Facets of Salvation: Union with Christ, Part 2
INTRODUCTION: Chapter six explains why it is impossible for a believer to go on happily living in sin. At first blush, it may appear that if salvation is all of grace, and not based on anything we do, then why is obedience to God so vital, why not go on sinning? If grace keeps covering our sin, would God not receive more glory by covering more of our sin? (6:1)
Religious groups who reject the Apostolic Gospel have even reasoned as follows: if heaven is a free gift given to those who simply believe a message, then the recipients would have no reason to value it, after all, they have done nothing to work for it.
The Biblical answer to these objections exposes the erroneous thinking in the above questions and also confirms the fact that the Apostle Paul is indeed preaching a free salvation. The entirety of chapter six argues for the doctrine that a believer cannot persist in sin as the bent of his life.“Trust in the atoning work of the representative, the Lord Jesus Christ, is incompatible with self-indulgence in sin and increasing depravity because of our union with Christ (vv. 3-14), and [because] of the nature of the human will and voluntary agency (vv. 15-23)” ( S. Lewis Johnson, Believers Bible Bulletin, Lesson 19, p. 2).
vv. 1-2 – The opening verses of this chapter anticipate the question, “Does an increase in sinning bring an increase in grace?” (see 3:5, 6, 8; 5:20) The subject of the freeness of God’s grace in the face of sin brings to mind this query regarding God’s grace – does grace provide a license to sin? Paul is emphatic in his answer of no. To continue in sin would amount to a complete contradiction of the Christian’s new identity in Christ. (Since sin is no longer our master, we must not allow it to usurp control. Yielding our whole life to God is the only life that is consistent with our identity – 6:11-14.)
The believer’s identity is that he has died to sin. He has made a once for all breach with sin. He no longer lives in the realm or sphere of sin. Having died to sin, the believer has been transferred to another realm (Col 1:13; 14). The reality that the believer is dead to sin and exists in a new realm is the premise of the entire chapter. Our break with sin is that we might live unto God.
v. 3-4 – Paul begins to explain how we died to sin, and he opens up the implications of our death to sin. Baptism signifies UNION with Christ. The Spirit’s baptizing us into Christ (uniting us with Him) places us into fellowship with Christ. This union of the believer with Christ is living and intimate. All that Christ is, and all that He accomplished in all phases of His work as Redeemer and Mediator become the believer’s possession. One cannot separate what Christ accomplished from His Person. We have the benefits of His redemptive work solely because of union with His Person.
Baptism proclaims that those who are united with Christ have died to sin. Water baptism is a picture of what took place when the Holy Spirit placed the repenting believer into union with Christ (1 Cor 12:13).
“Therefore we have been buried with Him.” – the completeness of our identification with Christ’s death (emphasized by co-burial), sets the stage for resurrection life. “Dead to sin” is not an adequate enough description of our character as believers. But our having died to sin is the precondition of life which is the full and final issue of grace. Grace gains its goal in our shared life in His resurrection (by reason of union with Him). We cannot partake in His resurrection and resultant newness of life unless we partake in His death. (Note how graphically water baptism depicts death, burial, and resurrection to newness of life.)
v. 5 – Our co-crucifixion with Christ should not primarily be thought of as a process. We are in the state or condition of having been conformed to His death. (Death to sin and resurrection to spiritual life are inseparable – you cannot break them apart.) Because of our union with Christ, it is impossible to continue in sin and have grace abound. Grace reigns only through the mediation of Christ – it is operative through union with Him because of the efficacy of His death and resurrection. (Note how corrective this is of the kind of erroneous thinking that suggests grace is merely God’s leniency toward moral failure. Grace is ever joined to the Person of Christ in all His redemptive work.)
v. 6 – The “old self” is the self-willed ego of the natural (unregenerate) man. (Numerous N.T. passages contrast the old man with the new inner man of the regenerate person – Titus 3:1-7) The body of the believer is no longer conditioned and controlled by sin. Union with Christ has produced a new controlling principle – obedience unto righteousness. Destruction of the body of sin is the purpose of crucifixion of the old man – to the end that we should no longer be slaves to sin. (“Body of sin” refers to the body’s role as a voluntary, but inescapable tool of sin and servant of sin.)
Our old self was crucified so that our bond service to sin might be terminated (put out of business).Remember, the premise of this chapter is that by union with Christ we have died to sin SO THATthere might be a definitive break from sin. Before conversion, our bodily existence was dominated by the cravings of sin. Now that we are united to Christ, our bodily existence is dominated by a passion for righteousness and holiness. Whatever sinful cravings remain can no longer enslave us.
v. 7 – There is a judicial aspect in deliverance from sin. The forensic or legal dimension of justification is the basis for our sanctification. There was a divine judgment executed on the power of sin in the death of Christ (Col 2:15; Jn 12:31). Deliverance from sin in the life of the believer arises from the efficacy of God’s judgment of sin at Calvary – this is why sanctification is anchored in the cross of Christ. Our deliverance from sin is by virtue of the judgment executed upon sin in Jesus’ cross (Rom 8:1). (Note how sin in this chapter is personified as a king ormonarch who reigns, and as a general who uses the body as his weapons, and as an employerwho pays wages (v. 23). Through union with Christ, righteousness becomes our new master (v. 14-19).
v. 8 – The idea of final resurrection is in view, but also resurrection refers to our present shared life in Christ, because the believer is “alive in God.” The life of Jesus’ resurrection (newness of life) belongs to those united to Him in His death. Our new quality of moral life (as the result of the new birth) increasingly asserts itself in the believer’s life. The Christian will increasingly gain victory over what remains of indwelling corruptions.
v. 9 – For our sakes, there was a time (at the cross) when it could be said that sin and death “ruled” over Christ. Though sinless, He vicariously became “guilty” of our sin and experienced it punishment (death) in His Person. He willingly subjected Himself to the power of death in order that He might vanquish sin and death and end their reign. He decisively broke the power of sin and death. (Consider how great Christ’s love is for His own – He voluntarily became the curse of sin; He became the object of God’s wrath against sin – Gal 3:13. He took His stand between sin and death – He experienced sin’s moral consequence so that we might be set free to live unto God.
Victory over sin in our lives as believers is not a function of us dying with Christ again and again, it is the progressive realization of the implications and claims of having died and risen with Christ (as a definitive and decisive event).
v. 10 – When Christ died to sin, He triumphed over the power of sin and death. Those united to Him in His death, DIE to the power of sin and become DEAD to sin. Christ’s death broke the judicial link between sin and death. (Note how ineffable the moral law of God is in its strict principle of cause and effect. Sowing to sin reaps eternal consequences, death and separation from God – Gal 6:7, 8. In bearing these consequences, Christ severs the judicial link between sin and death. Those united to Him are freed from the reign of sin and death.)
v. 11 – This verse is an imperative, a command (hortatory, “let us!”). But, we are not commanded to become dead to sin and alive to God; that is presupposed. Reckoning or “considering” ourselves dead to sin and alive to God does not make it factual. We have already been placed in this state of “dead to sin and alive to God” by virtue of our union with Christ. We are in this abiding state or condition by reason of a decisive event; our having died with Christ. By union with Him, in the efficacy of His death, we have been given life unto God.
APPLICATION: Counting ourselves dead to sin and alive to God is the first step toward victory over sin in the believer’s life. We are to live by faith in the light of this truth (recognize that what has been said about you in 6:1-10 is the truth.)
Though believers are commanded to strive for moral purity (2 Pet 1:5), our striving does not resemble the moral striving found in false religion. Religions without the true Gospel are moralistic and legalistic. Works are performed in an attempt to gain acceptance with God.
The Christian’s striving is to be grounded in the fact that Another, Christ Jesus, has performed for us and has brought us by union with Himself into a state of being dead to sin and alive to God (the basis for newness of life). Romans chapter six teaches us that all true progress in sanctification is the result of faith in Christ’s finished cross work. Our faith (6:11) is to translate into the actions of resisting sin and presenting ourselves to God for daily service. Our progress in sanctification flows from what Christ accomplished at Calvary.
v. 12 – Do not let sin reign is an imperative. The imperative flows from an indicative; the indicative is because of union with Christ, sin does not reign. The command in v. 12 presupposes the fact that sin does not reign in those who are united to Christ.
(EXAMPLE: It would be mockery to tell a slave, don’t live as a slave. But if the slave had been set free, the command would make perfect sense. Note the condition of the Hebrew nation before and after the Exodus from Egypt. Once they crossed the Red Sea, they had to learn how to live as free men.)
Paul’s exhortation to us is based upon emancipation. Sin does not have dominion any more, so do not allow it to reign. Its reign has been broken; therefore its attempts to regain control must be resisted. In Galatians 5:13-16ff, Paul argues that our freedom from sin is maintained by continually placing ourselves at God’s disposal for His service.
Death to sin will be demonstrated in a visible real denial of the sinful lusts of the body though they demand gratification from you.
v. 13 – Sin is a master at whose disposal we used to willingly place our members. We used to yield our members to sin as instruments of unrighteousness, our slavery to sin promoted unrighteousness. Now we are commanded to no longer place our physical organs or bodily members at the disposal of sin. Instead, we are to present ourselves to God (not simply our bodies, but our whole personality – thoughts, affections and will).
Paul’s explanation of victory over sin has three practical steps which are commands in Romans 6:11-13. ONE: consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God. TWO: refuse to let sin reign in your life. THREE: present yourselves to God (put yourselves in the service of God).
These three steps form one action that is grounded in a conscious awareness of our new identity in Christ.
v. 14 – The fact that we are not under law, but our being under grace assures us that sin shall not exercise dominion over us. The law pronounces approval and blessing only upon those who conform to its demands. The law brings condemnation for every infraction. It exposes sin and convicts of sin; it even aggravates sin and guilt. But the law is impotent to make the transgressor right with God. It has never justified one violator. The law cannot relieve the bondage of sin. It can only confirm a person’s state of being under condemnation. The law lacks the resources to deliver. Under law, the natural man remains a bond servant under sin (Rom 11:32; Gal 3:22, 23).
By contrast, grace sums up all the redemptive benefits of God in Christ. Grace renews, liberates and sets the believing sinner right with God. Grace was purchased by the death and resurrection of Christ. “Grace is the sovereign will and power of God coming to expression in the deliverance of men and women from servitude of sin” (John Murray, The Epistle to the Romans, p. 229).
Verse 14 sets up an antithesis between law and grace, especially in terms of one’s existence under the reign of each, and the resources of each. Those under grace are guaranteed that sin will not exercise dominion over them.
APPLICATION: God has not set aside moral law. His moral requirements will always remain in full force. Paul is reminding us in v. 14 that the law is not a condition for man’s acceptance. The law is designed to show man his sinfulness. Under grace, God gives gracious enablement to fulfill the law’s righteous requirements (7:6; 8:3, 4).
John Murray, Commentary on Romans
The New Geneva Study Bible
The MacArthur Study Bible
The NIV Study Bible
S. Lewis Johnson, Believer’s Bible Bulletin on Romans