by Andrew Foss
Study of Romans 6:1-14
The Apostle Paul knew that any discussion of God’s grace being greater than our sin (Romans 5:20) would prompt the following question, “If our good deeds are worthless for earning the forgiveness of our sins, then why be good at all? Why obey God if we’re going to be forgiven by Him anyway?” And so, in anticipation of this line of thinking he poses this question in Romans 6:1 – “What shall we say, then? Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase?” And he’s quick to answer. He doesn’t mince words here. The answer is pointed, very short and simple. “By no means!” (vs. 2).
Romans 6 is yet another pivotal shift in Paul’s letter to the Church in Rome. Starting in vs. 1 he begins to teach on how the gospel alone leads to a sanctified and changed life; how the gospel alone produces deep and massive changes in a Christian’s actual character and behavior. Romans 1-5 explained what God has accomplished for us in the gospel, and now chapters 6-8 will teach what God desires to accomplish in us through this same gospel.
Questions/Answers & Notes:
- According to Romans 6:2, 11 how is it possible that Christians can say “no” to sin’s temptations?
Answer: “We are those that have died to sin… but are alive to God in Christ Jesus.”
It’s important to note that being “dead to sin” (vs. 2) doesn’t mean that sin is no longer a nuisance within the life of a Christian. It absolutely is! Even though the penalty of sin is gone forever (Romans 3:24 – NLT), unfortunately sins presence and power remain in the life of a Christian until God makes all things new. What being “dead to sin” means is that sin no longer has to dominate the life of a Christian. Though Christians may give in to sin (and God knows they will), the fact remains that Christians no longer have to obey their sinful desires. If being “dead to sin” meant that sin is no longer attractive and seductive to Christians than the Apostle Paul would not have had to urge them to stop sinning in vs. 12-13. And it’s also important to note that Christians are not “alive to God” (vs. 11) by anything they’ve done. It’s not because they have renounced enough ungodliness in their lives so that magically they were raised from the deadness of their sin. No! Sinners are raised to newness of life by the glory of the Father (Romans 6:4). That’s grace! This new life is the result of something done to a sinner, not something they bring about. The only thing an individual brings is the sin that makes God’s salvation necessary. That’s it!
- Do you truly believe that you don’t have to sin as a Christian; that it’s actually possible? If not, why not? If so, what difference could it make in your life?
Remember, the Apostle Paul just wrote in Romans 5:21, “… just as sin reigned in death, so also grace might reign through righteousness to bring eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.” The Bible clearly teaches that Christians are no longer under the ruling power of sin. In Romans 6:14 we learn that Christians are no longer under the mastery of sin because they “are not under the law, but under grace.” If you recall Romans 1:18-32 teaches that apart from God’s grace in Christ Jesus we are given over to our sinful desires on a constant basis. Before coming to faith in Christ Jesus we couldn’t see that some things were sinful, and even if we did, we didn’t have the power to resist them. But now, sin no longer has to dominate the life of the Christian. And so in those moments of struggle, Christians can either indulge the “dead them” or walk in “newness.” There is a choice, but as the Apostle Paul asks in Romans 6:2, “… how can we [why would we] live in it any longer?”
Galatians 5 is another great teaching of the Apostle Paul on the Christian’s new God-given ability to resist and rebel against sin. In Galatians 5:16 Paul writes, “So I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the sinful nature.” That word “gratify” is huge! Notice that he doesn’t teach Christians won’t have sinful desires. No, instead he writes that Christians will in fact still struggle with them but can now say “no” to them by the power of the indwelling Holy Spirit. And that’s the truth of Romans 6:11 when the Apostle Paul writes, “… count yourselves dead to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus.” The more Christians believe in the truth that they are only united to God through Christ Jesus’ death and resurrection, the more they will know they are living a new life and will want to walk in that newness God graciously provides. (Other Scriptures that teach on the power Christians now have to not sin: Colossians 1:13; 3:1-5, Acts 26:18, Philippians 2:12-13; 3:12, 2 Corinthians 3:18)
- What difference does/can being “dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus” make to your sense of identity?
Hint: my hope is that you would focus on the “in Christ Jesus” part of this amazing truth – that we’ve been baptized into Jesus (vs. 3) and united with Jesus (vs. 5). Praise God that our sin does not define us anymore as a Christian, Christ alone does! Maybe share your appreciation of this truth and how it’s transformed your life in response to it.
- Are there sins you have grown tolerant toward in your own life which have caused you to not walk in the “newness of life” (Romans 6:4) that God has graciously gifted to you in Christ Jesus? If so, are you willing to share about that?
Since sharing something so personal might be hard for some, maybe share your own to start in order to get the conversation going.
- In what area of your life is sin fighting particularly hard at the moment? Why?
Again, maybe share your own struggle here to start.
- What are some of the main motivators for people to do anything at all?
Answer: fear of consequences, desire for rewards/benefits, & the love of the thing itself. Those are the top 3 categories for me, there may be more… give it some thought and open it up for discussion.
- Which of those three motivations is the most essential and powerful for the Christian to obey God by saying “no” to our sinful desire and “yes” to what God desires for us? Why?
Answer: the love of God.
The Apostle Paul writes elsewhere that “the grace of God… is training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age” (Titus 2:11-12). In 2 Corinthians 5:14 we read, “The love of Christ compels us.” Earlier in Romans 2:4 we learn that it’s actually the kindness of the Lord that leads to repentance. The Bible teaches that it’s the love of God that provides new desires, passions, and compulsions to guide and guard a Christian’s character and behavior. Now the love of God is certainly not the only motivation for Christians in Scripture. Fear of consequences (1 John 4:18) and desire for reward (Hebrews 11:6) can both be motivations, but the love of God is the only one that is not self-seeking. But the more important question is what stimulates such love? The Bible clearly teaches, “We love because He first loved us” (1 John 4:19). In Romans 6:3, 6, 8-9 the Apostle Paul repeatedly uses the words “know” or “believe,” and so Christians need to understand that sinning comes not so much from a lack of power, but more so from a lack of understanding our identity in Christ Jesus and rejoicing in it. The Apostle Paul knew that lasting, God-honoring obedience comes from a heart that’s been radically transformed by the grace of God in Christ Jesus who meets sinners where they are (dead in sins) and does for them what they could not have done for themselves (given new life).