The Apostle Paul once reprimanded the church in Corinth for their inability to receive meaty doctrines. The Roman church evidently didn't have the same problem. In Romans 6, Paul handed them a huge theological steak which probably took a long time to digest! Join Stephen now as we chew on this truth together.
You Were There!
Leadership Magazine reprinted part of the testimony of James Ryle, who now pastors a church in Texas. When he was 2 years old, his father was sent to prison. When he was 7, authorities placed him in an orphanage. At 19, he had a car wreck that killed a friend of his. He sold drugs to raise money for his legal fees and the law caught up to him. He was arrested, charged with a felony and sent to prison. While in prison James accepted Christ, and after he had served his time, went to school, and eventually ended up serving the Lord full time in ministry. Years later he sought out his father to reconcile with him, and when they got together, the conversation turned to prison life. James’s father asked, “Which prison were you in?” When James answered, his father was shocked . .. and then he said, “When I was in prison, they used me as a welder to construct penitentiaries. I helped build that prison you were in.” Pastor Ryle concluded, “Imagine that, I was in the prison my father had built.”
In a way, this experience is true for every person on earth. We all were born imprisoned in sin. And we all began life, incarcerated in a prison that was built by our father, Adam.
Paul has already declared that through Adam sin entered into the world, and death through sin, and death spread to all men, because all sinned (Romans 5:12)
So all of humanity are prisoners of darkness, bound in the dungeon cells of sin; incarcerated by the kingdom of darkness and sin – and for every person, it is death row!
The kingdom of sin rewards it’s prisoners with the only currency it deals in – death. The wages of sin – the currency of sin is death.
There’s only one way out of that kingdom . . . someone has to take your place on death row and die in your place.
The first Adam built the prison . . . but the second Adam has purchased freedom for every one who will trust in His execution on their behalf.
And because of Christ’s death on the cross, and resurrection from the dead, Paul can write in Romans chapter 6 that believers are free! Free . . . Paul repeats . . . freed from sin (v. 7); freed from sin (v. 18); free in regard to righteousness (v. 20); freed from sin (v. 22).
The believer has been delivered from the dark kingdom of sin by faith in Jesus Christ. By the grace of God, Paul wrote, “Jesus Christ has delivered us from the power of darkness and carries us into the kingdom of the Son of His love.” (Colossians 1:13)
Now, you need to understand that there is a shift in Paul’s perspective as he begins what we call chapter 6.
Through chapter 5, the primary doctrine has been justification; but now, in chapter 6, Paul will begin to describe the doctrine of sanctification.
Justification deals with the penalty of sin;
Sanctification deals with the power of sin.
Justification, you remember, is where God declares the believer to be righteous in Christ; Sanctification is where God conforms the believer to live a righteous life through Christ.
Because of that, these two doctrines must not be confused.
Justification occurs in a moment of time, at salvation.
Sanctification is a lifetime process.
Justification has nothing to do with a believer’s holy living;
Sanctification has everything to do with holy living.
Having finished his declaration of justification by faith alone, through the grace and effort of the Second Adam alone, the natural question is anticipated by Paul.
Since we didn’t have to earn our salvation by good works, and since even the worst of sinners can be saved; and since the more sinful a person is before coming to Christ, the greater the demonstration of God’s grace toward them . . . then what’s so bad about sin?.
In other words, if we don’t get saved by being good, and we then can’t lose our salvation by being bad, why not be as bad as we want?
Because Paul anticipated this question, he now begins the following questions related to sanctification:
- Can a believer live a lifestyle of sin?
- How does a believer relate and respond to sin;
- How does a believer live a holy life that pleases the Father who has delivered him from the Kingdom of Sin?
Paul begins to answer those questions by dealing with the first question . . . can a believer live in sin?
Notice Romans 6:1. What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin so that grace may increase? 2. May it never be! How shall we who died to sin still live in it?
There are a number of views related to what Paul meant when he said, “How shall we who died to sin still live in it?” In other words, what did Paul mean when he said we died to sin?
Some believe Paul meant we died to the allurement of sin.
Others argue that Paul means we are supposed to die daily to sin?
They take Paul’s words in 1 Corinthians 15:31 out of context where he said, “I die daily.” They say a believer needs to die every day in order to achieve spiritual victory. Paul was referring to his willingness to die a physical death for he wrote that “we are in danger every hour.”
Furthermore, Paul makes it very clear in Romans 6 that dying isn’t something we need to do, it is something that has already happened . . . “we died to sin.”
Another view is that the believer’s sin nature has been eradicated. This view teaches that a person becomes perfected in righteousness; the problem of course is that so much of Paul’s letter deals with the fact that although we have died to sin, we are still prone to sin.
Another view teaches that Christians are supposed to simply renounce sin and therefore die to it.
The interpretation that I believe is correct and consistent with Paul’s further writing, is that the believer has died to the reign of sin.
Paul wrote in 5:21, that as sin reigned in death, even so grace might reign through righteousness to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.
In other words, we died to the dominion or power of sin.
These views adapted from James Montgomery Boice, Romans Vol. 2, p. 651
Death, by the way, does not mean extinction, it means separation. Hell is not a place where souls are extinguished; it is a place where souls are separated from God.
When Paul says we died to sin, he does not mean sin ceases to exist. Death to sin means that you are separated from the power of sin. Being dead to sin means being set free from the reign or dominion of sin.”
The Bible Knowledge Commentary, (Victor Books), 1983, p. 461.
Paul says that sin “reigned in death.” The noun form of this Greek verb, to reign, can be translated “king or kingdom.”
For we have died to the ruling power of sin. We have been separated or delivered from the kingdom of sin.
Now follow me here – you got into the kingdom of sin by birth; and you get out of the kingdom of sin, by death.
Paul is saying that deliverance from the kingdom of sin came because we died.
What in the world does he mean?
Well, Paul will help us understand by taking us to two places: a graveyard . . . and a vineyard.
Notice verse 3. Or do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus have been baptized into His death?
The word repeated twice in this verse is the key word “baptized.”
Trouble is, the word isn’t translated – it is transliterated. That is, English letters are put in the place of Greek letters so that the Greek word, baptizomai, is spelled out in English – baptized.
You still don’t know what it means. And what it means, is absolutely critical to understand this text.
The word has both a literal and figurative meaning.
The literal meaning of baptizomai is – to immerse.
Therefore, to literally baptize someone with water, you would need to immerse them. To not immerse them is to not have baptized them. . .you’d have to come up with a different word like sprinkle, or pour.
And there are Greek words for sprinkle and pour. And they are never, ever used in any New Testament reference to a believer being baptized with water.
As a young seminary student, I was convinced that I could pour, sprinkle or immerse a believer in water; it really didn’t matter how. Then I took my first semester of Greek exegesis and discovered the consistent use of this verb throughout every New Testament passage dealing with a believer being baptized in water. I remember going to the seminary library and pulling down stacks of lexicons – which are dictionaries that define Greek words. And I looked up baptizomai/bapto trying to find one of them that said it was something other than to immerse. Lexicons, by the way, are non-denominational. You don’t have a Baptist lexicon and a Methodist lexicon. No, a Greek word means the same thing, no matter what church you belong to.
Well then, what do all the Episcopalians and Methodists and Presbyterians do about this word? They choose to apply the word, not in it’s literal meaning, but only in it’s figurative meaning.
The literal meaning of the word baptizomai is – to immerse.
The figurative meaning is – to identify with another – in this case, Jesus Christ.
So these other churches put a little water on the forehead of a person and say that they are now identified with the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
We believe both the literal meaning and the figurative meaning should occur in the life of the believer. We literally immerse the believer into water, and thus, truly identify them with the literal death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ. . .the water becomes an analogy of the grave – a believer is buried into it, and resurrected out of it.
Any other way is to simply ignore the literal meaning of a wonderful word.
I did something really mischievous about 10 years ago. And I haven’t done anything mischievous since! I was at a very large Presbyterian church for a training conference – this church is on television coast to coast – a huge church that seats around 5,000 people. The ceiling stretches probably 100 feet into the air – pipes for the pipe organ magnificently displayed up front – a beautiful marble stage – a huge pulpit off to the side with steps leading up to it – and it had its own private loft – way up there. I was there with another gentleman from Colonial – we arrived one evening rather early for a training session and discovered that no one was anywhere around. We were sitting in this sanctuary in silence – sort of, in awe. I had this crazy thought and I said to my friend, I’m gonna go up there walk up those stairs into that pulpit loft and stand behind the pulpit. He whispered, “You better not, you might get into trouble.” I said, “Na, it’s okay; trust me, I’m your pastor.” That was 10 years ago – I was only 34. Then I got another idea and I said to him, “I’m gonna say a word up there that has never been spoken before in this auditorium.” He turned white. “What are you gonna say?” I said, “You’ll find out.” So I walked up to the front of that sanctuary, went up on the stage, around to the stairs that led up to the pulpit and climbed up them, stood up to the pulpit, looked out over this massive auditorium and said the one word that had never been said before, “Immersion.” Then I climbed down as quick as I could.
I’m being silly here, but I do think it is such a sad thing that so many people miss out on the literal application of this wonderful word.
Now, there are those who would say that Paul isn’t talking about water baptism here at all, but Spirit baptism.
I believe that Paul is probably thinking about both – because both are related.
Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 12:13, “For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body.”
Spirit baptism is that baptism by the agency of the Holy Spirit where we are immersed into the body of Christ.
That language is very similar to Romans 6:3 – “. . .we have been baptized into Christ Jesus.”
Paul said so. Immersion into the body of Christ happened at conversion, by the working of the Holy Spirit.
I have Charismatic friends who ask, “have you been baptized by the Spirit?” I answer, “Absolutely!” And so should you!
It is impossible to be a believer and not have been baptized by the Spirit of God into the Body of Christ.
The believer is literally immersed into the body of Christ. Not halfway – not just a leg or an arm – all of the believer is immersed into the body
Paul also has in mind the readers’ experience of water baptism to remind them of their identification with Christ.
Again, the literal meaning is immersion. The figurative meaning is identification.
Notice verse 4. 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.
Literal baptism by water is the perfect analogy to identification with Christ at his death burial and resurrection.
And water baptism identifies the believer with Christ’s death as he is put into the hands of another.
Baptism identifies the believer with Christ’s burial as he is placed under the water.
Baptism identifies the believer with Christ’s resurrection as he is pulled up out of the water by the power of another.
This was certainly not a new concept in Judaism. In fact, the Rabbi’s taught that a Gentile who wanted to leave his pagan faith and convert to Judaism had to go through baptism – after which he was considered – “reborn.” The rabbis taught, “A proselyte who embraces Judaism, is like a new-born child.” They also held that if a man’s child born after his baptism was considered his first born, even if he had older children.
William Barclay, The Letter to the Romans, (Westminster Press), 1975, p. 84.
The Greeks also would have understood the basic concept of baptism. Even before the time of Christ had developed the Mystery religions – false religions with kernels of truth interwoven into their rituals.
A Greek by the name of Apuleius, who went through a mystery religion initiation later wrote about it, saying that he underwent a “voluntary death, and that thereby he attained his spiritual birthday and was reborn.” In the Phrygian mystery religions the initiate, after his baptism was given milk to drink symbolizing the fact that he was a new born babe.
Ladies and Gentlemen, when the Apostle Paul described the idea of baptism, the concept had already been counterfeited by the enemy to become a mysterious path to salvation.
But according to scripture, baptism by water is not the means of salvation, it is simply the demonstration of salvation.
Just as we were in Adam, when he sinned, we were also in Christ, when He died, was buried and rose again.
And water baptism is the illustration of that wonderful identity we have in Christ.
Paul goes on in the latter part of verse 4 to tell us that we’ve been raised to walk in newness of life.
This isn’t talking about a new leaf . . .it’s talking about a new life.
Literally a new dynamic for living; a new purpose for life.
The believer hasn’t turned over a new leaf – he’s been resurrected to a new way of life!
Warren Wiersbe wrote that this spiritual truth is illustrated in the miracle of the resurrection of Lazarus in John 11. When Jesus arrived at Bethany, Lazarus had been in the tomb four days; so there was no question about his death. By the power of His Word (“Lazarus, come forth!”) Jesus raised His friend from the dead. But when Lazarus appeared at the door of the tomb, he was wrapped in grave clothes. So Jesus commanded, “Loose him, and let him go!” He had been raised to walk “in newness of life.” In John 23, Lazarus was seated with Christ at the table, in fellowship with Him. [o you see it?] Dead – raised from the dead – set free to walk in newness of life – seated with Christ; all of these facts illustrate the spiritual truths of our identification with Christ.
Warren W. Wiersbe, Be Right (Chariot Victor Publishing), 1977, p. 63
Paul writes in Colossians 3:1,3 Since then you have been raised with Christ, set your heart on things above . . . for you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God.”
The believer cannot living in sin because of his identification with Christ. The believer has died to the old life; he has been raised to a new principle of life – a new dynamic for living. The true believer does not want to go back into sin any more than Lazarus wanted to go back into the tomb dressed again in his grave clothes.
Ibid, p. 64
To many good people are trying to live with the dynamic of life, without entering into the life of Christ. They are turning over new leaves . . . they are trying all sorts of spiritual exercises trying to resuscitate their spiritual deadness.
They don’t need resuscitation, they need resurrection.
Turning over a new leaf is like putting make-up on a corpse – it makes it look more alive, even though it’s still without life.
It’s like gluing apples to the limbs of a dead apple tree. For a little while, things look alive – as if sap is flowing through the tree; but all the while, the tree is not truly alive.
That’s the idea of Paul’s next illustration. He moves from the graveyard to the vineyard.
Notice verse 5. 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.
The word united comes from sumphutos – which means to grow together. Paul has in mind the idea of a branch bound to another – grafted together. This describes our union with Christ.
In Galatians 3:27, Paul wrote, “for all of you who were baptized into Christ have been clothed with Christ.”
So close is our identification with Christ that we are, so to speak, robed with him . . . we wear Christ.
We walk around, in newness of life – robed in Christ.
So what’s so new about our lives?
We have a new identity;
We have a new destiny;
We have a new master;
We have a new purpose;
We have a new heart;
We have a new spirit;
We have a new battle;
We have a new song;
We are a new creation.
In the mind and purpose of God, we have been buried with Christ, we have been raised with Christ.
That old hymn asks the question:
“Were you there when they crucified my Lord?”
And the answer is, “Yes.”
Were you there when they laid Him in a tomb?
Were you there when He rose up from the grave?
We can say with the Apostle Paul, “I have been crucified with Christ, nevertheless I live, yet not I but Christ livers in me; and the life which I now live, I live by faith in the Son of God who loved me and gave Himself for me.” (Galatians 2:20)
Imprisoned because of Adam;
Delivered because of Christ!
Incarcerated because of sin;
Liberated because of the Savior!
Bound in the Kingdom of darkness,
Freed to live in the Kingdom of light!