Holy Father, we humble our hearts before you; we want to rightly divide your Word; we want to know the balanced truth of what your Word teaches about the gospel. We want to understand it; we want to live it, for your glory, for our good, and for the good of the people we can be a blessing to. In Jesus' mighty name! Amen!
Before we turn to Romans chapter 6, I'll read a few paragraphs from the Preface of my book under the heading, "Whatever happened to the New Testament call for repentance?" Repentance includes turning from sin and darkness to God and His light, and His light includes His truth, His righteousness, and His holiness. It seems that we never hear the word repentance in many Christian circles of our day. The New Testament makes repentance an important part of conversion (see, for example, Matt. 4:17; Mark 1:14, 15; 6:12; Luke 13:1-5; 24:47; Acts 2:38; 17:30, 31 26:20). Equally important, the New Testament calls for Christians in sin to repent (see, for example, 2 Cor. 7:8-13; 12:19-21; Rev. 2:4, 5, 14-16, 20-24; 3:2-5, 15-20). The verses I just cited from the book of Revelation strike me as being especially relevant and awesome. The Lord Jesus Christ Himself was speaking to seven literal churches that existed at that time (about AD95), but what He said to those churches is directly applicable to any church (or any Christian) that is in the same situation.
One of the most startling things about the messages to the seven churches is the frequent and powerful call to repent, or else. The Lord Jesus Christ warned the Christians at Ephesus that if they didn't repent, they would find themselves no longer belonging to His church; the fact that they still had a lampstand confirmed that they still belonged to His church (see Rev. 2:4, 5; 1:20). If we no longer belong to His church, we are not headed for heaven.
He warned the majority of the Christians at Sardis that if they didn't repent, He would come upon them in judgment as a thief (as a thief in the night; see Rev. 3:1-4), and He warned that He would erase their names from the book of life (see Rev. 3:5). If He erased their names from the book of life, they would not be headed for heaven. The fact that their names had been in the book of life from the foundation of the world confirms that they were true Christians (see Rev. 13:8; 17:8, for example). Furthermore, the majority would not have had garments to soil if they had not become born-again Christians (see Rev. 3:4, 5 with Rev. 19:8, 14). In Rev. 3:4 Jesus told the few at Sardis who had not soiled their garments that they would walk with Him in white. As Rev. 19:8 shows, the white garments very much includes "the righteous acts [and lifestyle] of the saints." Jesus was calling those who needed to repent to tepent and get their garments white through the savihg, sanctifying grace of God in Christ. Since many Christians insist that the Christians who needed to repent at Sardis had never become born-again Christians, I'll point out that what Jesus said in Rev. 3:2 also confirms that the Christians who needed to repent had become true Christians. Jesus exhorted them to "wake up and strengthen the things that remain, which were about to die." These words show that they still had some remnants of true Christianity, but they must repent with a top priority.
Lastly, I'll mention that Jesus exhorted the self-satisfied Christians at Laodicea to repent before He spit them out of His mouth (see Rev. 3:15-20). Many have pointed out that there is all-too-much similarity between the ancient church at Laodicea and much of the church of our day.
Some suggest that God doesn't take the sins of Christians seriously. I have even heard Christians say that God doesn't see our sins because He looks at us through the atoning blood of Jesus Christ. I believe it is true that He doesn't see our past (forgiven) sins; but if we are living in sin, He sees it, and it is a serious matter that needs to be dealt with in a high priority manner. The messages to the seven churches are sufficient to show that God does take our sins seriously. They also show that repentance is more than asking for forgiveness. One last comment here, repentance is something we do; it is not something God does; we repent in response to His Word and His grace, and by His grace; but repentance is something we must do.
Now I'll turn to page 96 of my book, "Holiness and Victory Over Sin" and read part of the introduction to Romans chapter 6; then we'll start a verse-by-verse study of this super-important chapter. Romans chapter 6 is one of the most important chapters in the New Testament which shows that Christians can and should walk in victory over sin through the Lord Jesus Christ. But there is much about victory over sin in Romans chapters 1-5 and in other chapters of Romans, especially chapter 8, and throughout the rest of the New Testament.
Before we became Christians, sin was our master. We were slaves of sin (see, for example, Rom. 6:6, 17, 19, 20, and 22). But now, as Rom. 6:18 says, "and having been freed from sin, you became slaves of righteousness." Sin and spiritual death have been dethroned by the saving grace of God in Christ Jesus (see Rom. 5:21; 6:14). We are no longer slaves of sin (see, for example, Rom. 6:6, 11, 12, 14, 17, 18, 19, and 22). We are slaves of God and of His righteousness (see Rom. 6:13, 18, 19, and 22).
To be a slave of righteousness means to live in righteousness (see 1 John 2:29; 3:7). I'll quote 1 John 3:7, where the apostle John said, "Little children, make sure no one deceives you [There were deceivers in John's day, and there are many deceivers around today.]; the one who practices righteousness [or, the one who is doing righteousness] is righteous, just as He [God] is righteous." If we want to be righteous, we have to live in God's righteousness by His grace. It's not a matter of just being forgiven, or having a declared righteousness, we must have an imparted righteousness; we must live in God's righteousness. But this is good news, very good news! This is about 90 percent of what Christianity is all about.
The grace of God through the powerful shed blood of the Lord Jesus Christ sets us free from sin and enables us to live for God in His righteousness and holiness. John said here that we are to be righteous just as God is righteous. That certainly includes the victory over all sin. It may not always be easy, but we must aim at the target of walking in God's righteousness with the victory over all sin. Something is seriously wrong when Christians are not even trying to stop sinning, because they think they cannot stop sinning. As we have discussed, many Christians believe the Bible teaches that we cannot stop sinning this side of glory. Some Christians are convinced that they must fulfill their daily quota of sin.
I'm turning to Romans chapter 6. What a privilege to be able to study this chapter. "What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin so that grace may increase [or, may abound]?" Romans 3:8 will help us understand this verse. Many people misunderstood the apostle Paul. Some of them misunderstood him on purpose. He put the emphasis on grace and on faith, not on the Law and works of the Law, and he offended many people. They thought, for one thing, that he was saying that Christians do not have to keep God's Law. But we do have to keep God's Law. Christians are not required to keep the ceremonial law of the Old Testament, but as we have discussed, we are enabled and required to keep His moral law. Through new-covenant salvation in union with the Lord Jesus Christ, we are set free from bondage to sin and enabled to keep God's moral law in our daily lives. This is good news, very good news! (See Jer. 31:33; Ezek. 36:25-27; Rom. 8:4; 1 Cor. 7:19, for example.) God's moral law defines righteousness and sin and shows what He requires of us.
I'll read Rom. 3:8, "And why not say (as we are slanderously reported and as some claim that we say), 'Let us do evil that good may come?' Their condemnation is just." Paul hated being charged with teaching "Let us do evil that good may come." Anyone who thought Paul was minimizing the need for Christians to live in the righteousness of God by His grace didn't understand what he was teaching. It is true that Paul strongly emphasized grace, but that grace includes sanctifying grace that enables Christians to live in the righteousness and holiness of God. The apostle Paul went out of his way in the epistle to the Romans to emphasize that God's grace enables (and requires) us to keep the requirements of His moral law and to live in His righteousness.
I'll read Rom. 6:1 again. "What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin so that grace may increase [or, may abound]?" Look what Paul says in the next verse, "How shall we who died to sin still live in it?" According to the gospel Paul preached (which he received from the resurrected Christ), Christians have died to sin; so how can we continue in sin so that grace may abound? According to the gospel Paul preached, we Christians are to be dead to spiritual death and to sin; and Satan and his demons have no more authority over us. "How shall we who died to sin still live in it?"
I'll read 1 Pet. 2:24, "and He Himself bore our sins [with the guilt and the penalties, including the penalties of spiritual death and bondage to sin] in His body on the cross, so that we might die to sin and live to righteousness; for by His wounds you were healed." We frequently find this same message throughout the New Testament. I'll read Rom. 6:6, "knowing this, that our old man was crucified with Him, in order that our body of sin might be done away with, so that we would no longer be slaves to sin." If our old man has been crucified with Christ, we are dead to sin. We die to sin when we are crucified with Christ (when we become Christians), and in the ideal case we would never sin again. That sounds good doesn't it?
And I'll read Rom. 6:11, "Even so consider [or, reckon] yourselves to be dead to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus." The fact that we are to consider, or reckon, ourselves to be dead to sin demonstrates that this death to sin is not automatic when we become Christians. We must continually cooperate with God's saving grace by faith (a faith that is based on God and His gospel). Or to put it in different words, we must continually walk by the Spirit, so that we will not carry out the sinful desire of the flesh (the old man that still wants to live in sin); in other words, so that we will not sin - we will be dead to sin (see Gal. 5:16).
Let's go on to Rom. 6:3, "Or do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus have been baptized into His death?" When we become Christians, we are baptized into the death of the Lord Jesus Christ. He, the Lamb of God, died in our place, bearing our sins with the guilt and the penalties (including the major penalties of spiritual death and bondage to sin). When we become Christians, we die with Him to the old man. In the ideal case, the old man would never manifest itself in sin again. The Holy Spirit enables us to keep the old man from manifesting itself in sin, as we walk by the Spirit through faith.
"Or do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus have been baptized into His death." He died in our place. We have every right to appropriate His death as our death. We become united with the Lord Jesus Christ when we become Christians. We die with Him; we are buried with Him; we are raised with Him; and we are united with Him from then on (by faith and by the Holy Spirit). The life of God is imparted to us in Christ, and the righteousness and holiness of God are imparted to us. Again, I am not saying that victory over sin is automatic, or that it is always easy. The world, the flesh, and the devil are against us, but God's grace is sufficient, and no one can keep us from doing God's will.
Now Rom. 6:4, "Therefore we have been buried with Him through baptism into death [death to the old man] [[Let's stop here for a few minutes. I'll read what the apostle Paul said in the first part of Col. 2:12, "having been buried with Him in baptism." The old man is buried with Christ when we become Christians. (At least in the ideal case the old man is buried with Christ when we become born-again Christians.) We desperately need the balanced truth of what the New Testament teaches about water baptism. I'll read Rom. 6:3 and the first part of verse 4 again, "Or do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus have been baptized into His death. Therefore we have been buried with Him through baptism into death...."
I believe it is clear that there is some reference to water baptism here, but as I mentioned, we need the balanced truth of what the New Testament teaches regarding water baptism. The apostle Paul certainly isn't saying that water baptism is the one thing that gives us spiritual life and makes us righteous and holy. As a matter of fact, if the Christian basics aren't right, water baptism is nothing more than another dead ritual. What are the basics that are more important than water baptism? And by the way, water baptism is quite important, according to the New Testament.
Here are the things that are more important than water baptism, without which water baptism is another dead ritual: We must hear the truth of the gospel. We must understand the truth of the gospel; at least we must understand the foundational truths of the gospel. Our faith must be based on God and His Word. If we don't understand the foundational truths of Christianity, we cannot commit ourselves to God and His gospel, and we cannot cooperate with His Word. We must know, for example, what God has done for us in the sacrifice of His Son, and we must know what He requires of us. We must hear the gospel; we must understand the gospel; we must commit ourselves to God and the gospel in faith, and it must be an abiding commitment; furthermore, we must have all the work of the Holy Spirit as He draws, convicts, reveals, teaches, imparts life, transforms, leads us to a life of righteousness and holiness, etc.
Now if the basics are right, water baptism is quite significant. Water baptism is the appropriate biblical occasion for us to complete (by faith) the transactions of being forgiven and washing away our past sins (see Acts 2:38; 22:16); of our becoming united with the Lord Jesus Christ (see Rom. 6:3; Gal. 3:27); and of our old man dying with Him and being buried with Him (see Rom. 6:3, 4; Col. 2:11, 12). I am not saying (nor do I believe) that we cannot be saved apart from water baptism, or that we cannot die to the old man apart from water baptism.
It seems clear to me that many have been saved apart from water baptism and that many have died to the old man apart from water baptism. The Salvation Army, for example, doesn't practice water baptism, but I am confident that many of them are genuine Christians. Anyway, I believe it is clear in the New Testament that we should be baptized in water. Just because God has been generous with us and blessed us in spite of our deviations from the balanced truth of what His Word teaches, doesn't mean that it is OK, or that it doesn't make any difference. The more we do things God's way, the more He will be glorified, the more we Christians can be united in the balanced truth of what the Bible teaches; and the more He can bless us and use us.]], so that as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life." As I mentioned, we are united with Christ in His death, in His burial, in His resurrection, and in His present life. As born again Christians, we are enabled to walk in "newness of life," manifesting the very righteousness and holiness of God. We are no longer spiritually dead slaves of sin; we are born-again children of God, indwelled by the Spirit of life, the Spirit of righteousness and holiness.
Let's go on to Rom. 6:5, "For if we have become united with Him in the likeness of His death, certainly we shall also be in the likeness of His resurrection." We don't just die with Christ, we are raised with Him, and we are literally united with Him as born-again Christians by the Holy Spirit. In a very real sense, we are new creations (see 2 Cor. 5:17, for example). We have already been resurrected spiritually, and we will be resurrected bodily and glorified at the end of this age. After we are glorified, we will not have to wage warfare against the world, the flesh, and the devil, but during this present age the warfare can be intense. The old man still wants to live and manifest itself in sin, and the world (whose god is the devil) and the demons substantially intensify the sin problem. The Bible makes it clear that Christians can sin, but it also shows that God's grace is sufficient to keep us from sinning. If we walk by faith (based on what the New Testament teaches) and by the Holy Spirit, which we are called and enabled to do, we will walk above sin. That sounds good doesn't it?
Let's go on to Rom. 6:6, another glorious verse, "knowing this, that out old self [or, better yet, our old man] was crucified with Him, in order that our body of sin might be done away with, so that we would no longer be slaves to sin." By God's definition, our old man is supposed to be crucified and dead from the time we become Christians. Like Paul said in verse 2 (we died to sin); like he said in verse 3 (we have been baptized into His death); like he said in verse 4 (we have been buried with Him through baptism into death); and like he said in verse 5 (if we have become united with Him in the likeness of His death). If our old man is really crucified, it will not be able to manifest itself in sin. The indwelling Spirit of God will always enable us to walk in the righteousness of God as we walk by the Spirit through faith, in accordance with the gospel of new-covenant salvation.
I'll read verse 6 again, "knowing this, that our old man was crucified with Him, in order that our body of sin might be done away with [From the time we become Christians, we should no longer have a body of sin; our body is to be consecrated to God and His righteousness.], so that we would no longer be slaves to sin." Several places in this chapter the apostle mentions that we used to be slaves of sin, but now we are called, enabled, and required to be faithful slaves of God and of His righteousness. I'll read verse 18 and the first part of verse 22, and there are quite a few similar verses in this chapter, "and having been freed from sin, you became slaves of righteousness" and "But now having been freed from sin and enslaved to God...."
Now I'm going to turn to page 97 of my book and read part of what I said under these verses. I'll also add to what I said there. This will involve some repetition, but repetition is good if it helps us understand these super-important truths and to get them solidly planted in our hearts. First I'll read what I said under verses 1, 2. Christians are not to continue in sin (by sinning) that grace might increase (or, abound). The grace of God is a sanctifying grace (see Rom. 3:24; 5:21; 6:14; and Eph. 2:8-10). I'll read Rom. 6:14 and make a few brief comments: "For sin shall not be master over you [or, have dominion over you], for you are not under law but under grace [the powerful, saving, sanctifying grace of God in Christ]." One point that the apostle makes here is that if all we had was the Mosaic Law (and the old covenant established on that Law), then sin would still have dominion over us. But the saving grace of God in Christ dethrones sin, spiritual death, and Satan. "For sin shall not be master over you [or, have dominion over you], for you are not under law but under grace." "What the [Mosaic] Law could not do, weak as it was through the flesh, God did, sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and as and offering for sin, He condemned sin in the flesh, so that the requirement of the Law might be fulfilled in us, who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit [the Holy Spirit]" (Rom. 8:3, 4).
We are forgiven by God's grace, and we are sanctified and made righteous by His grace. Grace means that every aspect of our salvation is a gift, totally unearned. We didn't earn forgiveness, and we didn't earn the gift of the Holy Spirit to bring us life and make us righteous and holy. God gets all of the glory for our righteousness and holiness. It is His righteousness and holiness imparted to us through His Son and by His Spirit.
By God's definition Christians are to die to sin at the time of conversion. This is the ideal. The apostle discusses this death to sin on through Rom. 6:11, then in the rest of the chapter he speaks of freedom from slavery to sin and slavery to God's righteousness.
Now I'll read part of what I said regarding the words, "our old man was crucified with Him" of Rom. 6:6. First I said, "compare Gal. 2:20; 6:14." I'll read those verses and make a few comments. In Gal. 2:20 the apostle Paul said, "I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me." When Paul spoke of the life which he now lived in the flesh, he meant the life he was living in his physical body. He certainly did not mean that he walked in the flesh. He walked in and by the Holy Spirit. As Paul said in Gal. 2:20, he (his old man) had been crucified with Christ. And I'll read what the apostle said in Gal. 6:14, 15, "But may it never be that I would boast, except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world. For neither is circumcision anything, nor uncircumcision, but a new creation." We are new creations in Christ (2 Cor. 5:17).
Now I'll continue to read what I said regarding the words "our old man was crucified with Him" of Rom. 6:6. To the extent that the old man (the old man is fallen man, man in Adam, man in spiritual death, man in the flesh, man in bondage to sin. I have an endnote here, which I'll read; "endnote" means that the note is at the end of the chapter; it's on page 131. The expression "old man" is also used in Eph. 4:22 and Col. 3:9. Both of these verses, in their contexts, confirm that the old man is not just automatically crucified, or set aside, but that this is the ideal for Christians, a very real, very attainable ideal. Now back to page 97.) To the extent that the old man has been crucified with Christ on an experiential level, we will walk in righteousness with victory over sin. For the old man to be crucified is part of God's definition of what it means to be a Christian. This is the Christian ideal, and we must not say that it is an unattainable ideal. God's transforming, sanctifying grace is sufficient, but we must appropriate and cooperate with His grace by faith.
These things are far from being automatic. Christians can sin, and we will sin to the extent the old man has not been crucified with Christ; to the extent we do not walk in "newness of life" (see Rom. 6:4); to the extent we do not walk by the Holy Spirit (see Rom. 8:12-14; Gal. 5:13-25). Galatians 5:16-25, which we have discussed already, makes it clear that the old man is not just automatically crucified; I'll read Gal. 5:24, "Now those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires." We must walk by faith on a continuous basis and appropriate God's sanctifying grace, which includes walking by and after the Holy Spirit on a continuous basis, or the old man will still live and manifest itself in sin. And before we can walk by faith with the victory over sin, we must be convinced from the Scriptures that God has truly called us to such a walk and has provided sufficient grace.
Now I'll read what I said under the words "that our body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves of sin" of Rom. 6:6. To the extent that the old man truly has been crucified with Christ, we won't have a "body of sin;" that is, our body will no longer be used in the service of sin; it will be a body of righteousness (see Rom. 6:12, 13, 19; 8:12, 13). I'll read those verses. First I'll read Rom. 6:12, 13, and 19, "Therefore, do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its lusts, (13) and do not go on presenting the members of your body to sin as instruments of unrighteousness; but present yourselves to God as those alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness to God. [Aand I'll read the second sentence of verse 19.] For just as you presented your members as slaves to impurity and to lawlessness, resulting in further lawlessness, so now present your members as slaves to righteousness, resulting in sanctification [or, better yet, resulting in holiness (an abiding state of holiness)]."
And I'll read Rom. 8:12, 13, "So then brethren, we are under obligation, not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh - (13) for if you are living according to the flesh, you must die; but if by the Spirit [the Holy Spirit] you are putting to death the deeds [or, works] of the body, you will live." On the "body of sin," also see Rom. 7:5, 23-25; Gal. 5:19-21, 24; Col. 2:11-13; 3:5-9.
We'll come back to Romans chapter 6 in the next article.
You can purchase a copy of my book, "Holiness and Victory Over Sin; Full Salvation Through the Atoning Death of the Lord Jesus Christ" on my internet site or at Amazon.com. The book is not light reading, but it is packed with super-important information.
http://www.karlkempteachingministries.com Karl Kemp worked as an engineer in the space field throughout the 60s. He became a born-again Christian in 1964. He received an MA in Biblical Studies in 1972. He has been a Bible teacher for 45 years. See the website for more info on his books, papers, etc.
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