Romans 6:1-11


After the doctrinal section in Galatians (chapters 3-4) Paul, in chapter 5, deals with two sins which are the constant danger of every Christian. The first is the temptation to return to the Law as a means of justification before God. The second (verse 13) is the danger of using Christian freedom as license to sin. Jesus warns about this sin in John 5:14 and 8:11. Hebrews 10:26 is also applicable here. Once a person has become a Christian he must ever be on his guard against slipping back into that from which Christ redeemed him.

Romans 6:1 What shall we say, then? Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase?

Arndt: What conclusion are we to draw from the preceding discussion?
Franzmann: There is a certain logic in the opening question: 'Since the increase of sin leads to the abounding of grace (5:20), shall we persist in sin in order that grace may abound?' But it is cool, Satanic logic; there is in it the Satanic suggestion that we should exploit God, make His grace serve our selfish will, use His gifts to support us in our rebellion against God. It is the logic which the Tempter used on Jesus (Matthew 4).

The second question in verse 1 is a question which is asked by our sinful flesh: "Shall we continue in sin in order that grace may increase?"  Our sinful flesh, our old Adam, is thoroughly wicked and evil. It is our greatest cross. We shall carry it about with us until we die. Christians are constantly being tempted by Satan's logic:  "Won't a little sinning make God more gracious to you since grace is greater than sin?" 

Romans 6:2 By no means! We died to sin; how can we live in it any longer?

Paul's answer to which all true believers must agree. It is variously translated:  "Perish the thought! Certainly not! By no means! No, no!"  Koine Greek did not use exclamation points. In English, one should be placed here.

And now Paul answers the two questions of verse 1 with another question in verse 2. There is a sense in which all true Christians, like their Lord, are dead, dead with respect to sin. One cannot become a Christian until he dies, dies to sin. How does that happen? Christ frees from sin. Christian life is a state of freedom from sin, its guilt and its power.

Arndt: Just as a person who dies is separated from his friends and relatives, so the Christian is separated from sin.

Even marriage comes to an end when death takes place.

Lenski: The moment a man is dead he ceases to respond to stimuli.

Pinch a corpse as hard as you can. It will not respond. Paul is assuming, of course, that his reader believes what he had said in Romans 5:12-21. Bengel reminds us of that when he comments (concerning  "we have died to sin")  "In baptism and justification."  The answer, of course, to the question:  "How can we live any longer in it (sin)?" is  "We simply cannot."  But let's be honest about ourselves. Our flesh is constantly tempting us to change liberty into license. That happens in thousands of ways. The reader of these notes needs no examples of this because he finds so many in his life. But Christian faith fights these temptations.

It should be obvious that the verb in this verse is not eschatological but refers now to everyday living. We mention this because in verse 8 a future indicative is also used of everyday living now, not in heaven.

Romans 6:3 Or don't you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death?

Kretzmann: They should remember what they knew with regard to their Baptism, whose meaning had been explained to them.

In keeping with this idea Lenski calls this question a  litotes  for:  "But I am sure that you know the fact etc."  Paul is simply reminding the Romans of something which they had learned before they were baptized. Paul had a very diplomatic but firm way of dealing with his hearers.

Baptism into Christ Jesus equals baptism into Christ's death. That is a tremendous thought. How can anyone call baptism a mere symbol?

Stoeckhardt: Through baptism we partake of Christ and the fruit of His death. The one does not exclude the other. . . . Faith is nothing else than personal contact with Christ.
Arndt: When we were baptized we became partakers of the death of Christ. It was just as though we had died ourselves. The apostle here appeals to baptism, because it is the beginning of our Christianity. . . . Christ died to the sin of others which he bore; we die to sin that we have in ourselves and whose yoke we cast off.
Bengel: He who is baptized puts on Christ, the second Adam; he is baptized, I say, into the whole Christ, and so also into his death, and it is just as if, at that moment, Christ suffered, died, and were buried for such a man, and as if such a man suffered, died, and was buried with Christ.

Romans 6:4 We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life.

In all three Synoptists, whenever Christ predicted His death, He also predicted His resurrection. For example, Matthew 16:21; 17:22-23; 20:18-19. Note how closely death and resurrection are bound to each other in Romans 4:25. And here, in Romans 6:4, Paul draws a conclusion about what happens to the Christian in baptism. Through baptism he is buried with Christ (Christ literally, the Christian spiritually). Burial proves that death has taken place. Why? Note the correlative. Just as Christ was raised (by the Father) from the dead (literally) through the glory (glorious power) of the Father, likewise also we (who have been baptized) walk in newness of life.

Rienecker: In a new state, which is life.
Bengel: This newness consists in life.

That comes close to genitive of content. This newness of life takes place now, immediately after the person comes to faith or is baptized, whichever comes first. Furthermore, if baptism gives us newness of life, prior to that we had oldness of death.

Franzmann: Paul's first concern here, however, is not our future resurrection; he is intent on bringing home to us that fact that through our baptism we share in Christ's resurrection now. . . . The new life, the life of the world to come is a present reality, present and at work in the Word and sacrament of the Gospel.
Kretzmann: In Baptism the believer dies with Christ, in a spiritual sense. He passes through a death, dies unto sin, is really, totally, dead unto sin.
Lenski: Life itself, both physical and spiritual, is invisible, intangible, but it shows its presence by a thousand activities, all of which are absent in death.

"To walk" is a Scriptural metaphor for living.

Romans 6:5 If we have been united with him like this in his death, we will certainly also be united with him in his resurrection.

The commentators point out that verses 3-5 have a theme in common: buried with Christ through baptism. But the thought grows from verse to verse 3 is limited to baptism into death. Verse 4 adds the promise that we shall walk in newness of life. And verse 5 states that those who have experienced a death like that of Christ will experience a resurrection like that of Christ. Therefore, from verse 3 to verse 5 we traverse the whole territory from conversion to everlasting life.

"Planted together" here denotes very close association. The RSV translates the whole verse thus:  "For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his."  That says it very well. My death and resurrection are not the same as Christ's. God made Him to be sin in my stead. He bore my sin and all others. He is the Savior. But, His death cut me off from the guilt and power of sin. He was the first to rise from the dead. Because of His resurrection I will rise. The point is that in all respects He is my benefactor. He cut me off from sin, He gives me newness of life, He will raise my body on the last day.

Bengel: All spiritual quickening power is in Christ, and that power centers in baptism.

Romans 6:6 For we know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin--

Note that a new sentence began at verse 5. The punctuation at the end of verse 5 is a semicolon. Verse 6, which cannot stand alone, is subordinate to verse 5. Lenski thinks that  "for we know" denotes cause: "since we realize that etc." Arndt rightly remarks:  "Christians are aware of it." 

What is our "old man?" It is the same as the flesh. It is not an essential part of human nature for, if that were so, Christ would have been born a sinner. But since the fall of man, all who are born in the ordinary manner are spiritually blind, dead and enemies of God. It speaks of women as well as of men. What has happened to it? It has been crucified with Christ. What has been crucified has died. My old sinful nature has been killed.

Lenski: Our old man was literally murdered in our Baptism, he did not die willingly, but was slain as one cursed of God. . . . 'old man' denotes our entire being as it existed before regeneration, 'old' pointing back to that former existence.

Why was our old man slain? In order that our sinful body might be made inactive, so that we would no longer be slaves to sin.

Stoeckhardt: It is called the body of sin, the sinful body, not as though the body were the essential seat or source of sin but its organ and tool. Sin or the old Adam endeavors to perform the evil lusts through the medium of the body and its members and does perform them in natural man. In baptized Christians, on the other hand, the body of sin is put out of commission. . . . It is God's will that we no longer serve sin.

The body is not sinful of itself but sin constantly wants to use it for sinful purposes.

Franzmann: This manner of speaking about the body is strange to us. . . . The 'sinful body' is, then, the body as expressive of our old self and its will. . . . This body has been put out of action.

Romans 6:7 because anyone who has died has been freed from sin.

At the end of verse 6 we have another semicolon but only to introduce an independent clause, it is again explanatory.  "You see, the one who has died and has been freed from sin."  This verse refers both to Christ and to us, but in different ways. Christ bore the sins of the world. God made Him to be sin in our stead. He took the curse of the Law upon Himself. The Lord laid upon Him the iniquity of us all. But when He said "It is finished"  and died, Christ had no more to do with sin. Ever since He was revivified He had nothing to do with bearing sin or atoning for it. We, through baptism, have died to sin. We receive the fruits of Christ's death. But it can be said of both Christ and us:  "The one who died has been freed from sin." 

Rienecker: 'To be declared to be free from sin' or 'to be acquitted from sin.'
Arndt: 'Justified,' that is, released from sin. . . If we died with respect to it then it has no authority over us any longer .
Bengel: As respects the past, he is justified from guilt; as respects the future, from its dominion, verse 14:1.
Kretzmann: As Paul declares in the next sentence (verse 7), in the form of a general axiom, he that is dead is free from sin, is pronounced just and free from sin in every respect, from its dominion as well as its curse, with the emphasis upon the deliverance from its jurisdiction.

Note carefully that verse 7 is still speaking about our status in this life.

Romans 6:8 Now if we died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him.

Here's another one of those fact conditions. It does not generate doubt but conviction for the believer. Jesus died literally. I die to sin because of Jesus, in baptism. All the benefits of His death are mine in baptism.  "We believe that we shall also live with Him,"  not just in heaven but now already.  "If any man is in Christ, he is anew creature." 

Franzmann: The reality of Christ's death and resurrection determines our whole existence. . . . Our present life gets its character, direction, and purpose from the fact that we shall live with Him who lives a life beyond death.

That is so true. The people of this world are constantly mourning about their wages, their illnesses, thermo-nuclear war , etc., etc., whereas the Christian firmly believes that he will never die.  "He that liveth and believeth in Me shall never die." 

Romans 6:9 For we know that since Christ was raised from the dead, he cannot die again; death no longer has mastery over him.

A number of translations begin a new sentence here with the words:  "For we know that etc."  Why do we believe that we shall live with Him? Because we know that Christ, risen from the dead, dies no more, death is not ruler over Him.

Lenski: Paul expands Christ's part in this our joint death and subsequent living. Our part depends wholly on his part. . . . The great fact, however, is that after being thus raised up 'Christ dies no more' , the emphatic asyndeton restating this from death's side: 'death is no more lord over him.

The power and threat of the cruel master, death, is conquered, gone forever. For the believer death is not dying. It means everlasting life! Hallelujah!

Romans 6:10 The death he died, he died to sin once for all; but the life he lives, he lives to God.

Five of our versions similarly translate:  "The death he died, he died to sin once for all; but the life he lives, he lives to God."  Look at Hebrews 7:27; 9:12,26,28; 10:10. Sin caused His death, but only once. It's over with. Now His life to God goes on and on.

Stoeckhardt: Christ's life was determined and ruled by sin, namely, by the alien sin of men, which he took upon Himself. What He did, experienced, suffering in the days of His flesh, served to atone for and to destroy men's sin. This purpose was realized when He died. Sin atoned once and for all.

Romans 6:11 In the same way, count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus.

"Likewise also you."  These words denote the point of comparison. Christians, like Christ, are both dead and living, dead to sin but alive to God. But here we have an addition not found in verse 10. Only because we are united to Christ Jesus by faith can we be sure that we shall remain dead to sin but alive to God. This prepositional phrase assures me that I am a true heir of everything that He did as my Substitute in life and in death.


Adapted from Exegetical Notes, Series A Epistle Texts, Sundays After Pentecost, by Harold H. Buls, Concordia Theological Seminary Press: Ft Wayne IN, 1984, pp. 23-26. Used with permission.

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