The Christian Walk: Lesson 13: Walk in Newness of Life

The Christian Walk: Lesson 13: Walk in Newness of Life

  1. Text:  Rom 6:4
  2. Background and context
    1. In Romans chapter six, Paul is arguing against the idea that believers should “continue in sin that grace may abound” (Rom 6:1). This antinomian[1] doctrine was leading people astray. One should not conclude that, since grace abounds to cover our sins (cf. 5:20), believers are free to sin so they can experience more grace. Paul’s response to such an argument is, “God forbid!!” Paul asserts that believers have “died to sin” (a point-in-time experience, at salvation, 6:2) and cannot therefore live in habitual, unrepentant sin any more. The availability of God’s super-abundant grace should in no way encourage ongoing sin in the life of one who has experienced such grace.
    2. Paul goes on to argue that believers were “baptized into [Christ’s] death” (6:3), probably referring to the union that believers have with Christ in his death. Christians “die” to their former way of living and cannot remain in that lifestyle.
    3. The spiritual reality Paul spoke of is that by faith believers are “baptized (placed) into Christ” and thereby are united and identified with Him. This spiritual reality is then graphically witnessed to and pictured by believers’ baptism in water. The one baptism (by water) is the visible picture of the spiritual truth of the other baptism (identification with Christ; cf. Gal. 3:27, “baptized into Christ … clothed with Christ”).[2]
    4. Just as Christ was raised from the dead by the majestic power of the Father, so every believer has experienced a spiritual resurrection from the old life to the new by that same power.
    5. To “walk in newness of life” means that one has made a complete break from his former sinful lifestyle and is living as a spiritually resurrected individual. New life is a radical and instantaneous transformation … from one life context to another.[3] No genuine believer could affirm the idea that a continuation of the sinful, pre-conversion lifestyle is appropriate after one’s experience of salvation (cf. 2 Cor 5:17). Continuation in sin does not cause grace to abound; it merely verifies that one is still spiritually dead and has not been freed from sin’s tyranny (Eph 2:1).
    6. The word “newness” in this case has nothing to do with time. The emphasis is on the quality of life, not the length of it. The Christian life is “new” in its contrast with the old, pre-conversion lifestyle. The new life is one dedicated no longer to sin but to the glory of God.[4] Sin no longer has dominion over the believer (6:14).
    7. Just as Christ was raised from the dead (physically), so believers are raised from the dead (spiritually) and now enjoy a new quality of life. Believers must conduct themselves (walk) in a way that is consistent with their new spiritual status.
    8. Thus, anyone who continues in sin (6:1) and lives in it (6:2) was apparently not baptized into Christ’s death (i.e., saved, 6:3) and raised to spiritual life (6:4). Believers have died to sin and have risen with Christ (cf. Col 3:1). They must now “walk in newness of life” as evidence that this spiritual transformation has occurred.
    9. This “newness of life” suggests
      1. New spirit (or Spirit) as opposed to the “oldness of the letter” (Rom 7:6)
      2. New principles are defining one’s life; new goals guide one’s behavior (Col 3:10).
      3. New power enables us “both to will and to do of his good pleasure” (Phil 2:13, cf. Phil 3:10).
      4. New fruit becomes evident in one’s life (Gal 5:22).

Quote:  We should rise with Christ to a new life; and having been made dead to sin, as he was dead in the grave, so should we rise to a holy life, as he rose from the grave. … By our very baptism, by our very profession, we have become dead to sin, as Christ became dead; and being devoted to him by that baptism, we are bound to rise as he did to a new life.[5]

  1. Related issues
    1. Conversion is the beginning of “new” life.
      1. A multitude of biblical passages bears witness to the fact that conversion marks the beginning of a new life. Read Ezek 36:26–27; John 3:7;2 Cor 5:17;Gal 6:15;Eph 4:22–24;1 Pet 1:23
      2. The old, pre-conversion lifestyle is not appropriate for one who has experienced conversion to Christ. Read Rom 6:6, 15, 17-18;Gal 5:13;  Col 3:9-10
      3. This “newness of life” will be marked by practical evidence (as found in 1 John)

a)                  Walking in the light (1:6-7). They display Christ-like behaviors and attitudes.


b)                  Sensitivity toward sin. They confess and forsake it (1:8-10).

c)                  Obedience to Christ’s commands (2:3-5, 29). The general trend or pattern in a genuine believer’s life is obedience, not rebellion and unrighteousness.

d)                 Affection for the things of God rather than the things of the world (2:15-17).

e)                  Love other believers (3:10-15, 5:1-2). Genuine believers find true fellowship with other believers rather than with the unsaved crowd.

f)                   Commitment to a doctrinally-sound church (2:19). True believers maintain unity with a group of orthodox believers in a church.

g)                  Affirmation of sound doctrine (2:20-23). They are orthodox in belief and behavior.

h)                  Holiness of life (2:29, 3:6-9). They are not sinless, but they are striving to cease from sin and follow the Lord.

  1. If old things are not passed away and if all things have not become new, then questions arise regarding the legitimacy of one’s faith.
  2. Antinomianism
    1. The NT tells us repeatedly that Christians are not under the OT law (read Rom 6:14, 7:6, 8:2, 10:4; Gal 5:1; Col 2:14). The OT stipulations ended with the death and resurrection of Christ and with the establishment of the NT church. We live under the “law of Christ” (Gal 6:2; cf. 1 Cor 9:21), not the Law of Moses.
    2. Some today misunderstand and/or misapply this truth. By equating the OT law with “rules” in general, they conclude that Christians need not concern themselves with rules. They argued that, since the OT law was a list of rules, and since we are not under the OT law, then rule-keeping of any kind must not be a part of NT Christianity. They allege that freedom from the law as a way of salvation brings with it freedom from God’s moral law as a guide to conduct.[6]
    3. Antinomian statements

a)                  Salvation affects the soul only; thus, bodily behavior is irrelevant both to God’s interest and to the soul’s health.

b)                  The Holy Spirit’s inward promptings deny any need to be taught by the law how to live.

c)                  God sees no sin in believers because they are in Christ, who kept the law for them, and therefore what they actually do makes no difference (as long as they keep believing in Jesus).

d)                 Keeping the moral law is no longer necessary because we live in the age of grace, not of law.

e)                  The Bible is little more than one of many channels of God’s revelation to us and has no authority until an existential experience verifies it to us personally.

f)                   Love is all that God now requires of Christians, and the commands of the Scripture are mere rules of thumb for loving, rules that love may at any time disregard.

  1. Obviously, antinomian thinking is dangerous for a number of reasons.

a)                  It wrongly equates the OT law with rule-keeping and implies that the termination of the one demands the termination of the other.

b)                  It fails to apply “the law of Christ,” which is essentially the teachings (including commands) of the NT. Rule-keeping (i.e., obedience) is still required of the Christian even though the OT rules no longer apply (unless affirmed in the NT). Cf. 1 John 2:3-4.

c)                  It fails to recognize the difference between the eternal, unchanging moral law of God and the specific stipulations of the OT Mosaic code.

(1)               In contrast to the Mosaic code, which emphasized rituals and works, the law of Christ emphasizes grace and love (cf. John 1:17, 13:34; 1 Jn 4:10-11). We serve “in the newness of the Spirit and not in the oldness of the letter” (Rom 7:6). The law of Christ covers all areas of the believer’s life just as the Mosaic code did for the OT believer. It has much in common with the OT law.

(2)               Rule-keeping does not save. However, we demonstrate our love for Christ by obeying his commandments (cf. 1 John 2:3-4). Obedience is the result, not the cause, of salvation.

(3)               Christianity is much more than a list of rules, but we cannot deny that Christianity contains rules and standards of behavior.

  1. Antinomianism ultimately excuses sinful, rebellious, worldly living. It completely undermines the moral imperatives of the Christian life.[7]The only reason anyone would affirm antinomianism would be that he wants to “continue in sin.” Yet Paul argues fervently against this kind of thing: “Use not liberty for an occasion to the flesh” (Gal 5:13). Freedom from the OT law is not a license to sin.

 

 


[1] Literally “against law”; the idea that believers in Christ are not under law and thus are free to do whatever they want, including sin with abandon.

[2] John F. Walvoord, Roy B. Zuck and Dallas Theological Seminary, The Bible Knowledge Commentary: An Exposition of the Scriptures (Wheaton, IL: Victor Books, 1985), Ro 6:3–4.

[3] John MacArthur, F., Jr, Wayne A. Mack and Master’s College, Introduction to Biblical Counseling: Basic Guide to the Principles and Practice of Counseling, Electronic ed. (Dallas, TX: Word Pub., 1997), 125.

[4] William Hendriksen and Simon J. Kistemaker, vol. 12-13, Exposition of Paul’s Epistle to the Romans, New Testament Commentary (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1953-2001), 196.

[5] Barnes Notes

[6] J. I. Packer, Concise Theology: A Guide to Historic Christian Beliefs (Wheaton, IL: Tyndale House, 1993). Much of the following material is from Packer.

[7] Carl R. Trueman, “Reformed Orthodoxy in Britain” in  vol. 14, Southern Baptist Journal of Theology Volume 14, ed. Stephen J. Wellum, 4 (Lousville, KY: Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, 2010), 10.

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