Work for sin, die on payday
Die with Jesus, live with Jesus1So what are we going to say about all this? “We might as well keep on sinning so God can put his grace on display”? 2Absolutely not. Sin is dead to us. How can it be a part of our life anymore?
3Don’t you realize that we have been immersed in Christ Jesus? That includes his death. It’s a part of us now. 4In a sense, this immersion that included death means that we were buried with him, too. But just as the Messiah was raised from the dead by the Father’s awesome power, we get to experience a new life, too. 5If he’s a part of us now and we died with him, he’s going to be a part of us in his resurrection as well.
6Know this. The person we used to be is dead. That person was crucified with him. That person we used to be, driven by sin, has been drained of all its power so we could be free from slavery to sin. 7Sin no longer controls anyone who has died in this way.
8If we died with Christ, we’ll live with Christ. Believe it. 9Know this, too. Because Christ was risen from the dead, he’s not to going die again. He beat death. Death can’t do anything to him anymore. 10He died to sin—one death for everyone. He lives for God. That’s his life.
11It’s your life, too. Think of it this way. Sin is dead to you now. God is alive to you because of what Christ Jesus did.
Volunteer your body parts to do good12So don’t let sin tell you how to live your life. Your body doesn’t have to do what sin tells it to do. 13Stop volunteering your body parts to sin. They weren’t intended to hurt people. Volunteer your whole body to God. You’ve been risen from the dead. You’ve got a new life. Reserve your body parts for doing what is right.
14Sin is not your boss anymore. You don’t answer to the law. You answer to grace.
15So what does that mean? Does it mean we can sin as much as we want to because we’re above the law, and grace is our boss? Not on your life. 16If you volunteer to work as someone’s slave, don’t you know that means you’re a slave to whoever you obey? You can do what sin tells you, and end up dead. Or you can do what God tells you, and end up living the right kind of life.
17But let me tell you this, you can thank God above that though you were slaves to sin, you did what you were taught. You committed yourself to it with all your heart. 18Now that you’ve been set free from your old sinful habits, you’re slaves to goodness.
Sin’s good for making you feel ashamed19I’m using examples from everyday life to help you understand the ideas I’m trying to get across. You used to volunteer your body parts as slaves to behavior that was dirty and illegal. You went from bad to worse. But now you need to volunteer your body parts as slaves to good behavior. You’ll end up devoted to God.
20When you were slaves to sin, you were free to ignore goodness. You didn’t have to do anything good. 21So tell me, what did you get out of that previous life, other than shame? A life lived like that ends in death. 22But now, free from sin, you are slaves to God. And I’ll tell you what you get out of that: a devotion to God and goodness that leads to eternal life. 23The salary we get when we work for sin is death. The gift we get from God is eternal life through Christ Jesus, our leader.
“Grace” sounds like a vague word that’s hard to define. In fact, it’s a specific word that can be hard to define: charis. When Bible writers use it to describe God’s expression of grace to people, the word comes in different shades: mercy, kindness, love. We have to look for context clues if we want to understand how the writer used the word. One interpretation of God’s grace is this: “Grace is God accepting us the way we are and exactly where we are in our lives, yet it’s also his unwillingness to leave us there.” That may cover all the shades of “grace.” We should probably add that Paul says we can’t earn the right to any of it (Romans 9:16). In the Casual English Bible, we typically substitute “kindness” for “grace,” because the word “kindness” is more easily grasped and is a key feature of grace. But in Paul’s letter to Romans, we go back to “grace” because this is Paul’s greatest surviving work and the most theological. Some scholars describe this letter as the first thorough work of Christian theology. If you can handle Romans, you can wrap your welcoming arms around God’s grace.
The confusing phrase is more literally “baptized into Christ Jesus… baptized into his death.” Bible experts debate whether Paul was referring to the ritual of baptism or if he was using baptism as a metaphor. If he was talking literally about the ritual of baptism, then he was saying the sinful person we used to be died when we were baptized. But if he was using the phrase as a metaphor, he was giving readers a word picture to help them understand that just as the water of baptism completely covers us, we have been immersed in the life and teachings and experiences of Jesus.
The Greek word is often translated as sanctification or holiness.
What one statement in Romans 6 do you think Paul considered the most important point he was making in this chapter? Here are some contenders, though you can feel free to go in another direction.
- “Sin is dead to us. How can it be a part of our life anymore?” (6:2).
- “If we died with Christ, we’ll live with Christ. Believe it” (6:8).
- “Don’t let sin tell you how to live your life. Your body doesn’t have to do what sin tells it to do” (6:12).
- “Sin is not your boss anymore. You don’t answer to the law. You answer to kindness” (6:14).
- “The salary we get when we work for sin is death. The gift we get from God is eternal life through Christ Jesus, our leader” (6:23).
Paul says, “Sin is dead to us” (6:2). He tries to hammer that into our heads several different ways. In a word picture, he seems to portray our baptism as a kind of burial. We die. We are immersed. “This immersion that included death means that we were buried with him, too” (6:4). Then we rise from the immersion as new people, much like Jesus did when he rose from the dead. Are we dead to sin? Or was Paul exaggerating, like preachers sometimes do?
Paul tells the Romans they should, “Stop volunteering your body parts to sin” (6:13). We all know which body parts come to mind first. But Paul doesn’t seem limited to the body parts we typically keep hidden. If Paul had to give examples of body parts that can either hurt or help, what examples do you think he would give?
A more literal translation of Romans 6:14 has Paul telling the Christians in Rome, “Sin shall not be master over you, for you are not under law but under grace” (New American Standard Version). Paul said earlier, “If there’s no law, nobody broke it” (4:15). Where’s the accountability in this? And how is anyone supposed to know what they’re supposed to do if there aren’t any rules?
LIFE APPLICATION. Paul asks the rhetorical question. “So what are we going to say about all this? ‘We might as well keep on sinning so God can put his kindness on display’?” (6:1). He answers his own question. “Absolutely not” (6:2). But do you think people today take the kindness and the forgiveness of God for granted? If so, what makes you think that?
LIFE APPLICATION. We live and work with people who sometimes put us in awkward ethical situations. They pressure us to do something that we don’t feel is right. How might this line from Paul relate to situations like that? “If you volunteer to work as someone’s slave, don’t you know that means you’re a slave to whoever you obey? You can do what sin tells you, and end up dead. Or you can do what God tells you, and end up living the right kind of life” (6:16).