One of the big messages of Romans, expressed in Romans 3:28, is that believers are declared righteous, apart from their deeds of the law. The emphasis is that their the judicial liability for sin has been removed. They no longer are condemned to eternally face the wrath of God in hell.
As wonderful as that is, chapter 5 explains that "much more" happens when God saves His people. Not only does the gospel do something for God's people, it also does something to them. Sin entered into the world through one man, Adam, with the result that he was changed to a corruptible, spiritually dead person, enslaved to sin. That deadly sin infection was passed on to all of his descendants. But what Adam did to all men, Jesus graciously undid to many. Righteousness entered into the world through one man, Jesus Christ, with the result that not only His righteousness but also His life was passed on to all those who are saved. The work of Jesus made believers into people who "reign in life" (Rom. 5:17), who not only are spiritually alive, but also have the power to overcome both the temptations of the world and the sinful tendencies of their flesh. Therefore, "much more" than just a return to the Garden of Eden, the gospel results in "eternal life." Eternal life is a life which never ends, a life which is fenced or secure, protected from all possibility of another fall (c.f. Ezekiel 36:26,27,35, 37:26-28).
Chapter 6 continues the discussion of the change in God's people. This chapter, through answers to two challenges to the gospel of grace, first explains that Christians do not have to sin as they have in the past and then explains that Christians do not want to sin.
Verse 1, "What shall we say then?"
These or similar words occur several places in Romans (Rom. 3:5,9,31, 7:7, 8:31, 9:14,19, 11:11). Paul used them to anticipate arguments against the gospel of grace. He could be remembering questions which occurred to him when he was first saved as he thought out the implications of the gospel, or questions which people asked him as he brought them gospel during his missionary travels. Whatever Paul may have had in mind when he wrote this, the ultimate reason that these questions are in Romans is that God wanted them there. The questions are a result of divine direction in the authorship of this letter, even though God may have used human curiosity and resistance to the gospel to shape the form of what was written.
To the challenge implied in the words "What shall we say then?" we might respond, "Why do we have to say anything at all? Isn't the message of Romans chapters 1 through 5 clear enough?" Yes, it is to the eyes of faith. However, the gospel described in the Bible is an unsettled issue to people who have a spiritual problem. Unsaved sinners hope to question the gospel in order to take the focus off of their own sin or hope by means of long winded and convoluted arguments find defects in God's gospel plan.
"Shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound?"
This question express a deliberate misunderstanding of Romans 5:20. Grace does not abound because sin abounds. Grace abounds because God sovereignly wills it to abound sufficiently to cover the sins of His people. Grace is not a reaction to sin as if God were mobilized to respond to peoples' needs much like a fire department responds to an emergency. Instead, grace is an expression of a decision by God which He made before the foundation of the world, independent of anything but His good pleasure. That is, God had determined how much His grace would abound, namely, enough to take care of the needs of His elect.
Once God had determined how much grace abounded to take care of the sins of His people, the spiritual issues were settled. That is, God does not have to reapply new works of grace to cover new sins of His people. All of the sins He had determined to pay for were paid and no further remittance is required or made. Besides, if God's objective was that He wanted to increase the measure of grace He extended, He would not need more sins in His peoples' lives, He would only have to plan to cover the sins of other people in the world.
The word translated "Shall we continue" appears as "abide" in Romans 11:23 (not the same as the well known word "abide" found in John 15) and as "tarry" in I Corinthians 16:7,8. The idea of the word is to go on and on without any change. With this in mind we can say that this question means, "Can we sin as we have in the past? Can we live in our same sinful ways without any promise or expectation of change?" The question sounds like something someone would say who is opportunistically looking for a rationalization or justification to continue in their sin. It is not an honest question of someone who is seeking answers. It is a question of someone who seeks to invalidate the gospel in order to continue to satisfy his own lustful self indulgent desires unimpeded.
Let us examine a few possible motives for this question. One motive for the question is that some people want to continue to satisfy their personal private desires and at the same time still avoid accounting for their behavior before an angry God. Even though the stinging indictment of Romans 1:18-3:20 is not sufficiently embarrassing or threatening to keep wicked rebellious people from continuing in the sins which they love so much, all men still have a deep seated fear of the condemnation and wrath which their sins merit. Therefore, some people who recognize the restriction and judgment of the law but who still want to live as they please, seek to find in Romans 5:20 a twisted excuse to do that. They imagine that as God gets the glory for His grace in the face of sin, He should be pleased to be honored even more by applying more grace to more sin, and therefore should not be so angry with them.
Another motive is that some people simply do not believe that salvation is completely by grace without deeds of the law, without any participation or contributory deeds of men. The gospel of the Bible removes human pride and self respect. People can not stand that. Therefore, people who want to include deeds of the law in the formula for justification seek to discredit Romans 3:28 by making a ridiculous implication from it. In that light the question is an attempt to mock the gospel and reduce it believability by presenting a contradictory illogical conclusion.
A third possible motive is more benign. Actually, it is not so much a motive as a pattern of thinking that is common to all men. People have a tendency to make a connection between two things in a cause and effect relationship, even when they are not connected in that way at all. Unfortunately, improperly making one idea the logical consequence of another can lead to confusion and error. Making a wrong connection in this case leads to a misunderstanding which could be expressed as, "If grace took care of all our sins in the past, can't we continue to sin since grace will be able to expand to take care of my future sins no matter how great they are?" In the first place, the logic of the question is wrong. The scope of the application of grace is independent of the amount of sin. The application of grace is not a reaction of God to a perceived need, but rather part of a calculated plan of God, existing before the foundation of the world, to meet the need He already decided to fill. In the second place, as the chapter will discuss at length, the effect of grace is to change people so that they are able to and willing to serve God as He so desires. They no longer have to or want to continue in sin.
Verse 2, "God forbid."
The words "God forbid" are not an emotional reaction as if to say, "No Way!" Nor does Paul use the word "forbid" because continuing in sin or not continuing in sin is a matter of permission. The words are better translated "May it not be so," because it is not so. The words are similar to a statement of fact and are a much more powerful expression than they might first appear to be. In other words, it simply is not so that Christians who are saved by the grace of God continue in sin. That is, they do not continue to live in the same way they did in the past, when they were unbelievers. We say "not in the same way as in the past" to acknowledge that according to Romans 6 through 8, believers do sin, but not to the same extent and not with the same desire.
"How shall we, that are dead to sin, live any longer therein?"
The reason that Christians do not continue to sin as they did as unbelievers is that they "are dead to sin." This is an extremely important principle and is explained, clarified and illustrated in the following verses.
Before we continue in our study of Romans, we must make sure that we understand what is in view when the Bible uses the word "dead" or "death." The word can refer to at least three different but closely related ideas. It is our job to be sure that we recognize which idea or ideas are meant in a particular phrase of the Bible.
One "death" is physical death. That is a death which is experienced by all men, unsaved and saved, except for those people who are physically alive when Jesus returns to conclude history on earth. That is not the kind of death that is in view in Romans 6. For example, the words "we that are dead to sin" refers to Paul and the readers of this letter who were physically living upon the earth.
A second "death" is spiritual death of the soul. That death is also shared by all men, but is the death from which saved people are resurrected when they become saved and is the death in which all unsaved people remain eternally. That, also, is not the kind of death Romans 6 has in view because the word "death" is applied to believers present situation. However, believers were dead in their souls before they were saved. They are no longer dead in that way.
A third "death" is the death in hell, referring to eternally enduring the wrath of God. That death is also shared by all men. However, that is the death that saved people experience differently than those who are never saved. Those who are saved experience it in Jesus since He died for them on the cross, while all who are not saved will experience that death on the their own. It is upon this third idea of death which Romans 6 focuses.
The phrase "we that are dead to sin" will be discussed at length in the first 11 verses. In fact, the message contained in this phrase is repeated over and over again. Since the Bible considers the message to be that important, it would be good to try to simplify a few ideas in advance to be sure that the discussion is clear.
We can think of people as beings who are created in two parts, body and soul. Because of the sin of Adam, all men inherit a dead soul and a body full of sin. Since they have no life in their souls, men are dominated by the sin in their bodies. The lusts of their bodies draw men into sin unimpeded by any resistance to sin which would come from their souls, if their souls were alive. The gospel changes that situation.
First of all, as we learn beginning in Romans 5 and continuing in Romans 6, one result of the gospel in that believers "are dead to sin." The simplest way to think about this is that death separates people from their bodies. People who become believers do not die physically, but as we shall see, the separation of believers from their bodies is just as real. This is important because it means believers are separated from the sin that is in their bodies and sin no longer has dominion over them. That is why Romans states that they are dead "to sin," rather than they are dead to their bodies.
Another result of the gospel is that believers are "alive unto God" (Rom. 6:11). The simplest way to think about this is that believers' souls are no longer dead but alive. People who become believers have a new life, not just a restored life in the image of Adam, but an eternal life, a life described in both Romans 5 and 6 as Jesus' own life. This is important because it means believers, who continue to live in their sinful bodies until they die physically or until the Lord returns, now have the power of the life in their souls which enables them to resist the pull of the sinful desires in their bodies.
The word "we" in this verse refers to people who are saved and the question is rhetorical. That is, it contains the answer in it self or it needs no answer because the answer is obvious. The answer is, "No way! We shall not continue to live in sin!" As the following verses will show, sin no longer can enslave believers, bringing them into physical, spiritual and judicial death.
Verse 3, "Know ye not,"
The problem with those who challenge the gospel is that they do not have the right knowledge. Perhaps if they were not so ignorant they would realize that believers do not continue in a life of sin. In that light, we could think of the following verses as Paul's attempt to educate them. Of course, it takes grace to learn about and understand the spiritual things of God. That means salvation is a prerequisite (I Cor. 2:10-16). Therefore, these words are like a call to salvation, to know as God knows, with the spiritual understanding that He gives His children.
"that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into his death?"
The words "baptized into Jesus Christ" are identified with the words "baptized into his death." Mark 10:35-39 will help us understand what these phrases mean. Two of Jesus' disciples, who in a figure represent all of God's people, came to Him to express their desire. Jesus asked them what it was. However, Jesus did not ask because He was ignorant. He is God, who knows the hearts of all men. He asked the question in verse 36 to cause them to think about what they were asking Him so that they could ask for the right thing. More than that, Jesus deliberately shaped the conversation because He intended to teach something through their dialogue. We say that because, as it turns out, they really did not realize the full spiritual implications of what they were saying. In other words, even though their request seems to be self serving, and even though it probably was poorly motivated, Jesus guided the disciples to answer His question in the way that they did because from a spiritual point of view it expresses the proper desire of a someone who is seeking salvation. The words "that we may sit" can be compared to Ephesians 2:6 and the words "in thy glory" can be compared to Psalm 27:4. These comparisons support the idea that the disciples were a picture of people whose heart sought for salvation.
In verses 38 and 39, Jesus explains how His people will fulfill the spiritual desire of their hearts, expressed in verse 37. Jesus made an identity with "be baptized" and "drink the cup." According to Mark 14:36, Revelation 14:10 and 16:19, the cup refers to the wrath of God which Jesus experienced. Jesus removed the liability of the sins of His people by enduring the punishment of an equivalent of eternal death that their sins merit, thereby satisfying the demands of the law which condemned them. Jesus called His experience both "drinking the cup" and "baptism."
In Mark 10 and in Romans 6, God declares the principle that His disciples, who represent all the believers, experience the same death in hell which Jesus did. The words "we can" (Mark 10:39) are a true statement, despite the fact that in the historical setting the two men did not realize what they were saying. All of God's people can and will experience the judgment of the wrath of God, not personally, but in Jesus Christ who endured the wrath of God on their behalf.
It is very important that we recognize the word "baptized" in Romans 6 refers to the actual salvation which Jesus obtained and applied to believers. It is not talking about the sacrament of water baptism. Water baptism is not found anywhere in this chapter at all. We cannot use this chapter to help decide how we are to administer that rite, for the focus is not upon the physical symbolic ritual of water baptism, but rather upon the actual spiritual work of Jesus who died for the sins of His people and upon the fact that it was their death too. Romans 6 highlights the actual spiritual benefit of Jesus' death to His people.
Before we continue in our study of Romans we ought to try to clarify a few ideas about salvation. It was Jesus and Jesus alone who actually endured the wrath of God. Even though Jesus did not go to a place called hell, He was judged of God beginning in the Garden of Gethsemane and ending on the cross. Therefore His suffering under the wrath of God is equivalent to His enduring an eternity in hell, which is the required payment for sin. And yet, because Jesus' suffering was for the payment of the sins of His people, it is fair to say that, from a judicial point of view, His people suffered the required eternal death under the wrath of God in payment for their sins.
Incidentally, by saying Jesus did not go to a place called hell, we do not imply that the Bible teaches hell is not a place but only an experience. Hell is the place of punishment into which all unbelievers are cast after they have been judged. However, no one is in hell now because the day of judgment has not yet come. It is the eventual destination of all the unsaved.
Now we must understand how that eternal death of believers relates to the idea that Christians, who have experienced that death in Jesus, do not continue in sin. It is not that Christians do not continue in sin because they are physically dead, even though it is true that physically dead people do not continue in sin. It is not that Christians do not continue in sin because they are spiritually dead. Christians are not spiritually dead. Instead, the expectation that Christians do not continue in sin is based upon the fact that after believers are credited with the judicial death required by the law, they are then given the gift of eternal life. It is that eternal life that enables believers to refuse to continue in sin.
The eternal life believers are given is not just life without end but life with a special powerful quality. It is Jesus' life in them. And Jesus, whose life they share is eternal God. Salvation is not limited to the satisfaction of the law's demands. It also includes a new life in Christians that enables them live in obedience and not to "live any longer therein (that is, in sin)."
Let us return briefly to Romans 5 and see what it can add to our understanding of the fact that Christians no longer live in sin. When Romans 5:12 states "and death by sin" all three kinds of death are in view. That is, sin is responsible for the physical, spiritual and eventual judicial death of all men. Romans 5:17 states that "death reigned" while Romans 5:21 states that "sin hath reigned unto death." These phrases mean that, all the time men are physically alive on the earth, sin is their master in the sense that men always obey sin. The phrases mean that they cannot refuse the call of their sinful desires. The phrases also mean that sin controls their destiny, for it eventually brings them, by means of the condemnation of the law, into the death of hell.
The gospel has changed all that for God's people. In Romans 5:17 we read, "shall reign in life" and in Romans 5:21, "grace reign through righteousness unto eternal life." These phrases mean that the gospel of salvation includes the promise that Christians shall no longer be slaves of sin but shall be masters over sin in as much as they have the life which enables them to do that. It is "by (through) Jesus Christ" that they reign over sin and death which means that they have Jesus' own life that gives them the power and authority to reign over sin.
Before we leave verse 3 and go on in our analysis of Romans 6, I would like to discuss something that has sometimes confused and bothered people. We can present the troublesome idea by asking the following questions. How do we put together the actual historical baptism or death of Jesus Christ on the Cross almost 2000 years ago with Christians' personal spiritual experience of baptism when they are saved so many years removed from that event? When does their participation in the baptism mentioned in Verse 3 take place? In principle their sins were washed away on the cross, but not until God worked in the lives of His people were their sins actually washed from their souls. The cleansing power of Jesus' sacrifice and the cleansing of Christians' souls are two different and distinct events which cannot be mechanically linked together in some rigorous way, at least not in a way which we can understand it.
According to Isaiah 55:8,9, salvation is as mysterious as God Himself. That is, it is mysterious in the sense that we can only know what He has revealed about it. In the area of salvation, there are things which are a secret, known only to Him (Deut. 29:29). The Bible reveals certain specific concrete things about salvation but we cannot always reconcile every detail if the Bible does not give us the information to do that.
We cannot work out the plan of salvation in rigorous sequential detail. God knows how it works out but we do not. The Bible says that about 2000 years ago Jesus Christ was baptized for all of His own, that is, He was condemned and endured the equivalent of an eternity in hell. The Bible says that all those who are saved were baptized in Him, that is, were in Him and so went to hell too. The Bible also says that Jesus paid for the sins of His people about 2000 years ago, but not until some moment in their individual lives are each saved and their souls washed of their sins based upon the Christ's work on the cross. Before that point in time, His people were still in their sins on their way to hell. We cannot figure out the relationship of those two time separated events. We can simply say with the Bible that when we were saved, we were "baptized into his death."
Because we have extensively digressed from our analysis of Romans 6, let us restate the essential point of verse 3. Verse 3 is focusing upon the application of Christ's sacrifice to the lives of His people. By tying their baptism to Christ's, Romans teaches us to think correctly about what it is that happened to them as well as the reason that it happened. In the phrase, "baptized into His death" both Christ's and His peoples' baptism, each far apart in time, are in view. That is what is in view throughout Romans 6.
Verse 4, "Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into his death:"
Verse 4, which begins with the word "therefore" does not introduce a new or different idea but, by means of a conclusion, says the same things as verses 2 and 3. The words "we are buried with" are a translation of one word in Greek. It is in a tense that highlights a simple past with present effects. It is in the passive voice, a grammatical construction which indicates that the subjects of the sentence are inert, being acted upon by an outside agent. That is, "we" do not participate in our own burial. Instead it is God who buries us "by (through) baptism."
As we learned earlier, Romans 6 is not giving us a clue how to administer the physical sacrament of water baptism. With that in mind we must understand verse 4 as a continuation of the description of a believer's actual spiritual salvation experience, his actual spiritual baptism. The word "buried" is used to emphasize only one thing, that believers have died. That is, only dead things are buried. The phrase "buried with him by baptism" shows us that the death in view is the eternal death in hell which Jesus Christ experienced and which believers vicariously experience in Him.
"that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life."
The word "that" can be rendered "in order that," pointing out a purpose or goal. According to this verse, the purpose or goal of Jesus' sacrifice is that "we also should walk in newness of life." The words "like as" and "even so" point out that the fulfillment of God's purpose or goal is based upon the fact that Christ was raised from the dead. The resurrection, above all else means that Jesus' effort of enduring the wrath of God to pay for the sins of His people was successful. Jesus did not stop the payment process somewhere in the middle because it was such an awful experience. Nor was He consumed by the wrath of God in the effort. Jesus was able and faithful, being released from hell and death because the full penalty was paid. Therefore, Jesus was raised from the dead and believers are able, by the power of Jesus' life within them, to walk as God planned for them to walk.
We must understand that salvation is not a second chance in the Garden of Eden. The people of the world have always tried to regain the paradise Adam and Eve enjoyed, whatever they might imagine that to be. But salvation means much more than a restored innocence before the law of God and a return to the situation in which men must continue to obey the law in order to be right with God. The word "life" refers to Jesus Christ Himself. Jesus was raised from the dead and believers now walk in Him. He is the Source and Sustainer of life. Believers do not live autonomous independent lives with God as a companion. Rather, they live a new life because Jesus lives in them (Rom. 8:11, II Cor. 4:10,11, Gal. 2:20). Salvation does not means that a believer's old life is repaired but that a new life is created in him (Matt. 9:16,17, II Cor. 5:17).
Verses 4 through 10 repeat the principle laid out in verses 2 and 3, with an emphasis upon the new life which is part of the gospel promise. That new life is the reason that the answer to the questions in verse 1 is "Absolutely not!"
Verse 5, "For if we have been planted together in the likeness of his death,"
The words "planted together" are a translation of a form of the single word sunphutos, found only here in the Bible, but
whose root is similar to a word translated "planteth," to refer to the agricultural procedure of burying seeds in the ground (I Corinthians 3:6, 9:7). According to John 12:23,24, the spiritual point of buried seeds is death, specifically the death of Jesus as the Savior.
Verse 5 states that planting is "in the likeness" of Jesus' death. The word "likeness" does not mean "similar to but not identical." Rather, as we see from its use in Philippians 2:7, it means to be fully what something appears to be. That is, Jesus was fully a man, as He seemed to be. Thus Romans 6:5 is saying that believers, in Jesus, fully died the death required as payment for their sins. The idea of co-planting is that believers and Jesus die together. This verse is a repetition of the previous verses which teach that Jesus' death has the same effect as if all of His people died to satisfy the demands of the law. Jesus' experience is the believers' experience. Jesus' death is their death before the law too. It is a real death for both of them.
"we shall be also in the likeness of his resurrection:"
This phrase is an ellipses, omitting words which are meant to be mentally included by the reader. The words "in the likeness" and the word "his" are added by the translators to help complete the thought. They are appropriate words, for this phrase is a parallel to the previous one. The idea of the phrase is that, as the believers actually share in the experience of Jesus' death, they also actually share in the experience of His resurrection. Salvation does not mean that believers have a restored life of their own, but that they share in Jesus' life, with all the wisdom and power that attends it.
We must be sure that we are thinking correctly about the resurrection mentioned in this verse. Jesus' resurrection was a physical bodily resurrection. He came out of the grave having the same body with which He went into the grave. However, that was not the end of the matter. Forty days after His resurrection Jesus went to heaven, not in a flesh and blood body but in a spiritual body (I Cor. 15:44-50). It is in that glorified body which He now reigns over all things (Eph. 1:21, Phil. 3:21).
In what way do believers identify with Jesus' resurrection? One identification that is easy to see is the fact that believers have a sure promise that, if they die before the Lord returns on the last day, their bodies will also be resurrected. Even though Jesus' body was first raised from the dead physically and later changed into His spiritual glorified body while believers' bodies will be raised directly as spiritual bodies, the difference in sequence is not important, for the end result is that believers will be like Jesus (Phil. 3:21, I John 3:2).
There is another way in which believers identify with Jesus' resurrection. It is in the sense that Jesus' resurrection guarantees for them a new life as soon as they are saved (Rom. 6:4). That is, believers experience a resurrection of their souls. It is this spiritual resurrection which is in view in Romans 6. This resurrection could only come to pass because Jesus died to pay for their sins and rose again, showing that the payment was complete. Because God took care of their liability to the law, He could give them new life.
Incidentally, believers' resurrection of the soul is just as real as the promised resurrection of their bodies. Believers were once dead in their sins, even while they were physically alive. When they were saved, they were given life eternal in their souls. Since they were once dead spiritually and now are alive, it is appropriate to say that they experienced a resurrection.
With all of this in mind we can understand verse 5 in the following way. As believers experience a spiritual death in Jesus, they also experience a spiritual resurrection in Him. Having this new life means that they are able to live as God wants them to live. That is, they do not have to continue in sin but have the ability to turn from sin to serve the Living God.
Verse 6, "Knowing this, that our old man is crucified with him, that the body of sin might be destroyed,"
Having explained in verses 3 through 5 the principle expressed by the words "we that are dead to sin," Paul now applies the principle to the question of verse 1. If the body of sin is destroyed, how can "we continue in sin?" The answer is that "we cannot."
Who is the "old man?" According to Ephesians 4:22, the old man is that part of believers which is corrupt, and which according to Colossians 3:9, is that part of believers which is full of sin. By comparison with Romans 7:5, we see that it is their members, their flesh, which is the residence of their sin. In their souls there is no sin (I John 3:9, 5:18). That is why believers can go immediately to heaven when they die, without any further clean up (I Cor. 5:8). The words "might be destroyed" are a translation of a word that is used in Ephesians 2:15 as "having abolished" to refer to Christ's death on the cross. Therefore Romans 6:6 is teaching that believers' sinful bodies were crucified with Jesus.
Now we have a problem. Did believers in some way physically go to the cross with Jesus? Why does verse 6 choose to say that their bodies were crucified? The answer lies in the last words of this verse.
"that henceforth we should not serve sin."
A person who is not saved has no spiritual life and so his carnal part, or old man, determines his thoughts and behavior, which are always sinful. Unbelievers are slaves to the sinful desires of their flesh. They simply continue uninterrupted in their sinful life and are headed for the judgment which the law has decreed they should face. Now, the gospel does not destroy believers' bodies, for that would not resolve their liability before the law. But if a person were to die physically sin would not longer have a hold on him, for sin can only get at someone through their body. For that reason the Bible states that the body died to express the notion that Jesus' gospel has freed believers from the necessity to serve sin. Believers have been separated from sin just like physical death separates them from their bodies which is full of sin. They have been separated from sin in the sense that they have been separated from the penalty of sin by the death of Jesus because they have died with Jesus. Not only that, they have been given new life by the Holy Spirit, whose life has the power to overcome the tendencies of the flesh to lead them into sin.
Believers' bodies are not dead when they are saved. But they might as well be in respect to sin because sin cannot use believers' bodies to bring them into condemnation to the law. They are also dead in the sense that sin cannot use their bodies to keep them in a path of sinful thoughts and deeds. Believers are free from the dominion of the appetites of their bodies. This freedom becomes more and more evident as believers mature in their Christian walk.
Verse 7, "For he that is dead is freed from sin."
The first words can be rendered "For he who died in the past," as if the experience of dying is a descriptive label, identifying the person as "the dead one." The words "is freed" are a translation of the word we have encountered often in Romans as "justified" (Rom 3:28). It is as if Romans 6 were an expansion of the point made in Romans 5:9.
The believers' death in Christ which results in their justification as verse 7 states is the basis for sins' lack of dominance over them. Although believers are attacked by sin in their bodies and in the world, they are dead to it in the sense that sin can no longer use their bodies to bring them into condemnation and force them to fulfill the demands of their flesh.
Although believers still sin because they have a sinful body, a problem which is discussed at length in Chapter 7, the point of the first half of Chapter 6 is that they do not have to sin. When believers sin, they do not sin as slaves as they once did. Rather, they deliberately yield to the call of their flesh. This is a great trauma to believers who wish to please God with all their heart. The good news is that more and more believers do resist the temptation of their flesh and live in a way that glorifies their God as well as confirms that they are His children.
Verse 8, "Now if we be dead with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with him:"
The words "we believe" are an affirmation, Paul's personal agreement to the truth of the gospel. It is not a weak statement, as if to say, "We died with Christ and will live with Him, at least that is what we believe." Rather, the truths of the gospel, such as the facts that believers experienced death with Jesus and experience life with Him too, stand firm of their own accord whether Paul believers them or not. Paul is saying that he personally believes those facts to be true. He and all other Christians have been given the grace to recognize those truths. That grace has also changed their lives, one change being evidenced by their ability to stop continuing in sin.
We can also think of the words "we believe" as a logical device that relates the first half of the verse to the second half, as if we could replace the words with the word "then." That is, according to verse 8, "if" it is true that we are dead with Christ, then it is logical that we shall live with Him. The idea of the verse is that since we know from God's word and from what has happened to us that we are dead with Christ, on the same basis we are convinced that we shall live with Him, now and forevermore.
Verse 9, "Knowing that Christ being raised from the dead dieth no more; death hath no more dominion over him."
The word "knowing" has more to do with intellectual recognition than experience. It is comparable to our expression "I see" as a statement of understanding, and is used in that way in the Bible, as for example in Romans 1:11 ("to see").
Verse 9 is a completion of the sentence begun in verse 8 and leads us to the following idea. The statement of faith in verse 8 is based upon the confidence of what believers know. It is not that they can think themselves into an assurance but that they know what is true because it is true. They know what God has told them in His word and what they read tells them that Christ is willing and able to give life to all who trust in Him.
Verse 10, "For in that he died, he died unto sin once: but in that he liveth, he liveth unto God."
The words "unto sin" are in the dative case, a grammatical construction which identifies in whose interest the action described by the verb "died" is performed. Jesus died with the sin of His people in mind, not to promote sin but to remove its penalty and power. That was the objective for which He died. His death was a deliberate action (John 10:18) to accomplish a determined goal (John 10:11, I Tim. 1:15). The word "once" highlights the fact that His mission was successfully completed, as we read in Hebrews 7:27 and 9:25-28. Jesus does not have to repeatedly die for sins. He took care of the problem completely and forever.
The words "unto God" are also in the dative case, indicating in whose interest or for whose benefit the action "liveth" is performed. The idea here is that Jesus' lives to promote God's will, God's will in all things (Luke 2:49, John 4:34) but especially God's will in the salvation of His people (John 6:37,39,40, 17:6-8). This dedication to God's will is based upon the fact that it is Jesus' will too (John 5:19) because Jesus is God and therefore Jesus was part of the counsel of the Trinity who designed the gospel from before the foundation of the world.
We can look at verse 10 in light of verse 9, specifically the fact that Christ was "raised from the dead." In other words, the resurrection is the proof that Jesus "dieth no more," that is, proof that He does not need to die any more, that "once" is enough. The resurrection is proof that "death hath no more dominion over him" because the death He died once completed the death which was required as payment by the law for the sins of His people. Sin, the sin of His people which He bore, had no more power to bring Him before a judging law. Death no longer has a claim on Him.
Verse 11, "Likewise reckon ye also yourselves to be dead indeed unto sin, but alive unto God through Jesus Christ our Lord."
The gospel is not just a history lesson about Jesus. Romans 6 states that what happened to Jesus is the basis for expecting a certain behavior from believers. According to verse 11, the gospel is the reason why we can "reckon" or logically conclude that Christians will behave in a certain way. Believers do not continue in sin because of something that happened to them, namely that they have been "baptized," "buried," "planted" or "crucified" with Jesus. Just as death has no more dominion over Jesus, death has no dominion over them either. Sin cannot enslave them to its demands nor drag them to the judge. Death cannot keep them separated from God anymore.
The word "through" is better rendered "in." There is an identification between what Jesus experienced and what believers' experienced that is so close that believers are said to be in Jesus Christ. That means not only that Jesus' death on the cross was their death too, but also that believers live by means of Jesus' life.
The word "Lord" highlights fact that believers have a new master. Once dominated by sin, they are now "servants of Jesus Christ" their "Lord" (Rom. 1:1). More than that, Jesus is THE Lord, the Almighty Supreme Sovereign of the universe. All the competency and power of that God is behind the gospel which removes the power of sin from His people. The end result of the gospel's effect upon believers is that Jesus is in control, empowering and directing their lives.
Jesus' death and resurrection, of which we read in verses 9 and 10 has a tremendous impact upon the lives of His people because it was their sins for which He died once and for all, showing by His resurrection that the debt for those sins was completely paid. That is, sin lost its power to bring them before the law and death lost its claim upon them. The new eternal life which God has promised His people is now theirs. It is a life with divine spiritual power displayed by the fact that they can forsake sin and do their Lord's will.
Verse 12, "Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, that ye should obey it in the lusts thereof."
This verse is not a suggestion but a command, a command that Paul can expect the Romans to obey. The members of the Romans church may be under the civil ruler-ship of the emperor (Rom. 13), but no authority can make them obey sin. Sin resides in their bodies (Rom. 7:17,18). Nevertheless, they are "alive unto God." His authority and power are greater than all others. To turn it around, if a person is dominated by sin, we may reckon that they are not saved, that they do not have the grace that allows them to reign in life (Rom. 5:17). As we read in Matthew 6:24, either God is a person's master or sin is (Rom. 6:16).
We ought to add that this verse must be understood in light of the question of verse 1. This verse is an answer to "continuing" in sin. In other words, as is acknowledged in chapter 7, believers do sin. However, they do not continue in sin as a general pattern of their behavior, for if they did continue in sin, that would show who was in control of their lives, namely sin.
Verse 13, "Neither yield ye your members as instruments of unrighteousness unto sin: but yield yourselves unto God, as those that are alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness unto God."
The believers' "members" comprise their physical fleshly body (Rom. 7:23, 12:4). Those members are instruments. That is, they are tools to be used to accomplish some purpose. They are used to fulfill the thoughts and intents of the heart. In that way they reveal the heart. Since no one can see the spiritual condition of someone's soul, it is not apparent if his heart or soul is evil or full of grace. However, even though its true nature is hidden from outward inspection, it reveals its real character as it uses the instruments of the body to fulfill its will. Clenched fists, raised in defiance and hatred toward heaven tell a different tale of a person's heart than hands folded in prayer. The same tool can be used for righteousness or unrighteousness. The difference is in the will that controls the tool. The message of Romans 6 is that the spiritual power in a believer is dominant over the physical power of sin with the result that believers yield their members to God's righteous purposes and ways.
We must keep in mind that the command to yield does not mean that believers can boast that they now have the power to determine the outcome of their own lives. Yielding is a command which God gives to those to whom he has given the grace to yield. It is not too much to say that God is calling to Himself to show His glory in the behavior of those whom He has saved. Believers yield because they are alive from the dead "in Christ" and able to do that. The credit for their success in turning from sin and turning to righteousness goes to God, upon whom they depend for all the wisdom and power they need to obey. The power to yield is God's and the glory for yielding is God's too.
Verse 14, "For sin shall not have dominion over you:"
Believers do sin. But they do not have to sin because they are not slaves to it. Sin is not the pattern or the norm of those who are truly saved. They do not continue in sin in that sense. In the final analysis, believers do not have to and so do not continue in sin because sin is not their lord. In great contrast to their past, Jesus is now their Lord (Isa. 26:12-14, Rom. 6:11).
"for ye are not under the law, but under grace."
The words "under the law" describe the situation of all men. They are under obligation to obey the law perfectly, subject to the penalty of eternal death in hell for any disobedience. This obligation is part of what it means to be a human. Because no one has ever fulfilled the demands of the law, to be "under the law" means to be guilty before the law (Rom. 3:19) and cursed (Gal. 3:10). The guilt of all men reveals that they do not have the ability to obey the law and that they doomed to continue to sin as well as suffer the consequences of their disobedience.
The gospel changes that situation for believers. The gospel tells us that Jesus was under the law when He was born of a woman (Gal. 4:4), except without sin (Heb. 4:15). That is, Jesus was under the same obligation to obey the law perfectly. And He did. Nevertheless, Jesus still had to endure the wrath of God. The gospel tells us that upon Him was laid the sin of His people and by His sacrifice, redeemed those who were under the law. That means they were no longer under the obligation to pay for any of their sins, past, present or future. That also means they were adopted as sons thereby inheriting what the sons of God are heir to, namely eternal life (Gal. 4:5).
Now we can understand why sin has no dominion over believers. Sin has no dominion over them, in the sense that sin no longer has the authority to bring them before a condemning law, because the liability for all of their disobedience has been removed. Righteousness by works has been replaced by righteousness by grace through faith in the work of Jesus. Additionally, sin has no dominion over them, in the sense that sin no longer has the power to successfully draw them away through the appeal of their flesh, because they have a spiritual life within themselves which is stronger than the pull of the lusts of their flesh.
Verse 15, "What then? shall we sin, because we are not under the law, but under grace? God forbid."
The reasons that these questions are asked here are the same as for those in verse 1. They express the mentality of people who want to justify their sin. There is a little difference, however, between the questions here and the questions in verse 1. The words "Shall we continue in sin" in verse 1 come from a verb in the present tense, while the words "shall we sin" come from a verb in a past tense that refers to a one time completed event, as if it were a snap shot of the past. The idea is verse 1 is, "Shall sin always be part of my present life? That is, shall we continue in it as a habit or as a standard operating procedure?" In contrast, the idea in verse 15 is, "If we look back upon our record of failure to obey in those individual occasions of temptation which we face, is it no big deal?" To put it in an other way, "Is it O.K. if we sin in a particular situation, in as much as we are covered by the grace of God?"
Having carefully explained from verses 2 through 14 that believers do not have to sin, the question is now faced, "Well maybe we have the ability to say 'no' to sins allurements. But if we do sin anyway, it's no big deal because we are not under obligation to obey to be right with God and besides our sins have been covered by the grace of God." The intent of the question is that if the gospel releases people from the obligation to obey the law for righteousness as well as the condemnation for disobedience, then it also releases them from any constraints of the law whatsoever, or at least that the gospel of grace makes any sinful action inconsequential.
This attitude reveals a lack of understanding of the effect of the gospel of righteousness upon those who are saved as well as the place of the law in the lives of those who are saved. First let us say a few things about the effect of the gospel. Not only are believers released from the crushing demand to always obey the law perfectly and the condemnation which falls upon all who fail that unalterable demand (Gal. 5:1-3), not only does the gospel do something for believers judicially, but also believers are released from the enslavement to continue in sin since they have a new life in the Spirit (Gal. 5:18), the gospel does something to them. Simply put, the effect or result of the gospel is not only that believers do not have to sin, but also that believers do not want to sin. They have a new nature that has a different motivation and objective for whatever they think, say and do (John 3:3-8, II Cor. 5:15,17).
Now let us say a few things about the place of the law in the lives of believers. Once believers' fearful judge, the law is now their wise and helpful guide. The law is the expression of the will of the God, whom they love because He loved them first and has done so much for them. They love the law because they love the God whose word it is. As the law reveals His great love for them, the law also shows them how they can gratefully serve and please Him. The law instructs them in how to live a life that is a blessing to themselves and others. The law shows them how to avoid the sins that so easily beset them and which cause them grief and regret. The law shows them how to help others who are caught in the entangling web of sin. The law provides precepts to guide, illustrations to instruct and encourage, warnings to protect as well as promises to strengthen believers in an evil world. Because of all of its riches, the law is a delight which believers want to obey.
The answer to the questions in verse 15 is "God forbid." As we learned in verse 2, this can be understood to mean that "it is not so" that believers would sin when presented with a temptation to do so. Believers do not use the doctrine of grace as an excuse to yield to the lusts of their flesh. Nor is it so that believers would treat sin in a casual way, saying "we are under grace" as a rationalization or alibi for their disobedience. The reason that "it is not so" is given in the following verses.
Verse 16, "Know ye not, that to whom ye yield yourselves servants to obey, his servants ye are to whom ye obey; whether of sin unto death, or of obedience unto righteousness?"
Notice that the verse describes only two choices, service to sin or obedience to God's law. Grace does indeed make a sinner free (John 8:32). However, freedom does not make someone autonomous. Believers are not independent people, serving God because that makes the most sense and gives them the most profit. Rather, as we learned in Romans 1:1, they are willing slaves of Jesus Christ.
Believers are not free to do what they want, but free to do what they ought, for what they were originally designed and created. Believers are free to do that which gives them the most blessing rather than that which enslaved and sought to destroy them. In the words of this verse, obedience to sin leads to death while obedience to God leads to righteousness.
We ought to dispel a possible misunderstanding of the words "obedience unto righteousness." They certainly do not imply that works of obedience to the law result in righteousness, for the law requires perfect obedience, an impossible standard for anyone. Besides the verse is comparing unbelievers who serve sin and believers who serve God. Obedience unto righteousness means either that believers have obeyed the gospel call to believe and so have obtained God's righteousness, or that believers, who are already saved, demonstrate the righteousness of God within themselves by their obedience to His will.
We ought to correct some possible misunderstandings associated with the word "yield." This verse does not mean that the moment people sin they become a servant of sin or the moment they obey they become a servant of righteousness. People do not bounce back and forth between a saved and unsaved condition depending upon their most recent performance. Nor does the verse imply that salvation or condemnation is a result of yielding to righteousness or sin, as if it were a matter of what people do by their own efforts.
The word "yield" refers to more than an outward action. Linking this verse to the next we see that yielding is a matter of the heart. All people sin. Even believers who understand the will of God and have the power to resist the temptation to rebel will nevertheless disobey God. The difference between believers and unbelievers who sin is within. As the next verse puts it, it is a matter of the heart.
Having said that, we must recognize that a different heart results in a different average record of obedience. Continual sin in unbelievers' lives is evidence that they are yielded to it in their heart. Sin is business as usual for them because it is their master (c.f. John 8:34-36). Sin is an addiction which unbelievers cannot break and which they do not want to break. No other behavior is expected from them because they have no spiritual life which seeks and enables them to serve God instead.
The situation of believers is different. Believers' disobedience is a violation of the desires of their heart. Believers' sin grieves them because they understand the will of God and have the power to resist temptation. Believers' sin grieves them because it is as if they made a premeditative deliberate choice to make sin their master rather than Jesus. What a slap in the face of Him who has shown so much love to him! How can they play with something that identifies them with unbelievers and gives their Master a bad name? Believers' sin grieves them because they have new hearts. They do not want to sin. Therefore, there is tremendous inner pressure in believers' lives which will result in more and more obedience to God's will.
The word "yield' in this verse also refers to long term behavior. That is, what people are in their hearts will more clearly be seen over time. Unbelievers will eventually reveal themselves to be dead within and headed for the second death. In contrast, God's work of righteousness in His people and the new life which that work brings will result in a track record of obedience. Believers want to yield to righteousness and given the opportunity, will more and more demonstrate that desire, even though their flesh calls them to rebel.
Verse 17, "But God be thanked, that ye were the servants of sin,"
God and God alone be thanked because He did it all. All men are servants of sin. Only God can release them from that bondage and give them a new life as servants of Himself. All men are imprisoned by the dictates of their sinful flesh and in no way participate in or contribute to their release.
"but ye have obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine which was delivered you."
This phrase expresses one of God's great objectives and one of the great effects of His gospel, namely His people's new nature. As Romans 3:28 highlights what God has done for His people judicially, Romans 6:17 highlights what God has done to His people spiritually. They are both prominent peaks within a mountain range of spiritual truth.
The goal which God has for His people is that they love Him with all of their heart (Deut. 6:5, Matt. 22:37,38). The promise that He makes is that He will give them the heart to love Him as they ought (Deut. 30:6, Ezek. 36:26,27). As we shall see, believers' love for God and their attempted obedience based upon that motivation is the true fulfillment of God's law (Rom. 13:8-10). This is illustrated by king David, who had sinned grievously, but whose concern for God drove him to repentance and trust. For the love that he had, David was called a man after God's own heart (Acts 13:22). That is, he was man a who loved with the love which God had given him, and was a man who was loved by God as well.
Believers are bound to obey by a cord stronger than obligation. They are bound by the cord of love, God's love for them and their love for God. That is why sin, especially believers' own sin, hurts them in the worst way. Their own sin violates their new nature and causes internal distress (Rom. 7:24,25). Their own sin is a hateful insult to their God (Psalm 51:6), for whom they care for so much. On the other hand, believers' love for God and their ability to express that love in service which glorifies and serves Him gives them the greatest joy.
The word "form," tupon, does not refer to the outward appearance or to a replica. Instead, it points to the real object upon which imitations are based. The word is used, for example, to refer to the actual marks in Jesus' hands (John 20:25 "print") or to the original or genuine article which is a pattern for others (Acts 7:44 "fashion," Phil. 3:17 "ensample," Heb. 8:5 pattern," I Pet. 5:3 "ensamples"). With this in mind, we can understand the phrase "that form of doctrine" to mean that Paul desired that the Romans obeyed, not only the outward commandment, but the essence of what he taught, or rather what God taught through him. If they obeyed from the heart, then they obeyed the form of doctrine taught in God's word, the Bible.
Verses 18, "Being then made free from sin, ye became the servants of righteousness."
The words "free from sin" mean that believers are free from the condemnation which their sins merit and free from having to obey the demands of their flesh. The words "servants of righteousness" mean that believers are joyfully and willingly able to serve God's righteous will, or to put another way, that they are loving slaves of Jesus Christ, who is the righteousness of God (I Cor. 1:30).
Verse 19, "I speak after the manner of men because of the infirmity of your flesh:"
This phrase is not easy to understand in the flow of the logic from verse 18 to verse 19. We might be inclined to think that Paul decided to describe the gospel as he did in verse 18 as an accommodation to an apparent fleshly weakness he knew existed in the members of the Roman church. It is as if they were so wicked that he could not get his point across unless he chose his words in the way that he did. However, that does not seem to fit the character of the Roman church members to whom he was writing, for Paul clearly commends them for their faithfulness (Rom. 1:8) without addressing any particular sin.
It seems more reasonable to think of the phrase as saying, "I speak from the point of view of a human because I know of your (and my own) fleshly weakness." It is as if Paul were simply stating a fact that they do not, in the flesh, tend to do what they ought to do. But who does? Paul recognizes that weakness in himself as well, or more to the point, in all men, as we read in Romans 7. In the spirit they have the power and motivation to obey God, but in the flesh they do not. It is not that they are especially wicked, but that they, even as saved people, have a fleshly body which is sinful and unable to serve God, which seeks to rebel. Paul refers to this same sin tendency in verse 20, only in that verse he is reminding them of the past, that at one time, when they were unsaved, their infirm flesh dominated them and they were "servants of sin."
This phrase brings to mind one of the many reasons that the gospel is designed so that believers become slaves of righteousness. If people were saved to be independent from God, they would in danger of succumbing to the dictates of their infirm flesh. The good news is that they are not independent, but are dominated by the righteousness of God. That is part of the blessing of God's preserving grace. Paul reminds the Romans that they live by the power of Jesus Christ, the Righteous (Gal. 2:20, Col. 1:27).
"for as ye have yielded your members servants to uncleanness and to iniquity unto iniquity; even so now yield your members servants to righteousness unto holiness."
With what we have learned from the previous phrase, we can see why the rest of the verse is a challenge to obey. Because the believing Romans are spiritually alive, the infirmity of their flesh is not the dominating force in their lives. They can yield their members to righteousness, or to Jesus Christ, to whom the word "righteousness" really refers. It is reasonable to expect the Roman believers to yield their members to righteousness rather than be bossed around by their members.
We ought to notice in the words "iniquity to iniquity" the clear implication that people never park along side of the moral road of life. People never stay at one level of sin. Sin always leads to more sin. A sinful life leads to a harder heart in the sense that unbelievers are more and eager to justify themselves in the face of the commands of God, and less inclined, even in an outward way, to conform to God's will, whether it be from His will expressed in explicit laws or from the appeal of their consciences. Also in these words we are reminded that as people continue in sin, they more and more suffer the consequences of their sin.
The warning found in this verse has no impact on unbelievers. Amazingly and sadly, sinners continue in sin even to their own hurt. It might be logical to think, "Well now, if I continue down this path of behavior, I will likely lose my job, my family or even my life, consequently I better change and do what is better for me and others for whom I care." However, sin is not driven by logic. It is driven by desire, a mindless desire to satisfy itself no matter what.
In contrast, in the words "righteousness unto holiness" we are reminded that, as time goes on, true believers exhibit holiness more consistently and in more areas of their lives than they have before. The reason is that they are spiritually alive and only things which are alive can and will grow. In fact, growth in spiritual things is expected. If there is no growth, then alarm bells ought to go off in a person's mind causing him to ask, "What is the matter with me that I do not conform more and more to the image of Jesus as I grow older? Could it be that He is not my master?" The evidence of growth assures people who call themselves believers that they are indeed a child of God.
Verse 20, "For when ye were the servants of sin, ye were free from righteousness."
The phrase "free from righteousness" refers to believers' situation before they were saved. It does not mean that, when they were unsaved, sinners are were not obligated to obey the law of God. Rather, it means that as dead men are inert, incapable of doing anything, so when believers were spiritually dead they were disconnected from the law in the sense that the law did not have any impact upon their attitude or behavior. That is, as unsaved men, their master was sin rather than righteousness. Even though they should have been responsive to the law and were accountable for their disobedience, the fact is that they did not serve the righteous will of God. They served the sinful desires of their flesh instead.
Verse 21, "What fruit had ye then in those things whereof ye are now ashamed? for the end of those things is death."
Since believers now have a choice, since they now can yield their members to righteousness, God can come to them with several appeals to turn them from sin and turn them to obedience. One appeal we have looked at already. It is the fact that they ought to love their Master and serve Him eagerly and promptly, not wanting to hurt His reputation in the world or their fellowship with Him. They ought to seek to honor Him and walk close to Him. Another appeal is mentioned here. Believers should recall the kind of life that they once had with sin as their master and compare it with their present life under Jesus' command.
God through Paul asks, "What good was your life of sin? Was it worth it? Clearly it wasn't" (Prov. 13:15). In addition to the physical misery and emotional sadness of broken relationships, a life of continual sin resulted in shame and fear before the law of God. They were headed down a path which would eventually result in "death," the eternal death of the wrath of God in hell. Those are some of the things which the Romans should be remembering.
We might think, "Now wait a minute. Doesn't God forget when He forgives? Shouldn't we also remove any memory of our past wickedness lest we get depressed or tend to doubt our standing before God?" It is true that all of believers' sins are forgiven, including all those they will commit in the future before they die. It is also true that their relationship with God is secure and should promote joy in their lives. But there is a lot of value in the memory of their past sins, which is brought to mind by their consciences.
Whenever a painful or embarrassing memory returns to believers, they ought to be thankful to God. It is part of God's grace to His people. For one thing, such a memory helps to keep them humble. It reminds them from where they came lest they forget (how easy it is to forget) and think too much of themselves as faithful people in contrast to other people who continue in their sins (Rom. 12:3). For another thing, such a memory refreshes the relief and joy of their salvation. They can reflect once more upon what they deserved as sinners and what they received as God's children instead. That in turn leads to a renewed gratitude to God for His grace (Psalm 103). Finally, such a memory makes them less judgmental of others. It makes them wiser and more compassionate toward others, for their memory helps them identify with the difficult struggles other brethren have with their sins. They are more willing to help others, kindly and tenderly (Psalm 51:12,13). We might add that these painful memories came to Paul as well (I Cor. 15:9, Gal. 1:13,14, Phil. 3:4-7).
Incidentally, the appeal of verse 20 is more appropriate for someone who is saved then for someone who is not saved. Someone who is saved wants to do God's will and abhors his former life of sin. Unbelievers do not have that concern or understanding. For that reason, the moral appeal of verse 20 has limited impact in evangelism, in the sense that the gospel is not intended to correct the social evils of the world. It is correct to point out moral decay in a gospel presentation, but that ought to be used to help explain men's liability before the law and the spiritual danger in which that moral sin places them. It is true that the gospel has an impact upon behavior, even upon the secular interactions of unsaved men. However, an outward change in behavior without a gospel change in a person's heart is a temporary band aid. In fact it promotes a gospel of works that serves only to lull a person, who changes outwardly, into a sense of false peace with God. The gospel appeal is not first of all to correct the ills of society or modify personal behavior. Those problems are symptoms of a greater judicial and heart problem which must be solved. Unless that deeper problem is removed, we cannot expect anyone to willing forsake their service to sin and yield their members as servants of righteousness.
Verse 22, "But now being made free from sin, and become servants to God, ye have your fruit unto holiness, and the end everlasting life."
Believers are "free from sin" because as Romans 6:11 states, they are "dead unto sin." They are "servants to God" because they are "alive unto God through Jesus Christ our Lord." Believers are free from the penalty of sin because they have died the death required by the law and free from the power of sin because they are alive in their souls with life in Jesus Christ.
The words "have your fruit unto holiness" remind us that we know a tree from its fruit (Matt. 7:16-20, 12:33). The effect of the gospel in people is also seen in the difference in the fruit which they produce as unsaved and saved people. Their former fruit made them ashamed but their present fruit results in a holy life.
The idea again is that the gospel involves a big change, a heart change, that is, changes in loves, loyalties and desires. That big inner change results in big outward changes. Therefore, we can say that the outward changes are a clue to the fact that a person is a true believer, because without that inner change, no outward changes can be expected. Sometimes an unbeliever will change their life by their own power but, since it is not based upon the new life of Jesus, the iniquity that resides in their heart will grow, their good efforts will not continue and they will eventually be exposed for what kind of heart they have. Conversely, sometimes a believer has a struggle in a particular area of his life. However, there are changes in other areas of his life and eventually there will be changes in that particular area with which he is struggling. That is, there will be changes if there really has been a change in his heart.
Verse 23, "For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord."
This verse is often quoted alone, that is, without the verses before it. It certainly contains wonderful truths which are clear without any further explanation. However, because this verse begins with the word "For," we must relate it to verses 21 and 22 to which it is linked. The idea is that verse 23 gives the reason that verses 21 and 22 are so. That is, it is God's plan that consequences of sin is death and the result of the gospel is everlasting life.
There is a clear contrast between the eventual ends or destinies of believers and unbelievers, namely eternal life for believers and death for unbelievers. There is also an important contrast in the different economies or ways in which those two different ends are achieved.
Unbelievers receive an earned wage, something that they deserve based upon a review of their own works alone. They receive no more and no less than they earned. However, we should keep our thinking straight about what the Bible means by the word "wage." It is not a wage in the sense that a person who sins receives some possession for his labor, even if it is something terrible. Rather, the wage a sinner earns is actually an obligation to make a personal payment to God's law.
According to this verse, the wage is death. Actually, the death in view is eternal death because that is what it takes to satisfy the demands of God's law (Psalm 49:8). The pay off of eternal death is fair, no more and no less than what they ought to get in accordance with a review of their record of attitude and behavior.
Believers receive a gift, something which they do not deserve but which is based upon the application of the works of Jesus Christ alone. The gift is eternal life, which is far more than they ought to get, for they receive it in accordance with or in proportion to the measure of God's love.