Just before He ascended back to His Father, the Lord Jesus commanded His disciples to preach and teach, and then to baptize those who believed. His words were, “Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit: teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world”. Matthew 28:19,20.
That the apostles were obedient to His command is clear from the Book of the Acts, for as soon as people believed, they were baptized.
“Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit”, Acts 2:38.
Note that repentance came first, indicating that those baptized were all of the age of responsibility. Because the ones addressed had been guilty of the rejection of Christ, they were required to be baptized to show the genuineness of their conversion before they received the Holy Spirit. Subsequently, the Holy Spirit is given the moment a person believes, or else the argument of the apostle Paul in Galatians 3:2 is destroyed, for he implies there that the Holy Spirit is received when a person initially believes.
“And the eunuch said, See, here is water; what doth hinder me to be baptized? And Philip said, If thou believest with all thine heart thou mayest. And he answered and said, I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God. And he commanded the chariot to stand still: and they went down both into the water, both Philip and the eunuch; and he baptized him, Acts 8:36-38.
Note he believed first, then was baptized after both he and Philip had gone down into water, showing it was not sprinkling.
“And arose, and was baptized. And when he had received meat, he was strengthened,” Acts 9:18,19.
Note Saul was baptized before he had any food, even though he had not eaten for three days. He felt it to be a matter of urgency.
“Can any man forbid water, that these should not be baptized, which have received the Holy Spirit as well as we? And he commanded them to be baptized in the name of the Lord.” Acts 10:47, 48.
Note that they received the Holy Spirit before they were baptized. Such was the practice followed by the apostles, and since believers are required to continue steadfastly in the apostle’s doctrine, such should be our practice today. But what are the principles behind the practice of baptism? For these we shall have to note the teaching of Romans chapter six, for it is here that the apostle sets out the doctrine which is the basis of the practice of believer’s baptism.
SECTION 9 ROMANS 6:1-23
THE BELIEVER’S PAST AND PRESENT POSITION
SUBJECT OF SECTION 9
Most of the truth found in the epistles is anticipated by the Lord Jesus in His ministry, and this chapter is a case in point. He had said “ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free…whosoever committeth sin is the servant of sin…if the Son therefore shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed”, John 8:32,34,36. Romans chapter 6 explains how we may live free from the service of sin, in the freedom to which the Son of God, by His death, burial and resurrection, introduces us. By being buried in the watery grave of baptism, the believer, who has already died with Christ when he was saved, associates himself with the burial and resurrection of Christ, henceforth to live a new sort of life.
STRUCTURE OF SECTION 9
9 (b) 6:16-23 Application of the doctrine of identification with Christ.
9 (a) 6:1-15 IDENTIFICATION WITH CHRIST
6:1 What shall we say then?- occurs seven times in the epistle. The apostle wants to involve us in his line of reasoning. Shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound?- the suggestion of those who were drawing a false conclusion from 5:20. Cf. 3:8 where a similar argument is used by Paul’s opponents, but there in connection with sins, here in connection with the sinful nature- let us give way to its rule, so that God’s grace may be further enhanced. The whole idea of justification by faith alone could be misunderstood in this way, hence the need for teaching on the matter.
6:2 God forbid– strong expression of opposition to the idea. How shall we– the argument does not begin with an exhortation, but logical reasoning based on what believers know, which should prevent them from making the suggestion of verse 1. The apostle does not speak of inadvisability, but impossibility- how shall we? “We” is a pronoun of quality, “such as we”, united to Christ; how can people in that position act as if they are still united to Adam? That are dead to sin, live any longer therein– for the believer, death to sin is a past event, which is to be worked out in the present. There are two proofs normally that a person is dead, the first being the death certificate, (corresponding to the apostle’s official statement of verse 2), and the burial ceremony, (corresponding in the spiritual realm to the believer’s baptism in verse 4). We died to sin when we believed, not when we were baptized, or else salvation would be by the work of being baptised, and not by faith in a crucified Saviour.
6:3 Know ye not?- are you ignorant? Anyone who is aware of the truth of verses 3 to 5 will not suggest that the believer should continue in sin. “Ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free”, but ignorance tends to bondage. That so many of us– now we have a pronoun of quantity- the number of persons baptised is the number baptised into Jesus Christ; the act has the same significance for all believers. As were baptised into Jesus Christ– baptism signifies publicly that we have moved, (when we believed), into the race of which Jesus Christ is the head, and we wish to work that position out in practice. No longer do we wish to be thought of as those who are in Adam. The apostle has already dealt with the headship of Christ and Adam in chapter 5:12-21. We see from 1 Corinthians 10:2, (“and were all baptised unto Moses”, recognising him as leader), that baptism is also an act of public submission to Christ, in loyalty and commitment. Were baptised into His death– we cannot be subject to Christ without the truth of His death. So we are baptised unto Him by being baptised unto His death. From verse 4 we see that by death is meant Christ’s state of death, not His act of dying, for we are buried into His death. A person is buried because he is dead; he does not die at the burial ceremony.
6:4 Therefore we are buried with Him– the first conclusion which shows we cannot continue in sin, for buried persons are not able to continue as they did before. We are buried in identification with Him in His burial, the former life past and gone. By baptism into death– when Israel passed through the Red Sea with the waters heaped up on either side, it was as if they were in a grave, Exodus 14:22. Christian baptism puts us publicly where we are already ideally, in the sight of God, and prepares us practically to walk in a new way. The word “that” means “in order that”. Our baptism has a purpose, it is not just a negative burial out of sight, but the necessary preparation for re- emergence. That like as– there is direct correspondence between Christ’s emergence from the grave, and ours, but this does not appear to be the case in verse 4, but becomes evident in verse 5. Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father– the Father’s glory demanded that such a person as Christ should be raised, He having satisfied the Father in life and death. We also should walk in newness of life– note the lack of a parallel expression regarding us, for the glory of the Father demanded that we remain in the grave if our life as sinners was in view. For us there needs to be a new sort of life, a life which has the newness of the New Man, (who is Christ) about it, see Ephesians 4:20-24; Colossians 3:9-11. The “also” must link our burial with our being raised, not our being raised with Christ being raised, for He did not need a new sort of life, discarding the old. Should walk- not in sense of “ought to”, but raised in order that it may happen.
6:5 For- now comes the explanation of the correspondence between Christ and us mentioned in verse 4. If we have been planted together in the likeness of His death- we are publicly joined together with with Christ in His state of death in the grave. At the moment we are immersed in the water of baptism, we are literally like He was when in the sepulchre. But the likeness has a spiritual side, for His life on earth was over, and our old life on earth is over, too. We shall be also in the likeness of His resurrection- some would limit this to the future resurrection, but this robs the passage of much of its present force. The apostle is not dealing with physical resurrection in this passage. Just as the physical position of being in water had the spiritual counterpart of being buried with Christ, so physically coming out of the water has its counterpart of being raised with Christ. The apostle views us as newly emerged from the water, with a new life before us, hence the “shall be”
6:6 Knowing this– we have got to know. We are baptised in the knowledge that our old man is crucified with Christ. According to this, persons should be instructed in the principles given in these verses before they are baptised. That our old man is crucified with Him- our old man is our pre-conversion self considered as to our link with Adam. Our new man is our present self considered as to our link with Christ. When the Romans wished to publicly demonstrate that a criminal was not acceptable in their society, they crucified him. So God has declared publicly that our sinful self is not fit for the society of heaven, by associating it with Christ when He was crucified. Crucified with means co-crucified, crucified in company with. That– in order that. The body of sin might be destroyed– that is, made of no effect. The body of sin is our body considered as the headquarters of the sinful nature. As far as God is concerned, just as a criminal’s body was rendered powerless by the process of crucifixion, so that he was no longer able to engage in a life of crime, so our body as the base of operations for the sinful nature, has been put out of action. This is the ideal situation from God’s side, whereas in practice we are not to let sin reign in our mortal body, verse 12, so we are not yet delivered finally from sin. It is not the body itself that is made of no effect, but the body as the instrument that a sinful nature uses; the Christian’s body should be presented to God as a living sacrifice, 12:1, so it is not in itself evil. That henceforth– no longer; we should resolve that the principles at work in our baptism, should constantly be at work in our lives. We should not serve sin– the mastery of sin has been broken at the cross, for sin can only dominate living people and we have been crucified. By this means the Son makes free indeed, (i.e. free to the very core of our being), John 8:36.
6:7 For– the reason for freedom from sin, as verse 6 had been the foundation of freedom. He that is dead is freed from sin– whilst it is true that dead persons are free from the tendency to sin, this is not the point here. The word for freed used here means justified; freed from obligation. The idea is that those who are dead because they have been crucified with Christ, have been justly freed from obligation to obey the dictates of sin within. Christ has borne the liability which our sin placed upon us. The expression does not mean that we are freed from sin by the removal of that sinful nature. “If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us”, 1 John 1:8.
6:8 Now if we be dead with Christ– this translation leads us to think of a state, that of being dead, which is not the case. The point is we died with Christ, as a once-for-all event at Calvary, when God associated us with the death of His Son, so that we were crucified with Him then. We believe we shall also live with Him– the apostle might very well have simply made an exact parallel; if we be dead with Christ, we shall live with Him. However, he inserts “we believe.” If we died with Christ, then we are believers, resting in what His crucifixion achieved, for only such are crucified with Christ. But this faith, by definition, is not limited to things that are past, but lays hold of that which is present and future, which in this case, is life in association with a risen Christ. Again, the apostle is looking at the believer newly emerged from the baptismal waters- we shall live from that point on.
6:9 Knowing that– here a third word for knowledge, meaning perception. The believer’s faith is based on the perception of the truth that Christ is risen. Christ being raised from the dead dieth no more– unlike Lazarus and the others raised from the dead, Christ shall return to the grave no more, for the reason the apostle now states. Death hath no more dominion over Him– it is indeed true that Christ laid down His life of Himself, but it is also true that, because He undertook to be made sin, He accepted that this involved death having Him in its power for a short time. His resurrection is proof, however, that death’s power is broken, for Him and His people.
6:10 For in that He died, He died unto sin once– the first reason the apostle cites to establish that death no longer dominates Him is that His death unto (in relation to) sin was once for all in character. What He did by going into death was fully effective, and needs no repetition. But in that He liveth, He liveth unto God– the second reason is that He now lives only in relation to God, having nothing to do with the sin-question any more. Death can only dominate in connection with sin.
6:11 Likewise reckon ye also yourselves– there is perhaps the implication in the word “reckon” that Christ’s death in relation to sin was the result, on His part, of careful reckoning of the consequences. So likewise, the believer is to seriously reckon with the consequences. Reckon means to make a logical and reasoned calculation. To be dead indeed unto sin– dead in reality, (indeed), not simply in theory. But we must make the practical application to ourselves of the death of Christ to sin. But alive unto God– as Christ is alive unto God, the matter of sin forever settled, so we should act on that fact, for we are identified with Him. Through Jesus Christ our Lord– only because of Christ’s work can we be dead to sin, and only because of His resurrection can we be alive to God, so all depends on Him. Our Lord- we have exchanged the domination of sin for His lordship.
6:12 Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body– because the dominion of sin has been broken by the death and resurrection of Christ, there is no reason why we should submit to its dictatorship. We are dead to sin as far as God is concerned, verse 2; the body of sin has been destroyed, verse 6; we are legally free from obligation to sin, verse 7, and Christ has once-for-all died in relation to sin, verse 10. These are the reasons why sin need no longer be on the throne of the believer’s heart, as before it was, 5:21. Mortal body- a body still liable to death; a reminder from the apostle that we are not yet delivered from indwelling sin, for that awaits our bodily resurrection, 1 Corinthians 15:56. A warning, too, to be on our guard. That ye should obey it in the lusts thereof– the reign of sin is expressed by the lusts which it enables men to gratify.
6:13 Neither yield ye your members– the apostle now concentrates on the varied members of the body which can assist sin in its attempts at domination; we are not to yield to its pressure. As instruments of unrighteousness unto sin– connect “unto sin” with “yield”; we are not to present our members to be used in relation to sin, for that would be to use them for unrighteous ends. But yield yourselves unto God– not now the individual members of the body, but the whole person, spirit, soul and body, is to be yielded to God as Christ is, verse 10. As those that are alive from the dead– in line with the truth that we are risen with Christ. This is the practical outworking of the reckoning of verse 11, translating theory into practice. And your members as instruments of righteousness unto God– having dealt with the person as a whole, he now gives the parallel to the yielding of individual members unto sin, which results in unrighteousness.
6:14 For sin shall not have dominion over you– The word “shall” means, “from this point onwards”, if the truths of previous verses are heeded and practiced. For ye are not under the law, but under grace– this is the reason why sin will not dominate, for grace brings the death, burial and resurrection of Christ to bear upon our lives, and gives us the resources to live victoriously for God. Law on the other hand, only gives sin an opportunity to assert itself, as chapter 7 will show. Compare also 5:20. This verse forms a bridge between the two halves of the chapter. From 6:15 to the end of chapter 7, the apostle deals with the false idea of some that the Christian life should be governed by the law of Moses. There were, and are, those who feel that unless the believer is subject to rules and regulations of a legal nature, he will give way to licentiousness, which is the opposite of legality. But the Christian life is marked by liberty, and that liberty is expressed by subjection to the will of God. The parable of the prodigal son illustrates three possible states:- licence, (prodigal in far country), legality, (elder son working in the field), and liberty, (restored prodigal in the father’s house). The power to live a life of liberty is the Spirit of God, but before he can enlarge in chapter 8 on the important theme of the indwelling Spirit, the apostle deals with the believer’s relationship to the law of Moses in chapter 7. In verses 15 to 23 of chapter 6 however, he shows that a life lived in the good of all that grace has brought us into, will not lapse into sinfulness because there are strong incentives to do otherwise.
Note the way the passage builds up to a climax: Obey…Obedience unto righteousness…Servants to righteousness…Servants to righteousness unto holiness…Servants to God, fruit unto holiness, and the end everlasting life.
6:15 What then? Shall we sin– in verse 1 the suggestion was to continue in a manner of life which obeyed the dictates of the sinful nature within. Here the suggestion is to continue committing sins because we think grace delivers from the consequences. Both ideas are met with “God forbid”, but whereas the first is answered by the doctrine of the crucifixion, burial and resurrection of Christ, the second is met by an appeal to our Christian knowledge as to what is becoming conduct for a servant of God. Because we are not under the law, but under grace. God forbid– does freedom from the law mean freedom to sin? The apostle has already hinted in verse 14 that grace is a superior force than law, for it unlocks the power available in the resurrection of Christ.
9 (b) APPLICATION OF THE DOCTRINE OF IDENTIFICATION WITH CHRIST
6:16 Know ye not– the same word as verse 9, perception, insight. He expresses surprise that as believers they did not know. To whom ye yield yourselves servants to obey, his servants ye are to whom ye obey– being a servant and obeying are not separable. Whether of sin unto death– the pre-conversion condition was one of slavery to sin, expressed in obedience to its commands. Or of obedience unto righteousness– the apostle combines the two things that were true of our Head in 5:18,19, the one act of righteousness, and the obedience of the One. The believer is to display the same characteristics as his Head.
6:17 But God be thanked, that ye were the servants of sin– the thankfulness of the apostle is most easily connected with what follows, he is thankful they have obeyed from the heart, not that they were slaves. But ye have obeyed from the heart– this is the secret of a life of service to God, to obey His truth from the heart, i.e. willingly and fervently. “Keep thy heart with all diligence; for out of it are the issues of life”, Proverbs 4:23. That form of doctrine which was delivered you- the truths expressed in the gospel are not just for initial salvation, but ongoing, being the terms on which we are to serve God. As the Lord Jesus said, “ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free”, John 8:32. The English translation of the Greek test known as Stephens 1550 reads, “a form of teaching to which ye were delivered”. The brass for Solomon’s pillars took the shape of the mould into which it was poured, 1 Kings 7:41-46, so we should be moulded by the truth.
6:18 Being then made free from sin- by means of obedience to the truth of the gospel, the obedience of faith, 1:5, 16:26. When we believe, the truth as to Christ, His person and work, is applied savingly to our hearts by God. In this way the Son makes us free, John 8:36. Ye became the servants of righteousness- the same act that freed from sin, made us servants committed to righteousness. There is no middle ground, such as being delivered from sin, but made servants to the law.
6:19 I speak after the manner of men because of the infirmity of your flesh- changing from general principles to more detailed illustration. He is being more specific because he knows that the sinful infirmities of the flesh are ready to defeat us. For as ye have yielded your members servants to uncleanness– each part of our person, before conversion, was surrendered to sin, resulting in uncleanness. And to iniquity unto iniquity- you were committed to the principle of lawlessness, (for the carnal mind is not subject to the law of God, 8:7), and that commitment resulted in lawless deeds. Even so now- let there be a corresponding total surrender now that you are a believer. Yield your members servants to righteousness unto holiness- The outworking of righteous principles will result in holy practice, because righteousness, being conformity to the nature of God, teaches us what to avoid and what to engage in. Holiness is separation to what is sacred. Commitment to righteousness and holiness will mean lawlessness is renounced. See Mark 9:43-50 for truth spoken by the Lord Jesus concerning particular members of the body, and the way in which we may misuse them.
6:20 For when ye were the servants of sin, ye were free from righteousness- before conversion, there is no relationship with righteousness at all, for “there is none righteous, no, not one”. Again he emphasises that a life of sin, and a life of righteousness, are totally distinct in principle; so we should not be tempted to mix them in practice. The phrase “free from (as to) righteousness” also has the idea of being glad to be clear of the demands of righteousness, an attitude which should be foreign to the believer.
6:21 What fruit had ye then in those things whereof ye are now ashamed- fruit means “worthwhile result”. There is no potential for God in a life of sin. The believer shows his change of outlook by being disgusted at what he did before. For the end of those things is death- the prospect before one who lives in sin is one of death, not life. But the believer has life in view.
6:22 But now being made free from sin, and become servants to God- the apostle now returns to the basic alternatives, having enlarged on their outworking in verses 17-21. Ye have your fruit unto holiness- in contrast to a Christless life which is lived in shameful unholiness. The apostle writes, “ye have”, so a life lived apart from the law of Moses does produce results in holiness. The apostle says “your fruit”, as if he expects us to value it. And the end everlasting life- the result of actively being servants to God is that we gain increasing insights into who our God is, for everlasting life enables us to (get to) know the only true God, John 17:3.
6:23 For the wages of sin is death- the word used for wages originally meant “money paid to soldiers”. Sinners are at war with God, 8:7, and they are paid wages that reflect that, and which represent their just deserts, for death is the result of having a sinful nature, 5:12, “death by sin”. But the gift of God is eternal life- whilst this may be connected with the initial gift of eternal life, in context it relates to the gracious way in which God repays service to Him by granting fresh appreciation of Himself. Note that this is not called wages, for all that God gives is out of His gracious heart towards us; even service rendered to Him does not put Him under obligation to us. The Lord said that when we have done all those things which are commanded us, we should say, “We are unprofitable servants: we have done that which was our duty to do”, Luke 17:10. Through Jesus Christ our Lord- all the enabling to serve God comes through Him, whether by His death and resurrection, His example of obedient service, or His present ministry of applying the truth to our souls. Grace and truth came, (and are maintained still), by Jesus Christ, so we do not need the law to enable us to please God, John 1:17.