What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound? God forbid. How shall we, that are dead to sin, live any longer therein? Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into his death? Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.
— Romans 6:1–4
As the 5th chapter of Paul’s epistle to the Romans closes, we come to his astonishing statement about abundant sin and grace that is always more abundant than sin. “But where sin abounded, grace did much more abound” (Romans 5:20).
This absolute truth cannot be understated. As the wonderful hymn of the faith says:
Marvelous grace of our loving Lord,
Grace that exceeds our sin and our guilt!
Yonder on Calvary’s mount out-poured–
There where the blood of the Lamb was spilt.
Grace, grace, God’s grace,
Grace that will pardon and cleanse within;
Grace, grace, God’s grace,
Grace that is greater than all our sin!
God’s grace is always more than sufficient to forgive the greatest of sins from the greatest of sinners and to justify that sinner to make him perfectly righteous in Christ. It is true also, that the marvelous grace of our loving Lord shows most gracious against the greatest of sins. God does not and will not hold a single sin against the Christian1 and this is also because of His grace in the Lord Jesus Christ’s accomplishments at the cross.
So then from this we get the question from two opposing viewpoints:
Shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound?
Seldom does this question come from a serious contemplation of the facts, but will more often come from either a religious moralist in the form “so you’re saying that people should just go about living any way they want and sinning uncontrollably and God will be OK with that”, or from one who wants to keep his sin close to his heart but sees an escape clause saying, “I can do anything I want, because grace covers it.”
Both of these questions come from the heart of a scoffer, even if those asking the questions are actually saved. The Apostle knew these questions would be coming, because people in his day thought very much the same as people do now. Human nature has not changed.
What the Apostle does not do is threaten judgment on the one sinning, nor does he write off all sin from here on out with grace as an escape clause. What he rather does is to answer the question with the Christian’s identity and a resounding “NO” in the strongest of terms “God forbid2!”
We are dead to sin. How did that happen? The Apostle will go on to tell us is verse 3:
“Know ye not that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into His death.”
The identity of the Christian is wrapped up in the person of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, but not only in His person. Our identity is in His death for us, for our sins. He died to sin as He was made sin and died on the cross for us. When God sees us in Him, He sees us as dead to sin in Christ. The sinner, given the righteousness of God by grace through faith (go back and re-read Romans 3:21–27 until you have fully grasped justification as a gift of grace) has died with Christ. Paul begins this in verse 3 with the statement “Know ye not”, letting his readers know that they should know this. Now I don’t know how they would have known this, except that he had previously told them them this fact, but we now surely know this from the pages of the word of God written right here.
The sinner has died with Christ. He has not died a peaceful and easy death. Verse 6 says that our old man (the sinner, the old “I”) is crucified with Christ. We died by the death penalty in the most shameful of ways when Christ took our sins on Himself and died for us in the most shameful of ways. His death was open for all to see. We are crucified with Him, and as His death was a fact, sealed by His burial, so we are buried with Him by baptism into His death.
There are consequences also that cannot be overlooked in our understanding of these verses. If this baptism into His death has anything to do with a church ceremony involving water, then baptism by water is absolutely required for our identification with Him in His death and therefore absolutely required for our salvation. But we should take notice that there is no ceremony or ritual involved here, and that there is no water mentioned. We are baptized into Christ, not into water. We are baptized into His death, not into water. Water is not in any way spoken of here as a picture of death and burial. Most every “credobaptist” says that baptism is performed as an outward sign of inward faith and as a picture of our death with Christ.
Paul, however, does not speak of our baptism into Christ in this way at all. He says that we were baptized into Christ and therefore baptized into His death. There is no picture describing reality here, only the reality.
The following is taken directly from the website of one of the churches in my neighborhood3:
Baptism doesn’t make you a believer — it shows that you already believe. Baptism does not “save” you, only your faith in Christ does that. Baptism is like a wedding ring — it’s the outward symbol of the commitment you make in your heart.
“When someone becomes a Christian he becomes a brand new person inside. The old life has passed away and a new life has begun!” — 2 Corinthians 5:17
“By our baptism then, we were buried with Him and shared His death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead… so also we may live a new life!” — Romans 6:4
“For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith… it is the gift of God – not by works, so that no one can boast.” — Ephesians 2:8,9
First, I would have to say that there is a glaring contradiction in the statement above, and that there is a real problem with making the Bible say what you think it means. I could not find which translation these verses are taken from, but the translation of Romans 6:4 above says that by our baptism we share His death, and would then say that without our baptism we do not share His death. But then above it says that baptism does not save us, yet how can we be saved if we do not share in His death. It is by sharing in His death that we are saved. I think that this church needs to work on their doctrine a little!
But that is the uncertain trumpet of baptism that has throughout the years been one of confusion in Christendom. 1 Corinthians 15:3 says that Christ died for our sins and here we learn that we, as sinners, died with Christ. We are fully identified with His death. We are fully identified with His burial. We also are fully identified with His resurrection, and this is not when the preacher pulls us out of the water!
In the epistle to the Galatians, Paul addresses the issue in 3:26–27:
“For ye are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus. For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ.”
This too is an issue of identification. No one in Christ is identified by anything but Christ. Sure, we may in our flesh categorize our fellow body-members in fleshly ways, but this surely should not be.
Galatians 3:28 — “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus.”
And no one should even consider the thought of identifiying by their favorite sin in Christ! (God forbid!)
Everything concerning our past life in Adam is put to death judicially by Christ at the cross.
“I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me.” — Galatians 2:20
This is the answer to the continuing in sin question. It is answered with the question that the Christian must answer: Who are you?
In Colossians 3:12, Paul tells us to “put on THEREFORE, AS THE ELECT OF GOD, HOLY AND BELOVED bowels of mercies”, etc., and this is out of identity. We are the elect of God, and because of this we should carry ourselves as such.
So the logical conclusion to the argument is in verse 4:
“Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.” — Romans 6:4
As Christians, we died with Christ, we were buried with Christ, and we are risen from the dead with Christ. Our life in Christ should now be the life we live because of who we are in Christ. We do not have to question anymore “can I …. and still be a Christian?” It is rather, “I am dead to sin, how can I live any longer in it?” When we do sin, we are not living in our identity in Christ, but digging up that old crucified corpse and trying to breath life into him. He is dead! Bury him! That is the answer. Who are you? What are you? You are a Christian. You are in Christ. Wear the uniform of the team to which you belong!
“Mortify therefore your members which are upon the earth; fornication, uncleanness, inordinate affection, evil concupiscence, and covetousness, which is idolatry: For which things’ sake the wrath of God cometh on the children of disobedience: In the which ye also walked some time, when ye lived in them.
“But now ye also put off all these; anger, wrath, malice, blasphemy, filthy communication out of your mouth. Lie not one to another, seeing that ye have put off the old man with his deeds; And have put on the new man, which is renewed in knowledge after the image of him that created him: Where there is neither Greek nor Jew, circumcision nor uncircumcision, Barbarian, Scythian, bond nor free: but Christ is all, and in all.” — Colossians 3:5–11
It is important to remember here that all of this is directed to Christians. If you have not believed on the Lord Jesus Christ, and the gospel that He died for you, was buried, and rose again, you are still in your sins, and as such you have no identity in Christ. You are in Adam and under judgment, where the culmination of this judgment will occur at God’s great white throne, where anyone not found written in the book of life will be cast into the lake of fire and suffer the second death. You can do nothing to change this, and living as a Christian will not make you more acceptable. If you live as a Christian and are not, you also are having an identity issue, for this is not who you are. But it is who you can be if you take God at His word about His Son Jesus Christ, that He died for your sins, for you, and has risen from the dead. God made Christ into sin itself that we could be made the righteousness of God in Him, and by this once for all time act, any who believe in Him and His finished work are identified by God fully in Him and saved from sin and its awful penalty.
“For [God] hath made [Christ] to be sin for us, [Christ] who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him.” — 2 Corinthians 5:21
This is where life begins. Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and be saved!
- I use the term Christian throughout to speak of a true believer, a saved person, and not simply an adherent to the “Christian” religion.
- I am well aware that in the Greek text, the word for God, “Theos”, is not there. This is a phrase translation, where the translators used the strongest possible English phrase to translate this Greek phrase “μὴ γένοιτο”.
Husband, father, engineer...Enjoys fishing, archery, guitar, running, and lifting, but most of all reading and studying God's Word.