04-07-07 Romans 6

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Romans Classical Interpretation of the book Romans verses 1-8

¨      Chapters 1–4 deal with justification, explaining how we have been acquitted by God and found innocent of our wrong doing by what Jesus did on our behalf 

¨      Chapters 5–8 with sanctification, The process of cooperating with the Grace of God by means of allowing the Holy Spirit to lead and guide our daily lives

¨      Some people have approached chapter 5 as if it is listing the results of justification

o       A sort of wrap-up of the previous chapters

¨      What Paul is concerned to show in chapter 5 is that our justification is permanent.

o       His concern is not with the results of justification

o       Though some of these results are mentioned,

o       He is concerned we understand we have the assurance of it

Romans 6:1-11

1  What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin so that grace may increase?

2  May it never be! How shall we who died to sin still live in it?

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, so that as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life.

5  For if we have become united with Him in the likeness of His death, certainly we shall also be in the likeness of His resurrection,

6  knowing this, that our old self was crucified with Him, in order that our body of sin might be done away with, so that we would no longer be slaves to sin;

7  for he who has died is freed from sin.

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.

10  For the death that He died, He died to sin once for all; but the life that He lives, He lives to God.

11 Even so consider yourselves to be dead to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus.


I.       Step 1—We need to Know (6:1-10) Believers must be aware of a few things

A.   They have been crucified with Christ (6:1-3)

1  What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin so that grace may increase?

2  May it never be! How shall we who died to sin still live in it?

3  Or do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus have been baptized into His death?

1.     He deals with the problem of Antinomianism (Sinning does not matter to a Christian) in chapter 6

a)    The thought or premise is “Sin does not matter”

b)    “If it is all done for us,” we have no part in God’s plan

c)     God forbid we continue in Sin

Verse 2 How can we who died to sin still live in it

(1)  It overlooks God’s purpose in the plan of salvation
(2)  What is this purpose? Clearly, it is to save us from sin

d)    What does that mean?

(1)  Does it mean to save us only from the punishment due us because of our sin?  It does mean that, but not only that.
(2)  Yes, we are justified by God in order that we might be saved from wrath at the final judgment, but that is only one part of God’s plan.
(3)  Does salvation mean that God is saving us from sin’s guilt?  ….Yes, that too
(4)  Sin brings guilt, so one of the blessings of salvation is to be delivered from guilt
(5)  We should all know that sin has not merely been overlooked or forgiven but has been punished or judgment met out on Jesus Christ for us .
(6)  How about deliverance from sin’s presence? Of course! But again, that only happens at the end, when we are glorified in heaven 
(7)  Each of these matters is important.

e)     But the one thing that has not been mentioned thus far is salvation from the practice of sin now, and that is clearly also part of God’s purpose

(1)  No one part of our deliverance from sin can rightly be separated from any other. So, if we go on practicing sin now, we are contradicting the very purpose of God in our salvation     

2.     When Jesus died in our place He stopped sins breathing in our life as well

a)    It is and was final

b)    We who have been resuscitated to new life

(1)  In a different kingdom
(2)  With a different King

c)     Having been dipped just a little into Jesus makes us united with Jesus

(1)  In all that he did, does, and will do    
(2)  What happened to Jesus happen for me too
(3)  I obtained the benefit of what Jesus did for me

d)    It is not an entitlement

(1)  It must be ratified not by mental ascent
(2)  But by a heart of love responding toward God
(3)  Jesus chief argument was with the religious leaders who were concerned with the mere outward appearance and not the inner hearts of people
(4)  Jesus requires both, to the women caught in the act of adultery go and sin no more
(5)  To the women at the well, you have had 5 husbands, here is the living  water you really need 

B.   One thought is we are no longer responsive to sin 

1.     What is it that most characterizes a dead body?

2.     It is that its senses cease to operate. It can no longer respond to stimuli

a)    If you are walking along the street and see a dog lying by the curb and you are uncertain whether or not it is alive, all you have to do to find out is nudge it with your foot

b)    If it immediately jumps up and runs away, it is alive

c)     If it only lies there, it is dead

d)    In the same way (so this argument goes), the one who has died to sin is unresponsive to it

e)     Sin does not touch such a person

f)      When temptation comes, the true believer neither feels nor responds to the temptation

g)    But actually moves away from it  

3.     J. B. Phillips, “a dead man can safely be said to be immune to the power of sin”  that we are to look upon ourselves as “dead to the appeal and power of sin    

C.   Another thought is the Christian should die to sin

1.     This view has been common in a certain type of holiness meeting, where Christians are urged to die to sin

2.     We are to “crucify the old man,” which, we are told, is the secret to a “victorious” Christian life

3.     . The best thing that can be said for this view is that it is obviously correct to urge Christians not to sin

D.   Another view is The Christian is dying to sin day by day

1.     All this view means to say is that the one who is united to Christ will grow in holiness, and this is true

2.     But it is not by increasingly dying to sin

a)    To look at the verse that way, though it touches on something true, nevertheless gets us away from the proper and only effective way of dealing with sin

b)    And what is equally important, the tense of the Greek verb for “died” is again wrong

c)     This interpretation takes “died” as if it is an imperfect tense (“are dying”), rather than as an aorist (“have died”), which is what Paul actually says

3.     We are a two volume novel

a)    The old Michael Ayres volume I

b)    The new Michael Ayres volume II

E.   Augustine said that before he fell Adam was posse peccare (“able to sin”)

1.     He had not sinned yet, but he was able to

2.     After his fall, according to Augustine, Adam became non posse non peccare (“not able not to sin”)

3.     By himself he was unable to break free from it

4.     The state of believers, those who have been saved by Christ, is now one of posse non peccare (“able not to sin”)

5.     Since Jesus the tyranny of sin has been broken

6.     The glorified state, for which we yearn, is non posse peccare (“not able to sin”)

7.     In our glorified state we will not be tempted by sin or be able to fall into it again.  

F.    They have been resurrected with Christ (6:4-5)

4  Therefore we have been buried with Him through baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life.

1.     We were buried with him, because at that point Jesus died

a)    He died in our place, for us, actually and officially dead  

b)    A dead person does not sin, their dead, nothing hurts them any more…

c)     Le pason.. Le pason.. it don’t hurt cause your dead 

5  For if we have become united with Him in the likeness of His death, certainly we shall also be in the likeness of His resurrection,

d)    If “A” is equal to “B” and “B” is equal to “C” then “A” is equal to “C” transitive property in Geometry

(1)  If Jesus died then we died,
(2)  If Jesus then conquered sin so did we
(3)  If death has no hold on Jesus
(4)  It has no hold on us

G.  We are now both dead and alive (6:6-10)

1.     Dead to their sin (6:6–7): We should no longer be slaves to sin, for we have been crucified with Christ

2.     We do not have to sin

3.     Before Jesus we had no choice, our default setting was toward sin   

4.     Our “flesh”—or “sinful nature,” inclines to sin naturally Rom. 7:5, 7:18, 7:25)

5.     To put this another way: As far as our old nature is concerned, righteousness calls us to an unnatural path, the path of self-denial and cross bearing (Luke 9:23)

a)    We have a new Master

b)    Jesus Died

(1)  He was dead
(2)  He rose again through the glory of the Father
(3)  So will we if we will put our faith love and devotion to God  

c)     As Jesus is alive to God …….So are we       

d)    Through the glory of the Father

6.     Purpose

a)    So we too may walk in newness of life       

6  knowing this, that our old self was crucified with Him, in order that our body of sin might be done away with, so that we would no longer be slaves to sin;

7  for he who has died is freed from sin.

b)    Our old self was (past tense) crucified with him

c)     Purpose

(1)  That the body of sin might be done away with
(a)    Not I hope it might
(b)   More “so that” 
(c)    Sin is as dead now to the Christian
(d)   “Our” body of sin  verse 6      

7.     Alive in the Savior (6:8–10): We are now to live in the resurrection power of the one who rose from the dead and is forever alive

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.

10  For the death that He died, He died to sin once for all; but the life that He lives, He lives to God.

a)    If we are united in death

b)    We are united in life and resurrection

c)     Christ did died, but he was also risen never to die again

d)    Death is not longer master over Him or us

(1)  Verse 10 the death he died he died once (it is completed) for Him and for us
(2)  The life he lives he lives to God …….us too      

II.    Step 2—Reckon (6:11) : We are to count our crucifixion and resurrection as accomplished events

11  Even so consider yourselves to be dead to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus.

A.   Reckon in today’s terms means

1.     I reckon I will get around to it

2.     I am thinking about it

3.     I am pretty sure

B.   What it means here is

1.     To add it all up

2.     Think logically and dispassionately about it

3.     Look at the reasoning

a)    Now that you have done the hard math in your head

b)    Now out of love make the journey of God’s love for us apply it to your heart ….

c)     But there can be two outcomes    

III.  Step 3—Yield (6:12–23): Paul describes two kinds of yielding.

A.   The wrong kind (6:12–13a):

1.     We are not to yield the members of our body as tools of wickedness

2.     One day Augustine was accosted by a woman who had been his mistress before his conversion. When he turned and walked away quickly, she called after him, “Augustine, it’s me! it’s me!” Quickening his pace, he called back over his shoulder, “Yes, I know, but it’s no longer me!” 

B.   The right kind (6:13b–23)

1.     The confusion (6:15a): “Since God’s grace has set us free from the law, does this mean we can go on sinning?”

2.     The correction (6:15b–18): “Of course not!

a)    Don’t you realize that whatever you choose to obey becomes your master?

(1)  You can choose sin, which leads to death,
(2)  You can choose to obey God and receive his approval”

3.     The challenge (6:13b–14, 19–22):

a)    We are to yield the members of our body as tools of righteousness

4.     The conclusion (6:23)

a)    “The wages of sin is death” (6:23a)

b)    “The free gift of God is eternal life through Christ Jesus our Lord” (6:23b)


Five Misinterpretations

Since this verse is so critical to our understanding of why and how we are to live a holy life, we must proceed very deliberately. To do that we must begin by eliminating some of the misinterpretations. I want to discuss five of them.

1. The Christian is no longer responsive to sin. This is a very popular view, though a harmful one. It is an argument from analogy, and it usually goes like this:.”

What should we say about this? The one thing in its favor is that it takes the tense of the Greek verb translated “died” at face value. It says that Christians have literally died to sin’s appeal. But the problem with this interpretation is that it is patently untrue. There is no one like this, and anyone who is persuaded by this interpretation to think he or she is like this is due to be severely disillusioned. Moreover, it makes nonsense of Paul’s appeal to Christians in verses 11–13, where he says to “count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus. Therefore, do not let sin reign in your mortal body. … Do not offer the parts of your body to sin, as instruments of wickedness. …” You do not urge one who is as unresponsive to sin as a corpse is to physical stimuli not to be responsive to it.

We can dismiss this interpretation, even though (unfortunately) it is held by many people.

2. Indeed, that is what Paul himself will do later: “Do not let sin reign in your mortal body” (v. 12) and “Do not offer the parts of your body to sin” (v. 13). But aside from that, everything else about this view is in error. The starting point is wrong; it begins with man rather than with God. The image is wrong: one thing nobody can do is crucify himself. Above all, the tense of the verb is wrong; for Paul is not saying that we ought to crucify ourselves (or die) but rather that we have died. He is telling us something that is already true of us if we are Christians.

3. The Christian is dying to sin day by day.

This is an important point, one that we are going to see again as we move through the chapter. I put it in this way: The secret of sanctification is not our present experience or emotions, however meaningful or intense they may be, but rather something that has already happened to us.

4. The Christian cannot continue in sin, because he has renounced it. This view carries no less weighty a name in its favor than that of Charles Hodge, and it is to be respected for that reason, if for no other. To begin with, the great former professor at Princeton Theological Seminary notes the full aorist tense of the verb died, saying rightly that “it refers to a specific act in our past history.”

But what was that act? Hodge answers that it was “our accepting of Christ as our Savior.” That act involved our firm renunciation of sin, since “no man can apply to Christ to be delivered from sin, in order that he may live in it.” It is “a contradiction … to say that gratuitous justification is a license to sin, as much as to say that death is life, or that dying to a thing is living in it.” This is a good interpretation for two reasons: (1) it recognizes the full force of the aorist verb died, and (2) what it argues is true. Coming to Christ as Savior really does include a renunciation of sin, and to renounce sin and at the same time continue in it is a real contradiction. If we had no other possible interpretations to go on, this would be an attractive explanation.

But I cannot help but feel that D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones is correct when he rejects this as being other than Paul’s meaning. Why? Because in Hodge’s interpretation “dying to sin” is something we do. It is our act, the act of accepting Christ. However, in Paul’s development of the idea, “dying to sin” is not something we do or have done but is something that has been done to us. It is the same as our being joined to Jesus Christ, which Paul is going to talk about in a moment under the figure of baptism. We did not join ourselves to Christ. Rather, we were in Adam, and then God by his grace took us from that position and transferred us into the kingdom of his Son.

It is because of what has happened to us that we are now no longer to continue in sin. It is because of God’s work that our continuing in sin is unthinkable.

5. The Christian has died to sin’s guilt. This last and, in my view, inadequate understanding of the phrase “we died to sin” is by Robert Haldane. He sees it as having nothing whatever to do with sanctification but rather as another way of talking about justification or one result of it. Haldane says, “It exclusively indicates the justification of believers and their freedom from the guilt of sin.” The problem with that statement is the word exclusively. I put it that way because what Haldane says is undoubtedly true as far as it goes. The justification of the believer has certainly freed him or her from the guilt of sin, and it is true that in this sense the person has indeed died to it. As far as the guilt of sin and its resulting condemnation are concerned, sin no longer touches the Christian. He has nothing to do with it.

But that does not go far enough. True, we have died to sin’s guilt. But what Paul is dealing with in this chapter is why we can no longer live in sin. If all he is saying is that we are free from sin’s condemnation, the question of verse 1 is unanswered: “Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase?” At the end of chapter 5 the apostle spoke of the inevitable reign of grace; now (in chapter 6) we must be told why this is so.


Our Old Life and Our New Life

It is obvious, having rejected five important interpretations of the phrase “we died to sin,” including no less weighty interpretations than those of Charles Hodge and Robert Haldane, that I must have a better view in mind—presumptuous as that may seem. But I think that is exactly what I do have, though I have certainly not invented this new view. It is expressed in various forms by such scholars as F. Godet, John Murray, and D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones. I have found the most helpful expression of it John R. W. Stott’s Men Made New: An Exposition of Romans 5–8.

Stott begins by noting that there are three verses in Romans 6 in which Paul uses the phrase “died [or dead] to sin.” It appears in verse 2, which we are studying, and it occurs again in verses 10 and 11. In two of those instances, the first and the last, the reference is to ourselves as Christian men and women. In the second of those verses the reference is to Christ. It is a sound principle of interpretation that whenever the same phrase occurs more than once in one context it should be taken in the same way unless there are powerful reasons to the contrary. If that is so, the first question we have to ask in order to understand how we have died to sin is how Christ died to it. How did Jesus Christ die to sin?

The first answer we are inclined to give is that he died to sin by suffering its penalty. He was punished for our sin in our place. If we carry that analogy through, we will come out near the position of Robert Haldane. We will be thinking of justification only and of our death to sin’s guilt.

But I want you to notice two things. First, the reference to Jesus’s death in verse 10 does not say that he died for sin, though he did, but that he died to sin—the exact thing that is said of us. That is a different idea, or at least it seems to be.

Second, Paul’s statement does not say only that Christ “died to sin” but adds the very important words “once for all.” The full verse reads, “The death he died, he died to sin once for all; but the life he lives, he lives to God.” This means that as far as sin is concerned, Jesus’ relationship to it is finished forever. While he lived upon earth he had a relationship to it. He had come to die for sin, to put an end to its claims upon us. But now, having died, that phase of his life is past and will never be repeated. Moreover, verse 9, which leads into verse 10, says exactly that: “For we know that since Christ was raised from the dead, he cannot die again; death no longer has mastery over him.”

We must now apply that understanding of “death to sin” to the other two instances, which refer to us. How? By realizing that, as a result of our union with Christ in his death and resurrection, that old life of sin in Adam is past for us also. We can never go back to it. We have been brought from that old life, the end of which was death, into a new life, the end of which is righteousness. Therefore, since this is true of us, we must embrace the fact that it is true and live for righteousness.

But perhaps even this is not clear. Let me share an illustration that Stott uses:

Suppose there is a man called John Jones, an elderly Christian believer, who is looking back upon his long life. His career is divided by his conversion into two parts, the old self—John Jones before his conversion—and the new self—John Jones after his conversion. The old self and the new self (or the “old man” and the “new man”) are not John Jones’ two natures; they are the two halves of his life, separated by the new birth. At conversion, signified in baptism, John Jones, the old self, died through union with Christ, the penalty of his sin borne. At the same time John Jones rose again from death, a new man, to live a new life to God.

Now John Jones is every believer. We are John Jones, if we are in Christ. The way in which our old self died is that we were crucified with Christ.

[A little further on, Stott amplifies his illustration in this way:] Our biography is written in two volumes. Volume one is the story of the old man, the old self, of me before my conversion. Volume two is the story of the new man, the new self, of me after I was made a new creation in Christ. Volume one of my biography ended with the judicial death of the old self. I was a sinner. I deserved to die. I did die. I received my deserts in my Substitute with whom I have become one. Volume two of my biography opened with my resurrection. My old life having finished, a new life to God has begun.


Nowhere to Go But Forward

In the last study I asked the question: Where do we go from here? And I posed what seemed like two alternatives: Do we continue in a life of sin so that, as some might piously choose to put it, grace may increase? Or do we choose the other path, the path of God-like conduct? By now you should be able to see that there is no possible alternative to God’s path, for those who are truly saved. The life of sin is what we have died to. There is no going back for us, any more than there could be a going back to suffer and die for sin again by our Lord. If there is no going back—if that possibility has been eliminated—there is no direction for us to go but forward!

This is why I say that a right understanding of Romans 6:2 is the key to sanctification.

Some people try to find the key in an intense emotional experience, thinking that if only they can make themselves feel close to God they will become holy. Others try to find sanctification through a special methodology. They think that if they do certain things or follow a prescribed ritual they will be sanctified. Godliness does not come in that fashion; in fact, approaches like these are deceiving. A holy life comes from knowing—I stress that word—knowing that you can’t go back, that you have died to sin and been made alive to God. Stott says, “A born-again Christian should no more think of going back to the old life than an adult to his childhood, a married man to his bachelorhood, or a discharged prisoner to his prison cell.”

Can an adult still want to be a child or an infant? A happily married man a bachelor? A freed man a prisoner again? Well, I suppose some could. But no right-minded woman or man would want to.

Baptized into Jesus Christ

Romans 6:3–4

Or don’t you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life.

After I had first preached the sermon that constitutes the previous study, a member of the congregation at Tenth Presbyterian Church said, “That message was so important and yet so hard to understand that you ought to preach it all over again next week.” I felt that way myself, and that is what I did. However, I did it as Paul himself did it: by going on to Romans 6:3–4, which is what this study is. These two verses are a restatement of the principle for living a godly life laid down in verse 2.

I remind you of where we are. Paul has asked a question that must have been asked of him a thousand times in the course of his ministry: “Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase?” He answered by saying: “By no means! We died to sin; how can we live in it any longer?”

The key words in this answer are “we died to sin.” We saw in the last study that there have been many ways of interpreting those words: that the Christian is no longer responsive to sin; that Christians should die to sin; that the Christian is dying to sin day by day; that Christians cannot continue in sin, because they have renounced it; that the Christian has died to sin’s guilt. But we saw, too, that the real meaning of the phrase is that we died to our old life when God saved us. I used John Stott’s illustrations of John Jones before his conversion and John Jones after his conversion, and of volumes one and two of “our biography.”

The bottom line of this discussion has been that the key to a holy life is not our experiences or emotions, however meaningful or intense these may be, but rather our knowledge of what has happened to us. I stressed the word knowledge because the most important and basic reason for going forward in the Christian life is that we cannot go back.


Knowing and Growing

When you hear this for the first time, you may think that it is just too simple or even that it is a novel (and therefore questionable) interpretation of Romans 6:2. But I would argue that it is neither novel nor questionable, and in proof of this I refer to the very next words Paul writes: “Don’t you know … ?” These words are the start of the question by which Paul reminds us of our identity with Jesus Christ.

Do not pass over those words lightly. Remember that Paul had never been to Rome, though he was planning to visit Rome on a proposed trip to Spain (Rom. 15:24). He had not taught the Christians in Rome personally. Moreover, so far as we know, the church had never had the benefit of any apostolic teaching. Yet, although the Christians in Rome had never had such teaching, Paul assumes their knowledge of this doctrine by these words. In other words, what he is referring to here was common Christian knowledge. Christians have died to sin! Or, to put it in the words he is going to use next, they have been “baptized into Christ Jesus … into his death.” The apostle assumes that this was known to believers everywhere, and he appeals to our knowledge of it as the key to our growth in holiness.

So I say it again: The secret of sanctification is not some neat set of experiences or emotions, however meaningful or intense they may be. It is knowing what has happened to you.


The Meaning of “Baptism”

What Paul says we are to know in verses 3 and 4 also supports my interpretation of verse 2. But before we plunge into that we need to think about the meaning of the word baptism, since it is the key term he uses.

The reason we need to do this is that for the vast majority of today’s people, the mere mention of baptism immediately sets them thinking about the sacrament of water baptism and blinds them to what any text that mentions baptism may actually be saying. It has blinded commentators, too, of course. They also think of the sacrament, and because they do they have produced many wrong interpretations of these verses based on their assumption. Some have taught that the sacrament joins us to Christ and is therefore necessary for salvation. This view is called “baptismal regeneration.” Some assume that Paul is thinking of our baptismal vows, others that it is a matter of coming under Christ’s influence, still others that what is important is our public testimony to our faith in Christ. The last three of these actually do have something to do with water baptism. But Paul is not thinking along these lines at all in these verses, and therefore any approach to them with the idea of the sacrament of water baptism uppermost in our minds will be misleading.

What is “baptism”? A good answer starts by recognizing that there are two closely related words for baptism in the Greek language and that they do not necessarily have the same meaning. One word is baptō, which means “dip” or “immerse.” The other word is baptizō, which may mean “immerse” but may have other meanings as well. This is a normal situation with Greek words. The simpler word usually conveys the most straightforward meaning. The longer word adds specialized and sometimes metaphorical meanings.

It is the longer word that is used for “baptism” in the New Testament. So we need to ask next what the precise meaning of the longer word is.

We gain help from classical literature. The Greeks used the word baptizō from about 400 b.c. to about the second century after Christ, and in their literature baptizō always pointed to a change having taken place by some means. Josephus used it of the crowds that flooded into Jerusalem and “wrecked the city.” Other examples are the dyeing of cloth and the drinking of too much wine. In each of these cases there is a liquid or something like it—the crowds were like a human “wave,” a dye and wine are liquids—but the essential idea is actually that of a change. Jerusalem was wrecked. The dyed cloth changes color. The drinker becomes different; he misbehaves.

The clearest example I know that shows this meaning of baptizō is a text from the Greek poet and physician Nicander, who lived about 200 b.c. It is a recipe for making pickles, and it is helpful because it uses both words. Nicander says that to make a pickle, the vegetable should first be “dipped” (baptō) into boiling water and then “baptized” (baptizō) in the vinegar solution. Both verbs concern immersing the vegetable in a solution, but the first is temporary. The second, the act of “baptizing” the vegetable, produces a permanent change.

To get this distinction in mind is of enormous help in understanding the New Testament verses that refer to baptism, including our text in Romans, for which thoughts of a literal immersion in water would be nonsense.

Take 1 Corinthians 10:1–2, as an example. “For I do not want you to be ignorant of the fact, brothers, that our forefathers were all under the cloud and that they all passed through the sea. They were all baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea.” That cannot be referring to a water baptism, because the only people who were immersed in water were the Egyptian soldiers, and they were drowned in it. The Israelites did not even get their feet wet. What do the verses mean? Obviously, they refer to a permanent identification of the people with Moses as a result of the Red Sea crossing. Before this they were still in Egypt and could have renounced Moses’ leadership, retaining their allegiance to Pharaoh. But once they crossed the Red Sea they were joined to Moses for the duration of their desert wandering. They were not able to go back.

By now you are probably beginning to see why this discussion of baptism is important and why Paul used the words baptized and baptism in verses 3 and 4. But let me offer a few more texts that are clarified by understanding baptism as change rather than mere immersion in water.

Galatians 3:27. “For all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ.” This is not referring to water baptism, because if it were, the illustration of being clothed with Christ would be inappropriate. Rather, it refers to our being identified with Christ, like a child identifies with her mother when she dresses in her mother’s clothes or a soldier identifies with the armed forces of his country when he dons a uniform.

Mark 16:16 is well known. Jesus says here: “Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved. …” Scores of people have wrongly concluded from that verse that unless a person first believes in Christ and then is also immersed in water, he or she cannot be saved. But even the poorest Bible student knows that this is not true. A person is saved by grace through faith in Jesus Christ alone. If baptism in water is necessary for salvation, then the believing thief who was crucified with Christ is lost.

Once we get away from the mistaken idea that baptism always refers to water baptism, the verse becomes clear. For what Jesus is saying in Mark 16:16 is that a person needs to be identified with him to be saved. He was saying that mere intellectual assent to the doctrines of Christianity is not enough. It is necessary, to use another of his teachings, that “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me” (Luke 9:23). This last verse is an exact parallel to what the apostle is teaching in Romans 6:3–4, for it means that a true follower of Christ has died to his past life—like a man on his way to execution. Only, in Romans 6, the man has already died and been buried.


Buried Through Baptism

With this lengthy excursion into the meaning of the word baptism in mind, I return to our text to show how these ideas come together. What was the chief idea in Romans 5:12–31? It was the idea of our union with Christ, wasn’t it? Before, we were in Adam; now, we are in Christ. And what is Paul’s answer to “Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase?” (Rom. 6:1). It is that we have died to sin: “We died to sin; how can we live in it any longer?” Union with Christ! And death to sin!

But notice: That is exactly what baptism signifies, and in that order. The most important idea is that we have been taken out of one state and put into another. We have had an experience similar to that of the Jews after they had been brought through the Red Sea. They were joined to Moses; we are joined to Christ. Or, to put it in the words of Galatians 3:27, we have been clothed with Christ. We are in Christ’s uniform. And what that means, if we look backward, is that we have died to whatever has gone before. We died to the old life when Christ transferred us to the new one.

As soon as we see how these ideas go together, we see why Paul’s thoughts turned to the word baptism as a way of unfolding what he had in mind when he said: “How can we live in [sin] any longer?”

I want you to notice something else, too. When theologians write about our being “baptized into Christ” and how this is the equivalent of our being united to him by the Holy Spirit, they stress that we are identified with Christ in all respects. That is, we are identified with him in (or baptized into) his death, burial, and resurrection. One commentator got into this theme so deeply that he worked out parallels to our identification with Christ in his election, virgin birth, circumcision, physical growth, baptism by John the Baptist, suffering, crucifixion, burial, resurrection, and ascension into heaven. Much of this is very true, of course. If we have been identified with Christ, as we have been, we are identified with him in many respects, particularly in his death and resurrection.

But what I want to point out is that Paul does not say here that we have been identified with Christ by baptism in these other respects. He does not, for example, even say that we have been baptized into Christ’s resurrection, though he goes on to say that “just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life” (v. 4) and later that we have been “united with him like this in his resurrection” (v. 5). In verse 3 he speaks of our baptism into Christ in one respect only: “into his death.” And in the next phrase he shows that what he has particularly in mind is Christ’s burial: “We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death.”

This flow of thought is so strong that F. Godet rightly says, “According to these words, it is not to death, it is to the internment of the dead, that Paul compares baptism.”

This is striking, and quite puzzling, too. I notice, for example, that when theologians work out the parallels of our identification with Christ, they have little trouble showing how we have been crucified with him, raised with him or even made to ascend into heaven with him. But they have trouble with the burial. “How can we be said to be buried with Christ?” they ask. “And what does this add that is not already covered by our death to sin?”

Yet burial is the thing Paul emphasizes.

How do we account for this? And how do we account for the difficult way Paul puts it: “buried with him through baptism into death.” More than one commentator has struggled with the awkwardness of that phrase, suggesting in some cases that it is even backward, since no one is buried into death (that is, buried to die) but rather is buried because he died.

I suggest that if this is approached as I have been suggesting, the problem is not difficult at all. The reason burial is an important step even beyond death is that burial puts the deceased person out of this world permanently. A corpse is dead to life. But there is a sense in which it can still be said to be in life, as long as it is around. When it is buried, when it is placed in the ground and covered with earth, it is removed from the sphere of this life permanently. It is gone. That is why Paul, who wanted to emphasize the finality of our being removed from the rule of sin and death to the rule of Christ, emphasizes it. He is repeating but also intensifying what he has already said about our death to sin. “You have not only died to it,” he says. “You have been buried to it.” To go back to sin once you have been joined to Christ is like digging up a dead body.


The Public Profession

I have been saying throughout this study that when Paul refers to our being baptized into Christ, he is not thinking chiefly of the sacrament of baptism but rather of our having been joined to Christ by the Holy Spirit. I do not want to go back on that. The very next verses prove this view, for in them Paul speaks explicitly of our being “united with him in his death [and] resurrection.” This is something the Holy Spirit does.

But, while emphasizing this, I do not want to miss the significance of the sacrament of baptism as a Christian’s public renunciation of his past life and a profession of his new identification with Christ.

This is not so obvious to us today perhaps, since baptism is something that generally takes place in an exclusively Christian environment and for many people means very little. But it was not so in Paul’s day. And it is not so in many places in the world even today. In the ancient world, to be identified with Christ in baptism was a bold and risky declaration. It often put the believer’s life in jeopardy. There was nothing wrong with listening to Christian preaching or propaganda. But when a Christian was baptized, he was saying to the state as well as to his fellow believers that he was now a follower of Jesus Christ and that he was going to be loyal to him regardless of the outcome. It meant “Christ before Caesar.”

Baptism was as nearly an irreversible step as a believer in Jesus Christ could take. Therefore, even though Paul is not thinking primarily about water baptism in Romans 6—water baptism is something we do; the baptism Paul is talking about is something that has been done to us—the sacrament of baptism is nevertheless a fit public testimony to what baptism into Christ by the Holy Spirit means: that we have been united to Christ and that the old life is done for us forever. That is what you have professed if you have been baptized, particularly if you have been baptized as an adult. You have told the world that you are not going back, that you are going forward with Jesus.

But I come to the questions that I know are in many people’s minds, the same questions I touched on at the end of the last study: “But what if I do go back? What if I do sin?”

Here are three points to remember:

1. It won’t work. Do you remember my illustration of an adult trying to return to childhood. Can he do it? Well, he can act childlike, though it would be a dishonor to him and an embarrassment to everyone else. But to become a child again? It can’t be done. An adult can behave in an infantile manner. But an adult cannot be a child. In the same way, if you are a true Christian, you cannot return to sin in the same way you were in it previously. You can sin. We do sin. But it is not the same. If nothing else, you cannot enjoy sin as you did before. And you will not even be able to do it convincingly. You will be like Peter trying to swear that he did not know Jesus, after having spent three years in Jesus’ school. People will look at you and say, “But surely you are one of his disciples.”

2. God will stop you. God will not stop you from sinning, but he will stop you from continuing in it. And he will do it in one of two ways. Either he will make your life so miserable that you will curse the day you got into sin and beg God to get you out of it, or God will put an end to your life. Paul told the Corinthians that because they had dishonored the Lord’s Supper, God had actually taken some of them home to heaven (1 Cor. 11:30). If God did it to them for that offense, he will do it to you for persistence in more sinful things.

3. If you do return to the life you lived before coming to Christ and if you are able to continue in it, you are not saved. In fact, it is even worse than that. If you are able to go back once you have come to Christ, it means, not only that you are not saved, but that you even have been inoculated against Christianity.

I am sure that is why the author of Hebrews wrote, “It is impossible for those who have once been enlightened, who have tasted the heavenly gift, who have shared in the Holy Spirit, who have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the coming age, if they fall away, to be brought back to repentance …” (Heb. 6:4–6). Those verses are not referring to a true believer in Christ being lost—How could they in view of Paul’s teaching in Romans 5 and 8?—but rather of one who was close enough to have tasted the reality of Christ and who nevertheless turned back. It teaches that the closer you are to Christ, if you do go back, the harder it will be to come to Christ again. In some cases, as in the case described here, it will be impossible.

So don’t go back!

I say it again: Don’t go back!

If you have been saved by Jesus, you have been saved forever. There is nothing before you but to go on growing in righteousness!

Living with Jesus Now

Romans 6:5–10

If we have been united with him like this in his death, we will certainly also be united with him in his resurrection. For we know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body of sin might be rendered powerless [done away with], that we should no longer be slaves to sin—because anyone who has died has been freed from sin.

Now if we died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. For we know that since Christ was raised from the dead, he cannot die again; death no longer has mastery over him. The death he died, he died to sin once for all; but the life he lives, he lives to God.

It is a sad fact that many people perceive Christianity as being negative. It is viewed as a series of don’ts: “Don’t drink; don’t play cards; don’t fool around; don’t laugh too loud.” In fact, “Don’t have fun at all,” because, if you do, God will be looking down from heaven to see it and say, “Now you cut that out!”

It is possible that some reader has taken our first studies of Romans 6 negatively, because the emphasis has been on the fact that once a person has been joined to Jesus Christ he or she can no longer go on sinning. “Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase?” Paul asked. “By no means!” he has answered. “We died to sin; how can we live in it any longer?” (vv. 1–2). That does indeed sound negative, particularly to the non-Christian. Death! And dying! If you do not know Christianity better than that, it sounds almost like “no more anything.”

But that is not what real Christianity is, of course. In fact, it is just the opposite. It is sin that is negative. So to be freed from sin is to be freed to a brand new life, which is positive. Leon Morris, one of the newer and best commentators on Romans, says, “The Christian way is not negative. There is a death to an old way, it is true, but as the believer identifies with Christ in his death he enters into newness of life.” The Christian way of speaking about this is to say that, for the Christian, death is followed by a resurrection.

And not just at the end of time! True Christianity is living out a new, joyful, abundant, resurrected life with Jesus Christ now.


A New, Rich Section

We have already had more than one hint that this has been coming. Paul ended the fifth chapter of Romans by saying that the reign of grace has replaced the reign of sin and death, and in chapter 6 he has concluded that we were “buried with him [Christ] through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life” (v. 4). Nevertheless, it is in the section to which we turn now (verses 5–10) that this new and abundant life is unfolded fully for the first time.

This is a long section compared to the several smaller units we have been studying in the previous chapters. In fact, it would be too long for one study if it were not that we have already dealt with most of the key terms. Most important, we have studied how we can be said to have died to sin. Jesus died to sin (not “for sin,” though that is also true) by ending the phase of his life in which he was in sin’s realm, and by returning to heaven. In the same way, our old relationships to sin have also ended. God fixed our future when we were taken out of Adam and joined to Christ. We cannot go back to the old life. As I have said several times, there is no place for us to go but forward.

The outline of these verses is a simple one. In verse 5, Paul states a thesis, which verses 6–10 develop. It has two parts: “If we have been united with him like this in his death …” (that is the first part; it is what he has already been talking about extensively) and “… we will certainly also be united with him in his resurrection” (that is the second part; it is the new idea to be developed). Paul unfolds the meaning of the first part in verses 6 and 7; he explains the second part in verses 8–10.


The Body of Sin

A few lines back I wrote that the first part of verse 5 (We have been united with Christ in his death) has already been dealt with extensively, and that is true. But when Paul unfolds the meaning of this sentence in verses 6 and 7, he is not just repeating himself. This is the point at which he is starting to talk about the Christian life, particularly the Christian’s sure victory over sin. Now when he mentions our union with Christ in his death, it is to show how this frees us from sin’s tyranny.

The best way to show what Paul is doing in these verses is by focusing on the two key phrases.

1. Our old self. The first phrase is “our old self” which, he says, “was crucified with” Christ. Our earlier studies have already indicated how this should be taken. “Old self” refers to our old life, that is, to what we were in Adam before God saved us. That old life is done for. We have died to it. That is why Paul says it “was (or ‘has been’) crucified.”

Many commentators go astray at this point, because they confuse the “old self” with the Christian’s “old (or ‘sinful’) nature,” a phrase Paul uses later. Because the old nature remains with us, these teachers are always urging believers to crucify or kill the old self. They explain the persistence of sin in the believer by observing that crucifixion is a “long drawn out” process. Now it is true that the Christian life is a long-drawn-out battle with sin. That is what Romans 7 is about, as I will show when we get to it. But the secret to victory over sin is not the crucifixion or killing of the old self, for the simple reason that the old self has already died. That is why the Bible never tells us to crucify the old man. How can we if he has already been put to death?

I make this point strongly because, although the Christian life is indeed a struggle, to equate killing our old self with that struggle (when the old self has already been crucified with Christ) is to miss the truth that has been given to us by God for our victory.

2. The body of sin. The second key phrase is “the body of sin.” It occurs in the clause “so that the body of sin might be rendered powerless [done away with].” This is the first time we have seen this phrase, though it or some variation will occur a number of times more as we proceed. What does it refer to?

Our first inclination is to think of the body of sin as being the same thing as our old self, which has just been mentioned. This is probably because the old self is said to have been crucified; a body is crucified and, if the body of sin is crucified, it is therefore obviously rendered powerless, which is what the text states. But that is not the idea. I think D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones is exactly right at this point when he says that by the term “body of sin” Paul is talking about the old nature, and that to some extent he means the word body (that is, our physical body) literally. Paul was not talking about this earlier. The old self (or old man) is not the old nature. The old self is the “old me,” who has died. But here, in talking about “the body of sin,” Paul is talking about the old nature, mentioning—for the first time in Romans—the Christian’s actual inclination to sin, which must be dealt with.

That makes sense of verse 6, of course. For what Paul says in verse 6 is that God has taken us out of Adam and placed us in Christ, thereby causing us to die to the old life, in order that

(1) our present inclinations to sin might be robbed of their power, and

(2) we should be delivered from sin’s slavery.

I want to give a personal reaction to the phrase “body of sin” at this point. If Paul were with us today and I had an opportunity to speak to him, I think I might say that I wished he had spoken of our sinful nature in some other fashion. This is because to locate the Christian’s continuing inclination to sin in the “body,” as this phrase does, seems to suggest two admittedly wrong ideas. First, it suggests: “I am not a sinner; it is only my body.” We do not want to say that. John tells us that “if we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves” (1 John 1:8). And second, it suggests that the body is somehow intrinsically evil, and we know that this is a Greek or Hindu idea, rather than a Judeo-Christian one. “Couldn’t you have thought of another phrase?” I would have asked the apostle.

Yet I confess that I cannot think of a better one. And the phrase is helpful as long as I realize that, although I am not ultimately my body, I am nevertheless so much formed by it that I cannot escape its influences. The wording teaches us that in our present physical state, prior to glorification, sin is in possession of our bodies and must be dealt with at that level.


Sin in the Body

Here are some examples of how sin operates in our bodies.

We sit down to eat, and our hostess sets a beautiful spread before us. There is nothing intrinsically wrong (sinful) in either her preparations or our eating. The body is from God; it needs to eat because God made it that way. But we become so enthralled by the food’s appearance and taste that we take this natural bodily function and push it beyond where it was intended to go. We overeat. We indulge, we stuff ourselves. The overindulgence is sin, and it leads to even greater sin if it becomes a pattern. This pattern of eating harms the body and in time makes us insensitive to the needs of others—others who are hungry, for example—and to God, who has given us the food. We become ungrateful, fail to thank him, and even complain if for some reason we are unable at some future point to indulge ourselves as freely.

Take sleeping as another example. The body needs rest. We cannot do without it. Sleep or relaxation refreshes us so that we feel good. But the body can draw us into the sins of sloth and apathy and then lead us to the even more sinful conviction that others should work for us so we can be at ease. We may even think ourselves superior to these other persons since they, in our view, exist chiefly to see that we are made comfortable.

Our glands and the hormones they produce are also parts of the body. They, too, are good, since they have been given to us by God. They feed our emotions. Danger causes our adrenaline to flow so that we can react quickly to escape a life-threatening situation. Sexual hormones awaken us to the qualities of the opposite sex and lead to love, marriage, and procreation. But these same glands also react wrongly and more strongly than they should. Adrenaline will flow just because someone has offended us, and we will fight back when we should show a spirit of meekness. Our sexual glands, particularly when they are stimulated by the world’s culture, lead to lust, infidelity, promiscuity, and other vices. Indeed, they turn us against God when we are told that his law forbids such inclinations.

A person may say, with reason, that it is not the body that is at fault but our minds. Sin begins in the mind or spirit. But although I realize that the source of sin is in the mind or spirit and that the spirit is not the body, it is nevertheless impossible to separate the mind from the body. We are as we think, and the thinking process (so far as anyone can determine) is physiological. So even at this level it is clearly “the body of sin” from which we need to be delivered.


Posse Non Peccare

This is what our having died to sin by our union to Christ in his death is intended to accomplish. Paul says that our union with Christ in his death has been to render the body of sin powerless, so that we might “no longer be slaves to sin.”

“Rendered powerless” (or “done away with”), as in the New International Version, is a better translation than the older word “destroyed” (kjv, rsv). But even this can mislead some people. The Greek word is katargeō, and it occurs twenty-seven times in the New Testament, including three prior instances in Romans. It occurs in Romans 3:3 and 31, where it is rendered “nullify” (“Will their lack of faith nullify God’s faithfulness?” and “Do we, then, nullify the law by this faith?”). It also occurs in Romans 4:14, where it is rendered “has no value” (“For if those who live by law are heirs, faith has no value”). Two more instances in Romans are in chapter 7, where it is translated “released” (“If her husband dies, she is released from the law of marriage” [v. 2] and “We have been released from the law so that we serve in the new way of the Spirit” [v. 6]).

None of these instances mean “destroyed,” and they do not mean “rendered powerless” in the sense that the thing involved can be said no longer to exert an influence. They mean rather: “no longer to exert a controlling force or power” or “to be made ineffective.”

In other words, the reason God has removed us from our union with Adam and has joined us to Christ (so that we have died to our past) is so the inclinations to sin that operate so strongly in our bodies might no longer exercise effective power or control us. They are still there, but from this point on they will not dominate us. Before this, we were “slaves to sin” (v. 6), but having died to sin, we are now “freed” from it (v. 7).

Will we sin? Yes! But we do not need to, and we will do so less and less as we go on in the Christian life. You may remember how Saint Augustine put it when he was comparing Adam’s state before the fall, Adam’s state after the fall, the state of those who have been saved by God through the work of Christ, and our final state in glory as Christians.


A Present Resurrection

The second half of Paul’s topical sentence in verse 5 (“we will certainly also be united with him in his resurrection”) is explained in verses 8–10, where Paul speaks of a present resurrection: “Now if we died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. For we know that since Christ was raised from the dead, he cannot die again; death no longer has mastery over him. The death he died, he died to sin once for all; but the life he lives, he lives to God.”

I have quoted those verses in full, because unless we take them together we will perceive the words “we will also live with him” as referring to our future resurrection, when actually they refer to an experience of resurrection life here and how.

Don’t misunderstand. There is a future resurrection, and the same union of the believer with Christ that we have been talking about is a guarantee of it. But that is not what these verses are about. We have already seen what they mean in the case of Christ. They refer to his passage from the sphere where death reigned to the sphere of the resurrection, from where he was to where he is now. In the same way, they refer to our passage—from the reign of death to the reign of grace, to a present resurrection. This is what Paul says of himself in Philippians when he writes: “I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection …” (Phil. 3:10). He means that he wants to be victorious over sin.

I have been reading Stephen W. Hawking’s stimulating book on modern physics, entitled A Brief History of Time. Hawking is the distinguished English physicist who has Lou Gehrig’s disease and is confined to a wheelchair, but has done pioneer work in the analysis of what are commonly called “black holes” or “singularities.” A black hole is a collapsed star of such density and gravity that nothing can escape from it, not even light, which is why it appears as a dark spot in the panorama of the heavens. Objects rushing toward it approach the speed of light as well as approach infinite mass; as a result, the normal laws of physics tend to lose meaning at the center. No one knows what happens when an object reaches the center, but some have speculated that for reasons beyond most people’s ability to grasp, an object might shoot through the “hole” and pass into another time period or existence.

I understand a great deal less about black holes than scientists do, so I have no idea whether such speculations are true. But it occurs to me that passing through a black hole is an apt illustration of a Christian’s having died to sin and having been raised to new life in Christ—if for no other reason than that he or she cannot come back. Anything that has gone through a black hole has passed through it forever. Similarly, anyone who has been united to Christ has died to sin, is on the way to God, and can never return to his or her former sphere of existence.

And there is this, too: For most of us, to pass through a black hole in space would be, in physical terms, the most important, monumental, irreversible, and life-changing experience we can imagine. But great as that might be, it would not be so great as the change that has already taken place in those who have been lifted out of the realm of sin and joined to Jesus Christ.

When all is said and done, passing through a black hole would still mean being limited to some kind of physical universe. But being joined to Christ means being joined to the One who made the universe itself and who will still be there when heaven and earth—including black holes, quasars, neutron stars, and all the rest—have passed away.

But I do not want to leave you there. This last point is a flight of fancy, so far as I know. But what I started to talk about is the positive Christian experience of being delivered from the power of sin by the realities of Christ’s life. I return to the key questions.

First: “Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase?”

The answer: “By no means! We died to sin; how can we live in it any longer?”

Second, the question of this study: “How can we triumph over sin?”

The answer: “By knowing what God has done for us when he joined us to Christ.” We are going to look at the meaning of that even more in the next study, when we consider verse 11. But I hope you have noticed, as we studied verses 5–10, that the important word know, which I have called the key to this entire matter of sanctification, is here again and not only once but twice. We saw it first in verse 2: “Or don’t you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death?” Here it appears in verse 6: “For we know that our old self was crucified with him,” and in verse 9: “For we know that since Christ was raised from the dead, he cannot die again; death no longer has mastery over him.”

What is true of Jesus is true of us. His relationship to sin, while he was in this life, has passed forever. It is true of us as well, since we are joined to him. The key to holiness is to know this and to press on.


6:1 Since sin in a way makes grace more abundant (5:20, 21) why not continue in sin? This is certainly a possible conclusion, though a wrong one, from the teaching about grace in ch. 5. Apparently Paul had been accused of teaching this false doctrine, called antinomianism. To silence his accusers, Paul shows in this chapter that a believer who continues in sin would be denying his or her own identity in Christ.

6:2 Certainly not: The Greek expresses a response of shock, that has even been translated “God forbid.” The thought of a believer living in sin in order to take advantage of grace was abhorrent to Paul. The reason believers should not live in sin is that they have died to sin, as is explained in vv. 3, 4.

6:3 baptized: Paul uses the common experience of believers being baptized as a picture of being identified with Jesus Christ. Baptism expresses faith the way a word expresses an idea. There can be an idea without words, but normally they are expressed in words. Water baptism is a symbol of the spiritual union of Christ and the believer. When a person trusts Christ, he or she is incorporated into, united to, Jesus Christ, which includes being united to His death. Jesus’ death becomes our death. Christian baptism makes these spiritual realities vivid.

6:4, 5 newness of life: If the believer’s identification with Christ means being identified with His death, then it logically follows that the believer also identifies with Jesus’ resurrection. Having died and having been raised with Christ, the believer should live a new kind of life.

(Gk. sumphutos) (6:5) Strong’s #4854: The expression, which occurs only here in the NT, means “to grow in union” or “to plant in union.” The word describes two plants that have been planted together and are growing together, closely entwined or even united. The context speaks of union, our union with Christ in His death (6:4) and resurrection (6:5). Our union with Christ in death is like being planted with Him. Like a seed, our sinful natures must die with Christ so that we might grow in Christ and bear spiritual fruit (John 12:24). Our union with Christ is now a loving union, in which we are growing with Him “in the likeness of His resurrection.”

6:5–11 Verse 5 states that participation in Christ’s death assures us that we shall share in His resurrection. Verses 6, 7 show that by this crucifixion we are freed (i.e., “justified”)from sin. Verses 8–10 assure us that having been made free from sin, we are prepared to live with Christ. Verse 11 is a plea that this experience of having died to sin shall become a reality in our lives.

6:6 Some say old man refers to part of us, namely our old nature, our sinful disposition. However, the word man does not refer to part of a person; instead, the word describes the entire inner person before conversion, the person connected to the sin nature of Adam. The old man was crucified with Christ (Gal. 2:20). Simply put, a believer is not the same person he or she was before conversion; a believer is a new creation in Christ (2 Cor. 5:17). There are two reasons (see the two clauses that begin with that) for crucifying the old man. First is that the body of sin might be done away. The body of sin is either a reference to the physical body, that is, the body that is enslaved to sin, or the phrase is a figurative expression for the sin in a believer’s life. Colossians 2:11, a parallel passage, indicates that sin in a believer’s life is meant. The sinful nature of a believer is abolished when the old self is crucified with Christ. The second purpose is that we should no longer be slaves of sin. Believers are new people who are no longer enslaved to the old sinful nature.

Some people scoff at the concept of sin by defining it as a prohibition against fun made by the few who hate it against the many who enjoy it. In a way, this was the original lie that the serpent told Eve. He suggested that God was withholding things from her that she truly needed and would benefit from (Gen. 3:4, 5).But Scripture presents sin as anything but fun or beneficial. Sin has devastating consequences of which we need to be aware. As the Book of Romans points out, sin enslaves people and demands that they obey its lusts (Rom. 6:6, 12, 20).Several phrases in the NT help to define the perilous nature of sin:•     To sin is to “fall short of the glory of God” (Rom. 3:23). People trapped in sin’s tight snare cannot live up to the holy lifestyle that God intended when He created them.•     “Sin is lawlessness” (1 John 3:4). It involves living for “me first” rather than for God, being “a law unto oneself.”•     “All unrighteousness is sin” (1 John 5:17). When we sin, we offend the God who loves justice and righteousness (Rom. 1:18).•     If we know what is good and yet do not do it, we sin (James 4:17). Thus sin involves conscious disobedience against what is right, even to the point of approving the sin of others (Rom. 1:32).This is a sobering picture, but even more startling is that every human being is a part of this picture. “There is none righteous, no, not one” (Rom. 3:10; compare 2 Chr. 6:36; Rom. 5:12). “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Rom. 3:23).Nor is sin limited to a few matters of religion or personal habits. Because God is the sovereign owner of the whole world—its lands, nations, people, and all resources—misuse of any part of the creation means sinning against Him. We are accountable for every dimension of life. Nothing is really “secular” in the sense of being outside His concern.

6:7 Freed here translates the Greek word for “justification,” which is a legal term. The idea is that the believer no longer has any obligation to sin.

6:8 Dying and living with Christ summarizes vv. 3–7. Believe introduces a new idea. Christians must not only know that they have died to sin (vv. 6–8) and have been made alive with Christ, they must also believe it.

6:9, 10 Christ died for sin once for all. He is now alive at the right hand of God. Since believers have been joined to Christ and to His death and resurrection, they can now believe that they too are alive to God.

6:11 Reckon is an accounting term that means “to take into account,” “calculate,” or “decide.” Verses 3–10 reveal the truth that believers have already died to sin because they have participated in Jesus’ death. Since believers have died with Christ and have also been raised with Him, Paul now urges Christians to consider themselves dead … to sin. Although before conversion they were still enslaved to the power of sin, now they are free to resist it.


6:1 The Jewish objector comes forward with what he thinks is a clinching argument. If the gospel of grace teaches that man’s sin provides for an even greater display of God’s grace, then doesn’t it suggest that we should continue in sin that grace may be all the more abundant?

A modern version of this argument is as follows: “You say that men are saved by grace through faith, apart from the law. But if all you have to do to be saved is believe, then you could go out and live in sin.” According to this argument, grace is not a sufficient motivation for holy living. You must put people under the restraints of the law.

It has been helpfully suggested that there are four answers in the chapter to the initial question, Shall we continue in sin?

1. You cannot, because you are united to Christ. Reasoning (vv. 1–11).

2. You need not, because sin’s dominion has been broken by grace. Appealing (vv. 12–14).

3. You must not, because it would bring sin in again as your master. Commanding (vv. 15–19).

4. You had better not, for it would end in disaster. Warning (vv. 20–23).

6:2 Paul’s first answer, then, is that we cannot continue in sin because we have died to sin. This is a positional truth. When Jesus died to sin, He died as our Representative. He died not only as our Substitute—that is, for us or in our place—but He also died as our Representative—that is, as us. Therefore, when He died, we died. He died to the whole question of sin, settling it once and for all. All those who are in Christ are seen by God as having died to sin.

This does not mean that the believer is sinless. It means that he is identified with Christ in His death, and in all that His death means.

6:3 The first key word in Paul’s presentation is KNOW. Here he introduces the subject of baptism to show that it is morally incongruous for believers to go on in sin. But the question immediately arises, “To which baptism is he referring?” So an introductory word of explanation is necessary.

When a person is saved, he is baptized into Christ Jesus in the sense that he is identified with Christ in His death and resurrection. This is not the same as the baptism in (or of) the Spirit, though both occur simultaneously. The latter baptism places the believer in the body of Christ (1 Cor. 12:13); it is not a baptism into death. The baptism into Christ means that in the reckoning of God, the believer has died with Christ and has risen with Him.

When Paul speaks of baptism here, he is thinking both of our spiritual identification with Christ and of its portrayal in water baptism. But as the argument advances, he seems to shift his emphasis in a special way to water baptism as he reminds his readers how they were “buried” and “planted together” in the “likeness” of Christ’s death.

The NT never contemplates the abnormal situation of an unbaptized believer. It assumes that those who are converted submit to baptism right away. Thus our Lord could speak of faith and baptism in the same breath: “he who believes and is baptized will be saved” (Mark 16:16). Though baptism is not a requirement for salvation, it should be the invariable public sign of it.

6:4 Water baptism gives a visual demonstration of baptism into Christ. It pictures the believer being immersed in death’s dark waters (in the person of the Lord Jesus), and it pictures the new man in Christ rising to walk in newness of life. There is a sense in which a believer attends the funeral of his old self when he is baptized. As he goes under the water he is saying, “All that I was as a sinful son of Adam was put to death at the cross.” As he comes up out of the water he is saying, “It is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me” (see Gal. 2:20).

Conybeare and Howson state that “this passage cannot be understood unless it be borne in mind that the primitive baptism was by immersion.”

The apostle moves on to state that the resurrection of Christ makes it possible for us to walk in newness of life. He states that Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father. This simply means that all the divine perfections of God—His righteousness, love, justice, etc.—demanded that He raise the Lord. In view of the excellence of the Person of the Savior, it would not have been consistent with God’s character to leave the Savior in the tomb. God did raise Him, and because we are identified with Christ in His resurrection, we can and should walk in newness of life.

6:5 Just as we have been united together with Christ in the likeness of His death, certainly we also shall be united with Him in the likeness of His resurrection. The words the likeness of His death refer to the believer’s being put under the water in baptism. The actual union with Christ in His death took place nearly 2000 years ago, but baptism is a “likeness” of what happened then.

We not only go under the water; we come up out of the water, a likeness of His resurrection. While it is true that the phrase in the likeness is not part of the original text in the second part of this verse, it must be supplied to complete the meaning.

Just as we have been united with Christ in the likeness of His death (immersion in water), so we are united with Him in the likeness of His resurrection (being raised out of the water). The clause we shall be does not necessarily indicate futurity. Hodge says:

The reference is not to what is to happen hereafter, but to the certainty of sequence, or causal connection. If the one thing happens, the other shall surely follow.

6:6 We confess in baptism that our old man was crucified with Christ. Our old man refers to all that we were as children of Adam—our old, evil, unregenerate selves, with all our old habits and appetites. At conversion we put off the old man and put on the new man, as if exchanging filthy rags for spotless clothing (Col. 3:9, 10).

The crucifixion of the old man at Calvary means that the body of sin has been put out of commission. The body of sin does not refer to the physical body. Rather, it means indwelling sin which is personified as a tyrant, ruling the person. This body of sin is done away with, that is, annulled or rendered inoperative as a controlling power. The last clause shows that this is the meaning: that we should no longer be slaves of sin. The tyranny of sin over us has been broken.

6:7 For he who has died has been freed from sin. Here is a man, for example, who is sentenced to die in the electric chair for murdering a police officer. As soon as he dies, he is freed (literally “justified”) from that sin. The penalty has been paid and the case is closed.

Now we have died with Christ on the cross of Calvary. Not only has our penalty been paid, but sin’s stranglehold on our lives has been broken. We are no longer the helpless captives of sin.

6:8 Our death with Christ is one side of the truth. The other side is that we shall also live with Him. We died to sin; we live to righteousness. Sin’s dominion over us has been shattered; we share Christ’s resurrection life here and now. And we shall share it for all eternity, praise His name!

6:9 Our confidence is based on the fact that the risen Christ will never die again. Death no longer has dominion over Him. Death did have dominion over Him for three days and nights, but that dominion is forever passed. Christ can never die again!

6:10 When the Lord Jesus died, He died to the whole subject of sin once for all. He died to sin’s claims, its wages, its demands, its penalty. He finished the work and settled the account so perfectly that it never needs to be repeated. Now that He lives, He lives to God. In one sense, of course, He always lived to God. But now He lives to God in a new relationship, as the Risen One, and in a new sphere, where sin can never enter.

Before going on, let us review the first ten verses. The general subject is sanctification—God’s method for holy living. As to our standing before God, we are seen as having died with Christ and having risen with Him. This is pictured in baptism. Our death with Christ ends our history as men and women in Adam. God’s sentence on our old man was not reformation but death. And that sentence was carried out when we died with Christ. Now we are risen with Christ to walk in newness of life. Sin’s tyranny over us has been broken, because sin has nothing to say to a dead person. Now we are free to live for God.

6:11 Paul has described what is true of us positionally. Now he turns to the practical outworking of this truth in our lives. We are to RECKON ourselves to be dead to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

To reckon here means to accept what God says about us as true and to live in the light of it. Ruth Paxson writes:

[It means] believing what God says in Romans 6:6 and knowing it as a fact in one’s own personal salvation. This demands a definite act of faith, which results in a fixed attitude toward “the old man.” We will see him where God sees him—on the Cross, put to death with Christ. Faith will operate continuously to keep him where grace placed him. This involves us very deeply, for it means that our hearty consent has been given to God’s condemnation of and judgment upon that old “I” as altogether unworthy to live and as wholly stripped of any further claims upon us. The first step in a walk of practical holiness is this reckoning upon the crucifixion of “the old man.”

We reckon ourselves dead to sin when we respond to temptation as a dead man would. One day Augustine was accosted by a woman who had been his mistress before his conversion. When he turned and walked away quickly, she called after him, “Augustine, it’s me! it’s me!” Quickening his pace, he called back over his shoulder, “Yes, I know, but it’s no longer me!” What he meant was that he was dead to sin and alive to God. A dead man has nothing to do with immorality, lying, cheating, gossiping, or any other sin.

Now we are alive to God in Christ Jesus. This means that we are called to holiness, worship, prayer, service, and fruitbearing.


6:1-2. The questions that open this section demand reflection. A review of God’s provision by grace through Jesus Christ should elicit praise to God. But the teaching on God’s justification of sinful people (3:21-5:21) and the statement of 5:20 in particular might lead some to suggest what Paul expressed: Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase? Some may have reasoned that since grace increases “all the more” when sin abounds, then believers ought to sin more so they could experience more grace! The apostle voiced this idea only to reject it vehemently: By no means! (mē genoito; cf. comments on 3:4) In no way is the abundance of God’s grace designed to encourage sin.

Then Paul explained why such a thought cannot be entertained. The fact is, Christians died to sin (cf. 6:7, 11). The Greek aorist (past) tense for “died” suggests a specific point when the action occurred, at salvation. Death, whether physical or spiritual, means separation, not extinction (cf. vv. 6-7, 14). Death to sin is separation from sin’s power, not the extinction of sin. Being dead to sin means being “set free from sin” (vv. 18, 22). That being true, Paul asked, How can they live in it any longer? Obviously believers cannot live in sin if they died to it.

6:3-4. Paul explained in more detail the spiritual basis for his abrupt declaration, “We died to sin” (v. 2). Whether the Roman Christians knew it or not, the fact is that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death. The question here is whether Paul had in mind Spirit baptism (1 Cor. 12:13) or water baptism. Some object to taking Romans 6:3 as Spirit baptism because that verse speaks of being “baptized into Christ” whereas 1 Corinthians 12:13 speaks of Spirit baptism placing the believer into Christ’s body. Of course, both are true: the believer is “baptized” (placed into) Christ and also into the body of Christ, and both are done by the Holy Spirit.

Others take Romans 6:3 to refer to water baptism, but the problem with that is that it seems to suggest that baptism saves. However, the New Testament consistently denies baptismal regeneration, presenting water baptism as a public attestation to an accomplished spiritual work (cf., e.g., Acts 10:44-48; 16:29-33). The spiritual reality Paul spoke of is that by faith believers are “baptized (placed) into Christ” and thereby are united and identified with Him. This spiritual reality is then graphically witnessed to and pictured by believers’ baptism in water. The one baptism (by water) is the visible picture of the spiritual truth of the other baptism (identification with Christ; cf. Gal. 3:27, “baptized into Christ . . . clothed with Christ”).

This is supported by the statement, We were therefore buried with Him through baptism into death. Christ’s burial shows that He actually died (cf. 1 Cor. 15:3-4). Christians’ “burial” with Christ shows that they in fact died with Him to their former sinful ways of living. The purpose of their identification with Christ in His death and burial is that just as Christ was raised from the dead (lit., “out from dead ones”; cf. Rom. 4:24; 8:11) through the glory (a synonym for God’s power; cf. Eph. 1:19; Col. 2:12) of the Father, we too may live a new life (lit., “so also in newness of life we should walk about”). The Greek word “newness” (kainotēti) speaks of life that has a new or fresh quality. The resurrection of Jesus was not just a resuscitation; it was a new form of life. In the same way the spiritual lives of believers in Jesus have a new, fresh quality. Also, a believer’s identification with Jesus Christ in His resurrection, besides being the start of new spiritual life now, is also the guarantee of physical resurrection.

This work of God at salvation in identifying a believer with Christ’s death, burial, and resurrection—thus separating him from sin’s power and giving him a new quality of life—is the basis of the Holy Spirit’s continuing work in sanctification.

B.     Attitudes for sanctification (6:5-23).

Sanctification begins with regeneration, the implanting of spiritual life in a believer. From that starting point sanctification is God’s progressively separating a believer from sin to Himself and transforming his total life experience toward holiness and purity. The process of sanctification for a believer never ends while he is on earth in his mortal body. It is consummated in glorification when that believer through death and resurrection or through the Rapture stands in the presence of God “conformed to the likeness of His Son” (8:29). A believer’s identification with Jesus Christ by faith is both the ground and the goal of sanctification. The process of translating that identification into the daily experience of progressive sanctification, however, demands three attitudes of mind and action on a believer’s part. These Paul discussed in 6:5-23.

1.     reckon (6:5-11).

The first attitude for sanctification demanded of believers is to “count” (pres. imper., “keep on counting”) themselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus (v. 11). Being able to reckon something as true, however, depends on knowing and believing certain things. These things to know and believe are stated in verses 5-10.

6:5-7. The first clause should be translated, “Since (not if) we have become united in the likeness of His death, ” because the statement is assumed to be true and is true. It affirms the certainty of the second clause of the sentence, which promises that believers are united with Christ in the likeness of His resurrection. As a result we know (ginōskontes suggests experimental or reflective knowing, not intuitive knowledge as in eidotes in v. 9) that our old self was crucified with Him. Literally, the last portion of this sentence is, “our old man was crucified together,” obviously with Christ. A believer’s “old man” is the person as he was spiritually before he trusted Christ, when he was still under sin (3:9), powerless and ungodly (5:6), a sinner (5:8), and an enemy of God (5:10). (“Old self” or “old man” does not refer to the sin nature as such. The Bible does not teach that the sin nature was eradicated at salvation or is ever eradicated in this life.)

The “old man” was “crucified” with Christ (cf. “baptized into His death,” 6:3; and “united with Him in His death,” v. 5) so that the body of sin might be rendered powerless. The phrase “the body of sin” does not mean that a human body is sinful in itself. It means that one’s physical body is controlled or ruled by sin (cf. comments on “body of death” in 7:24). This was the condition of each believer before his conversion. But now at salvation the power of controlling sin is broken; it is “rendered powerless” or ineffective (katargēthē; trans. “nullify” in 1 Cor. 1:28).

The next clause (Rom. 6:6b-7) in effect explains the first clause (v. 6a). In his unregenerate state a believer was enslaved to sin. But his “old man” was crucified (identified) with Christ, and that is the basis for deliverance from enslavement to sin. Anyone who has died has been freed from sin. The words “has been freed” are a loose rendering of dedikaiōtai, literally, “has been justified or declared righteous.” The perfect tense of this verb describes a past action with a continuing effect or force. Sin no longer has the legal right to force its mastery and control on a believer, for he has died with Christ.

6:8-11. These verses state much the same truth as verses 5-7 and in the same format, beginning with if (“since”). Those who by faith receive Jesus Christ and are identified with Him have died with Christ (cf. vv. 3, 5). Because this is true, we believe (pres. tense, “we keep on believing”) that we will also live with Him. The sharing of the resurrection life of Christ begins at the moment of regeneration, but it will continue as a believer shares eternity with the Lord. Again as a result we know (eidotes, “intuitive knowledge,” perceiving a self-evident truth [cf. v. 15], not ginōskontes, “experimental or reflective knowledge” as in v. 6) that Christ’s resurrection was a removal from the sphere of physical death to an unending spiritual form of life. Having experienced physical death once and having been removed from its realm by resurrection life, Jesus cannot die again (lit., “dies no more”). In resurrection Jesus Christ was victorious over death (Acts 2:24) and death no longer has mastery (kyrieuei, “rules as lord”; cf. Rom. 6:14) over Him as it does over all other human beings (John 10:17-18).

Paul summarized this discussion by stating that Jesus in His physical death . . . died to sin (i.e., in reference to sin) once for all (ephapax; cf. Heb. 7:27; 9:12; 10:10). This stands in opposition to the doctrine and practice of the so-called perpetual sacrifice of Christ in the Roman Catholic Mass. Contrariwise, the life He lives, He lives (pres. tense, “keeps on living”) to God. Resurrection life is eternal in quality and everlasting in duration. Furthermore, God is its Source and also its Goal. What is true of Jesus Christ in reality and experience, believers who are identified with Him by faith are commanded to reckon true for themselves. They are to count themselves dead to (in reference to) sin but alive to God. Since they are dead to its power (Rom. 6:2), they ought to recognize that fact and not continue in sin. Instead they are to realize they have new life in Christ; they share His resurrection life (cf. Eph. 2:5-6; Col. 2:12-13).


Ro 6:1–11. The Bearing of Justification by Grace upon a Holy Life.

1. What, &c.—The subject of this third division of our Epistle announces itself at once in the opening question, “Shall we (or, as the true reading is, “May we,” “Are we to”) continue in sin, that grace may abound?” Had the apostle’s doctrine been that salvation depends in any degree upon our good works, no such objection to it could have been made. Against the doctrine of a purely gratuitous justification, the objection is plausible; nor has there ever been an age in which it has not been urged. That it was brought against the apostles, we know from Ro 3:8; and we gather from Ga 5:13; 1Pe 2:16; Jud 1:4, that some did give occasion to the charge; but that it was a total perversion of the doctrine of Grace the apostle here proceeds to show.

2. God forbid—“That be far from us”; the instincts of the new creature revolting at the thought.

How shall we, that are dead, &c.—literally, and more forcibly, “We who died to sin (as presently to be explained), how shall we live any longer therein?”

3. Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ—compare 1Co 10:2.

were baptized into his death?—sealed with the seal of heaven, and as it were formally entered and articled, to all the benefits and all the obligations of Christian discipleship in general, and of His death in particular. And since He was “made sin” and “a curse for us” (2Co 5:21; Ga 5:13), “bearing our sins in His own body on the tree,” and “rising again for our justification” (Ro 4:25; 1Pe 2:24), our whole sinful case and condition, thus taken up into His Person, has been brought to an end in His death. Whoso, then, has been baptized into Christ’s death has formally surrendered the whole state and life of sin, as in Christ a dead thing. He has sealed himself to be not only “the righteousness of God in Him,” but “a new creature”; and as he cannot be in Christ to the one effect and not to the other, for they are one thing, he has bidden farewell, by baptism into Christ’s death, to his entire connection with sin. “How,” then, “can he live any longer therein?” The two things are as contradictory in the fact as they are in the terms.

4. Therefore we are—rather, “were” (it being a past act, completed at once).

buried with him, by baptism into death—(The comma we have placed after “him” will show what the sense is. It is not, “By baptism we are buried with Him into death,” which makes no sense at all; but, “By baptism with Him into death we are buried with Him”; in other words, “By the same baptism which publicly enters us into His death, we are made partakers of His burial also”). To leave a dead body unburied is represented, alike in heathen authors as in Scripture, as the greatest indignity (Rev 11:8, 9). It was fitting, therefore, that Christ, after “dying for our sins according to the Scriptures,” should “descend into the lower parts of the earth” (Eph 4:9). As this was the last and lowest step of His humiliation, so it was the honorable dissolution of His last link of connection with that life which He laid down for us; and we, in being “buried with Him by our baptism into His death,” have by this public act severed our last link of connection with that whole sinful condition and life which Christ brought to an end in His death.

that like as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father—that is, by such a forth-putting of the Father’s power as was the effulgence of His whole glory.

even so we also—as risen to a new life with Him.

should walk in newness of life—But what is that “newness?” Surely if our old life, now dead and buried with Christ, was wholly sinful, the new, to which we rise with the risen Saviour, must be altogether a holy life; so that every time we go back to “those things whereof we are now ashamed” (Ro 6:21), we belie our resurrection with Christ to newness of life, and “forget that we have been purged from our old sins” (2Pe 1:9). (Whether the mode of baptism by immersion be alluded to in this verse, as a kind of symbolical burial and resurrection, does not seem to us of much consequence. Many interpreters think it is, and it may be so. But as it is not clear that baptism in apostolic times was exclusively by immersion [see on Ac 2:41], so sprinkling and washing are indifferently used in the New Testament to express the cleansing efficacy of the blood of Jesus. And just as the woman with the issue of blood got virtue out of Christ by simply touching Him, so the essence of baptism seems to lie in the simple contact of the element with the body, symbolizing living contact with Christ crucified; the mode and extent of suffusion being indifferent and variable with climate and circumstances).

5. For if we have been planted together—literally, “have become formed together.” (The word is used here only).

in the likeness of his death, we shall be also in the likeness of his resurrection—that is, “Since Christ’s death and resurrection are inseparable in their efficacy, union with Him in the one carries with it participation in the other, for privilege and for duty alike.” The future tense is used of participation in His resurrection, because this is but partially realized in the present state. (See on Ro 5:19).

6, 7. Knowing this, &c.—The apostle now grows more definite and vivid in expressing the sin-destroying efficacy of our union with the crucified Saviour.

that our old man—“our old selves”; that is, “all that we were in our old unregenerate condition, before union with Christ” (compare Col 3:9, 10; Eph 4:22–24; Ga 2:20; 5:24; 6:14).

is—rather, “was.”

crucified with him—in order.

that the body of sin—not a figure for “the mass of sin”; nor the “material body,” considered as the seat of sin, which it is not; but (as we judge) for “sin as it dwells in us in our present embodied state, under the law of the fall.”

might be destroyed—(in Christ’s death)—to the end.

that henceforth we should not serve sin—“be in bondage to sin.”

7. For he that is dead—rather, “hath died.”

is freed—“hath been set free.”

from sin—literally, “justified,” “acquitted,” “got his discharge from sin.” As death dissolves all claims, so the whole claim of sin, not only to “reign unto death,” but to keep its victims in sinful bondage, has been discharged once for all, by the believer’s penal death in the death of Christ; so that he is no longer a “debtor to the flesh to live after the flesh” (Ro 8:12).

8. Now if we be dead—“if we died.”

with Christ, &c.—See on Ro 6:5.

9–11. Christ being raised from the dead dieth no more; death hath no more dominion over him—Though Christ’s death was in the most absolute sense a voluntary act (Jn 10:17, 18; Ac 2:24), that voluntary surrender gave death such rightful “dominion over Him” as dissolved its dominion over us. But this once past, “death hath,” even in that sense, “dominion over Him no more.”

10. For in that he died, he died unto—that is, in obedience to the claims of

sin once—for all.

but in that he liveth, he liveth unto—in obedience to the claims of God.

God—There never, indeed, was a time when Christ did not “live unto God.” But in the days of His flesh He did so under the continual burden of sin “laid on Him” (Is 53:6; 2Co 5:21); whereas, now that He has “put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself,” He “liveth unto God,” the acquitted and accepted Surety, unchallenged and unclouded by the claims of sin.

11. Likewise—even as your Lord Himself.

reckon ye also yourselves to be dead indeed—“dead on the one hand”

unto sin, but alive unto God through Jesus Christ our Lord—(The words, “our Lord,” at the close of this verse, are wanting in the best manuscripts.)

Note, (1) “Antinomianism is not only an error; it is a falsehood and a slander” [Hodge]. That “we should continue in sin that grace may abound,” not only is never the deliberate sentiment of any real believer in the doctrine of Grace, but is abhorrent to every Christian mind, as a monstrous abuse of the most glorious of all truths (Ro 6:1). (2) As the death of Christ is not only the expiation of guilt, but the death of sin itself in all who are vitally united to Him; so the resurrection of Christ is the resurrection of believers, not only to acceptance with God, but to newness of life (Ro 6:2–11). (3) In the light of these two truths, let all who name the name of Christ “examine themselves whether they be in the faith.”



Romans 6

During a court session, an attorney will often rise to his feet and say, “Your Honor, I object!” Some of the Roman Christians must have felt like objecting as they heard Paul’s letter being read, and Paul seemed to anticipate their thinking. In Romans 6–8 Paul defended his doctrine of justification by faith. He anticipated three objections: (1) “If God’s grace abounds when we sin, then let’s continue sinning so we might experience more grace” (Rom. 6:1–14); (2) “If we are no longer under the Law, then we are free to live as we please” (Rom. 6:15–7:6); and (3) “You have made God’s Law sinful” (Rom. 7:7–25).

These objections prove that the readers did not understand either Law or grace. They were going to extremes: legalism on the one hand and license on the other. So as Paul defended justification he also explained sanctification. He told how we can live lives of victory (Rom. 6), liberty (Rom. 7), and security (Rom. 8). He explained our relationship to the flesh, the Law, and the Holy Spirit. In Romans 6, Paul gave three instructions for attaining victory over sin.

Know (Rom. 6:1–10)

The repetition of the word “know” in Romans 6:1, 6, and 9 indicates that Paul wanted us to understand a basic doctrine. Christian living depends on Christian learning; duty is always founded on doctrine. If Satan can keep a Christian ignorant, he can keep him impotent.

The basic truth Paul was teaching is the believer’s identification with Christ in death, burial, and resurrection. Just as we are identified with Adam in sin and condemnation, so we are now identified with Christ in righteousness and justification. At Romans 5:12, Paul made a transition from discussing “sins” to discussing “sin”—from the actions to the principle, from the fruit to the root. Jesus Christ not only died for our sins, but He also died unto sin, and we died with Him. Perhaps a chart will explain the contrasts better.

Romans 3:21–5:21 Romans 6–8
substitution: He died for me Identification: I died with Him
He died for my sins He died unto sin
He paid sin’s penalty He broke sin’s power
Justification: righteousness Sanctification: righteousness
imputed (put to my account) imparted (made a part of my life)
Saved by His death Saved by His life

In other words, justification by faith is not simply a legal matter between me and God; it is a living relationship. It is “a justification which brings life” (Rom. 5:18, literal translation). I am in Christ and identified with Him. Therefore, whatever happened to Christ has happened to me. When He died, I died. When He arose, I arose in Him. I am now seated with Him in the heavenlies! (see Eph. 2:1–10; Col. 3:1–3) Because of this living union with Christ, the believer has a totally new relationship to sin.

He is dead to sin (vv. 2–5). Paul’s illustration is baptism. The Greek word has two basic meanings: (1) a literal meaning—to dip or immerse; and (2) a figurative meaning—to be identified with. An example of the latter would be 1 Corinthians 10:2: “And were all baptized unto Moses in the cloud and in the sea.” The nation of Israel was identified with Moses as their leader when they crossed the Red Sea.

It appears that Paul had both the literal and the figurative in mind in this paragraph, for he used the readers’ experience of water baptism to remind them of their identification with Christ through the baptism of the Holy Spirit. To be “baptized into Jesus Christ” (Rom. 6:3) is the same as “For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body” (1 Cor. 12:13). There is a difference between water baptism and the baptism of the Spirit (John 1:33). When a sinner trusts Christ, he is immediately born into the family of God and receives the gift of the Holy Spirit. A good illustration of this is the household of Cornelius when they heard Peter preach (Acts 10:34–48). When these people believed on Christ, they immediately received the Holy Spirit. After that, they were baptized. Peter’s words, “Whosoever believeth in Him shall receive remission of sins” gave to them the promise that they needed. They believed—and they were saved!

Historians agree that the mode of baptism in the early church was immersion. The believer was “buried” in the water and brought up again as a picture of death, burial, and resurrection. Baptism by immersion (which is the illustration Paul is using in Rom. 6) pictures the believer’s identification with Christ in His death, burial, and resurrection. It is an outward symbol of an inward experience. Paul is not saying that their immersion in water put them “into Jesus Christ,” for that was accomplished by the Spirit when they believed. Their immersion was a picture of what the Spirit did: the Holy Spirit identified them with Christ in His death, burial, and resurrection.

This means that the believer has a new relationship to sin. He is “dead to sin.” “I am crucified with Christ” (Gal. 2:20). If a drunk dies, he can no longer be tempted by alcohol because his body is dead to all physical senses. He cannot see the alcohol, smell it, taste it, or desire it. In Jesus Christ we have died to sin so that we no longer want to “continue in sin.” But we are not only dead to sin; we are also alive in Christ. We have been raised from the dead and now walk in the power of His resurrection. We walk in “newness of life” because we share His life. “I am crucified with Christ, nevertheless I live” (Gal. 2:20).

This tremendous spiritual truth is illustrated in the miracle of the resurrection of Lazarus (John 11). When Jesus arrived at Bethany, Lazarus had been in the tomb four days; so there was no question about his death. By the power of His word (“Lazarus, come forth!”) Jesus raised His friend from the dead. But when Lazarus appeared at the door of the tomb, he was wrapped in graveclothes. So Jesus commanded, “Loose him, and let him go!” He had been raised to walk “in newness of life.” In John 12, Lazarus was seated with Christ at the table, in fellowship with Him. Dead—raised from the dead—set free to walk in newness of life—seated with Christ: all of these facts illustrate the spiritual truths of our identification with Christ as given in Ephesians 2:1–10.

Too many Christians are “betweeners”: they live between Egypt and Canaan, saved but never satisfied; or they live between Good Friday and Easter, believing in the Cross but not entering into the power and glory of the Resurrection. Romans 6:5 indicates that our union with Christ assures our future resurrection should we die. But Romans 6:4 teaches that we share His resurrection power today. “Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above.... For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God” (Col. 3:1, 3, niv).

It is clear, then, that the believer cannot deliberately live in sin since he has a new relationship to sin because of his identification with Christ. The believer has died to the old life; he has been raised to enjoy a new life. The believer does not want to go back into sin any more than Lazarus wanted to go back into the tomb dressed again in his graveclothes! Then Paul introduced a second fact:

He should not serve sin (vv. 6–10). Sin is a terrible master, and it finds a willing servant in the human body. The body is not sinful; the body is neutral. It can be controlled either by sin or by God. But man’s fallen nature, which is not changed at conversion, gives sin a beachhead from which it can attack and then control. Paul expressed the problem: “For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh) dwelleth no good thing: for to will is present with me; but how to perform that which is good I find not” (Rom. 7:18).

A tremendous fact is introduced here: the old man (the old ego, self) was crucified with Christ so that the body need not be controlled by sin. The word “destroyed” in Romans 6:6 does not mean annihilated; it means “rendered inactive, made of no effect.” The same Greek word is translated “loosed” in Romans 7:2. If a woman’s husband dies, she is “loosed” from the law of her husband and is free to marry again. There is a change in relationship. The law is still there, but it has no authority over the woman because her husband is dead.

Sin wants to be our master. It finds a foothold in the old nature, and through the old nature seeks to control the members of the body. But in Jesus Christ, we died to sin; and the old nature was crucified so that the old life is rendered inoperative. Paul was not describing an experience; he was stating a fact. The practical experience was to come later. It is a fact of history that Jesus Christ died on the cross. It is also a fact of history that the believer died with Him; and “he that is dead is freed from sin” (Rom. 6:7). Not “free to sin” as Paul’s accusers falsely stated; but “freed from sin.”

Sin and death have no dominion over Christ. We are “in Christ”; therefore, sin and death have no dominion over us. Jesus Christ not only died “for sin,” but He also died “unto sin.” That is, He not only paid the penalty for sin, but He broke the power of sin. This idea of dominion takes us back to Romans 5:12–21 where Paul dealt with the “reigns” of sin, death, and grace. Through Christ we “reign in life” (Rom. 5:17) so that sin no longer controls our lives.

The big question now is, “I believe the facts of history; but how do I make this work in daily experience?” This leads to Paul’s second instruction.

Reckon (Rom. 6:11)

In some parts of the United States, “to reckon” means “to think” or “to guess.” “I reckon” is also the equivalent of “I suppose.” But none of these popular meanings can apply to this verse. The word reckon is a translation of a Greek word that is used forty-one times in the New Testament—nineteen times in Romans alone. It appears in Romans 4 where it is translated as “count, reckon, impute.” It means “to take into account, to calculate, to estimate.” The word impute—“to put to one’s account”—is perhaps the best translation.

To reckon means “to put to one’s account.” It simply means to believe that what God says in His Word is really true in your life.

Paul didn’t tell his readers to feel as if they were dead to sin, or even to understand it fully, but to act on God’s Word and claim it for themselves. Reckoning is a matter of faith that issues in action. It is like endorsing a check: if we really believe that the money is in the checking account, we will sign our name and collect the money. Reckoning is not claiming a promise, but acting on a fact. God does not command us to become dead to sin. He tells us that we are dead to sin and alive unto God, and then commands us to act on it. Even if we do not act on it, the facts are still true.

Paul’s first instruction (“know”) centered in the mind, and this second instruction (“reckon”) focuses on the heart. His third instruction touches the will.


As he has so often done in this letter, Paul is once again carrying on an argument against a kind of imaginary opponent. The argument springs from the great saying at the end of the last chapter: “Where sin abounded, grace superabounded.” It runs something like this.

The Objector: You have just said that God’s grace is great enough to find forgiveness for every sin.

Paul: That is so.

The Objector: You are, in fact, saying that God’s grace is the most wonderful thing in all this world.

Paul: That is so.

The Objector: Well, if that is so, let us go on sinning. The more we sin, the more grace will abound. Sin does not matter, for God will forgive anyway. In fact we can go further than that and say that sin is an excellent thing, because it gives the grace of God a chance to operate. The conclusion of your argument is that sin produces grace; therefore sin is bound to be a good thing if it produces the greatest thing in the world.

Paul’s first reaction is to recoil from that argument in sheer horror. “Do you suggest,” he demands, “that we should go on sinning in order to give grace more chance to operate? God forbid that we should pursue so incredible a course as that.”

Then, having recoiled like that, he goes on to something else. “Have you never thought,” he demands, “what happened to you when you were baptized?” Now, when we try to understand what Paul goes on to say, we must remember that baptism in his time was different from what it commonly is today.

(a) It was adult baptism. That is not to say that the New Testament is opposed to infant baptism, but infant baptism is the result of the Christian family, and the Christian family could hardly be said to have come into being as early as the time of Paul. A man came to Christ as an individual in the early Church, often leaving his family behind.

(b) Baptism in the early Church was intimately connected with confession of faith. A man was baptized when he entered the Church; and he was entering the Church direct from paganism. In baptism a man came to a decision which cut his life in two, a decision which often meant that he had to tear himself up by the roots, a decision which was so definite that it often meant nothing less than beginning life all over again.

(c) Commonly baptism was by total immersion and that practice lent itself to a symbolism to which sprinkling does not so readily lend itself. When a man descended into the water and the water closed over his head, it was like being buried. When he emerged from the water, it was like rising from the grave. Baptism was symbolically like dying and rising again. The man died to one kind of life and rose to another; he died to the old life of sin and rose to the new life of grace.

Again, if we are fully to understand this, we must remember that Paul was using language and pictures that almost anyone of his day and generation would understand. It may seem strange to us, but it was not at all strange to his contemporaries.

The Jews would understand it. When a man entered the Jewish religion from heathenism, it involved three things—sacrifice, circumcision and baptism. The Gentile entered the Jewish faith by baptism. The ritual was as follows. The person to be baptized cut his nails and hair; he undressed completely; the baptismal bath must contain at least forty seahs, that is two hogsheads, of water; every part of his body must be touched by the water. As he was in the water, he made confession of his faith before three fathers of baptism and certain exhortations and benedictions were addressed to him. The effect of this baptism was held to be complete regeneration; he was called a little child just born, the child of one day. All his sins were remitted because God could not punish sins committed before he was born. The completeness of the change was seen in the fact that certain Rabbis held that a man’s child born after baptism was his first-born, even if he had older children. Theoretically it was held—although the belief was never put into practice—that a man was so completely new that he might marry his own sister or his own mother. He was not only a changed man, he was a different man. Any Jew would fully understand Paul’s words about the necessity of a baptized man being completely new.

The Greek would understand. At this time the only real Greek religion was found in the mystery religions. They were wonderful things. They offered men release from the cares and sorrows and fears of this earth; and the release was by union with some god. All the mysteries were passion plays. They were based on the story of some god who suffered and died and rose again. The story was played out as a drama. Before a man could see the drama he had to be initiated. He had to undergo a long course of instruction on the inner meaning of the drama. He had to undergo a course of ascetic discipline. He was carefully prepared. The drama was played out with all the resources of music and lighting, and incense and mystery. As it was played out, the man underwent an emotional experience of identification with the god. Before he entered on this he was initiated. Initiation was always regarded as a death followed by a new birth, by which the man was renatus in aeternum, reborn for eternity. One who went through the initiation tells us that he underwent “a voluntary death.” We know that in one of the mysteries the man to be initiated was called moriturus, the one who is to die, and that he was buried up to the head in a trench. When he had been initiated, he was addressed as a little child and fed with milk, as one newly born. In another of the mysteries the person to be initiated prayed: “Enter thou into my spirit, my thought, my whole life; for thou art I and I am thou.” Any Greek who had been through this would have no difficulty in understanding what Paul meant by dying and rising again in baptism, and, in so doing, becoming one with Christ.

We are not for one moment saying that Paul borrowed either his ideas or his words from such Jewish or pagan practices; what we do say is that he was using words and pictures that both Jew and Gentile would recognize and understand.

In this passage lie three great permanent truths.

(i) It is a terrible thing to seek to trade on the mercy of God and to make it an excuse for sinning. Think of it in human terms. How despicable it would be for a son to consider himself free to sin, because he knew that his father would forgive. That would be taking advantage of love to break love’s heart

(ii) The man who enters upon the Christian way is committed to a different kind of life. He has died to one kind of life and been born to another. In modern times we may have tended to stress the fact that acceptance of the Christian way need not make so very much difference in a man’s life. Paul would have said that it ought to make all the difference in the world.

(iii) But there is more than a mere ethical change in a man’s life when he accepts Christ. There is a real identification with Christ. It is, in fact, the simple truth that the ethical change is not possible without that union. A man is in Christ. A great scholar has suggested this analogy for that phrase. We cannot live our physical life unless we are in the air and the air is in us; unless we are in Christ, and Christ is in us, we cannot live the life of God.


Romans 6.1.

Once again Paul adopts the form of a philosophical argument (see verse 2.1) and imagines the questions which his opponents would present to him. As mentioned in the introduction to this section, 6.1 refers back directly to 5.20. No new thoughts are introduced here that have not been discussed in the previous passage, and so further comments are unnecessary. (God’s grace is the meaning of Paul’s term “grace.”)

Where the technique of question and answer cannot be employed, one can transform the questions of verse 1 into a strong negative statement—for example, “We certainly should not continue to live sinning so that God will show his grace more and more” or “We should by no means continue to sin in our lives just so that God’s showing grace will be greater and greater.”

Romans 6.2.

Paul’s answer to the question he has raised is in the form of a very strong negative: Certainly not (see also 3.4, and verse 3.6 where the same reply is given).

Died (an aorist tense in Greek) points to a definite time in the past, and on the basis of the following verse Paul evidently has the moment of baptism in mind. As a general rule, the Greek simple future does not describe action in progress, and so Paul adds a particle to the verb tense here in order to describe the continuation of the action: how then can we go on living in it? (see Goodspeed and NEB “how can we live in it any longer?”)

We have died to sin may be rendered as “we have died as far as sinning is concerned,” “if it is a matter of sinning, then we are dead,” or “we have seemingly died; sin cannot move us.” It may be necessary to introduce some such expression as “seemingly” in order to indicate clearly that the “dying” is to be understood metaphorically. In some languages, however, died to sin must be rendered as “dead from sin,” that is to say, “dead, and in this way separated from the power of sin.”

The final question, how then can we go on living in it?, may be rendered as either a question, “how can we go on sinning in our lives?,” or as a statement, “we must not go on living and continuing to sin.”

Romans 6.3.

Paul introduces verse 3 with a negative question (RSV “do you not know that?”) that is much more naturally expressed in English by a positive statement. The TEV renders this as for surely you know this (so also Moffatt); the NEB and Phillips have “have you forgotten that”; in the JB it is rendered “you have been taught that.”

The idea of one person being baptized “into” another person is almost impossible for the English reader to comprehend. There is much disagreement among the scholars regarding the origin of Paul’s doctrine of baptism, but there is general agreement that the phrase “into Christ Jesus” means into union with Christ Jesus (so also NEB). A similar thought is expressed in Galatians 3.27. The same judgment must be made with regard to the parallel expression “into his death.” It is best rendered into union with his death. The picture of being baptized into union with his death is a difficult one, but it is necessary in light of the way Paul develops his argument beginning with verse 5. For Paul, death not only brings the end to life, but it makes possible the entrance into a new kind of life, and this is the basis on which his argument is founded.

The introductory statement for surely you know this has as its content the rest of verse 3. A common equivalent is simply “for certainly you know that when we were baptized….”

The expression baptized into union with Christ Jesus is very difficult to express in some languages, and in most languages it is quite meaningless to say merely “baptized into Christ Jesus.” In some instances one can translate as “baptized so that we might be one with Christ Jesus,” “baptized so that we would be tied together with Christ Jesus,” or “…linked with Christ Jesus.” For this type of expression one should attempt to find a means of indicating the closest possible relation to another individual.

The last clause of verse 3 causes even greater difficulties. In some languages this can only be expressed as “when we were baptized we died together with him” or “when we were baptized we died in a way like he died.”

Romans 6.4.

In this verse Paul indicates that baptism is not merely a picture, but an actual event in which the believer shares in Christ’s death with him. By translating shared his death, the TEV makes clear the meaning of Paul’s expression “unto the death.” By his use of the definite article “the” before death, Paul indicates that the reference is to Christ’s death (see Moffatt “in his death”; JB “joined him in death”). To render this either as “into death” (RSV) or as “and lay dead” (NEB) is to overlook an important aspect of what Paul is saying. He is stating that by baptism the believer somehow shares both in Christ’s burial and in his death.

By our baptism may be appropriately expressed in most languages as “when we were baptized.” If this must be made an active expression, it is usually possible to employ some indefinite subject—for example, “when people baptized us.” In some languages baptism may be expressed more specifically as means, “by our being baptized.”

The metaphor we were buried with him may be translated as a simile, “we were, as it were, buried with him” or “we were seemingly buried alongside of him.”

The concept of shared his death may be difficult to express, but it is usually possible to employ some such phrase as “we also died” or “we died together with him.” In some languages it is necessary to place death before burial—for example, “when we were baptized we died, as it were, together with him, and we were buried together with him.”

The phrase “the glory of the Father,” when used instrumentally, is merely a circumlocution for speaking of God’s great power: by the glorious power of the Father (Phillips “by that splendid revelation of the Father’s power”).

It is possible to make the Father the subject of the expression raised from death and therefore translate as “just as the Father raised Christ from death” or “just as the Father caused Christ to live again.” By the glorious power may be translated in some languages as “by his wonderful strength” or “by means of his power which is so glorious.”

In some languages there is a special problem involved in translating the Father since “Father” may not occur without some indication of relationship or possession. One cannot simply say “with the Father” but must always have “his Father,” “our Father,” or some such designation of the Father as being related to someone else. In this type of context the most appropriate form is normally “our Father” (first person plural inclusive), since Paul would assume that the Christians to whom he is addressing the letter acknowledge God as a common Father.

“To walk in newness of life” is simply a Jewish way of saying “to live a new life”; it is not necessary to carry over the metaphor of walking as some have done (see NEB “so also we might set our feet upon the new path of life”).

In many languages one does not live a new life but rather “lives in a new way.” However, since this is the direct purpose of the Christian’s being buried with Christ and sharing in his death, it may be important to invert the last two clauses of verse 4, or even to separate them completely—for example, “in order that we might live in an entirely new way, just as the Father raised Christ from death by his wonderful power” or “in order that we might live in a new manner. This is similar to what happened to Christ whom God caused to live again by means of his wonderful power.”

Romans 6.5.

Although the grammatical construction of this verse is difficult, its purpose is clearly to validate what Paul has said in the previous verse. The first part is literally “for if we have grown together in the likeness of his death.” Modern English translations supply with him, to be taken with the verb “have grown together.” And most modern English translations (with the exception of Goodspeed and Moffatt) understand “have grown together” as a means of indicating unity with him. So the TEV translates for if we became one with him; the NEB “for if we have become incorporate with him”; and the JB “if in union with Christ.” The TEV transforms Paul’s noun phrase “in the likeness of his death” into a verbal expression in dying as he did (see JB “we have imitated his death”). The contrast in the verb tenses (see also v. 8) is significant. Death is viewed as a past experience and the resurrection as a future experience; this is the same contrast between the past and future that was constantly maintained throughout chapter 5.

Became one with him is not easy to translate in some languages. There may be some such expression as “identify ourselves with him,” but more frequently one must employ a more metaphorical expression: “to join up with him,” “to share together with him,” “to become close companions with him,” or “to become just as though we were one person with him.”

In dying as he did is an expression of means—for example, “by dying as he did.” Similarly, by being raised to life as he was is also an expression of means, but in this instance God is the agent—for example, “by God causing us to live again even as he caused Christ to live again.”

Romans 6.6.

Old being (Moffatt and Goodspeed “old self”; JB “our former selves”; NEB “the man we once were”) is literally “old man” (see old self of Ephesians 4.22 and Colossians 3.9). Paul’s reference, of course, is to the kind of person that the believer was before his conversion.

In some languages our old being may be rendered as “what we used to be,” “the way in which we used to live,” or “as far as our being what we used to be.”

There are certain complications in translating put to death with Christ on his cross. In some languages it is best to take with Christ on his cross as being temporally related to the phrase put to death—for example, “what we used to be was, as it were, put to death at the same time that Christ was put to death on the cross,” “…when Christ was crucified,” or “…when people crucified Christ.”

The power of the sinful self (NEB “the sinful self”) is literally “the body of sin” (Goodspeed, Moffatt, JB “sinful body”). Here “body” is used as a means of speaking of one’s total being, and so self seems to be a more adequate translation than “body.” The TEV takes the phrase “the body of sin” with the extended meaning of the power of the sinful self; this assumes that Paul is speaking of the power that the sinful self holds over one’s person rather than of the sinful self itself.

The power of the sinful self may be equivalent in some instances to “our strong desire to sin” or “we who desire strongly to sin.” The passive expression might be destroyed can be made active, in which case God would have to be the agent—for example, “in order that God could destroy our strong desires to sin.” In some instances “the old man” may be translated as “the old heart,” and therefore one may render this clause as “in order that our old heart might be destroyed” or “in order that the old heart which sins might be destroyed.”

There is a special complication in verse 6, since there are two purpose clauses. The first purpose clause depends upon our old being having been put to death with Christ, and the second purpose clause, so that we should no longer be the slaves of sin, is the purpose of “our sinful self having been destroyed.” In some languages it may be necessary to make a break between the first and second purposes and recapitulate briefly—for example, “our sinful self has been destroyed in order that we should no longer be slaves of sin.”

The expression the slaves of sin is rendered in some languages as “to have sin boss us,” “to have sin command us,” or “to do what sin says, just as slaves do what their masters say.”

Romans 6.7.

The verb is set free from is literally “is justified”; however, all modern translations understand the word in this context to have the same meaning that the TEV gives it (see also Acts 13.38).

From the power of sin is literally “from sin.” Paul’s thesis is that death releases man from all responsibilities and obligations, and by the phrase “from sin” he makes one application of this general principle. In this light Paul apparently means that when a man dies, sin no longer exercises control over his life. To assume, with the JB, that this means “he has finished with sin” because he has lost his “sinful body” is to assume that for Paul the body is something innately sinful, a thought that would be totally contradictory to his Jewish background. On the other hand, Paul does not seem to be arguing that “a dead man is no longer answerable for his sin” (NEB); this does not fit in with the overall logic of Paul’s argument within this context. Paul’s intent is to point out that when the believer dies with Christ, sin no longer exercises control over his life.

He is set free from the power of sin may be rendered as “sin no longer controls him” or “sin no longer commands him.” One may express both the freedom and the control by saying: “he is now free, and sin does not control him.” In all such passages which speak of a universal experience, it may be necessary to use a plural and to make the time general—for example, “for whenever people die they are set free and sin cannot control them.”

Romans 6.8.

Even though Paul uses the future tense in this verse (as he did in v. 5), the believers’ confidence in this future experience has relevance for his present life (see v. 11).

It may be necessary to change the metaphor we have died with Christ to a simile—for example, “if we have, as it were, died with Christ” or “if we, so one might say, died when Christ died.”

Romans 6.9–11.

6.9 6.106.11 Romans 6.9–11.

In verse 9 Paul affirms that the post-resurrection life of Christ is different from his former life: death has no more power over him. Paul expands the meaning of this statement in verse 10, in which he applies the significance of the death-resurrection motif to Christ, and in verse 11 to the present life of the believers. In translating the first half of verse 10, the translator must be careful not to leave the implication that Christ himself was guilty of sin before his death. Paul introduces this remark (that is, the death he died was death to sin) so that he can draw an analogy between the experience of Christ and that of the believers. What Paul is saying is that though Christ once lived in a world where sin held domination over men’s lives (though not over his own life), by death he was set free from this realm of existence. Paul also views Christ’s death from a positive aspect. Not only does death free him from the world where sin has power over men’s lives, but death is a means by which he enters into a world where he enjoys uninterrupted fellowship with God. That is the meaning of the life he now lives is life to God.

The clause death has no more power over him may be translated as “death does not command him,” “death can never in the future command him,” or “…control him.”

It is extremely difficult to translate the death he died was death to sin without implying that Christ himself had sinned. However, it is important to avoid such an implication, since it would be completely contrary to this context and to Paul’s teaching. It is sometimes possible to render this clause as “he died as far as sin is concerned,” “he died and sin had no power,” or even “there was no more power of sin against him.” By the use of “against him” one does not imply that sin had power “over him,” but simply that sin was a factor.

The phrase once and for all may be rendered as “this was true for all time,” “this is always true,” or even “he didn’t have to die again.”

The life he now lives is life to God may be rendered as “how he now lives is for God.” It is almost impossible to preserve the parallelism of death to sin and life to God.

In verse 11 Paul makes an application of all that has preceded. For the exegesis of this verse it is necessary to note several points. The phrase dead to sin must be taken with the meaning of “dead as far as the power of sin to control your lives is concerned.” Alive to God may be taken either to mean “you live your lives in order to please God” or “you live your lives in fellowship with God.” In union with Christ Jesus (so also NEB; literally “in Christ Jesus”) is a form of the favorite Pauline expression “in Christ.” This expression is closely related to the one used in verse 3 (there literally “into Christ Jesus”). Although the theological implications of this term are profound and theologians have spend much time discussing its meaning, the basic component of meaning is that of union (or fellowship) with Christ Jesus, and it is best to bring this meaning out in translation. In any case, for English readers, as for readers of many other languages, the literal expression “in Christ Jesus” says practically nothing.

In union with Christ Jesus may be understood as the means by which men are alive to God, that is to say, “through their union with Christ Jesus.” This phrase may, however, also express the circumstances which accompany a man’s being alive to God; or in union with Christ Jesus may be taken as explanatory of what alive to God means—for example, “alive to God, that is to say, being in union with Christ Jesus.”


Dead to Sin

6:1–5. For Jewish people, baptism was the act by which non-Jews converted to Judaism, the final removal of Gentile impurity; by it one turned one’s back on life in paganism and sin, vowed to follow God’s commandments, and became a new person with regard to Jewish law. A person who became a follower of Jesus likewise gave up his or her old life; through participation with Christ’s death, Paul says, their death to the old life in sin, which was crucified in Christ, is an accomplished fact.

Ancient Near Eastern religions had long had traditions of dying-and-rising gods, general vegetation deities renewed annually in the spring. Some ancient sources, especially early Christian interpretations of these religions, suggest that initiates into various mystery cults “died and rose with” the deity. Scholars early in the twentieth century naturally saw in this tradition the background for Paul’s language here. Although the evidence is still disputed, it is not certain that the mysteries saw a once-for-all dying-and-rising in baptism, as in Paul, until after Christianity became a widespread religious force in the Roman Empire that some other religious groups imitated. More important, the early Christian view of resurrection is certainly derived from the Jewish doctrine rather than from the seasonal revivification of Greek cults.

6:6–7. The “old man” (“old self” in many translations) is life in Adam versus life in Christ (5:12–21). When a Gentile slave escaped from a Jewish owner and converted to Judaism by baptism, in Jewish legal theory his or her new personhood made the slave free from the former owner.

6:8–11. Jewish teachers believed that the “evil impulse” (see comment on 7:14–25) would trouble even the most pious until the time of the Messiah, when the evil impulse would be slain. For Paul, the Messiah has come, and sin’s power has been killed. The finished work of Christ means that the believer has already died to sin and now needs to acknowledge this—to “reckon” it done in faith (6:11; this is the same term for God’s reckoning righteousness in chap. 4). Such faith in God’s complete work was not common in ancient religion, nor is it in most religions today.


Chapter 6

The apostle having at large asserted, opened, and proved, the great doctrine of justification by faith, for fear lest any should suck poison out of that sweet flower, and turn that grace of God into wantonness and licentiousness, he, with a like zeal, copiousness of expression, and cogency of argument, presses the absolute necessity of sanctification and a holy life, as the inseparable fruit and companion of justification; for, wherever Jesus Christ is made of God unto any soul righteousness, he is made of God unto that soul sanctification, 1 Co. 1:30. The water and the blood came streaming together out of the pierced side of the dying Jesus. And what God hath thus joined together let not us dare to put asunder.

Verses 1 endash 23

The apostle’s transition, which joins this discourse with the former, is observable: "What shall we say then? v. 1. What use shall we make of this sweet and comfortable doctrine? Shall we do evil that good may come, as some say we do? ch. 3:8. Shall we continue in sin that grace may abound? Shall we hence take encouragement to sin with so much the more boldness, because the more sin we commit the more will the grace of God be magnified in our pardon? Is this a use to be made of it?’’ No, it is an abuse, and the apostle startles at the thought of it (v. 2): "God forbid; far be it from us to think such a thought.’’ He entertains the objection as Christ did the devil’s blackest temptation (Mt. 4:10): Get thee hence, Satan. Those opinions that give any countenance to sin, or open a door to practical immoralities, how specious and plausible soever they be rendered, by the pretension of advancing free grace, are to be rejected with the greatest abhorrence; for the truth as it is in Jesus is a truth according to godliness, Tit. 1:1. The apostle is very full in pressing the necessity of holiness in this chapter, which may be reduced to two heads:—His exhortations to holiness, which show the nature of it; and his motives or arguments to enforce those exhortations, which show the necessity of it.

I. For the first, we may hence observe the nature of sanctification, what it is, and wherein it consists. In general it has two things in it, mortification and vivification—dying to sin and living to righteousness, elsewhere expressed by putting off the old man and putting on the new, ceasing to do evil and learning to do well.

1. Mortification, putting off the old man; several ways this is expressed. (1.) We must live no longer in sin (v. 2), we must not be as we have been nor do as we have done. The time past of our life must suffice, 1 Peter 4:3. Though there are none that live without sin, yet, blessed be God, there are those that do not live in sin, do not live in it as their element, do not make a trade of it: this is to be sanctified. (2.) The body of sin must be destroyed, v. 6. The corruption that dwelleth in us is the body of sin, consisting of many parts and members, as a body. This is the root to which the axe must be laid. We must not only cease from the acts of sin (this may be done through the influence of outward restraints, or other inducements), but we must get the vicious habits and inclinations weakened and destroyed; not only cast away the idols of iniquity out of the heart.—That henceforth we should not serve sin. The actual transgression is certainly in a great measure prevented by the crucifying and killing of the original corruption. Destroy the body of sin, and then, though there should be Canaanites remaining in the land, yet the Israelites will not be slaves to them. It is the body of sin that sways the sceptre, wields the iron rod; destroy this, and the yoke is broken. The destruction of Eglon the tyrant is the deliverance of oppressed Israel from the Moabites. (3.) We must be dead indeed unto sin, v. 11. As the death of the oppressor is a release, so much more is the death of the oppressed, Job 3:17, 18. Death brings a writ of ease to the weary. Thus must we be dead to sin, obey it, observe it, regard it, fulfil its will no more than he that is dead doth his quandam task-masters—be as indifference to the pleasures and delights of sin as a man that is dying is to his former diversions. He that is dead is separated from his former company, converse, business, enjoyments, employments, is not what he was, does not what he did, has not what he had. Death makes a mighty change; such a change doth sanctification make in the soul, it cuts off all correspondence with sin. (4.) Sin must not reign in our mortal bodies that we should obey it, v. 12. Though sin may remain as an outlaw, though it may oppress as a tyrant, yet let it not reign as a king. Let it not make laws, nor preside in councils, nor command the militia; let it not be uppermost in the soul, so that we should obey it. Though we may be sometimes overtaken and overcome by it, yet let us never be obedient to it in the lusts thereof; let not sinful lusts be a law to you, to which you would yield a consenting obedience. In the lusts thereofen tais epithymiais autou. It refers to the body, not to sin. Sin lies very much in the gratifying of the body, and humouring that. And there is a reason implied in the phrase your mortal body; because it is a mortal body, and hastening apace to the dust, therefore let not sin reign in it. It was sin that made our bodies mortal, and therefore do not yield obedience to such an enemy. (5.) We must not yield our members as instruments of unrighteousness, v. 13. The members of the body are made use of by the corrupt nature as tools, by which the wills of the flesh are fulfilled; but we must not consent to that abuse. The members of the body are fearfully and wonderfully made; it is a pity they should be the devil’s tools of unrighteousness unto sin, instruments of the sinful actions, according to the sinful dispositions. Unrighteousness is unto sin; the sinful acts confirm and strengthen the sinful habits; one sin begets another; it is like the letting forth of water, therefore leave it before it be meddled with. The members of the body may perhaps, through the prevalency of temptation, be forced to be instruments of sin; but do not yield them to be so, do not consent to it. This is one branch of sanctification, the mortification of sin.

2. Vivification, or living to righteousness; and what is that? (1.) It is to walk in newness of life, v. 4. Newness of life supposes newness of heart, for out of the heart are the issues of life, and there is not way to make the stream sweet but by making the spring so. Walking, in scripture, is put for the course and tenour of the conversation, which must be new. Walk by new rules, towards new ends, from new principles. Make a new choice of the way. Choose new paths to walk in, new leaders to walk after, new companions to walk with. Old things should pass away, and all things become new. The man is what he was not, does what he did not. (2.) It is to be alive unto God through Jesus Christ our Lord, v. 11. To converse with God, to have a regard to him, a delight in him, a concern for him, the soul upon all occasions carried out towards him as towards an agreeable object, in which it takes a complacency: this is to be alive to God. The love of God reigning in the heart is the life of the soul towards God. Anima est ubi amat, non ubi animat—The soul is where it loves, rather than where it lives. It is to have the affections and desires alive towards God. Or, living (our live in the flesh) unto God, to his honour and glory as our end, by his word and will as our rule—in all our ways to acknowledge him, and to have our eyes ever towards him; this is to live unto God.—Through Jesus Christ our Lord. Christ is our spiritual life; there is no living to God but through him. He is the Mediator; there can be no comfortable receivings from God, nor acceptable regards to God, but in and through Jesus Christ; no intercourse between sinful souls and a holy God, but by the mediation of the Lord Jesus. Through Christ as the author and maintainer of this life; through Christ as the head from whom we receive vital influence; through Christ as the root by which we derive sap and nourishment, and so live. In living to God, Christ is all in all. (3.) It is to yield ourselves to God, as those that are alive from the dead, v. 13. The very life and being of holiness lie in the dedication of ourselves to the Lord, giving our own selves to the Lord, 2 Co. 8:5. "Yield yourselves to him, not only as the conquered yields to the conqueror, because he can stand it out no longer; but as the wife yields herself to her husband, to whom her desire is, as the scholar yields himself to the teacher, the apprentice to his master, to be taught and ruled by him. Not yield your estates to him, but yield yourselves; nothing less than your whole selves;’’ parasteµsate eautousaccommodate vos ipsos Deoaccommodate yourselves to God; so Tremellius, from the Syriac. "Not only submit to him, but comply with him; not only present yourselves to him once for all, but be always ready to serve him. Yield yourselves to him as wax to the seal, to take any impression, to be, and have, and do, what he pleases.’’ When Paul said, Lord, what wilt thou have me to do? (Acts 9:6) he was then yielded to God. As those that are alive from the dead. To yield a dead carcase to a living God is not to please him, but to mock him: "Yield yourselves as those that are alive and good for something, a living sacrifice,’’ ch. 12:1. The surest evidence of our spiritual life is the dedication of ourselves to God. It becomes those that are alive from the dead (it may be understood of a death in law), that are justified and delivered from death, to give themselves to him that hath so redeemed them. (4.) It is to yield our members as instruments of righteousness to God. The members of our bodies, when withdrawn from the service of sin, are not to lie idle, but to be made use of in the service of God. When the strong man armed is dispossessed, let him whose right it is divide the spoils. Though the powers and faculties of the soul be the immediate subjects of holiness and righteousness, yet the members of the body are to be instruments; the body must be always ready to serve the soul in the service of God. Thus (v. 19), "Yield your members servants to righteousness unto holiness. Let them be under the conduct and at the command of the righteous law of God, and that principle of inherent righteousness which the Spirit, as sanctifier, plants in the soul.’’ Righteousness unto holiness, which intimates growth, and progress, and ground obtained. As every sinful act confirms the sinful habit, and makes the nature more and more prone to sin (hence the members of a natural man are here said to be servants to iniquity unto iniquity—one sin makes the heart more disposed for another), so every gracious act confirms the gracious habit: serving righteousness is unto holiness; one duty fits us for another; and the more we do the more we may do for God. Or serving righteousness, eis hagiasmonas an evidence of sanctification.

II. The motives or arguments here used to show the necessity of sanctification. There is such an antipathy in our hearts by nature to holiness that it is no easy matter to bring them to submit to it: it is the Spirit’s work, who persuades by such inducements as these set home upon the soul.

1. He argues from our sacramental conformity to Jesus Christ. Our baptism, with the design and intention of it, carried in it a great reason why we should die to sin, and live to righteousness. Thus we must improve our baptism as a bridle of restraint to keep us in from sin, as a spur of constraint to quicken us to duty. Observe this reasoning.

(1.) In general, we are dead to sin, that is, in profession and in obligation. Our baptism signifies our cutting off from the kingdom of sin. We profess to have no more to do with sin. We are dead to sin by a participation of virtue and power for the killing of it, and by our union with Christ and interest in him, in and by whom it is killed. All this is in vain if we persist in sin; we contradict a profession, violate an obligation, return to that to which we were dead, like walking ghosts, than which nothing is more unbecoming and absurd. For (v. 7) he that is dead is freed from sin; that is, he that is dead to it is freed from the rule and dominion of it, as the servant that is dead is freed from his master, Job 3:19. Now shall we be such fools as to return to that slavery from which we are discharged? When we are delivered out of Egypt, shall we talk of going back to it again?

(2.) In particular, being baptized into Jesus Christ, we were baptized into his death, v. 3. We were baptized eis Christonunto Christ, as 1 Co. 10:2, eis Moµseµnunto Moses. Baptism binds us to Christ, it binds us apprentice to Christ as our teacher, it is our allegiance to Christ as our sovereign. Baptism is externa ansa Christi—the external handle of Christ, by which Christ lays hold on men, and men offer themselves to Christ. Particularly, we were baptized into his death, into a participation of the privileges purchased by his death, and into an obligation both to comply with the design of his death, which was to redeem us from all iniquity, and to conform to the pattern of his death, that, as Christ died for sin, so we should die to sin. This was the profession and promise of our baptism, and we do not do well if we do not answer this profession, and make good this promise.

[1.] Our conformity to the death of Christ obliges us to die unto sin; thereby we know the fellowship of his sufferings, Phil. 3:10. Thus we are here said to be planted together in the likeness of is death (v. 5), toµ homoioµmati, not only a conformity, but a conformation, as the engrafted stock is planted together into the likeness of the shoot, of the nature of which it doth participate. Planting is in order to life and fruitfulness: we are planted in the vineyard in a likeness to Christ, which likeness we should evidence in sanctification. Our creed concerning Jesus Christ is, among other things, that he was crucified, dead, and buried; now baptism is a sacramental conformity to him in each of these, as the apostle here takes notice. First, Our old man is crucified with him, v. 6. The death of the cross was a slow death; the body, after it was nailed to the cross, gave many a throe and many a struggle: but it was a sure death, long in expiring, but expired at last; such is the mortification of sin in believers. It was a cursed death, Gal. 3:13. Sin dies as a malefactor, devoted to destruction; it is an accursed thing. Though it be a slow death, yet this must needs hasten it that it is an old man that is crucified; not in the prime of its strength, but decaying: that which waxeth old is ready to vanish away, Heb. 8:13. Crucified with himsynestauroµtheµ, not in respect of time, but in respect of causality. The crucifying of Christ for us has an influence upon the crucifying of sin in us. Secondly, We are dead with Christ, v. 8. Christ was obedient to death: when he died, we might be said to die with him, as our dying to sin is an act of conformity both to the design and to the example of Christ’s dying for sin. Baptism signifies and seals our union with Christ, our engrafting into Christ; so that we are dead with him, and engaged to have no more to do with sin than he had. Thirdly, We are buried with him by baptism, v. 4. Our conformity is complete. We are in profession quite cut off from all commerce and communion with sin, as those that are buried are quite cut off from all the world; not only not of the living, but no more among the living, have nothing more to do with them. Thus must we be, as Christ was, separate from sin and sinners. We are buried, namely, in profession and obligation: we profess to be so, and we are bound to be so: it was our covenant and engagement in baptism; we are sealed to be the Lord’s, therefore to be cut off from sin. Why this burying in baptism should so much as allude to any custom of dipping under water in baptism, any more than our baptismal crucifixion and death should have any such references, I confess I cannot see. It is plain that it is not the sign, but the thing signified, in baptism, that the apostle here calls being buried with Christ, and the expression of burying alludes to Christ’s burial. As Christ was buried, that he might rise again to a new and more heavenly life, so we are in baptism buried, that is, cut off from the life of sin, that we may rise again to a new life of faith and love.

[2.] Our conformity to the resurrection of Christ obliges us to rise again to newness of life. This is the power of his resurrection which Paul was so desirous to know, Phil. 3:10. Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, that is, by the power of the Father. The power of God is his glory; it is glorious power, Col. 1:11. Now in baptism we are obliged to conform to that pattern, to be planted in the likeness of his resurrection (v. 5), to live with him, v. 8. See Col. 2:12. Conversion is the first resurrection from the death of sin to the life of righteousness; and this resurrection is conformable to Christ’s resurrection. This conformity of the saints to the resurrection of Christ seems to be intimated in the rising of so many of the bodies of the saints, which, though mentioned before by anticipation, is supposed to have been concomitant with Christ’s resurrection, Mt. 27:52. We have all risen with Christ. In two things we must conform to the resurrection of Christ:—First, He rose to die no more, v. 9. We read of many others that were raised from the dead, but they rose to die again. But, when Christ rose, he rose to die no more; therefore he left his grave-clothes behind him, whereas Lazarus, who was to die again, brought them out with him, as one that should have occasion to use them again: but over Christ death has no more dominion; he was dead indeed, but he is alive, and so alive that he lives for evermore, Rev. 1:18. Thus we must rise from the grave of sin never again to return to it, nor to have any more fellowship with the works of darkness, having quitted that grave, that land of darkness as darkness itself. Secondly, He rose to live unto God (v. 10), to live a heavenly life, to receive that glory which was set before him. Others that were raised from the dead returned to the same life in every respect which they had before lived; but so did not Christ: he rose again to leave the world. Now I am no more in the world, Jn. 13:1; 17:11. He rose to live to God, that is, to intercede and rule, and all to the glory of the Father. Thus must we rise to live to God: this is what he calls newness of life (v. 4), to live from other principles, by other rules, with other aims, than we have done. A life devoted to God is a new life; before, self was the chief and highest end, but now God. To live indeed is to live to God, with our eyes ever towards him, making him the centre of all our actions.


Verses 1, 2

The apostle is very full in pressing the necessity of holiness. He does not explain away the free grace of the gospel, but he shows that connexion between justification and holiness are inseparable. Let the thought be abhorred, of continuing in sin that grace may abound. True believers are dead to sin, therefore they ought not to follow it. No man can at the same time be both dead and alive. He is a fool who, desiring to be dead unto sin, thinks he may live in it.

Verses 3–10

Baptism teaches the necessity of dying to sin, and being as it were buried from all ungodly and unholy pursuits, and of rising to walk with God in newness of life. Unholy professors may have had the outward sign of a death unto sin, and a new birth unto righteousness, but they never passed from the family of Satan to that of God. The corrupt nature, called the old man, because derived from our first father Adam, is crucified with Christ, in every true believer, by the grace derived from the cross. It is weakened and in a dying state, though it yet struggles for life, and even for victory. But the whole body of sin, whatever is not according to the holy law of God, must be done away, so that the believer may no more be the slave of sin, but live to God, and find happiness in his service.


6:1 Since sin in a way makes grace more abundant (see 5:20, 21) why not continue in sin? This is certainly a possible conclusion, though a wrong one, from the teaching about grace in ch. 5. Apparently Paul had been accused of teaching this false doctrine, called antinomianism. To silence his accusers, Paul shows in this chapter that a believer who continues in sin would be denying his or her own identity in Christ.

6:2 Certainly not: The Greek expresses a response of shock, that has even been translated “God forbid.” The thought of a believer living in sin in order to take advantage of grace was abhorrent to Paul. The reason believers should not live in sin is that they have died to sin, as is explained in vv. 3, 4.

6:3 baptized: Paul uses the common experience of believers being baptized as a picture of being identified with Jesus Christ. Baptism expresses faith the way a word expresses an idea. There can be an idea without words, but normally they are expressed in words. Water baptism is a symbol of the spiritual union of Christ and the believer. When a person trusts Christ, he or she is incorporated into, united to, Jesus Christ, which includes being united to His death. Jesus’ death becomes our death. Christian baptism makes these spiritual realities vivid.

6:4, 5 newness of life: If the believer’s identification with Christ means being identified with His death, then it logically follows that the believer also identifies with Jesus’ resurrection. Having died and having been raised with Christ, the believer should live a new kind of life.


Word Focus
united together(Gk. sumphutos) (6:5) Strong’s #4854: The expression, which occurs only here in the New Testament, means “to grow in union” or “to plant in union.” The word describes two plants that have been planted together and are growing together, closely entwined or even united. The context speaks of union, our union with Christ in His death (6:4) and resurrection (6:5). Our union with Christ in death is like being planted with Him. Like a seed, our sinful natures must die with Christ so that we might grow in Christ and bear spiritual fruit (John 12:24). Our union with Christ is now a loving union, in which we are growing with Him “in the likeness of His resurrection.”

6:6 Some say old man refers to part of us, namely our old nature, our sinful disposition. However, the word man does not refer to part of a person; instead, the word describes the entire inner person before conversion, the person connected to the sin nature of Adam. The old man was crucified with Christ (see Gal. 2:20). Simply put, a believer is not the same person he or she was before conversion; a believer is a new creation in Christ (see 2 Cor. 5:17). There are two reasons (see the two clauses that begin with that) for crucifying the old man. First is that the body of sin might be done away. The body of sin is either a reference to the physical body, that is, the body that is enslaved to sin, or the phrase is a figurative expression for the sin in a believer’s life. Colossians 2:11, a parallel passage, indicates that sin in a believer’s life is meant. The sinful nature of a believer is abolished when the old self is crucified with Christ. The second purpose is that we should no longer be slaves of sin. Believers are new people who are no longer enslaved to the old sinful nature.

6:7 Freed here translates the Greek word for “justification,” which is a legal term. The idea is that the believer no longer has any obligation to sin.

6:8 Dying and living with Christ summarizes vv. 3–7. Believe introduces a new idea. Christians must not only know that they have died to sin (vv. 6–8) and have been made alive with Christ, they must also believe it.

6:9, 10 Christ died for sin once for all. He is now alive at the right hand of God. Since believers have been joined to Christ and to His death and resurrection, they can now believe that they too are alive to God.

6:11 Reckon is an accounting term that means “to take into account,” “calculate,” or “decide.” Verses 3–10 reveal the truth that believers have already died to sin because they have participated in Jesus’ death. Since believers have died with Christ and have also been raised with Him, Paul now urges Christians to consider themselves dead . . . to sin. Although before conversion they were still enslaved to the power of sin, now they are free to resist it.



Paul began his letter to the Romans by demonstrating the need of all people for righteousness, Jew and Gentile alike (1:18–3:20). Then he established that righteousness comes through faith in Jesus Christ (3:21–5:21). The righteousness of which he spoke is called “imputed righteousness.” It is the work of God given freely to all who respond in faith. The doctrine is called “justification,” the establishment of a right relationship between God and humans. Beginning with chap. 6 Paul moved ahead to discuss what was to happen in people’s lives after their sins have been forgiven and they are declared righteous in God’s sight. This process of growth in spiritual maturity is the subject of chaps. 6–8. The doctrine is called “sanctification,” the lifelong process of transformation into the likeness of Christ. Any justification that does not lead to sanctification is a sham. Any sanctification not founded upon justification is an exercise in legalistic futility and does not deserve the name.

1. No Longer Slaves to Sin (6:1–23)

(1) Dead to Sin, Alive in Christ (6:1–14)


6:1 Paul had just written (in Rom 5:20) that where there is an increase in sin there is an even greater increase in grace. So the question was bound to arise, Why not continue in sin so the greatness of God’s grace may be seen more fully? The question may have arisen from antinomian sources that purposively misconstrued the doctrine of justification by faith as providing an excuse for a sinful lifestyle. Against such a perverted inference W. Barclay writes, “How despicable it would be for a son to consider himself free to sin, because he knew that his father would forgive.” Equally possible is that the question stemmed from conscientious Jews who felt that the doctrine of salvation by faith alone would encourage moral irresponsibility. Although the latter group questioned the teaching for fear of what it might do, the former embraced the doctrine for what they felt it would allow them to do.

6:2–3 The answer to the rhetorical question is a resounding “By no means!” How could it be possible for those who have died to sin to continue to live in it? Death separates. Death to sin removes the believer from the control of sin. This truth finds expression throughout Paul’s writings (Rom 6:6, 11; Col 3:5; cf. 1 Pet 2:24). The text does not say that sin dies to the believer; it is the believer who has died to sin. Origen, the most influential theologian of the ante-Nicene period, described death to sin in this way: “To obey the cravings of sin is to be alive to sin; but not to obey the cravings of sin or succumb to its will, this is to die to sin.” Sin continues in force in its attempt to dominate the life and conduct of the believer. But the believer has been baptized into Christ, and that means to have been baptized into Christ’s death as well. Christ’s death for sin becomes our death to sin. Sin lies on the other side of the grave for those who have in Christ died to it. Paul asked incredulously, How can we who have died to sin “breathe its air again?” (Knox).

6:4 The believer has been “buried with [Christ] through baptism into death.” Burial certifies the reality of death. Baptism is the ritual act that portrays this burial. That Paul did not speak of faith at this point is immaterial. He was using the ritual act of baptism as a symbol of the complete redemptive event that finds its effectual cause in the death of Christ and its completion in the faith of those who believe.

But death and burial are not the end of the story. In God’s redemptive plan burial is followed by resurrection. As Christ was raised from the dead in a manifestation of the Father’s glorious power, so also are we raised to an entirely new way of living. The cross has as its ethical purpose a change in conduct. The Greek expression translated “a new life” is better rendered “a new sphere which is life.” Apart from Christ people are dead in their sins (Eph 2:1). But raised from the dead through faith in Christ, they enter an entirely new sphere of existence. They are alive in Christ. As Jesus promised, “I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full” (John 10:10). Although contemporary use has tended to trivialize the expression “born again,” the vibrant reality of new life in Christ is still portrayed most graphically by the metaphor of spiritual birth. The lives of believers are to be as different from their preconversion days as life is from death.

6:5 If it is true that we have been united with Christ in his death —and we have—it then follows that we are also united with him in his resurrection. As he was raised victor over death, so also are we set free from the bondage of sin. Death precedes life in the realm of the Spirit. Since it is true that we are “one with Him by sharing in His death” (Weymouth), then certainly we are one with him by sharing in his resurrection life. New life in Christ follows death to sin as certainly as Christ’s resurrection followed his crucifixion.

6:6–7 Our confidence in a resurrected life rests upon the fact that our old self was nailed to the cross with Jesus. We were “crucified with him” (v. 6). Believers, by definition, are those who by their union with Christ died with him on the cross. That death had a definite purpose in the spiritual life history of the believer. We were crucified in order that our sinful nature might be stripped of its power. “Might be done away with” translates a form of the Greek verb katargeō, which speaks of being “reduced to a condition of absolute impotence and inaction, as if it were dead.” Death fulfills the demands of sin. But death opens the way for resurrection. Resurrection lies beyond the control of death. It is the victor over death. With the old self rendered powerless, it is no longer necessary for a person to continue in bondage to sin. In Christ we are set free. Since sin exhausted itself in bringing about death, from that point forward it is powerless to overcome new life.

6:8 The reader will notice how often Paul repeated himself in this section. As a good teacher he knew that truth once stated is not necessarily absorbed. Remember that the book we are studying is first of all a letter written by the apostle to Christian believers in Rome. Paul stressed certain truths basic to an understanding of what it means to be united with Christ and living the new life of the Spirit. So in v. 8 he again stated the basic proposition that those who have died with Christ will also live with him. This is not a promise of life after death with Christ in heaven but of a life to be lived out here and now. Death, far from being simply a negative concept, is in fact the gateway to life. Elsewhere Paul paradoxically stated, “I have been crucified with Christ … but … I live by faith” (Gal 2:20). Put simply, to live one must die.

6:9–10 Paul now appealed to a point of common knowledge among God’s people. Having been raised from the dead, Christ cannot die again. His resurrection was unlike that of Lazarus, who had to meet death once again. But Christ’s resurrection broke forever the tyranny of death. That cruel master can no longer exercise any power over him. The cross was sin’s final move; the resurrection was God’s checkmate. The game is over. Sin is forever in defeat. Christ the victor died to sin “once for all” and lives now in unbroken fellowship with God.

Many of the ancient cathedrals in the old world portray in their statuary a dead or dying Christ. But Christ crucified (if no more were said) is not the gospel. The church needs a renewed awareness of Christ as victorious over death and the grave. It is the resurrection that makes the news good news. Rising triumphant over Satan’s ultimate show of force, Jesus Christ is forever crowned King of kings and Lord of lords. Join the triumphal parade! Celebrate the defeat of Satan, that rebel whose fate is now forever sealed.

6:11 Christ is our example. By his death he ended once for all his relationship to sin. Now he lives forever in unbroken fellowship with God. “In the same way,” wrote Paul, we are to consider ourselves dead to sin and alive to God (cf. 1 Pet 2:24). When Christ died for sin, he also died to sin. Now we are to take our place with him and regard sin as something to which we also have died. Paul was not suggesting that we imitate Christ. He was speaking of a reality that took place when we by faith were incorporated into Christ. Our responsibility is to take with all seriousness the fact that in Christ we have died to sin. Fitzmyer writes: “Ontologically united with Christ through faith and baptism, Christians must deepen their faith continually to become more and more psychologically aware of that union.” We are to consider ourselves “dead to the appeal and power of sin” (Phillips) and alive to God through our union with Christ Jesus. The very idea of responding positively to sin’s invitation should strike the believer as morbid. For the Christian to choose to sin is the spiritual equivalent of digging up a corpse for fellowship. A genuine death to sin means that the entire perspective of the believer has been radically altered.


6:1–14 ‘Dead to sin’ through union with Christ. The immediate occasion for Paul’s discussion of the Christian and sin is his assertion in 5:20b: ‘But where sin increased, grace increased all the more.’ Paul himself poses the question that he had undoubtedly had to answer many times as a result of his insistence on the power of God’s grace: Shall we [Christians] go on sinning, so that grace may increase? (1) Paul emphatically rejects any such inference—By no means!—explaining why he does so with the key idea of the chapter: We died to sin (2). What Paul means by this becomes clear as he unfolds the concept in the rest of the chapter: we are no longer slaves to sin (6, 17–18, 22); sin is no longer our master (14a). To be ‘dead to sin’, thus, does not mean to be insensible to its enticements, for Paul makes clear that sin remains for the Christian an attraction to be battled with every day (see v 13). Rather it means to be delivered from the absolute tyranny of sin, from the state in which sin holds unchallenged sway, the state in which we all lived before conversion (see 3:9). As a result of this death to sin, we can no longer live in it (2b)—for habitual sinning reveals sin’s tyranny, a tyranny from which the believer has been freed.

Vs 3–5 reveal the means by which we have ‘died to sin’: through union with Jesus Christ in his death. The Christian rite of initiation, water baptism, puts us into relationship with Jesus Christ and, specifically, with the death of Christ (3). This ‘union’ with Christ is no mystical merging of our own persons with that of Christ, but a ‘forensic’ relationship, in which God views us in association with his Son and thereby applies to us the benefits won by his Son. It can be said, thus, that we were buried with him through baptism into [his] death. What Paul means by this is not that our baptism simply symbolizes, in submergence under the water, Christ’s death and burial, for Paul makes clear that we were buried ‘with’ him, not just ‘like’ him. He is saying, rather, that our faith, symbolized by baptism, puts us into relationship with Christ’s own burial. Why this reference to Christ’s burial? Paul elsewhere includes Christ’s burial as a key element in the gospel he preaches: ‘I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures’ (1 Cor. 15:3–4; cf. also Col. 2:12). Here in ch. 6, Paul asserts that believers have been joined with Christ in such a way that they experience each of these events themselves: we have ‘died with Christ’ (8; cf. vs 3–6); we have been ‘buried with Christ’ (4); we shall ‘live with him’ (8; cf. vs 4–5). It is this actual union with these key redemptive events that gives to the Christian a new relationship to sin’s power. The basic thrust of Paul’s argument is clear: since Christ’s death itself was a ‘death to sin’ (10), our participation in his death (3–6) means that we, too, have ‘died to sin’ (3).

Baptism, as v 4 makes clear, is the means (the Greek word is dia) by which we are put into relationship with these events. Some interpreters think that Paul may be referring to ‘spirit’ baptism, but this is unlikely. It is better to understand Paul to be using water baptism as ‘shorthand’ for the Christian’s initial conversion experience. The NT consistently portrays water baptism as a fundamental component of conversion (see, e.g. Acts 2:38; 1 Pet. 3:21). This does not mean that baptism in and of itself has the power to convert or to bring us into relationship with Christ. It is only as it is joined with genuine faith that it possesses any meaning, and what Paul has written in chs. 1–5 makes clear that it is ultimately this faith that is the crucial element in the process. (On baptism in the NT and in this passage, see especially G. R. Beasley-Murray, Baptism in the New Testament [Eerdmans, 1962].)

Our union with Christ in death and burial means that we may live a new life (4b). Not only have we been delivered from sin’s tyranny, but we have also been given new power of obedience through our participation in the power of Christ’s resurrection. This is the point that Paul makes in v 5: participation in Christ’s death means also participation in his resurrection. Some think that, as in Eph. 2:6 and Col. 2:12, 3:1, Paul here presents our resurrection with Christ as a past experience. But the future tenses both in v 5 (willbe united) and in v 8 (we willlive) render it more likely that Paul speaks here of our actual resurrection with Christ as future, while it is presently the power of Christ’s resurrection that is working within us (cf. v 11: alive to God).

Vs 6–7 and 8–10 elaborate, respectively, the ‘death’ and ‘life’ aspects of our union with Christ. Our old self (6) picks up the imagery of corporate identity from ch. 5. It alludes to our identification with ‘the old man’, Adam, and denotes ‘not a part of me called my old nature, but the whole of me as I was before I was converted’ (John Stott, Men Made New (IVP, 1966), p. 45). As a result of our crucifixion with Christ, this body of sin, the whole person dominated by sin’s power, has been ‘rendered powerless’ (the niv marginal rendering is preferable to the done away with in the text). As a result, we need no longer be slaves to sin. As further support for this conclusion, Paul cites a popular rabbinic maxim to the effect that death severs the hold of sin on a person. Vs 8–10 reinforce the connection between dying with Christ and living with him asserted in v 5 and provide a crucial link in Paul’s argument by describing Christ’s death as a death ‘to sin’. Though sinless himself, Christ nevertheless was subject to sin’s power by virtue of his incarnation, and his death removed him for ever from that power.

The paragraph concludes with a summary and application. Our identification with Christ in his death must be seized and acted upon if it is to become effective in subduing the power of sin in our lives. Thus Paul exhorts us to recognize who we now are in Christ (11) and to put that new identity into effect by dethroning sin in our daily behaviour (12–13).


Scripture Outline

Saints’ Relationship to Sin (6:1-7)

Saints’ Relationship to Christ (6:8-10)

Saints’ Relationship to Temptation (6:11-14)

Saints’ Relationship to Righteousness (6:15-23)

Richard Lovelace was right when he wrote in his book Dynamics of Spiritual Life: “Three aberrations from the biblical teaching on justification—cheap grace, legalism, and moralism—still dominate the church today.” Moralism is the approach to Christianity that concentrates on the teaching of Christ as moral imperative to be addressed to society without adequate emphasis on the necessity for repentance and faith leading to justification. On the other hand, there are churches that have adopted “legalism” as their approach to Christian experience. Based on a deep commitment to justification by faith and a serious attempt to live as if justified and conscious of the danger of spiritual infiltration or infection, considerable effort has gone into the manufacture of disciplines, rules, and regulations designed to isolate the believer from all that would hinder or mar his spiritual progress. Unfortunately, the emphasis has often switched from Christ to the rules and from the enjoyment of life in Him to a debilitating experience under the load of auxiliary matters the believer is called to shoulder. “Cheap grace,” the term coined by the German pastor and martyr Dietrich Bonhoeffer, refers to the sad attitude, displayed in varying degrees of openness, which says, in effect, “I’ve been forgiven and I will go on being forgiven whatever I do, so I can do whatever I wish.” Paul appears to be addressing this type of thinking when he writes:

6:1 What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin that grace may abound? Certainly not! How shall we who died to sin live any longer in it?

Romans 6:1–2



Having shown clearly that the grace of God “abounded much more” wherever sin abounded, Paul poses the question, which to many would be purely hypothetical but to others may be very real: “If grace is made to abound more as more sin is committed, then why not sin more so that more grace will be released?” In its most common form, this attitude is exhibited in those believers who see in their justification no necessity to go on to experience the sanctification God has in mind for them. Having been forgiven and guaranteed a place in heaven, they feel they can now get on with the business of living as they wish without any concerns or misgivings. Carried to its extreme, this kind of thinking has produced sects that encourage sinning as a prerequisite to salvation. Perhaps the most notorious proponent of this theological aberration was Rasputin, the confidant of the Empress Alexandra of Russia. He defended his profligate lifestyle and scandalous behavior by teaching that it was necessary for salvation. To him and to all others who feel that justification is an excuse to sin and grace is a free ticket to a life of disobedience and licentiousness, Paul would cry, “God forbid!” His vehement rejection of the suggestion is followed by a rhetorical question that states his reasons and introduces a completely new aspect of salvation. Without either introduction or warning, he tells his readers that they “died to sin,” a statement so powerful and overwhelming that it requires considerable explanation.


In contrast to the “cheap grace” people who give little or no thought to sin, the “moralists” who feel that “sin”—if they use the term—is a human problem with human solutions, and the “legalists” who try to conquer sin through legislation, Paul teaches that sin is to be handled through a relationship to Christ.


Paul starts his explanation of the believer’s death to sin by reminding him of the historical facts of Christ’s earthly experience, namely, His death, burial, and Resurrection. Then Paul shows that through baptism the believer is united to Christ and, therefore, is a participant in the experience of Christ. Thus the believer through baptism has died, been buried, and raised again “with Him.”

Strange as this may sound to modern ears, there was no problem in understanding this teaching among the people Paul was addressing in Rome. The Jews among them were thoroughly familiar with the rite of baptism through which Gentile proselytes were required to pass before they could be regarded as members of the Jewish fraternity. The initiates were carefully prepared for baptism, then undressed completely and placed in water so that every part of their body was in contact with the water. Then they were required to make confession of their faith in Christ. After receiving instruction from those chosen to officiate at the ceremony, they emerged from the water “new men” in the eyes of the Jewish people. So great was their transformation that everything related to their former life was regarded as an irrelevance and a totally new start was in order. Some rabbis even taught that the new life was so radical that even former family relationships no longer existed and the proselytes were free to marry their own sister or mother if they wished. In the modern church, understanding of the rite of baptism has gone through many changes and has been the subject of numerous debates. But it should be remembered that for the early Christians who came from either a Jewish background or involvement with pagan religions which had their own initiation ceremonies, the act of baptism was a serious step taken by a convinced adult to declare his allegiance to Christ whatever the cost and, also, to announce the termination of his old life and the initiation of the new.

As Christian theology has developed, one section of the church has seen baptism as a sacrament while a second section regards it as a symbol. For the former group baptism conveys grace to the baptized person. Taken to its extreme, this approach can obviate the necessity for repentance and faith and elevate baptism to the lofty status of the means of salvation. On the other hand, those who regard baptism as a symbol of spiritual reality may decide that as rites are relatively unimportant when compared to reality, the rite can be dispensed with without losing any spiritual benefit. This position has been adopted by such groups as the Salvation Army. In their book The Water That Divides Bridges and Phypers make the helpful comment, “To the New Testament writers there is no problem. Baptism is integral to the salvation process, of value in itself, bringing with it the full blessing of God. Now, of course, faith saves and in asserting that baptism is a sacrament as well as a symbol, there is no suggestion that Christians should return to the crudely superstitious position of the Middle Ages.”

In apostolic times, baptism was administered immediately on confession of faith in Christ. But in later years the practice was modified for various reasons. According to the Didache, a second-century document of early church procedures, the believers were required to “rehearse” their understanding of basic Christian truths before being baptized “in living water.” They were also told, “If you have not living water, baptize in other water; and, if thou canst not in cold, in warm. If you have neither, pour water thrice on the head in the Name… .” Apart from showing how far modern baptism may have moved from the rugged days of cold running water to warm, placid fonts or baptistries, this excerpt also shows that the normal procedure in the early days was for the believers to be immersed. This would be not only a sacrament whereby the believers entered into the merits of their faith relationship with the living Christ but also a striking symbol of the significance of that relationship. As they stepped into the water, they demonstrated the fact that they were “in Christ”; as they were immersed, they showed they were “buried with Him”; and as they emerged from the water, they graphically portrayed their understanding of being “raised with Him” before walking from the site of their baptism and showing they were baptized to “walk in newness of life” (Rom. 6:4).

Having established the reality of being identified with Christ in death and Resurrection through baptism, Paul proceeds to show the significance of Christ’s death, and accordingly, the significance of our relationship to Him.


The key expression in this section is “He died to sin once for all.” In Paul’s thinking we are related to Christ, through baptism, and in that relationship we are in some way sharing in His death and Resurrection. If in His death He died to sin, then we, in Him, died to sin. Therefore, the simplest way to understand what it means to have “died to sin” is to find out what it means that “He died to sin once for all.”

When Christ entered the world He came from the glory of heaven sinless, spotless, undefiled, and separate from sin. Immediately upon entering human society, He was confronted on every hand by sin’s power and presence. For thirty-three years He lived among the carnage and wreckage of sin. When He went to the Cross, He assumed our sin and bore the wrath of God against our sin; in fact, the apostle says that the Father “made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us” (2 Cor. 5:20). Having come from an environment where sinlessness was normative to a situation where sin is pervasive, and having taken on His sinless self the load of a race’s sin, it comes as no surprise to us that He cried exultantly from the Cross at the end of His ministry, “Finished!” and promptly bowed His head and dismissed His spirit. It was all over for Him. The nightmare of sin, the horrors of death and hell, the pernicious tyranny of sin’s hold on people had been dealt with, and He could go to the grave anticipating His Resurrection with joy and delight.

In the same way, believers, united to Christ, can exult in the fact that all that must be done about their sin has been done in Christ. They, too, can cry “finished” and breathe a sigh of relief because for them the nightmare of unanswered sin is over and the tyranny of unconquerable sin is broken. But in the same way that Christ did not stay dead but rose to a newness of life to be lived unto the Father, we are raised too! While He was in His body, the Son had an obligation to deal with the sin problem, but when, after death, He arose, having finished with sin, His total concentration was once more upon the Father. In the same way, believers who were previously preoccupied with the remorseless grip of sin on their lives can now concentrate on what they have and who they are in Christ and, accordingly, live new lives.

Paul, who was never less than practical even when at his most theological, outlined three specific results of this divine transaction on our behalf. He said, “Our old man was crucified with Christ, that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer serve sin.”

Some people have assumed that the “old man” is the sinful nature which, because the Bible says it has been crucified, must be dead and, therefore, no longer operative. When confronted with the obvious unpalatable truth that “it may be dead but it won’t lie down,” they have tried to make their theology fit their experience or vice versa by many unsatisfactory methods which have produced either nervous breakdowns or blatant hypocrisy. We should not assume that the “old man” is anything more than “the man of old” or the pre-regenerate person. A friend of mine always refers to his life as a.d. and b.c. b.c. is the “old man”; a.d. is the regenerate man raised in Christ. The person you were “before Christ” has been judged, condemned, sentenced, executed, buried, and finished with forever. The new man lives.

But, in addition, there has been a powerful impact on the “body of sin” which Paul says in verse 6 has been “done away with.” Some commentators translate “body” as “mass” and agree with Calvin that “man, when left to his own nature is a mass of sin.” Others see no necessity to regard “body” as anything other than the human body which, while not sinful of itself, is very clearly the instrument of sin. Paul states that this body which is so susceptible to sin’s domination before union with Christ has, through Him, been placed in a position where this domination might no longer be the norm.

This leads to the third practical fact, namely, that believers “should no longer serve sin” (v. 6). Now that the “man of old” has been dealt with in Christ and the new man has, accordingly, been shown that the sin which previously controlled his physical body has been dealt with, he should recognize that he is no longer at the mercy of sin, or, literally, “a slave of sin.” In fact, he has been “freed from sin” or “justified from sin.” As we have seen previously, “justification” has a legal connotation. But in this context Paul appears to be broadening the use of the word. In the same way that a man who has been exonerated in a court of law has the freedom to walk out of court and take a cab to his home, so the “justified” believer, in addition to his technical justification, has the practical freedom to walk away from the dominating power of sin in his life. To begin to understand this is to see how far those who believe they are saved to live as they wish have strayed from the truth of the all-encompassing gospel.


Ver. 1—ch. 8:39.—(7) Moral results to true believers of the revelation to them of the righteousness of God. The righteousness of God having been announced as revealed in the gospel (ch. 1:17), set forth as available for all mankind (ch. 3:21–31), shown to be in accordance with the teaching of the Old Testament (ch. 4:1–25), viewed with regard to the feelings and hopes of believers (ch. 5:1–11) and to the position of the human race before God (ch. 5:12–21), the necessary moral results of a true apprehension of the doctrine are treated in this section of the Epistle. And first is shown from various points of view—

Ver. 1—ch. 7:6—(a) The obligation on believers of holiness of life. The subject is led up to by meeting certain supposed erroneous conclusions from what has been said in the preceding chapter. It might be said that, if where sin abounded grace did much more abound—if in the obedience of the one Christ all believers are justified—human sin most be a matter of indifference; it cannot nullify the free gift; nay, grace will be even the more enhanced, in that it abounds the more. The apostle rebuts such antinomian conclusions by showing that they imply a total misunderstanding of the doctrine which was supposed to justify them; for that our partaking in the righteousness of God in Christ means our actually partaking in it—our being influenced by it, loving it and following it, not merely our having it imputed to us while we remain aloof from it; that justifying faith in Christ means spiritual union with Christ, a dying with him to sin and a rising with him to a new life, in which sin shall no longer have dominion over us. He refers to our baptism as having this only meaning, and he enforces his argument by three illustrations: firstly, as aforesaid, that of dying and rising again, which in signified in baptism (vers. 1–14); secondly, that of service to a master (vers. 15–23); thirdly, that of the relation of a wife to a husband (ch. 7:1–16). It will be seen, when we come to it, that the third of these illustrations is a carrying out of the same idea, though it is there law, and not sin, that we are said to be emancipated from.

Ver. 1.—What shall we say then? So St. Paul introduces a difficulty or objection arising out of the preceding argument (cf. ch. 3:5). Shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound? Referring to the whole preceding argument, and espcially to the concluding verses (ch 5:20, 21).

Ver. 2.—God forbid! (Μὴ γένοιτο: St. Paul’s usual way of rejecting an idea indignantly). We who (οἵτινες, with its proper meaning of being such as) died (not, as in the Authourized Version, “are dead.” The reference is to the time of baptism, as appears from what follows) to sin, how shall we live any longer therein? The idea of dying to sin in the sense of having done with it, is found also in Macrob., ‘Somn. Scip.,’ i. 13 (quoted by Meyer), “Mori etiam dicitur, cum anima adhuc in corpore constituta corporeas illecebras philosophia docente contemnit et cupiditatum dulces insidias reliquasque omnes exuit passiones.”

Ver. 3.—Or know ye not that so many of us as were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? , if taken in the sense of “or,” at the beginning of ver. 3, will be understood if we put what is meant thus: Do you not know that we have all died to sin? Or are you really ignorant of what your very baptism meant? But cf. ch. 7:1, where the same expression occurs, and where appears only to imply a question. The expression βαπτίζεσθαι εἰς occurs also in 1 Cor. 10:2 and Gal. 3:27; in the first of these texts with reference to the Israelites and Moses. It denotes the entering by baptism into close union with a person, coming to belong to him, so as to be in a sense identified with him. In Gal. 3:27 being baptized into Christ in understood as implying putting him on (ἐνεδύσασθε). The phrases, βαπτιζεῖν ἐπὶ τῷ ὀνόματι, or ἐν τῷ ὀνόματι, or εἰς τὸ ὄνομα, Χριστοῦ, were understood to imply the same idea, though not so plainly expressing it. Thus St. Paul rejoiced that he had not himself baptized many at Corinth, lest it might have been said that he had baptized them into his own name (εἰς τὸ ἐμὸν ὄνομα), i.e. into such connection with himself as baptism implied with Christ alone. Doubtless in the instruction which preceded baptism this significance of the sacrament would be explained. And if “into Christ,” then “into his death.” “In Christum, inquam, totum, adeoque in mortem ejus baptizatur” (Bengel). The whole experience of Christ was understood to have its counterpart in those who were baptized into him; in them was understood a death to sin, corresponding to his actual death. This, too, would form part of the instruction of catechumens. St. Paul often presses it as what he conceives to be well understood; and in subsequent verses of this chapter he further explains what he means.

Ver. 4.—Therefore we were buried (not are, as in the Authorized Version) with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, so we also should walk in newness of life. The mention here of burial as well as death does not appear to be meant as a further carrying out of the idea of a fulfilment in us of the whole of Christ’s experience, in the sense—As he died and was buried, so we die and are even buried too. Such a conception of burial being in our case a further process subsequent to our death in baptism, is indeed well expressed in our Collect for Easter Eve: but the form of expression, “buried into death,” does not suit it here. The reference rather is to the form of baptism, viz. by immersion, which was understood to signify burial, and therefore death. So Chrysostom, on John 3., Καθάπερ γὰρ ἐν τινι τάφῳ, τῷ ὕδατι καταδύοντων ἡμῶν τᾶς κεφαλὰς, παλαὶος ἄνθρωπος θάπτεται, καὶ καταδὺς κάτω κρύπτεται ὅλος καθάπαξ. The main intention of the verse is to bring out the idea of resurrection following death in our case as in Christ’s. The sense, therefore, is—As our burial (or total immersion) in the baptismal water was followed by entire emergence, so our death with Christ to sin, which that immersion symbolized, is to be followed by our resurrection with him to a new life. As to the δόξα τοῦ πατρὸς, through which Christ is here said to have been raised, see what was said under ch. 3:23. “Δόξα est gloria divinæ vitæ, incorruptibilitatis, potentiæ, et virtutis, per quam et Christus resuscitatus est, et nos vitæ novæ restituimur, Deoque conformamur. Eph. 1:19, seqq.” (Bengel). In some passages our Lord is regarded as having been raised from the dead in virtue of the Divine life that was in himself, whereby it wax impossible that he should be holden of death (see under ch. 1:4). And he said of his own ψυχή, “I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again” (John 10:18). But here, as most commonly elsewhere, his resurrection is attributed to the operation of the glory of the Father—the same Divine power that regenerates us in him (cf. 1 Cor. 6:14; 2 Cor. 13:4; Eph. 1:19, etc.; Col. 2:12; also our Lord’s own prayers to the Father previously to his suffering, as given by St. John). The two views are not inconsistent, and may serve to show Christ’s oneness with the Father as touching his Godhead. The marked association here and elsewhere of union with Christ, so as to die and rise again with him, with the rite of baptism, supports the orthodox view of that sacrament being not only a signum significans, but a signum efficax; as not only representing, but being “a means whereby we receive” regeneration. The beginning of the new life of believers, with the power as well as the obligation to lead such a life, is ever regarded as dating from their baptiam (cf. Gal. 3:27; Col. 2:12). It in true, however, that in all such passages in the New Testament the baptism of adults is referred to; that is, of persons who at the time of baptism were capable of actual repentance and faith, and hence of actual moral regeneration, and they are supposed to have understood the significance of the rite, and to have been sincere in seeking it. Hence what is said or implied cannot fairly be pressed as applicable in all respects to infant baptism. This, however, is not the place for discussing the propriety of infant baptism, or the sense in which all baptized persons are regarded by the Church as in their very baptism regenerate.

Ver. 5.—For if we have been planted together in the likeness of his death, we shall be also in the likeness of his resurrection. So the Authorized Version. But the English word “planted” (though the idea expressed by it has the support of Origen, Chrysostom, and other ancient Father; also of the Vulgate, and, among moderns, Beza, Luther, and others; while some, including Erasmus, Calvin, Estius, Cornelius à Lapide, understand “engrafted”) probably suggests what was not intended. Σύμφυτος is from συμφύω (not συμφυτεύω, and need only express being made to grow together in close association. In classic authors it commonly means innate. It seems here used, not to introduce a new figure, whether of planting or grafting, but only to express the close union with Christ, already intimated, into which we entered in baptism. The Revised Version has “have become united with him, ” which may perhaps sufficiently express what is meant, though hardly a satisfactory rendering of σύμφυτοι. Tyndale and Cranmer translate “graft in deeth lyke unto him;” and perhaps “graft into” may be as good a rendering as any other. Meyer, Tholuck, Alford, and others take the dative τῷ ὁμοιώματι as governed by σύμφυτοι, equivalent to ὁμοίως ἀπεθάνομεν ὥσπερ αὐτὸς (Tholuck). But it may be better to understand Χριστῷ: “Graft into Christ, in the likeness of his death,” τῷ ὁμοιώματι being added because Christ’s death and ours, in the senses intended, are not the same kind of death literally, ours only corresponding to, and in a certain sense like his. The main purpose of this verse, as of ver. 4, is to press resurrection with Christ as following death with him. But why here the future ἐσόμεθα? Did we not rise with Christ to a new life when we emerged from our baptismal burial? Future verbs are used also with a similar reference in ver. 8 and ver. 14. Now, there are three senses in which our resurrection with Christ may be understood, (1) As above (cf. Col. 2:12, etc., where the expression is συνηγέρθητε). (2) Our realization of our position of power and obligation in subsequent life—actually in practice “dying from sin and rising again unto righteousness” (cf. below, vers. 12–14). (3) The resurrection of the dead hereafter. Some (including Tertullian, Chrysostom Œcumenius) have taken sense (3) to be here intended; but, though the words themselves, ἐσόμεθα and συζήσομεν in ver. 8, suggest this sense, it can hardy be intended here, at any rate exclusively or prominently, since the drift of the whole passage is to insist on the necessity of an ethical resurrection now; and it is evident that the clause before us corresponds with οὕτω καὶ ἥμεις, etc., in the previous verse, and to ver. 11, et seq. The future ἐσόμεθα is understood by some as only expressing consequence—a necessary conclusion from a premiss, thus: If such a thing is the case, such other thing will follow, If so, sense (1) might still be understood; so that the idea would be the same as in Col. 2:12, etc., viz. that of our rising in baptism itself to a new life with Christ, in which sin need not, and ought not to, have dominion. But still the repeated use of the future tense (especially ἁμαρτία ὑμῶν οὐ κυριεύσει in ver. 14), together with the whole drift of what follows, seems rather to imply sense (2); that is, our realization of our position in our actual lives subsequent to baptism. If it be objected that in this case we should expect “we ought to be” rather than “ we shall be,” it may be replied that it is what God will do for us, rather than what we shall do for ourselves, that the apostle has in view. If he has made us partakers in the atoning death of Christ, having forgiven us all trespasses, etc. (Col. 2:13, seq.), he will also make us partakers, as our life goes on, in the power of his resurrection too, delivering us from sin’s dominion. Further, if this be so, the thought may also include sense (3). For elsewhere the future resurrection seems to be regarded as only the consummation of a spiritual resurrection which is begun in the present life, Christians being already partakers in the eternal life of God, of which the issue is immortality; cf. Eph. 1:5, 6; Col. 3:3, 4; Gal. 2:20; also our Lord’s own words, which are peculiarly significant in this regard, “He that heareth my word, and believeth on him that sent me, hath everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation; but is passed from death unto life. Verily, verily, I say unto you, The hour is coming, and now is, when the dead shall hear the voice of the Son of God: and they that hear shall live” (John 5:24, 25). Again, “I am the Resurrection, and the Life: he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live: and whosoever liveth and believeth in me shall never die” (John 11:25, 26).

Vers. 6, 7.—Knowing this (cf. ἀγνοεῖτε, ver. 3), that our old man was (not is, as in the Authorized Version) crucified with him, that the body of sin might be destroyed (or abolished, or done away, καταργήθῃ), that henceforth we should not serve (δουλεύειν, expressing bondage, or slavery; and so throughout the chapter in the word δοῦλοι, translated “servants”) sin. For he that hath died is freed from sin. The word “crucified” has, of course, reference to the mode of Christ’s death into which we were baptized. It does not imply anything further (as some have supposed) as to the manner of our own spiritual dying, such as painfulness or lingering; it merely means that in his death our old man died (cf. Col. 2:14, προσηλώσας αὐτὸ τῷ σταυρῷ). The term “old man” (παλαὶος ἄνθρωπος) occurs also Eph. 4:22; Col. 3:9. It denotes man’s unregenerate self, when under sin and condemnation; the καινός or νέος ἄνθρωπος being his regenerate self. It is, of course, a different conception from that of ἐξω and ἔσωθεν ἄνθρωπος of 2 Cor. 4:16. In Ephesians and Colossians the old man is said to be put away, or put off, and the new one put on, as though they were two clothings, or investments, of his personality, determining its character. Here, by a bolder figure, they are viewed as an old self that had died and a new one that had come to life in its place (cf. 2 Cor. 5:17, Εἴ τις ἐν Χριστῷ, καιυὴ κτίσις· τὰ ἀρχαῖα παρῆλθεν). The idea of a new man being born into a new life in baptism was already familiar to the Jews in their baptism of proselytes (see Lightfoot, on John 3.); and our Lord, discoursing to Nicodemus of the new birth, supposes him to understand the figure; but he teaches him that the change thus expressed should be no mere change of profession and habits of life, but a radical inward change, which could only be wrought by the regenerating Spirit. Such a change St. Paul teaches to be signified by Christian baptism; not only deliverance from condemnation through participation in the benefits of the death of Christ, but also the birth or creation of a new self corresponding to his risen body, which will not be, like the old self, under the thraldom of sin. “The body of sin” may be taken as meaning much the same as “our old man;” sin being conceived as embodied in our former selves, and so possessing them and keeping them in bondage. It certainly does not mean simply our bodies as distinct from our souls, so as to imply the idea that the former must be macerated that the latter may live. The asceticism inculcated elsewhere in the New Testament is in no contradiction to the ideal of mens sana in corpore sano. Our former sin-possessed and sin-dominated personality being now crucified with Christ, dead, and done away with, we are no longer, in our new personality, in slavery to sin, and are both bound and able to renounce it; “for he that hath died is freed [δεδικαίωται, literally, ‘is justified’] from sin.” In Scotland, one who is executed is said to be justified, the idea apparently being that he has satisfied the claims of law. So here—δεδικαίωται. The word δουλεύειν, be it observed, in ver. 6 introduces by the way the second figure under which, as above said, the apostle regards his subject, though it is not taken up till ver. 16.

Ver. 8.—Now if we died with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with him; i.e. as explained with regard to the future ἐσόμεθα under ver. 5. The explanation there given accounts for the phrase here, πιστεύμεν ὅτι, without its being necessary to refer our living with Christ exclusively to the future resurrection. For the continuance of God’s vivifying grace during life after baptism is a subject of belief.

Ver. 9.—Knowing that Christ being raised from the dead dieth no more; death hath no more dominion over him. When it is implied here that death had once dominion over him, it is not, of course, meant that he was in his own Divine nature subject to death, or that “it was possible that he should be holden of it.” All that is implied is that he had made himself subject to it by taking on him our nature, and voluntarily submitted to it, once for all, as representing us (cf. John 10:17; Acts 2:24).

Ver. 10.—For in that he died, he died unto sin once: but in that he liveth, he liveth unto God. “Died unto sin” certainly does not mean here, as some have taken it, died by reason of sin, or to atone for sin, but has the sense, elsewhere obvious in this chapter, of a ἀποθνήσκειν, followed by a dative, which was explained under ver. 2. Christ was, indeed, never subject to sin, or himself infected with it, as we are; but he “bore the sins of many;” “the Lord laid on him the iniquity of us all.” He submitted for us to the condition and penalty of human sin; but, when he died, he threw off its burden, and was done with it for ever (cf. Heb. 9:28, “Unto them that look for him shall he appear the second time without sin unto salvation”). The purpose of thus describing the permanent life to God of the risen Christ is, of course, to show that the new life of us who are accounted to have risen with Christ must in like manner be permanent and free from sin. “Quo docere vult hanc vitæ novitatem tota, vita esse Christianis persequendam. Nam si Christi imaginem in se repræsentare debent, hanc perpetuo durare necesse est. Non quod uno momento emoriatur caro in nobis, sicuti nuper diximus: sed quia retrocedere in ea mortificanda non liceat. Si enim in cœnum nostrum revolvimur, Christum abnegamus; cujus nisi per vitæ novitatem consortes esse non possumus, sicut ipse vitam incorruptibilem agit” (Calvin). The next verse expresses this clearly.

Ver. 11.—Even so reckon ye also yourselves to be dead indeed unto sin, but alive unto God in Christ Jesus our Lord. In the verses which follow (12–14) the apostle exhorts his readers to do their own part in realizing this their union with the risen Christ, to give effect to the regenerating grace of God. For their baptism had been but the beginning of their new life; it depended on themselves whether sanctification should follow on regeneration, as it needs must do in order to salvation.


Romans 6 Revisited: Romans 6:1–14

In Romans 1–5 the Apostle Paul proclaimed the Good News of peace with God. Christ’s redemption, received by faith, offers the forgiveness of sins.

Now, writing in the distinctive form of the diatribe, in which the writer inserts periodic objections which an imaginary opponent may make, and then answers them, Paul raised an important question. What shall we conclude from this promise of a salvation by faith, and an imputed righteousness? “Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase?” (v. 1) That is, is the assurance of forgiveness a license to sin? Some might even go further. Since our sin seems to give God the chance to display His grace, shall we go on sinning so that even greater displays of grace might take place?

Paul responded to this idea with an exclamation: “By no means!” We might paraphrase it as an explosive, “Never!” And Paul says, “We died to sin; how can we live in it any longer?”

What happened to the sin nature? Paul’s exclamation, and the verses which immediately follow, are the key to understanding the victory over sin which Christ has won for us.

Historically, there have been many different approaches to the “victorious Christian life.” Each of them is related to a particular idea of what has happened to the Christian’s sin nature.

* Eradication. According to this theory, when a person becomes a Christian the sin nature itself dies. This means that the very capacity to sin is removed; whatever a Christian desires or chooses must flow from the new in him and not the old. Our common experience as well as the Bible’s promise of continued forgiveness makes it plain that this theory does not fit the facts.

* Suppression. According to this theory, when a person becomes a Christian he or she is given the power to control the sin nature. The capacity and the desire for sin are still present, but the Christian is responsible to hold down that desire.

In this approach a great deal of emphasis is placed on the Law as a tool for suppression. Guided by the Law’s demands, and always aware of his own personal responsibility, the individual fights for mastery over his old self.

This grim struggle is something that Paul described in Romans 7. The apostle himself apparently once took this route—and failed.

* Self-crucifixion. Noting that we were crucified with Christ (see 6:6; Gal. 2:20), this approach to the Christian life visualizes our sin nature as something that struggles to get off the cross again. It is the believer’s responsibility, then, to live the “crucified life.” Each temptation calls for renewed surrender to God.

At times this approach to Christian living has led individuals to see every human desire and pleasure as an indication of sin. When this happens, they have been led into a joyless life of denying themselves those very things which God gives us “richly … to enjoy” (1 Tim. 6:17, kjv).

* Penalism. This approach views all temptations as attacks of Satan. The problem is never located within us; it’s always the fault of Satan. The right response to Satan’s attack is rejection. We are to resist Satan on the authority of Jesus, who at the cross won final victory over His enemy and ours, the devil.

But what Paul taught in Romans 6 is different from each of these four ideas. Paul’s argument rested on a unique understanding of what did happen at the cross. And Paul taught us a unique way to respond when we sense sin’s inner pull; a way that promises a freedom such as we have never known!

This way of release is based on the realization that through Christ’s work on the cross our sin nature was rendered powerless. Oh, it still exists. And it still pulls us toward evil. But we do not have to respond. We are no longer slaves to sin!

Union (Rom. 6:1–4). Paul began here with the concept of identification, of our union with Christ. Paul’s point was that this union with Jesus is not merely “legal” but is real. Because we who believe are now “in” Christ, His death was our death, and His resurrection was our resurrection.

Being “in Christ” is the very root and essence of the new life of the Christian. We have passed from death to life (the powers of death have no hold on us anymore). We are not “in the flesh,” or “in sin” anymore. It is as if we were citizens of a new country—in Christ.

This being the case, we have a share in Christ’s triumph over the forces of death and hell. As they could not hold Him in their power, they no longer hold us in their power. The Cross, irradiated with the light of Easter morning, is the fundamental fact which will determine not only the history of the cosmos but our own personal history as well.

“Old self” (Rom. 6:5–10). This crucifixion of the “old self” (a term for the sin nature) did not eradicate the old desires or motives. They continue to betray our “place of origin,” as a tell-tale accent marks our speech. The crucifixion of the “old self” did not remove the pull of temptation. Instead, what happened was that the “body of sin” (that whole package of old and warped responses) was rendered powerless or inoperative (v. 6). We will still feel the temptations, but are not in their power. Our days of slavery are ended. We are now free to choose the good.

Like Jesus, you and I are now alive to God, and we can choose to live for Him.

Response to sin (Rom. 6:11–14). How is the believer who feels a temptation to sin to respond? Paul’s answer is, with faith. For salvation is a matter of “faith from first to last” (1:17).

We are to consider ourselves to be dead to sin (6:11). In other words, consider what God says about the “death” of your sin nature in respect to its power over you to be true. Realize you do not have to surrender to your temptations. Then, with full trust in the life that Jesus has given us, actively yield yourself to God, surrendering all to Him for acts of righteousness. In essence, we are to step out and do what is right, confident that as we obey the Lord, He will strengthen and enable us.

Donald Grey Barnhouse used to give this analogy to explain. He told of a crew whose captain went mad and was replaced in mid-voyage by the first mate. Now the old captain had no authority; the new captain was the one to be obeyed. Yet Barnhouse suggested that the crew might very well find itself jumping to obey when the old captain shouted out his orders. What the crew had to do was to constantly remember that the old captain need no longer be obeyed, and learn to respond to the voice of the new.

It’s like this with us, Barnhouse suggested. Our old natures will keep on shouting out orders. But they have been stripped of all authority over us. We can obey them, but we do not have to. What we must do is to listen for the voice of our new Captain, Jesus, and choose to obey Him. He and He alone is to be obeyed, for the sin nature no longer can rule our lives.

The truths that Paul presented here in these early verses of Romans 6 do promise us a victory and freedom of which many have only dreamed. And the practical implications of this teaching are astonishing.

The past is now powerless. One of our greatest bondages has been to our past. In a very real way, our pasts determine our futures. The habits we’ve developed and the tastes we’ve cultivated have “programmed” our personalities. Each time we surrender to a temptation, we make it harder to resist the next time. Each sin in which we have indulged has paved the way for the next.

But that whole cluster of programmed responses was dealt with on the cross! We still feel the pull. But our future choices are no longer determined by those bad decisions we made in the past. “I can’t help myself” is no longer true!

We have so many ways to talk about the bondage we experienced in the past. “I can’t stop myself” is a cry that expresses hopelessness. So is, “The temptation is more than I can bear.” No matter how true such statements may have been once, they are no longer true. Now, at last, there is release and hope.

On the solid basis of God’s own Word I am assured that the power of the past over my present has been broken by Jesus. And I choose, by faith, to act upon that good word.

The next time inner conflict comes, I will present myself to God and let His righteousness find expression in me.


6:1–8:39 Righteousness and Personal Sin

Overview: In Romans 6–8 Paul deals with how righteousness is imparted to people through sanctification. The word “sanctify” means to “set apart” for God’s possession and use. There are three aspects: (1) positional—all believers are set apart for God at redemption (1 Cor. 1:2, 30); (2) experiential—conforming the believers’ experience of righteousness to their position of being righteous in Christ (John 17:17; Rom. 8:3–4); and (3) final—when the believers see the Lord and are made holy like him (1 Cor. 15:54; 1 John 3:2). Romans 6–8 focuses on the second, experiential aspect of sanctification.


The link between Romans 5 and 6 can be found in how the heightened awareness of sin due to the law’s condemnation (5:13, 20; 6:1) is met with abounding grace (5:20).

6:1–2 Sin Is a Moral Contradiction to Salvation

Paul was forced to answer the criticism already mentioned (3:8) that Christians did not bother keeping rules (6:1). This criticism came primarily from Jewish Christians who wondered what would happen to people who claimed freedom from the law. But Paul moved the issue away from law-keeping to the Christian’s new nature, in this case, his death to sin (6:2–3). The words “died to sin” (6:2) indicate that those who have believed in Christ have been separated from the ruling power of sin. Sin is no longer the master of one who has given his allegiance to Christ. Thus, the answer to the question in 6:1 is “Of course not!”

6:3–4 Identification with Christ through Baptism

Paul used the imagery of baptism to illustrate the vital union that the believer has with Christ. The Greek word for “baptize” was used in the dyeing trade for dipping cloth into dye. This dipping process brought about a change in the cloth’s color and identity. Christian baptism also brings a change in identity—an identification with a new community.

Paul used baptism as a picture of the believer’s change in identity—separated from the old life in Adam and united with Christ. The words “baptized to become one with Christ” mean “identified and united with Christ.” This begins to explain more fully the believer’s solid link with Christ as opposed to Adam. It was man’s link to Adam, not to the Law of Moses, that was fatal. Therefore, it was man’s link to Christ, not to the Law of Moses, that would bring redemption. This is all based on the implications of chapter 5 for those who are in Christ rather than in Adam. Two “rules” (5:17, 21), the rule of death in Adam and the rule of grace in Christ, are in view.

Paul returned to the question regarding law for the justified (6:4; “live”). The Christian’s walk is not defined by any particular set of laws but by conformity to the resurrected life of Christ. Conformity to a law code has been replaced with conformity to Christ’s death and resurrection.

6:5–11 Identification with Christ’s Life

The function of this section is to clarify 6:3–4 by the example of Christ. This also relates back to Romans 5 and the believer’s links to Adam and Christ. Paul continues to deal with the criticism that Christians can continue in sin in order to enjoy more and more grace (6:1). The issue here is conformity to Christ, not only in his resurrection power, but in the purpose of his death—to do away with servitude to sin (6:5–6). The believer’s union with Christ in his death is designed to free him from sin’s mastery. The term “old sinful selves” (6:6) refers to the unregenerate person, the condition of the human race in Adam before having faith in Christ.

The words “so that sin might lose its power in our lives” (6:6) refer to the physical body as conditioned and controlled by sin. Paul concludes his first words on sin and the believer by reinforcing the model of Christ (6:10)—dead to sin, alive to God (6:10–11). The word “consider” (6:11; “count,” niv) is a mathematician’s term and means “to add up” or “calculate.” Paul is saying, “Add up the facts and live accordingly.”


Romans 6

We move now into the third section of Romans—“Sanctification” (chaps. 6–8). These three chapters belong together and should not be studied independently, so it would be wise for you to read all three chapters carefully. Note that chapter 6 deals with the believer being dead to sin; chapter 7, with the believer being dead to the Law; and chapter 8, with the believer alive in Spirit-given victory. All three chapters are an explanation of the little phrase in 5:17—“reign in life.” Chapter 6 tells us how sin no longer reigns over us (6:12); chapter 7 explains how the Law no longer reigns over us (7:1); and chapter 8 explains how the indwelling Spirit gives us life and liberty (8:2–4).

The believer faces two problems: (1) How can I achieve victory over the old nature (the flesh, the body of sin)? and (2) how can I live so as to please God? Chapter 6 answers the first question: we get victory over the old nature by realizing that we have been crucified with Christ. But the second question is more complex; for how can I please God when everything I do—even the “good things”—is tainted by the old nature? Sin is not simply an outward action; it also involves inward attitudes and dispositions. Chapter 7 answers this problem (along with chapter 8) by showing that the Christian is dead to the Law and that the Spirit fulfills the righteousness of the Law in us (8:4).

The secret of victory over the flesh is found in our obeying those three instructions: Know, reckon, and yield.

I.     Know (6:1–10)

Notice how often Paul uses the word “know” in this chapter (vv. 3, 6, 9, 16). Satan wants to keep us in the dark when it comes to the spiritual truths we should know, and this is why many Christians are living beneath their privileged station. “lf God’s grace abounds where sin is (5:20),” a person might say, “then the Christian ought to live in sin to know more of God’s grace!” Paul shows, however, that this is impossible because the true Christian is dead to sin. This is the wonderful truth of our identification with Christ. Not only did Christ die for us, but we died with Him. When the Spirit baptized us into the body of Christ, then we were buried with Him and raised to newness of life.

Verses 3–4 do not refer to water baptism but the operation of the Spirit in putting us “into Christ” as members of His body. (This operation is illustrated by water baptism.) When Christ died, we died with Him; when He was raised, we were raised to newness of life with Him. This is our new position in Christ. Christ not only died for sin, but He also died unto sin (6:10). That is, He broke the power of sin and put out of commission (destroyed) the old nature (6:6). The old nature is still there, this we know; but it has been robbed of its power by the cross of Christ, for we died with Christ to all that belongs to the old life.

Sin and the old nature are hard masters. The unsaved person is a slave of sin (Eph. 2:1–3), but even many Christians still serve sin even though their slavery to sin has been broken by Christ. People read Rom. 5, discover that Christ died for their sins, and receive Him into their hearts; but they fail to take up the words of Rom. 6 and discover the glorious liberty they have in Christ. Read 6:1–10 again and see for yourself that the believer is dead to sin (v. 2); the old nature has been crucified (v. 6); the believer is freed from sin (v. 7). The old nature can no longer reign as king over the Christian who knows the truth, reckons on it, and yields to the Lord.

II.     Reckon (6:11)

It is not enough merely to know our new position in Christ; we must, by faith, reckon it to be true in our own individual lives. Reckoning is simply that step of faith that says, “What God says about me in the Bible is now true in my life. I am crucified with Christ.” Reckoning is faith in action, resting on the Word of God in spite of circumstances or feelings. God does not tell us to crucify ourselves, but rather to believe that we have been crucified and that “the old man” has been put to death. Crucifixion is one death you cannot inflict on yourself; you must be crucified by another. Reckoning is that step of faith that believes God’s Word and acts upon it.




6:1–14 The cross and the empty tomb: We were there! Having declared the glory of God’s grace (5:20), Paul again brought up the possible objection: Why not sin more, to receive more grace (6:1; compare exposition on 3:5–8)? Again he refuted that heresy in the strongest possible terms (6:2–23). As exemplified by baptism (6:3–4), we were both crucified with Christ and raised with him, which means that, just as death has no more power over him, sin should have no power over us (6:5–7). Because we have died with Christ, we also have the assurance of new and eternal life through his resurrection (6:4, 8–10). We should want to live in the reality of that new life, serving God instead of sin (6:11–14; see Eph. 4:22–24; Col. 3:9–10).

Paul presented sin as a cruel tyrant, taxing his subjects beyond all endurance. The only way to be freed from this tyrant is to die to him (6:7), which is exactly what we do in coming to Christ (6:2–6).


Romans 6:1

What shall we say then? (τι οὐν ἐρουμεν; [ti oun eroumen?]). “A debater’s phrase” (Morison). Yes, and an echo of the rabbinical method of question and answer, but also an expression of exultant victory of grace versus sin. But Paul sees the possible perversion of this glorious grace. Shall we continue in sin? (ἐπιμενωμεν τῃ ἁμαρτιᾳ; [epimenōmen tēi hamartiāi?]). Present active deliberative subjunctive of ἐπιμενω [epimenō], old verb to tarry as in Ephesus (I Cor. 16:8) with locative case. The practice of sin as a habit (present tense) is here raised. That grace may abound (ἱνα χαρις πτεονασῃ [hina hē charis pteonasēi]). Final clause with ingressive aorist subjunctive, to set free the superfluity of grace alluded to like putting money in circulation. Horrible thought (μη γενοιτο [mē genoito]) and yet Paul faced it. There are occasionally so-called pietists who actually think that God’s pardon gives them liberty to sin without penalty (cf. the sale of indulgences that stirred Martin Luther).

Romans 6:2

Died to sin (ἀπεθανομεν τῃ ἁμαρτιᾳ [apethanomen tēi hamartiāi]). Second aorist active of ἀποθνησκω [apothnēskō] and the dative case. When we surrendered to Christ and took him as Lord and Saviour. Qualitative relative (οἱτινες [hoitines], we the very ones who). How (πως [pōs]). Rhetorical question.

Romans 6:3

Were baptized into Christ (ἐβαπτισθημεν εἰς Χριστον [ebaptisthēmen eis Christon]). First aorist passive indicative of βαπτιζω [baptizō]. Better, “were baptized unto Christ or in Christ.” The translation “into” makes Paul say that the union with Christ was brought to pass by means of baptism, which is not his idea, for Paul was not a sacramentarian. Εἰς [Eis] is at bottom the same word as ἐν [en]. Baptism is the public proclamation of one’s inward spiritual relation to Christ attained before the baptism. See on Gal. 3:27 where it is like putting on an outward garment or uniform. Into his death (εἰς τον θανατον αὐτου [eis ton thanaton autou]). So here “unto his death,” “in relation to his death,” which relation Paul proceeds to explain by the symbolism of the ordinance.

Romans 6:4

We were buried therefore with him by means of baptism unto death (συνεταφημεν οὐν αὐτῳ δια του βαπτισματος εἰς τον θανατον [sunetaphēmen oun autōi dia tou baptismatos eis ton thanaton]). Second aorist passive indicative of συνθαπτω [sunthaptō], old verb to bury together with, in N.T. only here and Col. 2:12. With associative instrumental case (αὐτῳ [autōi]) and “by means of baptism unto death” as in verse 3. In newness of life (ἐν καινοτητι ζωης [en kainotēti zōēs]). The picture in baptism points two ways, backwards to Christ’s death and burial and to our death to sin (verse 1), forwards to Christ’s resurrection from the dead and to our new life pledged by the coming out of the watery grave to walk on the other side of the baptismal grave (F. B. Meyer). There is the further picture of our own resurrection from the grave. It is a tragedy that Paul’s majestic picture here has been so blurred by controversy that some refuse to see it. It should be said also that a symbol is not the reality, but the picture of the reality.

Romans 6:5

For if we have become united with him by the likeness of his death (εἰ γαρ συμφυτοι γεγοναμεν τῳ ὁμοιωματι του θανατου αὐτου [ei gar sumphutoi gegonamen tōi homoiōmati tou thanatou autou]). Condition of the first class, assumed to be true. Συμφυτοι [Sumphutoi] is old verbal adjective from συμφυω [sumphuō], to grow together. Baptism as a picture of death and burial symbolizes our likeness to Christ in his death. We shall be also united in the likeness of his resurrection (ἀλλα και της ἀναστασεως ἐσομεθα [alla kai tēs anastaseōs esometha]). The conclusion to the previous condition introduced by ἀλλα και [alla kai] as often and τοι ὁμοιωματι [toi homoiōmati] (in the likeness) must be understood before της ἀναστασεως [tēs anastaseōs] (of his resurrection). Baptism is a picture of the past and of the present and a prophecy of the future, the matchless preacher of the new life in Christ.

Romans 6:6

Our old man ( παλαιος ἡμων ἀνθρωπος [ho palaios hēmōn anthrōpos]). Only in Paul (here, Col. 3:9; Eph. 4:22). Was crucified with him (συνεσταυρωθη [sunestaurōthē]). See on Gal. 2:19 for this boldly picturesque word. This took place not at baptism, but only pictured there. It took place when “we died to sin” (verse 1). The body of sin (το σωμα της ἁμαρτιας [to sōma tēs hamartias]). “The body of which sin has taken possession” (Sanday and Headlam), the body marked by sin. That so we should no longer be in bondage to sin (του μηκετι δουλευειν ἡμας τῃ ἁμαρτιᾳ [tou mēketi douleuein hēmas tēi hamartiāi]). Purpose clause with του [tou] and the present active infinitive of δουλευω [douleuō], continue serving sin (as slaves). Adds “slavery” to living in sin (verse 2).

Romans 6:7

Is justified (δεδικαιωται [dedikaiōtai]). Perfect passive indicative of δικαιοω [dikaioō], stands justified, set free from, adding this great word to death and life of verses 1 and 2.

Romans 6:8

With Christ (συν Χριστῳ [sun Christōi]). As pictured by baptism, the crucifixion with Christ of verse 6.

Romans 6:9

Dieth no more (οὐκετι ἀποθνησκει [ouketi apothnēskei]). “Christ’s particular death occurs but once” (Shedd). See Heb. 10:10. A complete refutation of the “sacrificial” character of the “mass.”

Romans 6:10

The death that he died ( ἀπεθανεν [ho apethanen]). Neuter relative, cognative accusative with ἀπεθανεν [apethanen]. Once (ἐφαπαξ [ephapax]). Once and once only (Heb. 9:26f.), not ποτε [pote] (once upon a time). The life that he liveth ( ζῃ [ho zēi]). Cognate accusative of the relative.

Romans 6:11

Reckon ye also yourselves (και ὑμεις λογιζεσθε [kai humeis logizesthe]). Direct middle imperative of λογιζομαι [logizomai] and complete proof that Paul does not mean that baptism makes one dead to sin and alive to God. That is a spiritual operation “in Christ Jesus” and only pictured by baptism. This is a plea to live up to the ideal of the baptized life.


1. What shall we say then? “A transition-expression and a debater’s phrase” (Morison). The use of this phrase points to Paul’s training in the Rabbinical schools, where questions were propounded and the students encouraged to debate, objections being suddenly interposed and answered.

Shall we continue (ἐπιμένωμεν). The verb means primarily to remain or abide at or with, as 1 Cor. 16:8; Philip. 1:24; and secondarily, to persevere, as Rom. 11:23; Col. 1:23. So better here, persist.

3. Know ye not (ἀγνοεῖτε). The expression is stronger: are ye ignorant. So Rev. The indicative mood presupposes an acquaintance with the moral nature of baptism, and a consequent absurdity in the idea of persisting in sin.

So many as (ὅσοι). Rev., all we who. Put differently from we that (οἵτινες, ver. 2) as not characterizing but designating all collectively.

Baptized into (εἰς). See on Matt. 28:19. The preposition denotes inward union, participation; not in order to bring about the union, for that has been effected. Compare 1 Cor. 12:12, 13, 27.

Into His death. As He died to sin, so we die to sin, just as if we were literally members of His body. Godet gives an anecdote related by a missionary who was questioning a converted Bechuana on Col. 3:3. The convert said: “Soon I shall be dead, and they will bury me in my field. My flocks will come to pasture above me. But I shall no longer hear them, and I shall not come forth from my tomb to take them and carry them with me to the sepulchre. They will be strange to me, as I to them. Such is the image of my life in the midst of the world since I believed in Christ.”

4. We are buried with (συνετάφημεν). Rev., more accurately, were buried. Therefore, as a natural consequence of death. There is probably an allusion to the immersion of baptism. Compare Col. 3:3.

Into death. Through the baptism into death referred to in ver. 3. Both A. V. and Rev. omit the article, which is important for the avoidance of the error buried into death.

Glory (δόξης). The glorious collective perfection of God. See on 3:23. Here the element of power is emphasized, which is closely related to the idea of divine glory. See Col. 1:11. All the perfections of God contribute to the resurrection of Christ — righteousness, mercy, wisdom, holiness.

We might walk (περιπατήσωμεν). Lit., walk about, implying habitual conduct. See on John 11:9; 1 John 1:6; 3 John 4; Luke 11:44.

In newness of life (ἐν καινότητι ζωῆς). A stronger expression than new life. It gives more prominence to the main idea, newness, than would be given by the adjective. Thus 1 Tim. 6:17, uncertainty of riches; not uncertain riches, as A. V.

5. We have been planted together (σύμφυτοι γεγόναμεν). Rev. gives more accurately the meaning of both words. Σύμφυτοι is not planted, which would be formed from φυτεύω to plant, while this word is compounded with σύν together, and φύω to grow. Γεγόναμεν is have become, denoting process, instead of the simple εἶναι to be. Hence Rev., have become united, have grown together; an intimate and progressive union; coalescence. Note the mixture of metaphors, walking and growing.

We shall be also (ἀλλὰ καὶ ἐσόμεθα). It is impossible to reproduce this graphic and condensed phrase accurately in English. It contains an adversative particle ἀλλά but. Morison paraphrases: “If we were united with Him in the likeness of His death (that will not be the full extent of the union), but we shall be also united,” etc. For similar instances see 1 Cor. 4:15; Col. 2:5.

6. Old man ( παλαιὸς ἄνθρωπος). Only in Paul, and only three times; here, Eph. 4:22; Col. 3:9. Compare John 3:3; Tit. 3:5. The old, unrenewed self. Paul views the Christian before his union with Christ, as, figuratively, another person. Somewhat in the same way he regards himself in ch. 7.

The body of sin (τὸ σῶμα τῆς ἁμαρτίας). Σῶμα in earlier classical usage signifies a corpse. So always in Homer and often in later Greek. So in the New Testament, Matt. 6:25; Mark 5:29; 14:8; 15:43. It is used of men as slaves, Apoc. 18:13. Also in classical Greek of the sum-total. So Plato: τὸ τοῦ κόσμου σῶμα the sum-total of the world (“Timaeus,” 31).

The meaning is tinged in some cases by the fact of the vital union of the body with the immaterial nature, as being animated by the ψυχή soul, the principle of individual life. Thus Matt. 6:25, where the two are conceived as forming one organism, so that the material ministries which are predicated of the one are predicated of the other, and the meanings of the two merge into one another.

In Paul it can scarcely be said to be used of a dead body, except in a figurative sense, as Rom. 8:10, or by inference, 2 Cor. 5:8. Commonly of a living body. It occurs with ψυχή soul, only 1 Thess. 5:23, and there its distinction from ψυχή rather than its union with it is implied. So in Matt. 10:28. though even there the distinction includes the two as one personality. It is used by Paul:

1. Of the living human body, Rom. 4:19; 1 Cor. 6:13; 9:27; 12:12–26.

2. Of the Church as the body of Christ, Rom. 12:5; 1 Cor. 12:27; Eph. 1:23; Col. 1:18, etc. Σάρξ flesh, never in this sense.

3. Of plants and heavenly bodies, 1 Cor. 15:37, 40.

4. Of the glorified body of Christ, Philip. 3:21.

5. Of the spiritual body of risen believers, 1 Cor. 15:44.

It is distinguished from σάρξ flesh, as not being limited to the organism of an earthly, living body, 1 Cor. 15:37, 38. It is the material organism apart from any definite matter. It is however sometimes used as practically synonymous with σάρξ, 1 Cor. 7:16, 17; Eph. 5:28, 31; 2 Cor. 4:10, 11. Compare 1 Cor. 5:3 with Col. 2:5. An ethical conception attaches to it. It is alternated with μέλη members, and the two are associated with sin (Rom. 1:24; 6:6; 7:5, 24; 8:13: Col. 3:5), and with sanctification (Rom. 12:1; 1 Cor. 6:19 sq.; compare 1 Thess. 4:4; 5:23). It is represented as mortal, Rom. 8:11; 2 Cor. 10:10; and as capable of life, 1 Cor. 13:3; 2 Cor. 4:10.

In common with μέλη members, it is the instrument of feeling and willing rather than σάρξ, because the object in such cases is to designate the body not definitely as earthly, but generally as organic, Rom. 6:12, 13, 19; 2 Cor. 5:10. Hence, wherever it is viewed with reference to sin or sanctification, it is the outward organ for the execution of the good or bad resolves of the will.

The phrase body of sin denotes the body belonging to, or ruled by, the power of sin, in which the members are instruments of unrighteousness (ver. 13). Not the body as containing the principle of evil in our humanity, since Paul does not regard sin as inherent in, and inseparable from, the body (see ver. 13; 2 Cor. 4:10–12; 7:1. Compare Matt. 15:19), nor as precisely identical with the old man, an organism or system of evil dispositions, which does not harmonize with vv. 12, 13, where Paul uses body in the strict sense. “Sin is conceived as the master, to whom the body as slave belongs and is obedient to execute its will. As the slave must perform his definite functions, not because he in himself can perform no others, but because of his actually subsistent relationship of service he may perform no others, while of himself he might belong as well to another master and render other services; so the earthly σῶμα body belongs not of itself to the ἁμαρτία sin, but may just as well belong to the Lord (1 Cor. 6:13), and doubtless it is de facto enslaved to sin, so long as a redemption from this state has not set in by virtue of the divine Spirit” (Rom. 7:24: Dickson).

Destroyed. See on 3:3.

He that is dead ( ἀποθανὼν). Rev., literally, he that hath died. In a physical sense. Death and its consequences are used as the general illustration of the spiritual truth. It is a habit of Paul to throw in such general illustrations. See 7:2.

7. Is freed (δεδικαίωται). Lit., as Rev., is justified; i.e., acquitted, absolved; just as the dead person sins no more, being released from sin as from a legal claim. “As a man that is dead is acquitted and released from bondage among men, so a man that has died to sin is acquitted from the guilt of sin and released from its bondage” (Alford).

8. We be dead (ἀπεθάνομεν). The aorist. Rev., correctly, we died. The death is viewed as an event, not as a state.

We believe (πιστεύομεν). Dogmatic belief rather than trust, though the latter is not excluded.

Shall live with (συνζήσομεν). Participation of the believer’s sanctified life with the life of Christ rather than participation in future glory, which is not the point emphasized. Compare ver. 11.

10. In that He died ( γὰρ ἀπέθανεν). Lit., what he died; the death which he died. Compare sin a sin, 1 John 5:16; the life which I live, literally, what I live, Gal. 2:20.

Once (ἐφάπαξ). More literally, as Rev., in margin, once for all. Compare Heb. 7:27; 9:12; 10:10.



(6:1) The questions in this verse are rhetorical in their nature so far as Paul is concerned, and he raises them in order that he might introduce his subject of the God-ordained method whereby a saint can live a victorious life over sin. But they were not original with him. He understood grace, and such questions would never occur to him. The questions were asked him over and over again after his messages on grace by those who were legalists and who did not therefore understand grace. He answers the first question regarding his doctrine of grace in verses 2–14 by declaring the mechanical impossibility of a Christian continuing to live a life of habitual sin. In response to this, the same objector asks another question of the same nature which Paul brings before his readers (v. 15). This second question proposes a life of planned infrequent, spasmodic acts of sin, since grace makes it impossible for a Christian to live a life of habitual sin. Paul answers this question in verses 16–23 by showing that the Christian has changed masters, and that serving the Lord Jesus, it is not his nature to sin.

So Paul proposes the question, “What shall we say then?”—say then to what? We go back to 5:20 for our answer which we find in the apostle’s statement, “Where sin abounded, there grace was in superabundance, and then some on top of that.” The objector’s thought was as follows; “Paul, do you mean to tell me that God is willing to forgive a person’s sins as often as he commits them?” In response to Paul’s affirmative answer, this legalist says in effect, “Well then, if that is the case, shall we Christians keep on habitually sinning in order that God may have an opportunity to forgive us and thus display His grace?” That is the background of this man’s reasoning.

We will now consider the implications of his question. The first thing we must settle is regarding the word “sin,” does it refer here to sin as an abstraction, namely, to acts of sin committed by the believer, or to the totally depraved nature still in him? A rule of Greek syntax settles the question. The definite article appears before the word in the Greek text. Here the article points back to a previously mentioned sin defined in its context. The reference is to sin reigning as king (5:21). There sin is personified since it reigns as a king. But one cannot conceive of acts of sin reigning as king in the life of a person. They are the result of some dominant factor reigning as a king. That can only be the evil nature still resident in the Christian. And here is the key to the interpretation of the entire chapter. Every time the word “sin” is used in this chapter as a noun, it refers to the evil nature in the Christian. Read the following verses and substitute the words “sinful nature” for the word “sin,” and see what a flood of light is thrown upon your understanding of this section of God’s Word (1, 2, 6, 10, 11, 13, 14, 16, 17, 18, 20, 22, 23).

The key word in Romans 6 is “machinery.” Here we have the mechanics of the Spirit-filled life. We see the inner workings of the machinery set-up God brings into being when He saves a sinner, the power of indwelling sin broken and the divine nature implanted. In Romans 8 we have the dynamics of the Spirit-filled life. There we have the Holy Spirit mentioned all through the chapter, the source of power and the Operator of the spiritual machinery in the inner being of the believer. In Romans 7 we see the monkey wrench, self dependence, which when dropped into the inner workings of this machinery, stops the works, preventing the Holy Spirit from giving the believer victory over the sinful nature and producing His own fruit. Thus we have a trio of chapters, The Mechanics of the Spirit-filled Life (6), The Dynamics of the Spirit-filled Life (8), and The Monkey Wrench, Self Dependence (7). Thus, in chapter six, Paul is not talking about what kind of a life the believer should live, but by what method or how he should live that life.

The question reads as follows, “Shall we continue in the sinful nature?” The word “continue” is menō (μενω), “to remain, abide.” It is used in the New Testament of a person abiding in some one’s home as a guest, or of a person abiding in a home. It has in it the ideas of fellowship, of cordial relations, of dependence, of social intercourse. The question now can be further interpreted to mean, “Shall we continue habitually to sustain the same relationship to the sinful nature that we sustained before we were saved, a relationship which was most cordial, a relationship in which we were fully yielded to and dependent upon that sinful nature, and all this as a habit of life?” The idea of habitual action comes from the use of the present subjunctive which speaks of habitual action. The fundamental question therefore is not with regard to acts of sin but with respect to the believer’s relationship to the sinful nature. This is after all basic, acts of sin in his life being the result of the degree of his yieldedness to the sinful nature.

Translation. What then shall we say? Shall we habitually sustain an attitude of dependence upon, yieldedness to, and cordiality with the sinful nature in order that grace may abound?

(6:2) Paul now proceeds to deal with this question. His first reaction is an emotional one, “God forbid.” His second answer is a rational one. He shows that for a Christian to habitually sustain the same relationship to indwelling sin, namely, that of a dependence upon it, a yieldedness to it, and a cordiality with it, is a mechanical impossibility. This he does in verses 2–14.

“God-forbid” in the Greek text is mē genoito (μη γενοιτο), an optative of wishing. One could translate literally, “may such a thing never occur,” or interpret, “away with the thought.” He declares the mechanical impossibility of such a thing in the words, “How shall we that are dead to sin, live any longer therein?”

The word “how” is pōs (πως), “how is it possible?” Paul is not asking a question for information, but is rather presenting a rhetorical question designed to declare the impossibility of the thing. He says that it is a mechanical impossibility for a Christian to habitually sustain the same relationship to the evil nature that he sustained before God saved him. “We” is hoitines (οἱτινες), a relative and an indefinite pronoun put together to form a word which emphasizes quality or nature. It is, “How is it possible for such as we are, born-again children of God, to do such a thing. It is against our nature to habitually yield to the evil nature. We are not persons of such a nature as to do so.”

Then Paul tells us what there is in the inner spiritual and mechanical set-up of a Christian which prevents him from habitually obeying the behests of the sinful nature. These two things are the result of a major surgical operation which God performs in the inner being of every sinner He saves. They are the breaking of the power of indwelling sin, and the impartation of the divine nature. The first is referred to in verse 2 in the words “are dead to sin,” and the second, in verse 4, in the words, “walk in newness of life.”

Christians are dead to sin. Just what does that mean? Sin here, we have established, is the sinful nature. We are dead to the sinful nature. “Are dead” is apethanomen (ἀπεθανομεν), a second aorist of apo thnēschō (ἀπο θνησχω), “to die.”

Death means separation. Physical death is the separation of a person from his body, spiritual death, the separation of the person from God. There is a preposition prefixed to the verb (apo (ἀπο)) which means “off, away from,” and is used with the ablative case whose root meaning is separation. This teaches us that there was a cleavage consummated between the individual and his evil nature. God used His surgical knife to cut the believing sinner loose from his evil nature. This occurred potentially in the mind and purpose of God when that believing sinner, elected to salvation before the universe was created, was identified with the Lord Jesus in His death on the Cross (vv. 3–7), and actually, the moment he placed his faith in Him as Saviour. Now, while God separated the believing sinner from the evil nature, yet He did not take it out of him, but left it in his inner being. John in his first letter (1:8) is most careful to tell us that this evil nature remains in the Christian throughout his earthly life and is not eradicated until that Christian dies or is glorified. This is what he says in his Greek; “If we say that sin we are not constantly having, ourselves we are deceiving (nobody else), and the truth is not in us.” Sin here is the nature, not the act, and for two reasons; the word is without the article, and such a construction in Greek emphasizes nature, quality, and because the word is singular. The word “ourselves” is in the emphatic position, John’s thought being that any person who holds the theory that the sinful nature is eradicated at a certain point in the Christian’s experience is only deceiving himself. Others are not deceived, for they can see sin sticking out all over his life. Let us therefore hold to this, that while there is a definite cleavage between the believer and the sinful nature, yet that nature remains in him until he dies or is glorified. The tense of the verb is aorist, which speaks of a once for all act. God has wrought a cleavage or separation between the believer and the sinful nature which is a permanent one, a once for all disengagement of the person from the evil nature. This surgical operation is never repeated. So far as God is concerned, He has so thoroughly done His work that that separation could be permanent. But alas, because of the frailty of man, the Christian at infrequent intervals does yield to the evil nature and sin. But the point is, God has so constituted him, that he need not do so. He has imparted the divine nature which gives the Christian a hatred of sin and a love for righteousness. In addition to this, the Holy Spirit has been caused to take up His permanent residence in him to aid him in his battle against sin, and in his effort to live a Christian life. So Paul says, “How is it possible for such as we who have died off once for all with respect to sin, any longer to live in it?” Or to translate and interpret, “How is it possible for such as we, Christians, who have been separated once for all from the sinful nature, any longer to live within its grip?”

Let us use a few illustrations. The Christian has the same power over the evil nature that he has over his radio. When a program suddenly comes over the air unfit for Christian ears, he can shut the radio off with a “There, you cannot bring that smut into my life.” Before salvation, the evil nature had absolute dominion over the sinner. Since salvation has wrought its beneficent work in his inner being, he has absolute dominion over it. Believe this, child of God, and act upon it. The evil nature is a dethroned monarch. Paul personifies it as a king reigning (5:21, “as sin has reigned as king”). The Holy Spirit at the time of the sinner’s salvation, enthroned the Lord Jesus in the throne room of the believer’s heart. He stays on the throne so long as the believer keeps yielded to the Spirit and rejects the behests of the evil nature. When the believer sins, the dethroned king, the evil nature, mounts to the throne, with the consequent dethronement of the Lord Jesus. These are cold, hard facts, yet, nevertheless true to the Word of God in its teaching on this subject. However, such a procedure cannot go on indefinitely nor often, for God puts a curb upon such a thing by sending suffering, chastening, and the Christian is made most miserable by a guilty conscience and the indwelling Holy Spirit who is grieved at such conduct.

To use an illustration that will show the definite cleavage between the Christian and the evil nature, the disengagement that took place when God performed that major surgical operation. A floor lamp is connected to a wall outlet. It derives its power to give light from the electric outlet in the wall. Just so, a sinner is connected to the evil nature, and derives his incentive and energy to sin, from the evil nature. Remove the connecting plug from the wall outlet, and the light ceases to function. Its source of power has been cut off. Cut the connection between the sinner and the evil nature, and he ceases to function as a sinner. His source of power has been cut off. Upon no other basis can one explain the instantaneous and radical change in the outlook and actions of a sinner saved in a rescue mission, this change more apparent because of the life of gross sin he has lived. Connect the floor lamp with the wall outlet, and it starts to give light again. Connect the Christian with the evil nature still in him, and he sins again. But the point is, he is under no compulsion to put himself back into the control of the evil nature again, nor can he do it habitually, nor frequently. God has so adjusted things in the Christian’s life, that, while he remains a free moral agent capable of choosing between obeying the divine nature or the evil nature, yet, the preponderance of his choices are Godward. Thus does Paul declare the mechanical impossibility of a Christian habitually sustaining the same relationship to the evil nature which he sustained before he was saved.

Translation. May such a thing never occur. How is it possible for such as we who have died off once for all from sin (have been separated once for all from the sinful nature), any longer to live in it (in its grip)?

(6:3, 4) Paul now proceeds to show how this mighty cleavage was effected. He says that it was brought about by God’s act of baptizing the believing sinner into Christ so that that person would share His death on the Cross, which identification of the believing sinner with Christ in His death, brought about the separation of that person from the sinful nature. He speaks of the same thing in verse 11, where he says that Christ died with reference to the sinful nature (ours) once for all. The death of our Lord had a two-fold aspect with reference to sin. In 3:21–5:11 He dies with reference to our acts of sin. He pays the penalty for us which the law demanded. In 6:11 He dies with reference to our sinful nature. His death brings about a separation bet