|Romans: The Clearest Gospel of All
by E.H. “Jack” Sequeira
We have already covered the first five chapters of Romans, and so, before we turn to chapter 6, I would like to go through a quick review so that you keep in mind what Paul has already told us, because Paul is a logical writer and we need to keep in mind what he has already told us.
After introducing himself, and his welcome, and his theme of this epistle, which is The Gospel of God, in chapter 1:18 right up to 3:20 he deals with the universal sin problem of mankind. He concludes with two facts:
What shall we conclude then? Are we any better? Not at all! We have already made the charge that Jews and Gentiles alike are all under sin.
All of us, Jews and Gentiles, with no exception, are all under sin. That means we are ruled by sin, we are slaves to it, and sin is our master.
Now we know that whatever the law says, it says to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be silenced and the whole world held accountable to God.
We are also under the law and, because we are sinners, to be under the law means to be guilty and to be condemned.
So Paul paints a very dark, dismal picture of the human race in that section. Then, in chapter 3, with those two wonderful words, But now, verse 21 up to verse 31, he introduces the gospel. There are two things he tells us about the gospel:
In chapter 4, Paul goes on to defend this wonderful doctrine, this wonderful truth against the three-fold argument that came mainly from the Judaizers. And that is:
...in no way contribute to Justification by faith. It is entirely the work of God.
In chapter 5, he turns now to the subjective experience, to the fruits of Justification by faith. Again, it is three-fold:
Then, in the second half of chapter 5 of Romans, is a very difficult passage: Romans 5:12-21. Paul is really laying the foundation of our salvation and our condemnation. He has dealt with the universal sin problem, he has dealt with the righteousness of God, and now he is saying that the source of these two are Adam and Christ. We are lost in Adam in the same way that we are saved in Christ. In other words, your eternal destiny is based on the performance of two men. In Adam all die; in Christ all shall be made alive. That is what Paul did.
Now we go to chapter 6. I used chapter 6 in the last study to touch baptism, but I want to look now in its context. Chapter 6 of Romans is dealing with the DANGER of the gospel. You may ask, Is the gospel dangerous? Yes! Im afraid it is dangerous. Whenever a pastor preaches the gospel, the true gospel, he is always in the danger of people twisting that message. And EVERYONE who preaches the everlasting gospel faces this problem.
Let me explain to you. You see, there are two things that the devil does not like, in fact, that he hates. And he does everything to keep these two things from you. These are:
So, what he has done, is to the unbelievers he has tried to blind their thinking. In fact, if you read 2 Corinthians 4:3,4, Paul tells us:
And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing. The god of this age [Satan] has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.
But he doesnt stop there. When he steps into the Christian church, how does he deal with Christians who have already accepted the gospel? Well, he has prepared two counterfeits; both resemble the gospel on the surface, but, at their foundations, they are the enemies of the gospel.
Let me explain to you what a counterfeit is. When I was a missionary in Ethiopia, my father wrote to me. Hes a collector; he collects stamps, and he used to collect coins. He said, In Ethiopia there is a coin called Marie Theresa. (It is a coin that was minted by the Italians when they ruled over Ethiopia for those five years, 1930 to 1935.) They are rare coins but I want you to find one because they are also very valuable coins.
So I spoke to an Ethiopian, I said, Is it hard to get these coins?
He said, No, you can get them everywhere. The little kids on the street sell them to you.
So I stopped a kid who was selling trinkets and, sure enough, he had not one but three coins. I said, Boy, Im in luck. And I haggled with him; I felt I got a good price. It was still quite a bit of money, but my father said theyre very valuable, so I thought he may give me something in return.
I sent the coins to my father and he wrote to me and he said, My son, you need to learn something. Only one of those three was genuine. The other two were counterfeits.
But I could swear they had no difference. I looked and looked at them and I could not see any difference between the counterfeit and the genuine. But to the expert eye, they knew what was counterfeit and what was genuine. So he said, The two counterfeits are worth nothing; you paid too much for them. And I thought I had a bargain. But he thanked me for the one coin that was genuine.
So, when you look at these two counterfeits, without a clear understanding of the gospel, you fall for it, because Satan is very clever. Now what are these two counterfeits? We have labeled them.
We have seen, so far, that the gospel is the righteousness of God, and that, in the holy history of Christ, everything that is necessary for you and for this rascal to go to heaven is already fulfilled. So what libertinism says is: Since I am already saved by the doing and dying of Christ, since Christ did it all, then surely I have the liberty to do what I like.
In other words, the gospel and its free gift of salvation is used now as an excuse to enjoy the things of this world and even sin (not gross sins but sinful desires that are fulfilled).
Well, I would like to make it clear as we look at chapter 6 that this is not true. Liberty and license are not the same thing. Yes, the gospel sets me free, but it does not set me free to do as I please.
I remember when Kenya was getting independence from Britain. Some of the Africans were very wise; they played on this wonderful event. They bought little receipt pads and they went to all their fellow Africans who werent too well educated and they said to them, Do you know when we get independence [they called it Uhuru], these European cars will be ours. Do you want one?
And they would say, Yes.
All you have to pay is two shillings and well give you a receipt and, when independence comes, that car is yours. So they went collecting money, giving them receipts. And on independence day you had these poor little fellows with their receipts looking for the number plates of their cars to see which car was theirs. They were deceived as to what true independence meant.
But a few years later we were working in a school there in Kamagambo, and my wife enjoys visiting African markets. I think its a waste of time for me, so I would drop her off, because its very difficult to drive cars when theres chickens and donkeys going in front of you, so she let me do the driving. So I dropped her off at the market. I saw a group of Africans sitting all handcuffed. They were older men, and I said to myself, Well, these fellows look very miserable. Let me go and sit down with them and have a chat. Since I spoke their language, I would talk to them as my wife did the shopping. I said, What on earth have you done that you should be in handcuffs with a policeman with his rifle [guarding you]?
One of the older men, he was the oldest of the group said to me, When is independence going to be over?
I said, Im sorry; it is here to stay.
Oh, he said, I wish it was over.
I asked, You want the British back?
He said, Yes. This government has deceived us.
What do you mean? I said.
He replied, When we were told we were getting independence, we thought that now we wont have to pay tax.
They thought, No tax paying because that is freedom. The old man said, You know what? We are paying more tax now than when the British were here. So we want them back.
Freedom means responsibility, I told him. If you want freedom, no longer can you depend on the British budget to help you out. You have to be self-supporting, and how do you think your government is going to support itself without charging you tax?
But, he said, they never told us this when they were fighting for independence and got our support.
Well, I said, that is typical for politicians. They never tell the truth, except what is appealing to our flesh.
But Paul doesnt keep the truth away from us. He is telling us the truth. What does it mean to be free in Christ? Does it mean license to do what you like? The answer is no.
Now I mentioned earlier that the gospel is dangerous. Im going to give you statements, wonderful statements, but dangerous. Because they are dangerous, some Pastors wont even quote them. But I am not paid to give my opinion; I am paid to quote scripture and so I am going to quote that to you. One is Romans 5:20, an excellent statement:
The law was added so that the trespass might increase. But where sin increased, grace increased all the more....
What Paul meant by this statement is this: It doesnt matter how terrible a sinner you are, the gospel can save you.
But you see, here is the problem: you and all of us have a nature that is not only sinful, even after conversion, but have a nature that loves sin. And stop deceiving yourself; yes, your converted MIND might hate sin, but your nature, all our natures, will love sin to your dying day.
So what happens when you read or hear of this wonderful statement that Paul makes in Romans 5:20? You can pervert the statement, and interpret it like this: Oh, Paul, what you are saying is that grace is so wonderful that the more I sin the more grace will cancel my sin. Praise the Lord! Let us keep on sinning that grace may abound.
Does Paul mean that? No, but the flesh tells you thats what he means. So we pervert Paul for our own personal benefit. And Paul will deal with that problem in verses 1 of Romans 6 right up to verse 14 of that same chapter.
Now let me give you a second statement. Now the second statement is a hard one, especially to Adventists; so Im going to spend two studies on that part. Im going to cover only up to verse 13 in this study. The second statement is found in Romans 6:14:
For sin shall not be your master, because you are not under law, but under grace.
By the way, Paul did mean the Ten Commandments here. (Well come to this. Paul spends quite a bit of time on this topic.)
Do you know what that means? It means that every time you fall, the law cannot condemn you because youre no longer under it. It means that sin has no longer authority to execute you.
Let me give you a text (and Ill deal with it in detail in our next study). Look at 1 Corinthians 15:56:
The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law.
But where does sin get its authority to kill you? From the law. But if you are no longer under the law, sin cant do that to you. You are free from the condemnation of the law, and its curse. Under the law, every time you sin, the law says, The soul that sins must die. But to a Christian, the law cant say that to you, because youre no longer under it, youre under grace.
Now I know thats heavy stuff. So be patient; in the next three studies well touch it. But it is good news; it is also dangerous news.
What I want to deal with now is the danger. The danger is in believing that, since the law cant condemn me, then I can now do what I like.
Let me give you an example. My wife and I worked mostly in Third World countries, and there the diplomats thats the embassy people had what they call diplomatic immunity, which means the law of the land could not touch them. So if a diplomat was speeding and a policeman caught him speeding, he could not fine him. He had a special license plate with a CD on it, Corps Diplomat, and it meant that the police could not touch him. So a diplomat could speed and still go scot-free. He could park his car in the No Parking area and no policeman could give him a ticket. And some of them were doing that; they were enjoying the liberty they had to break the law of the country.
The flesh will say the same thing: Keep on sinning. After all, you are no longer under the law. Youre under grace. Does under grace give you that liberty? The answer is, God forbid, it is unthinkable!
So Paul is now dealing with the danger. I want to emphasize this, because there is a problem within our [Adventist] church. You need to know the historical background, because we need to take into account Romans 6. Here is the problem.
Because of our historical background (trying to fight the dispensational teachings and other reasons), we as a church began to emphasize the law and the law and the law in our early years. The result is that we not consciously, but subconsciously and unwittingly became legalists. Then, in the 1950s, we realized that, if we are to produce ministers who are acknowledged by the American Association of Theology, the legal system of the theology in this country, we had to send our scholars to universities that would give them Ph.D.s so that they could come and teach to us.
These scholars very fine men who were second, third, and even fourth generation Adventists went to these universities (many of which were Evangelical) and there they discovered something that they never had in their own church: peace in Christ. It gave them such a wonderful feeling to have peace in Christ, and they came back with a burden of bringing peace to their church.
That is why the main emphasis in the books they write and in the sermons that they preach, most of them are trying to give our people peace, through Justification by faith. But the devil is very clever. Hes quite happy to move the people of this church from legalism, which is one camp, one counterfeit, to the other extreme, antinomianism, the opposite camp. He doesnt care which camp you belong to. And that is what he has done.
The result is that, today, the movement of our younger generation is no longer legalism, it is antinomianism. These old people look at these young people and say, Oh, whats happening to our church!? So we write books Creeping Compromise and others.
Now which camp is worse? The first camp, legalism, is worse, in a sense, because, outwardly, legalism ALWAYS looks good. Your performance is always good in legalism. The problem with legalism is inward, inside, not outward. So Jesus, when He condemned the Pharisees, do you know what He called them? Matthew 23:27:
Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You are like whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of dead mens bones and everything unclean.
That is Christs evaluation of legalism.
Antinomianism has one advantage: it is open, and you can see it, and, therefore, there is hope of correcting it. So, outwardly, antinomianism looks worse than legalism; but they both belong to Satan.
What we want is the truth as it is in Christ. Neither legalism nor antinomianism belong to the true gospel. Here Paul is dealing with antinomianism. Lets quickly go step-by-step, and you will see the logic; its very clear. Romans 6:1:
What shall we say, then? Shall we go on sinning [notice the present continuous tense] so that grace may increase?
Hes referring to Romans 5:20:
The law was added so that the trespass might increase. But where sin increased, grace increased all the more.
Is this what I am telling you, he says in Romans 6:1, is this what Im teaching, that you can enjoy sin because the more you sin the more grace will cover up your sin? I want you to notice his answer [Romans 6:2]:
By no means!
God forbid! Certainly not! It is unthinkable that a Christian should come to such a conclusion. Then he gives the reason. The reason is not based on our promises to be good, but it is based in the truth as it is in Christ to which we have submitted [rest of Romans 6:2]
...We died to sin; how can we live in it any longer?
When did you and I die to sin? That phrase, died to sin, appears three times in Romans 6:1-13. This is the first time and applies to the believer. The second time it appears in verse 10 and does not apply to the believer; it applies to Christ, because our subjective experience is always based on an objective truth: the historical Christ. Look at Romans 6:10:
The death he [Christ] died, he died to sin once for all; but the life he lives, he lives to God.
In other words, when Christ died on the cross, He brought sin to an end. He did not only die or carry or bear our acts of sin which condemn us, but He also brought to an end sin as a principle that dwells in us. He took sin to the grave and He left it there, not for three days but forever. He left sin in the grave, once and for all; Hes finished with sin. So the book of Hebrews says, when He comes the second time, He will not deal with the sin problem; He has dealt with that on the cross, left it in the grave. He died once and for all; He will not die any more. Thats what Romans 6:9 says:
For we know that since Christ was raised from the dead, he cannot die again; death no longer has mastery over him [because sin no longer has dominion over Him].
He took our sins, it had dominion over Him. He took our sins, it took Him to the grave. But when He rose from the dead, He left sin in the grave forever. So the second half of Romans 6:10 says:
...but the life he lives, he lives to God.
Which means now He will never, ever have to experience God abandonment which our sins produced on the cross. But now look at Romans 6:11:
In the same way, count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus.
In other words, a Christian is a person who has accepted his identity with Christ. Two thousand years ago, God joined His Son to us so that, in Christ, He redeemed us. Now, in baptism, we join ourselves by public confession, through faith, to Him, so that it is now reciprocal. He joined to us and redeemed us; we join to Him and accept His history as our history.
What does that mean in terms of practical Christianity? I want you to look at two verses. We will not deal with verses 3 and 6 because we covered that in our last study on the meaning of baptism. But I want now to look at it in the context of what we are studying. Look at verse 5 and look at verse 8, and what I want you to look at is the grammar. Romans 6:5:
If we have been united with him like this in his death,...
Have been united. What tense is that? Have been united is in the perfect tense, which means its a past act, something that has already happened because, when you were baptized, it became a historical fact to you. But when it comes to the resurrection, suddenly [end of Romans 6:5]:
...we will certainly also be united with him in his resurrection.
You have the past tense for death; you have the future tense for the resurrection. So God is not saying, One day you will die to sin. No, you have already died to sin. Yes, one day you will rise and go to heaven; thats future. Look at verse 8, in the aorist tense, which is much stronger, something that happened once and for all [Romans 6:8]:
Now if we died with Christ [past], we believe that we will also live [future] with Him.
Thats the condition of the gospel, not of the law, but of the gospel. If you want to live with Christ, you must die with Him. And if you have died with Christ, it means that you have left sin in your grave, which is not a tomb but is the water which you were baptized into. You left sin in the grave.
How then, says Paul, if you have died to sin, and finished with that relationship, how then can you say it is okay to sin? Dont you realize your baptism? Youre contradicting your righteousness by faith. Look at Romans 6:7:
...Because anyone who has died has been freed from sin.
Now what did Paul mean, Anyone who has died has been freed from sin? Now first of all, look at it very carefully. He does not say, He that has died has been freed TO sin. He doesnt say that. So dont pervert Paul. You have been freed FROM sin, a world of difference.
But what does he mean by the word freed? If you look at Romans 6 you will find that the word free or freed, past tense, is used three times in Romans 6. The first time is in Romans 6:7:
...Because anyone who has died has been freed from sin.
The second time is in verse 18:
You have been set free from sin and have become slaves to righteousness.
Again, not to sin but from sin. The last time is in verse 22, which says:
But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves to God, the benefit you reap leads to holiness, and the result is eternal life.
But that is in your English Bibles. In the original, the word free used in verses 18 and 22 is a different word all together than the word used in verse 7. Now why did Paul change words? Ill tell you why, because in verse 7 he has two meanings, whereas in verse 18 and verse 22 he has only one meaning of the word freed. Let me explain to you.
I want you to remember what I mentioned when we did the review under the sin problem (Universal Sin and Guilt). Remember, I said that the conclusion that Paul comes to in Romans 3:9 is that we are all under sin. To be under sin means that we are ruled by sin, we are slaves of sin, sin is our master. How long is sin your master? As long as you are living. When you die, sin can no longer rule over you. Thats the meaning of verse 18, verse 22, and also verse 7.
But Paul has another meaning in verse 7; thats why He uses another word. Do you know what word he uses in verse 7? It may surprise some of you. He uses the word justified, the same word you will find in your King James in Acts 13:39. So Romans 6:7 says:
...Because anyone who has died has been justified from sin.
Now justified would mean more than simply freed from the ruling power of sin. It is also freed from the condemnation of sin. A justified person can never be condemned by the law, because the law only condemns the sinner, whereas in Christ you are not a sinner.
Now let me explain how Paul uses it. Its very important that you understand it. Let us say that I have stolen $10,000, and Im caught. Im taken to court and Im found guilty, and the judge sentences me to five years in prison. I go to the penitentiary and I spend my five years there. When I come out, where do I stand legally? Am I still condemned for that robbery or am I acquitted (which is another word for justified)? The answer is: I am acquitted. No longer can a policeman touch me for that crime; not because I did not steal that money, but because I paid the price for that crime. I took the sentence which that crime involved. Now the law of God says [Ezekiel 18:20]:
The soul who sins is the one who will die.
When you died to sin with Christ, you were set free from under the law. Romans 7:1 says:
Do you not know, brothers for I am speaking to men who know the law that the law has authority over a man only as long as he lives?
But the moment you die, the law says, You have met the justice of the law; I wont touch you any more.
So you are free legally, also, when you die with Christ. So you have two freedoms:
And now I come to a very important point, and I want you to be clear on this. Paul is not dealing in Romans 6 with performance; he is dealing with attitude towards sin. I want you to keep this in mind. Paul is not dealing with performance, hes dealing with attitude. Ill tell you why.
You may have said good-bye to sin in your heart, but does that mean that you dont fall? Does it mean that you dont have struggles? If I said, You have no more struggles, I would be lying to you. You know very well that you are still struggling and that you still fall. But a Christians performance must never be because he condones sin. In other words, our attitude towards sin must always be negative, even though in performance we fall many times.
Now, I want you to be clear: God can give you total victory. I believe that with all my heart because I believe that Gods power is greater than the power of sin. (Well come to that when we cover Romans 8.) But I want you to be clear that Paul is not dealing here with performance. Hes dealing here with attitude towards sin. Can a Christian say in his mind, Its okay to sin? The answer is, No!
Why? Because you died to it. There is another reason, but that is for the study after next. But the reason we are looking at today is, How can you who died to sin say that it is okay to sin? So please remember, Paul is dealing here with attitudes, not performance.
Okay, with this in mind, lets go to Romans 6:11:
In the same way, count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus.
A Christian should consider himself dead to sin. If you consider yourself dead to sin, you cannot say, It is okay to sin. That would be a contradiction. How can you say, Im dead to sin on one hand and on the other hand say, Its okay to sin. Then please, you need to look up your dictionary and see what it means to be dead to something. It means to completely bring to an end that relationship. When a person dies, he says good-bye to life; when you say died to sin you say good-bye to sin. But now look at Romans 6:12:
Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its evil desires.
Therefore, because you have died to sin, because you have accepted your death to sin in Christ, and you are alive now only to God, Who is the Author of Righteousness and not sin (and this is all in Christ), therefore do not let sin rule or reign over you.
You see, before you accepted Christ, sin ruled over you; you had no choice there. There is no such thing as a free man when we talk in the spiritual realm. Yes, a country can be economically free, it can be politically free. We can be free, we are living in a free country. I can speak what I like about the President. I dare not do that in some parts of the world. I have freedom of speech here; I have political freedom. And, of course, this country is free economically.
But spiritually, none of us are free from sin by birth. We are born under the law, under sin, too. But when you accepted Christ and you died with Him, you were freed from the dominion, the rulership of sin. Yes, it is still in you, because you died by faith, not by reality. Only Christ died in reality. But you dont have to now listen to sins demands.
The other day, I was talking to a person whose ex-husband was demanding something from her. She said to me, Do I have to obey him?
I asked, Are you divorced?
Yes, she replied.
Then, I said, you dont have to obey him. Youre free. Its too bad you had to get a divorce but you dont have to obey him. He no longer has authority over you.
Its the same with sin. Sin has no more dominion over you, in Christ. You are free. So Paul says, Enjoy and apply that freedom.
So when sin comes to you and says, I want you to sin, you can say to the law of sin, Go get lost! Youre no longer my husband; youre no longer my boss. Romans 6:12:
Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its evil desires.
So dont let sin rule your mortal body that you should obey it in its lusts (which you did before your conversion). Romans 6:13:
Do not offer the parts of your body to sin, as instruments of wickedness, but rather offer yourselves to God [remember, youre alive to God now], as those who have been brought from death to life; and offer the parts of your body to him as instruments of righteousness.
It is not our bodies that are sinful. We have a driver who is sinful. Have you seen some reckless driving? The problem is not the car, the problem is the driver. The old driver has died, and thats in verse 6. So when Paul says:
For we know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin....
Some translations say our old man was crucified. He does mot mean your father, young people. It means your old life. Because in England, and in English countries, the kids call their father the old man. Paul is not talking about the old man in terms of your father. It means your old life that you were born with died on the cross. When that happened, the body was deprived of its power to sin. No longer should sin rule over you.
Can you imagine what would happen if a church would surrender to this truth? We wouldnt have to worry about legalism, and we would not have to worry about creeping compromises either. Because the gospel is neither of the two. It is neither legalism, nor antinomianism.
It my prayer that you will remind yourself daily who you are in Christ, that you are dead to sin. No longer has it authority to rule over you. But you are not only dead to sin, but you are alive to God. Let Gods Spirit now control you. Let Gods Spirit give you the power (we will see this more in chapter 8). But Paul wants you to know who we are as Christians. We are dead to sin, and alive to God, and baptism was a public confession that we have accepted this dual truth, in Christ: dead to sin and alive to God.
So my prayer is, let sin no longer rule over you. You dont have to be a slave to sin any more. We have been freed from its dominion. Let God be your boss. Ill tell you, there is not anything so wonderful as to have God as your boss, because He is a benevolent, loving Father Who loves you eternally, and Who will give you everything that He knows is best for you, not what you know, but what He knows, and He knows more than us. So may God bless us that you will know this truth, you will apply it, and there will be a reformation and a transformation in this church. Because the cross of Christ is the power of God unto salvation. May God bless you.
Next Im going to deal with only two verses: 14 and 15. Read these. What did Paul mean when He says, We are no longer under the law, but under grace? I want you to wrestle with that. What did he mean? Did he mean just the ceremonial law? Does it include the moral law? What does it mean? Well wrestle with that next, and may God bless us.