“What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin that grace may abound? Certainly not! How shall we who died to sin live any longer in it? Or do you not know that as many of us as were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death? Therefore we were buried with Him through baptism into death, that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.” Romans 6:1-4
In the last part of our study we saw that
- the Law entered that the offense might abound
- where sin abounded grace abounded more
- as sin reigned in death
- grace reigns through righteousness to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord
We now move to Chapter Six of Paul’s letter to the Romans where the apostle asks and answers a very important question.
“What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin that grace may abound?”
τι ουν ερουμεν επιμενουμεν τη αμαρτια ινα η χαρις πλεοναση
τι ουν ερουμεν (ti oun eroumen) “what then will we say”
επιμενουμεν τη αμαρτια ινα η χαρις πλεοναση (epimenōmen tē hamartia hina hē charis pleonasē) “shall we continue in sin that grace may abound” .. epimenōmen means “continue on with persistence” .. pleonasē means “superabound, abounding in number, more than enough” ..
Paul asked the question based on his previous statement –
“Moreover the law entered that the offense might abound. But where sin abounded, grace abounded much more, so that as sin reigned in death, even so grace might reign through righteousness to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.” Romans 5:20-21
The offense (sin against God) has been part of our (the human race) experience since the Garden of Eden. However, the offense increased (abounded) when God gave His Law to His people, Israel. “But where sin abounded, grace abounded much more.” The Greek word used in Romans 5:20 for “abounded much more” is hupereperisseusen. It means “to abound more exceedingly.” Even though sin abounded (pleonasē), grace abounded more exceedingly. God’s grace is always greater than the offense.
Why would Paul even think to ask that question? It’s probably because he had heard the question many times through the years as he preached the Gospel of Grace. Paul’s audience was vast and varied and he would have heard every conceivable question from Jews and Gentiles by the time he wrote to the Romans.
How did he answer the question?
“Certainly not! How shall we who died to sin live any longer in it?”
μη γενοιτο οιτινες απεθανομεν τη αμαρτια πως ετι ζησομεν εν αυτη
μη γενοιτο (mē genoito) “never may it be” .. “may it not come to pass” .. this is the same phrase Paul used in Romans 3:4, 6, 31 .. it is a strong denial .. as we will see later in our study, Paul used the same phrase several other times in Romans (e.g. 6:15; 7:7, 13; 9:14; 11:1, 11) ..
οιτινες απεθανομεν τη αμαρτια πως ετι ζησομεν εν αυτη (hoitines apethanomen tē hamartia pōs eti zēsomen en autē) “who we died to sin how still shall we live in it” .. apethanomen means “die off, die away from” .. the word emphasizes the idea of ‘separating’ from something .. that something is ‘sin’ (hamartia) .. zēsomen means “to live, be alive” ..
Paul responded to the question with his own question. How in the world could we who have been changed so radically by the grace of God want to continue to live in opposition to God’s will for our lives? How can we who “died” to sin continue to “live” in it?
What did Paul mean by the use of the word ‘sin’? Was he talking about individual ‘acts’ of sin that a Christian might commit or the sin nature that is totally depraved? Here’s how Greek professor Kenneth Wuest answered that question –
“A rule of Greek syntax settles the question. Here the article points back to a previously mentioned sin defined in its context. The reference is to sin reigning as king (5:21). There sin is personified since it reigns as a king. But one cannot conceive of acts of sin reigning as king in the life of a person. They are the result of some dominant factor reigning as a king. That can only be the evil nature still resident in the Christian. And here is the key to the interpretation of the entire chapter. Every time the word ‘sin’ is used in this chapter as a noun, it refers to the evil nature in the Christian.” Wuest’s Word Studies from the Greek New Testament, Volume I, p 91, Eerdmans, 1973
“Or do you not know that as many of us as were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death?”
η αγνοειτε οτι οσοι εβαπτισθημεν εις χριστον ιησουν εις τον θανατον αυτου εβαπτισθημεν
η αγνοειτε οτι οσοι εβαπτισθημεν εις χριστον ιησουν (ē agnoeite hoti osoi ebaptisthēmen eis Christen Iēsoun) “or are you unaware that as many as have been baptized into Christ Jesus” .. agnoeite means “to be ignorant, not to know” .. ebaptisthēmen means “to dip, sink, submerge” .. it is a verb that is aorist/indicative/passive .. It is something that was done to us in the past .. we can look at it as an historical event that we can remember .. the indicative mood indicates past action with the significance that it happened ..
εις τον θανατον αυτου εβαπτισθημεν (eis ton thanaton auto ebaptisthēmen) “into the death of him have been baptized” .. thanaton means “physical or spiritual death” ..
The words ‘baptize’ and ‘baptism’ are used many times in the New Testament, but they are ‘transliterations’ of the Greek rather than ‘translations.’ The Greek words for baptize, baptized and baptism are — baptizó and baptisma. The word baptismos was used for ceremonial washings of articles.
The words themselves come from the word bapto, which means ‘to dip.’ Ancient Greeks used the word for dipping something into a solution. The word baptizó was also used for dipping something into a solution, but the usage of baptizó was a permanent change through ‘immersion’.
One example comes to us from the Greek poet and physician Nicander of Colophon. He lived a couple of hundred years before Paul wrote Romans. Nicander wrote a recipe for making pickles and used both words, bapto and baptizó. The first step in making a pickle was dipping (bapto) the vegetable into boiling water. The next step was immersing (baptizó) it into a vinegar solution. Bapto started the process. Baptizó finished it – making the change permanent. Once the vegetable went through the boiling and vinegar, it was not the same. It had changed into something else and would be that something else until eaten.
Dr. Kenneth Wuest defined the word baptizó as “the introduction or placing of a person or thing into a new environment or into union with something else so as to alter its condition or its relationship to its previous environment or condition.’ And that is its usage in Romans 6.” (Romans in the Greek New Testament, Eerdmans, p 96, 1955)
What Paul addressed in Romans 6 was the change in relationship of a sinful human being to an angry God. Those who God ‘immersed’ into Jesus Christ are ‘immersed’ into Christ’s death. That is how God changes our relationship with Him. We who were enemies of God are made His children through that supernatural process.
We often think of baptism as being dipped or submerged into water. However, the words (e.g. baptism, baptize, baptized) are used in several other contexts as well –
- Baptism into Moses .. 1 Corinthians 10 (saved from destructive water)
- Noah-like baptism .. 1 Peter 3:20-21 (saved from destructive water)
- Ceremonial Jewish cleansings .. Hebrews 9:10 (‘washings’ is the Greek word baptismois)
- Baptism of John .. Mark 1:4-8
- Baptism of repentance .. Mark 1:4
- Baptism of Jesus .. Matthew 3:13-17
- Baptism of Holy Spirit .. Mark 1:8
- Baptism of fire .. Matthew 3:11-12
- Baptism of suffering .. Matthew 20:22-23; Mark 10:35-39
- Baptism into Body of Christ .. 1 Corinthians 12:13
- Baptism for the dead .. 1 Corinthians 15:29
- Baptism into Christ .. Galatians 3:27
- Baptism into Christ’s death .. Romans 3:23
- One Baptism .. Ephesians 4:5
Paul used the phrases “baptized into Christ Jesus” and “baptized into His death” in Romans 6:3. We need to be careful not to read a ‘water baptism’ interpretation into these Bible verse before studying them carefully. The job of the student is to observe everything in the text, ask questions, develop answers, and make interpretations and applications prayerfully.
Jesus told His disciples to baptize new disciples “in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit” (Matthew 28:19). Jesus was speaking of water baptism in that context because that’s what people do. The Apostle Peter used water to baptize Cornelius and his family. The Apostle Paul used water to baptize the jailer and his family in Philippi (Acts 16:33). However, only God baptizes (immerses, submerges) a new believer into Christ and into His death.
Let’s continue with the context to search for information that will help us interpret the powerful truth of being baptized into Jesus Christ and into His death.
“Therefore we were buried with Him through baptism into death, that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.”
συνεταφημεν ουν αυτω δια του βαπτισματος εις τον θανατον ινα ωσπερ ηγερθη χριστος εκ νεκρων δια της δοξης του πατρος ουτως και ημεις εν καινοτητι ζωης περιπατησωμεν
συνεταφημεν ουν αυτω δια του βαπτισματος εις τον θανατον (sunetaphēmen oun autō dia tou baptismatos eis ton thanaton) “we were buried therefore with him through baptism into death” .. sunetaphēmen means “bury with” .. the word is also aorist indicative passive in the Greek (see above) ..
Paul is now diving into what I call ‘deep doctrinal depths’. This truth that Christians who were ‘baptized’ into Christ were ‘baptized’ into His death is a supernatural event. There is nothing ‘natural’ about this event in our lives. Remember the definition of the word ‘baptized’ — “dip, sink, submerge, immerse.” Christians are people who were ‘immersed’ into Christ’s death and ‘buried with’ Christ through being ‘immersed’ into His death. This supernatural work of God in the sinner’s life is the ‘change agent.’ While water baptism is a ‘picture’ or ‘figure’ of what has happened to a believer, Paul referred to the supernatural immersion that occurred at the moment of salvation. When they confessed with their mouth the Lord Jesus and believed in their heart that God had raised Him from the dead, they were saved (Romans 10:9) — they were ‘buried’ – ‘united’ – with Christ into His death.
ινα ωσπερ ηγερθη χριστος εκ νεκρων δια της δοξης του πατρος (hina hōsper ēgerthē christos ek nekrōn dia tēs doxēs tou patros) “so that just as was raised up Christ out from the dead by the glory of the Father” .. ēgerthē means “to waken, raise up” .. ek means ” from out of” and suggests from the interior outwards .. nekrōn means “corpse, dead body, lifeless” .. dia means “because of, on account of, through” .. doxēs means “praise, honor, glory” .. patros means “one who commits life” ..
Jesus Christ, lifeless in the tomb, was ‘wakened’ from death through the supernatural work of His Father in Heaven! God the Father promised He would raise His Son from the grave and He did it through and to the credit of His great ‘glory.’
ουτως και ημεις εν καινοτητι ζωης περιπατησωμεν (houtōs kai hēmeis en kainotēti zōēs peripatēsōmen) “so also we in newness of life should walk” .. kainotēti means “freshness, newness” .. zōēs means “life, spiritual and physical” .. peripatēsōmen means “walk around, conduct oneself” ..
Paul tells us clearly that we share in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Those of us who were submerged into Jesus were submerged into His death. That means we were buried with Him through God submerging us into ‘death.’ In the same way, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, “even so we also should walk in newness of life.”
That’s why Paul answered the question in verse 1 the way he did —
“What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin that grace may abound? Certainly not!”
That’s why Paul asked the question he did —
“How shall we who died to sin live any longer in it?”
God’s supernatural work in our lives ‘changes’ us dramatically and eternally! Our relationship with God is changed. Our conduct, our behavior, the way we ‘walk around is changed. Everything about us is changed and changed permanently!
Who should receive the ‘glory’ for that change? God – Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
“Let the thought be abhorred, of continuing in sin that grace may abound. True believers are dead to sin, therefore they ought not to follow it. No man can at the same time be both dead and alive. He is a fool who, desiring to be dead unto sin, thinks he may live in it.” Matthew Henry’s Concise Commentary
“What shall we say then?…. The apostle here obviates an objection he saw would be made against the doctrine he had advanced, concerning the aboundings of the grace of God in such persons and places, where sin had abounded; which if true, might some persons say, then it will be most fit and proper to continue in a sinful course of life, to give up ourselves to all manner of iniquity, since this is the way to make the grace of God abound yet more and more: now says the apostle, what shall we say to this? how shall we answer such an objection? shall we join with the objectors, and say as they do? and shall we continue in sin that grace may abound? that is, shall we persist in a vicious way of living with this view, that the grace of God may be magnified hereby? is it right to commit sin on such an account? or is this a fair inference, a just consequence, drawn from the doctrine of grace? To be sure it was not, the objection is without any ground and foundation; sin is not “per se”, the cause of the glorifying God’s grace, but “per accidens”: sin of itself is the cause of wrath, and not of grace; but God has been pleased to take an occasion of magnifying his grace, in the forgiveness of sin: for it is not by the commission of sin, but by the pardon of it, that the grace of God is glorified, or made to abound. Moreover, grace in conversion is glorified by putting a stop to the reign of sin, and not by increasing its power, which would be done by continuing in it; grace teaches men not to live in sin, but to abstain from it; add to this, that it is owing to the want of grace, and not to the aboundings of it, that men at any time abuse, or make an ill use of the doctrines of grace; wherefore the apostle’s answer is.” Gill’s Exposition of the Entire Bible
“It is well to bear in mind Dr. Lightfoot’s remarks on the importance of keeping the strict aorist sense as opposed to that of the perfect (i.e., the single past action as opposed to the prolonged or continued action) in passages such as this. “St. Paul regards this change—from sin to righteousness, from bondage to freedom, from death to life—as summed up in one definite act of the past; potentially to all men in our Lord’s passion and resurrection, actually to each individual man when he accepts Christ, is baptised into Christ. Then he is made righteous by being incorporated into Christ’s righteousness, he dies once for all to sin, he lives henceforth for ever to God. This is his ideal. Practically, we know that the death to sin and the life to righteousness are inchoate, imperfect, gradual, meagerly realised even by the most saintly men in this life; but St. Paul sets the matter in this ideal light to force upon the consciences of his hearers the fact that an entire change came over them when they became Christians—that the knowledge and the grace then vouchsafed to them did not leave them where they were—that they are not, and cannot be, their former selves—and that it is a contradiction of their very being to sin any more. It is the definiteness, the absoluteness of this change, considered as an historical crisis, which forms the central idea of St. Paul’s teaching, and which the aorist marks. We cannot, therefore, afford to obscure this idea by disregarding the distinctions of grammar; yet in our English version it is a mere chance whether in such cases the aorist is translated as an aorist” (On Revision, p. 85). These remarks will form the best possible commentary upon the passage before us. It may be only well to add that the change between the position of the first Christians and our own involves a certain change in the application of what was originally said with reference to them. Baptism is not now the tremendous crisis that it was then. The ideal of Christian life then assumed is more distinctly an ideal. It has a much less definite hold upon the imagination and the will. But it ought not therefore to be any the less binding upon the Christian. He should work towards it, if he cannot work from it, in the spirit of Philippians 3:12-14.” Ellicott’s Commentary for English Readers
“… to be baptized into the death of Christ, is to have fellowship with him in his death, or to have the efficacy of his death sealed up to us; and that is the blessed privilege of as many as are baptized or planted into Christ; they are not only partakers of the merit of his death for justification, but of the efficacy of his death for mortification.” Matthew Poole’s Commentary
“But death and burial are not the end of the story. In God’s redemptive plan burial is followed by resurrection. 12 As Christ was raised from the dead in a manifestation of the Father’s glorious power, so also are we raised to an entirely new way of living. 13 The cross has as its ethical purpose a change in conduct. The Greek expression translated “a new life” is better rendered “a new sphere which is life.” Apart from Christ people are dead in their sins (Eph 2:1). But raised from the dead through faith in Christ, they enter an entirely new sphere of existence. They are alive in Christ. As Jesus promised, “I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full” (John 10:10). Although contemporary use has tended to trivialize the expression “born again,” the vibrant reality of new life in Christ is still portrayed most graphically by the metaphor of spiritual birth. The lives of believers are to be as different from their preconversion days as life is from death.” Robert H. Mounce (2012) New American Commentary Vol 27: Romans. B&H Publishing Group.
“6:1–8:39. Paul moves from demonstrating the doctrine of justification, which is God’s declaring the believing sinner righteous (3:20–5:21), to demonstrating the practical ramifications of salvation on those who have been justified. He specifically discusses the doctrine of sanctification, which is God’s producing actual righteousness in the believer …
6:1. Shall we continue in sin. Because of his past Pharisaic experience, Paul was able to anticipate the major objections of his critics. He had already alluded to this criticism, that by preaching a justification based solely on the free grace of God, he was encouraging people to sin. (cf. 3:5, 6, 8) …
6:4. buried with him. Since we are united by faith with Him as baptism symbolizes, His death and burial become ours.” John MacArthur, The MacArthur Study Bible, Thomas Nelson, 2019, p 1551
“Paul has answered the question, ‘Shall we as a habit of life continue to sustain the same relationship to the evil nature that we sustained before salvation?’ by showing that his is a mechanical impossibility and for two reasons, first, the power of the sinful nature has been broken, and therefore the Christian is not compelled to sin, and second, the divine nature is imparted, and the Christian does not want to sin. When a person does not have to do something which he does not want to do, he simply does not do it.” Wuest’s Word Studies from the Greek New Testament, Volume I, p 98, Eerdmans, 1973
If you have not read previous studies from Chapter 5, we invite you to read those first for a proper context for our text today.
Previous Romans Study eBooks
Commentary on Romans “The Gospel of God” Chapter 1 Verses 1-15
Commentary on Romans “The Gospel of God” Chapter 1 Verses 16-17
We will look at Romans 6:5-7 as we continue our study of the Gospel of God.
Scripture taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved.