Believers must die to sin, and live to God. (1,2) This is urged by their Christian baptism and union with Christ. (3-10) They are made alive to God. (11-15) And are freed from the dominion of sin. (16-20) The end of sin is death, and of holiness everlasting life. (21-23)
Verses 1-2 The apostle is very full in pressing the necessity of holiness. He does not explain away the free grace of the gospel, but he shows that connexion between justification and holiness are inseparable. Let the thought be abhorred, of continuing in sin that grace may abound. True believers are dead to sin, therefore they ought not to follow it. No man can at the same time be both dead and alive. He is a fool who, desiring to be dead unto sin, thinks he may live in it.
Verses 3-10 Baptism teaches the necessity of dying to sin, and being as it were buried from all ungodly and unholy pursuits, and of rising to walk with God in newness of life. Unholy professors may have had the outward sign of a death unto sin, and a new birth unto righteousness, but they never passed from the family of Satan to that of God. The corrupt nature, called the old man, because derived from our first father Adam, is crucified with Christ, in every true believer, by the grace derived from the cross. It is weakened and in a dying state, though it yet struggles for life, and even for victory. But the whole body of sin, whatever is not according to the holy law of God, must be done away, so that the believer may no more be the slave of sin, but live to God, and find happiness in his service.
Verses 11-15 The strongest motives against sin, and to enforce holiness, are here stated. Being made free from the reign of sin, alive unto God, and having the prospect of eternal life, it becomes believers to be greatly concerned to advance thereto. But, as unholy lusts are not quite rooted out in this life, it must be the care of the Christian to resist their motions, earnestly striving, that, through Divine grace, they may not prevail in this mortal state. Let the thought that this state will soon be at an end, encourage the true Christian, as to the motions of lusts, which so often perplex and distress him. Let us present all our powers to God, as weapons or tools ready for the warfare, and work of righteousness, in his service. There is strength in the covenant of grace for us. Sin shall not have dominion. God's promises to us are more powerful and effectual for mortifying sin, than our promises to God. Sin may struggle in a real believer, and create him a great deal of trouble, but it shall not have dominion; it may vex him, but it shall not rule over him. Shall any take occasion from this encouraging doctrine to allow themselves in the practice of any sin? Far be such abominable thoughts, so contrary to the perfections of God, and the design of his gospel, so opposed to being under grace. What can be a stronger motive against sin than the love of Christ? Shall we sin against so much goodness, and such love?
Verses 16-20 Every man is the servant of the master to whose commands he yields himself; whether it be the sinful dispositions of his heart, in actions which lead to death, or the new and spiritual obedience implanted by regeneration. The apostle rejoiced now they obeyed from the heart the gospel, into which they were delivered as into a mould. As the same metal becomes a new vessel, when melted and recast in another mould, so the believer has become a new creature. And there is great difference in the liberty of mind and spirit, so opposite to the state of slavery, which the true Christian has in the service of his rightful Lord, whom he is enabled to consider as his Father, and himself as his son and heir, by the adoption of grace. The dominion of sin consists in being willingly slaves thereto, not in being harassed by it as a hated power, struggling for victory. Those who now are the servants of God, once were the slaves of sin.
Verses 21-23 The pleasure and profit of sin do not deserve to be called fruit. Sinners are but ploughing iniquity, sowing vanity, and reaping the same. Shame came into the world with sin, and is still the certain effect of it. The end of sin is death. Though the way may seem pleasant and inviting, yet it will be bitterness in the latter end. From this condemnation the believer is set at liberty, when made free from sin. If the fruit is unto holiness, if there is an active principle of true and growing grace, the end will be everlasting life; a very happy end! Though the way is up-hill, though it is narrow, thorny, and beset, yet everlasting life at the end of it is sure. The gift of God is eternal life. And this gift is through Jesus Christ our Lord. Christ purchased it, prepared it, prepares us for it, preserves us to it; he is the All in all in our salvation.
Romans 6:1-11 . THE BEARING OF JUSTIFICATION BY GRACE UPON A HOLY LIFE.
1. What, &c.--The subject of this third division of our Epistle announces itself at once in the opening question, "Shall we (or, as the true reading is, "May we," "Are we to") continue in sin, that grace may abound?" Had the apostle's doctrine been that salvation depends in any degree upon our good works, no such objection to it could have been made. Against the doctrine of a purely gratuitous justification, the objection is plausible; nor has there ever been an age in which it has not been urged. That it was brought against the apostles, we know from Romans 3:8 ; and we gather from Galatians 5:13 , 1 Peter 2:16 , Jude 1:4 , that some did give occasion to the charge; but that it was a total perversion of the doctrine of Grace the apostle here proceeds to show.
2. God forbid--"That be far from us"; the instincts of the new creature revolting at the thought.
How shall we, that are dead, &c.--literally, and more forcibly, "We who died to sin (as presently to be explained), how shall we live any longer therein?"
3. Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ--compare 1 Corinthians 10:2 .
were baptized into his death?--sealed with the seal of heaven, and as it were formally entered and articled, to all the benefits and all the obligations of Christian discipleship in general, and of His death in particular. And since He was "made sin" and "a curse for us" ( 2 Corinthians 5:21 , Galatians 5:13 ), "bearing our sins in His own body on the tree," and "rising again for our justification" ( Romans 4:25 , 1 Peter 2:24 ), our whole sinful case and condition, thus taken up into His Person, has been brought to an end in His death. Whoso, then, has been baptized into Christ's death has formally surrendered the whole state and life of sin, as in Christ a dead thing. He has sealed himself to be not only "the righteousness of God in Him," but "a new creature"; and as he cannot be in Christ to the one effect and not to the other, for they are one thing, he has bidden farewell, by baptism into Christ's death, to his entire connection with sin. "How," then, "can he live any longer therein?" The two things are as contradictory in the fact as they are in the terms.
4. Therefore we are--rather, "were" (it being a past act, completed at once).
buried with him, by baptism into death--(The comma we have placed after "him" will show what the sense is. It is not, "By baptism we are buried with Him into death," which makes no sense at all; but, "By baptism with Him into death we are buried with Him"; in other words, "By the same baptism which publicly enters us into His death, we are made partakers of His burial also"). To leave a dead body unburied is represented, alike in heathen authors as in Scripture, as the greatest indignity ( Revelation 11:8 Revelation 11:9 ). It was fitting, therefore, that Christ, after "dying for our sins according to the Scriptures," should "descend into the lower parts of the earth" ( Ephesians 4:9 ). As this was the last and lowest step of His humiliation, so it was the honorable dissolution of His last link of connection with that life which He laid down for us; and we, in being "buried with Him by our baptism into His death," have by this public act severed our last link of connection with that whole sinful condition and life which Christ brought to an end in His death.
that like as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father--that is, by such a forth-putting of the Father's power as was the effulgence of His whole glory.
even so we also--as risen to a new life with Him.
should walk in newness of life--But what is that "newness?" Surely if our old life, now dead and buried with Christ, was wholly sinful, the new, to which we rise with the risen Saviour, must be altogether a holy life; so that every time we go back to "those things whereof we are now ashamed" ( Romans 6:21 ), we belie our resurrection with Christ to newness of life, and "forget that we have been purged from our old sins" ( 2 Peter 1:9 ). (Whether the mode of baptism by immersion be alluded to in this verse, as a kind of symbolical burial and resurrection, does not seem to us of much consequence. Many interpreters think it is, and it may be so. But as it is not clear that baptism in apostolic times was exclusively by immersion so sprinkling and washing are indifferently used in the New Testament to express the cleansing efficacy of the blood of Jesus. And just as the woman with the issue of blood got virtue out of Christ by simply touching Him, so the essence of baptism seems to lie in the simple contact of the element with the body, symbolizing living contact with Christ crucified; the mode and extent of suffusion being indifferent and variable with climate and circumstances).
5. For if we have been planted together--literally, "have become formed together." (The word is used here only).
in the likeness of his death, we shall be also in the likeness of his resurrection--that is, "Since Christ's death and resurrection are inseparable in their efficacy, union with Him in the one carries with it participation in the other, for privilege and for duty alike." The future tense is used of participation in His resurrection, because this is but partially realized in the present state.
6, 7. Knowing this, &c.--The apostle now grows more definite and vivid in expressing the sin-destroying efficacy of our union with the crucified Saviour.
that our old man--"our old selves"; that is, "all that we were in our old unregenerate condition, before union with Christ" (compare Colossians 3:9 Colossians 3:10 , Ephesians 4:22-24 , Galatians 2:20 , 5:24 , 6:14 ).
crucified with him--in order.
that the body of sin--not a figure for "the mass of sin"; nor the "material body," considered as the seat of sin, which it is not; but (as we judge) for "sin as it dwells in us in our present embodied state, under the law of the fall."
might be destroyed--(in Christ's death)--to the end.
that henceforth we should not serve sin--"be in bondage to sin."
7. For he that is dead--rather, "hath died."
is freed--"hath been set free."
from sin--literally, "justified," "acquitted," "got his discharge from sin." As death dissolves all claims, so the whole claim of sin, not only to "reign unto death," but to keep its victims in sinful bondage, has been discharged once for all, by the believer's penal death in the death of Christ; so that he is no longer a "debtor to the flesh to live after the flesh" ( Romans 8:12 ).
8. Now if we be dead--"if we died."
9-11. Christ being raised from the dead dieth no more; death hath no more dominion over him--Though Christ's death was in the most absolute sense a voluntary act ( John 10:17 John 10:18 , Acts 2:24 ), that voluntary surrender gave death such rightful "dominion over Him" as dissolved its dominion over us. But this once past, "death hath," even in that sense, "dominion over Him no more."
10. For in that he died, he died unto--that is, in obedience to the claims of
sin once--for all.
but in that he liveth, he liveth unto--in obedience to the claims of God.
God--There never, indeed, was a time when Christ did not "live unto God." But in the days of His flesh He did so under the continual burden of sin "laid on Him" ( Isaiah 53:6 , 2 Corinthians 5:21 ); whereas, now that He has "put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself," He "liveth unto God," the acquitted and accepted Surety, unchallenged and unclouded by the claims of sin.
11. Likewise--even as your Lord Himself.
reckon ye also yourselves to be dead indeed--"dead on the one hand"
unto sin, but alive unto God through Jesus Christ our Lord--(The words, "our Lord," at the close of this verse, are wanting in the best manuscripts.)
Note, (1) "Antinomianism is not only an error; it is a falsehood and a slander" [HODGE]. That "we should continue in sin that grace may abound," not only is never the deliberate sentiment of any real believer in the doctrine of Grace, but is abhorrent to every Christian mind, as a monstrous abuse of the most glorious of all truths ( Romans 6:1 ). (2) As the death of Christ is not only the expiation of guilt, but the death of sin itself in all who are vitally united to Him; so the resurrection of Christ is the resurrection of believers, not only to acceptance with God, but to newness of life ( Romans 6:2-11 ). (3) In the light of these two truths, let all who name the name of Christ "examine themselves whether they be in the faith."
Romans 6:12-23 . WHAT PRACTICAL USE BELIEVERS SHOULD MAKE OF THEIR DEATH TO SIN AND LIFE TO GOD THROUGH UNION TO THE CRUCIFIED SAVIOUR.
Not content with showing that his doctrine has no tendency to relax the obligations to a holy life, the apostle here proceeds to enforce these obligations.
12. Let not sin therefore--as a Master
reign--(The reader will observe that wherever in this section the words "Sin," "Obedience," "Righteousness," "Uncleanness," "Iniquity," are figuratively used, to represent a Master, they are here printed in capitals, to make this manifest to the eye, and so save explanation).
in your mortal body, that ye should obey it--sin.
in the lusts thereof--"the lusts of the body," as the Greek makes evident. (The other reading, perhaps the true one, "that ye should obey the lusts thereof," comes to the same thing). The "body" is here viewed as the instrument by which all the sins of the heart become facts of the outward life, and as itself the seat of the lower appetites; and it is called "our mortal body," probably to remind us how unsuitable is this reign of sin in those who are "alive from the dead." But the reign here meant is the unchecked dominion of sin within us. Its outward acts are next referred to.
13. Neither yield ye your members instruments of unrighteousness unto Sin, but yield yourselves--this is the great surrender.
unto God as those that are alive from the dead, and--as the fruit of this.
your members--till now prostituted to sin.
instruments of righteousness unto God--But what if indwelling sin should prove too strong for us? The reply is: But it will not.
14. For Sin shall not have dominion over you--as the slaves of a tyrant lord.
for ye are not under the law, but under grace--The force of this glorious assurance can only be felt by observing the grounds on which it rests. To be "under the law" is, first, to be under its claim to entire obedience; and so, next under its curse for the breach of these. And as all power to obey can reach the sinner only through Grace, of which the law knows nothing, it follows that to be "under the law" is, finally, to be shut up under an inability to keep it, and consequently to be the helpless slave of sin. On the other hand, to be "under grace," is to be under the glorious canopy and saving effects of that "grace which reigns through righteousness unto eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord" The curse of the law has been completely lifted from off them; they are made "the righteousness of God in Him"; and they are "alive unto God through Jesus Christ." So that, as when they were "under the law," Sin could not but have dominion over them, so now that they are "under grace," Sin cannot but be subdued under them. If before, Sin resistlessly triumphed, Grace will now be more than conqueror.
15, 16. What then? . . . Know ye not--it is a dictate of common sense.
16. that to whom ye yield yourselves servants to obey--with the view of obeying him.
his servants ye are to whom ye obey--to whom ye yield that obedience.
whether of Sin unto death--that is, "issuing in death," in the awful sense of Romans 8:6 , as the sinner's final condition.
or of Obedience unto righteousness--that is, obedience resulting in a righteous character, as the enduring condition of the servant of new Obedience ( 1 John 2:17 , John 8:34 , 2 Peter 2:19 , Matthew 6:24 ).
17. But God be thanked, that ye were the servants of Sin--that is, that this is a state of things now past and gone.
but ye have obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine which was delivered you--rather, "whereunto ye were delivered" (Margin), or cast, as in a mould. The idea is, that the teaching to which they had heartily yielded themselves had stamped its own impress upon them.
18. Being then--"And being"; it is the continuation and conclusion of the preceding sentence; not a new one.
made free from Sin, ye became the servants of--"servants to"
Righteousness--The case is one of emancipation from entire servitude to one Master to entire servitude to another, whose property we are independence; for which we were never made, and to which we have no claim. When we would not that God should reign over us, we were in righteous judgment "sold under Sin"; now being through grace "made free from Sin," it is only to become "servants to Righteousness," which is our true freedom.
19. I speak after the manner of men--descending, for illustration, to the level of common affairs.
because of the infirmity of your flesh--the weakness of your spiritual apprehension.
for as ye have yielded--"as ye yielded," the thing being viewed as now past.
your members servants to Uncleanness and to Iniquity unto--the practice of
iniquity; even so now yield your members servants to Righteousness unto holiness--rather, "unto (the attainment of) sanctification," as the same word is rendered in 2 Thessalonians 2:13 , 1 Corinthians 1:30 , 1 Peter 1:2 :--that is, "Looking back upon the heartiness with which ye served Sin, and the lengths ye went to be stimulated now to like zeal and like exuberance in the service of a better Master."
20. For when ye were the servants--"were servants"
of Sin, ye were free from--rather, "in respect of"
Righteousness--Difficulties have been made about this clause where none exist. The import of it seems clearly to be this:--"Since no servant can serve two masters, much less where their interests come into deadly collision, and each demands the whole man, so, while ye were in the service of Sin ye were in no proper sense the servants of Righteousness, and never did it one act of real service: whatever might be your conviction of the claims of Righteousness, your real services were all and always given to Sin: Thus had ye full proof of the nature and advantages of Sin's service." The searching question with which this is followed up, shows that this is the meaning.
21. What fruit had ye then in those things whereof ye are now ashamed? for the end of those things is death--What permanent advantage, and what abiding satisfaction, have those things yielded? The apostle answers his own question:--"Abiding satisfaction, did I ask? They have left only a sense of 'shame.' Permanent advantage? 'The end of them is death.'" By saying they were "now ashamed," he makes it plain that he is not referring to that disgust at themselves, and remorse of conscience by which those who are the most helplessly "sold under sin" are often stung to the quick; but that ingenuous feeling of self-reproach, which pierces and weighs down the children of God, as they think of the dishonor which their past life did to His name, the ingratitude it displayed, the violence it did to their own conscience, its deadening and degrading effects, and the death--"the second death"--to which it was dragging them down, when mere Grace arrested them. (On the sense of "death" here, Note 3, and see also Revelation 21:8 --The change proposed in the pointing of this verse: "What fruit had ye then? things whereof ye are now ashamed" [LUTHER, THOLUCK, DE WETTE, PHILIPPI, ALFORD, &c.], seems unnatural and uncalled for. The ordinary pointing has at least powerful support [CHRYSOSTOM, CALVIN, BEZA, GROTIUS, BENGEL, STUART, FRITZSCHE]).
22. But now--as if to get away from such a subject were unspeakable relief.
being made free from Sin, and become servants to God--in the absolute sense intended throughout all this passage.
ye have--not "ought to have," but "do have," in point of fact.
your fruit unto holiness--"sanctification," as in Romans 6:19 ; meaning that permanently holy state and character which is built up out of the whole "fruits of righteousness," which believers successively bring forth. They "have their fruit" unto this, that is, all going towards this blessed result.
and the end everlasting life--as the final state of the justified believer; the beatific experience not only of complete exemption from the fall with all its effects, but of the perfect life of acceptance with God, and conformity to His likeness, of unveiled access to Him, and ineffable fellowship with Him through all duration.
23. For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through--"in"
Jesus Christ our Lord--This concluding verse--as pointed as it is brief--contains the marrow, the most fine gold, of the Gospel. As the laborer is worthy of his hire, and feels it to be his due--his own of right--so is death the due of sin, the wages the sinner has well wrought for, his own. But "eternal life" is in no sense or degree the wages of our righteousness; we do nothing whatever to earn or become entitled to it, and never can: it is therefore, in the most absolute sense, "THE GIFT OF GOD." Grace reigns in the bestowal of it in every case, and that "in Jesus Christ our Lord," as the righteous Channel of it. In view of this, who that hath tasted that the Lord is gracious can refrain from saying, "Unto Him that loved us, and washed us from our sins in His own blood, and hath made us kings and priests unto God and His Father, to Him be glory and dominion for ever and ever. Amen!" ( Revelation 1:5 Revelation 1:6 ).
Note, (1) As the most effectual refutation of the oft-repeated calumny, that the doctrine of Salvation by grace encourages to continue in sin, is the holy life of those who profess it, let such ever feel that the highest service they can render to that Grace which is all their hope, is to "yield themselves unto God, as those that are alive from the dead, and their members instruments of righteousness unto God" ( Romans 6:12 Romans 6:13 ). By so doing they will "put to silence the ignorance of foolish men," secure their own peace, carry out the end of their calling, and give substantial glory to Him that loved them. (2) The fundamental principle of Gospel obedience is as original as it is divinely rational; that "we are set free from the law in order to keep it, and are brought graciously under servitude to the law in order to be free" ( Romans 6:14 Romans 6:15 Romans 6:18 ). So long as we know no principle of obedience but the terrors of the law, which condemns all the breakers of it, and knows nothing whatever of grace, either to pardon the guilty or to purify the stained, we are shut up under a moral impossibility of genuine and acceptable obedience: whereas when Grace lifts us out of this state, and through union to a righteous Surety, brings us into a state of conscious reconciliation, and loving surrender of heart to a God of salvation, we immediately feel the glorious liberty to be holy, and the assurance that "Sin shall not have dominion over us" is as sweet to our renewed tastes and aspirations as the ground of it is felt to be firm, "because we are not under the Law, but under Grace." (3) As this most momentous of all transitions in the history of a man is wholly of God's free grace, the change should never be thought, spoken, or written of but with lively thanksgiving to Him who so loved us ( Romans 6:17 ). (4) Christians, in the service of God, should emulate their former selves in the zeal and steadiness with which they served sin, and the length to which they went in it ( Romans 6:19 ). (5) To stimulate this holy rivalry, let us often "look back to the rock whence we were hewn, the hole of the pit whence we were digged," in search of the enduring advantages and permanent satisfactions which the service of Sin yielded; and when we find to our "shame" only gall and wormwood, let us follow a godless life to its proper "end," until, finding ourselves in the territories of "death," we are fain to hasten back to survey the service of Righteousness, that new Master of all believers, and find Him leading us sweetly into abiding "holiness," and landing us at length in "everlasting life" ( Romans 6:20-22 ). (6) Death and life are before all men who hear the Gospel: the one, the natural issue and proper reward of sin; the other, the absolutely free "GIFT OF GOD" to sinners, "in Jesus Christ our Lord." And as the one is the conscious sense of the hopeless loss of all blissful existence, so the other is the conscious possession and enjoyment of all that constitutes a rational creature's highest "life" for evermore ( Romans 6:23 ). Ye that read or hear these words, "I call heaven and earth to record this day against you, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing, therefore choose life, that both thou and thy seed may live!" ( Deuteronomy 30:19 ).