Paul asks the question in verse one because it is what a person might ask after reading what he wrote at the end of chapter five. He wrote, “The Law came in so that the transgression would increase; but where sin increased, grace abounded all the more”. “So”, the questioner asks, “Are we to continue in sin so that grace may increase”? Paul answers almost with a shock, “May it never be”!
If he had said no more, the issue would have been settled completely. But he gives reasons why it may never be. He reasons that it cannot be because “How shall we who died to sin still live in it”? Before they were made dead to sin, they had been dead in sin. In sin, they were dead to God. When they were delivered from sin they were separated from sin; they became dead to sin. Being dead to sin, they could not live in sin. They were separated from it and could not continue in its guilt and practice.
Paul did not write verse three in order to teach a lesson on baptism. He supposes they already know what he says about it. “Or do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus have been baptized into His death?” If they know this, they will be able to see clearly why baptism shows they must no longer sin.
To be baptised into Christ is to come under His authority. That was done when they were baptised in His name. A person can only be baptised properly when he decides that he must become subject to Christ and he desires the salvation from sin promised in baptism.
But in being baptised they were buried with Him. No one was ever sprinkled with Him, for Jesus was never sprinkled, neither did He ever command anyone to be sprinkled with water or have water poured on them. This passage, together with Colossians 2:12, clearly proves that baptism is immersion (putting under the water). A person does not need to know the original language (Greek) to learn what action baptism is. The statement, “therefore we have been buried with Him through baptism”, means “we are buried by baptism”. The verb, baptise, tells of an act. Therefore in baptism there is action. But Paul here tells us that the action is a burial. In the act of sprinkling, as well as in the act of pouring, there is not a burial; in the act of immersion there is a burial.
Many religious denominations sprinkle or pour water on people and call that baptism. Therefore many people believe that if a person has water sprinkled or poured on him he is baptised. But when we read “we have been buried by baptism” we know that baptism cannot be sprinkling or pouring. It is a burial. In addition, Paul wrote to the Ephesians that there is “one baptism” (Ephesians 4:5). Since baptism requires an action, and since Romans 4:4 and Colossians 2:12 say that the action is a burial, there can be only one action—immersion. We cannot take the term one and make it mean three— immersion and sprinkling and pouring.
Nor can we say that one is buried by sprinkling or pouring. But everyone can understand that one is buried by immersion. This then clearly shows that the action of baptism is immersion, and not sprinkling or pouring.
These verses also teach that baptism is a burial in water one time. Just as Jesus was buried once, so we must be buried in baptism once. It makes no sense to bury a person three times. That is not in the likeness of the death, burial and resurrection of Christ.
When Paul writes “For if we have become united with Him in the likeness of His death” he does not mean that there can be some doubt. It means “since” we have become united with Him. This means that just as we have been united (planted) with Him, so “we shall also be in the likeness of His resurrection”.
When a person is baptised he is united with Christ in the likeness of His death. This person “shall also be in the likeness of His resurrection”. These words do not point to a future resurrection of the body, but they mean the resurrection of the body from the burial in water when baptized.
Just as a burial means that a person has died, so being raised from the dead means that there must be a new life. So Paul writes, “Therefore we have been buried with Him through baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life”. Death and resurrection separate the old life and the new life. This means there has to be a great difference in the two lives.
This verse clearly shows that we must be buried in baptism in order to have the new life. This is an explanation of Jesus’ words in John 3:5: “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit he cannot enter into the kingdom of God”. The new birth is only completed when we are raised from the waters of baptism.
“Our old self was crucified with Him”. Paul wrote to the Galatians: “ I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me” (2:20). To the Colossians he wrote: “For you have died and your life is hidden with Christ in God” (3:3). They were dead to their former lives of sin, therefore they “laid aside the old self with its evil practices, and put on the new self who is being renewed to a true knowledge according to the image of the One who created him” (Colossians 3:9-10).
The gospel is addressed to sinners, and only sinners need it. It is God’s power to save them. But the gospel is given to save them from their sins, not in them. In saying “that our old self was crucified with Him, in order that our body of sin might be done away with”, Paul is saying that the old life must be put to death. We can no longer live it. Only in this way can the body of sin be destroyed. The body of sin is the total of all one’s sins. The only way sin can be destroyed is by blotting it out. This means that in order to have forgiveness of sins we must repent, which is when we change our will and decide to stop sinning.
In this section Paul shows that God expects the saved to live a very different life from their former way of life. How sad that so many “Christians” have changed their manner of life only a little, if any.
This instruction is for the spirit of man, therefore the death and life are spiritual. We have to die to sin in order to live with Him. Just as Christ in being raised from the dead dies no more, so we are to die no more. We no more will be dead in sin. Note that verses 3 and 4 say that we have been baptized into death. Our death to sin is completed in baptism and not before.
The thought that Christ having been raised from the dead is never to die again sets forth the idea that He is the first fruits of those who are asleep (1 Corinthians 15:20). Lazarus had been raised from the dead, but he had to die again. But Jesus defeated death in His resurrection.
We are buried in baptism because we are dead to sin. Then we are raised not to sin but to live unto Christ. If we live with Christ we cannot live in sin. While He lived on the earth Jesus was in the flesh. His flesh was mortal, and thus He had to die. But He died to sin once for all. He died in order to take away sin. He died for the remission of sins, but not His own. “So Christ also, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time for salvation without reference to sin, to those who eagerly await Him” (Hebrews 9:28).
When we are baptised we are united with him in the likeness of His death and burial, and baptism becomes our death to sin and burial. But He was raised from the dead and the life that He lives, He lives to God. So when we come from immersion in water, we must consider ourselves to be dead to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus. We have a new life which has a new direction. In the old life we served the fleshly desires as our fleshly mind desired. The new life is given to God and is controlled by a spiritual mind, a mind which loves the things of the spirit.
If we are fleshly minded we are enemies of God (Romans 8:6-7). If we are alive with God we must be controlled by the spirit. But since God is in Christ reconciling the world unto Himself (2 Corinthians 5:19), the only way we can be alive to God is through our Lord Jesus Christ. There can be no spiritual life apart from Christ. “But if we walk in the Light as He Himself is in the Light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin” (1 John 1:7).
God knows that His children will sin, but He does not give us permission to live a life of sin. God is not pleased at any sin in the life of a child of God, but He has made it possible for us to receive forgiveness if we sin. If this were not true, none of us would have a hope of heaven. But though God forgives the sins of His children when they walk in the light and confess their sins (1 John 1:9), He will not forgive those who live a life of sin. This whole passage is directed against that idea.
It may be added that in this we see a picture of baptism which makes it very important. The denominational world refuses to see what baptism really is for. A careful study of these verses shows its true value.
Here we find sin described as if it were a person who can rule another. Sin reigns when we obey what it wants us to do. We do this when we obey its lusts. Lust here means the desire to do evil. The desire is not in itself sin, but when we obey it we sin. James tells us that we are tempted when we are drawn away by our own lust, and enticed (James 1:14). When lust conceives it brings forth sin, and sin when it is finished brings forth death (James 1:15). Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its lusts.
Paul says that we must not let sin reign. This shows clearly that God has given us the ability to make our own choices. We are free moral agents. We can refuse to obey the lusts of sin, or we can obey. This shows that we are free to decide what to do, and we are responsible for the choices we make.
There are two ruling powers: unrighteousness and God. The great thing is that we do not have to obey unrighteousness. Paul says: present yourselves to God as those alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness to God. 14 For sin shall not be master over you, for you are not under law but under grace. We were delivered from sin by God’s grace when we obeyed Christ in faith. Sin shall not be master over us because we are not under law but under grace. Law does not bring forgiveness. But we have been delivered from the condemnation of the Law by Christ’s sacrifice on the cross. We now have forgiveness (grace) and live in that forgiveness. Because of that we can listen to God and willingly obey him. Sin shall not be master over us! Forgiveness is the key. Being made free from sin, becoming dead to sin, we are able to cast off the dominion of sin.
Paul says more about this in Colossians 3:1-5: “Therefore if you have been raised up with Christ, keep seeking the things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your mind on the things above, not on the things that are on earth. For you have died and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is our life, is revealed, then you also will be revealed with Him in glory. Therefore consider the members of your earthly body as dead to immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and greed, which amounts to idolatry.”
Notice that Paul tells the Christian not to present his members as instruments of unrighteousness but to present them as instruments of righteousness to God. There is a difference between the you and the instruments. The you is the spirit, whereas the instruments are the members of the physical body. It is the job of the spirit to control the body; the body is not to control the spirit. Paul wrote to the Corinthians, “Flee immorality. Every other sin that a man commits is outside the body, but the immoral man sins against his own body” (1 Corinthians 6:18). Sin does not come from the body, it comes from the spirit. The spirit is the part of man which controls whether a man sins or not. The body is under the control of the spirit. If man is only a body without a spirit, he is just an animal and he cannot sin. Only because man is a spirit can he be a responsible creature and be able to sin.
To the Galatians Paul wrote: “Walk by the spirit, and you will not carry out the desire of the flesh. For the flesh sets its desire against the spirit, and the spirit against the flesh; for these are in opposition to one another, so that you may not do the things that you please” (Galatians 5:16-17). I believe Paul means the human spirit, not the Holy Spirit. Spirit is placed in contrast to the flesh here. It must mean the human spirit because otherwise there is not a proper balance between the words “spirit” and “flesh”. The desires of the spirit are worth more than the desires of the flesh. When the spirit wants one thing and the flesh wants another, the interests of the spirit must come first. To walk after the spirit is to live and act in the interest of the spirit, in contrast to the fleshly way of living where the desires of the fleshly man are first.
This is almost the same question as in verse 1. All that has been written between verses 1 and 15 has been to answer this question. The grace of God has made it possible for us to be delivered from the guilt and power of sin. The Law was not able to deliver us. But this does not give us any reason to think that grace gives us the right to sin.
Notice that this is a picture of slavery when we choose to obey. If man were born in sin, unable to choose to do good (as Calvinism teaches), he would not be able to choose to be the slave of sin unto death; he would be forced into slavery. But these words are written to Christians and show that we have the freedom to choose, even to choose to sin. But we are told by the Calvinists that even though the child of God can sin, he cannot sin so as to be lost. They say that the Scriptures teach that all saints will continue to be saved even to final salvation in heaven. But Paul here says that those who present themselves as slaves of sin shall come to death. This clearly is not physical death, because we all have to die whether we sin or not. This is the death of the spirit, everlasting death, and will come even on the Christian who does not repent and change his conduct.
The two choices we can make are: to be slaves of obedience or to be slaves of sin. This means that sin is disobedience. When we are slaves to the will of God our lives will show that in obedience to His will. The result is not death, but righteousness resulting in life. All human life ends in either life or death, unending happiness or unending punishment. God does not give a third condition. God wants all men to be saved, but His desire has not caused Him to save anyone except through the truth. He wants all men to be saved, but He wants all men to come to a knowledge of the truth so that they can be saved (1 Timothy 2:4).
Paul is not giving thanks that they were slaves of sin. He is thankful that even though they had been slaves of sin, they were made free from sin. But in Whom and by what action were they made free? This is a very important matter—as important as the freedom which they received. They did something to be free. If they had not done this they would still be slaves of sin.
Paul is talking about the thing he has taught from the beginning of the chapter. They became dead to sin and were buried, and having been buried they were raised to walk in newness of life. In the new life they are slaves of righteousness; in the old life they were slaves of sin.
But when did the change take place? Paul writes: having been freed from sin. In the King James translation it reads: Being then made free from sin. They became dead to sin when they repented and stopped their practice of sin; they became free from sin when they became obedient from the heart to that form of teaching to which (they) were committed. They obeyed the form, or mold, or pattern of the teaching they had received.
The teaching about Jesus includes His death, burial and resurrection. When they were baptised they obeyed the form, or pattern of that teaching. In baptism we, like Jesus, are buried and raised again. This is how we obey from the heart that form of teaching.
Clearly sprinkling or pouring water on the head of a person does not picture the burial and resurrection of Jesus. But when a person is immersed in water and raised from it he clearly pictures the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus.
This passage completely answers the question as to when the sinner receives forgiveness from God. We are made free from sin when we obey from the heart that form of teaching to which we were committed. This verse teaches plainly that a person who believes and repents is NOT saved from his sins BEFORE he is baptised. This verse answers every argument that teaches a person can be saved without baptism.
Baptism is an act of obedience. But it must be from the heart. If we are going to please God, every act of obedience must be from the heart. The religion of Christ is a heart religion. Outward acts are worthless unless they come from the heart.
The heart is that part of man where his intelligence, his emotions and his will are. For obedience to be from the heart it must be the action of a mind which has learned, a soul which has come to love God, and a will which has turned from serving sin to serving God.
Because a person must obey from the heart to be made free from sin, the one who never hears the gospel and the one who does not believe cannot be baptised. Also, if we obey from the heart we have to understand the will of the Lord about baptism, which includes the reason for baptism, which is for the remission of sins (Acts 2:38). If a person believes he is saved before baptism, he does not obey from the heart when he is put under the water. He must be seeking a good conscience before God when he is baptized (1 Peter 3:21).
When Paul spoke in human terms he spoke according to the knowledge of human things. They did not have to have deep knowledge of spiritual things in order to understand Paul. It was easy for them to see that what Paul was saying was true.
They knew that when a slave left one master to become the slave of another he must be loyal to serve his new master. In the same way, they had before been slaves of sin but now they are slaves of righteousness. They had before presented the members of their bodies to impurity and to lawlessness. Impurity tells us that they lived a life ruled by the impure desires of the body.
Lawlessness means they had lived in rebellion to God. This impure and lawless life resulted in further lawlessness, and this was the pattern of their lives. Now, having been freed from the terrible master called “sin”, they are to present the members of their bodies to do those things which can be called righteousness. The result of doing this service is sanctification. When they were freed from sin they were set apart, separated unto the service of God in righteousness.
That is, they were free from having to do righteousness. Of course, they were responsible persons and should have been doing righteous things. But because they were in sin and serving sin, they were not trying to live a life of righteousness. Now they could look back and remember that they felt no duty to righteousness.
This means that they now are free from a life of slavery to sin. Now they should find no interest in serving sin.
We are attracted to a life because we think it will give us what we want. Paul calls upon those who have been redeemed to think about the benefit that their former lives produced. What benefit were you then deriving from the things of which you are now ashamed? Does sin bring good results? All that can ever be said of sin in the life of anyone is that some sins bring temporary pleasure, pleasure while in the action of sin. But after that it never produces good or even desirable fruit.
Paul says that they are now ashamed of what they did. This shows that they had become real Christians. No Christian can think about the sins of his past life without being ashamed of them. But if the fruits of sin are good, we would not be ashamed of what we did. Since we are ashamed, the conclusion is that the benefit of sin is only bad. In fact, he says the outcome of those things is death. Death—being separated from God now and forever. Sin destroys character now, and it brings eternal death to those who live in it.
“But now having been freed from sin and enslaved to God” shows the great difference between what they were and what they now are. They are servants to God; they are His, and they must serve only Him. Paul spoke of himself in relation to God as “Whose I am and Whom I serve” (Acts 27:23). Because we are His, we must serve Him.
But what is the benefit of this service? You derive your benefit, resulting in sanctification, and the outcome, eternal life. Sanctification is holiness and being set apart for the service of God. The outcome of that is eternal life. This is spiritual life when we are always with God, and it will never end.
So the life which we receive and its eternal nature are the exact opposite of the life of slavery to sin. The slave to sin is in a state of death where he is cut off from God even while he is alive on earth, and this death will continue forever when he dies. The slave to righteousness, because he has been saved, has a life devoted to holiness, and it will continue into eternity when he dies. I understand that the words “eternal life” do not describe the kind of life the Christian has, but simply tells us how long it will last. The life is spiritual life, and Christians have that life now. This wonderful life which we have now and which we enjoy more and more will continue after death where we will enjoy it much more because we will be with the Lord (Philippians 1:21-24). Then we will enjoy our life in the presence of God, Christ, the Holy Spirit, the angels and all the redeemed of earth. Further, at that time we will be free from all fleshly lusts and diseases. We will have immortal and incorruptible bodies. Everything will be perfect to give us complete joy and happiness. We cannot imagine the blessings of that reward! They are too great for our minds.
Sin pays wages. We get a proper wage. No one will be underpaid or overpaid. The word “wages” means something we receive because we earn it. The wages of sin will be just.
All men are not equally guilty of sins. The one who does not know his master’s will shall be beaten with few stripes (Luke 12:48), not because he didn’t know his will, but because he didn’t do it. The reason for not doing is that of not knowing. But he who knows his master’s will and does not do it shall be beaten with many stripes. Why? Because he knew it? No. But because knowing it, he did not do it.
This gives no comfort for those who live in ignorance of God’s will. But it certainly should terrify those who, while they know God’s will, do not do it. The wages for each are given according to the character of the person who has not done God’s will.
Eternal life, however, is not given as wages paid for a life of faith and obedience. After we have done all that we can, we are still unprofitable slaves, and we should understand ourselves to be such (Luke 17:10).
Eternal life cannot be earned. We shall receive it as a gift. The free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. It is God’s gift to dying men, given by Him through our Lord Jesus Christ. He came that we might have life and that more abundantly. Without Him we cannot have this life now, nor receive it in an abundant entrance into heaven.