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Commentary on Romans

by Michael Bugg

Chapter 6

The Purpose of the Mikveh

Rom 6:1  So then, are we to say, "Let's keep on sinning, so that there can be more grace"?

Rom 6:2  Heaven forbid! How can we, who have died to sin, still live in it?

Rom 6:3  Don't you know that those of us who have been immersed into the Messiah Yeshua have been immersed into his death?

Rom 6:4  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.

  1. “Let’s keep on sinning” 
    1. I once had a friend who quoted 6:1 to me, completely unironically.  It is alarming that so many in the Christian community actually think that grace is a license to sin.
    2. Yochanan dealt with this extensively in his writings:

                                                              i.      1Jn 1:6 - If we claim to have fellowship with him while we are walking in the darkness, we are lying and not living out the truth.

                                                            ii.      1Jn 2:4-6 - Anyone who says, "I know him," but isn't obeying his commands is a liar - the truth is not in him.  But if someone keeps doing what he says, then truly love for God has been brought to its goal in him. This is how we are sure that we are united with him.  A person who claims to be continuing in union with him ought to conduct his life the way he did.

                                                          iii.      1Jn 3:4 - Everyone who keeps sinning is violating Torah - indeed, sin is violation of Torah.

  1. “immersed into the Messiah Yeshua” - ἐβαπτίσθημεν - mikveh
    1. John 3:3-5  "Yes, indeed," Yeshua answered him, "I tell you that unless a person is born again from above, he cannot see the Kingdom of God."  Nakdimon said to him, "How can a grown man be `born'? Can he go back into his mother's womb and be born a second time?"  Yeshua answered, "Yes, indeed, I tell you that unless a person is born from water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the Kingdom of God.

                                                              i.      “Born again” was not an idea invented by Yeshua, but one known to Judaism:

1.      R. Yosé says, “A proselyte at the moment of conversion is like a new-born baby.” (b. Yevamot 48b)

2.      Simeon b. Laqish says, “. . . a proselyte is classified as a newborn baby . . .” (ibid., 62a)

3.      “The Gentile that is made a proselyte, and the servant that is made free, behold, he is like a child new born.  And all those relations he had while either Gentile or servant, they now cease from being so.”  (Maimonides, Issure Biah, cap. 14)

                                                            ii.      However, He did put a new spin on it:  It was not enough to simply be born Jewish; one must undergo as radical a conversion as when a Gentile “died” in the waters of the mikveh and was “reborn” as a Jew when he came out.

                                                          iii.      Ritual immersion provides a clean break between the old life and the new, as we will discuss below.

    1. Col 2:11-12 - Also it was in union with him that you were circumcised with a circumcision not done by human hands, but accomplished by stripping away the old nature's control over the body. In this circumcision done by the Messiah, you were buried along with him by being immersed; and in union with him, you were also raised up along with him by God's faithfulness that worked when he raised Yeshua from the dead . . .

                                                              i.      Does this passage, as many Christians contend, replace circumcision with baptism?  No.

1.      That Jews should continue to circumcise their children was clearly still very important to the Apostles (Acts 21:20ff).

2.      One has to reject at least one of two clear Biblical teachings in order to hold to infant baptism:

a.       That we are not born into the Messiah's Covenant (as one is into the Abrahamic and Mosaic Covenants), but are re-born into it (Jn. 3).

b.      Those who are immersed (baptized) are identifying themselves with the Messiah's death--i.e., dying to self--and are being raised again with Him into a new life in which one is dedicated to God (Col. 2:10-12, Gal. 3:27). An infant hasn't got an "old life" to die to yet.

  1. 1Co 10:1f - For, brothers, I don't want you to miss the significance of what happened to our fathers. All of them were guided by the pillar of cloud, and they all passed through the sea, and in connection with the cloud and with the sea they all immersed themselves into Moshe . . .
    1. While Israel was set free from Pharaoh in the Passover and protected by the sentence of death by the blood of the lamb, it was not until “they all passed through the sea” that they actually left Egypt itself.
    2. “immersed themselves into Moshe” – immersed themselves under Moshe’s authority and leadership, as we are immersed into Messiah
    3. Is “baptism” necessary for salvation?

                                                              i.      On the one hand, Israel was set free at the Passover.

                                                            ii.      On the other hand, Israel did not have a “clean break” with Egypt until it crossed the Red Sea and left Egyptian soil. 

1.      Pharaoh still came after them.

                                                          iii.      In the same way, we are redeemed when we first put the blood of the Lamb on the doorposts of our hearts by faith, but our mikveh formally takes us out of Egypt, symbolizing the world.

                                                          iv.      As with any ritual, water immersion is to be a symbolic way of acting out what is going on inside of us spiritually.  The water has no power to save; it is simply the symbol that we have been redeemed and have started a new life that we live to Messiah.

Our Resurrection Like Messiah’s

Rom 6:5  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.

  1. Sha’ul explores this theme extensively in 1Co. 15:
    1. 1Co 15:20-24 - But the fact is that the Messiah has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have died.  For since death came through a man, also the resurrection of the dead has come through a man.  For just as in connection with Adam all die, so in connection with the Messiah all will be made alive.  But each in his own order: the Messiah is the firstfruits; then those who belong to the Messiah, at the time of his coming; then the culmination, when he hands over the Kingdom to God the Father, after having put an end to every rulership, yes, to every authority and power.

                                                              i.      Yeshua was raised on the Feast of Firstfruits, in which the firstfruits of the barley harvest were offered to God.

                                                            ii.      The parallelism:

1.      One didn’t offer barley as the firstfruits of the wheat harvest, nor wheat for the firstfruits of the grape harvest – one offers the same sort of fruit as is about to be harvested.

2.      Therefore, since Yeshua was raised bodily from the dead, and His body glorified and made immortal, we too will have the same sort of Resurrection.

a.       1Jn 3:2 - Dear friends, we are God's children now; and it has not yet been made clear what we will become. We do know that when he appears, we will be like him; because we will see him as he really is.

Freedom From Sin

Rom 6:6  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.

  1.  “old self”; lit. “old man”
    1. Phrase used only by Sha’ul (cf. Eph 4:22; Col 3:9)
    2. Here again we see the theme that our lives before we came to Messiah were, figuratively and spiritually speaking, lived by another person (see VWS).  Since we are a whole new person, we should not be enslaved by the sins of the old person.
  2. Crucifixion of the old self
    1. “put to death on the execution stake” is lit. “crucified”—Stern infers “putting to death” but it is evident that for many the “old man” is still alive on its cross, as seen below
    2. “might be destroyed” = καταργηθῇ

                                                              i.      Destroyed does not mean annihilated, but is literally, “to down-idle,” that is, “to make completely idle,” “to abolish,” or “to make of no effect”

1.      Rom 3:31 - Does it follow that we abolish (καταργοῦμεν) Torah by this trusting? Heaven forbid! On the contrary, we confirm Torah.

                                                            ii.      Verb is aorist, passive, and subjunctive; i.e., “may or may not be destroyed from outside in the past, present, or future”

1.      The destruction is not a given; the subjunctive tense means it may or may not happen.

    1. Therefore, when we come to Messiah, our old self is crucified—immobilized and held up for contempt—but the complete abolition of its power to lead us into sin is not a given; we must turn from sin day-by-day

Dying to Sin

Rom 6:7  For someone who has died has been cleared from sin.

Rom 6:8  Now since we died with the Messiah, we trust that we will also live with him.

Rom 6:9  We know that the Messiah has been raised from the dead, never to die again; death has no authority over him.

Rom 6:10  For his death was a unique event that need not be repeated; but his life, he keeps on living for God.

Rom 6:11  In the same way, consider yourselves to be dead to sin but alive for God, by your union with the Messiah Yeshua.

  1. “someone who has died has been cleared from sin”
    1. “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 (Sanhedron 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 y’khuphar, ‘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.”  (Stern, Commentary 373)
  2. “his death was a unique event,”
    1. so in the same way, our “death” with Him is a unique event that does not need repeating.
    2. We do not lose our salvation when we stumble.
  3. “consider yourselves dead to sin”
    1. Sha’ul tells us to take the attitude of being dead to sin even though we still struggle with sin; the attitudinal shift is vital for living “under grace”
  4. “but alive for God”
    1. As Yeshua serves the Father eternally and perfectly, we seek to emulate His example

“Do Not Go Down to Egypt”

Rom 6:12  Therefore, do not let sin rule in your mortal bodies, so that it makes you obey its desires;

Rom 6:13  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.

Rom 6:14  For sin will not have authority over you; because you are not under legalism but under grace.

  1. “do not let sin rule”
    1. The King of Israel “is not to acquire many horses for himself or have the people return to Egypt to obtain more horses, inasmuch as ADONAI told you never to go back that way again” (Deu 17:16).
    2. When Israel was beset by enemies, she often turned to Egypt for help.

                                                              i.      2Ki 18:21 - Now look! Relying on Egypt is like using a broken stick as a staff - when you lean on it, it punctures your hand. That's what Pharaoh king of Egypt is like for anyone who puts his trust in him.

    1. In the same way, followers of Yeshua often return to old sinful patterns, especially under stress.  Sha’ul here commands us not to, in line with the Torah.

                                                              i.      When Israel turned back to Egypt, she became beholden to Egypt, in effect becoming a slave again.

                                                            ii.      In the same way, when we return to old sinful patterns, it’s like we too returned to the land in which we were a slave rather than accept the responsibilities of free men.

  1. “not under legalism but under grace”
    1. “under” (ὑπὸ) = “under the authority of” or “controlled by”

                                                              i.      Prophets spoke “under the Lord” (lit. in Mat. 1:22, 2:15) and “under the Holy Spirit” (2Pt 1:21)

                                                            ii.      Mat 8:9 - “For I too am a man under authority. I have soldiers under me, and I say to this one, `Go!' and he goes; to another, `Come!' and he comes; to my slave, `Do this!' and he does it."

    1. “under grace” means to be “controlled by grace” or “beholden to grace”

                                                              i.      Again, in the 1

st Century world, a person who received a great charis from a benefactor was thereafter beholden to be loyal to and trust in that benefactor, or else he dishonored the benefactor and himself.

    1. “Controlled by grace” is put in opposition to being “controlled by the law” (cf. Gal. 3:23, 4:4 [where Messiah is “under the law”], 4:5, 4:21, 5:18)

                                                              i.      Note that Sha’ul’s unexplained use here in Romans suggests that he expected them to already be familiar with Galatians

    1. However, “controlled by grace” is not put in opposition to being “in the law”

                                                              i.      Rom 3:19 – Moreover, we know that whatever the Torah says, it says to those living within the framework of the Torah (ἐν τῷ νόμῳ), in order that every mouth may be stopped and the whole world be shown to deserve God's adverse judgment.

                                                            ii.      1Co 9:21 - With those who live outside the framework of Torah (ἀνόμοις, lit “lawless” or “wicked”), I put myself in the position of someone outside the Torah in order to win those outside the Torah - although I myself am not outside the framework of God's Torah but within the framework of Torah (ἔννομος) as upheld by the Messiah.

    1. The distinction:

                                                              i.      “under the law” (“under legalism”) is to attempt to be justified by it rather than by God’s grace:

1.      Gal 5:4 - You who are trying to be declared righteous by God through legalism have severed yourselves from the Messiah! You have fallen away from God's grace!

2.      Sadly, many Messianics, in discovering a zeal for the Torah, do fall into this trap, judging our Sunday brethren to be “unsaved” because they do not follow certain parts of the Torah (the ceremonial commands).

3.      This is why recognizing that God judges us by our response to the light we are given is so important.

                                                            ii.      “in the Torah” is, as Stern translates it, living within the framework of the Torah, which we who are “controlled by grace” should do out of the loyalty we owe to the one who gave us Torah!

Just One Little Sin

Rom 6:15  Therefore, what conclusion should we reach? "Let's go on sinning, because we're not under legalism but under grace"? Heaven forbid!

  1. “sinning”
    1. "The verb in verse one is in the present subjunctive, speaking of habitual, continuous action. The verb in verse fifteen is in the aorist subjunctive, referring to a single act." (Wuest)
    2. “One little sin” is also forbidden to us. 

                                                              i.      1Jn 3:4 - Everyone who keeps sinning is violating Torah - indeed, sin is violation of Torah.

Choosing Our Master

Rom 6:16  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?

Rom 6:17  By God's grace, you, who were once slaves to sin, obeyed from your heart the pattern of teaching to which you were exposed;

Rom 6:18  and after you had been set free from sin, you became enslaved to righteousness.

Rom 6:19  (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.

Rom 6:20  For when you were slaves of sin, you were free in relationship to righteousness;

Rom 6:21  but what benefit did you derive from the things of which you are now ashamed? The end result of those things was death.

Rom 6:22  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.

Rom 6:23  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.

  1. Each of us, every human being, must make a choice:  Who will we accept as our master?
    1. Sin, and through it the one who leads us to sin, the Adversary?
    2. Or grace, and the One who gives us this grace, the Eternal God?
    3. There is no third option: 

                                                              i.      If we say, “I’ll serve myself,” then we are really choosing to serve sin.

                                                            ii.      If we choose to serve another human being, then we are choosing to serve whatever that person serves.

  1. “slaves to sin”
    1. Eph 2:1-3 - You used to be dead because of your sins and acts of disobedience.  You walked in the ways of the 'olam hazeh and obeyed the Ruler of the Powers of the Air, who is still at work among the disobedient.  Indeed, we all once lived this way - we followed the passions of our old nature and obeyed the wishes of our old nature and our own thoughts. In our natural condition we were headed for God's wrath, just like everyone else.

                                                              i.      The three sources of sin:

1.      Walking in the ways of the present world, “obey[ing] from your heart the pattern of teaching to which you were exposed”

2.      Obeying the Adversary

3.      Following the passions of our old nature

    1. “free in relationship to righteousness”

                                                              i.      That is, did not feel the compulsion, the pangs of conscience, which now convict us when we sin.

                                                            ii.      But nevertheless were following our master into death.

  1. “enslaved to righteousness . . . and God”
    1. Examples

                                                              i.      Like Eleazar, who willingly served Abraham all his life

                                                            ii.      Like the talmidim, who willingly followed Yeshua wherever He went

    1. Thus we are set apart, not only for service in this life, but the reward of a joyous service in the World to Come and throughout Eternity



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