There is not a change in subject matter between Romans 5 and 6

Reagan wallProtestant readers have been trained to look at gradual shifts or slight slopes as if they were divided into totally different areas. They see walls that aren’t there.

Perhaps I am over-generalizing, but this is certainly true of the way they treat Romans 5 to 6. The non-inspired chapter division is reinforced by an imagined theological compartmentalization. Supposedly Romans 5.11ff i “about imputation” and Romans 6.1ff is “about sanctification.”

But they are plainly both about dominion, both being under it and also being given it.

For if, because of one man’s trespass, death reigned through that one man, much more will those who receive the abundance of grace and the free gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man Jesus Christ (Romans 5:17 ESV).

so that, as sin reigned in death, grace also might reign through righteousness leading to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord (Romans 5:21 ESV).

We know that our old self was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin. For one who has died has been set free from sin (Romans 6:6-7 ESV).

Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, to make you obey its passions (Romans 6:12 ESV).

For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace (Romans 6:14 ESV)

Do you not know that if you present yourselves to anyone as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin, which leads to death, or of obedience, which leads to righteousness? But thanks be to God, that you who were once slaves of sin have become obedient from the heart to the standard of teaching to which you were committed, and, having been set free from sin, have become slaves of righteousness. I am speaking in human terms, because of your natural limitations. For just as you once presented your members as slaves to impurity and to lawlessness leading to more lawlessness, so now present your members as slaves to righteousness leading to sanctification.
For when you were slaves of sin, you were free in regard to righteousness. But what fruit were you getting at that time from the things of which you are now ashamed? For the end of those things is death. But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God, the fruit you get leads to sanctification and its end, eternal life (Romans 6:16-22 ESV).

The two Adams (Adam and Jesus) in Romans 5 remind us of the original Adam who was both given dominion and told to take dominion. His authority came precisely from his status as God’s servant and son. Adam did not take dominion but put himself under the dominion of sin and death. But now that Jesus has suffered death and been exalted with dominion, we can now again serve God and be liberated from Sin, having new authority.

Note that Romans 6.7 says that we have been “justified from sin,” meaning, as the ESV translates, that we have been “set free” from sin. But this is quite similar to the context of Romans 5 and shows that the “justification of life” has at least the connotation of “liberation to life.”

And this thread goes longer in both directions. Paul’s statement that we were once “slaves to impurity and to lawlessness leading to more lawlessness,” is a call back to Romans 1.18ff and the story of how sin led to more sin.

Going the other direction: it is not for nothing that Paul says “we are more than conqueror” in the midst of death (Romans 8.37). Just as Jesus died to reign, so do we. And even previous to that:

For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us. For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God. For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies (Romans 8:18-23 ESV).

Being a child of God is a royal status and Paul reference to our resurrection as adoption reminds us that we, in Christ, are inheriting the dominion promised us.

Romans is consistent throughout that we are no longer slaves but sons because Jesus submitted to death in order to be Lord of the Living and the Dead.

Romans 5.11 through chapter six is no exception; it reiterates the theme and applies it to our lives.

Tear down this wall.

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