Romans 6:1-23


In this session we are beginning to explore the last of five major movements in the large section of Romans in which the Apostle Paul develops the idea of “justification by faith.” This section of Romans begins in the middle part of chapter 3 and goes through chapter 8. In the last three chapters of this section Paul explores some of the positive results enjoyed by those who experience justification as a result of a faith relationship with Jesus Christ. In chapters 6, 7, & 8 Paul explores is some depth three positive results of being justified (made right with God) through faith. They are:

  • Victory over sin (Chapter 6)
  • Freedom from the Law (Chapter 7)
  • Life in the Spirit (Chapter 8)

For the next several weeks we are going to focus on those three things.


Victory over Sin (Romans 6:1-23)

At the end of chapter 5 Paul makes a wonderful statement. He writes, “…where sin increased, grace abounded all the more…” This is wonderful news! It means that no matter how great the sin, God’s grace is greater. However, some people apparently were twisting this wonderful news into something evil. They were asking, “If our sin causes God’s grace to abound, does that mean that we should sin more so that we experience more of God’s grace?” It was that question which prompted Paul to launch into a discussion in Romans 6 about the believer’s victory over sin.


Verse 1 is simply a restatement of the perverted thinking of those who advocated that by sinning more we are doing God a favor by providing Him more opportunity to display His great grace.


Verse 2 is a strong rebuke of those who advocated such a thing. The phrase “May it never be…” is a strong very strong statement. Paul is saying, “By no means should you think in those terms!” Paul says that instead of sinning more, Christians should consider themselves dead to sin.

Verses 3-11 explain why Christians should consider themselves dead to sin. Using the analogy of baptism, Paul explains that Christians are to live their lives in union with Jesus, not in union with sin. As we explore these verses, it is important to keep in mind that Paul is not advocating that a person is made right with God through the physical act of baptism. It is absurd to think that Paul would spend the first five chapters of Romans arguing that justification (salvation) is by faith alone and then reverse himself in chapter 6 to say that baptism is the means of salvation. The phrase in verse 3 “…baptized into Christ Jesus…” refers to much more than just physical baptism. It is referring to our union with Christ that is the result of inward faith and that is symbolized in the outward act of baptism. Interwoven throughout verses 3-11 are two thoughts about what it means to be in union with Christ.


To be in union with Christ means to die to an old way of life.

This entire paragraph written in response to those people who raised an objection to the idea that God would save people by grace alone and not by works. Their objection went like this: "If saved only by grace and not by what do, why not sin all the more so that God could display more grace toward us?" Paul response was that such question reflects basic misunderstanding of Christian life. One aspect of Christian life is death to an old way of life--a way dominated by sin. That truth can be seen throughout paragraph. Scan through paragraph and notice all references to the Christian's death to an old way of life.

  v.2 - "How shall we who died to sin still live in it?"

  v.3 - "...all of us who have been baptized into Christ have been baptized into His death..."

  v.4 - "...we have been buried with Him through baptism into death..."

  v.5 - "...we have become united with Him in the likeness of His death..."

  v.6 - "...our old self was crucified with Him, that our body of sin might be done away with..."

  v.8 - "...we have died with Christ..."

  v.11- "...consider yourselves to be dead to sin..."


What does it mean for a Christian to be "dead to sin?" Does it mean that true Christians will never again sin? Of course not! To interpret "dead to sin" that way would contradict other biblical statements like the one in I John 1:8 that says, "If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us." Such an interpretation of “dead to sin” would also contradict our personal experience. For every Christian knows in his/her heart that no matter how hard we try, we all at times fall short of God's ideal for us.


So what does it mean to be "dead to sin?" It means that sin no longer dominates us, that we no longer live in its dreaded grasp, and that we no longer have to fear it's terrible penalty. Because of our union with Jesus Christ, sin is no longer our master. We are no longer dominated by those things that controlled us before we became a Christian. In Colossians 3 Paul tells Christians to consider themselves dead to such things as "immorality, impurity, evil desire, greed, wrath, malice, slander…” It is not that those and other sins are no longer temptations to those in union with Christ, but they are no longer to rule over us. Those who are in union with Christ have died to an old way of life.


To be in union with Christ means to be resurrected to a new kind of life.

The act of baptism is in two parts.  The first part, the laying down of the person in the water symbolizes our death to old way of life, the life of sin.  The second part, the raising of the person out of the water symbolizes our resurrection to a new life in Christ.  A moment ago we looked at the references in this paragraph to our death to the old way of life.  Now look at the references to our resurrection to new kind of life in Christ..

   v.4 - "...we have been buried with Him through baptism into death, in order that as Christ was raised from the death through the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life." 

   v.5 - "For if we have become united with Him in the likeness of His death, certainly we shall be also in the likness of His resurrection..."

   v.8 - "Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with Him..."

   v.11 - "Even so consider yourselves to be dead to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus."

All that tells us something very important about the life of justification by faith.  The life to which God calls us is not merely dying to something; it is being raised to something   better.  It is not merely discarding things that are bad; it is putting on things that are good.  The Christian ethic is not primarily a negative ethic of "thou shalt nots" even though there are certainly some things a Christian should not do.  It is primarily a positive ethic of "thou shalts.”  Unfortunately, this is a concept that many Christians fail to grasp.  One writer put it this way:  “Too many Christians are ‘betweeners’:  they live between Egypt and Canaan, saved but never satisfied; or they live between Good Friday and Easter, believing in the Cross but not entering into the power and glory of the resurrection.” [Wiersbe, p.64] 


Verses 12-13 contain a command based on our union with Christ.  Notice verse 12 begins with the word “therefore.”  Since we are in union with Christ there is something we should stop doing and something we should start doing.

·         We should stop letting “sin reign” in our bodies.

·         We should stop “presenting the members” of our bodies to sin.

The tense of both of those verbs indicates that at one time sin was reigning in our bodies and we were presenting or using our bodies as instruments of sin.  Instead of doing that, Paul tells us to “present yourselves to God as those alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness to God.”  The verb tense of “present yourselves to God” suggests a decisive, once and for all action.  One writer translates these verses this way:  “Do not constantly allow sin to reign in your mortal body so that you are constantly obeying its lusts.  Neither constantly yield your members of your body as weapons (or tools) of unrighteousness to sin; but once and for all yield yourselves to God.”  [Ibid, p.67]


The point of these verses is that it is impossible to be dedicated to God without dedicating our physical body to Him.  The Gnostics of the 1st century would disagree with that.  They would say you can dedicate your spirit to God and do with your body as you desire.  But the Scripture teaches that we cannot separate our body from our spirit.

Verse 14 contains a promise that we will prevail in our struggle with sin.  The reason “sin shall not be master over you” is not because we are strong in and of ourselves.  It is because of our union with Christ and the presence of God’s Spirit within us.  The phrase “…you are not under law, but under grace…” does not mean that we are free from the moral constraints of God’s law.  It means we have discovered that salvation does not come by keeping the law; it comes as a result of God’s grace.  Because we have experienced the grace of God through faith, God lives within us and empowers us to yield ourselves, not to sin, but to Him.


Verses 15-23 remind us that we will either be a slave to sin or a slave to God.  Verses 17 & 18 contain a beautiful, succinct summary of the experience of those who have experienced justification by faith.  The experienced is summed up in two verbs – “your were” in verse 17 and “you became” in verse 18.  At one time we were slaves to sin but we became, through the grace of God, slaves to righteousness (or to God).  This paragraph spells out the differences between these two types of slavery.



Slavery to Sin

Slavery to God


Foundation (vv.17-18)












Characteristics (v. 19)

“impurity” – The word carries the idea of uncleanness in relation to other people.  It means to be involved in immoral relationships.


“lawlessness” – This word refers to the attitude of the disobedient toward God.  It explains why people choose to live in impurity.  It is the attitude that no law, no moral codes apply to me.



“righteousness” – In this instance the word probably means doing what is right rather than what is wrong.  It is choosing good over evil, right over wrong, light over darkness.


“sanctification” – The word means to be holy, consecrated, set apart.  It is used only in this paragraph in Romans.

Outcome (v.23) – This is one of the most well known verses in the Bible.

“death” – Not merely physical death.  We will all experience that unless we are on earth when the Lord returns.  This is referring to a spiritual death that is separation from God.  This does not begin when we die.  It is the state we are in until we accept God’s offer of salvation.  It begins in this world and extends to the next world.

“life” – Just as spiritual death begins in this world, so does eternal life.  Eternal life is not something we get when we die; we get it the moment we become slaves of God.  It is a quality of life that begins in this world and extends to the next.






In the next chapter Paul explores more fully this life that comes from relationship with God.