Immersed In Christ (Rom. 6:1-18)
For all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ (Gal. 3:27).
This is not a reference to water baptism but the work of the Holy Spirit whereby we are immersed into intimate relationship with Christ, brought into union with Him at our new birth. This union is so complete that Paul says we have clothed ourselves with Christ.
What does that mean, to exist in such complete union with Christ? Paul opens this to us in a discussion of our battle against sin.
Romans 6:1,2 What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin so that grace may increase? May it never be! How shall we who died to sin still live in it?
Paul is responding to people who misunderstood the doctrine of grace. We are saved by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone but some were saying, “Well then, if sin causes God to pour out His grace then we can live any way we want and it will only lead to more grace.”
Paul’s response is, “May it never be! If we have died to sin, how can we still live in it?” He is referring to a life of habitual, unrepented sin, not the stumblings and failures which we encounter and of which we repent daily. We have died to our love for sin, died to the way we use to live because we are no longer who we were. But there is a much deeper meaning here — we have not only died to our love for sin. Our old sin nature has been put to death in Christ.
6:3 Or do you not know that all of us who have been baptized (immersed) into Christ Jesus have been baptized (immersed) into His death?
Paul is not referring to water baptism but to the miraculous union with Christ which took place when we were born again. At our conversion, the Holy Spirit immersed us into union with the death, burial and resurrection of Christ. This is a miracle that transcends time and space.
In his first letter to the church at Corinth, Paul said, Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ? … But the one who joins himself to the Lord is one spirit with Him (I Cor. 6:15,17). Not just our spirit or soul but our entire being has been brought into living, intimate union with Christ, as Paul said elsewhere, I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me (Gal. 2:20).
We have been immersed into union with Christ’s death and burial and immersed into His resurrection. Water baptism is a symbol or representation of this — going under the water is a picture of our death and burial with Christ, coming up out of the water is a picture of our rising with Christ. But the reality is far more than its representation.
Rom. 6:4,5 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. For if we have become united with Him in the likeness of His death, certainly we shall also be in the likeness of His resurrection.
Paul says, “We can’t live in sin (that is, we can’t live in a state of continual unrepented sin) because that person, that old nature, died in Christ and was raised in Christ through the glory of the Father.” When we trusted in Christ we were immersed by the Holy Spirit into a participation in Christ’s death, burial and resurrection so now we can live a new life as new creations, immersed into the life of Jesus. This is a miracle which we cannot possibly understand but we know it is true because Paul, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, tells us it is true.
It follows that if we have been immersed into union with Christ, we are brought into union with His resurrection. The result of having been baptized into the life and death and resurrection of Jesus is that now we too might walk in newness of life. The word newness is not neos (new in time / age like a new pair of shoes). The word is kainotes (from kainos— new in quality — something that is not like the old, it did not exist before, it’s of a new kind, unprecedented).
A good illustration of neos and kainos is found in the parable of the wineskins (Matt. 9:17), Nor do people put new (neos, new in time) wine into old wineskins; otherwise the wineskins burst, and the wine pours out and the wineskins are ruined; but they put new (neos) wine into fresh (kainos, new in quality, of a different kind) wineskins, and both are preserved.
Rom. 6:4 So that as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life — kainos life, a different quality of life, a life we did not know before. When we came to Christ we were, by the Holy Spirit, immersed, baptized into the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus so that now we can live a new kind of life which is sharing the life of Jesus.
Paul says that we were buried with Christ (6:4) — burial affirms that a death has taken place and we are considered to have been buried with Christ — the old nature no longer exists. Through the glory of the Father, Christ was raised and so with us. What came out of the grave is a new I.
Who is this new I? In his letter to the Galatians Paul said, 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 (Gal. 2:20). Who is this new I? It is a new creation energized by Christ in me.
Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come (2 Cor. 5:17). What old things have passed away? The old Adamic nature, the sin nature we inherited, the nature we were born with, the nature that was corrupted by sin and was free only to sin, the nature that lived in rebellion and disobedience to God, the nature that was under the dominion / jurisdiction of the powers of darkness (Col. 1:13), the nature that was under the judgment of God (Eph. 2:1-3).
But now new things have come: a new nature which exists in union with the life of Christ; a new nature that is able to walk in obedience to God and experiences the blessing of God. We are new creations who live a new kind of life rising out of the life of Christ in us.
Rom. 6:5, For if we have become united with Him in the likeness of His death, certainly we shall also be in the likeness of His resurrection.
A key word is likeness — united in the likeness of death / we shall be united in the likeness of His resurrection. We did not physically die or rise from the dead when we were born again but in the likeness of this. We are identified spiritually with Christ’s death and resurrection.
All believers begin in the same place — we have been brought into union with the death, burial and resurrection of Christ through which union our old self, our corrupt Adamic nature, was put to death. Our new self is being renewed in the likeness of Christ’s risen life.
Paul exhorted the Ephesian church, That, in reference to your former manner of life, you lay aside the old self, which is being corrupted in accordance with the lusts of deceit, and that you be renewed in the spirit of your mind, and put on the new (kainos) self, which in the likeness of God has been created in righteousness and holiness of the truth (Eph. 4:22-24).
Lay aside (put off) the old self and put on the new self — this is both a command and a statement of fact regarding something that has already happened. A possible translation: That, in reference to your former manner of life, you have laid aside (put off) the old self, and have put on the new self, which in the likeness of God has been created in righteousness and holiness of the truth. This is a statement of fact.
This is also a command. When the old nature manifests due to memories or old habit patterns that are incited by the temptations and corruption around us in this fallen world, we put it off, resist it, subdue it. We choose to live as the new creation that we really are.
This is in agreement with Colossians 3:5, Therefore consider the members of your earthly body as dead to immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and greed, which amounts to idolatry.
When Paul says, Therefore, he means, “Based on everything that has been said previously” — that you have been raised up with Christ (Col. 3:1), that you have died and your life is hidden with Christ in God (3:2), that when Christ, who is our life, is revealed, then you also will be revealed with Him in glory (3:4), then consider the members of your earthly body as dead to sin.
The word consider, nekroo, might be better translated subdue — subdue the members of your earthly body. Really, Paul is saying two things in Colossians chapter 3:
1. Consider your position in Christ — your old nature was put to death in Him. Consider this to be true. Live as the new creation that you are.
2. But at the same time, actively resist, subdue the memories and habit patterns of the old nature whenever they manifest.
Paul goes on to say, Since you laid aside the old self with its evil practices and have put on the new self who is being renewed to a true knowledge according to the image of the One who created him (Col. 3:9,10). The verb tense expresses something that has already taken place. In that same passage, Paul also exhorts us to put aside the qualities of the old self (3:8) and what he means is, “Don’t practice the attributes of the self that has been laid aside.” Then in verses 10-17 he exhorts us to put on the qualities of the new life. What he means is that we should practice being who we really are (3:10-17).
You have laid aside the old self; you have put on the new self. What does Paul mean and how did this happen? Paul continues to hammer away at this theme.
Rom. 6:6 Knowing this, that our old self was crucified with Him, in order that our body of sin might be done away with, so that we would no longer be slaves to sin.
Our old self / nature — what is that? As we have said, that is our old Adamic nature, the nature we were born with which was inherently sinful and rebellious. Recall Paul’s word to the Ephesians, That, in reference to your former way of life, you lay aside (rid yourselves of) the old self, which is being corrupted in accordance with the lusts of deceit (Eph 4:22). Paul defines the old self as that which is corrupt — the unregenerate self, separated from God by sin.
That old, corrupt, unregenerate self was crucified with Christ. The word old is not archaios — archaic — old in point of time. The word is palaios — old in the sense of worn out, useless, to be discarded. The old (palaios) nature is the Adamic nature, the unregenerated being which is subject to corruption. That being has been crucified — brought into union with the death of Jesus. And when Paul says, You are to rid yourselves of the old self (Eph. 4:22), he is referring to that which happened at our new birth. It is not a command but a statement of fact. The phrase could be translated, So that you have put off according to the former manner of life the old man. We are to live continually in agreement with that which has been done.
In another passage, Paul says, 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 (Gal. 2:20).
To the Galatian church Paul said, Now those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires (Gal. 5:24). Have crucified is a statement of fact, though we have not yet entered into the fulness of this experience — we still wrestle against manifestations of our old nature. But in fact, our old nature has been put to death. The old palaios self has ceased to exist. The self that lives now lives in union with the risen Christ.
Paul describes this, But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up with Him, and seated us with Him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus (Eph. 2:4-6). We have been made alive together with Christ, raised with Christ, seated with Christ and by implication, we are therefore reigning with Christ. We are not yet reigning over the world with Christ but we have the capacity now to reign over our thoughts and choices.
Paul says that our old self was crucified with Him, in order that our body of sin might be done away with (Rom. 6:6). The verb might be does not suggest mere possibility. We know that this is an accomplished fact. Done away with is better translated of no effect — or to deprive of strength. Our body of sin, our old Adamic nature, was crucified with Christ and therefore has been rendered of no effect, deprived of its strength to dominate or control. The result is that we would no longer be slaves to sin (no longer serve sin). Paul does not say we will not sin but sin is not our dictator — we do not have to sin as if we were slaves. Sin is not the determining force in our life as it once was. The body of sin, the old nature, has been deprived of its dominating power, its tyranny is made of no effect.
6:7 for he who has died is freed from sin.
Because our unregenerate self, our corrupt, rebellious Adamic nature was crucified with Christ, we are free from its tyranny. However, we are not free from the presence of sin — as long as our humanness is still present, as long as we are surrounded by sin we will have to struggle with temptation. The potential for sinful expression is still present. But the old sin nature is no longer the determining factor. Now the controlling factor is Christ alive in us.
To say this another way — we are free from sin’s dominating power — it cannot dominate our lives as it once did because we are new creations — the old nature that was subject to sin is dead. We are also free from sin’s penalty which is death — Christ paid that penalty by dying in our place. But we are not free from the presence of sin. Surrounded by the corruptions of this world, there are times when memories and old habit patterns are incited and we are tempted to give into the ways of that old nature but we are new creations, energized by the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit and we are able to overcome. We can choose to overcome.
6:8,9 Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with Him, knowing that Christ, having been raised from the dead, is never to die again; death no longer is master over Him.
We believe that we shall also live with Him speaks of our future resurrection but given the context, we know Paul is also speaking of our present union with the risen Christ. How do we know that Christ broke the power of sin and will never die again? Because God raised Him from the grave. Death is sin’s outcome and Jesus conquered death, therefore we know He triumphed over sin. If Christ triumphed over sin, there is nothing that can demand His death. Therefore He is never to die again and we have died and risen with Christ and if death cannot master Him, neither can death master us. Christ’s resurrection is the death of death.
6:10 “For the death that He died, He died to sin once for all; but the life that He lives, He lives to God.
When Paul says that Christ died to sin he means that Christ died to the guilt of sin legally by taking sin, and the penalty of sin, upon Himself. He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him (2 Cor. 5:21). And what is the penalty of sin? For the wages of sin is death (Rom. 6:23). Jesus paid the penalty of sin which is death and He did this once for all. It never again needs to be repeated. Since we have died in Him, the penalty of sin cannot ever be applied to our life.
Jesus also broke the power of sin — He became sin, a sin bearer breaking the penalty and in rising He broke its power because again, the power of sin is death but this power was broken in His resurrection and He cannot die again. Jesus died once and will die no more so when we are identified with His death and resurrection, we also have died to the penalty and power of sin and we have risen with Him and in Him.
Rom. 6:11 Even so consider (reckon) yourselves to be dead to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus. This is not about the power of positive thinking. Paul means, “Consider the truth, the reality that you are dead to the sin nature but alive in Christ. Consider the truth that you are a new creation.” Therefore, you do not have to let sin reign. The power of sin is broken, the penalty of sin is satisfied so do not let it reign as if it has any right to reign. Consider / reckon yourselves dead to the sin nature because we are. Consider or reckon means to affirm in the mind that something is so, believe it is true, have a settled confidence that it is true.
Going back to verse 2, what does Paul mean that we have died to sin? We still sin. What Paul means is that we died in our relationship to the dominating power of sin. The old sin nature, the nature we inherited, which could only sin, has been put to death and now we are free to choose to live in accordance with our new nature which is lived in union with Christ. And as we said, we are free from the penalty of sin which is death because Jesus paid that penalty. We are not free from the presence of sin — it is everywhere in this world and at times, incites our memories and old habit patterns but we are able to overcome by the presence and power of the Holy Spirit working through our new nature.
6:12-14 Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body that you should obey its lusts, and do not go on presenting the members of your body to sin as instruments of unrighteousness; but present yourselves to God as those alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness to God. For sin shall not be master over you (shall not have dominion over you), for you are not under law but under grace.
Do not let sin reign in your mortal body. Body refers to our physical, mental and emotional being. Mortal refers to the fact that our present existence is perishing. Paul does not say, “Let not sin reign in your spirit” but in your mortal body because that is the only place it can reign. The body, (including mind / imagination / emotions) demands fulfillment but the exhortation, Do not let it reign, implies that we do not have to let it reign. This is a choice of the redeemed will — yield or not yield is an act of a will that is risen in union with Christ.
It is not that we no longer sin but in the death of our old nature, in which sin ruled, the sin principle as a ruling governor in our life has been broken. Sin shall not have dominion, rulership. This is a statement of fact. And in place of that corrupt, sinful, Adamic nature, we have a new nature which is living in union with Christ.
So Paul says, Do not go on presenting the members of your body to sin as instruments of unrighteousness. The word instruments is often translated weapon. Sin demands that our bodies and imaginations be weaponized to promote sin. Satan wants to gain dominion in this world through bodies and minds presented as weapons of unrighteousness. But now we are free to present (ourselves) to God as those alive from the dead, and (our) members as instruments of righteousness to God.
6:17,18, But thanks be to God that though you were slaves of sin, you became obedient from the heart to that form of teaching to which you were committed, and having been freed from sin, you became slaves of righteousness.
We once were slaves of sin, obedient to the sin nature but now we are free of that nature and are servants / slaves of righteousness. So it is not simply that we are declared to be righteous in Christ, though we are, He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him (2 Cor. 5:21). But more — we are taken out of the dominion of sin working death and into the dominion of grace working righteousness and life. It is in this new dimension of grace that we live and serve as instruments of righteousness.
We are now a new creation in Christ though not yet perfect. The old Adamic nature has been put to death but we are still living in a fallen world with all of its corruption and we encounter this world with minds, personalities, memories, weaknesses, sinful desires that have been formed over years and we are still inclined at times to fail.
Our vulnerable humanness still remains. The power of sin is broken but not its presence. What has been removed, broken, is the tyranny, the dictatorship of the sinful old nature. But the potential to give in to weakness, temptation, still remains. We are especially vulnerable when we become inconsistent in the spiritual discipline of prayer, Bible study and worship.
But remember, Paul revealed in Romans 6:6 that we are no longer slaves to the tyranny of the sin nature because it is dead. The old self was crucified with Him … our body of sin has been done away with (made powerless).The body of sin — our old Adamic nature which was under the control / domination / tyranny of sin has been rendered powerless to control us. Prior to salvation our humanness was under the control of our sinful nature and manifested through our bodies, our minds, our emotions. But now, through our identification with the death of Jesus, our life is no longer under the dominating control of sin — that dominion has been destroyed.
Every person in the world is either dominated by the sin principle which works death or the grace principle which works righteousness and life. We either live and die apart from God and spend eternity separated from Him or we live and die in Christ and forever live with Him, sharing His life.
But let us say again, though the sin nature is dead in terms of dominance, it is not dead in terms of presence. Even Paul struggled with this: For what I am doing, I do not understand; for I am not practicing what I would like to do, but I am doing the very thing I hate. … For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh; for the willing is present in me, but the doing of the good is not (Rom. 7:15,18).
Yes, there is a struggle but we have a choice. In 6:16, Paul says, Do you not know that when you present yourselves to someone as slaves for obedience, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin resulting in death, or of obedience resulting in righteousness. We are a slave of whoever we yield to. But in 6:18 he says, and having been freed from sin, you became slaves of righteousness. We have a new Master and we are free to serve Christ our new Master because the power of the old, sin nature has been broken.
There are 4 reasons why this is hard to believe:
1. Most of us have never been taught this.
2. Satan does not want us to believe it.
3. Our redemptive recreation, our new birth as new creatures, was not experiential — we did not actually physically die, did not die in a way we could experience and did not experience a physical resurrection. It was true on a spiritual level. Redemption is a faith fact but not an experiential fact — you cannot experience dying / rising in Christ. There is no objective, external verification — we can’t see the sin nature is overthrown.
4. The fury of the conflict with sin inwardly which we sometimes lose makes us wonder how it can be so. It is a real struggle and we do lose sometimes.
Then how can I believe that my old sin nature is broken — the Bible tells me so. Paul says that we must reckon it so because it is so.
So here is the truth: as a follower of Christ, we are not a victim of sin, not under the dictatorship of sin though we do wrestle against sin manifesting in our humanness. Why do we still wrestle?
1. We are surrounded by a fallen world that celebrates fallenness and sin and our vulnerable humanity can be impacted by that celebration.
2. Powers of darkness continually seek to seduce, tempt, entrap and their work is through the people, the social customs, the media systems, the governing philosophies of our culture.
3. We wrestle because of internalized memories and habit patterns which, though powerless to control us, can be incited by temptation through the corruption around us.
But let’s remember our position: the penalty of sin has been broken because it was paid by someone else and the power of sin has been broken through the resurrection of Christ and we have died and risen in Him. Our practice is not always consistent with our position but our failures do not nullify the truth of our position.
What can we do?
Therefore I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect (Rom. 12:1,2).
1. We can present ourselves to the Lord each day as a holy sacrifice. The picture is of an Old Testament priest laying a sacrifice on the holy altar. We are the priest and we are the sacrifice. This is what Paul advises us in Romans 6:13 — to refuse each day to present ourselves as weapons of unrighteousness but instead offering ourselves as instruments of Christ’s purpose in this world. This is the choice of our redeemed will. But even this choice is empowered by the Lord: Work out your salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure (Phlpns. 2:12,13).
Our redeemed will, activated in harmony with God’s will, empowered by the indwelling Spirit of God, is able to live this new nature. Though there may be places of brokenness in us where our identity and authority have been marred, the Holy Spirit is present to rebuild and restore.
2. Remember who we are. Paul said, speaking of Christ, For in Him all the fullness of Deity dwells in bodily form, and in Him you have been made complete (full) … having been buried with Him in baptism, in which you were also raised up with Him through faith in the working of God, who raised Him from the dead (Col. 2:9,10,12).
Remember the admonition of the Apostle Peter who said, Seeing that His divine power has granted to us everything pertaining to life and godliness, through the true knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and excellence. For by these He has granted to us His precious and magnificent promises, so that by them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world by lust (2 Peter 1:3,4).
3. Finally, remember that victory over sin resulting in blameless holiness is God’s eternal purpose and our destiny: Just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we would be holy and blameless before Him (Eph. 1:4).
For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus (Phlpns. 1:6).
For I betrothed you to one husband, so that to Christ I might present you as a pure virgin (2 Cor. 11:2)
Now to Him who is able to keep you from stumbling, and to make you stand in the presence of His glory blameless with great joy, to the only God our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen (Jude 1:24,25).
Now to Him who is able to do far more abundantly beyond all that we ask or think, according to the power that works within us, to Him be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations forever and ever. Amen (Eph. 3:20,21).
Let’s believe the truth — the old Adamic nature has died in Christ and we are new creations in Christ and by His power, presence and promise working in us, we are becoming partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world by lust. We are new creations, ruled by a new Master. Let’s live as the new creations that we are.
1. What does Paul mean when he says we have been baptized into Christ’s death?
2. What does he mean when he says we have been united with Christ’s resurrection?
3. What does it mean to you that you are a new creation in Christ?