In the last chapter, Paul finally got around to talking about the original sin, and its effect upon us. Because Adam (our forefather) sinned, his spirit-man died. To clarify this, let us understand that as Jesus declared: eternal life is to know God, and Jesus Christ whom He has sent (John 17:2); Adam, who had known God and walked with Him in the cool of the day, broke faith with God. Believing the lie of the serpent that he would not die if he broke God’s command, over the Truth of God that Adam would surely die if he did so – Adam committed the first sin. In that momment His connection with God – his eternal life perished.
We have inheritted from Adam the nature of death; born without knowing God. As God reveals Himself to us, we reject His testimony – and with it His offer of eternal life through faith in Him – neither glorifying Him as God, nor being thankful (Rom. 1:21). We descend into the corruption of sin; this is a universal Truth, for ALL have sinned and comd short of the glory of God (Rom. 3:23).
Now, Paul begins to describe what takes place when we receive the testimony of God, and begin to live by faith. The main topic of this chapter (as will become apparent) is water baptism. There are numerous different beliefs about water baptism, but this chapter in particular will fill in our understanding (and correct some of our misunderstandings) if we heed seriously what Paul says.
Notice, however, that this chapter speaking of water baptism – which I distinguish from the bapism in the Holy Spirit… actually before I move on, let me show some scriptural proof of the distinction between these two baptisms, as this itself is an area largely misunderstood.
John the Baptist who baptized multitudes in wateer prior to the ministry of Jesus Christ, said this regarding baptisms:
I indeed baptize you with water unto repentance: but he that cometh after me is mightier than I, whose shoes I am not worthy to bear: he shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost, and with fire. (Matt. 3:11)
Here John tells us a few very important points about baptism, mainly:
1) The water baptism is the baptism of REPENTANCE (this is the baptism that Paul is speaking about in Romans 6)
2) Jesus would baptize with the Holy Ghost (for empowerment to be His witnesses per Acts 1:9), and with fire (the final judgment per Matt. 3 context: ‘…He will throughly purge His floor… burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire.’ (Matt. 3:12) (See, also Mark 9:49 – ‘EVERYONE shall be salted with fire…’))
Thus John spoke of three baptisms, howbeit the baptism with fire speaks of the judgment at the time of the resurrection, so as far as it depends on baptisms in this life, we speak of two: 1) The water baptism (of repentance), and 2) The baptism in the Holy Ghost. (BaptismS plural is also further confirmed by Paul in Hebrews 6:2, ‘Of the doctrine of BaptismS…’)
Also, I should note, neither of these baptisms is salvation; both come after saving faith in Jesus Christ. How do we know this? (As many will claim that the baptism in the Holy Ghost is the same as conversion.) In Acts chapter 8 it is shown hat the baptism in the Holy Ghost was conferred by the laying on on hands (Acts 8:15-17). Salvation CANNOT be conferred through the laying on of hands – salvation is attained through faith in Christ, and by no other means (which is what Paul is in the middle of teaching us here in Romans (Rom. 10:9)).
Ok, so there was a quick preliminary on the doctrine of baptisms. Again, here Paul is speaking of the water baptism – the baptism of repentance as opposed to the baptism of the Holy Ghost (which he speaks of in 1 Cor. 12(:13) for example).
It should be evident given the previous chapter why Paul goes into some teaching about water baptism in this chapter, as he has just laid the groundwork of our being spiritually dead because of original sin. We must needs repent, and put faith in Christ to come alive, but let us now delve into chapter 6 to see this firsthand:
1 What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound?
2 God forbid. How shall we, that are dead to sin, live any longer therein?
Wait a minute, Paul, you just spent the last chapter telling us that we have inherited death from Adam, and our lives are degraded in sin. How then are we ‘dead to sin’?
3 Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into his death?
Paul now begins to explain that in baptism we are baptized into the death of Christ. Wait, didn’t we inherit death from Adam? I thought we were supposed to inherit life from Christ?
4 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.
We die with Christ in baptism (repentance of our sin) so that we can be resurrected with Him! He gives us new life when we CHOOSE to put to death the old nature, that nature of death which we received from Adam. It’s going to die… in baptism we PUT IT TO DEATH with Christ. Jesus died to take our punishment: even the condemnation of death, upon Himself.
There are some contemporary groups who deny this doctrine of putting the ‘old man to death,’ but Paul points out that this is the symbolism of receiving water baptism. Does the water have some magic power to regenerate us? No, it is an act of faith; we are committing ourselves to die with Christ so that we can be raised together with Him, and interestingly, Paul goes into this teaching on baptism immediately after his taching on the original sin, and our inheritance of the nature of death from Adam. These two topics are intimately related: it is the works of the flesh which become sin under the law; when we obey the desires of our flesh, we are giving life to sin. Yet the sign of water baptism is the direct opposite of this: we are covenanting with God to put our fleshly desires to death that we might live only to Him.
5 For if we have been planted together in the likeness of his death, we shall be also in the likeness of his resurrection:
6 Knowing this, that our old man is crucified with him, that the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin.
7 For he that is dead is freed from sin.
See that? Being baptized in water is an act of faith – a commitment of faith. We commit to put our old man to death because anyone who is dead is free from sin. If your body is dead, it can no longer have lusts and desires. Yet this freedom from sin goes well beyond that – as Paul shall show us in Romans 8. Here he’s giving us foundation for understanding the life he will show us in that chapter: a person who is dead is free from sin. In baptism, we die to our flesh by faith; if we live in this state of repentance we are utterly free from sin (‘There is therefore now no condemnation for them which are in Christ Jesus who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.’ (Rom. 8:1)).
The reciept of water baptism is death to sin by faith.
The act of receiving water baptism is not what saves us… well not exactly, anyways; in a sense it does save us, but it’s not the water, it is the act of faith. Or, as the Apostle Peter explains it:
The like figure whereunto even baptism doth also now save us (not the putting away of the filth of the flesh, but the answer of a good conscience toward God,) by the resurection of Jesus Christ: (1 Peter 3:21)
Now here’s an often misunderstood verse about baptism: did Peter just say baptism saves us? Look at Peter’s clarifyying explanation: ‘not the putting away of filth from the flesh…’ so not the act of passing through the water, which also will cleanse our flesh like a bath – that doesn’t save us, ‘BUT the answer of a good consceince toward God.’
Recall that Paul is speaking of the old man of the flesh, whose conscience is defiled through sin. But our faith is our righteousness, and so having faith, our conscience is cleansed (thus we are saved through faith). We can therefore commit our flesh to the Lord by faith because our conscience is clear; it is an act of the faith we have in Christ’s death, and resurrection:
8 Now if we be dead with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with him:
That is, our act of faith in receiving water baptism is not without purpose, for if we die with Christ by faith, we also are raised up to newness of life. We are born again, and the water baptism is the external sign of that. We can begin to live as though we have already died and been resurrected; this also shows faith in the resurretion of the dead.
9 Knowing that Christ being raised from the dead dieth no more; death hath no more dominion over him.
10 For in that he died, he died unto sin once: but in that he liveth, he liveth unto God.
11 Likewise reckon ye also yourselves to be dead indeed unto sin, but alive unto God through Jesus Christ our Lord.
So Paul clarifies this, because we have been water baptized (and if you have not been water baptised I hope you will see your need to be), an act of both repentance (to die to the old man – leaving behind the spiritually dead and sinful self) and of faith (that we are raised up with Christ), let’s actually have faith in this baptism: reckon yourself actually dead to sin and alive to God by faith – that’s the baptism means, afterall!
Now, I will also make another aside for corrections’ sake, here: there is a teaching going around (and entrenched in several mainline denominations) that equates baptism with joining a church group or denomination. Now, it is evidently true that when we are baptized, we are joining the Universal Church, the invisible, spiritual Church made up of all those who are connected to Christ. However, being baptized is NOT how we join church organizations. If a denomination or group wants you to be baptized by their clergy in order that you may join THEIR group, they have waylaid the meaning of baptism. In baptism you are buried into JESUS CHRIST – His death and resurrection – not into a religious order or organization.
Likewise, as Peter clarified, the water itself does not save you, but the answer of a good conscience toward God. Some groups like to baptize infants so that the ceremony of the water will ensure they go to heaven if they die prematurely – but the first pope said (here I’m jesting, I don’t believe in the papacy, but the Roman Catholics are one of the groups who hold this teaching) the water doesn’t save us, but the ANSWER of a good conscience toward God; that is: it is receiving baptism as an act of faith, not a ceremonial rinsing of the body with water.
When Jesus said: ‘Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God’ (John 3:5) – in response to Nicodemus asking if he neeeded to go BACK INTO the womb – He was not speaking of the water baptism, he was talkiing about physical birth. You need to first be concieved physically (in the womb you are surrounded by water; at birth the water breakss and you come forth), and then be born again in order to see the kingdom of God. Again bear in mind the context of that passage: Nicodemus has asked if he must physically enter the womb again (John 3:5), Jesus answers that questioin by saying: ‘Except a man be born of water AND of the Spirit, he cannot see the kingdom of God.’
Water does not cleanse you spiritually, but the act of faith: the answer of a good conscience toward God. Wait, then, does that mean we are saved by a WORK? Yes, that’s what Peter said, a work of faith – faith without works is dead (James 2:17). We receive baptism as an act of faith in our salvation; faith in action.
But let’s continue:
12 Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, that ye should obey it in the lusts thereof.
13 Neither yield ye your members as instruments of unrighteousness unto sin: but yield yourselves unto God, as those that are alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness unto God.
14 For sin shall not have dominion over you: for ye are not under the law, but under grace.
So, Paul has shown us in the precdeeding chapters that righteousness is by faith, and not by the law. Now he is begining to show how that works under this new dispensation of Jesus Christ. As Paul has explained, the law makes manifest sin (Rom. 5:20), for sin is not imputed where there is no law (5:13)… yet the law has been given to us through the Jews (3:1 & 2)! How, then, can we live righteously by faith now that the law has been given?! Isn’t breaking the law sin, and now we have the knowledge of the law (in fact it is no coincidence that this is the argument of many of the Hebrew roots people TODAY (just as it was in Paul’s day) to get Christians back under the law: yes, you were free from the law, but the law HAS BEEN GIVEN, and now you know it, therefore: keep the Sabbath, don’t eat pork, etc., etc.)
Paul shows us how, in our baptism, we die to the old man who was under the law, and thereby bound in sin. In fact, in the book of Ephesians, Paul, expressing the same doctrine from a different perspective spoke of Christ ABOLISHING the Law in His death, let’s see that verse for reference, it will help us understand what Paul is saying here:
[Christ]Having ABOLISHED in His flesh the enmity, EVEN THE LAW OF COMMANDMENTS CONTAINED IN ORDINANCES; for to make in himself of twain [that is: Jews and Gentiles] one new man, so making peace.
So there, Paul says that Christ ABOLISHED the Law which was an enemy to us so that He could break the dividing wall between the Jews and the Gentiles. That’s exactly what Paul has been talking about here in Romans, too: salvation for the Jews, and Gentiles (1:16)
The enmity of the law was abolished in Christ’s death; in baptism, we enter into that death.
But wait, in case we might be interpretting something wrong, let’s look at one other cross reference, in which Paul speaks precisely of this phenomena AGAIN:
Buried with him in baptism, wherein also ye are risen with him through the faith of the operation of God, who hath raised him from the dead.
And you, being dead in your sins and the uncircumcision of your flesh, hath he quickened together with him, having forgiven you all trespasses;
Blotting out the handwriting of ordinances that was against us, which was contrary to us, and took it out of the way, nailing it to his cross;
When we enter into the death of Christ in receiving water baptism by faith, not only are we dead to the old man; but we are also dead to living under the Law.
Paul is about to delve into a deep explanation of this in Romans 7 & 8; showing first that we are slaves to sin if we are striving to live under the law (that’s what Romans 7 is about). Paul is revealing here an entirely new paradigm for us to live under.
But this is Paul’s preliminary: you were baptized: have faith in your salvation and water baptism. Put the old man to death by faith.
15 What then? shall we sin, because we are not under the law, but under grace? God forbid.
Having a righteousness that is by faith doesn’t mean we should go on sinning; we can’t justify wickedness with a presumption that we will be forgiven. Remember faith without works is dead, it is acting in faith that gives us righteousness.
16 Know ye not, that to whom ye yield yourselves servants to obey, his servants ye are to whom ye obey; whether of sin unto death, or of obedience unto righteousness?
If you go on serving sin, you are yet the servant of sin – the slave in fact, as Paul will show in the next chapter – thus still dead in your sins.
17 But God be thanked, that ye were the servants of sin, but ye have obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine which was delivered you.
You obeyed from the heart, what doctrine? In this case by context, we know he speaks of the doctrine of baptisms. You repented of your sins, and laid your life down with Christ in the waters of baptism. I think it’s interesting that many will use the fact that Paul assumes his readers (or all Christians) are all baptized in the Holy Ghost means that it is the same thing as salvation. Paul also assumes that his readers (all Christians) are water baptized. Why? Because it is obedience to a doctrine of the faith. Are you a Christian? Have you been water baptized? You should be, it is an act of faith in your death with Christ, and resurrection.
But here Paul says: thank God you don’t have to serve sin anymore, or the old order of the law, you OBEYED FROM THE HEART that form of doctrine. Your conversion wasn’t false, you obeyed God in faith and are therefore delivered from bondage to sin.
18 Being then made free from sin, ye became the servants of righteousness.
19 I speak after the manner of men because of the infirmity of your flesh: for as ye have yielded your members servants to uncleanness and to iniquity unto iniquity; even so now yield your members servants to righteousness unto holiness.
Now he points out that he has been explaining it this way because the infirmity of our flesh; that is, you still have flesh, can still be deceived, can still fail to understand the paradigm of living by faith.
20 For when ye were the servants of sin, ye were free from righteousness.
21 What fruit had ye then in those things whereof ye are now ashamed? for the end of those things is death.
22 But now being made free from sin, and become servants to God, ye have your fruit unto holiness, and the end everlasting life.
He points out that this new life of faith he speaks of makes us servants of righteousness, and that unto eternal life, whereas the old life under the law made us servants of sin, and that unto death.
23 For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.
In the next chapter, Paul will give a lengthy discussion about living under the law, and how it traps us in sin. This is important because of a phenomena he mentioned in verse 19: the infirmity of our flesh. There were many in the days of the early church who sought to bring Christianity under the Law so that it would remain as a sect of Judaism. Paul also wrote the book of Galatians addressing this because Messianic Jews sought to bring the Gentiles under the Law; he wrote Hebrews to the Jews to show them essentially the same thing: the Law was fulfilled in Christ. Here Paul addresses it in another way: showing the bondage a man comes under when he strives to live by the Law, rather than by faith in Christ.
In fact, rather than waiting until my next post, I wrote a commentary of Rom. 7 a while back which you can go to HERE.