Monday, May 29th, 2023
the Week of Proper 3 / Ordinary 8
the Week of Proper 3 / Ordinary 8
Godet's Commentary on Selected Books Godet on Selected Books
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Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.
These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.
Godet, Frédéric Louis. "Commentary on Romans 6". "Godet's Commentary on Selected Books". https://www.studylight.org/
commentaries/ eng/ gsc/ romans-6.html.
Godet, Frédéric Louis. "Commentary on Romans 6". "Godet's Commentary on Selected Books". https://www.studylight.org/
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FIRST PART. SUPPLEMENTARY. CHAPS. 6-8. SANCTIFICATION.
BY faith in the expiatory sacrifice of Jesus Christ the believer has obtained a sentence of justification, in virtue of which he stands reconciled to God. Can anything more be needed for his salvation? It seems not. The didactic treatise, intended to expound salvation, seems thus to have reached its close. Why then a new part?
The attentive reader will not have forgotten that in the first part of chap. 5 the apostle directed our attention to a day of wrath, the day of the judgment to come, and that he dealt with the question by anticipation, whether the justification now acquired would hold good in that final and decisive hour. To settle this question, he brought in a means of salvation of which he had not yet spoken: participation in the life of Christ; and it was on this fact, announced beforehand ( Rom 5:9-10 ), that he based the assurance of the validity of our justification even in the day of supreme trial. When uttering those words, Paul marked out in advance the new domain on which he enters from this time forward, that of sanctification.
To treat this matter is not to pass beyond the limits traced in the outset by the general thesis expressed Romans 1:17: “The just shall live by faith.” For in the expression shall live, ζήσεται , there is comprehended not only the grace of righteousness, but also that of the new life, or of holiness. To live is not merely to regain peace with God through justification; it is to dwell in the light of His holiness, and to act in permanent communion with Him. In the cure of the soul, pardon is only the crisis of convalescence; the restoration of health is sanctification. Holiness is true life.
What is the exact relation between these two divine blessings which constitute salvation in its real nature: justification and holiness? To put this question is at the same time to inquire into the true relation between the following part, chaps. 6-8, and the portion of the Epistle already studied. The understanding of this central point is the key to the Epistle to the Romans, and even to the whole Gospel.
1. In the view of many, the relation between these two blessings of grace ought to be expressed by a but. “No doubt you are justified by faith; but beware, see that you break with the sin which has been forgiven you; apply yourselves to holiness; if not, you shall fall into condemnation again.” This somewhat prevalent conception of the relation between justification and sanctification seems to us to find instinctive expression in the words of Th. Schott: “Here we enter upon the domain of the preservation of salvation.” According to this view, salvation consists essentially of justification, and sanctification appears solely as the condition of not losing it.
2. Other expositors make what follows, in relation to what precedes, a therefore, if one may so speak: “You are justified freely; therefore, impelled by faith and gratitude, engage yourselves now to renounce evil, and do what is well-pleasing to God.” This mode of understanding the relation between justification and holiness is probably that followed by most of the readers of our Epistle at the present day.
3. According to others, Reuss and Sabatier for example, the connection sought would require to be expressed by a for, or in fact: If faith justifies you, as I have just shown, it is because in fact, by the mystical and personal union which it establishes between Christ and us, it alone has the power to sanctify us. The gift of pardon flows, on this view, from that of holiness and not the reverse; or, to speak the truth, these blessings of grace are confounded with one another. “Paul knows nothing,” says Sabatier expressly, “of the subtle distinction which has given rise to so many disputes between declaring righteous and making righteous, justum dicere and justum facere. ” So thought also Professor Beck of Tübingen. This is the opinion which was elevated by the Council of Trent to the rank of a dogma in the Catholic Church.
4. Finally, in these last days a bold thinker, M. Lüdemann, has explained the connection sought after a wholly new fashion. The appropriate form for expressing the connection is, according to him: or rather. This author will have it that the first four chapters of our Epistle expound a wholly juridical theory of justification, of purely Jewish origin, and not yet expressing the real view of the apostle. It is a simple accommodation by which he seeks to gain his Judeo-Christian readers. His true theory is of Hellenic origin; it is distinguished from the first by its truly moral character. It is the one which is expounded chaps. 5-8. Sin no longer appears as an offence to be effaced by an arbitrary pardon; it is an objective power which can only be broken by the personal union of the believer with Christ dead and risen. By the second theory, therefore, Paul rectifies and even retracts the first. The notion of justification is suppressed, as in the preceding view, at least from the standpoint of Paul himself; all that God has to do to save us is to sanctify us.
We do not think that any of these four solutions exactly reproduces the apostolic view; the two last even contradict it flatly.
1. Sanctification is more and better than a restrictive and purely negative condition of the maintenance of the state of justification once acquired. It is a new state into which it is needful to penetrate and advance, in order thus to gain the complete salvation. One may see, Romans 10:10, how the apostle distinguished precisely between the two notions of justification and salvation.
2. Neither is it altogether exact to represent sanctification as a consequence to be drawn from justification. The connection between the two facts is still more intimate. Holiness is not an obligation which the believer deduces from his faith; it is a fact implied in justification itself, or rather one which proceeds, as well as justification, from the object of justifying faith, that is, Christ dead and risen. The believer appropriates this Christ as his righteousness first, and then as his holiness ( 1Co 1:30 ). The bond of union which connects these two graces is not therefore logical or subjective; it is so profoundly impressed on the believer's heart only because it has an anterior reality in the very person of Christ, whose holiness, while serving to justify us, is at the same time the principle of our sanctification. Reuss justly observes in this relation, that from the apostle's point of view, we have not to say to the Christian: “Thou shalt sin no more;” but we must rather say: “The Christian sins no more.”
3. As to the third view, which finds in sanctification the efficient cause of pardon and justification, it is the antipodes of Paul's view. Why, if he had understood the relation between the two in this way, would he not have commenced his didactic treatise with the part relating to sanctification (vi.-viii.), instead of laying as its foundation the exposition of justification (i.-v.)? Besides, is not the then ( Rom 6:1 ): “What shall we say then? ” enough to show the contradiction between this view and the apostle's conception? He must have said: “ For (or in fact) what shall we say?” Finally, is it not evident that the whole deduction of chap. 6 assumes that of chap. 3, and not the reverse? If the opinion which the works of Reuss have contributed to accredit in the Church of France were well founded, we must acknowledge the justness of the charge which this writer brings against the apostle of “not having followed a rigorously logical course, a really systematic order.” But it is a hundred to one when a reader does not find the Apostle Paul logical, that he is not understanding his thought; and this is certainly the case with the critic whom we are combating. The apostle knew the human heart too well to think of founding faith in reconciliation on the moral labors of man. We need to be set free from ourselves, not to be thrown back on ourselves. If we had to rest the assurance of our justification, little or much, on our own sanctification, since this is always imperfect, our heart would never be wholly made free Godward, absolutely set at large and penetrated with that filial confidence which is itself the necessary condition of all true moral progress. The normal attitude Godward is therefore this: first rest in God through justification; thereafter, work with Him, in His fellowship, or sanctification. The opinion before us, by reversing this relation, puts, to use the common expression, the cart before the horse. It can only issue in replacing the church under the law, or in freeing it in a manner far from salutary, by setting before it a degraded standard of Christian holiness.
4. The fourth view, while equally at variance with the doctrine of the gospel, compromises, besides, the loyalty of the apostle's character. Who can persuade himself, when reading seriously the first part of the Epistle relating to justification by faith, that all he demonstrates there with so much pains, and even with so great an expenditure of biblical proofs (iii. and iv.), is a view which he does not adopt himself, and which he proposes afterward to set aside, to substitute in its room one wholly different? To what category morally are we to assign this process of substitution presented ( Rom 6:1 ) in the deceptive form of a conclusion ( then) and so ably disguised that the first who discovers it turns out to be a professor of the nineteenth century? Or perhaps the apostle himself did not suspect the difference between the two orders of thought, Jewish and Greek, to which he yielded his mind at one and the same time? The antagonism of the two theories perhaps so thoroughly escaped him that he could, without suspecting it, retract the one while establishing the other. Such a confusion of ideas cannot be attributed to the man who conceived and composed an “Epistle to the Romans.”
Sanctification, therefore, is neither a condition nor a corollary of justification: nor is it its cause, and still less its negation. The real connection between justification and Christian holiness, as conceived by St. Paul, appears to us to be this: justification by faith is the means, and sanctification the end. The more precisely we distinguish these two divine gifts, the better we apprehend the real bond which unites them. God is the only good; the creature, therefore, cannot do good except in Him. Consequently, to put man into a condition to sanctify himself, it is necessary to begin by reconciling him to God, and replacing him in Him. For this purpose, the wall which separates him from God, the divine condemnation which is due to him as a sinner, must be broken down. This obstacle once removed by justification, and reconciliation accomplished, the heart of man opens without reserve to the divine favor which is restored to him; and, on the other hand, the communication of it from above, interrupted by the state of condemnation, resumes its course. The Holy Spirit, whom God could not bestow on a being at war with Him, comes to seal on his heart the new relation established on justification, and to do the work of a real and free inward sanctification. Such was the end which God had in view from the first; for holiness is salvation in its very essence. Justification is to be regarded as the strait gate, through which we enter on the narrow way of sanctification, which leads to glory.
And now the profound connection between the two parts of the Epistle, and more especially between the two chaps. 5 and 6, becomes manifest. It may be expressed thus: Even as we are not justified each by himself, but all by one, by Jesus Christ our Lord (comp. Romans 5:11; Romans 5:17; Rom 5:21 ); so neither are we sanctified each in himself, but all in one, in Jesus Christ our Lord (Romans 6:23, Rom 8:39 ).
The course of thought in the following part is this: In the first section the apostle unfolds the new principle of sanctification contained in the very object of justifying faith, Jesus Christ, and shows the consequences of this principle, both as to sin and as to law ( Rom 6:1 to Rom 7:6 ).
In the second, he casts a glance backward, in order to compare the action of this new principle with the action of the old, the law ( Rom 7:7-25 ).
In the third, he points to the Holy Spirit as the divine agent who causes the new principle, or the life of Christ, to penetrate the life of the believer, and who by transforming him fits him to enjoy the future glory, and to realize at length his eternal destiny ( Rom 8:1-39 ).
In three words, then: holiness in Christ ( Rom 6:1 to Rom 7:6 ), without law ( Rom 7:7-25 ), by the Holy Spirit ( Rom 8:1-39 ). The great contrast on which the thought of the apostle moves here is not, as in the previous part, that between wrath and justification; but the contrast between sin and holiness. For the matter in question is no longer to efface sin, as guilt, but to overcome it as a power or disease.
The apostle was necessarily led to this discussion by the development of his original theme. A new religious conception, which offers itself to man with the claim of conducting him to his high destiny, cannot dispense with the demonstration that it possesses the force necessary to secure his moral life. To explain this part, therefore, it is not necessary to assume a polemic or apologetic intention in relation to a so-called Jewish-Christianity reigning in the Church of Rome (Mangold), or to some Jewish-Christian influence which had begun to work there (Weizsäcker). If Paul here compares the moral effects of the gospel (chap. 6) with those of the law (vii.), it is because he is positively and necessarily under obligation to demonstrate the right of the former to replace the latter in the moral direction of mankind. It is with Judaism, as a preparatory revelation, that he has to do, not with Jewish-Christianity, as in the Epistle to the Galatians. Here his point of view is vastly wider. As he had discussed (chap. 3) the question of the value of the law in relation to justification, he could not but take up the same subject again in connection with the work of sanctification (vii.). Besides, the tone of chap. 6 is essentially didactic; the polemical tendency does not come out till chap. 7, to give place again in viii. to positive teaching, without the slightest trace of an apologetic or polemic intention.
It is equally plain how palpably erroneous is the view of those who would make the idea of Christian universalism the subject of the whole Epistle, and the principle of his plan and method. The contrast between universalism and particularism has not the slightest place in this part, which would thus be in this exposition wholly beside the subject.
How bold was the apostle's undertaking, to found the moral life of mankind on a purely spiritual basis, without the smallest atom of legal element! Even to this hour, after eighteen centuries, how many excellent spirits hesitate to welcome such an experiment! But Paul had had a convincing personal experience, on the one hand, of the powerlessness of the law to sanctify as well as to justify; and, on the other, of the entire sufficiency of the gospel to accomplish both tasks. This experience he expounds under the guidance of the Spirit, while generalizing it. Hence the personal turn which his exposition takes here in particular (comp. Rom 7:7 to Rom 8:2 ).
Vv. 1. “ What shall we say then? Should we continue in sin, that grace may abound? ”
The meaning of this question: What shall we say then? can only be this: What consequence shall we draw from the preceding? Only the apostle's object is not to draw a true consequence from the previous teaching, but merely to reject a false conclusion which might be deduced by a man still a stranger to the experience of justifying faith. It need not therefore be concluded from this then that the apostle is now passing from the principle to its consequences. In that case he would have said directly: “Shall we then continue”...?
This question is usually connected with the declaration, Romans 5:20: “Where sin abounded, grace did much more abound.” But this saying referred solely to the part played by the law in the midst of the Jewish people, while the question here put is of universal application. We should rather be inclined to hold that Paul was alluding to the saying, Romans 5:16. There, he had pointed to all the offences committed by the many sinners, terminating through the act of grace in a sentence of universal justification; and he may well, consequently, ask himself, in the name of those who do not believe in such a divine act, whether believers will not abuse it in the line of the question proposed. But even this connection would still be too narrow. If account is taken of the meaning of the whole previous part, and of the calumnious accusation already expressed Romans 3:8, it will rather be concluded that the question bears on the whole doctrine of justification by grace, chaps. 1-5. As to believers justified in the way described above, it is evident that they will never put this alternative: Shall I sin or shall I not sin? For the seal of holiness has already been impressed on their inner and outer life by the manner of their justification. This is what the apostle proceeds to show while answering the objection suggested.
The reading of the T. R., ἐπιμενοῦμεν , shall we continue? has no critical authority; it probably arises from the preceding ἐροῦμεν . The reading of the Sinait. and of two Byz., ἐπιμένομεν , let us continue! or we continue, expressing either an exhortation or a resolution, would make believers hold a language far too improbable. That of the Alex. and of the Greco-Lats., ἐπιμένωμεν , that we should continue! or should we continue? is the only admissible one. Hofmann takes it in the first of these two senses as a mutual exhortation, and with this view supplies a new: Shall we say? understood before the second question. But this invitation to sin, which believers would thus be made to address to one another, is too improbable a supposition; and the ellipsis of the verb: Shall we say? is arbitrary and superfluous. The second of the two meanings of ἐπιμένωμεν , should we continue? (the deliberative conjugation), is the only natural one: Should we take the resolution of continuing in our old state of sin? The following conjunction: that, corresponds well with this deliberative meaning. It is a calculation: the more sins committed, the more material will grace find on which to display itself. ᾿Επιμένειν , to continue, persevere, in a state to which a decisive circumstance ought to have put an end.
The reply is forcible and summary. A fact has taken place which renders this calculation absolutely impossible.
Thirteenth Passage (6:1-14). Sanctification in Christ dead and risen.
The apostle introduces this subject by an objection which he makes to his own teaching, Romans 6:1; he gives it a summary answer, Romans 6:2, and justifies this answer by appealing to a known and tangible fact, namely baptism, Romans 6:3-4. Then he gives a complete and didactic exposition of the contents of his answer, Romans 6:5-11. Finally he applies it to the practical life of his readers, Romans 6:12-14.
First Section (6:1-7:6). The Principle of Sanctification Contained in Justification by Faith.
This entire section is intended to lay the foundations of Christian sanctification. It includes three portions.
The first ( Rom 6:1-14 ) unfolds the new principle of sanctification in the very object of justifying faith.
The second ( Rom 6:15-23 ) exhibits the intrinsic power possessed by this principle, both to free the believer from sin, and to subject him to righteousness.
In the third ( Rom 7:1-6 ), Paul infers from this double fact the right henceforth possessed by the believer to renounce the use of the former means, the law. The new morality is thus solidly established.
Vv. 2. “ Let it not be so! We who are dead to sin, how shall we live any longer therein? ”
Just as a dead man does not revive and resume his former occupations, as little can the believer return to his old life of sin; for in his case also there has been a death.
The phrase μὴ γένοιτο , let it not be so! expresses the revolting character of the rejected assertion, as well as a conviction of its falsehood.
The pronoun οἵτινες is the relative of quality: people such as we. We have a quality which excludes such a calculation: that of beings who have passed through death. To what fact does the phrase relate: we are dead, literally, we have died? It is obvious at a glance that there can be no reference here to the condemnation which came upon us in Adam (“dead through sin”). It is difficult to understand how the Swiss version could have committed such an error. All that follows (the being buried with Christ, Romans 6:3; participation in His death and resurrection with Him, Romans 6:4-8; and especially the expression: dead unto sin, alive unto God, Rom 6:11 ) leaves no doubt as to the apostle's thought. The clause τῇ ἁμαρτίᾳ , to sin, is the dative of relation; comp. the expressions: to die to the law, Romans 7:4, Galatians 2:19; to be crucified to the world, Galatians 6:14. The words therefore denote the absolute breaking with sin. It is the opposite of persevering in sin, Romans 6:1.
This figure of dying is generally applied to baptism. But we shall see that baptism is the consequence of the death spoken of by Paul in Romans 6:2, not that death itself. What proves it, is first the οὖν , therefore, of Romans 6:4, then the ἐθανατώθητε , ye were put to death, Rom 7:4 an expression which, accompanied with the words: through the body of Christ, sets aside every attempt to identify the death undergone by believers with their baptism. The fact in the mind of the apostle is of a purely moral nature. It is the appropriation of our Lord's expiatory death. The sentence of death with which God visited the sin of the world in Christ is reproduced in the conscience of every sinner. The instant he applies the expiation to himself, it becomes in him the sentence of death on his own sin. He could not appropriate Christ to himself as dead for his sin, without finding himself die, through this death undergone for him, to sin itself. It was under this impression that the believing Bechuana exclaimed: “The cross of Christ condemns me to be holy.”
The righteousness of God, in pronouncing this sentence of death on the sin of the world, the consciousness of Jesus in accepting and submitting to this sentence in the tortures of the cross and the agonies of His abandonment by God, and in ratifying it with a humble submission in the name of humanity which He represented, have thus smitten sin in the consciousness of every believer with a mortal blow. Such is the unparalleled moral fact which has put an end to the former life of the world in general, and which puts an end to the life of sin in every individual believer. And this result is so thoroughly implied in that of justifying faith, that Paul appeals to it in our passage as a fact already known by his readers (comp. chaps. 1-5), and understood as a matter of course.
On the meaning of the expression: To die unto sin.
We find ourselves here met by four interpretations, which seem to us more or less false, and which it is well to set aside.
1. Many find in this and the relative expressions in the following verses nothing more than simple figures, metaphors signifying merely the duty of imitating the example of virtue which Christ has left us. Even Ritschl declares (II. p. 225) that “this reasoning of the apostle makes rather too strong an appeal to the powers of imagination.” But we think we have just demonstrated the grave moral reality of the relation by which Christ brings the believer into the fellowship of His death. We shall see immediately the not less grave reality of the relation through which He communicates to him His own heavenly life, and thus makes him a risen one. The death and resurrection of Jesus are metaphors, not of rhetoric, but of action; it is divine eloquence.
2. R. Schmidt regards the death to sin of which Paul speaks as of a purely ideal nature, and as exercising no immediate influence whatever on the moral state of believers. The apostle simply means, according to him, that to the divine mind they appear as dead in Christ. He would have it that participation in the life of the Risen One is the only real fact, according to the apostle. But we do not find Paul making such a distinction in the sequel. He regards participation in the death of Christ as being as real, and even more so (for he puts it in the past. Romans 6:4; Romans 6:6; Rom 6:8 ); and fellowship in His life, which is represented as a future to be realized (Romans 6:4; Rom 6:8 ); and in Rom 6:11 he puts the two facts exactly on the same footing.
3. Death to sin is regarded by most commentators as expressing figuratively the act of will by which the believer undertakes for himself, and promises to God, on the blood of reconciliation, henceforth to renounce evil. This would make it an inward resolution, a voluntary engagement, a consecration of the heart. But St. Paul seems to speak of something more profound and stable, “which not only ought to be, but which is ” (as Gess says). This appears clearly from the passive form: ye have been put to death, Romans 7:4; this expression proves that Paul is thinking above all of a divine act which has passed on us in the person of another ( by the body of Christ), but which has its counterpart within us from the moment we appropriate it by faith. It is not, then, an act merely which is in question, but a state of will determined by a fact performed without us, a state from which our will cannot withdraw itself from the time that our being is swayed by the power of faith in the death of Christ for us.
4. It was attempted, in the religious movement which stirred the church so deeply a few years ago, to represent the effect produced on the believer by the death of Christ as a fact achieved in us once for all, existing in us henceforth after the manner almost of a physical state, and as outside of the will itself. From this point of view men spoke daringly of a death of sin, as if this were identical with Paul's expression: death to sin. We appreciate the intention of those who promoted this style of teaching; their wish was to bring back the church to the true source and the full reality of Christian sanctification. But they committed, if we mistake not, a grave and dangerous exaggeration. This mirage of an absolute deliverance, which had been reflected on the eyes of so many souls thirsting for holiness, soon vanishing before the touch of experience, left in them a painful disappointment and even a sort of despair. The death to sin of which the apostle speaks is a state no doubt, but a state of the will, which continues only so long as it keeps itself under the control of the fact which produced it, and produces it constantly the death of Jesus. As at every moment Jesus could have withdrawn Himself from death by an act of His own will ( Mat 26:53 ), so the believer may at any moment free his will from the power of faith, and take up the thread of that natural life which is never completely destroyed in him.
If it were otherwise, if ever the believer could enter into the sphere of absolute holiness, a new fall, like that of Adam, would be needed to remove him from it. If ever sin were entirely extirpated from his heart, its reappearance would be something like the resurrection of a dead man. At what point, besides, of the Christian life would such a moral event be placed? At the time of conversion? The experience of all believers proves the contrary. At some later period? The New Testament teaches us nothing of the kind. There is found in it no particular name for a second transformation, that of the convert into a perfect saint.
We conclude by saying that death to sin is not an absolute cessation of sin at any moment whatever, but an absolute breaking of the will with it, with its instincts and aspirations, and that simply under the control of faith in Christ's death for sin.
The practical application of the apostle's doctrine regarding this mysterious death, which is at the foundation of Christian sanctification, seems to me to be this: The Christian's breaking with sin is undoubtedly gradual in its realization, but absolute and conclusive in its principle. As, in order to break really with an old friend whose evil influence is felt, half measures are insufficient, and the only efficacious means is a frank explanation, followed by a complete rupture which remains like a barrier raised beforehand against every new solicitation; so to break with sin there is needed a decisive and radical act, a divine deed taking possession of the soul, and interposing henceforth between the will of the believer and sin ( Gal 6:14 ). This divine deed necessarily works through the action of faith in the sacrifice of Christ.
Vv. 3. “ Or know ye not, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into His death? ”
The ἤ , or, or indeed, ought, according to the usual meaning of the phrase: or know ye not, to be paraphrased thus: Or, if you do not understand what I have just said (that there has been among you a death to sin), know you not then what was signified by the baptism which ye received? If you understood that rite, you would know that it supposes a death, and promises a second birth, which removes every possibility of a return to the old life. It has been generally concluded, from this mode of expression: Or know ye not...? that baptism was represented as being itself the death spoken of by St. Paul in Romans 6:2. I believe it is thereby made impossible to explain satisfactorily the whole of the following passage, especially the words: “ Therefore we are buried with Him by baptism into His death.” According to these words, it is not to death, it is to the interment of the dead, that Paul compares baptism. And, indeed, just as the ceremony of interment, as a visible and public fact, attests death, so baptism, in so far as it is an outward and sensible act, attests faith, with the death to sin implicitly included in faith. As to the phrase: Or know ye not? it finds a still more natural explanation if baptism is regarded as the proof of death, than if, as is constantly done, to the detriment of the sense of this beautiful passage, baptism is identified with it. St. Paul means: “Ye know not that ye are dead...? Well then, ye are ignorant that as many of you as there are, are men interred (baptized)! People do not bury the living.” The ὅσοι , a pronoun of quantity: as many individuals as, differs from the pronoun of quality οἵτινες , a kind of people who. The point in question here is not, as in Romans 6:2, one of quality, but of quantity: “Ye know not then that as many baptized (buried) persons as there are, so many dead are there.”
Some take the word baptize in its literal sense of bathing, plunging, and understand: “As many of you as were plunged into Christ. ” But in the similar formula, 1 Corinthians 10:2: “ to be baptized into Moses ( εἰς τὸν Μωσῆν βαπτιζεσθαι ),” the meaning is certainly not: to be plunged into Moses. The word baptized is to be taken in its technical sense: to be baptized with water (by the fact of the passage through the sea and under the cloud), and the clause must consequently signify: in relation to Moses, as a typical Saviour that is to say, in order to having part in the divine deliverance of which Moses was the agent. Such is likewise the meaning of the being baptized into Christ Jesus, in our passage: “Ye received baptism with water in relation to the person of Jesus Christ, whose property ye became by that act.” Comp. the phrase: being baptized, εἰς τὸ ὄνομα , into the name of ( Mat 28:19 and 1Co 1:13 ), which should be explained in a similar manner. One is not plunged into a name, but into water in relation to ( εἰς ) a name that is to say, to the new revelation of God expressed in a name. It is to the God revealed under this form that the believer consecrates himself externally by baptism.
The title Christ is placed here, as Romans 1:1, before the name of the historical person ( Jesus). The idea of the office evidently takes precedence in the context of that of the person. Yet Paul adds the name Jesus, which is wrongly omitted by the Vatic., for this name is closely connected with the fact of the death which is about to be brought into relief.
In this expression: being baptized into death, the sense plunged would be less inadmissible than in the preceding phrase; for an abstract object like death lends itself better to the notion of plunging into, than a personal one like Moses or Christ. But if such had been the apostle's meaning, would he not rather have said: into His blood, than into His death? We think, therefore, that here too it is more exact to explain: “ baptized with water in relation to His death.” When one is baptized into Christ, it is in virtue of His death that the bond thus formed with Him is contracted. For by His blood we have been bought with a price. Baptism serves only to give him in fact what belongs to him in right by this act of purchase. Baptism thus supposes the death of Christ and that of the baptized man man himself (through the appropriation of Christ's death). Hence the conclusion drawn in Romans 6:4, and which brings the argument to a close.
Vv. 4. “ Therefore we are buried with Him by baptism into death: in order that as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life. ”
If baptism were, or represented, the death of which Paul had spoken, the therefore would be very hard indeed to explain (see the commentaries). But if baptism is in his view the external proof of death, as burial is the proof of decease, he can take up again the course of his argument and say: “In consequence of this death to sin undergone in Christ, we have therefore been buried with Him...in order also to rise with him,” which signifies: “buried with Him, not with the aim of remaining in the tomb or of issuing from it to return to the past life, but to penetrate into a new life, whence a return to the old is definitely precluded.” The clause into death cannot depend on the verb we are buried, as Grot., Hofm., and Ostervald's version would have it. How could it be said of one interred that he thereby descends into death? The converse would be the truth. This clause, therefore, must be made directly dependent on the word baptism: “by baptism into death.” The substantive βάπτισμα , baptism, like those generally derived from verbs in ιζω , has a forcible meaning which allows it easily to have this position and the relation between the notions expressed by the two substantives is so close, that no article was needed to connect them. What also guides us quite naturally to make the words into death dependent on the word baptism, is Romans 6:3: We were baptized into his death. Undoubtedly we must explain the phrase: baptism into death, like the similar ones preceding: “baptism (with water) in relation to death.” Our versions translate: “into His death” (Osterv., Oltram.). But if this had been the apostle's view, he would have expressed it by adding the pronoun αὐτοῦ , of Him. He evidently wished to leave the notion of death in all its generality, that the word might be applied at once to His death, and ours included in His. It is in relation to these two deaths which have taken place that the believer is baptized.
Modern commentators are not at one on the question whether the apostle means to allude to the external form of the baptismal rite in the primitive church. It seems to us very probable that it is so, whether primitive baptism be regarded as a complete immersion, during which the baptized disappeared for a moment under water (which best corresponds to the figure of burial), or whether the baptized went down into the water up to his loins, and the baptizer poured the water with which he had filled the hollow of his hands over his head, so as to represent an immersion. The passage, Mark 7:4, where the term βαπτισμός , a washing, bath, lustration, baptism ( Heb 6:2 ), is applied not only to the cleansing of cups and utensils, objects which may be plunged into water, but also to that of couches or divans, proves plainly that we cannot insist on the sense of plunging, and consequently on the idea of total immersion, being attached to the term baptism. It is nevertheless true, that in one or other of these forms the going down into the water probably represents, in Paul's view, the moral burying of the baptized, and his issuing from the water, his resurrection.
The relation between the two facts of burial and baptism indicated by the apostle is this: Burial is the act which consummates the breaking of the last tie between man and his earthly life. This was likewise the meaning of our Lord's entombment. Similarly by baptism there is publicly consummated the believer's breaking with the life of the present world, and with his own natural life.
It is a mistake to represent the idea of the first proposition of the verse as entirely isolated from all that follows. Paul means, not only that we have been buried with Christ, but that we have been so, like Him, in order to rise again.
The ἵνα , in order that, is the essential word of the verse. In the case of an ordinary death, the man is inclosed in the tomb, to remain there; but he who is buried with Christ is buried with one who died and rose, consequently with the intention of rising also. This idea is essential to the apostle's argument. Indeed, the believer's death, even with the baptism which seals it, would not suffice for a sure guarantee that he will not return to his old life of sin. Did not Lazarus come forth from the tomb to resume life? What, for one dead, renders his return to an earthly existence definitively impossible, is his passing to a new and higher life by the way of a resurrection. Now, such is precisely the believer's case. By being buried with Christ by baptism, he does not intend to remain thereafter inactive and lifeless, any more than Christ Himself, when giving Himself up to the grave, thought of remaining in it. As Christ gave His life to take it again ( Joh 10:17-18 ), the believer renounces his life of sin for Him only to receive from Him another and wholly different life ( Luk 17:33 ). His baptism, which supposes his death, tends to life. To die to sin, is it not to die to death, and consequently to spring to life? As, then, by His burial Christ broke the last tie with His earthly life and entered on a higher life, so the believer, by his baptism, finds himself placed between a life which has taken end, and a wholly different one which opens before him. Paul knew by experience the situation indicated by his ἵνα , in order that. In Acts 9:0 we behold him placed between death on the one hand ( Rom 6:8-9 ), and the burial of baptism, followed by resurrection through the Holy Spirit, on the other ( Rom 6:17-18 ). Comp. also the position of the penitents of Pentecost, to whom Peter says: “Be baptized for the pardon of your sins, and ye shall receive the Holy Spirit.” It is therefore true, as the end of the verse says, that what the resurrection was to Christ, renewing by the Holy Spirit is to believers. And in this last fact there is found the answer to the question of Romans 6:2: “How shall we, who are dead to sin, live any longer therein?” Perhaps, if we were no more than dead, it would not be possible to answer this question so positively. But if, being dead, we have penetrated to a higher life, the relation to the old life is most certainly terminated. The conjunction ὥσπερ , even as, indicates only an analogy, a resemblance. The sequel will bring out the internal necessity on which this resemblance rests.
The expression: from the dead, is an allusion to the state of death to sin in which the believer receives baptism, and which paves the way for his spiritual resurrection.
The glory of the Father by which Christ was raised, is not the display of His power apart from His other perfections; but, as usual, that of all the divine attributes combined. For they have all contributed to this masterpiece of the revelation of God on the earth, righteousness as well as mercy, wisdom as well as holiness. Speaking of the resurrection of Lazarus, Jesus said to Martha: “Thou shalt see the glory of God. ” But here we have to do with the resurrection of the Son; and therefore Paul says: by the glory of the Father.
The word so expresses the analogy of the second fact with the first, irrespectively of the individuals in whom it is realized; the we also sets forth the living personalities in whom the prototype is reproduced.
In speaking of believers, the apostle does not rest, as in the case of Christ Himself, on the bare fact of their resurrection, but solely on its permanent consequence, the new life which flows from it: that we should walk in newness of life. He does so because, in regard to believers, he wishes solely to shut out their return to their former life; now this result springs from life in a state of complete realization, rather than from the act by which it is entered on.
The term περιπατεῖν , to walk, is a frequent figure with Paul for moral conduct.
Paul says: newness of life, instead of new life. By this turn of expression he gives less prominence to the idea of life (in contrast to that of death) than to the new nature of the second life in contrast to the nature of that which it excludes. The slightest detail of style is always strictly determined in his writing by the principal thought.
Infant baptism does not seem to me to be either assumed or excluded by this passage. The baptism assumed here is certainly that of adults, and adults only. The act of baptism is put between faith (with death to sin through faith) on the one hand, and renewing by the Holy Spirit on the other. Baptism, thus understood, therefore involves the actual fact of faith and of death to sin, as much as burial implies the death of the buried. But, at the same time, it is clear that Paul adduces the rite of baptism such as it exists at the time of his writing. The baptism of adults was that which, from the nature of things, suited the first generation of believers, as the parents required to belong to the church before there could be any question of introducing their children into it. The apostle does not therefore think of excluding a form which may arise when, circumstances having changed, family life shall have become an integral element in that of the church. The only question is, whether this modification is in keeping with the spirit of the gospel. And this is a question which it seems to me impossible to examine here without breaking the plan of our exegesis.
Vv. 5. “ For if we have become one and the same plant [with Him] through the likeness of His death, we shall be also partakers of His resurrection; ”
The apostle had used the rite of baptism to illustrate the impossibility experienced by the believer of continuing in his former life. Now he expounds the same truth didactically. The in order that of Rom 6:4 becomes as it were the text of this development ( Rom 6:5-11 ), of which Rom 6:5 contains the summary.
The for bears directly on this in order that. The idea of Rom 6:4 was: “We were buried by baptism only with the intention of rising again.” This intention is demonstrated by the moral fact formulated Romans 6:5: “The man who participates in the death of Christ cannot but participate in His resurrection.” There is much said in a certain theological school about the possession of the life of Christ. This vague phrase seems intended to take the place of all Christian doctrine. Does it really mean what St. Paul understood by it? I do not examine the subject here. But in any case it should not be forgotten, as is usually done from this view-point, that the participation in the life of Christ of which the apostle speaks, has as its necessary and preliminary condition, participation in His death. The docile acceptance of the cross is the only pathway to communion in the life of the Risen One. Forgetfulness of this point of departure is full of grave consequences. For the second fact has no reality save in connection with the first.
The construction of each of the two propositions of this verse has been understood in a variety of ways. Bisping has proposed to make τοῦ θανάτου , of death, the complement not of τῷ ὁμοιώματι ( the likeness), but of σύμφυτοι ( partakers), while taking τῷ ὁμοιώματι as an adverbial clause, meant to indicate the means or mode of this participation: “If we were made partakers of His death in a likeness; ” this notion of resemblance being applied either to the figurative rite of baptism, or to the internal fact of death to sin, which would thus be as it were the moral copy of Christ's death. This construction would enable us to establish an exact parallelism between the two propositions of the verse, for the genitive τῆς ἀναστάσεως ( of the resurrection) in the second proposition would depend on σύμφυτοι ( partakers), exactly as τοῦ θανάτου ( of death) in the first on this same adjective. But one cannot help feeling how harsh and almost barbarous this construction is. Besides, it is now abandoned. The complement of death depends naturally on τῷ ὁμοιώματι , the likeness, as has been acknowledged by Chrys., Calv., Thol., Rück., Olsh., de Wette, Mey., Philip., Hofm. By this likeness may be understood either the external act of baptism, as representing figuratively the death of Christ, or our own death to sin as spiritually reproducing it. But whether in the one sense or the other, it is surely uncouth to connect so concrete a term as σύμφυτος , born with, partaking, with an abstract notion such as likeness. One is made a partaker not of the likeness of a thing, but of the thing itself. Besides, baptism is not the representation of death, but of burial (see above). It therefore appears to us, that the only admissible construction is to join the adjective σύμφυτοι with the understood regimen σὺν αὐτῷ , with Him; “ born with Him, united to Him, by the likeness of His death.” This is the opinion of Er., Grot., and others. The ellipsis of this pronoun arises naturally from the preceding phrase: we were buried with Him, Romans 6:4; it reappears obviously in Romans 6:6 ( συνεσταυρώθη , was crucified with). The expression: through the likeness of His death, refers, according to what precedes, to the inner fact by which the death of Christ for sin is reproduced in us, that is to say, to our own death to sin implied in the act of faith.
The term σύμφυτος (in classic Greek more commonly συμφυής ) is derived from the verb συμφύω , to be born, to grow together. This adjective, therefore, denotes the organic union in virtue of which one being shares the life, growth, and phases of existence belonging to another; so it is that the existence, prosperity, and decay of the branch are bound up with the state of the stem. Hence we have ventured to translate it: to be made one and the same plant with Him. Not a case of death to sin passes in the church which was not already included in the death of Christ, to be produced wherever faith should be realized; not a spiritual resurrection is effected within the church, which is not Christ's own resurrection reproduced by His Spirit in the heart which has begun by uniting itself to Him in the communion of His death.
It must, however, be remarked (and we shall meet with this characteristic again in the sequel of the passage) that the fact of participation in the death is put in the past ( we have become one and the same plant...), while participation in the resurrection is expressed in the future: we shall be partakers...Some of the Fathers have concluded from this change of tense, that in the latter words the apostle meant to speak of the future resurrection, of the bodily glorification of believers. But this idea is foreign to the context, which is governed throughout by reference to the objection of Romans 6:1 (the relation of the believer to sin). The expression, therefore, denotes only sanctification, the believer's moral resurrection. The contrast indicated between the past and the future must find an entirely different explanation. As the communion of faith with Christ crucified is the condition of sharing in His life as risen, the apostle speaks of the first event in the past, and of the second in the future. The one having taken place, the other must follow. The past and future describe, the one the principle, the other the consequence. We begin with union to the person of Christ by faith in that mysterious: He for me, which forms the substance of the gospel; then this union goes forward until His whole being as the Risen One has passed into us. Gess makes τῷ ὁμοιώματι a dative of aim: “We have been united to Him in order to the likeness of His death,” to be made conformable to it ( Php 3:10 ). But this meaning does not harmonize with Romans 6:2, where the reproduction of the death is looked upon as wrought in the believer by the fact of his death to sin implied in his faith.
The words ἀλλὰ καί , which connect the two propositions of the verse, might here be rendered: well then also! The second fact stands out as the joyous consequence of the first.
The genitive τῆς ἀναστάσεως , of the resurrection, cannot depend on the verb ἐσόμεθα , we shall be: “we shall be of the resurrection,” meaning: we shall infallibly have part in it (in the sense of the expressions: to be of the faith, to be of the law). Such a mode of speech would be without ground in the passage; and the term resurrection is not taken here in the general sense; it refers solely to Christ's personal resurrection. Meyer and Philippi, true to their explanation of the first proposition, here supply the dative τῷ ὁμοιώματι : “As we have shared in the likeness of His death, we shall share also in the likeness of His resurrection.” This ellipsis is not impossible, but it renders the phrase very awkward. Following the construction which we have adopted in the first clause, it is simpler merely to understand σύμφυτοι in this second, making the genitive τῆς ἀναστάσεως , of the resurrection, dependent on this adjective: “Well, then, we shall be partakers also of His resurrection!” This solution is possible, because the word σύμφυτος is construed indifferently with the genitive or dative, like our English word to partake (to partake of or in). This direct dependence (omitting the idea of likeness) is according to the nature of things. Jesus does not communicate to us His death itself; we possess only its likeness in our death to sin. It is otherwise with His resurrection and His life as risen. It is this life itself which he conveys to us: “And I live; yet not I, but Christ in me” ( Gal 2:20 ). “Because I live, ye shall live also” ( Joh 14:18 ). The believer being once ingrafted into Christ by faith in His death, and thereby dead to His own life, lives again through the Holy Spirit on the very life of the risen Christ. Thus the difference of form between the first and second propositions is perfectly explained.
This summary demonstration of the truth of the in order that ( Rom 6:4 ) required to be developed. Rom 6:6-7 expound the contents of 5a; Rom 6:8-10 those of 5b.
Vv. 6. “ Understanding this, that our old man has been crucified with Him, that the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin. ”
Why introduce abruptly the notion of subjective knowledge into a relation which Rom 6:5 seemed to have laid down as objectively necessary? This phenomenon is the more remarkable because it is reproduced in Rom 6:9 in the εἰδότες , knowing that, and even in the λογίζεσθε , reckon that ( Rom 6:11 ). Meyer thinks that the believer's subjective experience is cited here to confirm the moral bond indicated in Rom 6:5 as necessary in itself: “We shall certainly be partakers..., a fact besides which we cannot doubt, for we know that”...This appendix so understood has all the effect of an excrescence. Philippi, on the contrary, finds a consequence to be drawn indicated by this participle: “ And thus (in proportion as the we shall be of 5b is realized in us) we shall know experimentally that”...But the present participle does not naturally express a relation of consequence. There would rather have been needed καὶ γνωσόμεθα , and thus we shall know. Hofmann paraphrases: “And we shall make the experience that that has really happened to us, and happened in order that”...We do not see much difference between this meaning and that of Philippi whom this author criticises. The relation between the participle understanding, and the verb we shall be (Romans 6:5 b), is rather that of a moral condition, a means. As Gess puts it: “Our participation in Christ's resurrection does not take place in the way of a physical and natural process. That such a result may take place, there is needed a moral co-operation on the part of the believer.” And this co-operation of course supposes a knowledge, knowledge of the way ( Rom 6:6 ) and of the end ( Rom 6:8 ). The believer understands that the final object which God has in view in crucifying his old man ( Rom 6:6 ) is to realize in him the life of the Risen One ( Rom 6:8-9 ), and he enters actively into the divine thought. Thereby only can this be realized. This notion of subjective knowledge, expressed by the words: understanding this, was contained in the previous ἵνα , in order that, of Romans 6:4: “We were buried with Him with the aim of rising with Him, understanding that”...The whole piece, beginning with the or know ye not that of Romans 6:3, transports us into the inmost consciousness of the believer, as it has been formed in the school and through the personal assimilation of the death of Christ. The believer knows certainly that he is called to die, but to die in order to live again.
The expression: our old man, denotes human nature such as it has been made by the sin of him in whom originally it was wholly concentrated, fallen Adam reappearing in every human ego that comes into the world under the sway of the preponderance of self-love, which was determined by the primitive transgression. This corrupted nature bears the name of old only from the viewpoint of the believer who already possesses a renewed nature.
This old man has been crucified so far as the believer is concerned in the very person of Christ crucified. The apostle does not say that He has been killed. He may exist still, but like one crucified, whose activity is paralyzed. Up to the solemn hour of believing, sin puts on the behavior of triumphant independence, or presents itself to us as an excusable weakness. The instant we contemplate it in Christ crucified, we see it as a malefactor condemned and capitally punished by the justice of God; and its sentence of death pronounced in our conscience is the same to it within us as the cross was to Christ not an immediate death certainly, but the reduction of it to powerlessness.
The purpose of this moral execution, included in the very fact of faith, is the destruction of the body of sin. There ought to be a complete difference between this second fact indicated as the aim and the foregoing one. What the apostle calls the body of sin, cannot therefore be identical with what he calls our old man. Must we, with several, understand the body in the strict sense of the word, the apostle seeing in it the principle of evil in our human nature? But the sequel proves that he does not at all regard sin as inherent in the body and inseparable from it; for in Rom 6:13 he claims the body and its members for the service of God, and represents them as under obligation to become instruments of righteousness. It is the same in 2 Corinthians 4:10-12, where the life of Jesus is spoken of as displaying itself in the body, the mortal flesh of believers, which has become the organ of this heavenly life. So far is the apostle from regarding our bodily nature as the cause of sin, that in 2Co 7:1 he contrasts the defilements of the spirit with those of the flesh. And herein he is perfectly at one with the Lord, who, Matthew 15:19, declares that “ from the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, thefts, false witness, blasphemies.” The very fact of the real incarnation of our Lord Jesus Christ, as taught by Paul, Romans 8:3 (see on the passage), suffices to refute the opinion which would hold the body to be the principle of sin. These considerations have led several commentators (Calv., Olsh., J. Müller, Philippi, Baur, Hodge) to understand the word body here in a figurative sense. According to them, it denotes sin itself as a heavy mass, or even as an organism, a system of evil dispositions, which keeps the soul under its yoke. The complement of sin they take as a genitive of apposition. One can easily understand in this sense how Paul should demand the destruction of this body of sin, that is to say, of sin itself. But it is impossible to harmonize this meaning with Romans 6:12-13, in which Paul, applying our passage, evidently speaks of the holy consecration of the body, taking the term in its strict sense. Besides, it would be difficult to escape from a tautology between this and the preceding proposition. There remains a third explanation found with varying shades in Meyer, Hofm., etc. It regards the genitive of sin as a complement of property or quality: the body so far as it serves as an instrument of sin in human life. This meaning is certainly the one which corresponds best with the thought of the apostle. Only, to understand the genitive of sin, we must add the idea: that from our birth there exists between our body and our sinful will that intimate relation whereby the two elements are placed in mutual dependence. This relation is not a simple accident; it belongs to the fallen state into which our soul itself has come.
The verb καταργεῖν , which we translate by destroy, strictly signifies: to deprive of the power of action; and hence to make needless or useless, as in Luke 13:7, Romans 3:3; or to annul bring to an end, destroy, as in 1Co 13:8 ; 1 Corinthians 13:10; 1 Corinthians 6:13; Ephesians 2:15, etc. Neither the meaning: to render inactive, nor to destroy, could be applied to the body, if we had to understand thereby the physical organism in itself. But the apostle has no thought here of recommending bodily asceticism to believers. It is not of the body as such that he is speaking; it is of the body so far as it is an instrument in the service of sin. Of the body in this special relation, he declares that it should be reduced to inaction, or even destroyed. It is obvious that in this application the two meanings of the word καταργεῖν amount nearly to the same. But the translation destroyed probably renders the thought best. A body, that of sin, is destroyed that another may take its place, the body which is an instrument of righteousness ( Rom 6:13 ).
In the third proposition, which expresses the final aim of this inward labor, the apostle introduces a third subject: we, ἡμᾶς , a term which denotes the entire moral personality independently of the question whether it is or is not under the dominion of sin. This third subject differs wholly from that of the first proposition: the old man, as well as from that of the second: the body of sin. The old man is crucified by faith in Christ's crucifixion; the body of sin is destroyed, because in consequence of the crucifixion of the old man the corrupt will which formerly used the body for its own satisfaction is paralyzed, and so can dispose of it no more. And the ego, the true I, the moral personality in its essence, is thus set free at once, both from the power of the old nature and of the body its instrument, and can consequently consecrate this last to a wholly new use. The apostle illustrates the truth of this moral situation by an example taken from common life.
Vv. 7. “ For he that is dead is of right freed from sin. ”
Many commentators, from Erasmus to Thol., De Wette, Philip., Hodge, Gess, etc., take the participle ἀποθανών , he that is dead, in the figurative sense (comp. the similar expressions in Romans 6:6; Rom 6:8 ). But these critics divide immediately as to the meaning of the term δεδικαίωται , literally, is justified; some applying it to deliverance from guilt and punishment (Hodge for example) as the ordinary meaning of the word justify by Paul seems to demand the others to deliverance from the power of sin, in the sense that he who is dead is no longer subject to this master, no longer owes him anything. Yet neither of these meanings is satisfactory. The first would take us back to the subject of justification, which was concluded at the end of chap. 5. According to Gess, Paul means to express the idea that “the believer's absolution from sin ( justification) takes place only on condition of his death to sin.” That would result in making sanctification the principle of justification. The other meaning would be more suitable in some respects: “He who is dead spiritually (in the sense of Rom 6:6 ), is thereby set free from the power of sin.” Undoubtedly in a general way this is the apostle's meaning in Romans 6:7; the context demands it. But we do not think that this interpretation accounts exactly for the expressions used. The word δικαιοῦν , even with the preposition ἀπό , cannot signify: to free from the power of, or, at least if we reach this meaning, it must be shown in what legitimate way that is possible. Then the participle ὁ ἀποθανών , he that is dead, not being accompanied by any qualification, is rather to be understood in the strict sense, and the more so as in the following verse, when the apostle returns to the spiritual meaning, he expressly indicates the change by adding the words σὺν Χριστῷ , with Christ. It is therefore a maxim borrowed from common life which the apostle expresses here, leaving it to the reader to apply it immediately to the corresponding fact of the moral life, which is precisely that just described by him in Romans 6:6. It follows that the word justify, δικαιοῦν , must have a somewhat different meaning from its ordinary dogmatic sense in Paul's writings; for the domain to which he here applies it is altogether different. One who is dead, he means to say, no longer having a body to put at the service of sin, is now legally exempted from carrying out the wishes of that master, who till then had freely disposed of him. Suppose a dead slave; it will be vain for his master to order him to steal, to lie, or to kill. He will be entitled to answer: “my tongue and hands and feet no longer obey me.” How, then, could he be taken to task for refusing to serve? Such is the believer's position after the crucifixion of his own will (of his old man) has reduced his body of sin ( Rom 6:6 ) to powerlessness. He can no longer serve sin in the doing of evil, any more than the slave deprived of his body by death can continue to execute the orders formerly given him by his wicked master. The verb δικαιοῦσθαι , to be justified, signifies in this connection: to be free from blame in case of disobedience; to be legally entitled not to obey. The idea of legality is in the word δικαιοῦν , to justify, that of liberation in the preposition ἀπό , from. Taking the term ὁ ἀποθανών in the literal sense, as we have done, commentators have sometimes restricted its application to the malefactor, who, by submitting to the punishment he deserved, has effaced his guilt, and can no longer be apprehended for the same crime. But the words: he who is dead, are too general to bear so special an application, and the sentence thus understood would reopen the subject of justification, which is exhausted.
The case of the dead slave described in Romans 6:7, as we understand it, is the exact counterpart of the believer's moral situation described in Romans 6:6. The apostle leaves the reader to make this application himself, and passes in the following verses from the negative side of sanctification, crucifixion with Christ, to the positive side of this great truth, resurrection with Him. This second side is the necessary complement of the first. For the sinful will being once crucified in Christ, and its organ the body reduced to inaction, the believer's moral personality cannot remain inert. It must have a new activity; the body itself demands a new employment in the service of this activity. We have seen how this idea was contained in the in order that of Romans 6:4. The believer dies, not to remain dead, but in order to rise again; and this he knows well, for in the person of Him with whom he dies, the Risen One, he beholds beforehand the moral necessity of the event. This relation of thought, already indicated Romans 6:4-5, is now developed Romans 6:8-10; comp. Galatians 2:20.
Vv. 8-10. “ Now, if we be dead with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with him:knowing that Christ after being raised from the dead dieth no more; death hath no more dominion over Him. For the death that He died, He died unto sin once for all: and the life that He liveth, He liveth unto God. ”
The δέ , now, marks the progress to be made from participation in Christ's death to communion in His life. This gradation corresponds exactly with the force of the well then also, ἀλλὰ καί , Romans 6:5. As, indeed, Rom 6:6-7 were the didactic paraphrase of 5a, so Rom 6:8-10 are that of 5b. Participation in death is mentioned as a past event, included in the fact of faith ( we are dead with Him; comp. 5a), while participation in the life is described as an event to come: we shall also live with Him. The first, indeed, is to every true believer an object of experience; it is not yet so with the second. At the time of baptism, the view-point of the apostle ( Rom 6:3-4 ), the new life is yet an object of hope and faith. Hence, in relation to the former, the term γινώσκοντες , knowing, Romans 6:6, and in relation to the latter, πιστεύομεν , we believe, Romans 6:8. The baptized one stands between the death which he experienced on believing, and the life which he awaits with certainty as a gift from Him who is not only dead, but risen again.
To live with Christ, συζῇν αὐτῷ , is to share His life as one risen and glorified. Jesus, from the depths of His heavenly state, communicates Himself to the man who has appropriated His death by faith, and thus fills up with His holy life the void formed in us by the renunciation of our own life. This is our Pentecost, the aualogue of His resurrection.
Vv. 9. This faith, this firm expectation of the believer who is dead with Him, is not a vain imagination. It rests on a positive fact, the resurrection of Christ Himself: εἰδότες , knowing that. This participle justifies the we believe of Romans 6:8. We believe that our spiritual resurrection will come about, because we know that His resurrection has taken place, and that irrevocably. Now the latter gives us assurance of the former. But faithful to his original subject, the apostle, instead of developing the idea of the new life of Jesus, confines himself to expressing this consequence: that He dieth no more. It is easy to see the logical relation between this purely negative turn of expression, and the question put in Romans 6:2: “How shall we who are dead to sin live any longer therein?” There is no return backward for the risen Jesus; how should there be one for us, from the time that we share His life as the Risen One? No doubt, his death alone would not have rendered His return to an earthly life impossible; but His entrance upon a celestial life absolutely excludes such a retrograde step. Thus mere communion with His death would not suffice to furnish an unhesitating answer to the question of Romans 6:2, while participation in His new life settles it once and forever.
The last words of Rom 6:9 form an independent proposition. This break in the construction throws the idea more into relief. The time having passed when death was permitted to stretch its sceptre over him, He is freed from its power forever.
Vv. 10. The first proposition of Rom 6:10 unfolds the reason why death was allowed to reign over Him for a moment; the second explains the reason why this cannot be repeated.
The two pronouns ὅ , that which, may be taken either as a determining expression: in that so far as, or as the direct object of the two verbs: that which He died, that which he lived. For in Greek it is allowable to say: to die a death, to live a life; comp. Galatians 2:20. This parallel and the sense itself appears to us to decide in favor of the second construction. The first would seem to indicate a power of partial rather than temporary death, which is not natural in the context.
The short-lived power of death over Jesus is explained by the regimen τῇ ἁμαρτιᾳ , to sin. The relation which Jesus sustained to sin was the soul cause of His subjection to death. As in this piece death unto sin denotes an absolute breaking with it ( Rom 6:2 ), it might be attempted here to give the meaning: Jesus struggled victoriously against sin during His whole life, not granting it for a moment the right of existing in His person. But the adverb ἐφάπαξ , once, forbids us to extend the application of the term dying unto sin to His whole life. Besides, the commentators who, like Meyer and Hofmann, adopt this meaning, limit the expression to the moment of death: with the end of His life His struggle with sin ended; from that moment sin (in the form of temptation) exercised no more power over His person. This meaning would certainly account to some extent for the ἐφάπαξ , once. But it forces us to take the word die in two wholly different senses in the same sentence, and it is not easy to get a clear idea of this dying unto sin ascribed to Jesus. Does it refer to his struggle against temptation? The phrase dying unto sin is unsuitable. One dies to a real, not a possible fact. Are we to think of the struggle against sin outside of Him? But this struggle continues to this very hour. Is it a personal breaking with evil which is meant? He did nothing else during His whole life. The only possible meaning, therefore, seems to me to be that adopted by Grot. and Olsh.: He died to expiate sin, a sense connected quite naturally with that given by Chrys., Calv., etc.: and to destroy it. There was a moment in His existence in which He bore its penalty, and thereby established its defeat. But this moment was short, and remains single and alone. Such is the force of the term ἐφάπαξ , once for all. It was a transient necessity which He consented to encounter; but such a crisis will not be renewed. The debt once paid is so completely and forever; comp. Hebrews 7:27; Hebrews 9:12; Hebrews 9:26; Hebrews 9:28; Hebrews 10:10; 1 Peter 3:18. The dative τῇ ἁμαρτίᾳ , unto sin, thus signifies: unto the service of sin, that is to say, to accomplish all that was demanded by the entrance and destruction of this fact among mankind. It is obvious from the once for all that the death of Jesus occupies a place by itself in His work, and should not be regarded merely as the culminating point of His holy life.
This crisis once past, Jesus no longer owes anything to sin, and His life may manifest itself without hindrance as an instrument of the life of God.
To live to God, is to live solely to manifest and serve Him, without having to submit any more to certain obligations imposed by a contrary principle. The meaning of this expression is, as Meyer says, exclusive: to God only. The glorified Jesus lives and acts for no other object than to manifest in the heart of men by the Holy Spirit the life of God which has become His life, life eternal; comp. John 17:2: “As Thou hast given me power over all flesh, that I should give eternal life to as many as Thou hast given me.” Thus it is that He serves and glorifies God.
As Christ, then, once entered upon this life and glorious activity, does not depart from it to return back again, so the believer, once dead to sin and alive to God in Christ, cannot return to his old life of sin. Rom 6:11 explicitly draws this conclusion, held in suspense since Romans 6:8, and prepared for in Romans 6:9-10.
Vv. 11. “ Thus also reckon ye yourselves to be dead indeed unto sin, and alive unto God in Christ Jesus our Lord. ”
The οὕτω , likewise, indicates the inference to be drawn from the conformity between the case of believers and that of Jesus.
Ye also: ye, as well as he. Λογίζεσθε , reckon, consider, is evidently an imperative, not an indicative: comp. the following imperatives, Romans 6:12-13. The apostle means: Behold, in consequence of what you witness in Jesus Himself, the view-point at which you ought to put yourselves when you regard your own case. You have no longer to see your condition as you were in yourselves: slaves of sin, dead unto God. You have to regard yourselves as you are in Christ, as I have just explained to you: dead to sin, alive to God. Beside and above the old man which still lives in him, the believer possesses a new ego contained in Christ who lives in him; this ego has broken with sin, it is wholly consecrated to God. Such is the being whom he ought henceforth to regard as his true self; he ought consequently to appropriate it subjectively by constantly substituting it for his natural self, which is henceforth denied at the foot of the cross. Such is the divine secret of Christian sanctification, which distinguishes it profoundly from simple natural morality. The latter says to man: Become what thou wouldst be. The former says to the believer: Become what thou art already (in Christ). It thus puts a positive fact at the foundation of moral effort, to which the believer can return and have recourse anew at every instant. And this is the reason why his labor is not lost in barren aspiration, and does not end despair. The believer does not get disentangled from sin gradually. He breaks with it in Christ once for all. He is placed by a decisive act of will in the sphere of perfect holiness; and it is within it that the gradual renewing of the personal life goes forward. This second gospel paradox, sanctification by faith, rests on the first, justification by faith.
After having shown the believer how he is to regard himself in virtue of his union with Christ, the apostle calls him not to let this new position be a mere matter of theory, but to work it into his real life, to make it his life from moment to moment. As Philippi says, Christians ought to begin with discerning what they are, and then labor to manifest it. Such is the subject of Romans 6:12-14.
Vv. 12, 13. “ Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, that ye should obey its lusts.Neither yield ye your members to sin as instruments of unrighteousness: but yield yourselves unto God, as those that have become alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness for God. ”
In Christ all is done. In the believer all is doing and can be done only with the concurrence of his will. Hence the following exhortation which is connected by therefore.
It might have been thought from certain previous expressions, that Paul did not admit the existence of sin any longer in the believer; but he far from giving himself up to such exaggerations. The very word: “Let not sin reign,” assumes that it is still there. But it ought no longer to be there as sovereign: for it has lost its powerful instrument and auxiliary, the body; the latter has become in Christ the instrument of God. These two aspects of the sanctification of the body, its liberation from sin and its consecration to God correspond respectively to Rom 6:6-7 and Romans 6:8-10, and are developed, the former in Romans 6:12-13 a, and the latter in Romans 6:13 b
The imperative μὴ βασιλευέτω , let it not reign, is addressed grammatically to sin, but in meaning to the believer himself; for it is he who has the task of bringing this reign to an end. The exhortation thus placed as the sequel of what precedes, reminds us of the passage Colossians 3:5: “Ye are dead ( Rom 6:3 ); mortify therefore ( Rom 6:5 ) your members, which are upon the earth.” It is because we are dead to sin in Christ that we can mortify it in ourselves in daily life. The present imperative, with the negative μή , implies the notion of a state which existed till now, but which must terminate.
We must not, as some do, give to the ἐν , in, the meaning of by, as if the apostle meant that the body was the means by which sin exercises its dominion over us. The natural meaning is: “ in your mortal body.” The body is the domain, as it were, in which the dominion of sin is exercised, in this sense, that when once the will has been subjugated by sin, it gives the body of which it disposes over to sin, and this master uses it for his pleasure.
The epithet θνητῷ , mortal, must bear a logical relation to the idea of the passage. The object of this term has been understood very variously. Calvin regards it as expressive of contempt, as if Paul meant to say that man's whole bodily nature hastens to death, and ought not consequently to be pampered. Philippi thinks that the epithet refers rather to the fact of sin having killed the body, and having thus manifested its malignant character. Flatt thinks that Paul alludes to the transient character of bodily pleasures. Chrysostom and Grotius find in the word the idea of the brevity of the toils, which weigh on the Christian here below. According to Tholuck, Paul means to indicate how evil lusts are inseparable from the present state of the body, which is destined by and by to be glorified. According to Lange and Schaff, the sanctification of the mortal body here below is mentioned as serving to prepare for its glorification above. It seems to us that this epithet may be explained more naturally: It is not the part destined to die which should rule the believer's personality; the higher life awakened in him should penetrate him wholly, and rule that body even which is to change its nature. It is obvious that in the last proposition of the verse, the Received reading: to obey it in its lusts, does not yield a simple meaning. To obey sin in its lusts is an artificial and forced expression. The Greco-Latin reading: to obey it, is rather superfluous; what would this regimen add to the idea expressed by the previous words: “Let not sin reign in your body”? The Alexandrine reading: to obey its lusts ( αὐτοῦ , the body's), so far as the meaning is concerned, is preferable to both the others; and it has the advantage besides, as we shall show, of explaining easily how they arose. The lusts of the body are its instincts and appetites, which, acting on the soul, determine within it the passionate and disorderly motions of sin. The term ἐπιθυμία , lust (from ἐπί , upon, toward, and θυμός , the heart, feeling, passion), denotes the violence with which, under the dominion of bodily appetite, the soul is carried to the external objects, which can satisfy the desires excited within it. Although, then, it is still sin, the egoistical instinct of the soul, which reigns in the body and directs its use, it thus happens that the appetites of the latter become the masters of conduct; for they present themselves to the soul as the means of satisfying the ardent desire of enjoyment with which it is consumed. In this way the beginning and end of the verse harmonize, the reign of sin over the body, and the supremacy of the body over the person himself. But this relation of ideas was not understood by the copyists. As at the beginning of the verse sin was the subject of the verb reign, it seemed to them that the obedience spoken of in the following words was meant to be rendered to it also, and they added (as in the Byz.) the pronoun αὐτῇ , it (sin), which necessitated the adding also of the preposition ἐν , in, before the word ταῖς ἐπιθυμίαις , the lusts. Such is the origin of the Received reading. Or, again, they rejected all this final clause, which did not seem to be in keeping with the beginning; and thus was formed the Greco-Latin reading.
Vv. 13. After speaking of the body in general, the apostle in Romans 6:13 a mentions the members in particular. Philippi, who, with Calvin, has understood the body in Romans 6:12, not of the body properly so called, but of the body and soul united (in so far as the latter is not under the influence of the Holy Spirit), gives also to the word members, Romans 6:13, a moral as well as physical sense. It is not only the eyes, hands, feet, tongue, etc., but also the heart, will, understanding. There could be nothing more arbitrary than this extension to the soul of the meaning of the words body and members. The members of the body correspond to the various lusts, Romans 6:12, and are the particular instruments of their gratification. The term ὅπλα may be translated by arms or by instruments. Meyer insists strongly on the first meaning, the only one, according to him, used in the New Testament (comp. 2Co 6:7 ; 2Co 10:4 ). But we doubt much whether this observation applies to Romans 13:12 (see on the passage); and the meaning: instrument, seems to us much more suitable here, as there is no reference to war, but to the gratification of lusts. The present imperative παριστάνετε , present, yield, like the βασιλεύετω of Romans 6:12, denotes the continuance of an actual state. With the negative μή , it therefore signifies: cease from yielding, as you have done till now. The verb παριστάνειν signifies: to present in order to put at the disposal of. The word ἀδικία , unrighteousness, here embraces all acts contrary to moral obligation in general. It may be doubted whether the dative τῇ ἁμαρτίᾳ , to sin, depends on the verb yield, or on the substantive instrument. Perhaps it should be connected with both at once. Romans 6:12-13 a have expounded the notion of the sanctification of the body from a negative point of view. Romans 6:13 b expounds it positively. It is the same gradation as we have from 5a to 5b, and from Rom 6:7 to Romans 6:8.
The apostle here uses the aorist παραστήσατε instead of the present παριστάνετε , Romans 6:13 a Critics are not agreed as to the meaning and intention of this form. Meyer takes this imperative aorist as indicating the instantaneousness with which the consecration of the body should be carried out. Fritzsche finds in it the notion of the continual repetition of the acts in which this consecration takes effect. Philippi thinks that this form expresses the idea of a consecration accomplished once for all. As the aorist strictly denotes the passing into action, the imperative aorist strongly calls upon the individual to accomplish without delay the act indicated by the verb (almost the meaning indicated by Meyer). The difference between this aorist imperative and the present imperatives preceding is therefore this: the latter were an exhortation not to continue the old state; the former insists on an immediate transition to the new state (comp. Hofmann, p. 246). This change should affect not the body only, but the whole person: yield yourselves. The consecration of the body and of the members is included in that of the person. The as which follows does not signify: as if ( ὡσεί , Alex. reading), but: as being really ( ὡς , Byz. reading).
The expression dead has been understood here in two ways. Some, like Philippi, have found in it the notion of spiritual death, in which the sinner still lies, comp. Ephesians 2:1; Ephesians 2:5. The apostle is thought to be contrasting the old state of estrangement from God, in which the Romans formerly were, with their present state of life in God. Others, on the contrary, like Meyer, starting from the comparison between Romans 6:2; Romans 6:11, think that the subject in question is the death to sin consummated by faith in Christ. The apostle is thought to be contrasting the state of the body's inactivity at the time when the believer is only experimentally dead with Christ ( Rom 6:6-7 ), with his new activity from the time that he receives a new life ( Rom 6:8-10 ), through experimental acquaintance with the Lord's resurrection, This second meaning is obviously forced; the first, simpler in itself, also agrees better with the contrast between the believer's new and old state (Romans 6:12-13 a). The term δικαιοσύνη , righteousness, in contrast to ἀδικία , iniquity, can only denote here moral righteousness, the fulfilment of all human obligations.
The dative Θεῷ , to God, does not depend probably on the understood verb yield, since it would have been useless in this case to repeat this clause already expressed in the previous line. It must therefore be connected with the expression ὅπλα δικαιοσὑνης , instruments of righteousness for God. All those works of righteousness which God could not execute Himself here below without constant miraculous interventions, He accomplishes by believers, who eagerly lend their bodies and members to Him as instruments for this end.
Vv. 14. “ In fact, sin will not have dominion over you: for ye are not under the law, but under grace. ”
We have not here a disguised exhortation, expressed by a future taken in the sense of an imperative: “Let not sin reign any more”...! Why would the apostle not have continued the imperative form used in the preceding verses? It is a future fact made sure to the believer as a glorious promise: “What I have just asked of you (to die unto sin and consecrate yourselves to God), ye will certainly be able to do; for it will be impossible for sin to hold its place longer in you; it will no longer be able to reign over you.” This promise is the justification of the command given Romans 6:12: “Let not sin reign”...! Rom 6:14 is thus the transition from the preceding exhortation to the subsequent development which treats of the believer's emancipation.
The promise contained in the first proposition is justified in the second. The state of grace, χάρις , reconciliation to God, the enjoyment of His favor and the possession of His Spirit, communicate to the soul a victorious power all unknown to the legal state. In this latter there reign the feeling of sin, the fear of condemnation, and the servile spirit, which are the opposite of inward consecration.
And hence sin can be overcome under grace, while it reigns inevitably under law. The apostle has not put the article before the word νόμον , law; for, though he is thinking substantially of the Mosaic law, it is as law that he wishes to designate it here, and not as Mosaic law. What he affirms applies to every institution having the character of an external commandment.
But why use the preposition ύπό , under, and not the preposition ἐν , in, which seems more suitable to a notion like that of the state of grace? Is grace, then, a yoke, as well as the law? Is it not, on the contrary, an inner life, a power? In other connections Paul would certainly have made use of the preposition ἐν , in, with the word grace. But the idea of the whole passage about to follow is precisely that of the decisive control which grace exercises over the believer to subject him to righteousness with an authority not less imperious, and even more efficacious than the law ( Rom 6:15-23 ). And it is this idea which is expressed and summed up by the preposition ὑπό , under.
In the same way, indeed, as the second passage of the section ( Rom 6:15-23 ) is the development of the words under grace, the third ( Rom 7:1-6 ), as we shall see, will be the development of the words, no more under the law. And the logical connection of the three passages is consequently this: After demonstrating in the first that faith in Christ crucified and risen contains in it the principle of a reign of holiness ( Rom 6:1-14 ), the apostle proves that this principle is not less powerful than a law to subdue man to itself ( Rom 6:15-23 ), and that in consequence of this moral subjugation the believer can henceforth without danger renounce the yoke of the law ( Rom 7:1-6 ).
Vv. 15: “ What then? should we sin, because we are not under the law, but under grace? Let it not be so! ”
The question of Rom 6:15 is not a repetition of that in Romans 6:1. The discussion has advanced. The principle of holiness inherent in salvation by grace has been demonstrated. The apostle only asks himself whether it will have the power necessary to rule man without the assistance of a law? This is the point at which the question τι οὖν , what then, resumes the discussion. Thus is explained the difference of style between the question of Rom 6:1 and that of Romans 6:15. In the former, Paul asked: Should we continue in sin? Here he says simply: should we sin, ἁμαρτήσωμεν . There is no doubt that the Received reading: shall we sin, ἁμαρτήσομεν , should be rejected, for it is not found in a single majuscule. The aorist subjunctive ἁμαρτήσωμεν does not denote, as the present would do, the permanent state, but the isolated act, which is perfectly suitable here. The question is no longer, as in Romans 6:1, whether the justified believer will be able to continue the life of sin which he formerly led. The answer has been given in Romans 6:1-14. But the matter in question is whether the new dominion will be strong enough to banish sin in every particular case. Hence the form of the aorist subjunctive: should we commit an act of sin? Could we act thus voluntarily in a single instance? And, in point of fact, a believer will not easily say: By grace I shall remain without any change what I have been till now. But he will find himself only too easily regarding some particular leniency toward sin as admissible, on account of the freeness of pardon. The gradation between the question of Rom 6:1 and that of Rom 6:15 makes itself also felt in the form of the motive alleged in favor of unfaithfulness. The apostle does not say now: “ that grace may abound,” words which could only come from a heart yet a stranger to the experiences of faith; but he says here: “ because we are under grace.” The snare is less gross in this form. Vinet one day said to the writer of these lines: “There is a subtle poison which insinuates itself into the heart even of the best Christian; it is the temptation to say: Let us sin, not that grace may abound, but because it abounds.” Here there is no longer an odious calculation, but a convenient let alone.
Where would be the need of holding that the apostle, to explain this question, has in view an objection raised by legal Jewish-Christianity? The question arises of itself as soon as the gospel comes in contact with the heart of man. What proves clearly that the apostle is not thinking here of a Jewish-Christian scruple, is the fact that in his reply he does not make the least allusion to man's former subjection to the law, but solely to the yoke which sin laid upon him from the beginning. And the literal translation of our verse is not: “For ye are no more under the law,” but: “For ye are no more under law, but under grace. ” It is understood, of course, that when he speaks of law he is thinking of the Mosaic dispensation, just as, when speaking of grace, he is thinking of the revelation of the gospel. But he does not mention the institutions as such; he designates them only by their moral character.
Fourteenth Passage (6:15-23). The Power of the new Principle of Sanctification to deliver from Sin.
The new principle had just been laid down. The apostle had found it in the object of justifying faith. But could a principle so spiritual, apart from every external and positive rule, take hold of the will with power enough to rule it thoroughly? To this natural objection, formulated in Romans 6:15, St. Paul answers as follows: by the acceptance of grace a new master has been substituted for the former, sin ( Rom 6:16-19 ); and the believer feels himself obliged to serve this new master with the more fidelity because he rewards his servants by communicating life to them, whereas the former master pays his by giving them death ( Rom 6:20-23 ). Thus it is proved that the new principle is clothed with sufficient, though purely internal authority, to control the believer's entire life.
Vv. 16. “ Know ye not, that in respect of Him to whom ye devote yourselves as servants to obey, ye are henceforth His servants who owe Him obedience; whether it be sin unto death, or obedience unto righteousness? ”
The question of Rom 6:15 arose from an entirely erroneous way of understanding the relation between the moral will of man and the acts in which it is manifested. It seemed, according to the objection, that an act of liberty is merely an isolated fact in human life, and that an act of God's grace is enough to annul it, so that not a trace of it shall remain. Thus it is that a superficial Pelagianism understands moral liberty. After the doing of each act, it can return to the state in which it was before, exactly as if nothing had passed. But a more serious study of human life proves, on the contrary, that every act of will, whether in the direction of good or of evil, as it passes into reality, creates or strengthens a tendency which drags man with increasing force, till it becomes altogether irresistible. Every free act, then, to a certain degree determines the future. It is this psychological law which the apostle here applies to the two principles: of sin on the one hand, and grace on the other. He calls attention to the fact that he is appealing to an experiment which every one can make: Know ye not that?...? Jesus had already expressed this law when He uttered the maxim: “Whosoever committeth sin is the servant [of sin],” John 8:34.
The words: him to whom ye devote yourselves as servants, refer to the first steps taken in one or other of the two opposite directions. At this point, man still enjoys a certain degree of moral liberty in relation to the principle which tends to master his will; he therefore devotes himself, as the apostle says. But in proportion as he yields himself to this principle by certain acts of compliance, he falls more and more under its sway: ye are the servants of him whom ye obey. These last words characterize the more advanced state of things, in which, the bond of dependence once formed, the will has lost all power of resistance, and exists only to satisfy the master of its choice. The words: ᾧ ὑπακούετε , whom ye obey, are strictly speaking a pleonasm; for this idea was already contained in the expression: δοῦλοί ἐστε , ye are servants; but yet they are not superfluous. They signify: “to whom obedience is now the order of the day, whether ye will or not.” A man does not put himself at the service of a master to do nothing for him. In other words, absolute liberty cannot be the condition of man. We are made, not to create our guiding principle, but simply to adhere to one or other of the higher moral powers which solicit us. Every concession freely made to either is a precedent which binds us to it, and of which it will avail itself to exact more. Thus there is gradually and freely established the condition of dependence spoken of by the apostle, and which issues, on the one side, in the absolute incapacity of doing evil ( 1Jn 3:9 ), the state of true liberty: on the other, in the total incapacity either to will or to do good ( Mat 12:32 ), the state of final perdition. Since Paul is not speaking as a philosophical moralist, but as an apostle, he immediately applies this truth to the two positive principles which he is here contrasting with one another namely, as he says in the second part of the verse, sin and obedience. Of the two disjunctive particles ἤτοι ( whether certainly) and ἤ ( or), the first is somewhat more emphatic, as if the apostle meant to rely more strongly on the first alternative: Whether certainly of sin unto death, or, if this result do not suit you, of obedience unto righteousness.”
Sin is put first, as the master to whom we are naturally subject from infancy. It is its yoke which faith has broken; and consequently the Christian ought ever to remember that should he make any one concession to this principle, he would thereby begin to place himself anew under its dominion, and on the way which might guide him back to the goal of his previous life: death. The word death here cannot denote physical death, for the servants of righteousness die as well as the servants of sin. We are no longer in that part of the Epistle which treats of condemnation, and in which death appeared as a doom pronounced on the first sin, consequently as death strictly so called. It is the contrast between sin and holiness which prevails in this part, chap. 6-8. The matter in question, therefore, is death in the sense of moral corruption, and consequently of separation from God here and hereafter; such is the abyss which sin digs ever more deeply, every time that man, nay, that the believer, even gives himself over to it.
Why, in opposition to sin, does the apostle say in the second alternative: of obedience, and not: of holiness; and why, in opposition to: unto death, does he say: unto righteousness, and not: unto life? Obedience is frequently understood in this passage as obedience to good or to God, in a general way. Obedience in this sense is certainly opposed to sin; and if Paul were giving a course of morals, instead of an exposition of the Gospel, this meaning would be the most natural. But in the following verse there can be no doubt that the verb obey denotes the act of faith in the teaching of the Gospel. We have already seen, Romans 1:5, that the apostle calls faith an obedience. It is the same Romans 15:18, where he designates the faith of the Gentiles by the name of obedience. Faith is always an act of docility to a divine manifestation, and so an obedience. Thus, then, it is faith in the gospel which the apostle here designates by the word obedience; and he can perfectly contrast it with sin in this sense, because it is faith which terminates the revolt of sin and establishes the reign of holiness. Every time the gospel is preached to the sinner, he is challenged to decide between the obedience (of faith) or the carnal independence of sin. Man does not escape from his state of sin by the simple moral contemplation of good and evil, and their respective effects, but solely by the efficacy of faith.
The words: unto righteousness, have been applied by some
Meyer, for example to the sentence of justification which will be passed on the sanctified Christian at the last day. This interpretation has been adopted from the contrast between this term and the preceding: unto death. But we have just seen the term righteousness used, Romans 6:13, in the sense of moral righteousness; and this is also the most suitable meaning here, where the object is to point out the holy consequences which will flow from the principle of faith. The antithesis to the term death also finds a simple explanation with this meaning. As death, the fruit of sin, is separation from God; so righteousness, the fruit of faith, is spiritual communion with God. The former contains the idea of moral corruption, as the way, and the latter includes the idea of life, as the goal. If it were wished to render the contrast completely, we should have to say: “whether of sin, unto unrighteousness which is death, or of obedience, unto righteousness which is life. ” By expressing himself as he does, Paul wishes, on the one hand, to inspire a horror of sin, whose fruit is death; on the other, to bring into relief the essentially moral character of faith, the fruit of which is righteousness.
Vv. 16-19 describe the new subjection ( to righteousness) by which grace displaces the old subjection ( to sin).
Vv. 17, 18. “ Now God be thanked that ye were the servants of sin, but ye obeyed from the heart that type of doctrine which was delivered you; then being made free from sin, ye became the servants of righteousness. ”
Ver. 16 established the necessity of choosing between the two masters: sin which leads to death, and faith which produces righteousness. The apostle declares in Rom 6:17 and he gives God thanks for it that the Romans have already made their choice, and that the good one. The exclamation: thanks be to God, is not an oratorical form; it is a cry of gratitude from the depths of the apostle's heart for the marvellous work which God has wrought without him among those former Gentiles.
But can he give thanks because they were formerly servants of sin? There are two ways of understanding the form used here by St. Paul: either the thanksgiving is made to bear only on the second proposition, and the first is regarded as serving only to bring out by contrast the excellence of the change which has passed over his readers: “God be thanked that whereas formerly ye were servants..., ye have now obeyed”...Or it is held that the first proposition belongs also to the contents of the thanksgiving; for this view it is enough to emphasize strongly the imperfect were: “because ye were, that is to say, are no longer.” In this sense the analogous expressions are compared, 1 Corinthians 6:11; Ephesians 5:8 (see Meyer, Philippi). The second explanation is supported by the fact, that in the first meaning the contrast could not fail to be indicated by the particle μέν , as well as by the prominent position occupied at the beginning of the sentence by the verb ἦτε , ye were. But the use of the particle μέν is much rarer in the New Testament than in profane Greek. The place of the verb would undoubtedly be a more valid reason; in any case it explains how the apostle could follow up the expression: thanks be to God, immediately with the idea: servants of sin. But it is nevertheless true that the first meaning remains the simplest and most natural. Numerous examples of this mode of expression can be cited.
The imperfect ἦτε , ye were, brings out the duration of the past state; the aorist ὑπηκούσατε , ye obeyed, refers to the decisive fact by which they adhered to the gospel and broke with that former state.
The expression ἐκ καρδίας , from the heart, indicates their inward readiness, and the absence of all constraint. The gospel answered to a moral want within them.
The following proposition may be construed in three ways: 1. τῷ τύπῳ διδαχῆς εἰς ὃν παρεδόθητε , because ye obeyed the form of doctrine to which ye were given over (Chrys., Thol., De W., Mey., Philip., Winer); 2. εἰς τὸνV τύπον διδαχῆς ὃν παρεδόθητε , because ye gave obedience to (or: in relation to) the form of doctrine which was transmitted to you ( ὃς παρεδόθη ὑμῖν ); so Hofmann: 3. εἰς τὸν τύπον διδαχῆς εἰς ὃν παρεδόθητε (combining the meanings of the previous constructions). Of these three constructions the first alone is admissible, because to obey any one or anything is expressed in Greek by ὑπακούειν with the dative, and not with the preposition εἰς ; the latter would denote quite a different thing (the aim of the obedience). Paul congratulates the Romans on the fact that they have adhered with faith, docility, and eagerness to the form of Christian doctrine which was brought to them by those who first communicated to them the knowledge of the gospel. Does this form of doctrine denote Christianity in general, or a more special form of Christian teaching? In the former case, would not Paul have simply said: “because from the heart ye obeyed Christ or the gospel?” The choice of so exceptional a term, and so unique as that which he thinks good to use here, leads us rather to think of a special and precisely-defined form of Christian teaching. The reference is to that gospel of Paul (Romans 2:16, Rom 16:25 ) which the first propagators of the gospel at Rome had preached there. Paul knew well from his own experience it was only in the pure spirituality of “his gospel” that the true power of Christian sanctification was to be found, and that every concession to the legal principle was at the same time a barrier interposed to the operation of the Holy Spirit. Hence his heartfelt joy because of the form of doctrine which had marked with its profound impress the moral life of the Christians of Rome. Could he without charlatanism have expressed himself thus, if, as so many critics think, the doctrine received by those Roman Christians had been of a Judaizing nature, and in contradiction to his own?
All the terms are, as it were, deliberately chosen to express the receptive condition of the readers. And first the word τύπος , type, form (from τύπτειν , to strike), which denotes an image deeply engraved, and pitted to reproduce its impress; comp. Acts 23:25, where this word denotes the exact tenor of a missive, and the analogous term ὑποτύπωσις , 2 Timothy 1:13, used almost in the same meaning as here. Then the passive παραδοθῆναι , literally, to be given over, which strongly expresses the sort of moral subjection which results from the power of Christian truth once accepted. One is free to acquiesce in it or to reject it; but the Christ received becomes a master who instantly dispossesses the previous master.
If it is asked wherein exactly consisted this precise form of the truth of the gospel of which the apostle was here thinking, it seems to us that we find it best summed up in 1 Corinthians 1:30, where Christ is presented, first, as our righteousness, then as our sanctification, lastly, our final redemption. It may be said that the whole didactic part of our Epistle is embraced in these three terms: chap. 1-5 in the first ( δικαιοσύνη , righteousness), chap. Rom 6:1 to Rom 8:11 in the second ( ἁγιασμός , holiness), and the end of chap. 8 in the third ( ἀπολύτρωσις , redemption).
Some critics regard Rom 6:18 as the conclusion of the argument; but instead of the particle δέ , now, it would require to have been οὖν , therefore, which is found indeed in two Mjj., led astray by this supposition. We are not yet at the conclusion. The assertion: ye were made subject to righteousness, belongs still to the premisses of the argument. Here in fact is the reasoning as a whole: In Rom 6:15 the objection: Will the believer wish to sin even once? From Rom 6:16 to Rom 6:18 the answer. Romans 6:16, the major: Man cannot be absolutely free; he cannot help choosing between two masters, sin or righteousness. Romans 6:17-18, the minor: Now when you decided for faith ( Rom 6:17 ), you accepted subjection to righteousness ( Rom 6:18 ). The conclusion follows of itself. Therefore your progress in goodness is henceforth a matter of necessity. Accordingly, the objection started is resolved: you could not sin even once without renouncing the new principle to which you have given yourselves. We thus see how Paul has succeeded in rediscovering a law even in grace, but a law inward and spiritual, like his whole gospel. It is Christ Himself who, after having freed us from sin by His death, by uniting us to His life as the Risen One, has made us subject to righteousness.
But the apostle, in his exposition of the relation between the believer and his new master, had used an expression which jarred on his own sense of propriety, and which he feels the need of excusing and explaining. It was the word servitude ( slavery), applied to the believer's dependence on righteousness. Is then the practice of goodness a servitude? Is it not, on the contrary, the most glorious freedom? Most certainly, and to this thought the remark applies which begins Romans 6:19; after which, in the second part of the verse, the apostle concludes this development with a practical exhortation.
Vv. 19. “ I speak after the manner of men because of the infirmity of your flesh: for as ye have yielded your members servants to uncleanness, and to iniquity unto iniquity; even so now yield your members servants to righteousness unto holiness. ”
Several critics (Beng., De Wette, Mey., Philip.) refer the fleshly infirmity of the Romans, of which the apostle here speaks, to their intellectual weakness, their inability to apprehend religious truth adequately. This is the reason which has led him to make use of a human mode of speaking, calling the fulfilment of righteousness a servitude, which, from the divine point of view, is, on the contrary, true liberty. What is well-founded in this explanation is the application of the first words of Rom 6:19 to the term servitude used in Romans 6:18. But what seems to me inexact, is to apply the expression weakness of the flesh to a defect of understanding. Does not this explanation contradict what the apostle recognizes in such forcible terms, Romans 15:14: the high degree of Christian knowledge to which the Church of Rome has already attained? Weakness of the flesh (more literally: proceeding from the flesh) must therefore denote a general state shared by the Romans with the great majority of the members of the Christian Church, consequently a moral rather than an intellectual state; and this is really what the expression used by the apostle naturally indicates. If the obligation to practice righteousness seems to the greater number of believers to be a subjection to a strange principle, it is not in consequence of a want of understanding; the cause is deeper; it is because the flesh, the love of the ego, has not yet been completely sacrificed. From this moral fact there arises even in the Christian the painful impression that perfect righteousness is a most exacting, sometimes even a harsh master, and that the obligation to conform in all points to the will of God makes him a slave. Such is the imperfect moral condition to the impressions of which Paul accommodates his language in the expressions used in Romans 6:18. The ancient Greek interpreters thought this remark, Romans 6:19 a, should be connected with what follows, giving it the meaning: “I do not mean to ask of you what goes beyond your human weakness, caused by the flesh; yield your members only to righteousness in the same measure as you formerly yielded them to sin. I do not ask more of you.” But it is evident that the apostle, in a passage in which he is describing the standard of Christian holiness, cannot think of abating aught of the demands of the new principle. The exhortation which follows cannot be less absolute than that which preceded, Romans 6:12-13, and which was unaccompanied by any such clause. Hofmann and Schott take the two words ἀνθρώπινον λέγω , I speak as a man, as a parenthesis, and join the regimen διὰ τὴν ἀσθένειαν , on account of the weakness of the flesh, to the verb: ye became subject, Romans 6:18. According to this view Paul recognizes that the practice of goodness is really a servitude for the believer, subjection to a strange will; and that arising from the persistence of the old nature, and from the fact that the flesh requires to be constantly subdued. But it is very doubtful whether the apostle here seriously called by the name of servitude that Christian life which he represents always, like Jesus Himself, as the most glorious emancipation. Undoubtedly, in 1 Corinthians 9:27, he uses the expression δουλαγωγεῖν , to bring into subjection, but in a figure, and in relation to the body.
The imperative yield proves that the second part of the verse is an exhortation. But in this case why attach it with a for to what precedes? Can an exhortation serve to demonstrate anything? Does it not require itself to be founded on a demonstration? To understand this strange form, we must, I think, change the imperative yield into the form: “ ye are held bound to yield.” We can then understand how this idea may be connected by for with Romans 6:18: “Ye were made subject to righteousness henceforth, since, in fact ( for), it remains to you only to yield your members.” It must not be forgotten, indeed, that the exhortation: yield your members, was already expressed previously in Romans 6:12-13, and that as logically based on all that preceded ( therefore, Rom 6:12 ), and that consequently the transition from Romans 6:18 b to 19b may be thus paraphrased: “ye became the servants of righteousness, for, in fact, as I have shown you, ye have now nothing else to do than to yield your members to righteousness.” The only difference between the exhortation of Rom 6:12-13 and that of 18b is that Paul said in the former: do; while here, in keeping with the object of this second passage, he says: “And ye cannot do otherwise.” By this relation between the for of Romans 6:19 b and Romans 6:18, it may be proved that 19a is indeed, as we have seen, an interjected observation.
There is a slightly ironical touch in the meaning of the second part of Romans 6:19. It concerns the readers to be now in the service of their new master, righteousness, as active and zealous servants as they formerly were in the service of their old master. “Ye were eager to yield your members to sin to commit evil, be ye now as eager to yield them to righteousness to realize holiness. Do not inflict on this second master the shame of serving him less faithfully than the first.” The old master is denoted by the two terms ἀκαθαρσία , uncleanness, and ἀνομία , lawlessness, life going beyond all rule, licentiousness. The first of these terms characterizes sin as personal degradation, the second as contempt of the standard of right written in the law on every man's conscience ( Rom 2:14-15 ). This distinction seems to us more natural than that laid down by Tholuck, who takes the term uncleanness in the strictly proper sense of the word, and who takes lawlessness to be sin in general. The broad sense which we give to the word uncleanness appears clearly from 1 Thessalonians 4:7. The two expressions therefore embrace each, as it seems to us, the whole sphere of sin, but from two different points of view.
From sin as a principle, the apostle passes to sin as an effect. The regimen εἰς ἀνομίαν , unto lawlessness, signifies: to do all one's pleasure without being arrested in the least by the line of demarkation which separates good from evil. This expression ἀνομία , lawlessness, so expressly repeated, and this whole description of the previous life of the readers, is evidently more applicable to men formerly Gentiles than to believers of Jewish origin.
With sin characterized as an evil disposition, as an inward principle, in the two forms of degradation and lawlessness, there is contrasted goodness, also as a principle and as a moral disposition, by the term δικαιοσύνη , righteousness. This is the will of God, moral obligation accepted by the believer as the absolute rule of his will and life. Then with sin as an effect produced in the form of ἀνομία , the rejection of every rule in practice, there is contrasted goodness as a result obtained, by the term ἁγιασμός : this is the concrete and personal realization of goodness, the fruit of perpetual submission to the principle of righteousness, holiness, or sanctification. The word ἁγιασμός is usually translated by sanctification, and this is represented as the progressive amelioration of the individual resulting from his moral self-discipline. It is certain that Greek substantives in μος or σμος are, as Curtius says ( Schulgramm. § 342), nomina actionis, denoting properly an action put forth, rather than a state of being. But we must not forget two things: 1. That, from the Scripture point of view, the author of the act denoted by the term sanctify is God, and not man; this is established, as it seems to me, by 1 Peter 1:2, 2 Thessalonians 2:13, and 1 Corinthians 1:30, where this act is ascribed to the Holy Spirit and to Christ. 2. That even in the Old Testament the term ἁγιασμός seems to be used in the LXX. to denote not the progressive work, but its result; thus Amos 2:11, where the LXX. use this word to translate nezirim, the consecrated ones; and Ezekiel 45:4, where it seems to be taken in the same sense as mikdasch, sanctuary. In the New Testament, likewise, it more naturally denotes the result reached than the action put forth, in the following passages: 1 Thessalonians 4:3; 1 Timothy 2:15; Hebrews 12:14. We are thus led to translate it rather by the term holiness. And this seems to be confirmed by the preposition εἰς , for, unto, which expresses the goal rather than the way. If it is asked wherein the term ἁγιασμός , taken in the sense of holiness, still differs from ἁγιότης , ( Heb 12:10 ) and ἁγιωσύνη (Romans 1:4; 1 Thessalonians 3:13; 2Co 7:1 ), which seem to be completely synonymous, the indication of the shade may be found in the form of the terminations: ἁγιότης denotes holiness as an abstract idea; ἁγιωσύνη , as a personal quality, an inward disposition; ἁγιασμός , as a work which has reached the state of complete realization in the person and life, the result of the divine act expressed by ἁγιάζειν .
The apostle has thus reminded the church of the two principles between which it has finally made its choice, and the necessity laid on the believer to be as thoroughgoing in his new master's service as he had been in that of the former; he now labors to strengthen this choice and decision by presenting the consequences of the one and the other condition of dependence. On the one side, shame and death; on the other, holiness and life. Here is the second part of the passage; Rom 6:20-21 describe the consequences of the service of sin to their extreme limit; Rom 6:22 gives the consequences of dependence on God also to their final goal; Romans 6:23, in an antithesis full of solemnity, formulates this double end of human life.
Vv. 20, 21. “ For when ye were the servants of sin, ye were free in respect of righteousness. What fruit therefore had ye then? Things of which ye are now ashamed; for certainly their end is death. ”
We must seek the counterpart of Romans 6:20, not in Romans 6:18, which belongs to a passage now concluded, but in Romans 6:22. In Romans 6:20, indeed, there begins the description of the consequences of the two services. The for bears on the exhortation contained in Romans 6:19 b It would be impossible to depict the degrading character of the former dependence in which his readers had lived, more keenly than the apostle does in the words: free in respect of righteousness. The conviction of what is righteous did not for a moment hamper them in their course of life. This was an annoyance which they did not feel! To use the expression of Scripture, they drank iniquity as one drinketh up water.
Vv. 21. And what was the result of this shameful liberty? The apostle analyzes it into a fruit, καρπός , and an end, τέλος . What fruit had ye then? he asks literally. The verb ἔχειν , to have, no more here than in Romans 1:13, signifies to produce. Paul would rather have used for this meaning one of the verbs φέρειν or ποιεῖν . By saying that they have this fruit, he wishes to express not only the idea that they produce it, but that they possess and keep it in themselves, that they drag it with them as forming part of their own moral life. “Their works follow them,” as is said. Commentators are not at one as to the meaning of the following words: things of which ye are now ashamed. Some, like the Peshitto, Theod., Theoph., Er., Luth., Mel., Thol., De W., Olsh., Philip., take these words as the answer to the question put: “This is the fruit, namely, acts of which, now that ye are in Christ, ye cannot think without confusion; for ye now see clearly that the goal to which they were leading you inevitably was death.” But some commentators (Chrys., Grot., Beng., Fritzs., Mey.) regard these words as a continuation of the preceding question: “What fruit did ye derive from those things of which ye are now ashamed?” The answer in this case would be understood. According to Meyer, it would simply be: none, of course taking the word fruit in an exclusively good sense. Or the answer might be supposed to be: a very evil fruit, finding the proof of this evil quality in the following words: “For their end is death.” But whatever may be the answer which is sought to be supplied, this construction, by prolonging the question with this long incidental proposition, has the disadvantage of taking away from its vivacity, and making the sentence extremely heavy. Besides, we must supply before the relative ἐφ᾿ οἶς , of which, some antecedent or other, such as ἐκείνων or ἐξ ἐκείνων , which is not very natural. If account is taken of the very marked contrast between the two adverbs of time, then and now, τότε and νῦν , we shall be led rather to see here two distinct propositions than only one. Finally, we find in Rom 6:22 the result described under two distinct aspects: as fruit, καρπός , and as end, τέλος . Should it not be the same in our verse, to which Rom 6:22 corresponds? This would not be the case in the sense preferred by Meyer. It would be necessary to make τέλος ( end) almost the synonym and explanation of καρπός ( fruit). This commentator relies especially on the fact that the apostle gives to the word fruit only a good sense; so Galatians 5:19; Galatians 5:22, where he speaks of the works of the flesh and the fruit of the Spirit, and Ephesians 5:11, where he characterizes the works of darkness as being without fruit ( ἄκαρπα ). But Meyer does not take into consideration that the mind of the apostle is here moving in the domain of a sustained figure, which he applies successively to the two opposite servitudes. On both sides he sees: 1. A master (sin, God); 2. A servant (the natural man, the believer): 3. Some work or other in the service of the master; 4. Fruit, which is the immediate product of the labor, the work itself (the things of which the workers are ashamed, or those which lead to holiness); 5. An end, as retribution at the hand of the master (death, eternal life). It is therefore evident that the figure of fruit is in place on the one side as well as on the other. So thoroughly is this the thought of the apostle, that in Rom 6:22 he says to the believer: Ye have “ your fruit,” in evident contrast to that which they had previously as sinners. As to those who to the question: What fruit had ye? understand this wholly different answer: a bad, detestable fruit, it is impossible for them to explain so important an ellipsis. We do not therefore hesitate to prefer the first of the two explanations proposed: “What fruit did ye then derive from your labor in the service of sin? Such fruit, that now when ye are enlightened, it only fills you with shame,” ἔργα τοῦ σκότους (the works of darkness), Ephesians 5:11.
The for which connects the last proposition with the preceding bears on the notion of shame. In point of fact, the final result of those things, their τέλος ( end), which is death, demonstrates their shameful nature. “It is most fitting indeed that ye should blush for them now; for their end is death.” In this fact: death, as the end, there is expressed the estimate of God Himself. I regard as authentic the particle μέν , which is read here by five Mjj. It seems to me impossible that it should have been added; its omission, on the contrary, is easily explained. It is the particle known under the name of μέν solitarium, to which there is no corresponding δέ , and which is merely intended expressly to reserve a certain side of the truth which the reader is guarded against forgetting: “For (whatever may be the virtue of grace) it remains nevertheless true that”...
The end differs from the fruit in that the latter is the immediate result, the very realization of the labor, its moral product; while the end is the manifestation of God's approval or displeasure.
Death here evidently denotes final death, eternal separation from God, a)pw/leia ( perdition).
Vv. 22. “ But now, being made free from sin and become servants to God, ye have your fruit holiness, and your end everlasting life. ”
For the abstract master designated above, namely righteousness, Paul here substitutes God Himself; for in Christ it is to the living God the believer is united. The form of expression used by Paul, literally rendered, would be: “Ye have your fruit in the direction of holiness.” It is to the state of holiness that ye are brought. Such, in fact, is the result of action constantly kept up in dependence on God. Every duty discharged is a step on the way at the end of which God's servant sees the sublime ideal of ἁγιασμός , completed holiness, shining.
To this fruit God is pleased to add what Paul calls the end: eternal life. Besides holiness, this expression embraces glory, imperishable happiness, perfect activity.
In Rom 6:23 the apostle sums up in a few definite strokes those two contrasted pictures.
Vv. 23. “ For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life in Jesus Christ our Lord. ”
On the one side, wages, something earned. The word ὀψώνιον strictly denotes payment in kind, then the payment in money which a general gives his soldiers. And so it is obvious that the complement τῆς ἁμαρτίας , of sin, is not here the genitive of the object: the wages paid for sin, but the genitive of the subject: the wages paid by sin. Sin is personified as man's natural master (Romans 6:12; Romans 6:14; Rom 6:22 ), and he is represented as paying his subjects with death. This term, according to the apostle, does not seem to denote the annihilation of the sinner. To pay any one is not to put him out of existence; it is rather to make him feel the painful consequences of his sin, to make him reap in the form of corruption what he has sowed in the form of sin (Galatians 6:7-8; 2Co 5:10 ).
In the second proposition the apostle does not speak of wages, but of a gift of grace ( χάρισμα ). This term is taken here in its most general sense; it comprehends the fulness of salvation. Everything in this work, from the initial justification to the final absolution, including sanctification and preparing for glory, is a free gift, an unmerited favor, like that Christ Himself who has been made unto us righteousness, holiness, and redemption. “Hell,” says Hodge, “is always earned; heaven, never. ” The apostle closes with the words: in Christ Jesus our Lord; for it is in Him that this entire communication of divine mercy to the faithful takes place. Here, again, for the δία , by, which was the preposition used in the preceding part (for example, Romans 5:1-2; Romans 5:11; Romans 5:17; Rom 5:21 ), Paul substitutes the ἐν , in, which is more in keeping with the mode of sanctification. After being justified by Him, we are sanctified in Him, in communion of life with Him.
It is commonly thought that this twenty-third verse, as well as the whole passage of which it is a summary, applies to the believer only from the view-point of the second alternative, that of eternal life, and that the unconverted only are referred to by the apostle when he speaks of the service of sin and of its fatal goal, death. But the tenor of Rom 6:15 proves how erroneous this view is. What is the aim of this passage? To reply to the question: “Shall we sin because we are under grace?” Now this question can only be put in reference to believers. It is to them, therefore, that the reply contained in this whole passage applies. Neither could Paul say in respect of unconverted sinners what we find in Romans 6:21: “those things whereof we are now ashamed.” It is therefore certain that he conceives the possibility of a return to the service of sin a return which would lead them to eternal death as certainly as other sinners. It follows, even from the relation between the question of Rom 6:15 and the answer, Romans 6:16-23, that such a relapse may arise from a single voluntary concession to the continual solicitations of the old master, sin. A single affirmative answer to the question: “Shall I commit an act of sin, since I am under grace?” might have the effect of placing the believer again on the inclined plane which leads to the abyss. A striking example of this fact occurs in our very Epistle. In chap. Romans 14:15; Romans 14:20, Paul declares to the man who induces a weak brother to commit an act of sin contrary to his conscience, that thereby he may cause that brother to perish for whom Christ died, and destroy in him the work of God. Such will infallibly be the result, if this sin, not being quickly blotted out by pardon and restoration, becomes consolidated, and remains permanently interposed between him and his God.