With Dale Ratzlaff
We continue our study in Romans 6:1-7.
What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin so that grace may increase? May it never be! How shall we who died to sin still live in it? Or do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus have been baptized into His death? Therefore we have been buried with Him through baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life. For if we have become united with Him in the likeness of His death, certainly we shall also be in the likeness of His resurrection, knowing this, that our old self was crucified with Him, in order that our body of sin might be done away with, so that we would no longer be slaves to sin; for he who has died is freed from sin.
Romans 6 marks a major change in the book of Romans which means it is a time to review before we move to new material. Thus far we have seen that all men—gentiles, moralists, and Jews—have not only sinned but continue to sin. Further, Paul has made it clear time and again that the Law is not a means of salvation; rather it points out our sin and our need of a Savior. In Romans 3:21-26 we learned about justification by faith. The moment we believe and are born again we are acquitted from all sin and at the same instant we are counted righteous with the very righteousness of God that supersedes the righteousness of the law. We saw that God’s work in justifying sinners is legally just based upon redemption and propitiation. Next we enumerated several of the results of justification—peace with God and our introduction into His grace. Paul showed us that we are sinners based upon Adam’s sin and our own as well. In the last several lessons we looked at the major truth of substitution in the context of a comparison of Adam’s sin contrasted to the greater work of Christ in reversing the results of Adams “one act.”
If you remember, I concluded that Romans 1:16,17 were the theme verses of Romans:
For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, “BUT THE RIGHTEOUS man SHALL LIVE BY FAITH.
Verse 17 can be accurately translated two ways.
1) He who is righteous by faith shall live.
2) The righteous man shall live by faith. Number 1 above describes how a person becomes righteous “by faith”. That concept is explained in chapters 3-5 of Romans where Paul explains Christ imputed (legal) righteousness. Nothing in these chapters teaches Christians how to live. There is no admonition of what we should or should not do. These chapters deal with the pure doctrine of righteousness by faith.
No. 2 above describes how a person who has already become righteousness is to “live by faith”. This now leads us to chapters 6-8 of Romans.
Christ is not only my Substitute—He did it for me—but He is also my Representative—I did it in Him.
In Romans 6 through 8 Paul, without leaving the gospel, nevertheless moves the primary focus from imputed righteousness—the righteousness of Christ credited to our account—to imparted righteousness—the righteousness of Christ worked out in our lives by the agency of the Holy Spirit. He applies gospel realities to the life experience. Paul has shown that Christ is our Substitute—He did it for us. In chapter 6 he shows that Christ is our Representative—we did it “in Christ”; “it” being the work of Christ. Just like David’s victory over the giant Goliath was Israel’s victory, because David represented all Israel, in the same way Christ’s victory is our victory. If you are into sports, when your team wins you shout out, “We won!” The team’s victory is counted to be your victory. Notice how Paul brings out the truth of representation in the first part of Romans 6.
What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin so that grace may increase? May it never be! How shall we who died to sin still live in it? Or do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus have been baptized into His death? Therefore we have been buried with Him through baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life. For if we have become united with Him in the likeness of His death, certainly we shall also be in the likeness of His resurrection (Rom. 6:1-5).
As strange as it sounds, nevertheless the following statement is true: “Anytime the gospel is preached in clarity there is room for misunderstanding.” Such misunderstanding was often the reality for Paul. Some who hear that they are acquitted of all sin and counted as righteous feel they can therefore live without regard to personal righteousness. It is in answer to this mind-set that much confusion and misunderstanding has come into the church. Paul, in the strongest terms, shows that this idea is wrong in verses 1–2:
What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin so that grace may increase? May it never be!
“May it never be” is in the optative mood in Greek. My Greek teacher said that a good translation would be “Hell no!”—without any resemblance to inappropriate swearing. Paul now will show why the Christian should not—will not—continue in a life of sin.
In Romans 6:1-5, Paul states that we were baptized into Christ’s death, we were buried “with Him through baptism into death”. We were also raised from the dead “in Christ”. The goal of being incorporated into Christ is “that we too might walk in newness of life.” Paul continues:
Knowing this, that our old self was crucified with Him, in order that our body of sin might be done away with, so that we would no longer be slaves to sin; for he who has died is freed from sin (Rom. 6:6-7).
Look carefully at the above text. In context, who died? Was it Christ or was it believers—you and I? The contextual application is that our “old self” (often called the “flesh”) was crucified with Christ. “Was crucified”, is aorist passive meaning it happened at a point of time and it was God’s work, not ours. But there is more good news! We no longer are slaves to sin! For we who died “with Christ” have been “freed from sin”—perfect passive. This Greek tense tells us that we were freed from sin at a point in time and the “free-from-sin” condition remains. We live in the ongoing state of freedom from sin! Read it again!
Some of us will immediately start to argue with Paul. “Paul, that is not true in my life. I still fall short of God’s ideal.” But freedom from your sin and mine is God’s work. Remember this statement is perfect passive. Christ did it for us and we did it “in Him”.
Paul’s emphasis is that we must know this. “Knowing this…” Living the righteous life by faith will only be possible if we know the truth of representation—we did it in Christ! I believe that every Christian wants to be more holy, more obedient, and have more of the fruit of good works flowing from his/her life. We may disagree, however, on two points: First, is the righteousness of sanctification (personal righteousness) part of the believer’s right standing before God? Some teach that the gospel not only includes justification by faith, but it also includes the personal righteousness of sanctification. This, I believe is a counterfeit gospel. Romans chapters 3-5 have given more than sufficient evidence to show that the saving gospel is God’s work of grace “for us” which results in God’s work of grace “in us”, but that internal righteousness is never the basis for our right standing with God.
Second, sometimes discipleship seems to leave faith and grace behind and moves in the direction of prescribed works. Just what these works are varies from one discipler to another. Too often the focus is taken off Christ and placed back on personal behavior. “Now that you are a Christian, don’t you think you should quit smoking? And did you know that Christians should not get drunk? In fact, it would be best if you were a teetotaler. The Bible teaches tithing; therefore you should start paying a tenth of your income to the church. You should also control your temper and keep your kids under control”. Many disciplers promote some version of the Christian disciplines such as fasting, silence, meditation, Bible reading, witnessing, service, Bible memorization, and the list goes on.
Most of these things are or may be good. The problem comes when we begin to measure our spiritual growth by our overcoming and our performance of these activities. There is a tendency to move from the “done of the gospel”, to the “do, or don’t do” of these disciplines. Often discouragement comes in and shuts down Christian growth, the very thing these discipleship programs were designed to foster.
Before we focus on personal righteousness we must first accept the truth of substitution—Christ did it for me. He has already forgiven all sin and accounted me righteous. Second, I must know the truth of Representation—I died with Christ, I was buried with Christ, I was raised from the grave with Christ. Because I have been baptized “into Christ” I can walk in newness of life!
Father, the more I learn about your gracious gift in Christ the more I understand the depths of your love and plans for me. Help me focus on who I am in Christ so that I might indeed walk in newness of life and live the righteous life “by faith”.