The book of Romans deals heavily with the theme of justification. Paul introduces this subject by noting that he was not ashamed of the gospel of Jesus Christ and that that gospel is the power of God unto salvation for every individual (Rom. 1:16). Justification is the process by which God declares man innocent or guiltless. God justifies man through the gospel of Jesus Christ. Paul's writings are shown to be consistentwhenatthebeginningofhis second letter to the brethren in Thessalonica he notes that all individuals who do not know God and have not obeyed the gospel of Jesus Christ will be punished with eternal destruction (2 The. 1:8,9). And yet, this was an encouraging message to the brethren there who were being persecuted vehemently. Paul wanted them to know that God is just and will not overlook the terrible things done to them.
From the book of Romans and 2 Thessalonians we know that it is the gospel that makes man righteous and that it must be obeyed if one is to be in a right relationship with God. What is the Gospel and how can it be obeyed?
Paul would write in his letter to the Corinthians that the gospel is the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ (1 Cor. 15:3,4). Understanding that the word 'gospel' means literally the 'good news' or 'good message' one can see clearly just what Paul meant in describing the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ.That death and resurrection was the good news for mankind! It was for this purpose that Jesus came to earth! If the gospel is the good news concerning Jesus Christ and his death, burial and resurrection, then what did Paul mean when he said that those who do not obey the gospel would be punished by Jesus himself as was mentioned above (2 The. 1:8,9)?
This question shows the importance of the statements made by Paul to the brethren at Rome. The main passage that is under consideration in this article is that of Romans 6:3,4. Knowing that Romans deals heavily with the theme of justification and that it is essential for one to 'obey the gospel' to be in a right relationship with him the aforementioned verse of Romans 6:3,4 is considered.
To better understand Romans chapter six, one must understand why Paul asks the question that he does in verse one. Verse one of chapter six is essentially asking what is their response supposed to be considering the aforementioned facts. These facts consist of the message found at the end of Romans chapter five;mainly that through one man came sin and deathinto the world, namely Adam. But, just as through this one man came sin and death there is also life through one man, that of Jesus Christ. Paul extends this thought even further by noting that the superiority of grace over sin is shown within this discussion. If Jesus has given man salvation through the grace of God and Adam brought sin into this world through his actions then grace is greater than sin. It overcomes the problem that man has with sin.
With these thoughts in mind Paul asks the question, 'What shall we say then?'. What was the response of the Romans to these great truths set forth? The answer was shocking. To show what their response is Paul asks another question. He asks, 'Shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound?'. Some of the Roman Christians actually had the idea that if the power of grace was exemplified in its overcoming of sin then they should sin more so that grace was put forth in an even greater light.
Verse 2: Can an individual sin to exemplify the grace of God? Paul answers with a resounding no. Some versions say, 'God forbid' here in verse two. The message to the Romans was simple: Sin is never permissible in the eyes of God. His follow up question clears this up even more when begins to explain why this is the case. He continues by asking, 'We who died to sin, how shall we any longer live therein?'. Paul is inherently is insinuating that they should have understood this concept. Later in chapter six Paul will elaborate even more on this concept of being 'dead to sin'. From this verse the implication however is that they have died to the practice of sin at one point. They no longer supposed to be living a life identified by ungodliness. If they had died to sin, then how could they live any longer in that state?
Verse 3: Explaining his answer even further he looks to a special event in the life of a Christian. In verse three he asks if they are ignorant concerning their own baptism. These questions are rhetorical in that Paul thought that they should already know the answer. In this Paul affirms that all individuals that have been baptized into Christ have been baptized into his death. There is a special tie here that should not be missed. An individual dies to sin when they become a Christian. When? The connection is made when they are baptized. This thought will be strengthened when Paul comments further on the concept of baptism and Christ.
Verse 4: In the process of baptism a further connecting point is made. Not only was their baptism connected to the death of Christ but Paul adds that all they who had been baptized were also buried with Christ. It should be noted that this is further evidence of what baptism meant to the disciples of Jesus Christ. They were actually buried in water just as Christ was buried in his tomb. Baptism was not a sprinkling, pouring, or act of the mind.
Another thing of some importance is the simple observation concerning death and burials. Namely, that the only people that are buried are those thathavedied.Thisperfectlytiesinto the previous verse in that a person dies to sin and is baptized into Christ's death when they are actually baptized. Paul perfects these comments on their response to sin and grace by making the connection between baptism and the resurrection. Paul and the individuals he is writing to were all baptized. In this baptism they had symbolized Christ's death and burial. Bringing all of this together Paul states that all of them were in like manner raised with Christ as a new creature just as he was raised from the dead after his crucifixion. Paul will elaborate more on this idea in the verses to follow.
Baptism is not an option if one wants to be obedient to God. Paul told the Thessalonians that all those that did not show obedience to the gospel or good newsofGod'sSonwouldbepunishedby His Son. Baptism is the centerpiece then of the new life that is found in Christ. As a side note to this issue one must also recognize that it is in baptism that ones sins are forgiven (Acts 2:38) and that it is in Christ Jesus that all spiritual blessings are found (Eph. 1:3). Within these verses considered one sees that it is through their baptism that they are put into Christ and thus have access to those spiritual blessings.
In our world that promotes skepticism and uncertainty we must all take comfort in witnessing the simple message of Christ with our own eyes as we examine the sacred test. If you are reading this article and have not been baptized into Christ then you need to do whatever it takes to ensure that that takes place. Brethren, may we always remember the great sacrifice and resurrection of our Lord and Master.