This is a chapter from my upcoming book, Study Notes on Romans, which should be available this April.
This chapter begins the next main section of the epistle in which the apostle Paul teaches us about sanctification based on our identification with Christ.
- Rom. 6 – Dead to Sin
- Rom. 7 – Dead to the Law
- Rom. 8 – Dead to the Flesh
W.H. Griffith Thomas wrote concerning these three chapters, “The view of the Cross is thus widened to take in Sanctification as well as Justification, to deal with sinfulness as well as with sins, to apply to what we are as well as what we do; and Sanctification is shown to rest on the same foundation, and to proceed from the same source as Justification, namely, our union with Christ in His death, burial, and resurrection.” (St. Paul’s Epistle to the Romans, vol. 2, pg. 8)
- Declaration (vv.1-2) – We are dead to sin (as a nature)
- Explanation (vv.3-10) – How it is that we are dead to sin (standing)
- Application (vv.11-23)– How this truth is to be lived out (state)
This is a key chapter in the Bible on how to live the Christian life, and it is refreshingly simple (2 Cor. 11:3). Most books and sermons on the victorious Christian life are not based on sound doctrine and they typically make it more difficult than it actually is because they are focused on trying to defeat the flesh by the flesh. There are not twelve steps to victorious Christian living, or even seven steps. There are just three steps as outlined in this chapter.
There are three key words in this chapter: “know” (v.3, 6, 9), “reckon” (v.11), and “yield” (v.13, 16, 19). The teaching of this chapter is summarized in verse 17.
(17) But God be thanked, that ye were the servants of sin, but ye have obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine which was delivered you.
- “Doctrine” – Know – Spirit (vv.1-10)
- “Heart” – Reckon – Soul (v.11)
- “Obeyed” – Yield – Body (vv.12-23)
(1) What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound?
(2) God forbid. How shall we, that are dead to sin, live any longer therein?
Paul anticipated and answered the wrong response to what he stated at the end of the previous chapter (Rom. 5:20-21). He knew that the carnal mind would reason, “If the more I sin the more grace God bestows, why not just continue in sin?” That is not the mindset of someone who believes with all his heart that Christ shed His blood and died to take away his sins.
Paul begins this great passage on our identification with Christ by declaring that all believers are dead to sin. We were dead IN sin (Eph. 2:1), but in Christ we are dead TO sin. Yet, he was slanderously reported as preaching grace as a license to sin (Rom. 3:8). Those who preach the gospel of the grace of God should expect the same slander from religious people who vainly think that it is the law that gives people victory over sin. Israel lived under the law for fifteen hundred years and their history is marked by a continual backsliding from God. The law is righteous, but it cannot make us righteous.
Most people seem to either gravitate toward legalism or liberalism. The grace of God teaches us how to live godly in an ungodly world (Titus 2:11-15). Biblical grace does not facilitate worldliness and ungodliness. Salvation by grace is not liberty TO sin but FROM sin. God’s standard of living for the Body of Christ under grace is higher, not lower, than it was for Israel under the law. We have a standing and resources that they did not have. Many professing Christians today abuse and misuse the grace and the liberty that we have in Christ. Liberty is not about rights but responsibility (Gal. 5:13).
The professing church today is filled with people who have a form of godliness but deny the power thereof, just as Paul said it would be (2 Tim. 3:1-5). The power of godliness is found in the mystery of godliness (1 Tim. 3:16). The mystery of godliness reveals that sinners are made godly by spiritual union with Christ and not by the religious effort of the flesh.
Real transformation comes from within (Rom. 12:1-2). Do you know the grace of God in truth (Col. 1:3-6; Eph. 4:17-24)? Christian growth is about getting our state lined up with our standing. This is an ongoing process. It is learning to work out by faith what God has worked in us (Phil. 2:12-13).
(3) Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into his death?
(4) Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: 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.
(5) For if we have been planted together in the likeness of his death, we shall be also in the likeness of his resurrection:
(6) Knowing this, that our old man is crucified with him, that the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin.
(7) For he that is dead is freed from sin.
(8) Now if we be dead with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with him:
(9) Knowing that Christ being raised from the dead dieth no more; death hath no more dominion over him.
(10) For in that he died, he died unto sin once: but in that he liveth, he liveth unto God.
Notice the emphasis on what we must KNOW. At the root of our practical failures in the Christian life is ignorance of the truth of God’s word, especially concerning our standing in Christ (“know ye not” is used 12x’s in Romans through 2 Corinthians). We do not know about our standing through our feelings and experiences. Sound doctrine is foundational to spiritual growth. We cannot believe and obey truth that we do not know.
We must know that upon salvation we were baptized by the Spirit into Christ, and we are therefore one with Him in His death, burial, and resurrection. Christ already defeated our “old man” (the flesh).
In the Bible, six is the number of man. Romans (6 letters) is the sixth book of the NT (note the word man in Romans). This book teaches us how to get out of the man Adam and into the man Jesus Christ (Rom. 5:12-21). The sixth word in the sixth verse of the sixth chapter in Romans is “man.” There are six verses in Romans in which the sixth word is man. By the way, the corrupt NIV says “self” in Romans 6:6 and it is the seventh word.
Most professing Christians assume that baptism in the Bible always refers to water baptism. Therefore, they wrongly believe that Paul is talking about water baptism in this passage. If he is, it would mean that water baptism is essential to salvation because this baptism puts us into Christ. That would contradict the first part of this epistle in which we learn that salvation is by grace through faith and without works. The truth is that there is not a single drop of water in this entire chapter.
Water cannot put a person into Christ. Yet, many claim that when Paul referred to the “likeness” of Christ’s death and resurrection (v.5) that he was talking about the symbol of water baptism. Paul is talking about a spiritual reality (v.4), not a visible symbol. When Christ was “made in the likeness of men” (Phil. 2:7), was He only a symbol of men? Of course not. Christ was baptized into our humanity that we might be baptized into His Body. To read water baptism into this passage is to destroy its meaning and power in your life. Satan wants us to put confidence in what we can do in our flesh, instead of Christ (2 Cor. 11:3; Col. 2:10; Phil. 3:3).
There are at least seven baptisms in the Bible that differ as to the people being baptized, the element they are baptized with or in, the purpose of the baptism, and the baptizer. There are three baptisms mentioned in one verse (Matt. 3:11): with water (ceremonial purification), the Holy Ghost (power), and fire (punishment). The religious world includes water in how they define baptism, but in the Bible, baptism means identification. In the first baptism God’s people walked across the Red Sea on DRY ground (1 Cor. 10:1-2). The children of Israel were identified with the faith of their divinely appointed leader, Moses, when they followed him through the sea.
There is only one baptism that makes us members of one Body, and it is NOT water baptism (Eph. 4:1-6). Upon salvation we are baptized by the Spirit into the Body of Christ. The Body of Christ was a mystery (i.e., secret) revealed to Paul (Eph. 3:1-7). Therefore, the baptism that puts us in the Body was also first revealed to Paul. That Gentiles would be saved was not a mystery. The mystery is that both Jews and Gentiles could be saved by grace through faith alone and thereby baptized by one Spirit into one Body that has a heavenly standing wherein our identity is in our Head the Lord Jesus Christ. Paul emphasized this spiritual baptism throughout his epistles (1 Cor. 12:13; Gal. 3:27-28; Col. 2:12; Eph. 4:5).
We must not confuse the one baptism of the Body of Christ with the prophesied baptism with the Holy Ghost which concerns Israel and the kingdom (Acts 1:1-8; 2:16-18).
|WITH the Holy Ghost||BY the Spirit|
|Christ the Baptizer||Spirit the Baptizer|
We do not have the power to defeat the flesh. Christ defeated it for us once and for all when He died in our place on the cross and rose again. Being crucified with Christ (Gal. 2:20), we are freed from the bondage of sin (v.7, 18, 22).
We do not have to wait for our glorified body to no longer serve sin. We will get a glorified body when Christ comes for us, but in this context, Paul is talking about resurrection power in our mortal body (v.12). Christ lives His life through us as we walk by faith in the newness of His resurrection life (Phil. 3:10). His death and resurrection being inseparable in their purpose and efficacy, union with Him in the one carries with it participation in the other. The Christian life is not just about being dead unto sin, but it is also about being alive unto God.
(11) Likewise reckon ye also yourselves to be dead indeed unto sin, but alive unto God through Jesus Christ our Lord.
We cannot bring to pass by our faith what God has not done or promised to do. After all, faith is believing God’s word, and not just believing. Therefore, reckoning ourselves to be dead to sin and alive unto God does not make it a reality because it already is through the finished work of Christ (vv.1-10). Notice there are both negative and positive aspects to this: dead to sin and alive unto God. They go together on the basis of what Christ accomplished (vv.8-10).
The word “reckon” is a word expressing faith and not feeling. We must reckon (i.e., count it so) in our heart the doctrine we know and yield the members of our body in obedience to the Spirit.
(12) Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, that ye should obey it in the lusts thereof.
(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.
We are not to be servants of sin in our mortal body. We do not have to obey the lusts of our flesh (Eph. 4:22; 1 Jn. 2:16). We have a choice (Gal. 5:16). We can LET NOT sin reign in our mortal body, but rather LET the mind of Christ be in us (Phil. 2:5) by LETTING His word dwell in us richly (Col. 3:16). We choose to be servants unto sin or righteousness when we choose to yield (i.e., present, Rom. 12:1) the members of our mortal body to the lusts of the flesh or to the Spirit. Before salvation, we had no choice. Each day we are either yielding the members of our body as instruments of unrighteousness unto sin or as members of righteousness unto God.
(14) For sin shall not have dominion over you: for ye are not under the law, but under grace.
(15) What then? shall we sin, because we are not under the law, but under grace? God forbid.
Sin has dominion over those who are under the bondage of the law. The law shows us that we are sinners (Rom. 3:20), but it cannot deliver us from sin. Yet, many preachers try to bring people under the law in an effort to fight against sin. The law does not even hinder sin much less stop it (1 Cor. 15:56).
There is nothing wrong with the law when it is used lawfully (1 Tim. 1:8-9). The law is holy, just, and good, but it cannot make sinners holy, just, and good (Rom. 7:12; 8:3). It is like a mirror that shows us we are dirty, but it will not clean us up. The law served its purpose as a schoolmaster, but now God has brought us under something better (Gal. 3:22-28). By grace God gives us the righteousness of Christ and the power to live it out in our daily walk.
It is the apostle Paul alone who declares to the Body of Christ in the word of God that we are not under the law but under grace. What is the fundamental difference between law and grace? It is the difference between demanding performance and offering a gift (cf. Ex. 19:5-6; Eph. 2:8-10).
- The law said, “Do and be blessed,” but grace says, “You are blessed, now go do” (cf. Deut. 28:1-5; Eph. 1:3).
- The law required righteousness, but grace makes us righteous.
- The law gave works for man to do, but grace gave words for man to believe.
- The law cursed sinners, but grace justifies them.
- The law was the ministration of death, but grace gives life.
- The law is about religion, but grace is about relationship.
God did not put us under grace because He decided to lower or eliminate His standard of righteousness. He put us under grace to enable us by His Spirit to live righteously in Christ. Being under grace raises the standard of living because it means Christ is living His life through us.
To be “under” something is to be in a state of indebtedness, tutelage, and governance. There are many today who talk much about being under grace, but instead of living under grace, they are trying to make grace be under (i.e., subservient) their carnal desires. They try to use grace as an alibi for living worldly and they will accuse any preacher who exhorts believers to live a separated and holy life unto God of being a legalist. The grace of God not only delivers us from the penalty of sin, but also its power in our daily lives (Titus 2:11-15).
(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?
(17) But God be thanked, that ye were the servants of sin, but ye have obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine which was delivered you.
(18) Being then made free from sin, ye became the servants of righteousness.
(19) I speak after the manner of men because of the infirmity of your flesh: 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.
(20) For when ye were the servants of sin, ye were free from righteousness.
(21) What fruit had ye then in those things whereof ye are now ashamed? for the end of those things is death.
(22) But now being made free from sin, and become servants to God, ye have your fruit unto holiness, and the end everlasting life.
(23) For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.
In this passage Paul uses a common illustration of masters and servants (“I speak after the manner of men”) because the infirmity (or, weakness) of our flesh hinders us from understanding deep spiritual truth.
Servants are to submit in obedience to their master. Everyone is a servant to one master (Matt. 6:24). The flesh serves sin. However, since we are dead and risen with Christ, we can now be servants of righteousness. When were lost we were free from righteousness. Now that we are saved, we are free from sin (v.7, 18, 22). However, since we still have the flesh until death or the rapture, it is possible to yield to it instead of the Spirit. If we yield to sin it will lead to more sin (Jam. 1:15) and death (Rom. 8:12-13). If we yield in obedience to righteousness it will lead to holiness and everlasting life (Gal. 6:6-7). Of course, Paul is NOT saying that we earn everlasting life by obedience, because he has already taught us in this epistle that we are saved by grace. We have everlasting life in Christ, but we need to live like it!
When we were lost, we lived a fruitless life doing things that now make us ashamed (cf. Rom. 1:16). But now we can bear fruit to the glory of God (Gal. 5:22-23; Phil. 1:9-11).
The statement in verse 23 is often used in evangelism (and there is nothing wrong with making that secondary application), but the context concerns sanctification. Yielding to sin is death, practically speaking, to the spiritual life we have in Christ. Eternal life, which is the gift of God, can only be lived out through Jesus Christ our Lord.