Romans 6: “Shall We Continue In Sin?

By S. Leonard Tyler

Romans six is a beautiful, clarifying and reassuring chapter. It is, to me, the pivotal chapter – where change takes place. Paul has reached the point in his discussion of salvation by grace through faith which seems to naturally demand clarifying. He has shown that salvation is provided by God’s grace for all and is extended to all through the gospel – but must be accepted by faith. To offset unnecessary quibbling, prevent misunderstanding and emphasize some very important truths, Paul explains some difficulties surrounding his teaching.

The teaching of justification by grace through faith has always challenged man. Questions flood the subject of God’s grace providing and man’s faith appropriating the soul’s salvation. Mr. Charles R. Erdman observes such questions and concludes:

The common fallacy in all these objections, and in most criticism of the doctrine of justification by faith, consists in the failure to understand what is meant by faith (An Exposition, The Epistle of Paul To The Romans, p. 77.)

Paul recognizes the importance of the truth and the fact that it can and must be understood, believed and obeyed to result in the saving of the soul. Hence, he calls attention to and openly discusses the issues involved.

“What Shall We Say Then?”

Does this inquiry merely connect with what has been said, or does it anticipate valid pondering, or has some critic challenged the apostle’s message? Regardless, and notwithstanding, the explanation is clear, forceful and positive. Paul has taught that God’s grace is sufficient to save all and “where sin abounded, grace did much more abound” (Rom. 5:20). Questions about God’s vengeance (Rom. 3:5) and the doing of evil that good might come (Rom. 3:8) were also beclouding his message. He, however, was not one to whine and whisper, “I’m misunderstood and vilified, but I still love them,” and turn off as a “martyr”! Neither did he hide the true meaning in philosophical verbiage. He, recognizing the value and stability of God’s truth, arose to the occasion, confronted the questions and confounded the questioners by dealing positively with the problems (Jn. 8:31-32; 1 Pet. 1:22-25).

Shall We Continue In Sin, That Grace May Abound?”

Paul quickly and emphatically replied, “God forbid” (other translations: “May it never be . . . Perish the thought . . . By no means! . . . What a ghastly thought! . . . No, no!”). The gospel is the same today and, if a similar question should be asked, “Will God’s brace extend to cover or forgive one who, ignorantly or otherwise, continues in sin?” “Perish the thought . . . By no means!” No way! Such is completely out of the bounds of faith. There is no basis for faith beyond the scope of God’s word; there can be no faith where there is no word to produce it (Rom. 10:17).

Jesus is the voice of God, the law Giver, Mediator, Advocate and Savior (Heb. 1:1; 2:3; James 4:12; 1 Tim. 2:5; 1 Jn. 2:1-2; 1 Tim. 4:10). He has spoken and His word will stand forever (Matt. 24:35; Ps. 119:89; Matt. 16:18-19). He is the Author of eternal salvation to all who obey Him (Heb. 5:9; Rom. 6:16) and will render the final judgment (Acts 17:31; Rev. 10:11-15; Jn. 5:28-29). Therefore, “See that you refuse not him that speaketh” (Heb. 12:25).

When Does One Die To Sin?

This is a very interesting approach to becoming a Christian. One must die to sin. Paul wrote, “How shall we, that are dead to sin (we who died to sin – ASV) live any longer therein?” Since his writing is applicable to all Christians, he places himself within its bounds. He said, “We who died to sin” (ASV). The Romans were dead to sin and Paul refreshed their memory to this fact. It was in the course of their acceptance of Jesus Christ that they died to sin. Thus, continuance in sin was diabolically opposed to their manner of life in Christ.

Does the apostle mean “dead in sin,” buried and raised, or “dead to sin,” buried and raised? Does he use “dead to sin” to circumscribe the whole action of conversion: died, buried and raised? Or, does he use the words “died, buried and raised” to specify definite action (steps) in conversion? There is no question about one being dead to God while practicing or living in sin (Eph. 2:2-1; Col. 2:13), but he is alive to (practicing) sin. One must stop loving and practicing (die to, in a figurative sense) sin before he can be forgiven. However, when one stops sinning, ceases to practice sin, the guilt of sin is still upon him. He is not dead to guilt. It must be forgiven. However, the practice must stop before forgiveness can be enjoyed.

If this be the meaning, and it surely looks applicable, then when does one “die” to sin, as used in this verse? When one understands and believes with all his heart that Jesus is the Son of God, it enables him to recognize the terribleness, sinfulness and damnableness of sin and conclude that forgiveness is in Christ. This conviction leads one to determine to stop sinning, forsake it, turn away from it (in a word, “die” to the love and practice of sin) and accept Jesus as both Lord and Christ. This is genuine repentance, which attitude must characterize every subject of baptism; it will lead to true action, obedience to Jesus from the heart, being buried in baptism and raised with Him a new creature. Moses E. Lard, in his Commentary On Romans, (pp. 195-196), stated:

We die to sin when we believe in Christ and repent of our sins. For the true conception of repentance is a determination to forsake sin, accompanied by the act. The best and only evidence we can give that we are truly dead to sin is our aversion to it, and cessation from it. None should be baptized till he has within himself a keen senge of this evidence. Baptism to one who is still alive to sin is as inconsistent as the literal burial of a man before he is dead. It is much to be feared that error is sometimes committed here.”

Paul proceeds with his discourse, “How shall we . . live any longer therein?” The argument advanced simply stated, “Since we died to sin, recognized it as sin and determined within our own heart never to sin any more, we turn to the Lord for forgiveness (being buried with Him in baptism and raised to a new life), direction and salvation. Therefore, no consideration should be given to the practice of sin.”

Furthermore, “Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into his death? . . .buried with him be baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up. . .we also should walk in newness of life.” He impressed, “Are you not conscious (or, don’t you remember?) that we were baptized into Christ?” None questioned this truth, for it was upon this fact that they placed their claim to Christ.

Paul did not argue the meaning of baptism, baptize etc.; they understood that they were immersed, buried, submerged, for that is the meaning of the words used. It was upon the fact that they had been buried with Christ and shared in the benefits of His death, the very purpose for which He shed his blood, “for the remission of sins” (Matt. 26:28). This being true, they were “buried with him by baptism into death”. No other form (save a burial) can so dramatically represent the ending of a life of sin and the beginning of a life of righteousness. Thus, “like as Christ was raised . . . by the glory of the Father,” we are to walk in newness of life. As he also told the Corinthians, “If any man be in Christ he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new” (2 Cor. 5:17).

Consider also, “If we have been planted together in the likeness of his death, we shall be also in the likeness of his resurrection” (v. 5). In baptism, we are united with him in the likeness of his death and resurrection. (1) He died on the cross. We died to sin. (2) He was buried in Joseph’s new tomb. We are buried in baptism. (3) He was raised up by the glory (power) of the Father. We are raised up to a new life, “newness of life,” to live a righteous life (vs. 17-18).

We were united with Christ in the likeness of his death and resurrection in baptism. “Our old man was crucified with him, that the body of sin might be put away” (destroyed, v. 6). “The old man” must be our former manner of living given up, sacrificed; it is not as some claim, our old sinful, innate nature from Adam, nor the Adamic sin. One cannot inherit sin, sin is committed (Ezek. 18:19, 20; 1 John 3:4; James 1:13-15), and fleshly lust is still present. The Christian must “buffet,” keep his body under subjection, “mortify (put to death) your members which are upon this earth. . .” (Col. 3:4). One must not yield his members to sin (v. 13) but unto righteousness. The “old man” sacrificed the “body of sin;” all our sins are forgiven in baptism. “Henceforth we should not serve sin,” live in or practice sin.

In verses 7-14, Paul enforces his arguments to abstain from every evil inclination and cling to every good thing. To be “dead to” and “freed from” sin is reason sufficient to cause one to shun the very appearance of evil. But more, “We died with Christ . . . we shall also live with him” (ASV). Since we were baptized (died, buried and raised) with Christ, we shall also live with him. No one giving consideration to Romans six can degrade baptism and its relationship to salvation or the importance of living a righteous life. We died with Christ to the world of sin and were raised with Him to a new life, a spiritual life, Therefore, we are to live consistently with the new directions, Christ’s teaching.

Again, since Christ is raised from the dead, death has no more power over Him. The death He died, He died once (for the sins of all) and now He lives unto God. So Christians are to live to the honor and glory of God, being dead to sin “but alive unto God in Christ Jesus” (v. 11). “Seek those things which are above” (Col. 3:1).

Paul now pleads, “Let not sin reign in your mortal bodies.” Sin must not reign like a king over you and dictate your physical life. You must refrain your fleshly appetite from the temptations of lustful passions. Do not practice any such doings. Christ is your Master and King; He must reign over and direct your life.

He deals a little more specifically by saying, “Neither yield your members as instruments of unrighteousness unto sin: but yield yourselves unto God . . . and your members as instruments of righteousness unto God.” One must choose the manner of life to live: righteously of God or unrighteously of the world. “By their fruits, ye shall know them.” When one lives (v. 14) for Christ, he proves his freedom from sin. Sin does not dominate or rule his life. He has forgiveness in Christ, new directions for living, and should love every bit of it.

Another question in anticipation and to challenge their thinking. “What then? Shall we sin, because we are not under law, but under grace.” Does this mean one can sin freely at will and be forgiven? By no means! Neither can it mean that God has no law whatsoever to which man is subjected. “Sin is not imputed when there is no law” (Rom. 5:13). Sin is lawlessness, a transgression of law (1 Jn. 3:4). Therefore, we must look for the true meaning of the passage. God’s word does not contradict itself.

It must mean, then, that we are not under a law system which offers no pardon. This will not rule out the gospel because Paul called it, “The gospel of the grace of God” (Acts 20:24). It is God’s power unto salvation to all who believe (Rom. 1:16); it is the word of God’s grace and offers an inheritance (Acts 20:32), the grace of God that bringeth salvation teaching us (Tit. 2:11-12). Paul affirms that “the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death” (Rom. 8:2). Bro. R.L. Whiteside explains, “This verse is a figure of speech in which the less is denied so as to emphasize the greater. We are not merely under law, but under grace” (A New Commentary On Paul’s Letter To The Saints At Rome, p. 137). John said, “For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ” (Jn. 1:17). Also, he wrote that one might not sin, but if he did, he had access unto the Father – he could be forgiven (1 Jn. 2:12). Certainly neither God, Christ, The Spirit, nor the gospel encourage or allow sin. Sin separates from God and brings death (Isa. 59:2; v. 23). Faith leads to God through Jesus for justification, salvation.

Paul next uses an old axiomatic truth, to confirm the absolute necessity of obedience to the Lord, “To whom ye yield yourselves servants to obey, his servants ye are to whom ye obey.” He introduces verse sixteen with “know ye not” (do you not know) to wake them up to this fundamental truth: whom ye obey, you are his servants. This impresses: (1) you have a choice; (2) force is not used; (3) you are accountable; (4) you are classified by your manner of life. Paul says, “You know this truth,” then he applies it to sin and righteousness and gives the consequences which follows: sin unto death, “the wages of sin is death” (ver. 23); obedience unto righteousness unto holiness and eternal life through Christ (ver. 23). This describes a manner of life, not just a weakness manifested nor just an emotional outburst of good.

Paul makes application of his teaching which is a crucial place in preaching. He first expressed, “But God be thanked.” God made all things possible and is the one to receive the glory. “That ye were the servants of sin,” is not the reason for thanks. However, the statement, “Ye have obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine which was delivered you. Being then made free from sin, ye became the servants of righteousness” (vs. 17-18) is reason enough to thank God. These were made free from sin when they “obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine which was delivered you.” Note: (I) “From the heart,” prompted from a heart of faith; (2) “Obeyed,” acted upon command; (3) “that from of doctrine,” mould, pattern or model set forth in the doctrine. This does not specifically apply only to the baptismal form (death, burial and resurrection), but it certainly includes it. It means doctrinal pattern “which was delivered” – the gospel delivered it which these had fitted themselves into. This is not ritualistic nor formalistic action. It is more than that. It must come from the heart or else becomes vain and void. However, it mut also be true to the teaching. This is faith made perfect by works seasoned with love (James 2:22; Gal. 5:6).

It was through the obedience of the doctrinal form delivered that these were made “free from sin.” This is Paul’s proposition and I can understand it. Another thing, when one “obeys from his heart,” as taught here, he will receive forgiveness of sins, justification, and become a servant of righteousness.

Verse 19 simply speaks in a manner so man can understand. Because of the “infirmity of your flesh” (weakness) manifested to become negligent or careless in your endeavors as Christ’s servant, you should keep in mind that, as you gave your whole being unto uncleanness and iniquity in your former life, even so now yield your members unto righteousness. The thought is, when you were servants of sin, you had nothing to do with righteousness, even so now, have nothing to do with sin but “hunger and thirst after righteousness” (Matt. 5:6).

Consider the final consequences: when you lived in sin, what did you gain? Those things promise only death, nothing beyond – nothing gained. “But now being made free from sin, and become servants to God, ye have your fruit unto holiness, and the end everlasting life.. For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.”

What more can be said except “Amen”?


  • What does “what shall we say then?” refer to?
  • What does it mean “to continue in sin that grace may abound”?
  • Think about “dead to sin” or “died in sin.” How is “dead” used? When does one “die” to sin?
  • What is genuine repentance?
  • Why did not Paul argue the meaning of “baptism”?
  • Give at least three of Paul’s reasons for forsaking sin and living righteously.
  • How are we united with Christ in baptism? What course of life shall one live who was so united with Christ?
  • What is our “old man” and “body of sin”? When does one become alive, to walk in newness of life?
  • What is meant by “not under law, but under grace”?
  • How does “whom you obey, you are his servant” clarify the need of obedience to Christ?
  • When did these Romans live in iniquity? When in righteousness?
  • Give the results of each life.

Truth Magazine XXIII: 1, pp. 15-18
January 4, 1978