AH! Spring at last! Everywhere you look, there are signs of new life with the green haze of budding trees and emerald fields, birds singing and flowers blooming. God surely gave us Spring to reveal His glorious power to bring new life to his creation. Not just to the creation, but to His children as well! No season illustrates a Christian's spiritual rebirth like Spring, with the dead leaves of selfishness, and the sin that wars against our soul, giving way to the blossoms of righteous deeds that glorify God. At the same time, I do not think any Biblical doctrine illustrates this new life in Christ and the obedience of faith in the Gospel, like Paul’s enlightened understanding of Christian baptism given in Romans 6.
In Rom.6:1-23 Paul is making a strong defense of his Gospel. He answers a hypothetical charge that his message of grace and freedom from the perfect, crushing demands of God’s moral law, would somehow produce servants of sin. For 5 chapters he has consistently made the case that all people from Adam on are under God's law, are all condemned by personal sin and can only be saved by personal faith. He especially wants the Jews to understand that the added Law of Moses was not given to justify them, but actually caused their sin to increase. Then Paul gladly adds, "But where sin increased, grace increased all the more" Rom.5:20. He begins his defense in Rom.6:1f by raising the question, "Shall we continue to sin that grace might increase?" and quickly answering, "By no means!"
Paul often used baptism to teach other major doctrinal truths of discipleship. His major truth here is that the Gospel will logically produce new born servants of righteousness, never servants of sin. It is vital to his whole argument and defense of the Gospel, that we understand and believe what he says about baptism and he assumes we will. (Note that no believer in Paul’s day argued against his understanding of baptism or it’s necessity.) The point is, if people are not willing to accept what he says about baptism, it's mode and the spiritual work God performs in baptism Col.2:11ff, why would they believe his central teachings about Jesus Christ and salvation by grace through faith in Him and not by works of law?
Everywhere Paul went, he proclaimed the good news that Christ died for our sins, was buried and raised to God's glory 1Cor.15:1-4. Here in Rom.6:3-4 he says we are baptized "buried" into the law fulfilling, sin destroying death of Christ and death itself. He then plainly tells us why, "in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead to the glory of the Father, we too MAY LIVE A NEW LIFE." In view of this baptism, how can we then serve sin? Paul goes on to reveal 4 essential spiritual keys that will enable Christians to live this brand new abundant life of righteousness in union with Jesus Christ.
(Vs.6) "KNOW that our old self was crucified with Him." Our new life as servants of Christ must begin with repentance and our death to the old life of sin under law. This is not a physical death, but it is an actual death just the same! Truly, we have been spiritually "crucified with Christ" Gal.2:20. This is absolutely vital to understanding our freedom from sin and the next 3 keys build on this knowledge.
(Vs.11) "COUNT yourselves dead to sin but alive to God is Christ Jesus." We must trust in our hearts that our spiritual participation in the death, burial and resurrection of Christ really took place! We are literally raised up with Christ and "a new creation" 2Cor.5:17 because God says so! Relying totally on God's endless mercy Lam.3:22-23, every day is Spring and offers us a new beginning! Praise God!
(Vs.13) "OFFER yourselves to God, as those who have been brought from death to life." This word "offer" is used in Rom.6:19 and again in Rom.12:1. This priestly, sacrificial presentation of our lives of righteousness, to God's glory 1Cor.10:21, is our daily spiritual worship and the only logical result of Christian baptism and one who knows he is an object of God’s loving grace and mercy.
(Vs17) "THANKS be to God that though you used to be slave to sin, you wholeheartedly obeyed the form of teaching to which you were entrusted." Our obedience to the Gospel is essential, but our gratitude is to God alone! He is the only savior and our response of faith does not earn anything or obligate Him in any way! Remember that it is God who lovingly gave up His Son to dies for our sins! It is He who calls us through the Gospel, justifies us and gives us this new life and hope of eternal glory! "For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ.” AH! Spring at last!