Bible Commentaries
Romans 6

McGarvey's Commentaries on Selected BooksMcGarvey'S Commentaries

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Verse 1

What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound?

Verse 2

God forbid. We who died to sin, how shall we any longer live therein? [Macknight says, truly, that the thought of this and the next chapter reverts to Romans 3:3; and is intended to refute the thought of that verse, as reintroduced by Romans 5:20-21; viz.: that justification by faith renders the law useless, and encourages sin, that grace may abound. Paul refutes these thoughts, and asserts the contrary principle, that justification by faith establishes the law. What, says he, shall be inferred from what we have taught? It is true that God’s favor abounds in proportion to sin, so as to always exceed it; but are the friends of Christ therefore justified in thinking they can live sinfully (Galatians 5:13)? or are the Lord’s enemies justified in asserting that we teach that men should do evil that good may come (Romans 3:9)? or that we teach that Christians should continue to commit sin, as they did before their conversion, in order that they may increase the grace by increasing the sin (Romans 5:20)? Not at all. Our gospel destroys sin: can it, therefore, give encouragement and vigor to it? We who, by baptism, have put away sin, so that we died to it, can we, nevertheless, accomplish the impossible by still living in it? The apostle, in asserting that baptism is a death to sin, does not speak literally, but uses a bold and appropriate figure, suggested by the inherent symbolism of the ordinance. Baptism is the consummation of repentance; and were repentance perfect, the immersion would result in such an abhorrence of sin, such a complete cessation of it, and such a love of righteousness as would bring about an actual death toward, or abolition of, sin, and the Lord designed and desires such a full transformation; but truth compels us to acknowledge that repentance, like all other human operations, is imperfect, and, therefore, in baptism we only die to sin in so far that righteousness becomes the rule of life, and sin the painful, mortifying, humiliating, heart-breaking exception.]

Verse 3

Are ye ignorant that all we who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death?

Verse 4

We were buried therefore with him through baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we also might walk in newness of life. [The apostle’s argument rests on the nature of Christ’s death, etc. Jesus died to take away our sins, to bear them for us, and rid us of them (John 1:29; 1 Peter 2:24); but in order that he may do this for us, so that we may partake of the benefits of his death, it is necessary that he be our representative; i. e., that we be in him, and in him at the very time when he thus gave himself unto death, so that his death becomes, representatively, our death. To aid us in conceiving the accomplishment of this unity with him in the act of death, the ordinance of baptism was instituted, so that, by it, we are not only baptized into him, but also into his death. One purpose, therefore, of baptism is to so unite us with him that, in him, we may die to sin and a life in a sinful kingdom of darkness, and rise to live again in righteousness in a sinless kingdom of light (Romans 7:4; Romans 8:13; Galatians 2:19-20; Galatians 5:24; Galatians 6:14; Colossians 2:11-20). Such being the nature of the ordinance, it precludes the idea that a baptized person could continue to commit sin. You must therefore recognize, says the apostle, that in baptism you died with Christ unto sin, or are ye so ignorant of the meaning of that ordinance that you do not understand that it symbolizes your death to sin and your resurrection to righteousness? If you are thus ignorant, then know that all we who were immersed into Christ were immersed into his death. We were buried with him, through immersion, into death as to our sin: that like as Christ was raised from the dead, because the glory of the just and holy Father required it, so we also might walk or act in a new manner of life; i. e., a sinless life. Thus baptism, which is a burial and resurrection performed in water, attests, in the strongest manner, the Christian’s obligation to be sinless. Only the dead are buried. Brief as is the momentary burial of the immersed, it is, nevertheless, a seal of their death to sin, and hence of their cleansing from it (Acts 2:38; Acts 22:16). Only the resurrected rise from the grave. Therefore, one who has not fully resolved to live as having died unto sin has no right to be lifted from the waters of baptism. If he is still dead in trespasses and sin, he should remain buried.]

Verse 5

For if we have become united with him in the likeness of his death, we shall be also in the likeness of his resurrection [The apostle here meets the cavil of some objector who supposes that we might die to sin in baptism, and still be under no obligation to retrain from it after baptism. The answer is, that we can not be united to Christ in one part of the ordinance (the burial, or immersion), and severed from him in the other part (the resurrection, or emersion). If, says he, we have become united with Christ in that part of the ordinance wherein he died to destroy the power of sin, it is morally certain that we shall continue to be united with him in that other part, wherein he rose to lead a new life--a life no longer confined to earth and its sinful environment, but one far removed from the realm of wickedness in the courts of the Father. If, therefore, we died with him to sin, we must also rise with him to lead a new life in the (to us) new kingdom of God, which looks forward to the enjoyment of those very changes wrought in Christ by his ascension. Neither in dying nor living do we accomplish the actual in the ordinance. We are not actually united with Christ in death, but in an ordinance which resembles it. We do not actually die as to sin, as did Christ; but we do profess a likeness to his death. We do not rise, as did he, to a glorified life, but we strive to maintain a similitude, or likeness, to it. When at last, in a real death and resurrection, Christ actually unites us with himself, we shall indeed be dead to sin, and alive to righteousness; for there is no sin among the immortals, and there shall be no lack of perfection in those who have been changed into Christ’s image];

Verse 6

knowing this, that our old man was crucified with him, that the body of sin might be done away, that so we should no longer be in bondage to sin;

Verse 7

for he that hath died is justified from sin.

Verse 8

But if we died with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with him;

Verse 9

knowing that Christ being raised from the dead dieth no more; death no more hath dominion over him.

Verse 10

For the death that he died, he died unto sin once: but the life that he liveth, he liveth unto God.

Verse 11

Even so reckon ye also yourselves to be dead unto sin, but alive unto God in Christ Jesus. [At this point the apostle passes over from the symbolic union which is effected on our part by baptism, to the actual union effected on Christ’s part by his real assumption of our humanity through his incarnation. Though, in baptism, we only symbolically died, yet we may be sure that the symbolism has actual truth and verity back of it, for we know that our sinful human nature, which we sought to bury in baptism, did really, actually, die in the person of Christ crucified, that the sin might be purged, and that it, being a slave to sin, might obtain actual, unqualified liberty; for who so dies pays the penalty of sin, and (if he can live again) obtains his freedom. But if we thus actually die in Christ, we believe that we shall also actually live with him (not a merely symbolically glorified life, such as this present, but an actually glorified existence in the future), for we were actually united with him in his passion, and we know that he rose triumphant from the grave, to die no more; and so, we being in him, did likewise, and the act was final (as to us), for Christ died to sin once (and we also in him), but the life that he liveth he liveth no longer in mortal flesh on earth among men, but he liveth it in the presence of and unto God (and we also in him). Since we know, therefore, that these grand verities underlie the symbolic profession which we make in baptism, we must exalt the actual above the symbolic, and indeed look upon ourselves as dead unto sin, but alive unto God in Christ Jesus, and not as mere dreamers following an idle, visionary symbol.]

Verse 12

Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, that ye should obey the lusts thereof:

Verse 13

neither present your members unto sin as instruments of unrighteousness; but present yourselves unto God, as alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness unto God.

Verse 14

For sin shall not have dominion over you: for ye are not under law, but under grace. [Thus the apostle vindicates his teaching, and shows that it does not justify any indulgence in sin. The Christian is to live realizing that in the person of Christ he has already actually passed from death unto life, and that therefore it is incumbent upon him to lead, as far as his strength permits, a life of heavenly perfection. He is to remember that however hard his conflict with sin may be, yet sin is not to lord it over him in the end, so as to procure his final condemnation, for he is under a system of grace which shall procure his pardon in the hour of judgment, and not under a system of law which would, in that hour, most certainly condemn him.]

Verse 15

What then? shall we sin, because we are not under law, but under grace? God forbid. [In the last section Paul showed that sin was not justified, even though it causes God’s goodness to abound. In this section he shows that freedom from the law does not justify freedom in sinning. As usual, he presents the proposition, denies its validity, and expands his denial in what follows.]

Verse 16

Know ye not, that to whom ye present yourselves as servants unto obedience, his servants ye are whom ye obey; whether of sin unto death, or of obedience unto righteousness? ["I take it for granted that ye know and believe" (Stuart) the principles, that no man can serve two masters (Matthew 6:24), and that no matter what profession he makes to the contrary, a man is truly the servant of that master to whom he habitually and continually yields a slavish obedience (John 8:34). These things which are true in the ordinary walks of life are equally true in spiritual matters, whether this obedience be rendered unto sin, which compensates with the wages of eternal death, or whether it be rendered unto God, so as to be rewarded with righteousness or justification (which is a prerequisite to eternal life). Thus it appears that, while we are not under law, we are under God; and hence under obligation to foster and preserve our relation to him as his servants, a relationship which is not lost by a single act of weakness, but which is lost if we continue in sin. "The apostle," says Scott, "demanded whether it might not be proved what master any one served by observing the constant tenor of any one’s conduct. A person may do an occasional service for any one to whom he is not servant; but no doubt he is the servant of that man to whom he habitually yields and addicts himself, and in whose work he spends his time, and strength, and skill, and abilities, day after day, and year after year."]

Verse 17

But thanks be to God, that, whereas ye were servants of sin, ye became obedient from the heart to that form of teaching whereunto ye were delivered;

Verse 18

and being made free from sin, ye became servants of righteousness.

Verse 19

I speak after the manner of men because of the infirmity of your flesh: for as ye presented your members as servants to uncleanness and to iniquity unto iniquity, even so now present your members as servants to righteousness unto sanctification. [But thanks be to God that these principles are not mere matters of speculation with you, but have been tested and applied by you in your actual experience, for whereas ye were once the slaves of sin, ye, of your own free will and heart’s choice, changed your masters, and became, by your obedience to it, the servants or slaves of the principles set down in the Christian or gospel form of teaching whereunto (as is the custom when slaves are sold) ye were delivered for service. Now, I use this illustration of the transfer of slaves, which is taken from daily, secular affairs, not because it is a perfect and adequate representation of your change of relationship in passing from the world unto Christ, but because your fleshly nature clouds your understanding of spiritual ideas, and you therefore comprehend them better if clothed in an earthly or parabolic dress, even if the figure or illustration is defective. Christ is far from being a tyrannical master, and certainly cherishes no such feelings towards you as those which a slave-owner holds towards his slaves; yet the figure nevertheless aids you to comprehend the point which I am now discussing, for you can readily see that, as under the old slavery, you presented your members as servants to impurity and to lawlessness for the purpose of being lawless, so, under the new service, it behooves you to now present your members as servants to righteousness for the purpose of becoming sanctified, or holy.]

Verse 20

For when ye were servants of sin, ye were free in regard of righteousness. [Whole-hearted service to God is now no more than you, by your past conduct, recognized as reasonable. For when ye were servants of sin ye made no effort whatever to serve righteousness, or to have two masters. If ye rendered no double-minded, divided service to sin in the days of your unregeneracy, surely you ought now to render a whole-souled, single-minded service to righteousness in these your regenerate days.]

Verse 21

What fruit then had ye at that time in the things whereof ye are now ashamed? for the end of those things is death.

Verse 22

But now being made free from sin and become servants to God, ye have your fruit unto sanctification, and the end eternal life.

Verse 23

For the wages of sin is death; but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. [If consistency demands that you serve God with your whole heart, so profit and advantage also urges you so to do; for what profit had you when you served sin? In this present you were reaping, in that service, the things at which you may now well blush with shame, since they were preparing you to reap in the future death as a final harvest. But now having been made free from the slavery of sin, and having become a servant of God, your present reward is the blessedness and joy of a clean life, and your future reward is life eternal. And this is obvious, for, following my figure of slaves, masters and wages to the end, the wages which men earn and receive from your former master, sin, is death; but the wages which you can not earn, or deserve, but which God freely gives you for serving him, is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.]

Bibliographical Information
McGarvey, J. W. "Commentary on Romans 6". "J. W. McGarvey's Original Commentary on Acts". Transylvania Printing and Publishing Co. Lexington, KY. 1872.