This morning we come to chapter 6 of Romans. This is a very well known text, but I think it is a very misunderstood text. The reason this text is so misunderstood is because it is so often interpreted in isolation from its context. Some commentators suggest that Paul is beginning a new subject with chapter 6. For example one commentator writes this: "In our studies of the book of Romans, we've come to a major turning point. There is a sharp right turn between Romans 5 and Romans 6. You not only change chapters, you also change subject matter. You move from one theme to another theme. Not that these two chapters are contradictory--they aren't--but these two chapters are talking about different things. Romans 5 speaks of justification. Romans 6 is talking about sanctification. Romans 5 explains how God declares people righteous. Romans 6 explains how God makes people righteous." This is a pretty common understanding of Romans 6.
What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin so that grace may increase? Romans 6:1 NASB
Most people look at this verse as saying that we should not personally go on sinning once we are saved. This interpretation is fueled by the NIV, which says:
What shall we say, then? Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase? Romans 6:1 NIV
Most commentators see Paul here talking about antinomianism. They see the question as being, "If everything depends on what God has done, then what does it matter how we live?" Or, "If where sin increases grace increases all the more let's sin it up so that grace may abound." This is antinomianism? Antinomianism simply means: "against the law, or lawlessness."
Now let me just say that teaching that salvation is all of grace does quite often lead to accusations of antinomianism or lawlessness. But I don't think that is what Paul's talking about here. Paul is not talking here about how to live a moral life.
Notice how Paul starts this chapter:
What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin so that grace may increase? Romans 6:1 NASB
"What shall we say then?"--Paul is again talking to the Jewish interlocutor. Who is the "we" here? If you remember in the introduction to the book of Romans I said that I think Paul is addressing both Jewish and Gentile believers in Rome. In this text it seems like Paul is particularly addressing the Jews because of his focus is on the Law.
"What shall we say than"--about what? What is Paul talking about? He is talking about what he just said in chapter 5. If we are going to understand this verse we must keep it in context. So let's back up to chapter 5.
We saw in Romans 5:12-21 that Paul introduces the theme of our union with Christ. We were joined to Adam, he was our federal head, and his sin was imputed to us. Now by faith we are joined to Jesus Christ, He has become our federal head, and His righteousness has been imputed to us. Because we are in Christ, all that belongs to Jesus Christ becomes ours.
Your salvation and mine depends only, entirely, and exclusively upon the obedience of Jesus Christ:
But to the one who does not work, but believes in Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is credited as righteousness, Romans 4:5 NASB
There are no works involved in salvation, it is a free gift of God's grace to all who believe. Christ's obedience, not ours, is the ground of our justification. God reckons us righteous, and accepts us, not because of deeds done by us in righteousness:
He saved us, not on the basis of deeds which we have done in righteousness, but according to His mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewing by the Holy Spirit, Titus 3:5 NASB
God reckons us righteous because of deeds done by Christ:
So then as through one transgression there resulted condemnation to all men, even so through one act of righteousness there resulted justification of life to all men. For as through the one man's disobedience the many were made sinners, even so through the obedience of the One the many will be made righteous. Romans 5:18-19 NASB
Paul closes chapter 5 with these words:
The Law came in so that the transgression would increase; but where sin increased, grace abounded all the more, so that, as sin reigned in death, even so grace would reign through righteousness to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord. Romans 5:20-21 NASB
God gave the Law, the Mosaic Law, so that the sin of Adam would increase. Just like Adam was given law and broke it, so also Israel was given Law and broke it. So Adam's sin was duplicated by Israel and thus increased. And where sin increased the grace increased all the more. This is a bad place for a chapter division because the question of 6:1 comes from the end of chapter 5. We must keep chapter 6 in context! Let's look at this in Young's translation:
What, then, shall we say? shall we continue in the sin that the grace may abound? Romans 6:1 YLT
"The sin" is the sin of Adam. If sin increases the grace of God, shouldn't we continue to live in the sin. To put it another way, shouldn't we continue to live under the Law? It increases sin which increases grace. The question is, Shall we continue in the sin of Adam, shall we stay under the bondage of the Law? "The sin" is Adam's sin in breaking "the law". So we could ask, Shall we continue to live under the Law? We could say, shall we continue to live under the Old Covenant? The Old Covenant Law increases the sin of Adam. The Law brings sin and death. The sin and the grace in 6:1 are the sin and the grace of 5:20-21. The question is primarily about status, not behavior.
Notice what Paul says about sin's mastery and the law:
For sin shall not be master over you, for you are not under law but under grace. Romans 6:14 NASB
This connects with the end of chapter 5. Law has come into the Adam sphere. Thus when Israel is brought out of Adam they are also brought out from under the Law. The sin is directly related to the Law.
The word "increase" is the Greek word pleonazo, this is the same word that Paul used in 5:20:
The Law came in so that the transgression would increase; but where sin increased, grace abounded all the more, Romans 5:20 NASB
Paul is not talking about living a moral life in chapter 6. That is not what the context is about. Paul's objector is asking, "Shall we stay under the Law so that sin will increase and grace will increase?" The sin of Adam is linked to the Law.
May it never be! How shall we who died to sin still live in it? Romans 6:2 NASB
When the expression "May it never be" occurs in Romans, it is Paul's vehement response to an improper conclusion based upon a proper premise.
Here again, in order to understand this we must have a correct interpretation:
let it not be! we who died to the sin--how shall we still live in it? Romans 6:2 YLT
Paul is not saying that all believers have died to sin, he says that we died to "the sin." Again, this is the sin of Adam that brought in the death.
He says that we "died" (aorist tense) to the sin. That's a past tense. It refers to something that has already happened, not to something that needs to happen. This is not a present tense--"We are dying to sin"--or a future tense--"We will die to sin"--or an imperative--"Die to sin!" Nor is it an exhortation--"You should die to sin." This is a simple past tense--"You died to sin." He is describing something that happened to us in the past. Paul puts it this way to the Colossians.
For you have died and your life is hidden with Christ in God. Colossians 3:3 NASB
How did we die to the sin? Paul's answer in verses 3-11 is the doctrine of our union with Jesus Christ:
Or do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus have been baptized into His death? Romans 6:3 NASB
Paul tells us that we died in baptism. We know that is what he says, but what does he mean? There are multiple interpretations of what Paul means here by baptism.
One commentator writes: "Whenever baptism is mentioned in the New Testament, water baptism is always in the picture somewhere. That is, when baptism was mentioned in the first century, the original readers would naturally think of water baptism." We'll see that this is not the case in a minute.
Some say this is talking about baptismal regeneration. Baptismal regeneration means that the act of water baptism conducted by a pastor or priest contains regenerative or life-giving power.
Jack Cottrell, in his book, "Baptism: A Biblical Study" (Joplin, MO: College Press Publishing Co., 1989, p. 84.) represents the denominational view of the "Churches of Christ" and "Christian Churches." He says, "Every Christian has come within the scope of this sin-destroying force of the death of Christ; we have tapped into its lethal power. When did we do this? In our baptism. There is absolutely no indication that this union with Christ in His death happened as soon as we believed or repented. We did not believe into His death; we did not repent into His death. Paul explicitly says we 'have been baptized into his death' (v. 3)" (p. 84).
So they teach that in the act of water baptism that a person is born again rather than by the sovereign act of God by the Holy Spirit. To accept this teaching contradicts the entire argument of Romans up to this point and beyond (not to mention the rest of the Scripture).
Others say that water baptism is: a symbol of regeneration, the Spirit's baptism of the believer into the body of Christ at conversion, and water baptism as a symbol of having died with Christ. The problem with these understandings is that there is no water in this text; as a matter of fact, there is no mention of water in the entire letter. This is the only place in Romans that Paul refers to baptism.
The best way to understand the doctrine of our union with Jesus Christ is to be clear as to the meaning of the phrase, "baptized into Christ Jesus." To understand this phrase, we need to understand the word, "baptized." A principle of hermeneutics is: "to determine carefully the meaning of words."
The primary meaning of "baptize" is: "to plunge, to dip, to immerse." The word is used in the classics of a smith who dips a piece of hot iron in water, tempering it. It is also used of Greek soldiers placing the points of their swords in a bowl of blood.
In most cases in the Bible, the word "baptized" is simply transliterated from the Greek word baptizo and its noun "baptism" from the Greek word baptismos. Unfortunately, these transliterations do not help us at all in understanding the meaning of the words. There are a few instances where the contexts do not allow a direct transliteration into either baptize or baptism. The same Greek verb and noun, for example, are found in:
and when they come from the market place, they do not eat unless they cleanse [baptizo] themselves; and there are many other things which they have received in order to observe, such as the washing [baptismos] of cups and pitchers and copper pots. Mark 7:4 NASB
Obviously, they weren't immersing themselves in water just before they ate; they were washing themselves. We also read in Luke:
And when the Pharisee saw it, he was surprised that He had not first ceremonially washed [baptizo] before the meal. Luke 11:38 NASB
It would not make any sense at all for the Pharisee to marvel that Christ had not first immersed before dinner, would it? So "to baptize" can also simply mean: "to wash."
So we see that there is more than one meaning for the original word "baptize." It can mean: "to dip or immerse," or it can mean: "to wash." These are literal meanings, but in any language, there may be literal and metaphorical meanings of a word. For example: If I said to you, "They are drowning in debt." Are they getting wet? How can you drown without getting wet? I'm using drowning metaphorically.
In exactly the same manner, the word "baptize" has a meaning far removed from anything to do with water. Thinking of water in connection with this passage of the Bible leads to obscurity and error, as it does with many passages dealing with baptism.
There are many types of baptisms in the New Testament and most do not involve water. Types of baptism include baptism unto repentance (Matt 3:6; Acts 2:38), baptism in the Holy Spirit (Luke 3:16; 1 Cor 12:13), baptism into suffering (Luke 12:50; Mark 10:38), baptism into Moses (1 Cor 10:2), and baptism in water (Acts 8:36).
In the past several weeks we have been talking about understanding the Scripture corporately. The context of chapter 5 is the corporate headship of Adam and Christ. I think it is best to see baptism here as corporate also. Paul's first letter to the Corinthians is crucial in helping us to understand what is going on in chapter 6 of the letter to the Romans:
For I do not want you to be unaware, brethren, that our fathers were all under the cloud and all passed through the sea; and all were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea; and all ate the same spiritual food; and all drank the same spiritual drink, for they were drinking from a spiritual rock which followed them; and the rock was Christ. 1 Corinthians 10:1-4 NASB
This text speaks of Israel's baptism into Moses; this baptism occurred as the people left Egypt. It was part of their exodus experience. In this baptism the Jewish people were brought into a covenant relationship with Moses, who became their representative before God. This was the creation of a community with Moses as its divinely-appointed representative. God took Israel as His people and put them under the leadership, or headship, of Moses. All of God's dealings with Israel were now going to be done through Moses. Behind Paul's use of "baptism into Christ" was an Old Covenant type-- the baptism of the Israelites into Moses during their exodus.
Tom Holland writes: "In Jewish understanding, the entire nation was present as Israel came out of bondage, and not just the generation which had been enslaved in Egypt. All generations--past, present, and future--shared in the exodus. Such is the power of the solidarity of the Jewish people with Moses, their chief representative before God."
Paul has been teaching that all are either in Adam or in Christ. Since all are in Adam at birth, how is solidarity with Christ established? This is what Paul seeks to expound--basing his explanation on the parallel solidarity established between the Jewish people and Moses as they left Egypt.
Just as Moses was united with the people of God through baptism and took the Jews out of Egypt, so in His exodus Christ took those who were baptized into union with Him from the realm of Sin and Death. At the same historic moment, all believers experienced the one baptism into His death and were by it freed from Sin's control. It was through the exodus that Israel became Yahweh's son (Exod 4:23; Hos 11:1).
Paul understood baptism in terms of the beginning of a new exodus. This exodus runs from Pentecost to A.D. 70. In this exodus, Israel, after the Spirit, left its bondage to the law of sin and death:
for the law of the Spirit of the life in Christ Jesus did set me free from the law of the sin and of the death; Romans 8:2 YLT
The Church began a forty year spiritual journey to a spiritual inheritance: the Kingdom of God or the New Heavens and New Earth. The "Second Exodus" is a time of transition from the Old Covenant to the New.
This corporate baptism by the Spirit not only brought the church into existence, it was a baptism at which all members were present and in which they shared. Paul explains this in:
For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body, whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free, and we were all made to drink of one Spirit. 1 Corinthians 12:13 NASB
Paul is saying the same thing here as he did in 1 Corinthians 10:4, both are speaking about the creation of the Christian community, which took place as a result of the baptism of its members into the death of Christ. We have all been baptized "to form one body."
Tom Holland writes: "Paul is not writing about individual baptism--either in water or by the Spirit--but about the great act of salvation that took place in the death of Christ. This was Jesus' exodus; and, in His dying and resurrection, he brought His people (of all generations) out with Himself, because they had been baptized by the Spirit into union with Him. What took place in Christ's death and resurrection was the transfer of the whole Christian community from the realm of the kingdom of darkness into the kingdom of Light."
For I do not want you to be unaware, brethren, that our fathers were all under the cloud and all passed through the sea; and all were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea; 1 Corinthians 10:1-2 NASB
Baptism here means initiation into a new relationship, or identification with Moses. It does not mean immersion, the Israelites were never in the sea at all; they passed over on dry land (Ex. 14:21-22). It was Pharaoh's soldiers who got wet. Remember earlier we quoted a commentator who said, "When baptism was mentioned in the first century, the original readers would naturally think of water baptism." How would they see water baptism in this text? They were all united and identified with Moses. Moses was God's appointed leader of Israel. The basic Christian significance for baptism is identification with Christ. We are united to Christ, the Son of God, our leader.
But Jesus said to them, "You do not know what you are asking. Are you able to drink the cup that I drink, or to be baptized with the baptism with which I am baptized?" They said to Him, "We are able." And Jesus said to them, "The cup that I drink you shall drink; and you shall be baptized with the baptism with which I am baptized. Mark 10:38-39 NASB
What is Jesus talking abut here? He is talking about His death. How is death a baptism? In His death, He identified with sinful man and bore his punishment. Verse 39 tells us that they will be identified in His death.
The literal use of the word baptize, to dip or immerse, makes utter nonsense of these passages. Only the metaphorical use: to identify with, can give us any meaning at all.
Over 25% of the uses of the word group in the New Testament do not refer to immersion into water. Therefore, to automatically think "water" when one reads "baptize" or "baptism" is to reveal a deeply ingrained theological prejudice, which comes from somewhere other than the Holy Scriptures.
From a careful look at all of the references to "baptism" in the New Testament, we can determine that there are certain passages that are dealing with baptism into water, and certain other passages that are dealing with baptism into something other than water. And it seems to me that in every place that the baptism refers to a baptism into water, the context itself establishes that it is water that is meant. For example, Matthew 3:6 says "...they were being baptized by him in the Jordan River..." Here the phrase "in the Jordan river" clearly marks the baptism as a "water baptism." On the other hand, in those places where the baptism is clearly not a water baptism, it is again the context itself which establishes that it is not water that is being considered.
The early writers distinguished between "real" baptism and "ritual" baptism. Ritual baptism is immersing someone in water. Real baptism is the act of the Holy Spirit placing the believer in the body of Christ, this is identification. By being members of the Body of Christ, everything that is true of the Head is true of each member of His Body.
This joining takes place when the Holy Spirit identifies (baptizes) us in the body of Christ:
But the one who joins himself to the Lord is one spirit with Him. 1 Corinthians 6:17 NASB
This is the work of the Holy Spirit when we believe.
For all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. Galatians 3:27 NASB
"Have clothed yourselves with Christ"--here Paul makes baptism into Christ the equivalent of being clothed with Christ. Being "clothed with Christ" or "clothed with the Spirit of God" is a theme that runs throughout God's Word. When Gideon faced the overwhelming forces of the Midianites and the Amalekites, we read:
So the Spirit of the LORD came upon Gideon; and he blew a trumpet, and the Abiezrites were called together to follow him. Judges 6:34 NASB
"Came upon" is the Hebrew word labash, which literally means: "to put on a garment or clothe oneself, or another." Indicating that Gideon was clothed with the Holy Spirit as a divine coat of armor. That is the concept Paul uses here. The believer who identifies himself with Jesus Christ through faith is divinely clothed with the righteousness of Christ.
Baptism is the same as putting on Christ:
and in Him you have been made complete, and He is the head over all rule and authority; and in Him you were also circumcised with a circumcision made without hands, in the removal of the body of the flesh by the circumcision of Christ; having been buried with Him in baptism, in which you were also raised up with Him through faith in the working of God, who raised Him from the dead. Colossians 2:10-12 NASB
We have been united to Christ, and what ever He does, we do; whatever He has, we have.
Corresponding to that, baptism now saves you--not the removal of dirt from the flesh, but an appeal to God for a good conscience--through the resurrection of Jesus Christ, 1 Peter 3:21 NASB
Baptism (identification or union) is an antitype or fulfilment of the picture that Noah's Ark played. Those in the ark were saved from judgment, those in Christ are saved from judgment.
When we believed the Gospel, the Holy Spirit put us into the body of Christ--union. This is not physical, but a spiritual identification.
Our salvation is guaranteed, because everything that happened to Christ happened to us. As we were united to Adam, so we are now united to Christ, and it is the Spirit who unites us to Christ. I am in Christ and Christ is in me--union:
Or do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus have been baptized into His death? Romans 6:3 NASB
We were baptized (identified) into Christ's death. When Jesus Christ died, we died with Him. We are one with Him, and His death is ours.
The late L.E. Maxwell from Three Hills, Alberta, Canada told this story. I think it will help us in seeing our identification with Christ:
During the Civil War, George Wyatt was drafted into a unit, soon to be called into battle. This was an unfortunate day for Wyatt. For he had a lovely young bride and an infant that he might never see again if he went to war.
It also would be impossible for her to care for the crops and farm. This was a great problem for Wyatt. He could not find an easy answer. He would have to go to war or face prison. For him, there seemed to be no other rational choice.
Not long after the draft notice, an old friend of Wyatt's, by the name of Richard Pratt, dropped by. Pratt was a hunter and had been an outdoors man all of his life. He had cut out a small piece of land in Montana and returned home to find a bride, get married, and raise his family in that beautiful wilderness.
When Pratt arrived at the Wyatt's home, he found a family broken in spirit. After hours of talking, shouting, pacing, crying, there was a deep silence. Pratt broke the utter stillness and said, 'I'll take your place! I'll go and you can stay.' Wyatt said, 'That's impossible! My name is on the draft notice, I have to go. There is no way to get off that list.' Wyatt thanked Pratt for the suggestion and asked him to forget it and spend the night in their home and use the daylight hours to do his business.
They finally went to bed. However, sleep failed them all. The night was short. In a few hours, Wyatt got up without a word and went out into the morning moonlight to cut stove wood for cooking and warming the cold morning hours. His young bride began tending to their restless infant while their friend, Pratt, was alone in the living room, immersed in thought.
Suddenly, a knock came at the door. Startled, Pratt said, 'I'll get it!' When he opened the door, the men asked, 'George Wyatt?' Pratt pretended to be Wyatt, for he knew who they were and answered, 'Yes! What can I do for you?' They explained their mission of taking every man on the list to the court house to sign in and get suited up for the Confederacy. With his hand on the door, blocking their entrance to the home, Pratt looked back and said, 'Bye, honey!' He closed the door before she could answer, and Pratt left the farm house, with the men thinking he was Wyatt.
At the court house, Pratt signed the usual papers under the name of George Wyatt and took Wyatt's gun, clothes, and horse. After a briefing and bit of training, he went into battle and was killed at the siege of Vicksburg. He was buried on the battlefield. After the battles of Shiloh and Gettysburg, the conflict had grown more hopeless. The frantic draftsmen were going to every house and demanding that every man prepare to go to war. For it looked like Richmond might fall soon. They came to the farm house of George Wyatt. Wyatt met them at the door and asked,'What do you want?' They said they were drafting every man that was alive. Wyatt smiled and told them, 'I have died.' They asked what he meant. Wyatt paused for a moment and told them the story of what happened on the day of his draft. He told them that his friend, Pratt, had gone to the Court House and signed in as George Wyatt.
Wyatt told them to go to the courthouse and check out their own records. He said, 'You'll find that the Judge recorded my death and added to the record that I was buried on the field of battle, near Vicksburg.' Wyatt took a big breath and said in a strong voice, 'You can not draft me because your judicial records say that I am dead.' George Wyatt was never drafted and could not be sent to war.
Wyatt was dead to the Confederacy just as you are dead to the "the sin." The Confederacy had no authority over a dead man. Likewise, Christ went to the cross in your place, signed your name and died as your substitute. It is written in the document of the Heavenly Court that you died on a cross in the service of God to satisfy the unalterable draft of the law of the sin and the death.
Just as George Wyatt was freed from the Confederacy draft, the cross of Christ has freed us from the law of the sin and the 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. Romans 6:4 NASB
The words here "buried with" are from the Greek word sunthapto. This is a rare word used only here and in:
having been buried with Him in baptism, in which you were also raised up with Him through faith in the working of God, who raised Him from the dead. Colossians 2:12 NASB
The words "buried with" mean: "to bury together, join in burying or to be buried with".The word "with" indicates a "co" relationship with Jesus Christ. This is a co-burial. It is saying, "When Jesus was buried, we were buried". God buried us along with Jesus Christ! This obviously does not mean that God put us into the same tomb as Jesus and laid down beside Him! This is our union with Christ.
"The glory of God" is another way of saying "God's power and might." In the First Testament the power of God was displayed supremely on two occasions--when He saved Israel from Egypt, and when He saved her from Babylon (Exod 14:31; Deut 9:29; Isa 40:5). In the New Testament, the power and the glory of God were supremely displayed in the death and resurrection of Jesus.
The astounding statement that Paul makes is that "as" that is true of Christ, "even so" it is true of us. "So we too might walk in newness of life"--Christ walks in newness of life as the result of the resurrection, and so do we. The "newness of life" here does not refer to a new quality of experience or conduct, but to a new quality of life imparted to the individual. Verses 1-11 of Romans 6 do not deal with the Christian's experience or behavior, but with his position before God. "Newness of life" is the newness which consists of life. The literal Greek here reads: "So also we in newness of life might walk."
Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come. 2 Corinthians 5:17 NASB
This is not dealing with my walk, but with my position before God. In other words, what Paul says then is that when Jesus Christ died on Golgotha ,we died on Golgotha. When Jesus Christ was placed in Joseph of Arimathea's tomb, we were placed in Joseph of Arimathea's tomb. When on the first day of the week the Lord Jesus rose again from the dead from that tomb in bodily resurrection, we also arose with Him. When Christ ascended to heaven, we ascended with Him and are now seated with Him in the heavenlies. Our identification with Christ includes the crucifixion with Him, burial with Him; and our resurrection, ascension, and glorification with Christ. Our identification with Christ is so complete that God reckons us as having experienced co-crucifixion, co-burial, co-resurrection, co-ascension, and co-glorification. This is the way God sees us. Shouldn't we see ourselves in the same manner?
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