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Bible Commentaries

Schaff's Popular Commentary on the New Testament
Romans 6

 

 

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Verse 1

Romans 6:1. What shall we say then? ‘Then,’ in view of chap. Romans 5:20-21. Comp. the similar phrase in chap. Romans 4:1.

Shall we continue in sin? The form of the question in the original indicates that this is the statement of a point to be discussed, or rather of a wrong inference that might be drawn from the abounding of grace. This wrong inference is a standing objection to the gospel, urged by those who have not felt its power.


Verses 1-11

1. Fellowship in the Death of Christ involves a New Life.

The objection with which the discussion opens, which has been repeatedly urged against the doctrine of justification by faith, shows conclusively what Paul meant by that doctrine, namely, that God accounts men righteous when they believe in Christ. Otherwise the objection would not have been raised, nor the subsequent discussion necessary. But this discussion shows that the Apostle used the terms ‘death’ and ‘life’ in the widest sense. We do not continue in sin, he argues, that grace may abound (Romans 6:1-2), for our baptism indicated fellowship with Christ, and this fellowship is dying to sin and living to God (Romans 6:3-11). The section is not so much an argument as an appeal to Christian experience. The error it opposes is extirpated by a vital and growing knowledge of the saving power of Christ in the gospel.


Verses 1-39

3. Moral Results of Justification; those Justified by Faith live a New Life in the Spirit.

The gospel is the power of God unto salvation; through it the will is affected, and thus is accomplished morally what the law could not do, namely, the sanctification of those born sinners. But just here the greatest objection is raised to the doctrine of free salvation; and with this objection the Apostle begins his discussion: —

I. The gospel method of grace does not lead to sin but to holiness; chap. 6

(1.) Because of what is necessarily involved in the new life (Romans 6:1-11); (2.) those who partake of this new life are dead to sin and dedicated to God (Romans 6:12-23).

II. The relation of Christians to the law: it is in itself just and good, but powerless to sanctify; chap. 7

(1.) Believers are freed from the law (Romans 7:1-6), but (2.) this does not prove that the law is sin; for, as it has been proven that it cannot justify, it now appears that though holy it cannot make sinners holy (Romans 7:7-25).

III. The sanctifying work of the Spirit, the free life in the Spirit over against the life in the flesh; chap. 8 (see further analysis there).


Verse 2

Romans 6:2. Let it never be. Comp. note in chap. Romans 3:4. Here, as there, an indignant denial: ‘let it not be that we continue in sin.’

How shall we who. ‘We who are of such a kind as.’

Died to sin. Not, ‘are dead.’ When this death ‘with respect to sin’ took place is shown in Romans 6:3-4. There is throughout an implied appeal to Christian consciousness, as witnessing the ethical change. The remission of sin, which is signified and sealed by baptism, involves a death to sin. The reference, therefore, is to the time of baptism, which, in the Apostolic church, usually coincided with conversion and justification. This is preferable to the view that the reference is to Christ’s death and our fellowship in it. Observe, that the Apostle assumes the inseparable connection between justification and sanctification, and yet distinguishes them; the justified man is sanctified, not the reverse.


Verse 3

Romans 6:3. Or are ye ignorant. ‘If this is doubtful, then I appeal directly to your experimental knowledge.’

All we who, referring to the same persons as in Romans 6:2; all without exception.

Were baptised into Christ Jesus. ‘Into,’ in such expressions, does not point to the external element (although immersion was, and in the East still is, the usual mode), but has a far deeper meaning. Baptism into Christ Jesus was the sign of participation in Him, union with Him, and the Apostle asserts that they all knew that this union meant fellowship with His death, so that they were baptised into his death; hence with Him they die unto sin. The reference to baptism does not suggest baptismal regeneration; it both connects and distinguishes baptism and regeneration, as the visible sign and the invisible grace of the renewing Spirit. ‘Let us not separate what the Lord has joined together. We ought, in baptism, to recognize a spiritual laver; we ought in it to embrace a witness to the remission of sins and a pledge of our renewal; and yet so to leave both to Christ and the Holy Spirit the honor that is theirs, as that no part of the salvation be transferred to the sign’ (Calvin).


Verse 4

Romans 6:4. Therefore we were buried with him through baptism. A stronger expression than that of the last verse. That the custom of baptism by immersion is alluded to is generally admitted, but the emersion is as significant as the immersion. The death of the old man is at the same time the birth of the new. One form may be more striking than another, may have the earliest usage in its favor; but it seems improper to make the efficacy of the rite depend upon the quantity of water, or upon the mode of its application.

Into his death; for the appropriation of its full benefit, namely, the remission of sins and reconciliation with God.

In order that, as Christ was raised up, etc. The death and resurrection of Christ stand together; so the Christian who is in fellowship with Christ, shares in his life.

Through the glory of the Father. ‘The glorious collective perfection of God certainly affected the raising of Jesus chiefly as omnipotence (1 Corinthians 6:14; 2 Corinthians 13:4; Ephesians 1:19, etc.); but the comprehensive significance of the word—selected with conscious solemnity, and in highest accordance with the glorious victory of the Son—is not to be curtailed on that account’ (Meyer).

In newness of life; this is more emphatic than ‘a new life’; a life which never grows old, whose characteristic ‘newness’ is imperishable.


Verse 5

Romans 6:5. For if. A confirmatory explanation of Romans 6:4; ‘if’ being almost equivalent to ‘since.’

Have grown together, or, ‘been united.’ The E. V., ‘planted together,’ is incorrect; the figure is that of vital connection; ‘with Him’ is implied in the original. Some suggest ‘grafted into’; but this is a different figure.

In (or, ‘unto’) the likeness—of his death; i.e., the condition corresponding in similarity of form to His death, which has specifically and indissolubly become ours (Meyer). Our vital union with Him involves death to sin (Romans 6:3-4). Others take this phrase as instrumental, i.e., we became united with Christ through the likeness of His death; with a latent reference to baptism. But this is grammatically less admissible than the other sense.

We shall be also, etc. We shall also grow together in (or with) the likeness of His resurrection. It seems best to supply in full, so as to make an exact parallel. If the previous clause means: ‘united unto Christ through the likeness of His death,’ then this must be explained accordingly. The whole points to the certainty of the other result of vital union with Christ; newness of life as truly as death to sin. Thus continuance in sin is doubly denied.


Verse 6

Romans 6:6. Knowing this, or, ‘since we know this.’ ‘This’ refers to what follows, the whole defining the last clause of Romans 6:5.

That our old man. Our sinful nature is here personified (comp. Ephesians 4:22; Colossians 3:9); almost equivalent to ‘flesh,’ in the ethical sense, as used in chaps. 7, 8, and elsewhere.

Was crucified with him. Not necessarily at baptism, but when Christ died, in virtue of our union with Him (comp. Galatians 2:20).

That the body of sin. Of this phrase there are three leading explanations: (1.) The body as the seat of sin; this is contrary to the view of the body which Paul especially presents. (2.) The body, so far as it remains under the power of the old man. This is less objectionable, but seems a confusing of the literal and figurative senses. (3.) Sin is conceived as an organism, with many members; the whole is but another form of the expression ‘our old man.’ This is, on the whole, preferable, since even (2.) leads to ascetic inferences which are quite unpauline.

Henceforth we should not serve, or, ‘be the slaves of,’ sin. Another form of expressing the destruction of the organism of sin, which is represented as a master who holds us in bondage.


Verse 7

Romans 6:7. For he that hath died. ‘He that died’ is more literal, but ‘hath died’ better expresses the relation to what follows.

Is acquitted (lit., ‘justified’) from sin. This is the permanent result. The word ‘justified’ is to be taken here in its strictly legal sense, absolved, acquitted, freed. There are three views in regard to the meaning of ‘hath died’: (1.) Physical death; the whole verse being a proverb: he who has died is freed from sin. The application to spiritually dying to sin is afterwards made. Meyer modifies this view: in so far as the dead person sins no more. The reference to physical death is favored by the connection (‘for’) with what precedes. (2.) Moral death. But death to sin is the result, not the ground of justification. (3.) Death with Christ (mystical or spiritual death) justifies the sinner, frees him from its guilt and punishment. This thought is true enough, but seems inappropriate here, where the Apostle is giving a reason for Romans 6:6. Besides, dying with Christ is plainly expressed in the next verse. We prefer (1.), regarding the verse as a proverbial maxim. ‘As natural death cuts off all communication with life, so must sanctification in the soul cut off all communication with sin’ (Henry).


Verse 8

Romans 6:8. Vow if we died with Christ. That this is the fact has been already stated, forming the underlying thought of Romans 6:3-6.

We believe, etc. The argument is plain, but the exact force of live with him is doubtful. It seems best to accept a primary reference to sanctification, to ethical fellowship with Christ. To this some add the thought of eternal life, others apply the phrase to this exclusively.


Verse 9

Romans 6:9. Knowing; ‘since we know.’ The ground of our belief is the knowledge of His enduring life, after His triumphant resurrection.

Being raised from the dead. The resurrection is the pledge of His enduring life.

Hath dominion over him no more. It had dominion over Him, as God decreed (chap. Romans 5:8-10) and as He voluntarily gave Himself up to it, but there its power ended. The sentence stands independently. The transitoriness of the dominion of death is thus emphasized by the form of expression. (Comp. Acts 13:34.) Unless our Saviour is now undying, we cannot be sure of living in and with Him.


Verse 10

Romans 6:10. For the death that he died. Lit., ‘that which he died,’ which is best paraphrased as we give it.

He died onto sin once for all; no repetition was necessary. This is the proof that death has dominion over Him no more: His death was ‘unto sin,’ it could have nothing more to do with Him, hence death could have power over Him no more. Some refer the clause to Christ’s expiating sin; others, to His expiating and removing it; others, in view of Romans 6:11, explain it of His being freed from sin. ‘In both cases the idea of separation is expressed; but in the case of the believer, it is separation from personal, indwelling sin; in that of Christ, it is separation from the burden of His people’s sin, which He bore upon the cross’ (Hodge). The emphatic ‘once for all’ shows that this sacrifice needs no repetition; for His dying again no reason can exist

The life unto God. Christ’s life on earth was also a life ‘unto God’, but in conflict with sin and death; having triumphed over these at His resurrection, He now lives unto God in the fullest sense. This, too, proves that death has dominion over Him no more.


Verse 11

Romans 6:11. Thus, or, ‘so.’ This is an inference and the application to the readers.

Reckon. The word may be either imperative, or indicative; the former suits the context best.

Also; like Christ (Romans 6:10).

Dead indeed unto sin. The notion of reckoning that they died for sin, in and with Christ, seems contrary to the whole argument of the passage.

But alive onto God in Christ Jesus. Only in fellowship with Christ Jesus can we reckon ourselves dead unto sin and alive unto God. The negative and positive sides of the new moral life are based upon fellowship with the Personal Redeemer who died and rose again. The exhortation is to an apprehension (‘reckon’) of this as a motive for holy living. Hence the utter impossibility of our continuing in sin that grace may abound (Romans 6:1). The obvious inference is that dying to sin and living to God is the evidence (and the only valid evidence) of our fellowship with Christ. On the other hand, the way is thus prepared for enforcing the thought, so essential in Paul’s argument (and equally so in Christian experience), that fellowship with Christ, and not the pressure of law, is the fundamental fact in a life of holiness. Christian morality cannot exist without Christ.


Verse 12

Romans 6:12. Let not sin therefore. ‘Therefore’ i.e., because you reckon yourselves dead unto sin, etc. (Romans 6:11).

Reign. ‘It is no matter of comparison between reigning and indwelling merely, out between reigning and being deposed’ (Alford).

In year mortal body. This is to be taken literally, and not referred to a body dead to sin, or to a corrupt body. The connection with Romans 6:11 suggests that this ‘mortal body’ is under the power of sin; but it is the mortality of the body that is emphasized, in contrast with the life we have in fellowship with Christ who dieth no more (Romans 6:9); hence, to allow sin to reign there is contrary to living ‘unto God in Christ Jesus’ (Romans 6:11).

That ye should obey the lusts thereof. So the briefer and better established reading. The reign of sin in our mortal body would have as its aim obedience to the desires of the body, which are sinful, because we are sinful. Obeying these is living unto sin, hence opposed to the principle of Romans 6:11.


Verses 12-23

2. Christians are Dead to Sin, and Dedicated to God.

The exhortation of Romans 6:11 is expanded in Romans 6:12-14; the negative part (‘dead unto sin’) in Romans 6:12-13 a; the positive part (‘alive unto God’) in Romans 6:13-14. But the concluding motive: ‘for ye are not under the law, but under grace,' suggests another objection, namely, that this would imply freedom to sin (Romans 6:15). This objection the Apostle answers by carrying out in detail an illustration from service. Christians are no longer servants of sin, with the wages of death; but servants of righteousness (servants of God), thus becoming sanctified, and receiving as the gift of God ‘eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.’ (The section is preliminary to chap. 7 which shows more fully that we are ‘not under the law, but under grace.’)


Verse 13

Romans 6:13. Nor render. ‘Nor’ = ‘and especially not.’ ‘Render’ (in chap. Romans 12:1, ‘present’) is preferable to ‘yield,’ since the latter conveys the idea of previous resistance; the thought is of placing at the disposal of another; probably the figure of military service is suggested.

Your members, the various parts of the body which can be used in the service of sin. If ‘mortal body’ (Romans 6:12) is taken figuratively, then ‘members’ must be taken accordingly.

As weapons, or, ‘instruments.’ The former sense is more literal, and accords better with the Apostle’s usage, and with the figure of military service.

Of unrighteousness; opposed to ‘righteousness,’ not simply immorality.

To sin. Personified as ruler (comp. Romans 6:12).

But render yourselves to God; the new and true Ruler. The command is to present them-selves entirely, once for all (the tense in the original is not the same as in the previous clause).

As being alive from the dead. Regarding yourselves as those that are alive, almost = since you are. There is no reference to a battle-field, out rather to the thought of Romans 6:11.

Your members, etc. This is a more particular statement of the previous exhortation, corresponding with the first clause of the verse.

To God; not, ‘for God,’ which disturbs the parallelism.


Verse 14

Romans 6:14. For sin, etc. The future tense is that of confident assertion, and hence of consolation. It is not a new exhortation.

For ye are not under law, etc. This is the reason sin shall not have dominion. ‘Freedom from the law gives you so little freedom to sin, that it is only by the exercise of grace upon you that your freedom from sin has begun’ (Lange). Here the Apostle prepares for the fuller discussion as to the powerless-ness of the law to sanctify as well as to justify. If the reason sin will not lord it over us, is that we are not under the law, but under grace, then grace sanctifies us, not the law. (Comp. chap. 7 throughout)


Verse 15

Romans 6:15. What then? shall we sin, etc. This objection has been raised ever since. It is not precisely the same as that suggested in Romans 6:1 : there the objection was that free pardon would encourage us to continue in sin; here the objection is that freedom from the law leads to freedom in sinning. The connection with chap. 7, as well as the entire argument of chaps. 6-8, points to sanctification by grace, and forbids an exclusive reference to the grace of justification.

Let it never be; as usual. The denial is expanded in what follows. The legal heart makes the objection; but the loyal heart makes this indignant denial.


Verse 16

Romans 6:16. Know ye not ‘I take it for granted that ye know and believe’ (Stuart).

To whom ye render yourselves, etc. This principle is obvious: To present yourselves as servants to any one implies service to that one: in this matter the masters are opposed, hence either,.... or, there is no third.

Of sin unto death. Both terms are used in the usual wide sense: ‘sin’ is personified as the master, the result of the service is ‘death,’ including all the consequences of sin.

Of obedience unto righteousness. Here ‘righteousness’ refers not to justification but to inwrought righteousness, not excluding the final verdict at the judgment. Meyer accepts the latter sense alone. The more exact parallelism would be: ‘of righteousness unto life.’ The deviation may be thus explained: Of our own free choice we give ourselves as bondmen to sin, but cannot thus give ourselves to righteousness: we can only yield ourselves up to God’s grace, to save us, as servants of obedience, unto righteousness, given to us and inwrought of the Holy Ghost (so Forbes). In Romans 6:18, ‘servants of righteousness’ occurs, after ‘being made free from sin.’


Verse 17

Romans 6:17. But thanks to God. In reminding them which of these masters they served (Romans 6:16), his heart speaks.

That ye were the servants of sin. ‘Were’ is emphatic; this state is past, and for this the Apostle is thankful, although this negative side of salvation cannot be separated from the positive.

But ye obeyed from the heart. The moral change at conversion made their true, internal attitude that of obedience.

That form of teaching whereunto ye were delivered. This rendering is greatly to be preferred to that of the E. V. The change to the passive suggests the Divine agency in delivering them to this ‘form of teaching.’ This phrase, literally, ‘type of teaching,’ is interpreted: (1) of Christian doctrine in general; which is objectionable, because in that case ‘type’ would be unmeaning; (2) of the Pauline teaching, over against the Judaistic forms of Christianity; (3) of the ideal, or, ‘pattern,’ presented by the gospel, the ethical rule of life it gives. The second interpretation is the best. Obedience to this type of teaching, over against legalism, is something for which to thank God; be-cause it is God’s work, and because it is worthy of thanks. It follows that it is important to know what Paul’s teaching is. The next verse should be connected more closely with this; a semicolon substituted for the period.


Verse 18

Romans 6:18. And being made free, etc. This is not the conclusion from what precedes, but a continuation of Romans 6:17. The single act of deliverance and transformation is referred to.

Became servants, i.e., ‘bondmen,’ personally and wholly belonging to this service. This bondage is real freedom. Compare the opposite thought in Romans 6:20.


Verse 19

Romans 6:19. I speak after the manner of men. ‘I take a figure from human relations, in thus representing Christian freedom as a bond service.’ (The phrase differs from that used in Romans 3:5, but there seems to be no marked difference of thought)

Because of the weakness of your flesh. Because of the intellectual weakness resulting from the ‘flesh,’ which is here used in the ethical sense, of depraved human nature (see chap. 7). Others refer the phrase to moral weakness, and explain: ‘I require nothing which your fleshly weakness could not do,’ and then join it with what follows; ‘for I only require such service as ye formerly rendered to sin.’ This is open to serious objection, as lowering the moral standard presented by the Apostle.

For as, etc. This explains what was stated in Romans 6:18.

Servants to uncleanness, moral defilement, and to iniquity, violation of God’s law, the two sides of ‘sin’ (Romans 6:13).

Unto iniquity. This may mean: in order to work iniquity, or, resulting in iniquity; the latter, pointing to a state, rather than an act, seems preferable.

So also, etc. The explanation changes to an exhortation, based on the facts of their experience, both before and since conversion.

To righteousness unto holiness, or, ‘sanctification.’ The former would express the ultimate purpose or result, the latter the immediate result, coming into view here as a progressive state. The same word occurs in Romans 6:22, and the meaning ‘sanctification’ seems preferable there, where a further result is spoken of.


Verse 20

Romans 6:20. For. This verse ‘restates the view given of their former condition in respect to sin and righteousness, in preparation for the final and most accurate statement of their present spiritual condition, Romans 6:22’ (Webster and Wilkinson). Meyer here properly calls attention to the tragical force of emphatic order of words in the original.

When ye were servants of sin (comp. Romans 6:17), ye were free as regards righteousness. The only freedom they had was this sad freedom as respects the right service; the deepest slavery in fact, just as to be servants of righteousness is the truest freedom. It was not that they counted themselves free, or that righteousness had no claims upon them, but that, as a terrible fact, they were uninfluenced by its demands.


Verse 21

Romans 6:21. What fruit therefore had ye then. ‘Then’ refers to their condition before conversion (Romans 6:20). Many editors and commentators punctuate the verse so as to read: ‘What fruit therefore had ye then? Things whereof ye are now ashamed.’ It is urged against this view that ‘the question in antithesis to Romans 6:21, is the having of fruit, not its quality’ (Meyer), and that the answer, which is only implied, is: ye had no fruit at all, for the end is death, not fruitfulness. Against the view presented in the E. V., Alford urges that it is ‘inconsistent with the New Testament meaning of fruit, which is “actions,” the fruit of the man considered as the tree, not “wages,” or “reward,” the fruit of his actions,’ Either view is grammatically admissible, and both have been advocated for centuries.

For the end of those things is death; here in its most comprehensive meaning in contrast with close of Romans 6:22.


Verse 22

Romans 6:22. But now, as opposed to ‘then’ (Romans 6:21), being made free; comp. Romans 6:18.

Servants to God. ‘God Himself here takes the place of “righteousness,” for their relation is now one of personal love’ (Lange).

Tour fruit unto holiness, or, ‘sanctification,’ as in Romans 6:19; but the latter sense is even more appropriate here. They are having fruit now, in contrast either with their having no fruit ‘then,’ or with the evil fruit in their previous condition. This fruit is of such a kind as at once results in ‘sanctification’ the progressive state, the ultimate issue being eternal life. This is to be taken in its widest sense; we already have eternal life in germ; in its fulness it is the ‘end’ of all our fruit and fruitfulness. But this end is not attained by natural laws of development; each course of conduct has its inevitable result, but for a different reason; see next verse.


Verse 23

Romans 6:23. For. The reason for the results stated in Romans 6:21-22, contrasting the ends of the two courses and the inherent difference.

The wages of sin, that is paid by sin. Possibly a continuation of the figure of military service.

Death, as in Romans 6:21.

But the gift of God. The same word is rendered ‘free gift’ in chap. Romans 5:15-16. ‘Paul does not say “wages” here also, but characterizes what God gives for wages, as what it is in its specific nature,—a gift of grace..... To the Apostle, in the connection of his system of faith and doctrine, this was very natural, even without the supposition of any special design’ (Meyer).

In Christ Jesus our Lord. Not simply, ‘through’ Him. The phrase qualifies the whole clause. In phrases like this there seems to be a propriety in the order ‘Christ Jesus,’ emphasizing His Messianic (or mediatorial) title. ‘In Him, by virtue of his relation to Deity, God is the giver; in Him, we, as united with Him, having an interest in Him, are recipients’ (Webster and Wilkinson).

 


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Bibliography Information
Schaff, Philip. "Commentary on Romans 6:4". "Schaff's Popular Commentary on the New Testament". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/scn/romans-6.html. 1879-90.

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