Sunday Evening Bible Study — Romans 6:1-11, Dead to Sin, Alive in Christ

29 Nov

So far in Romans, Paul has shown us that every person needs righteousness, but they don’t have it because of sin. He has also shown us that righteousness comes through faith in Jesus Christ. This is the focus of chapters 3-5, where Paul talks about justification, the imputation or counting of Christ’s righteousness on behalf of all who believe. This justification gives us peace with God and access to Him by grace. His saving work is of much more value than the destructive sin of Adam.
Now, beginning with chapter 6, Paul will talk about how Jesus’ work affects not only our eternal standing and relationship to God and sin but also how it affects our present life in relation to God and sin. The focus of chapters 6-8 then, will not be justification, but sanctification, God’s lifelong process of transforming us to be like Jesus. Now what we are separating here is really one piece in the mind of Paul. It is unthinkable to him to think of justification and sanctification as separate items. In his mind they are both simply what salvation is. This is important. Justification, sanctification and final salvation, or glorification, are all simply salvation. Paul can speak of these separate aspects, but he never separates them, as if one could be justified but not glorified, or sanctified but not justified. They all go together. So justification that does not lead to sanctification is not real justification. And sanctification that is not based on justification is a sham, probably just an expression of moralism or legalism. And glorification that is not linked to justification and sanctification will sadly be shown to be false as well, as the one who thought God will accept sincerity or effort will be shocked to find God only accepts people through the work of His Son.
So what Paul is dealing with in the section we are beginning tonight is that aspect of salvation that has to do with our present life. And the concern he is first addressing is whether sin in our present life can have power to break the chain that leads from justification to glorification. And what Paul will conclude in these chapters is that those who are delivered from sin’s penalty by faith are also delivered from sin’s power by faith. Paul does not pretend sin no longer exists in the life of a Christian, but he insists that because of Christ, believers have come into a new relationship to sin in which sin is no longer our master.
This idea of slaves and masters, of kings and kingdoms, is prominent through these chapters. It really began in 5:12-21, where we were sin reigned in Adam but righteousness reigns in Christ. To be a Christian is to be delivered from the reign of Adam to the reign of Christ. In chapter six, Paul says children of Adam are dominated by sin, in chapter 7 by the law and in chapter 8 by death. But those who have come into the fellowship of the true King, Jesus, by faith are dominated by Christ and the Holy Spirit and are given life.
Greg Beale says that chapters 6-8 “bears an implicitly trinitarian form. Paul speaks first of death to sin and life to God (6:1–23); he then speaks of death to the law and life to the risen Christ (7:1–25); finally he speaks of life in the spirit (8:1–30, 31–39).”
I think Beale is right, but I think there are two things even more profound going on as we get to chapters 6-8. First, as I said at the beginning, chapters 6-8 are aiming to highlight the aspect of salvation known as sanctification, in contrast to justification. Warren Wiersbe’s chart on this is helpful here . . .

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

The other thing I think Paul is doing here is not only talking about individual salvation but all along he is relating these truths about Jesus to the issues of Jew and Gentile. We have already seen him doing this throughout chapters 1-5. He is wrestling through the place of Jew and Gentile in Christ’s kingdom. His most serious wrestling is going to be in chapters 9-11 but we must not lose sight of this issue in looking at these things. Paul was likely speaking to a mixed church of Jew and Gentile in Rome and so it is a big concern to him that he can give them the truth about Jesus in a way that will help them prosper and not falter in their relationship with God and with each other.
So let’s start our look into Paul’s teaching on sanctification with a look at verse 1 . . .

1  What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound?
Paul once again uses the hypothetical question to deal with potential objections to his teaching. 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 he brings up this question in verse one as a way to defend the gospel against the charge that one can trust Jesus and do whatever he or she wants. And again the language of mastery or reign is present here in the word “continue.” This word is related to the word “abide” used by Jesus in John 15. The word reminds us that what Paul is talking about here is not an ongoing fight with sin but a giving of oneself over to sin, living under its mastery. Now remember Paul’s audience. There was a way in which both Gentile and Jew could misconstrue Paul’s teaching. A Gentile may have said that since Jesus has forgiven me, I don’t need to worry about sinning any more and a Jew could have said, “Well, Paul, see what you have done. By focusing on grace you have taken away moral responsibility. Your teaching will make the Gentiles worse than they were before.”
But Paul is firmly against the idea that grace is a license to sin. Neither would Paul say that as a Christian it doesn’t matter how we live. This is because Paul viewed salvation in a holistic way, an act of God’s grace that affects us from the moment we trust in Christ through eternity. It is just unthinkable to Paul that anyone would use his teaching as a license to sin. William Barclay captures Paul’s thinking well with an illustration, when he says, “How despicable it would be for a son to consider himself free to sin, because he knew that his father would forgive.”
Now of course, the problem is, many, many professing Christians believe and live this way, taking the cross not as the means of salvation and reconciliation from God and victory over sin, but as a license to sin. I’ve told you a couple of times about the young lady who, when I was a new Christian in youth group, said, “Yes, I am sleeping with my boyfriend, but God will forgive me.” So we take a wonderful truth about God, that He is merciful, and use it as an opportunity to trample over His grace in order to fulfill our own sinful desires.
Now what does Paul say to that?

2  By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it?
Paul answers with the strongest possible expression in Greek, “Me genoito!” “May it never be! By no means!” In our way of speaking, “No Way!” And the reason is simple: salvation affects the whole of life. The Greek word order here is best captured by the NIV. “We died to sin, how can we live in it any longer?” We died to sin. It is unthinkable to Paul that we can live in something we have died to. Death separates. Whereas sin was once our master, having died to sin we gave ceased to be under its control. Sin is no longer our master. Now notice the text does not say that sin dies to the believer; only that the believer who has died to sin. Sin may no longer be the master but that doesn’t mean that is has stopped continuing to attempt have dominion again over the lives of believers.
What we are talking about here is our standing before God. Because of the work of Christ, His righteousness counted for us and given to us, we stand not only forgiven of our sin but brought out from under its domination. This is the present reality of our position in Christ. Now in the next verses Paul will explain how this is so . . .

3  Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death?
The believer has been baptized into Christ. Now how has that happened? Through water baptism? No. Through Spirit baptism? Yes. But how does Spirit baptism happen? By faith in Christ. When we put our faith in Christ the Holy Spirit indwells us and we are brought into the kingdom of God. This is symbolized by water baptism. So Paul seems to be using water baptism here as the act which signifies our salvation in Christ. So baptism doesn’t save us, but it does provide for us a significant picture of our salvation. As D.A. Carson explains, “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.”
Baptism is an identification with Christ in His death. Why would we need to be identified with Christ in His death? Well, why did Christ die? On the most fundamental level, Christ died to glorify the Father by providing the Father a way to be both just and merciful toward sinners who deserved only His wrath. Christ’s death then was a death for our sins. Christ didn’t die because of anything He deserved. He bore the penalty of sin we deserved. In baptism, we identify with that death. And so as Christ died for sin, we now die to sin. His death has not only forgiven sin, it has removed its mastery over us. This is one of the things baptism serves to remind us of.
One little side note on verse 3 before we move on. Notice here the word “know.” You’ll see it again in verses 6 and 9. Paul is intent on wanting his readers to know these basic truths. Knowing is important. Someone has said, “Christian living depends on Christian learning; duty is always founded on doctrine. If Satan can keep a Christian ignorant, he can keep him impotent.” We need to remember that and understand that this is why times like this on Sunday night are so important.

4  We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.
Baptism symbolizes this burial with Jesus. How does baptism symbolize this burial? As we are taken under water it is like put into the ground and being raised out of the water is like the resurrection. I am struck by the focus in Paul’s writings on the burial of Jesus. I see it at least three times in his letters. And he even says in 1 Corinthians that it is among the things of first importance that 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.’ So why this focus on burial. Well, burial tells us that a death was real. So there is a historical angle here that is important. The resurrection is established by the fact that Christ really died. But on a deeper level, burial symbolizes the death of sin. It is buried. It is defeated. Baptism symbolizes it, but Christ’s work is the reality.
But of course death and burial are not the end of the story. As one famous sermon title says, “It’s Friday, but Sunday’s coming.” As the resurrection is Christ being raised to new life, so we are raised to new life through Him, not a life under the dominion of sin but under the Lordship of Christ and fellowship of the Holy Spirit. I think the phrase here “by the glory of the Father” is very important here. Normally, we see the phrase in Paul’s writings “to the glory of God” or “for the glory of the Father” but here it is “by the glory of the Father.” I think the significance ties into Jesus’ resurrection and our own life with God. Here’s how I see a connection. Who raised Jesus from the dead? (the Father) So the connection is that as the Father raised Jesus so He empowers us through saving us to walk in newness of life. The power is not ours, it is God’s. The power to justify, sanctify and glorify is from God. This doesn’t mean we have nothing to do, we will see this at the end of chapter 6, but it does mean that it is God’s work for us which is decisive, not our work for Him. Now Paul brings His argument full circle.

5  For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his.
Since we have been united with Him in a death (He died for our sins) we shall be united with Him in resurrection, new life will come. As He was raised victor over sin and death, we are set free from bondage to sin and death. In other words, life in Christ follows death to sin because Christ’s death to sin was followed by life. It is one of those typical Christian turning of the tables things. Death brings life.
Notice again Paul’s certainty about all these things. These things are ours on the basis of our standing in Christ by faith, on the basis of what He has done. Paul just gives them as statements of fact. He is strongly challenging the idea that grace is a license to sin by pointing to that fact that with the coming of grace, everything changes. Of course this is a theme he picks up elsewhere in his writings, notably 2 Co. 5:17 and Col. 3:1-4.

6  We know that our old self was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin.
Verse 6 gives us another theme we see elsewhere in Paul, the idea that we were crucified with Christ. The purpose we were crucified with Him here is in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing. This “body of sin” is the old man, that person we were who was dominated by sin and under its power. The phrase “brought to nothing” means that though sin can still be at work in a believer’s life, as we will see in the next couple of chapters, sin’s power over us is ultimately defeated. And the goal of this defeat of sin through our union with Christ in His death is that we would no longer be enslaved to sin. Of course, this brings us to Galatians 2:20.
Now notice here a couple of parallels to the Exodus story. We go through the waters of baptism to symbolize our deliverance from sin. The Israelites passed through the waters of the Red Sea as God delivered them. And in both cases, the deliverance was a deliverance from slavery (either to Egypt or to sin) and into the presence of God.

7  For one who has died has been set free from sin.
Through union with Christ we have died to sin and we live to God. Therefore through death to sin we have been set free from its dominion over us.

8  Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him.
Paul is a good teacher. He is using repetition. This was especially important because His first readers would mostly not have been readers but hearers. As they listened they would have heard the repetition and these truths would have come home to them. In the Greek there are even certain word plays and rhythms to the writing which would have made it easy to remember. As one commentator has said, “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.”

9  We know that Christ, being raised from the dead, will never die again; death no longer has dominion over him.
In verse 9, Paul is pointing to the permanence of our standing with God by pointing to the permanence of Christ’s resurrection. We all know that Jesus never died again. He wasn’t like Lazarus, or the other handful of people who have been raised from the dead. He didn’t die again. The risen Christ broke forever the domination of death. He lives, He lives. Because He lives. Jesus is still alive today. From the time the stone rolled away death has been defeated.
I want to say something that is controversial until we think about it Christ’s death on the cross is not the gospel. Christ crucified, buried and raised is the gospel, the good news of God’s salvation. I have heard Easter sermons that didn’t mention the resurrection. We need as a church to glory in the cross and the empty tomb. The resurrection is what really makes the good news so good because it takes us from a position of simply not facing God’s wrath (as wonderful as that is) to actually experiencing God’s victory. Jesus has defeated satan. He is King of Kings and Lord of Lords and He invites us by faith to join Him in His victory. I love the picture of Jesus in Revelation 19:11-14 (read passage). He is the great King who leads His people in triumph.
10  For the death he died he died to sin, once for all, but the life he lives he lives to God.
The death he died He died to sin. Christ died to sin by defeating it, by making a way so that we could be forgiven and so that we would no longer be under slavery to sin. Here the KJV gets the Greek word right when it says, “once.” The word does not mean “once for all” in the sense that Christ died for all people. There are other texts that some believe may say that but this is not one of them. The focus of this Greek word is on the one time nature of Christ’s defeat of sin. This same Greek word is used in Hebrews 7:27 and note 1 Corinthians 15:6. So the focus of the word is on the one time sacrifice of Christ. Through His death, sin is defeated, through His resurrection, there is restored fellowship with God.
This is our status because of the work of Christ, dead to sin and alive to God. One commentator says it like this; “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.”

11  So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus.
The Greek word logidzesthe is a present imperative, which suggests a continuing mind-set on the part of the believer. After five and a half chapters Paul gives a direct command to his readers. What is the significance of this? (Paul builds a strong theological foundation before he tells us what to do. Who you are drastically affects what you do).
Paul’s first command flows from all he has been telling his readers. Reckon, consider, mark that you are dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus. It’s not about feeling that we are dead to sin but it is about living in light of the reality that we are dead to sin. We trust what God has said and live on the basis of that trust. If Bill Gates or Donald Trump gives you a large check, you are likely to cash it. But if a five year old scribbles two million dollars on their mother’s check and gives it to you, you’re not going to take it. When we trust in Christ, we are never going to find that we drew from insufficient funds. His Word will never bounce. In Him you are dead to sin. In Him you are alive to God. Now next time we’ll look at more about how we can find that to be true in our day to day experience. Sanctification is, at its most basic level, about becoming what you are.

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