Holy Father, we humble our hearts before you. We ask you to open the eyes of our hearts, so we can understand the gospel, what you have given us in the Lord Jesus Christ and what you require of us. Thank you! We pray in Jesus' mighty, holy name! Amen!
Let's turn back to Romans chapter 6. I am using the New American Standard Bible, 1995 edition, which I always use unless I mention otherwise. Frequently I make comments in the middle of quotations using brackets [ ] and sometimes [[ ]] to make the brackets more obvious. In the last article we discussed the first six verses of Romans chapter 6 in some detail. Those verses are extremely important. I'll read those verses and make several comments before we go on to verse 7. Verse 1, "What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin so that grace may increase [or, abound]?" Paul strongly emphasized God's grace (which means that our salvation is a gift; it is totally unearned), but it is a sanctifying grace, a grace that sets us free from spiritual death and bondage to sin, and it enables us to live in the righteousness and holiness of God. Holiness and victory over sin come by God's grace, even as forgiveness comes by His grace.
The apostle answers the question of verse 1 ("Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound") with an emphatic negative in verse 2. He says, "May it never be! How shall we who died to sin still live in it?" We died to sin through becoming united with the Lord Jesus Christ in His atoning death and resurrection when we became Christians. We died with Him, and the old man was buried with Him. In the ideal case, we would never sin again after we become Christians.
I'll read verse 3 and the first part of verse 4, where Paul continues with this theme, "Or do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus have been baptized into His death? (4) Therefore we have been buried with Him through baptism into death...." I'll also read the first part of verse 5 and verses 6, 7, where the apostle continues with this theme of our being dead to sin. "For if we have become united with Him in the likeness of His death.... (6) knowing this, that our old self [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; (7) for he who has died is freed from sin." Paul makes it very clear throughout Romans chapter 6 (and other places) that we used to be slaves of sin, but now we are enabled, and required, to be slaves of God and of His righteousness. As I mentioned, in the ideal case we would never sin again after we become Christians. That sounds like very good news to me! That's what we want, isn't it?
We died to sin and were buried with Christ when we became Christians. But we also are united with Him in His resurrection, and we are united with Him in His present life. The apostle Paul speaks of our being resurrected with Christ and of our being united with Him from then on in the second half of verse 4 and in verse 5. I'll read verses 4, 5, "Therefore we have been buried with Him through baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life. (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."
Now we'll discuss Rom. 6:7, "for he who has died is freed from sin." It is very clear in context what the apostle means by the words "he who has died." In verses 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, and on into verses 8-11, Paul speaks of our having died with Christ and being dead to sin and to the old man. "He who has died [through becoming united with the Lord Jesus Christ in His atoning death] is freed from sin." As we have discussed, in the ideal case we would never serve our old master of sin again, by sinning. We must aim at that target.
I'm going to say quite a bit more about this verse. There is another very important detail that we should discuss. The Greek verb that is translated "is freed" here would normally be translated "is justified," or, "has been justified." The translation "is freed" communicates well, but I prefer the translation "is justified" (or, "has been justified"), because this translation will help us understand the meaning of the super-important verb "justify" (and the meaning of the noun "justification"). The context here in Romans chapter 6 demonstrates that the verb justify includes our being set free from slavery (or, bondage) to sin. And it is clear that we must be set free from spiritual death and be born again in order to be set free from bondage to sin. It is very important for us to know that the verb justify is frequently used in the New Testament in a much fuller sense than just being forgiven and declared righteous. This verse (and other verses) demonstrates that our being justified includes our being set free from spiritual death and bondage to sin.
The verb justify (and the noun justification) strongly lends itself to include our being set free from spiritual death and bondage to sin, and our being made righteous and holy, when it is used of new-covenant salvation in the blood of Christ and by the Holy Spirit. When we (as individuals) become Christians, we come before God the Judge in a very real sense. Having repented and submitted to Him and the gospel of the new covenant in faith, He says to us, "I declare you righteous." God the Judge says, "I forgive you and I declare you righteous." That's good for a start, but we cannot stop there (like many Christians do).
It must be understood that when God declares us righteous, He is at the same time declaring that spiritual death, sin, and Satan and his demons have lost the authority and power they had over us. Now, since spiritual death has been dethroned, we are born again. And since sin and Satan have lost their authority over us, we begin to live in the righteousness and holiness of God. It is easy to see why the verb justify, when it is used in this full-orbed new-covenant salvation context, includes a lot more than forgiveness and a legal declaration of righteousness. Romans 6:7, and other verses, demonstrate that the verb justify frequently includes our being set free from sin. Sin, our former master, is now under our feet through salvation in the Lord Jesus Christ.
We'll be talking further about this super-important, much fuller meaning of the verb justify and the noun justification as we continue with these studies. The longest chapter in my book, "Holiness and Victory Over Sin: Full Salvation Through the Atoning Death of the Lord Jesus Christ," deals with the meaning of the words justify and justification. I trust you can see that we are talking about the heart of the gospel. This is extremely important!
Now let's look at this same glorious reality from a somewhat different point of view, but with the same end result. Let's consider the atoning, sacrificial death of the Lord Jesus Christ, the infinitely worthy Lamb of God. He bore our sins in His body on the cross with the guilt and the penalties. He didn't just bear our sins with the guilt, so we could be forgiven and declared righteous in some isolated legal sense. He bore our sins with the guilt and the penalties. In my book I demonstrate from the meaning of the Hebrew nouns for sin and from passages like Isaiah chapter 53, that the Lamb of God bore our sins with the guilt AND WITH THE PENALTIES. Especially significant is the fact that He bore the penalties of spiritual death and bondage to sin that came upon mankind through our sin, especially the sin of Adam.
The Lamb of God bore the penalties of spiritual death and bondage to sin, so we could get out from under those penalties and be born again and made righteous and holy. God stripped spiritual death, sin, and Satan and his demons of the authority and power they had over us through the atoning death of His Son. Through Christ we get out from under that sinful mess. If we think that the Lamb of God just bore our sins with the guilt, so we could be forgiven and have right standing with God, we have about ten percent of the gospel. We need to appropriate and walk in everything that God has provided for us in the sacrifice of His Son. We need to emphasize - emphasize - righteousness, holiness, and victory over sin through the shed blood of the Lamb of God and in the power of the Holy Spirit.
The more I think about these things, the more I am overwhelmed with the thought that it would literally be shocking if the atoning death of the Lord Jesus Christ didn't give us the full victory over all sin. God hates sin, and He paid an infinite price in the Sacrifice of His Son to set us free from slavery to sin. When we consider who Jesus is and what He has done for us, it would be totally shocking if new-covenant salvation did not include the victory over all sin. Praise God for full salvation in the Lord Jesus Christ! We must focus on the sufficient sanctifying grace of God in Christ, not on the sinfulness of man. We must understand the gospel; we must live the gospel, for the glory of God, and for our sakes. What a blessing! What a privilege!
Let's look at 1 Pet. 2:24 one more time. 1 Pet. 2:24 contains the same message as Romans chapter 6, "and He Himself bore our sins in His body on the cross [He bore our sins with the guilt and the penalties, including the penalties of spiritual death and bondage to sin], so that we might die to sin and live to righteousness; for by His wounds you were healed." The "wounds" speak of the penalties for our sins that He bore for us that killed Him. The wages of sin is death. These words at the end of 1 Pet. 2:24 are all the more important in that they were borrowed from Isa. 53:5. Isaiah chapter 53 is one of the most important chapters in the Bible dealing with the atoning death of the Lord Jesus Christ. Many of the key verses of Isaiah chapter 53 are discussed in my book.
Now I'm going to turn to page 98 and read a paragraph that I have under Rom. 6:7. The translation "is freed" is effective here, and it fits the context well (compare, for example, "that we should no longer be slaves to sin" of Rom. 6:6); but more should be said regarding the meaning of the Greek verb "dikaioo," as it is used here in Rom. 6:7. This Greek verb means more than "freed" in this verse, but it might be difficult to communicate this fact in an English translation. I would rather translate "is justified" or "has been justified," but it would be necessary to explain (in a note) that "justify" is being used here in a very full sense, going far beyond a legal, positional declaration of righteousness.
Christians have been forgiven and declared righteous; they have been set free from spiritual death and born again; and they have been set free from slavery to sin and made righteous. All these things are part of what it means to be justified, using justified in a full sense, and all these things come to believers through the atoning death of the Lord Jesus Christ, by grace through faith.
I'm turning back to page 70 of this chapter, and I'll read three paragraphs. First I'll give you the title for this chapter, "A Study on the Meaning of Justify/Justification as These Words Are Used in the New Testament." It is common for Christians to define "justify" as "declare righteous" (to forgive the guilt of sin and bring about a right [legal] standing before God). From my point of view, an overuse of this narrow sense of justify has helped perpetuate a very inadequate concept of what Christianity is all about. It is important for Christians to know that they have been forgiven and have a right standing with God. If we stop there, however, or put most of the emphasis there (as it so often happens), we are stopping far short of an adequate understanding of the gospel.
God does not offer justification in the narrow sense of the word in isolation from the new birth and a transformed life. Let me add, there are no smoke and mirrors needed here. God isn't declaring us righteous and leaving us sinners; He is declaring us righteous and making us righteous by grace through faith. We must cooperate (we are obligated to cooperate) with His grace and walk by the Holy Spirit on a continuous basis, by faith.
If we are going to translate the Greek verb "dikaioo" as justify here (and in some other verses), then we must understand that justify is sometimes used in a very full sense that includes the declaration of righteousness, the dethroning of (and the setting free from) sin, Satan, and spiritual death; the impartation of spiritual life, and the making righteous (the impartation of God's righteousness). An understanding of this much fuller sense of justify will help us guard against the all-too-common misunderstanding of the gospel. Justification comes by grace through faith (based on the atoning work of the Lord Jesus Christ). This is true whether justification is understood in a narrow sense or the much fuller sense.
On the basis of the atoning death of the Lord Jesus Christ, God the Father (the ultimate Judge) declares righteous those who submit to the gospel in faith. When God declares us righteous, He is, at the same time, declaring the defeat (and overthrow) of sin, Satan, and spiritual death. These enemies gained their authority over mankind through the sins of mankind, especially through the sin of Adam. Since the Lord Jesus Christ has borne our sins (with the guilt and penalties) in His atoning death, these enemies have lost their authority over those who partake of the benefits of His atoning death by faith. We are set free from sin, Satan, and spiritual death, and we are made alive and made righteous.
Let's go on to Rom. 6:8, "Now if we have died with Christ [As we have discussed, we become united with the Lord Jesus Christ in His death and His burial when we become Christians (see verses 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, and 7).], we believe that we shall also live with Him." We are united with the Lord Jesus Christ in His death, in His burial, in His resurrection, and in His present life. We live as born-again Christians, and we are called, and enabled, to walk in the righteousness and holiness of God. What a glorious reality! We are in Christ, and He is in us, and the infinite Spirit of God dwells in us, the Spirit of life, the Spirit of righteousness and holiness.
Verse 9, "knowing that Christ, having been raised from the dead, is never to die again; death no longer is master over Him." We can all readily agree with what the apostle Paul says about the Lord Jesus Christ here, "knowing that Christ, having been raised from the dead, is never to die again, death no longer is master over Him." It is important to see that the apostle said what he did about the Lord Jesus Christ in this verse and the next verse (verse 10), with a view of applying these glorious truths to us believers in verse 11.
I'll read verses 10, 11, "For the death that He died, He died to sin once for all; but the life that He lives, He lives to God. (11) Even so consider [or, reckon] yourselves to be dead to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus." We are called to consider, or reckon, ourselves to be dead to sin (which includes our living with the victory over all sin) and alive to God (living for Him in His righteousness and holiness). What a blessing! But these things don't just happen automatically because we become Christians. We must hear the gospel and understand the gospel in our hearts, and we must appropriate these things on a continuous basis, by grace through faith, in accordance with the gospel of new-covenant salvation. God is glorified when we appropriate His full salvation by faith. On the other hand, He is robbed of glory to the extent we walk in the flesh and sin.
I'll read what I said under Rom. 6:11 on page 100 of my book. Romans 6:11 strongly confirms that the apostle has been saying (in Rom. 6:1-10) that Christians are to "be dead to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus" from the time of conversion. That is the ideal! This verse also confirms that the apostle did not teach that the victory over sin is automatic. If we don't understand this aspect of gospel truth (our faith must be based on what the Word of God actually says), and if we don't walk by faith, we will still, to some extent, serve the old master of sin, by sinning. We must walk by faith and by the Holy Spirit on a continuous basis.
Remember what the apostle Paul said in Gal. 5:16, "But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you [most certainly] will not carry out the desire of the flesh [the sinful desire of the flesh, of the old man that still wants to sin]." In other words, walk by the Holy Spirit all the time and you won't sin. The apostle never said that it would always be easy; we are still in the flesh in one sense (we will not totally leave the flesh/old man behind until after we are glorified), and we have an enemy and spiritual warfare, whether we like it, or not. The world, the flesh (the old man that wants to live in sin), and the devil and his demons are against us, but they are no match for God and His saving grace in Christ.
Let's go on to Rom. 6:12, "Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its lusts." We could yield to sin and obey the lusts of the flesh (of the old man), but that goes against what Christianity is all about. Romans chapter 6 (and many other passages) demonstrates that God has called us, and enabled us, and requires us to be dead to sin and alive to God and His righteousness. Note that Paul spoke of our "mortal" bodies here. As long as we live in these mortal bodies in this world, the all-too-real potential for us to walk in the flesh and to sin still exists, and we will sin if we do not appropriate God's sufficient grace by faith and walk by His Spirit on a continuous basis. It will be different after we are glorified.
As we have discussed, it is important to see that our physical bodies are not the primary problem. The sin problem centers in the heart of man, not the physical body (see Mark 7:14-23, for example). Having faith in God, loving Him, and obeying Him are matters of the heart (of the inner man), as are unbelief and disobedience.
Now Rom. 6:13, "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." In the ideal case we would present ourselves to God once for all and completely when we become Christians. That is what we are called to do. We are "alive from the dead" through new-covenant salvation; spiritual death and sin have been dethroned; we have been born again through union with the Lord Jesus Christ and by the indwelling Holy Spirit.
Now we come to verse 14, a verse of key importance, "For sin shall not be master over you [or, have dominion over you. The fact that sin has been dethroned through the atoning death of the Lord Jesus Christ and has no more legal authority over us is the dominant theme of these articles. If we walk by faith and by the Holy Spirit on a continuous basis (which we are called to do), sin will not be able to manifest itself in our lives.], for you are not under law, but under grace [the sufficient saving, sanctifying grace of God in Christ]." One very important point that the apostle makes here is that if all we had was the Mosaic Law and the old covenant, sin would still reign over us. The old covenant was from God, and it was good, but it was not given for the purpose of dethroning spiritual death and sin. The new covenant in the blood of the Lamb of God was required to dethrone spiritual death and sin.
I'll read Gal. 3:21, "Is the Law [the Mosaic Law] then contrary to the promises of God? [Paul is speaking of God's promises of new-covenant salvation in Christ Jesus] May it never be! For if a law had been given which was able to impart life, then righteousness would indeed have been based on law." But the Mosaic Law did not have the authority to overthrow spiritual death (or the bondage to sin that came with spiritual death), and the new birth was not available under the old covenant. Spiritual death and sin were overthrown by the atoning death of the Lord Jesus Christ. The new covenant has the authority to overthrow spiritual death and sin and to enable born-again believers to walk in the very righteousness of God, which is imputed and imparted to them.
I'll read what I said in my book under Rom. 6:14, Christians are under grace. In Rom. 5:21 the apostle speaks of grace reigning through righteousness, supplanting the reign of sin. Where the grace of God in Christ is reigning, the righteousness of God is manifested in the hearts of lives of believers. God's grace has dethroned sin, and it makes believers righteous. His sanctifying power comes by grace as much as His forgiveness comes by grace. Everything that we receive is part of God's gift of salvation in Christ Jesus.
If we were under law [the Mosaic Law/the old covenant], we would still be under sin and spiritual death, as shown by Rom. 5:12-21; Romans chapter 7 and Rom. 8:3, for example. Romans chapter 7, which we will discuss verse-by-verse later, expands on the meaning of Rom. 6:14, powerfully demonstrating that the Mosaic Law did not solve the sin problem, but rather intensified the sin problem.
I hope you are hearing this a good news! This is very good news! God is after our transformation to righteousness and holiness; He is not out to condemn us; He is not trying to get rid of us, quite the contrary! He paid an infinite price in the sacrifice of His Son to save us from sin, from spiritual death, and from Satan and his demons. We must never give up and give in to doubt and say I can't do it. (That's what Israel did at Kadesh Barnea, for example; see Numbers chapters 13, 14) By the sufficient grace of God in Christ we can change. We can change the way we think in our hearts and begin to think in line with God's Word, in faith, by His Spirit. Furthermore, God has promised to forgive us when we repent. God knows if we are making Him and His righteousness top priority in our hearts, which we must do.
I'll read Rom. 6:15, "What then? Shall we sin because we are not under law but under grace? May it never be [An emphatic negative]!" This is like the question of verse 1, "What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may increase [or, abound]?" As I pointed out when we discussed verse 1, Paul was accused of teaching "let us do evil that good may come" (see Rom. 3:8). Paul was always saying that it is grace, not Law; faith, not works, and many people misunderstood him. The apostle strongly emphasized that it is only through faith in the new covenant gospel that we can appropriate God's saving, sanctifying grace and live in His righteousness and holiness, keeping His moral law.
Rather than denying or minimizing the need for God's people to live according to His moral law, the apostle Paul was preaching the one message that has the power to dethrone sin, spiritual death, and Satan and to make His people righteous and holy. It is true, however, that the apostle Paul made it clear that Christians are not under the ceremonial laws of the Old Testament. (And it is clear that the old covenant, which was established on the Mosaic Law, has been set aside. But God's moral law has not been set aside, and it could not be set aside. The moral law derives from the very nature of God and gives His definition of what is right and what is wrong.) Things like the need to be circumcised, sacrificial offerings, and dietary laws of the Mosaic Law have been set aside in the new covenant. How could we need sin offerings, for example, after the one Sacrifice of the Lamb of God solved the sin problem forever.
I'm going to read a paragraph from page 101 of my book, The question of verse 15 ("Shall we sin because we are not under law but under grace?") is similar to the question of verse 1. Both questions are answered with an emphatic No! Verses 2-13 went on to show that, by God's definition, Christians are to be dead to sin and cannot continue in sin. In verses 16-23 (and especially in verse 16), the apostle goes on the show that if we present ourselves to sin (to obey sin), we are, by definition, slaves of sin and not slaves of God. In typical Biblical fashion, the apostle doesn't discuss the gray (in between) area of serving God part of the time and serving sin on an occasional basis. Paul consistently taught that we owe everything to God and we owe nothing to our former master of sin. This is good news! What God calls us to do, He enables us to do! No real Christian wants to continue in sin.
We know of course that Christians can sin; the epistles to the Corinthians, for example, demonstrate that point; many of the Corinthian Christians were quite fleshly, and they were born-again Christians, at least many of them were; but Paul made it quite clear that their sin was incompatible with Christianity, and he strongly exhorted them to repent and to submit to the righteousness and holiness of God (by grace through faith).
We will come back to Romans chapter 6 in the next article. Thank you Father for full salvation in the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Holy Spirit. We want to glorify you and be fully ready to stand before you!
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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