An Exegetical Commentary
Blaine Robison, M.A.
Published 10 July 2010; Revised 30 August 2015
Scripture Text: The Scripture text of Romans is taken from the NASB Updated Edition (1995). Unless otherwise indicated other Scripture quotations are also taken from the NASB. Click here for Abbreviations of Bible Versions. The Septuagint (LXX) is the Jewish translation of the Hebrew Scriptures into Greek, which was in use by Jews by the mid-2nd century BC. The LXX with English translation may be found here.
Sources: Bibliographic data for sources cited may be found here. Works without page numbers are cited ad loc. Unless otherwise indicated references to the Talmud are from the Soncino Babylonian Talmud (1948); available online at Halakhah.com. Click here for Talmud Abbreviations. Links to other ancient Jewish literature may be found at EarlyJewishWritings.com.
Terminology: In order to emphasize the Jewish nature of the apostolic canon and its central figure I use the terms Tanakh (Old Testament), Besekh (New Testament), Torah (Law), Yeshua (Jesus), and Messiah (Christ).
Grammar: Unless otherwise noted the meaning of Greek words is from F.W. Danker, The Concise Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament (2009). The meaning of Hebrew words is from The New Brown, Driver, Briggs Hebrew and English Lexicon (1981), abbreviated as "BDB," found online at BibleHub.com. Explanation of Greek grammatical forms and a pronunciation guide for New Testament Greek may be found here. Strong's Exhaustive Concordance reference numbers are identified with "SH" for Hebrew and "SG" for Greek.
Methodology: For an explanation of abbreviations, acronyms, terminology, spelling conventions, and other information on organization of the commentary see my Commentary Writing Philosophy. Click here for a Study Questions for small group learning or self-study.
Hamartiology: Sin and Sanctification, 6:1–7:6
Can we go on sinning? 6:1-14
· Implications of grace
· Analogy of believer's immersion
· Call of death to self
· Choice: reign of Sin or reign of the Savior?
Can we sin a little? 6:15-23
· Implications of freedom
· Analogy of slavery
· Call of the sanctified life
· Choice: wages of sin or eternal life?
Can we go on sinning? (6:1-14)
1― What shall we say then? See note on 3:3. This is the second time Paul uses the rabbinic formula to rebut an objection or misbelief, this time the issue of libertinism (cf. 3:8, 19-20). Are we to continue in sin: Grk. hamartia (see note on 3:9). Five definitions of sin as a behavior may be found among Christians: (1) any lapse, fault, or action less than the perfection of God; (2) any violation of standards of piety held by a particular Christian group, (3) any transgression of God's commandments (divine law) revealed in Scripture, including unintentional acts, (4) a willful or intentional transgression of the divine law and (5) a premeditated violation of divine law.
In Scripture various terms are employed to convey the commission of sinful acts, but they all refer to breaking one or more commandments in God’s Torah, the Law or teaching given to Moses and affirmed by Yeshua and the apostles (Matt 15:3; Rom 3:20, 31; 4:15; 5:13, 20; 7:7f, 12; Jas 2:10f; 1Jn 3:4). Violations of cultural customs, norms, parental expectations, rules of conduct developed by religious leaders, or someone’s personal religious convictions do not necessarily constitute sin. God gave His people the Torah, as David Stern observes, “in order to help them live a life which would be in their own best interests as well as holy and pleasing to God” (Stern 17).
Moreover, God judges mankind by this objective standard (Rom 3:20), resulting in the need of a blood sacrifice to obtain forgiveness for transgressions of the standard (Heb 9:22). Under God’s Law causation, motive or intent have no bearing on determining whether an act is a transgression. The nature or cause of a transgression only has relevance to the punishment one deserves for breaking the Torah (cf. Rom 6:23; Gal 5:21; Heb 10:29). Three levels of causation are identified in the Torah: (1) accidental, Ex 21:13, 35; Lev 4:27-35; Deut 19:4-6; (2) negligence, Ex 21:29-30, 36; 22:6; and (3) intentional, Ex 21:14; 22:1; Lev 24:19; Deut 19:11-13.
According to the Mishnah there are thirty-six transgressions for which the Torah specifies the punishment of karet, that is, being “cut off” from Israel (K'ritot 1:1; cf. Ex 30:33; 31:14; Lev 7:25-27). These transgressions included murder (Lev 17:4), the prohibited sexual unions of Leviticus 18, blasphemy (Num 15:30), idolatry, necromancy (Lev 20:6), refusing circumcision (Gen 17:14), profaning Shabbat (Ex 31:14), certain violations of ritual purity laws (Lev 7:20-21, 25; Num 19:13), eating chametz (leavened product) during Pesach (Ex 12:15), not “humbling” oneself on Yom Kippur (Lev 23:29), anointing a layman with priestly oil (Ex 30:30), duplicating priestly perfume (Ex 30:38), and eating blood (Lev 17:14). (Stern 270)
The Torah provided no means of atonement or restoring fellowship for deliberate offenses. Punishment as determined by a court varied between flagellation, not to exceed forty strokes (Deut 25:2-3), and the death sentence as specifically prescribed for some of the offenses. However, the transgression must be committed defiantly (Num 15:30) or presumptuously (Deut 17:12-13) to be subject to karet. If committed unintentionally (by mistake or in ignorance), a sin offering may be brought (Lev 4:2-35; 5:15-18; 22:14; Num 15:27-29; Isa 6:5-7).
In contrast to the law of karet, the Torah does provide case examples of some who sinned intentionally, but were not cut off from Israel. Aaron facilitated the gold calf idolatry, but apparently repented upon Moses' rebuke (Ex 32:26-29). Later when Aaron and Miriam opposed Moses for taking a second wife, which God treated as a challenge to his chosen leader (Num 12:1-2), Miriam was struck with a skin disease. Aaron admitted they sinned, but acted foolishly (i.e., not wantonly). Miriam was healed, but kept outside the camp for seven days. When Moses struck the rock against God's express directions, he was punished by not being allowed to enter the Promised Land. Perhaps the most striking example is King David who committed two capital crimes. No one could ever claim to commit adultery by mistake and yet he was shown mercy upon his repentance.
The grace shown to King David is the grace upon which the New Covenant operates. There is no sin that cannot be forgiven, if there is confession and repentance as 1 Corinthians 6:9-11 testifies. For those that claim that the New Covenant canceled the Torah, just what standard are they using to define sin? Yeshua added only one new commandment (John 13:34). The apostles do not offer a new standard but rely on the standard already given at Sinai. The Body of the Messiah is built on the foundation of the apostles who wrote Scripture and the prophets who wrote the Tanakh and all that they wrote is authoritative for the life of the disciple of Yeshua.
so that grace may increase? In consequence of Paul's argument of the previous chapter his imaginary (or not so imaginary) adversary might assert that people may engage in sinful acts in order to give God's grace an opportunity to increase. There is no doubt God gives grace to sinners since he does not kill them when they first sin or repeatedly break his commandments. He also gives his grace by revealing his nature in creation (1:20) and "the light" to draw men to himself (John 1:9; 12:32). God's grace will not end until the Second Coming. Paul uses the same Talmudic formula as in 3:3-4, raising a erroneous conclusion in order to refute it (Shulam).
2― May it never be! See the note on 3:4 for this idiomatic expression. This is Hebrew’s most intense wish for negation and thus, the CJB renders as "Heaven forbid!" It is errant nonsense that a disciple should think that he can continue sinning just because God is gracious. As Edwards says, “Christ came to free us from our vices, not to feed them.” How shall we who died to sin still live in it? this is the first of four analogies Paul uses to describe the nature of the new life in Messiah. The very nature of repentance means turning away from the past life of sin, metaphorically putting that life to death. Does the thief keep on stealing? Does the immoral person keep on violating purity? Does the idolater keep on worshipping pagan powers? Does the addict keep on abusing himself and others? Does the angry person hold on to his resentment?
Unbiblical definitions can lead to unfortunate misconceptions. Treating human mistakes as sin can easily blur the distinction in the seriousness of acts and may lead to complacent and fatalistic antinomianism, thereby nullifying God’s expectation of holiness in believers, as Paul alludes in this verse (cf. Heb 12:14; 1Pet 1:15). The toleration of habitual or daily sinning simply has no Scriptural support (Heb 10:26-31; 1Jn 3:9). While Yeshua associated with sinners, he did not hesitate to tell people to stop sinning (John 5:14; 8:11). The apostles echoed the same message (1Cor 15:34; Heb 12:1; Jas 4:8; 1Pet 2:21-24; 1Jn 2:1).
Yeshua came into the world to destroy the works of the devil (1Jn 3:4-9; cf. Gal 5:19-21), not set up housekeeping with them (cf. Matt 12:29). Scripture knows nothing of the dualism of modern positional salvation that allows the believer to benefit from Messiah’s sacrifice and perfection while continuing to sin. Paul’s incredulity at anyone justifying a sinning lifestyle fairly shouts from the page.
Conversely, limiting “sin” to premeditated acts may lead to the self-deception of pride (cf. Luke 18:11) and the conclusion that a believer never (or seldom) sins and thus has no continuing need of the atonement after the new birth or sanctification. In relation to the civil ordinances and statutes, people commonly believe that if they do not intend to violate the law then their infractions are not really wrong and they should not be punished.
Solomon correctly pointed out, "Indeed, there is not a righteous man on earth who continually does good and who never sins" (Eccl 7:20). Certainly, everyone continues to fall short of God’s glory (Rom 3:23), stumbles (Jas 3:2) or makes mistakes, but, as John Wesley observed, “every such mistake is a transgression of the perfect law. Therefore, every such mistake, were it not for the blood of atonement, would expose to eternal damnation. It follows that the most mature have continual need of the merits of Christ.” (A Plain Account of Christian Perfection, Sec. 19)
3― Or do you not know that all of us who have been baptized: Grk. baptizō, to dip, plunge or immerse. As Stern notes, baptizō is derived from baptō which means to “dip, soak, immerse” into a liquid so that what is dipped takes on qualities of what it has been dipped in—such as cloth in dye or leather in tanning solution (Matt 3:1). This is the first of two analogies Paul uses in this chapter to describe the new life in Messiah. Immersion of new disciples was an established practice. In the LXX baptō usually translates the Heb. taval, to dip (13 times); baptizō occurs only four times. In 2 Kings 5:14 baptizō is used in the middle voice of Naaman's sevenfold immersion. The middle voice (Hebrew and Greek) emphasizes agency, that the subject directly participates in the results of the action. In other words, Naaman immersed himself without assistance. G.R. Beasley-Murray suggests the story of Naaman may have been decisive for the later use of baptizō in the middle voice to signify taking a ritual bath for cleansing (DNTT 1:144).
into Christ: Grk. Christos, the expected fulfiller of the hopes of Israel for an end-time deliverer, the Anointed One or Messiah. "Christ" is a transliteration, not a translation of Christos. See the note on 1:1. Our Savior was (and is) a short dark-haired, dark-eyed traditional Jew. This is the one who procured our justification, not a revisionist figure of Church history fashioned in our own image. Jesus: Grk. Iēsous is an attempt to replicate the pronunciation of Yeshua, the name of our Lord in Hebrew, the language he spoke. Iēsous does not translate the meaning of Yeshua, which is "salvation." See the note on 1:1. have been baptized into His death? In secular Greek baptō could also mean to cause to perish as by drowning a man or sinking a ship (DNTT 1:144). The Heb. verb taval, which baptō and baptizō translate in the LXX, occurs once with the meaning of destruction of death (Job 9:31), but is used six times of dipping in blood for deliverance from death or atonement ceremonies (Ex 12:2; Lev 4:6, 17; 9:9; 14:51; Num 19:18). Paul takes these common definitions of baptizō and infuses the word with new meaning for the disciple. We have not died, but we join with Messiah in his atoning sacrificial death and his burial in the tomb.
4― Therefore we have been buried: Grk. sunthaptō, aor. pass., to bury with or bury together. The verb only occurs twice in the Besekh (also Rom 6:4). Josephus mentions a custom in Daniel's time of burying together the kings of Media, Persia and Parthia in a certain tower (Ant. X, 11:7). with Him: Yeshua's immersion portended his death, which was accomplished in accordance with the Torah requirement:
"If a man has committed a sin worthy of death and he is put to death, and you hang him on a tree, his corpse shall not hang all night on the tree, but you shall surely bury him on the same day (for he who is hanged is accursed of God), so that you do not defile your land which the LORD your God gives you as an inheritance." (Deut 21:22-23)
Jews in biblical times buried their dead, often in above ground tombs, either natural caves (Gen 23:9) or a cave dug into the slope of a hill (Luke 23:53). The only biblical exception to burial was Saul and his sons who were burned, probably due to being defiled by the Philistines (1Sam 31:12f). Jews did not embalm their dead as did the Egyptians. The only reference to the timing of burial is in the passage above, but later Rabbis extended this requirement to all burials (Sanhedrin 46a-b). Contact with a dead body resulted in uncleanness (Num 19:14-19). The Nazirites in particularly were absolutely forbidden to come near a dead body (Num 6:6). Yet, Paul introduces this shocking concept of not just touching Yeshua's dead body, but being buried with him.
through baptism: Grk. baptisma, from the verb baptizō (verse 3 above), referred to any ceremonial washing and means plunging, dipping or immersing. This term does not occur in the LXX at all. However, the corresponding Hebrew word is tevilah (dipping, immersing), which occurs in various Talmudic tractates as a requirement for feminine purification (Niddah 30a), Levitical and priestly purification (Sanh. 39a; Yoma 88a) and converting to Judaism (Ker. 9a; Yeb. 46a) (Jastrow). Paul did not intend to espouse a sacramental theology of believer's immersion as developed in Christianity, but his use of the analogy demonstrates a common understanding of its purpose and mode of practice. Otherwise the analogy loses its force.
Stern is correct when he says that these verses support immersion as the preferred form of baptism, since baptism is compared here with burial, and burial resembles immersion but does not resemble pouring or sprinkling. Beasley-Murray offers this concurring analysis of the biblical terms.
"Despite assertions to the contrary, it seems that baptizō, both in Jewish and Christian contexts, normally meant "immerse," and that even when it became a technical term for baptism, the thought of immersion remains. The use of the term for cleansing vessels (as in Lev 6:28; Mark 7:4) does not prove the contrary, since vessels were normally cleansed by immersing them in water. The metaphorical uses of the term in the NT appear to take this for granted…. The Pauline representation of baptism as burial and resurrection with Christ is consonant with this view, even if it does not demand it." (DNTT 1:144)
Although many Christians practice infant baptism (whether opting for sprinkling, pouring or immersion), the apostles only spoke and wrote of adult believer's immersion. Advocates of infant baptism cite passages where a "whole household" was baptized (Acts 16:15, 31-33; 1Cor 1:16). This interpretation reflects common misunderstanding of the Jewish context and the practices imposed by the Jewish apostles. Among Jews ablutions of all kinds were not performed by people under bar/bat mitzvah age. It was at that age that a boy or girl became fully accountable to the Torah.
In Acts 16:15 the oikos (household) probably refers to a worshipping group that Paul encountered outside Philippi. In Acts 16:31-33 the immersing of the jailer's household would be contingent on the initial proposition of verse 31, "believe in the Lord Jesus and you shall be saved, you and your household." The one's believing would be the ones baptized. Paul would never baptize an unbelieving household servant just because the master of the house believed, nor would he baptize an infant that could not express faith. Peter expressed a similar standard in baptizing those in the household of Cornelius (Acts 10:47).
The earliest extra-biblical instruction for baptism occurs in Chapter Seven of the Didache (c. 100), which concerns only adults since it requires that the person to be baptized should fast beforehand. The earliest mention of infant baptism dates from the middle second century. Irenaeus (c. 130–202) speaks of infants being "born again to God" (Against Heresies, 2.22.4). Later mentions by church fathers reflect the practice as commonplace. Church fathers justified infant baptism as being of apostolic origin, but their rationale was more theological than biblical.
In truth infant baptism reflected Christianity's effort to expunge any trace of Judaism from its religious practices, treating baptism as a substitute for circumcision. In addition, the doctrine of sin articulated by Augustine assumed the body to be evil and therefore to guarantee eternal life for an infant baptism must be performed as soon as possible after birth. Infant baptism, while well-intentioned and beautiful in its sentiment, reflects only the faith of the parents (if indeed they have faith) and does not represent the function of baptism to mark the transition from a life of sin to a life of righteousness. Indeed, the baptized infant who grows up without embracing discipleship sullies this sacred ceremony.
Another factor not generally considered in Christian discussion of baptism is that Jewish immersion was (and is) self-immersion, and gender-specific. That is, men were not present when women immersed (Gerim 60b), a rule worthy of consideration in Christian practice. While someone might witness the immersion, no one was allowed to touch the one immersing himself or herself. They did not need a “clergy person” to put the new believer under for it to be valid. The only role of a witness was to insure the person went completely under the water. In one fascinating piece of evidence, there is an ancient drawing from a Roman catacomb which depicts John and Yeshua at Yeshua's baptism. John is standing on the bank of the Jordan River extending a hand to Yeshua assisting him from the water (R. Steven Notley, John's Baptism of Repentance, Jerusalem Perspective Online, 2004).
Ordinary ritual immersion (Heb. tevilah) among Jews occurred on a variety of occasions, including (1) restoring the right to join in worship after a period of illness, menstruation or contact with a dead body, and (2) preparing for Temple ceremonies, including priests and Levites engaged in leading or conducting rituals, as well as pilgrims who came to Jerusalem for the three annual feasts. (See the article Ablution at Encyclopedia Judaica for a detailed explanation.) In the first century there were many ritual baths that surrounded the Temple area for ritual purification. Excavations of the southern wall of the Temple area, begun in 1968, have uncovered dozens of mikva'ot. (See pictures at BibleWalks.com.)
Particularly relevant to Paul's analogy of immersion is the requirement for becoming a proselyte to Judaism. While not specifically prescribed in the Torah, Jewish Law at the time (and since) required that a Gentile wishing to become a proselyte had to immerse his whole body, in addition to submitting to circumcision and offering a sacrifice (Yebamoth 22a, 46b, 47b; K'ritot 9a; Shabbath 135a). The immersion requirement was based on the precedent that all Israel had to wash themselves before receiving the Torah and entering into the covenant with God (Ex 19:10) and foreigners were present who had joined themselves to Israel (cf. Ex 12:48-49). Likewise, at Qumran immersion was treated as a rite of purification for new members joining the community (Shulam).
Another element in Jewish immersion was the number of times the person submerged. The high priest would immerse five times on the Day of Atonement. Conversion immersions for Jewish proselytes were typically three times. By apostolic instruction immersion to reflect confession, repentance and identification with Yeshua only needed to be performed one time (Acts 2:38; Eph 4:5). The practice of some churches to require rebaptism would be totally abhorrent to the apostolic mind and has no biblical support. For more information on the apostolic practice of immersion see Ron Moseley, The Jewish Background of Christian Baptism.
so that as Christ: Grk. Christos, which translates Heb. Mashiach, Anointed One or Messiah. See the note on the previous verse. was raised: Grk. egeirō, aor. pass. part., to move from an inert position or state, to rise or raise. from the dead: Grk. nekros, one without life, dead, normally used of physical death, but also figuratively of spiritual death. The phrase points to the result of the Father raising our Messiah Yeshua from the dead. Paul's theology of believer's immersion is that (1) believer's immersion is likened to death and resurrection generally and (2) then as a symbol of Yeshua’s death and resurrection. through the glory of the Father, so we too: our emerging from the tomb of the baptismal waters serves as a symbol of the hope of our own resurrection.
might walk: Grk. peripateō, to go about, to walk. Paul uses the word in its Hebraic sense of the walk of life, how one conducts oneself in life (cf. Deut 30:16; 1Kgs 11:38; Ps 1:1; 15:2). in newness: Grk. kainotēs, newness, from kainos, which refers to something not previously present. of life: The life we live as disciples of Yeshua is to be a radical departure from the life before repentance. The word picture of walking gains force from viewing immersion as the rite of initiation into discipleship. In the book of Acts immersion typically followed immediately after repenting and believing in Yeshua (Acts 2:41; 8:12, 38; 10:48; 16:15, 33; 18:8; 19:5; 22:16). Those newly born again should be encouraged to be baptized by immersion as soon as possible.
5― For if we have become united: Grk. sumphutos, "grown together". The disciple is connected with his Lord in a manner that's not unlike the word picture of the vine (John 15:5). "Paul knows that Yeshua's example binds together those whom he redeems both with him and with one another, when they die to sin, put their evil inclination to death are are baptized into his death in order to rise in him the newness of eternal life" (Shulam). in the likeness: Grk. omoiōma, likeness, in accordance with, corresponding to. "Baptism is a picture of the past and of the present and a prophecy of the future, the matchless preacher of the new life in Christ" (Robertson). of His death: Paul is obviously not saying that the believer must be literally crucified to be united with Yeshua. What did Yeshua's death represent? Yeshua alluded to its meaning when he said, "If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross daily and follow Me" (Luke 9:23). His death reflected submission to the Father's will and a willingness to forgive his enemies.
certainly we shall also be in the likeness of His resurrection: the Greek phrase is literally "but also of the (his) resurrection we shall be" (Marshall). See note on 1:4. Paul does not dwell on the physics of resurrection as he does in 1 Corinthians 15, but on the simple fact that by joining Yeshua we shall be like him in resurrection (cf. 1Jn 3:2).
6― knowing this, that our old self: Grk. ho [the] palaios [old] hemōn [our] anthrōpos [man] or "the old man of us" (Marshall). The expression occurs only in Paul's writings (also Eph 4:22; Col 3:9). In its literal sense palaios means in existence for a long time, often with the connotation of being antiquated or outworn. Figuratively, it means former or earlier and in this context refers to the unregenerate condition. Edwards considers “old man” to be a synonym of human nature apart from grace. Shulam suggests that Paul is alluding to the theme of the two Adams from chapter five. The "old man" is Adam through whom sin entered the world; the Second or Last Adam-the Messiah-is the "new man" who is righteous before God.
was crucified with Him: Grk. sustauroō, aor. pass. ind., to be crucified along with others. The verb occurs not at all in the LXX, but the root verb stauroō is used in Esther 7:9 in reference to the hanging of Haman. The verb alludes to the two thieves who were crucified at the same time as Yeshua (Mark 15:27). Interestingly, Paul does not speak of the cross (Grk. stauros) at all in Romans and the word for crucified occurs only here in Romans. The Roman cross was a vertical wooden stake with a crossbar, usually shaped more like a “T” than the Christian symbol. Roman citizens were exempt from this form of execution. Crucifixion was common among Greeks, Romans, Egyptians, Persians and Babylonians, but never among Jews. Jewish law specified four methods of execution—stoning, burning, beheading and strangling (Sanh. 7:1). Thus, many Jews had difficulty accepting a crucified Messiah, because the Torah identifies a man executed by hanging from a tree as accursed (Deut 21:22-23; cf. Gal 3:13). Actually, the curse would apply to being executed for a capital crime regardless of the means. (For a description of crucifixion see the ISBE article Cross.)
To many Christians the cross represents all they hold dear and it is an apt symbol of faith in Yeshua. But for centuries Jews were killed under the sign of the cross by persons claiming to be followers of the Jewish Messiah and for Messianic Jews it symbolizes persecution of Jews. David Stern, preferring not to represent New Covenant faith by the word "cross," renders the word as "execution-stake" in the Complete Jewish Bible and here translates "crucified' as "put to death on the execution-stake." Paul uses the metaphor to symbolize the complete surrender of our desires to God’s will and death to sin and selfish desires. Yeshua told his disciples, "If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross daily and follow Me." (Luke 9:23)
in order that our body of sin: This is a metaphor that alludes to the fact that sins are committed through the medium of the body (by some body part) and we have inherited a body from Adam that is cursed to death because of his sin (and our own). Various commentators take this expression as referring to the physical body "of which sin has taken possession" (Robertson). Edwards considers “body of sin,” like “old man,” to be a synonym of human nature apart from grace. From a Jewish point of view "body of sin" could be a metaphor of the evil inclination (yetzer ra). The purpose of being crucified with Messiah is that this "body" might be done away with: Grk. katargeō, "done away," may mean to (1) make ineffective, powerless, or idle; (2) abolish, wipe out, set aside; or (3) be released from an association with. Union with the Messiah is not meant to kill the body or eliminate human personality.
so that we would no longer be slaves: Grk. doulos can mean either slave or servant. Paul introduces his second analogy, which he will expand on beginning in verse 12. In the LXX doulos translates the Heb. word ebed, which similarly described someone enslaved after being captured in war or in order to pay a debt, whether voluntarily or involuntarily (cf. Ex 21:7; Lev 25:39, 44, 47). In addition, ebed identified those that served God, especially service in the temple (DNTT 3:593ff). to sin: Paul seems to again personify sin as a kind of temptress that lures and then enslaves (see note on 3:9). In this chapter Paul presents an either/or choice. One can be a slave of sin or one can be a slave of righteousness (v. 16). Paul's observation echoes Yeshua's own words, "Truly, truly, I say to you, everyone who commits sin is the slave of sin" (John 8:34).
7― for he who has died: Grk. apothnēskō, to die or face death, whether literally or figuratively. The verb is an aorist participle meaning that death has occurred and describes the condition of the person. is freed: Grk. dikaioō, perf. pass., justified or righteousified. For a full discussion on this verb see the note on 2:13. The perfect tense points to an event in the past with continuing results into the present. from sin: Literally, “For the one having died has been freed from the penalty of sin.” Stern notes that Paul is drawing on the Jewish tradition that says an individual’s own death atones for his sin. The Siddur contains this deathbed confession, “May my death be an atonement for all the sins, iniquities and transgressions of which I have been guilty against you” (Hertz edition, pp. 1064–1065), following the pattern of a prayer in the Talmud (B’rakhot 60a) and the Mishnah (Sanh. 6:2). Yoma 86a also speaks of death as “finishing” the punishment for sin and quotes Isaiah 22:14, “Surely this iniquity shall not be atoned for [Hebrew y'khupar, “covered”] until you die.” Paul applies this concept by affirming that our union with the Messiah and his death (vv. 3–6) means that we have effectively died and that union accomplishes atonement for our sin.
8― Now if we have died with Christ: Grk. Christos, which translates Heb. Mashiach, Anointed One or Messiah. See the note on verse 3 above. As life is stronger than death, there is an implicit kal v'chomer argument. "Since we died with the Messiah, how much more do we trust that we will also live with him!" (CJB). we believe that we shall also live with Him: See note on 1:4. Paul makes the important assertion that in the age to come we will share our lives with Messiah Yeshua as well as enjoy the same quality of physical life that he has. We will even reign with him (Rev 20:6). He repeats the same point in his letter to Timothy (2Tim 2:11). The blessed hope for the saints is to never again be subject to the curse of death (Rom 8:29; 1Cor 15:53-54; 2Cor 5:1-4; Phil 3:21; 1Jn 3:2).
9― knowing that Christ: Grk. Christos, which translates Heb. Mashiach, Anointed One or Messiah. See the note on verse 3 above. having been raised from the dead: Paul repeats his simple assertion of Yeshua's resurrection (see note on 1:4). is never to die again: Yeshua was raised from the dead, so He can never to die again (v. 9). death no longer is master over Him: Yeshua has gone beyond this; he has conquered death, so that death has no authority over him or over those united with him.
10― For the death that He died, He died to sin: the expression means that Yeshua died as a sin offering (Stern), not that he quit sinning as this idiom would mean for us. Yeshua as the unblemished Lamb of God, the perfect Passover lamb, bore our sins as a sin offering. He did not become sinful (John 1:29; 9:16; Rom 8:3; 1Cor 5:7; 2Cor 5:21; Heb 7:26; 9:26; 1Pet 1:19; 2:24; 1Jn 3:5; Rev 5:12). Some Christians have erroneously concluded on the basis of 2 Corinthians 5:21 that Yeshua became sinful on the cross. The source of this mistaken belief is the failure of standard Christian Bibles to accurately interpret the Hebraic theology of the verse in harmony with the rest of Scripture. once for all: Yeshua can never die again. Yeshua's death had redemptive application for the entire human race (2Cor 5:14-15; 1Tim 2:6; 4:10; 1Pet 3:18). The one-time death is noteworthy because it replaces the annual Yom Kippur sacrifice, as well as individual sacrifices offered when a person sinned. but the life that He lives, He lives to God: Yeshua still lives in union with the Father's will as he did on earth (John 10:30; 15:10).
11― Even so consider yourselves to be dead to sin: Paul is speaking metaphorically of an end to the struggle. "Consider," a present imperative form of Grk. logizomai (see note on 4:3), exhorts a continual activity. In temple sacrifices the consecrated animal was killed and this act cleansed the temple, but being a living sacrifice (Rom 12:1-2) calls for a daily devotion. but alive to God in Christ: Grk. Christos, which translates Heb. Mashiach, Anointed One or Messiah. See the note on verse 3 above. Jesus: Grk. Iēsous is an attempt to replicate the pronunciation of Yeshua, the name of our Lord in Hebrew, the language he spoke. Iēsous does not translate the meaning of Yeshua. See the note on verse 3 above. the Old Covenant atonement never gave spiritual life to the people. Believer's immersion testifies that by sharing in the death of Messiah then the power of his resurrection will enable us to live spiritually. This is another allusion to the two ways: rejecting sinful behavior on the one hand and living for God and by his expectations on the other.
12― Therefore do not let sin reign: Grk. basileuō, be king, rule, obtain royal power. Paul again personifies Sin (see note on 3:9) as a temptress who entices. in your mortal: Grk. thnētos, mortal, subject to death (Rienecker). body: Grk. sōma, body, normally of living body in Grk. literature. While Greek dualism distinguished between the soul and the body, in Hebraic thought the body represents the whole man. so that you obey: Grk. hupakuoō, which may mean (1) obey, follow, be subject to or (2) hear, grant one's request. its lusts: Grk. epithumia, desire, longing. In first century usage epithumia may be neutral, good or bad, depending on the circumstances and what is desired. Every person has desires and needs, whether physical (food, clothing, shelter), relational (friendship, intimacy) or communal (position, respect). When these things cannot be obtained in a neutral or good way, then Sin may tempt the person to fulfill the desire in a bad way and thus Sin gains control over the person.
13― and do not go on presenting: Grk. paristēmi, to place beside, as to present, put at one's disposal, make available. The present active imperative verb combined with the negative prohibition means to stop something in progress. the members of your body: Grk. melos, part of a bodily structure, which has both literal and figurative uses. The phrase would be literally "members of you [plural]" (Marshall). Paul resorts to a Hebraic way of viewing acts of sin or righteousness in terms of the part of body engaged in the act. The Hebrew Scriptures often provide exhortations related to body parts, such as eyes, ears, hands, feet, etc.
as instruments: Grk. oplon, military weapon. The word occurs only six times, once literal (John 18:3) and five figurative, all of which are in the writings of Paul (here, Rom 13:12; 2Cor 6:7; 10:4). Only the HCSB, NAB and Phillips correctly translate the noun here as "weapons." Treating oplon as a generalized instrument or tool misses the context of the struggle of spiritual warfare (Eph 6:12). The members of our body (e.g., a hand) may not be sinful in themselves (cf. Matt 5:30), but when employed in performing behaviors contrary to God's commandments makes them weapons for the enemy. of unrighteousness: Grk. adikia, see note on 1:18. Unrighteousness vs. righteousness are not just theoretical concepts, but real behaviors accomplished by involving the physical body.
but present yourselves: Grk. paristēmi. The aorist imperative form of the verb means that Paul commands any disciples to consider what is done with each part of his body and amend behavior as necessary by an act of consecration. as those alive from the dead: Paul reminds them of the transformation of the new birth. The new life must not be surrendered to the enemy of our souls. and your members as instruments of righteousness: Disciples should consider the parts of their mortal bodies as weapons of righteousness, which may be offensive ("the right hand") or defensive ("the left hand," 2Cor 6:7 CJB, NLT; cf. Eph 6:14-16). The allusion is to the Roman soldier's equipment. The sword would be in the right hand and the shield in the left. to God: Instead of serving Caesar as the Roman soldier, the disciple serves the King of Kings, the God of Israel. The disciple can engage all the parts of his body in the campaign to produce righteousness in his personal life, in the body of Messiah and in the world and in so doing please his Commander.
14― For sin shall not be master over you, for you are not under: Grk. hupo, under or below, may refer to a place or a power. In this instance obviously a power is in view, meaning that one is subjected to the rule, sovereignty or control of something. The preposition sets up the slavery analogy in the following verses. law: Grk. nomos. (See the note on 2:12 regarding the term "Law.") The word “nomos,” literally “law” should be rendered “legalism,” which is defined in 3:20 as perversion of the Torah into a system of rules for earning God’s praise without trusting, loving or communing with God the Giver of the Torah (Stern). (See my article Under the Law.)
but under grace: In what sense are believers “in subjection to” grace? In the sense that they have accepted Yeshua’s “yoke,” which is “easy” and “light” to be “under” (cf. Matt 11:28–30), in contrast with the “yoke” of legalism, which is not (Ac 15:10). The contrast is being in subjection to man's rules and traditions and God's sovereignty. Man's rules create oppression and stifle freedom. As Stern points out God’s giving the Torah was itself an act of grace which the apostle John compares with the coming of Yeshua as Messiah (John 1:17). God’s people, the people who are in a trust relationship with him, are and always have been under grace and under Torah (a gracious subjection).
Can we sin a little? 6:15-23
15― What then? Paul repeats his basic question that began the chapter with a different emphasis. Shall we sin: the active aorist subjunctive verb points to a hypothetical situation and could be translated as "shall we commit a sin." because we are not under law but under grace? see note in verse 14. May it never be! See note on verse 2 above. Freedom from Jewish legalistic traditions is not a license to sin anytime.
16― Do you not know: Grk. oida, to have information about or discernment about something. The rhetorical question borders on diatribe. The obvious implication is that they should "know." that when you present yourselves to someone as slaves for obedience, you are slaves: Paul applies Yeshua's dictum that one cannot serve two masters (Matt 6:24), summarizing the ultimate consequences for service to the two masters. of the one whom you obey, either of sin: Grk. hamartia. resulting in death: Grk. thanatos, death in the natural physical sense or existence viewed ouitside a relationship with God (Danker). or of obedience: Grk. hupakoē, used predominately to refer to obedience to God and his commands. Sin is likened to a tyrant that demands obedience. A slave is not in charge of his own life; he must answer to a master. Only in being a slave to God is there true freedom. Sin results in death, both in this life in the sense of harm to relationships and community, and in the age to come in the form of eternal death. resulting in righteousness? dikaiosunē. See note on 1:17. Righteousness means right character & behavior. Righteousness strengthens relationships and community.
17― But thanks be to God that though you were slaves of sin, you became obedient from the heart: Paul interjects praise for the quality of discipleship present in the Roman congregation. to that form of teaching to which you were committed: This statement probably refers to Torah unencumbered by man's legalistic traditions.
18― and having been freed from sin: see note on verse 7 above. you became slaves of righteousness: Freedom from the control of sin releases God's power in our lives to produce righteousness.
19― I am speaking in human terms because of the weakness of your flesh: Grk. sarx, "flesh," which has both literal and figurative uses (1) the tissue that covers the skeleton of a human or animal; (2) the whole body viewed as a substance; (3) man of flesh and blood in contrast to God and supernatural beings; (4) human or mortal nature, with its limitations; (5) the external or outward side of life; (6) theologically the willing instrument of sin that stands in opposition to the Spirit; (7) the genitals without any suggestion of sinfulness connected with it.
Sarx is a key word in Romans, occurring 27 times, and that usage has led to much disagreement among interpreters over its meaning, especially in chapters seven and eight. Paul the Jew and Pharisee heavily depends on the Tanakh for his theology for his view of man. In the LXX sarx stands for Heb. basar, which denotes flesh as (1) the food of men, Gen 41:2; (2) tissues or parts of the human body, Gen 2:21; (3) the human body in its entirety, specifying the part for the whole, Ps 63:2; and also figurative of close relations, Gen 29:14, and even all mankind, Job 34:15 (DNTT 1:672). Frequently basar emphasizes man's essential nature in contrast with God, e.g., man's transitoriness, frailty, dependence or incapacity (2Chr 32:8; Ps 78:39; 119:120; Prov 5:11; Isa 31:3; 40:6, 8; Jer 17:5).
Paul's use of sarx is a cause of much disagreement of scholars. Indeed, differences can be seen in how modern versions translate the word, sometimes rendering it as "natural selves" and in other places as "sinful nature." Commentators generally view "flesh" in chapters six through eight in a negative light, the willing instrument of sin that stands in opposition to God's Law and the Spirit. In light of new understanding of Paul and his writings this definition must be reexamined. Christian interpretation of Paul has historically been too much influenced by the dualism of Hellenistic philosophy with its negative view of the material. It may well be that in Paul's lexicon sarx is shorthand for the complete phrase "flesh and blood," used first by Yeshua and then later only in Paul's writings (Matt 16:7; 1Cor 15:50; Gal 1:16; Eph 6:12; Heb 2:14). Perhaps this phrase should be translated as "the weakness of your humanity."
For just as you presented your members as slaves: In employing the slavery analogy Paul goes on to identify the three conditions of things and people defined by the Torah: unclean, clean and holy. to impurity: Grk. akatharsia, impurity or dirt, a figurative term for immorality or viciousness (cf. 2Cor 12:21; Gal 5:19). Rienecker very appropriately renders it as "uncleanness." In the LXX the negative term akatharsia translates Heb. tum'ah (DNTT 3:103), which means uncleanness, whether ethical or religious impurity (Lev 5:3; 16:16) (BDB 380). The various types of religious tum'ah are detailed in Leviticus 11–15, 22. Various types of moral uncleanness, represented by the related word tamē are given in Leviticus 18-20.
The chief danger in uncleanness is that it defiled people (Lev 18:20, 24; Num 5), the sanctuary (Lev 15:31), the camp (Num 5:3) and the land (Lev 18:25). The penalty for moral uncleanness was death (Lev 15:31). Religious uncleanness caused a person to be restricted in both access to worship (Lev 7:19-21) and relationships (Lev 15:19-28) until cleanness was restored. Worshipping while unclean, whether religious or moral, warranted being cut off from the community (Lev 7:21; Num 19:20).
and to lawlessness, resulting in further lawlessness: Grk. anomia. See note on 4:7. In Paul's Jewish context he uses anomia to refer to living in opposition to Torah commands, since it is the Torah that defines sin and impurity (3:20; 5:13). One might become unclean unintentionally, but untreated and allowed to continue the offender would invariably be guilty of intentional sin or lawlessness. so now present your members as slaves to righteousness: Paul seems to be using righteousness as a parallel of "clean." Righteousness is a commitment to "clean" living. resulting in: Grk. eis, "into." The preposition suggests movement in a certain direction from one sphere into another. in sanctification: Grk. hagiasmos, holiness, consecration, sanctification. The term may refer to a process or its result (the state of being made holy). In the LXX hagiasmos has no clear Hebrew equivalent (DNTT 2:224), although cognates of hagiasmos (hagiazō, hagiasma and hagios) do translate the qodesh word-group.
Christian theologians tend to distinguish "the process" and "the result" with the term "sanctification" for the process and "holiness" for the result. However the qodesh word-group really describes the state or condition, whether of God, angels, people, the sanctuary or vessels devoted to worship. Qodesh, based on its usage in the Torah of things and people, can be defined simply as "wholly His," i.e., ownership by the God of Israel. It is being set apart for God's service, a servant devoted to performing His will. The interrelation between unclean, clean and holy and the process of change from one state to another may be seen in the chart below from Wenham (19):
As Wenham (19-20) explains:
"Cleanness is a state intermediate between holiness and uncleanness. … Sanctification can elevate the clean into the holy, while pollution degrades the clean into the unclean. The unclean and holy are two states which must never come in contact with each other. … The basic meaning of cleanness is purity. … But cleanness is a broader concept than purity. It approximates our notion of normality."
The purpose of sanctification, then, is to return human nature to normality by freeing the personality from the reign of Sin.
20― For when you were slaves of sin: a parallel of "slaves of impurity" in the preceding verse. you were free: Grk. eleutheros, "free," which may be (1) of political or social freedom; (2) independent, not bound or (3) in the religious and moral sense. in regard to righteousness: This is a puzzling statement in Greek, but Edward offers this comment:
"The sinner imagines that sin is true freedom. It is an illusory freedom, however, for it is preoccupied with self, resulting inevitably in license, lawlessness and chaos. Only righteousness truly frees because it leads away from self and to holiness (v. 19). Under the dominion of sin one has no responsibility for righteousness and is consequently ordained for death."
Shulam provides a similar explanation:
Paul plays on the "freedom from" sin and the "freedom to" obey God. Since a man cannot serve two masters at once, the commitment to obey one both gives him "freedom" from the mastery of the other and leaves him free to serve the other. If he chooses to let his evil inclination master him, he is not responsible to God's commandments, nor does he benefit from their reward. If he serves God, on the other hand, he is "free" from obedience to his evil inclination."
21― Therefore what benefit: Grk. karpos, lit. fruit of trees. In the LXX karpos is used figuratively to refer to the fruit of the womb, i.e., offspring, as well as the result, outcome or product of some action. were you then deriving from the things of which you are now ashamed? Paul asks a rhetorical question that in the modern vernacular might mean, "Get real! What good did sinning ever do you?" For the outcome of those things is death: "After all, the outcome of sin is death."
22― But now having been freed: Grk. eleutheroō, free or set free. The verb is an aorist passive participle, which indicates an event that occurred in the past in which the person received the action and now describes the condition of the person. from sin: lit. "from the sin." They used to be sinners, but now in the present they have been freed from sin by the work of Messiah Yeshua. Paul's usage of the word "sin" is important for interpretation. Some would take "the sin" to mean the "sin nature." A more likely view is that Paul is again personifying Sin and contrasting the difference between the "lordship" of Sin versus the Lordship of God.
Those in the Wesleyan and holiness tradition differ on what freedom means. For some it means that the inclination is still present but it no longer has any control over the person's life. The baptism of the Holy Spirit provides the victory over the sin nature. Others define this freedom as having the sin nature removed or eradicated.
and enslaved to God: Grk. douloō, to make a slave of someone, to subject. Like "freed," this verb an aorist passive participle, indicating a condition that occurred coincidental or following the reception of freedom and still exists. In the Hebraic sense the "enslavement" means to become a servant of God. There is no negative connotation associated with the cruel slavery of the first century.
you derive: Grk. echō, to have or to hold, lit. "you have." The use of the imperfect tense emphasizes the continuous aspect of possessing the result of the action. your benefit: Grk. karpos. See note above. It's not impossible to think that Paul might have intended the meaning of spiritual offspring, but in any case the fruit of being freed on the one hand and enslaved to God on the other makes possible the fruit of holiness.
resulting in: Grk. eis, "into." sanctification: Grk. hagiasmos. See verse 19. While all orthodox Christian theologies believe in the importance of holiness, Christians are divided on the details. Just how holy can one become in this life? How holy must one be to be admitted into heaven? When does sanctification happen? Is it a crisis event or a process? How can we know we're sanctified? Does sanctification make one perfect? Can a sanctified person still sin? What happens if he does? Any believer looking for answers may find a lot of conflicting answers.
Paul is not concerned here with answering these kind of questions. He simply contrasts two diametrically opposed kingdoms in order to make his point that a person who has experienced the grace of God cannot go on sinning. Some things can be said with certainty. No disciple is or ever can be as holy as God (Rev 15:4), as perfect as the angels or as innocent as Adam and Eve before they sinned. It's noteworthy that none of the apostles declared themselves to be holy. Personal testimonies of early disciples are appropriately modest in the face of God’s holiness, a lesson all Christians should take to heart (cf. Matt 8:8; John 1:27; Acts 10:25-26; 1Cor 4:4; Phil 3:8-15; 1Tim 1:12-16).
Nevertheless, the apostles taught, consistent with the Torah, that righteousness and holiness are God's will for His people. Righteousness, as Paul has forcibly argued to this point, is contrary to a sinning lifestyle. Sanctification, then, is not primarily about the cessation of sinning, it is about serving God with an undivided heart. Such a spiritual transaction does not mean that the disciple will never commit another sin, but fortunately we have an "advocate with the Father" in that eventuality (1Jn 2:1).
23― For the wages: Grk. opsōnion, provisions, wages of a soldier (Rienecker). (See also Luke 3:14; 1Cor 9:7; 2Cor 11:8). The Roman military was a fact of life and Paul no doubt saw Roman soldiers every where he went. In Paul's day legionaries received 225 denarii per year, paid in regular installments over the duration of their service. A denarius was considered the wage for a day laborer (Matt 20:2). To this wage, a legionary on active campaign would hope to add the booty of war, from the bodies of their enemies and as plunder from enemy settlements. Slaves could also be claimed from the prisoners of war and divided amongst the legion for later selling, which would bring in a sizeable supplement to their regular pay. All legionary soldiers who completed their service of twenty-five years (if they lived so long) would also receive 3000 denarii and/or a plot of good farmland upon retirement.
of sin: Grk. hamartia, is singular with the definite article and again reflects a personification contrasted with God. Sin, like a Roman military commander, pays wages for a job well done. Ironically, Christians generally assume that Jews believe in being saved by works, but as Stern comments, verse 23 is Paul’s classic expression of the idea that the only place you can work your way to is hell; no one can work his way to heaven.
is death: eternal death or separation from God is the chief compensation of sinning. The word picture of a soldier's salary points to the practice of sin rather than an individual sin as producing the wages of death. but the free gift of God is eternal life: The value of eternal life is far too great to be earned; it can only be given. This contrast is also true for the present life. The gift cannot be obtained by animal sacrifices, adherence to Jewish legalistic traditions or any other religious program.
in Christ: Grk. Christos, the expected fulfiller of the hopes of Israel for an end-time deliverer, the Anointed One or Messiah. "Christ" is a transliteration, not a translation of Christos. See the note on verse 3 above. Jesus: Grk. Iēsous is an attempt to replicate the pronunciation of Yeshua, the name of our Lord in Hebrew, the language he spoke. Iēsous does not translate the meaning of Yeshua. See the note on 1:1. our Lord: Grk. kurios, lord, ruler, master. See the note on 1:4. (The reverse order "our Lord Jesus Christ" occurs 38 times and "Jesus Christ our Lord" occurs 5 times.) The special title formula occurs in this order seven times, all in the writings of Paul. Chronologically, the title formula was first used in the letter sent by the Jerusalem Council providing guidance to Gentile disciples (Acts 15:26). It may well have been suggested by Paul.
Paul closes the chapter with the triune significance of our redeemer. He is the Jewish Messiah, he is the only source of salvation and he is our master in all aspects of life. As Yeshua told the Samaritan woman, "Salvation is from the Jews" (John 4:22), and one Jew in particular. As Peter said, "there is salvation in no one else; for there is no other name under heaven that has been given among men by which we must be saved" (Acts 4:12).
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