Identification with Christ Frees us from Sin’s Dominion
Romans 6. Paul personifies sin and views it as an evil master (“reigning” Rom. 5:21) dominating and controlling men as a master controls his slaves. A master has claims over his slave, but only as long as the slave lives. Once the slave dies, his master has no more power over him. So it is with us; we have died with Christ, and now sin has no claim over us. Instead we have a new master, righteousness.
Three things the believer needs to “know” (vv.1-10) in order to “reckon” and “yield” (vv.11-23):
|What we are to know
|The result of that fact
|The meaning of our baptism
|The link with our old head Adam is broken
|The meaning of the cross of Christ
|The power of sin has been annulled
|the meaning of the resurrection of Christ
|We now have a new focus for life
The Christian’s Identification with Christ in His Death (6:1-10)
¶ What then shall we say? Should we continue in sin that grace may abound? v.1 Following Rom. 5:21, the rhetorical question is, should we continue in that sphere where sin’s dominion is practically felt since God’s grace is magnified by delivering us again? It does not mean “shall we continue to do the act of sin?” but “shall we continue under sin’s dominion?” The other thought is in v.15.
2 Far be the thought. We who have died to sin, how shall we still live in it? v.2 The answer is “don’t even think such a thing.” The link with our old federal head has been broken, and we are under a new dominion (grace). To continue as if we were still under sin’s dominion is to despise the gift of God. We are dead to sin in that we are under no obligation to obey sin’s demands. A good example is that of a mean boss. When working for a mean boss, you live in the sphere of his dominion, and you obey his commands. But after death has come in, we cease to be employed by that old boss; therefore, why should we work for him any longer? Paul proceeds to explain how death changes our sphere of life.
3 Are you ignorant [ginosko, objectively] that we, as many as have been baptised unto Christ Jesus, have been baptised unto his death? vv.3-5 Fact #1: Know (ginosko, objectively) the meaning of our baptism. The Romans had professed by their baptism that they were identified with Christ in His death. Since Christ’s death separated Him from sin (v.10), we are separated too by identification. To continue living as if sin is still our master is to deny the truth of our baptism! Note that the word “into” is used for a positional change, and “unto” is used for identification.
4 We have been buried therefore with him by baptism unto death, in order that, even as Christ has been raised up from among the dead by the glory of the Father, so *we* also should walk in newness of life. v.4 We have been “buried with Him” which is one step further than death. Burial puts you out of sight from an old condition. Death and burial signal different changes:
- Death with Christ separates me from the Adam standing.
- Burial with Christ separates me from the Adam state.
Baptism represents both death and burial in a symbolic way. Notice that it doesn’t say “raised with Christ”. We don’t get that until Colossians (see Col. 2:12-13; Eph. 2:5-6) because that involves union with Christ. Christ was raised in a new condition, with a glorified body. We don’t have our glorified bodies yet (v.5) but we walk in newness of life. God has opened up a new sphere of life in the resurrection of Christ where He and the members of His race are to “walk”. The expression “by the glory of the Father” means the glory of the Father demanded it!
5 For if we are become identified with him in the likeness of his death, so also we shall be of his resurrection; v.5 We are identified with Christ in his death, and one day “shall be” identified with Him in glorious resurrection; i.e. we shall have bodies of glory like His (Phil. 3:21). This is a future thing that will take place at the Rapture. By contrast, in Ephesians and Colossians resurrection is in the present tense, “ye are risen… etc.” In Romans we are not seen as “risen with Christ” in a positional sense.
6 knowing [ginosko, objectively] this, that our old man has been crucified with him, that the body of sin might be annulled, that we should no longer serve sin. vv.6-7 Fact #2: Know (ginosko, objectively) the meaning of the cross in relation to the “old man.” It is not something we have to do. It is an established fact; the old man “has been” crucified with Christ. Three points in this verse:
- The old man is crucified. God has passed judgment on the old Adam state.
- The body of sin is annulled. The whole system of sin has been rendered powerless.
- We no longer serve sin. The believer is free from the dominion of sin.
The Old Man. The old man is an abstract term that describes the characteristic features of the fallen race of Adam in its depraved moral character. The new man (not mentioned in Romans) is an abstract term that describes the characteristic features of those in the new creation “in Christ”. These terms are not well understood, therefore often confused with the old and new natures. I highly recommend reading the encyclopedia entry for the old man and the new man.
The Body of Sin. The word “body” is here used to express the totality of a certain thing. For instance, we might say, “The body of medical knowledge,” etc. The body of sin includes the source (old nature) the means (flesh) and the results (sins)… like the entire electric grid. It is not talking about the human body, which is a mistake that leads to religious self-mutilation.
7 For he that has died is justified from sin. v.7 The believer is not seen as one who sneaks away from his old master. We have died and so have received an honorable discharge. We are “justified from sin” in the sense of being clear from it. Not justified from sins (plural), but from sin (the principle). Based on this fact there are no grounds to tell a Christian he must obey the old master.
8 Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with him, vv.8-10 Fact #3: Know the meaning of Christ’s resurrection. If you accept that by identification with Christ we have died with Him, then we also have title to the sphere where He is now, which is life out of the reach of death. The expression “we shall” may look forward to the Rapture. Romans views the believer on earth, and so being “with Him” is looked at as a future thing, not like Colossians and Ephesians.
9 knowing [ido, subjectively] that Christ having been raised up from among the dead dies no more: death has dominion over him no more. v.9 When the Lord laid down His life in obedience to His Father (Phil. 2:8; John 10:17-18), death had dominion over Him, but not for the same reason as us (Rom. 6:23). When He rose from the dead it was in a new manner, in resurrection life, which is a character of life that cannot be touched by death. He can never die again, and therefore His new condition is free from sin’s dominion. By identification with Him, we too are free from sin’s dominion.
10 For in that he has died, he has died to sin once for all; but in that he lives, he lives to God. v.10 Christ “died unto sin once” in that the power of sin and the principle of separation from God was met by the cross and done away with once and for all. He “lives unto God” in that the question of sin and separation from God will never come up again. Christ’s one absorbing object now is God.
Dead to sin. The Apostle doesn’t say that sin is dead in us; but that we are dead to sin. The sin-nature is still in us, but we are to reckon ourselves to be dead to sin. Death in Romans is in the aspect of separation from a sphere, not the aspect of ceasing to exist (like in Ephesians and Colossians). Similar to when two people have a falling out, and one says to the other, “you are dead to me”. That person is saying that they have nothing to say to that person, and don’t want them in their life. They will act like the other person does not exist. The same is true of the Christian; he is unresponsive to sin.
Reckon. What does it mean to “reckon ye also yourselves to be dead indeed unto sin?” It is NOT to “sense it”, because everything I experience tells me I’m not dead to sin. It is NOT to “imagine it” to be true, because imagination isn’t faith, and it will be disappointed. We need to “reckon” or “count” it to be true. It requires the same simple faith by which we appropriated the blood of Christ. Recall; it wasn’t the fact that we valued the blood, or that we “felt” sheltered, but rather that God saw the blood, and He told us we were sheltered. The same follows with deliverance. I don’t “feel” anything; I just believe what God has said, and I have deliverance.
Legal approaches to deliverance. Many Christians today are trying legal approaches to find deliverance from sin. They have buddy systems, accountability circles, internet filters, etc. They have guilt-tripping sermons directed to the flesh, and a thousand other attempted remedies. But are these the only resources for the believer? No! Why are we trifling with legality and the world’s system of self-improvement in order to find deliverance? We already have it, if we would just lay hold of it by faith. Note: deliverance has two aspects: (1) the negative side is to reckon yourself dead unto sin, and (2) the positive side is to walk in the Spirit (Gal. 5; Rom. 8).
Applying this Truth Results in Practical Deliverance (6:11-14)
11 So also *ye*, reckon yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus. v.11 As we have already said, to “reckon” means to “think it to be so.” We must apply the previous truth to ourselves: what is true of Christ is true of us also. What are we to believe? That we are free from sin’s dominion, we no longer need to respond to sin (dead to sin), and have a new focus for our life where God’s interests are everything. If we live in that sphere there will be the practical power to resist the flesh. In Rom. 8 Paul shows us that this power is the Holy Spirit.
|“in sin” v.1
|“in Christ” v.11
|“in the flesh” v.8
|“in the Spirit” v.9
12 Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body to obey its lusts. v.12 We can’t keep sin from “dwelling” in our mortal body, but we can keep it from “reigning” by disobeying its orders. Illustration: a ship captain goes mad out at sea. They appoint a new captain and tie up the old one. The old captain continues to shout orders, but the sailors have every right to disregard the commands of the old captain, who is lashed to the mast.
13 Neither yield your members instruments of unrighteousness to sin, but yield yourselves to God as alive from among the dead, and your members instruments of righteousness to God. v.13 There are two “yields” in this verse. The first “yield” is in the ongoing tense, showing that we will always be challenged to say “no” to sin’s demands. The second “yield” is in the aorist tense “once-for-all”, showing that we are to dedicate our “all” to God; similar to consecration, you do it only once, even though there may be moments of failure later on. We are told “yield yourselves”, which includes our spirits, souls, & bodies.
14 For sin shall not have dominion over *you*, for ye are not under law but under grace. v.14 This is a promise. We will always have deliverance in our lives if we apply these principles. The Law is a system of demand, but grace is a system of supply. We are not under law, and so God is not demanding power from believers to walk rightly because we don’t have it (the lesson of Romans 7). His grace supplies the needed power; more specifically, the Spirit of God (the lesson of Romans 8).
Important Principles Relative to Deliverance (6:15-23)
¶ 15 What then? should we sin because we are not under law but under grace? Far be the thought. v.15 Should we continue to commit acts of sin because we are under grace and there is no law commanding us not to? “Far be the thought” that the grace of God is designed to encourage Christians to sin. The very idea is illogical. We can’t enjoy the grace of God when we are sinning against that grace. But if the proposition to sin in the face of grace is so illogical, why does Paul bring it up? The Jewish mind would accuse Paul’s gospel of encouraging laxity and sin among Christians. They felt the Law did a better job at producing holiness, and that the fear of losing salvation could keep souls on the straight and narrow way. However, while the Law can demand holy living, it cannot produce it. It was not given for that purpose. Grace is the only thing that can produce holiness, because it motivates us by love (Gal. 5:6; John 14:15; 15:9; 2 Cor. 5:14). This is one of the great subject of Galatians: legalism cannot produce holiness, but occupation with Christ and His love will.
16a Know [ido, subjectively] ye not that to whom ye yield yourselves bondmen for obedience, ye are bondmen to him whom ye obey, v.16a There is a captivating power both in practicing sin and in practicing righteousness. In yielding to either one (“to whom”), we come under its power. Sin is not our master any more (v.17) because we have been set free. But sin will become our master again effectively if we obey its commands (John 8:34). The same principle works the other direction too (v.18). Positionally, we have been set free. Practically, sin can still be our master. This is very solemn. A new sphere of life has been opened for me to live in through Christ’s death and resurrection (v.11), and we need to walk in that sphere. If we walk in the old sphere (things that please the flesh) because we haven’t accepted that “the flesh profiteth nothing” (John 6:63), then the flesh will act up again.
16b whether of sin unto death, or of obedience unto righteousness? v.16b Yielding to each master will have practical results: sinning leads to practical death (shipwreck), and obedience to God’s will leads to practical sanctification. Note that “righteousness” here is the character, a practical condition.
17 But thanks be to God, that (1) ye were bondmen of sin, but (2) have obeyed from the heart the form of teaching into which ye were instructed. v.17 This shows that the moment of our freedom from the old master (v.18) is the very moment we believed the gospel (Rom. 1-5). It corresponds with the sealing of the Spirit (Eph. 1:13). It is interesting that the Spirit isn’t mentioned here. Perhaps he is waiting until after Rom. 7, when the experience of one seeking deliverance under law is given, to show that the secret power for deliverance is the Spirit of God (Rom. 8:2).
vv.17-18 Now Paul presents the normal Christian experience:
- When unconverted we were helpless servants to the old master, sin.
- Then we believed the Christian Gospel when it was preached unto us.
- By identification with Christ we were positionally freed from the old master (sin), and given a new master (righteousness).
- We yielded to the new master and he became our master practically.
18 Now, (3) having got your freedom from sin, (4) ye have become bondmen to righteousness. 19 I speak humanly on account of the weakness of your flesh. v.18-19a It seems that the “having got freedom” is a positional thing, but the “have become servants” is a practical thing. We are free, but at the same time servants (expanded in v.19). But our servitude is a willing servitude. As we appreciate His grace more and more, our devotion grows proportionately. The “weakness of your flesh” is a weakness in understanding. He is apologizing for using the term “bondage” in connection with serving the Lord; it is a happy thing, not a drudgery.
19b For even as ye have yielded your members in bondage to uncleanness and to lawlessness unto lawlessness, so now yield your members in bondage to righteousness unto holiness. v.19b The way bondage works is progressively. On the negative side, one sin leads to another, habits grow (addictions, etc.). One sin, when committed, morally changes us to make a darker sin easier to commit. For example: a bank robber begins by stealing a cookie. On the positive side, when we obey righteousness we grow in holiness (hatred for evil, love for what is good). This is a process called practical sanctification. “Each victory will help you, some other to win” (see 1 Peter 2:2). “Righteousness” here is the practical maintenance of our responsibility according to the relation in which we now stand to God. This verse tells us to starve the old nature, and feed the new nature.
20 For when ye were bondmen of sin ye were free from righteousness. v.20 Paul is now going back to comment on the unsaved condition. The only liberty that slaves to sin have is freedom from righteousness; how ironic, how sad. The one thing we had no consideration for was living consistent with God’s claims upon us.
|Before we believed
– bondmen of sin (not by choice)
– free from righteousness
|The progressive nature of serving sin and of serving righteousness.
|After we believed
– free from sin
– bondmen of righteousness (by choice)
21 What fruit therefore had ye *then* in the things of which ye are *now* ashamed? for the end of *them* is death. vv.21-23 The results of serving both masters compared. This is more an appeal to the heart than to the mind. Earlier (vv.1-11) Paul was explaining the truth of our identification with Christ. In these verses he appeals to the new nature, to the Christian’s heart.
22 But *now*, having got your freedom from sin, and having become bondmen to God, ye have your fruit unto holiness, and the end eternal life. v.22 Look at the fruits of our old servitude (v.21); nothing but death (moral & physical). On the other hand, look at the fruits of serving our new master; present holiness and with the certain prospect of eternal life (future enjoyment)! This verse is a summary of the truth presented in ch.6 (four things).
|Sin (not by choice)
|Righteousness (by choice)
23 For the wages of sin is death; but the act of favour of God, eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. v.23 The wages of sin (not sins) is death; e.g. a young baby dies, not because it has sinned, but because it has a sin-nature, and the effects of its working in his body. This verse is not an appeal to sinners, but to those who have been set free. When we think of the glorious results of the gift of God, it produces thanksgiving. Rom. 4, 5, 6, 7, and 8 all end with the same four words. “Eternal life in Christ Jesus” is the present enjoyment of eternal life, similar to how John presents it.