Bible Commentaries
Romans 6

The Expositor's Greek TestamentExpositor's Greek Testament

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Verse 1

Romans 6:1 . Τί οὖν ἐροῦμεν ; What inference then shall we draw, i.e. , from the relations of sin and grace expounded in Romans 5:20 f.? Are we to continue in sin ( cf. Romans 11:22 f.) that grace may abound? Lightfoot suggests “ the sin” and “ the grace” just referred to. The question was one sure to be asked by some one; Paul recognises it as a natural question in view of his doctrine, and asks it himself. But he answers it with an indignant negative.

Verses 1-14

Romans 6:1-14 . In the fifth chapter, Paul has concluded his exposition of the “righteousness of God” which is revealed in the Gospel. But the exposition leaves something to be desired something hinted at in Romans 3:8 (“Let us do evil that good may come”) and recalled in Romans 5:20 f. (“Where sin abounded, grace did superabound”). It seems, after all, as if the gospel did “make void the law” (Romans 3:31 ) in a bad sense; and Paul has now to demonstrate that it does not. It is giving an unreal precision to his words to say with Lipsius that he has now to justify his gospel to the moral consciousness of the Jewish Christian; it is not Jewish Christians, obviously, who are addressed in Romans 6:19 ff., and it is not the Jewish-Christian moral consciousness, but the moral consciousness of all men, which raises the questions to which he here addresses himself. He has to show that those who have “received the reconciliation” (Romans 5:11 ), who “receive the abundance of the grace and of the gift of righteousness” (Romans 5:17 ), are the very persons in whom “the righteous requirement of the law” is fulfilled (Romans 8:4 ). The libertine argument is rather Gentile than Jewish, though when Paul speaks of the new religion as establishing Law, it is naturally the Mosaic law of which he thinks. It was the one definite embodiment of the concept. The justification, to the moral consciousness, of the Gospel in which a Divine righteousness is freely held out in Jesus Christ to the sinner’s faith, fills the next three chapters. In chap. 6 it is shown that the Christian, in baptism, dies to sin; in chap. 7, that by death he is freed from the law, which in point of fact, owing to the corruption of his nature, perpetually stimulates sin; in chap. 8, that the Spirit imparted to believers breaks the power of the flesh, and enables them to live to God.

Verse 2

Romans 6:2 . μὴ γένοιτο , cf. Romans 3:4 . οἵτινες ἀπεθάνομεν τῇ ἁμαρτίᾳ : the relative is qualitative: “we, being as we are persons who died to sin”. For the dative, see Romans 6:10-11 , and Winer, p. 263. To have died to sin is to be utterly and for ever out of any relation to it. πῶς ἔτι ζήσομεν ; how after that shall we live in it? impossible.

Verse 3

Romans 6:3 . But this death to sin, on which the whole argument turns, raises a question. It is introduced here quite abruptly; there has been no mention of it hitherto. When , it may be asked, did this all-important death take place? The answer is: It is involved in baptism. ἤ ἀγνοεῖτε ὅτι κ . τ . λ .: the only alternative to accepting this argument is to confess ignorance of the meaning of the rite in which they had been received into the Church. ὄσοι ἐβαπτίσθημεν : we all, who were baptised into Christ Jesus, were baptised into His death. The ὅσοι is not partitive but distributive: there is no argument in the passage at all, unless all Christians were baptised. The expression βαπτισθῆναι εἰς Χριστὸν does not necessarily mean to be baptised into Christ; it may only mean to be baptised Christward, i.e. , with Christ in view as the object of faith. Cf. 1 Corinthians 10:2 , and the expression βαπτισθῆναι εἰς τὸ ὄνομα τοῦ Κυρίου Ἰησοῦ . In the same way βαπτισθῆναι εἰς τὸν θάνατον αὐτοῦ might certainly mean to be baptised with Christ’s death in view as the object of faith. This is the interpretation of Lipsius. But it falls short of the argumentative requirements of the passage, which demand the idea of an actual union to, or incorporation in, Christ. This is more than Lipsius means, but it does not exclude what he means. The baptism in which we are united to Christ and to His death is one in which we confess our faith, looking to Him and His death. To say that faith justifies but baptism regenerates, breaking the Christian life into two unrelated pieces, as Weiss does one spiritual and the other magical is to throw away the Apostle’s case. His whole point is that no such division can be made. Unless there is a necessary connection between justification by faith and the new life, Paul fails to prove that faith establishes the law. The real argument which unites chaps. 3, 4 and 5 to chaps. 6, 7 and 8, and repels the charge of antinomianism, is this: justifying faith, looking to Christ and His death, really unites us to Him who died and rose again, as the symbolism of baptism shows to every Christian.

Verse 4

Romans 6:4 . This symbolism interpreted. συνετάφημεν οὖν αὐτῷ κ . τ . λ .: Therefore we were buried with Him (in the act of immersion) through that baptism into His death burial being regarded as the natural sequence of death, and a kind of seal set to its reality. Cf. 1 Corinthians 15:3 f. It introduces a false abstraction to say (with Meyer) that εἰς τὸν θάνατον means “unto death,” not “unto His death”: death in the whole context is perfectly definite. διὰ τῆς δόξης τοῦ πατρός : in nothing was the splendour of God’s power revealed so much as in the resurrection of Jesus, Ephesians 1:19 f. ἐν καινότητι ζωῆς : in life of a new quality; cf. Romans 7:6 , 1 Timothy 6:17 : the construction makes the new quality of the life prominent. Winer, p. 296.

Verse 5

Romans 6:5 . This verse proves the legitimacy of the reference to a new life in the preceding one: union with Christ at one point (His death) is union with Him altogether (and therefore in His resurrecton). εἰ γὰρ σύμφυτοι γεγόναμεν τῷ ὁμοιώματι τοῦ θανάτου αὐτοῦ : it is simplest to take συμφ . and τῷ ὁμοιώματι together if we have become vitally one with the likeness of His death; i.e. , if the baptism, which is a similitude of Christ’s death, has had a reality answering to its obvious import, so that we have really died in it as Christ died, then we shall have a corresponding experience of resurrection, τῆς ἀναστάσεως is also dependent on ὁμοιώματι : baptism, inasmuch as one emerges from the water after being immersed, is a ὁμοίωμα of resurrection as well as of death. It does not seem a real question to ask whether the ἀνάστασις is ethical or transcendent: one cannot imagine Paul drawing the distinction here. (On the word ὁμοίωμα , see Cremer.)

Verse 6

Romans 6:6 . All this can be asserted, knowing as we do that “our old man” = our old self, what we were before we became Christians was crucified with Him. Paul says συνεσταυρώθη simply because Christ died on the cross , and we are baptised into that death, not because “our old man” is the basest of criminals for whom crucifixion is the proper penalty. The object of this crucifixion of the old man was “that the body of sin might be brought to nought”. τὸ σῶμα τῆς ἁμαρτίας is the body in which we live: apart from the crucifixion of the old self it can be characterised as “a body of sin”. It may be wrong to say that it is necessarily and essentially sinful the body, as such, can have no moral predicate attached to it; it would be as wrong to deny that it is invariably and persistently a seat and source of sin. The genitive is perhaps qualitative rather than possessive, though “the body of which sin has taken possession” (S. and H.) is a good paraphrase. See Winer, p. 235, 768. This body is to be reduced to impotence τοῦ μηκέτι δουλεύειν ἡμᾶς κ . τ . λ . “that we may no longer be slaves to sin”. The body is the instrument we use in the service of sin, and if it is disabled the service must cease. For the gen inf, see Burton, § 397.

Verse 7

Romans 6:7 . ὁ γὰρ ἀποθανὼν κ . τ . λ . Here we have the general principle on which the foregoing argument rests: death annuls all obligations, breaks all ties, cancels all old scores. The difficulty is that by the words ἀπὸ τῆς ἁμαρτίας Paul introduces one particular application of the principle the one he is concerned with here as if it were identical with the principle itself. “Death clears men of all claims, especially (to come to the case before us) it clears us, who have died with Christ, of the claim of sin, our old master, to rule over us still.” Weiss would reject the introduction into this clause of the idea of dying with Christ , on the ground that the words σὺν Χριστῷ bring it in as a new idea in the following verse. But it is no new idea; it is the idea of the whole passage; and unless we bring it in here, the quittance from sin (and not from any obligation in general) remains inexplicable. Weiss, in fact, gives it up.

Verse 8

Romans 6:8 . The Apostle now resumes his main thought. συνζήσομεν : see note on ἀνάστασις Romans 6:5 : there is no conscious separation of ethical and transcendent life with Christ to Paul it is one life.

Verse 9

Romans 6:9 . εἰδότες … οὐκέτι ἀποθνήσκει : The new life with Christ will be the same which Christ Himself lives, a life inaccessible to death. The post-resurrection life of Jesus was not His old life over again; in that life death had dominion over Him, because He made Himself one with us in all the consequences of sin; but now the dominion of death has expired. The principle of Romans 6:7 can be applied to Christ also: He has died, and the powers which in the old relations had claims upon Him death, e.g. have such claims no more.

Verse 10

Romans 6:10 . This is expanded in Romans 6:10 . ὃ γὰρ ἀπέθανε , τῇ ἁμαρτίᾳ ἀπέθανεν ἐφάπαξ · the ὃ is ‘cognate’ accus. Winer, p. 209. “The death that He died, He died to sin once for all.” The dative τῇ ἁμαρτίᾳ must be grammatically the same here as in Romans 6:2 ; Romans 6:11 , but the interpretation required seems different. While He lived, Christ had undoubtedly relations to sin, though sin was foreign to His will and conscience (2 Corinthians 5:21 ); but after He died these relations ceased; sin could never make Him its victim again as at the Cross. Similarly while we lived ( i.e. , before we died with Christ), we also had relations to sin; and these relations likewise, different as they were from His, must cease with that death. The difference in the reference of the dative is no doubt an objection to this interpretation, and accordingly the attempt has been made to give the same meaning to dying to sin in Christ’s case as in ours, and indeed to make our dying to sin the effect and reproduction of His. “The language of the Apostle seems to imply that there was something in the mind of Christ in dying for us that was the moral equivalent [italics ours] to that death to sin which takes place in us when we believe in Him, something in its very nature fitted to produce hte change in us.” Somerville, St. Paul’s Conception of Christ , p. 100 f. He died, in short, rather than sin laid down His life rather than violate the will of God; in this sense, which is an ethical one, and points to an experience which can be reproduced in others under His influence, He died to sin. “His death on the Cross was the final triumph of His holiness, over all those desires of the flesh that furnish to man unregenerate the motive power of His life.” But though this gives an ethical meaning to the words in both cases, it does not give exactly the same ethical meaning; a certain disparity remains. It is more in the line of all Paul’s thoughts to say with Holtzmann ( N. T. Theol. , ii., 118), that Christ by dying paid to sin that tribute to which in virtue of a Divine sentence ( κρίμα , Romans 5:16 ) it could lay claim, and that those therefore who share His death are like Himself absolved from all claims of sin for the future. For ἐφάπαξ , see Hebrews 7:27 ; Hebrews 9:12 ; Hebrews 10:10 . The very idea of death is that of a summary, decisive. never-to-be-repeated end. ὃ δὲ ζῇ κ . τ . λ . “The lite that He lives He lives to God”.

Verse 11

Romans 6:11 . In this verse the application is made of all that precedes. The death with Christ, the life with Christ, are real, yet to be realised. The truth of being a Christian is contained in them, yet the calling of the Christian is to live up to them. We may forget what we should be; we may also (and this is how Paul puts it) forget what we are . We are dead to sin in Christ’s death; we are alive to God in Christ’s resurrection; let us regard ourselves as such in Christ Jesus . The essence of our faith is a union to Him in which His experience becomes ours. This is the theological reply to antinomianism.

Verse 12

Romans 6:12 f. Practical enforcement of Romans 6:1-11 . The inner life is in union with Christ, and the outer (bodily) life must not be inconsistent with it (Weiss). ἐν τῷ θνητῷ ὑμῶν σώματι : the suggestion of θνητὸς is rather that the frail body should be protected against the tyranny of sin, than that sin leads to the death of the body. μηδὲ παριστάνετε … ἀλλὰ παραστήσατε : and do not go on, as you have been doing, putting your members at the service of sin, but put them once for all at the service of God. For the difference between pres. and aor. imper., see Winer, p. 393 f. ὅπλα ἀδικίας : the gen is of quality, cf. Luke 16:8-9 . ὅπλα in the N.T. seems always to mean weapons, not instruments: see 2 Corinthians 10:4 ; 2 Corinthians 10:6-7 , and cf. ὀψώνια , Romans 6:23 . ὡσεὶ ἐκ νεκρῶν ζῶντας : they were really such; the ὡσεὶ signifies that they are to think of themselves as such, and to act accordingly.

Verse 14

Romans 6:14 . They can obey these exhortations, for sin will not be their tyrant now, since they are not under law, but under grace. It is not restraint, but inspiration, which liberate from sin: not Mount Sinai but Mount Calvary which makes saints. But this very way of putting the truth (which will be expanded in chaps. 7 and 8) seems to raise the old difficulty of Romans 3:8 , Romans 6:1 again. The Apostle states it himself, and proceeds to a final refutation of it.

Verse 15

Romans 6:15 . ἁμαρτήσωμεν ; deliberative: are we to sin because our life is not ruled by statutes, but inspired by the sense of what we owe to that free pardoning mercy of God? Are we to sin because God justifies the ungodly at the Cross?

Verse 16

Romans 6:16 . οὐκ οἴδατε : It is excluded by the elementary principle that no man can serve two masters (Matthew 6:24 ). The δοῦλους is the exclusive property of one , and he belongs to that one εἰς ὑπακοὴν , with obedience in view; nothing else than obedience to his master alone is contemplated. The masters here are ἁμαρτία whose service ends in death, and ὑπακοὴ ( cf. Romans 5:19 ) whose service ends in righteousness. δικαιοσύνη here cannot be “justification,” but righteousness in the sense of the character which God approves. ἤτοι here only in N.T. = of course these are the only alternatives.

Verse 17

Romans 6:17 . Paul thanks God that his readers have already made their choice, and made it for obedience. ὅτι ἦτε … ὑπηκούσατε δὲ : the co-ordination seems to imply that Paul is grateful (1) that their servitude to sin is past ἦτε having the emphasis; (2) that they have received the Gospel. Yet the two things are one, and it would have been more natural to subordinate the first: “that though ye were slaves of sin, ye obeyed,” etc. ὑπηκούσατε εἰς ὃν παρεδόθητε τύπον διδαχῆς must be resolved into ὑ . τῷ τύπῳ τῆς διδαχῆς εἰς ὃν παρεδόθητε . The alternative is εἰς τὸν τύπον τῆς διδαχῆς ὃς παρεδόθη ὑμῖν (Kypke). But ὑπακούειν εἴς τι only means to be obedient with respect to something, not to be obedient to some one, or some thing, which is the sense required here. A true parallel is Cyril of Jerus. Catechet. lect. iv., § iii.: πρὸ δὲ τῆς εἰς τὴν πίστιν παραδόσεως ; the catechumens were handed over to the faith. But what is the τύπος διδαχῆς to which the converts at Rome were handed over? Many, in the line of these words of Cyril, conceive of it as a “type of doctrine,” a special mode of presenting the Gospel, which had as catchwords, e.g. , “not under law but under grace,” or “free from sin and slaves to righteousness,” or more probably, “dying with Christ and rising with Him”. In other words, Paulinism as modern theology conceives it. But this is an anachronism. It is only modern eyes that see distinct doctrinal types in the N.T., and Paul, as far as he knew (1 Corinthians 15:3-11 ), preached the same Gospel as the other Apostles. It is unnecessary, also, to the argument. In whatever form the Gospel won the obedience of men, it was inconsistent with their continuance in sin. Hence it seems nearer the truth to take τύπος διδαχῆς in a more general sense; it is teaching, of course in a definite form, but regarded chiefly in its ethical requirements; when received, or when men were handed over to it, it became a moral authority. Cf. Hort, Romans and Ephesians , p. 32 f. What is the time referred to in the aorists ὑπηκούσατε and παρεδόθητε ? It is the time when they became Christians, a time really fixed by their acceptance of the Gospel in faith, and outwardly marked by baptism. Baptism is the visible point of separation between the two servitudes to sin and to God.

Verse 18

Romans 6:18 . There is no absolute independence for man; our nature requires us to serve some master.

Verse 19

Romans 6:19 . ἀνθρώπινον λέγω διὰ τὴν ἀσθένειαν τῆς σαρκὸς ὑμῶν . Cf. Romans 3:5 , Galatians 3:15 . Paul apologises for using this human figure of the relation of slave to master to convey spiritual truths. But what is “the weakness of the flesh” which makes him have recourse to such figures? Weiss makes it moral. The Apostle speaks with this unmistakable plainness and emphasis because he is writing to morally weak persons whose nature and past life really made them liable to temptations to libertinism. This seems to me confirmed by the reference, which immediately follows, to the character of their pre-Christian life. Others make the weakness rather intellectual than ethical, as if Paul said: “I condescend to your want of spiritual intelligence in using such figures”. But this is not a natural meaning for “the weakness of your flesh,” and does not yield so good a connection with what follows. δοῦλα τῇ ἀκαθαρσίᾳ καὶ τῇ ἀνομίᾳ : ἀκαθαρσία defiling the sinner, ἀνομία disregarding the will of God. If εἰς τὴν ἀνομίαν should remain in the text, it may suggest that this bad life never gets beyond itself. On the other hand, to present the members as slaves to righteousness has ἁγιασμός in view, which is a higher thing. ἁγιασμὸς is sanctification, primarily as an act or process, eventually as a result. It is unreal to ask whether the process or the result is meant here: they have no meaning apart.

Verse 20

Romans 6:20 . In every state in which man lives, there is a bondage and a liberty. In the old state, it was bondage to sin, and liberty in relation to righteousness. For τῇ δικαιοσύνῃ see Winer, 263.

Verse 21

Romans 6:21 f. To decide which of the two lives, or of the two freedoms, is the true, Paul appeals to their fruits. The marked contrast between τότε and νῦν is in favour of those who put the mark of interrogation after τότε . “What fruit therefore had you then? Things of which you are now ashamed.” The construction ἐφʼ οἶς ἐπαισχύνεσθε is found also in Isaiah 1:29 : ᾐσχύνθησαν ἐπὶ τοῖς κίποις . If the point of interrogation is put after ἐπαισχύνεσθε , the answer “none” must be interpolated: and ἐκείνων supplied as antecedent to ἐφʼ οἷς . νυνὶ δέ : But now , now that the situation is reversed, and you have been freed from sin and made slaves to God, you have your fruit εἰς ἁγιασμόν . He does not say what the fruit is, but we know what the things are which contribute to and result in ἁγιασμός : see Romans 6:19 .

Verse 23

Romans 6:23 . The γὰρ introduces the general truth of which what has been said of the Romans in Romans 6:21 f. is an illustration. “All this is normal and natural, for the wages of sin is death,” etc. ὀψώνια 1Ma 3:28 ; 1Ma 14:32 . The idea of a warfare (see ὅπλα , Romans 6:13 ) is continued. The soldier’s pay who enlists in the service of sin is death. τὸ δὲ χάρισμα : but the free gift, etc. The end in God’s service is not of debt, but of grace. Tertullian (quoted in S. and H.) renders χάρισμα here donativum (the largess given by the emperor to soldiers on a New Year’s Day or birthday), keeping on the military association; but Paul could hardly use what is almost a technical expression with himself in a technical sense quite remote from his own. On ζωὴ αἰώνιος ἐν Χ . Ἰ . τῷ κυρίῳ ἡμῶν , see on Romans 5:21 .

Bibliographical Information
Nicoll, William Robertson, M.A., L.L.D. "Commentary on Romans 6". The Expositor's Greek Testament. 1897-1910.