Romans 6, Part 2
Nov 04, 2010
Let us look more closely at the process and implication of Romans 6:7,
(7) for he who has died is freed ["justified"] from sin.
The purpose of the Law is to correct the sinner, thereby re-establishing the lawful order. When the penalty for sin has been paid, the Law is satisfied and has no further grounds to hold him accountable. The Judge then pronounces him righteous (i.e., "justifies" him).
What about those sins that call for the death penalty? Insofar as earthly courts are concerned, some sins call for restitution, but some sins are such that restitution is not normally possible. Premeditated murder, for example, has no restitution, because it would take the ability to raise the victim from the dead to satisfy the Law. Most people are unable to do this, and so the Law remains unsatisfied.
In the divine court, however, all sin is interrelated. As James 2:10 says,
(10) For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles in one point, he has become guilty of all.
Theft, for instance, is more than just theft insofar as the divine court is concerned. It shows hatred for one's neighbor, and hatred is murder (Matt. 5:22). That same theft is also covetousness of another man's goods, so it is a violation of the Tenth Commandment. But covetousness is also idolatry (Col. 3:5), and idolatry is spiritual adultery with false gods.
Thus, insofar as the divine court is concerned--where the standard of righteousness is higher--even the smallest of sins calls for the death penalty. The difference is that earthly courts can kill the body only, according to the first death--mortality--whereas the divine court is capable of imposing the penalty of the second death.
Even so, the Law is always satisfied when full payment has been made for sin, whether one is being judged in a biblical court here on earth, or the divine court in heaven. When any sinner receives the favorable ruling (grace) from the Judge, it is a decree of complete and full forgiveness. There are no ex-cons in Scripture, because all ex-cons are forgiven, and no one has the right to hold their past sins against them.
In the light of these basic principles of biblical Law, Paul says in Romans 6:7 that "he who has died is justified from sin." The death penalty, like all other court rulings, defines what a man must do in order to be justified--that is, to satisfy the Law, so that the Law burdens him no further. Death is the lawful ground for all justification.
In an earthly court setting, the death penalty satisfies the Law. In the divine court, the penalty of the second death satisfies the Law as well. Both penalties are meant to restore the sinner to right standing with God and His Law.
Unfortunately, most people today have been trained to think of the death penalty as never-ending punishment. Some say that the first death is forever, while others say that the second death is forever. Such thinking has warped our sense of divine justice and has kept us from understanding the character of the Lawgiver. But Psalm 130:4 says,
(4) But there is forgiveness with Thee, that Thou mayest be feared ["respected"].
When judgment is administered without forgiveness, whether by parent or by governments, they lose the respect of the people. Such loveless judgment may indeed produce fear, but it also produces loathing and rebellion. God, however, administers His Law with the purpose of restoring the sinner and the Lawful order at the same time. The sinner finds forgiveness and is moved to love and respect the Judge.
The second death is the judgment of the divine Law, administered on the highest level, and it is designed to bring men into righteous standing. It was never meant to be unending. Even as the first death ends in resurrection (Rev. 20:12), so also the second death ends with the Jubilee. The Jubilee is the Law of Grace, the point where all further judgment for sin is cancelled, and every man returns to the inheritance that he lost through Adam's sin.
When sinners have faith in Jesus Christ, they actually go before the divine court and receive grace and are justified (pronounced righteous). This justification is based upon the death penalty imposed upon Jesus Christ on their behalf. Because the sinner has thus "died with Christ," his debt to sin has been fully paid, because "he who has died is justified from sin." The next verse reads,
(8) Now, if we have died with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with Him, (9) knowing that Christ, having been raised from the dead, is never to die again; death no longer is master over Him.
The death penalty, once paid, means that "death no longer is master over Him." This is because death is a penalty for sin, and it must end when the sinner is pronounced righteous.
The second death functions under the same principle, but it is a different type of death. It is called the baptism of fire and the lake of fire. God Himself is the consuming fire (Deut. 4:24). The fire of His character is designed to "consume," that is, to devour all flesh, all sin, all that does not conform to His character and will.
This fire is also the "fiery Law" (Deut. 33:2). Daniel 7:9 pictures His throne as a fire, because a throne symbolizes the Law by which a monarch rules and judges the people. That fire flows down to the people rising from the dead as the books of the Law are opened (Dan. 7:10). This is the same scene that John saw in Revelation 20:11-15. The only difference is that Daniel saw the fiery Lawflowing out of the throne down to the people, whereas John sees the aftermath of that river of fire, where it has formed into a "lake."
This fire is the Law itself, which was given to reveal His will and character. It flows to mankind in order to consume all that does not conform to the full image of God. For believers today, we are given the right to experience this river of fire in our lives today. It is the baptism of fire (Luke 3:16), which is the Holy Spirit operating in our lives to reveal His character in us and to judge and consume all that is carnal or fleshly in our lives.
This is the second death, and hence, Paul says, "I die daily" (1 Cor. 15:31). The practical operation of this baptism of fire in Paul's life is discussed later in Romans 7.
Those who do not allow the baptism of fire in this life must experience it in an age to come, following the Great White Throne judgment. Every knee will bow, and every tongue will confess Him by the Spirit of God. That means every unbeliever will become a believer at the Great White Throne. Yet they too must undergo the daily baptism of fire in order to come into spiritual maturity--even as with us today.
That time will end according to the Law of Jubilee, which limits the amount of judgment that can be imposed upon felons. (Forty stripes is the limit of judgment for misdemeanors--Deut. 25:3.) The divine Law, which springs out of His character of Love, always limits the amount of judgment even upon the worst of sinners.
For this reason, Paul says, "he who has died is justified from sin." Even as the Law is satisfied when the worst of sinners has been put to death, so also is the law satisfied in the divine court when sinners have completed their time in the baptism of fire that is the second death. The entire purpose of the lake of fire is to restore the lawful order, that His will may be done in earth as it is in heaven. When all things have been put under His feet, then God will be "all in all" (1 Cor. 15:28).
This is the second part of a series titled "Romans 6." To view all parts, click the link below.
Dr. Stephen Jones