It is hard for me to believe that at one time I thought I would finish my translation of Romans before Independence Day. Here it is July 6 and I am not even half-way through. But I am having fun.
Theological Notes: The baptism imagery is key in Romans 6. It feels to me like Paul might be quoting some kind of early baptism liturgy regarding the old way of life as opposed to the new to make his point that sin should not be a natural part of life for the Christ-follower.
There is also a rather pointed sexual reference mid-way through the text that carries through to the end. What most translations render as ‘members’ are, to me, clear references to genitalia. Paul might have something specific in mind, such as men who are frequenting temple prostitution or sexual rituals in connection with pagan practices. I say men because there could be some double entendre with the word “present” which can also mean “stand up.” Instead of getting too graphic, however, I chose to use “body parts” although I don’t mean ears and toes.
For Paul it is all about who you serve. Bob Dylan and Paul would agree that you “Gotta Serve Somebody.” Paul believes there are only two choices–you can serve sin or you can serve Messiah. The payoff for serving sin is death, but the payoff for serving Messiah is eternal life (v. 23).
Paul uses the word “walk” (v. 4) in all its metaphorical richness to describe the life we live after our baptism. Again, I have chosen to use the metaphor walk rather than render it ‘live’ because it seems to me to speak almost as richly as the original metaphor did in the ancient world.
Verses 17 and 18 only make sense if they are interwoven. These were particularly troublesome to get at.
In verse 20 I added the word “responsibility” to help smooth out the rendering. Without adding that or some other word, the meaning is muddled. Paul is trying to say that before we became faithful followers of the Lord, back when we lived as servants of sin, we were free from the requirements of righteousness. Now, however, that we have received grace, we no longer have that luxury, for we are responsible to be righteous, we are responsible for our actions.
1. What shall we say? Should we persist in sin so that grace might increase?
2. Never! We died to sin, how can we now live in it?
3. Do you not know that those of us who were baptized into Messiah Jesus were baptized into his death?
4. Therefore we were buried together with him in death through baptism so that just as Messiah was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, so too we might walk in newness of life.
5. For if we become united in the likeness of his death, we also will have the likeness of resurrection.
6. This we know—that our old person has been crucified together with him—so that he might abolish the sinful body to no longer serve sin.
7. For anyone who has died is freed from sin.
8. If we died with Christ, we believe we will live with him.
9. Knowing that Christ has been raised from the dead, he no longer dies, nor does death any longer hold dominion over him.
10. For when he died, he died to sin once for all. Now that he lives, he lives to God.
11. You also should think of yourselves as dead to sin but alive to God in Messiah Jesus.
12. Therefore, do not obey your desires, letting sin reign in your mortal body.
13. Neither present parts of your body to sin as instruments of unrighteousness, but present your body parts to God as instruments of righteousness, present yourselves to God as if you came back to life from the dead.
14. For sin no longer will have dominion over you, for you are not under law, but grace.
15. What now? Should we sin just because we are not under the law but under grace? Never!
16. Do you not know that when you present yourselves as a servant to anyone in obedience, as a servant you must obey, whether it is sin unto death or obedience unto righteousness?
17&18 But the grace of God is that even though you had been obedient servants of sin, now, having been freed from it, you have given over your hearts to the form of teaching that makes you into servants of righteousness.
19. I speak in simple, everyday human ways because of your weakness. You once presented your body parts enslaved to impurity and lawlessness for the sake of more lawlessness, but now you must present your body parts enslaved to righteousness in holiness.
20. For when you were slaves to sin, you were free from the responsibility to righteousness.
21. What fruit did you have back then? Only those which you are now ashamed, those that lead to death.
22. But now that you have been freed from it and are now serving God, you have your holiness and the resulting eternal life as fruit.
23. For death is the daily wages of sin, but eternal life is the gift of God through Messiah Jesus our Lord.