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Summary of Romans, Chapter 6
Paul imagines someone raising an objection that is really foolish. The objector, on hearing in chapter 5 that the redemption is so abundant after sin asks: then would it be good to stay in sin, and get even more abundance? Paul answers: Heavens no! We have died to sin, and so could not still live in sin.
We were baptized into Christ, so as to be part of Christ, His members. We were baptized into His death. We were buried together with Him through baptism into death, and so just as Christ was raised from the dead by the power of the Father, we also, as though just raised from the dead, ought to walk in a new way of life.
If we have been joined with Him in a death like His, then we will also be joined with Him in a resurrection like His. Our old man, that is, our old way of life, has been crucified along with Christ to destroy the way of sin, and so we are no longer enslaved to sin. For a person who has died is freed from sin.
If we have died with Christ, we believe we will also live with Him. We know that He has been raised from the dead, and dies no more. Death no longer has power over Him. He died once, to sin, but the life He leads, He leads to God. So we too should consider ourselves dead to sin, but living to God, in Christ. We should not let sin rule over our mortal bodies or obey its desires. We should not let our bodies be instruments of iniquity, of sin. Rather we should come to God as persons raised from the dead, and bring our bodies as weapons of righteousness, for God. Sin will not be Lord over us, for we are not under the regime of law, but under grace.
The objection returns: Should we sin since we are not under law but under grace? Heavens no! Whoever it is to whom we give ourselves as slaves, to obey, we are slaves of that one -- either slaves of sin leading to death, or slaves of the obedience of faith, which leads to justification. Thanks be to God. We were slaves, of sin, but now we have obeyed from the heart the teaching to which we were given over. We are free from sin, and have become slaves to righteousness.
To speak in a human way, because of your weakness: Just as you were slaves to uncleanness and to more and more iniquity, so now offer yourselves as slaves to righteousness, leading to sanctification.
When you were slaves of sin, you took no orders from righteousness. What gain did you then get from the things of which you are now ashamed? The point to which they lead is death. But now, being freed from sin, being slaves to God, you bear fruit leading to sanctification, and the end of it all is eternal life.
For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus.
Comments on Chapter 6
To answer an imagined objection, Paul sketches much of his syn Christo theme, that is, that we are saved and made holy if and to the extent that we are members of Christ and like Him. In His life there are two phases: first, a difficult life, suffering and death; second, eternal glory. The more we are like Him in the first, the more in the second. Hence in Romans 8:28 he will say that for those who love God all things work together for good -- everything but sin can be made into eternal gold by using it as a means of likeness to Christ.
In the syn Christo theme he teaches: 1) we are members of Christ: e.g., in 1 Corinthians 12:12-17; Romans 12:4-5; Colossians 1:18; Ephesians 4:12-15. 2) We do everything with Him: In Romans 6:38, the present text, we are baptized into Him, i.e., so as to be a member of His, we are buried in the waters of baptism with Him, we rise with Him, we should live a new life with Him -- with the outlook we will have on the last day when we rise from the grave. How different the present life will look then -- some things we considered great will be seen as trifles -- and the reverse. Paul restresses this idea of living with such an outlook in Colossians 3:1-4, saying that since we were raised with Christ, we should set our hearts on heavenly things. The thought is similar in Ephesians 2:5-6. 3) We must be like Him in all things: In Romans 8:9 if we do not have and follow the Spirit of Christ, we do not belong to Him. Similar ideas appear in Romans 8:13 & 17.
So we see a basic mistake of Lutheranism which says Christ did all, so we are not obliged to do anything. It is even all right no matter how much we sin if only we continue to believe Christ has paid for it all. Consider again Luther's Epistle 501: "Sin bravely, but believe still more bravely." And in his Epistle of August 1, 1521 to Melanchthon: "Be a sinner and sin boldly. . . . No sin will separate us from the Lamb, even though we commit fornication and murder a thousand times a day."23 We saw that faith includes obedience. Luther, not seeing that, thought faith could authorize any amount of disobedience to God's law. But we must be like Christ in all things, including His work of rebalancing the objective order. Paul himself in Colossians 1:24 says he is working to fill up in his own body what is lacking to the sufferings of the whole Christ, for His body, which is the Church.
Paul keeps working on the theme of slavery in this chapter. We once were slaves of sin. Someone who sins a lot does get addicted, and is no longer free. Paul wants us to be as dedicated to what is right as sinners are to their sin. Then we are "slaves of righteousness."
We emphasized twice in this passage that Paul said we were slaves of sin. Yet in 7:14 Paul will say "I am fleshy." The only way to avoid saying he is contradicting himself is to notice that 7:14 is really a focused picture. He does not really mean that he is still dominated by the flesh. No, rather, he is giving an image of what that is like in itself. There are two regimes, that of sin and the flesh, that of the spirit and of faith. The flesh in a focused view produces nothing but sin; the spiritual regime in a focused view produces nothing but good. In chapter 7 Paul will develop the focused view of the regime of sin; in chapter 8 the focused view of the Christian regime. Failure to see this has led to tragic errors. We will see more on it in these chapters.
So we need to be on the watch for the time or tense of verbs in this connection in 7:5-6 & 14; 8:9.
In the last verse of this chapter, Paul sums up our situation: we can earn punishment (wages of sin), but eternal life is not earned, it is a free gift, a grace. We recall the summation we made in connection with 1 Corinthians 6:9-10: as to salvation, you can't earn it, but you can blow it. We are free from the law in the sense that keeping it does not earn salvation. We are not free in the sense that we cannot violate it and still "inherit the kingdom."