Dead to Sin, Alive in Christ, Rom. 6:1-14
Paul has established the universal need for salvation. He has also made it clear that salvation is found only in Jesus Christ, the Son of God. But how do we obtain this salvation? When does forgiveness by God occur? Today’s text teaches us that the transition from sinner to saint takes place in gospel baptism. This simple act of gospel obedience is the moment when our sins are washed away by the blood of Jesus. Jesus taught this in the Great Commission (Matt. 28:18-20; Mark 16:15-16). Peter preached this at Pentecost (Acts 2:38). Philip taught this to the Ethiopian treasurer, who immediately asked to be baptized (Acts 8:35-38). Paul himself came to Christ through baptism (Acts 22:16, 9:18). As Gentiles first turned to Christ, Peter ordered baptism for Cornelius and his household (Acts 10:46-48). As the gospel reached Europe, Paul baptized the households of the Philippian jailer and of Lydia (Acts 16). Gospel baptism was never taught as merely a symbolic act. Forgiveness was never promised to the sinner apart from baptism.
Somewhere in time, human philosophers and theologians determined that baptism could not possibly have anything to do with salvation. It was viewed either as a work of merit or merely symbolic, the outward sign of an inward grace. These teachers need to once again attend the school of Scripture and study from Paul and Peter. We understand that baptism is not a physical cleansing where water removes soil from the flesh. Peter makes it clear that baptism is quite spiritual in nature, accomplishing salvation (1 Pet. 3:21). Not by water, nor by works of man, but by the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ. In baptism we are united with Christ, baptized into his death, where we receive the benefits of his blood (Matt. 26:28; Acts 2:38). This is a foregone conclusion with Paul, who looks back at baptism as the turning point in the life of those who are now saved.
It seems that some teachers in Paul’s day assumed justification might lead to moral carelessness, moral irresponsibility. “Saved by grace, are we? So what then is there to worry about? Let us live our lives of sin and let grace keep doing its work!” How false, how fallacious, how foolish is that idea. Paul answers with the strongest possible negative—“By no means!” (6:15). The King James Version rendering “God forbid” expresses the urgency but takes liberty by supplying words not in the original text. Some things do get better. I could not more strongly recommend a modern translation which is based on the best Greek manuscripts and which employs the best of linguistic effort in translation. My freshman year in New Testament Greek was an eye-opener. We all read the Bible in English translations. Let us use those most reliable. Translations such as the NIV and ESV.
Paul urges those who have converted to Christ to live a life of sanctification. Death, burial, and resurrection lead to a new life. We live because of Christ, and now we live for Christ. We must count ourselves dead to sin. We serve it no more. We will not give our minds, our tongues, or our bodies to Satan’s service. We are now servants of Christ. It is our choice everyday whether to give in to sin or to grow in righteousness. God has granted us pardon and right-standing. This is to be maintained by a life of faithful service. Let us not squander the gracious gift of God.
My comments are not an inspired commentary, but rather a few words to draw attention to the background, context, and dynamic situation of the book of Acts. May God bless your reading of His Word. T.C.