The book of Acts is full of examples of conversion that tell what people did to become Christians and be added to the church. But many of the epistles give more details of one’s transformation from sinner to saint. As Paul wrote “To all who are in Rome, beloved of God, called to be saints” (Rom 1:7); he emphasized to those past sinners the process they completed to reach their standing with God.
Some background is helpful when considering these words to the Romans. In the first century, the city of Rome had no equal when it came to: Being the world symbol of idolatry and paganism; The sheer number of morally debased and deplorable people; The disgusting acts of public sexual immorality, and The wide-spread practice of homosexuality.
The Christians at Rome lived in a raunchy environment every day.
After discussing God’s righteousness and man’s unrighteousness in chapters 1 – 3, and our justification by faith in chapters 4 – 5, Paul began to discuss the process of becoming dead to sin and alive to God in Christ through grace in chapter 6.
“Therefore we were buried with Him through baptism into death, That just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life. For if we have been united together in the likeness of His death, certainly we also should be in the likeness of His resurrection; knowing this, that 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.” (Rom 6:4-7). Their old man or their body of sin died when the Romans were buried with Christ in baptism. When they were raised from that “death” with the body of sin gone, they were no longer slaves of sin. They were truly free Christians, but they still had choices to make.
“Likewise you also, reckon yourselves to be dead indeed to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus our Lord. Therefore, do not let sin reign in your mortal body, that you should obey it in it’s lusts… For sin shall not have dominion over you, for you are not under law but under grace. What then? Shall we sin because we are not under law but under grace? Certainly not”! (6:11-12;14-15). Upon obedience to Christ through baptism, the Romans needed to realize they were now alive to God in Jesus. This meant they could not let sin reign in their lives, but righteousness instead. They had choices each day, but needed to make the correct choices. Paul reminded them of what God’s amazing grace had done, but told the Romans that grace did not give them the right to keep sinning or make sinful practices a habit. He continued to emphasize this point using the examples of slavery and idolatry, both of which every citizen of Rome was familiar. “Do you not know that to whom you present yourselves slaves to obey, you are that one’s slaves whom you obey, whether of sin leading to death, or of obedience leading to righteousness? But God be thanked that though you were slaves of sin, yet you obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine to which you were delivered. And having been set free from sin, you became slaves of righteousness”. (6:15-18). Paul reminded these converts that through God’s grace, they were now able to keep sin from ruling them, and he emphasized the necessity of making good choices. He made the strong point that everybody is a slave in this life. Some choose to be slaves of sin and lusts which leads back to death; but some choose to be slaves of obedience to God, which leads to righteousness. Through inspiration from the Holy Spirit it was made clear that the choice belonged to each individual believer there.
What The Roman Christians Learned And Did
- In this wicked city, these Christians had been lost sinners, but they were buried with Christ in baptism for forgiveness of sins. They had seen their individual need for salvation and acted on the apostles’ teachings.
- They realized that their old man was crucified in obedience and they were no longer slaves of sin. Even so, Satan would continue to tempt them to sin. These believers wanted to live righteously but sometimes they gave in to sin. Because God is rich in grace and mercy, they knew He would forgive them when they humbly repented.
- That feeling of pardon was wonderful but Paul wrote to them that just because God’s grace would forgive, that was not a license to keep sinning. The Roman Christians did not want sin to become like a Tyrant, reigning inside their bodies and directing their lives.
- Paul reminded them that each person was a slave to some master. They could be slaves of sin leading to death, or slaves of obedience leading to righteousness. The choices were very clear. Each one all had to make his own decision.
- They learned through Paul that sin would not be the final victor, if they through faith accepted God’s grace.
Three Great Truths Seen Here
- God’s grace is based on His love and the gift of His son on Calvary’s cross. Seeking to make that grace a reason to continue in sin and/or be soft on sin makes a mockery of His great love and abundant mercy.
- Those who obey the Lord through faith, repentance, and baptism Are Committing Themselves To A Different Kind Of Life; Dead To The Old And Alive To The New. Here in Romans 6, Paul tells how completely dissimilar these lives are and how opposite are their endings.
- There is more than a moral change In Our New Lives As Christians. We have a real identification with Christ and in fact, are IN HIM. He has made us free from sin and WE BELONG TO HIM.
“For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord”. (Rom 6:23)