Chapter 20 – Romans 6 Atonement Passages

Author: Kevin George

This book is a work in progress. Posts on this blog are to enable readers to examine the manuscript and make commentary. These blog posts are NOT the final version!

This chapter will review the verses in Romans 6 which relate to atonement, reconciliation, righteousness and the claims of Penal Substitution.

“So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus. 12 Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, to make you obey its passions. 13 Do not present your members to sin as instruments for unrighteousness, but present yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life, and your members to God as instruments for righteousness. 14 For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace” Romans 6:11-14 ESV.

In verse 11 we read “consider yourselves dead to sin“. This uses the Greek word “logizesthe”, which is to use reason, to think, to use logic. It is the same word poorly translated “imputed” in Romans chapter 4 regarding faith being “imputed” as righteousness instead of faith reasoning into righteousness. We are not told to impute or transfer the death of Jesus to ourselves! Our logical conclusion ought to be that just as Jesus physically died and obtained victory, so we also die to our sinful desires and obtain victory over sin. We are to copy the pattern, the type, the analogy. There is no option to consider any reasoning about Jesus paying for our sin so we can both live for God and live in sin at the same time. “God forbid!” (Verse 2).

In this great chapter Paul continues his effort to explain why the genuine follower of Jesus Christ does not need to be concerned with the Mosaic law. This is not because law itself no longer matters and no longer exists, but rather it is because a follower of Christ is supposed to be dead toward sin and therefore does not need to have laws to govern moral choices. Paul explains this by picturing sin, not as a sin nature but personified as a slave master, Mr. Sin. Those who die to Mr. Sin no longer serve him because they have chosen to serve another master, the God and Father of our master (lord) Messiah Jesus. “We who are dead to Mr. Sin no longer live according to his dictates…because he who is dead to Mr. Sin is free from Mr. Sin. The wages of Mr. Sin is death, but God gives us the gift of eternal life in our master and Messiah, Jesus” (verses 2, 7, and 23, transliterated).

Jesus himself is an example of this principle in verses 9-10. In this passage, a personified Mr. Death once had dominion over the human person Christ, but now that he has died, Mr. Death no longer has dominion over him. Therefore just as Jesus is no longer subject to Mr. Death, so we also, if we are dead, are no longer subject to the dominion of Mr. Sin.

“We know that Christ, being raised from the dead, will never die again; death no longer has dominion over him. 10 For the death he died he died to sin, once for all, but the life he lives he lives to God. 11 So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus.” Romans 6:9-11 ESV

One point should be made here, that a slave master can give orders, but those to whom the orders are given do not always obey the orders. A slave has the option to refuse to obey, even though there may be consequences to that refusal. Thus, even when we were slaves to sin we still had some ability to refuse to comply with the sinful demands of our flesh. There are people who are lost and without God, yet are able to overcome sinful addictions. These may be few, they they cannot be denied. Slaves are not robots who cannot rebel.

After being pictured as dead to sin we are pictured as “slaves of righteousness” (verse 18). But just as a slave of sin is still capable of occasionally resisting evil and doing right, so also can a slave of righteousness occasionally choose to disobey this good master and choose to sin. This is an important observation to make because PSA teachers often picture unbelievers as being slaves to sin to such a degree that they have no will of their own and are incapable of making any choice, including the ability to choose to believe in the righteous message of the gospel. But this is flatly false. The Bible always has God demanding that evil people turn from sin and do right. The choice is real and should not be denied.

Penal Substitution Atonement has problems with this chapter because:

  1. Sin is not a nature, it is a personal choice. The sinner is not a robot with no ability to refuse to sin.
  2. The genuine Christian has made a real choice to die to sin, which is to stop sinning, and has become a follower, an imitator, of Christ. This choice is not optional.
  3. Morality based on the Mosaic law does not apply to the Christian, as the Christian is genuinely striving to be a faithful follower of Christ.
  4. There can be no such thing as “I believe that Jesus paid for my sin, therefore I can live lawlessly, continuing in sin.” We are either in Christ and dead to sin, or we are not in Christ. (Granted, there may be questions regarding what happens when a believer strays from being a good follower, but that is not the subject matter of this chapter. Paul is arguing from the point of what is supposed to happen, not dealing with the “what if…” scenarios.)