“What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it?” (Romans 6:1–2, ESV)
In the previous verses, Paul concluded, “where sin abounded, grace did much more abound:” (Romans 5:20, KJV 1900) One might derive from this that a person should just keep on sinning so God’s grace would be displayed all the more. This is the type of conclusion that can be falsely drawn from text proofing. I have seen many “professing Christians” that after making some sort of sinner’s prayer, keep on living exactly the way they did before. This type of response to the gospel is a complete contradiction.
Paul understood that there may be some who would misinterpret the Scripture by taking his words out of context. So, he goes on to present several rhetorical questions to make the reader think about this. He clearly states, “are we to continue in sin that grace may abound?” His answer is literal and clear. “By no means!” Then he begins to give an explanation of the spiritual reality of what it means to have believed in Christ. He presents another rhetorical question. “How can we who died to sin still live in it?”
Perhaps we can understand this better by looking at an Old English expression, “You’re dead to me.” It was used in the context of disowning a person, meaning that you would be separated from that person, never to acknowledge his or her existence again. It clearly implies that thought of complete and permanent separation from someone.
Dying to something means separation. In the context of sin, Paul is stating that every true believer has died to sin. They have been separated from sin and its power by the work of God’s grace. Paul’s rhetorical question is truly designed to give the reader an understanding of the reality of the new birth. He is presenting the impossibility of one who is a true believer of being bound under the control of the sinful nature and sin.
This does not mean that a believer will never sin (1 John 1:8; 2:1-2). However, it does mean that the believer need not be under the control of the old nature. The believer is a new creation, with new desires for God and His righteousness, and new power via the Holy Spirit to walk in newness of life.