This review of Romans 6 is provided by Steve (The Old Adam)
background – I’m a Lutheran laymen who felt the weight of the shackles of my own spiritual project and religious wandering fall off when I heard the free gospel in it’s purity and gift of Christ handed to me, free of charge, no strings attached
What then are we to say? Should we continue in sin in order that grace may abound? By no means! How can we who died to sin go on living in it?
This is pretty much an extension of Chapter 5. Paul is just anticipating the question that some, or many of the Romans he was writing to might ask. Many of us ask the same thing. A question like that shows a misunderstanding of the gospel to start with, or maybe someone who really has not heard the gospel (hasn’t grabbed hold of) yet.
Now to the meat of the chapter:
Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? Therefore we have been buried with him by baptism into death, so that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life. For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we will certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his. We know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body of sin might be destroyed, and we might no longer be enslaved to sin. For whoever has died is freed from sin. But if we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. We know that Christ, being raised from the dead, will never die again; death no longer has dominion over him. The death he died, he died to sin, once for all; but the life he lives, he lives to God. So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus.
Paul is speaking here about Holy Baptism.
Almost every time baptism is mentioned in the New Testament is it referring to water baptism (that’s what baptism means) and this is no exception. Paul does not use the words ‘symbolizes’, or ‘represents’ (he knew those words), but he instead is referring to something actually taking place (spiritually). “who have been baptized…”, “have been buried with him…” , “walk in newness of life”, crucified with him”.
This is death and resurrection language, which is baptism, in a nutshell. God is the actor. He is the One who baptizes. Water and the Word of promise.
So, in baptism we receive the punishment for sin, as Christ received on the cross, and we receive the benefit of the resurrection, as Christ was raised from the tomb, so will we be raised with Him. And all of this we receive in Holy Baptism. None of it our decision, or our choice, but God’s decision for us. (This, grace before faith doctrine is especially highlighted in infant baptism…for what can a baby know or size up about God?)
In our baptisms, we have died to sin and death no longer has dominion over us (verses 7-11).
We are to consider ourselves dead to sin (even though we still sin), sin and death no longer have dominion over us as it no longer has dominion over Christ Jesus. We are baptized into Christ. As Paul states in Galatians 4, “we have put on Christ”. We are clothed in His righteousness.
I believe that this is exactly why Jesus commanded that we be baptized, and to baptize others. So that an objective Word of promise would come to us, completely outside of ourselves, so that we could look to this act of God, for us, and always trust in it, no matter what is going on inside our heads, our hearts, or in our daily struggle to live out the Christian faith.
Therefore, do not let sin exercise dominion in your mortal bodies, to make you obey their passions. No longer present your members to sin as instruments of wickedness, but present yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life, and present your members to God as instruments of righteousness. For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace. What then? Should we sin because we are not under law but under grace? By no means! Do you not know that if you present yourselves to anyone as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin, which leads to death, or of obedience, which leads to righteousness? But thanks be to God that you, having once been slaves of sin, have become obedient from the heart to the form of teaching to which you were entrusted, and that you, having been set free from sin, have become slaves of righteousness. I am speaking in human terms because of your natural limitations. For just as you once presented your members as slaves to impurity and to greater and greater iniquity, so now present your members as slaves to righteousness for sanctification. When you were slaves of sin, you were free in regard to righteousness. So what advantage did you then get from the things of which you now are ashamed? The end of those things is death. But now that you have been freed from sin and enslaved to God, the advantage you get is sanctification. The end is eternal life. For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Here, Paul encourages us to live as though we have already inherited the Kingdom, which we have, and not to give in to the sin that formerly ruled our lives and had dominion over us. He encourages us to live up to our great calling, and to realize that sin does not profit us anything.
As a Lutheran, I believe this is the great teaching that keeps us centered on Christ Jesus and His promises, as opposed to placing ourselves at the center and engaging a religious ladder climbing project, or engaging in ‘Christian progression’.
I believe that the Lord realizes what we are all about (ourselves, basically) and has decided to take the justification project solely upon Himself. He has decided to forgive sinners, real sinners (“while we were yet Sinners, Christ died for us”), and to bring them into His family, and forgive them, and grant them eternal life out of His sheer mercy and kindness, not because of us, or in spite of us…but because He loves us, and desires to do so.
For me, Romans 6 is a wonderful gift from God, through Paul, to give me (us) the assurance of these truths, totally aside from what I see around me, or what I see or feel inside myself. It is the external Word made alive, in Word (preached and written) and in water…and also in the bread and the wine of Holy Communion.
Now, I do realize that this is a very radical view of baptism (and the Lord’s Supper), but this where I, and many of my Lutheran brethren have been anchored, thanks to Paul, Luther’s understanding of Paul, and many others who affirm this doctrine of grace (God’s riches at Christ’s expense).
If some of you would be interested in hearing more of this Lutheran (and we believe, Pauline) view of Romans 6, and Baptism, click on this link to a recording of my pastor teaching on this very chapter of Romans. Romans-6___Baptism-and-free-will
Due to my work schedule and lack of access to a computer while I’m at work, I may not be able to field questions or challenges in a very timely fashion. Please bear with me and forgive me, and feel free to kick this around between yourselves, and I’ll poke my nose back in where I can.
– Steve Martin (the Old Adam)