In chapters 6 through 8, the emphasis switches from the positional truth of justification to the practical truth of sanctification. To be sanctified means to be set apart. Because we are justified positionally, we are sanctified practically. Meaning, we are set apart to be used by the Lord, and to become more like Jesus. Romans chapter 1 through 5 explains to us we are dead in sin. Chapters 6 through 8 tell us we are dead to sin. Chapters 1 through 5 tell us we are free from the penalty of sin. Chapters 6 through 8 tell us we are free from the power of sin.
Now we have arrived at one of the most powerful and potent passages ever penned by Paul. Paul masterfully and persuasively made his point in the first five chapters that salvation is apart from works. (You cannot earn your salvation) But this causes problems for people who say, “If you preach grace, people will live loosely unless you lay down the law, and tell them what to do and how to think.” In chapter 6, Paul will address that issue as he presents his argument to those who insist that grace leads to loose living.
Chapter 6 starts with “What shall we say then?”, and that means that we know he is building on a previous thought, so we need to start off with that thought to put this weeks reading into context. We know he is building on the previous thought from chapter 5, specifically verses 20-21.
20 Now the law came in to increase the trespass, but where sin increased, grace abounded all the more, 21 so that, as sin reigned in death, grace also might reign through righteousness leading to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord. – Romans 5:20-21 ESV
1 What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? 2 By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it? 3 Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? 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.
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. 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. 7 For one who has died has been set free from sin. 8 Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. 9 We know that Christ, being raised from the dead, will never die again; death no longer has dominion over him. 10 For the death he died he died to sin, once for all, but the life he lives he lives to God. 11 So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus.
12 Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, to make you obey its passions. 13 Do not present your members to sin as instruments for unrighteousness, but present yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life, and your members to God as instruments for righteousness. 14 For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace. – Romans 6:1-14 ESV
The challenging thoughts that we face, even today, swirled then. If grace abounded all the more when sin increased, then why not go on sinning and give God an opportunity to display is grace!
Paul responds that a continuing lifestyle of unrestrained sin is inconsistent wit our identity as believers in Christ. The person we used to be, a person in slavery to sin, has died. We now have a new life in Christ, one which comes from Christ and frees us form sin’s control. Therefore, our lives should reflect the new reality.
Paul never does discredit the notion that grace increases as sin increases. What Paul unfolds is what is behind our motivation. An example we can use in our times could be as follows:
Your parents were wealthy and loved you dearly. You had some addiction, whether it drugs, alcohol, or gambling as such, and you kept getting in trouble. With the law and financially. Your parents bailed you out of jail. They paid your fines. They helped pay your house payment because you could not keep up with the payments. You loved your parents, you did not mean to hurt them, and you just enjoyed life. Time after time you think you are going to stop doing what you are doing, but you have no intentions. Time after time, you call your parents for help, not changing your ways. Just because your parents have the money to help, does that make them appear to be better parents if they continue to fill in the gaps financially? Would they and other people look to them as great parents? That they raised their child well? Would you be a good role model to others as you represent Christ? The resounding answer should be “no”.
This is the same way many individuals play the grace card with God. Yes, his grace covers all sin, yes there is nothing you can do that he cannot save you from eternally, but we need to really look at our lifestyles, motivations and intentions. We are not our own any longer after we accept Jesus as our savior.
“By no means”, Paul follows it up with. The reason we can no longer continue in a lifestyle of sin is that we have died. The person who previously was under the control of sin, has died.
Paul will make a three-fold argument against grace being a danger. All too often, Christians try to fight sin by preaching, “No, no, no.” Paul’s method was to teach, “Know, know, know.” He said, “Know you have a new identification with Jesus Christ.
20 I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. – Galatians 2:20 ESV
3 For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. – Colossians 3:3
It is inconsistent with our identity in Christ to live as if that change had never taken place.
Paul goes on to explain about how we are united with Christ when we accept him as our Lord and Savior. We died to self and we were raised in a new life, that of a Christian. One that has been set free and now lives a new life, allowing the character of Christ to emanate from us. The beautiful picture this illustrates is that our old self-seeking life died the Christ when we accepted Him, and the power that raised Jesus from the dead is also the power that changes us. We cannot do it on our own. There are many testimonies right around this table that illustrate that over and over again. When we receive that new life which Jesus received from God, we should live according to the principles of the new life, rather than those of the old life.
Let us be clear that baptism is not what saves us. It is a outward expression of our dedication and represents our death and resurrection in Christ.
21 Baptism, which corresponds to this, now saves you, not as a removal of dirt from the body but as an appeal to God for a good conscience, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ, – 1 Peter 3:21 ESV
When Paul refers to how we will be united with him, he is talking about now and in the future. We are united with Christ in the new life and opportunity we have now, but also in the future when he returns.
11If we have died with him, we will also live with him; – 2 Timothy 2:11
Each one of has a testimony. We can clearly share who we were, what we did and how we acted. Then through the conversion of Jesus we have been made new. The old way of life has died, we have a new motivation, a new agenda, a clean slate. Our old sinful impulses no longer control us. Note, we do not become protected from sinful impulses, tragedies and challenges. We just have a different way of facing the challenges and reacting.
Our physical bodies have been referred to as sin’s instruments for destruction. When we accept Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior we make the instrument powerless. It still has the potential, but does not have power. Like a big truck or tractor that can cause lots of destruction, but when it is out of gas, it is harmless. Sin no longer has the power to use our physical bodies to do evil. As a result, we have been freed from slavery to sin. In the same way that a slave is free from his master’s authority, so we, having died in Christ, are free from sin’s authority over our lives. Those of us who share in Christ’s death through faith also share in his victory over death. Death has no sting any longer!
It is our decision. We can let sin control our lives, even though it does not have authority, or we can live new lives breaking away from the power of sin. Sin is powerless now, unless we give it control.