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Monday, October 2nd, 2023
the Week of Proper 21 / Ordinary 26
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Romans 6

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The argument commenced in this chapter is continued through the two following. The general design is the same - “to show that the scheme of justification which God had adopted does not lead people to sin, but on the contrary to holiness.” This is introduced by answering an objection, Romans 6:1. The apostle pursues this subject by various arguments and illustrations, all tending to show that the design and bearing of the scheme of justification was to produce the hatred of sin, and the love and practice of holiness. In this chapter, the argument is mainly drawn from the following sources:

(1) From the baptism of Christians, by which they have professed to be dead to sin, and to be bound to live to God, Romans 6:2-13.

(2) From the fact that they were now the servants of God, and under obligation, by the laws of servitude, to obey him, Romans 6:15-20.

(3) From their former experience of the evil of sin, from its tendency to produce misery and death, and from the fact that by the gospel they had been made ashamed of those things, and had now given themselves to the pure service of God. By these various considerations, he repels the charge that the tendency of the doctrine was to produce licentiousness, but affirms that it was a system of purity and peace. The argument is continued in the two following chapters, showing still further the purifying tendency of the gospel.

Verse 1

What shall we say then? - This is a mode of presenting an objection. The objection refers to what the apostle had said in Romans 5:20. What shall we say to such a sentiment as that where sin abounded grace did much more abound?

Shall we continue in sin? ... - If sin has been the occasion of grace and favor, ought we not to continue in it, and commit as much as possible, in order that grace might abound? This objection the apostle proceeds to answer. He shows that the consequence does not follow; and proves that the doctrine of justification does not lead to it.

Verse 2

God forbid - By no means. Greek, It may not be; Note, Romans 3:4. The expression is a strong denial of what is implied in the objection in Romans 6:1.

How shall we? ... - This contains a reason of the implied statement of the apostle, that we should not continue in sin. The reason is drawn from the fact that we are dead in fact to sin. It is impossible for these who are dead to act as if they were alive. It is just as absurd to suppose that a Christian should desire to live in sin as that a dead man should put forth the actions of life.

That are dead to sin - That is, all Christians. To be dead to a thing is a strong expression denoting that it has no influence over us. A man that is dead is uninfluenced and unaffected by the affairs of this life. He is insensible to sounds, and tastes, and pleasures; to the hum of business, to the voice of friendship, and to all the scenes of commerce, gaiety, and ambition. When it is said, therefore, that a Christian is dead to sin, the sense is, that it has lost its influence ever him; he is not subject to it; he is in regard to that, as the man in the grave is to the busy scenes and cares of this life. The expression is not infrequent in the New Testament; Galatians 2:19, “For I ...am dead to the law;” Colossians 3:3, “For ye are dead, and your life is hid with Christ in God;” 1 Peter 2:24, “Who ...bare our sins ...that we, being dead to sin,” etc. The apostle does not here attempt to prove that Christians are thus dead, nor to state in what way they become so. He assumes the fact without argument. All Christians are thus in fact dead to sin. They do not live to sin; nor has sin dominion over them. The expression used here by the apostle is common in all languages. We familiarly speak of a man’s being dead to sensual pleasures, to ambition, etc., to denote that they have lost their influence over him.

Live any longer therein - How shall we, who have become sensible of the evil of sin, and who have renounced it by solemn profession, continue to practice it? It is therefore abhorrent to the very nature of the Christian profession. It is remarkable that the apostle did not attempt to argue the question on metaphysical principles. He did not attempt to show by abstruse argument that this consequence did not follow; but he appeals at once to Christian feeling, and shows that the supposition is abhorrent to that. To convince the great mass of people, such an appeal is far better than labored metaphysical argumentation. All Christians can understand that; but few would comprehend an abstruse speculation. The best way to silence objections is, sometimes, to show that they violate the feelings of all Christians, and that therefore the objection must be wrong.

(Considerable difficulty exists in regard to the meaning of the expression “dead to sin? Certainly the most obvious interpretation is that given above in the Commentary, namely, that Christians are insensible to sin, as dead persons to the charms and pleasures of life. It has, however, been objected to this view, that it is inconsistent with fact, since Christians, so far from being insensible to sin, are represented in the next chapter as carrying on a perpetual struggle with it. The corrupt nature, though weakened, is not eradicated, and too frequently occasions such mournful falls, as leave little doubt concerning its existence and power. Mr. Scott seems to have felt this difficulty, for, having explained the phrase of “separation from iniquity, as a dead man ceases from the actions of life,” he immediately adds, “not only ought this to be the believer’s character, but in a measure it actually is so.” It is not probable. however, that the apostle meant by the strong expression under discussion, that believers were not altogether “dead to sin,” but only in a measure.

Perhaps we shall arrive at a more satisfactory meaning of the words by looking at the analogous expression in the context, used in reference to Christ himself. He also, in the 10th verse, is said to have “died unto sin,” and the believer, in virtue of union with Christ, is regarded as” dead with him,” Romans 6:8; and, in consequence of this death with Christ, is moreover freed, or rather justified, δεδίκαιωται dedikaiōtai from sin, Romans 6:7. Now it cannot be said of Christ that he died unto sin, in the sense of becoming dead to its charms. for it was never otherwise with him. The believer, therefore, cannot be dead with Christ in this way; nor on this ground, can he be justified from sin, since justification proceeds upon something very different from our insensibility to sinful pleasures. What then is the meaning of the language when applied to Christ? Sin is here supposed to be possessed of certain power. That power or strength the apostle tells us elsewhere is derived from the Law. “The strength of sin is the law,” which demands satisfaction to its injured honor, and insists on the infliction of its penalty. Though then Jesus had no sin of his own, yet when he voluntarily stood in the room of sinners, sin, or its strength, namely, the Law, had power over him, until he died, and thus paid the penalty. His death cancelled every obligation. Henceforth, sin had no more power to exact anything at his hands.

Now Christians are one with Christ. When he died unto sin, they are regarded as having died unto it also, and are therefore, equally with their covenant head, justified from it. Sin, or its strength, the Law, has from the moment of the saint’s union with Christ, no more power to condemn him, than human laws have to condemn one over again who had already died to answer the demands of justice. “The law has dominion over a man so long only as he liveth.” On the whole, then, the expression “dead to sin,” is to be regarded as entirely parallel with that other expression in the seventh chapter, “dead to the law,” that is, completely delivered from its authority as a covenant of works, and more especially from its power to condemn.

This view exercises a decided influence an the believer’s sanctification. “How shall we that are dead to sin, live any longer therein?” The two things are incompatible. If in virtue of union with Christ, we are dead with him, and freed from the penalty of sin, shall not the same union secure our deliverance from its dominion? “If we be dead with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with him.”

The whole argument, from the 1st to the 11th verse, proceeds upon the fact of the saint’s union with Christ.)

Verse 3

Know ye not - This is a further appeal to the Christian profession, and the principles involved in it, in answer to the objection. The simple argument in this verse and the two following is, that by our very profession made in baptism, we have renounced sin, and have pledged ourselves to live to God.

So many of us ... - All who were baptized; that is, all professed Christians. As this renunciation of sin had been thus made by all who professed religion, so the objection could not have reference to Christianity in any manner.

Were baptized - The act of baptism denotes dedication to the service of him in whose name we are baptized. One of its designs is to dedicate or consecrate us to the service of Christ: Thus 1 Corinthians 10:2, the Israelites are said to have been “baptized unto Moses in the cloud and in the sea;” that is, they became consecrated, or dedicated, or bound to him as their leader and lawgiver. In the place before us, the argument of the apostle is evidently drawn from the supposition that we have been solemnly consecrated by baptism to the service of Christ; and that to sin is therefore a violation of the very nature of our Christian profession.

Into - εἰς eis. This is the word which is used in Matthew 28:19, “Teach all nations, baptizing them into εἰς eis the name of the Father,” etc. It means, being baptized unto his service; receiving him as the Saviour and guide, devoting all unto him and his cause.

Were baptized unto his death - We were baptized with special reference to his death. Our baptism had a strong resemblance to his death. By that he became insensible to the things of the world; by baptism we in like manner become dead to sin. Further, we are baptized with particular reference to the design of his death, the great leading feature and purpose of his work. That was, to expiate sin; to free people from its power; to make them pure. We have professed our devotion to the same cause; and have solemnly consecrated ourselves to the same design - to put a period to the dominion of iniquity.

Verse 4

Therefore we are buried ... - It is altogether probable that the apostle in this place had allusion to the custom of baptizing by immersion. This cannot, indeed, be proved, so as to be liable to no objection; but I presume that this is the idea which would strike the great mass of unprejudiced readers. But while this is admitted, it is also certain that his main scope and intention was not to describe the mode of baptism; nor to affirm that that mode was to be universal. The design was very different. It was to show that by the solemn profession made at our baptism, we had become dead to sin, as Christ was dead to the living world around him when he was buried; and that as he was raised up to life, so we should also rise to a new life. A similar expression occurs in Colossians 2:12, “Buried with him in baptism,” etc. See the Editors’ Notes at Matthew 3:6, Matthew 3:16.

Into death - εἰς eis. Unto death; that is, with a solemn purpose to be dead to sin and to the world. Grotius and Doddridge, however, understand this as referring to the death of Christ - in order to represent the death of Christ - or to bring us into a kind of fellowship with his death.

That like as - In a similar manner. Christ rose from death in the sepulchre; and so we are bound by our vows at baptism to rise to a holy life.

By the glory of the Father - Perhaps this means, amidst the glory, the majesty and wonders evinced by the Father when he raised him up; Matthew 28:2-3. Or possibly the word “glory” is used here to denote simply his power, as the resurrection was a signal and glorious display of his omnipotence.

Even so - As he rose to new life, so should we. As he rose from death, so we, being made dead to sin and the world by that religion whose profession is expressed by baptism, should rise to a new life, a life of holiness.

Should walk - Should live, or conduct. The word “walk” is often used to express the course of a man’s life, or the tenor of his conduct; Romans 4:12; Romans 8:1 notes; 1 Corinthians 5:7; 1 Corinthians 10:3 notes; Ephesians 2:10; Ephesians 4:1 notes, etc.

In newness of life - This is a Hebraism to denote new life. We should rise with Christ to a new life; and having been made dead to sin, as he was dead in the grave, so should we rise to a holy life, as he rose from the grave. The argument in this verse is, therefore, drawn from the nature of the Christian profession. By our very baptism, by our very profession, we have become dead to sin, as Christ became dead; and being devoted to him by that baptism, we are bound to rise, as he did, to a new life.

While it is admitted that the allusion here was probably to the custom of immersion in baptism, yet the passage cannot be adduced as an argument that that is the only mode, or that it is binding on all Christians in all places and ages, for the following reasons:

(1) The scope or design of the apostle is not to discuss the mode of baptism, Or to state any doctrine on the subject. It is an incidental allusion in the course of an argument, without stating or implying that this was the universal mode even then, still less that it was the only possible mode. His main design was to state the obligation of Christians to be holy, from the nature of their profession at baptism - an obligation just as impressive, and as forcible, from the application of water in any other mode as by immersion. It arises from the fact of baptism, not from the mode. It is just as true that they who are baptized by affusion, or by sprinkling, are baptised into his death; become professedly dead to sin and the world, and under obligations to live to God, as those who are immersed. It results from the nature of the ordinance, not from the mode.

(2) If this was the mode commonly, it does not follow that it was the only mode, nor that it was to be universally observed; There is no command that this should be the only mode. And the simple fact that it was usually practiced in a warm climate, where ablutions were common, does not prove that it is to be observed amidst polar snows and ice, and in infancy, and age, and feebleness, and sickness; see the note at Acts 8:38-39.

(3) If this is to be pressed literally as a matter of obligation, why should not also the following expression, “If we have been planted together,” etc., be pressed literally, and it be demanded that Christians should somehow be “planted” as well as “buried?” Such an interpretation only shows the absurdity of insisting on a literal interpretation of the Scriptures in cases of simple allusion, or where the main scope is illustration by figurative language.

Verse 5

For if we have been planted together - The word used here σύμφυτος sumphutos, does not occur elsewhere in the New Testament. It properly means sown or planted at the same time; what sprouts or springs up together; and is applied to plants and trees that are planted at the same time, and that sprout and grow together. Thus, the name would be given to a field of grain that was sown at the same time, and where the grain sprung up and grew simultaneously. Hence, it means intimately connected, or joined together. And here it denotes that Christians and the Saviour have been united intimately in regard to death; as he died and was laid in the grave, so have they by profession died to sin. And it is therefore natural to expect, that, like grain sown at the same time, they should grow up in a similar manner, and resemble each other.

We shall be also - We shall be also fellow-plants; that is, we shall resemble him in regard to the resurrection. As he rose from the grave, so shall we rise from sin. As he lived a new life, being raised up, so shall we live a new life. The propriety of this figure is drawn from the doctrine often referred to in the New Testament, of a union between Christ and his people. See this explained in the notes at John 15:1-10. The sentiment here inferred is but an illustration of what was said by the Saviour John 14:19, “Because I live, ye shall live also.” There is perhaps not to be found a more beautiful illustration than that employed here by the apostle of seed sown together in the earth, sprouting together, growing together, and ripening together for the harvest. Thus, the Saviour and his people are united together in his death, start up to life together in his resurrection, and are preparing together for the same harvest of glory in the heavens.

In the likeness of his resurrection - This does not mean that we shall resemble him when we are raised up at the last day - which may be, however, true - but that our rising from sin will resemble his resurrection from the grave. As he rose from the tomb and lived, so shall we rise from sin and live a new life.

Verse 6

Knowing this - We all knowing this. All Christians are supposed to know this. This is a new illustration drawn from the fact that by his crucifixion our corrupt nature has been crucified also, or put to death; and that thus we should be free from the servitude of sin.

Our old man - This expression occurs also in Ephesians 4:22, “That ye put off ...the old man which is corrupt according to the deceitful lusts.” Colossians 3:9, “lie not to one another, seeing that ye have put off the old man with his deeds.” From these passages it is evident that Paul uses the expression to denote our sinful and corrupt nature; the passions and evil propensities that exist before the heart is renewed. It refers to the love of sin, the indulgence of sinful propensities, in opposition to the new disposition which exists after the soul is converted, and which is called “the new man.”

Is crucified - Is put to death, as if on a cross. In this expression there is a personification of the corrupt propensities of our nature represented as “our old man,” our native disposition, etc. The figure is here carried out, and this old man, this corrupt nature, is represented as having been put to death in an agonizing and torturing manner. The pains of crucifixion were perhaps the most torturing of any that the human frame could bear. Death in this manner was most lingering and distressing. And the apostle here by the expression “is crucified” doubtless refers to the painful and protracted struggle which everyone goes through when his evil propensities are subdued; when his corrupt nature is slain; and when, a converted sinner, he gives himself up to God. Sin dies within him, and he becomes dead to the world, and to sin; “for as by the cross death is most lingering and severe, so that corrupt nature is not subdued but by anguish.” (Grotius.) All who have been born again can enter into this description. They remember “the wormwood and the gall.” They remember the anguish of conviction; the struggle of corrupt passion for the ascendency; the dying convulsions of sin in the heart; the long and lingering conflict before it was subdued, and the soul became submissive to God. Nothing will better express this than the lingering agony of crucifixion: and the argument of the apostle is, that as sin has produced such an effect, and as the Christian is now free from its embrace and its power, he will live to God.

With him - The word “with” σύν sun here is joined to the verb “is crucified” and means “is crucified as he was.”

That the body of sin - This expression doubtless means the same as that which he had just used, “our old man,” But why the term “body” is used, has been a subject in which interpreters have not been agreed. Some say that it is a Hebraism, denoting mere intensity or emphasis. Some that it means the same as flesh, that is, denoting our sinful propensities and lusts. Grotius thinks that the term “body” is elegantly attributed to sin, because the body of man is made up of many members joined together compactly, and sin also consists of numerous vices and evil propensities joined compactly, as it were, in one body. But the expression is evidently merely another form of conveying the idea contained in the phrase “our old man” - a personification of sin as if it had a living form, and as if it had been put to death on a cross. It refers to the moral destruction of the power of sin in the heart by the gospel, and not to any physical change in the nature or faculties of the soul; compare Colossians 2:11.

Might be destroyed - Might be put to death; might become inoperative and powerless. Sin becomes enervated, weakened, and finally annihilated, by the work of the Cross.

We should not serve - Should not be the slave of sin δουλεύειν douleuein. That we should not be subject to its control. The sense is, that before this we were slaves of sin (compare Romans 6:17,) but that now we are made free from this bondage, because the moral death of sin has freed us from it.

Sin - Sin is here personified as a master that had dominion over us, but is now dead.

Verse 7

For he that is dead - This is evidently an expression having a proverbial aspect, designed to illustrate the sentiment just expressed. The Rabbis had an expression similar to this, “When one is dead he is free from commands.” (Grotius.) So says Paul, when a man dies he is exempt from the power and dominion of his master, of him who reigned over him. The Christian had been subject to sin before his conversion. But he has now become dead to it. And as when a servant dies, he ceases to be subject to the control of his master, so the Christian being now dead to sin, on the same principle, is released from the control of his former master, sin. The idea is connected with Romans 6:6, where it is said that we should not be the slaves of sin any more. The reason of this is assigned here, where it is said that we are freed from it as a slave is freed when he dies. Of course, the apostle here is saying nothing of the future world. His whole argument has respect to the state of the Christian here; to his being freed from the bondage of sin. It is evident that he who is not freed from this bondage here, will not be in the future world. But the argument of the apostle has no bearing on that point.

Is freed - Greek, Is justified. The word here is used clearly in the sense of setting at liberty, or destroying the power or dominion. The word is often used in this sense; compare Acts 13:38-39; compare a similar expression in 1 Peter 4:1, “He that hath suffered in the flesh hath ceased from sin.” The design of the apostle is not to say that the Christian is perfect, but that sin has ceased to have dominion over him, as a master ceases to have power over a slave when he is dead. That dominion may be broken, so that the Christian may not be a slave to sin, and yet he may be conscious of many failings and of much imperfection; see Romans 7:0.

Verses 8-11

Likewise - In like manner. This is an exhortation drawn from the argument in the previous verses. It shows the design and tendency of the Christian scheme.

Reckon ye yourselves - Judge, or esteem yourselves.

To be dead indeed unto sin - So that sin shall have no influence or control ever you, any more than the objects of this world have ever the dead in their graves; see the note at Romans 6:2.

But alive unto God - Bound to live to promote his glory; to make this the great and sole object of your living.

Through Jesus Christ - By means of the death, and resurrection, and example of Jesus Christ. The apostle regards all our disposition to live to God as resulting from the work of the Lord Jesus Christ.

Verse 12

Let not sin therefore - This is a conclusion drawn from the previous train of reasoning. The result of all these considerations is, that sin should not be suffered to reign in us.

Reign - Have dominion; obtain the ascendency, or rule.

In your mortal body - In you. The apostle uses the word “mortal” here, perhaps, for these reasons,

  1. To remind them of the tendency of the flesh to sin and corruption, as equivalent to “fleshly,” since the flesh is often used to denote evil passions and desires (compare Romans 7:5, Romans 7:23; Romans 8:3, Romans 8:6); and,
  2. To remind them of their weakness, as the body was mortal, was soon to decay, and was therefore liable to be overcome by temptation. Perhaps, also, he had his eye on the folly of suffering the “mortal body” to overcome the immortal mind, and to bring it into subjection to sin and corruption.

That ye should obey it - That sin should get such an ascendency as to rule entirely over you, and make you the slave.

In the lusts thereof - In its desires, or propensities.

Verse 13

Neither yield ye your members - Do not give up, or devote, or employ your members, etc. The word “members” here refers to the members of the body - the hands, feet, tongue, etc. It is a specification of what in Romans 6:12 is included under the general term “body;” see Romans 7:5, Rom 7:23; 1 Corinthians 6:15; 1 Corinthians 12:12, 1Co 12:18, 1 Corinthians 12:20.

As instruments - This word ὁπλα hopla properly signifies “arms;” or implements of war; but it also denotes an instrument of any kind which we use for defense or aid. Here it means that we should not devote our members - our hands, tongue, etc., as if under the direction of sinful passions and corrupt desires, to accomplish purposes of iniquity. We should not make the members of our bodies the slaves of sin reigning within us.

Unto sin - In the service of sin; to work iniquity.

But yield yourselves ... - Give or devote yourselves to God.

That are alive - Romans 6:11.

And your members ... - Christians should devote every member of the body to God and to his service. Their tongue should be consecrated to his praise, and to the office of truth, and kindness, and benevolence; their hands should be employed in useful labor for him and his cause; their feet should be swift in his service, and should not go in the paths of iniquity; their eyes should contemplate his works to excite thanksgiving and praise; their ears should not be employed to listen to words of deceit, or songs of dangerous and licentious tendency, or to persuasion that would lead astray, but should be open to catch the voice of God as he utters his will in the Book of truth, or as he speaks in the gale, the zephyr, the rolling thunder, the ocean, or in the great events of his providence. He speaks to us every day, and we should hear him; he spreads his glories before us, and we should survey them to praise him; he commands, and our hands, and heart, and feet should obey.

Verse 14

For sin ... - The propensity or inclination to sin.

Shall not have dominion - Shall not reign, Romans 5:12; Romans 6:6. This implies that sin ought not to have this dominion; and it also expresses the conviction of the apostle that it would not have this rule over Christians.

For we are not under law - We who are Christians are not subject to that law where sin is excited, and where it rages unsubdued. But it may be asked here, What is meant by this declaration? Does it mean that Christians are absolved from all the obligations of the law? I answer,

  1. The apostle does not affirm that Christians are not bound to obey the moral law. The whole scope of his reasoning shows that he maintains that they are. The whole structure of Christianity supposes the same thing; compare Matthew 5:17-19.

(2)The apostle means to say that Christians are not under the law as legalists, or as attempting to be justified by it. They seek a different plan of justification altogether: and they do not attempt to be justified by their own obedience. The Jews did; they do not.

(3)It is implied here that the effect of an attempt to be justified by the Law was not to subdue sins, but to excite them and to lead to indulgence in them.

Justification by works would destroy no sin, would check no evil propensity, but would leave a man to all the ravages and riotings of unsubdued passion. If, therefore, the apostle had maintained that people were justified by works, he could not have consistently exhorted them to abandon their sins. He would have had no powerful motives by which to urge it; for the scheme would not lead to it. But he here says that the Christian was seeking justification on a plan which contemplated and which accomplished the destruction of sin; and he therefore infers that sin should not have dominion over them.

But under grace - Under a scheme of mercy, the design and tendency of which is to subdue sin, and destroy it. In what way the system of grace removes and destroys sin, the apostle states in the following verses.

Verse 15

What then? shall we sin ... - The apostle proceeds to notice an objection which might be suggested. “If Christians are not under the law, which forbids all sin, but are under grace, which pardons sin, will it not follow that they will feel themselves released from obligation to be holy? Will they not commit sin freely, since the system of grace is one which contemplates pardon, and which will lead them to believe that they may be forgiven to any extent?” This Consequence has been drawn by many professing Christians; and it was well therefore, for the apostle to guard against it.

God forbid - Note, Romans 3:4.

Verse 16

Know ye not ... - The objection noticed in Romans 6:15, the apostle answers by a reference to the known laws of servitude or slavery, Romans 6:16-20, and by showing that Christians, who had been the slaves of sin, have now become the servants of righteousness, and were therefore bound by the proper laws of servitude to obey their new master: as if he had said, “I assume that you know: you are acquainted with the laws of servitude; you know what is required in such cases.” This would be known to all who had been either masters or slaves, or who had observed the usual laws and obligations of servitude.

To whom ye yield yourselves - To whom ye give up yourselves for servitude or obedience. The apostle here refers to voluntary servitude; but where this existed, the power of the master over the time and services of the servant was absolute. The argument of the apostle is, that Christians had become the voluntary servants of God, and were therefore bound to obey him entirely. Servitude among the ancients, whether voluntary or involuntary, was rigid, and gave the master an absolute right over his slave, Luke 17:9; John 8:34; John 15:15. To obey. To be obedient; or for the purpose of obeying his commands.

To whom ye obey - To whom ye come under subjection. That is, you are bound to obey his requirements.

Whether of sin - The general law of servitude the apostle now applies to the case before him. If people became the servants of sin, if they gave themselves to its indulgence, they would obey it, let the consequences be what they might. Even with death, and ruin, and condemnation before them; they would obey sin. They give indulgence to their evil passions and desires, and follow them as obedient servants even if they lead them down to hell. Whatever be the consequences of sin. yet he who yields to it must abide by them, even if it leads him down to death and eternal woe.

Or of obedience ... - The same law exists in regard to holiness or obedience. The man who becomes the servant of holiness will feel himself bound by the law of servitude to obey, and to pursue it to its regular consequences.

Unto righteousness - Unto justification; that is, unto eternal life. The expression stands contrasted with “death,” and doubtless means that he who thus becomes the voluntary servant of holiness, will feel himself bound to obey it, unto complete and eternal justification and life; compare Romans 6:21-22. The argument is drawn from what the Christian would feel of the nature of obligation. He would obey him to Whom he had devoted himself.

(This would seem to imply that justification is the effect of obedience. Δικαιοσυνη Dikaiosunē, however, does not signify justification, but righteousness, that is, in this case, personal holiness. The sense is, that while the service of sin leads to death, that of obedience issues in holiness or righteousness. It is no objection to this view that it does not preserve the antithesis, since “justification” is not the opposite of “death,” any more than holiness. “There is no need,” says Mr. Haldane, “that there should be such an exact correspondence in the parts of the antithesis, as is supposed. And there is a most obvious reason why it could not be so. Death is the wages of sin, but life is not the wages of obedience.”)

Verse 17

But God be thanked - The argument in this verse is drawn from a direct appeal to the feelings of the Roman Christians themselves. From their experience, Paul was able to draw a demonstration to his purpose, and this was with him a ground of gratitude to God.

That ye were ... - The sense of this passage is plain. The ground Of the thanksgiving was not that they had been the slaves of sin; but it is, that notwithstanding this, or although they had been thus, yet that they were now obedient. To give thanks to God that people were sinners, would contradict the whole spirit of this argument, and of the Bible. But to give thanks that although people had been sinners, yet that now they had become obedient; that is, that great sinners had become converted, is in entire accordance with the spirit of the Bible, and with propriety. The word “although” or “whereas,” understood here, expresses the sense, “But thanks unto God, that whereas ye were the servants of sin,” etc. Christians should thank God that they themselves, though once great sinners, have become converted; and when others who are great sinners are converted, they should praise him.

The servants of sin - This is a strong expression implying that they had been in bondage to sin; that they had been completely its slaves.

From the heart - Not in external form only; but as a cordial, sincere, and entire service. No other obedience is genuine.

That form of doctrine - Greek, type; see the note at Romans 5:14. The form or type of doctrine means that shape or model of instruction which was communicated. It does not differ materially from the doctrine itself, “you have obeyed that doctrine,” etc. You have yielded obedience to the instructions, the rules, the tenor of the Christian revelation. The word “doctrine” does not refer to an abstract dogma, but means instruction, that which is taught. And the meaning of the whole expression is simply, that they had yielded a cheerful and hearty obedience to what had been communicated to them by the teachers of the Christian religion; compare Romans 1:8.

Which was delivered you - Margin, “Whereto ye were delivered.” This is a literal translation of the Greek; and the sense is simply in which you have been instructed.

Verse 18

“Being then made free from sin.” That is, as a master. You are not under its dominion; you are no longer its slaves. They were made free, as a servant is who is set at liberty, and who is, therefore, no longer under obligation to obey.

Ye became the servants ... - You became voluntarily under the dominion of righteousness; you yielded yourselves to it; and are therefore bound to be holy; compare the note at John 8:32.

Verse 19

I speak after the manner of men - I speak as people usually speak; or I draw an illustration from common life, in order to make myself better understood.

Because of the infirmity of your flesh - The word “infirmity” means weakness, feebleness; and is opposed to vigor and strength. The word “flesh” is used often to denote the corrupt passions of people; but it may refer here to their intellect, or understanding; “Because of your imperfection of spiritual knowledge; or incapacity to discern arguments and illustrations that would be more strictly spiritual in their character.” This dimness or feebleness had been caused by long indulgence in sinful passions, and by the blinding influence which such passions have on the mind. The sense here is, “I use an illustration drawn from common affairs, from the well-known relations of master and slave, because you will better see the force of such an illustration with which you have been familiar, than you would one that would be more abstract, and more strictly spiritual.” It is a kind of apology for drawing an illustration from the relation of master and slave.

For as ye have yielded - Note, Romans 6:13. Servants to uncleanness. Have been in bondage to impurity. The word “uncleanness” here refers to impurity of life in any form; to the degraded passions that were common among the heathen; see Romans 1:0.

And to iniquity - Transgression of law.

Unto iniquity - For the purpose of committing iniquity. It implies that they had done it in an excessive degree. It is well for Christians to be reminded of their former lives, to awaken repentance, to excite gratitude, to produce humility and a firmer purpose to live to the honor of God. This is the use which the apostle here makes of it.

Unto holiness - In order to practice holiness. Let the surrender of your members to holiness be as sincere and as unqualified as the surrender was to sin. This is all that is required of Christians. Before conversion they were wholly given to sin; after conversion they should be wholly given to God. If all Christians would employ the same energies in advancing the kingdom of God that they have in promoting the kingdom, of Satan, the church would rise with dignity and grandeur, and every continent and island would soon feel the movement. No requirement is more reasonable than this; and it should be a source of lamentation and mourning with Christians that it is not so; that they have employed so mighty energies in the cause of Satan, and do so little in the service of God. This argument for energy in the divine life, the apostle proceeds further to illustrate by comparing the rewards obtained in the two kinds of servitude, that of the world, and of God.

Verse 20

Ye were free from righteousness - That is, in your former state, you were not at all under the influence of righteousness. You were entirely devoted to sin; a strong expression of total depravity. It settles the question; and proves that they had no native goodness. The argument which is implied here rather than expressed is, that now they ought to be equally free from sin, since they had become released from their former bondage, and had become the servants of another master.

Verse 21

What fruit, then ... - What reward, or what advantage. This is an argument drawn from the experience of Christians respecting the indulgence of sinful passions. The question discussed throughout this chapter is, whether the gospel plan of justification by faith leads to indulgence in sin? The argument here is drawn from the past experience which Christians have had in the ways of transgression. They have tried it; they know its effects; they have tasted its bitterness; they have reaped its fruits. It is implied here that having once experienced these effects, and knowing the tendency of sin, they will not indulge in it now; compare Romans 7:5.

Whereof ye are now ashamed - Having seen their nature and tendency, you are now ashamed of them; compare Romans 1:0; Ephesians 5:12, “For it is a shame to speak of those things which are done of them in secret,” 2 Corinthians 4:2; Jude 1:13; Philippians 3:19.

For the end - The tendency; the result. Those things lead to death.

Is death - Note, Romans 6:22.

Verse 22

But now - Under the Christian plan of justification.

Being made free from sin - Being delivered from its dominion, and from bondage; in the same manner as before conversion they were free from righteousness, Romans 6:20.

Ye have your fruit unto holiness - The fruit or result is holiness. This service produces holiness, as the other did sin. It is implied here, though not expressly affirmed, that in this service which leads to holiness, they received important benefits, as in the service of sin they had experienced many evils.

And the end - The final result - the ultimate consequence will be. At present this service produces holiness; hereafter it will terminate in everlasting life. By this consideration the apostle states the tendency of the plan of justification, and urges on them the duty of striving after holiness.

Everlasting life - Note, John 3:36. This stands in contrast with the word “death” in Romans 6:21, and shows its meaning. “One is just as long in duration as the other;” and if the one is limited, the other is. If those who obey shall be blessed with life forever, those who disobey will be cursed with death forever. Never was there an antithesis more manifest and more clear. And there could not be a stronger proof that the word “death” in Romans 6:21, refers not to temporal death, but to eternal punishment. For what force would there be in the argument on the supposition that temporal death only is meant? The argument would stand thus: “The end of those sins is to produce temporal death; the end of holiness is to produce eternal life!” Will not temporal death be inflicted, it would be immediately asked, at any rate? Are Christians exempt from it? And do not people suffer this, whether they become Christians or not? How then could this be an argument bearing on the tenor of the apostle’s reasoning? But admit the fair and obvious construction of the passage to be the true one, and it becomes plain. They were pursuing a course tending to everlasting ruin; they are now in a path that shall terminate in eternal life. By this weighty consideration, therefore, they are urged to be holy.

Verse 23

For the wages of sin - The word translated here “wages” ὀψώνια opsōnia properly denotes what is purchased to be eaten with bread, as fish, flesh, vegetables, etc. (Schleusner); and thence, it means the pay of the Roman soldier, because formerly it was the custom to pay the soldier in these things. It means hence, what a man earns or deserves; what is his proper pay, or what he merits. As applied to sin, it means that death is what sin deserves; what will be its proper reward. Death is thus called the wages of sin, not because it is an arbitrary, undeserved appointment, but

(1) Because it is its proper desert. Not a pain will be inflicted on the sinner which he does not deserve. Not a sinner will die who ought not to die. Sinners even in hell will be treated just as they deserve to be treated; and there is not to man a more fearful and terrible consideration than this. No man can conceive a more dreadful doom than for himself to be treated forever just as he deserves to be. But,

(2) This is the wages of sin, because, like the pay of the soldier, it is just what was threatened, Ezekiel 18:4, “The soul that sinneth, it shall die.” God will not inflict anything more than was threatened, and therefore it is just.

Is death - This stands opposed here to eternal life, and proves that one is just as enduring as the other.

But the gift of God - Not the wages of man; not what is due to him; but the mere gift and mercy of God. The apostle is careful to distinguish, and to specify thai this is not what man deserves, but what is gratuitously conferred on him; Note, Romans 6:15.

Eternal life - The same words which in Romans 6:22 are rendered “everlasting life.” The phrase is opposed to death; and proves incontestably that that means eternal death. We may remark, therefore,

(1) That the one will be as long as the other.

(2) As there is no doubt about the duration of life, so there can be none about the duration of death. The one will be rich, blessed, everlasting; the other sad, gloomy, lingering, awful, eternal.

(3) If the sinner is lost, he will deserve to die. He will have his reward. He will suffer only what shall be the just due of sin. He will not be a martyr in the cause of injured innocence. He will not have the compassion of the universe in his favor. He will have no one to take his part against God. He will suffer just as much, and just as long, as he ought to suffer. He will suffer as the culprit pines in the dungeon, or as the murderer dies on the gibbet, because this is the proper reward of sin.

(4) They who are saved will be raised to heaven, not because they merit it, but by the rich and sovereign grace of God. All their salvation will be ascribed to him; and they will celebrate his mercy and grace forever.

(5) It becomes us, therefore, to flee from the wrath to come. No man is so foolish and so wicked as he who is willing to reap the proper wages of sin. None so blessed as he who has part in the mercy of God, and who lays hold on eternal life.

Bibliographical Information
Barnes, Albert. "Commentary on Romans 6". "Barnes' Notes on the Whole Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/bnb/romans-6.html. 1870.
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