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Bible Commentaries

Joseph Benson's Commentary of the Old and New Testaments
Romans 6

 

 

Other Authors
Verse 1-2

Romans 6:1-2. What shall we say then — What shall we think of this doctrine? namely, taught in the latter part of the preceding chapter, that where sin abounded grace did much more abound? Does it not follow from thence that we may continue in sin, that grace may abound still more, and may appear more glorious in pardoning and saving us? The apostle here sets himself more fully to vindicate his doctrine from this consequence, suggested Romans 3:7-8. He had then only, in strong terms, denied and renounced it. Here he removes the very foundation thereof; proceeding to speak of some further benefits (besides those mentioned Romans 5:1, &c.) of justification by faith in Christ, namely, the promoting of holiness, and not of sin, as some might imagine: to which subject his transition is at once easy and elegant. God forbid — That such an unworthy thought as that of continuing in sin should ever arise in our hearts! We have disclaimed such a consequence above, and we most solemnly disclaim it again, and caution all that hear us, against imagining that our doctrine allows any such cursed inferences. For though it is true, that where sin abounds grace does frequently still more abound, yet this is not owing to sin in any degree; which of itself brings death, Romans 6:23; James 1:15; and the more sin, the more punishment; but wholly to the superabounding mercy and love of God in Christ. For how shall we that are dead to sin — By profession, obligation, and communion with Christ our head in his death; or who are freed both from the guilt and the power of it; live any longer therein — In the love and practice of it? Surely it would be the grossest contradiction to our profession, and the obligations we are under to do so: on the contrary, it is apparent that nothing has so great a tendency to animate us to avoid sin, as this doctrine of gospel grace.


Verse 3-4

Romans 6:3-4. Know ye not — Can any of you be ignorant of this great and obvious truth, that so many of us as were baptized into Christ — That is, into the profession of the Christian faith; or implanted into and made a part of the mystical body of Christ by baptism, (as εις χριστον seems to imply,) were baptized into his death — Engaged by baptism to be conformed to his death, by dying to sin, as he died for it, and crucifying our flesh with its affections and lusts, as his body was crucified on the cross; and also were made partakers of the benefits thereof, one of which is the mortifying of sin, and all sinful passions. Being baptized into Christ, or ingrafted into him through faith, we draw new spiritual life from this new root, through his Spirit, who fashions us like unto him, and particularly with regard to his death and resurrection. Therefore we are buried with him — Alluding to the ancient manner of baptizing by immersion; by baptism into death — That is, to engage us to die unto sin, and to carry on the mortification and death of it more and more: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory — That is, the glorious power; of the Father, even so we also — In conformity thereto, should rise again by the same power; and should walk in newness of life — As Christ being raised from the dead lives a new life in heaven. From all this it appears, that baptism, the rite of initiation into the Christian Church, is an emblematical representation of our dying to sin, and living to righteousness, in consequence of our union with Christ as members of his body; as also of the malignity of sin, in bringing death upon Christ, (Romans 6:10,) and upon all mankind, and of the efficacy of Christ’s death, in procuring for all pardoning mercy, renewing grace, and future glory; a resurrection both from spiritual and temporal death, to spiritual and eternal life.


Verses 5-7

Romans 6:5-7. For — Surely these two must go together; so that if we have been united to Christ by faith, (to which baptism engages us,) and have been made conformable to his death, by being dead to sin, we shall also know the power of his resurrection, by rising to newness of life. Knowing this — Not in theory merely, but by experience; that our old man — Coeval with our being; our evil nature derived from Adam; the whole system of our former inclinations and dispositions. It is a strong and beautiful expression for that entire depravity and corruption which, by nature, spreads itself over the whole man, leaving no part uninfected. This in a believer is crucified with Christ, mortified, gradually killed by virtue of union with him; the remembrance and consideration of his cross co- operating in the most powerful manner, with all the other motives which the gospel suggests, to destroy our corrupt passions, and former sinful habits, and inspire us with an utter aversion to and detestation of them: that the body of sin — The body belonging to sin, including sinful tempers, words, and works. The apostle personifies sin, after the custom of animated writers, who, to make their discourses lively and affecting, speak of the virtues and vices of which they treat, as so many persons. Corrupt passions and evil actions are the members of the old man, Colossians 3:5. Might be destroyed — Utterly and for ever; that henceforth we should not serve sin — Should be no longer under its power, as we were before we became savingly acquainted with Christ and his gospel. For he that is dead — With Christ; is freed from sin — From the guilt of past, and the power of present sin, as dead men from the commands of their former masters. The original expression, here rendered is freed, is δεδικαιωται, which properly signifies, is justified; that is, he is acquitted and discharged from any further claim which sin might make upon his service. The word as here used implies, that a sense of justification by the cross of Christ is the great means of our delivery from the bondage of sin, as it animates and exercises us to shake off its yoke, and is accompanied with the Spirit of adoption and regeneration, the fruit of which is always liberty, 2 Corinthians 3:17.


Verses 8-11

Romans 6:8-11. Now if we be dead with Christ — Conformed to his death by dying to sin; we believe that we shall also live with him — We have reason sufficient to assure ourselves that we shall be conformed to him in life too, by living an uninterrupted life of grace here, and glory hereafter; and shall die no more, even as Christ being raised from the dead dieth no more, Romans 6:9. He died unto sin — To atone for and to abolish it; but he liveth unto God — A glorious eternal life, such as we shall live also. Likewise ουτω, so, in correspondence to Christ’s death and life, Romans 6:8-9, reckon ye yourselves to be dead indeed unto sin — To be under an indispensable obligation, from duty and gratitude, to die to it, and never more return under its power, or live in the commission of it; but alive unto God — Endued with spiritual life, and thereby enabled to live to the glory of God, in a steady, uniform, and cheerful obedience to his wise, just, and holy commands; through Jesus Christ our Lord — By virtue of his death and resurrection, your union with him by faith, and grace received from him.


Verses 12-14

Romans 6:12-14. Let not sin — Any sinful disposition or inclination; therefore — Since you are regenerate and spiritually alive; reign in your mortal body That is, reign in your soul while it dwells in your body. Many of our sinful inclinations have their seat in the body, and such evil inclinations as are of a more spiritual nature, are always some way more or less turned toward the body. That ye should obey it — Should yield to and be overcome by it; in the lusts thereof — In the irregular or inordinate desires which it excites within you. Neither yield ye your members — The members of your bodies, or the faculties of your minds; the word μελη, here used, as also chapter Romans 7:5, signifying both, and indeed every thing in us and belonging to us, which is employed as an instrument in performing the works of the flesh, enumerated Galatians 5:19-21. For some of these do not require the members of the body to their being performed, but are wholly confined in their operation to the mind. Hence, Colossians 3:5, evil desire and covetousness are mentioned among our members upon the earth which we are to mortify. As instruments of unrighteousness — Employed in its service; unto sin — For the committing of it. The original word οπλα, rendered instruments, properly denotes military weapons; and may be here used to signify, that those who employ their powers, whether of body or mind, or any ability they possess, in the service of sin, do in fact fight for it, and for its master and father, Satan; and the principalities and powers under his command, against God and Christ, and all the company of heaven. But yield yourselves unto God — Your lawful king, governor, and captain: dedicate yourselves, both body and soul, to his service; as those that are alive from the dead — Who, after having been spiritually dead, are quickened and put in possession of spiritual life; that is, are no longer alienated from the life of God, but have vital union with God; not as formerly, carnally minded, which is death, but spiritually minded, which is life and peace, chap. Romans 8:6; no longer under condemnation to the second death, but justified and entitled to eternal life; and your members — All your powers and abilities; as instruments of righteousness — Instruments employed in the promotion of piety and virtue; unto God — For his service and to his glory; or as weapons, to fight his battles, and oppose the designs of your spiritual enemies. For sin shall not have dominion over you — It has no right, and shall not have power to reign over you. The word κυριευσει, denotes the government of a master over his slave, and might be rendered, shall not lord it over you. As if he had said, Though it is true sin is strong, and you are weak in yourselves, yet if you faithfully strive against it, looking to God for power from on high, you shall be enabled to conquer. For ye are not under the law — Under a dispensation of terror and bondage, which only shows you your duty, but gives you no power to perform it; and which condemns you for your past violations of it, but offers no pardon to any on their repentance. The Mosaic law seems to be particularly intended, and the propriety of what is here observed is well illustrated, in that view, by the apostle in the next chapter. But his words may well imply also, that we are not so under any law as to be utterly condemned for want of a perfect conformity, or unsinning obedience to it. Not under a dispensation that requires such an obedience, under the penalty of death; which offers no assistance for enabling those who are under it to perform its requisitions, and grants no pardon to any sinner on his repentance. For the apprehension of being under such a dispensation would tend utterly to discourage us in all our attempts to conquer sin, and free ourselves from its power. But under grace — Under the merciful dispensation of the gospel, which offers to all that will accept it, in the way of repentance toward God and faith in Christ, a free and full pardon for all that is past, an entire change of nature, and those continual supplies of grace, which strengthen human weakness, and confer both the will and the power to conquer every besetting sin, and live in the practice of universal holiness and righteousness. For the nature of the grace, that is, of the new gracious covenant, under which we are placed, is such, that it does not require an impossible perfect obedience to the law of Moses, or any law, but the obedience of faith; promising, at the same time, the aids of the Holy Spirit, to enable men to do God’s will sincerely as far as they know it, and offering the pardon of sin to all on condition of repentance and faith in Christ, and in the declarations and promises of the gospel through him. Now under this gracious covenant mankind have been placed ever since the fall; ever since God said, The seed of the woman shall bruise the serpent’s head; ever since that time the apostle’s doctrine here, Ye are not under the law, but under grace, has been true of all the posterity of Adam; a doctrine which, instead of weakening the obligation of the law of God, written on men’s hearts, or the moral law in any of its requirements, establishes it in the most effectual manner. See note on Romans 3:31.


Verses 15-18

Romans 6:15-18. What then are we to infer? Shall we sin — Go on in our transgressions; because we are not under the law — Under the law of Moses, or any mere legal dispensation which forbids sin, but gives no strength against it; but under grace — A dispensation perfectly the reverse, offering pardon to the most guilty, holiness to the most depraved, and strength to the most weak and helpless! God forbid — That we should draw any inference so odious and destructive. Know ye not — Is it necessary to inform you; that to whom ye yield — Greek, παριστανετε, present yourselves servants to obey his commands, his servants ye are whom ye obey — Not his whose name you may bear, without practically acknowledging his authority; but his to whom ye are in fact obedient, to whom you are subject, and whose will you do. “By the expression, ye present yourselves servants, the apostle taught the Romans, that grace does not destroy human liberty. It was still in their own power to choose whether they would present themselves slaves to sin, or servants to righteousness.” Whether of sin unto death — Which will bring you to eternal death; or of obedience — To God and his gospel; unto righteousness — True and evangelical, and which will certainly be rewarded with eternal life. But God be thanked that ye were — That is, although, or whereas, you were once the servants of sin — A bondage this now passed and gone; ye have now obeyed — Not in profession alone, but from the heart, that form of doctrine which was delivered to you — Greek, εις ον παρεδοθητε τυπον διδαχης, literally, the model of doctrine into which, as into a mould, you were delivered; for the word τυπος, rendered form, among other things, signifies a mould, into which melted metals are poured to receive the form of the mould: and the apostle here represents the gospel doctrine as a mould, into which the Roman believers were delivered, in order to their being formed anew, and conformed to the gospel in all its doctrines, precepts, and promises: and he thanks God, that from the heart, that is, most willingly and sincerely, they had yielded to the forming efficacy of that doctrine, and were made new creatures both in principle and practice. The allusion is not only beautiful, but conveys a very instructive admonition: intimating, that our minds made all pliant and ductile, should be conformed to the nature and design of the gospel, as liquid metals take the figure of the mould into which they are cast. Being then made free from sin — Set at liberty from its power and dominion; ye became servants of righteousness — At once enabled and obliged to lead a life of true piety and exemplary goodness. The word ελευθερωθεντες, here rendered being made free, is the word by which the act of giving a slave his liberty was signified, called by the Romans emancipation.


Verses 19-22

Romans 6:19-22. I speak after the manner of men — He seems to mean that his reasoning was taken from the customs of men, and was accommodated to their apprehension; and that he used metaphors and allegories which were well known; because of the infirmity of your flesh — Dulness of apprehension, and weakness of understanding, flow from the infirmity of the flesh; that is, of human nature. Or, as some understand the expression to mean, I recommend a duty to you, suited to human nature; yea, even to the infirmities thereof; that you should do as much for God as you have done for sin, and be as diligent in the service of Christ as you have been in the pursuit of your lusts. For as — In time past, while you were ignorant of the gospel, and many of you the slaves of heathen vice and idolatry; ye yielded your members servants to uncleanness — To various fleshly lusts which defiled you; and to iniquity — Or unrighteousness toward others; unto iniquity — Adding one iniquity to another; even so now — Being enlightened by the gospel to see the evil of such things, and the miserable consequences awaiting them; and being renewed by the influences of divine grace, it is but reasonable that you should be as ready to pursue a pious and virtuous line of conduct, and to do good now, as formerly you were to do evil; and become servants of righteousness unto holiness — Observe, reader, they who are true servants of righteousness, which may here mean a conformity to the divine will, go on to holiness, which implies a conformity to the divine nature. For when ye were the servants of sin — Were under its guilt and power; ye were free from righteousness — You not only had not righteousness enough, but, strictly speaking, had no true righteousness at all; never doing any single action that was truly good, and, on the whole, acceptable to God, because none was performed from such principles as could entitle it to his complete approbation. In all reason, therefore, ye ought now to be free from unrighteousness; to be as uniform and zealous in serving God as you were in serving the devil. What fruit had ye then in those things — Consider, what advantage did you derive from the practices to which you were then habituated, and whereof ye are now ashamed? — The very remembrance of which now gives you pain, and creates in you much remorse and trouble? For the end of those things is death — The word τελος, here rendered end, signifies both the end for which a thing is done, and the last issue of it. It is used in the former sense, 1 Peter 1:9; receiving, το τελος, the end of your faith, the salvation of your souls; the end or purpose for which ye believed. But its meaning here is, that the punishment of death, to be inflicted on sinners, is the natural consequence, or issue, and reward of their sin.


Verse 23

Romans 6:23. For the wages of sin is death — “The word οψωνια, rendered wages, properly signifies the food and pay which generals give to their soldiers for their service. By using this term, the apostle shows what sort of pay the usurper, sin, gives to those who serve under his banners. Further, as the sin here spoken of is that which men commit personally, and which they continue in, the death which is the wages of this kind of sin must be death eternal. It is observable, that although in Scripture the expression, eternal life, is often to be met with, we nowhere find eternal joined with death. Yet the punishment of the wicked is said to be eternal. Matthew 25:46;” (Macknight;) as also in many other passages. But the gift of God — Greek, χαρισμα, the free gift, or gift of grace; is eternal life — Or, eternal life is the free gift of God. “The apostle does not call everlasting life οψωνια, the wages which God gives to his servants, because they do not merit it by their services, as the slaves of sin merit death by theirs: but he calls it a free gift, or gift of grace; or, as Estius would render the expression, a donative; because, being freely bestowed, it may be compared to the donatives which the Roman generals, of their own good- will, bestowed on their soldiers as a mark of their favour.” We may now see the apostle’s method thus far: — 1st, Bondage to sin, Romans 3:9. 2d, The knowledge of sin by the law, a sense of God’s wrath, inward death, Romans 3:20. 3d, The revelation of the righteousness of God in Christ, through the gospel, Romans 3:21. 4th, The centre of all faith, embracing that righteousness, Romans 3:22. 5th, Justification, whereby God forgives all past sin, and freely accepts the sinner, Romans 3:24. 6th, The gift of the Holy Ghost, a sense of God’s love, new inward life, Romans 5:5; Romans 6:4. 7th, The free service of righteousness, Romans 6:23.

 


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Bibliography Information
Benson, Joseph. "Commentary on Romans 6:4". Joseph Benson's Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/rbc/romans-6.html. 1857.

Lectionary Calendar
Wednesday, November 13th, 2019
the Week of Proper 27 / Ordinary 32
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