Romans 6, Part 1
Nov 03, 2010
The last two verses of Romans 5 introduce us to the question Paul raises in Romans 6. We learn in Rom. 5:20,
(20) And the Law came in that the transgression might increase, but where sin increased, grace abounded all the more.
In other words, from Adam to Moses, personal sin was not imputed in some sense (5:13), so God added the Law in the time of Moses in order to make men fully liable for violating the will of God. This increased the world's debt incurred by sin, giving Jesus Christ a huge increase in debt that He had to pay in order to redeem His creation.
So if grace increased to outstrip the load of world debt, then can we not justify our sin on the grounds that it increases grace?
(1) What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace might increase?
Does grace give us an excuse to continue violating the Law of God? In fact, can we not say that sin is a good thing, since it provides an increase in grace? Paul's answer is swift and firm:
(2) May it never be! How shall we who died to sin still live in it?
Many in the Church have cast aside the Law, thinking that grace is a free pass to pick and choose which laws to follow. Few Christians cast aside the entire Law, and when they do so, their viewpoint is largely theoretical. In practice, they still believe that theft and murder are sins, and they are quick to quote the Commandments to prove their case.
But yet they also support a prison system for thieves, casting aside the Law of Restitution (Ex. 22:1-4). Most Christians understand murder to be sin, but they are divided about the penalty for murder. Various forms of fornication (biblical definition) are now being debated, with many seeing nothing wrong with couples living together outside of marriage, or engaging in homosexual relationships. At the same time they are outraged at incest and adultery. Hence, they feel that grace has given them the right to choose for themselves which laws to obey and which to cast aside in the name of grace.
Grace is not an evil thing, even if Christians abuse it. Neither is the Law an evil thing, even if the Pharisees abused it and misunderstood it. It is imperative in either case that we all understand that sin is a matter of violating the Law, and that the Law is the mind and will of God. If we hold those definitions, we then have a firm basis of understanding Scripture.
Paul then appeals to the rite and symbolism of baptism to show that no Christian believer retains the right to continue in sin.
(3) Or do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus have been baptized into His death? (4) Therefore we have been buried with Him through baptism into death, in order that as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life.
When we were baptized, it was not the Law that died. We died. Paul made this identical point in Galatians 2:19, 20,
(19) For through the Law, I died to the Law, that I might live to God. (20) I have been crucified with Christ, and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me. . .
It was the Law that killed Jesus Christ, not because it was evil, but because it was good. The Law held men accountable for violating the will of God, and Jesus paid its penalty, thus agreeing with its righteous standard and upholding it to the utmost. We are the body of Christ, and as such, we too died even as Jesus' body died on the cross. This does not put away the Law, nor does it make the Law obsolete. It means that we are raised with Christ and now live as part of His resurrected Body.
The Law now views us as if we were Christ Himself. The Law sees us as perfect and sinless, because in looking at us, it sees only Christ. The Law was made only for sinners--those who are lawless and rebellious (1 Tim. 1:9)--and so it turns to seek out lawless ones whose sins give the Law the right to prosecute them. Such people are said to be "under the Law," because the Law continues to find fault with them for their (personal) sins.
However, we as believers in Christ, are now identified with the Body of Christ, not so that we may continue in sin, but that we may learn of His ways and grow into maturity without the threat of judgment. We are imputed righteous. God has used the Law to rule in our favor, on the grounds that Jesus paid the full penalty for sin. Because of this, we have the hope (expectation) of resurrection, not only as a future reward, but also to live today in the power of His resurrection.
(5) For if we have become united with Him in the likeness of His death, certainly we shall be also in the likeness of His resurrection.
Christ's resurrection did not suddenly bequeath to Him the right to commit sin. Neither did our identification with Him in His resurrected state suddenly bequeath to us the right to sin. The very opposite is true. The power of His resurrection life has given us the Holy Spirit, by which we are led in the paths of righteousness and holy living. To be led by the Spirit is to live as He lives. The Holy Spirit leads us always to do the will of God, not to violate the Law (which is sin).
(6) knowing this, that our old self was crucified with Him, that our body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin; (7) for he who has died is freed["justified"] from sin.
Again it is not the Law that dies, but "our old self," which is identified with the first Adam, who sinned and was condemned to death. That old identity cannot be saved, justified, or reconciled to God, for His righteous sentence cannot be and will never be reversed. The only way into salvation is to be given a new identity in a new birth. That "son" has the Last Adam as its Father and is therefore called a "son of God." Hence, we read in John 1:12,
(12) But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name, (13) who were born not of blood(line), nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.
The "old self" is dead and "done away with," Paul says. Those who claim justification and salvation on the basis of their connection with the first Adam are depending upon a dead man who cannot help them.
In Romans 6:6, Paul also begins to introduce to us another concept for discussion, saying, "that we should no longer be slaves to sin." In biblical Law, all sin is reckoned as a debt, and debt is an obligation that enslaves us in some manner. If a man steals $100, the Law convicts him, not by putting him in prison, but by forcing him to repay double to his victim. If he does not have the means to pay, then he is to be "sold for his theft" (Ex. 22:3). In other words, he must work until he has paid off his debt, and he is said to be "under the Law" for as long as it takes to satisfy the Law's penalty.
Hence, Paul speaks of men being "slaves to sin." Our "old self" sinned many times and incurred debts that it could not pay. Jesus paid the debt for us in order to set us free from the penalty of Law. The purpose of Christ's payment was not to free us to continue in sin, but so that we could be free to follow Him in every way.
In the laws of redemption (Lev. 25:47-54), when a man redeems the debt note of a near kinsman, the slave merely changes owners (vs. 53). The redeemed one must serve the redeemer who has bought him. So when Christ redeemed us, we were not freed to continue in sin but to be obedient to Christ.
This is the first part of a series titled "Romans 6." To view all parts, click the link below.
Dr. Stephen Jones