Paul doesn’t seem to stop in the book of Romans. At least three verse 1’s in the whole book are fairly popular: Romans 5:1–Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through out Lord Jesus Christ…
Romans 6:1–What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin that grace may abound?
Romans 8:1–There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus…
Paul wastes no time. He has a lot to say, and he says it quick. There’s something I notice about every one of these verses: it references something said before. Therefore, therefore, and what shall we say then? Anytime you see something like that, you have to read the passage (or at least the verse) through the lens of whatever the therefore is there for.
When I began studying Romans 6, I found that there is one big question to be asked, so let’s restate verse 1:
“Does that mean that we should continue in sin so that grace will abound?”
That sets the stage for us to ask: Does what mean that we should continue in sin that grace may abound? Then we look back to the end of chapter 5 and find that Paul explained that through one man [Adam]’s offense sin entered the picture, and abounded. He says, however, that “is by the one man’s offense many died, much more the grace of God and the gift by the grace of the one Man, Jesus Christ, abounded to many.” And this discussion sets itself up as a premise to argue that we should continue sinning so that God’s grace can abound. But Paul seems to have this uncanny ability to know what questions would arise. So he rhetorically asks it and immediately shoots it down…
“Gee, Paul, why not?”
“Well, I’m glad you asked. Do you not know that as many of us as were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death?”
From there, Paul lays out all of the parallels of our new life in Christ.
Vs 4. We were buried with Him through baptism into death, so as Christ was raised from the dead, so we should walk in newness of life.
Vs 5. We were united in His death, we shall be in the likeness of His resurrection.
Vs. 6. We were crucified with him, the old body of sin is done away with, and we are no longer slaves of sin. (because vs 7. “he who has died has been freed from sin.”)
Vs 8. We died with Christ, we shall also live with Him.
Vs. 11 is, to me, the crux of the chapter:
“Likewise you also, reckon yourselves to be dead indeed to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
To this point, Paul has layed out everything that we have in common with Jesus to this point: (spiritually, not physically, of course)
We died. We were buried. We were resurrected.
Then Paul lays out one more similarity, the one that maybe we’d be reluctant to accept. Jesus, he says, “died to sin once for all, but the life that He lives, He lives to God. Likewise you also, reckon yourselves to be dead indeed to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
I read over this passage about 100 times during my time of study, and always got caught up on the word “to.” Alive TO God. What does that mean? I’ve heard that I should live FOR God, but never paid attention that I am to live TO God. So my research partner and I looked up some different translations to try to shed a little light on the subject. The only two translations that used a word different from the NKJV were the NLT, which said that ‘alive to God’ means “living for the glory of God.” Okay, that’s a little bit helpful. But even that is an overused phrase. Living for the glory of God could mean several things–glorifying God in everything you do, living so that others glorify God when they see your life…it’s not a completely definitive term.
The other translation was the Amplified Bible, which said, “alive to God [living in unbroken fellowship with Him…]” which caught my attention. Being alive to God means to live in unbroken fellowship with Him. That’s a good segue into the next approach we took. We took a step back and asked, “what does it mean to be alive?”
Then the Holy Spirit did what only the Holy Spirit can do…He revealed truth to us (first to my pastor, who shared with me) through an episode of The Big Bang Theory. There’s an episode in season 2 when Leonard is supposed to be taking Howard’s girlfriend home because Howard got into a situation at work, and instead of taking her home, they start making out and eventually sleeping together. Now through a series of events, as Leonard is going to talk to Howard, she calls Howard and tells her himself. Howard hangs up the phone, looks Leonard dead in the eye and says, “you’re dead to me,” promptly slamming the door in his face.
It’s actually a great way to explain our new relationship to sin. Howard broke off his relationship with Leonard because he was so deeply hurt and betrayed. He refused to acknowledge Leonard’s existence (until it did him any good, which is something else entirely…) and in his mind, Leonard was neither present nor relevant. Now, it’s not a perfect metaphor, because I think it may be dangerous to pretend that sin doesn’t exist. But it is a good way to think about the power of sin–sin’s power is broken, plain and simple. We can’t afford to go around thinking that any or every time we sin, we are re-condemned to hell.
Verse 11 is really a call to a new mindset to be God-conscious instead of being so sin-conscious (once again, don’t pretend like sin doesn’t exist, BUT) so often we are focused on sin that we end up thinking that there is more wrong with us than there is right with us, which is not the case. We are ultimately and fully redeemed, so there is a LOT more that is right with us than there is wrong with us! It’s a call to move forward in maturity with God, not looking for excuses to sin, and not keeping our eyes on sin but realizing that our goal in life is to become more like Jesus and live in response to the Gospel!