. The mode of baptism is a "today issue" not a "then issue."
      2. Then what was Paul's point? What was his basic lesson to the Christians in Rome? Let's allow Paul's emphasis in Romans 6 to speak for itself.
        1. Everything he wrote in the chapter is important, but focus on his emphasis.
        2. To make the emphasis obvious, I will share in blocks.
          Romans 6:3 Or do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus have been baptized into His death?
          Romans 6:5-7 For if we have become united with Him in the likeness of His death, certainly we shall also be in the likeness of His resurrection, knowing this, that our old self was crucified with Him, in order that our body of sin might be done away with, so that we would no longer be slaves to sin; for he who has died is freed from sin.
          Romans 6:8-11 Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with Him, knowing that Christ, having been raised from the dead, is never to die again; death no longer is master over Him. For the death that He died, He died to sin once for all; but the life that He lives, He lives to God. Even so consider yourselves to be dead to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus.
          Romans 6:12-14 Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its lusts, and do not go on presenting the members of your body to sin as instruments of unrighteousness; but present yourselves to God as those alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness to God. For sin shall not be master over you, for you are not under law but under grace.
          Romans 6:15-19 What then? Shall we sin because we are not under law but under grace? May it never be! Do you not know that when you present yourselves to someone as slaves for obedience, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin resulting in death, or of obedience resulting in righteousness? But thanks be to God that though you were slaves of sin, you became obedient from the heart to that form of teaching to which you were committed, and having been freed from sin, you became slaves of righteousness. I am speaking in human terms because of the weakness of your flesh. For just as you presented your members as slaves to impurity and to lawlessness, resulting in further lawlessness, so now present your members as slaves to righteousness, resulting in sanctification.
          Romans 6:20-23 For when you were slaves of sin, you were free in regard to righteousness. Therefore what benefit were you then deriving from the things of which you are now ashamed? For the outcome of those things is death. But now having been freed from sin and enslaved to God, you derive your benefit, resulting in sanctification, and the outcome, eternal life. For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. For when you were slaves of sin, you were free in regard to righteousness.
      3. If my counting is correct (New American Standard translation):
        1. The words "death" or "His death" occurs nine times.
        2. The word "die" occurs five times.
        3. The word "dead" occurs twice.
        4. The words "life," "live," "newness of life," "alive," and "eternal life" occur nine times.
      4. To me there are two over-all obvious emphases.
        1. Christians die to sin.
        2. The life God makes possible in Christ is available to those who die to sin.
    2. Paul's basic point is straightforward.
      1. "The issue is not are you a Jewish Christian."
      2. "The issue is not are you a non-Jewish Christian."
      3. "The issue is not who is in control."
      4. "The issue is not do you do things as Jewish Christians want them done or the way non-Jewish Christians want them done."
      5. "The basic issue for all of you as Christians is the same issue: are you dead to sin?"
    3. There were a lot of ways they could not participate in Jesus' death.
      1. Jesus did a lot of things in his death they could not do.
      2. His death produced atonement--they could not duplicate his atonement
      3. His death produced propitiation--they could not duplicate his propitiation.
      4. His death produced redemption--they could not duplicate his redemption.
      5. His blood produced forgiveness--they could not duplicate his forgiveness.
    4. But there is one thing he did in death they could duplicate.
      1. He died to sin.
      2. They, too, could die to sin.
      3. Was Jesus temptable? Yes! And they would continue to be temptable.
      4. Did Jesus know struggle and agony? Yes! And they would continue to know struggle and agony.
      5. But Jesus firmly established God as the sovereign ruler of his life, and that meant that he said, "No!" to sin.
      6. As Christians, they also established God as the sovereign ruler of their lives, and that meant they would say, "No!" to sin.
      7. This was not their choice: to never fail, to never make a mistake, to never sin.
      8. It was their choice to never give control of their lives to sin.
      9. Evil must not rule them!
      10. They never gave control of their lives to evil!
        Romans 6:12,13 Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its lusts, and do not go on presenting the members of your body to sin as instruments of unrighteousness; but present yourselves to God as those alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness to God.
      11. In their arguments among themselves, in their struggles for control in the church at Rome, they missed the basic issue.
        1. It was not, "Who is in control?"
        2. It was, "As a Christian, are you dead to sin?
      12. Baptism is about dying to sin to live the new life.
      13. Baptism is not about gaining control over other Christians.

There are some thoughts concerning Paul's point that deserve your consideration. It has been said the Paul is not presenting sin here in the sense of a defect in a person's life (a flaw), but in the sense of a defection.

Evil is presented as a very real force, a force that will control you as your master.

Baptism into Christ is the conscious choice of which force will control my life: evil or God? There may be times when a Christian falls prey to temptation, but a Christian will never, never enthrone any form of evil as the force that rules his or her life.

There is one way we cannot die to sin as did Jesus. Jesus is dead to sin forever. As Christians, we die to sin every day. Every day we resist temptation, every day we refuse to put evil in charge of our lives.

Is that your focus every day? Does God rule your life?

David Chadwell

West-Ark Church of Christ, Fort Smith, AR
Morning Sermon, 30 June 2002

 Link to next sermon

 Link to other Writings of David Chadwell