Summary: In Romans 6:1–5, Paul shows three results that should be evident in a believers life because of the death of Christ. We see: 1) The Antagonist (v.1), 2) The Answer (v.2), and 3) The Argument explaining and defending that Answer (vv.3–5).
Today we remember the sacrificial death of Christ. Yet, for Christians, there is a new reality that goes beyond mere remembrance. In Romans 6:1–5, Paul shows three results that should be evident in a believers life because of the death of Christ. We see: 1) The Antagonist (v.1), 2) The Answer (v.2), and 3) The Argument explaining and defending that Answer (vv.3–5).
1) The Antagonist (v.1)
Romans 6:1 [6:1]What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? (ESV)
“What shall we say then the apostle Paul asks rhetorically to the foolish assertion:, “Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound/might increase?” Epimenô (to continue) carries the idea of habitual persistence. Paul was not speaking of a believer’s occasional falling into sin, as every Christian does at times because of the weakness and imperfection of the flesh. He was speaking of intentional, willful sinning as an established pattern of life.
Before salvation, sin cannot be anything but the established way of life, because sin at best taints everything the unredeemed person does. But the believer, who has a new life and is indwelt by God’s own Spirit, has no excuse to continue habitually in sin. Can a believer then possibly live in the same submissive relationship to sin that he had before salvation? Put in theological terms, can justification truly exist apart from sanctification? Can a person receive a new life and continue in his old way of living? In terms of what Christ accomplished with His death, does the divine transaction of redemption have no continuing and sustaining power in those who are redeemed? Can all this occur because of what Christ did on the cross?
Verse two gives us:
2) The Answer (v.2),
Romans 6:2 By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it? (ESV)
Immediately answering his own question, Paul exclaims with obvious horror, By no means/May it never be! (Mç genoito) This is the strongest idiom of repudiation in New Testament Greek. It carries the sense of outrage that an idea of this kind could ever be thought of as true.
The very suggestion that sin could in any conceivable way please and glorify God was abhorrent to Paul. The falsehood is almost too self-evident to be given the dignity of detailed refutation. Instead it deserves only condemnation.
But lest his readers think he might be evading a difficult problem, the apostle seems almost to shout why the notion that sin brings glory to God is repugnant and preposterous. At this point he does not respond with reasoned argument but with a brief and arresting rhetorical question: How shall we who died to sin still live in it?
Paul does not recognize his antagonists’ assertion as having the least credence or merit. He does not now argue the truth but merely declares it.
The person who is alive in Christ has died to sin, and it is inconceivable and self-contradictory to propose that a believer can henceforth live in the sin from which he or was delivered by the death of Christ. The death of Christ, where God the Father gave His son as a ransom for many, is a picture of grace. God’s grace is given for the very purpose of saving from sin, and only the most corrupt mind using the most perverted logic could argue that continuing in the sin from which he has supposedly been saved somehow honors the holy God who sacrificed His only Son to deliver men from all unrighteousness.
By simple reason it must be admitted that the person who has died to one kind of life cannot still live in it. The apostle Paul was speaking of the past act (apothnçskô, second aorist active) of being dead to sin. Paul is saying it is impossible for a Christian to remain in a constant state of sinfulness.
3) The Argument explaining and defending that Answer (vv. 3–5).
Romans 6:3-5 Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life. 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. (ESV)
The Roman believers were well aware of the symbol of baptism. When Paul says do you not know, he is in effect asking: “Are you ignorant of the meaning of your own baptism? Have you forgotten what your baptism symbolized?” They were unaware that water baptism symbolizes the spiritual reality of being immersed into Jesus Christ. The tragedy is that many mistake the symbol of water baptism as the means of salvation rather than the demonstration of it. To turn a symbol into the reality is to eliminate the reality, which in this case is salvation by grace through faith in Christ alone.