Paul does not describe believers as Christians. He says we are “in Christ”, we are in union with Him. Because we are in Christ, we were with him in everything he did. Sinclair Ferguson says these are some of the most important verses in the N T.
Paul reverts to the diatribe style of writing, question and answers.
The expressions “”died to sin” and “dead to sin” are found in Paul’s writings only in Romans 6. Note he speaks of sin, not sins. His focus is not on sins that people actually commit but the power of sin itself. Deliverance from sin, not the guilt of our sins is his main focus here. He uses the metaphor of slavery to explain our sinful behavior. We are slaves to sin, before we have been set free by Christ.
In Romans 6:3, baptism points to Christ and what he has done. It points to who we are in Christ. We see in Romans 6:6-7 that because of our identification with Christ, our relation to sin has been transformed. Who we were in Adam has been done away with when we were crucified with Christ.
In v 11 Paul uses the term “in Christ” to describe the relation of the believer to Christ. It is found 8 times in Galatians, 34 times in Ephesians, 18 in Colossians. This is the heart of Paul’s theology and it is related to both justification and sanctification.
Jesus himself promised his disciples:
Joh 14:20 In that day you will know that I am in my Father, and you in me, and I in you.
Joh 15:4 Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me.
How does Paul say we are in Christ?
- In Christ we have died with him Rom 6:3 Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death?
- Were buried with him: Rom 6:4 We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.
- Resurrected with him: Col 3:1 If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God.
- Ascended with him: Eph 2:6 and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus,
- We will reign with him: 2Ti 2:12 if we endure, we will also reign with him; if we deny him, he also will deny us;
- We will be glorified with him: Rom 8:17 and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him.
Paul is telling us to appropriate our new life, to live out who we are now. We are now in service to a different King. And the reason sin will no longer dominate us is that we “are not under the law, but under grace.”
Rom 6:2 By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it?
Although we are “dead to sin,” as Paul has said (cf. v. 2), Rom 6:11 So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus, and once we see ourselves this way, we then can break the reign of sin in practice (v. 12).
Barbaranne Kelly has an excellent blog post from a couple of years ago on Romans 5-7, and she asks this:
How then could we allow sin to reign in us? How then could we take God’s grace for granted? How then could the law of God not be our delight and how could we not desire to obey it?
In the second half of this chapter, Paul will focus on the positive side of our union in Christ.
Verse 16 focuses on a key reality: people are always enslaved to something. And so the question becomes, to whom or to what do you want to be enslaved? Paul has been warning us throughout Romans 6, especially in verses 15–22, that the lifestyle of sin leads to eternal death and condemnation.
“The whole point of Romans 6,” argues John MacArthur, is that “God not only frees us from sin’s penalty (justification), but He frees us from sin’s tyranny as well (sanctification).”
Faith alone justifies, but the faith that justifies is never alone. God’s grace through the power of his Spirit ensures that the same faith that justifies a Christian also sanctifies a Christian. Justification will produce fruit.
What we see in chapter 6 is not so much the method of sanctification as the motive for it. We must leave the life of sin behind and seek to offer our bodies to God so that His righteousness may be lived out in us.
Paul is saying: see yourselves as you are, in Him. The good news of the gospel—of Christianity as a whole—is that we can be linked with him. We’re in him. What’s true of him becomes true of us because of our union with him.
“If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory” (Colossians 3:1-4).