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Sanctification as a Fruit of Justification.
Justification does not lead to indulgence of sin:
v. 1. What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin that grace may abound?
v. 2. God forbid! How shall we, that are dead to sin, live any longer therein?
The apostle has concluded his exposition of the doctrine of justification, bringing out, throughout the argument, that salvation is full and free. He now feels constrained to meet the most common, the most plausible, and yet the most unfounded objection to the doctrine of justification by faith, namely, that it permits men to live in sin, to continue doing evil, in order that grace might abound. What shall we then say? What inference shall we draw from the doctrine of grace? Shall we remain with sin, in sin, in order that grace may abound? This conclusion has ever been advanced by the enemies of Christ, from the early period of the Church down to the most recent times; the argument that the doctrine of justification by grace through faith furthered sin and undermined true morality. But Paul rejects the very insinuation with horror: By no means! Only one that knows nothing whatever of grace will speak and argue thus. Any one that has the faintest idea of the glory and beauty of grace will always hate and abhor sin and will bring out his appreciation of God's mercy in his entire life. How should we, how could we, that are dead to sin, live any longer therein? Because the believers have tasted the richness of God's mercy, because they have died unto sin, have given up all communion with sin, therefore they can no longer live in sin. Death and life are opposites, they exclude each other. We turned our backs definitely upon sin when we received Christ as our Savior. It is therefore a contradiction in terms to say that free justification is a license to sin. The very fact that we died to sin, and are therefore free from sin, no longer under its dominion and in its power, must result in our hating sin, in shunning every transgression of the holy will of God. God delivered us from the bondage of sin, and this fact is the foundation of Christian sanctification. The state of a Christian is a state of freedom from sin.
The power of Baptism:
v. 3. Know ye not that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into His death?
v. 4. Therefore we are buried with Him by Baptism into death, that, like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.
v. 5. For if we have been planted together in the likeness of His death, we shall be also in the likeness of His resurrection;
v. 6. knowing this, that our old man is crucified with Him, that the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin.
v. 7. for he that is dead is freed from sin.
v. 8. Now if we be dead with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with Him,
v. 9. knowing that Christ being raised from the dead dieth no more; death hath no more dominion over Him.
v. 10. For in that He died He died unto sin once; but in that he liveth He liveth unto God.
v. 11. Likewise reckon ye also yourselves to be dead indeed unto sin, but alive unto God through Jesus Christ, our Lord.
The fact that Christians are delivered from the power and bondage of sin is brought out by Paul by a reference to Baptism and its power. Or do you not know, are you ignorant of the fact? If his readers should doubt that justification has caused them to die to sin, they should remember what they knew with regard to their Baptism, whose meaning had been explained to them. As many of us as are baptized into Christ Jesus are baptized into His death. The Christians are not merely baptized with reference to Christ, to be united to Him in His death and to be partakers of its benefits, but, as the papyri have shown, any one baptized into the name of a person of the Godhead thereby became the property of the divine person indicated. Christ's salvation is our salvation, because we were baptized into His death. By taking our sins upon Him and paying the full price for them by His suffering and death, Christ has delivered us not only from the guilt and punishment, but also from the power of sin. And since we have become Christ's own by Baptism and have been baptized into His death, we are delivered from the power of death; its authority and sovereignty over us is at an end.
Since this is the nature of our union with Christ, given and sealed to us in Baptism, it follows that we are buried with Christ through Baptism into death, Colossians 2:12, in order that, just as Christ was raised up from the dead through the glory of the Father, so also we should walk in newness of life. In Baptism the believer dies with Christ. in a spiritual sense. He passes through a death, dies unto sin, is really, totally, dead unto sin. But this dying and being buried with Christ had the purpose, and that was the intention of God, that, in accordance with the resurrection of Christ, we also should walk in newness of life. Christ left the weakness of humiliation of His body and sin which He bore on His body in the grave. And He was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, by a manifestation especially of His omnipotence, and entered into a new, spiritual life. And to this life of Christ the new life of the Christians, the life after Baptism, corresponds. It is a new life, and in this new life we are supposed to walk, to have our conversation, to show it in all the acts of our daily life. The salvation of which we become partakers in Baptism works sanctification in us. The idea of purity is always associated with that of newness in Scriptures, and so we say with Luther that the consequence of our Baptism must be that we live before God in righteousness and purity forever.
Just how this new life has been wrought in us is explained in the nest sentence.
v. 5. For if we are grown together with the likeness of His death, we shall also be with that of His resurrection. We have grown together, we have entered into the most intimate union with the death of Christ by virtue of our dying typically in Baptism. Our dying to sin and Christ's death are thus similar, and the apostle can speak of a likeness, of a picture, which is the death of Christ. Now: if united with Christ in death, we shall certainly be united with Him in life. The one thing having happened, the other is sure to follow. In the case of Christ, His death and resurrection were intimately connected. He, therefore, that has part in His death also has part in His resurrection and is bound to show the new spiritual life with which he has been endowed, which he has received in Baptism. All this can be asserted, knowing, as we do, that our old man is crucified with Christ, in order that the body of sin may be put away entirely, may lose all influence, power, and dominion, to the end that we no longer serve sin. Christians should at all times know and remember that their old man, their corrupt, sinful condition and state, their natural depravity, is crucified with Christ in Baptism, since in Baptism they have become partakers of the death of Jesus on the cross and of its fruit. As a result, the body of sin, the sinful body: that body which sin has used as its instrument: is now put out of commission as such, can no longer serve in that capacity, and therefore we no longer serve sin. That is God's object and intention, that we henceforth no more, as before, serve sin; this our Baptism has worked, effected, in us. Because the old Adam, in Baptism, has been killed with all his evil lusts and no longer controls the organism of the body as his instrument, therefore we no longer need, we no longer shall, serve sin. For, as Paul declares in the next sentence, in the form of a general axiom, he that is dead is free from sin, is absolved, acquitted from sin, is pronounced just and free from sin in every respect: from its dominion as well as its curse, with the emphasis upon the deliverance from its jurisdiction. Since our old man was crucified with Christ, the axiom finds its application in such a way that sin has now lost power and dominion over us, and that we are no longer obliged to serve and obey sin. That is the wonderful blessing and benefit of Baptism.
But the apostle draws a further conclusion from the fact of our participating in the death of Christ: If we have died with Christ, if we are dead with Christ, we believe, we are confident of the fact, we trust, that we shall also live with Him. We have not merely been delivered from evil of every kind by becoming partakers of His death, but we have also received positive benefits. And this is further explained: Knowing that Christ, having been raised from the dead, will die no more; death no longer rules over Him. Since Christ was raised from the dead, the dominion of death is at an end in His case. When Jesus died on the cross, He Fielded up His spirit, He laid down His life. But in His resurrection He reassumed His life and showed that death was not His lord and master. He has entered upon the full and unhampered enjoyment of the life of which He is the Lord. For: what He died He died unto sin once and for always; but what He lives He lives to God. Jesus had been in relation to sin, He had taken sin upon Himself, and what He did as our Substitute He performed for the purpose of expiating sin, the crowning work of His life in this respect being His death, by which sin was removed, forever put away, so far as Christ is concerned. Therefore for US also, by virtue of our Baptism into the death of Christ, sin is removed, it has lost its dominion and power. What Christ now lives He lives unto God: His heavenly Father. He has entered into the state of His glorification, at the right hand of His heavenly Father. And therefore we also, according to the admonition of the apostle, consider, reckon ourselves as being dead to sin, but living unto God in Christ Jesus. In the same manner as Christ, though not in the same degree: me Christians, by virtue of our Baptism, are dead unto sin and live unto God, because the new life of God is planted into our hearts in Baptism. We live unto God according to the internal man, according to the regenerated mind and heart. And this is possible for us because we live in the communion with Christ and our life is hidden with Christ in God.
The reign of sin definitely closed:
v. 12. Let not sin, therefore, reign in your mortal body that ye should obey it in the lusts thereof.
v. 13. Neither yield ye your members as instruments of unrighteousness unto sin, but yield yourselves unto God, as those that are alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness unto God.
v. 14. For sin shall not have dominion over you; for ye are not under the Law, but under grace.
This is the practical inference and deduction from the preceding discussion. Since the believers have entered into the most intimate union with Christ, with the fruits of His death and with the blessings of His life, through Baptism, therefore they must break with all the former associations: Sin now shall not reign in your mortal body, to obey its lusts. The body of man, also of the believer, is mortal, and as such subject to death and to sin. Man, being mortal, must die. But sin, although it still lives in the body and apparently makes it subject to its own wages, shall not be the lord and master over the body; the sinful lusts should not exert their dominion over the body: they should not make the members of the body their tools and instruments for the working of evil. If the Christians should yield obedience to the lusts and desires of their heart, then they would make their mortal body a sinful body, one that submits to sin, is subject to sin. The sanctification of the Christians will rather show itself in this way; that the Christians control the body with all its members, hands, feet, eyes, ears, tongue. etc. , keeping them back from the service of sin, not permitting the lusts to find their gratification in actual transgressions. The will of the Christians will place itself in opposition to sin and thus keep the body within the bounds prescribed by the Word and will of God. They will not offer their members as weapons of unrighteousness unto sin.
That is the one side of sanctification. But there is also the positive side: Rather present yourselves to God, place yourselves at the disposal of God, as alive from the dead, and your members as weapons of righteousness unto God. The Christians were formerly, before the regenerative power of Baptism came to them, in a condition of spiritual death, Ephesians 2:1 ff. In that condition they served all the lusts, were subject to all vices. But from this spiritual death they have been awakened and therefore should devote themselves, their life, their bodies, their members, their hearts, their minds, their thoughts, to the service of God, for the promotion of His honor and glory. This does not imply that the Lord demands a false asceticism, but is an admonition which shall find its application in the ordinary, every-day life of every Christian, in the performance of the works of his calling. If the body and all its members thus serve God in the righteousness of life, then the work of sanctification will be carried on in a God-pleasing manner.
And the Christians can obey these commands, follow these injunctions, as the encouragement of the apostle, Romans 6:15, shows. It is not a hopeless struggle in which the Christians are engaged, in which the outcome, from the start, is destined to be unfavorable to their faith and spiritual life, but it is an effort which is bound to succeed. The apostle is joyfully confident, knowing that the power of sin is definitely broken, and that the triumph of the cause of Christ is assured by the completeness of Christ's work. For sin will not rule over you, it will not gain the ascendancy again. And the reason is: For not are you under the Law, but under grace. The Law ever demands, but does not give the strength to perform its demands, and therefore it cannot deliver from the dominion of sin. But grace, under which we have placed ourselves in conversion, in Baptism, not only delivers us from the guilt and power of sin, but also gives us the ability to withstand sin, to shun the evil, and to do that which pleases the Lord. Thus we renounce all dependence upon our own merit and strength, accept the offer of grace, of free justification as a gift of God, and receive deliverance from sin and the power to please our heavenly Father.
The Service of Righteousness.
The impelling power of this service:
v. 15. What then? Shall we sin because we are not under the Law, but under grace? God forbid!
v. 16. Know ye not that to whom ye yield yourselves servants to obey, his servants ye are to whom ye obey, whether of sin unto death or of obedience unto righteousness?
v. 17. but God be thanked that ye were the servants of sin, but ye have obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine which was delivered you.
v. 18. Being, then, made free from sin, ye became the servants of righteousness.
The apostle finds it necessary once more to obviate a possible misunderstanding, a false conclusion which might be made from the statement that we are under grace. What then? What is the situation? How do matters stand? Shall we sin since we are not under the Law, but under grace, because the rule of the Law does not extend over us, but only the pleasant reign of grace? Are we to commit sin because our life is not governed by statutes in the Old Testament sense of the term, but inspired by the sense of what we owe to the free pardoning mercy of God? Shall we transgress the holy will of God because we are given the assurance that God justifies the ungodly through the merits of Christ? And again comes the apostle's horrified: By no means! And he substantiates his emphatic rejection of the idea: Do you not know that you are slaves unto obedience to him to whom you offer yourselves as slaves, whether it be as slaves of sin unto death or as servants of obedience unto righteousness? If a person voluntarily places himself under the dominion of another and of his own free will yields him his obedience, he enters into slavery; he no longer has liberty to do as he pleases, but is obliged to do what his lord demands of him; and he is bound to this lord, he cannot leave him at his own pleasure. This general rule Paul now applies in the case of sinners and in the case of believers. He that has yielded himself to the service of sin is the slave of sin; he is under its power, in its bondage. He may hate his master, his reason and conscience may argue and protest against it, but the subjection is continued and absolute. And the end of this slavery is death, spiritual and eternal death: Romans 6:23; John 8:34. On the other hand, if a person becomes the servant of obedience to God unto righteousness, if he gives to God that obedience which is due to Him and should properly be rendered by all men. if he performs in all things what the obedience of God demands of him, then the result will be a righteousness of life, a conformity to the will, to the image of God: the habit of an upright life, approved by God.
The apostle feels certain, he assumes in the case of all his readers, that they have entered into the obedience of God and are living in that state of righteousness which is well pleasing to the Lord. And therefore his heart overflows with a doxology: Thanks be to God that you were the servants of sin, that that condition of shameful slavery is past forever, but have now given full obedience from the heart to the form of doctrine which was delivered to you, or rather, unto which you were delivered, to emphasize the fact that there was no merit on their part. In conversion the believers renounce the bondage of sin. and they give full and free obedience, they yield themselves in voluntary and sincere submission to the type of doctrine to which they have been delivered, to the evangelical truth in that form as it appeared in the preaching of Paul, the form which the preaching in the Christian Church should exhibit at all times. The obedience to the Christian doctrine is nothing but faith, for faith is obedience to the Gospel and therefore to Christ. And this voluntary obedience of faith is a gift of God, for which all thanks and praise must be given to God, and to Him alone. And now the apostle draws the conclusion from the preceding: But being set free, being emancipated from sin, you have become servants to righteousness. Sin was a despotic master, a slave-driver. But by the grace of God the believers are set free from sin's galling tyranny and at the same time made subject to righteousness, servants of righteousness. They are now committed to righteousness, their whole life is devoted to righteousness, the righteousness of life becomes, as it were, their second nature. And this subjection of the Christians to God and to the obedience of faith, which results in true sanctification, is the essence of true spiritual liberty. John 8:36.
Servants of righteousness unto everlasting life:
v. 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.
v. 20. For when ye were the servants of sin, ye were free from righteousness.
v. 21. What fruit had ye then in those things whereof ye are now ashamed? For the end of those things is death.
v. 22. But now being made free from sin, and become servants to God, ye have your fruit unto holiness, and the end everlasting life.
v. 23. For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ, our Lord.
Paul had used a very strong expression: "slavery of righteousness," to illustrate his meaning, a comparison taken from the common relations of men, to set forth the relation of the believers to God. And so he here apologizes: in a way, for using this human figure of the relation of slave to master to convey the great spiritual truth which he intends to impress upon his readers. It was necessary to speak thus plainly, in such homely phrases and figures, on account of the weakness of their flesh, not so much on account of their intellectual as on account of their moral weakness, the heathen Christians still tending somewhat toward laxity in morals, toward abuse of Christian liberty. And therefore Paul continues the application of his strong figure of speech: As they had yielded, offered, set forth, the members and organs of their bodies, bound in slavery to uncleanness, pollution of their own body, soul, and mind, and to iniquity, lawlessness, transgression of the divine Law in general. Such are the fruits of the natural state of man: evil in its various forms, a progression in lawless behavior, one sin being the cause and instigation of another. But their changed status now demands, and the apostle adds the urgency of his admonition: So now offer, set forth, your members as bound under righteousness unto holiness. The believers are not merely obligated to a life of righteousness, but they are in its bonded service. And the result is purity in heart and life, an inward conformity to the divine image, 1 Thessalonians 4:7.
The apostle now gives further confirmation to his admonition: When you were slaves of sin, you were free from righteousness. So far as righteousness was concerned, they were free; they were not concerned with righteousness, they were serving another master; they had nothing in common with righteousness, were absolutely unable and unfit to perform anything that would have been acceptable in the sight of God. And what was the result? What fruits were matured under those conditions? What was the product of the slavery of sin? The answer can be only one: Such things as now cause you to be ashamed as you remember your former conversation, for they were horrible vices, shameful delights, which will invariably plunge into death and destruction for both soul and body. Now, however, the situation is reversed: Having been emancipated, set free, from sin, and bound to the Lord, you have in your possession your fruit to sanctification, but the end eternal life. The entire situation presents the contrast to carnal-mindedness. In the case of the believers the evil master, sin, has been deposed; instead, there is the controlling influence of the Spirit's power. And the product of the service of God thus entered into is holiness, all desires, thoughts, and actions being devoted to the performing of God's will. And the end, the result of this service of righteousness, is eternal life, the fullness of life in the presence of God forever and ever. The apostle, therefore, concludes with an axiomatic statement: For the wages of sin is death; what sin, as the tyrannical ruler, pays its subjects, is their due and well-deserved reward. Sin cannot be allowed to go unrewarded, that is, unpunished. For a confirmed sinner to hope for pardon without atonement is to hope for the impossible, namely, that God will, in the end, prove unjust. But, by a contrast as great as that between heaven and hell: The free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus, our Lord. There is not a word, not a hint of reward here: everlasting life is a free, an unmerited gift of grace and mercy. The punishment of hell is always merited, the bliss of heaven never. In Jesus Christ the possession of eternal life is assured, for He has made its attainment possible, and in and through Him we are placed in possession of this glorious gift. With this blessed goal before their eyes, the believers will also walk circumspectly on the paths of righteousness and withstand every effort of sin to regain the ascendancy, lest they lose the gift which has become theirs by faith and the hope which the heavenly calling holds before them in Christ Jesus.
Summary. The apostle admonishes the Christians no longer to serve sin, but to walk in righteousness, by reminding them of the fact that in Christ Jesus they have died unto sin and have become partakers of the new spiritual life, by which they have become servants unto righteousness and have before them the goal of everlasting life.
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Kretzmann, Paul E. Ph. D., D. D. "Commentary on Romans 6". "Kretzmann's Popular Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/
the Second Week of Advent