Is “should” a mistranslation in Romans 6:4?


by Shawn Brasseaux

No! Recently, this author was reading a commentary on Romans 6:4, which verse we look at now: “Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death, that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.” Allegedly, “should” was a “misleading” translation of the New Testament Greek here; the commentator preferred “shall.” With all due respect, he did not know what he was talking about. He should have taken the position of faith; instead, he chose unbelief, and was himself misleading his audience. Our 50 King James scholars were fully competent in identifying and rendering the Bible from its original languages into the receptor language (English). Either we are Bible believers, or we are Bible unbelievers. We either have a final authority, or we do not. Either we agree with the Scriptures, or we do not.

According to The Oxford English Dictionary, “should” expresses something appropriate or likely, whereas “shall” indicates a command or something definitely forthcoming. In order to see how each word affects the meaning of Romans 6:4, we will read it both ways:

  • “Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death, that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.” (King James)
  • “Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death, that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also shall walk in newness of life.” (commentator’s suggestion)

In the King James, walking in newness of life is suitable or proper for the Christian. The sense here is: “Since I am dead with Christ, buried with Christ, and raised with Christ, it only makes sense that I behave accordingly.” As for the commentator’s private interpretation, walking in newness of life is a mandate and/or certainty for the Christian. This logic is as follows: “Since I am dead with Christ, buried with Christ, and raised with Christ, I will or must behave accordingly.” (The commentator’s Calvinistic propensities could not be more evident: the elect will produce fruit, or they are not really the elect! Faith without works is dead! Holy living or maintaining good works must demonstrate faith, or it is not genuine faith and the person is not a Christian. Such “perseverance of the saints” is one of the cardinal teachings of “Reformed” theology.)

We must forgo the legalistic biases of the aforementioned Calvinistic commentator (thankfully, he is now in Heaven and reformed indeed!). Grace is not about mandates or obligations, being forced to behave a certain way in order to “prove our salvation.” Rather, grace “beseeches” (asks or requests) us to conduct ourselves in accordance with our identity in Christ: “I beseech [not order, demand, or command!] you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God” (Romans 12:1-2).

Here are some other times where God’s grace “beseeches” (not commands, demands, or orders!) us to walk as the members of the Body of Christ that we are:

  • Ephesians 4:1: “I therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you that ye walk worthy of the vocation wherewith ye are called,….”
  • Philippians 4:2: “I beseech Euodias, and beseech Syntyche, that they be of the same mind in the Lord.”
  • 1 Thessalonians 4:1: “[1] Furthermore then we beseech you, brethren, and exhort you by the Lord Jesus, that as ye have received of us how ye ought to walk and to please God, so ye would abound more and more…. [10] And indeed ye do it toward all the brethren which are in all Macedonia: but we beseech you, brethren, that ye increase more and more;….”
  • Philemon 9-10: “Yet for love’s sake I rather beseech thee, being such an one as Paul the aged, and now also a prisoner of Jesus Christ. I beseech thee for my son Onesimus, whom I have begotten in my bonds:….”

Just to make sure there is no misunderstanding, God cares how we live as believers in Christ. Never should anyone be led to conclude grace means we can do whatever we want without gendering God’s sorrow or reaping any negative consequences. “And grieve not the holy Spirit of God, whereby ye are sealed unto the day of redemption” (Ephesians 4:30). “Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap. For he that soweth to his flesh shall of the flesh reap corruption; but he that soweth to the Spirit shall of the Spirit reap life everlasting. And let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not” (Galatians 6:7-9).

All of Romans chapter 6 should be read: “[1] What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound? [2] God forbid. How shall we, that are dead to sin, live any longer therein? [3] Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into his death? [4] Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life. [5] For if we have been planted together in the likeness of his death, we shall be also in the likeness of his resurrection: [6] Knowing this, that our old man is crucified with him, that the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin. [7] For he that is dead is freed from sin. [8] Now if we be dead with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with him: [9] Knowing that Christ being raised from the dead dieth no more; death hath no more dominion over him. [10] For in that he died, he died unto sin once: but in that he liveth, he liveth unto God. [11] Likewise reckon ye also yourselves to be dead indeed unto sin, but alive unto God through Jesus Christ our Lord.

“[12] Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, that ye should obey it in the lusts thereof. [13] Neither yield ye your members as instruments of unrighteousness unto sin: but yield yourselves unto God, as those that are alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness unto God. [14] For sin shall not have dominion over you: for ye are not under the law, but under grace. [15] What then? shall we sin, because we are not under the law, but under grace? God forbid. [16] Know ye not, that to whom ye yield yourselves servants to obey, his servants ye are to whom ye obey; whether of sin unto death, or of obedience unto righteousness?

“[17] But God be thanked, that ye were the servants of sin, but ye have obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine which was delivered you. [18] Being then made free from sin, ye became the servants of righteousness. [19] I speak after the manner of men because of the infirmity of your flesh: for as ye have yielded your members servants to uncleanness and to iniquity unto iniquity; even so now yield your members servants to righteousness unto holiness. [20] For when ye were the servants of sin, ye were free from righteousness. [21] What fruit had ye then in those things whereof ye are now ashamed? for the end of those things is death. [22] But now being made free from sin, and become servants to God, ye have your fruit unto holiness, and the end everlasting life. [23] For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.”

Someone could have believed on Jesus Christ as their personal Saviour, but either failed to understand God’s grace or was never told God’s grace aims to produce good works in the believer. Since the Apostle Paul did not walk in light of Romans chapter 6, he fell into the trap of flesh-walking (sin) in chapter 7, but Romans chapter 8 corrected his mind by reemphasizing the truths of chapter 6. He thus gained victory over sin on a daily basis in chapter 8. We should be upstanding citizens—but, will we choose to be? If we want to behave like carnal (fleshly) Christians, we can, but we had better not complain when someone scoffs, “I care not to be a Christian! My religion teaches me to live better than your ‘Jesus’ does!” We should eat to live—but we can always decide to starve and die. Likewise, if we want to deprive ourselves of sound (grace) Bible doctrine, we may do so—and our Christian life will wither and decay! It is the believer’s choice, left up to us; grace values free will. Brethren, let us use our volition for good, and not for evil!

“For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them” (Ephesians 2:8-10).

“For the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men, Teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world; Looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ; Who gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works”
(Titus 2:11-14).

Also see:
» Is grace a “license to sin?”
» How are we God’s “workmanship?”
» Does God see us Christians as sinners?
» Once Christians fall into gross sin, will God use them again?
» How do we not live after the flesh if we live in bodies of flesh?
» Why do some Christians persistently behave like lost people?