Romans 6:1–5 (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.
Paul told us in Romans 5 a number of important things about grace:
- We have “obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand” – 5:2
- Through Jesus we “receive the abundance of grace” – 5:17
- “Where sin increased, grace increased abounded all the more” – 5:20
In other words:
- The believer resides in a new domain and under a new power – grace.
- The believer swims in an abundance of grace because of the work of Christ.
- The believer’s sin – because of his new domain and the work of Christ – actually “activates” and magnifies this grace.
So the believer’s sin causes God’s grace to abound…
- Something Paul apparently was unashamed to teach.
Paul’s critics were apparently suspicious of this teaching:
- Romans 3:8 (ESV) — 8 And why not do evil that good may come?—as some people slanderously charge us with saying. Their condemnation is just.
Paul’s answer to this charge begins our text.
- Romans 6:1–2a (ESV) — 1 What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? 2 By no means!
- BTW – Robert Jewett says this is Paul humorously saying, “are we to help God administer grace by helpfully sinning”.
Paul emphatically shoots down the idea that grace is permission to sin.
- Should we sin because grace abounds – “by no means!” (vs. 2).
- Free grace does not undercut morality – Douglas Moo.
“Grace, far from encouraging sin, is the only means by which sin can truly be defeated” – Douglas Moo.
Paul never throws grace under the bus because of a possibility of abuse.
- In fact, going forward, we will see Paul doesn’t run from grace at all.
- He actually makes it more robust – he links it to the work of Christ.
In answering his critics, Paul then poses his own question.
- “How can we who died to sin still live in it?” (vs. 2b).
We have already seen that “died to sin” language involves a change of dominion.
- It is to be separated “from the ‘rule’ or ‘realm’ of sin” – Douglas Moo.
- “The dominion of sin has been broken in the life of the believer” – Tom Schreiner.
- We are no longer under the power of sin.
In our language, it is to be moved out of Garden Exile and into the realm or dominion of grace.
- A place where the reign of sin and death is now and not yet defeated.
And I agree completely with the following:
“When Paul says we have died to sin, he is not exhorting believers to cease from sin (a command in the imperative mood); he is proclaiming to them the good news that they have died to sin (a statement of fact in the indicative mood)” – Tom Schreiner.
- As we said, Paul does not exchange grace for moralism.
But what does Paul mean that we no longer live in sin?
- This sounds peculiar.
- Mainly because we still sin.
- We need to look at verses 3-11 to begin to unpack this.
And going forward, we need to remember this:
- Verses 3-5, this weeks text, are sort of Paul’s “first off” we need to know this.
- Verses 6-11 are his “second off” this is true.
- His full answer to the rhetorical question posed to his critics from verse 1 is in 12-14.
- But his answer is built upon verses 3-11.
Paul’s “First Off”:
Grace makes it impossible to “continue in sin”.
First off, Paul says, we need to realize…
- Romans 6:3–5 (ESV) — 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.
So Paul’s “first off” is that we no longer “live in it” (vs. 2) or “continue in sin” (vs. 1) because:
- We are “baptized into Christ Jesus” (vs. 3).
- We are “baptized into his death” (vs. 3).
- We are “buried…with him by baptism into death” (vs. 4).
- We are “as Christ…raised from the dead” into a “newness of life” (vs. 5).
- We are “united with him” in “a death like his” (vs. 5).
- We are “united with him in a resurrection like his” (vs. 5).
What in the world are we to make of all this?
- Probably one of the richest, deepest lists you will ever see.
What is this baptism into Christ, His death and His burial?
- What is this raising from death into a “newness of life”?
- What are this “death union” and “resurrection union”?
Before we move forward, I need to declare a presupposition I am bringing to the text.
- Some scholars argue that Paul is referring to water baptism here – as we understand it.
- But, there are others (Martin Lloyd-Jones; Jewett) that argue that Paul is referring to the baptism of the Spirit or speaking metaphorically.
- I agree with the baptism of the Spirit angle.
The BDAG allows for such an interpretation of the word “baptizo” when it says:
- The word can mean “to cause someone to have an extraordinary experience…of the Holy Spirit”.
- More on this at the end.
In light of this take, I think we can see Paul’s teaching here as explaining something profound.
- Paul’s “first off” list – loaded with layers of meaning – is at the very least…
- A description of how it is that we are led out of Garden Exile – the domain of sin and death.
Or to put another way, how it is that Christ brings us into the dominion and power of grace.
- THE reason why we no longer live in sin – “live in it” (vs. 2).
Remember, we saw in Romans 5…
- Adam was a type for Jesus – they were both “reign makers”.
- Adam brought the reign of sin and death.
- Jesus brings the reign of grace and life.
So it makes sense that in our text today:
- We see how God’s saving righteousness in Jesus brings us under the reign of grace.
- Something directly related to why we no longer live in sin – an answer to his critics.
Paul’s “First-off” – Reign Change:
And how does God bring a reign change?
- We no longer live in sin (Garden Exile) because by the work of the Holy Spirit (baptism of the Spirit) we are now united to Christ.
There is some mystery here!
- Paul says that all of us who have been “baptized into Christ” (vs. 3)…
- Were also “baptized into his death” (vs. 3).
- Descriptions of our domain change experience.
Somehow, someway, the only way out of Garden Exile was and is through death.
- But not just any death – the death of the god-man Jesus Christ.
- Somehow, the Holy Spirit has joined us to the death of the second Adam – Jesus Christ.
- I honestly don’t think we can really grasp how this happens – at least not yet.
And more than that, Paul declares that something else is needed to bring us into the dominion of Grace.
- As a result of our Union with Christ and participation in His burial and death…
- We also have to be joined to Jesus’ resurrection.
- “Just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life” (vs 4).
- A further description of our domain change experience.
We, in a now and not yet way, have participated in the fruits and power of Jesus’ resurrection.
- Again, I am not sure we can really grasp this on this side of eternity.
But, as a result of this done work of God through Christ and the Spirit, we are brought into the dominion of grace.
- We are led out of Garden Exile.
- We are led into a place where we “walk in newness of life”.
- Again, all this is part of his answer to his critics and his own question.
BTW – It is with this phrase, “walk in newness of life”, that Paul introduces the idea of behavior and not just dominion.
- We “are to live in a certain way as a result of dying and being buried with Christ” – Schreiner.
This “walk” that occurs in the dominion of grace is why Paul said in verse 1 “are we to continue in sin…by no means”.
- More on this when we get to verse 12.
- Suffice it to say, as we said earlier, this is not a call to moralism.
Paul then reiterates this union with Christ’s resurrection in verse 5.
- Romans 6:5 (ESV) — 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.
Resurrection is the lynchpin of Paul’s argument – his “first-off”.
- If there is no resurrection, then there is no domain transfer.
- If there is no domain transfer, we are still under sin’s domain and power.
- Meaning that we aren’t dead to sin and so we would still live in it.
This is why Paul says in 1 Corinthians 15:
- 1 Corinthians 15:17–21 (ESV) — 17 And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins. 18 Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. 19 If in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied. 20 But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. 21 For as by a man came death, by a man has come also the resurrection of the dead.
Douglas Moos sums up Paul’s “first off” for us:
- “Our dying, being buried, and being resurrected with Christ are experiences that transfer us from the old age to the new. But the transition from old age to new, while applied to individuals at their conversion, has been accomplished through the redemptive work of Christ on Good Friday and Easter” – Douglas Moo.
- We will deal with Paul’s “second off” next time.
Further Word on Baptism:
Water baptism certainly symbolizes all that has happened to bring about our removal from Garden Exile.
- It is an awesome picture of how we were led out of the dominion of sin and death.
- However, it is the baptism of the Spirit that makes it a reality.
- A reality appropriated by faith (Romans 4).
- It is baptism of the Spirit – regeneration – that joins us to the indicatives of Christ – His death, burial and resurrection.
- It is for this reason that I think Paul is speaking of the baptism of the Spirit in our text today.
- To take away from this text a lesson on water baptism is, I think, to ignore the context of Romans 5 and 6.