Romans Jewish New Testament and comments of David H. Stern
1. So then, are we to say, “Let’s keep on sinning, so that there can be more grace”?
2. Heaven forbid! How can we, who have died to sin, still live in it?
These verses, reiterating what was said at 3:5-8, introduce the theme of Chapters 6-8 and are Sha'ul's answer to all who accuse the New Testament of offering "cheap grace." He is more radical than those who merely exhort us to subdue our sinful impulses; for he asserts that by virtue of being united with the Messiah (vv. 3-6) our old self and its sinful inclinations have actually died. Dead people do not sin; rather, the dead are "cleared from sin" (v. 7). Chapters 6-8 explore how believers are to make these truths real in their own lives. On Heaven forbid! here and at v. 15 see 3:4N.
3. Don’t you know that those of us who have been immersed into the Messiah Yeshua have been immersed into his death?
4. Through immersion into his death we were buried with him; so that just as, through the glory of the Father, the Messiah was raised from the dead, likewise we too might live a new life.
Immersed translates a form of the Greek word "baptizo," usually transliterated "baptized" The root meaning of "baptizo" is "dip, soak, immerse" into a liquid so that what is dipped takes on qualities of what it has been dipped in — such as cloth in dye or leather in tanning solution (see Mt 3:1N). This is why being immersed into the Messiah (v. 3) is equated with being united with him (v. 5). These verses support the case that immersion is the preferred form of baptism, since baptism is compared here with burial, and burial resembles immersion but does not resemble pouring or sprinkling. On "execution-stake" see Mt 10:38N.
5. For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we will also be united with him in a resurrection like his.
6. We know that our old self was put to death on the execution-stake with him, so that the entire body of our sinful propensities might be destroyed, and we might no longer be enslaved to sin.
7. For someone who has died has been cleared from sin.
Literally, "For the one having died has been justified [or "declared innocent"] from the sin." The deathbed confession in the Siddur includes the words, "May my death be an atonement for all the sins, iniquities and transgressions of which I have been guilty against you" (Hertz edition, pp. 1064-1065), following the pattern of a prayer in the Talmud (B'rakhot 60a) and the Mishna (Sanhednn 6:2). Yoma 86a also speaks of death as "finishing" the punishment for sin and quotes Isaiah 22:14, "Surely this iniquity shall not be atoned for [Hebrew у 'khupar, "covered"] until you die." Sha'ul here is drawing on the Jewish tradition that says an individual's own death atones for his sin. He applies it by affirming that our union with the Messiah and with his death (vv. 3-6) means that we have effectively died: in union with the Messiah's death we died, and that atones for our sin.
8. Now since we died with the Messiah, we trust that we will also live with him.
As life is stronger than death, there is an implicit kal v'ihomer argument (Mt 6:30N): since we died with the Messiah, how much more do we trust that we will also live with him!
9. We know that the Messiah has been raised from the dead, never to die again; death has no authority over him.
Never to die again. Yeshua raised people from the dead, as did Elijah and Elisha; but they all died again. Yeshua's resurrection is the firstfruits of a new creation (1С 15:20, 23), in which believers have a share (2C 5:17, Ga 6:15, Ya 1:18), a new creation from which death has been eliminated (1С 15:50-57, Rv 20:14,21:4). Mekhilta to Exodus 20:19 says:
"If it were possible to do away with the angel of death, I would. But the decree has long ago been decreed. Rabbi Yosi says, 'It was on this condition that Israel stood before Mount Sinai, on condition that the angel of death would not rule over them. For it is said, "I said: You are gods (Elohim), etc." But you corrupted your conduct. "Surely you will die like men" (Psalm 82:6-7).'"
Yeshua has gone beyond this; he has conquered death, so that death has no authority over him or over those united with him.
10. For his death was a unique event that need not be repeated; but his life, he keeps on living for God.
11. In the same way, consider yourselves to be dead to sin but alive for God, by your union with the Messiah Yeshua.
12. Therefore, do not let sin rule in your mortal bodies, so that it makes you obey its desires;
13. and do not offer any part of yourselves to sin as an instrument for wickedness. On the contrary, offer yourselves to God as people alive from the dead, and your various parts to God as instruments for righteousness.
14. For sin will not have authority over you; because you are not under legalism but under grace.
You are not under legalism (Greek upo nomon; Sha'ul's use of this phrase discussed in depth at Ga 3:23bN). The word "nomos" literally "law" and often translated "Torah" in the Jewish New Testament (Mt 5:17&N), must here be rendered "legalism," which is defined in 3:20bN as perversion of the Torah into a system of rules for earning God's praise without trusting, loving or communing with God the Giver of the Torah.
Under legalism... under grace. The word twice translated "under," Greek upo, means "controlled by" (as at 3:9) or "in subjection to" (compare 7:14; also see 1С 9:20-22&NN) and opens the path to the slavery metaphor in the following verses. But in what sense are believers "in subjection to" grace? In the sense that they have accepted Yeshua's "yoke," which is "easy" and "light" to be "under" (Mt 11:28-30&N), in contrast with the "yoke" of legalism, which is not (Ac 15:10&N). Being "under grace" is a subjection which, because of the nature of grace itself, does not have the usual oppressive characteristics of subjection. God's people are to live en ("within the framework of," 2:12N) Torah, but they are not be upo ("in subjection to," Ga 3:23bN) legalism. God's giving the Torah was itself an act of grace which the New Testament compares with his sending Yeshua (Yn 1:17&N). God's people, the people who are in a trust relationship with him, are and always have been under grace and under Torah (a gracious subjection) but never under legalism (a harsh subjection).
15. Therefore, what conclusion should we reach? “Let’s go on sinning, because we’re not under legalism but under grace”? Heaven forbid!
The perverse suggestion of 3:5-8 and 6:1-2 is restated a third way.
16. Don’t you know that if you present yourselves to someone as obedient slaves, then, of the one whom you are obeying, you are slaves — whether of sin, which leads to death, or of obedience, which leads to being made righteous?
17. By God’s grace, you, who were once slaves to sin, obeyed from your heart the pattern of teaching to which you were exposed;
18. and after you had been set free from sin, you became enslaved to righteousness.
19. (I am using popular language because your human nature is so weak.) For just as you used to offer your various parts as slaves to impurity and lawlessness, which led to more lawlessness; so now offer your various parts as slaves to righteousness, which leads to being made holy, set apart for God.
20. For when you were slaves of sin, you were free in relationship to righteousness;
21. but what benefit did you derive from the things of which you are now ashamed? The end result of those things was death.
22. However, now, freed from sin and enslaved to God, you do get the benefit — it consists in being made holy, set apart for God, and its end result is eternal life.
23. For what one earns from sin is death; but eternal life is what one receives as a free gift from God, in union with the Messiah Yeshua, our Lord.
Sha'ul expounds Yeshua's saying, "No one can be slave to two masters" (Mt 6:24). The slaves to sin (v. 17; compare Yn 8:34) get no benefit (v. 21) but earn their wages, death (v. 23). But when enslaved to righteousness (v. 18), eternal life is what one receives as a free gift from God (v. 23). Such slavery is true freedom.
Verse 23 is Sha'ul's classic expression of the idea that the only place you can work your way to is hell; no one can work his way to heaven. To reach heaven one must acknowledge the futility of striving in one's own strength and accept God's free gift of eternal life as being offered in union with the Messiah Yeshua our Lord by his grace when one responds with faith or trust.
- chapter 1
- chapter 2
- chapter 3
- chapter 4
- chapter 5
- chapter 6
- chapter 7
- chapter 8
- chapter 9
- chapter 10
- chapter 11
- chapter 12
- chapter 13
- chapter 14
- chapter 15
- chapter 16