16 March 2012

Romans 6:1-11

"Therefore we have been buried with him by baptism into death, so that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life." (v. 4)


Paul sees the obvious conclusion that some will draw from the point he reached at the end of chapter 5; if sin causes grace to abound, then surely we should sin more, so that grace might abound more? Of course the answer is an emphatic 'no' ("By no means!" (v. 2)) and to explain the reason for that, readers need to consider their nature. To sin deliberately would be to go against the grain of the risen nature, to deny the work of the resurrection by which believers "walk in newness of life". However, there is clearly still a tension here; humans by their nature, sin; believers, by their new nature, do not, but believers are human! So, in what sense is Christ's dominion a present reality?

To answer that question Paul considers what it means to die and be raised with Christ; he makes emphatic and repeated claims for the believer who has been "baptized into [Christ's] death" (v. 3), "buried ... by baptism into death" (v. 4), "united with [Christ] in a death like his" (v. 5), the "old self was crucified" (v. 6) and the "body of sin ... destroyed" (v. 6). Paul again writes in the first person, encouraging all to share in this dying which has immediate effect, freeing us from slavery to sin enabling us to "walk in newness of life", although this is clearly not yet fully realised. Indeed, there is another tension at play here as well; between what has happened, what is happening now and what is still to happen. In many ways, the Christian has already died and been raised, and yet there is also a sense in which the death of our old nature and bringing to life of the new still lies in the future. Whilst holding both of these together, there is also a matter of present obligation in which believers must live out the moral implications of justification, and must consider themselves "dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus" (v. 11).

To Ponder

Being given license to sin more may sound attractive, but is it really? Consider the effects of sin in your own life and the lives of others you know.

What does the idea of being "buried ... by baptism into death" (v. 4) mean to you in terms of your own life?

What are the marks of "walking in newness of life"? Who are the people who have demonstrated that to you in your own faith journey?

Bible notes author

Jill Baker

Jill Baker lives in Glasgow and is glad to be part of the small but distinctive Methodist Church in Scotland. She is a local preacher and local preachers' tutor in the Strathclyde Circuit, where Andrew is superintendent minister.