Guests: Bruce Johanson and Zdravko Stefanovic
Is freedom from sin a reality in your life?
Paul’s insistence that a person is saved by faith apart from works of the law (Rom. 3:28) was troubling for some Christians—particularly those who were Jewish (Acts 21:20-21). These Christians feared that Paul’s emphasis on the centrality of faith in Christ would not only undermine the importance of living a life of obedience to God’s commandments, but that it might also become a license for sinful living (cf. Rom. 3:7-8). Concerned that his comments about grace abounding whenever sin increases might be interpreted along these same lines, Paul not only denies this type of reasoning in Romans 6, he does much more. Paul explains why a true understanding of righteousness by faith should not lead to “renewed” sinning but to freedom from the power of sin itself and a life of obedience.
1. How many different reasons does Paul give in Romans 6 for why a believer should not sin? Which of these reasons resonates with you most? Why?
2. Although Paul is not primarily concerned with the act of baptism itself, what do these verses teach about the proper manner and meaning of baptism? How does this support and illustrate Paul’s larger argument in Romans 6?
Alonzo T. Jones appears to have had Romans 6 in mind when he was baptized as a Seventh-day Adventist in Walla Walla, Washington Territory on August 8, 1874. According to George Knight, when young Alonzo rose up out of the water he raised his hands to God and proclaimed, “Dead to the world, and alive to thee, O my God!” (Knight, From 1888 to Apostasy, 1987, p.15). Most individuals today are certainly not that boisterous when they are baptized.
3. When you were baptized what did it mean for you? Should a person be baptized again if he or she did not fully understand the theological meaning behind their original baptism?
In addition to our union with Christ in his baptism, Paul says that believers have also been crucified with Christ (Rom. 6:6; Gal. 2:20). Here Paul is not emphasizing Christ being crucified for us, but our crucifixion with him.
4. Why is our crucifixion with Christ important for Paul’s argument? As you consider this question, carefully read Romans 6:6 noticing the following terminology Paul uses: 1) the conjunction “in order that” (indicating purpose); and 2) the word “nothing” (indicating the result. This word in Greek literally means “powerless”).
5. Whether crucifixion, baptism, or resurrection, why is our union with Christ so important? Would it be just as effective to talk solely about our own personal experience? Explain?
In Romans chapter 3, Paul pictures sin as an act of disobedience against God’s law (Rom. 3:23). Paul’s description of sin in Romans 6 is different, however. Instead of a broken law, sin is personified as a cosmic power that acts like an evil tyrant that has enslaved the human race under its lordship. The only hope of escaping from sin’s deadly grip is to accept the lordship of Christ.
6. How is sin typically spoken about in the church today? What value is there in seeing sin as something other than a broken commandment, or even a broken relationship? What other definitions and descriptions of sin are depicted in the Bible? Consider Gen. 3, 4; 1 John 5:17; Rom. 14:23.
7. Based on Paul’s counsel in Romans 6, what advice would you give someone who wanted to know how to overcome a besetting sin in his or her life?
8. Paul contrasts slavery and freedom in Romans 6. What different forms of slavery and freedom do you see?
9. Paul’s comments about Christians no longer being “under the law” are often interpreted to mean that Christians need no longer follow the law today. What evidence is there in Romans 6 that contradicts this kind of an interpretation?
10. Paul says we should use our bodies as “instruments of righteousness.” What would this look like in reality? What steps can we take to make this invitation a reality in our lives?