NEW TESTAMENT CONTEXTUAL COMMENTARY
Dr. Robert R. Seyda
EPISTLE TO THE ROMANS
CHAPTER SIX (Lesson III)
American Bible scholar Albert Barnes gives us his thoughts on the fallacy of Christians continuing to live as sinners: “How shall we, who have become cognizant of the evil of sin, and who have renounced it by solemn profession, continue to practice it? It is, therefore, abhorrent to the very nature of the Christian profession. It is remarkable that the Apostle did not attempt to argue the question on metaphysical principles. He did not attempt to show, by complicated argument, that this consequence did not follow; he appeals at once to Christian feeling and shows that the supposition is abhorrent. To convince the great mass of people, such an appeal is far better than labored metaphysical argumentation. All Christians can understand that; few would comprehend a complex speculation. The best way to silence objections is, sometimes, to show that they violate the feelings of all Christians, and therefore, the objection must be wrong.”1
H. A. Ironside comments this way: The very fact that our link with Adam… was severed by our association with Christ in His death tells us that we have the right to consider ourselves as having died… to the authority of sin as our master. That Israel as a whole was redeemed from slavery by the blood of a lamb. This answers to the first aspect of salvation. With their passage through the Red Sea, they died to the power of Pharaoh. This illustrates the aspect we are now considering. Sin can no longer hold sway over us, we served it in the past. But death has changed all that. Our obligation of servitude is over. We are now linked with the risen Christ and thus have been joined to God.2
Charles Hodge makes these notes: No one makes application to Christ for deliverance from sin, so they can go on living in it. Deliverance from sin is offered by Christ, and accepted by the believer. It is not mere deliverance from its penalty, but also from its power. We turn from away from sin to God when we receive Christ as Savior. It is, therefore, as the Apostle argues, a contradiction in terms, to say that grace gives us a license to sin. That is like saying that dying to something is like living in it.3
Charles Spurgeon also asked the question, that if through grace we become dead to sin, how can we go on living in it? If when we come to Christ as sinners to be saved from sin, it would be a complete nonsense to talk about being saved from sin yet continue in sin. Besides, the Apostle goes on to show that the ordinance, by which believers in Jesus are to be admitted into the visible Body of Christ will not allow them to continue in sin.4 What Spurgeon and other scholars are saying is that while there is no evidence of any believer once born again having ever lived a sinless, perfect life, still there should be no desire in a believer’s heart to sin. Sinful acts and behavior should be something Christians despise and try their best to avoid. That’s why even though God’s grace is always sufficient when sin does take place, no sin should be committed just to prove how sufficient it is.
F. F. Bruce had these thoughts: “No wonder that other Christians maintained that the only way to inculcate the principles of sound morality in such people was to require them to keep the law of Moses – indeed, to impose that law on them as a condition of salvation, over and above the requirement of faith in Christ. But Paul’s own experience taught him that all the law-keeping in the world could not bring the assurance of pardon and peace with God, whereas faith in Christ did so at once. He could never consider legalism as the remedy for libertinism; he knew a more excellent way. When men and women yielded their lives to the risen Christ and the power of His Spirit, their inward being was radically transformed: a new creation took place. They received a new nature which delighted to produce spontaneously the fruit of the Spirit, those graces which were manifested in perfection in the life of Christ Himself. To many people this appeared (as to many it still does) impracticably optimistic. But Paul trusted the Spirit of Christ in his converts, and in the long run his trust was vindicated, though he had to endure many heart-breaking disappointments in his spiritual children until at last he could see Christ ‘formed’ in them.5”6
Karl Barth puts it this way: “To be in grace means that we are no longer treated by God as sinners. For those who have been known by God, instead of determining of necessity our will and intelligence, sin becomes a withered, defeated, and finished thing. We died to sin. We no longer grow up from its roots, breathe its air, and abide under its dominion. How shall we any longer be able to live therein? How can we continue to live as we are, as people of whom God knows nothing? What is to become of the visible state of our will and intelligence? How can our existence remain the scene of visible sin? Yes indeed! How?”7 What Barth is saying here, is something that we have all come to expect: That as Christians, we should all act and live like Christians.
John Stott gives his own testimony to the death to sin: “Soon after my own conversion, I was taught the following kind of reconstruction: When we die, our five senses will cease to operate. We will no longer be able to touch, taste, see, smell or hear. We will lose all ability to feel or to respond to external stimuli. Just so, it is argued, to die to sin means to become insensitive to it. For example, if we see a dog or cat lying in the gutter, we cannot tell from a distance whether it is alive or dead. But touch it with our foot, and we will know at once. If it is alive, there will be an immediate reaction: it will jump up and run away. If it is dead, however, there will be no response at all. Just so, according to this popular view, having died to sin, we are as unresponsive to temptation as a corpse is to a physical stimulus. And the reason for this, we are assured from verse 6, is that our old nature was… crucified with Christ. For He bore not only our guilt but our ‘flesh’, our fallen nature. It was nailed to the cross and killed, and our task (however much evidence we may have to the contrary) is to reckon it dead.”8
Evangelical scholar Douglas Moo addresses Paul’s phrase, “We died to sin.” Moo writes: “Clearly he does not mean that Christians are not tempted by sin or that we are incapable of sinning – as his commands in verses 11–14 make clear. He uses the imagery of ‘death’ for two reasons. (1) It creates an obvious point of contact with the death of Christ, an important step in Paul’s argument (vv. 3–4). (2) It is a powerful image of a decisive shift in state. When someone becomes a Christian, Paul implies, their change of state in relationship to sin is as dramatic as a change from life to death. He spells out the implication of this change in a rhetorical question: ‘How can we live in it any longer?’ This question may be turned into a statement: We who are Christians no longer live under the domination of sin. We cannot, therefore, go on living in sin the way we used to do.”9
Jewish scholar David Stern has this to say: “These verses, reiterating what was said at 3:5–8, introduce the theme of Chapters 6–8 and are Paul’s answer to all who accuse the New Testament of offering “cheap grace.” He is more radical than those who merely exhort us to subdue our sinful impulses; for he asserts that by virtue of being united with the Messiah (vv. 3–6) our old self and its sinful inclinations have actually died. Dead people do not sin; rather, the dead are “cleared from sin” (v. 7). Chapters 6–8 explore how believers are to make these truths real in their own lives. On Heaven forbid! here and at verse 15.”10
Verse 3: Did you forget that all of us became part of Christ Jesus when we were baptized? In our baptism we shared in His death.
Here, the Apostle Paul makes note of a doctrinal truth that is only found in Christianity. That being, those of us who have become believers through the new birth are now alive in Christ. Our old self lies dead in the grave. Therefore, our Christian’s life is not ours alone. We are alive in Christ. So it makes sense then that we should live a Christ-like life; not allowing ourselves to return to our old way of living. Paul says that this is all symbolized through water baptism. As such, we are no longer solely in charge of our bodies, because our bodies have become the dwelling place of God, just as the Temple was God’s home.
This is how he explained it to the Corinthians: “You should know that you yourselves are God’s temple. God’s Spirit lives in you. If you destroy God’s temple, God will destroy you, because God’s temple is holy. You yourselves are God’s temple.”11 Paul goes on to say: “Surely you know that your bodies are parts of Christ Himself… You should know that your body is a temple for the Holy Spirit that you received from God and that lives in you. You don’t own yourselves. God paid a very high price to make you his. So honor God with your body.”12 So Paul then makes this proposal to the Corinthians: “Look closely at yourselves. Test yourselves to see if you are living in the faith. Don’t you realize that Christ Jesus is in you?”13 This should be a sobering assessment for all believers, especially when they are confronted with temptation.
Paul wanted to make sure that all believers understood this truth applied to everyone: “Some of us are Jews and some of us are not; some of us are slaves and some of us are free. But we were all baptized to become one body through one Spirit. And we were all given the one Spirit.”14 Paul also passed this on to the Galatians: “Now, in Christ, it doesn’t matter if you are a Jew or a Greek, a slave or free, male or female. You are all the same in Christ Jesus.”15 Paul bases his conclusion on this fact: “You were all baptized into Christ, and so you were all clothed with Christ. This shows that you are all children of God through faith in Christ Jesus.”16 Therefore, Paul concludes: “I am not the one living now – it is Christ living in me. I still live in my body, but I live by faith in the Son of God. He is the one who loved me and gave Himself to save me.”17
Based on this truth, each and everyone of us as Christians should remind ourselves that each time the world looks at how we speak, act, respond, and interact with them, they see Jesus in action. Are they impressed with the fruit of the Spirit they see, or are they confused by the works of the flesh that are shamelessly displayed?18 God has given us all we need to succeed, have we given Him all He needs to make it happen?
1 Albert Barnes: On Romans, op. cit., loc. cit.
2 Harry A. Ironside: On Romans, op. cit., loc. cit.
3 Charles Hodge: On Romans, op. cit., loc. cit.
4 Charles Spurgeon: On Romans, op. cit., loc. cit.
5 Galatians 4:19
6 F. F. Bruce: On Romans, op. cit., loc. cit., Vol. 6, pp. 139–140
7 Karl Barth: On Romans, op. cit., oc. cit.
8 John Stott: On Romans, op. cit., loc. cit.
9 Douglas Moo: On Romans, op. cit., loc. cit.
10 David Stern: On Romans, op. cit., loc. cit.
11 1 Corinthians 3:16-17
12 Ibid. 6:15, 19-20
13 2 Corinthians 13:5
14 1 Corinthians 12:13
15 Galatians 3:28
16 Ibid. 3:26-27
17 Galatians 2:20
18 Ibid. 5:13-26