What shall we say, then? Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase? 2 By no means! We are those who have died to sin; how can we live in it any longer?
In this chapter, Paul is clarifying that an increase in grace doesn’t result in an increase in sin. This should be clear to believers, but some were slanderously claiming to do evil—that good may result. The apostle states that those who make these statements—their condemnation is just. For how can someone who loves the Lord spurn God’s law?
Moreover, Paul says that when we live for Christ, we die to sin. The Greek word here ἀπεθάνομεν expresses this idea of a completed action. Thus, we can no longer live like we did in the past—for the old man is no longer there. Instead, we must continue repenting and believing in the gospel as regenerated, born-again disciples of Christ.
Paul further elaborates on the death of our old nature in Colossians 3:3. “For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God.” Consequently, we are to rid ourselves of earthly pleasures that would distract us from conforming to Christ; that is impurity, lust, evil desires—all of which is idolatry.
3 Or don’t you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? 4 We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life.
This is a powerful statement. When one is baptized, they are signifying to the world the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus. When a believer goes under the water, their old self perishes by the waters of judgment and their new self is raised into identification with Christ. As it states here, we were buried with him through baptism so that just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may have the same hope of eternal life.
In Acts 2:38, the writer Luke informs both Jews and Gentiles to “repent and be baptized for the forgiveness of sins.” When they do so, then they will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. This conditional statement demonstrates the importance and necessity of baptism.
God did not tell us to pray Jesus into our hearts. God specifically said to call on the name during baptism. Any other mode is disobedient, no matter how genuine the person may be. That’s why leaders must teach the appropriate mode because they are ultimately responsible for their congregation.
5 For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we will certainly also be united with him in a resurrection like his. 6 For we know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body ruled by sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin— 7 because anyone who has died has been set free from sin.
God promises us that we will be united with him. Ephesians 2:6 states, “And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in heavenly realms.” 2 Timothy 2:11 also declares the same truth: “If we died with him, we will also live with him.” Thus, our promises have been secured in Christ—Scripture promises believers will be resurrected.
Remember that when we accept Christ, our self is crucified so that the carnal nature ruled by sin would be eradicated. Paul discusses this in greater detail in the following chapters regarding the wrestling of the old and new man. Nevertheless, it’s clear that God’s spirit will strengthen our moral conscience.
He will give us the power to overcome sin so that it will no longer be our master. When we profess genuine faith in Christ, we have been set free. For there is no condemnation to those who are in Christ, who no longer live according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. Amen.
8 Now if we died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him.9 For we know that since Christ was raised from the dead, he cannot die again; death no longer has mastery over him. 10 The death he died, he died to sin once for all; but the life he lives, he lives to God.
The Greek word for living with Christ is συζήσομεν. It only occurs here and in 2 Timothy 2:11. This verb conveys the idea of living a “blessed life with Christ after death.” There is this new life in union with Christ that is juxtaposed with living a physical life on earth—from the Greek word συναποθανεῖν. Thus, according to this passage, the life lived in heaven is far greater than the life lived here on earth. Maybe this is why Paul stated before that to live is Christ; to die is gain (Philip. 1:21).
Paul then reassures his audience that death is only experienced once. After that, we cannot die again; for death no longer has mastery over those who put their trust and faith in God. As Christians receive new bodies, they won’t be infected with sin that leads to death. Therefore, believers will live and reign with God forever—they will receive immortality just like their risen Savior Jesus Christ.
11 In the same way, count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus. 12 Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its evil desires. 13 Do not offer any part of yourself to sin as an instrument of wickedness, but rather offer yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life; and offer every part of yourself to him as an instrument of righteousness.14 For sin shall no longer be your master, because you are not under the law, but under grace.
Since believers are no longer under the law’s wrath but under grace, they will be spared in the day of judgment. Does this mean the law is no longer applicable? No. Jesus makes it clear when he said: “Do not think that I came to abolish the law or the prophets. I did not come to abolish the law but to fulfill it (Matt. 5:17).”
In other words, people were already presuming that Jesus was doing away with the law, and so that is why Jesus clearly states: Do not think the law is gone. It’s not. But I have fulfilled the law through grace. Salvation is not in the law—never has been—grace by faith in Christ is how one is saved (Eph. 2:7-8). However, the Law continually points us to Christ and is still a necessary part of the gospel message.
Additionally, Jesus warns believers not to offer themselves to sin as an instrument of wickedness but rather offer themselves to God. This is important because whatever we worship will have dominion over our lives.
For instance, if a person worships money, their thoughts, attitudes, and dispositions will try to find satisfaction in this false god. Ultimately, money will disappoint and even corrupt the person. This is the reason why God warns us to flee from idolatry and rest in His saving grace.
15 What then? Shall we sin because we are not under the law but under grace? By no means! 16 Don’t you know that when you offer yourselves to someone as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one you obey—whether you are slaves to sin, which leads to death, or to obedience, which leads to righteousness?
The apostle Paul makes it clear here: You resemble the one you obey. If you allow sin to possess you, it will lead to your demise. However, if you become obedient to righteousness—you will live in victory.
Moreover, it makes no difference whether we are under the law or under grace because true faith desires to work out their salvation with “fear and trembling (Philip. 2:12).” A genuine Christian will make every effort to eradicate sin—even though it doesn’t contribute one ounce to his or her salvation.
Also, the original word παριστάνετε is translated as, “offer yourselves,” and can denote yielding and surrendering by pressure or demand. As believers, we should never yield to sin and give in to it’s temptations. For your sin will always find you out (Numb. 32:23) and it never turns out well. Therefore, let’s be obedient to Christ and follow Him with all our heart, mind, soul, and strength.
17 But thanks be to God that, though you used to be slaves to sin, you have come to obey from your heart the pattern of teaching that has now claimed your allegiance. 18 You have been set free from sin and have become slaves to righteousness.
Once again, the Apostle Paul returns back to his pastoral heart. He encourages believers in Rome that they have been set free from sin and become slaves to righteousness. The Apostle also gives thanks to God because of the evidence of the Spirit working in both Jewish and Gentile believers.
In life, there are two choices. Either a person worships God or not. Whichever decision one makes, they still make an allegiance with the person or thing they obey. If the believer decides to serve the living God, they are to “pick up their cross” daily and follow Him. If an unbeliever wishes to worship self, they will form an alliance with their ego—and their ego will become arrogant and boastful.
19 I am using an example from everyday life because of your human limitations. Just as you used to offer yourselves as slaves to impurity and to ever-increasing wickedness, so now offer yourselves as slaves to righteousness leading to holiness. 20 When you were slaves to sin, you were free from the control of righteousness. 21 What benefit did you reap at that time from the things you are now ashamed of? Those things result in death!
As followers of Christ, faith is the key that leads to obedience. When you have faith in God and trust that He is good, you will have a desire to obey. Your obedience then leads to spiritual growth and holiness.
In my opinion, what keeps you focused on developing the fruit of the spirit is not strict obedience; rather, it is your understanding and experience of God’s love. When perfect love casts out all fear, you will rejoice in reaping the harvest of being committed to the kingdom of heaven.
Paul once again reminds his readers that the only thing we reaped in our former lives as pagans and disobedient people resulted in spiritual death. For in the next verse, Paul concludes that the wages of sin is death. Therefore, living for self and defiance towards God will not end well for anybody—that’s why it’s imperative that humans turn to their heavenly Father for reconciliation.
22 But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God, the benefit you reap leads to holiness, and the result is eternal life.23 For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Paul is declaring that when we put our faith in Christ, we will be set free from sin and become servants of God. This will benefit believers, leading them to a life of holiness that results in eternal life. Once again, Paul concludes with an emphasis on the wages of sin leading to death. The term wage, ὀψώνια, means stipend or pay that one receives for their work. Thus, when we “work” for sin, we will reap what we sow. The consequence, of course, is condemnation.
The good news is that the gift of God is eternal life in Jesus Christ. When we repent, get baptized, and call on the name of the Lord, we will be saved (Acts 2:38). For it is by grace through faith. Salvation is a gift from God, not of works—lest any man should boast (Eph. 2:7-8). In the next chapter, Paul will go into specific detail how one is released from the law and bound to Christ.
Commentary by Chad A. Damitz (M.Div)