Gaebelein's Annotated Bible
What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound?CHAPTER 6
We have learned from the previous chapter that the justified believer is in Christ and fully identified with Him. God sees the believer in the Lord Jesus Christ, no longer in Adam, but in Christ, the head of a new creation. “So if any one be in Christ, it is a new creation the old things have passed away, behold all things have become new” (2Corinthians 5:17). Judicially the believer therefore is dead to sin, the old man was crucified, put completely to death in the death Of Christ, and the believer is alive to God in Him. But this wonderful part of the Gospel must become a reality in the life and experience of the believer. God beholds us as dead to sin in Christ and alive in Himself, this must be lived out. This is the solemn responsibility of the justified believer. And we are not to do this in our own strength, but in the power of the indwelling Spirit, who is also given to the believer. All this is unfolded in this chapter.
“What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin that grace may abound? God forbid. How shall we, that are dead to sin, live any longer therein?” Inasmuch as we have died to sin in the death of Christ, the practical deliverance of sin and its dominion must be manifested in our lives. As we find later the old nature, the flesh is still in the justified believer, but he has also another nature, another life and he is therefore enabled in the power of that new life and his identification with Christ, to continue no longer in sin. It is a most positive fact “dead to sin” and this is true of all believers positionally in Christ, and therefore the Holy Spirit tells us that we should no longer live therein. And this truth is illustrated in Christian baptism; it is into Christ’s death and illustrates the truth of death and burial in Christ. Baptism therefore does not save. It has no power to put a sinner in Christ, nor can it convey forgiveness of sins and impart the new life. Faith alone is needed for that, and when the sinner believes, the grace of God saves and accomplishes identification with Christ. And furthermore we are more than dead and buried with Christ “as Christ was raised up by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.” We share in His resurrection. What the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ did to Him, raising Him from the dead, He does to all who believe on Him. “He hath raised us up together” (Ephesians 2:6). We possess His life, the risen life and therefore we should also walk in the power of this life. Our old man (what we are in Adam), was crucified with Christ. When He died we also died. Our old man was crucified with Christ “that the body of sin might be annulled, so that we should be slaves to sin no longer.” Many have been misled by the mistranslation which states “that the body of sin might be destroyed” and teach that the old nature is completely eradicated. But it does not say destroyed, but annulled, or cancelled. The body of sin is our mortal body with the law of sin in its members. And as long as we have this mortal body, the law of sin is in its members. But the operation of that law is annulled for the believer, who in faith, as we shall see later, reckons himself to be dead unto sin and alive unto God in Christ Jesus. And therefore the believer is enabled to be no longer a slave to sin, as the natural man is. A dead man is justified or discharged from sin; the tyrant’s power is at an end when the subject over which he domineers is dead. And so we being crucified with Christ escape the tyrant’s power, and ultimately when the Lord comes this mortal body will be changed and sin itself will be forever gone.
Inasmuch as we have died with Christ we shall also live with Him. Death hath no more dominion over Him; He liveth unto God. And all this is true of the believer. Then comes the most important answer to the question raised, in the beginning of the chapter. “Shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound?” “In the same manner reckon yourselves to be dead indeed unto sin, but alive unto God in Christ Jesus.” This is an exhortation to take hold of this great and deep truth, the identification of the believer with Christ in death and resurrection. Reckon is an act of faith. It means to believe all this and to appropriate in faith what God has put on our side in Christ Jesus. We must reckon that we are dead and in possession of the life which empowers us to live unto God. “We reckon this is so, not feel it to be so. It is an entire mistake, and fraught with important consequences, to imagine this being dead to sin to be a feeling or an experience. We cannot feel Christ’s death on the cross, and it was there He died to sin, and we because He died. If it were experience, it would be an absolute perfect one, no evil thought, feeling, or desire, ever in the heart; and this not true of some of the more advanced, but of all Christians and that always. But this is contrary to the experience of all. The attempt to produce such a condition in ourself ends either in the misery of utter failure, or, still worse, in self-satisfaction, indeed, the well-nigh incredible delusion for a Christian, that he is as impassive to sin as Christ Himself! The words do not express such an experience. (As claimed by Perfectionists and Holiness sects.) In every way, it is plain that it is not an experience of which the apostle is speaking here. We could not be told to reckon what we experience. What we reckon is a fact for faith, the fruit of the work done for us, not of that done in us. Because Christ died unto sin once for all, and in that He liveth, liveth unto God, thus also do we reckon ourselves dead indeed unto sin, and alive unto God in Christ Jesus.” (Numerical Bible.)
The exhortation which follows in Romans 6:12, addressed not to the world but to justified believers, proves that sin is still in the mortal body of the believer. It is not destroyed. But while sin is in our mortal body, it has no more right to reign there. However it will reign, if we yield to the desires of the old nature. If a believer obeys the old nature in its lusts, he walks not in the Spirit but in the flesh. Whenever temptation comes, the believer must take refuge in prayer, in self-judgment and self-surrender and yield (or present) his members afresh as instruments of righteousness unto God. As long as the believer is in the mortal body there is the conflict between the flesh and the Spirit (Galatians 5:17). And if we walk in the Spirit we shall not fulfil the lust of the flesh; this necessitates that we make no provision for the flesh to fulfil the lusts thereof (Romans 13:14). Furthermore, the promise is given to the believer in Christ that sin shall not have dominion over him because he is not under the law, but under grace. The grace which has saved the believing sinner and made Him nigh unto God, teaches also to deny ungodliness and worldly lusts and to live soberly, righteously and godly in this present age (Titus 2:12). And more than that; grace supplies the power to live godly. Therefore sin shall not have dominion over a believer because he is under grace. But this promise must be appropriated in faith.
Another question is asked. “What then, shall we sin because we are not under the law, but under grace?” Another, “God forbid”--perish the very thought of it--is the answer. Whoever yields to sin falls under the mastery of sin. Then follows a word of praise. He thanks God that the believers to whom he writes, once servants of sin, but having obeyed from the heart (and true faith is obedience), they were made free from sin and became servants of righteousness. “Free from sin” does not mean, as often taught, free from the old nature, but free from the domineering power of indwelling sin. Then there is the contrast between the former state in sin and the place of deliverance into which grace has brought the believer. In the former life as unsaved, slaves of sin, there was an awful fruit and the end of it is death. But now as servants of God, freed from sin’s awful slavery, there is another fruit, the fruit of holiness and the end eternal life. How this fruit of the justified believer is to be produced we shall learn in the next chapter. Sin’s wages is death; that is what man receives in payment for sin. Eternal life, the great and inestimable gift of God is bestowed through Jesus Christ our Lord.