Meditations on Romans 6: Dead to Sin and Alive to God

The central theme of the great book of Romans is the gospel of Jesus Christ, and as part of that gospel story in Romans 6:1-11, Paul teaches that, as Christ died physically and then was physically raised in His glorious resurrection, so the believer, who has been united with Christ (“baptized into Christ”), has died with Christ spiritually and has been raised spiritually to walk in a new and holy life. Thus the believer’s “old man,” the one who was a slave of sin and who delighted in lawlessness, has been put to death and buried (6:4), and the “new man,” the one who is a slave of righteousness and who delights in obedience, has been raised to life. The old man is therefore dead and buried and the new man is the one who lives on. Since that is the case, Paul teaches that is impossible for the believer to continue to live in sin. Chapter 6 of Romans demands a much more thorough and rigorous study than this brief outline, but this is one of the main ideas. The old man is dead and the believer is therefore no longer a slave of sin and the new man is alive and the believer is therefore now a slave of righteousness.

As I was meditating on this theology, some ideas occurred to me which constitute implications of this teaching. Those meditations follow.

If a person who is an alcoholic claims to have come to Christ and claims to be a disciple of Jesus (a believer, a Christian, etc.) and yet continues to be an alcoholic, he is deceived about his claim or he is lying about his claim. This is because an alcoholic is an example of one who is a slave of sin and of one who is continuing to live in sin and Paul makes clear that it is impossible for one who has been baptized into Christ Jesus to continue in sin. In this case, the person’s ongoing slavery to sin is clear evidence that the old man (the old self) is still alive and well, and has not been put to death.
But when a person believes in Jesus and is thus united with Christ; when he is baptized into Christ (Romans 6:3-6), the “old man,” who is a slave of sin is put to death, thus forever ending the person’s slavery to sin and putting to death and burying all the person’s sin, and the “new man,” who is freed from sin (Romans 6:7; 1 Peter 4:1) and who is created in the image of Christ Jesus (Ephesians 2:10; 4:24) and who is a slave of righteousness (Romans 6:18), is raised to walk in an entirely new and righteous path.
When you are, by faith, baptized into Christ Jesus, the slave of sin is put to death and the new man (2 Cor. 5:17) is raised to life. Since the slave of sin has been crucified and buried, and the new man, created in Christ’s holy image, has been raised to life, there is no possibility that slavery to sin or continuing to live in sin can remain.

For the professing believer who willfully and defiantly chooses to remain in sin, the church’s response should not be one of compassion, but of confrontation and warning (1 Cor. 5:5, 11, 13; 1 John 2:3-6; 19; Matthew 18:15-17; Hebrews 6:4-8). The so-called believer is in great danger at this point, not of losing their salvation, but of revealing that they have never truly been saved at all and have never been baptized into Christ and have never been born again. The Bible gives zero comfort to the so-called believer who continues in sin. Rather it speaks of “a certain terrifying expectation of judgment and the fury of a fire which will consume the adversaries” (Hebrews 10:27).

In a conversation today with one of my co-workers, I found out that his mother was an alcoholic. In fact, the woman’s alcoholism had led to the parents’ divorce and has caused great pain and damage in the family. Here is a woman with a huge problem that is damaging others and ruining her life. What is the hope for such a person? How can she ever break free from her slavery to sin?
But her freedom is exactly what is addressed in the teaching of Romans 6. The only hope for freedom for this person (and for any person) is for them to be baptized into Christ Jesus and in this way (and only in this way) for “the old man” to be put to death and for “the new man” to be raised to life. As long as the old man lives, the person will continue to be a slave of sin and will continue to live in sin. They will not be able to escape from the chains of their slavery to sin as long as the old man lives. But if she will believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, she will be baptized into Christ and her “old man” will be crucified and buried, thus breaking her slavery to sin forever. Also, her union with Christ will result in her “new man” being raised to life and she will become a slave of righteousness. “He breaks the power of cancelled sin; He sets the prisoner free. His blood can make the foulest clean; His blood availed for me.” The one who places their faith in Jesus has the old sinful person put to death and has the new righteous person raised to life. With the power of the gospel, Jesus Christ accomplishes in a moment what 10,000 Alcoholic Anonymous meetings cannot. AA can give you methods to hold the old man at bay, but faith in Jesus puts the old man to death forever. The only way to be freed from sin is through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. Do you want to be freed from sin? Then believe in the Lord Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ has the power to set you free. “If the Son sets you free, you shall be free indeed (John 8:36).”

Romans 8:13
“For if you are living according to the flesh, you must die;” This is the first half of Romans 8:13 and it speaks to the slavery to the flesh, and thus to the slavery to sin. Consistent with what we have been saying, the death of the old man is required for freedom from sin. If you are living according to the flesh, it means that you have not believed in the Lord Jesus and that your old man is still alive and still in control. You are still dead in your sins. You are still a slave of sin and the old man still lives.
“. . . but if, by the Spirit, you are putting to death the deeds of the body, you will live.” The second half of the verse speaks to the fact that, for this second person, the Spirit is empowering the person to fight against sin. The new man has been raised to newness of life and is fighting the battle with the flesh. So the contrast is between the person who is still in the flesh and therefore must die and the person who is already in the Spirit and will forever live.

The flesh is the old man’s playmate and it is the new man’s enemy.
The old man delighted in the sins of the flesh, but the new man detests the sins of the flesh.

The old man and the flesh: The confusing of these two
I believe there exists a basic misunderstanding among many professing Christians about the old man and the flesh. Those who are misinformed believe that the old man continues to exist after salvation and that it is the old man who is tempted after salvation and it is the old man who is still susceptible to sin. Their thinking is that there exists both an old man and a new man at the same time, and the new man does not sin, but the old man continues to sin. This thinking displays an ignorance of several theological facts.
The first fact is that the old man dies and is buried at salvation. When the believer comes to faith, the old man is put to death and with him is put to death “the body of sin” (Romans 6:6), which is all the sins of the believer, whether past, present or future. The entire body of sin is “done away with.” In fact, “the old ‘man’ was crucified with Him (Christ), SO THAT our body of sin might be ‘done away with’ (also ‘destroyed’ or ‘abolished’), (SO THAT purpose clause continues) we should no longer be slaves of sin (6:6).” My point here in this quote is to emphasize the fact that the “SO THAT” is a ‘hina’ purpose clause in the Greek. This is significant here, because it shows that the old man was crucified (put to death) for the purpose of abolishing our body of sin. When the old man was crucified, the believer’s body of sin was abolished. Thus the means of abolishing our body of sin was the putting to death of the old man. Again, the old man was put to death SO THAT our body of sin would be abolished or done away with. So for our body of sin to be abolished, the old man must be put to death. Now we can see why it is impossible for the old man to still be alive and influencing the believer. It is impossible for the old man to still live because he has been put to death so that the believer’s sin can be taken away. Romans 6:6 (and other texts) explicitly teach that the old man has been put to death.
The second theological fact that is ignored is an understanding of “the flesh” (‘sarx’ in the Greek). The flesh is that fallen part of all children of Adam that always seeks after rebellion and always delights in sin and in disobedience to God. The flesh is inextricably woven into the very fiber of our members and cannot be removed except by physical death. It is part of our physical body and lives as long as the physical body lives. Considering this fact, it makes clear that the flesh lives on after salvation. The flesh was present before salvation and the flesh lives on after salvation, and it is the flesh that continues to assault and harass the believer and urge the believer to continue in sin. Thus the following:

The flesh is the old man’s playmate and it is the new man’s enemy.
The old man delighted in the sins of the flesh, but the new man detests the sins of the flesh.

The lines above describe the battle that goes on inside every true believer as they war against the flesh and the flesh’s assaults. This is the struggle that Paul is describing in Romans 7:14-25. Paul hints at the battle here in Romans 6, but he goes into the agonizing details of the struggle in Romans 7.
So it is not the old man who is continuing to be tempted after you are saved. After salvation, only the new man lives and thus it is only the new man who can sin after salvation. You cannot get away with blaming your sins on the old man and you may not excuse your sin by blaming it on your flesh. Any sin committed by the new man is totally incongruous with the new man’s nature and must be dealt with through confession and repentance.

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