May it never be! How shall we who died to sin still live in it? Or do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus have been baptized into His death? 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, 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; for he who has died is freed from sin (Romans 6:2-7).
Sometimes we run into a person we have not seen in a while, and we hardly recognize him because he looks entirely different. Maybe this person went on a diet and lost a lot of weight. He does not look like himself. We look at him and ask, “What happened to you?” Maybe you look in the mirror and ask yourself the same question, “What happened to you?” The change is so different that you cannot help but wonder what took place.
A similar spiritual change is true in every believer in Jesus Christ. A dramatic transformation occurs whenever a person is converted to Christ. Whenever others see and hear the change in a new believer, they often ask the same question, “What happened to you?” The alteration should be that noticeable in their conversations and conduct.
In this study, we will look into Romans 6:2-7 and discover how dramatic the change is in anyone who is born again. This passage details seven significant changes that took place in the conversion of a believer. Before we examine these verses, I want to make some initial observations of the passage before us. Then we will walk through each verse systematically.
Four Initial Observations
First, if you are a believer, this change has already taken place in your life. It is not something that is currently happening in you, but has already occurred. Neither is this an alteration that is going to happen to you later in the future. Everything described in this passage has already transpired in your life. These spiritual realities occurred the moment you were born again. There was a radical change in your life when you were converted to Christ.
Second, everything that we will discover in this passage occurred at the same moment. Every spiritual reality that we will consider in these verses transpired at the split second you were regenerated. What we will discover is not a multiple choice or a list of various possibilities. We do not pick and choose which we would like to be our experience. To the contrary, this is a complete transformation of the inner person. If you are a believer, every spiritual dynamic happened in your life at once.
Third, this spiritual conversion produced a radical transformation of every believer’s life. This change did not make a small difference in a person’s life, but a life-altering transformation. At conversion, you began an entirely new life that is entirely different from anything you had previously experienced.
Fourth, every aspect of this spiritual transformation is because of the believer’s union with Jesus Christ. If you are a Christian, you are in Christ, and Christ is in you (John 14:20). As a result, whatever is true of Christ has become true of you. What He accomplished has become the reality of your life.
So, what happened to you? The following seven realities became true of your life when you were born again:
I. You Died to the REign of Sin (6:2)
First, our union with Jesus Christ means that we died to the reign of sin in our lives. Paul begins by asserting, “How shall we who died to sin still live in it?” (verse 2). This is a statement of fact, an accomplished reality. Every Christian has died to sin. Though Paul puts this sentence in the form of a question, he is making a declarative statement. “We” have died to sin, meaning the reign of sin. “We” refers to every true believer in Jesus Christ. This is a death to the reign of sin in the one who has been born again.
In Romans 5:21, two verses earlier, Paul wrote that “sin reigned in death.” Believers have died to the dominant rule of sin in their lives. This is not teaching perfectionism, that a believer can reach a state of sinless perfection in this life. However, this does maintain that there was a decisive death to the once powerful reign of sin. It was not a death that prevents one from committing individual acts of sin. Rather, it was a death to the tyranny of sin over your life. In other words, the dominion of sin over a Christian’s life has been broken. The control of sin over a believer’s life was broken.
Before conversion, you could not do anything but pursue sin. Then, you died to the reign of sin at a specific point in the past. It was when you were brought into personal union with Christ. Now, living in the domineering power of sin is impossible for a believer. Paul reasons that if you died to the reign of sin, you cannot continue to live in it. To live in sin means to live for it. It is to be consumed with sin. It is to be in the death grip of sin under its power. To live in sin is the habitual lifestyle of the unbeliever. But with conversion, living for sin became completely impossible.
II. You Were baptized into Christ (6:3b)
Second, our union with Christ means that every believer was baptized into Jesus Christ. Paul continues, “Or do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus” (verse 3). If you are a believer, you were placed into Christ Jesus at a point of time in your past. Because the apostle says, “do you not know?,” he means that this is common knowledge. If you are in Christ, Paul reasoned that the early believers certainly knew this. So, he is reminding them of what they already know, that they have been baptized into Christ.
Water or Spirit Baptism?
There is some debate among Bible scholars as to whether this baptism refers to water baptism or Spirit baptism. It is my conviction that there is not a drop of water in this entire passage. Instead, this text is referring to Spirit baptism. Though water baptism is merely a picture of Spirit baptism, this verse has nothing to do with water baptism. This verse refers to Spirit baptism, which is also mentioned in 1 Corinthians 12:13, Colossians 2:12, and Ephesians 4:5. Spirit baptism is when every believer is placed into Christ. We become so one with Christ that certain things are true. Because we were baptized into Christ, therefore, when Jesus died for sin, we died to sin. We died with Christ, resulting in the fact that we are dead to our old way of life.
To be “baptized” into Christ means that we have been placed into close union with Him. This prepositional phrase “in Christ Jesus” does not mean to be baptized in water in the name of Christ Jesus. The primary meaning of this preposition “in” (eis) is “into.” At the moment of our regeneration, Paul says that we were immersed into Christ Jesus. We were transferred from being in Adam to being in Christ. This union with Christ is so intimate that when He died, we also died. This is a real fact. By the grace of God, were taken back two thousand years and placed into Christ in His death. We were made to be one with Christ in His death, and when He died, therefore, we died.
Vital Union With Christ
The believer’s union with Christ is a major doctrine. The noted Scottish theologian John Murray argues that the central truth of the doctrine of salvation is this close union of believers with Christ. Any reading of Paul’s epistles reveals that the little prepositional phrase “in Christ” or “in Him” is used often in his writings. Moreover, this truth is intensely profound. Throughout Paul’s writings, he tells us that we were chosen in Christ, predestined in Christ, redeemed in Christ, forgiven in Christ, made alive in Christ, and enthroned with Christ. This is the grand reality of being in Christ.
More specifically, every believer enjoys a two-fold union with Christ. Every believer is in Christ, and Christ is in every believer. We could not be more closely identified with Christ, as we share a common spiritual life with Him. Therefore, what Jesus possesses becomes our possession to enjoy. Jesus said, “Peace I leave with you; My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you” (John 14:27). Jesus again said, “These things I have spoken to you so that My joy may be in you, and that your joy may be made full” (John 15:11). The same peace and joy that was in the Lord Jesus Christ flows into our lives. Jesus gives us not merely a joy like what He had, but the same joy that He possessed.
The apostle Paul writes elsewhere that our life is “hidden with Christ” (Colossians 3:3). Therefore, Christ “is our life” (Colossians 3:4). Whatever spiritual life we have inside of us, it is the very life of Jesus Christ Himself, imparted by the Holy Spirit. This is already our present experience because we have been baptized into Christ. There are times when we experience more of His peace and joy than at other times. But the reality is, Christ is in us with the fullness of His being. When we were baptized into Christ, the Spirit of God placed us into Christ, and He makes His fullness available to us.
III. You were baptized into Jesus’s Death (6:3c)
Third, our union with Christ means that we have been baptized “into His death” (verse 3). When Jesus died, we were baptized into His death. His death became our death. This is to say, we died to our old life, once and for all. Because of this baptism into His death, we can no longer live under the reign of sin. We have died to the life we once lived before we became a believer. The old man that we were died. Later in this section, he writes, “we have been united with Him in the likeness of His death” (Romans 6:5), and “our old self was crucified with Him” (verse 6). The one thing that is continually repeated in this cluster of verses is our union with Christ and our identity with His death. Simply put, when He died for sin, we died to sin.
Previous to our conversion, sin was our cruel master. We obeyed and served sin with an unfailing loyalty. The apostle adds, “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” (Romans 6:16). We once lived obeying sin. But when we were born again, we immediately died to the subservient relationship we had to our old master. We now have no binding obligation to obey sin. As a believer, we still continue to sin, but we are no longer controlled by it. Though sin is still residing in us, it is no longer reigning over us.
Upon the cross, Jesus died a real death for our sins. His crucifixion was not a figurative death, but a real, physical death. In the same manner, you and I died a real death with Him. Salvation brings a radical break from our past, and we are no longer living for sin. We are under the new Master with whom we died.
IV. You WERE BURIED WITH JESUS (6:4a)
Fourth, our union with Christ means we also were buried with Jesus Christ. Paul adds, “Therefore we have been buried with Him through baptism into death” (verse 4). Why does Paul stress the burial of Jesus? What is the significance of His burial? Here is the answer. The fact that Jesus was placed in a tomb guarantees that He actually died. He did not merely swoon into an unconscious state. He did not simply fall asleep. He did not feint or fall into a coma. If He had, what occurred on the third day would have been a resuscitation. The burial of Jesus documents that He actually died upon the cross. Therefore, His death and resurrection were real.
When we believed in Jesus Christ, this means that we, too, experienced a real death. It was not a physical death, but a spiritual one. Because we were in Christ, when He was buried, we were buried with Him, spiritually speaking. This proves that our old life was buried. There will never be a resurrection of our old way of life. What we once were is behind us, never to be seen again. Paul elsewhere writes that we have “been buried with Him in baptism” (Colossians 2:12). This is one reason that water baptism should be by immersion, because it best pictures our being buried with Christ. When we were placed into the water, it best portrays our burial with Christ.
V. You WERE RESURRECTED WITH JESUS (5:4b-5)
Fifth, our union with Jesus Christ also means that we were resurrected with Him. In this same verse, Paul adds, “so that as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life” (verse 4). Jesus Christ was powerfully raised from the dead “through the glory of the Father.” This is a synonymous expression for the omnipotence of God the Father. It was His glorious power that raised Jesus from the dead and broke the shackles of death. The power of God is far greater than the power of sin and death.
The result of the resurrection of Jesus is, Paul writes, that “we too” were resurrected with Him. “We,” as it does throughout this passage, refers to all believers in Jesus Christ. Whether in Rome or wherever, this means, “we too” have been raised from the dead. A spiritual resurrection took place in our lives when we were regenerated. We have been raised with Christ to live a new life. It is not that our old life is resurrected to a better state. To the contrary, a totally new life has been resurrected. This resurrected life empowers us to “walk in newness of life” (verse 4). “Walk” refers to our daily manner of life. This is where the rubber meets the road, where we put one foot in front of the other. We are supernaturally enabled to follow Christ on the narrow path that leads to life.
“Newness of Life”
The word “newness” (kainotes) describes ‘a new state of existence’ that is of a different kind. In the Greek language, there are two different words used for “time.” One refers to chronological time (chronos), the other refers to something new (kainos). The latter word is the same root word used here, indicating this resurrected life is an entirely new kind of life. This is not the resuscitating of the old man. Rather, we receive a completely different life, unlike anything we have previously experienced. In fact, it is the actual life of Jesus Christ Himself being lived in us. It is the same resurrection life of Christ that He experienced after He was raised from the dead.
This new life is visibly seen in our daily walk. It shows in the new direction that our resurrected life takes. We will certainly still stumble and fall in the Christian life. We will still commit individual acts of sin. But we are not under our old master of sin anymore. It is no longer mandatory that we sin. We are now living under a new Master, Jesus Christ, and walking a new walk, headed in a new direction, with a new life within us. This is the dramatic change that is brought about in every believer’s life.
Paul goes on to say, “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” (verse 5). In this context, the word “if” (ei) should be translated as “since,” meaning this is an accomplished fact. Because we have been baptized into Christ’s death, we have also been baptized into His resurrection. We have been spiritually raised from the grave to live a new life with a new walk.
However, we must realize that there will still be an ongoing struggle with sin in our Christian lives. Paul will address this internal conflict in Romans 7. We still wrestle with the enticing lures of temptation. We still fight to resist the advances of the devil. We still find ourselves embroiled in spiritual warfare. We still have to discipline ourselves for the purpose of godliness. This ongoing battle with sin will continue throughout our life. In fact, this is one of the evidences that we are in Christ. Before we were saved, we previously were not fighting against sin. We were floating downstream like a dead fish, going with the flow of this evil world system. We were a part of the old system, obeying our old master. But the fact that there is now a spiritual struggle against sin is actually evidence that we are in Christ. Our new life is fighting against our old desires for sin.
VI. You WERE CRUCIFIED WITH JESUS (6:6a,b)
Sixth, our union with Christ further means we were crucified with Jesus. The apostle has already addressed this subject, but he returns to it. Paul writes, “knowing this, that our old self was crucified with Him” (Romans 6:6). This time, he speaks with an even more emphatic language. Paul earlier said we were “baptized into His death” (verse 3), and we were “united with Him in the likeness of His death” (verse 5). But in verse 6, Paul says that we were “crucified” with Christ. This is an even more dramatic assertion than previously made. He is like a carpenter, driving a nail deeper into the board, to establish this truth in our minds.
When Paul writes, “knowing this,” he means that this should be common knowledge to all believers. This should not be some new teaching. “Know” (ginosko) means ‘an experiential knowledge.’ This is a truth that believers should not merely know intellectually, but should be known in the heart. As a believer, we have experienced this deep reality in our lives. We should know with inner certainty that this union with Christ in His death is true. We should know that “our old self was crucified” (verse 6). “Self” (anthropos), meaning ‘man,’ refers to the old man we once were before we were placed in Christ. As believers, this crucifixion of our old man took place in the past, an already accomplished fact. Other verses will explain that we must continue to die daily. To be sure, our struggle with sin is not over. None of us will cruise into glory without this conflict.
“Our Old Self Was Crucified”
When Paul writes, “Our old man was crucified,” he means that the person we once were is crucified. Further, the governing power of sin that once dominated our life is now broken. When Jesus died, we were crucified with Him. It is as though the Roman soldiers that crucified Jesus laid us on that same cross beam with Him. It is as though we were placed on top of Him and were so identified with Him that there was not merely one nailed to the cross, Jesus Christ, but two people were nailed to it. When He died at Calvary, we died to the power of sin over our old life.
The Body of Sin
Paul further explains that we were “crucified with Him, in order that our body of sin might be done away with” (verse 6). There is much discussion as to what this “body of sin” means. This certainly does not mean that our physical body is sinful. Such a worldview would be a gnostic heresy. Some see it as our sin-dominated body. Still others understand it to be our fallen, sin-centered nature, in which “body” is a synonym for our flesh. I take it to mean the latter, as representing our old, sinful flesh.
This becomes clear in Romans 3:10-18, where our numerous body parts were described as comprising the body of sin. Paul says our dying throat was an open grave, our lying tongue was deceiving, our venomous lips had the poison of asps, our foul mouth was full of cursing and bitterness, our wayward feet were swift to shed blood, and our prideful eyes had no fear of God. That is a graphic picture of the total depravity that once plagued us. It is a portrayal of the dominion and corruption of sin that once ruled our life. From the top of your head to the bottom of your feet, sin held us in its deadly grip, and we obeyed it. Total depravity dominated our whole being and spread to every part of our innermost being. There was no part of our life that was not poisoned by sin, including our throat, tongue, lips, feet and eyes.
But because we were crucified with Jesus, the rule of sin “has been done away with.” That does not mean that our body of sin has been totally annihilated. It is not to suggest that our sinful flesh has been put out of existence. It is a word (katargeo) that has a wide range of meaning, including ‘to render useless, to abolish, or to deprive of force.’ In this context, this word means ‘nullified in its ruling power,’ ‘to be deprived of its force.’ As believers, sin still has power to raise its ugly head, but it no longer possesses the overpowering force that it once had in our lives.
VII. You WERE FREED FROM SIN (6:6c-7)
Seventh, our union with Christ means we have been freed from the ruling power of sin. Specifically, we were freed from the controlling tyranny of sin. Paul writes, “So that we would no longer be slaves to sin” (verse 6). We once were subjected to the slavery of sin. But this says, we are presently no longer under its governing authority over our lives. We once obeyed what sin commanded us to do. In our own weakness, we were defenseless to resist its power in our life. Sin held an overpowering sway over us. But now, we have been freed from this brutal slavery to sin. We now are a slave to the Lord Jesus Christ, and we live to obey Him. Everyone is a slave to someone or something. We are either a slave to sin, or to the Lord Jesus Christ. Either way, no one is without being obligated to obey his master. As believers, we are now freed from the bondage and power of sin in order to obey Christ.
Paul adds this explanation, “For he who has died is freed from sin” (verse 7). In our spiritual death with Christ, we died to the ruling power of sin in our lives. “He” refers to all believers, just like the “we” throughout this larger context. To be “freed from sin” can be more literally translated as “justified from sin.” The idea is that everyone who has been justified is sanctified. Their life is dramatically changed. No one can be a believer in Christ and continue to live the same worldly, sinful lifestyle that he once pursued. Believers have died to their old life in sin. We can no longer live the same life we once lived. This is because we died with Christ and were buried with Him, which freed us from sin’s dominating power.
Based upon this freedom from sin, we should know with certainty that we are saved. If a person does not have the assurance of his salvation after understanding this dramatic change, it is because they have been sitting under shallow Bible teaching that has not taught these truths. Such a person will have a faulty paradigm for the Christian life that is not found in Scripture. Or they have never been saved.
We began this study by saying that salvation brings a dramatic change in our lives. We have gone from death to life, and from the grave of sin to freedom in Christ. In light of these truths, how should we live? How should we respond to these verses?
First, there should be extraordinary praise in our heart for this dramatic change that has been brought about in our lives. We should never stop praising God for ending our old life and raising us to a new life. Our old man is dead and buried, and we now are a new person with a brand new life. We should express endless praise to God for the power of His grace in our lives.
Second, we should pray that this change would be increasingly evident to others. The reality of it has already happened. We should pray that the evidence of this new life would be seen more and more with each passing day. We will be talking about what needs to happen for the greater evidence of this to be manifested in our lives in the next studies. But Paul begins by making sure we know certain realities about our lives.
What questions do you have about these verses today?
Audience: Should we physically feel different when we are born again, or should we just know we are different because the text says so?
Dr. Lawson: That is a great question. First of all, the actual new birth is subconscious. We are not actually aware of the new birth itself, but there are things that accompany the new birth that we are aware of. There will be a sense of relief that the burden of sin has been rolled away. There will be a sorrow over our sin. There will be a joy that will flood our soul that we have now come through the narrow gate and our sins are now forgiven. These are things that accompany the new birth.
To give you the heads and tails of the same coin, there is the new birth and there is conversion. We make a distinction between regeneration and conversion, though they happen at exactly the same split second. Regeneration is what God does to our spiritually dead soul. It is a work of God and God alone. We had nothing to do with regeneration, just like we had nothing to do with our physical birth. It is what happened to us. At the same time, there is conversion that does consciously involve us. We are aware of our conversion. Conversion is a turning. When I fly to a foreign country, I have to turn my American currency into the currency of the new country. When I come back, it has to be converted back into American currency. It has to be turned back into something else. In conversion, I am consciously aware of joy, peace, and even grief over my sins. All of that takes place and I am consciously aware. But the regeneration part is subconscious.
Audience: What is the best or most gracious way to bring this to a person who claims Christ, but has no evidence of Him in their daily life?
Dr. Lawson: The most gracious, loving way is that there is an appropriate time to talk to someone. Pray that God would provide the right moment to have this discussion. Second, you could walk through this passage with them. Admittedly, this passage is complicated and it has taken me a few days to sort it all out in my own mind. But there are other passages like Matthew 7. Obedience from the heart is the leading indication of the one who is truly saved. How easy it is to say, “Lord, Lord,” but for the reality to not be there. There are many passages that one could use to talk to that person. I like to use 1 John. There are eight or nine evidences of the new birth listed there. If you have been born again, all eight of them will be present in your life. 1 John 5:13 says, “These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, so that you may know that you have eternal life.” You may know that you have eternal life as you see the fruit of it in your life. If there is no fruit, then there is no root. It is that simple. I would bring that up. But we must speak the truth in love. It is not only what we say, but how we say it. There is a spirit of gentleness that we should have.
Audience: We are saved, but we still sin. People who have addictions (pornography, gambling, alcohol, etc.) before coming to Christ will most likely struggle for a time. If that occurs while one is sincerely working on freeing themselves from this addictive bondage with their heart in the right place, will they see glory?
Dr. Lawson: Well, if there is an ongoing practice of those things, no. That will be evidence that they have never been born again. Will there be struggle and temptation? Yes, of course there will. I cannot give a simplistic answer to a very profound question that took in a lot of different patterns of sin, but I think we can see from this passage that there has been a death to the old life and a resurrection of a new life. If there has not been life change, then there has not been regeneration.
The extent to which one can continue to struggle with sin is hard to quantify. The church at Corinth pushed the outer limits of how carnal you can be and still be a Christian. We see that there is a New Testament church that is in Christ, as Paul says in chapter 1, yet they are caught up in some pretty bad stuff. However, they repented and turned from those things. So much so that Paul has to say in 2 Corinthians that the brother they disciplined and put out of the church, they need to receive back because he has repented. They were so ready to make things right, they were unwilling to receive someone back who had participated in the sin.
The one who is struggling with those sins should strongly desire to repent and confess that the sin is wrong and an evil against God. Then they should ask God for greater grace to live victoriously in Christ. There is a lot more to be said on this subject, which we will come to in Romans 7. We have only put our foot into the shallow end of the pool. There is much more to cover in sanctification, but this lays the foundation upon which everything else will be built.
I do want to be crystal clear that if you have been born again, there will be a dramatic change of your heart and soul from the inside out. There will still be temptations and struggles, but there will be a change and a desire for even greater change.
We are all in this together, asking God to instruct us. I need to go through Romans 6,7, and 8. I need this to be clearer in my understanding of sanctification. Beyond that, I need the reality to be seen in my life. I need you to see this in my life, and I need to be able to see it in your life. We need to encourage one another in this. We want to do more than just be right, we want to be righteous. We want to live this out. May it be so in our lives.
Let us close in a word of prayer.
Father, I thank You for this study. Thank you for these men. I pray that this has been helpful to them. I know that it has been helpful, because it is Your word, which is active and sharper than a two-edged sword. I am only the sower of the seed. I pray that You would till up the soil of every man’s heart that is here today so that it would bear much fruit. I pray this in Christ’s name. Amen.
© 2019 Steven J. Lawson