— Pastor Joseph Ola
It is always helpful to keep it at the back of our minds (or at the front, as the case may be…lol) that the Bible wasn’t written with chapters and verses. The Epistle of Paul to the Romans is simply a letter — a long letter. So while chapters and verses are helpful for us to make references and keep track of where we are in the Scriptures, they were not there in the original manuscripts.
That said, the main point in chapter 5 was this: The repercussion of the sin of Adam (and Eve) in the beginning extended a condemned sinful nature to ALL of humanity… and in the same vein, the implication of the sacrifice of Jesus in the new beginning extends a vindication to anyone and everyone that chooses to believe it as such. In other words, God doesn’t deal with believers any longer based on what they do or don’t do but rather based on what Christ has done — based on GRACE.
So chapter 6 begins with a rhetorical question, viz: “How should we respond to all of this? Is it good to persist in a life of sin so that grace may multiply even more?” (6:1 VOICE)
I’m dividing the chapter into 3 parts as well:
1. The Rhetorical Question
2. Paul’s Answer: The Analogy of Baptism
3. Implications of Paul’s Answer
Let’s dig in.
PART 1: THE RHETORICAL QUESTION
Really, which of us hasn’t asked the same question. If I am now in Christ and sin is no longer an issue (since Christ has dealt with the penalty of sin), then what’s up? What’s the big deal if I go on sinning?
One of the popular answers I’ve heard given to this kind of question (and which I, myself have also given others), is to come from the angle of eternal rewards. In other words, every truly born again believer is heaven-bound but to the degree in which we are able to abstain from the works of the flesh (sin) and yield to the leading of the Spirit shall determine the ‘level’ of rewards we will receive when Christ comes again. While this is true, this isn’t the angle Paul takes in this part of the letter. Rather, he borrows from the idea put across in the previous chapter and drums it in deeper still with an analogy: WATER BAPTISM.
To say that Christ’s atoning death and triumphant resurrection extends the righteousness of God (by imputation) on anyone and everyone that believes (as in Romans 5) is to say that the believer has become a new creature; the ‘old man’ — the sinful spirit — has died and there is a regeneration (think of re + genesis = repeated [or new] beginning).
You must have heard of the tripartite nature of man — that man is essentially a SPIRIT that has a SOUL and lives/dwells in a BODY. Each of us is actually ‘spirit’ — we are spirit-beings that have capacity to think, make decisions and feel emotions, while animating this shell wherein we live (which we call ‘the body’). So for someone that is not yet saved, that person is a sinful spirit-being, essentially. His/her sinful spirit trains both the soul and the body in the act and art of being in opposition to God. But when that person places his/her faith and trust in the finished work of Christ on the cross, that sinful spirit dies, INSTANTLY. At the same time, a new spirit — a spirit that is directly from the Spirit of Jesus; sinless, perfect and spotless — comes in and takes over. So the person is no longer a sinner (because the sinful spirit is dead) but now a saint (because the new spirit in this spirit-being is, in fact, the Spirit of God!)
Are we still on the same track?
So let us look back at Paul’s rhetorical question and his answer from a few translations:
VOICE — “How should we respond to all of this? Is it good to persist in a life of sin so that grace may multiply even more? Absolutely not! *How can we die to a life where sin ruled over us and then invite sin back into our lives?”
TPT — “So what do we do, then? Do we persist in sin so that God’s kindness and grace will increase? What a terrible thought! We have died to sin once and for all, as a dead man passes away from this life. So how could we live under sin’s rule a moment longer?”
NIV — “What shall we say, then? Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase? By no means! We are those who have died to sin; how can we live in it any longer?”
To explain it well, Paul uses the analogy of water baptism.
PART 2: THE ANALOGY OF WATER BAPTISM
What we did when we got baptised in water was simply to have a picture of what happened in the spirit at the moment of our regeneration, which, in every way, also portrays the experience of Christ’s death, burial and resurrection. Let me explain.
Here’s a quick recap of what happened to Christ between Good Friday and Easter Sunday.
a. Christ died spiritually (i.e. He experienced separation from the Father because the sin of the whole world was laid upon Him and God’s eyes are too holy to behold iniquity. Hence why He cried ‘My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?’)
b. Christ died physically (even though He committed no sin, but as a man upon whom the sin of the whole world was laid, He also became subject to death… for the wages of sin is death).
c. Christ resurrected.(on the third day… and at this point, He’s a new man and will never die again; so death’s power over Him expired. In fact, now He’s in charge of death!)
d. Post resurrection, Christ can only submit Himself to pleasing the Father; He is not under death’s control any longer.
The same thing is portrayed through water baptism:
a. We were spiritually dead (because by birth, we inherited Adam’s error)
b. In coming to Christ and opting to be baptised, we spiritually partake in Christ’s death (which He went through on our behalf anyway). This is portrayed by immersing us fully into the water (sprinkling wouldn’t do the analogy justice).
c. In coming out of the water, we portray our being resurrected with Christ (and therefore, like Christ, we are also no longer under the control of death).
d. Post baptism, like Christ’s post resurrection, all that is left for us is to continue to please the Father since we are no longer under sin or death’s control.
That’s the summary of what Paul is saying. “How shall we who died to sin live any longer in it?” (6:2 NKJV).
In other words, guys, the sinful spirit of our former selves is dead — and the Law of Moses that emboldened its dominion over us in the past has also been taken away. What we have left is a new spirit — a sinless spirit which is not under the Law but under GRACE.
The problem is that this new Spirit in our new nature still dwells in the same body that the old sinful nature had taught to oppose God. And our soul (our mind, will and emotion) has also been tutored by that old sinful spirit.
Way forward? This leads us to Part 3.
PART 3: THE IMPLICATION OF PAUL’S ANALOGY
The implication of this dilemma of our new man — our new spirit-being — still living in our old sin-loving body and our sin-programmed soul is that we need a re-orientation. That re-orientation begins with a new way of thinking about the relationship between us and sin. See what Romans 6:11 says:
NIV — “…count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus.”_
TPT — “…you must continually view yourselves as dead and unresponsive to sin’s appeal while living daily for God’s pleasure in union with Jesus, the Anointed One.”
NKJV — “…reckon yourselves to be dead indeed to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”_
PHILLIPS — “…look upon yourselves as dead to the appeal and power of sin but alive and sensitive to the call of God through Jesus Christ our Lord.”_
That’s where it begins. Training your thinking. Reminding yourself that the real you — the new you — has no connection whatsoever with the old you, and therefore nothing to do with sin. It sounds too simple and too powerless… until you try it.
Every sin you sinned as an unsaved person was from your sinful spirit. But once you become born again, the real you CANNOT sin again. 1 John 3:9 (KJV) says “Whosoever is born of God doth not commit sin; for his seed remaineth in him: and he CANNOT sin, because he is born of God.”
Every time you sin as a believer, it is not YOU that sinned, you simply gave permission to your sin-loving body and sin-programmed soul to tell the real YOU — the new you — what to do.
So what’s the way forward? Train your new you. Exercise your new you to the point where he takes its rightful place in controlling your body and soul. We call this process SANCTIFICATION, and it will take the rest of our lives!
So the writer of Hebrews tells us in Hebrews 5:14 (TPT): “But solid food is for the mature, . . . they have been ADEQUATELY TRAINED BY WHAT THEY’VE EXPERIENCED to emerge with understanding of the difference between what is truly excellent and what is evil and harmful.”
You see? As you experience temptations; seeming disappointments; spiritual disciplines like a commitment to personal bible study, fasting, prayer, godly music, nourishing literature and edifying movies — as you EXPERIENCE all of these things, both from your successes and failures in your engagements with them — you become BETTER TRAINED. The real you is able to take its place on the throne of your heart and order your body and soul to take dressing.
The problem is that many believers don’t engage intentionally in this training. Rather, we feed the body with its cravings. Sensual movies. Secular music. Any kind of literature as long as it is interesting. Hours watching a Premier League match or Champions League bout — hours that could have been spent doing other spiritually edifying things.
Don’t get me wrong. We hardly can escape some of these things. The point is that there is enough corruption in the world for our body to feed on without us adding to the process. Sowing to the flesh is effortless. It’s natural. It’s our default. It’s everywhere around us. BUT SOWING TO THE SPIRIT — which is more important — DEMANDS INTENTIONALITY.
So where does that live YOU?
Buy the headphones. Subscribe to the podcast. Take the prayer walk. Wake up in the night to pray as you intend. Register for the conference. Start the weekly fast. Commit to the quiet time. Do it. Don’t stop at INTENDING to do it. DO IT! Flipping do it, mate! (Sorry, I’m becoming a Scouser…lol).
But you get the gist.
I’ll stop there.