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Bible Commentaries
Romans 6

Bridgeway Bible CommentaryBridgeway Bible Commentary

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Verses 1-23


Having spoken about justification by faith (how believers can be put right with God), Paul goes on to speak about sanctification by faith (how believers can live lives of practical holiness). In some of the other New Testament writings, ‘sanctify’ means ‘declare holy’, in much the same way as ‘justify’ means ‘declare righteous’. (‘Sanctify’ and ‘holy’ are different parts of the same word in the original languages.) Sanctification, like justification, denotes what God does for believers on the basis of Christ’s death (Hebrews 10:14; 1 Peter 1:2; 1 Peter 1:2). The main emphasis in Romans, however, is on the practical expression of sanctification. Since God has declared believers righteous and holy, they must be righteous and holy in practice (Romans 6:19,Romans 6:22). The following outline will introduce some of the ideas and words that Paul uses in developing this subject.

Sinful human nature

When Adam sinned, he corrupted human nature. This means that all human beings, because of their union with Adam, are born with a sinful nature. Paul commonly calls this sinful human nature the flesh (Psalms 51:5; Romans 5:12; Romans 7:18; Galatians 5:16-17).

People do not need anyone to teach them to do wrong. They do it naturally, from birth. Sinful behaviour is only the outward sign of a much deeper problem, and that is a sinful heart, mind and will (Jeremiah 17:9; Mark 7:20-23; Ephesians 2:3). Every part of human life is affected by this disease of sin, including all that people are (their nature) and all that they do (their deeds) (Genesis 6:5; Matthew 7:18; Romans 7:18). This doctrine, known as total depravity, does not mean that all people are equally sinful, but that every part of human nature is affected by sin. The corruption is total.

Because of such forces as conscience, will-power, civil laws and social customs, not all people show this sinful condition equally. But in spite of the good that they do, human nature is still directed by sin. The flesh is hostile to God’s law and will not submit to it (Isaiah 64:6; Romans 8:7-8). This creates constant conflict in people’s lives, because when they want to do right they repeatedly do wrong. Sin is like a cruel master that they cannot escape, no matter how much they may want to (John 8:34; Romans 7:21-23). Yet all people are still responsible for their own actions, and have the ability to say ‘yes’ or ‘no’ when tempted to sin (1 Corinthians 10:13; James 1:14).

Victory through Christ

Jesus was born with a human nature, but his human nature was not affected by sin (1 John 3:5). He lived in complete obedience to God’s law, died to pay its penalty on behalf of sinners, then rose victoriously to new life. In dealing with sin he broke its power so that people might no longer be enslaved by it (Romans 8:3; Hebrews 2:14-15). The old life that believers once lived, all that each person once was as a sinful descendant of Adam - the ‘old self’, the ‘old being’ - was crucified with Christ. Believers now have a new nature. They share in the life of Christ and are indwelt by the Holy Spirit (Romans 6:6; Romans 8:9; Colossians 3:9-10; 2 Peter 1:4; 2 Peter 1:4).

Nevertheless, believers still live in a world where everything suffers from the effects of sin. Their old nature, the flesh, though condemned by Christ at the cross, is not yet destroyed. It will be with them till the end of his present earthly life, but because of Christ they need not remain in its power (Romans 6:14,Romans 6:18; Romans 8:1-2).

There is therefore a continual conflict in the lives of believers, the old nature fighting against the new, the flesh fighting against the Spirit (Romans 8:5; Galatians 5:17). The flesh always wants to do evil, and if believers give way to it, it will bring them under its power again, ruling them like an evil master and making them useless for God. They can resist the power of the old nature by making sure that their behaviour is directed and controlled by the Spirit (Romans 6:12-18; Romans 8:4; Galatians 5:16).

Christians have no obligation to the flesh. They must not trust it or give it any opportunity to satisfy its evil desires (Romans 8:12-13; Romans 13:14; Philippians 3:3). Paul wants to show that Christ has already won the victory over the flesh, and through the power of Christ’s indwelling Spirit believers can claim this victory as theirs daily (Romans 6:6-7; Romans 8:1-3).

Freedom from sin (6:1-23)

In 5:20-21 Paul concluded that, no matter how much sin increases, God’s grace increases all the more to meet it. He now warns against using that truth as an excuse for carelessness about sin. Christians ought not to sin. Their union with Christ means that with Christ they died to sin, with Christ they were buried, and with Christ they rose to new life. They pictured this in their baptism and they must now show it to be true in their daily lives (6:1-4).
For believers in Christ, the old life has gone, the new has come. When people die, no one can make any more demands on them. So also when believers died to sin through Christ, the full penalty that sin demanded was met for them. They are free from sin. It has no power over them (5-7). But having died for sin, Jesus rose again, and now sin and death can touch him no more. Because believers are ‘in Christ’, this death to sin and victorious entry into new life becomes theirs as well. They must believe it to be true and live accordingly (8-11). If, however, they allow sin to have the opportunity, it will conquer and rule them again. Therefore, they must give every part of themselves to God, so that God, not sin, might work through them (12-13). The law cannot enable people to overcome the power of sin, but God’s grace can (14).
The freedom that grace gives is freedom from sin, not freedom from God. It does not allow people to sin with ease, as some think, for that would lead them back to slavery to their former master, sin. No matter what people do regularly, whether sin or righteousness, it will soon have power over them (15-16). Instead of allowing careless habits to drag them back into the bondage of sin, believers should concentrate on obeying the teachings of righteousness and so become true servants of God (17-18). This will enable them to produce lives of practical holiness (19).
Sinners feel no obligation to righteousness, but neither do they get any satisfaction from sin. They get only disappointment, bondage and death (20-21). Being a slave of God brings satisfaction and holiness in the present world, and the fulness of eternal life in the age to come (22-23).

Bibliographical Information
Flemming, Donald C. "Commentary on Romans 6". "Fleming's Bridgeway Bible Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/bbc/romans-6.html. 2005.
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