Death in Adam, Life in Christ
Paul begins chapter six with a rhetorical question, and you need to pay attention to these, because they are key to understanding Paul’s train of thought; he’s anticipating objections to his argument. If you’re asking questions that Paul isn’t asking, you’re not tracking with him. If you aren’t even asking questions, or have anywhere in your mind where you might say, “Wait Paul, surely you’re not saying!” then you’re probably not thinking much about what he’s saying.
Why does Paul ask this rhetorical question? What is the question? The question is like this, “Paul, if what you’re saying is true, that I am justified by faith and not by works, and that this justification is long lasting, not because of me, but because of God, then why not continue to sin? Isn’t this the ultimate ‘get out of jail free’ card? After all, the more I sin, the more sin Christ died for, and the greater a Savior he appears to be! So it seems to me that you’re not only saying that we don’t have to do anything but believe Jesus is our Savior, but then you’re actually saying it’s better to keep sinning!”
What’s Paul’s answer? By no means! And he elaborates by asking a question in return; how can we who have been buried with Christ continue to live in sin? What’s Paul saying here? Very clearly, he’s saying that if we have been truly justified, and that our sins are on the sin bearer as Christ is, then we will begin to live as if it did. Not that we should, but it’s ultimately okay if we don’t, because we got our ticket punched–no, Paul says unequivocally that we cannot remain in a sinful lifestyle, nor be comfortable with a sinful lifestyle if we have been justified. This leaves the reader to ask themselves a serious and sober question: Are you uncomfortable with sin? Do you desire to live holy? Or are you content with your own standard? If so, you have not been buried and raised with Christ, and you are under judgment!
Jesus didn’t die so you could get your ticket to heaven punched and then go on your merry way. What does Paul say in verse 4? The complete opposite of that! Christ was raised from the dead, by the Father, so that we too might walk in newness of life. One of the major errors of modern evangelicalism stems from its forgotten doctrine of Regeneration, which you find in Romans 6 and 7. Remember that in chapters 3 through 5, Paul is laying out our great problem, and how that problem is remedied. Now chapter six is what happens after the remedy of the gospel is poured into our hearts. All of chapter 6 and 7 is what comes next for the believer; we are in post-justification now.
This is so important because if you miss this point, and this doctrine, you will end up telling unregenerate people to do these things you find in Romans 6, and setting them up on a path of legalism. You will be discipling goats into sheep, and that is simply impossible. This is a chapter that is speaking to regenerate, believing Christians! People who have been justified! As James White has said once (and I’m paraphrasing) if you’re evangelizing someone and they haven’t even gotten past Romans 1-3 and you’re talking about Romans 4-8, you’re doing it wrong. You need to go back to Romans 1-3 and make sure they know that they are guilty before God. I believe it was Luther who said, “To the proud, give them the law; to the broken, give them the gospel”.