Click here to read the previous chapter’s commentary: Chapter 5.
I highly recommend you download and read the PDF version which has some additional formatting and annotations which make it easier to follow: Devotional Commentary on Romans 6
ROMANS 6:1-4 ESV
1What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? 2 By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it? 3 Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? 4 We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.
ROMANS 6 – Commentary
Verse 1: Paul’s explanation of justification by faith and grace alone may seem to leave room for its abuse.
Verses 2-4: He repeatedly uses this strong expression, “μὴ γένοιτο [mē genoito]” to show his utter disapproval of such an idea throughout his letter. If we’ve truly died to sin, we cannot continue to live in it—it is a mark of true conversion that we would have a new relationship with the sin we once loved if we truly have a new relationship with God. Paul uses these passive verbs to describe what has been done to us at conversion—baptism into Christ and His death, united in burial of the old man with him—for the purpose of walking (present continuing action) in a new way of life.
ROMANS 6:5-11 ESV
5 For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his. 6 We know that our old self was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin. 7 For one who has died has been set free from sin. 8 Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. 9 We know that Christ, being raised from the dead, will never die again; death no longer has dominion over him. 10 For the death he died he died to sin, once for all, but the life he lives he lives to God. 11 So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus.
ROMANS 6:5-11 Commentary
Verse 5: Important IF/THEN clause. If we’ve been united with Him in a death like His to sin, then we will also be united with him in resurrection like His.
Verse 6: The purpose of our union with Christ’s death was to put to death sin’s power in us. It not just pays the Price of our sin or absorbs the Punishment of our sin but also gives us freedom from its Power.
Verse 7: That is why he says we have been set free (Gal 2:20). Having been united with Christ—we’re dead to sin and thus freed from it. Paul expands this point more in Chapter 7:1-6.
Verse 8-9: These clauses are conditional—because only if we have truly been united with Christ as one of the saved elect they are true. So for those united with Christ in death, they are also united in His resurrection so that death no longer reigns over them.
Verse 10-11: This death to sin is the death like his (verse 5) which we are united into—and the resurrection like his is the life He lives to God which we too are united into. This is how we should consider ourselves. It is a new way of thinking—the renewed mind (Romans 12)—that considers itself dead to sin’s control and passions and alive to God and holiness through Christ.
ROMANS 6:12-14 ESV
12 Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, to make you obey its passions. 13 Do not present your members to sin as instruments for unrighteousness, but present yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life, and your members to God as instruments for righteousness. 14 For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace.
ROMANS 6:12-14 Commentary
Verses 12-13: What does this considering of ourselves as dead to sin and alive to Christ look like? These following verses are a description of that. It is important to note that the imperatives in these verses and in scripture in general come after God’s grace to and rescue of us. The giving of the commandments came after Israel was delivered from Egypt. Present obedience is predicated on past grace bestowed on us. So, “therefore”—because of everything in verses 3-8 about God’s grace in uniting us with Christ—Paul gives us the command for holy living. This presenting of our members to God in the same way as we once presented them to sin is echoed later in verse 19.
Verse 14: Because if you are truly under grace, sin won’t reign in you SINCE you are under grace and not law (when the law came it increase the trespass and sin ceased the opportunity – Rom. 5:20, 7:8-11). Far from being a license to sin, Paul argues that it is actually our motivation not to sin! Because the true Gospel of grace is that we are united with Christ in His death to sin, therefore to willingly submit again to sin shows that we were never truly united with Christ in the first place. This is not cheap grace, that pardons us from sin’s penalty but cannot release us from sin’s power—it’s grace that changes us from the inside out.
ROMANS 6:15-19 ESV
15 What then? Are we to sin because we are not under law but under grace? By no means! 16 Do you not know that if you present yourselves to anyone as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin, which leads to death, or of obedience, which leads to righteousness? 17 But thanks be to God, that you who were once slaves of sin have become obedient from the heart to the standard of teaching to which you were committed, 18 and, having been set free from sin, have become slaves of righteousness. 19 I am speaking in human terms, because of your natural limitations. For just as you once presented your members as slaves to impurity and to lawlessness leading to more lawlessness, so now present your members as slaves to righteousness leading to sanctification.
ROMANS 6:15-19 Commentary
Verse 15: Paul restates the question again. It is an important point which he wants to make absolutely clear that grace is not license to sin. “μὴ γένοιτο [mē genoito]” shows up again to show his disproval of such an idea.
Verse 16: Who you obey shows who’s slave you are. It’s either/or—not both/and. This is in keeping with Jesus’ teachings on one’s inability to serve two masters (Matt. 6:24)—we’re either slaves of sin or slaves of Christ (John 8:34-36). This concept of slavery to Christ is repeated by many of the books in the NT (eg. 1 Cor. 7:22, Eph. 6:6, 2 Tim. 2:24, 1 Peter 2:16, 2 Peter 2:19, James 1:1, Titus 1:1, Phil 1:1, Jude 1:1).
Verse 17: A change has happened! We’re now obedient from the heart to the form of teaching—this is a joyful and natural change of desires and will which gladly submits to God’s Word.
Verse 18: Slaves of righteousness is the new position of the saved. Thus we must pursue holy living—God’s work of sanctification in our lives.
Verse 19: Paul acknowledges our human weakness, so he puts it in human terms. Just as we once yielded ourselves to unrighteousness through our sinful desires from our sinful nature when we were unsaved, οὕτως [houtōs]—thus/in the same way yield yourselves to righteousness through the new desires from your new nature which will lead to sanctification(Similar to verse 13).
ROMANS 6:20-23 ESV
20 For when you were slaves of sin, you were free in regard to righteousness. 21 But what fruit were you getting at that time from the things of which you are now ashamed? For the end of those things is death. 22 But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God, the fruit you get leads to sanctification and its end, eternal life. 23 For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.
ROMANS 6:20-23 Commentary
Verse 20: When we were slaves to sin, we were not obliged to righteousness.
Verse 21: We were only going to get the fruit of the wicked deeds we did, which is death. This change makes us now ashamed of what we used to do.
Verse 22: There’s been a change of status and this leads to new ongoing fruit production, which leads to our continual sanctification or growth in holiness, whose end is eternal life. Therefore, one of the assurances of eternal life and salvation in the believer is this ongoing process of sanctification—this is how we know a tree by its fruit—if there’s no growth in holiness, it is likely that the Gospel seed has not truly taken root.
Verse 23: Summary statement of verses 20-22. It is also part of the Great Exchange—Jesus pays the wages of sin, and gives to us the gift of eternal life. The whole of Chapter 6 has been talking of this change for true believers—of what they once were and now are.
Paul’s major focus in this chapter is the believer’s union with Christ both in His death and life/resurrection. He therefore looks at what are the ramifications of this union with Christ. What difference does it make? By inference then, we also have a look at what would be some of the evidences of true conversion—that is, true union with Christ. After having focused on justification by grace through faith in the previous chapters, Paul raises a question that he foresees his readers asking—is grace then a license for sin? He answers this question emphatically in two ways in chapter 6.
Firstly, he explains it in terms of the Christian being dead to sin and alive to righteousness through his union with Christ. The purpose of our union with Christ was not just merely for forgiveness of sins, but also to walk in newness of life. If we’ve truly been united with Him, we also die to sin, and this shows itself in our progressive sanctification. This fruit of union with His death to sin is the basis for our assurance that we will also be united with his life in resurrection. This is why we should be zealous to pursue more and more sanctification—to put to death the sin that still is within us. This is why John Owen said, “Do you mortify? Do you make it your daily work? Be always at it whilst you live; cease not a day from this work; be killing sin or it will be killing you.” It is important to note that Paul is not contradicting his previous arguments that we are not justified by works but by grace. Instead, what he is stating what the fruit of that justification by grace produces. Stated differently, justification is our positional righteousness in Christ—sanctification is our progressive righteousness through the Spirit.
We now have a choice—whereas before our wills were in bondage to sin—truly it was for freedom Christ has set us free! This is why Paul encourages us not to let sin reign in us like it did before and forced us to obey its passions. However, far from exhorting us to struggle on our own strength to battle sin, Paul encourages us to yield to our new nature—to God—just as we had once yielded to our sin nature. Therefore, it closely follows his exhortation in Colossians 2:6, “Therefore, as you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him.” We all received Christ as helpless sinners needing Him to do for us what we could not do for ourselves—it is the same with our daily struggle with sin and walking in sanctification. It is a work which we cannot do for ourselves, and thus are desperately dependent on God to do for us that which we can’t do for ourselves moment by moment.
Secondly, Paul answers the question by explaining it in terms of us being slaves to Christ, freed from being slaves to sin. Our obedience to righteousness shows us that we have truly become slaves of Christ, as conversely our previous submission to sin had shown we were slaves to sin. However, now because of what God has done in us, we have become slaves who are willingly and joyously obedient from the heart! We’ve been set free from our previous bondage of our wills to now freely and joyously obey God—for now His commandments are not burdensome (1 John 5:3). This fruit of obedience from the heart leads to our sanctification which is one of the evidences that shows we have indeed passed from death to life (John 5:24).
The wages of the sin, which we once were dead in and slaves to, is death—eternal separation from God under His just wrath. However, Jesus has paid the price of those “wages” on the Cross and has given to us as a free gift, eternal life—which is the end of our sanctification from the fruit of being now made alive in Christ and slaves to righteousness. Praise the Lord!
Merciful Lord and Saviour, thank You that You have revived us from death into life and set us free from our bondage to sin to freedom in Christ! May we, in light of this, live to work out our salvation’s fruit—to walk according to the new desires and passions You have wrought in us. May we constantly depend on You to work in us unto sanctification and holiness—that we may attain unto the image of Your blessed Son, Jesus. Produce in us this evidence of a life that is radically transformed, which doesn’t use Your grace as a license for sin, but rather holiness—and so may we continually be assured of our life and resurrection with You.
Help us in our weaknesses with the sins which still beset us. May the glory of your Gospel so captivate us that we would gladly leave all our sinful passions behind and gladly embrace Christ! May we count all things as loss to gain Christ and be found in him, not with our own righteousness—but rather the righteousness You have given us by faith—that we may know Him and the power of His resurrection which unites us to newness of life, united with Him to share in His sufferings, becoming like Him in His death to sin, so that we may attain to the resurrection from the dead.