What’s Definitive in Romans 6?

Those who speak of “definitive sanctification” often assume that their own definition of sanctification is what we find taught in Romans 6. But a careful reading of Romans 6 shows that being united to Christ’s death sets the elect apart by means of legal identification with Christ. The reason sin shall not reign is not “we will not practice sin (so much) anymore”. The reason sin shall not reign over those sanctified by Christ’s death is that they are now no longer under the law.

Romans 6 is about Christ the public representative of the elect first being under condemnation, being under sin and death. Romans 6:7 “For one who has died has been justified from sin. 8 Now since we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. 9 We know that Christ, being raised from the dead, will never die again; death NO LONGER has dominion over him. 10 For the death he died HE DIED TO SIN once for all, but the life he lives he lives to God.

Christ was never under grace and is still not under grace. Christ was under the law because of the imputed sins of the elect. Romans 6 is about Christ’s condemnation by the law and His death as satisfaction of that law. Christ after His resurrection is no longer under law. Christ’s elect, after their legal identification with Christ’s death, are no longer under law.

The death of the justified elect is the SAME legal death that Christ died. The “definitive resurrection” of the elect in Romans 6 is the result of being set apart with Christ (and His death) from being under law.

Christ was never under the power of sin in the sense of being unable not to sin. Christ was always unable to sin. The only way Christ was ever under the power of sin is by being under the guilt of sin. The guilt of the elect’s sin was legally transferred by God to Christ. Christ’s death to sin was death to the guilt of sin, and since the elect are united with His death, the death of the elect is also a death to the guilt of sin. Romans 6:7: “For one who has died has been justified from sin.”

Yet many commentators tell us that “set free from sin” must mean the elect’s definitive transformation by the Holy Spirit so that the justified cannot habitually sin (or that their new nature cannot sin) They tell us that justification was in Romans chapter five and that chapter six must be about something more if it’s to be a real answer to the question “why not sin?”. But Romans 6 does not talk about Christ or His people not habitually sinning. Romans 6 locates the cause of “sin not reigning” in “not being under the law”

Christ was never under the power of habitual sin , and the definitive death of the justified elect is His death.

Romans 6:14 does not say, For sin shall not be your master, because the Holy Spirit has changed you so that you cannot habitually sin, but only occasionally and always with repentance. Romans 6:14 says, “For sin shall not by your master, because you are not under law but under grace.”

Christ also died to purchase every blessing, including the giving of the Holy Spirit and our believing the gospel. But it is not believing which frees the elect from the guilt of sin. What’s definitive is being legally joined to Christ’s death. (Also, Romans 6 says “baptized into” not “baptized by the Spirit into….)

Explore posts in the same categories: resurrection, union with Christ

Tags: ,

You can comment below, or link to this permanent URL from your own site.

7 Comments on “What’s Definitive in Romans 6?”

  1. markmcculley Says:

    Lee Irons: I now think that telos should be taken in a teleological sense, meaning “goal” or “aim.” I would now translate the verse as follows: “The object of the Law is realized in Christ, so that there may be righteousness for everyone who believes.” My main reason for changing views is that my old view did not provide a reasonable explanation of the second half of the verse. How does Christ’s being the termination or abrogation of the Mosaic Law result in righteousness being (available to everyone who believes?) It doesn’t.

    mark…..being already earned for the elect alone, so that Christ is entitled now to these elect being justified…..


    Sin shall not have dominion over you because the Spirit in you causes you not to love sin, NOT what Romans 6 teaches. Because you are not guilty and condemned anymore.

    Which takes us back to what Lee Irons is saying about Romans 10:4, it’s not about “as a covenant of works” and now “not as a covenants of works”, and it’s not about being in a different redemptive time now, ie, now in the new covenant we are able by the Spirit to do it, NO, it’s that Christ has brought in righteousness by satisfying the law with His death. Christ got his righteousness and life by His death by Law, but we will never get life except by God’s imputation of Christ’s death to us

  2. markmcculley Says:

    Romans 6 does not say “you don’t have to sin”

    1. What does “have to sin” even mean?

    2. Does it mean that we are sinners sometimes only?

    3. Romans 6 commands us not to sin–let not sin reign.

    4. Romans 6 tells us that we have “been brought from death to life”

    5. Romans 6 tells us that “sin will not have dominion over us” which does not mean that we will sin less. Any sin is “too much”

    6. Romans 6 tells us that “sin will not have dominion over us” because we (who still sin) do not have ANY sin counted against us, and this is because our record as sinners (old self, not old nature) died when Christ died.

    7. Christ’s record as a sinner (imputed guilt) died when Christ died.

    8. There is only one death to sin, and that is Christ’s death.

    9. Romans 6 does not command us to die, but looks to the one and only death of Christ.

    10. Those legally joined to Christ’s death are no longer under the law, and no sin is counted against them. After Christ died, no sin is counted against Christ, and Christ was no longer under the law.

  3. markmcculley Says:

    Baldwin on Romans 6— Paul does not attempt to produce obedience through a guilt trip. Far from it. He tells them their guilt is gone. It has been carried away in the body of Christ. He has been raised for their justification. They are righteous.

    Everything that they need to stand before God on judgment day has been accomplished in Christ. Their very judgment day has been accomplished in his cross and resurrection and it is over and they have been declared righteous in him. There is nothing more they need to do. To the world, this is foolishness. Why should the Romans change their behavior? Why should they do what is right if the blessings of obedience have already been given to them fully in Christ? If we take away guilt and the fear of punishment, what motivation does anyone have to do right? Why not sin that grace may abound?

    And this is exactly the question Paul asks. “What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin that grace may abound?” (Rom 6:1).

    Paul is not afraid of this question. He brings it up himself. Let us not be afraid to provoke that question either by the full disclosure of the glory of justification in Christ Jesus. The Christian stands utterly righteous before God. Acquitted. Pleasing in God’s sight. Then and only then is he in a position to understand the call to obedience.

    Shall we continue in sin that grace may abound?

    Certainly not! How shall we who died to sin live any longer in it? 3 Or do you not know that as many of us as were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death? 4 Therefore we were buried with Him through baptism into death, that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.

    Paul’s answer is surprising. Shall we continue in sin that grace may abound? Certainly not! Just because you’re justified doesn’t mean God won’t punish you if you sin. Bad things will happen if you do bad things. Be careful! Paul says nothing of the sort. That would contradict his earlier thesis that all blessings are theirs already in Christ Jesus. That would contradict his later thesis that there is no condemnation for them in Christ Jesus.

    Paul does not appeal to the Romans’ fear, and he doesn’t appeal to their guilt. For they have no guilt before God, and they need fear nothing. And even if they did, these things are not sufficient motivators. For guilt and fear motivate only the flesh which is corrupt and can do no good thing.

    Paul’s answer is not what most people would expect. Why shouldn’t I sin? Because I’m united to Christ who is dead to sin and raised to new life! For Paul, it’s the most natural answer in the world because he has disciplined himself in the doctrine of Christ. So the first thing that occurs to him in any such question is, what does this have to do with what Christ has done for me and in me, and will do through me? What does this have to do with who I am in Christ? The doctrine of Christ is the mystery of godliness. Paul is constantly on the lookout for ways to bring this doctrine home and to call his hearers to faith in it.

    And so Paul’s surprising answer to “Shall we continue in sin that grace may abound?” is, of course not; you’ve been baptized! And then he preaches their baptism to them. Of course not, he says; that’s not who you are. You’re dead to all that and alive to God in Christ Jesus. You’ve been united with Christ in his death to sin on the cross. And if that’s true, you’ve been raised with him to newness of life as well, to a new life that has nothing to do with sin. Therefore why sin? What could possibly motivate you? What could possibly attract you?

    We must call the Christian to faith in his union with Christ. He sins because he does not believe himself dead to sin and alive to God. Therefore he does not act that way, and the biggest mistake we can make is to believe those actions. To say, well you’ve sinned; that must mean you’re not dead to sin. It must mean you’re not alive to God. No! At that very moment when he struggles with sin is the moment when he needs us to tell him, it is not true! Your actions are a lie! Let God be true though every man is a liar. You are dead to sin. Believe it, brother. And you will walk in these ways.

    10 For the death that He died, He died to sin once for all; but the life that He lives, He lives to God.

    And this, Paul says, is your power of new obedience—to find yourself in Christ, empowered by his new life. Therefore he says,

    11 Likewise you also, reckon yourselves to be dead indeed to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

    There’s the call to faith. There’s the call to believe the indicative—the truth of what he has just preached. Reckon yourselves dead to sin. Is the death of Christ a sham? Is his resurrection nothing? If not, then you are dead to sin. Then you are alive to God. Believe it!

    13 Do not present your members as instruments of unrighteousness to sin, but present yourselves to God as being alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness to God. 14 For sin shall not have dominion over you, for you are not under law but under grace.

    Do you see how all this is front-loaded? Before we get to the exhortation to behavior, we have this long explanation of the doctrine of Christ and what it means to be united with him. And then the simple exhortation to behavior-therefore, do not sin.

    Followed by what? A series of tips on how to change your behavior so that you do not sin? A list of do’s and don’ts, of things that lead to sin and things that don’t? No. Paul says elsewhere, “the deeds of the flesh are obvious”!

    Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ? Should I therefore take the members of Christ and make them members of a prostitute? Never! 16 Do you not know that whoever is united to a prostitute becomes one body with her? For it is said, “The two shall be one flesh.” 17 But anyone united to the Lord becomes one spirit with him. (1 Cor 6:15-17)


  4. markmcculley Says:

    Romans 6:7 says justified from sin. The chapter does not use the words “imputed” or “righteousness”. But the death of Christ is Christ’s righteousness. It’s a great mistake to deny that Christ’s death is Christ’s righteousness. I am not saying that we have to use the word righteousness, because the word righteousness is not in Romans 6. But to be placed into the death is to be placed into the righteousness. Also the word imputation is not used in Romans 6. But that’s what being placed into, planted into, or “baptised into” means. It’s an event, a legal declaration by God, not an experience we have, and most certainly not a water baptism or a circumcision done by our hands.

  5. markmcculley Says:

    David Gordon: Christ was not a sinner. Did Christ, in his role as Second Adam, die to and for sin? Yes, but in the course of his life prior to the cross he was never enslaved to sin; never under its mortifying influence on his moral nature. Only as the legal Substitute for sinners did he die to and for sin.

    Mark–which is why we know that Christians being “dead to sin” in Romans 6 is not about our regeneration but about being justified from sins and not under the law.

  6. markmcculley Says:

    failing to base “sanctification” on justification results in
    basing “sanctification” on regeneration and union and Christian ability and disposition
    2. and not basing it on “not under law” as in Romans 6
    3. misreading Romans 6, by ignoring legal justification categories and reading into the chapter the work of the Holy Spirit in regeneration
    the effect is to say that “Christians commit isolated acts of sins” but are not sinners by disposition anymore
    denying that all who are justified are also sanctified,the legalists
    1. open the way to say that synergism is ok as long as we keep in the area of “sanctification”
    2. open the way not only to two stages , with “sanctification’ the second, but many (more and more) stages
    3. basing “sanctification” on the new ability of the Christian, the legalists argue that it is “both necessary and possible”, confusing the indicative with the imperative, so as to make possibility the reason for inevitability, but at the same time arguing from the possibility of failure to the idea that Christians working more (or sinning less) is necessary, no matter what Christ’s death may or may not have done, for the elect or the non-elect
    as one legalist puts it, now that they have the ability, “now the prerogative rests with the believer”
    the legalist likes this idea of “necessary duties” much better than what Romans 6 says about “sin shall not have dominion over you because you are not under law”
    the legalist says that Romans 6 is no longer talking about “justification”, but that means the legalist has trouble understanding why “no longer under law” is in Romans 6

  7. markmcculley Says:

    n Romans 6, did Jesus receive “eternal life as you define it”, ie, did Jesus receive the vital reality of the new birth, not “mere justification”, as in legal freedom from the law because His death satisfied the law. The life received in Ephesians 2 is not something different from the life Christ received in Romans 6. Ephesians 2: 5 God made us alive with the Messiah even though we were dead in trespasses. You are saved by grace! 6 Together with Christ Jesus He also raised us up and seated us in the heavens. If Jesus was not regenerated, why would you say that teh life we receive in Romans 6 and Ephesians 2 is regeneration? Was Christ’s death a result of something “more than legal”? Did Christ become dead by corruption of nature?

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: