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In the light of all this, is it any wonder that the apostle, recognizing the innate tendency of the human heart to turn the grace of God into lasciviousness, puts into the mouth of the reader the question, “Shall we continue in sin that grace may abound?” Chapter 6 answers this cavil (for it is really that) in a masterly way.
“Far be the thought!” he exclaims indignantly. “How shall we who have died to sin live any longer therein?” In what sense did we die to sin? If actually dead to it we would not be concerned about either the question or its answer. That which perplexes us is the fact that while we hate sin we find within ourselves a tendency to yield to it. But we are said to have died to it. How and where? The next verses give the answer.
The very fact that our link with Adam as federal head was broken by our association with Christ in His death tells us that we have the right to consider ourselves as having died, in that death of His, to the authority of sin as a master. Israel were redeemed from judgment by the blood of the Lamb. This answers to the first aspect of salvation. By the passage through the Red Sea they died to Pharaoh and his taskmasters. This illustrates the aspect we are now considering. Sin is no longer to hold sway over us, we served it in the past. But death has changed all that. Our condition of servitude is over. We are now linked with Christ risen and thus have been brought to God.
Of this the initiatory ordinance of Christianity speaks. “Know ye not that so many of us have been baptized into (or unto) Christ were baptized into (or unto) His death?” Israel were “baptized unto Moses in the cloud and in the sea.” They passed through death in figure, and Moses was their new leader. Pharaoh’s dominion was ended so far as they were concerned (1Corinthians Chapter 10). So we who are saved are now baptized unto, or into, the death of Christ. We have accepted His death as ours, knowing that He died in our place. We are baptized unto Him as the new Leader.
Is this the Spirit’s baptism? I think not. The Spirit does not baptize unto death, but into the one new Body. It is establishment into the mystical Christ. Our baptism with water is a baptism unto Christ’s death.
The apostle goes further, “Therefore we are buried with Him by baptism unto 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” (vs. Romans 6:4). In my baptism I confess that I have died to the old life as a man in Adam under the dominion of sin. I am through with all that. Now let me prove the reality of this by living the life of a resurrected man-a man linked up with Christ on the other side of death-as I walk in newness of life. Thus all thought of living in sin is rejected, all antinomianism refuted. My new life is to answer to the confession made in my baptism.
1 am to realize practically my identification with Christ. I have been planted together with Him in the similitude of His death-that is, in baptism-I shall be (one with Him) also in the similitude of His resurrection. I do not live under sin’s domination. I live unto God as He does who is my new Head.
Logically he continues, “Knowing this that our old man is crucified with Him, that the body of sin might be destroyed (or, rendered powerless) that henceforth we should not serve sin, for he that is dead is freed (or, justified) from sin” (vers. Romans 6:6-45.6.7).
My old man is not merely my old nature. It is rather all that I was as a man in the flesh, the “man of old,” the unsaved man with all his habits and desires. That man was crucified with Christ. When Jesus died I (as a man after the flesh) died too. I was seen by God on that cross with His blessed Son.
How many people were crucified on Calvary? There were the thieves, there was Christ Himself-three! But are these all? Paul says in Galatians 2:20, “I am crucified with Christ.” He was there too; so that makes four. And each believer can say, “Our old man is crucified with Him.” So untold millions were seen by God as hanging there upon that cross with Christ. And this was not merely that our sins were being dealt with, but that we ourselves as sinners, as children of Adam’s fallen race, might be removed from under the eye of God and our old standing come to an end forever.
But we who were crucified with Him now live with Him. So the apostle continues in Galatians 2:20 - “Nevertheless I live, yet not I, but Christ liveth in me, and the life that I now live in the flesh (that is, in this body) I live by the faith of the Son of God who loved me and gave Himself for me.” And so here. The body of sin is thus annulled, as the body of Pharaoh, all the power of Egypt, was annulled so far as Israel was concerned. Sin is not my master now. In Christ I live unto God. I am no longer to be a slave unto sin. I am righteously free (justified) from sin’s authority.
Now he shows the practical effect of all this precious truth. We have died with Christ. We have faith that we shall also live with Him. Then -in heaven-sin will have no authority over us. Nor should we own its authority here by yielding ourselves to it. We know that the risen Christ will never die again. Death’s authority (and sin bringeth forth death) is forever abolished. “In that He died He died unto sin once for all,” unto sin as our old master (not His-upon Him never came the yoke, He was ever free from sin), and now in resurrection He lives only unto God. And we are one with Him, therefore we too are henceforth to live unto God alone. This involves practical deliverance from the power or authority of sin.
It certainly never was the mind of God that His blood-redeemed people should be left under the power of the carnal nature, unable to walk in the liberty of free men in Christ. But practical deliverance is not found by fighting with the old master, SIN in the flesh, but by the daily recognition of the truth we have just been considering.
And so we are told to count as true what God considers to be true that we died with Christ to all the claims of Pharaoh-Sin, and we are now free to walk in newness of life as one with Christ risen. “Likewise reckon ye also yourselves to be dead indeed unto sin, but alive unto God through Jesus Christ our Lord” (vs. Romans 6:11). This word “Reckon” is one of the key-words of the chapter. It means, literally, “count as true.” God says I died with Christ. I am to count it true. God says I live unto Him. I count it true. As faith reckons on all this I find the claims of sin are annulled. There is no other method of deliverance than that which begins with this reckoning. Reason may argue, “But you do not feel dead!” What have feelings to do with it? It is a judicial fact. Christ’s death is my death. Therefore I reckon myself to have died unto sin’s dominion.
The next verse follows in logical sequence. “Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body that ye should obey it in the lusts thereof.” I feel an impulse rising within demanding that I yield to a certain sinful desire. But if on the alert I say at once, “No, I have died to that. It is no longer to dominate my will. I belong to Christ. I am to live unto Him.” As faith lays hold of this the power of lust is broken.
It involves watchfulness and constant recognition of my union with Christ. As in times past I was in the habit of yielding the physical members as instruments of unrighteousness, controlled by sin, now I am to definitely and unreservedly yield myself unto God as one alive from that death into which I went with Christ, and as a natural result all my physical members are His to be used as instruments to work out righteousness for the glory of God whose grace has saved me. The word translated “instruments” is really “weapons,” or “armor,” as in Chap. Romans 13:2; 2 Corinthians 6:7; 2 Corinthians 10:4. My talents, my physical members, all my powers are now to be used in the conflict as weapons for God. I am His soldier to be unreservedly at His disposal.
Because I am not saved by any legal principle but by free grace alone sin is no longer to hold sway over my life. Christ risen is the Captain of my salvation whose behests are to control me in all things.
Nature might reason in a contrary way and tell me that inasmuch as I am under grace not law it matters little how I behave, and I am therefore free to sin since my works have nothing to do with my salvation. But as a regenerated man I do not want liberty to sin. I want power for holiness. If I habitually yield myself unto sin to obey its behests voluntarily, I show that I am still sin’s servant, and the end of that service is death. But as a renewed man I desire to obey the One whose I now am and whom I serve. So he says, “God be thanked, that ye were the slaves of sin, but ye have obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine which was delivered unto you. Being then made free from sin (that is, by God’s judicial act on the cross) ye became the servants of righteousness” (vers. Romans 6:17-45.6.18).
He speaks in a figure, illustrating his theme by personifying SIN and RIGHTEOUSNESS that our weak human minds may understand, and he repeats his exhortation, or rather what had been stated doctrinally he now repeats as a command: “For as ye have yielded your members slaves to uncleanness and to iniquity unto iniquity (in the old life before our identification with Christ) even so now yield your members servants (bondmen) to righteousness unto holiness” (vs. Romans 6:19). When slaves of sin, righteousness was not our recognized master, and we can only hang our heads in shame as we think of the fruit of that evil relationship, the end of which would have been death, both physical and eternal.
Therefore now that we are judicially delivered from sin’s dominion and have become bondmen to God, our lives should be abounding in fruit unto holiness and the end everlasting life. We have everlasting life now as a present possession, but here it is the end that is in view when we are at home in that scene where Christ who is our life has gone.
He concludes this section with the solemn yet precious statement: “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.” Sin is in one respect a faithful master. His pay day is sure. His wages are death. Note it is not divine judgment that is in view for the moment, but sin’s wages. Death is the wages of sin, but “after this the judgment.” Penalty has yet to be faced at the judgment-bar of God. Through error to see this many have taken up with the error that physical death involves cessation of being and is both wages and penalty. Scripture clearly tells of divine judgment after sin’s wages have been paid.
On the other hand eternal life is a free gift, the gift of God. None can earn it. It is given to all who trust in Christ as the Saviour of sinners. It is ours now, who believe the gospel. We shall enjoy it in all its fulness at the “end.”
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Ironside, H. A. "Commentary on Romans 6". Ironside's Notes on Selected Books. https://www.studylight.org/
the Second Week of Advent