The apostle Paul was constantly misunderstood and falsely accused for preaching justification by faith by preaching the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ. Many speculations and lofty imaginations were raised up against the knowledge of God and His gospel. Paul's ministry was one of persuasion where he used the Word of God to destroy speculations and persuade men of the truth.
The constant attack against the gospel and against Paul's preaching was that he was giving a license to sin and was preaching against the Law if the gospel was true. However, nothing could be farther from the truth! So the speculation was reared by the legalistic Jews and it was rejected by the apostle Paul and then refuted by Paul.
The speculation reared against the Gospel of God (Romans 6:1) – Justification is so free and easy that it appears as that which will give a license to sin – it especially looks that way to the legalist. So the legalist rears up the speculation against the Gospel of God and accuses the Gospel of that which gives a license to sin.
The speculation rejected by the apostle Paul (Romans 6:2) – “May it never be!” Justification is not that which gives a license to sin and therefore there is no way that justification is against the Law – justification, the legal and actual declaration of righteousness in Christ, never fails to issue in sanctification – “How shall we who died to sin still live in it?”
The speculation refuted by the explanation of the Gospel pictured in baptism (Romans 6:2-11).
First, baptism pictures that we died to sin (Romans 6:2-7). In what sense have we died to sin? We have become united to Him. By God’s doing we are in Christ Jesus – God establishes a union between us and Christ so that His death is our death. This is in direct correlation to how we were united to Adam so that his disobedience is our disobedience and his condemnation is our condemnation. Those who are in Christ Jesus through faith in Him died with Him on the cross – His death was our death and God sees it as such and so do we (Romans 6:3); those who are in Christ Jesus were buried with Him – His burial was our burial (Romans 6:4); those who are in Christ Jesus have become united with Him in the likeness of His death (Romans 6:5); and those who are in Christ have been crucified with Him and are no longer to be slaves to sin (Romans 6:6-7).
So the outcome of being united to Christ through faith is that we have a new relationship to sin. You can’t go on living in sin because you have died to sin because Christ died to sin and when He died we died with Him. This is based on union through imputation. Anyone who claims to have a new relationship to God through Jesus should ask himself this question: does my professed relationship with Jesus give me a new relationship to sin? Have I died to sin?
It is an impossibility to be united to Christ without becoming a brand new person (2 Corinthians 5:17) because of now having a different relationship to sin – instead of living in it we have died to it. Justification never fails to issue in a person’s death to sin. Before we were saved we all formerly lived in and walked in the lusts of our flesh and indulged in the desires of the flesh and of the mind (Ephesians 2:3). But that is past tense! We were dead [to God] in our trespasses and sins, in which we formerly walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, of the spirit that is now working in the sons of disobedience. Among them we too all formerly lived…(Ephesians 2:1-3).
Since justification never fails to issue in a person’s death to sin it also never fails to issue in sanctification which is a person’s life to God - “But by His doing you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, and righteousness and sanctification, and redemption” (1 Corinthians 1:30). So not only does our union with Christ provide the foundation for our justification; it also provides the foundation for our sanctification. This brings us to our second picture in baptism.
Second, baptism pictures that we are alive to God (Romans 6:8-11). A dead man needs more than anything else a new life principle. This is precisely the purpose of God in the Gospel as He puts us to death to sin in Christ and then raises us up with a new life principle under the Lordship of Christ (Romans 6:4). Here is where our journey of sanctification begins and it contradicts the fallacy that justification through faith gives a license to sin. So perfection is not yet and will not be arrived at in this life.
However, perfection is guaranteed in the future when we see Jesus (Romans 6:5; 1 Corinthians 15:49; Philippians 3:20-21; 1 John 3:2). But that is called glorification and here we are dealing with sanctification.
Baptism not only pictures justification – dying to sin – it also pictures sanctification – living to God – so that we see clearly that baptism contradicts the false notion of easy-believism.
Since baptism pictures that we have died to sin and are alive to God (Romans 6:8-11) then anyone who has been baptized but doesn’t have a new relationship to sin (no longer obeying it and its lusts) also doesn’t have a new relationship to God (obeying Him because we love Him) and his baptism is a sham, he doesn’t know what baptism means, and he doesn’t understand the Gospel.
Do you have a new relationship to God that is proven by your new relationship to sin? Have you died to sin and are you alive to God?