In the first six verses of Romans 6, Paul begins asking some questions regarding Christians and there relationship to sin. From these verses, we often teach the importance of baptism and its role in uniting us with Christ. We also point to these verses as evidence that baptism is an immersion, a burial so to speak. While these are proper applications, the main thrust of these words is pointed toward those who are already saved. The primary audience is composed of individuals already baptized.
Dead to Sin
The ideas of justification through grace and faith are consistently weaved throughout the Roman epistle. However, Paul reminds us that the magnitude of grace should not serve as an excuse to sin. We should be trying to avoid sin because we have been freed from sin. We have died to it, and we have been made alive to Christ. Paul pictures sin as both a form of servitude and as a past life. Sin is pictured as a consuming power that strips us of hope for a better future. On the other hand, spiritual living is freedom and hope.
As we continue through chapter 6, Paul points out that we are always servants, whether we want to be or not. Our actions determine whom we are serving – who rules our lives. Each master bears specific benefits and consequences, but only God provides an eternal reward for service.
The Role of Grace
Going back to chapter 3, Paul speaks to the fact that we cannot earn our salvation, but, in verse 8, he grapples a false concept that it is acceptable to sin for the sake of grace. This builds up to what we have spoken about in chapter 6. Have we ever sinned anticipating the forgiveness? Have we ever been guilty of sinning and assuming forgiveness afterward? We read in II Corinthians 7:9-10 that true repentance is the result of godly sorrow. If we are rationalizing beforehand, have we really repented later?
In this, we have to realize that the more we sin the more callous we grow toward it and its effects on us. The more we justify our sin, the more our sensitivity toward that sin diminishes. We may begin by planning for forgiveness, but we may grow to a point where we cease to care. II Peter 2:21 states that one returning to sin is worse off than one who never knew godly freedom. Returning to the imagery of Romans 6, how much worse is captivity to a recaptured slave than one who never knew freedom? Also, in Hebrews 6:4-6, the book’s author states that returning to sin is like crucifying Christ all over again.
Instead of increasing our sin, God’s grace should instead drive us away from our past transgressions. II Corinthians 5:14 reads that Christ’s love constrains us, and verse 15 states that His death should motivate us to live for Him. God’s grace is repeated throughout the Old Testament, and, in Deuteronomy 15:12-15, Moses initiates the Jubilee tradition of freeing slaves. In this, they were to remember the grace God had on them. In Deuteronomy 16:12 repeats this theme in context of the Pentecost feast, and chapter 24:16-17 again returns to this in context of how the children of Israel were to behave towards others in judgment and mercy.
Grace motivates obedience out of gratitude. I Corinthians 11, beginning in verse 24, reminds us that we have something to remember just as the children of Israel had. Gratitude for that sacrifice should keep us away from sin rather than allow us to continue in it.
We have received a free gift from God, but we must be careful not to become presumptuous of that gift, taking Him and His sacrifice for granted. We must not assume forgiveness and salvation. Rather, our lives must be dedicated to God who saved us. We should be serving Him as master, reflecting that salvation He grants us in the lives we live. Our actions should testify of our master, and grace is the gift that drives us into that obedience.
lesson by Tim Smelser