NEW TESTAMENT CONTEXTUAL COMMENTARY
Dr. Robert R. Seyda
EPISTLE TO THE ROMANS
CHAPTER SIX (Lesson X)
Scottish theologian Robert Haldane makes some interesting points here on these two verses. First, he says, now that believers have become one with Christ by virtue of His death, their prospects of living forever with Him have greatly improved. In other words, it is as of yet not totally guaranteed. He reasons that the term “life” here is post-resurrection living, the same as it appears in verse 5. Since the Apostle speaks of it as a future life, it would be a mistake to interpret it as signifying the believer’s spiritual life here and now, or as a reference to the believer’s life from now to the end of his road. Haldane sees no need to strain at developing such an interpretation.
Then Haldane writes: “The Apostle states the assumption that, as Christ, having been raised from the dead, will not die again, so neither will those die again who have died and risen with Him. This obviously refers to the resurrection life, and not to the present spiritual life. It is a fact of inconceivable consolation that after the resurrection the believer will never again die. All the glory of heaven could not make us happy without this truth.”1 In other words, if all that Christ suffered was only to benefit us during our short lifetime here on earth, it would have been a costly mistake on God’s part, and would not have given those who believe in Him any hope for in the future.
Swiss scholar Frédéric Godet makes the point that when Paul says, “To live with Christ,” it means to share His life as one risen and glorified. For Godet, from Christ’s heavenly position He transmits Himself to the person who has appropriated salvation through His death by faith. In that way, He fills up with His holy life, the void left by those who renounce their life for His sake. Says Godet: “This is our Pentecost, the result of His resurrection.”2 Charles Ellicott gives us this to think about when he says that the eternal nourishment that a believer receives through living in Christ and Christ living in them is a guarantee for a permanent relationship with Him, as long as they are dependent on His. Writes Ellicott: “If it were possible that the life of Christ should fail, the whole fabric that the believer’s faith builds upon would fall to the ground.”3
Douglas Moo gives a good summary of these two verses: “In verse 8, Paul shows that living with Christ automatically follows dying with Him. The one always includes the other. As in verse 5, many interpreters think that living with Christ is something a believer has already experienced. But the future tense again more likely refers to that coming Day when believers will be bodily raised with Christ. But while our bodily resurrection lies in the future, we enjoy even now the benefits of Christ’s resurrection. In verse 9, Paul explains just what Christ’s own resurrection means: He now lives in a state in which death is no longer possible and has no power over Him. He has conquered death. And, Paul implies, we who belong to Him also have the assurance of conquering death.”4
Verses 10-11: Yes, when Christ died He died to defeat the power of sin one time – enough for all time. He now has a new life, and His new life is with God. In the same way, you should see yourselves as being dead to the power of sin and alive to God through Christ Jesus.
What a powerful message Paul delivers to the believers in Rome who were being pressured to think more of orchestrating their own freedom through their good works instead of through the work of Christ. This is what Paul also preached to the Corinthians: “Christ had no sin, but God made Him become sin so that in Christ we could be right with God.”5 But unlike the sacrifices under the Law that had to be offered with each sin, Jesus died one time for all sin. This is how the writer of Hebrews put it: “He came to offer Himself only once. And that once is good enough for all time.”6 And the Apostle Peter agreed with this: “For the Messiah Himself died for sins, once and for all, a righteous person on behalf of unrighteous people, so that He might bring you to God.”7 That’s why Paul had no doubt, when he wrote the Corinthians, that because Christ died, we should know how to live for His glory: “He died for all so that those who live would not continue to live for themselves. He died for them and was raised from death so that they would live for Him.”8
Because of this fact, Paul did not mince words with those who claimed to be followers of Christ. He told the Corinthians: “God paid a very high price to make you His. So use your bodies to glorify God.”9 This was the same thing Paul told the Galatians: “I died to the law so that I could live for God. So I am not the one living now – it is Christ living in me.”10 And echoed the same message in his letter to the Colossians: “Your old-self has died, and your new life is kept with Christ in God. Yes, Christ is now your life.”11 But believers do not live for God by their own strength. Jesus made that clear when He said: “Because I live, you too will live.”12 This is a theme that Paul will repeat in Chapter 8, verse 10.
In one of his sermons, Chrysostom offers some advice after he asks, “What does ‘died to sin’ mean?” For this early church preacher it meant that although Christ was not subject to sin, He came in order to destroy and remove its power. Thus, He died for our sin. And since Christ did not die twice, there is no second washing. Chrysostom said that Paul frightened the Romans because this was his way of saying, “You had better stay away from any tendency to sin!” He then goes on to say: “Look out for yourselves… because complete freedom from sin is not a reality as yet… We are told to live for God in Jesus Christ our Lord and to lay hold of every virtue, having Jesus as our ally in the struggle.”13 That is why after the resurrection we will be removed from the presence of sin completely. There will be no more condemnation, temptation, pain or sorrow. It is then that we all will be totally free. As the old negro spiritual song goes: “Free at last, free at last. I thank God I’m free at last.”14
Martin Luther took what Paul says here and remarks that because Christ is eternal, so also is our spiritual life. Christ is our life, and through faith, He shines into our hearts the rays of grace which abide forever.15 And John Calvin looks at the suitability of saying that Christ died that He might destroy sin and concludes: “We must observe what is suitable to Christ in this form of expression; for He is not said to die to sin, so as to cease from it, since the words must be taken as applying to us, but that He underwent death on account of sin, that having made Himself a ransom, He might annihilate the power and dominion of sin.”16
John Calvin also remarks on this verse, the way this is applied to Christ is different than the way it applies to us. Christ did not, like us, die to sin for the purpose of ceasing to commit it. Calvin says that there are two misinterpretations often given. First, the way verse 2 is explained, and then, as a natural consequence, how it is understood here in verse 10. If commentators mistake the meaning of the one, they are compelled to adjust it in the other. Calvin notes that some introduce the idea of death to the power of sin in verse 2, but in this 10th verse that is impossible. Our Lord never felt the power of sin, and, therefore, could not die to it. However, He died to cover the guilt of sin, that is, the guilt of His people’s sins which He took upon Himself. As a consequence, those dying to sin as declared in verse 2, do so precisely the same way He died to it – once.17
I like what Puritan scholar Charles Simeon said about this subject. He wrote that Paul took for granted that the believer was “dead with Christ.” By virtue of his union with Christ, the believer can partake of all that Christ either did or suffered for him. Was Christ crucified, dead, and buried? Of course! So the believer then is also crucified, dead, and buried. Christ underwent all of this in His body, but the believer experiences all of this in his soul. Simeon says that every believer has what is called “the old man,” or “the body of sin.” This old man undergoes a change equivalent to that which Christ experienced in His mortal body. This old man is “crucified.” Says Simeon, since crucifixion can be slow and gradual, so sometimes a believer’s “body of sin” dies slowly until it is destroyed. The believer, at his baptism, considers this as a solemn oath on his part, just as what God pledged to him is solemn.18
Robert Haldane agrees with Calvin and makes the observation that here in this 10th verse we have the same declaration concerning our Lord and Savior as in the 2nd verse concerning believers, especially when it comes to their being dead to sin. That’s why what is true in one case must also be true in the other. However, if someone offers the wrong interpretation to verse 2, then they must, by necessity, say the same thing about verse 10 here.19
Charles Hodge summarizes the contents of Paul’s teaching in this 6th chapter up to verse eleven. 1) The most prominent doctrine in this passage is that Christ’s death secures the destruction of sin whenever it secures its pardon. 2) When a professing Christian continues to live in sin, they provide sure evidence that they are not real Christians. In so doing they misrepresent and slander the gospel of the grace of God. 3) Holiness does not lead to a pardon, a pardon leads to holiness. 4) The most effective way to gain victory over sin is to bond with Jesus Christ. This requires seeing His death as securing the pardon for sin and restoring us to the Divine favor. That then will procure for us the influence of the Holy Spirit. It will take pardon and holiness in order to successfully subdue sin. 5) It is comforting to every believer to know that having the evidence of being a true Christian, makes sure they will one day live with Christ. As long as the Head of the body lives, surely must all the members of the body live. 6) Says Hodge: “To be in Christ is the source of the Christian’s life; to be like Christ is the sum of His excellence; to be with Christ is the fullness of His joy.”20
1 Robert Haldane: On Romans, op. cit., loc. cit., p. 250
2 Frédéric Louis Godet: On Romans, loc. cit.
3 Charles Ellicott: On Romans, loc. cit.
4 Douglas Moo: On Romans, loc. cit.
5 2 Corinthians 5:21
6 Hebrews 9:26
7 1 Peter 3:18 – Complete Jewish Bible
8 2 Corinthians 5:15
9 1 Corinthians 6:20
10 Galatians 2:19-20
11 Colossians 3:3
12 John 14:19
13 Chrysostom: Homilies on Romans 11
14 Written by John Wesley Work Jr., 1940
15 Martin Luther: On Romans, loc. cit., p. 103
16 John Calvin: On Romans, op. cit., loc. cit.
17 Calvin: ibid.
18 The Entire Works of the Rev. Charles Simeon, published by Henry G. Hohn, London, 1844, Vol. 15, p. 147
19 Robert Haldane: On Romans, op. cit., loc. cit., p. 251
20 Charles Hodge: On Romans, op. cit., loc. cit., p. 312