The Cross: An Instrument of Identification

Dr. Steve Viars August 28, 1999 Romans 6:1-14

- This morning I’d like to begin our time by asking you a question:
- Do you have any clothing articles in your closet or dresser that have the logo or name of a sports team or company, that would have cost less if those names or logos weren’t there?
- Now I’m not asking for a show of hands, we’re not going to sing an invitation hymn, I’m just asking....have you ever paid more for a clothing article....not because of the quality of the fabric, or the durability of the item....but simply because of what was written or sewed on it?
- Most of us would say, yes.

- Now let me ask you this....which team, or company do you especially like, do you especially relate to, do you especially identify with? and why?
- some people in our congregation grew up in the Chicago area, and year after year when they’re around here in casual clothes, do you know what they’re wearing?....something about the Cubs, or something about the Bulls....
- Many of us around here root for we’ve got hats, or T-shirts, or coats with Purdue on them.
- We have some folks in our church that farm, and I imagine most of them could go home and scratch around and find a hat or a coat with what written on it? John John Deere Green.

- now, let’s push it another step....would you agree with me that there is power in identification?
- there’s something about us as human beings that likes to be part of a group, that likes to be identified with someone or you agree that there’s power to identification? can motivate us to do certain things and behave in certain ways?

- when I was a freshman, I attended Merrillville High School.
- One of my best friends was on the High School Hockey Team, and he wanted me to join.
- I went to a couple of practices and I enjoyed being around those guys....
- they also had these great team jackets with a big Philadelphia Flyers Wing on the front with the name of the team in big letters on the back....

- so guess what....I joined the hockey team.
- as I look back at that....I really didn’t enjoy the sport that much, those skates used to kill my feet, we got ice time at all sorts of strange hours of the day and night, and it was terribly expensive.
- but there was something attractive about being identified with that group.

- I think you would agree with me this morning....there is real power in identification.
- it can motivate us to do certain things and behave in certain ways.

- now, the reason I’m raising this issue is that God has given us a symbol of identification.
- and it too is powerful...and it too can motivate us to do certain things...and behave in certain ways.
- This morning I’d like us to think about The Cross: An Instrument of Identification.

- if you’ve been with us this summer, you know that we’ve been going through a series entitled “Embracing the Cross”
- We’re looking at what the Word of God tells us about the cross work of Jesus Christ.

- so far we’ve seen that the cross is an instrument of peace, and the cross as an instrument of power, and the cross as an instrument of shame, and the cross as an instrument of denial, the cross as an instrument of glory, and the cross as an instrument of forgiveness.
- last week we looked at what may have been the most difficult material in the series, when we studied the specific things that happened to Jesus Christ during His crucifixion....we reminded ourselves that the cross is an instrument of sacrifice.

- what we’re talking about today follows logically on the heels of that....because God’s Word often makes this point to us....”What happened to Christ /// happened to you”.
- the cross is an instrument of identification...that is, you identifying with Him and He identifying with you.
- and there are significant blessings and significant challenges to the way you and I live today that flow out of this important truth.

- With that in mind, can I invite you to open your Bible to Romans chapter 6.
- the book of Romans is the most comprehensive book of theology in the NT.
- for the last 1900 years, believers in Jesus Christ have been helped greatly by seeking to understand the truths of what Paul wrote to the Roman Christians.
- in the first three chapters of the book, Paul establishes the universal condition of all mankind---that is that we are lost and separated from God because of our sin.
- in chapter one he said that the immoral are lost....that wouldn’t have been much of a surprise.
- but then in chapter 2....he shows how the moral are lost as well....
- we can’t be reconciled to God by our own good works....
- in chapter 3, he says that everyone is lost.
- that’s the chapter that gives us great verses like Romans 3:10 - There is none righteous, no not one.
- and Romans 3:23 - For all have sinned and come short of the glory of God.
- frankly, it’s not a pretty picture.

- but then in the middle of chapter 3 and on into chapters 4-5, Paul develops the two great themes of grace and faith.
- he said in Romans 5:20 -- Where sin abounded, grace did much more abound.
- in Romans 5:8 -- But God demonstrated his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.

- so for the person who was willing to admit the truth about themselves, and the truth about their hearts, and the truth about their lives....namely that they recognized their sin, and they recognized how sin had separated them from a holy God, and that they wanted to repent of that lifestyle and be reconciled to God....
- that person was prepared to hear the good news of Jesus Christ....
- where sin abounded, grace did much more abound.
- and Paul explained that the issue then became became “what is a person trusting to get them to heaven?”, “what is a person trusting to restore them to God?”....
- their own works, or faith in Jesus Christ?
- or course for many of the people hearing this, it would have been a radical shift in their thinking.
- they, like many today, believed that you get to heaven by what you do.
- they concluded that if you were saved simply by accepting it as a free gift, that would lead to an unholy life after salvation.
- it was viewed as too cheap, too easy, too likely to lead to sinful living after salvation.
- that’s the issue that Paul picks up in chapter 6.
- and this is where we get this emphasis on the Cross as an Instrument of Identification.

- READ Romans 6:1-14.

- In the time we have remaining, I’d like us to think about I. The Position of Identification, and II. The Purpose of Identification, and III. The Practice of Identification.
- let’s start with;

I. The Position of Identification.

- now, I realize that these are not the easiest verses in the Bible to understand.
- but we’re not in the habit of ignoring things simply because they stretch our minds, in fact we think that’s good.
- however, on the other hand, I also realize that some of you are very new to all of this, and I’ve tried to design this in a way that keeps where you might be coming from spiritually in mind.

- there are two important ideas we need to quickly clear away that should help us get a much better understanding of Paul’s point, and set us up for applying them to where we live today.
1) First of all, these verses are not talking primarily about water baptism.
- now the Roman Christians would have been very familiar with water baptism....
- they would have been taught that after a person has truly trusted Jesus Christ as Lord and savior by faith [which was the subject of the previous 2 chapters], that they ought to be baptized in water as an outward demonstration and identification of what had happened on the inside.
- that’s why we baptize the way we do, the person is identifying themselves publicly with the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ.
- when Jesus said in the great commission, go therefore, into all the world, and make disciples of every nation, baptizing them in the name of......
- he was talking there about water baptism.....
- that’s why the early church practiced this ordinance.

- however, the Bible also speaks about spirit takes that concept that everyone would have already known about, and uses it metaphorically.
- spirit baptism occurs the moment a person is saved and has nothing to do with water.
- that’s what Paul was talking about in I Corinthians 12:13 when he said, For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body, whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free, and we were all made to drink of one Spirit.

- John MacArthur made these helpful statements in his commentary on Romans 6: 
Many people interpret Paul’s argument in Romans 6:3-10 as referring to water baptism.  However, Paul is simply using the physical analogy of water baptism to teach the spiritual reality of the believer’s union with Christ.  Water baptism is the outward identification of an inward reality--faith in Jesus’ death, burial, and resurrection.  Paul was not advocating salvation by water baptism; that would have contradicted everything he had just said about salvation by grace and not works in Romans 3-5, which has no mention of water baptism.
The Roman believers were well aware of the symbol of baptism.  When Paul says “do you not know” he is effect saying, “Are you ignorant of the meaning of your own baptism?  Have you forgotten what your baptism symbolized?”  They were unaware that water baptism symbolizes the spiritual reality of being immersed into Jesus Christ.  The tragedy is that many mistake the symbol of water baptism as the means of salvation rather than the demonstration of it.  To turn a symbol into a reality is to eliminate the reality, which in this case is salvation by grace through faith in Christ alone.

2) Now, the other key issue that we need to clear away is the difference between positional truth and practical truth.
- I’ve said to you before that a Christian will be very frustrated in trying to understand God’s Word unless he learns the difference between positional truth and practical truth.
- positional truth is what happens to your stand before God the moment you’re saved.
- when you trust Christ, your sins are immediately forgiven, and you now stand in the righteousness of Christ....that’s why Peter could say of you, “You are holy.”
- however, the Bible often speaks of practical truth.
- there is always a gap between who were are in Christ and how we are living in our day to day Christian life.
- part of the key is seeking to close that gap between our position and our practice.
- that’s why Peter could also say --- be ye holy.
- you look at that and say, how can he say you are holy, and be ye holy?
- the answer is, in one case he is speaking positionally, in the other case he is speaking practically.

- now, with that in mind, let’s think about what these verses tell us about our position of identification...
- what is Paul telling us about our position in Christ?
- part of the emphasis is that when you came to Christ, you “died to sin”.
- did you see that emphasis all the way through the text?
- v.2 - “we who died to sin”
- v. 3 - “we have been baptized into his death”
- you see that emphasis all the way through this text.
- and what it means is, the moment you came to Christ, your relationship to sin changed died to sin
- we see that clearly at the end of verse 5 -- you are no longer slaves to sin.
- you are not enslaved to the penalty of sin -- because now you’re on your way to heaven and there is no condemnation for those who stand in the righteousness of Christ
- you are not enslaved from the power of sin --- it no longer has that mastery over you....
- and some day, you will even be delivered from the presence of sin, because when you see Christ, you will be like Him, because you’ll see Him as He is.
- the point is --- believers in Jesus Christ share in his death --- that’s why the cross is an instrument of identification.
- that’s also why the apostle Paul can say in Galatians 2:20 - I am crucified with Christ....
- in what sense? --- because positionally --- there’s been a death.
- however, there’s another very important part of this identification.
- at you look around the crosses in our auditorium, what do you notice about them?
- they’re empty!...because Jesus Christ conquered death and raised from the dead on the third day.
- and these verses equally emphasize THAT about your position as well.
- [read verse 4-5 again].

- now, you might say, PV, I have trouble getting my arms around all of this.
- join the club --- we all do --- these aren’t the kind of things you think about while you’re standing in line at MacDonalds.
- but they are very, very important.

- another way of thinking about this that might be helpful is, we’re talking right now about the doctrine of our union with Christ.
- the Bible teaches us that if you have trusted Jesus Christ as savior and Lord, that you are “in Christ” and He is “in you.”
- that’s why we read these words all the way through the text like “baptized into Christ” in verse 3, and “with Him” in verse 4, and “united with Him” in verse 5.
- The cross is an instrument of identification for the believer in that what happened to Him happened to you.
- you have died with Him, you have been buried with Him, and you have been resurrected with Him.
- and God told us this so that we could embrace the cross as an instrument of identification.
- to see ourselves through this grid...
- to see our past through this grid...
- to see our present through this grid....
- to see our trials through this grid....
- to see temptation through this grid....
- to see the future through this grid....
- now you might say, PV, what would embracing the cross as an instrument of identification look like?
- take the example of Horatio Spafford.
- Mr. Spafford was a wealthy businessman from Chicago who was going to go on a trip to Europe with his wife and four daughters....
- When they arrived in NY, he was called back to Chicago on business so he encouraged his family to go on ahead and he would follow them in a few days.
- It turns out that the reason he was called back was that the stock market was crashing and he lost a good deal of his wealth.
- Meanwhile the ship his family was on had a Mid-Atlantic collision and most of the passengers were lost at Sea.
- Horatio Spafford received a telegram from his wife in Europe containing 2 words...
”saved, alone.”
- Mr. Spafford went back to NY to booked passage on a ship so he could go join his wife in Europe.
- He asked the captain to come and get him when he thought they were near the place where the ship had gone down.
- The captain fulfilled his request, and Horatio Spafford, also a committed Christian, penned the words to one of the church’s favorite hymns -- It is Well With My Soul
- Please notice the way Mr. Spafford is embracing the cross as an instrument of identification.
- I realize that that’s been pretty heavy theology, and you might be wondering--what does all of this mean to the way I’m supposed to live this week?
- that’s a great question, and we want to spend the rest of our time trying to answer it with these next two points.....
- so let’s move from....I. The Position of Our Identification to....

II. The Purpose of Our Identification.

- in the Bible, when you’re looking for purpose clauses, you can often find them around words like “that” or “for” or “so”.
- a couple of key ones you might want to “flag” in this text are at the end of verse 4....
- “so [that] we too might walk in newness of life”
- then at the end of verse 6 - “that we should no longer be slaves to sin.”

- if the question is, what is the purpose of our identification with Christ, the answer that we can have new life in Jesus that we can have victory over the sinful habits that we brought into the Christian life.

- now we have enough on the table to start making applications...
- if you’re saying, well, specifically what might this look like....

- let’s say you’re in a conversation with another individual where you’re tempted to fall into some of those same old sinful habits of communication....
- Biblically speaking, it is time to embrace the cross...and for our purposes this embrace the cross as an instrument of identification....
- choosing to think things like....wait a minute.....I died with Jesus Christ....I don't have to keep following those same old sinful patterns any more.
- with God’s help I am going to choose to speak in a way that honors my Lord because I don't have to sin that way anymore.

- or let’s say that you used to struggle with alcohol....and you’ve gotten victory over that, but then you go to an office party...and there’s that old stuff again.
- and someone standing next to you is drinking, and the smells start coming back, and the rush starts coming back, and the temptation is strong....
- my friends, its time to embrace the cross as an instrument of identification....
- and remember, I was raised with Jesus Christ.....
- I have new life in Christ....
- I’ve been enjoying a clear head and a sound mind and being able to wake up in the morning without guilt.....
- so with the power of God I’m going to choose not to go back to that lifestyle.

- let’s say that you’ve been struggling with having a good attitude at work....
- you’re tired...or the conditions are feel like quitting....
- that’s another great time to embrace the cross as an instrument of identification.
- because you can say, wait a minute, I’m in Christ, and He’s in me.
- so when I work at being God’s kind of person at work, I’m bringing honor to the savior who lives in me
- when I lack strength and endurance, I can cry out to the Savior who lives in me...
- the cross is my instrument of identification....not the Nike symbol on my shirt, not the John Deere label on my hat....its the cross of Christ which reminds me both of my death to sin and my resurrection to new life in Him.
- now I’d like to ask you this question....are you in the habit of embracing the cross in the way we’re studying?
- How often does your position in Jesus Christ, your union with Jesus Christ, your identification with the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ help you, and motivate you to please God?
- Did you call upon such truths this week?
- Have you embraced the cross in this way?

- now, if the answer is “no”, here’s a couple of reasons why that may be so.
1) Friend, it may be an indication that you’ve not yet come to know Christ.
- what we’re studying this morning assumes that there has been a definite time when you’ve admitted your sin and trusted Christ as Savior and Lord.
- and if this whole idea of dying to sin and being raised to new life in Christ is foreign to you, it may be because you’ve not yet trusted Him.
- If not, we’d invite you to come to Christ today.

2) Another possibility is that you have trusted Christ, but you have not yet followed Him in believer’s baptism.
- as we’ve been saying, these verses are the spiritual reality that is symbolized by believer’s baptism.
- when a person is baptized, they are saying that what they are trusting in for their salvation is the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ....
- they also are saying that they have gone through that same process spiritually, where they have died to sin and been raised to new life in Christ.

- and you might say --- PV< is that important?
- apparently, because that is one of the two ordinances that Christ left for His church to follow.

- and if you are a believer in Christ but you’ve not been baptized, we would invite you to consider obeying Him in that way.

- now you might say, PV, I’ve done those two things, but I’m not sure I’m benefiting from this concept of embracing the cross as an Instrument of Identification the way I should.

- this last point may be especially for you....
- we’ve talked about I. The Position of Our Identification and II. The Purpose of Our Identification.
- let’s conclude now with III. The Practice of Our Identification.
- there are three important and practical steps listed in verses 11-14.

1) Reckon this to be so.

- verse 11 says -- “consider yourselves to be dead to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus.”
- now you say, but Paul just told them that it was true....why do they have to “consider it to be true” or “reckon it to be true”?
- the answer is, its not going to be of any practical benefit until you factor it in to the way you’re viewing life.
- we have a concrete decision to make about whether we are going to choose to think about such things, and benefit thereby.
- there’s a number of ways to illustrate this, but one of my favorites comes I believe from Irwin Lutzer from Moody Church in Chicago.
- he says, imagine that you were poor and destitute, and you live in a run down shack with a cruel man for a landlord.
- and he’s always taking advantage of you....
- and makes promises and never keeps them...
- the rent gets higher and higher and higher...
- the house is an absolute wreck....

- and then you meet someone who says, if you’ll leave this place, I’ll give you a new house.
- and there won’t be any charge....
- and you can start over....
- and have a new life....

- and you take the man up on his offer....
- and you can’t believe it....
- the house is brand new....
- its everything the man promised and more....
- you’re sitting in your new living room on brand new furniture.....

- and all of a sudden you hear a familiar banging on the door....
- and you open it up, and there’s that old landlord....
- he’s found you and he demands that you keep paying him....
- and he speaks in that same rough voice and its intimidating....
- you even feel yourself starting to cower down and you’re thinking about going to get your checkbook....

- do you know what’s its time to do?
- it’s time to do some reckoning, some clear thinking.....
- its time to factor in your new position, and your new life, and your new home to the demands that this old tyrant is making.
- frankly, you don't have to pay him anymore.
- you don't have to live that way any more.....

- its time to kick the old brute off the porch.
- its time to resist the devil and he’ll flee from you.

- Paul says, reckon yourself, and keep on reckoning yourself to be dead to sin, and alive to God.
- friend, do you need to work harder at embracing the cross in this way?
- do you need to establish a stronger habit of factoring your identification with Christ into the issues of daily living?

2) Paul also says, Don’t let sin reign in your mortal body.
- If you know Christ, Satan can’t destroy your soul, but he’d certainly be happy to ruin your testimony through your body....
- he’d certainly love to rob your joy through sins of the body....

- Paul says, don't let it reign.....
- Jesus is your King now, Jesus is your master now....
3) Then he says, don’t present the members of your body to sin, but present them to God.
- these eyes, present them to God...
- this tongue, present them to God...
- these hands, present them to God....

- could use the Tiger Woods // Nike contract illus --- power of identification.




Dr. Steve Viars


Senior Pastor - Faith Church

Director - Faith Legacy Foundation


B.S.: Pre-Seminary & Bible, Baptist Bible College (Now Clarks Summit University)
M.Div.: Grace Theological Seminary
D.Min.: Biblical Counseling, Westminster Theological Seminary

Dr. Steve Viars has served at Faith Church in Lafayette, IN since 1987. Pastor Viars leads and equips Faith Church as Senior Pastor with a focus on preaching and teaching God’s Word and using his organizational skills in guiding the implementation of the Faith Church mission and vision. He oversees the staff, deacons, and all Faith Church ministries. Dr. Viars serves on the boards of the Association of Certified Biblical Counselors, Biblical Counseling Coalition, Vision of Hope, and the Faith Community Development Corporation. Steve is the author, co-author, or contributor to six books and numerous booklets. He and his wife, Kris, were married in 1982 and have two married daughters, a son, and three grandchildren.

Read Steve Viars’ Journey to Faith for the full account of how the Lord led Pastor Viars to Faith Church.

View Pastor Viars' Salvation Testimony Video