Through Christ, sin’s power has been broken…
“It is absurd… for those who are called to reign with Christ to choose to be captives to sin, as if one should throw down the crown from off his head and choose to be the slave of a hysterical woman who comes begging and covered in rags…
How is it that sin can reign in you?
It is not from any power of its own but only from your laziness.”
Having completed five chapters on the need for and basis of justification, Paul now turns to the power of the gospel to change lives.
The believer’s identification with the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ, provided through justification, means the believer is no longer a slave to sin, but serves a new master— the righteousness of God.
The “Mad Monk” Who Lived Like the Devil
In his commentary on Romans, F. F. Bruce makes reference to a figure from church history who illustrated the problem of antinomianism—meaning the casting off of moral restraint in order to experience more of God’s grace and forgiveness (Bruce, p. 127).
This tragic character, dubbed the “Mad Monk” by many in his day, would be a chief contributor to the 1917 Bolshevik Revolution in Russia which ushered in seventy years of atheistic materialism.
A closer look at his life reveals the theological bankruptcy of antinomianism and why Paul responded so strongly to the charges against him in Romans 6:1-2.
Grigory Yefimovich Novykh (1872-1916) was born into a peasant family in Siberia, Russia.
Illiterate in spite of attending school, he acquired the nickname “Rasputin”—Russian for “debauched one”—because of his flagrantly licentious and immoral lifestyle.
Undergoing a religious conversion of some sort at age eighteen, he ended up at the monastery of the Khlysty (Flagellants) sect.
This group had historical roots of operating outside traditional ecclesiastical structures, but Rasputin perverted their teachings into pure antinomianism:
“One draws closest to God when feeling ‘holy passionless’ and arrives at that point through sexual exhaustion and prolonged debauchery.”
Leaving the monastery without becoming a monk, he wandered thousands of miles through Europe and the Middle East, arriving eventually at Jerusalem.
He gained a reputation as a holy mystic with the ability to heal the sick and tell the future.
Arriving back in St. Petersburg in 1903, he was welcomed by clerical leaders and eventually introduced into court circles (in spite of his odoriferous propensity for never bathing).
Emperor Nicholas II and his wife Alexandra were taken with Rasputin, especially because of his healing effects on their only son Alexey, the future czar of Russia.
The child was a hemophiliac, and Rasputin saved his life on one occasion by stopping his bleeding when doctors were unable to do so.
This “miracle” endeared Rasputin to the royal family and gave him increased powers of influence with them.
They saw him in the courts as a humble and holy religious peasant with powers from God.
Outside the court, he continued to earn his nickname, attending orgies and religious services with equal devotion.
Through his belief that physical contact with his body produced healing effects, Rasputin seduced young women repeatedly and continued in all manner of immoral behavior.
Rumors of an affair between Rasputin and the emperor’s wife, Alexandra, even circulated.
Counselors to the emperor insisted on Rasputin’s removal, but the emperor failed to do so under the influence of his wife.
When Nicholas II left St. Petersburg to command Russian troops at the beginning of World War I, Rasputin became chief advisor to Alexandra, who had been left in charge of Russia’s internal affairs.
His influence resulted in a series of disastrous clerical and governmental appointments, causing increasing dissent among Russians suffering at the hands of the autocracy.
A group of extreme conservatives, some related to the czar, and all holding influential positions, plotted in December 1916, to kill Rasputin as a way to end his deleterious influence on the Russian nation.
This they accomplished in late December, but it was too late.
The Bolsheviks, seizing the opportunity to capitalize on the negative perception of the emperor, revolted in 1917.
The God who was missing from the life of the Empress’ closest advisor in 1916 was officially driven completely out of Russia beginning in 1917.
Was antinomianism the cause of the Bolshevik Revolution in Russia?
No. But there can be no way to estimate the damage done to a government (irrespective of its other weaknesses) by a man who proffered spiritual power on one hand and lived like the devil on the other.
In Romans 6, Paul twice raises and refutes the charge of antinomianism (vv. 1, 15).
His answer is simple: a true Christian cannot live in sin because he or she is dead to sin.
The believer is no longer the servant of sin but the servant of righteousness.
The chapter is spent explaining how a believer in Jesus Christ can have died to sin and been made alive to righteousness.
In that explanation is the answer to the charge that Paul, or any other true believer in Christ, could possibly be an antinomian.
Now that the believer is justified through faith in Christ (Rom. 1-4), how then shall he or she live (Rom. 6-8)?
In this first of three chapters on the “making holy” (sanctification) of the believer (Rom. 6-8), Paul talks about how the believer is delivered from sin by the power of the gospel.
The first fourteen verses show how the grace of God has united us with Christ in His death, burial, and resurrection, and the last nine verses reveal how we are made servants of righteousness.
When the believer in Christ is reckoned by faith to be dead, buried, and resurrected with Christ, he or she ceases to be the servant of sin and becomes the servant of righteousness.
Grace is not a license to sin because the recipient of grace has died to sin and can no longer live in it.
In verse 1, Paul asks the question,
“Shall we continue in sin that grace may abound?”
The Greek word diatribe, from which derives our “diatribe,” is not a biblical word. But its parent, diatribo, occurs eight times in Acts, always with the meaning of “remain” or “spend time” (e.g., Acts 12:19; 14:3,28).
How did we get from “spending time” to “diatribe?”
Diatribo derives from dia (through, by means of, because of, for the sake of) and tribein (to rub hard, to make a path).
It referred to spending time at something or wearing away at something, and then was applied to spending time at discourse or study.
A diatribe, though having a negative connotation today of a bitter denunciation or discourse, was in the Greek world a respectable format for learning: spending considerable time at discourse and dialogue, wearing away a subject until it has been completely examined.
For his part, Paul upholds the classic definition of diatribe in Romans.
He uses the method of creating fictional opponents who raise one-verse objections to what he is teaching, then wears them down with a chapter-length answer (see Rom. 3:1,3,5-9, 27-31; 4:1-3,9-10).
He picks up the diatribe format again in verse 1, anticipating a question to something he has just written in 5:20: “But where sin increased, grace increased all the more.”
He can hear his detractors: “What kind of gospel is this you are proclaiming, Paul?
A gospel that requires us to do nothing to prove we are the chosen of God?
Nothing, that is, except believe?
If our good works count for nothing, and our sinful deeds cause the grace of God to be revealed more, then why do not we go on sinning so that grace may increase?”
It is not necessarily a bad question; rather, it is a question born out of ignorance.
It is a question that anyone who was having a mystery explained to him in detail for the first time would ask (Rom. 11:25; 16:25; Eph. 3:3-9; 6:19).
If anything, this chapter of Romans is about “knowing.”
Twice Paul affirms things “we know” (vv. 6, 9— though even here, there may be a slight dig by the apostle in the sense of “you do know, don’t you?”), and twice he asks them outright, “Don’t you know?” (vv. 3, 16).
Then a fifth instance “commands” that the Roman believers go further than just knowing—they must calculate and credit themselves as the possessors and beneficiaries of certain knowledge (logizomai, present middle imperative; v. 11).
So when Paul enters back into the diatribe mode in v. 1 (and again in v. 15), he does so not as a bitter denunciation.
He does so as one who, with the Thessalonian believers, was “like a mother caring for her little children” (1 Thess. 2:7).
As a mother would want her children to know—even possess and act on—the truth, so Paul wants that for the Roman church.
So in answer to Paul’s question, “Shall we continue in sin that grace may abound?,” the answer in verse 2 is, “Certainly not! How shall we who died to sin live any longer in it?”
No one ever accused Jewish mothers of not speaking the truth when it needed speaking, and here Paul plays that role.
Fourteen times in his epistles (ten times in Romans alone), he uses this phrase to separate truth from error.
In verse 3, Paul asks the question,
“Or do you not KNOW that as many of us as were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death?”
The first key word in Paul’s presentation is KNOW.
Here he introduces the subject of baptism to show that it is morally incongruous for believers to go on in sin.
But the question immediately arises, “To which baptism is he referring?”
So an introductory word of explanation is necessary.
When a person is saved, he is baptized into Christ Jesus in the sense that he is identified with Christ in His death and resurrection.
This is not the same as the baptism in (or of) the Spirit, though both occur simultaneously.
The latter baptism places the believer in the body of Christ (1 Cor. 12:13); it is not a baptism into death.
The baptism into Christ means that in the reckoning of God, the believer has died with Christ and has risen with Him.
When Paul speaks of baptism here, he is thinking both of our spiritual identification with Christ and of its portrayal in water baptism.
But as the argument advances, he seems to shift his emphasis in a special way to water baptism as he reminds his readers how they were “buried” and “planted together” in the “likeness” of Christ’s death.
The NT never contemplates the abnormal situation of an unbaptized believer.
It assumes that those who are converted submit to baptism right away.
Thus our Lord could speak of faith and baptism in the same breath:
“he who believes and is baptized will be saved” (Mark 16:16).
Though baptism is not a requirement for salvation, it should be the invariable public sign of it.
Water baptism gives a visual demonstration of baptism into Christ.
It pictures the believer being immersed in death’s dark waters (in the person of the Lord Jesus), and it pictures the new man in Christ rising to walk in newness of life.
There is a sense in which a believer attends the funeral of his old self when he is baptized.
As he goes under the water he is saying,
“All that I was as a sinful son of Adam was put to death at the cross.”
As he comes up out of the water he is saying,
“It is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me” (see Gal. 2:20).
Because sin brings death, we need new life through oneness with Christ.
The power of the Gospel Message in action…
In Romans 6, Paul assures his readers a second time that God has broken sin’s power.
We have joined Jesus Christ in baptism (6:3) and have been united with Him in His death (6:5).
Paul uses relational terms in describing how we grow closer to Christ as we transfer from the old life to the new.
When we were united with Christ in His death, our evil desires and slavery to sin died with Him.
Now, united by faith with Him in His resurrection life, we have unbroken fellowship with God and freedom from sin’s hold on us.
The power of sin over us, as well as the penalty for sin, died with Christ on the cross.
Our “old sinful selves,” our sinful nature, died once and for all, so we are freed from its power.
The “power of sin” refers to our rebellious, sin-loving nature inherited from Adam.
Though we often willingly cooperate with our sinful nature, the desire to do so comes from our old nature.
And it is this power of sin at work in our lives that is defeated.
Paul has already stated that through faith in Christ we stand ACQUITTED, having been declared NOT GUILTY before God.
Here Paul emphasizes that we need no longer live under sin’s power.
God does not take us out of the world or make us robots—we will still feel like sinning, and sometimes we will sin.
Since Christ’s righteousness brought us into a favored relationship with God, we should live by God’s standards.
The difference is that before we were saved we were slaves to our sinful nature, but now we can choose to live for Christ (see Galatians 2:20).
Christians are not slaves to sin any longer, but but through the gospel message we can now overcome sin by the power of God, through Jesus’ propitious sacrifice and poured out blood on Calvary’s Cross.
And so as born-again, covenant children of God, this is something we must CHOOSE to do every single day of our lives, as we each day choose to put on the mind of Christ (Php 2:5); hence this was what Paul meant when he said, “I die daily” (1 Cor 15:31) — and so must we!
From Life Lessons, by Max Lucado:
Think of it this way. Sin puts you in prison. Sin locked you behind the bars of guilt and shame and deception and fear.
Sin did nothing but shackle you to the wall of misery.
Then Jesus came and paid your bail. He served your time; He satisfied the penalty and set you free.
Christ died, and when you cast your lot with Him, your old self died too.
The only way to be set free from the prison of sin is to serve its penalty.
In this case the penalty is death.
Someone has to die, either you or a heaven-sent substitute.
You cannot leave prison unless there is a death.
But that death has occurred at Calvary.
And when Jesus died, you died to sin’s claim on your life.
You are free. . . . Christ has taken your place.
There is no need for you to remain in the cell.
Ever heard of a discharged prisoner who wanted to stay?
Nor have I.
When the doors open, prisoners leave.
The thought of a person preferring jail over freedom doesn’t compute.
Once the penalty is paid, why live under bondage?
You are discharged from the penitentiary of sin.
Why, in heaven’s name, would you ever want to set foot in that prison again?
Paul reminds us: “Our old man was crucified with Him, that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves of sin.
For he who has died has been freed from sin” (Romans 6:6, 7).
He is not saying that it is impossible for believers to sin; he’s saying it is stupid for believers to sin.
“It’s not the literal impossibility . . . but the moral incongruity” of the saved returning to sin.
What does the prison have that you desire?
Do you miss the guilt? Are you homesick for dishonesty?
Do you have fond memories of being lied to and forgotten?
Was life better when you were dejected and rejected?
Do you have a longing to once again see a sinner in the mirror?
It makes no sense to go back to prison. (From In the Grip of Grace by Max Lucado)
Selah (let us pause and calmly think about these things)
Tuesday, May 31
From Faith to Faith
LIVE IN POWER
by Gloria Copeland
Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.
— Romans 6:4
As a believer, you actually have residing in you the same new life God gave Jesus when He raised Him from the dead.
The old sinner you once were has died. You’ve become a new creation on the inside.
You are full of the resurrection life of God!
But sin, disobedience and living a selfish, carnal life will keep that resurrection life from flowing out.
Sin will separate you from the power of God, even though you’re born again.
Resurrection life will lay dormant in you if you walk in sin.
You can’t overcome sin by trying to stop sinning, however.
You overcome it by walking after the new life God has put within you, by spending time in the Word and in prayer.
As you do that, the Spirit of God will strengthen you and enable you to put that sin under your feet.
Remember, though, the Holy Spirit will not subdue those old fleshly habits of yours on His own.
He’ll wait on you to take the initiative. Then He will strengthen you to follow through with your decision.
He will teach you how to walk in the new life that is on the inside of you.
Take the first step today by asking for His help.
Say, “Lord, I desire to experience the power to live by this new life every day.
By a decision of my heart, I put down the dictates of sin. I declare myself dead to sin.
In Jesus’ Name, I will spend time in prayer and in the Word today.
As I do, I believe I’ll receive a Holy Ghost refreshing in my life.
I believe I’ll begin to live out the resurrection power that You’ve placed in me!”
Scripture Reading: Romans 7:1-6
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