More Than Conquerors: Two Great Questions (Part 1)

Read Romans 6:1-14

In the introduction we saw that God has established the universal guilt of the whole human race. However, we also saw that God has provided a means whereby He is able to justify guilty people and yet be righteous in doing so. Because “Christ died for our sins” (1Co 15:3),[1] God is now able to justly accredit His own righteousness to those who repent of their sins and trust Christ as their Saviour. “By him [Christ] all that believe are justified from all things” (Act 13:39). We also saw that, although believers are justified, we still possess a fallen, sinful nature, and therefore we still are very capable of sinning. Romans 6-8 is designed to teach us how we can have victory over sin and thus be “more than conquerors” (Rom 8:37).

In Romans 6, Paul asks a number of questions. But there are two great questions that divide up the chapter. The first is found in verse 1: “Shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound?” Notice first of all that Paul doesn’t say, “Shall we continue to sin?” The word “sin” in this verse is a noun. Paul is not referring to a singular sin as opposed to a number of sins. Sin is in our nature. In Romans 6, Paul is personifying sin as being a master who enslaves. We are born with a sinful nature. We didn’t become sinners when we sinned; we sin because we are sinners by nature. Sin has enslaved us. In the introduction we saw that, through Adam’s transgression, the whole human race has been contaminated by sin (5:12).

Paul’s question is posed as a result of a statement he made in 5:20, “Where sin abounded, grace did much more abound.” Here in chapter 6, he anticipated what might be assumed by the readers as a result of this statement, “Does that mean that we should continue to allow sin to control us because this will magnify the grace of God?” Paul’s simple answer is, “Far be the thought” (v2 JND). Then he elaborates with a stunning question: “We who have died to sin, how shall we still live in it?” (JND). Paul illustrated this point with the baptism of believers. “Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life” (v4). Paul is stating that, as believers, we have died to sin. Sin is no longer our master. This did not happen when we were baptized; it happened the moment we trusted Christ. But as you bury the body of someone who has died, so we were buried in baptism, symbolizing the fact that we have been identified with Christ in His death, and therefore have been baptized.

I won’t elaborate on this, since baptism is the illustration, not the subject of this chapter. Suffice it to say that the early Christians were expected to be baptized as a natural consequence of having trusted Christ. Baptism, then, illustrates the fact that the moment we trusted Christ we were identified with Him in His death, burial and resurrection. In verse 6 Paul states, “Knowing this, that our old man is crucified with him.” “Our old man” refers to our old self, our old life, what we were prior to when we trusted Christ. Crucifixion was usually the execution of a sentence upon a guilty person. Paul is saying that God has passed sentence upon our old life and has executed that sentence. He further states that this was in order that “the body of sin might be destroyed [rendered inoperative].” “The body of sin” is “the body that is mastered by sin.” As a result of our death with Christ, sin, as a master, has no longer mastery over us. Finally, Paul states, “that henceforth we should not serve [be in bondage to] sin.”

Now notice verse 7: “For he that is dead is freed from sin.” Darby correctly translated this as “is justified from sin.” Paul is using “justified” in a legal sense here. While the slave was living, he was the property of his master. But the moment the slave died he was no longer the property of his master. His master could shout at him. He could even beat him. But he could no longer make him obey him. Having died with Christ, the believer is no longer a slave to sin. If we do sin, it is our own choice, not because we have to. On the contrary, the expectation is that we “should walk in newness of life” (v4). In other words, we are able and expected to live our lives in a manner that is honouring to God, which was impossible to us before Christ saved us.

In verse 8, Paul introduces us to our future expectations, which he will elaborate upon in chapter 8. He says, “We shall also live with him.” But in stating this he is indicating that there are also present implications. Read what Paul states in verses 9 and 10. However, we will look directly at verse 11: “Likewise reckon ye also yourselves to be dead indeed unto sin, but alive unto God through Jesus Christ our Lord.” Next Paul states, “Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, that ye should obey it in the lusts thereof” (v12). While we have died to sin, and consequently sin is no longer our master, yet we are still in our mortal bodies, that is, our bodies are still subject to death. This clearly implies that sin is still present in our bodies. However, sin no longer has controlling rights over us. So, Paul states that we have to refuse to allow sin to dominate us. Paul goes on to say, “Neither yield ye your members as instruments of unrighteousness unto sin” (v13). Our bodies are the means by which we express our emotions and our will. Therefore, Paul states, “Do not allow sin to dictate how you use the members of your body.” Rather, “yield yourselves unto God, as those that are alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness unto God” (v13).

[1] Bible quotations in this article are from the KJV unless otherwise noted.