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Romans 6:2.—Necessary connection between faith in Christ’s death and abhorrence of sin. Heathen writers speak of the wise and good as dead to sensualities and animal pleasures (Wordsworth).
Romans 6:3. Baptised into His death.—In relation to His death—i.e., faith in it, acceptation, appropriation, and imitation of it. The relation symbolised by baptism is in its own nature moral and spiritual.
Romans 6:4.—Baptism by immersion—and where that cannot be conveniently done, by effusion—represents death and burial, as the emerging again figures a new life (Dean Stanhope).
Romans 6:5.—For if we become connate with Him by the likeness of His death, surely we shall also become by the likeness of His resurrection (Wordsworth).
Romans 6:6.—Sin is here personified. The body of sin is our own body so far as it is the seat and the slave of sin.
Romans 6:7.—The maxim in its physical sense proverbial among the Jews. Thus in the Talmud it is said, “When a man dies, he is freed from the commands.”
Romans 6:10.—Died unto sin once.—Made sin for the Church—a sin offering.
Romans 6:11.—To both, our oneness with Him being the ground of our dying to sin, etc. To fulfil God’s will, live to Him alone.
MAIN HOMILETICS OF THE PARAGRAPH.—Romans 6:1-11
Buried, but living.—An evil propensity was generated by the first Adam. A good propensity was generated by the Second Adam. The carnal Adamites moved along a descending scale, while the spiritual Adamites move along an ascending scale. Death brooded over the race—a death that had in it no compensating qualities. Christ undertook death that He might educe life. He died unto sin once, that He and the race might live unto God. Christ’s death was a death for sin and to sin. On Calvary sin received its deathblow. It is true that sin still works, but it works as a maimed force, and finally it must be for ever destroyed. He that is dead is freed from sin’s power, and must walk henceforth in newness of life. Grace does not lead to licentiousness, but to holiness of heart and of life. This is confirmed by a consideration of:—
I. The spiritual facts.—The great spiritual, central, and foundation fact of Christian life is that the old man is crucified with Christ.
1. Crucifixion was a process of suffering. How true is the symbolical teaching! What suffering is sometimes endured while the old man is being crucified! There are gentle natures, good creatures, that seem to be good from their birth and give a negation to the doctrine of original sin, who do not understand the suffering entailed by the moral process called the crucifixion of the old man. But even they sympathetically suffer as they enter into the sufferings of the crucified Saviour. Even they may feel that there is in them an old man that must be crucified. However, there is in other natures—perhaps the natures of the noblest—great suffering as the old man is being crucified. The noblest heroes have strong passions and fierce conflicts. The greatest battles are fought and the sublimest victories won not on earth’s gory battle-fields, but in soul spheres.
2. Crucifixion was a lingering death. It was a surprise to find that Christ was dead already. In some the old man of sin is long in dying. We think he is dead. We rejoice in our freedom; and the moment of rejoicing is the moment of disaster. The old man shakes the bonds, loosens the nails, and gives immense trouble. Perhaps the fault with some is that the crucifixion is not complete. A partial crucifixion is a mistake. Crucified with Christ, we must be crucified entirely. The old man in every limb must be slain if there is to be complete victory.
3. Crucifixion was a sure death at last. There could be no ultimate escape. The old man may seem to assert himself, but he has been nailed to the tree, and must die. If we have been crucified with Christ, then we cannot live in sin with pleasure.
II. The moral teaching.—For if we have been planted together in the likeness of His death, we shall be also in the likeness of His resurrection. This is a moral likeness. Christ’s death is lifted out of the mere material aspect. We do not sufficiently consider the death of Christ in its moral and spiritual relations. Socinianism derives some of its false force from our materialism. Morally we are assimilated with Christ in His death, and so are we in His resurrection. And resurrection is not a resurrection of skin, nerves, bones, and muscles, but a resurrection of soul power. Christ rose to be the dispenser of blessings, to live a crowned life. The believer rises to live a crowned life—the life of peace, of joy, and of holiness. The believer rises to be in his sphere the dispenser of blessings. The believer is a king and a priest—royal being master and king over himself, sacred being dedicated to God and to the promotion of the universal sanctities. He walks in newness of life. If there can be anything new to Jesus, then we may say that He walks in newness of life amid the bright sons of life and of glory,—newness of life to the Unchangeable—newness of life, for He is now the mediator and intercessor. Being assimilated with Christ, we walk in the spirit world. Life is ever new. Fresh breezes blow over earth’s dreary plains. Heaven’s zephyrs fan the brows of the new immortals.
III. The public profession.—The early Christians were baptised into Jesus Christ, into the name of Jesus Christ, into the death of Jesus Christ. There was first the change and then the profession. Public profession is against open sin. Some say that the doctrines of grace promote sin, and these objectors would not be the last to point the finger of scorn against the professor who leads an unholy life. The man who professes to be a Christian should be Christlike. We profess in baptism by our sponsors. How few earnestly take up the obligation! Some few profess too much. A vast number practise too little.
IV. The inward account.—This reckoning should be constantly carried on. “Reckon ye also yourselves to be dead indeed unto sin, but alive unto God through Jesus Christ our Lord.” This moral arithmetic is ennobling. Dead to sin. Alive to God,—alive to the Source of the highest life; alive to the infinite goodness; alive to the enriching outcome of the divine nature; alive to all the stirring motives to nobility of character which come from the eternal throne. The outcast from God becomes the friend of God, being alive to and by God. The soul of man is ever reaching upwards when it is reckoning itself to be alive unto God. It is opening itself out to be kissed into moral beauty and sweetness and fragrance by the refreshing beams that flow from the eternal Light.
Romans 6:4. Newness of life.—If Christ died for our sins, He rose for us too—He rose for our justification. If He is our model in His death, He is also our model in His resurrection from the dead. We have been “buried with Him by baptism into death,” says the apostle, “that like as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.” The great apostle cannot be understood to ascribe Christ’s resurrection to the Father in such sense as to exclude the agency of the Son or of the Spirit. St. Paul’s point is, that the Resurrection is the work of God, and as such it occupies a common ground with the new birth or conversion of the soul; for, indeed, no truth is so clearly revealed to us as this—that spiritual life, whether given us at the first in our new birth to Christ, or renewed after repentance in later years, is the free, fresh gift of the Father of our spirits. Nature can no more give us newness of life than a corpse can rise from the dead by its unassisted power. “That which is born of the flesh is flesh.” A sense of prudence, advancing years, the love of society around us, family influences, may remodel the surface form of our daily habits; but divine grace alone can turn the inmost being to God—can raise it from the death of sin to the life of righteousness—can clothe it in that “new man which, after God, is created in righteousness and true holiness.” There are three characteristics of the risen life of our Lord which especially challenge attention. The first is its reality. The resurrection of Jesus Christ was a real resurrection of a really dead body. The piercing of our Saviour’s side, to say nothing of the express language of the evangelists, implied the literal truth of His death; and being thus truly dead, He really rose from the dead. As St. Luke says, epitomising a history in a single expression, “He showed Himself alive after His passion by many infallible proofs.” The nearer men came to the risen Jesus, the more satisfied they were that He had risen indeed. So it is with the soul. Its newness of life must be, before everything else, real. What avails it to be risen in the imagination and good opinion of other people, if, in fact, we still live in the tomb of sin? Were it not better for us if we were dead than that men should think and speak of us as being what we are? Even if our new life be not purely an imagination on the part of others, what is the value of a mere ghost of a moral renewal, of prayers without heart in them, of actions without any religious principle, of religious language far in advance of our true convictions and feelings? The first lesson which the risen Christ teaches the Christian is reality, genuineness. A second characteristic of Christ’s risen life—it lasts. Jesus did not rise that, like Lazarus, He might die again. “I am He that liveth and was dead; and, behold, I am alive for evermore, and have the keys of hell and of death.” So should it be with the Christian. His, too, should be a resurrection once for all. It should be. God’s grace does not put any sort of force upon us, and what it does in us and for us depends on ourselves. The Christian must reckon himself to be dead indeed unto sin, but alive unto God through Jesus Christ. A last note of Christ’s risen life. Most of it was hidden from the eyes of men. They saw enough to be satisfied of its reality; but of the eleven recorded appearances five took place on a single day, and there is accordingly no record of any appearance on thirty-five days out of forty which preceded the Ascension. His visible presence after the Resurrection is the exception rather than the rule. Here is a lesson for the true Christian life. Of every such life the most important side is hidden from the eyes of man. It is a matter of the very first necessity to set aside some time in each day for secret communion with God. In these three respects the true Christian’s life is modelled upon the Resurrection. It is sincere and real. It is not a passing caprice or taste, for it lasts. It has a reserved side apart from the eyes of men, in which its true force is nourished and made the most of.—Canon Liddon.
Life in Christ here and hereafter.—The death and resurrection of Christ constitute the substance of the gospel, and our concern with them as doctrinal truths includes more than our admitting them into our creed. They must become internal principles, and produce in us corresponding effects. He died, and we must be dead,—dead to the law, not as a rule of life, but as a covenant of works; dead to the world, not as the scene of God’s wonderful works, nor as a sphere of duty, nor as a field of usefulness, but as the enemy of God and our portion; dead to sin—this includes nothing less than our avoiding it; but it intends much more: we may be alive to it even while we forsake it; but we must no longer love or relish it, and thus no longer live in it. “How shall we that are dead to sin live any longer therein?” We must be dead with Him. We are dead with Him virtually; for He is the head and representative of His Church, and therefore what He did for His people is considered as done by them. We are dead with Him efficiently; for there is an influence derived from His cross which mortifies us to sin; and this influence is not moral only, consisting in the force of argument and motive—though this is true, and nothing shows the evil of sin or the love of the Saviour like Calvary—but it is spiritual also. He died to purify as well as to redeem; and He not only made reconciliation for the sins of His people, but received gifts for men, and secured the agency of the Holy Spirit. There is no real holiness to separate from the grace of the cross. There He draws all men unto Him. We are dead with Him as to resemblance. We are planted together in the likeness of His death, and therefore our death is called, as well as His, a crucifixion. “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.” I am, says the apostle, not only dead, but crucified, with Christ. Because Christ lives, we shall live also. For we are quickened together with Christ, and are raised up and made to sit together in heavenly places—that is, in His company. “Where I am, there shall also My servant be.” We have much in heaven to endear it. We may live with another, but not live like him; we may be with another, and behold his estate, but not share it. But “when He who is our life shall appear we shall also appear with Him in glory.” “I appoint unto you,” says He to His disciples, “a kingdom, as My Father hath appointed unto Me; that ye may eat and drink at My table in My kingdom, and sit on thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel.” Even our vile body shall be fashioned like His own glorious body. And the same duration attaches to His blessedness and ours. “I am alive,” says He, “for evermore”; and our end is everlasting life. Finally, Paul believed all this. And let us do the same; but let us believe it as he did—that is, let us believe that we shall live with Him if we be with Him. Some believe it without this. Their faith is only presumption Whatever they rely upon, whether their knowledge, or orthodoxy, or talking, or profession, they are only preparing for themselves the most bitter disappointment—if they are not dead unto sin and delivered from the present evil world; for if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of His.” But let us also believe that “if we be dead with Him we shall also live with Him.” The inclusion is as sure as the exclusion, and takes in every diversity and degree of grace. Whatever be their apprehensions of themselves, none of them all shall come short of this glory. It is as certain as the promise and oath and covenant of God, and the death and intercession of the Saviour, and the pledges and earnests of immortality, can render it. Therefore “be not faithless, but believing.” It was used by Christians to animate and encourage each other in the apostle’s days, as a common and familiar aphorism; and they gave it full credit: “It is a faithful saying: for if we be dead with Him, we shall also live with Him.”—W. Jay.
Romans 6:1. Was the Sabbath abrogated?—The apostle wrote thus because certain men had perverted a gracious doctrine into an excuse for continued indulgence in wickedness. They heard of the grace of God, and then concluded that, since the presence of sin in the world gave God a splendid opportunity for exhibiting His grace, it were well to sin so that the grace of God might never cease to be manifested. Paul refutes this in this chapter. Bearing this in mind, we may pass on to the question, If we say that we may continue in sin so that grace may abound, may we not take any of God’s laws, and say, “I will break this, and thus afford God greater scope for the exercise of His grace”? If we answered affirmatively, we should clear the way for a violation of all the moral laws. To arrive at a conclusion as to whether God’s commandments are binding on Christians, we will take the fourth. Was the Sabbath abrogated? If not, then argue that the whole law stands good to-day. Arguments advanced to prove that the Sabbath is of universal and perpetual obligation:—
I. The historic aspect of the question proves that the Sabbath was not an exclusively Jewish institution, and therefore the advent of Christianity did not annul it.—
1. Evidence coming from times before the Christian era.
2. Evidence from history of other nations. Uniformity of a septenary division of time throughout the Eastern world. The ancients—Homer, Hesiod, Callimachus, and others—indicate the seventh day as sacred.
3. Evidence from the doings of Christians. A change of day, but not a change of principle.
II. Which of the laws was abrogated by the advent of Christianity?—[Note.—There were three separate deliverances of the law—the civil, the ceremonial, and the moral.] Christ did not come to destroy the moral law; but His advent did away with the necessity for the civil and ceremonial.
III. Notice the relation of the fourth commandment to the other portions of the Decalogue.—Objectors say it differentiates from the other nine; but no reason for declaring it ceremonial and the others moral, and that Christ therefore sifted the law and eliminated that which referred to the Sabbath.
IV. Christ did not repudiate the Sabbath.—
1. Would He expose the whole race to the disabilities Jehovah designed to save the Jews from? If men were to be free in the one point, why restrict them in nine other directions?
2. In dealing with Pharisees, etc., not a word did Christ speak which tended to degrade the Sabbath. He set the Sabbath right; Jews had deified it, and degraded man.
3. While admitting that Jesus modified Jewish notions regarding the Sabbath, modification is not abrogation.
V. The New Testament does not countenance any contention for the abolition of the Sabbath.—
1. Some say Romans 14:5 implies a revocation of the divine institution at the dawn of Christianity (see following outline).
2. They also rely on Galatians 4:10.
3. The Colossian Christians thought good works a necessary security of salvation (Colossians 2:16-23).
VI. The presumption is against the abrogation of the moral law, and therefore against the abrogation of the Sabbath.—
1. Suppose the abrogation of the seventh commandment. What terrible results might be anticipated, considering the awful wickedness of the pagan world when Christ lived!
2. Suppose the abrogation of the first commandment. Think of the idolatry of the Greek and Roman worlds in Christ’s time, and the character of the idol-worship was so bad.
3. Suppose the abrogation of the sixth commandment. The world, in Christ’s time, reeked with blood—e.g., the arena. Could it be supposed Christ would abrogate any of these laws? Surely there was no slackening in any of them, and why suggest a slackening in the fourth?
VII. The Sabbath is a “sine quâ non” of human life.—Hence abrogation, in the light of our knowledge of God’s feeling for man, is impossible.
1. Man has always required a day of rest.
2. Never more so than now.
3. The growth of secularising tendencies rendered a Sabbath necessary, to afford opportunity for spiritual growth and worship. So long as human nature holds sway, so long will men require safeguards in things moral and social. The spirit of the age is such that men need such safeguards; hence God will not remove those which He has established. The foregoing arguments having established the continued necessity for the Sabbath, so it is argued that all the other commandments remain in force to-day. All God’s commandments are binding on Christians, who have no right to ignore any of His laws under the plea that they do not belong to the present dispensation.—Albert Lee.
I. Sabbath not a Jewish institution.—The Sabbath not an exclusively Jewish institution.
1. Evidence coming from times before the Christian era—e.g., the periodical worship of Cain and Abel. Also, the Sabbath mentioned as a well-known solemnity before the promulgation of the law. It is expressly taken notice of at the fall of manna; and the incidental manner in which it is then mentioned is convincing proof that the Israelites were no strangers to the institution.
2. Evidence from history of other nations leads us to believe that the Israelites were not alone in their observance of a week of seven days—e.g., the Assyrians and Babylonians in the native account of the Creation speak of Anu having put the finishing touches to the work, and “on the seventh day a holy day appointing, and commanding on that day a cessation from all business.” Uniformity of septenary division of time throughout all the Eastern world—Israel, Assyria, Egypt, India, Arabia, Persia, etc. Homer, Hesiod, Callimachus, and others constantly indicate the seventh day as sacred to their countrymen. No one would venture to suggest that this idea was borrowed from Moses; for Linus, e.g., who flourished before Moses, speaks of the seventh day as observed by pious persons.
3. Evidence culled from the doings of Christians. There was a change of day, but not a change of principle.
II. Moral law now in force.—It must be remembered that there were three separate deliverances of the law to the Jews—the civil, the ceremonial, and the moral. We admit that there was a repeal in the case of the first two; but nowhere do we find a particle of evidence to sustain the contention that the moral law was abrogated. Those who contend that this was the case forget to clear their minds of local considerations. They need to be reminded that the civil law, rehearsed in the wilderness, was set forth only for the Jews, for their especial guidance, under the peculiar circumstances of their residence, both in the wilderness and Canaan. When we consider the typical or ceremonial law, then, inasmuch as that law was a “type of Christ and good things to come,” we are fully prepared to see it pass away when Christ appears upon the scene. To declare that the Sabbath, together with the whole law, had its fulfilment in Christ is a strange idea to spring upon the Church. Christ certainly did not annul the moral law, whatever action He may have taken in regard to the civil and ceremonial. He distinctly rehearsed the moral law in a comprehensive sentence or two: “Thou shalt love,” etc. It is true that the Sabbath receives a large share of attention in the civil and ceremonial laws; but it is equally true that it is brought into prominence in the moral law. Since Christ did not come to destroy this last, and actually insisted upon its observance, who shall say that He eliminated the Sabbath portion, but left the others undisturbed?
III. Review of disputed passages.—Passages presented by anti-Sabbatarians.
1.Romans 14:5; Romans 14:5. It is contended by them that this passage implies a revocation of the divine institution at the dawn of Christianity.
(1) But the discussion had reference only to the peculiar customs of the Jews, to the rites and practices which they would attempt to impose on the Gentiles, and not to any questions which might arise among Christians as Christians.
(2) Alford, predisposed to argue the abolition of the Sabbath, says that Paul’s language is so sweeping as to do away with the divine obligation of keeping the Sabbath. And yet the apostle says, “Let every man be fully persuaded in his own mind.” Could such a vital question as that of Sabbath observance be left to men to interpret, according to every crotchet, especially of the ignorant and godless? It is a question whether there was any allusion to the Sabbath; and even if so, it would not be a question of observing the Sabbath, but rather one of observing the seventh day rather than the first, as Christians were beginning to do.
(3) One of the most able comments on this passage runs thus: “It will not do to take it for granted that the Sabbath was merely one of the Jewish festival days, simply because it was observed under the Mosaic economy. If the Lawgiver Himself said of it, when on earth, ‘The Son of man is Lord even of the Sabbath day,’ it will be hard to show that the apostle must have meant it to be ranked amongst those banished Jewish festival days which only ‘weakness’ could imagine to be still in force, a weakness which those who had more light ought, out of love, merely to bear with.”
2.Galatians 4:10; Galatians 4:10. Objectors use this to prove that the observance of the Sabbath is a matter of indifference. Note that in the passage the terms “Sabbath” or “Lord’s day” are not here mentioned; but assuming that they are implied, we must convict Paul of instability, and shall have reason to doubt his authority if he should allow the Romans to take one course and the Galatians another. Paul, as Olshausen observed, wished to assure the Galatians that the solemnisation in itself of certain ceremonies is not blamed (the old Church, too, had already its festivals), but what was superstitious in it—i.e., the opinion that it was necessary to salvation. Men were not to rest their hopes upon the false assumption that if they observed days and months and times and years superstitiously, they had done all that was necessary to salvation. Findlay, in his work on the Galatians, explains the attitude of the Christians in Galatia. They had already fallen in with the directions of the Jewish teachers. These had made the keeping of holy days a prominent and obligatory part of Christianity, and, as the Romish Church has done, multiplied them superstitiously beyond all reason. Paul called such things “beggarly elements,” and meant, doubtless, to convince the Galatians that they were falling into the mischievous tendency to regard the observance of certain days as meritorious. There is not a particle of evidence to prove that Christians were freed from the observance of the Sabbath day.
3.Colossians 2:16-23; Colossians 2:16-23. In the Colossian Church there was the idea that good works were a security of salvation. This would tend to divert Christians from relying solely on the complete work of Jesus. This explanation is applicable to Colossians 2:16-23. They had trusted to philosophy, and vain traditions, and worshipping of angels, and to legal ceremonies, whereas all these things had ended in Christ. Some might be disposed to think themselves under obligation to keep the last day of the week, and the first. If so, they were not to judge those who kept the Lord’s day only. Dr. Maclaren points out that Paul does not say, Therefore let no man observe any of these distinctions of meat, feast, and Sabbaths any more; but takes up the much more modest ground, Let no man judge you about them.—Albert Lee.
Romans 6:9. One victorious life.—Two things we are said to know in connection with the death of Christ. The one is the resurrection of Christ as an historical fact. We have no reason to suppose that sacred history is less reliable than secular history. The former more reliable than the latter, for it has been assailed, and yet its testimony is unshaken. The witnesses of the Resurrection are numerous and unimpeachable. We too often lose sight of the fact that our Lord was seen after His resurrection by the large number of five hundred brethren. St. Paul could not have mentioned this number to the Corinthian Church if it were not a well-authenticated fact. The other is a revealed truth that Christ dieth no more, and arises as a natural consequence—perhaps rather a moral consequence—from the Resurrection. If He rose from the dead—and certainly He did rise—then there is no need for a second encounter with death. Let us look at the:—
I. One death.—What a vast multitude is that of the dead! It seems almost impossible for us to grasp the number of the living that tread this thickly peopled planet! When a man who has led a lonely life in the country goes to London, he is astonished and bewildered as he gazes at the seething mass of humanity. What would be our feelings if from some eminence we could look at the race collected together on an extensive plain? But what is the army of the living when compared with the army of the dead? We see, as we look at the living, one or two generations; while, as we consider the dead, we have to consider generation after generation, through thousands of years, that have passed into the dark and silent shades. Now of all the multitude of deaths which have occurred from the time of Adam to the present day, the death of Christ is pre-eminent and conspicuous; so that we speak of it as the one death to which the ages before Christ’s coming look forward, and to which the ages after His resurrection look backward—the one death in its solemn grandeur, in its sublime portents, in its moral and spiritual significance.
II. One conquest.—Christ died once, but, being raised from the dead, He dieth no more. And why?
1. Because the conquest is complete and final. We fight our battles, both natural and moral, over and over again. One nation conquers another, but the conquered nation recovers strength, recruits its exhausted resources, and then returns to the attack. Individually we conquer our vices, and suppose them dead, when they astonish us by a return, and the conflict is renewed. Christ, by His one death, conquered death and sin—so conquered that they cannot appear as formidable opponents. They may skirmish and do immense damage, but we must believe that their ancient power has departed. Death and sin still work, but surely not as regnant forces in Christ’s redeemed world. They move about in chains, and can only do as He permits who has the keys of Hades and of death.
2. Because the conquest has served the designed moral purpose. The death of Christ is the one death, for it answered to the movings and designs of infinite love. The death of Christ is the darkest mystery of our humanity if there be no demand for it in the moral government of the infinitely just, holy, and merciful. It is said, Why should Jesus suffer because a vindictive God so demanded? It may be asked, Why should Jesus suffer if He only died the death of a martyr? Let us remember that His sufferings were more than physical. He suffered in soul. He suffered as no martyr ever did or ever could suffer, for He suffered as sin’s victim. The sharp iron of suffering entered into His holy and sensitive soul; the burden of the world’s sinful load bowed His sacred head, and made the bead-like drops of sweat stand on His immaculate brow. Grief broke His heart of infinite love. The gloomy desolateness of the fatherly love being withdrawn crept over His darkened spirit. Why this intense sorrow? We are not here to satisfy the critical minds who do not earnestly desire satisfaction, but we feel that the only consistent explanation of Christ’s death is the old one of evangelical teachers. And if Christ died as a sacrifice, and His death was accepted, then there is no need that He should die any more.
3. Because the death has evidenced the divine love. If men will not believe in the love of God as shown in the mediatorial scheme, neither would they be persuaded though Christ should come again from the invisible world and go through the same career that He enacted in the land of Palestine. We may say it with all due reverence, that the infinite God exhausted His resources when He spared not His Son to convince men of His vast love. Christ once died at love’s call. He dieth no more to convince unconvinceable creatures. A second death could not accomplish that which the first death has failed to procure. O Love divine, touch unloving hearts, and lead them to see and feel Thy infinite love!
III. One victorious life.—Death hath no more dominion over the risen and glorified Christ. On His sacred head are many crowns—the brightest is the crown of redemption—and He will never be any more as an uncrowned being. The sceptre of life will never again be wrested from His grasp. Strange that the Prince of life should be subject unto death; but the marvel is lessened as we think of the moral purpose, as we consider the infinite love, as we contemplate the victorious life. He sees of the unimagined travail of His soul, and is abundantly satisfied. Can there be new joys, fresh emotions, to an infinite nature? In some way or other there must be fresh emotions stirred in the soul of Jesus, for He, when on earth, looked to the joy before, and now He delights in the newly gained pleasure. He sits euthroned the Prince of life in the kingdom of life and blessedness. He dieth no more.
IV. One blessed consequence.—All true believers live with Him—live with Him in a larger sense than would have been before or otherwise possible. Life is enlarged and glorified by the risen life of the once crucified Saviour. Christ dieth no more: then we have an ever-living intercessor. Christ dieth no more: then we have an abiding helper. Christ dieth no more: then we need no other sacrifice and no other priest. Christ dieth no more: then we need not fear, for the Good Shepherd will ever watch over His sheep, and lead them in pastures of delight.
Romans 6:9. Christ risen, dieth no more.—In these words we have two points which are at the bottom of all true Easter joy:
1. The reality of the Resurrection, “Christ being raised from the dead.”
2. The perpetuity of Christ’s risen life, “Christ being raised, dieth no more.” The Resurrection is not merely an article of the Creed, it is a fact in the history of mankind. If the testimony which can be proved for the Resurrection concerned only a political occurrence or a fact of natural history witnessed some eighteen hundred years ago, nobody would think of denying its cogency. Those who do reject the truth of the Resurrection, quarrel, not with the proof that the Resurrection has occurred, but with the prior idea that such a thing could happen under any circumstances. No proof would satisfy this class of minds, because they have made up their minds that the thing cannot be. We Christians may well say it is the first of miracles, and as such it must be unwelcome to those who make their limited personal experience of the world of nature the measure of all spiritual as well as all physical truth. This is the joy, the happiness, which is brought to many a human soul by such a fact as the resurrection of Christ. It tells us that matter is not the governing principle of this universe. It assures us that matter is controlled; that there is a Being, that there is a will, to which matter can offer no effective resistance; that He is not bound by the laws of the universe; that He, in fact, controls them. The Resurrection was not an isolated miracle, done, and then over, leaving things much as they had been before. The risen Christ is not, like Lazarus, marked off from every other man as one who had visited the realms of death, but knowing that He must again be a tenant of the grave. “Christ being risen, dieth no more.” His risen body is made up of flesh, bone, and all things pertaining to the perfection of man’s nature, but it has superadded qualities. It is so spiritual that it can pass through closed doors without collision or disturbance. It is beyond the reach of those causes which slowly or swiftly bring down our bodies to the dust. Being raised from the dead, it dies no more. The perpetuity of the life of the risen Jesus is the guarantee of the perpetuity of the Church. Alone among all forms of society, the Church of Christ is ensured against complete dissolution. Christ, risen from death, dying no more, is the model of our new life in grace. I do not mean that absolute sinlessness is attainable by any Christian here. “If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves.” But faithfulness in our intentions, avoidance of known sources of danger, escape from presumptuous sins—these are possible and necessary. Those lives which are made up of alternating recovery and relapse—recovery, perhaps, during Lent, followed by relapse after Easter—or even lives lived with one foot in the grave, without anything like a strong vitality, with their feeble prayers, half-indulged inclinations, with weaknesses which may be physical, but which a regenerate will should do at once away with—men risen from the dead, yet without any seeming promise of endurance in life,—what would St. Paul say to these? “Christ being … no more.” Just as He left His tomb this Easter morning once for all, so should the soul once risen be dead to sin. The risen life of Jesus tells us what our own new life should be. Not that God, having raised us by His grace from spiritual death, forces us, whether we will or not, to live on continuously. But how, you ask, how can we rejoice in our risen Lord if we are so capable in our weakness of being untrue to His example? I answer, Because that resurrection life is the strength of our own as well as its model. Pray then in the spirit of this text that at least if you have risen you may persevere. Perseverance is a grace, just as much as faith, hope, charity, contrition. The secret strength of perseverance is a share in the risen life of Jesus. Perseverance may be won by earnest prayer for union with our risen Lord.—Canon Liddon.
SUGGESTIVE COMMENTS ON Romans 6:1-11
Christians dead to sin.—The words, according to their most obvious meaning, seem to refer merely to the engagement to avoid sin, which is implied in the act of becoming Christians. God forbid! exclaims the apostle, that any person should so grievously pervert the doctrine of Christ as to think that it encourages continuance in sin in order to afford the more ample scope for the exercise of divine grace, for by the very act of becoming Christians we became dead to sin. This strong expression means simply that we professed ourselves ready to die unto sin, to resist all its temptations, and through the aid of divine grace to overcome them; and how then can we continue in the practice of that which we have so solemnly renounced? This would be contradicting, in our conduct, the profession which we have made, and showing that our profession is insincere and hypocritical, and that we have no title to the sacred character of Christians to which we lay claim. No true Christian can act on a principle so directly incompatible with the engagements implied in assuming the Christian character.—Ritchie.
Christ died a sin offering.—“For in that He died, He died unto sin once; but in that He liveth, He liveth unto God.” To die unto sin, by the common Scripture use of the words, means to cease to commit sin. But this cannot be affirmed of any but those who have lived in the practice of it, and therefore it is wholly inapplicable to our blessed Saviour, who did no sin. No doubt the words may be so paraphrased as to make them applicable to Him without any paraphrase: “For in that He died, He died by sin once”—that is, died on account of it; sin was the cause of His dying. Or perhaps still more appositely, He died for sin—that is, for a sin offering. The expression He died for “sin once” indicates that this once offering up of Himself was sufficient, and that therefore no further sacrifice was necessary “But in that He liveth, He liveth unto God.” This clause admits of being rendered like the former: “He liveth by God”—that is, by the power of God; the allusion being to what is said in the fourth verse, that Jesus was raised from the dead by the glorious power of the Father. But the more obvious and natural idea suggested by the words is that He liveth to the praise of God—He lives to promote the glory of God by carrying the plan of providence founded on the mediatorial dispensation forward to its appointed issue, and thus accomplishing the holy and gracious purposes which the Almighty hath determined to bring to pass. The verse might therefore be paraphrased: “For in that He died, He died once for all as a sacrifice for sin; but in that He liveth, He liveth for ever to promote the glory of God.” Thése words convey the important and consoling doctrine, so often quoted in Scripture, that the death of Christ is a sacrifice for sin, all perfect in its nature and sufficient to reconcile us to God, and that therefore He needed not repeat it, the once offering of Himself being sufficient “to perfect for ever them that are sanctified.” And they convey the further encouraging truth that Christ, being raised from the dead, is now vested with all power as mediator of the new covenant, and “able to save them to the uttermost that come unto God by Him.”—Ritchie.
Believer’s death to sin gradual.—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 realisation, 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 (Galatians 6:14). This divine deed necessarily works through the action of faith in the sacrifice of Christ.—Godet.
Purpose of our death in Christ.—Christ once lived under the curse of sin and in a body over which death ruled. He died, and arose from the dead. By dying once He escaped for ever from the curse of sin, and from death, the result of sin. He now lives a life of which God is the only aim. In former days we did the bidding of sin, and were thus exposed to the anger of God. To make it consistent with His justice to save us, God gave Christ to die, and raised Him from the dead. His purpose is to unite us to Christ, so that we may share Christ’s life and moral nature. For this end we were formally united to Christ in baptism. We were thus joined to One who was by death set free from death, and was raised by God into a deathless life. Therefore if the purpose of God be realised in us, we are practically dead with Christ. And if so, all law proclaims us free. We therefore infer that the purpose of our death with Christ is to free us from the service of sin. And if so, we also infer that our union with Christ is more than union with His death. For we see Christ not only free from sin, but living a life devoted to God; and we know that such devotion to Himself is what God requires from us. Therefore we are sure that God designs us to be united to Christ, both in His freedom from sin and in His active devotion to God. Consequently to live in sin is to resist God’s purpose for us, and to renounce the new life to which baptism was designed to lead us.—Beet.
ILLUSTRATIONS TO CHAPTER 6
Romans 6:4. A converted Bechuana.—The missionary Casilis told us that he was one day questioning a converted Bechuana as to the meaning of a passage analogous to that before us (Colossians 3:3). The latter said to him: “Soon I shall be dead, and they will bury me in my field. My flocks will come to pasture above me. But I shall no longer hear them, and I shall not come forth from my tomb to take them and carry them with me to the sepulchre. They will be strange to me, as I to them. Such is the image of my life in the midst of the world since I believed in Christ.”
Romans 6:5-7. Carthage must be destroyed.—It is reported of Cato that he never spake in the Senate upon public business, but he ended his speech by inculcating the necessity of destroying Carthage; his well-known maxim was, “Delenda est Carthago.” The believer’s motto is, “The old man must be crucified.” Destruction of sin.—Five persons were studying what were the best means to mortify sin: one said, to meditate on death; the second, to meditate on judgment; the third, to meditate on the joys of heaven; the fourth, to meditate on the torments of hell; the fifth, to meditate on the blood and sufferings of Jesus Christ; and certainly the last is the choicest and strongest motive of all. If ever we would cast off our despairing thoughts, we must dwell and muse much upon and apply this precious blood to our own souls; so shall sorrow and mourning flee away.—Mr. Brooks.
Romans 6:12.—Sin works bodily desires as the utterances of itself, obedience to which gives it its domain in the body (Wordsworth). Sin personified as a sort of rival sovereign or deity.
Romans 6:13.—Do not wield arms for sin. Be as one who has come out of the world of the dead into that of the living, and whose present life has nothing in common with the former.
Romans 6:14. Under grace.—Both justifying and renewing. In the evangelical state in which grace is offered and bestowed the law is fulfilled and sin overcome. It is from the law as inadequate to effect the sanctification and secure the obedience of sinners that the apostle here declares us to be free.
Romans 6:15.—Christ has freed believers from the curse of the law as a covenant, but not from obedience to the law as a rule. We are now translated from the covenant of the law to the covenant of grace (Bishop Sanderson).
Romans 6:16.—Whoever wishes to be free, let him neither wish nor show any of those things which depend upon others, otherwise he must be a slave.
Romans 6:17. That form of doctrine.—τύπον διδαχῆς. Metaphor suggested by the city where the epistle was written. Corinth famous for casting statues in bronze.
Romans 6:18.—Emancipated, as a slave receiving his liberty.
Romans 6:19.—Meyer renders εἰς ἁγιασμόν, in order to attain holiness, to be ἄγιος in mind and walk. Meyer lays it down that in the New Testament ἁγιασμός is always “holiness,” not “sanctification”; Godet also prefers “holiness.” On the other hand, Dr. Clifford gives “unto sanctification,” and says that ἁγ includes the sanctifying act or process as well as result. Mr. Moule also gives “unto sanctification,” and says that the word indicates rather a process than a principle or a condition—a steady course of self-denial, watchfulness, diligence. Dean Vaughan says that ἁγ indicates an act rather than quality. Bishop Westcott says it may be most simply described as the preparation for the presence of God.
Romans 6:20.—Had neither learned to revere nor obey the commands.
Romans 6:21.—In those things ye had your fruit of which now ye are ashamed. What fruit? None, worse than none; “for,” etc.
MAIN HOMILETICS OF THE PARAGRAPH.—Romans 6:12-21
Two services contrasted.—Sin and righteousness are the two claimants for the moral service of man. They are the two forces battling, one for the destruction and the other for the salvation of the race. Sin finds an ally in the fallen nature of man; righteousness appeals to the nobler nature, is supported by the better instincts, and is on the side of the divine order and fitness of things. Nevertheless sin reigns in a very extensive sphere; and every effort is required, and every argument and consideration must be adduced in order that sin may not reign in the mortal body of the believer. Contrast, then, the two services:—
I. The service of sin.—
1. The pleasure of this service is short-lived. Whatever view may be taken of the expression “mortal body,” we shall do no violence to the phrase by making it set forth the short-lived pleasure of sin. The greater part of sin’s pleasure arises from the lusts of the flesh. When the body is worn out, when the physical powers are decaying, sin has no fascinating baits to allure. The old sinner may curse the service in which he has engaged. Why, indeed, should a Christian be under any temptation to let sin reign in his mortal body?
2. The effect of this service is degrading and weakening. Said the old heathen, “I am nobler and born to nobler things than that I should make the soul the servant of the body.” Surely the Christian is born by his spiritual birth to nobler things than the man can be by natural birth, and far be it from him to obey the lusts of the carnal nature. Let him understand the greatness of his moral manhood; let him feel the dignity which grace confers; let him realise the teaching that the service of sin is both degrading and weakening. It is a service of uncleanness. It moves downward from iniquity to iniquity. No chance of promotion in this service—no high ambitions to stir the soul to deeds of lofty emprise. Whatever beauty the soul possesses is destroyed by sin’s handiwork.
3. The fruit of this service is shame and death. This is a kind of fruit which the sinner is compelled to gather, and gather it even in this world. It is an awfully bad sign when shame does not attend and follow the sinner’s course. Indeed, he is dead while he lives. Souls alive to the beauty and glory of goodness feel bitter shame and remorse when they have fallen under the power of evil passions. Why should the man who has tasted the delights of freedom go back to slavery? Why should the man who has trod the mountain heights where God’s pure breezes blow descend to the dungeons where foul miasma swelters? Why should the man who has been entranced by the comely form of righteousness embrace the loathsome carcass of sin?
II. The service of righteousness.—
1. The pleasure of this service is eternal. It is the service rendered by the moral nature, and that is immortal. Righteousness is eternal, and the pleasure which it imparts to its adherents is ever abiding. Soul pleasure is the highest good.
2. The effect of this service is ennobling and strengthening. Man is a temple in ruins. The image has been defaced, the glory has departed. Ichabod is written on the desolation, and the temple is to be rebuilt and the glory regained by yielding ourselves unto God, as those that are alive from the dead, and our members as instruments of righteousness unto God. The noblest heroes have been the men of righteousness. God crowned men, the glory of the race. The bright gems of humanity have been the truth-lovers and the truth-servers. The practice of righteousness is strengthening. To do good is the way to be good, to be morally strong. It is always strengthening to follow lofty ideals, and striving continually to realise. Obedience to a form of noble teaching is glorious and enriching. The molten metal run into the form becomes strong and beautiful. The ductile heart run into the form of sound doctrine becomes strong and beautiful.
3. The fruit of this service is lustre and life. “The path of the just is as the shining light.” A bright lustre marks the pathway which they tread. In dark days of the world’s history the sons of righteousness have shone out like lustrous stars from a dark sky. True honour is the crown of goodness. Life in all its fulness is the heritage here and hereafter of those who make for, and zealously pursue after, and perseveringly practise righteousness. We ought then to resist all the efforts made by sin to reign in our mortal bodies. We ought to wage incessant war against sin; and we are encouraged to be brave and bold in the conflict by the reflection that sin cannot gain the mastery except from our own fault. “For sin shall not have dominion over you: for ye are not under the law, but under grace.” Let not the members of our bodies become the arms or weapons of unrighteousness which sin may use to our undoing. Remember that the moral and material are connected, that body and soul are united. Body and soul, all the members of the body, all the powers and faculties of the soul, all from the lowest to the highest, must be yielded unto God as instruments of righteousness.
Romans 6:21. The future state of the heathen.—In contemplating the future state and prospects of the heathen, it is proposed to show:—
I. That the heathen are sinners against God.
II. That, being sinners, they are justly exposed to the penalty of the divine law.
III. That from this penalty they cannot be delivered without repentance and reformation.
IV. That the heathen in general exhibit no satisfactory evidence of repentance, but the contrary; and
V. The Scriptures teach directly, and not by mere inference, that the end of heathenism is eternal death.
I. I am to show that the heathen are sinners against God. We might infer as much as this from the fact that, like us, they are the children of a fallen father and belong to a depraved and corrupted race. Are not the heathen human beings? Do they not belong to the “one blood” of which God hath made “all men for to dwell on the face of the whole earth”? Are they not the posterity of Adam? If so, then undoubtedly they are depraved and sinful, for this is true of all Adam’s posterity. “By the offence of one the many were made sinners.” “By one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin, and so death hath passed upon all men, for that all have sinned.” The Scriptures assert frequently and positively that the heathen are sinners. Thus Paul says to the converted heathen in verses already quoted, “Ye were the servants of sin.” “Ye have yielded your members servants to uncleanness, and to iniquity unto iniquity.” That the heathen of our times, like those of whom Paul speaks, are “all under sin” is proved by the testimony of missionaries and of other competent and impartial witnesses. Every command of the Decalogue, every precept, whether of natural or revealed religion, is openly and shamelessly violated among them. They are, almost without an exception, idolaters. They are, to a shameful extent, the profaners even of their own sacred things. Instead of honouring and protecting their aged parents, they in some instances abandon them to perish with hunger, in others they burn them or bury them alive, and in others slaughter and devour them. Their murders are frequent and of the most horrible description. “Their lewdness,” says one who had long resided among them, “is such as can never be described by a Christian writer.” Their sacred books rather encourage than prohibit theft. In some places they even “pray that they may become expert in it, boast of it when successfully accomplished, and expect to be rewarded for it in the future world.” “Among the common people of India,” says a veteran missionary, “lying is deemed absolutely necessary, and perjury is so common that no reliance whatever can be placed upon the testimony of heathen witnesses. For a piece of money not larger than a fourpenny-piece they can be hired to swear to anything which their employer requires.” The same missionary adds, “The characters of the heathen have not at all improved since the days of the apostle Paul.”
II. But if the heathen have broken the law of God, then they have justly incurred its penalty. This is my second proposition. The law of God, like every other good law, has a just penalty annexed to it. Nor are we left in ignorance as to what the penalty of the divine law is. It is called in the Scriptures death—the second death. Now this penalty the heathen, by transgressing the law of God, have justly incurred. Accordingly Paul says, referring especially to the case of the heathen, “As many as have sinned without law”—that is, a written law—“shall also perish without law.” Of course the guilt and the future punishment of the heathen will be in proportion to the light they have resisted. It will be far less in degree than though they had slighted the Bible and rejected a freely offered Saviour.
III. But this brings me to my third proposition, in which I am to show that the terrible penalty of the divine law, which the heathen have justly incurred by sin, cannot be remitted to them, or to any other sinners, without repentance and reformation. In the Scripture God makes repentance not only the condition but the indispensable condition of forgiveness. He not only says, “Repent, and ye shall be forgiven,” but “Except ye repent, ye shall all perish.” Of what avail would it be to impenitent sinners were God to pardon them? Retaining their hard and unsanctified hearts, they would instantly and continually repeat their transgressions, and fall again and again under the sentence which had been remitted. And were God to pardon them finally and receive them up to heaven, it would be no heaven to them. They would have no meetness for such a heaven.
IV. And now we come to the question under our fourth proposition—a question on the decision of which the future condition of the heathen most essentially depends. Do they, in their heathen state, repent of their sins? Do they furnish any satisfactory evidence of repentance? Most gladly would we accept such evidence if it were furnished. But where shall we look for it? Is it to be found? Did Paul find the heathen among whom he went publishing the gospel of the grace of God penitently prepared to welcome the truth? Do our missionaries find the same? I would not say that there never was a pious heathen. I hope there may have been some of this character. And as to the final salvation of pious heathen, I do not entertain a doubt. They will be forgiven as soon as they repent. They will be saved through Christ, though they may not have heard of Him in the present life. But do the heathen, in frequent instances, repent? Do they give satisfactory evidence of repentance? These questions I am constrained to answer in the negative. With such facts as these standing out before us and staring us in the face, how can we resist the conclusion that the heathen in general are impenitent, hard-hearted, not only ignorant but perverse, in love with sin, and resolved to persist in it to the bitter end? Such certainly is the conclusion to which our modern missionaries have come. They have the best possible opportunities for forming a judgment in the case, and their deliberate judgment is such as I have stated.
V. I only add that this painful conclusion is sustained by the current representations of Scripture. “The wicked shall be turned into hell, with all the nations that forget God.” I know that plausible objections are urged against this scriptural conclusion; but they are all based on false assumptions, and of course vanish as soon as they are brought into the light of truth. It is said, for example, that the heathen are in a state of invincible ignorance, that they do as well as they know. It is not true that the heathen do as well as they know or as well as they can. They know a great deal better than they do, and might do better if they would. They are criminal, culpable in the sight of God. They feel and know that they are. They know that they are deserving of punishment, and hence the various expedients to which they resort to pacify conscience and appease the anger of their gods. The heathen do not deserve so great punishment indeed as though they had resisted greater light; but they are guilty of resisting and abusing the light they have, and unless they repent and are forgiven must receive a just punishment at the hands of God. Show me that the sinner in the other life, whether Christian or heathen, will ever relent and be humble and begin to feel after God, and I will admit that there may be hope in his case. But the truth is, he will never do this. Let us contemplate that not less than six hundred millions of the present inhabitants of our globe are heathens. Each one of these is an immortal creature, destined to live for ever. Now they have a season of probation. In a mighty stream they are pouring over the boundaries of time; and when once they have leaped those boundaries, where do they fall? They fall to rise no more. There is a remedy for all this evil, and this we have in our own hands. It is the gospel. This offers peace and pardon to those who are guilty and ready to perish. Let the gospel be universally diffused and embraced, and the broad road to ruin is no longer frequented.—Enoch Pond, D.D.
SUGGESTIVE COMMENTS ON Romans 6:12-21
What is the meaning of “mortal”?—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. 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 Judeo-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.—Godet.
Bold metaphors.—The metaphors in this chapter are extremely bold; yet being taken from matters well known, they were used with great advantage. For the influence of sinful passions, in constraining wicked men to commit evil actions, could not be better represented to those who were acquainted with the condition of slaves, and with the customs by which their lives and services were regulated, than by the power which a tyrannical lord exercised over his slaves. Neither could anything more affecting be devised to show the miserable condition of a person habitually governed.—Macknight.
Paul speaks after the manner of men.—“I speak after the manner of men, because of the weakness of your flesh.” This is an epanorthosis, in which he corrects the phraseology which he has just made use of, in saying that those who are “under grace are made over unto righteousness,” since, on the contrary, they are set at liberty to serve God; and he lays the blame of this catachresis on their weakness as the occasion of it. For as they would not understand him expressing heavenly things in the language of heaven, he is compelled, in teaching them, to employ these similitudes of servitude and liberty borrowed from the intercourse of men: “For as ye have yielded your members servants to uncleanness, and iniquity unto iniquity, even so now yield your members servants to righteousness unto holiness.” In these words we have the conclusion of the syllogism—viz., that those who are under grace should not sin—illustrated by a comparison of similarity with their previous conduct, both the protasis and apodosis of which are illustrated by their end.—Ferme.
Sin as a king.—Sin, as a raging and commanding king, has the sinner’s heart for its throne; the members of the body for its service; the world, the flesh, and the devil for its grand council; lusts and temptations for its weapons and armoury; and its fortifications are ignorance, sensuality, and fleshly reasonings. Death, as the punishment of sin, is the end of the work, though not the end of the worker.—Burkitt.
“Let not sin therefore.”—As if the apostle should say, We preach purity, and not liberty, as the adversary suggesteth (Romans 6:1 of this chapter with Romans 3:8). Let not sin reign; rebel it well; but do not actively obey and embrace the commands of sin, as subjects to your king. Let sin be dejected from its regency, though not utterly ejected from its residency. Give it such a deadly wound that it may be sure to die within a year and a day. Sprunt it may, and flutter as a bird when the neck is broken; but live it must not.
“That form of doctrine.”—Gr., “That type or mould”; the doctrine is the mould, hearers the metal, which takes impression from it in one part as well as another. And as the metal hath been sufficiently in the furnace, when it is not only purged from the dross, but willingly receiveth the form and figure of that which it is cast and poured into, so here.—Trapp.
Christians by grace throw off sin.—“Christians are placed in a condition of which grace is the prominent feature: grace to sanctify as well as grace to renew the heart; grace to purify the evil affections; grace to forgive offences, though often repeated, and thus to save from despair, and to excite to new efforts of obedience. Viewed in this light, there is abundant reason for asserting that Christians, under a system of grace, will much more effectually throw off the dominion of sin than they would do if under a mere law dispensation.” Yet if there be one point where there is most obscurity in the minds of the majority of professing Christians, it is here. That it has largely arisen from an obscuration of the doctrine of sanctification by grace, or rather the unwise sundering of justification and sanctification in discussing this epistle, is painfully true.—Stuart and Lange.
The sense of sin and guilt the foundation of all religion.
I. That the shame and rem rse which attend upon sin and guilt arise from the natural impressions on the mind of man.—It is certain from experience that we can no more direct by our choice the sensations of our mind than we can those of the body. We are taught by the sense of pain to avoid things hurtful or destructive to the body; and the torments and anxiety of mind which follow so close and so constantly at the heels of sin and guilt are placed as guardians to our innocence, as sentinels to give early notice of the approach of evil which threatens the peace and comfort of our lives. If we are perfect masters of the sensations of our mind, if reflection be so much under command, that when we say “Come,” it cometh, when we say “Go,” it goeth, how is it that so many suffer so much from the uneasy thoughts and suggestions of their own hearts, when they need only speak the word and be whole? Whence the self-conviction, the self-condemnation of sinners, whence the foreboding thoughts of judgment to come, the sad expectations of divine vengeance, and the dread of future misery, if the sinner has it in his power to bid these melancholy thoughts retire, and can when he pleases sit down enjoying his iniquities in peace and tranquillity? These considerations make it evident that the pain and grief of mind which we suffer from a sense of having done ill flow from the very constitution of our nature, as we are rational agents. Nor can we conceive a greater argument of God’s utter irreconcilableness to sin than that He has given us such a nature that we can never be reconciled to it ourselves. We never like it in others where we have no interest in the iniquity, nor long approve of it in ourselv s when we have The hours of cool reflection are the sinner’s mortification, for vice can never be happy in the company of reason, which is the true cause why profligate sinners fly to any excess that may help them to forget themselves and hide them from the light of reason, which, whenever it ceases to be the glory of man, will necessarily become his shame and reproach. No vice is the better for being found in the company of intemperance, but becomes more odious in the sight of God and man. And yet how often does vice fly to intemperance for refuge?—which shows what miserable company sinners are to themselves, when they can be content to expose themselves to the contempt of all about them, merely for the sake of being free from their own censure for a season. Were it in the power of men to find any expedient to reconcile their reason to their vices, they would not submit to the hard terms of parting with their reason for the sake of being at ease with their vices. But there is no remedy: as long as we have the power of thinking, so long must we think ill of ourselves when we do ill. The only cure for this uneasiness is to live without thought; for we can never enjoy the happiness of a brute till we have sunk ourselves into the same degree of understanding.
II. That the expectation of punishment for sin is the result of the reason given unto us. The end of those things is death.—There are no certain principles from which we can infer the nature and sort of punishment designed by God for sinners; and as reason has left us in the dark in this particular, so neither has revelation clearly discovered this secret of providence. The representations of Scripture upon this head are metaphorical: the images are strong and lively, full of horror and dread, and lead us to this certain conclusion, that endless misery will be the lot of the unrighteous. But they do not lead us to a solution of all the inquiries which an inquisitive mind may raise upon this occasion. We read of the fire that never goes out, of the worm that never dies, both prepared to prey upon the wicked to all eternity. But what this fire is, what this worm is, that shall for ever torture, and never destroy the wicked, we are nowhere informed. Among the ancient heathens we find variety of opinions, or, to speak more properly, of imaginations, upon this subject; and though none of them can make any proof in their own behalf, yet they all prove the common ground upon which they stand, the natural expectation of punishment for iniquity. The atheistical writers of antiquity entertain themselves with exposing the vulgar opinions of their time; and the unbelievers of our time have trodden in their steps, and pleased themselves mightily with dressing up the various and uncertain imaginations of men upon this subject. But what is this to the great point? If nature has rightly instructed us in teaching us to expect punishment for our sins, what signifies it how far men have been mistaken in determining the kinds of punishment that are in reserve for sinners? Let the learning of the Egyptians pass for superstition, and the wisdom of the Greeks for folly; yet what has the sense of nature to do with them, which teaches us to expect punishment for sin from the hand that made us? And when once the time comes in which that hand shall exert itself, this we may be sure of, that the sinner will find no further subject for laughter and diversion. Men think they gain a great point by bringing plausible reasons against the common notions of future punishment; but suppose these notions to be indeed mistakes, yet if it remains certain from the light of reason, as well as of revelation, that God will punish sin, what does the cause gain by this argument? Will you suppose that God intends to punish wickedness, and yet that He has no possible way to do it? Where lies the defect? Is it want of wisdom to contrive proper means for the punishment of sin, or is it want of power to put them in execution? If he wants neither the one nor the other, we have nothing to inquire after in this case but what His will is; and of that He has given us such evidence that we can never lose sight of it as long as we continue to be reasonable creatures. The power of conscience which every man feels in himself, the fear that pursues every sin, that haunts the most secret and most successful offenders, are great evidences of the common expectation of a judgment to come.
III. That these common notions are the foundation of all religion, and therefore must be supposed and admitted in revealed religion, and cannot be contradicted by it.—Some there have been who, finding no hopes for impunity to sinners under the light of reason and nature, have taken shelter in revelation; not desiring to correct and reform their vices, but to enjoy them, and yet to hide them from the wrath to come. These are great extollers of the mercy and goodness of God displayed in the gospel, great assertors of the extensive and unbounded merits of the blood of Christ, so far as to think it a reproach to their Saviour for any one to teach that the hopes of Christians may be destroyed for sin, since Christ has died to make an atonement for it. Such as these are much pleased with the thought that they do great honour to God by opening to the world the inexhaustible treasures of His mercy, the attribute in which He delights; and think they have some merit and service to plead on account of such pious labour. They imagine they pay great regard to our Redeemer, and are the only true believers in the efficacy of His death, the virtue of which was so great as to draw out the sting of sin, and leave all the pleasures of it behind to be enjoyed by the world. But would these men consider, they would find that they are offering up to God the sacrifice of fools, whilst they divest Him of wisdom and justice, and all other moral attributes, in compliment to His mercy, and represent Him to the world as a good-natured, indolent, inactive Being, unconcerned at what passes among His creatures, and prepared to receive to equal degrees of favour the righteous and the sinner. It is beside my present purpose to show how inconsistent these notions are with the true doctrine of the gospel; and yet I cannot satisfy myself without observing that all the precepts, all the representations of Scripture, all the hopes and fears proposed to Christians, teach us another lesson, and confirm to us this great article of all religion: “that God hath appointed a day in which He will judge the world in righteousness.” This is the gospel doctrine; nor can a true revelation possibly teach otherwise; for God cannot contradict Himself, nor gainsay by His prophets that common light of reason which He has planted in men to be their guide and director. Natural religion is the foundation and support of revelation, which may supply the defects of nature, but can never overthrow the established principles of it; which may cast new light upon the dictates of reason, but can never contradict them. I cannot listen to revelation but in consequence of the natural notion I have of God, of His being, His wisdom, power, and goodness: destroy, then, the principles of reason, and there is no room left for revelation. I see and feel the difference between good and evil, virtue and vice: what spirit must that be which teaches me that there is no such difference? Shall I believe it to be a spirit come from God, when I know that the Spirit He has placed within me speaks the contrary? In which case there is only this choice: either to disown God for my creator, or to reject the spirit which contradicts the law of my creation and the light of reason which God has placed in the minds of men.—Sherlock.
ILLUSTRATIONS TO CHAPTER 6
Romans 6:13. Yield your members unto God.—
Take my hands, and let them move
At the impulse of Thy love;
Take my feet, and let them be
Swift and beautiful for Thee.
Take my voice, and let me sing
Always, only for my King;
Take my lips, and let them be
Filled with messages from Thee.
Take my will, and make it Thine—
It shall be no longer mine;
Take my intellect, and use
Every power as Thou shalt choose,—
So that all my powers combine
To adore Thy grace divine,
Heart and soul a living flame
Glorifying Thy great name.
F. R. Havergal.
Romans 6:21. What profit?—“What fruit had ye then?” (Romans 6:21). Walking in the country (says a correspondent) I went into a barn, where I found a thresher at his work. I addressed him in the words of Solomon: “My friend, ‘in all labour there is profit.’ ” But what was my surprise when, leaning upon his flail, he answered, and with much energy, “No, sir; that is the truth, but there is one exception to it: I long laboured in the service of sin, but I got no profit from my labour.” Then answered I, “You know something of the apostle’s meaning, when he asked, ‘What fruit had ye then in those things whereof ye are now ashamed?’ ” “Thank God,” he replied, “I do; and I also know that now, being freed from sin, and having become a servant unto righteousness, I have my fruit unto holiness; and the end, everlasting life.”
Romans 6:23.—Eternal life is not like wages due for service to God, as death is wages due for service to sin. Eternal life is a donative or free gift of God.
MAIN HOMILETICS OF THE PARAGRAPH.—Romans 6:22-23
Four stages in the Christian’s life.—The essentials of the Christian’s course are marked out for us in this short passage. We here get, as it were, a bird’s-eye view of all that is needful from the time of conversion to the period of entrance upon the blessing of everlasting life. We begin with the great deliverance, we pass on to the great change, we see the Christian growing in meetness for the inheritance of the saints in light, and then when the earthly trials and conflicts are over we see him passing a disciplined soul across the narrow stream of death into the unfading beauties of that life which is everlasting. The soul that passes through the experiences here laid down has nothing to fear, and is blessed indeed. Let us seek to understand its teaching. Four points claim our attention: the gracious deliverance, the glorious change, the blessed result, the happy termination.
I. The gracious deliverance.—It was a gracious deliverance when Noah and his sons were saved by means of the ark. Lot was rescued from the burning cities; the children of Israel were brought forth from the land of Egyptian bondage; the man-slayer found asylum in the city of refuge from the avenger of blood; David escaped the javelin thrown by the frenzied Saul; Daniel came forth from the lions’ den uninjured; and the three Hebrew children marched in triumph from the furnace without having upon them so much as the smell of fire. But still more gracious is that deliverance when the soul is made free from sin. It is a deliverance from the accusation of sin. When we sin we depart knowingly from the rule of duty, and that departure becomes a voice of reproof and of accusation. Every sin which a man commits becomes to that man an accuser, unless he has become hardened, and then hereafter those stifled voices of his sins will speak in trumpet tones to the unutterable dismay of his spirit. Terrible is it for the man with a tender conscience and a sensitive nature to hear within the accusing voice of his past sins. And great rejoicing is heard in every house and in every street of the town of Mansoul when the man is set free from sin. It is a deliverance from the penalty of sin. “The wages of sin is death.” “The soul that sinneth it shall die.” Death physical, intellectual, and moral is the penalty of sin. Sin has a killing power. It touches, withers, and destroys the nobler parts of man’s nature, so that the man by sin is dead while he lives. Gracious deliverance it is to be set free from sin’s penalty, to be raised from death to life. It is a deliverance from the tyranny of sin. Sin is a tyrant that grips and holds his victims with an iron hand, and keeps them grinding with remorseless cruelty at the wheel of oppression. Many of sin’s victims see the tyranny and long to be set free. They see the awful ruin to which they are being led, but cannot escape. They cannot escape except by the power of divine grace. It is thus alone that they can be set free from sin. It is a gracious deliverance, for it had a gracious origin. “By grace are ye saved.” For it is by a gracious Author,—the gracious method of the gospel plan of salvation. It is by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth. “Neither is there salvation in any other; for there is none other name under heaven given among men whereby we must be saved.” Oh that men would believe in Jesus Christ!
II. A glorious change.—It was a glorious change when Joseph passed from the prison cell to be the second ruler in Egypt. David passed from the sheepcote to the splendour of Israel’s throne; Mordecai was taken to the king’s gate, and placed on the king’s horse, and clothed in royal apparel, and the proclamation was heard, “Thus shall it be done unto the man whom the king delighteth to honour.” But not so glorious as when the slaves of sin become the servants of God. It is a noble service. By what rules shall we measure the nobility of a service? Shall we speak of the greatness of the being who is served, the extent of his dominions, and the number and exalted character of his servants? Thus this service transcends, eclipses, any other form of service. We cannot grasp the greatness of this Being, and must content ourselves with the proceeding of the French preacher who, when called upon to preach on the occasion of the monarch’s death, exclaimed amid breathless silence, “God alone is great.” Vast are the numbers of His servants. The winds and the waves obey His will. The wild beasts of the forest, the cattle on the thousand hills, the myriad songsters of earth’s groves, the birds of beautiful plumage, are His servants. But higher still, for men and angels are His servants; and men the noblest and sublimest earth can boast. Men of giant intellect, of heroic natures, of wondrous spirituality, are God’s servants. We see them passing the great highway of time, and as the goodly procession passes along our souls are thrilled with conflicting emotions of gladness and of intense admiration, and we ask, Is it possible that we are to be permitted to follow in this glorious train? We may here claim all men and all women as the servants of God; but remember that He has three kinds of servants—some are slaves, and serve on the principle of fear; others are hirelings, and serve for the sake of the wages; but the best are sons, and serve under the influence of love. It is the loving service that is the noblest, that is the most satisfactory, and that is the most abiding. What is the service you render? The service of love is the only one which God will graciously accept. May God baptise with the spirit of love!
III. The blessed result.—“Ye have your fruit unto holiness”; or, “Ye have your fruit unto sanctification.” God places trees in His garden not for mere ornament but for use. God does not despise the ornamental; but God’s ornamental things are useful things as well. God is a painter the wondrous combination of whose colours no human painter has ever faintly shadowed forth, an architect whose mighty structures dwarf the proudest temples and palaces of earth, a musician whose lofty strains make the loftiest of human harmonies seem poor and feeble. If we desire to see beauty, let us go, not to the art galleries of men, but to the art galleries of God—not art galleries, but nature galleries, for God’s rich nature is transcendent in beauty. A Christian should be an ornamental tree and a fruit-bearing tree. Are not the most fruitful trees the most beautiful? What can equal the delicate tinting and the rich colouring of the spring blossoming of the fruitful tree? What beauty is there in the Christian who bears fruit unto sanctification! We take it that a truly sanctified man is both a beautiful man and a useful man. The children of this world may scoff at the saint; but there is, after all, a deep inward respect for those who live godly, righteous, and sober lives The sanctified ones are the salt of the earth. The sanctified ones are the truly useful and the truly ornamental ones of the world. A Church all of whose members bring forth fruit unto sanctification is a Church which will attract by its loveliness. A kingdom the greater part of whose subjects bring forth fruit unto sanctification is a kingdom whose foundations are strong and whose perpetual glory is secured. Bring forth fruit unto sanctification; begin it in the way of duty, and by-and-by duty will become a pleasure. Learning to read is unpleasant to the child; but in after-time the reading of good books becomes not only the necessity but the pleasure of intellectual existence. In the beginning of the divine life we are but as children learning to read; but in after-time we find the greatest delight in keeping the commandments of God. Bring forth fruit unto your own sanctification, for your own good as well as for the glory of God.
IV. The happy termination.—“The end everlasting life.” We are permitted and enjoined by the example of the word of God to keep the end in view. And what an end! It is an end without an end, paradoxical as the statement appears. This end is the beginning of everlasting life, the beginning of the noblest life without termination. Perfect life is the adaptation of the being to its surroundings, and the adaptation of those surroundings to the being; and such is everlasting life. We shall be fitted for celestial surroundings, and those surroundings we shall find prepared to conduce to our highest felicity. Life here is imperfect, inadequate, and incomplete; life yonder will be perfect, adequate, and complete. Let us take the term “everlasting” not merely as referring to the perpetuity of our future existence, but to the completeness of that existence in all its aspects. No life here is everlasting, because it is incomplete and imperfect. But life beyond is everlasting in the broadest sense of that word. Let us keep the end in view, in order to inspire with hope and patience in the present. Let us persevere in the noble pathway of bringing forth “fruit unto sanctification.”
Romans 6:22. Tenses of Christian life.—That twenty-second verse is the conclusion—the real conclusion—of this chapter. The twenty-third verse is merely explanatory. The twenty-second verse brings visibly before us the conclusion of that struggle that Paul has been tracing more or less throughout this sixth chapter: the two services—the old service and the new—the transition from the old to the new, the outcome of that change of masters, and the outlook that we now have. These are all embodied in this twenty-second verse—an exchange in the past, present experience, and a blessed outlook. You have here the three tenses of a Christian man’s life—the past, the present, and the future: something he looks back to is past and gone, something that he now has as present experience, and something he looks forward to as final result.
I. The exchange of masters.—We have, then, in this past tense a blessed change, an exchange of masters, a transition from one service to another. But when I speak of the old service as a service, I feel that I do not express it strongly enough; for that old service was a bondage. And yet I am almost afraid to describe the new service by that term, because we connect with the word “bondage” sentiments that are not at all agreeable. Yet the words used in this chapter of that old service and of the new one are precisely the same. We were the slaves of sin; and we are—the same word is applied—the slaves of God. There is a freedom that is slavery. My text makes it perfectly plain that every Christian man whose experience is here described has passed from a bondage, “being made free from sin.” We must have passed from bondage into freedom—passed from the bondage of sin into the freedom that grace gives. The first thing in our freedom, then, was deliverance from our sin and guilt; but that would not have been enough for you and me. When God speaks of freedom, He does it completely. He removes the guilt, but He breaks also its power; He takes away the love of sin, and He gives you the grace to enable you to struggle with the sin—not merely to struggle with it, but to overcome it.
II. The new service.—But, then, by that very freedom He has bound you. He has led you into what I should call, perhaps, a new “bondage”; only, as I said before, that word has an evil association; and yet it is true. By His grace and deliverance He has made me eternally His bondsman. He has set me free from the power of sin, restored my freedom, that I might serve Him. Having been made free from sin, I entered God’s service; I gave up my own supremacy, and yielded to the supremacy of God.
III. Fruit, a test of character.—“Ye have your fruit unto holiness.” Having had this deliverance from sin, having entered into this new service, what is the present outcome of it? It is fruit, and it is fruit that you have, and it is a fruit that looks forward to a particular result. Great many of us are tempted to look upon the Christian life as made up of negations. It is a positive life—something you can actually lay your hand upon and say, Now here is that which I have got through my connection with Christ, through what He has done for me, through my service rendered to Him. Here I can see what I have as a definite, clear, distinct result something that can be shown. A Christian man’s life must result in a real, positive character. “Ye have your fruit unto holiness.” It does not say that you are holy; it does not say you have already attained, or that you are already perfect. It does not say that the fruit is complete, that it is ripe, that it is ready to be plucked. No; but it is fruit growing and growing—to what? Unto sanctification, unto holiness. The present tense of the Christian life, then, is a consecrated life—a life of devotion to Christ, of determination to be His and His only.
IV. Eternal growth and development.—And now for the future tense: “the end everlasting life.” It is something that is far away, something that is to come by-and-by; but for the present we may contemplate it, and make it a power to guide us in our journey. I think of it as bringing deliverance from all that hinders. I sometimes think of it positively. Here we have but a limited amount of physical strength, but that other world will introduce us to a life where there are no checks or limitations or hindrances, but a perpetual growth of power to serve God, of faculty to be used for Him. Eternal life, everlasting life,—not a life of luxurious ease, not a life of mere enjoyment or pleasure or psalm-singing; but a life of active, devoted service—service which God is teaching us to render here, and which I believe He will teach us in yet fuller measure to render on the other side.—Prof. Robertson, D.D.
Romans 6:23. A high conception of manhood.—The nature of the gift which a man confers on his fellow may be taken as the estimate which the former entertains of the recipient’s character. In a gift there should be fitness. The gift should be suitable both to the circumstances of the giver and to the character and position of the recipient. Who would think of discoursing sweet music to the deaf? Should we give a choice painting to the blind? Would it be suitable to present a work on philosophy to one who can only read with difficulty? Here is a gift which transcends all others. Next in importance and in value to the unspeakable gift is the grant of eternal life. How vast the boon our contracted minds cannot fully comprehend. The value, preciousness, and vastness of the gift of eternal life will require an eternal life to unfold and completely to understand. Most feel the value of life, and are ready to subscribe to the truth of the old remark, “Skin for skin; yea, all that a man hath will he give for his life.” Some value intellectual life. What a boon if the balance of reason could be restored to the insane! What a gift if the mental power of a Plato or a Paul could be conferred on the man who yearns to tread the high pathway of genius! Above all gifts, if we could only rightly appreciate it, is the blessing of eternal life, which begins in the present state and is being developed in the illimitable future. The greatness and preciousness of this gift speak to us of the greatness and benevolence of the Giver. Surely the gift speaks to us likewise of the greatness of man. In one sense man is little and insignificant, but in another sense he is made only a little lower than the angels. Surely the creature is not to be belittled and despised on whom the Eternal bestows the blessing of eternal life. The possible inheritor of so great a blessing is noble and kingly. Yes, the Bible ennobles manhood. It is the one book, the one vital agency, for the elevation of the race. Man is made, not for the fleeting hour, but for the coming eternity. Man is great because God regards him as capable of the gift of eternal life.
I. Man is great, for this gift implies a moral nature.—As we read of the gift of eternal life we are lifted out of the marshy and sterile plain of materialism. We cannot understand the philosophers of the materialistic school. Why should a man pretend to be a lover of wisdom, to dwell in the realm of refined ideas, who is only a perishable mass of materialism? Man is little if he is only an animal, though he may be an animal that thinks—a philosopher. Man is great if he is a creature endowed with a nature that yearns after the Infinite, that soars upward to the Eternal, that loves and worships. The gift of eternal life would be both useless and impossible to a creature who is only one step raised above the beast that never thinks and never loves. The gift of eternal life can only be profitable and delightful to the creature whose nature is lightened up and glorified by a spark of divine fire. A moral nature is needful where a spiritual boon is to be received and appreciated.
II. Man is great, for this gift implies an enduring nature.—Men have felt the preciousness of the blessing of spiritual life even as a gift for the present phase of existence. If there were to be no hereafter, many men and women would still ask for the sustaining and cheering influences of the gift of eternal life. But if in this life we only have hope, then our God-given blessing is stripped of its transcendent charm. Yes, we look to the future. We have the confident expectation of infinite blessedness in the bright and beautiful beyond. We rise above our sorrows, we laugh at our calamities, we even sing in prison, and have transports of joy when bound to the stake, because we feed on the outcoming joys of a completed eternal life. Certainly the phantasm of some felicity which a man is to inherit hereafter as the reward of his services here can give no rest and comfort to a man toiling and suffering. A phantasm cannot sustain, but a certainty can support. We look forward in hope, in confident expectation. We are paid on the way. We have joys in the earth pilgrimage; but oh what joys await when the pilgrim’s journey is over and he passes inside the pearly gates!
III. Man is great, for this gift implies an abiding personality.—Individualism is the doctrine of the Bible. Can the gift of eternal life be conferred on a community? It is said that corporations have no souls. In this sense a community has no soul. A mob cannot receive the blessing of eternal life. It is a spiritual blessing, and in its reception the individual soul must be engaged. The moral personality must receive the blessing—must enjoy it, and develop it, and put it to wise and holy uses in the present sphere. In the future the blessing must be perpetuated and enjoyed by the individual recipient of the boon. So that the personality of the man is an abiding and a permanent quality. He aspires after rest, but it is a personal and an abiding repose in the presence of the infinite light and goodness. Here, then, we have not the creed of the Nirvana. While we long for the sweet composure of the being which may be realised in a brighter and calmer sphere, we shrink from the Buddhist doctrine of the absorption of the individual in the unity of being. Love will delight in the diffusion of happiness, in the wide expansion of blessings; but will the destruction of personalities, the concretion of souls into one great whole, contribute to greater happiness? Each soul glowing with the love light will contribute to the general splendour. The redeemed will be a glorious unity, but a glorious plurality. There will be many harpers. Each will rejoice in his own instrument, but he will rejoice to contribute to the general harmony. The music of heaven would not be rendered more perfect by all the harpers being absorbed in the unity of one harper, however skilful the performer.
IV. Man is great, for this gift implies incompleteness.—Man is great by reason of what he wants as well as by reason of what he possesses. What does man want? The poet sings:—
“Man wants but little here below,
Nor wants that little long.”
But the poet may only sing of material wants; for man wants that which alone can render his nature complete. How great is man who cannot rest until he finds repose in the arms of infinite love! How great is man whose lower life is not adequate, and who can only find satisfaction in the blessing of eternal life! Men crave for rest, and this divine yearning declares man’s vastness. Man longs and yearns; ofttimes he cannot interpret these dark soul movings. Deep calleth unto the deep in the dark and wondrous ocean of his moral nature, and he cannot translate the sound nor give speech to the confused utterance. He wants, he needs, eternal life. The loving Eternal sees man’s need, and graciously offers the boon in a proffered Christ.
V. Man is great, for this gift supposes a large nature.—A cargo must be proportioned to the size of the vessel. A teacher should deal with his scholar according to the scholar’s capacity. A gift must be suitable to the receiver. How wondrously constituted is that being who can receive and enjoy the blessing of eternal life! In some high moments of spirit rapture the soul experiences a great strain, which is not felt on account of the greatness of the joy. When the vision has passed, when the trance has gone, the soul is exhausted. But the soul will be ever expanding; and the more of heavenly delight it receives, the more it will be capable of receiving. Wondrous thought! that man can receive a divine Guest, can walk divine heights of blessedness, delight in the presence of the eternal Light, and finally taste the bliss of the glorified. But shall we speak of the greatness of man and have no word to exalt the greatness of the divine benevolence? “The gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.” Almost every word proclaims the greatness of the divine benevolence. This is seen by:
1. The fact of a gift. The hardness and depravity of human nature are evidenced by the circumstance that divine blessings are received as things taken for granted. We soon complain if anything is wanted. We are slow to raise the song of praise when blessings are bestowed. Here is a gift undeserved and unsought, a gift originating in the divine love; and yet how small is our appreciation of the divine benevolence!
2. The nature of the gift. Alas! we are so materialistic that we cannot receive with any great degree of rapture the moral; we are so earthly and so earthbound that we do not heartily welcome the heavenly; and yet, if we only knew it, the gift of eternal life is every way adapted to our natures. The gift of eternal life in its full realisation means the gift of abiding peace, of ever-flowing and uninterrupted joy—of sweet fellowship in the infinite goodness, of high converse with the noblest and purest spirits. This in a measure on our wilderness pilgrimage. This without measure and in indescribable fulness and delight when we have laid aside the pilgrim’s staff, have washed our earth-stained and weary feet, are clothed in the clean raiment of the glorified, and sit down at the banqueting table of infinite Love.
3. The originating possibility of the gift. “Through Jesus Christ our Lord.” He originated the possibility of this gift in harmony with the purposes and laws of God’s moral government. “The wages of sin is death.” The penalty had been incurred. God’s benevolence purposed a gift. But how was that purpose to be accomplished? How was the design to be rendered a possibility? Jesus Christ originated the possibility. God the Father had a mental, an emotional origination of the plan of human salvation. Jesus Christ had a practical origination. He was the self-sacrificing originator of the possibility of the great gift of eternal life to the human race. And shall we say that God’s love was less than Christ’s love? Is the emotional of less account than the practical? Do we not undervalue the emotional in the Saviour’s earthly life? Were not His sufferings greater from the emotional than from the physical side of His nature? God’s love was great; and while we speak let us remember that the emotional gave rise to the practical. The love of God gave His only begotten Son. Let us then adore the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. Let us magnify the divine benevolence. Let us try to understand what God does when He makes the glorious offer of the gift of eternal life to the criminals over whom hangs the sentence of death. He shows the gift shining with many lights, and they reveal vaster glories beyond. He proffers the gift; and while He proffers there gleams upon the soul the pure light of the gems of heaven. He invites to accept; and while the loving voice woos and entreats the white-robed harpers raise a chorus of welcome. Can we refuse? Is it possible that we do not appreciate the gift? Angels look down in vast astonishment; their hearts are moved with infinite pity as they behold criminals passing away from offered pardon to the place of execution. Death and eternal life. Which is it to be? What is the resolve of the noble creature man? But how ignoble by the Fall! Great in divine intention, great in possibility; but little, low, and mean by degeneracy. Let us accept the gift and realise the greatness of which we are capable.
God’s great gift.—The tendency of the gospel is to exalt God and to humble man. It points to everlasting misery as the prison-house to which man’s depravity and sin would lead him. And it is only by the grace of our heavenly Father that we can reach the celestial world. “The wages”—the due recompense—“of sin is death,” but eternal life is the gift of God through our Lord Jesus Christ. In speaking of this gift, notice:—
I. Its nature.—
1. It will afford immunity from all the sufferings and dangers of the present life. Suffering belongs to every station here. Uninterrupted prosperity and enjoyment would be inconsistent with a state of trial. But sufferings can have no place in the life of the redeemed in heaven. All tears shall be wiped away.
2. It will afford pre-eminent intellectual enjoyment. Here we know in part; then we shall know in full. Knowledge will there be unmixed with error.
3. It will afford entire social enjoyment. Here society is often a source of annoyance, disagreements, and pain. In heaven it will possess unmixed knowledge, be full of benevolence, will be holy and wise, and there will be no separation.
4. It will afford unspotted holiness. All who possess it will be holy before they are allowed to enter heaven. But there they will attain to the glory of holiness of which man can form no conception. All will be light—the image of God will be reflected from every human spirit; the Lord Jesus Christ will reign over the minds and hearts of all His people.
5. It will afford incessant activity and endless improvement. Although heaven is represented as a place of rest, it is likewise a state of unceasing activity. The angels are active.
II. Its freeness.—“The gift of God.”
1. It was not wrung from Him by importunity. It is a life which cannot be purchased.
2. It is not the reward of merit. Though sometimes called a reward, it is the reward of grace, not of merit. Man may merit hell, but he cannot merit heaven. Everything leading to this eternal life is also the gift of God: the promises of the Bible; the great change by which he has become entitled to it and qualified for its enjoyment; the Lord Jesus, by whose merit eternal life was purchased,—all these are the gifts of God.
III. Its medium.—“Through Jesus Christ.” To Him we are indebted for the hopes that animate, for the enjoyments we experience. For this end the Redeemer was given—to put men in possession of eternal life; for this purpose He laboured; and for this He suffered.
1. By His death Christ made atonement, and procured pardon—i.e., salvation from spiritual death.
2. Through Him men are delivered from moral death, and receive the principle of spiritual life.
3. Through Him we are adopted into the family of His Father.
4. Through Him, through His resurrection, we conquer material death, and obtain material bodily life.—Homilist.
Romans 6:23. Eternal life a priceless gift.—The gift of God is eternal life “in Jesus Christ our Lord.” This is the better gift which contains that wherein all others are defective,—the gift of a well of water, not lying outside of the man, at which he may slake his thirst now and then, but springing up in him; the gift, not of a refreshing influence, but of a Person from whom the influence comes, and in whom he may find that perpetually which only visits him occasionally; the gift of One who delivers the spirit from its own proper burden, who speaks to those that are heavy laden with their own selfishness, and bids them rest in Him the meek and lowly; the gift of One who does not exact joy and sympathy and love, but kindles them and bestows them. Here is the eternal life—the only eternal life of which St. Paul knows anything. The phantasm of some felicity which a man is to inherit hereafter as the reward of his services here could give no rest or comfort to a man toiling and suffering as he was. He wanted One upon whom he could cast his sorrows, fears, sins, every hour; One from whom he could always draw a strength and nourishment to sustain him against the continual sentence and pressure of death. If there was such a One with him then, he could believe that He would be with him always—that neither height nor depth, nor life nor death, nor things present, nor things to come, would separate him from His love. His life must be eternal life: it could not be a changeable, inconstant treasure, here to-day and gone to-morrow; but it must be a gift fresh every day—not a property which he could claim as having been made over once for all to him. It must be a gift of God, which he would enjoy while he trusted in God, which he lost whenever he fancied that he had earned it. It must be a gift, therefore, for all as well as for himself—one of which he could preach to all, one of which he could say to them, You have it, however little you may know that you have it. As surely as you carry sin within you, so surely is He within you who is the enemy of sin; as surely as you have death with you, so surely have you life with you; as surely as you may possess the one for wages, so surely may you accept the other for the gift of God.—Maurice.
Romans 6:23. Death and life.—By a striking ceremonial on Gerizim and Ebal (see Deuteronomy 27:0 and Joshua 8:30-35) Joshua set before the Israelites life and death, the blessing and the curse. Similar contrast in text. Composed of two antithetical clauses: three words in the one contrasted with three in the other—sin and God, death and life, wages and gift.
I. Sin and God.—Both are masters engaging servants. The two occupy the whole domain of moral action. Only two masters and two kinds of service.
1. Sin as a master. One of the smallest words in the English language, but what it names is not little. Sin often regarded as a theological term, an abstraction, dark as a thunder-cloud, but as far away. Here not an ideal abstraction, but an actual master. Sinners are servants of sin, though not certain of making any engagement. Every born Briton bound to serve his country as long as in it. So every one who continues in sin tacitly engages to serve sin (see Romans 6:16). Though not a person, it has the power of a master. Proof of this: they believe in it, take pleasure in it, labour for it. Though they fancy themselves their own masters, they are being drawn or driven, sometimes against their better wishes, in a course opposite to God.
2. God the other master. His service a perfect contrast to the other. On the one hand all that is noble and pure, on the other all that is base and defiling: here a little tribulation, a little self-denial, and then everlasting felicity; there present pleasure and future misery, short-lived delight and everlasting sorrow: here eternal life; there eternal death.
II. Death and life.—Cause of death separation from God—sentence on first parents. As branch broken from the tree dies, so they cut off from the God of life died.
1. Spiritually. Proof from Scripture (Romans 8:6; 1 Timothy 5:6).
2. Death of the body another part of the death (Romans 5:12).
3. Here death contrasted with eternal life. Hence infer that eternal death especially meant: elsewhere described as “the second death” and “everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord.” Eternal life, in contrast with eternal death, like half of sky clear while the other half filled with thunder-clouds. True life animated by high purpose, ennobled by true goodness, brimful of joy—a life that lifts clean away from the power of vexations and cares. Such life in fellowship with Christ: “Christ in you, the hope of glory” (see Revelation 3:20). Such life not touched by death (John 11:25; John 14:19; Colossians 3:3-4).
III. Contrast: wages and gift.—
1. Death the wages of sin: due reward of deeds—not imposed by an arbitrary appointment of God: the law of the universe. Just that sinner be paid for his work, whether wages please him or not.
2. Eternal life a gift. The word means the free gift of God. Given to all in offer (John 4:10; 1 John 5:11); given not for service rendered, but before one has begun to serve. No need to wait for; no need to prepare. Only condition is willingness to receive. But since it is life, it means a new beginning; since it is eternal life, it must overmaster all other lives; since it is life to be enjoyed in the service of God, we must quit the service of sin (Romans 6:13).—G. Wallace, D.D.
ILLUSTRATIONS TO CHAPTER 6
Romans 6:22. Frederick the Great and Count Schmettau.—During the Seven Years’ War Frederick the Great accompanied his soldiers on a mountain march. Count Schmettau was his lieutenant, and a very religious man. The king, impatient over the tedious route of the artillery on foot up the narrow mountain pass, indulged in jesting to drive away ennui—he liked a little to tease Schmettau. He knew of a confessor in Berlin whom the count would visit, and allowed a stream of jokes and derision to flow freely. “Your majesty is more witty and much more learned than I,” answered Schmettau, at last finding utterance. “More than this, you are my king. The spiritual contest is in every respect unequal; nevertheless, you cannot take away from me my faith, and as it now goes you would certainly injure me immeasurably, at the same time not make yourself insignificant.” The king remained standing in front of Schmettau; a flash of indignation came from his majesty’s eye. “What does that mean, monsieur? I injure you by taking your faith! What does that mean?” With immovable tranquillity answered the general, “Your majesty believes that in me you have a good officer, and I hope you are not mistaken. But could you take from me my faith, you would have in me a pitiful thing—a reed in the wind, not of the least account in council or in war.” The king was silent for a time, and after reflection, called out in a friendly manner, “Schmettau, what is your belief?” “I believe,” said Schmettau, “in a divine Providence, that the hairs of my head are all numbered, in a salvation from all my sins, and everlasting life after death.” “This you truly believe?” said the king; “this you believe is right with full assurance?” “Yes, truly, your majesty.” The king, moved, seized his hand, pressed it strongly, and said, “You are a happy man.” And never from that hour did he deride Schmettau’s religious opinions.
Romans 6:23. The wages of sin.—Mr. Marshall, author of the Gospel Mystery of Sanctification, having been for several years under distress of mind, consulted Dr. Goodwin, an eminent divine, giving him an account of the state of his soul, and particularising his sins, which lay heavy on his conscience. In reply he told him he had forgot to mention the greatest sin of all, the sin of unbelief, in not believing on the Lord Jesus Christ for the remission of his sins and sanctifying his nature. On this he set himself to the studying and preaching of Christ, and attained to eminent holiness, great peace of conscience, and joy in the Holy Ghost. Mr. Marshall’s dying words were these: “The wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.”
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Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on Romans 6". Preacher's Complete Homiletical Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 24 / Ordinary 29