ROMANS CHAPTER 6
What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound? 2 God forbid! We who died to sin, how shall we any longer live in it? 3 Or are you ignorant of the fact that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? 4 We were buried therefore with him through a baptism into his death, that like as Christ was raised up from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we also might walk in newness of life.
5 For if we have become united with him in the likeness of his death, we shall also be in the likeness of his resurrection. 6 Knowing this, that our old man was crucified with him, that the body of sin might be done away, that so we should no longer be in bondage to sin. 7 For he that has died is set free from sin. 8 But if we died with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with him. 9 Knowing that Christ, being raised from the dead, dies no more. Death no more has dominion over him. 10 For the death that he died, he died to sin once, but the life that he lives, he lives to God. 11 Even so count yourselves to be dead to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus.
A change of masters- from sin to Christ
12 Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body, that you should obey the lusts of it. 13 Neither present your members to sin as instruments of unrighteousness, but present yourselves to God, as alive from the dead; and your members as instruments of righteousness to God. 14 For sin shall not have dominion over you- for you are not under law, but under grace.
15 What then? Shall we sin, because we are not under law but under grace? God forbid! 16 Do you not know, that to whom you present yourselves as slaves to obedience, his slaves you are whom you obey? Whether of sin to death, or of obedience to righteousness? 17 But thanks be to God, that whereas you were slaves of sin, you became obedient from the heart to that form of teaching which was delivered to you. 18 And being made free from sin, you became slaves to righteousness. 19 I speak in human terms because of the weakness of your human nature; but as you presented your limbs as slaves of uncleanness and iniquity, now present your limbs as slaves of righteousness unto holiness.
20 For when you were slaves of sin, you were free from righteousness. 21 What fruit had you at that time in the things of which you are now ashamed? For the result of those things is death. 22 But now being made free from sin, and having become slaves of God, you have your fruit unto holiness- and the result is eternal life. 23 For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.
The Implications Of Baptism
One of the reasons for baptism is perhaps so that we realize that we can't just drift into relationship with God; there must be a concrete point at which we decide for Him and His Son. The whole thing is so counter-instinctive, as Naaman discovered- to get wet, with all the awkwardness of it being so public, to be exposed and vulnerable to the view of others, to be dipped under water by another person... it's not exactly painless and effortless. Commonly enough, the New Testament speaks of baptism as a calling upon the Name of the Lord. This must be understood against its Hebrew background- qara' beshem Yahweh, which originally referred to approaching God in sacrifice (Gen. 12:7,8; Ps. 116:4,17). God placed His Name upon places in order to make them suitable places for sacrifice to be offered to Him (Dt. 12:4-7,21; Jer. 7:12). Baptism was thus seen as a sacrificial commitment to Yahweh in solemn covenant.
Further, in the first century, such baptisms were required of Gentiles who wished to become proselyte Jews and thus enter "Israel". For orthodox Jews to submit to baptism demanded a lot- for it implied they were not by birth part of the true Israel as they had once proudly thought. The Jews thought of Israel in the very terms which Paul applies to Jesus: "We Thy people whom Thou hast honoured and hast called the Firstborn and Only-Begotten, Near and Beloved One" (1). The New Testament uses these titles to describe the Lord Jesus Christ- and we must be baptized into Him in order to be in His Name and titles. The Lord Jesus was thus portrayed as Israel idealized and personified, all that Israel the suffering servant should have been; thus only by baptism into Christ of Jew and Gentile could they become part of the true seed of Abraham, the Israel of God (Gal. 3:27-29). The act of baptism into Christ is no less radical for us in our contexts today than it was for first century Jews. All we once mentally held dear, we have to give up.
Our Relationship With God
Being baptized into the Name has quite some implications. In Hebrew thought, you called your name upon that which was your personal property- hence a wife took on the name of her husband because he placed it upon her. By baptism into the Name of the Father and His Son, we become their personal property, their woman, upon whom they have unique claims and obligations. Baptism in this sense is a kind of marriage contract with none less than the God of the universe. We can't drift into relationship with God; God has designed the whole experience of baptism so that we once and for all make a choice, to be with Him and not this world, to be in Christ and covered in Him, rather than wandering in the rags of our own righteousness and occasional half-hearted stabs at real spirituality.
Motivation To Powerful Preaching
There is no doubt that the cross and baptism into that death was central to the preaching message of the early brethren. According to the Bible, baptism is essential to salvation; yet we can't draw hoops around God and limit His salvation ultimately. The completeness and reality of the redemption achieved is expressed in Hebrews with a sense of finality, and we ought to not let that slip from our presentation of the Gospel either. There in the cross, the justice and mercy of God are brought together in the ultimate way. There in the cross is the appeal. Some of the early missionaries reported how they could never get any response to their message until they explained the cross; and so, with our true doctrinal understanding of it, it is my belief that the cross is what has the power of conversion. A man cannot face it and not have a deep impression of the absoluteness of the issues involved in faith and unbelief, in choosing to accept or reject the work of the struggling, sweating, gasping Man who hung on the stake. It truly is a question of believe or perish. Baptism into that death and resurrection is essential for salvation. Of course we must not bully or intimidate people into faith, but on the other hand, a preaching of the cross cannot help but have something compulsive and urgent and passionate about it. For we appeal to men on God's behalf to accept the work of the cross as efficacious for them. In this sense baptism is essential to salvation from our perspective. It can be that much of our preaching somehow fails in urgency and entreaty. We seem to be in places too expository, or too attractive with the peripherals, seeking to please men... or be offering good advice, very good advice indeed, background Bible knowledge, how to read the Bible effectively... .all of which may be all well and good, but we should be preaching good news, not good advice. The message of the cross is of a grace and real salvation which is almost too good to believe. It isn't Bible background or archaeology or potshots at interpreting Bible prophecy. It is the Man who had our nature hanging there perfect, full of love, a light in this dark world... and as far as we perceive the wonder of it all, as far as this breaks in upon us, so far we will hold it forth to this world. If we think there could be other paths to salvation, then we wouldn't preach Christ as we do. The zeal of the early brethren to witness for Him was because, as they explained, there is no other name under Heaven whereby we may be saved. People do not drift into covenant relationship with God; they have to consciously chose, and God has instituted baptism as a means to that end; to force a man or woman to a conscious decision and crossing of boundaries. And this is why we preach towards baptism, with an eye on future conversion, knowing that baptism is essential to salvation.
Lk. 3:12 records how there "came also publicans to be baptized, and said unto him, Master, what shall we do?". There is a parallel between desiring baptism and realizing that they must do something concretely in their lives. The baptism process brings us into the realm of God's gracious forgiveness and redemption, and into living contact with the real Christ. There is no way we can be passive to this and do nothing about it.
(1) The Apocalypse Of Ezra 6.55-58 (London: S.P.C.K., 1917 ed.) p. 47.
6:1 Shall we continue in sin…?- Paul says he had been slanderously accused of teaching this (Rom. 3:8). He’s here not only answering that false charge, but more positively, analyzing what our response should be to the great grace in which we now stand. In doing so, he expounds in more detail how we come to that position of being “in Christ”, what “the obedience of faith” means in practice. And he’s quite clear that this faith in Christ is expressed in the act of baptism.
Paul didn't just decide to write about baptism in Romans 6; the classic exposition of baptism which we find there is within a context. And it's not an appeal for people to be baptized- it's written to baptized believers, appealing for them to live out in practice the "in Christ" status which they had been given as a result of their baptisms. If we really feel the result of our baptism, we will not "continue in sin". Martin Luther used to overcome temptation by taking a chalk and writing baptizatus sum- 'I am baptized'. And therefore we simply cannot continue in servitude to sin. As Karl Barth put it in his needle-sharp analysis of baptism's implications: "Baptism recalls me to the service of witness, since it recalls me to daily repentance" (1). It should be noted that allusions to baptism in Paul's letters are in passages where Paul is trying to correct misunderstandings about unity and way of life (Rom. 6; 8:12-17; Gal. 3:27-4:6; 1 Cor. 1-4, 12). The early brethren had a tendency to forget the implications of baptism. And so it is with us all today. Entering the body of Christ by baptism means that our sins are in a sense against our own brethren, our spiritual body, as well as against the Lord personally. Like the prodigal, we realize we sin against Heaven and men.
6:2 Live therein- the idea is of living in the sphere of sin, identifying ourselves with being “in Adam” rather than the sphere of “in Christ”. Romans 6 is talking about being in one of two spheres- in the flesh, and in the Spirit; in Adam, or in Christ; continuing in condemnation, or rejoicing in our justified status in Christ. It is actually impossible for us to ‘live in sin’ for a moment, because we are no longer “in” that sphere or position.
Baptism is a change of masters- but we are still bondslaves, not of sin, but of God. The implications of this figure may not be immediately apparent to the modern mind. We are totally committed to the Master- this is who we are, bondslaves. In Gen. 44:9, being dead is paralleled with being a slave; and there appears a parallel between being a bondslave and dying in Gen. 44:9,17. Indeed, Romans 6 draws the same parallel- death to sin is part of being a slave of Christ. The very fact we are baptized means we should not continue in sin, seeing we are dead to it (Rom. 6:2). This is one of the most basic implications of a first principle which we live in ignorance of most of our days.
6:3 Know you not…? – a common appeal of Paul’s in his letters (Rom. 7:1; 11:25; 1 Cor. 10:1; 12:1; 1 Thess. 4:13). His earnest desire was that his readership would appreciate the real import of what they knew in theory.
Galatians was one of Paul’s earlier letters. In it, he speaks of his own baptism: “I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live” (Gal. 2:19-21). Years later he writes to the Romans about their baptisms, in exactly the same language: “All of us who have been baptized… our old self was crucified with him… the life he lives he lives to God” (Rom. 6:1-10). He clearly seeks to forge an identity between his readers and himself; their baptisms were [and are] as radical as his in their import. Note how in many of his letters, especially Galatians and Corinthians, he switches so easily between “you” and “we”, as if to drive home the fact that there was to be no perception of distance between him the writer and us the readers.
6:4 By baptism- Gk. dia baptism. It is through baptism, on account of it, that we are “in Christ” and associated with the saving death of the Lord Jesus. This is how, mechanically, as it were, we become “in Christ”. The use of dia here demonstrates the colossal importance of baptism.
“Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death... knowing this, that our old man is crucified with him" (Rom 6:4,6). Every time someone is baptized, the Lord as it were goes through His death for them again. And yet baptism is an ongoing process, of dying daily. We are in Christ, connected every moment with the life and living out of His cross. We are dying with Him, our old man is crucified with Him because His death is an ongoing one. “It is Christ that died... Who shall separate us from the love of Christ?... As it is written, For thy sake we are killed all the day long; we are accounted as sheep for the slaughter" (Rom 8:34-36). According to Isaiah 53, He on the cross was the sheep for the slaughter; but all in Him are all day long counted as sharing His death, as we live out the same self-control, the same spirit of love and self-giving for others, regardless of their response...
Raised… by the glory of the Father- doesn’t mean that some bright light as it were hauled the body of Jesus out of the grave. The glory of God is essentially His character and attributes; when Moses asked to see God’s glory, He heard the essential character of God proclaimed. Christ was raised from the dead dia , for the sake of, this glory. He perfectly revealed it in a life and personality which was totally like God’s, omitting no aspect of righteousness and not committing any sin. He gave His life for us, to become our full representative; and therefore it was appropriate that He be raised again, for the wages of sin is death, but He had done no sin. His same perfection is counted to us, if we believe in Him and into Him through “the obedience of faith” in baptism. And it is on this basis that we too shall rise again. Paul mentions this aspect of the Lord’s resurrection to explain to us something more about how and why immersion into His death and resurrection can lead to our resurrection. We must consider that His resurrection is in fact going to be ours exactly because His righteousness is counted to us, and therefore dia that, for the sake of it, we took shall be raised to life eternal.
The theory of Him only ‘acting out’ reaches its nadir when we come- as each Christian must- to personally contemplate the meaning of the dead body of Jesus. That lifeless corpse, in contrast with the immortal God who cannot die, was surely the ultimate testament to Christ’s total humanity. God did not die for three days. The Lord Jesus did. His subsequent resurrection doesn’t in any way detract from the fact that He was really dead for three days. Indeed, His resurrection would also have been a cheap sham if He had actually not been really dead, with all that death means. We too, in our natural fear of death (cp. Heb. 2:15), come to that dead body and wish to identify ourselves with it, so that we might share in His resurrection. Baptism is a baptism into His death (Rom. 6:3-5). It’s more than some act of vague identification with the dead and resurrected Jesus. We are “buried with him”, literally ‘co-buried’ (Gk. syn-thaptein) with Him, inserted into His death, sharing the same grave. If His death was not really death, then baptism loses its meaning, and we are left still searching for another Saviour with whom we can identify in order to rise out of the grave. Jesus Himself was baptized in order to emphasize our identity with Him: “Now when all the people were baptized, and Jesus also had been baptized…” (Lk. 3:21).
Our experience of grace means “that we should serve in newness of spirit and not in the oldness of the letter” (Rom. 7:6). We don’t have to serve God in the sense that He grants us salvation by pure grace, not by works. The blessing of the Lord has nothing added to it by human toil (Prov. 10:22 RVmg.). But just because we don’t have to do it, we do. This is the power of grace; it doesn’t force us to monotonous service, but should be a wellspring of fresh motivation, to do perhaps the same things with an ever fresh spirit. The pure wonder of it all needs to be felt- that for nothing but pure faith the Lord will grant us eternal redemption for the sake of the Lord’s death and resurrection. Which is why Rom. 6:4 says that because of this, and our appropriation of it in baptism, we therefore live in newness of life, a quality of life that is ever new. Through His death, a new and living way is opened (Heb. 10:20). We share the ever fresh life which the Lord lived from His resurrection. It does us good to try to imagine that scene- the Son of God, coming out of the grave at daybreak. He would have seen the lights of Jerusalem shimmering away in the distance, a few kms. away, as everyone woke up and went back to work, the first day after the long holiday. Getting the children ready, caring for the animals… it was back to the same old scene. But as they did so, the Son of God was rising to newness of life, standing alone in the fresh morning air, with a life that was ever new, with a joy and dynamism that was to know no end… His feelings are beyond us, but all the same, distorted by our nature, by our spiritual dysfunction, into our lives His life breaks through.
6:5 Planted together- the image appears to be of two seeds growing up together out of the ground. To parallel Christ with us in this way is arresting; that we, so far behind Him, our Master, King and hero- should actually be seeds and tender plants growing up next to Him. The suggestion could be that Christ is still growing, His life is a newness of life, an ever fresh experience, a growth, which goes on eternally; and we are growing together with Him. And that growth has started even now. The initial planting under the earth is symbolized by going under the water of baptism.
Likeness of his death- the reference could be to baptism itself as the likeness of His death. But perhaps the idea more essentially is that our death to sin is a copy, a “likeness”, of Christ’s death to sin (6:10). It’s an elevating thought- that we are seeking to copy His death in our daily death to sin. Not only through our rejecting of temptation, but our recognition that we are in a state of being dead to sin and its demands, because we are counted right before God by our faith in His grace. “Likeness” is used in the LXX in the frequent warnings not to make an image or likeness of any god, let alone Yahweh (Ex. 20:4; Dt. 4:16-25; Ps. 106:20; Is. 40:18,19). The reason for this prohibition becomes clearer in the New Testament; the ultimate likeness of God is in His Son, and we are to create the likeness of His Son not as a mere physical icon, but within the very structure of our human personality and character. In this we as it were die with Christ (6:8)- not just in the dirt and heat of battling and resisting temptation to sin, but in that we have identified ourselves with Him there, we are in the sphere of Christ rather than Adam. What we do with our thoughts, our spare time, what our aims and ambitions are in life, where our heart is- is within the Christ sphere rather than the Adam sphere, the spirit rather than the flesh. We are in the “likeness” of Christ’s death by baptism, and He is in the “likeness of [our] sinful flesh” (Rom. 8:3)- thereby showing the mutuality between Him and us, and how representation and response to it is two-way. He is like us, and we therefore seek to become like Him.
God forbid that for us, the cross should be a mere art form that we admire from afar. We are to be intimately connected with the spirit of the Lord as He hung there. In baptism, we are to be ‘incorporated with him in a death like his’ (Rom. 6:5). The Greek word symphytoi speaks of a symphony, in which we and the Lord in His time of dying are united together. Likewise Rom. 8:29 and Phil. 3:21 speak of being ‘fused into the mould of his death’. He, as He was there, is to be our mould. The strange ability of the cross to elicit powerful response in practice is one way in which the blood of Christ sanctifies us. His sacrifice not only brings forgiveness for past sins, it is the inspiration to a sanctified future life.
6:6 Knowing this- see on Rom. 6:3. As in 6:9, “knowing” these things means more than factual knowledge; Paul is driving home the practical implications.
Old man- the contrast between the old man and the new man is similar to that which Paul draws in 1 Cor. 15:45 between the “first man”, Adam, and the “last” man, Christ. Therefore I suggest that the “old man” here is a reference to our status in Adam; by baptism we pass from that status to that of the “new man”, Christ. Eph. 4:22-24 exhorts baptized believers to put off the old man and put on the new man- i.e. to live out in practice the change in status which occurred in baptism. “The new man” comprises Jew and Gentile (Eph. 2:15; Col. 3:10,11)- connecting with how Gal. 3:27-29 explains that baptism into Christ likewise gives us a status of “in Christ” which thereby obviates any difference between Jew and Gentile. If “the old man” refers to our status in Adam which has now ended, been crucified, then we need no longer be phased by the fact that no baptized believer manages to totally avoid sinning; none of us have put to death the old manner of life in totality. All our days we seek to respond to the change of status which has occurred, living appropriate to that change.
Crucified with Christ- the very pinnacle of the Lord’s achievement, which we tend to gape at from an awed distance reflecting that ‘I would not, could not, possibly, have done that’, is counted to us insofar as we are in Christ. “Is crucified” is a translation which misses the point- the Greek speaks of this as a one time act which we did with Christ, rather than any ongoing identity with the crucifixion through our sufferings over the course of our life. That one time point of identity was surely baptism, when we were counted as in Christ, changed status from Adam to Christ, and His crucifixion was counted to us as if we had died there. This interpretation is in context with Paul’s argument in Romans; he’s not merely saying that our sufferings in fighting sin bring us identity with Christ’s crucifixion, or that thereby we know something of the spirit of the crucified Christ. For we are so, so far behind Him. And our paltry efforts fall far short, and certainly would not entitle us to a resurrection. By our being counted as dead, even crucified, with Christ, because we are seen as “in” Him, we will be thereby also resurrected with Him in that we will share in His resurrection life just as we were identified with His death. Indeed, all that is true of Him becomes true of us. We died with Him (6:8), were crucified with Him (6:6), buried with Him (6:4), raised with Him (Col. 2:12; 3:1); are seated with Him in Heaven (Eph. 2:16), are simply “with” Christ in life today (Rom. 8:17,29), and so will eternally be “with the Lord” Jesus (1 Thess. 4:17).
Body of sin… destroyed- at the day of judgment? Paul speaks of how the life / living of Jesus is now manifested in our “mortal flesh” (2 Cor. 4:11). So we still have “mortal flesh” now. It will only literally be no more at the Lord’s return. This could require the next clause to be translated “that from then onwards [i.e. after the day of judgment] we shall no longer serve sin”. However, this phrase could be returning back to this life- with the idea being that because at the day of judgment our body of sin will be destroyed, and this was guaranteed by our baptism into Christ, we therefore shouldn’t serve sin, in having sin as our master. We are no longer in that sphere, under that domination- but instead under the domination of Christ and within His sphere. Note the difference between the “old man” being crucified and the “body of sin” being therefore, henceforth, destroyed. The old way of life [which is how Paul uses “the old man” in Eph. 4:22; Col. 3:9] is dead, we have changed status, living as “the new man”, Christ. This will come to its physical manifestation in the destruction of our physical body and the gift of the new body at the day of judgment.
6:7 He that is dead is freed from sin- is virtually quoting Rabbinic writings. However in the Talmud there is the statement that “when a man is dead he is freed from keeping the law” (B. Shabbat, 151 B). Paul provocatively replaces “law” with “sin”. Not that God’s law is sinful in itself, but he has been emphasizing that the Law is associated with sin because it as it were magnifies sin and leads to the conscious crossing over of a Divine line which results in sin being imputed to man. However, “freed” here translates the usual word for “justified” or acquitted. A slave can no longer serve a master after the death of the slave. And this is how God counts us.
6:8 If we be dead- Gk. ‘if we died’, in baptism into Christ’s death. Paul is writing to baptized believers; his thought is therefore ‘Since we died with Him’.
We believe that we shall also live with Him- yet the fact someone has been baptized doesn’t necessarily mean that they do at this point believe that they will live with Christ. Paul surely means that if we really accept the reality of what happened at baptism, this must influence our faith now- that we shall therefore live with Him eternally in the future, and we therefore shall live with Him and in Him, within the sphere of His life, right now. The logic here is powerful, intense, and cutting. It can’t be squirmed out of. If we really were baptized into His death- then we [almost] have to believe that we will also live with Him, because He didn’t stay dead but rose to life. The power of baptism, therefore, is that it reminds us subsequently in our lives of the simple fact that therefore, as Christ died and lives, so I too “shall”, I really will, “live with Him”.
6:9 Knowing that Christ being raised from the dead…- “we believe that we shall live with Him” (6:8) because we know that Christ was raised from the dead. To believe that He rose from the dead is therefore no painless intellectual matter. If He rose, and if I really died with Him, then I shall for sure live with Him. Because He is me and I am Him; He in me and I in Him. This is what Paul is saying, amidst our own doubts and fears about our moral failures trying to shout him down.
No more dominion- if death and sin have no more dominion over Christ, they have no dominion over us, and therefore we are to live as if sin has no dominion over us (6:14).
6:10 Died unto sin once- this apparently obvious fact is added to develop the argument that because He totally isn’t under the power of sin and death any more, we who are in Him are likewise free from it, totally and utterly- by status. And seeing His death isn’t ongoing, our freedom from sin should likewise be ongoing.
Lives unto God- the fact that even now, the Son of God lives “unto God”, to His glory, for His sake, unto Him… is a sure proof that He isn’t “God” in any Trinitarian sense. But just as His life is constantly and in every dimension “for God”, so we also should be living unto God now (6:11)- not a hobby, a part time religion, but a devotion to His sphere in every aspect of our existence.
The life that He lived and now lives, and the death that He died, become ours (Rom. 6:10 RV). We identified with that life, that death, at baptism. But it’s an ongoing thing. We live in newness of life. The life in Christ is not a stagnant pond, but rather living water, spring water, bubbling fresh from the spring. The Lord Jesus died and rose as our representative. Therefore we live out His life, His death, His rising again to new life; and so as we sing, “into my life your power breaks through, living Lord”. And this is what we give out to others- for “he that believeth in me, out of his innermost being shall flow rivers of springing water” for others (Jn. 4:10; 7:38). We can experience the newness of life of Christ right now. His life is now made manifest in our mortal flesh (2 Cor. 4:11), insofar as we seek to live our lives governed by the golden rule: ‘What would Jesus do…?’. The life that He had and now lives is the essence of the Kingdom life.
Throughout the New Testament, there is a clear link between the preaching of the cross, and men and women being converted. There is a power of conversion in the image and message of Christ crucified as our representative. Man cannot remain passive before this. Baptism is an appropriation of His death and resurrection to ourselves. This is why the response to the preaching of the cross in the 1st century was baptism. And the response doesn't stop there; it continues, in the living of the life of the risen Jesus in our lives after baptism: "For the death that he died, he died unto sin… the life that he liveth, he liveth unto God. Even so reckon ye also yourselves to dead unto sin but alive unto God [because you are] in Christ [by baptism into Him]" (Rom. 6:10,11 RV). The death Christ died for us, the life He lives, are all imperatives to us now.
6:11- see on Rom. 2:26; 6:10.
Reckon you also yourselves – uses the common Greek word for “impute”. As God imputes Christ’s righteousness to us, we are to count ourselves, perceive ourselves, feel ourselves, as really like that. Hence the emphasis- “you also yourselves”, we, us, are to see ourselves as God sees us, rather than merely accepting that He wishes to see us as He chooses to see us. His opinion of us in the ultimate reality for us- and we are to share that view.
Paul’s emphasis is not so much that baptized believers will be resurrected when Christ returns, true as this is and important within his overall argument; but rather that having been raised with Christ, the new resurrection life of Jesus breaks through into our lives right now. Elsewhere Paul likewise talks of our participating in glory right now (2 Cor. 3:16), whereas the ultimate glory is yet to come and the transformation of our bodies (Phil. 3:21).
6:12 Let not sin reign - We are to live out in practice the status we have in Christ. “Sin shall not reign over you” (6:14); but we must therefore make an effort to not let sin reign. Likewise in Rom. 8:9,12: “You are not in the flesh… do not live according to the flesh”.
Mortal body- having said that “the body of sin” is to be destroyed (6:6) and that we are to live in the sphere of Christ rather than Adam, we have changed masters and should live and feel like that, Paul reminds us that our body is still mortal- reminding us that we are still awaiting the change of body which is to come at the final judgment when Christ returns.
Lusts thereof- there are within the human body the natural passions / desires to sin, “the passion of the flesh” (Gal. 5:16). They aren’t sinful in themselves- for the Lord Jesus was sinless and yet had our same “mortal body”. But the fact they are the source of sin and are within our bodies explains why there is such a strong connection between sin and our bodies, leading to expressions such as “the body of sin” (6:6) and “sinful flesh” (8:3). But this isn’t to say that the body is itself sinful or that it’s somehow a sin to be human.
6:13 Instruments- s.w. armour, weapon (Jn. 18:3; 2 Cor. 6:7; 10:4). We are called to fight, to serve in the army- of either sin or Christ. No passivity or wavering between the positions is therefore possible. We have changed sides. See on 6:23.
Yield yourselves- Gk. ‘present yourselves’. The aorist tense could suggest a one time presenting of ourselves- at baptism? And if we didn’t appreciate at the time of our baptism that this is what we were doing, we can do it now. Maybe that explains the otherwise difficult to translate tense usage here.
6:14- see on Rom. 6:12.
Shall not have dominion- yet we still sin. But Paul is again talking about our changed status- sin is not now our Lord, our master; instead, Jesus is. Kurieuo (“have dominion”) is clearly intended to contrast with Kurios, the usual Greek word translated “Lord” with reference to the Lord Jesus. See on Rom. 6:9. The Lord Jesus rose again so that He might be our Lord, s.w. “dominion”, over us His people (Rom. 14:9). “Shall not” can be translated as “Sin will not have dominion” (ESV)- so that it’s not a demand that we stop allowing sin to dominate, but rather an exaltation that the “sin” sphere of things will not in the end have dominion in our lives, because we are in Christ.
For you are not under the Law- would’ve been more radical to Jewish readers and listeners than we may appreciate; for Judaism’s big issue has always been that the Law is required in order to curb or restrain sin, and that societies without the Law are more sinful than those influenced by it. But here Paul is saying that if we forget about the Jewish Law and live as believers justified by pure grace, this will have more practical power in delivering a man from sin’s dominion than any attempt at obedience to a legal code. “Under” was appropriate to slaves ‘under’ a master. We are ‘under’ grace as our master rather than law. The strength of sin is the law (1 Cor. 15:56); if the law isn’t our master, then sin likewise isn’t our master, and therefore sin will not ultimately dominate us.
6:15 See notes on “under…” at 6:14. If we are under grace rather than law, then we will not be counted by God as sinning. We declared right, justified. Paul may mean there that we are not counted as continual sinners [even though we believers do keep on sinning, sadly], because we are under grace as a master rather than law. Or he may mean that those truly under grace don’t keep on sinning, because the wonder of their position inspires them not to. This contrasts sharply with the Judaistic view that it is the Law which curbs sin. Paul is arguing the very opposite: that leaving the sphere of Law and coming under grace will actually curb sin.
6:16 Yield… to obey- see on 6:13. The obedience would seem to be a one time obedience- in baptism- an obedience to a form of doctrine delivered to them (6:17). “The obedience of faith” which Paul spoke of in Rom. 1:5 he now interprets as baptism. Note the parallel between faith and obedience in Rom. 10:16.
Paul expected other believers to share his familiarity with the words of Christ. There's an example in Rom. 6:16: " Know ye not, that to whom ye yield yourselves servants to obey, his servants ye are... whether of sin... or of obedience?". This is alluding to Mt. 6:24 concerning not serving two masters. Paul is surely saying: 'Come on, this is Matthew 6, you can't serve two masters! That principle ought to be firmly lodged in your heart!'. In terms of Paul’s argument about which status or sphere we are in, his point is simple: you can only be in one sphere or the other, either under law or grace, sin or obedience. It’s therefore impossible to continue sinning. in God’s view [and it’s His view of the matter which is the only thing worth anything]- because we are either justified in Christ, or not justified and condemned sinners. The tree brings forth either good or bad fruit (Mt. 7:18)- in that we are “in” either the good tree or the bad one. Paul deploys this argument to answer the objection that we may as well continue sinning- he’s saying not merely that we ought not to do that, but rather that ultimately we cannot do that, because we are either under sin or under obedience. Notice that he personifies “obedience” as a slave owner, to whom we now belong. The two slave masters in view here are called “sin” and “obedience”. We are clearly to identify “obedience” with the Lord Jesus. And Paul has just written about the singular and spectacular “obedience” of Jesus in dying for us on the cross (see on Rom. 5:19). This act made Jesus to be Lord and Master for us. We are obedient to His obedience, as it were. Which is the whole idea of baptism- we are buried together with Him, we die with Him, His death becomes ours, and thus His obedience unto death is ours.
Obedience unto righteousness- the end result of our serving “obedience”, i.e. the Lord Jesus, is righteousness. But Paul’s argument has been that all our righteousness is as filthy rags, and righteousness has to be imputed to us. The end result of being under “obedience”, in Christ, is that righteousness is imputed to us, we are declared righteous, justified, as we stand before the final judgment. Lack of attention to Paul’s argument and the meaning attached to the terms being used in Romans can lead the casual reader of this verse to think that by acts of obedience we become righteous- and that is the very opposite of what Paul has been teaching all along.
6:17 That form of teaching to which you were handed over- must be interpreted in the context of Paul’s insistent theme that we have changed masters, changed status. “Handed over” could be an allusion to handing over a slave from one master to another- the form of teaching would therefore refer to the form or mould to which we are exposed under our new master, the Lord Jesus. In this case it would refer to post baptismal rather than pre baptismal teaching. Alternatively he may be referring to the fact that the teaching or doctrine of Christ had been delivered or handed over to them from Christ Himself (s.w. 1 Cor. 11:2,13; 15:3). However, it should be noted that Paul says that the baptized believer is handed over to the doctrine / teaching of Christ- and not the teaching to the believer. Perhaps the contrast is with Rom. 2:20, where we read of the “form of knowledge and of truth in the law [of Moses]”. We have been handed over to the form or mould of teaching which is in Christ rather than Moses.
Paul’s writing that he thanks God for their change of status was maybe to encourage his readers to understand the degree to which in very deed they had changed status- because they seemed to doubt it, as we too tend to.
We are frequently spoken of as being slaves of God. At baptism, we changed masters (Rom. 6). Yet the implications of being a bond-slave are tremendous. We are not our own. We have been bought with a price. And we cannot serve two masters. There’s a powerful, powerful logic here. We are either slaves of ourselves, or slaves of God. Ultimate freedom to do ‘what we want’ is actually not possible. So we may as well take the path of slavery to the Father and Son. Unless we firmly accept this, life will become motion without meaning, activity without direction, events without reason.
The doctrines we believed at baptism were a 'mould of doctrine' (Rom. 6:17 Gk.)- they define the person we turn into. The calling of the Gospel is ongoing- it's not that we hear the call, respond to it, and the call in that sense ceases. There is a set of doctrines which Eph. 4:4-6 calls "the one faith"; which Rom. 6:17 calls "that form of doctrine" to be believed before baptism; "the form of sound words" (2 Tim. 1:13).
“Repent ye and believe the Gospel" (Mk. 1:15) might seem to be in the wrong order- for surely belief of the Gospel comes before repentance. And so it does. But the point is, life after conversion is a life of believing the basic Gospel which led us to conversion and repentance in the first place. Thus Rom. 6 teaches that we were once servants of sin... and we expect the sentence to conclude: 'But now you are servants of righteousness'. But it doesn't. We were once servants of sin but now we have obeyed the form of doctrine delivered to us... and are therefore servants of righteousness. The service of righteousness is a result of accepting "that form of doctrine", perhaps referring to an early catechism or statement of faith taught to baptismal candidates, summarizing the power of the Gospel.
“Whosoever committeth sin is the servant of sin" (Jn. 8:34), but those in Christ are counted as not being the servants of sin, but of Christ (Rom. 6:17). The connection with Jn. 8:34 makes this tantamount to saying that they are reckoned as not committing sin.
6:17,18- An allusion to 1 Sam. 17:8,9?
6:18 Made free from sin- would imply a manumission, a payment of a price by some gracious person to free a person from slavery. Note that the image isn’t of one slave master buying a slave from another master. It’s of genuine freedom being bought for the slave, by grace. But “being then made free”, because of this, the freed slave decides to become a slave of the gracious Saviour who paid for their release. Being a slave of Christ is therefore described in 6:19 as a freewill yielding of our bodies, every part of them, to His service. 1 Enoch 5:7,8 and other Jewish writings spoke of ‘freedom from sin’ coming in the Messianic Kingdom and the destruction of Satan; but Paul applies that phrase to the experience of the Christian believer now - see on 1 Cor. 10:11. [J. Milik, The Books of Enoch: Aramaic Fragments from Qumran Cave 4 (Oxford: Clarendon, 1976) pp. 248-259. The same phrase occurs with the same meaning in the Testament of Levi 14.1.]
You became- the change of status is so great that there can be no real question about who in practice we should serve. By status we are the servants of righteousness- but that is not to say that we don’t at times in our humanity serve sin in practice. We have yet to become in practice who we are in status.
6:19 The infirmity of your flesh- in Paul’s case, being all things to all men meant that at times He sacrificed highest principle in order to get through to men; he didn’t just baldly state doctrinal truth and leave his hearers with the problem of whether to accept it. He really sought to persuade men. He magnified his ministry of preaching to the Gentiles, he emphasized the possibility of Gentile salvation, “If by any means I may provoke to emulation [‘incite to rivalry’] them which are my flesh [the Jews], and might save some of them” (Rom. 11:13,14). This hardly seems a very appropriate method, under the spotlight of highest principle. But it was a method Paul used. Likewise he badgers the Corinthians into giving money for the poor saints in Jerusalem on the basis that he has boasted to others of how much they would give (2 Cor. 9:2), and these boasts had provoked others to be generous; so now, they had better live up to their promise and give the cash. If somebody promised to give money to charity and then didn’t do so, we wouldn’t pressurize them to give. And we wouldn’t really encourage one ecclesia to give money on the basis of telling them that another ecclesia had promised to be very generous, so they ought to be too. Yet these apparently human methods were used by Paul. He spoke “in human terms” to the Romans, “because of the infirmity of your flesh” (Rom. 6:19 NIV); he so wanted to make his point understood. And when he told husbands to love their wives, he uses another rather human reason: that because your wife is “one flesh” with you, by loving her you are loving yourself. ‘And’, he reasons, ‘you wouldn’t hate yourself, would you, so – love your wife!’. The cynic could reasonably say that this is pure selfishness (Eph. 5:29); and Paul seems to recognize that the higher level of understanding is that a husband should love his wife purely because he is manifesting the love of Christ to an often indifferent and unappreciative ecclesia (5:32,33). And yet Paul plainly uses the lower level argument too. It is possible to discern an element of human appeal in some Biblical statements. Thus the Spirit encourages husbands to love their wives as themselves, because effectively they are loving themselves if they do this (Eph. 5:29). Yet we are also warned that a characteristic of the last days will be a selfish loving of ourselves. Paul speaks of how he puts things "in human terms" (Rom. 6:19 NIV); e.g. he suggests that fear of the judgment alone ought to at least make us sit up and take our spiritual life seriously (2 Cor. 5:11), even though the tenor of Scripture elsewhere is that this shouldn't be our motivator.
We should note that Paul is almost apologizing for his metaphors, as if he had put something too crudely. His metaphors are ‘humanly’ quite acceptable- from the courtroom, slavery etc. Given the height and wonder of the grace we are considering, any metaphor, any similitude, any language- is inadequate and even borders on the inappropriate. And note that Paul is writing all these things, both the metaphors and the apology for them, under Divine inspiration.
The changeover from the downward spiral to the upward spiral ought to have begun at baptism; but as with some of the Roman believers in the first century, a believer can slip back into the downward spiral: "Just as you used to offer the parts of your body in slavery to impurity and to ever increasing wickedness, so now offer them in slavery to righteousness leading to holiness" (Rom. 6:19 NIV). The life of sexual impurity is an "ever increasing" downwards path; the endless quest for new relationships and sexual novelty doesn't need to be described.
Rom. 6:19 speaks of how the ever increasing downward spiral of obedience to sin is turned round at baptism, so that we begin an upward spiral of obedience to righteousness. God does good unto those that are good, but leads those who turn aside even further astray (Ps. 125:4,5). Those who are "[born] of God" are able to hear and understand God's words (Jn. 8:47)- and baptism is surely how we are born of God (Jn. 3:3-5). This seems to open up the possibility of yet higher growth once we are baptized- it's all an upward spiral, like any functional relationship.
Rom. 6:19-23 makes the contrast between how serving sin leads to ever increasing sin, whilst serving Christ results in ever increasing righteousness. We are all too aware of the upward (downward!) spiral of sin- we well know the feeling of losing our spiritual grip for an hour, day or week, and sensing how sin is ever increasing its hold over us. But by our union with Christ in baptism it is quite possible, indeed intended, that we should get into an upward spiral of obedience, in which one spiritual victory leads to another.
6:20 Free from righteousness- Gk. ‘not a slave of’. Again Paul is labouring the point that one cannot serve two masters. And he does so in a way which makes us think: ‘That’s stating the obvious! Why are you repeatedly stating the obvious?’. He does this because it’s not obvious to us that we really are servants of “righteousness” rather than “sin”. We wonder whether we are really counted as righteous or not. Note here that the names of the two slave masters are “sin” and “righteousness”- in Rom. 6:16 they were “sin” and “obedience”. We are slaves of Christ, He is our righteousness, and it is counted to us; so “righteousness” is an appropriate title for Him, “the Lord our righteousness”.
6:21 What fruit…? There was no fruit in slavery; it was existence, rather than a life lived.
Now ashamed- shame is associated with condemnation at the final judgment. We recognize we are condemned sinners, and feel the shame for that. The verse could be punctuated: “What fruit did you have then? That of which you are now ashamed”. This is the great paradox in the Christian experience- feeling condemned for sin, and yet believing in our new status, that we are declared right before the judgment seat of God.
6:22 Become servants- see on 6:18. We were made free from slavery, rather than being bought by a slave master from our previous owner. But we chose to become His slaves out of gratitude for His grace. The same Greek is found in 1 Cor. 9:19: “I have made myself a slave to all, that I might gain the more”. The idea is that made ourselves servants / slaves, having been made free from our old master. The two slave masters are now called “sin” and “God”.
You have your fruit- but Paul’s whole intention of writing to the Roman church and ministering to them was so that they would bear fruit (Rom. 1:13 cp. 15:28). If we truly understand that we are no longer in “sin” but the servants of God, in His sphere of things and His acceptance, then we will bear fruit in practice, it simply has to be like that, it’s inevitable. The idea of bearing fruit is connected in the context to baptism into Christ. Jn. 12:24 records the Lord likening His death to a seed falling into the ground, going as it were into a grave under the soil, but rising again and bearing fruit. Again- all that is true of the Lord Jesus is true of us who are in Him. Paul has been saying that we were planted together with Him (6:5), buried with Him, rose with Him- and as He is the plant that bears fruit, so are we. We therefore aren’t being exhorted to bear fruit, so much as being told that we have our fruit- for we are in Him. And naturally, this means we will try to live in practice as we are by status. But by status, we do now have our fruit- His fruit- and the end of all this will at the final judgment be “everlasting life”.
6:23Wages- used specifically of pay given to soldiers (Lk. 3:14; 1 Cor. 9:7; and every usage in the LXX is in this connection- 1 Esdra 4:56; 1 Macc. 3:28; 14:32). This would continue the military analogy which was used in Rom. 6:13- of presenting our limbs as armour, weapons [Gk.], to King Sin. See also the military term in Rom. 7:8.
The wages of sin and the gift of God are here contrasted. “God” and “sin” are the names of the two slave masters in 6:22. We noted under 6:22 you have your fruit that the everlasting life will be the end result of our service, given at the day of judgment at Christ’s return. It may be that we are intended to visualize the wages of sin being paid at the same time. In any case, all believers, all servants of God, will die in any case. This isn’t the wages of sin. Surely the “death” that is in view here in 6:23 is the second death at the day of judgment.
Asaph laments how the wicked seem to be so prosperous, and then remembers that one day God will awake. More than this, he comes to see that "they... shall perish: thou hast destroyed them... how are they brought into desolation, as in a moment! they are utterly consumed with terrors" (Ps. 73:27,19). The wages of sin is death (Rom. 6:23)- not 'it will be death at the judgment', it is right now the response God makes to sin. Because God is without time, the judgment has effectively happened to them. We are come to "God the judge of all"- even now (Heb. 12:23).
In Jesus Christ- remember that the context of this whole section in Romans is that of becoming in Christ by baptism into Him. This is what associates us with the gift of eternal life.
Our natural man, the devil, is a personification of sin. He cannot be reformed; he can only be destroyed by death. "The wages of the sin: death" (Rom. 6:23 Diaglott) seems to suggest that Rom. 6:23 is not saying that we die for each specific sin we commit (you can only die for one sin anyway, because we only have one life); rather is it saying that the end of the natural man, "sin", the devil within us, is death. Therefore we must associate ourselves with the man Christ Jesus, both in baptism and in our way of life, so that the personification of Christ within us will be clothed with a glorious bodily form at his return.
(1) Karl Barth, Dogmatics In Outline (London: S.C.M., 1972 ed.) p. 151.
The Case For Grace: A Commentary On Romans 1-8
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