The Believer’s Freedom from Sin’s Domination, 1-14
6:1 What shall we say then? Are we to remain in sin so that grace may increase? 6:2 Absolutely not! How can we who died to sin still live in it? 6:3 Or do you not know that as many as were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? 6:4 Therefore we have been buried with him through baptism into death, in order that just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we too may live a new life.
The chapter is in two matching halves: vv1-14 dealing with union with Christ; vv15-23 dealing with slavery to righteousness.
Having just spoken in glowing terms about the triumph of grace, Paul now balances the picture by returning to the ever-present threat of sin in the life of the believer. Having jumped straight from justification to glorification, he has left himself open to the charge of antinomianism (cf Rom 3:8, see also Jude 4). He now deals with and refutes that charge. He maintains that we are delivered not only from the penalty of sin (we are justified) but also from the power of sin (we are sanctified).
‘Paul pictures Christian experience in terms of a transfer from one ‘regime’ or ‘realm’ to another. To become a Christian, Paul asserts, means to be released from the old regime, dominated by Adam, (Rom 5:12-21) sin (ch. 6), the law (ch. 7) and death (ch. 8) and to be introduced into the new regime, dominated by Christ, (Rom 5:12-21; 7:1-6) righteousness (ch. 6), the Spirit (Rom 7:6; 8), grace (Rom 6:14-15) and life.’ (Rom 5:12-21; 6:4; 8:1-13) (Moo, NBC)
Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase? – Paul’s critics ‘were implying that Paul’s gospel of free grace actually encouraged lawlessness and put a premium on sin, because it promised sinners the best of both worlds: they could indulge themselves freely in ths world, without any fear of forfeiting the next.’ (Stott)
‘Have we never caught ourselves making light of our failures on the ground that God will excuse and forgive them?’ (Stott)
‘If we are proclaiming Paul’s gospel, with its emphasis on the freeness of grace and the impossibility of self-salvation, we are sure to provoke the charge of antinomianism. If we do not arouse this criticism, the likelihood is that we are not preaching Paul’s gospel.’ (Stott)
We died to sin – According to a number of commentators, this means that we are, with respect to sin, immune, insensitive and unresponsive – just like a corpse. But this is inconsistent both with Paul’s urges not to give in to sin (v12f; 13:12,14) and with our own experience, which teaches that, far from being quiescent with regard to sin, we are involved in a pitched battle against it. ‘To explain the expression “dead to sin” as meaning dead to the influence and love of sin is entirely erroneous’ (Haldane). The misunderstanding is based on an inappropriate use of the analogy. The witness of scripture is that ‘death to sin’ is a question of legal standing rather than a state of corpse-like insensitivity, Rom 1:32 5:12 6:23; cf. Gen 2:17. Being ‘dead to sin’ means that sin no longer has any claim or demand on us. We are dead, not to its power, but to its guilt. (See Stott, 169-173).
The argument of vv3-5 is that through baptism we have come to participate in Christ’s death, burial and resurrection.
Baptized into Christ Jesus – That is, brought into union with him. Paul will hardly be teaching baptismal regeneration here, since he has just spent three chapters arguing that salvation is by faith. No, here as in other passages the sign is put in the place of the thing signified. (cf. Acts 22:16; Gal 3:27; 1 Pet 3:21) The faith of the baptised is taken for granted, not denied.
Buried with him through baptism – It is unlikely, according to Moo, that the apostle is referring to Spirit baptism:
‘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.’ (Moo, NBC)
6:5 For if we have become united with him in the likeness of his death, we will certainly also be united in the likeness of his resurrection. 6:6 We know that our old man was crucified with him so that the body of sin would no longer dominate us, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin. 6:7 (For someone who has died has been freed from sin.)
If we have been united with him like this in his death – lit. ‘united with him in the likeness of his death.’ Baptism pictures this graphically: ‘That plunge beneath the running waters was like a death; the moment’s pause while they swept on overhead was like a burial; the standing erect once more in the air and sunlight was a species of resurrection.’ (Sanday & Headlam) ‘In other words our baptism was a sort of funeral.’ (C.J. Vaughan)
We will certainly also be united with him in his resurrection – The reference here is not to our physical resurrection, but to our resurrection to spiritual life. The future tense indicates the certainty of this.
‘If the power of Christ’s death, that is the mortifying influence of it, have been upon our hearts, killing their lusts, deadening their affections, and flattening their appetites to the creature, then the power of his life, or resurrection, shall come (like the animating dew) upon our dead withered bodies, to revive and raise them up to live with him in glory.’ (Flavel, The Fountain of Life)
Our old self – our former self, our Adamic nature – was crucified with him. Sanctification is a definitive act, as well as a continuing process.
So that the body of sin might be done away with – not ‘the sinful body’ (RSV): it was a Gnostic notion that the body was intrinsically corrupt. The doctrines of creation, incarnation and resurrection give lie to this view. Perhaps Paul is using ‘soma’ (body) here as a synonym for ‘sarx’ (flesh). Our old self was crucified with Christ in order that the sinful nature might be ‘defeated, disabled, deprived of power’ (Stott).
‘How can sin be rendered powerless, as Paul says in Rom 6:6? Consider the effect of gravity on a book. Gravity would cause an unsupported book to fall, but gravity can be rendered “powerless” against the book by simply placing a table under it. As long as the table is under the book, gravity cannot cause it to fall. Of course gravity has not really lost its power nor is it no longer present. It is just that the table is “stronger” than gravity’s effect on the book.
For the Christian, the Holy Spirit is like that table and our sin nature is like gravity’s pull. As long as we allow the Holy Spirit to hold us up, which places our dependence on his power to give us victory over sin, our sinful impulses have no power to pull us down.’ (Illustrations for Biblical Preaching, 423)
‘There are, in fact, two quite distinct ways in which the New Testament speaks of crucifixion in relation to holiness. The first is our death to sin through identification with Christ; the second is our death to self through imitation of Christ. On the one hand, we have been crucified with Christ. But on the other we have crucified (decisively repudiated) our sinful nature with all its desires, so that every day we renew this attitude by taking up our cross and following Christ to crucifixion. The first is a legal death, a death to the penalty of sin; the second is a moral death, a death to the power of sin. The first belongs to the past, and is unique and unrepeatable; the second belongs to the present, and is repeatable, even continuous. I died to sin (in Christ) once; I die to self (like Christ) daily. It is with the first of these two deaths that Romans 6 is chiefly concerned, although the first is with a view to the second, and the second cannot take place without the first.’ (Stott)
‘This lays the solemn responsibility upon him to live like the new man he is, for the old man is dead and so can no more be blamed for his sins (cf. the awful warning of 1 Cor 6:15f).’ (Wilson)
That we should no longer be slaves to sin – This introduces the theme of freedom from slavery to sin that will be developed in the following verses.
Anyone who has died has been freed from sin – ‘Freed’ is not ‘eleutheroo’, which Paul uses in v18 & v22, but ‘dikaioo’: the meaning could be ‘has been acquitted from sin’, or ‘has quit sin’. ‘For as death clears men of all claims, so “it clears us, who have died with Christ, of the claim of sin, our old master, to rule over us still.”’ (Wilson, quoting Denney)
6:8 Now if we died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. 6:9 We know that since Christ has been raised from the dead, he is never going to die again; death no longer has mastery over him. 6:10 For the death he died, he died to sin once for all, but the life he lives, he lives to God. 6:11 So you too consider yourselves dead to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus.
If we died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him – ‘Although this living with Christ doubtless includes the future resurrection state of glory, the primary reference is to our present participation in the resurrection life of Christ..’ (Wilson)
He died to sin once for all – The once-for-all nature of Christ’s death is emphasised in Heb 7:21; 9:12,28; 10:10; 1 Pet 3:18.
‘The death he died he died to sin, once for all’. (Rom 6:10) What does that mean? It can mean only one thing; that Christ died to sin in the sense that he bore sin’s penalty. He died for our sins, bearing them in his own innocent and sacred person. He took upon himself our sins and their just reward. The death that Jesus died was the wages of sin—our sin. He met its claim, he paid its penalty, he accepted its reward, and he did it ‘once’, once and for all. As a result sin has no more claim or demand on him. So he was raised from the dead to prove satisfactoriness of his sin-bearing, and he now lives for ever to God.
If this is the sense in which Christ died to sin, it is equally the sense in which we, by union with Christ, have died to sin. We have died to sin in the sense that in Christ we have borne its penalty. Consequently our old life has finished; a new life has begun.’ (Stott, Men Made New)
The doctrine of union with Christ now gives way to practical exhortation. This is closely linked to Christ’s resurrection:
‘The fact that we have this new resurrection power over the domination of sin in our lives is used by Paul as a reason to exhort us not to sin any more.’ (Grudem, Systematic Theology, 616)
‘If Christ’s death was a death to sin (which it was), and if his resurrection was a resurrection to God (which it was), and if by faith-baptism we have been united to Christ in his death and resurrection (which we have been), then we ourselves have died to sin and risen to God. We must therefore ‘reckon’ (AV), ‘consider’ (RSV), ‘regard’ (NEB), ‘look upon’ (JBP) or count (NIV) ourselves dead to sin but alive to God in, or by reason of our union with, Christ Jesus (11).
‘This ‘reckoning’ is not make-believe. It is not screwing up our faith to believe what we do not believe. We are not to pretend that our old nature has died, when we know perfectly well it has not. Instead we are to realize and remember that our former self did die with Christ, thus putting an end to its career. We are to consider what in fact we are, namely dead to sin and alive to God (11), like Christ (10). Once we grasp this, that our old life has ended, with the score settled, the debt paid and the law satisfied, we shall want to have nothing more to do with it.’ (Stott)
6:12 Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its desires, 6:13 and do not present your members to sin as instruments to be used for unrighteousness, but present yourselves to God as those who are alive from the dead and your members to God as instruments to be used for righteousness. 6:14 For sin will have no mastery over you, because you are not under law but under grace.
Do not let sin reign in your mortal body – Sin has no right over us, and our behaviour should reflect this. ‘To say to the slave who has not been emancipated, “Do not behave as a slave” is to mock his enslavement. But to say the same to the slave who has been set free is the necessary appeal to put into effect the privileges and rights of his liberation. So in this case the sequence is: sin does not have the dominion; therefore do not allow it to reign.’ (John Murray)
‘Sin is regarded as a sovereign (who reigns, v12), who demands the military service of subjects (exacting obedience, v12), levies their quota of arms (weapons of unrighteousness, v13), and gives them their soldier’s-pay of death (wages, v23).’ (Lightfoot)
You are not under law, but under grace – Those who are ‘under the law’ are those who place themselves under its authority, believing that keeping the law will earn salvation. But sin is the master of all such people, because the law says, ‘Obey’, without either giving the power to obey, or offering forgiveness when the law is broken. But, says Paul, ‘You are not under law, but under grace’ – you are not under the power of the law, which can only condemn, but under the power of grace, which brings forgiveness.
‘His assertion that the Christian is not ‘under law, but under grace’ (14b) could imply that there are no more rules the Christian needs to obey and no more penalty for any sins that he or she does commit. Paul’s response is similar to his teaching in vv 3-10: habitual sinning would manifest a state of slavery to sin (v16), a state from which every Christian has been released (vv17-18).’ (Moo, NBC)
‘Even some evangelical believers misrepresent Scripture on the subject of the law. They quote the apostle Paul’s well-known statements that “Christ is the end of the law,” Rom 10:4, and “you are not under law,” turn a blind eye to their context, and misrepresent them as meaning that the category of law has now been abolished, that we are no longer under obligation to obey it, but are free to disobey it. But Paul meant something quite different. He was referring to the way of salvation, not the way of holiness. He was insisting that for our acceptance with God we are “not under law but under grace,” since we are justified by faith alone, not by works of the law. But we are still under the moral law for our sanctification. As Luther kept saying, the law drives us to Christ to be justified, but Christ sends us back to the law to be sanctified.’ (Stott, The Contemporary Christian, 92)
The Believer’s Enslavement to God’s Righteousness, 15-23
6:15 What then? Shall we sin because we are not under law but under grace? Absolutely not! 6:16 Do you not know that if you present yourselves as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one you obey, either of sin resulting in death, or obedience resulting in righteousness? 6:17 But thanks be to God that though you were slaves to sin, you obeyed from the heart that pattern of teaching you were entrusted to, 6:18 and having been freed from sin, you became enslaved to righteousness. 6:19 (I am speaking in human terms because of the weakness of your flesh.) For just as you once presented your members as slaves to impurity and lawlessness leading to more lawlessness, so now present your members as slaves to righteousness leading to sanctification. 6:20 For when you were slaves of sin, you were free with regard to righteousness.
If we are no longer ruled by the terms of the law, but by those of grace, are we now free to sin and to cast aside the Ten Commandments? Paul says, ‘By no means!’
‘Well before Paul was born, there had been a Roman law stating that no freeborn man could be enslaved. Therefore, a man could literally sell himself into slavery, collect the proceeds, then have a friend come and attest to his status as a freeborn man, and he would have to be released at once. This caused havoc with the Roman economy, which was well oiled by its slave labour. Therefore, just before Paul’s day, a new law was enacted whereby any man who sold himself into slavery could no longer claim free status later. The law could no longer help him. It was therefore clear to Paul’s readers in Rome that “to whom you present yourselves as slaves for obedience, his slave you are.”’
(Illustrations for Biblical Preaching, 423)
‘No absolute freedom is conferred upon the Christian, for his position is simply that of a slave who has changed masters.’ (Wilson, citing Nygren)
‘Paul does not praise them for having made a better and happier choice; he thanks God for taking them out of the old bondage.’ (Nygren)
- Escalates, v19, ‘Ever-increasing wickedness’
- Ensnares, v19, ‘Slavery’
- Corrupts, v19, ‘Impurity’
- Deceives, v21, ‘What benefit did you reap?’
- Kills, v23, ‘The wages of sin is death’
6:21 So what benefit did you then reap from those things that you are now ashamed of? For the end of those things is death. 6:22 But now, freed from sin and enslaved to God, you have your benefit leading to sanctification, and the end is eternal life. 6:23 For the payoff of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Reviewing the teaching of this chapter, Stott says: ‘We need to learn to talk to ourselves, and ask ourselves questions: ‘Don’t you know? Don’t you know the meaning of your conversion and baptism? Don’t you know that you have been united to Christ in his death and resurrection? Don’t you know that you have been enslaved to God and have committed yourself to his obedience? Don’t you know these things? Don’t you know who you are?’ We must go on pressing ourselves with such questions, until we reply to ourselves: ‘Yes, I do know who I am, a new person in Christ, and by the grace of God I shall live accordingly.’
Wages – ‘There is a definiteness and certainty about wages. Wages are different from a spontaneous gift. A man has done his week’s work; he presents himself at the paymaster’s desk, and is paid off…But many people think that the paymaster can be cheated, that after a life of sin we can present ourselves hopefully at the cashier’s window and be paid in some different coin from that which we have earned…God grant that we may not hope to cheat! God grant that we may learn in time that the wages of sin is death!’ J. Gresham Machen
But… – There is a stark choice here. For, as our Master said, no-one can serve two masters, Mt 6:24.
Gift – = charisma.
- Life’s greatest reality – ‘sin’.
- Lie’s greatest certainty – ‘death’.
- Life’s greatest offer – ‘the gift of God’.
- Life’s greatest issues – ‘death…life’.
- Life’s greatest choice – ‘wages…’gift’.
- Life’s greatest medium – ‘through Jesus Christ’.
(Pickering, Subjects for Speakers and Students)
‘If…we are determined to get what we deserve, it can only be death; by contrast, eternal life is God’s gift, wholly free and utterly undeserved.’ (Stott)
Look ahead; consider the final outcome. How you live and whom you trust will lead either to death or to life, Psa 73:17.
‘We sin on the instalment plan. The bills come in later. But come they will for sin pays handsomely, relentlessly.’ (Erwin W. Lutzer)
‘Let DESERVED be written on the door of hell; but on the door of heaven and life, THE FREE GIFT.’ (Baxter)
‘You can sin yourself into an utter deadness of conscience, and that is the first wage of your service of sin.’ (Spurgeon)
Two ways to live are shown here: your house is on the sand, or on the rock; you enter the wide gate or the straight and narrow gate; you travel the broad way or the narrow way; you serve God or mammon.