I am slowly getting the Bible Study summaries for the Romans study that took place through the summer and fall of 2012 written up - my goal is one a week. Apologies for the delay. Here is the fourth in the series...
Romans #4 08/17/12
Chapter 6 of Romans gives two key metaphors for the Christian life- death and slavery. Both attempt to illustrate a radically transformed desire.
The chapter starts with the question “Should we continue in sin in order that grace may abound?” That is, what is to stop me sinning if all is now grace? This is human thinking--in response to absolute free of gift of God's love--and Paul grapples with it. Paul answers that those who die to sin cannot go on living in it. You have completely changed. When you die your old will is overcome. We die in order to live in newness – the life of the resurrection. We identify with Christ’s death – allowing that loving, life-giving, life-filled death to enter. Baptism is the symbol of this. It is total body metaphor for dying so that we might then “walk in newness of life” (v.4). Hope in the resurrection takes the fear out of death.
“Present yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life, and present your members to God as instruments of righteousness. For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace”. In other words, it's not a matter of "doing what you like," but a totally new way of human existence and the best metaphor for that is actually death-then-life.
Paul then asks again “Then should we sin because we are not under law but under grace?” If there is no more morality, if we have total freedom, then what stops us from sinning with impunity? Paul answers the same question with another metaphor: we have exchanged one kind of slavery for another. You have to serve somebody. Mimesis is inescapable. But now your enslaved old world self has become enslaved in a new way. We have become “slaves of righteousness”. Instead of the law we have a completely different way of relating in love. As Augustine said “love and do what you will”. Worldly freedom is just another form of slavery and oppression, ending in death. In contrast, being enslaved to God gives eternal life. “For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord”.
Chapter 5:12-21 is a piece of tortured writing in which Paul tries to explain something new. To do it he makes a comparison of Adam and Jesus and discusses the relationship between sin, law and justification. This passage has been used as a basis for the doctrine of original sin – a doctrine that the Jews don’t have. The doctrine of original sin is that we are all born with a deficiency inside of us that puts us in God’s disfavor. Augustine believed that, as a result, anyone not baptized and therefore put right with God, will be condemned to hell. This led to the pressure to get infants baptized.
It is important to realize that this passage can only be read retrospectively. Verse 14 is the key verse: “Adam, who is a type of the one who was to come”. The word for “type” comes from the Greek word for “pattern” - from cylinders with engravings on them that could be used to imprint and produce a repeated mark or type. The way Paul writes it, Christ is the repeated mark of Adam. But that would make Adam original and Christ derivative, whereas it is the figure of Christ who has changed everything and is therefore original. Thus in fact Christ is the original, the pattern of humanity that allows us--retrospectively--to understand Adam. Christ must be understood first so that we can then understand Adam. The new logic comes from Christ. We wouldn’t know about the old humanity unless there was a new humanity in Christ. Adam only becomes understood as the “type” of our (old) humanity because of the new humanity shown to us by Christ. If interpreters had hung on to this order--of the in-breaking of the new--they would not have seen everything in such legal terms--Adam's fault to be compensated and put right by Christ.
Genesis warned that death would come from sin and Romans says this in fact happened (5:12). But then Paul says that sin is not reckoned when there is no law (v.13) so in some way we must have inherited death from Adam (who sinned). But Paul never says we inherited his sin. In fact he states plainly "death exercised dominion from Adam to Moses, even over those whose sins were not like the transgression of Adam" (v.14, my italics). All have sinned so therefore all will die. But we only know we have sinned through/because of the Law. If there isn’t any Law then there is no reckoning that we have sinned. Therefore Adam has to be responsible for our death, but only in terms of a comparison with Christ. Paul is only interested in setting up a view of two humanities (two anthropologies), not a specific chain of causality. In this sense Adam is simply a metaphor, a corporate figure, for all humanity.
In respect of the Law, it only becomes a problem after Christ – now, with him as contrast, we can see it makes things worse. The Law condemns. The Law in trying to deal with sin actually results in death. Christ is the new thing. But the free gift is not like the old thing – the trespass. What comes is not just more of the same – but something very different. In Christ there is no condemnation, no barriers. There are two logics at work. The old logic is one of condemnation and opposition grounded in the Law. The new logic seeks to set us free from this old enslaved humanity. “But law came in, with the result that the trespass multiplied; but where sin increased, grace abounded all the more, so that, just as sin exercised dominion in death, so grace might also exercise dominion through justification leading to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.” (5:20-21). It is because of Jesus and the gift of grace and life he brings us that we can begin to understand and to see that we were imprisoned precisely by the Law.