It may come as a great shock to many disciples of Messiah to find that part of who we are, a component of our salvation in fact, and an identifying birthmark of new life, is suffering.
An examination of Romans 6
6:1 What shall we say then, “Let’s keep on sinning, so that there can be more chesed (mercy, loving kindness, grace)”? 2 A curse on it! How can we, who have died to sin, still live by it?
It’s safe to assume an air of incredulity in Paul/Shaul’s words as he rebukes the foolish notion that intentional sin gives birth to mercy. It’s the motivation behind this idea that is being addressed, the statement itself is just one of many false assumptions that the wicked will propose in contradiction to the truth of life in Messiah.
Notice that Romans six doesn’t begin with a “therefore,” this is because it is a continuation of the dialogue of the previous chapter. The original Greek text did not include chapter headings and verse markers. As we progress we will find that the “therefore” of the current chapter comes much later in the chapter and returns our attention to the present verses.
What we must keep in mind as we begin this chapter is that the concepts of original sin and the passing on of a sin addiction to humanity by Adam, are about be re-addressed and illuminated through the death and resurrection of Messiah. When we read of the “Old humanity,” we should understand the sin addiction which has perpetuated itself from Adam.
3 Don’t you know that those of us who have been immersed into the Messiah Yeshua have been immersed into his death?
The practice of immersion in the mikvah (ritual bath) was part of daily Jewish religion for centuries prior to the birth of Messiah. This allegory is a powerful one for the Jewish mind. Some have rightly stated that the specific immersion being spoken of here is that of Messiah’s death, however this does not negate the intrinsic symbolism of the traditional Jewish mikvah as a platform for understanding what Shaul/Paul is trying to convey by the Ruach ha-Kodesh (Holy Spirit).
Note that had Paul only meant for this to refer to death he would not have said, “those of us who have (past tense) been immersed into Messiah Yeshua,” he is clearly speaking to immersed/baptized believers here.
The mikvah was (and is) used for the cleansing of a woman’s body post menstruation, for the cleansing of a man’s body post nocturnal emission, for preparation in anticipation of the weekly Shabbat by devout orthodox men and for numerous other cleansing rituals. Immersion also plays a central part, along with circumcision, in the conversion of a gentile into the religion of Judaism.
It is important to note that Judaism prefers full immersion to sprinkling except when specifically required by the Torah for certain functions such as anointing vessels, homes and with regard to oil used for anointing Priests and Kings.
It is clear from Scripture that bodies of water are widely understood as a metaphor for death and in many cases the children of G-d pass through and or are brought out of the waters. Some examples are: Noah and the flood, Moses and Israel passing through the Sea of Reeds, Jonah the prophet cast into the deep and thrown up onto dry land after three days (Jonah was physically dead inside the great fish, his prayer was prayed from sheol—Jonah 2:2), and Peter the disciple of Yeshua who having sunk beneath the waves was lifted out of the raging waters by the Messiah. This adds weight to what Paul/Shaul is asking his listeners to identify with here.
Immersion is also an accepted cleansing process, be it by fire, water or indeed death itself. Whatever takes place in death is revealed in the resurrected life. When we are immersed into the death of Messiah we are immersed through Him into death. This means we are taking on not only the characteristics of His resurrected self but we are also, prior to this, identifying with His suffering self. We cannot live a resurrected life without first having suffered with Him through a crucified life. This is not to say that we can earn our resurrection through our own suffering, on the contrary, it is only through His suffering that our suffering finds meaning.
Messiah chose to die, He denied Himself and took up the instrument of His death. We are being asked by Shaul/Paul to identify with this. It may come as a great shock to many disciples of Messiah that part of who we are, a component of our very salvation in fact, and an identifying birth mark of new life, is suffering.
“He was despised and rejected by humanity,
A man of sorrows, familiar with anxiety and mourning;
And like one from whom people hide their faces
He was despised, and we did not honor Him.”
- Yishaiyahu/Isaiah 53:3 (AJBV)
Am I saying that we should chase after suffering? A curse on it! But we should be prepared to endure it if HaShem has purposed it for His glory. I didn’t say we had to enjoy it, I said we should be prepared to endure it.
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.
Burial is the end of a physical life, a separation, but not a separation outside of HaShem, rather it is a temporary separation inside of HaShem. The physical separation of death here makes way for a metamorphosis, a metaphysical translation. That is, our new person takes on the minerals found in the soil of Messiah’s death and Messiah in us forms an intrinsic part of who we become in a spiritual resurrection. Not only are we spiritually transformed by the glory of G-d in Messiah, we also await a physical resurrection from the dead at the end of the age. Of course the one exception to this is for those who are still physically alive upon Messiah’s return, Shaul/Paul says elsewhere, “We shall not all die but we shall all be changed.” (1 Corinthians 15:51)
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 humanity was put to death on the cross with Him, so that the body of offense might be destroyed, and we might no longer be servants of sin. 7 For someone who has died has been freed from sin.
Barukh HaShem! Here we are being given the seal to the promised good news that does away with the imputed addiction of original sin. The sin addicted body of the old humanity (permeated with the results of Adam’s rebellion) has been put to death on the cross of Messiah—He bore our transgressions. The entire body of our offence has been destroyed, not just covered but also wiped out completely. We have been emancipated, we are no longer servants to our previous master, sin. Having died with Messiah, metaphorically, and in another sense metaphysically, we are now free.
8 Now since we died with the Messiah, we emunah (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.
Since we have (past tense) already died with Messiah, we trust that we will (present and future tense) also live with Him. Having been spiritually resurrected already, we also trust in G-d and look forward to the physical resurrection of the dead at the last day, when not only will we no longer live by sin, we will also no longer live in a sin affected creation.
Once again we must turn our eyes to Messiah. All that we have become is only because of who He is and what He has done. Messiah has died and has been raised from the dead, never to die again! Why “never to die again?” Many of Israel’s prophets and even Messiah Himself had raised people from the dead: what makes Messiah different is that He will never return to the grave, in fact He holds the keys to death and hades in His hands. Yeshua has authority over death.
“Do not be afraid; I am the first and the last, 18 and the living One; and I was dead, and behold, I am alive forevermore, and I have the keys of death and of Hades.”
- Revelation 1:17-18
10 For Messiah died once bearing sin; but now He lives, He lives for G-d. 11 In the same way, consider yourselves to be dead to sin but alive for God, by your union with the Messiah Yeshua.
Messiah died once and now lives for G-d. We are to consider ourselves to have died once and to be dead to the old master sin. We are now alive in and for G-d through our having been united with Messiah.
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 G-d as people raised from the dead, and your various parts to G-d as instruments for righteousness. 14 For sin will not have authority over you; because you are not beneath Torah but are beneath grace.
Is Paul/Shaul contradicting himself here? He has just said we are considered dead to sin and now he warns us not to sin. How can we be dead to something and yet be in danger of continuing in it?
Note the use of the terminology “mortal bodies.” We have been spiritually redeemed in Messiah but our mortal bodies will still receive the consequences of our temporal sin, one day we will physically die. The difference in those of us who have received the gift of G-d is that we are no longer servants to sin but are servants to G-d. We no longer live by sin but we still live in a sin affected creation (which crys out for reconciliation).
Because we live in an environment that is permeated with sin (rebellion) we will continue to be tempted by sin. Therefore we must be aware of our surroundings and prepared to rely on our new Master, G-d Himself—in Messiah—for the strength to keep our mortal bodies from acting in the manner of the old humanity which has now died. This is not the same as attempting to earn salvation, to the contrary, the motivation of our heart to be intentional in keeping the Torah that is within us is proof of our having received chesed (grace), not out of obligation but simply as a type of metaphysical organic process. We no longer need a tank of Torah oxygen to aid our lungs because our lungs have been completely rejuvenated and are able to breathe Torah fluidly in order to filter out the sinful inclination—yetzer ha-ra—of the old humanity.
15 Therefore, what conclusion should we come to? “Let’s go on sinning, because we’re not beneath Torah but we are beneath chesed (grace)?” A curse on it!
Here is the “therefore,” Paul/Shaul restates the opening statement of this chapter with the same incredulity. Some have said, “We are no longer under Torah, therefore we don’t need to worry about obeying it.” What nonsense, the reason we are no longer beneath the Torah is because Torah now lives in us through Messiah. Obedience is the fruit of trust. We are not saved for the purpose of breaking the Torah, nor are we saved by keeping it’s instructions, rather we are saved by the Instructor Himself and live in His Instruction (Torah), not by it.
Once we lived by sin and in sin and outside of the Torah, now we live in Messiah by His resurrection and the Torah lives inside us. Therefore we are not beneath Torah but beneath chesed (loving kindness).
16 Don’t you know that if you present yourselves to someone to serve them, then you become a servant of the one whom you are obeying, you are servants — whether of sin, which leads to death, or of obedience, which leads to being made righteous?
We were once servants of sin which led to both physical and spiritual death. Now that we have been delivered from eternal spiritual death we must be intentional in our avoidance of those things that reflect a sin mastered life to others. We are being warned not to allow ourselves to return to the bondage of our old master like those who having left Egypt, complained to Moses, asking to return again to their bondage.
17 By God’s chesed (grace, mercy, loving kindness), you who were once servants of 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 servants of righteousness.
The pattern of teaching we have believed and accepted is that of the Good News (Gospel) concerning Yeshua the Messiah. Our obedience comes from a heart of trust in G-d. We have (past tense) been freed from our old master sin and have now become servants/slaves to our new master righteousness Himself, ha-tzadik (The Righteous One, Yeshua). We are slaves because He purchased us, we are servants because He chose us, we are hired servants because we accepted His offer of remuneration, we are grateful slaves because we have been accepted as members of the commonwealth of His family Israel.
19 (I’m using physical analogies because your human nature is so weak.)
Simply put, as infants in Messiah we are in need of physical allegories in order to hone our spiritual vision.
For just as you used to offer your various parts as servants to impurity and lawlessness (anti-Torah), which led to more lawlessness (anti-Torah); so now offer your various parts as servants to righteousness, which leads to being made holy, set apart for God.
We used to follow an anti-Torah, giving our mortal body parts over to its use. Now the Torah in us inspires us to use our bodies for right action as we are being set apart, we are a light to the nations for G-d’s good purpose.
20 For when you were servants of sin, you were free from righteousness;
We should soberly contemplate this, after all, separation from HaShem (not that anything can exist outside of Him but rather that He seals it off from Himself within Himself) is the greatest terror of the human soul. Hell is just a word, the reality of being sealed in spiritual darkness is much worse than any earthly language could ever convey.
21 but what benefit did you derive from the things of which you are now ashamed? The end result of those things was death.
When we look back we are not condemned, but we would be fools not to be embarrassed by our lack of self-control and our former pursuit of shameful sinful acts. The end result of those things is both physical and spiritual death. Thank G-d for His great love in His Son our Mashiyach Yeshua!
22 However, now that you are free from sin and have become servants of G-d, you bear fruit for the sake of being made holy, and set apart for G-d, the result is eternal life.
We are set free, we are no longer mastered by sin, we are now servants/slaves of HaShem, we bear fruit (not, you will bear fruit, but “you bear fruit”), we are being (a process) set apart for G-d Himself, He is our reward and our worth, value. The result of what G-d has done for us through Yeshua is life everlasting.
23 For the wages of sin are death; but the gift of G-d is eternal life, in union with the Messiah Yeshua, our Lord.
Death is earned but eternal life is received. And this is only possible in union with Mashiyach Yeshua our Adonai!
© 2014 Yaakov Brown
Spiritual leader of Beth Melekh Community, Auckland, Aotearoa, N.Z.