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The Doctrine of Justification by Christ, shewn to be a Doctrine of Godliness. And so far is it, in its Nature and Consequences, from leading to Licentiousness, that it is here proved to be the only Foundation for an holy Life in Christ.
What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound? (2) God forbid. How shall we, that are dead to sin, live any longer therein? (3) Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into his death? (4) Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life. (5) For if we have been planted together in the likeness of his death, we shall be also in the likeness of his resurrection: (6) Knowing this, that our old man is crucified with him, that the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin. (7) For he that is dead is freed from sin. (8) Now if we be dead with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with him: (9) Knowing that Christ being raised from the dead dieth no more; death hath no more dominion over him. (10) For in that he died, he died unto sin once: but in that he liveth, he liveth unto God. (11) Likewise reckon ye also yourselves to be dead indeed unto sin, but alive unto God through Jesus Christ our Lord.
The Apostle having finished, in the five preceding Chapters, the great subject he had been upon, and having proved, with the clearest and fullest evidence, that justification before God, is wholly in, and by, Christ; begins at this Chapter to follow up the blissful doctrine, in shewing the gracious effects which flow from it. And well aware, how much the pride of the Pharisee, (which in his own person he had once so deeply felt,) would take alarm at the doctrine of free grace; and no less the profligacy of the carnal, would attempt to draw improper conclusions from the divine mercy, displayed in so rich a manner as in justifying the sinner without works: the Apostle opens the subject with putting a question into the mouth of both, yea, all classes of unbelievers, and such, as the Apostle knew, none but persons of their characters would venture to propose. If it be true, say they, that God doth all, and man doth nothing, towards his own justification; shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound? Shall we not live as we list, and run on in accumulating transgressions, that God's grace may, (as Paul saith it doth,) more abound, where sin hath abounded? Dear Paul! hadst thou lived in the present day of the Church, and have seen as we see, thy sweet truths, taught thee by the Holy Ghost, wiredrawn by many of the various professors; divinely inspired as thou wert, when writing this Epistle, thou wouldest hardly have escaped the odium which is thrown upon those who subscribe, with full consent of soul, and from the same teaching, to the doctrines of free grace!
But, Reader! observe, with what abhorrence, what holy indignation, the Apostle instantly refutes the foul calumny. God forbid, saith he. It is as if he had said: Is there, can there be a man upon earth, capable of drawing so base and ungenerous a conclusion? Would any man in common life, make the experiment of breaking his bones, because some kind and skilful surgeon would immediately heal them? Is this the way to reason, in the affairs of things relating to the present life? And shall we so argue, in respect to the things of a better? Because God, in a rich, free, sovereign mercy, hath provided a remedy, for the recovery of his Church from the Adam-fall transgression, whereby the Lord himself will accomplish the whole, and man shall have nothing to perform in it but to receive the blessing: shall this bounty in God tend to increase the sin in man? Is it not as plain as words can make it, that God's design by this reign of grace, is to destroy the reign of sin. The Son of God was manifested to destroy the works of the devil. And God's glory, in this instance, can only be promoted, where sin is destroyed. It is the want of grace, which makes men sin; and not the aboundings of grace which can tend to increase it. Reader! I pray you to attend to the subject, as the Apostle hath stated it. And, if the Lord be your teacher, will be bold to say, that you will discover, how unanswerable the conclusions of Paul are, in proof, that so far is the free grace of God in Christ, from opening, as some say, the flood-gates of sin; it is the only preservative to keep them shut. By this grace only, all truly regenerated believers in Christ, are upheld from the breakings out of indwelling sin, which remain in that body of sin and death, the best of men carry about with them. For, if (as the Apostle elsewhere saith) Christ be in you, the body is dead because of sin; but the spirit is life because of righteousness, Romans 8:10 . And how (as the Apostle demands,) shall we that are dead to sin, live any longer therein? Not dead in sin, for that is the state of the un-awakened, unregenerated; being so by nature, and so remaining, while in the condition of unrenewed nature. Neither dead for sin, for Christ only hath died for sin, the just for the unjust, to bring us to God, 1 Peter 3:18 . But dead to sin. And, which is the case of every regenerated, justified, sanctified believer, they are dead to the guilt of sin: for that is done away by the blood of Christ, Ephesians 1:7 ; Micah 7:17-33.7.19 ; Isaiah 35:5 ; Colossians 2:13-51.2.14 ; Revelation 1:5-66.1.6 . They are dead to the dominion of sin. Verse 14, Ezekiel 36:25-26.36.27 . And how then shall they live any longer therein; when the very principle which gave life to it in the heart, is destroyed? True, indeed, the child of God goeth humbly all his days, from feeling the remains of indwelling sin, and which he knoweth will never be wholly taken out, until death. Like the ivy in old walls, until the whole falls down, the root will remain. But grace keeps low the sproutings. And his consolation is, that though sin is in him; yet, through grace, he lives not in sin. His life is hid with Christ in God. And when Christ who is his life shall appear, he will also appear with him in glory, Colossians 3:4 .
The Apostle having answered the unwarrantable, and unjust objection made by some to the doctrine of free grace, on the ground of its being supposed capable of inducing licentiousness; advanceth yet further, to shew the sanctity of life and conversation, among justified believers, from the doctrine of baptism. And the Apostle proposeth what he had to offer on this ground, in the form of a question, as a thing perfectly well known and received. Know ye not that so many of us as were baptized into Christ were baptized into his death? Therefore, (said Paul,) we are buried with him by baptism into death. We are planted together in the likeness of his death. Our old man is crucified with him. The body of sin might be destroyed, And hence, he draws conclusions the most just and proper, that a new life in Christ must be the sure consequence of these things.
I cannot propose to enlarge on every particular the Apostle hath here stated. It would swell our pages too much. But it will be sufficient to observe, that as Paul refers the whole of what he advanceth, as so many consequences arising out of baptism; it must follow, that he could mean no other than the baptisms of the Holy Ghost. Water baptism, under whatever form administered, could never produce such blessed effects. The regeneration of the soul is the only cause of life, for being planted in the likeness of Christ's death; and the only way by which the old man of sin becomes crucified with Christ, And very blessed it is, when, from the baptism of the Holy Ghost at regeneration, the soul is quickened, which was dead in trespasses and sins; and is led to trace, that grace-union with Christ, whereby, from the Father's gift, before the foundation of the world, being chosen in him, now in the time-state of the Church Christ hath accomplished the salvation of his people; and God the Spirit, by the washing of regeneration, brings the soul from darkness to light, and from the power of sin and Satan, to the living God; Ephesians 1:4 ; Colossians 1:13-51.1.14 ; Titus 3:4-56.3.7 .
I cannot refrain, however, from detaining the Reader to a short observation on that sweet verse, where the Apostle, speaking of a oneness, and union, and interest in Christ, declares our participation both in the death and life of Jesus. Now, (saith he,) if we be dead with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with him. Reader! pause and calculate if you can, the blessedness of both states. Dead with Christ! When Jesus died on the cross, he died as the Head and Husband of his body the Church. He hung there the Public Representative of his Spouse, for whom he died. And every individual member of his mystical body was crucified with him. Precisely as our first father in the garden, when he sinned, all his natural seed then in his loins, sinned in him, and with him; and were equally involved in all the eventual consequences of that sin: So, in like manner, when Christ died for sin on the cross, all his spiritual seed were in him, and partook in all the blessedness of it; that is to say, in all the benefits of it, while He alone had all the glory.
Now then, (saith Paul,) if we be dead with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with him. And, without all question, his seed, his people, have an equal privilege in all the benefits of his life, as they have in his death. Because I live, (saith Jesus,) ye shall live also, John 14:19 . Yea, they are united to him, and are one with him. The Person of Christ, that is, God and man in one, is united to every believer. And every believer, body, soul, and spirit, is united to the Person of Christ; John 17:21-43.17.23 ; 1 Thessalonians 5:23 .
I must not stay to remark the numberless blessings which arise out of this most precious truth; but I beg the Reader not to pass away from the view of it, until he hath taken with him one or two observations, which when realized in the soul, will tend to make the subject very blessed.
Believers in Christ live with Christ, by virtue of their union with Jesus, and communion with Jesus in his righteousness, as justifying them before God. Accepted in the beloved, they are pardoned, and justified freely, in a perfect, uninterrupted, and everlasting righteousness: so that when Christ who is their life shall appear, they shall also appear with him in glory, Colossians 3:4 .
And as, from an union with Christ's Person, the believer in Christ is justified in his righteousness: So is he also sanctified in Christ's holiness. Indeed Christ is made of God unto all his people, wisdom, righteousness, sanctification, and redemption; that all the glory may be in the Lord, 1 Corinthians 1:30 . And, it is very blessed to see, how all the Persons of the Godhead concur in this great design. God the Father hath from the beginning chosen the Church to salvation, through sanctification of the Spirit; to the obtaining of the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ, 2 Thessalonians 1:12 ; Jud 1:1-25 ; 1 Peter 1:2 ; John 17:19 ; 1 Corinthians 6:11 .
And, as the Church lives with Christ during the present time-state of grace, both in his righteousness to justify, and in his holiness to sanctify; so all the body is interested in the life of glory, which he is gone before to prepare for them. Indeed, the grace in Christ here is the same as the glory to be revealed hereafter. The only difference is, that the one is suited for the life that now is, and the other for that which is to come. But, the blessing itself is as much the believer's portion now, as it will be then, in this sense, as well as many others, it may be said: he that hath the Son hath life, 1 John 5:12 . And what a blessed state is the whole, from justification to glory!
Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, that ye should obey it in the lusts thereof. (13) Neither yield ye your members as instruments of unrighteousness unto sin: but yield yourselves unto God, as those that are alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness unto God. (14) For sin shall not have dominion over you: for ye are not under the law, but under grace. (15) What then? shall we sin, because we are not under the law, but under grace? God forbid. (16) Know ye not, that to whom ye yield yourselves servants to obey, his servants ye are to whom ye obey; whether of sin unto death, or of obedience unto righteousness?
If we read the Apostle's words in this passage, more in the way of promise than precept, we shall enter the better into the beauties of it. When Paul saith, let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body; he cannot be supposed as implying any power, or ability, in ourselves, to check the risings of sin by our own exertions. This would be, to make the grace of God, dependent upon the will of man. The same Apostle elsewhere expressly saith, that it is through the Spirit believers mortify the deeds of the body and live, Romans 8:13 . And, I hope the Reader is not now to. learn, that temptation to sin is not far away, if the Holy Ghost were for a moment to remit his support. But, the words of the Apostle seem to be in the way of exhortation, where the precept is blended with the promise. To this, the Church answers: hold thou me up, and I shall be safe: yea, my delight shall he in thy statutes, Psalms 119:117 . And, what a blessed promise follows? Sin shall not have dominion over you. And, Reader! what a blessed state would that Church, that believer be in, who daily acted faith upon this promise? And are not all such promises to be lived upon by truly regenerated, justified believers? Was it not God's grace, which took away, in the first instance, the dominion of sin? And is it not now the same grace, which must prevent all the after risings of sin, in struggling for dominion? That which gave victory then, can only give victory now: And wherefore? But because ye are not under the law, but under grace?
I beg the Reader not to lose sight, (for the Apostle doth not,) of the handle which the Pharisee, or the carnal, would make of this doctrine. But it is such characters, and such only, which raise this cavil. No child of God with grace in his heart, can act but from that grace, in all his deliberate purposes. The Lord hath put his fear in his heart, that he shall not depart from him, Jeremiah 32:40 . And this child-like fear, becomes the most persuasive of all motives, to love and obedience. They knew nothing, either of the child-like fear, or child-like love, which dwell in the heart of the regenerate, that can suppose what becomes the strongest check to sin, should encourage to the commission of it.
But God be thanked, that ye were the servants of sin, but ye have obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine which was delivered you.
I pause over this verse to consider it alone, as it stands, in my view, unconnected with every other. And, I do it the rather, because I am free to confess, that I have never yet seen any Writer, which hath given to my satisfaction the full sense of it. I should observe, that the words, as they stand in our translation, are perfectly correct, and in exact agreement to the original. There is no possibility, without injury, to add to the verse itself, or to take from it. Paul thanks God, that they were in times past the servants of sin. But now, were in obedience, from the heart; that is, were now regenerated. Some read the passage: God be thanked that though ye were the servants of sin. But certain it is, that the original favors no such latitude of construction. But, say you, can it be thought, that the Apostle would thank God, that they had been in the drudgery of Satan, wearing his livery, and doing his service? Could this be a motive of thankfulness? To which in answer, I say, without deciding positively upon it; if the Lord's glory be the more advanced, and sin, which in itself is a deadly evil, working nothing but death, and everlasting ruin; be overruled, for bringing about greater glory to God, and greater happiness to man; it then puts on a different aspect. Just as poison is sometimes made a sovereign medicine for healing: and sickness, when sanctified, hath been found a means, under the Lord, of changing the heart. The sin of Adam, laid the foundation for the manifestation of Christ, as a Savior. The Son of God would have been known as the Head and Husband of his Church, had sin never entered into the world; for he betrothed her to himself from everlasting, Hosea 2:19 . But as the Redeemer, the Church would never have known him, had not her shame in sin, afforded an opportunity for the display of his glory, in washing her from her sins in his blood! And in this case, all those sweet songs in heaven would have been lost, which the redeemed now chant aloud, and will be sung by the Church forever, Revelation 5:9 . For myself, if I know anything of my own heart, I hope that 1 can truly say, I hate sin, I would not willingly and wilfully commit a single sin for the world: yea, I loath myself in my own sight for sin, the sin of my poor fallen nature. And sin becomes more bitter to me, as Christ becomes more precious. But, with all this, I say, I would rather be a sinner saved, and saved in such a way as I am saved in, by the blood and righteousness of the Lord Jesus Christ; than to have never known sin, neither known. Christ as a Savior. Angels in heaven, which have never sinned, may, and do, praise Jehovah for his glory, and their happiness: but no angel can know Jesus, and love Jesus, for the same cause as a poor sinner can; and for which his name is called Jesus: he shall save his people from their sins, Matthew 1:21 . I therefore can accept the Apostle's words in this verse, just as they are; and find cause to bless God, that I was once darkness, and in the shadow of death, when the Son of God came and brake my bands asunder. Like the poor man in the parable, having lain at the gate in a state of nature, full of wounds and sores; I can now better value a state of grace in the Lord Jesus, having been cleansed and healed in his blood. And, having once known by deep affliction, what it was to be miserable in sin; I now can better tell what it is to be everlastingly blessed and happy in Christ. God he thanked, (saith Paul,) that ye were the servants of sin. And God be thanked, my soul makes her responses to Paul's words, and adds, that by the regeneration of the Holy Ghost, the soul-union with Christ, and the gift of the Father to his dear Son; by grace I am enabled to obey from the heart, that form of doctrine which hath been delivered.
Being then made free from sin, ye became the servants of righteousness. (19) I speak after the manner of men because of the infirmity of your flesh: for as ye have yielded your members servants to uncleanness and to iniquity unto iniquity; even so now yield your members servants to righteousness unto holiness. (20) For when ye were the servants of sin, ye were free from righteousness. (21) What fruit had ye then in those things whereof ye are now ashamed? for the end of those things is death. (22) But now being made free from sin, and become servants to God, ye have your fruit unto holiness, and the end everlasting life. (23) For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.
Reader! when the Apostle saith, as in the opening of these verses: Being made free from sin, ye became the servants of righteousness; we must be cautious not to carry the sense too far. You and I are not wholly free from sin. So far from it, that it is my constant sorrow, that I am so much the subject of sin. I know, I feel, I carry about with me, a body of sin and death. In thoughts, and words, and actions, how often do I feel the working of sin in my nature. And, So little am I become a servant of righteousness, that my daily complaint at the close of the day is, how little have I lived to the divine glory. But, the Apostle doth not mean, by the freedom from sin in the one instance, or the servant of righteousness in the other, a state of perfect holiness before God. All that is intended from the words of the Apostle is, that by virtue of redemption in Christ, his people are delivered from the condemning power of sin, and are brought into the glorious liberty of the sons of God. And as such, they have their fruit, that is, the blessed effects of Christ's redemption unto holiness, even the holiness of God our Savior, theirs by virtue of union and communion with Him; and the end everlasting life. Grace here, a sure earnest of glory hereafter.
And, I admire the very striking manner in which the Apostle sums up the Chapter, when drawing the nice, but proper distinction between sin, in its final consequences; and righteousness in Christ, as the believer's portion forever. The Apostle calls the end of sin wages, and declares those wages to be death. For, as a servant covenants with his master, to receive wages at the end of his labor: So, the sinner as truly covenants to receive death, which is his just wages, when at death he stands forth at the judgment seat of Christ. But, the Apostle varies the expression with respect to the Lord's faithful servants, when describing the eternal life, which will succeed to the present life. He doth not call it wages, but a gift: because it is not earned, but given. Not the demand of merit, but the blessing of grace; the Lord's free, voluntary, and gracious act, as his gift. The gift of God, which is eternal life, through Jesus Christ our Lord, Thanks be unto God for his unspeakable gift!
Reader! let us both learn from this most blessed Chapter, how to answer the character, of every description, who ventures, from the pride or corruption of his heart, to charge the doctrine of free grace with a tendency to an unholy life. Never, surely, were the motives to an upright and conscientious conversation ever found in the least powerful or persuasive in the soul, until brought home to the soul, in the death of Christ. And the child of God, who is dead with Christ, baptized into Christ, and buried with Christ, in his death; cannot but feel from the Holy Ghost, an implanted conformity to the likeness of Christ, so as to bear part with Christ in his resurrection, and walk in newness of life. And, what dominion shall sin have over that soul in whom the Holy Ghost dwells, that the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin? What shall tend to mortify the deeds of the body, but living in the Spirit, and walking in the Spirit? Blessed Spirit of holiness! give grace thus to live, and walk, that we may manifest to all gainsayers, thy people are dead to sin, and cannot live any longer therein!
But oh! thou precious Lord Jesus! while seeking daily, hourly, grace from the Holy Ghost, to adorn the doctrine of God my Savior, in all things: never, never, for a moment may my soul forget, that the whole, and every part of redemption-work, and redemption glory, is thine. God be thanked that we were the servants of sin. And that the whole Church, both in heaven and earth, are brought out of this prison-state, is all of grace. And do thou, dearest Lord, cause me to, have my redemption by thee, always in remembrance! May my soul be more and more humbled to the dust before thee, that my God and Savior may be more and more exalted. Through life, in death, and forevermore, be it my joy to acknowledge, that there can be no wage mine, but the wages of sin, which is death: and all the Lord bestows, even eternal life, with all its preliminaries can only be the free, the sovereign, the unmerited gift of God, through Jesus Christ our Lord.
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Hawker, Robert, D.D. "Commentary on Romans 6". "Hawker's Poor Man's Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/
the Second Week after Epiphany