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Bible: What Does Romans 6 Teach Us About Spirit Baptism and Sanctification?
The Apostle Paul
Pentecost: The First Baptism of the Spirit
Romans 6: Identification and Sanctification Truths
Pursuing another branch of the argument, Paul assumes the position of critics by voicing a possible objection to his line of reasoning.
Given that God makes available more than sufficient grace to cover abounding sin, the apostle asks, in effect, “Why, then, shouldn’t we keep sinning, and do it even more?” (v. 1; cf. 3:8).
Reverting to his apostolic stance, he prefaces his full response to this view with his characteristic negation me genoito (“Certainly not!”) [v. 2a; cf. 3:4, 6].
Paul answers the question with two of his own, the first emphasizing the believer’s death to sin (v. 2) and the second, his Spirit baptism (v. 3).
The Baptism of the Spirit
He argues first that, since the Holy Spirit separated Christians from the ruling power of sin when He applied the merits of Jesus’ death to them at their salvation, it makes no sense for true believes to desire to continue sinning habitually (v. 2).
Second, Paul reminds the unlearned that the Spirit’s baptism not only places believers into the body of Christ (cf. 1 Cor. 12:13), but it also separates them from the old life in Adam (“baptized into His death”) [v. 3].
[Immersion in water merely pictures what happened spiritually at salvation.]
Believers are “buried” (lowered into the water) with Christ, separating them from the old nature; their being “raised” (brought up out of the water) symbolizes their spiritual rebirth (regeneration).
So altered, they should resemble Christ spiritually by living a renewed life (v. 4; cf. Col. 2:12).
Paul then logically correlates the components of Spirit baptism.
Since the Spirit has brought believers into union with Christ “in the likeness of His death,” He will also cause their lives to resemble Jesus’ resurrection life (v. 5).
Crucifixion with Christ
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Count These Truths to Be So
In order to experience this new kind of life, Christians must acknowledge the following spiritual facts and live according to them.
When the Spirit regenerated them, He applied to them the entire salvation transaction: co-crucifixion and co-resurrection.
Spiritually, their “old self” suffered a crucifixion death with Christ; Paul writes that this event took place to render inoperative their “body of sin.”
Since their spiritual death with Christ frees them from their sin, they are not slaves to this nature any longer (vv. 6-7).
Verses eight through ten reiterate the truth of believers’ death with Christ and the certainty of their living with Him because of His complete resurrection victory over death.
[The apostle seems to be referring here to the believers’ expectation of resurrection from death, not to their present life as born-again people.]
In light of the Lord’s victory, saints should consider the facts of their spiritual death and resurrection with Christ, and make appropriate moral decisions in this life (v. 11).
They can now choose either to experience victory over what remains of their sin nature, or to obey its desires and let it continue to reign; Paul enjoins that they select the former (v. 12).
Present Your Members as Instruments of Righteousness
Believers should stop presenting the members of their body as tools that the remnants of the sin nature can use to perform unrighteous deeds; rather, they should present their souls and their bodies to God as a living sacrifice, so that He can use them as “weapons of righteousness” (v. 13; cf. 12:1).
Considering that Church-age believers live under the administration of grace, not under the dominion of law, they should not allow the remnants of their sin nature to rule them (v. 14).
[Christians are not “under law” in three senses:
(1) they no longer have to sacrifice animals because Christ’s once-for-all sacrificial death has fulfilled the ceremonial aspect;
(2) Jewish civil law does not directly apply to the Church; and
(3) their “identification with the vicarious atoning death of Christ” frees them from its condemnation
(Virkler, Hermeneutics: Principles and Process of Biblical Interpretation, 144)].
Paul resumes his peculiar pedagogical methodology by asking another polemical question similar to the one he posed in verse one.
He intends his next query to develop his argument further by having it function as a transition from a discussion of grace and law to one of spiritual “slavery.”
In other words, as the apostle wrote earlier that believers should not keep sinning because God has made sufficient grace available to cover it (v. 1), so now he tells them that they should not sin habitually because they, being empowered by grace, are not obliged to offer sacrifices and keep Jewish civil laws perfectly to be accepted by Him (v. 15).
John MacArthur: Pastor-Teacher
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Slavery to Righteousness
Seeking a way to accommodate himself to “the weakness of your flesh” (that is, their dullness of spiritual understanding) [v. 19a], Paul appeals to the Romans’ knowledge of slavery, reminding them that they have a choice to obey one master (sin) or the other (the Lord).
The former slavery leads to death, the latter to righteousness (v. 16).
He thanks God that, although the Romans had been slaves of uncleanness and lawlessness (sin), they chose to obey Christian truth (vv. 17, 19).
Consequently, God freed them from sin’s penalty, and they became “slaves of righteousness” (v. 18).
Paul appears to speak about two stages to their slavery to righteousness:
the first occurred when they obeyed Christian truth at their initial time of salvation (v. 18).
The second part will happen as they continually present themselves unto holiness (progressive sanctification) [v. 19].
He reminds them that when they were unsaved “slaves of sin,” they were free with regard to righteousness (v. 20).
[In other words, they had no interest in or belief in things that pertained to doing right in God’s eyes.]
His rhetorical question aims to inform them that they derived no benefit from their former lifestyle; in fact, this Gentile way of life embarrasses them now, and would have resulted in eternal death had they not left it (v. 21).
Paul contrasts their former condition as slaves of sin with their present status as believers.
Now they have freedom from the penalty of sin; they are slaves to God and bear holy fruit that leads to everlasting life (v. 22).
That does not mean, however, that believers earn eternal life through their sanctification.
The apostle makes plain that sinners earn eternal death, but believers receive both eternal life in Christ and progress in holiness as God’s gracious gifts (v. 23).
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