(from a transcript of a sermon preached on 6/16/02 at Sovereign Redeemer Assembly)
Please turn to Romans 6. I'll be reading verses 1 through 6:
Romans 6: (3) Or are you ignorant that all who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death? (4) Therefore, we were buried with Him through baptism into death, that as Christ was raised up from [the] dead by the glory of the Father, so also we should walk in newness of life. (5) For if we have been joined together in the likeness of His death, so also shall we be in the resurrection, (6) knowing this, that our old man was crucified with [Him], that the body of sin might be nullified, so that we no longer serve sin.
Last week, we went over the introductory sentences in this paragraph, which are in verses 1 and 2. After Paul describes salvation by free, unmerited, unconditional grace based on the work of Christ alone in Romans 3:19 through 5:21, he answers the question as to whether or not this doctrine can be used as a license to live in sin. We saw in verse 2 that God is saying through Paul that those who have DIED to sin will not LIVE in sin. A Christian's life is characterized by striving toward obedience, not by a disregard for God's law.
Starting with verse 3, Paul now expands on the theme of DEATH and LIFE as it concerns a Christian's walk. And he connects it with the DEATH and LIFE of Christ. We are joined with Jesus Christ in His DEATH, and we are also joined with Jesus Christ in His LIFE. We are going to see, the Lord willing, the INSEPARABLE CONNECTION between the objective and subjective realities of a Christian.
Let's go into verse 3:
Romans 6: (3) Or are you ignorant that all who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death?
Now why does Paul ask this question? Is he saying that the Roman believers didn't know this? In order to understand why this is a question, you need to see it in the context of the other questions before it. The main question in verse 1 is: "Shall we continue in sin that grace may abound?" This is a rhetorical question that doesn't reflect the thoughts of Paul OR of the Roman believers; it is a set-up question to smash the lies of the antinomians. The question in verse 2 is: "We who died to sin, how shall we still live in it?" Here's a rhetorical question that is a RESPONSE to the antinomians. And in verse 3, the question at hand CONTINUES that response. He is NOT asking the Roman believers if they are ignorant of this. Does everybody understand this? Okay. So with this understanding, we see that he is saying to those who say that grace is a license to live in sin: "Don't you know that all who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death?" The form of a question makes the very powerful point that it is OBVIOUS that those who have died to sin cannot still live in it, since those who have died to sin are identified with Christ in His death.
Now we get into the first fact that Paul puts forth in this section, which is this: all who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death. Now what does "baptized into Christ Jesus" mean? I was amazed (and I probably shouldn't have been) that almost every commentator I read that claimed to believe in sovereign grace took this to mean the ORDINANCE of baptism. This was true of both household baptists and professors-only baptists. In fact, NONE of the commentators that I read even CAME CLOSE to what this passage means. I was surprised at the lack of understanding of these so-called "scholars." Let's think about what this would mean if the phrase "baptized into Christ Jesus" meant the ordinance of water baptism. First, those who believe this must believe that all who were water baptized in the name of Christ were baptized into the death of Christ. That means that water baptism actually DOES something as to the person's identity with Christ's death. Thus, water baptism becomes something more than a SIGN; there is actually something that HAPPENS when the person gets water baptized in his identity with Christ's death. So what about those who were regenerated BEFORE they were baptized? Well, if water baptism CAUSES a person to be baptized into the death of Christ, then they must say that those who have NOT been water baptized have NOT been baptized into the death of Christ! Thus, there are either some regenerate people who have not been baptized into the death of Christ, or there is no regenerate person who has not been baptized! Isn't that the kind of thing that Paul REFUTED in Romans 4? Abraham is the father of those who have faith who are NOT CIRCUMCISED, because, as Galatians 6:15 says, "neither circumcision has any strength nor uncircumcision, but a new creation." So now, neither baptism has any strength nor unbaptism, but a new creation! Of course, these commentators who say Paul is talking about water baptism don't say that baptism CAUSES salvation, and they throw in stuff about baptism being a symbol, but some say things like "Baptism binds us to Christ," and from the context, they clearly mean water baptism.
Now there are some commentators who shy away from water baptism as something that CAUSES anything, but by saying that Romans 6:3-4 still means water baptism as being SYMBOLICALLY baptized into Christ and His death and burial, they weaken the passage to be almost meaningless. Their interpretation goes something like this: "All who were symbolically baptized by water baptism into Christ Jesus were symbolically baptized by water baptism into Christ's death and were symbolically buried with Him through water baptism." This saps all the strength of Paul's reasoning. Why would Paul say so strongly that those who have actually died to sin shall not live in sin and then give as his reasoning that we were symbolically baptized into Christ's death by water baptism? Is there even a HINT here that Paul is talking about the outward physical sign of water baptism? I don't see it at all, do you? Well, let's look into what I believe this REALLY means.
We first need to see what the word "baptized" means. The Greek word is bap-TID-zo, which means "to make whelmed." The verb "to whelm" means "to deluge, to spread over, to cover, to overlay, to inundate, to flood." So those who have been BAPTIZED into Christ have been deluged, inundated, covered, flooded into Christ. When does this baptism take place? Does baptism into Christ take place when someone is dunked in some water or has some water poured over him? Is that when someone is deluged, inundated, covered, flooded into Christ? No. Baptism into Christ takes place upon REGENERATION. It is when we are REGENERATED we become whelmed into Christ through the Holy Spirit. Let's turn to Matthew 3:11:
Matthew 3: (11) I indeed baptize you in water to repentance; but He who is coming after me is stronger than me, of whom I am not able to lift the sandals. He will baptize you in [the] Holy Spirit and fire,
Now over to 1 Corinthians 12:13:
1 Corinthians 12: (13) For also we all were baptized by one Spirit into one body, whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free, even all were given to drink into one Spirit.
Our baptism by the Spirit into Jesus Christ and into the body of Christ happens when God regenerates us, makes us a new creation, gives us a new heart and a new spirit, and joins us to Jesus Christ.
Now back to Romans 6:3. All who have been baptized into Christ Jesus at regeneration were baptized into the DEATH of Christ at regeneration. In our baptism at regeneration, we become fully identified with Christ, including being identified with Christ in His DEATH. The sins of all God's people were imputed to Jesus Christ on the cross, and he became GUILTY in the eyes of God's law and justice. 2 Corinthians 5:21 says that Jesus Christ was actually MADE TO BE SIN for us. It wasn't some pretend thing where Jesus pretended to be guilty. He actually BECAME guilty by imputation. He remained sinless and thus blameless in his own character and conduct, but the sin and the guilt of it were CHARGED to Christ. On that cross, Jesus Christ suffered the full penalty that our sins deserved, and He made an END of sins, as Daniel 9:24 says, and He died to sin once for all, as it says further down in Romans 6:10. And Hebrews 9:26 says, "But now once for all, at the completion of the ages, He has ben manifested for putting away of sin through the sacrifice of Himself." And in all this, we become ONE with Christ in His death. We are baptized into - whelmed into - that end of sin, that dying to sin, that putting away of sin. So when God regenerates us and the Holy Spirit baptizes us into Christ Jesus, we become one with Christ in the end of sin, in dying to sin, in putting away of sin. Do you see how this relates to verse 2? "We who DIED to sin, how shall we still live in it?" We can't live in sin, because we have been baptized into Christ Jesus and were thus baptized into His death. As you can see, being baptized into the death of Christ is not just an objective reality without any subjective results. Those who are baptized into Christ Jesus are ones who are dead to sin and have put away sin, as Jesus Christ did so in His death.
Let's go on to verse 4:
Romans 6: (4) Therefore, we were buried with Him through baptism into death, that as Christ was raised up from [the] dead by the glory of the Father, so also we should walk in newness of life.
The first part of the verse says that we were BURIED with Jesus Christ THROUGH baptism into DEATH. This is no symbolic ordinance. This is an actual BURIAL with Jesus Christ INTO death. This does not happen when someone gets dunked into some water or has some water poured on him. This ONLY happens when we are baptized into Christ Jesus upon REGENERATION. It is THEN that we become identified with Christ, become one with Christ, even to the point of being with Him in His BURIAL INTO DEATH. The verb actually means "buried together with." This really shows our union with Christ. The only other time that this verb is used in the Bible is in Colossians 2:12. Let's turn over there:
Colossians 2: (12) being buried with Him in baptism, in whom also you were raised through the faith of the working of God, raising Him from among the dead.
Let's just focus on being identified with Christ's burial for now. What did Christ's burial mean? It is a CONFIRMATION that Christ ACTUALLY DIED. So when we are BURIED with Christ, we are REALLY and ACTUALLY dead. The link to the former life has been completely severed. When we were regenerated, we DIED to sin, and we were SEVERED from that former life in which we lived in sin and were charged with sin. So, once again, "We who died to sin, how shall we still live in it?" So those who, in regeneration, identified with Christ in His death and burial, cannot live in the sin they died to and were severed from. It's impossible.
But it's not just in Christ's death and burial that we are joined to Him. Since God's people, when they are regenerated, completely identify with Christ and are joined to Him, we also are joined to Him in His resurrection from the dead. In the passage we're in, which is Colossians 2:12, Paul says that we also were RAISED in Christ through the faith of the working of God, raising Him from among the dead. And back in Romans 6:4 and 5, Paul says that "as Christ was RAISED up from the dead by the glory of the Father, so also we should walk in newness of life. For if we have ben joined together in the likeness of His DEATH, so also shall we be in the RESURRECTION." Remember back when I preached on the resurrection of Christ? This emphasizes the fact that the resurrection is an essential gospel doctrine. If Jesus Christ was not RAISED, then none of those for whom Christ died will be RAISED to newness of life in regeneration. So if you deny the resurrection, you deny regeneration.
So how are we as Christians joined to Jesus Christ in His resurrection? Well, as Christ DIED to sin and was BURIED, so he was RAISED without that sin having been charged to Him. He was free of imputed sin. So when we are RAISED with Christ at regeneration, that sinful life in which we lived is gone, and we have a new life, and we walk in newness of life. Our old self has died and was buried, and a NEW self has been raised. Note that Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father. So, too, we are raised up from being dead in sins by the glory of the Father. As the Father was glorified in the resurrection of Jesus Christ, so the Father is glorified in the regeneration of His people. So, being raised in and walking in newness of life, how shall we live in sin? Those who have been joined to Christ in His resurrection cannot live in the sin to which they died.
On to verse 6:
Romans 6: (6) knowing this, that our old man was crucified with [Him], that the body of sin might be nullified, so that we no longer serve sin.
Here is a further explanation of our being joined to Christ in His death. Our old man was CRUCIFIED with Christ. Let's turn to Galatians 2:20:
Galatians 2: (20) I have been crucified with Christ, and I live; [yet] no longer I, but Christ lives in me. And the [life] I now live in the flesh, I live by faith toward the Son of God, the [One] loving me and giving Himself over on my behalf.
Our crucifixion with Christ results in a dying to the old me and living by faith. Now to Galatians 5:24:
Galatians 5: (24) But the ones belonging to Christ crucified the flesh with [its] passions and lusts.
And this crucifying the flesh happened in being crucified with Christ. Back to Romans 6:6. Note that it says that our OLD MAN was crucified with Christ. Let's turn to two other passages that use this term. First, Ephesians 4:22:
Ephesians 4: (22) For you have put off the old man, as regards the former behavior, having been corrupted according to the deceitful lusts,
Next, Colossians 3:9:
Colossians 3: (9) Do not lie to one another, having put off the old man with his practices,
This OLD MAN is something that has been crucified and has been put off. So what is our "old man"? Obviously, in the context of the verses we've seen it is our OLD SELVES that were ruled by and enslaved to sin, walking in sin. Our old man was crucified with Christ. Christ, when he took on the sins of all His people, was made one in the eyes of God's law and justice with our old, wicked selves. And when HE died for those sins, our OLD MAN died with him. Back to Romans 6:6. The next phrase is "that the body of sin might be nullified." Our OLD MAN was crucified by Christ, so that the BODY OF SIN might be nullified. The BODY OF SIN is talking about the multitude of sin that ruled and reigned over us and that we walked in before we were regenerated. When we were crucified with Christ, this walk of sin and reign of sin, was NULLIFIED. I love that word. The Greek word is kat-ar-GEH-oh, and it means to render entirely useless, to abolish, to cease, to destroy, to do away with, to vanish away. Praise God! Our old man was crucified with Christ, so that the body of sin might be abolished, done away with, destroyed, obliterated! Now what does this say about the body of sin? Does it say that it is partially destroyed? Does it say that the old man wasn't totally dead? No! The old man was CRUCIFIED and DIED with Christ so that the body of sin would be ANNIHILATED. Does that mean that Christians don't sin? By no means. If anyone says he has no sin, he is a liar, and God's Word is not in him. But it DOES mean that our OLD SELF is COMPLETELY GONE and the bondage of, reign of, and walk in sin has been COMPLETELY DESTROYED! So, how can someone whose body of sin has ceased, has been rendered entirely useless, has been abolished, has been destroyed, has been done away with, has vanished, has been obliterated, has been annihilated - how can this person live in sin? How can that person live in lawlessness? It's impossible.
The last part of verse 6 says, "so that we no longer serve sin." This is the necessary conclusion of everything else, isn't it? First, our old man was crucified with Christ. That means our old man is dead. Second, the body of sin is nullified. That means that the body of sin no longer exists. Thus, we no longer serve sin. Before God regenerated us, we were slaves of sin. Sin reigned. We walked in sin. All we could do was obey the lusts of our flesh. But now that God has created us anew and has given us a new heart and a new spirit, not only DO we not serve sin, but we CANNOT serve sin. No, we're not perfectionists. We don't believe that we can ever be free from sin before we die. But we DO believe God's WORD that says that we no longer walk in sin and no longer serve sin, because our old man has died with Christ, and our new man, our new creation, has risen with Christ. And even though we as Christians strive to obey all of God's commands, we have NO room to boast. Our salvation is not conditioned IN ANY WAY, TO ANY DEGREE on our obedience or our striving to obey. It is not conditioned in any way, to any degree, on the fact that we no longer walk in sin and no longer serve sin. It IS conditioned on the atoning blood and imputed righteousness of Jesus Christ alone, our obedience TOTALLY EXCLUDED. We obey God because God causes us to do so out of love for Him who unconditionally saved us. We give God all the glory and praise for saving us and for causing us to walk in obedience. Amen.