The sixth chapter of Romans is a chapter that is very important for us to understand. Traditionally this text is used to teach that Christians should live a holy life; we have been set free from sin and should therefore no longer live in it. Many see this text as dealing with sanctification. Bob Deffinbaugh writes, "This sixth chapter of Romans and its proper interpretation is not only imperative for your sanctification, but also for your sanity." From my perspective, if you see this sixth chapter as dealing with sanctification, you will lose your sanity! Seeing this chapter as dealing with progressive sanctification will cause believers to doubt and question their salvation. The mistranslation of verse 7 is case in point:
for he who has died is freed from sin. Romans 6:7 NASB
A misunderstanding of this verse can cause a Christian much guilt and doubt. Paul has taught that all who have trusted Christ have died in union with Christ. And now this verse says that the one who died is free from sin. But you still sin? What does this mean? Are you not a Christian after all? No, no, no! This verse is not teaching that Christians are free from sin. Not at all. What Paul says here is that the one who died in Christ is justified from "the" sin. The sin of Adam. The Greek word here translated "freed" is dikaioo and should be translated "justified."
Deffinbaugh goes on to say, "This sixth chapter is the introduction to Paul's section on the process of sanctification." John MacArthur writes, "No portion of Scripture is better suited to help us to understand the essential character of sanctification than the sixth and seventh chapters of Romans." So let's talk for a moment about sanctification. I want you to understand the traditional view of it. It is taught that sanctification is the activity of God which liberates the Christian from the power of sin. Sanctification imparts the righteousness of God to man.
The word sanctification is used by Paul twice in Romans 6, it is used in verses 19 and 20. The Greek word translated sanctification is hagiasmos, which means: "holiness." It is used 10 times in the New Testament.
Traditionally, sanctification is categorized into three aspects.
1. Positional sanctification--this is that state of holiness imputed to the Christian at the moment of their conversion to Christ. This is positional, if you are in Christ you are holy:
But we should always give thanks to God for you, brethren beloved by the Lord, because God has chosen you from the beginning for salvation through sanctification by the Spirit and faith in the truth. 2 Thessalonians 2:13 NASB
2. Progressive sanctification--traditionally this refers to the process in our daily lives by which we are being conformed to the image of Christ. It is the process of becoming what we are in Christ. This involves the putting off of the old habits of lying, stealing, backbiting, etc., and putting on the Christ-like qualities of honesty, mercy, and love. A text that is often used to support this view is:
But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as from the Lord, the Spirit. 2 Corinthians 3:18 NASB
This is talking about progressive sanctification, but it does not refer to us. It is talking about the transition saints; those who lived between the first and second advent of Christ. They were being transformed from the Old Covenant glory to the New Covenant glory. The context of this chapter is the two covenants:
For if the ministry of condemnation has glory, much more does the ministry of righteousness abound in glory. 2 Corinthians 3:9 NASB
These are the two glories, and they were moving from one to the other. They were growing into a living temple of God:
you also, as living stones, are being built up as a spiritual house for a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. 1 Peter 2:5 NASB
in whom the whole building, being fitted together, is growing into a holy temple in the Lord, in whom you also are being built together into a dwelling of God in the Spirit. Ephesians 2:21-22 NASB
During the transition period the Old Covenant was fading away, The book of Hebrews was written at around A.D. 64-67. At this time, the Old Covenant was still in effect, but 8:13 says it was ready to pass away.
During this transition the church was growing to maturity. They were "being built" for a dwelling place of God. During the transition period the church was growing into the image of Christ. This is speaking about position, not practice. This growth was completed in A.D. 70 when the Lord returned consummating the New Covenant.
So progressive sanctification is something that happened to the first century saints, not us. They were growing in their positional holiness. Now let me say this, we are to be growing in practical holiness. As you walk with the Lord your life should reflect His values and attributes. But we are not growing into Christ's image positionally. We are complete in Christ.
3. Ultimate sanctification--traditionally this is said to be that state of holiness that we will not attain to in this life, but will realize when we are finally in the presence of God:
Beloved, now we are children of God, and it has not appeared as yet what we will be. We know that when He appears, we will be like Him, because we will see Him just as He is. 1 John 3:2 NASB
This was written in the first century, to us He has appeared, just like He said He would in that generation. Notice what the writer of Hebrews says:
FOR YET IN A VERY LITTLE WHILE, HE WHO IS COMING WILL COME, AND WILL NOT DELAY. Hebrews 10:37 NASB
The Greek here is very expressive and emphatic. The author used a word which signifies "a little while," and then for further emphasis added a particle meaning "very," and this he still further intensified by repeating it; thus literally rendered, this clause reads: "For yet a very, very little while, and He that shall come will come."
Most Christians would say that the Lord has not yet returned, making the writer of Hebrews a false prophet. But the problem is that it wasn't just the writer of Hebrews who said that Jesus was to return in the first century, Jesus Himself taught this, which would make Him a false prophet also, if He did not return in the first century.
Alright, so to us, believers living beyond A.D.70, sanctification is synonymous with being in Christ, we are set apart, we are holy. There is no practical aspect of sanctification to us. So the position held by many today that the argument of the apostle Paul in Romans 6 is that we are obligated to experience progressive sanctification because of our positional sanctification, is false. The view that Romans 6 is talking about progressive sanctification makes good preaching, but does not fit with what the text is talking about. Romans 6:1-14 is not talking about our practice, but our position.
Last week at the beginning of the message I said, "These ten verses are a unit." That is wrong, this section runs from 5:20 thru 6:14. A major key in understanding this text is to notice the verses that bracket it:
The Law came in so that the transgression would increase; but where sin increased, grace abounded all the more, Romans 5:20 NASB
Here Paul is answering the question, What about Moses? Well The Law, The Law of Moses, came in so the transgression of Adam would increase. Here Paul ties the sin to The Law. And then he closes this section with Law:
For sin shall not be master over you, for you are not under law but under grace. Romans 6:14 NASB
Paul is particularly speaking to the Jewish believers, Gentiles were never under the Law, and he is talking to them about their relationship to Torah, and the body of death.
After introducing the subject of Law in 5:20, Paul introduces their question:
What, then, shall we say? shall we continue in the sin that the grace may abound? Romans 6:1 YLT
I see Paul's question here being, "Shall we continue living under Torah, so sin will be increased thus causing grace to abound?" Paul's answer is:
let it not be! we who died to the sin--how shall we still live in it? Romans 6:2 YLT
Then in verse 3 thru 10 Paul tells them how they died to the sin as he goes over the doctrine of their union with Christ. The key word in this section is "knowing." In verse 3 he says, "Do you not know", then in verse 6 he says, "Knowing this" and then in verse 9 he says, "Knowing that."
Knowing sums up the first 10 verses of Romans 6. The first thing these Jewish believers must do is to know something. What is it that they and we must know? The doctrine of our union with Jesus Christ, or to put it another way, our identity. Knowledge always precedes spiritual growth. If we are going to live holy, we must know our identity. Knowing who you are in Christ will set you free from the bondage that churcheanity has placed on believers.
Even so consider yourselves to be dead to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus. Romans 6:11 NASB
Now that they know the doctrine, Paul says, Consider what you know. "Consider yourselves to be dead"--The Greek word translated "consider" here is logizomai. Paul uses it 19 times in Romans. It is a courtroom word used 11 times in Romans 4. It means for a judge to look at the evidence and in light of the evidence to regard something as true. It was also a book keeping term used of writing down in the ledger the finances available. He would record as a fact in the ledger what he had counted in cash in the register. Consider means: "to regard or consider something as true." It is in the present tense, which means: "keep on counting as true." They must keep on counting as true that they are dead to the sin and alive to God.
There is again a definite article in the Greek, they are "Dead to 'the' sin"--what is their basis of believing that they were dead to the sin? Was it their experience? No! Do you believe that Christ died on a cross for your sin? What is your basis for believing that? Did you see it? Did you experience it? No, you believe that because the Bible teaches it. This is also how they knew that they died to sin--the Bible teaches it.
"But alive to God in Christ Jesus"--Paul introduces us here to the expression "in Christ." This expression is at the heart of his soteriology. We are alive to God. If you have come out of the one family solidarity into another this is true of you whether it feels like it or not. Let your mind focus on these truths. Meditate upon them, keep saying them to yourselves, remind yourself of who you are in Christ. Be constantly counting upon the fact that you are dead to the sin, and alive to God in Christ Jesus.
I'm not talking about psychological games like saying to yourself, "Everyday in every way I'm getting better and better." I'm not talking about getting up every morning and saying, "You're really wonderful, you're really holy"--until finally you've got a case of self hypnosis, and you've convinced yourself of something that isn't so. I'm not talking about playing mind games. I'm talking about faith--believing God's Word. We must habitually reckon this to be true, no matter what our experience.
Why is how you think so important? It's important because you are a product of your thinking. A.W. Tozer said, "All conscience behavior is preceded by and arises out of our thoughts. What we think about when we are free to think about what we will--that is what we are or will soon become."
The mind is the command center which determines our conduct based upon how we have been influenced to think. How you think is a critical issue, and from a Biblical perspective, it becomes very clear how important thinking is. We must learn to think biblically about ourselves. We must understand our identity. We are: in Christ, righteous, saints, alive unto God.
Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its lusts, Romans 6:12 NASB
The word "reign" is from the Greek verb basileuo, which means: "to exercise kingly power, or to exercise uncontrolled authority." The word "reign" is simply the word for "king," in a verbal form. The verb is present imperative with the negative me. This construction forbids the continuance of an action already going on. Sin here is again "the sin," the sin of Adam. Please remember that the sin, The Law, and the death are all connected. A literal translation would be: "Stop allowing the sin to reign as king in your mortal body."
One big question that we must answer here is: What does Paul mean by "mortal body"? By and far most commentators say or assume that Paul is talking about the physical body. It's kind of amusing to me how so many commentators don't even deal with the phrase "mortal body," they just assume it is the physical body. They act as if that is so obvious that they don't even need to discuss it.
Tom Holland writes, "His appeal is not to the believer to control his body, but to the church to maintain her purity. The term 'body' is corporate. "Your mortal body" is not a reference to the physical body of the believer, but to the physical existence of the church in Rome. This verse is an appeal to the church to discipline its members who refuse to live the new life in Christ."
My question here is can the local Church be called a "mortal body"? Mortal is from the Greek word thnaytos', which means: "liable to die." Let's trace this word "mortal" in the New Testament and see if we can learn what Paul means here. This word is used six times in the New Testament, it is only used by Paul. He uses it here and in Romans 8:11, we'll look at that next year when we get there. He uses it twice in 1 Corinthians 15, and twice in 2 Corinthians, in 4:11 and 5:4. Let's look at 1 Corinthians 15:
For this perishable must put on the imperishable, and this mortal must put on immortality. But when this perishable will have put on the imperishable, and this mortal will have put on immortality, then will come about the saying that is written, "DEATH IS SWALLOWED UP in victory. 1 Corinthians 15:53-54 NASB
In Paul's argument in this chapter he has been talking about two bodies:
it is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body. If there is a natural body, there is also a spiritual body. 1 Corinthians 15:44 NASB
I see him here as talking about the body of Adam and the body of Christ. Notice the next verse:
So also it is written, "The first MAN, Adam, BECAME A LIVING SOUL." The last Adam became a life-giving spirit. However, the spiritual is not first, but the natural; then the spiritual. 1 Corinthians 15:45-46 NASB
The mortal is the body of Adam. Those in Adam who trust Christ put on immortality. Notice in YLT what is swallowed up:
and when this corruptible may have put on incorruption, and this mortal may have put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the word that hath been written, `The Death was swallowed up--to victory; 1 Corinthians 15:54 YLT
It is "the" death. This is the death that came from Adam. So in the context of chapter 15 mortal is connected with the body of Adam, as opposed to the immortal body of Christ.
Alright, let's look at how Paul uses this word mortal in 2 Corinthians 5. But before we look at chapter 5, we must get the context. Remember context is king when it comes to interpretation:
who also made us adequate as servants of a new covenant, not of the letter, but of the Spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life. 2 Corinthians 3:6 NASB
For if the ministry of condemnation has glory, much more does the ministry of righteousness abound in glory. 2 Corinthians 3:9 NASB
This should be clear that Paul is contrasting the two covenants. The Old kills, the old condemns, and therefore they groan:
For if that which fades away was with glory, much more that which remains is in glory. 2 Corinthians 3:11 NASB
This verse is much clearer in YLT:
for if that which is being made useless is through glory, much more that which is remaining is in glory. 2 Corinthians 3:11 YLT
The old was "being made useless," the tent of the Old Covenant body was being torn down. Now look at chapter 4:
always carrying about in the body the dying of Jesus, that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our body. 2 Corinthians 4:10 NASB
"Body"--here in both uses is singular, he is not talking about plural bodies. The "our" is plural, but "body" is singular. Paul has been talking about the covenants, and now he uses "body" to speak of them. He hasn't switched his topic to physical, biological bodies, he is still talking about the covenants:
Therefore we do not lose heart, but though our outer man is decaying, yet our inner man is being renewed day by day. 17 For momentary, light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison, 18 while we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen; for the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal. 2 Corinthians 4:16-18 NASB
Paul says the "outer man" is decaying; that is what he said in 3:11. They were not to look at things "seen"--this is again the Old Covenant: the temple, priesthood, sacrifices, feast days, which were temporal. But they were to look at things not seen-- the New Covenant, which is eternal.
Now from this context of the contrast of covenants we move to chapter 5 where the subject is still a contrast of covenants, not biological bodies:
For we know that if the earthly tent which is our house is torn down, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. 2 Corinthians 5:1 NASB
Most people today interpret this text as talking about a change that takes place to our biological body at death. If you read it in isolation, it's easy to see how you could get that, but if you keep it in context, you'll see that the subject is covenant.
"We have"--is a present active indicative, which means we already have a house not made with hands. So there are two houses existing at the same time, the earthly tent and an eternal house not made with hands. Remember what we said about the transition period: The Old and New covenant existed together for a period of forty years. Can these houses be two biological bodies?
For indeed in this house we groan, longing to be clothed with our dwelling from heaven; 2 Corinthians 5:2 NASB
The "this house" here is the "earthly tent" of verse 1. They were groaning in the house they were in, and longing for a new home from heaven. Is this a physical body? We certainly could say that we groan in our biological bodies. But is this what Paul is talking about? I don't think so. This word "groan" is the same word that Paul uses in Romans 8:23 "...even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our body." So both texts have the same meaning.
I see Paul in our text in 2 Corinthians 5 as comparing two covenants, the Old and the New. The Old Covenant caused groaning. Paul is not talking about new individual bodies, but about the covenants. The earthly tent, our house, is a reference to the temple:
For indeed while we are in this tent, we groan, being burdened, because we do not want to be unclothed but to be clothed, so that what is mortal will be swallowed up by life. 2 Corinthians 5:4 NASB
Here the "mortal" is the tent, the Old Covenant. What is mortal, liable to die, will be swallowed up by the life.
Therefore, being always of good courage, and knowing that while we are at home in the body we are absent from the Lord 2 Corinthians 5:6 NASB
The "we" here is not us! The "we" is Paul and his first century Jewish audience. Think about this: If the body here is our physical body, then as long as we are in the biological body we are absent from the Lord. Are believers today absent from the Lord? No, we dwell in His presence, that is the glory of the New Covenant:
And I heard a loud voice from the throne, saying, "Behold, the tabernacle of God is among men, and He shall dwell among them, and they shall be His people, and God Himself shall be among them, Revelation 21:3 NASB
We live in the presence of God, sin has been dealt with, and we have full access to His presence:
for we walk by faith, not by sight 2 Corinthians 5:7 NASB
We no longer see the temple, it is no longer physical. It is a spiritual dwelling place:
So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints, and are of God's household, 20 having been built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus Himself being the corner stone, 21 in whom the whole building, being fitted together is growing into a holy temple in the Lord; 22 in whom you also are being built together into a dwelling of God in the Spirit. Ephesians 2:19-22 NASB
Jesus Christ is the Cornerstone of the new spiritual temple, the apostles and prophets are the foundation. This building is described as growing into a holy temple (in the first century), to become God's dwelling place. The house was finished in A.D.70 and God moved in:
we are of good courage, I say, and prefer rather to be absent from the body and to be at home with the Lord. 9 Therefore also we have as our ambition, whether at home or absent, to be pleasing to Him. 2 Corinthians 5:8-9 NASB
They wanted to be absent from the body of Israel, the Old Covenant and to be present with the Lord. The tent of the Old Covenant has been torn down. It was completely dismantled in A.D 70, and believers today dwell in God's presence now and forever.
Back to Romans: This phrase Paul uses, "Mortal body"--body is singular. This is not talking about individual bodies. I believe that this is a reference to the corporate "body of Moses," which is part of the "body of Adam," which was mortal and about to end. What we need to understand is that in the "body of Adam" was the "body of Moses." The Old Covenant community was born in the body of Adam. Everyone was born in Adam, but Jews were in the body of Moses, which was in the body of Adam.
But Michael the archangel, when he disputed with the devil and argued about the body of Moses, did not dare pronounce against him a railing judgment, but said, "The Lord rebuke you!" Jude 1:9 NASB
Some think the devil wished to show the Israelites where Moses was buried, knowing that they would then adore his body; and that Michael was sent to resist this discovery. But I see the "body of Moses" here are referring to Israel. The devil was disputing with Michael over Old Covenant Israel:
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
Old Covenant Israel was identified with Moses, they were in the body of Moses.
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 talks about being baptized in Moses and Christ. This shows us that the physical people of Israel who made up the Old Covenant were the body of Moses. And those who trust Christ become part of the body of Christ.
How were these first century Christians allowing sin to reign in the body of Moses? They were doing this as they submitted to Torah. This is what the book of Galatians argues against. As they were putting themselves back under the Law. Sin reigns through the Law:
and the sting of the death is the sin, and the power of the sin the law; 1 Corinthians 15:56 YLT
Paul goes on to say, "So that you obey its lusts." Greek grammar refers "its" back to the body, since the pronoun is neuter, the word sin is feminine, and the word "body" is neuter. The pronoun in Greek agrees with its antecedent in gender. It is through the desires of the Law, the body of Moses, that sin takes control. The desires of the body are conceived as demanding obedience. Paul will deal with this much more fully in chapter 7.
Paul is telling them not to continue living under the Law, that system is mortal, subject to death, it will soon end. They have come out of the Adam and Moses solidarity, and are not part of the Christ solidarity:
and do not go on presenting the members of your body to sin as instruments of unrighteousness; but present yourselves to God as those alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness to God. Romans 6:13 NASB
The word "present" is the Greek word paristemi, which means:"to put at one's disposal." Again, the verb is present imperative with the negative me meaning: "stop presenting."
Paul is telling these believers, "Do not go on presenting the members of your body to the law which increases the sin." The word "members" here is melos; it means: "a part of a body." These members are traditionally seen as the various parts of the physical body--the eyes, ears, hands, feet, tongue, mind and emotions. And it is taught that these members become instruments of unrighteousness when we put them at the disposal of sin.
The word "members" here is a reference to individuals who are part of the corporate body of Moses:
Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ? Shall I then take away the members of Christ and make them members of a prostitute? May it never be! 1 Corinthians 6:15 NASB
"Bodies" is soma referring to the whole person, and it is plural. "Members" is melos, part of a body. We could say, You are part of the body of Christ.
In Romans 6:13 Paul is telling these believing Jews are not to put themselves under the Law now that they are part of the body of Christ.
The word "instruments" is the Greek word hoplon. This word is only used six times in the New Testament; twice in this verse and four other times. In the other four uses it is translated "armor" or "weapons."
Judas then, having received the Roman cohort and officers from the chief priests and the Pharisees, came there with lanterns and torches and weapons. John 18:3 NASB
In classical Greek, the word hoplon referred to the weapons of the Greek soldier.
These believers are not to put themselves under the Law, to do so is to become a weapon of unrighteousness. That is what the Old Covenant produced-- unrighteousness. But they are to put themselves at the disposal of God. How? By faith in Christ Jesus and not relying on the Law.
"As those alive from the dead"--they died to the Law and are not under it. This is their position, and based upon their position, they are to present themselves to God. Before you can follow the exhortation of verses 12 and 13, you must understand verses 1-11. You must understand your identity.
This exhortation of verse 13 could have been given to the "body of Moses" after being delivered from its captivity in Egypt. The Israelites turned away from the responsibilities of the covenant and the God of the covenant:
Now when the people saw that Moses delayed to come down from the mountain, the people assembled about Aaron and said to him, "Come, make us a god who will go before us; as for this Moses, the man who brought us up from the land of Egypt, we do not know what has become of him." Exodus 32:1 NASB
Paul concludes this section by saying:
For sin shall not be master over you, for you are not under law but under grace. Romans 6:14 NASB
"Sin" here does not have the definite article, but the context demands it. This is the same sin that he has been talking about since 5:12. Since they are not under obligation to obey the Law, the sin cannot reign over them.
A Jew who trusted Christ was no longer under the Law. And Paul is telling them in this section that they are not to be relying on the Law. To live under the Mosaic Covenant was to live under the power of the sin.
This text is theological dealing with Jewish believers in the first century who were hanging on to the body of Moses. To understand this is to free yourself from the concept that this passage is talking about practical sanctification. It is not telling us how to overcome sin. It is telling us about Union with Christ. We have been united to Christ by faith and stand righteous in Him.
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