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Romans 6

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Free From Sin

Paul continues to unfold the second half of the great theme stated in Romans 1:17: "The just shall live by faith." How shall he who is justified by faith live? The man who believes in Christ and who has evidenced his faith by obedience to the gospel has been forgiven of his sins and has been declared righteous by God. Now he lives "in Christ." But exactly what does that statement mean?

In chapter five, Paul gives his first of four answers to that question, revealing that the justified believer lives free from wrath. Now in chapter six, he returns to the central question and adds another dimension: the justified believer shall live free from sin (Nygren 230). In his discussion of chapter five, Nygren gives this summary of Romans chapters one through eight:

The entire line of thought in the first eight chapters of Romans could be summed up this way: Since we are justified, we are free from Wrath, Sin, the Law and Death. "Since we are justified by faith" summarizes the first four chapters (5:1); and free from Wrath, Sin, the Law, and Death" summarizes the next four (245).

Paul’s exposition regarding freedom from sin obviously falls into two parts, each beginning with a question. In verse 1, we read: "What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin that grace may abound?" Similarly, verse 15 reads: "What then? shall we sin because we are not under the law, but under grace?" In the first part, Paul reveals that through baptism the believer becomes united with Christ and thereby is set free from the dominion of sin. Nygren says that in baptism the believer is "incorporated into Christ" (230). The explanation of this part consumes verses 1 through 14. In the second part, Paul reveals that freedom from sin has been given to the believer so that he may thereafter serve righteousness. Verses 13 through 23 are required to cover the second argument.

Verse 1

What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound?

In verses 20 and 21 of chapter five, Paul explains that the law of Moses was given to make man aware of how exceedingly sinful he was. The law made sin to abound by detailing more minutely what sin was. Paul’s purpose in chapter five is to demonstrate how the sacrifice of Jesus abounded "much more" beyond the simple nullification of the consequence of Adam’s sin—physical death—by guaranteeing to all men unconditionally the resurrection from the dead. Christ’s death needed to accomplish "much more" than that in order for men to be saved, for men not only faced the consequence of Adam’s sin—physical death—but also the consequence of their own sins—spiritual death. The law entered to make the necessity clear to all, and Jesus’ death did super-abound to free from God’s wrath against personal individual sin all who would choose to believe and obey the gospel.

Now, however, Paul anticipates the next objection of his detractors: If the law makes sin abound, and if where sin abounds grace abounds even more, then let us simply continue in sin so that grace will continue to abound. As Nygren notes:

Already in 3:8 Paul had met a similar question. "Why not do evil that good may come?" Then it was the truthfulness of God which was under consideration; it appeared the more clearly through our falseness. Now the question has to do with God’s grace, which abounds the more through our sin (232).

To "continue in sin" is to continue to commit it as we did before we obeyed the gospel. The question is: Shall we continue to be under the dominion of sin so that God’s grace may continue to abound?

Verse 2

God forbid. How shall we, that are dead to sin, live any longer therein?

God forbid: This expression means "May it not be." The New International Version translates: "By no means!" Lenski gives: "Perish the thought!" (388). The New American Standard Bible translates: "May it never be!" Curtis Vaugham lists ten different renderings in Twenty-Six Translations of the Bible (658–659). Cranfield says these words are "…a formula of strong denial used frequently by Paul (in Romans it occurs in 3:4, 6, 31 and in 6:2, 15; 7:7, 13; 9:14; 11:1, 11) always after a question" (62).

The rendering in the King James Version is correct in meaning; however, one should note that here the translators opted for interpretation rather than literal translation. The Greek word for "God" (qeo$) is not found in the text. It is also worthy of note that the words "God forbid" are not italicized in the King James Version. Some have thought that the King James translators italicized words when they were giving the dynamic equivalence of the Greek (not translating literally). This example shows that method was not always used. Sometimes words in italics do appear in the Greek text, and sometimes words not italicized do not appear in the Greek text. The reason this fact is noted is to emphasize the need for and validity of other translations newer than the King James Version (for example: NASB, NKJV, and others).

How shall we, that are dead to sin, live any longer therein: In this chapter when Paul speaks of the Christian’s being ’free from sin" or expressions to that effect, he does not intend to indicate the Christian no longer must battle against sin. He does not mean it has somehow become impossible for the Christian to sin. In fact, in this context, he encourages and admonishes the believer to refrain from yielding the parts of his body to do sin. He describes sin as a power under whose bondage man lives. He personifies sin as ruling over man. For the Christian to be "free from sin" means, according to Paul, that by Christ sin is cast down from its throne. Nygren grasps the meaning in these words:

[Paul’s] thought is not at all that we ourselves come to mastery over sin, so that it is less and less evident in us as we gradually grow toward sinlessness. Freedom from sin is rather a fruit of the work of Christ; it is by Him that sin is cast down and vanquished. He, who believes in Christ, no longer lives under the dominion of sin. He has found another Lord, to whom he stands in obedience…Since his mind is fixed on what has happened through Christ, he can say with full confidence that he who is justified through Christ is "free from sin." There are no limitations in the victory which Christ has won. In the death of Christ sin suffered the definitive loss of its right to rule. "The death he died he died to sin, once for all, but the life he lives he lives to God" (242-243).

More practically, to be dead in sin is to be under the rule of sin, to be dead to God by serving sin. By contrast, to die to sin is to turn from sin to the service of God. A man dies to sin when he believes in Jesus Christ enough to repent of his sins. Repentance is a change of mind that leads to a reformation of life (Matthew 21:2-30. The son regretted. He changed his will. He went and did his father’s bidding). True repentance determines to forsake sin and sets about to prove itself by good behavior.

Paul writes to those at Rome who have previously become Christians by their obedience to the gospel, and he counters the question of verse l by a question of his own. How can those of us, who have died to sin, continue to live in it? The idea is incredible to Paul. Having been freed from sin by his baptism into Christ, the Christian has passed out of the relationship in which sin reigns. Paul’s chief argument against the false notion that the believer can continue in sin because where sin abounds grace super-abounds is that through Christ we have been set free from sin.

Verse 3

Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into his death?

Know ye not: Lard notes the Greek interrogative [with which this verse opens—AWB] "often introduces a question which has immediate reference to something just said. It performs this office here; and where such is the case, it should be translated" (196). Many modern translations agree, connecting this question with verse 2 by translating the conjunction "or." For example, the New International gives, "Or don’t you know…" (ASV; NASV; NKJV; American Bible Union Version; Conybeare and Howson; Cranfield). This verse is a fuller exposition of what Paul has asserted in verse 2—it is absurd to teach that the Christian should continue in sin that grace might abound. Verse 3 is not so much a second reason as a further development of the question: "How shall we, that are dead to sin, live any longer therein?"

that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ: The repentant believer enters the body of Christ when he is baptized (Mark 16:16; Acts 2:38; Acts 8:12; Acts 10:48; Acts 18:8; Acts 22:16; Galatians 3:27; Colossians 2:12; 1 Peter 3:21). The idea conveyed by "baptized into" is transition from one condition or situation into another. As Lard notes:

Accordingly to be immersed into one body, 1 Cor. xii:13, is to pass from without it…into it; and becoming thereby inserted into it, to form a constituent member with its members. To be immersed into Moses, 1 Cor. x:2, is to pass from without the circle of his authority into it, and so become bound to obey him. To be immersed into repentance, Matt. iii.11, is to pass, by means of immersion, from the life of the impenitent into the state of him that has ceased from sin. In like manner, to be immersed into Christ is to pass from the world, where he is not believed in and obeyed, into a state of freedom from sin and of complete subjection to his will. It is equivalent to being born of water and, of the Spirit, by means of which we cross over from the world into the present kingdom of God, or church (197).

To be baptized "into Christ" is equivalent to "be baptized into the name of Christ." Of course, one does not pass from the power of darkness to the kingdom of light by baptism alone. Rather the immersion is predicated upon the fact of one’s faith and repentance as the basis upon which men are incorporated into the body of Christ. Verse 2 hints at this fact, and the broader context of the book demands it.

were baptized into his death: What does Paul mean when he says the penitent believer’s baptism is essentially baptism into Christ’s death? He means when a person is baptized, he becomes one with Christ and is enabled to partake of the conditional benefits of Christ’s sacrificial death on the cross. From God’s viewpoint, one’s baptism is the sign and pledge that the benefit of Christ’s death actually does accrue to that particular individual. From the standpoint of man, baptism is the final step of commitment and incorporation into the body of Christ. Nygren observes correctly about the immersion of the penitent believer:

That which is true of Him who is the head and the chief is true of us, when we have become part of that body. Christ’s death is our death, and Christ’s resurrection is our resurrection. It is of this fellowship of death and life with Christ established through baptism that Paul speaks [in verses 3 and 4—AWB] (233).

On the cross Jesus gave His life for us by paying the penalty of sin in our stead. In our baptism we become united with Christ in His sacrificial death and are thus enabled to participate in the benefits of His death.

Verse 4

Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.

Therefore: As noted in studying verse 3, Jesus died to pay in full the penalty of sins—all the sins that have ever been committed in the past as well as all that will ever be committed in the future. That is the reason John called Him "the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world" (John 1:29). It explains what Peter meant when he said of Jesus: "Who his own self bare our sins in his own body on the tree, that we being dead to sins, should live unto righteousness: by whose stripes ye were healed" (1 Peter 2:24). For Him to accomplish this victory for a specific believer so that the person may partake of the benefits of His death, it is essential for the repentant believer to be baptized into Christ. In this way the potential benefits of Jesus’ death are applied in actuality to the believer. In baptism, we are buried "with Him." In this way His death becomes, representatively, our death. In the believer’s baptism, he is not only baptized into Christ but also into His death.

In baptism the believer becomes so united with Christ that he dies to sin. His life in the sinful realm of the power of darkness dies, and he rises from the watery grave in righteousness, declared by God to be in the kingdom of light (7:4; 8:13; Galatians 2:19-20; Galatians 5:24; Galatians 6:14; Colossians 2:11-20). It is preposterous that a baptized person could continue to commit sin and expect to maintain a position of justification before God. Paul says the believer must recognize that in baptism he dies with Christ unto sin and he is raised with Christ unto righteousness.

we are buried with him: By referring to the believer’s baptism as a burial, Paul is not only teaching that baptism is a burial in water (immersion), but he intends for his readers to realize in the most decisive and emphatic way the truth of their having died with Christ. Burial is the seal set to the fact of death. Cranfield notes:

It is when a man’s relatives and friends leave his body in a grave and return home without him that the fact that he no longer shares their life is exposed with inescapable conclusiveness. So the death which we died in baptism was a death ratified and sealed by burial, an altogether unambiguous death (132).

by baptism unto death: The word "baptism" and all of its cognates is an unfortunate word in most of our English Bibles because it is a word that has been transliterated into English rather than translated. As a result, false doctrine has been made plausible and has been sustained by millions in the denominational world. The word "baptize" means "to dip, immerse, submerge, plunge, sink, overwhelm" (Pickering 200). The scholarship of the world is in complete agreement as to the meaning of the word bapti/zw. For further documentary evidence, consult these works:

1. Campbell on Baptism by Alexander Campbell (Bethany, Va. 1853).

2. The Gospel Plan of Salvation by T. W. Brents (Gospel Advocate Co. 1966).

3. Handbook on Baptism by J. W. Shepherd (Gospel Advocate 1972).

Overwhelming evidence supporting the actual definition of "baptism" (bapti/zw) is presented in these works. This doctrinal tenet is stated here emphatically because those who deny the plain meaning of the term have done tremendous damage to the truth. Consequently, it must be made clear that sprinkling and pouring are unacceptable forms of baptism. If the word had been translated "immersion" (as it should have been), many people would have avoided being led down the primrose path of false doctrine.

Fittingly, Paul compares baptism with a burial (Colossians 2:12); immersion into water is a perfect picture of burial. It is in our baptism that we are buried with Christ.

that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father: The penitent believer is buried or immersed in water into the death of Christ so that, just as God raised up Christ from the dead by His glorious power, the believer can be raised from the watery grave also.

By "glory" Paul refers to the power of God gloriously exercised. As Cranfield observes, "God’s use of His power is always glorious, and His use of it to raise His Son from the dead is a specially clear manifestation of His glory" (132)

even so we also should walk in newness of life: Since the believer is raised up as Christ was, like Christ he should walk in a new way of life. The reference is to the moral life. The use of the word "walk" to denote a person’s conduct occurs frequently in the New Testament (Ephesians 4:1; Ephesians 4:17; Ephesians 5:2; Ephesians 5:8; Ephesians 5:15; Colossians 2:6), as a metaphor denoting to live. The phrase "newness of life" indicates the quality of the baptized believer’s conduct: not a new life per se but a new manner of living. Lard notes "the gold in the coiner’s hand does not become new gold; but it assumes new and different shapes. So with the life: it does not become absolutely new, but all its manifestations become new and pure" (201). Cranfield says newness of life is:

…that which is new and fresh in comparison with other things, so different from the usual, superior to the old…the thought of the transcendent worth of the new way of life, as compared with the old, is present (132).

When one is baptized into Christ, he is immersed in water, signifying his burial with Christ; then he comes up out of the water, signifying his resurrection with Christ. He is then to walk with Christ in newness of life; so he cannot continue in sin.

For if we have been planted together in the likeness of his death, we shall be also in the likeness of his resurrection:

The verb "planted" here is su/mfutoi, which comes from a word that means "to make to grow together." It properly means "grown along with or united with" (Abbott-Smith 423). To become united with Christ’s death is to become conformed to it (compare Philippians 3:10; Romans 8:29). In baptism the Christian has become conformed to Christ’s death; therefore, in his new life he is to be conformed in his moral life to Christ’s resurrection.

Nygren says:

The verb is chosen with the thought that we were not formerly members in Christ’s body; but we became such through baptism and henceforth belong inseparably with the Head (234).

The concept is similar to that expressed in Romans 11:16-24 where Paul describes how the wild olive branches (the Gentiles) are grafted onto God’s olive tree and become united with it in growth so that henceforth they draw their sustenance and strength from it. John uses this concept in his metaphor of the vine and the branches (John 15:1-8).

Nygren concludes:

"We died to sin," says Paul (vs. 2). When and how did that take place? It happened in and through baptism…Therein the Christian died with Christ, and was buried with Him. To understand what that signifies as to the status of the Christian, we must remember what it was that took place through the death and resurrection of Christ. In the death of Christ the regnant power of sin was broken; all the dominions and powers of the old [order—AWB] were cast down. And in the resurrection of Christ the new [order—AWB] began. Since the Christian shares in the death and resurrection of Christ, all of this is also true of him: he has been delivered from the dominion of darkness and transferred to the kingdom of Christ (Colossians 1:13) (234).

Knowing this, that our old man is crucified with him, that the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin.

Knowing this, that our old man is crucified with him: By "our old man," Paul means the whole of a person’s fallen human nature; one’s former self; the self that suffered under the reign of sin prior to baptism into the body of Christ. By being immersed into Christ, the believer becomes one with Christ so that whatever befell Him is construed as befalling the penitent believer. Accordingly, since Jesus was crucified, the person submitting to baptism is viewed as being crucified with Christ. Commenting on a family of terms related to being with Christ, Bromiley cites numerous examples of compound words like systauroo (to crucify with), which is used in verse 4, and symphytos (being planted or united with) in verse 5. Then he comments:

By way of justification the goal of syn Christo’ is conformity to Christ’s image (cf. Genesis 1:26-27; 2 Corinthians 4:4; 2 Corinthians 4:6). The term prototokos insures Christ’s uniqueness. Christ is God’s image, and by new creation believers are conformed to him…Baptism is decisively significant in this regard…Baptism acknowledges the dominion that Christ gained by death and resurrection. By vicarious death Christ blots out sin and baptism means unity with the crucified and risen Christ and hence reconciliation to God. Those who are thus united with him are dead to sin. Previously dead in sin, they are now crucified with Christ, who has borne the curse of the law (Galatians 3:13), and they thus respond by self-appropriation to Christ (Romans 6:6; Galatians 2:20). As they are now dead to sin, they no longer serve it, for they are alive to God through Christ (Romans 6:6; Romans 6:12 ff). Already the new life in Christ finds an expression (2 Corinthians 4:7 ff) that will come to consummation in eternal being with Christ (Philippians 3:21). Sharing Christ’s resurrection means already the ruling of the present life for God (Bromily 1106).

that the body of sin might be destroyed: Because the baptized believer is living "in Christ" and belongs to the "body of Christ," an additional body must die. Paul calls this body "the body of sin." This phrase is practically equal to the "old man" mentioned previously. The body (sw=ma) denotes simply "the human body considered as the seat and occasion of moral imperfection, as inducing to sin through its appetites and passions" (AGLP 399). Paul describes it as a body "of sin" and identifies it as that part of man especially concerned in sinning. It is probably a somewhat less inclusive term than "our old man" but the difference is minimal.

The verb katarghqh=| (destroy) cannot mean "to destroy" in the sense of making it impossible for the believer to sin. When a man obeys the gospel by faith, repentance, and baptism for the remission of sins, he does not lose either the power to sin or the obligation to choose the right and reject the wrong. Paul is not saying, and the scriptures do not teach, that the baptized believer will not have to continue his struggle against sin. In fact, the opposite is true. The New Testament is replete with admonitions to Christians about avoiding sin and abiding faithfully (Galatians 5:19-21; 1 Corinthians 9:27; Romans 12:21; 2 Peter 1:3-11; 2 Peter 2:20-22; the book of Hebrews).

Katarghqh= means "to render useless or unproductive…to render powerless…to render null, abrogate, cancel…to free from, dissever from" (AGLP 226). Paul means the power of sin to control one’s life is broken. Sin no longer reigns over the baptized believer. In the first place, when he is baptized, his past sins are forgiven; in the second place, he has life in Christ; in the third place, he has the New Testament to direct his life; and in the fourth place, the New Testament reveals how one can have forgiveness for his sins committed after baptism (1 John 1:8-10; Acts 8:18-24).

that henceforth we should not serve sin: The stated object of becoming one with Christ in baptism—thereby crucifying the "old man" and rendering the "body of sin" powerless—is that the regenerated believer must no longer serve sin. To serve sin is to commit sin habitually. All of this teaching leads once more to the conclusion that Christians are not to continue in sin.

Verse 7

For he that is dead is freed from sin.

In baptism the believer is united with Christ in His death. At that time he crucifies his former nature and destroys the body of sin that formerly controlled him. The power of sin to rule over him is broken. Just as a man suffering unbearably from pain and disease is freed from that suffering when he dies, the suffering sinner is freed from the control of sin when he dies to sin and is buried with Christ in baptism (Acts 2:38; Acts 22:16). He is raised free from sin and its power. Paul means these words:

…as a specific theological statement that the man, who has died with Christ in baptism, in the sense that in his baptism he has received the sign and seal of his having died with Christ in God’s decision, has been justified from his sin. To state this fact is indeed to confirm v. 6; for it is the fact that God has justified us that is the firm basis of that new freedom to resist the bondage of sin in our practical living, to which the last clause of v. 6 refers (Cranfield 135).

Verse 8

Now if we be dead with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with him:

Paul does not diminish the certainty of his statement by using "if" and "we believe that." The word "if" is used in the sense of "since" or "if, as is surely true" (Cranfield 135). Paul emphasizes his point by indicating both his own and his fellow believers’ commitment to the truth of his declaration. It is the fixed belief of the Christian that since he has died with Christ in God’s sight, he is obligated to live his present life with Christ in the power of His resurrection. It is the duty of all who have been baptized with Christ to commit themselves wholeheartedly to discovering and obeying the will of God, so that righteousness will reign as supremely in their lives as sin formerly did. Lard comments:

If we should or ought to live like Christ, the question arises, How does Christ live? The reply is, he does not live the life he did before his death; he lives a new life. So with us. We should no longer live the old life we lived before our death in Christ. We should live a new life, a life free from sin. Hence again, the conclusion, we must not continue in sin that favor may abound (205).

Verse 9

Knowing that Christ being raised from the dead dieth no more; death hath no more dominion over him.

Knowing that: Several times in this chapter, Paul introduces an additional pertinent point with these words (verses 3, 6, 16). He uses similar stratagems in verses 11 ("likewise"), 18, and 20 ("being then made"). Here he introduces the thoughts of verses 9 and 10. He intends to shed greater light on the last phrase of verse 8, "we shall also live with him" by elucidating the true nature of Christ’s resurrection.

Christ being raised from the dead dieth no more: In the record of God’s word, several individuals have been raised from the dead. Elijah (1 Kings 17:17-23) and Elisha (2 Kings 4:8-37) both raised a child from the dead. Once some Israelites hastily tossed a man’s body into Elisha’s tomb; and when the body touched Elisha’s bones, the man came to life (2 Kings 13:21). In the New Testament, Jesus three times raised people from the dead (Luke 7:11-16; Matthew 9:18-25; John 11:1-46). Jesus’ own resurrection, however, was different from all of these. In the previous cases, only physical life was restored; and each person received merely an extension of natural life, only to succumb once more to the inexorable hand of death. But Jesus’ resurrection was "the final resurrection uniquely anticipated" as Cranfield observes (136). He arose from among the dead ones, never to die again (1 Corinthians 15:20-26). His resurrection is the assurance given to all men of the necessity to repent before He comes to judge the world in righteousness (Acts 17:30-31).

death hath no more dominion over him: This phrase enlarges upon the previous one. Jesus was subject to death because He became "flesh, and dwelt among us" (John 1:14). As a man, "it behoved him to be made like unto his brethren, that he might be a merciful and faithful high priest in things pertaining to God" (Hebrews 2:17). In Hebrews 2:9, the record explicitly states that Jesus "was made a little lower than the angels for the suffering of death." When Jesus became a man, He became subject to the dissolution of the body just like all men from Adam onward. But when He came forth from the grave, He triumphed over death. No longer was death His lord. He rose to die no more.

Parenthetically, it is important to remember that Jesus is also fully divine while He is fully human. The process of this miracle is not resolvable on time’s side of eternity. Nevertheless, we must recognize the fact (John 1:1; John 8:56); and equally we must recognize that if Jesus had not laid down His life voluntarily, His murderers could not have wrested it from Him (John 10:17-18).

Verse 10

For in that he died, he died unto sin once: but in that he liveth, he liveth unto God.

For in that he died, he died unto sin once: Paul here gives the reason that death no longer rules over Christ. The death Jesus died was a death to sin once for all--an absolute, decisive, and unrepeatable event. The concept of "dying to sin" here is different from the Christian’s death to sin in verse 2. Here it is absolute. This death must be understood in light of all that has elsewhere been revealed by Paul about Christ’s death to sin (3:2-26; 4:25; 5:6-8; 8:3; 1 Corinthians 15:3; 2 Corinthians 5:21; Galatians 3:13, and others). God’s sinless Son died to sin, paying the penalty for the sins of all of mankind from Adam to the end of time. It was in this way that "He condemned sin in the flesh" (8:3); however, here Paul means only to emphasize the "once for all" character of Christ’s death as an event so decisive, so utterly final, that there can be no hint of its being repeated (Hebrews 7:27; Hebrews 9:12; Hebrews 9:26; Hebrews 9:28; Hebrews 10:10; Hebrews 10:12; Hebrews 10:14; 1 Peter 3:18).

but in that he liveth, he liveth unto God: This phrase corresponds to the previous one: just as Jesus’ death was a "once for all" death to sin, so also His resurrected life is supremely devoted to God. Lard says, "It is a life in absolute harmony with his will, and consequently sublime and pure" (206).

Verse 11

Likewise reckon ye also yourselves to be dead indeed unto sin, but alive unto God through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Likewise reckon ye also yourselves to be dead indeed unto sin: In view of verses 9 and 10, the Christian is to consider himself dead to sin and alive unto God. Just as Jesus died unto sin once for all, the Christian is to consider himself as one who dies to sin in his baptism. Equally, just as Jesus was raised from the dead to live unto God, the Christian also is to reckon his own resurrection from the waters of baptism a commitment to live unto God. The penitent believer’s death, burial, and resurrection in baptism are to parallel Jesus’ own death, burial, and resurrection.

Paul says the Christian is to reckon (logi/zesqe) himself to be dead indeed unto sin. This verb means generally: "to reckon or calculate"; more specifically it means: "as a result of a calculation to evaluate, estimate, look upon as, to consider" (BDAG 597).

Cranfield says the expression "to reckon" denotes:

…a deliberate and sober judgment on the basis of the gospel, a reasoning which accepts as its norm what God has done in Christ. So here the imperative… means something like "Recognize that the truth of the gospel means that you are [’dead indeed unto sin’—AWB]. Thus to see oneself as one is revealed to oneself by the gospel and to understand and take utterly seriously what one sees is a first step—and a decisively important one—on the way of obedience (137).

Paul’s reasoning proceeds from the fact that the Christian has been immersed and in his baptism he has been forgiven of his sins (Acts 2:38; Acts 22:16), and has been made a member of the body of Christ (Galatians 3:27; 1 Corinthians 12:13). One would be mistaken, however, to consider baptism as something that affects only the past. The results of baptism also have an impact on the future. If Christ died to sin once for all and now lives His life for God, and if through baptism the believer is incorporated into Christ, then he must adhere to this change throughout his life. Paul speaks imperatively. The Christian must be constantly aware that his baptism not only brought about the forgiveness of his past sins but also it set the course for the remainder of his life. From the point of baptism forward, even unto the day of his death, he is to consider himself dead to sin and alive unto God.

but alive unto God: The Christian cannot continue in sin after his baptism into Christ. He must detest sin. He has died to it. Sin no longer rules over him. Now he must consider his life as one wholly devoted to God. God’s will expressed in the New Testament now governs his conduct from the instant he emerges from the watery grave. Everything the believer has and is, is due now to God. No provision for sin is permissible (13:10-14; Philippians 3:3). Lard contributes:

By being immersed into Christ, we so became one with him, as to die in him when he died. In like manner, we also became alive in him when he became alive, and so arose with him, to live a new life. We died in Christ, i.e, to sin, were dead in him, and with him returned again to life. It deeply behooves us then to live like him as nearly as possible. We should consequently be, in conduct, holy, harmless and pure (206).

through Jesus Christ our Lord: We are alive in Jesus Christ our Lord as a result of our baptism. The concept of being in Christ is probably best understood in accordance with our understanding of Paul’s references to the believer’s dying and being raised with Christ in baptism. Cranfield comments:

We are in Christ in that God has graciously decided to see us in Him; we are in Christ through our baptism, in that in it we have received God’s attestation of His decision to see us in Christ; we have to "put on…Christ" (13, 14), striving constantly to abide in Him in our daily lives; we shall one day be in Christ in the security of the final and perfect fulfillment of God’s purposes. It is in the first of these senses that "in Christ Jesus" is used here (137).

Verse 12

Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, that ye should obey it in the lusts thereof:

Here is the Christian’s call to battle. Now that he is in Christ; now that sin’s power to dominate over him has been broken; now that his checkered past has been forgiven; and now that he stands before God declared to be righteous and alive unto God: the Christian must stop sinning. Under the ensign of Jesus Christ, he must battle sin and subdue it. Cranfield says:

The conclusion to be drawn (’then’) from the fact which they have just been called upon to recognize and take seriously is not that, secure in God’s gracious decision for them, they may go on contentedly living just as they always have lived, but rather that now they must fight—they must not let sin go on reigning unchallenged over their daily lives, but must revolt in the name of their rightful ruler, God, against sin’s usurping rule (137-138).

The reader should appreciate the realistic character of Paul’s thinking here. When he says the Christian is "free from sin," he certainly does not mean the baptized believer has been exalted to a sphere above the circumstances of ordinary life. He does not mean the believer will never have to struggle again with sin. He does not mean the Christian will never again be tempted to sin. He does not mean that sin has become an impossibility for the saved ones. Such starry-eyed nonsense never entered Paul’s mind. Paul knows the battle continues. As Nygren says, "The Christian ever finds himself on the front line, between the forces that fight against each other. The outpost which he occupies is always exposed to sin’s attack" (246).

The Christian has been "brought from death to life." Before he obeyed the gospel, he lived in enemy territory where sin and death reigned. But the believer has now been raised up in Christ, and that territory formerly ruled by sin and death has been captured for God’s kingdom where righteousness and life reign. Before, he was a slave to sin, but now in Christ he is "free from sin." Consequently, he is commanded to use his newfound freedom to earnestly wage war against sin. Under sin’s power, the person could not fight against sin. He was its slave. He was bound to its service. But, in Christ, being freed from that bondage, he must enlist in the army of God and fight for all he is worth against sin. "In Christ" the Christian has been brought over to God’s side in the great battle. Now he can fight against sin. Now he can struggle to do right. Most importantly, now through Christ and His gospel, the believer can win the war against sin.

in your mortal body: Sin formerly reigned over humanity through their physical bodies. Now that they are alive unto God, they must stop allowing sin to dominate their bodies. The situation is complicated. The Christian is alive "in Christ"; and, therefore, he is a member in "the body of Christ." Unfortunately, he is also still human. He lives "in the flesh" (Galatians 2:20) and is subject to the desires of the body. In this situation sin seeks to regain control of that which it has lost in order to reign once more over the Christian; thus, Paul commands the Christian not to allow sin to use the body and its lusts to regain control.

that ye should obey it in the lusts thereof: Sin’s sphere of influence is the human body; however, sin controls the body only when the desires of the body have control of the person and lead him into sin. Lard explains:

Objects of temptation act upon the desires and excite them; these now seek to be gratified; the will yields, and the result is sin (James 1:13-15—AWB). Such is the process (207).

The Christian is instructed, however, not to allow these desires of the body to become excited (beyond their God ordained use) so as to impel him to obey them. If sin gains a foothold in this way, there will be an end to the Christian’s "freedom from sin."

Verse 13

Neither yield ye your members as instruments of unrighteousness unto sin: but yield yourselves unto God, as those that are alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness unto God.

Neither yield ye your members as instruments of unrighteousness unto sin: "Your members" denotes every part of the body with which the person can either commit sin or work righteousness. Originally the word meant a limb, but its meaning later came to include organs as well as limbs (AGLP 269). In practicality, there is not much difference between "your members" and "yourselves," which occurs later in the verse.

"Instruments" (o%pla) can mean either "implements or weapons" (AGLP 295). Here they are "tools of wickedness—that is, "tools for doing what is wicked" (BDAG 716).

The Christian must not present any part of his body—internal or external—as a tool or weapon to be used in the performance of any sin. In 1 Corinthians 9:27, Paul says, "But I keep under my body, and bring it into subjection: lest that by any means, when I have preached to others, I myself should be a castaway."

Deliberate, intentional, willful control must be exercised if the believer would avoid presenting his members as the instruments of wickedness and thereby allow sin to regain control over him. Thus, we approach the other side of the equation.

but yield yourselves unto God, as those that are alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness unto God: One is immediately reminded of Jesus’ enigmatic statement:

When the unclean spirit is gone out of a man, he walketh through dry places, seeking rest, and findeth none. Then he saith, I will return into my house from whence I came out; and when he is come, he findeth it empty, swept, and garnished. Then goeth he, and taketh with himself seven other spirits more wicked than himself, and they enter in and dwell there: and the last state of that man is worse than the first (Matthew 12:43-45 a).

It is not enough for the believer to refuse to present his body’s members as tools of wickedness. That refusal is an essential requirement of those who would abide in Christ, but it is not enough. Left alone, "swept and garnished," the resolve will fail and temptation will eventually prevail. If in addition to refusing to commit sin, however, the believer presents himself to God (2 Corinthians 8:5) in thankful submission and total devotion, he will be able to remain free from sin’s clutches. If he presents the members of his body as tools with which to work righteousness unto God, Jesus Christ will sustain him in his triumph over sin.

Verse 14

For sin shall not have dominion over you: for ye are not under the law, but under grace.

For sin shall not have dominion over you: Paul does not mean the Christian will never again in his life on earth yield to sin. He has made this fact abundantly clear. Instead he here refers to sin as a dominant power, and he means no longer will sin be lord over the Christian. The Christian lives under the reign of another Lord now—the Lord Jesus Christ. Never again will the believer be held helplessly under sin’s sway—unless, of course he wantonly turns his back on the Lord who has redeemed him. As long as he lives on earth, however, sin will continue to assault him; but he will be under Christ and by His authority be free to fight against sin’s usurped power.

for ye are not under the law, but under grace: Sin’s domination is broken for the baptized believer because he does not serve God under the law of Moses (or any other system of law). The word of God plainly states that the law of Moses was given to make people aware of the exceeding sinfulness of sin and to make them aware of their own personal sinfulness (5:20; 7:7-14; Galatians 3:10-22). Paul’s critics thought the doctrine stating where sin abounds grace does much more abound (5:20) would encourage people to sin and thus increase sin’s dominion; however, the very opposite is true. Grace’s super-abounding power is able to break the reign of sin in the life of the penitent and obedient believer. But under the law of Moses (or any other law system—Galatians 3:21), sin reigns supreme. Why? The answer is that under a law system—even Moses’—there is no provision for the justification of the sinner. Once he sins, he stands forever condemned and under God’s wrath. There is no escape. Sin reigns under such a system. But where grace abounds over sin, forgiveness of sins is offered on the condition of penitent faithful obedience. In this manner sin’s dominion is destroyed. Grace abounds over sin in the Christian system because Jesus Christ gave Himself a ransom for all mankind (1 Timothy 2:4-6) and paid the penalty of sin. This free gift is available to all those who choose to believe in Jesus enough to turn away from their sins in repentance and to be immersed for the remission of sins.

The fact that we have been set free from God’s condemnation and are now the object of His gracious favor confirms the truth of the promise that sin shall be no more lord over us. The person who knows that he is free from God’s condemnation finds himself becoming free to resist the tyranny of sin with boldness and resolution.

Verse 15

What then? shall we sin because we are not under law, but under grace? God forbid.

In this section of Paul’s discussion of the Christian’s freedom from sin, he firmly dismisses the absurd notion that man is free from all control or that he has no master at all. Actually only two alternatives are open to the Christian: he may choose to have sin as his master, or he may choose to have God as his master. There is no other alternative.

At first glance, the question of this verse harks back to verse 1. Upon closer examination, the verse here is a different consideration. In verse 1, the question is occasioned by the false inference, incorrectly drawn, from Romans 5:20 that if law makes sin abound and where sin abounds grace abounds even more, then believers should continue in sin so as to make grace abound more and more. Paul then answers that the man baptized into Christ is freed from the dominion of sin. He is freed from sin’s power over him because he is not under the law of Moses (or any other law system) but under grace. In this verse 15, Paul counters another false inference based on what he said in verse 14.

Some would argue that if we are not under law but under grace, then sin need not be taken so seriously. They might decide incorrectly that sinful acts do not matter anymore so far as the believer is concerned because we are not under law anyway. Paul’s fear is not unwarranted, for this is exactly the mistake made by the Gnostic and every libertine since then—even down to our own day.

Verse 16

Know ye not, that to whom ye yield yourselves servants to obey, his servants ye are to whom ye obey; whether of sin unto death, or of obedience unto righteousness?

Two important points are stressed here. First, men are slaves (dou/lou$) of that to which they yield themselves in obedience. Though Paul is aware of the inadequacies of the figure of slavery to depict the believer’s relationship to God and guards against such a generalization in verse 19, it is the figure that best describes what Cranfield calls "the total belongingness, total obligation and total accountability which characterize the life under grace, with a vigor and vividness which no other image seems able to equal" (141).

Second, men have only two alternatives from which they must choose: either they will be the slaves of sin or they will be the slaves of obedience.

When Paul uses the phrase "ye yield yourselves servants to obey," he no doubt contemplates obedience either to sin unto death or obedience unto justification that is rendered voluntarily. Such obedience is in view in the question of verse 15, "shall we sin…?" He is not thinking of the occasional unwilling yielding to sin that occurs among those who are strenuously resisting sin. By the same token, the occasional good deed performed by those who are generally slaves to sin is not in his view. All men are governed by one of two masters—either sin or obedience. Which of these a man serves is a matter of choice (Matthew 6:24; John 8:34).

When making that choice people should take into account the consequence or blessing of their decision. Those who are slaves to sin are led unto both physical death and eternal death, and the latter is far worse. Those who choose to become the slaves of righteousness are led unto final justification. Cranfield notes the use of obedience here in opposition to sin is unexpected. In verses 18, 19, and 20, "righteousness" is used in opposition to "sin." "Righteousness," however, is ruled out in this construction because sin leads to death and obedience leads to righteousness or justification. Righteousness leading to righteousness would be impossible to understand. In verses 13, 22 and 23, the opposition is between sin and God. Why did Paul not use God in verse 16 as opposite to sin?

To this the correct answer would seem to be that, while the fundamental decision for Paul was indeed between being slaves to sin and being slaves to God, he wanted at this point specially to emphasize the thought of obedience (to God) because he wanted to make his readers see that to be under God’s grace is to be under obligation to obey Him (Cranfield143).

The burden of the verse is: no man is free to be his own master. All men are slaves to one of two masters—sin or God (obedience). The first alternative, sin, leads to eternal death. The second, God, leads by obedience to final justification on the great day of judgment.

Verse 17

But God be thanked, that ye were the servants of sin, but ye have obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine which was delivered you.

But God be thanked that ye were the servants of sin: The meaning here must be as Cranfield translates: "But thanks be to God that you, who were once slaves of sin, have from the heart become obedient…" (143). Lard gives it similarly: "But thanks to God that though you were slaves of sin you yet obeyed from the heart…" (213). Such a reading makes Paul’s thanksgiving intelligible. Virtually every translation since the 1885 Revised Version has made a similar improvement over the King James Version rendering.

but ye have obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine: "Form of doctrine" (tu/pon didaxh=$) describes "the pattern or representation of anything…the metaphor is that of a cast or frame unto which molten material is poured so as to take its shape. The Gospel is the mould; those who are obedient to its teachings become conformed to Christ, whom it presents" (Vine, Vol. II 124). Bromiley adds these comments:

The idea of a molded figure applies also in Romans 6:17. God has handed over believers to a new power, to which he has made them obedient from the heart. The typos didaches is not just an outline of teaching here, but an impress that molds their whole conduct, serving therefore as a norm or standard (1193-1194).

Paul is saying the Christians in Rome had obeyed from the heart the mold (teaching) consisting of the way of life demanded in the gospel. The teaching of God’s word revealed in the New Testament molds and shapes the lives of those willing to hear it. "That form of doctrine" is simply another name for the gospel. Paul is thankful his readers in Rome were taught the gospel and, consequently, conformed themselves to its mold or pattern. Also significant is the fact that they have responded from the heart (Acts 8:37). In other words, their obedience to the gospel by faith, repentance, and baptism is sincere. It is an earnest submission of their wills to God’s will. It was not a mere external experience. Rather it resulted from an internal commitment. Literally, this passage is "to which ye have been delivered" (Zondervan Parallel New Testament 454).

which was delivered you: The idea of deliverance here involves the ancient custom of transferring a slave from one master to another. Paul views the brethren at Rome as former slaves of sin, who have been delivered from their master, sin, to the form or mold of teaching revealed in the gospel. This transference took place in their baptism (Acts 2:38; Acts 22:16; Galatians 3:27; 1 Peter 3:21). From that point onward, they became obedient to their new master, the God of heaven whose will is discovered in the New Testament.

Verse 18

Being then made free from sin, ye became the servants of righteousness.

When the Romans wholeheartedly allowed themselves to be poured into the mold of gospel preaching by their baptism (Macknight Vol. 1 304), they were emancipated from their master, sin. Having been freed from sin’s dominion (sin is personified throughout this section), these Christians voluntarily became bound as slaves of righteousness. It is important to recognize that the point at which the Roman Christians became free from sin and bound to righteousness was when they were immersed for the remission of their sins. Whiteside says:

It was not simply an inner condition of the heart that made the change but obedience that came from the heart. That obedience is spoken of in verses 3-6. The death, burial and resurrection is the fundamental doctrine. In his death (Christ’s—AWB) he was buried, and then arose from the dead. In our death to sin we are buried with him, and then are raised to a new life. The thing that caused Paul to be thankful to God was the fact that, in their obedience from the heart to this mold of doctrine, they had been made free from the slavery of sin and had become the slaves of righteousness (140).

Verse 19

I speak after the manner of men because of the infirmity of your flesh: for as ye have yielded your members servants to uncleanness and to iniquity unto iniquity; even so now yield your members servants to righteousness unto holiness.

I speak after the manner of men because of the infirmity of your flesh: Paul is cognizant that the figure of slavery he uses is inadequate. He knows it could easily be misappropriated as a way of speaking about the believer’s relation to righteousness.

Accordingly, he apologizes for "the all too human nature" of his language (Cranfield 145). Paul often makes similar apologies (3:5; 1 Corinthians 9:8; Galatians 3:15). In fact, slavery is inappropriate in almost every respect as an apt figure for Paul’s purpose. As Cranfield notes:

The Christian’s relation to righteousness, to obedience (v. 16), to God (v. 22) is, of course, not all the unjust, humiliating, degrading, grievous thing which slavery has always been. On the contrary, it is "perfect freedom" (144).

Nevertheless, because of his readers’ human tendency to forget, Paul cannot abandon his figure, however harsh it may be. The Romans, as representative of all believers, were prone to forget the obligations inherent in God’s gracious gospel call. Freedom is a concept much appreciated by all; however, freedom from sin does not mean freedom from responsibility; nor does it mean freedom from the obligation to obey one’s master (1 Peter 1:22; 1 Peter 2:12; Galatians 5:13). Throughout this section Paul underlines again and again the importance of obedience in the Christian life. To be under God’s grace involves the obligation to obey Him. The figure of slavery is apt for this one aim. Probably there is no other figure that Paul could have used that would have so clearly defined the believer’s total belongingness, his total obligation, his total commitment, and his total accountability to God and God’s way. Viewed from this perspective, inspiration’s choice of analogies perfectly characterizes the life of the believer under grace.

for as ye have yielded your members servants to uncleanness and to iniquity unto iniquity: Before they became Christians, the Romans presented the members of their bodies as slaves to unrighteousness and iniquity in order to reach the goal of a life of iniquity. "Unrighteousness" is uncleanness (a)kaqarsi/a). Thayer defines it "uncleanness…in a moral sense the impurity of lustful, luxurious, profligate living" (21). Lard says it denotes "personal sins, sins we commit against ourselves, which consist in impure thoughts and unchaste conduct. The word embraces all that enters into a unholy personal life" (215).

Iniquity (a)nomi/a) means "contempt and violation of law, iniquity, wickedness" (Thayer 48). Lard says that in opposition to uncleanness the word "comprehends every form and species of sin which we commit against others, whether consisting in omissions of duty or positive transgression" (215). These arenas of sin, uncleanness, and iniquity lead to lawlessness in general as a way of life.

even so now yield your members servants to righteousness unto holiness: Using the same drive and force with which they previously yielded themselves to do unrighteous and iniquitous acts in order to live a life of lawlessness under sin’s rule, even so now they are to present their bodies as the slaves of righteousness. Now they are to use all of the powers of mind and body to do what is right. Actively they are to reach toward the goal of holiness (1 Peter 1:13 to 1 Peter 2:2). Holiness here describes not a state or condition of being but rather a process (verse 22; 1 Corinthians 1:30; 1 Thessalonians 4:3-4; 1 Thessalonians 4:7; 2 Thessalonians 2:13). Sanctification (a(giasmo/n) means "properly the process…rather than the resultant state" (Abbott-Smith 5). In other words, just as the unbeliever worked steadily under sin’s reign to become more and more wicked, so also the believer is to put all his strength into developing an even higher degree of holiness within and sinlessness without. In Romans 12:1, Paul counsels believers in this regard to present their bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and well-pleasing to God.

Verse 20

For when ye were the servants of sin, ye were free from righteousness:

Before they obeyed the gospel, when they were slaves of sin, they made almost no effort to serve God. They were completely engrossed in service to one master (Matthew 6:24). The idea is that one cannot simultaneously be a slave to sin and a slave to righteousness. McGarvey says:

If ye rendered no double-minded, divided service to sin in the days of your unregeneracy, surely you ought now to render a whole-souled, single-minded service to righteousness in these your regenerate days (348).

Of course, the sinner might occasionally do a righteous deed, but he serves sin wholly and completely day after day. By the same token, the justified believer should be wholeheartedly devoted to obeying God.

Verse 21

What fruit had ye then in those things whereof ye are now ashamed? for the end of those things is death.

What fruit had ye then in those things whereof you are now ashamed: Paul’s question is rhetorical. What profit did you gain from your life under sin’s domain? The answer is none. The reader should note with interest that the Roman Christians were now ashamed of those deeds committed before they obeyed the gospel. When the brethren at Rome reviewed their former lives, they felt ashamed of the sinful deeds in which they delighted before they obeyed the gospel, revealing the deep and penetrating change that the gospel had wrought in their minds and in their deeds. This sense of shame implies the sincerity and completeness of their repentance. As Lard concludes:

Moreover if they had derived no benefit from their past sins, but, on the contrary, felt ashamed of them, they could certainly have no reason for returning to them; this is what the Apostle is seeking to guard them against (217).

for the end of those things is death: Since a Christian is no longer under law but under grace, why would he want to live in sin? When the Romans formerly lived in sin, what profit was there? They experienced only deeper and deeper degradation and dissolution. And the end result of such a debauched life can be only death—physical death (often of the most painful sort), spiritual death, and, finally, eternal death in the fires of hell.

Verse 22

But now being made free from sin, and become servants to God, ye have your fruit unto holiness, and the end everlasting life.

But now being made free from sin, and become servants to God: What Paul refers to in verse 16 as slavery to obedience and in verses 18 and 19 as slavery to righteousness, he now openly calls slavery to God. Now that they have obeyed the gospel by faith in Jesus Christ, repentance of sins, and baptism into Christ for the remission of sins, Christians have been set free from sin’s power and have become the slaves of God. Consequently, their obligation is to live obedient and righteous lives marked by the constant development of an even greater degree of holiness. Each day they are to be more closely fashioned into the image of Christ by the unflagging application of the New Testament pattern of teaching to their life.

ye have your fruit unto holiness: Their reward in this life is a blessed and holy life marked by deeds of righteousness. Already they are in the process of becoming holy.

and the end everlasting life: The goal of one’s slavery to God is eternal life. They have their fruit now in holiness, and they will have eternal life if they abide faithful and refrain from serving sin.

Verse 23

For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord:

This passage provides a solemn conclusion to this section. Sin is still personified and here represents either a general who pays wages to his soldiers, which is more probable in view of Paul’s line of reasoning, or a slave owner who pays his slaves an allowance—what we would call pocket money—as was the common practice of Romans. The wages sin pays his slaves is death—physical, spiritual, eternal.

God, in gigantic contrast, does not pay wages. In the first place, no man can put God in his debt (Romans 4:1-8). In the second place, God in His gracious mercy has provided a system of faith wherein unrighteous sinners can be justly declared to be righteous upon certain conditions by virtue of the sin offering Christ made upon the cross (2 Corinthians 5:21; Romans 3:21-26). In the third place, the "free gift" God gives to the slaves of righteousness is nothing less than eternal life. The idea of a "free gift" here probably arises not from the largess distributed to each soldier by an emperor on his accession but rather from Paul’s previous references to salvation as a free gift in Romans 5:15-16. Clearly, a believer should not sin simply because he is not under law but under grace.

Bibliographical Information
Editor Charles Baily, "Commentary on Romans 6". "Contending for the Faith". 1993-2022.