About Jesus    Steve Sweetman

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Dead To Sin, Alive In Christ (ch. 6:1-14)

          

Before I begin to comment on chapter 6 I need to say a couple of things.  The first concerns the theological term "antinomianism".  This is the belief that because our sin gives God more opportunity for God to demonstrate His grace to us, as Paul has said on a couple occasions in Romans, then we should sin as much as we can.  The more we sin, the more God can show us His grace.  This is the point that Paul refutes here in chapter 6.  This is why he asks the question, "Shall we go on sinning that grace may increase".    

 

We should realize that certain false teachers were teaching antinomianism back then.  This is one reason why Paul asks this question.  Of course, the most important reason is because of what Paul has just said in the last chapter.  There is one other reason why Paul would ask this question and that is because he himself was accused of teaching an antinomian doctrine, which obviously was not the case.   

 

The second point I would like to make is this.  In chapter 4 Paul says that God has lumped all men into Adam when it comes to sin.  That is to say, because Adam sinned, God views every human being as a sinner.  Adam doomed us all in the eyes of God.  Another way to put this is that God views all men through the lens of Adam.  In other words, God views, counts, or declares all men as being sinners just because Adam sinned.  This is a theological fact that is often overlooked and not understood by the average Christian.  That being said, much of Paul's letter to the Romans is not understood by Christians these days.

 

The reason why I point out that God views all humans in Adam, or, through the Adamic lens, is because the same idea is seen in Jesus but in reverse.  God views, counst, or declares, all believers in Jesus as saints through the lens of Jesus.  We are sinners because of our association with Adam, but, we are saints because of our association with Jesus.  The key word is "association".  If you refuse to be associated with Jesus by trusting in what He has done for us on the cross, then God still views you as a sinner and not a saint.

 

The simple fact is that all humans are sinners because of Adam, and, all humans have the privilege to be saints because of Jesus.  That's what Paul is getting at in chapter 6.  God either sees you through the lens of Adam or the lens of Jesus.  It's one or the other.   Because of Adam's disobedience to God in the garden God declared all humans from that point on as sinners.  In the same way, because of Jesus' act of obedience to God on the cross, God declares all those who have faith in Him as saints, even though in fact we still sin.  Of course, man must trust what Jesus has done fore him to benefit from Jesus' act of obedience.            

 

To sum this up, every human being is seen as being in Adam until the day he embraces the cross of Christ.  At that point God justifies him.  At that point he is declared righteous by God.  God does not declare all men as righteous because of the cross.  He only declares those who believe in the cross as being righteous.  Therefore, one remains in Adam until he trusts God's provision where he is then declared to be in Christ.        

 

In Romans 3, verse 8, Paul mentioned that he was being slandered.  Some people were reporting that he was teaching that we should do evil so that good may abound.  We should sin that grace would abound to us.  You can easily see why Paul had his critics.  He is about ready to address this issue.

 

Paul has just said that one reason for the Law of Moses was to increase sin in people. That is to say, the Law of Moses was meant to make us sin more, and in turn, God could show more grace to us.  The same question can be asked of us today if we preach the gospel as Paul preached it.  The problem is that we tend to preach a gospel of works, not a gospel of grace.     

 

Here in Romans 6:1 Paul asks the question that everyone else was asking.  "Shall we go on sinning that grace may increase?" This is a logical question in light of what Paul has said previously.  Note the words "go on sinning".  He's obviously saying that all humans always sin.

 

Paulís answer to his question was a resounding, "by no means".  

 

Paul then begins to explain his answer here in verse 2.  Paul says that we died to sin so how can we live any longer in sin.  In Greek, the word "died" is an aorist active indicative.  That means that at one particular time in the past the Roman believers, or we as well, have certainly, without any doubt, died when it comes to sin. 

 

The words "how shall we live" are a future active indicative, meaning, we will in no uncertain terms continue to live a life of sin in the future.  This does not mean we will never sin.  It means we will not live a sinful lifestyle.  As long as our sinful nature, although being dead, as we will see later, still clings to our new nature, which we will also see later, the possibility of us sinning is always present.            

 

This is the important question that needs to be answered here.  How have we died to sin when we still have the tendency to sin?  Paul explains his thinking in the next couple of verses, a couple of verses that most think they understand, but I believe most don't understand.  Too often we simply accept the Sunday school versions of theology that we've learned over the years that is a simplified version of the adult theology that we should know and understand.    

 

Again, the question is: "when did we as Christians die to sin?"  In verse 3 Paul says, "Don't you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death?"  This statement and the next statement are meant to answer our question.  The problem is that it is hard for us to understand what this and the next statement really means, thus, our question is hard to answer.

 

In answering the question "when did we die to sing" we now need to ask, "What baptism is Paul talking about here?"   This is where our problem lies.  Of course, right off that bat you will think this question is a non-question.  It's water baptism that Paul is talking about.  This is the most popular answer to this question. I tend to believe that Paul is talking about water baptism, but, there are a couple other possibilities we should look at. 

 

The word "baptism" is associated with water in the New Testament.  It's also associated with the Holy Spirit in Spirit baptism in the book of Acts.  It's also associated with being baptized into the Body of Christ as seen in 1 Corinthians 12:13.  Beyond these associations, I believe there is a hint right here in verses 3 and 4 that baptism is directly associated with Jesus being buried in the tomb.  I will comment on this later.  All of these forms of baptism must be considered before we conclusively form our opinion on what baptism Paul is talking about. 

 

Paul does not mention the word "water" in relation to baptism here in verse 3.  If he had that would solve our problem.  The specific baptism that Paul is talking about is the "baptism into Christ".  That's his words.  The traditional thinking here is that Paul is talking about water baptism and that what he is saying is symbolic of the fact that as we go under the water we are symbolically stating that we have died to our sin.  That might well be the truth of this statement, but I'm not convinced.  At the moment, I tend to think that whatever baptism Paul is talking about it's more real than symbolic. 

 

Could this baptism be Spirit baptism as seen in Acts 2?  It's hard for me to think that it is a Spirit baptism because the Spirit baptism we see in Acts 2 and elsewhere is not associated with death and sin.  It's associated with power and authority.  So I rule out Spirit baptism. 

 

Could this be a baptism into the Body of Christ as seen in 1 Corinthians 12:13?  I don't think so because that baptism is not associated with sin and death.  It's associated with functioning in proper relationships in the Body of Christ. 

 

The next statement Paul makes should clue us in just a bit.  Being baptized into Christ in verse 3 is associated with the death and burial of Jesus.  Those of us who were baptized into Christ "were baptized into His death".  Clearly this particular baptism is associated with the death and burial of Jesus.  Verse 4 confirms this when Paul says; "We were therefore buried with Him through baptism into death Ö" 

 

We should note that all of the verb tenses in verses 3 and 4 are in the aorist passive tense, meaning, all of the actions Paul states were done at one specific time in the past.  Whatever baptism Paul is talking about, which he calls the baptism into Christ, was done at one time in the past.  Our burial with Jesus as seen in verse 4 was a one time past action. 

 

Now let's assume the traditional view is correct and Paul is talking about water baptism.  Water baptism would then in fact be a baptism into Christ, and, when we were baptized, we were buried with Christ at the time of baptism.  That really doesn't sound symbolic.  That sounds like something real has taken place.  It sounds like when we go into the water we are actually burying ourselves into the same death Jesus experienced.  If this is indeed the case, as Paul says in the rest of verse 4, when we come out of the water, we are in fact a new person, raised to life with the Holy Spirit. 

 

If you believe Paul is talking about water baptism here, you must come up with this conclusion, and that is something real has taken place which is more than symbolic. 

 

Now let's assume Paul isn't talking about water baptism.  We've already ruled out that he's not talking about Spirit baptism or baptism into the Body of Christ.  There is only one other possibility left, which may not actually be a possibility, but let's explore it anyway before we rule it out.

 

In verse 3 Paul calls this baptism a "baptism into Christ" and it's a "baptism into Jesus' death".  In fact in verse 4 he says that when we were baptized into Christ we were actually buried with Christ, as in buried with Jesus in the tomb.  Because Jesus died on the cross on our behalf, in that sense of the word, we in fact did die with Jesus in the eyes of God.  That is what the term "in Christ" means.  We were as good as being inside of Christ, or, dying on the cross with Him and thus buried with Him.  Might this be the baptism Paul is speaking of? 

 

The argument against this would be what Paul says in verse 3.  He speaks of "all of us who have been baptized..."   The words "all of us" are exclusive words.  They mean that not all mankind were baptized into Christ, and, it's generally accepted, unless you are a Calvinist,  that all of mankind died with Christ on the cross, but only those of mankind who embrace that fact are saved.  For this reason, one might discount the idea that the baptism into Christ here means the fact that we hung on the cross with Jesus and was buried with Him in the tomb.  That would leave only water baptism left. 

 

It's at this stage in my thinking that I begin to get bogged down.  If Paul was indeed talking about water baptism, water baptism is clearly more than symbolic, at least from the words we see here.  At the point of baptism we actually died with Christ and were buried and at the point of coming out of the water we were raised from that death into a new life.  But there's a problem with this thinking as well. 

 

The problem is that throughout the rest of Romans and really throughout the New Testament, death to self and sin seems to come through repentance and new life seems to come through the reception of the Holy Spirit into our lives.  If that has already taken place when we first got saved, how can it take place again when we are water baptized?  It's for this reason why people claim water baptism to be symbolic.  I don't use that word.  The closes I come to it at the moment is that if I were to believe we're talking about water baptism, water baptism is a recognition of the fact that from God's perspective we died on the cross with Jesus and that when Jesus rose from the dead, so did we.  But the fact remains, if Paul is indeed talking about water baptism; it seems he is thinking in terms of more than a mere acknowledgment of a fact.   

 

One thing we need to understand that might help us out in our problem is when first century Christians were baptized.  It appears from the New Testament that as soon as they repented and express faith in Jesus they were immediately baptized in water.  There was no long delay as is often the case today.  That being the case, when Paul speaks of dying with Christ in baptism, he would have equated baptism as being part of initial salvation.  Water baptism for Paul might well have been part and parcel of getting saved.  Thus dying to self and sin and dying with Christ happens when you repent, believe, and are water baptized.  In this sense of the word there is no real distinction between repenting and going under the water in baptism.   

 

It wasn't until the turn of the first century into the second century that the church began to postpone water baptism.  The church did so because it felt people needed more teaching on the basic truths of the faith, needed to fast, and needed to show evidence of repentance, among other things.  I view this as a departure from the gospel that Paul and others would have preached and taught.  The fact of the matter is that the second generation church began to move away from what I would call New Testament teaching.    

 

This is the best I can do at this moment of time in my exegeses of these two verses.  Consider what I say as you attempt to understand this passage for yourself.

 

Again, verse 5 says that we have been united with Jesus in death.  Paul will repeat this fact a few more times over the next few verses.  Paul is so convinced that he is in Christ and not in Adam, that he believes his real self has died on the cross with Jesus.  I will expand on this point when we get to chapter 7, but just to make it clear here, Paul doesn't even view his old sinful nature as being part of who he is.  He believes his new nature in Christ is the real Paul and the old nature is a foreigner who resides within him.  The old nature is no longer him.  Again, I'll expand on this later.  

 

Being united with Jesus is death may be hard to understand as I've stated above, but the fact remains that Jesus died on our behalf, in our place.  He was our substitute on the cross.  So, in one real sense of the word we died with Jesus on the cross.  That being the case, we'll be united with Him in resurrection.  We are united with Jesus in resurrection in two ways.  Because Jesus rose from the dead, we rose with Him and have received His Spirit which brings us into a new life.  That also being said, we will be resurrected into a new life with our glorified bodies when Jesus returns.  I believe this is what Paul is speaking about here because when he speaks of our resurrection he uses the future tense and not the past or present tense.         

 

Understanding the fact that God views the believer through the lens of Jesus helps us understand verse 6 where Paul says that our old self was crucified with Christ.  That's past tense.  In one real sense of the word, as I've been saying, our old life was killed on the cross. 

 

While living on this earth in human form, Jesus had to suffer and existence in a world of sin.  While dying on the cross Jesus bore our sins, as was predicted in Isaiah 53.  When He rose from the dead He was freed from the sin He lived among while on earth and was also free from any more punishment for our sin.  Since God views us in Jesus' death and resurrection, Paul says here in verse 6 that we no longer are slaves to sin.  This means we no longer serve sin.  We have the ability to serve Jesus instead.

 

It's important to realize that even though we don't serve sin, sin is still a part of our human nature.  We may not serve sin, but we still do sin from time to time.      

 

Paul goes on to say in verse 7 that those who have really died, that is to say, died with Jesus, are freed from sin.  That sounds a little like John when he says that anyone who is born of God does not sin.  What John means in 1 John 5:18 is that Christians do not continue to live a sinful lifestyle.  Like Paul, John is saying that Christians aren't slaves to sin.  We may still sin, but our way of life is not sinful as it once was.  Through the Holy Spirit, we can be victorious over sin.  Paul will speak to this issue in chapters 8.   

 

We may find these words hard to understand since we still sin. We still live in our fallen bodies, in this fallen world.  We have not yet reach perfection of righteousness.  That being said, the idea of not continuing in a lifestyle of sin, as John puts it, is what we should expect from ourselves and all those who call themselves Christian. 

 

We should note the word "free" in verse 7.  It's actually translated from the Greek word "dikaioo", the word that Paul has been using all along when he says we are justified.  "Dikaioo" means "to justify".  If our English translators translated "dikaioo" as justify, it would he hard to know what Paul is saying.  Therefore, they feel the word "free" best fits what Paul is saying.  The fact that God has justified us, that is, declared us as being righteous even though we are not righteous, gives us the ability to no longer be slaves to sin.  This is what Paul is saying here.

 

In verse 8 Paul says that if we have died with Christ (past tense), we believe we will (future with some hint of present tense) live with Him."   It is true that we have died with Christ.  I've made that point.  Now, if we have died with Him, it's logical to conclude that we will live with Him.  We live with Him in Spirit now.  We will live with Him in His immediate presence upon physical death in heaven and also on the new earth in our resurrected bodies.     

 

In verse 9 we note that death no longer has mastery over Jesus.  Christ overcame death.  He cannot die twice.  He cannot go back and relive His earthly existence surrounded by a sinful world with sinful people.  He has rid Himself of any sin that bombarded Him while on earth.  Since we have died with Christ, we too cannot go back into tour old life of serving sin.  This is why in verse 10 Paul says that Jesus' resurrected life is a life totally dedicated to serving God, which implies that our resurrected life should also be totally dedicated to God as His servants.  We now serve God and not sin.  

     

I believe verse 11 sheds much light on the confusion over whether we are really dead to sin.  Paul tells us to count ourselves dead to sin.  That clearly means that we still sin from time to time.  Even though we do still sin, we are to count ourselves as being dead to sin.  In the same way that God counts us as righteous, we should count ourselves as no longer serving sin.  The mere fact of counting ourselves dead to sin will help us sin less.  The process of counting ourselves dead to sin gives us the mental foundation we need to fight against sin. Without this mental awareness of sin, we cannot over come it.  This is a command that Paul gives the Roman believers here.  It's not a suggestion.  Therefore, we must count ourselves dead to sin.  The fact of the matter is that many, if not most; Christians haven't studied what Paul is saying sufficiently enough here to understand what he is saying, let alone obeying his command.        

 

Paul gives another command in verses 12 and 13.  It is a strange command because of what he has just said.  He has just told us that we who are in Christ are dead to sin.  We no longer serve sin.  We are no longer slaves to sing.  Now, he tells us not to let sin reign in our bodies.  Why would he suggest that there is a possibility of letting sin be our master when we have died to sin?  I think the answer is clear, as I've just stated.  In one sense of the word we have died to sin, because Jesus became our sin on the cross.  That being said, we are still sinful.  Our sinful nature still exists.  Even though we don't serve sin, we still need to fight with our sinful nature.  I've always said that if we don't battle with sin, we've given into sin, meaning, we've let sin rule in our life. 

 

We can't be sure if Paul had any particular parts of our bodies in mind in verse 13.  It could easily mean our sexual body parts, but, it could also mean our hands, feet, eyes, or our brains.  We are to offer all of ourselves to be servants of God. 

 

In verse 14 Paul speaks of the Law of Moses to help clarify things.  He says that because we are not under the Law, but under grace, we no longer serve sin.  Remember, the Law of Moses caused us to sin even more than what we'd normally sin.  It's the old adage.  If you tell someone not to do something, he is more likely to do what he is not supposed to do.  The Law of Moses has now been set aside in connection with salvation, in connection with being declared righteous by God.  It's no longer a matter of works but a matter of faith.  The Law of Moses no longer exists for the purpose of telling us not to sin.  It can't constantly tell us not to sin without giving us any help to stop sinning.  We'll see later in Romans how we obtain help in our fight with sin.  

 

There are two definitions of grace found in the Bible.  That is, the word grace is used in two different ways.   Way one is defined by Godís unmerited favour towards us.  He loves us without us having to do anything to earn His love.  Way two is that God gives us the ability to do what we need to do.  God helps us live the righteous life without sin, as He would like us to live.  Paul could be saying that we are under Godís unmerited favour.   As a result of such love, He gives us the ability to overcome sin. 

 

In short, we really have died to sin when Jesus died on the cross.  We really have been raised into a new life when Jesus rose from the dead.  Sin still snaps at our feet to take control of us again, but Paul says that Godís enabling grace has been given to us to successfully fight the battle with sin.  

 

The whole idea of us being dead to sin is important.  When we come to Christ in true repentance and faith there is an evident change in our lives.  We have already mentioned this before.   If our lives do not reflect this change, and, if we continue to live in a sinful lifestyle, then we can question whether we have really come to true faith in Jesus.  We have seen Paul, James and John, all three men, tell us that sin should not have a hold on those who have really come to Christ and found true salvation.

 

The modern church is following in the way of the world these days by not talking much about sin because the subject is too negative.  Both the world and the church wants to promote positive thinking and good self esteem so any talk about sin is discarded as too negative, and only inhibits our self esteem.  This is not Biblical thinking.   We must acknowledge the presence of sin in our life and deal with it accordingly.  

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