Exegetical Notes Romans 6:1-14 -- By: Douglas Moo

Journal: Trinity Journal
Volume: TRINJ 03:2 (Fall 1982)
Article: Exegetical Notes Romans 6:1-14
Author: Douglas Moo


Exegetical Notes Romans 6:1-14

Douglas J. Moo

Trinity Evangelical Divinity School

Considerable confusion about the Christian life prevails in many circles today. Believers are uncertain about how to appropriate for their daily walk the victory won by Jesus Christ on the cross and in his resurrection. Many are searching for a magic “key” which will open for them a life constantly filled with victory over sin. And more than one book purports to have discovered this “key.”

Romans 6:1–14 presents no single such key; but it is one of the most important texts in the New Testament on the subject of the Christian life. As so often, the apostle Paul beautifully combines deep theological discussion with practical incentive to the holy life-a combination which reminds us that theology is always to have its practical implications and that our practice must never be severed from theology. The immediate occasion for this passage is found in Rom 5:20b: “where sin increased grace abounded all the more.” Well, then, Paul presents a hypothetical objector as asking, “Are we to continue in sin that grace might abound?” If sin produces more grace, should we not be remaining (ἐπιμένωμεν —present tense) in sin so as to gain as much grace as possible? Such a question arises naturally from Paul’s strong assertion earlier in Romans that justification can be attained only on the basis of faith. No doubt Paul, in the course of long missionary experience, more than once had to answer exactly this objection: does not the doctrine of justification by faith undercut morality? Does it really make any difference what a person so justified does? After all, it is my faith, not my behavior that ultimately matters.

Such a rending asunder of faith and “works” Paul will not allow. Μὴ γένοιτο (“By no means”) Paul responds. “How can we who died to sin (ἀπεθὰνομεν τῇ ἁμαρτίᾳ) still live in it?” (v 2). This response is interesting. Paul does not, initially, command the Roman Christians to put off sin. Rather he avers that there is something fundamentally inconsistent about a person who has died to sin living in it any longer. The remainder of the text is an exposition of the meaning of this “death to sin” and its implications.

v 3-Do you not know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? v 4-We were buried ther...

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