NEW TESTAMENT CONTEXTUAL COMMENTARY
Dr. Robert R. Seyda
EPISTLE TO THE ROMANS
CHAPTER SIX (Lesson IX)
British Bible scholar F. F. Bruce has an excellent exegesis on this subject. He points out that the person we used to be has been crucified with Christ. That this “crucifixion” refers to a past event and expressed by Paul this way: “Those who are united by faith to Christ are reckoned as having been crucified with Him when He was crucified.”1 Paul uses it in the same sense when he said: “May I never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world.”2 Bruce writes: “In this latter passage there may be a side-glance at an alternative meaning of the verb ‘crucify’ (stauroō), namely ‘fence off.’ The person I now am (‘in Christ’) has been fenced off by the cross from the person I formerly was (‘in Adam’), when I belonged to the current world-order.”3 That certainly suggests that our old nature should have nothing to do with our new spiritual nature.
John Stott makes the point that as far as we are concerned, we all deserved to die for our own sins. And, in fact, he says we did die, although not in person, but in the person of Jesus Christ our substitute. He died in our place. Therefore, we have been united with Him by faith as demonstrated through baptism. Not only that but being in union with Him we have risen again. Says Stott: “So the old life of sin is finished because we died to it, and the new life of justified sinners has begun. Our death and resurrection with Christ render it inconceivable that we should go back. It is in this sense that our sinful-self has been deprived of power and we have been set free.”4
And Douglas Moo comments on what he sees as Paul’s concerned that we understand what follows from this action. As he explains it, the result is: “The body of sin [i.e., our bodies as dominated by sin] might be done away with.” In his mind, Paul is saying that being under the Lordship of Christ means we no longer allow sin to dominate us. Says Moo: “The purpose is that we should no longer be slaves to sin.”5 How true that is! Since sin’s power over us has been vetoed, we are now free to reflect that living holy in our new freedom. We should no longer exhibit any of sin’s characteristics. We see that verse 7 backs up what Paul claims in verse 6 by reminding his readers of an ancient proverb that death severs sin’s hold on a person.6
Jewish writer David Stern points out that Yeshua raised people from the dead, as did Elijah and Elisha. However, all those they raised died again. That’s why we must see Yeshua’s resurrection as the firstfruits of a new creation,7 in which believers have a share.8 This new creation lives on because the curse of death has been eliminated.9 Stern tells us that in the Mekhilta10 on Exodus it reads: “If it were possible to remove the angel of death, I would do so – but the decree has already gone forth. Rabbi Yossi says, ‘On this condition did they [Israel] stand on Mount Sinai, that the angel of death [would] not prevail over them, as it is written, ‘I said (when I gave you the Torah): You are angels and all heavenly creatures. But as Adam you will die (having perfected your ways as he did), and as one of the (first) princes will you fall.’11”12 From Stern’s perspective, Yeshua went way beyond this. He conquered death, so that death has no authority over Him or over those united with Him.13
Verses 8-9: If we died with Christ, we know that we will also live with Him. Christ was raised from death. And we know that He cannot die again. Death has no power over Him now.
The Apostle Paul now carries this concept of Christ being crucified and resurrected to life with the old sinful nature being crucified and the new spiritual nature being raised to explain that this new life is not only meant for this life but is actually intended life everlasting. If it was only for this life, seeing that mankind’s stay here on earth is limited to being like a short breath, then Christ certainly paid an awful price for believers to benefit for only a short time. That’s why the term “everlasting life” is so important in John 3:16.
Many scholars believe that before the distribution of Paul’s writings among the churches, the original Apostles had already established creeds or articles of faith. We see this in Paul’s instructions to young Timothy: “Here is a true statement: If we died with Him, we will also live with Him. If we remain faithful even in suffering, we will also rule with Him.”14 Paul had previously spoken of this in his letter to the Corinthians: “God raised the Lord Jesus from death, and we know that He will also raise us with Jesus. God will bring us all together, and we will stand before Him.”15 And to the Thessalonians Paul wrote: “We believe that Jesus died, but we also believe that He rose again. So we believe that God will raise to life through Jesus any who have died and bring us all together when He comes.”16
This message about being raised to everlasting life was already in Jewish writings. Most Rabbis believed that David’s words: “My heart and soul will be very happy. Even my body will live in safety because you will not leave me in the place of death,”17 supported that doctrine. In most cases, Rabbis assign these words to the coming Messiah. So if Christ is raised from death, then it follows that those who die with faith in Him will also be raised on resurrection day. The Apostle Peter certainly understood it this way.18 And the writer of Hebrews declares that Christ’s, death in order to win the victory over death, was all part of God’s plan.19 In fact, among the Jews, in a document titled “Tikkunei Zohar,” we find this phrase: “Who is the mystery of the name Jehovah, and in Him, there is no sin, neither shall death have the dominion over Him?”20
How incomplete would this entire analogy be without the resurrection? Yes, it is a relief to be freed from sin, even if it took Jesus’ death. But there is no appeal to follow a doctrine of dormant existence; to bypass the experiences of life in the flesh just to escape sin’s curse without any ensuing benefits. Christ’s resurrection, however, provides for a life more abundant than ever before. For once we have died to sin, we are resurrected in righteousness to newness of life. We no longer serve our Master as unwilling slaves to the Law, but as obedient children of God in a spirit of love. And when this temporal existence ceases, our life continues on, only in a new body and in a wonderful, joyous place. Oh yes! It is wonderful to finally be dead to sin, but even more joyous to be raised to life again in Christ Jesus.
Several early church scholars make interesting points here about Christ needing to die only once. For instance, Origen says that if Christ had to die more than once, it would then require that those who died with Him the first time would need to die again. Since baptism symbolized this death with Christ, then each time a person sinned they would need to be rebaptized. This would create a revolving door, and no one would have time to walk the highway of holiness. But Origen states that Paul makes this clear, Christ never needed to die again. Not then, not now. Says Origen: “Those who will live with Him may now be sure of having eternal life.”21
And early church writer Pelagius adds that we should not fear having to die each time we sin if we died willingly the first time that’s all God’ requires.22 This would then also mean, there is no reason to be baptized a second time if we sin. Pelagius says that the reason is clear: “You cannot be baptized a second time because Christ cannot be crucified for you a second time.” The writer of Hebrews makes this very clear.23 That doesn’t mean we should not repent, but there is no requirement to repeat their baptism.24 The gist of all this suggests that after a person has become a new creation in Christ Jesus and is baptized to show their transformation from the old nature to the new nature, should they once again fall into sinful practices, Christ need not die again for their salvation, and they need not be baptized again since they cannot be born again twice.
Early church scholar Diodore explains that Paul was saying that if Christ could die for a sinner two or three times, there were be no risk in going back to their old sinful ways. However, since He died only once, then those who have participated in His death through baptism and raised to newness of life need not die to sin again either. Says Diodore: “There will be no second baptism, no second death of Christ. Therefore, we must be careful to stay alive.”25
The Apostle John put this in the simplest terms when he said: “If we say that we have no sin, we are fooling ourselves, and the truth is not in us. But if we confess our sins, God will forgive us. We can trust God to do this. He always does what is right. He will make us clean from all the wrong things we have done… If anyone sins, we have Jesus Christ to help us. He always did what was right, so He is able to defend us before God the Father. Jesus is the way our sins are taken away.”26
Reformer Martin Luther points out that the carnal nature has the seed of the Devil and endeavors to bring forth sin and bear sinful fruit. The spiritual nature has the seed of God and seeks to bring forth obedience and the fruit of righteousness. So as the old saying goes, “One rotten apple can spoil the whole barrel.”27 That’s why it is so important that the Works of the Flesh are not allowed to grow to such a volume that it begins to spoil the Fruit of the Spirit. That is also why the purging power of sanctification is so needed.
1 Cf. Galatians 2:20
2 Ibid. 6:14
3 F. F. Bruce: On Romans, op. cit., loc. cit., Vol. 6, pp. 142–143
4 John Stott: On Romans, op. cit., loc. cit.
5 Douglas J. Moo: On Romans, op. cit., loc. cit
6 See Proverbs 5:22
7 1 Corinthians 15:20
8 2 Corinthians 5:17; Galatians 6:15; James 1:18
9 1 Corinthians 15:50-57; Revelation 20:14; 21:4
10 Mekhilta is an Aramaic word corresponding to the Hebrew middah, meaning a “measure” or “rule.” In this case, it refers to certain fixed rules of scriptural exegesis of Exodus. It came from the school of Rabbi Ishmael.
11 Psalm 82:6-7
12 Mekhilta d’Rabbi Yishmael: Composed in Talmudic Israel/Babylon (135 AD), Translated by Rabbi Shraga Silverstein, Perek (Chapter) 19:16
13 David H. Stern: On Romans, op. cit., loc. cit.
14 2 Timothy 2:11-13
15 2 Corinthians 4:14; Colossians 3:3,4
16 1 Thessalonians 4:14
17 Psalm 16:9-10
18 Acts of the Apostles 2:31
19 Hebrews 2:14-15
20 Tikkunei Zohar: folio 112
21 Origen: On Romans, loc. cit.
22 See Revelation 2:11
23 Hebrews 6:4
24 Pelagius: On Romans, loc. cit.
25 Diodore of Tarsus: On Romans, loc. cit.
26 1 John 1:8-9; 2:1-2
27 Geoffrey Chaucer (1343-1400): Canterbury Tales, “The Cook’s Tale.”