The next three chapters (6-8) deal with moral results to true believers of the
revelation to them of the righteousness of God. The righteousness of God
having been announced as revealed in the gospel (ch.1:17), set forth as
available for all mankind (ch. 3:21-31), shown to be in accordance with the
teaching of the Old Testament (ch. 4:1-25), viewed with regard to the feelings and
hopes of believers (ch.5:1-11) and to the position of the human race before God
(Ibid. vs.12-21), the necessary moral results of a true apprehension of the
doctrine are treated in this section of the Epistle. And first is shown from various
points of views:
Ch. 6:1-7:6 (a) The obligation on believers of holiness of life. The subject
is led up to by meeting certain supposed erroneous conclusions from what
has been said in the preceding chapter. It might be said that, if where sin
abounded grace did much more abound — if in the obedience of the one
Christ all believers are justified — human sin must be a matter of
indifference; it cannot nullify the free gift; nay, grace will be even the more
enhanced, in that it abounds the more. The apostle rebuts such antinomian
conclusions by showing that they imply a total misunderstanding of the
doctrine which was supposed to justify them; for that our partaking in the
righteousness of God in Christ means our actually partaking in it —
our being influenced by it, loving it and following it, not merely our having it
imputed to us while we remain aloof from it; that justifying faith in Christ
means spiritual union with Christ, a dying with Him to sin and a rising with
Him to a new life, in which sin shall no longer have dominion over us. Paul
refers to our baptism as having this only meaning, and he enforces his argument
by three illustrations:
baptism (vs. 1-14);
It will be seen, when we come to it, that the third of these illustrations is a carrying
out of the same idea, though it is there law, and not sin, that we are said to be
1 “What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound?”
What shall we say then? So Paul introduces a difficulty or objection arising
out of the preceding argument (ch.3:5) – Shall we continue in sin, that grace
may abound? Referring to the whole preceding argument, and especially to the
concluding verses (ch. 5:20-21).
2 “God forbid. How shall we, that are dead to sin, live any longer therein?”
God forbid! (Μὴ γένοιτο - may genoito – let it not be – idiomatically
translated “God forbid” - Paul’s usual way of rejecting an idea indignantly). How
shall we who (οἵτινες - hoitines – who - with its proper meaning of being such as)
are dead – died. The reference is to the time of baptism, as appears from what
follows) to sin, how shall we live any longer therein? The idea is of dying to sin
in the sense of having done with it,
3 “Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptized into Christ Jesus were
baptized into His death?” ἢ – ay – or - if taken in the sense of “or,” at the beginning
of v. 3, will be understood if we put what is meant thus: Do you not know that we have
all died to sin? Or are you really ignorant of what your very baptism meant? But
ch.7:1, where the same expression occurs, and where ἢ appears only to imply a
question. The expression ἐβαπτίσθημεν εἰς - ebaptisthaemen eis – were
baptized into - occurs also in I Corinthians 10:2 and Galatians 3:27; in the first of
these texts with reference to the Israelites and Moses. It denotes the entering by
baptism into close union with a person, coming to belong to him, so as to be in a
sense identified with him. In Galatians 3:27 being baptized into Christ is understood
as implying putting Him on (ἐνεδύσασθε - enedusasthe - put on). The phrases,
βαπτιξεῖν ἐπὶ τῷ ὀνόματι - baptizein epi to onomati - or ἐν τῷ ὀνόματι -
en to onomati or εἰς τὸ ὄνομα – eis to onoma – in the name - were understood
to imply the same idea, though not so plainly expressing it. Thus Paul rejoiced
that he had not himself baptized many at
said that he had baptized them into his own name (εἰς τὸ ἐμὸν ὄνομα - eis to
emon onoma) (I Corinthians 1:15), i.e. into such connection with himself as
baptism implied with Christ alone. Doubtless in the instruction which preceded
baptism this significance of the sacrament would be explained. And if “into Christ,”
then “into His death.” The whole experience of Christ was understood to have its
counterpart in those who were baptized into Him; in them was understood a death to
sin, corresponding to His actual death. This, too, would form part of the instruction of
catechumens (converts to Christianity receiving training in doctrine and discipline
before baptism). Paul often presses it as what he conceives to be well understood;
and in subsequent verses of this chapter he further explains what he means.
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.” The mention here of burial as well as death
does not appear to be meant as a further carrying out of the idea of a fulfillment
in us of the whole of Christ’s experience, in the sense — As he died and
was buried, so we die and are even buried too. The reference rather is to the form
of baptism, viz. by immersion, which was understood to signify burial, and therefore
death. The main intention of the verse is to bring out the idea of resurrection
following death in our case as in Christ’s. The sense, therefore, is — As our
burial (or total immersion) in the baptismal water was followed by entire
emergence, so our death with Christ to sin, which that immersion symbolized,
is to be followed by our resurrection with Him to a new life. As to the δόξα τοῦ
πατρὸς – doxaes tou patros – glory of the father - through which Christ is
here said to have been raised, see what was said under ch. 3:23. In some passages
our Lord is regarded as having been raised from the dead in virtue of the Divine life
that was in Himself, whereby it was impossible that He should be holden of death.
(see under ch. 1:4). And He said of His own ψυχή - psuche – soul - “I have
power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again” - (John 10:18).
But here as most commonly elsewhere, His resurrection is attributed to the
operation of the glory of the Father — the same Divine power that regenerates
us in Him (I Corinthians 6:14; II Corinthians 13:4; Ephesians 1:19; Colossians
2:12; also our Lord’s own prayers to the Father previously to His suffering, as
given by John). The two views are not inconsistent, and may serve to show
Christ’s oneness with the Father as touching His Godhead. The marked
association here and elsewhere of union with Christ, so as to die and rise
again with Him, with the rite of baptism, supports the orthodox view of that
sacrament being not only a signum significans, but a signum efficax; as
not only representing, but being “a means whereby we receive”
regeneration. The beginning of the new life of believers, with the power as
well as the obligation to lead such a life, is ever regarded as dating from
their baptism (Galatians 3:27; Colossians 2:12). It is true, however, that in all
such passages in the New Testament the baptism of adults is referred to; that is,
of persons who at the time of baptism were capable of actual repentance and
faith, and hence of actual moral regeneration, and they are supposed to
have understood the significance of the rite, and to have been sincere in
seeking it. Hence what is said or implied cannot fairly be pressed as applicable
in all respects to infant baptism. This, however, is not the place for discussing the
propriety of infant baptism, or the sense in which all baptized persons are regarded
by the Church as in their very baptism regenerate.
The Significance of Baptism (vs. 3-4)
To suppose that the acceptance of the grace of God in Christ renders us
careless about the further committal of sin is to misapprehend the nature of
redemption. We cannot dissociate the external results of Christ’s work
from a consideration of its inward effects upon the mind and heart of the
man who profits by it. For a practical refutation of the supposition, the
apostle points to the acknowledged meaning of the ceremony wherein each
believer indicates his close relationship to the Saviour.
more forcibly set forth an abandonment of former feelings and,
behavior than being “dead and buried”? The allusion here to
immersion is questioned by none, and a water grave speaks
eloquently of a changed attitude to sin and the world. We are so
constituted that this appeal to the senses powerfully impresses
both the actual participator in the act and the spectators of the
living picture. (I remember being baptized in the Fishing Creek
by fellow Christians of all ages. CY – 2011)
· A SYMBOL OF COMPLETE FELLOWSHIP WITH CHRIST. The
follower of Christ repeats in his inward experience the death, the burial,
and the resurrection of Christ. These were necessitated by the presence and
enormity of sin, and to “put on Christ” as our Redeemer is to adopt His
crucifixion and subsequent triumph as our expression of hatred against all
that perverts the moral order of the world. To be immersed into the death
of Christ is to be completely surrendered to the claims of the Son of God,
and to share His hostility to evil, rejoicing in His conquest over death and
the grave, and the adversary of mankind. By compliance with His
commandment does the disciple signify his entire dedication to his Master’s
service. (“If a man love me, he will keep my words: and my Father will
love him, and we will come unto him, and
make our abode with him.”
· CHARACTERISTICS OF THIS NEW LIFE. Emerging from the
burial, the candidate rises with Christ as his Example and Companion. His
is to be an active life, “a walk,” not a dreamy repose of self-absorption into
the bliss of Nirvana. The contrast to the old career was exemplified in the
resurrection gladness and glory of the Lord. No more was sin to exert its
baleful influence; the body of the risen Lord no longer could be tortured
with hunger and thirst and suffering. The Saviour was limited no longer by
material barriers; He was endowed with FULL AUTHORITY from on high, and crowned with ever-increasing splendor. When the Apostle Paul saw his
Lord, the Brightness excelled the noonday sun. These triumphs are in their
degree repeated in the spiritual life of the baptized believer. He casts off
the works of darkness and puts on THE ARMOR OF LIGHT! He keeps
his body under, so that the spirit rules. The voice from heaven proclaims him God’s beloved son. Instead of anguish there is peace and joy. He sits in
heavenly places, and God causeth him always to triumph in Christ Jesus.
Such is the ideal life of fellowship with Christ in His resurrection, shadowed
forth by the ascent from the baptismal waters.
Newness of Life:” A New Year’s Sermon (v. 4)
Things new and old make up the sum of human experiences. All that is new
becomes old, and the old disappears to come before us again in new
combinations, in new shapes. The mind of man seems to have a natural
leaning in both directions; we like the old because it is old, and the new
because it is new. This is one of the contradictions inseparable from human
nature. There is some truth in the common saying that the young prefer
novelty and the aged cling to “use and wont.” It is easy to see how, to the
youthful, change should be welcome, for their knowledge is yet very
limited, and new experiences are the appointed means of furnishing and
equipping the mind. It is less easy to explain the conservatism of age and
its dread of innovation, for experience must have taught the old how
imperfect is everything that concerns man’s culture and condition; this trait
of character may be largely owing to the increasing feebleness which
indisposes to the unwonted exertion of the faculties, or to accommodation
to new circumstances. True religion takes advantage of both these
tendencies of human nature. It appeals to the natural attachment we feel to
what is ancient and sanctioned by prolonged existence; and it appeals also
to the yearning for progress and for fresh experiences, which we all either
have felt in the past or feel today. But observe in what way revelation
makes use of these natural tendencies, and remark the harmony there is
between the moral necessities of man and the Divine communications of
Scripture. Broadly speaking, whatever concerns God is commended by its
antiquity and unchangeableness; whilst that which refers to man
approaches us with the charm and the allurement of novelty. A moment’s
reflection will show us why this should be so with true religion. Man, in his
brief life, with his feeble purposes and his petty achievements, looks away
from himself for the eternal and the unchanging. This he knows is not in
himself or in his race; and he seeks it in the unseen God. And herein he is
right. He does not seek these attributes in vain. For, knowing God, he
knows that IN HIM THERE IS ABSOLUTE BEING, UNAFFECTED BY
the changes to which all creation is subject. Man can find his true stability and
his true peace only when he rests in the care and love of “the Father of lights, who
is without variableness and shadow of turning.” (James 1:17) But, on the other
hand, man, when he knows himself, is aware that his past has been a past
unsatisfactory to himself, and blamable by his Creator and Judge. His
changes have often been from evil to evil; and he looks forward, rather
than behind him, FOR RELIEF! His only hope is in his future. The old he can
regard only with pain, with regret, with distress. If there is improvement, it
must be in what is new — in a new condition, new impulses, new principles
of the soul, in new associations and new help. Accordingly, Christianity
comes to man with gifts of heavenly newness in her hand. Christianity
establishes with man a “new covenant,” and gives to him a “new
commandment;” makes of him a “new creation,” transforms him into a
“new man.” It opens up to him a “new way” unto the Father by the
Mediator of a “new testament,” gives him a “new name,” and teaches him a
“new song,” and inspires him with the hope of a “new heaven and a new
earth.” In short, it enables him to serve in “newness of spirit,” and to walk
in “newness of life.” “Life” is, in the New Testament, used as equivalent to
the history of the spiritual nature. The Lord Jesus professed to be “the
Life,” “the Light of men” (John 1:4); He came that “we might have life, and
that more abundantly,” and the acceptance of Him as the Divine Saviour is
designated the “passing from death unto life.” This being understood, it will not be
supposed that by “newness of life” the Apostle Paul refers to the life of the
body, or to the outward circumstances in which physical life may be
passed. And yet the context shows that he is not treating of the future and
blessed life in the nearer presence of God. Accordingly, we understand by
“newness of life” that which contrasts with the spiritual deadness which
hung as a cloud of darkness over heathen humanity, and which contrasts
also with the earlier and imperfect developments of spiritual vitality. It is a
newness of life which is peculiar to the Christian dispensation, but is yet
found wherever Christ is known, trusted, and loved. We greet the new year
with gladness and with hope, because it seems to offer us the opportunity
to begin life anew. We are thankful for the relief of leaving the past behind,
and we cherish the hope that each new year will be one of GREATER
SPIRITUAL PROGRESS AND HAPPINESS than the years that are past.
Christians wish to forget the things that are behind, and to reach forth to those
things that are before. (Philippians 3:13) Some who have been undecided as to their course have resolved with the new year to make a fresh beginning in life, and
henceforth to live by the faith of the Son of God, and to His service and glory. The subject ought, therefore, to be appropriate and welcome to such as are hopefully
and prayerfully aspiring unto “newness of life.”
· The newness of the Christian life will appear from the consideration that
it is A LIFE IS CHRIST. This very language must be at first unintelligible
to a person unacquainted with the gospel. That life should be in a person
seems monstrous and meaningless. Yet Christ Himself has said, “Abide in
me, and I in you” (John 15:4), and his Apostle Paul has taught us that “if any man be in Christ, he is a new creation.” (II Corinthians 5:17) Christ is the
Basis upon which the Christian builds, the Foundation of the edifice of his new and higher life. Christ is the Vine-stem into which the Christian is grafted, and from which he draws:
o all his vitality,
o his vigor, and
o his fruitfulness.
Christ is the Head in dependence upon whom the Christian is a living, active,
and obedient member. The signs and evidences of this life are these:
Ø The renewed man learns who Christ is, and what Christ has done and
suffered for him.
Ø The renewed man admits the claim Christ has upon his gratitude, his
faith, his love; and trusts in Him.
Ø The renewed man consciously accepts life as the gift of God in Christ.
Ø The renewed man, by maintaining fellowship with Christ, advances in
the new and higher life.
· The newness of the Christian life is manifest from THE AGENCY BY
WHICH IT IS EFFECTED.
Ø A spiritual agency.
Ø A Divine agency.
Ø A freely acting and gracious agency.
Ø A transforming agency.
Ø A ceaseless and progressive agency.
· The newness of the Christian life is displayed in THE MOTIVES
AND PRINCIPLES BY WHICH IT IS GOVERNED.
Ø The love of Christ revealed and responded to is the motive power of
Ø The law of Christ becomes a law of friendship.
Ø The approval of Christ is an animating and cheering power in the heart.
Ø Thus self and the world, the common motives to action, fall into their
proper place, or are banished from the Christian’s soul.
· NEW ASSOCIATIONS are a feature of the Christian’s new life.
· The Christian life tends and points to A FURTHER AND HIGHER REGENERATION IN THE FUTURE.
APPLICATION: Newness of life depends comparatively little upon outward circumstances. There is nothing in the color of a man’s skin, the climate of a man’s birthplace, the nature of a man’s occupation, his condition whether of poverty or wealth,
his education whether scanty or liberal, his age or his station, — there is nothing
in all these things which can interfere with or hinder him from becoming
a new man in Christ. It may not be within your power to become a learned
man, or an eloquent man, a rich man, or a powerful man; but the circumstances
which may prevent you from becoming learned or wealthy, mighty or persuasive,
have no force to hinder you from becoming “a new man.”
The obstacles to this renewal are to be sought within, not without;
they are to be found in the will, which is often resolved to resist the
authority, to reject the truth, and to ignore the love of God. If you take a
savage from his native woods, clothe him in civilized attire, place him in a
lordly palace, surround him with books and with music, with paintings and
with flowers, does he cease to be a savage? Not until the mind is changed.
The man himself may remain the same, whilst all his surroundings are
altered. These external changes do not make of him a new man, and his life
has not in virtue of them become a new life. So is it with man in relation to
abused, remove him from his evil companions, shut out from him the
temptations to which he has been wont to yield, introduce him into
Christian society, constrain him to frequent the means of religious
instruction; yet his life has not thereby become a new life. The old nature is
still there. The Ethiopian has not changed his skin, nor the leopard his
spots. The man’s true life lies in the bent of his thoughts, the affections of
his heart, the bias of his will; and whilst all these are toward evil, the old
nature is supreme, and the new life is not yet. Love is the one only
potentate at whose master-bidding old things will pass away. Before’s
Love’s wizard wand alone, the ancient shadows will depart from the
gloomy cave of the unregenerated soul, and that cave will become a temple
peopled with the forms of the holy, and echoing with the songs of heaven.
Divine love can make the wilderness a paradise, can change each thorn into
a flower, and all the thistles into fruits. When Love smites the rock, the
spring of health and of refreshing will gush forth. He who hears Love’s
voice shall forget the weakness and the weariness of the pilgrimage; and his
footstep, erst so heavy and so dull, shall bound elastic onwards.
5 “For if we have been planted together in the likeness of His death, we
shall be also in the likeness of His resurrection.” The English word “planted”
probably suggests what was not intended. Σύμφυτος – sumphutos – planted –
is from συμφύω – sumphuo – grow jointly or spring up with - and need only
express being made to grow together in close association. In classic authors it
commonly means innate. It seems here used, not to introduce a new figure,
whether of planting or grafting, but only to express the close union with
Christ, already intimated, into which we entered in baptism. The Revised
Version has “have become united with Him,” which may perhaps sufficiently
express what is meant, though hardly a satisfactory rendering of σύμφυτοι –
sumphutoi. Tyndale and Cranmer translate “graft in death like unto Him;”
and perhaps “graft into” may be as good a rendering as any other. But it may
be better to understand Ξριστῷ - Christo - “Graft into Christ, in the
likeness of His death,” - τῷ ὁμοιώματι – to homoiomati – the likeness –
being added because Christ’s death and ours, in the senses intended, are not
the same kind of death literally, ours only corresponding to, and in a certain
sense like His. The main purpose of this verse, as of ve. 4, is to press
resurrection with Christ as following death with Him. But why here the
future ἐσόμεθα – esometha – we shall be? Did we not rise with Christ to a
new life when we emerged from our baptismal burial? Future verbs are used
also with a similar reference in vs. 8 and14. Now, there are three senses in
which our resurrection with Christ may be understood:
(1) As above (Colossians 2:12 where the expression is συνηγέρθητε -
sunaegerthaete - ye are risen).
(2) Our realization of our position of power and obligation in subsequent
life — actually in practice “dying from sin and rising again unto
righteousness” (vs. 12-14 below).
(3) The resurrection of the dead hereafter. The drift of the whole passage is
to insist on the necessity of an ethical resurrection now; and it is evident
that the clause before us corresponds with οὕτω καὶ ἥμεις – houto
kai haemeis – even we also – (v. 4) - and to v. 11 - likewise ye also.
The future ἐσόμεθα - esometha – we shall be - is understood by some as
only expressing consequence — a necessary conclusion from a premise,
thus: If such a thing is the case, such other thing will follow. If so, sense
(1) might still be understood; so that the idea would be the same as in
Colossians 2:12, etc., viz. that of our rising in baptism itself to a new
life with Christ, in which sin need not, and ought not to, have dominion.
But still the repeated use of the future tense (especially ἁμαρτία ὑμῶν οὐ
κυριεύσει - hamartia gar humov ou kurieusei – sin shall not be your lord -
in v.14), together with the whole drift of what follows, seems rather to imply
sense (2); that is, our realization of our position in our actual lives subsequent
to baptism. If it be objected that in this case we should expect “we ought to be”
rather than “we shall be” it may be replied that it is what God will do for us,
rather than what we shall do for ourselves, that the apostle has in view. If he
has made us partakers in the atoning death of Christ, having forgiven us all
trespasses, (Colossians 2:13, seq.), He will also make us partakers, as our
life goes on, in the power of His resurrection too, delivering us from sin’s
dominion. Further, if this be so, the thought may also include sense (3) For
elsewhere the future resurrection seems to be regarded as only the
consummation of a spiritual resurrection which is begun in the present life,
Christians being already partakers in the eternal life of God, of
which the issue is IMMORTALITY; Ephesians 1:5-6; Colossians 3:3-4;
Galatians 2:20; also our Lord’s own words, which are peculiarly significant
in this regard, “He that heareth my word, and believeth on Him that
sent me, hath everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation;
but is passed from death unto life. Verily, verily, I say unto you. The
hour is coming, and now is, when the dead shall hear the voice of the
Son of God: and they that hear shall live” (John 5:24-25). Again, “I am
the Resurrection, and the Life: he that believeth in me, though he were
dead, yet shall he live: and whosoever liveth and believeth in me shall
never die. Believest thou this?’ (John 11:25-26).
There Shall be a General Resurrection of the Dead (v.5)
· God hath “appointed a day, in the which He will judge the world in
righteousness by that Man whom He hath ordained; whereof He hath
given assurance unto all men, in that He hath raised Him from the
dead” (Acts 17:31).
· Those who believe on the Lord Jesus shall live with Him for ever.
“I am the Resurrection, and the Life: he that believeth in me, though
he were dead, yet shall he live” (John 11:25). And here the apostle says,
“Now if we be dead with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with
Him” (v. 8). Christ has brought life and immortality to light through
the gospel (II Timothy 1:10). When the grave is near, it is when our
loved ones are suddenly taken from us by death, that we learn what
a precious truth the resurrection of Jesus is to rest on. “If ye then be
risen with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ
sitteth at the right hand of God” (Colossians 3:1). “Our life is hid
with Christ in God.” (Ibid. v. 3)
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.”
Knowing this (compare Ἢ ἀγνοεῖτε – Hae - or ye are being unkowing - v. 3),
that our old man is (was) crucified with Him that the body of sin might be
destroyed (καταργήθῃ - katargaethae - abolished, or done away), that henceforth
we should not serve (δουλεύειν – douleuein - expressing bondage, or slavery; and so
throughout the chapter in the word δοῦλοι – douloi - translated “servants”) sin.
7 “For he that is dead is freed from sin.” The word “crucified” has,
of course, reference to the mode of Christ’s death into which we were
baptized. It does not imply anything further (as some have supposed) as
to the manner of our own spiritual dying, such as painfulness or
lingering; it merely means that in His death our old man died
(Colossians 2:14, προφηλώσας αὐτὸ τῷ σταυρῷ - prosaelosas auto
to stauro – nailing it to His cross) . The term παλαὶος ἄνθρωπος – palaios
anthropos - old man) occurs also in Ephesians 4:22; Colossians 3:9. It denotes
man’s unregenerate self, when under sin and condemnation; the καινός -
kainos - new or νεος ἄνθρωπος – neos anthropos – new man - being his
regenerate self. It is, of course, a different conception from that of ὁ ἐξω ἄνθωππος -
ho exo anthropos – the outward man and ὁ ἔσωθεν ἄνθωππος – ho esothen anthropos –
the inward man of II Corinthians 4:16. In Ephesians and Colossians the old man is
said to be put away, or put off, and the new one put on, as though they were two sets
of clothes, or investments, of his personality, determining its character. Here, by a
bolder figure, they are viewed as an old self that had died and a new one that had
come to life in its place (II Corinthians 5:17, εἴ τις ἐν Ξριστῷ καινὴ κτίσις τὰ
ἀρχαῖα παρῆλθεν - ei tis en Christo kainae ktisis ta archaia paraelthen – if any
man be in Christ he is a new creation: old things have passed away). The idea
of a new man being born into a new life in baptism was already familiar to the Jews
in their baptism of proselytes; and our Lord, discoursing to Nicodemus of the new birth,
(John 3) supposes him to understand the figure; but He teaches him that the change
thus expressed should be no mere change of profession and habits of life, but
a radical inward change, which could only be wrought by THE REGENERATING
SPIRIT! Such a change Paul teaches to be signified by Christian baptism; not only
deliverance from condemnation through participation in the benefits of the death of
Christ, but also the birth or creation of a new selfcorresponding to His risen body,
which will not be, like the old self, under the thraldom of sin. “The body of sin”
(v. 6) may be taken as meaning much the same as “our old man;” sin being conceived
as embodied in our former selves, and so possessing them and keeping them in
bondage. It certainly does not mean simply our bodies as distinct from our souls,
so as to imply the idea that the former must be macerated that the latter may live.
Our former sin possessed and sin-dominated personality being now
crucified with Christ, dead, and done away with, we are no longer, in our new
personality, in slavery to sin, and are both bound and able to renounce it; “for he
that hath died is freed - [δεδικαίωται - dedikaiotai - literally, ‘is justified’]
from sin.” In
apparently being that he has satisfied the claims of law. So here δεδικαίωται.
The word δουλεύειν - douleuein – bondage - be it observed, in v. 6 introduces
by the way the second figure under which, as above said, the apostle regards his
subject, though it is not taken up till v.16.
Historically the crucifixion precedes the death, but experimentally we shall find that,
as the apostle here puts it, it succeeds it. It is when we have realized our death in
Jesus for sin, and our burial with Jesus out of the world, that the crucifixion and
mortification of our old nature begin. “Mortify (put to death) therefore
your members which are upon the earth; fornication, uncleanness,
inordinate affection, evil concupiscence, and covetousness, which is
idolatry” (Colossians 3:5). A counterpart of the crucifixion is realized
within us. The “body of sin,” elsewhere called “the flesh”, must
be destroyed, and we nail it to the cross, so to speak, with as much alacrity
as the Roman soldiers crucified Christ. We “crucify the flesh with the
affections and lusts” (Galatians 5:24); and we“mortify our members
which are upon the earth” as stated above. We feel that “our old man”
is incapable of amendment; that the only way in which to improve him
is to remove him off the face of the earth and out of existence. This is,
consequently, the steady effort of the regenerate soul to kill, by patient
crucifixion, the old nature within. As the Saviour was several hours on
the cross, as crucifixion, though in His case comparatively speedy, is yet
a tardy ordeal, not a momentary execution; so the death of our old nature
takes time for its accomplishment, and must be patiently passed through.
We must be crucified with Christ, as well as feel that we have died in Christ
for sin (Galatians 2:20).
8 “Now if we be dead (died) with Christ, we believe that we shall also
live with Him:” - i.e. as explained with regard to the future ἐσόμεθα - esometha –
we shall be – under v. 5. The explanation there given accounts for the phrase here,
πιστεύομεν ὅτι, – pisteuomen hoti – we believe that - without its being necessary
to refer our living with Christ exclusively to the future resurrection. For the
continuance of God’s vivifying grace during life after baptism is a subject of belief.
9 “Knowing that Christ being raised from the dead dieth no more; death hath
no more dominion over Him.” When it is implied here that death had once dominion
over Him, it is not, of course, meant that He was in His own Divide nature subject to
death, or that ‘it was possible that He should be holden of it” (Acts 2:24).
All that is implied is that He had made Himself subject to it by taking on Him our
nature, and voluntarily submitted to it, once for all, as representing us (John 10:17-18).
10 “For in that He died, He died unto sin once: but in that He
liveth, He liveth unto God. “Died unto sin” certainly does not mean here,
as some have taken it, died by reason of sin, or to atone for sin, but has the
sense, elsewhere obvious in this chapter, of ἀποθνήσκειν – apothnaeskein –
to die – the separation of soul and body - followed by a dative, which was
explained under v. 2. Christ was, indeed, never subject to sin, or Himself
infected with it, AS WE ARE but He “bore the sins of many;” - “the Lord
laid on Him the iniquity of us all.” (Isaiah 53:6,12). He submitted for us to
the condition and penalty of human sin; but, when He died, He threw off its
burden, and was done with it for ever (Hebrews 9:28, “Unto them
that look for Him shall He appear the second time without sin unto
salvation”). The purpose of thus describing the permanent life to God of
the risen Christ is, of course, to show that the new life of us who are
accounted to have risen with Christ must in like manner be permanent
and free from sin. The next verse expresses this clearly.
11 “Likewise (Even so) reckon ye also yourselves to be dead indeed unto
sin, but alive unto God through Christ Jesus our Lord.” In the verses which
follow (12-14) the apostle exhorts his readers to do their own part in realizing
this their union with the risen Christ, to give effect to the regenerating grace
of God. For their baptism had been but the beginning of their new life; it
depended on themselves whether sanctification should follow on regeneration,
as it needs must do in order to salvation.
All sense of sin-bearing is gone like a dream of the night; he is out in the glad
morning of the resurrection with everlasting joy upon his head. Now, such a joyful
experience should be the possession of every regenerate soul. We should
feel not only that guilt is cancelled through the death of Jesus for us, and
that we are “accepted in the Beloved” (Ephesians 1:6), but also that a
new life is ours — a life of fellowship with God. For just as Jesus during
“the great forty days” was more in the unseen with the Father than in the
seen with the disciples, so in our new life we shall largely cultivate
fellowship with the Father. (Even the apostle Paul spent three years with
in the deserts of
we lead should be one, like our Lord, one of entire consecration to God!
Now, of the risen Saviour it may well be said that He lived unto God. All
His faculties and powers were instruments of righteousness unto God.
We are to enter into spiritual sympathy with the work of our Redeemer,
Jesus Christ! We are to be dead to the past, to be alive to all the glorious
future of an immortality in God! In the verses which follow (12-14) the
apostle exhorts his readers to do their own part in realizing this their union
with the risen Christ, to give effect to the regenerating grace of God. For
their baptism had been but the beginning of their new life; it depended on
themselves whether sanctification should follow on regeneration, as it
needs must do in order to show salvation. (Jude 1:20-21)
The Meaning of Christ’s Resurrection (vs. 1-11)
The prominent position occupied by the resurrection of our Lord in the
apostolic writings and preaching need occasion no surprise; an event in
itself so wonderful, and in its consequences so momentous, could not but
be constantly in the minds and upon the lips of those to whom it was the
supreme revelation of God. Peter and John said, “For we cannot but
speak the things which we have seen and heard.” (Acts 4:20) It may be
well to gather up in a few sentences the import and significance of this
central fact of Christianity.
GENERAL AND WORLD-WIDE INTEREST. The historian
of humanity, the philosopher reflecting upon the most important
factors in human life, is constrained to acknowledge the central
and universal interest of our Lord’s rising from the dead.
Ø It was a fulfillment of predictions, and a realization of hopes
sometimes dim and sometimes bright.
Ø It was the starting-point of the Christian religion. The existence
how firmly the first promulgators of the new faith held the belief
that their Lord had risen from the dead.
Ø It was, in the view of the Christian community, the pledge of the
general resurrection of all men to another life; it gave definiteness
and power to the belief in PERSONAL IMMORTALITY.
SPECIAL CHRISTIAN INTEREST.
Ø It is the chief external evidence of the Messiahship and Divinity of
declarations that, after enduring a death of violence, He rose
victorious from the grave. His resurrection is in harmony with His
claim to a nature and character altogether unique.
Ø It is the seal of the efficacy of his mediatorial sufferings. However
the humiliation and sacrifice of the Redeemer were related to the
forgiveness and justification of men, it is certain that Christ’s rising
from the dead was the completion of his redemptive undertaking
on man’s behalf.
PERSONAL AND SPIRITUAL INTEREST. This is the aspect of this
great fact which is insisted upon most strenuously in this passage, and its
practical importance to every individual Christian is manifest. The true
believer in Christ shares in his Lord’s resurrection.
Ø Our sins were crucified in Christ’s death upon the cross, and in His
resurrection we were delivered from their power.
Ø Our past sinful life became dead to us as Christ died; and our newness
of life began in His rising from the tomb. We have the sign of this, the
apostle teaches us, in baptism, with its teaching regarding renewal and
consecration. (In 2010, at a church in
witnessed a baptism of a believer. They had a camera at the top of
the steps into the baptistery. I saw pictured on an overhead screen,
what Paul pictures here in vs. 4-5. The person was lowered and
looked like a dead person in a casket, was immersed and when
brought up, looked and was alive, and walked out of the baptistery
to walk in newness of life. It was a perfect illustration to me of the
meaning of baptism – CY – 2011)
Ø By our faith in the resurrection of our Saviour, we are raised above
trial, doubt, temptation, darkness, and fear. The cross tells us that
it may consist with the wisdom and the goodness of God that for
a season we should endure trouble, disappointment, and seeming
failure. But the empty tomb assures us that for every good man and
for every good work there is a resurrection appointed. Death is for
a season; God’s people, like Christ, cannot be “holden of it.” The
corn of wheat dies, but it dies to live, and to bring forth much fruit.
Ø In Christ’s resurrection the Christian is begotten to a living hope of
an immortal inheritance, His people are appointed to share His
triumph and His glory.
Justification Securing Sanctification (vs. 1-11)
Paul has been speaking in the previous paragraph of “grace abounding,”
and a very natural insinuation might be made that continuance, permanent
abiding, in sin would be the condition of the most abounding grace. If,
therefore, our pardon and acceptance are secured through Christ’s
obedience unto death, what motive can the justified have in warring with
sin? Why not sin up to our bent, that grace may abound? It is this immoral
insinuation that the apostle combats, and combats successfully, in the
present section. He does so by bringing out the full significance of Christ’s
death to the believer. Now, the peculiar beauty of our Lord’s history lies in
this, that, as Pascal long ago pointed out, it may have, and is intended to
have, its reproduction in the experience of the soul. The salient facts of
Christ’s history — for example, His death, burial, and resurrection — get
copied into the experience of the regenerated soul. The apostle had
experienced this himself. At
(1) a burial of the past;
(2) a resurrection into a new life;
(3) a walking in newness of life.
This he believes to be the normal experience of the believer in Jesus. Let us
see how these facts of Christ’s history, death, burial, and resurrection, get
duplicated in our experience.
· OUR BAPTISM INTO CHRIST IMPLIES A BAPTISM INTO HIS
DEATH. The apostle speaks to the baptized Roman Christians in these
terms: “Are ye ignorant that all we who were baptized into Christ Jesus
were baptized into His death? We were buried therefore with Him through
baptism into death” (Revised Version). What we have got first to
determine here is the exact meaning of being baptized in or into the name
of a Person. In a remarkable essay on ‘ Baptism and the Third
Commandment,’ a thoughtful writer says, “There is an evident connection
between these two. We are baptized in the Name of the Lord our God.
And that is the Name which we are commanded not to take in vain It is to
tell that we are the Lord’s, claimed by Him for His service, called to be
followers of Him ‘as dear children’ (Ephesians 5:1). This is the real
meaning of a phrase, much used but little reflected on — a Christian name.
Such are the names, John, James, Thomas, among men; Jane, Mary,
have two names. The latter of these, our surname, distinguishes us as the
children of our earthly father; the former avouches us as the children of a
Father in heaven. And let us mark well what comes out of this solemn
verity. If we have upon us the name of the God of gentleness while we
ourselves are men of strife, or the name of the God of purity while our own
lives are impure, or the name of the God of truth while we are given to
lying, we are taking that name in vain.” Following out this clue, let us
notice that baptism into Christ implies a baptism into His death. For Jesus
“died unto sin once” (v. 10) “He died for the ungodly” (ch. 5:6) “He died for us” (I Thessalonians 5:10) that is, He passed through the experience of crucifixion to save the lost. Now, the counterpart of this death for sin is found in us if we believe upon Him. We realize that we have died in Him unto or for sin. “If One died for all, then all died” (II Corinthians 5:14). Accordingly, we are to “reckon ourselves to be dead” in Jesus Christ “unto sin.” Coleridge has rightly remarked, in his ‘Literary Remains,’ that “in the imagination of man exist the seeds of all moral and scientific improvement;” and it is by placing ourselves
imaginatively on the cross with Christ, and realizing in His atoning sacrifice
our death for sin, that we come to appreciate our individual justification
before God. We are thus baptized into His death.
· OUR BAPTISM INTO DEATH IMPLIES A BURIAL WITH JESUS.
For our blessed Lord not only died upon the cross; He was also buried in
the tomb. Friends begged the body, took it down tenderly from the
accursed tree, wrapped it in spices, and laid it in Joseph’s well-known
sepulcher. Now, in burial one thought overpowers all others; it is the
putting of the dead out of sight, out of all relation to the struggling world
around. As long as a man’s body remains in the tomb
“He has no share in all that’s done
Beneath the circuit of the sun.”
Such a separation took place through burial between the once-living Christ
and the bustling world. The throngs might see the around the temple court
and settle down to selfishness again, but the Master-spirit who had been
among them is now withdrawn, and sleeping for a season in His tomb.
Now, the apostle implies in this passage that a similar sharp separation is
experienced by the truly Christian soul from the world. In casting in his lot
with Christ, he is buried out of sight, so to speak, and becomes a stranger
in the world. His reception by baptism into the Christian community
implies his withdrawal from the previous worldly relations in which he
stood to other men. And here it is only right to guard against the superficial
use made of the burial reference, as if it implied a mode in baptism. “This
word (συνετάφημεν – sunetaphaemen - we were entombed together) contrary to the opinion of many commentators,” says Dr. Shedd, “has no reference to the rite of baptism, because the burial spoken of is not in water, but in a sepulcher.
Burial and baptism are totally diverse ideas, and have nothing in common.
In order to baptism, the element of water must come into contact with the
body baptized; but in a burial, the surrounding element of earth comes into
no contact at all with the body buried. The corpse is carefully protected
from the earth in which it is laid. Entombment, consequently, is not the
emblem of baptism, but of death.” Consequently, the idea of the apostle is
that we are spiritually separated from the world by our reception into the
Christian community by baptism, just as Jesus was physically separated
through his burial in the tomb. Godet, in a note to his comment upon this
passage, gives a beautiful illustration of the truth from what a Bechuana
convert said to the missionary Casalis some years ago. The convert was a
shepherd, and thus expressed himself: “Very soon I shall be dead, and they
will bury me in my field. My sheep will come and pasture above me. But I
shall no more attend to them, nor go out of my tomb to seize them and
carry them back with me into the sepulcher. They will be strange to me and
I to them. Behold the image of my life in the midst of the world, from the
time that I have believed in Christ.” The idea, therefore, is that by our
baptism, i.e. by our union with the Christian Church, we are buried out of
the world. The Church proves, so to speak, the cemetery where, in holy
peace and blissful fellowship, God’s people rest. And so, as we manfully
throw in our lot with Christ, we pass into the grave-like peace of the
Christian Church, and enjoy therein fellowship with Christ and His peaceful
people. It is to this
burial out of the world and into the
· ALONG WITH THIS DEATH AND BURIAL WITH CHRIST
THERE IS EXPERIENCED A CRUCIFIXION OF OUR OLD NATURE.
Historically the crucifixion precedes the death, but experimentally we shall
find that, as the apostle here puts it, it succeeds it (v. 6). It is when we
have realized our death in Jesus for sin, and our burial with Jesus out of the
world, that the crucifixion and mortification of our old nature begin. A
counterpart of the crucifixion is realized within us. The “body of sin,”
elsewhere called “the flesh” (σὰρξ - sarx), must be destroyed, and we nail it
to the cross, so to speak, with as much alacrity as the Roman soldiers
crucified Christ. We “crucify the flesh with the affections and lusts”
(Galatians 5:24); we “mortify our members which are upon the earth”
Colossians 3:5). We feel that “our old man” is incapable of amendment;
that the only way in which to improve him is to remove him off the face of
the earth and out of existence. This is, consequently, the steady effort of
the regenerate soul to kill, by patient crucifixion, the old nature within. As
the Saviour was several hours on the cross, as crucifixion, though in His
case comparatively speedy, is yet a tardy ordeal, not a momentary
execution; so the death of our old nature takes time for its accomplishment,
and must be patiently passed through. We must be crucified with Christ, as
well as feel that we have died in Christ for sin (Galatians 2:20).
· OUR BURIAL WITH JESUS IS WITH A VIEW TO OUR
RESURRECTION WITH HIM INTO NEWNESS OF LIFE. After death
and burial there came to Jesus, as the Father’s glorious gift, resurrection to
a new life. Let us consider what resurrection as an experience brought to
Jesus. From the cradle to the cross Christ had been the “Man of sorrows.”
The weary weight of all this sinful, sorrow-stricken world lay on Him; the
Father had laid on His strong and willing shoulders the iniquity of us all.
It was not wonderful, then, that His life was one long burden, taking end only
on the cross. But the first glimpse we get of the risen Saviour conveys the
notion of sturdy, stalwart strength, for the Magdalene mistakes Him for the
gardener. And all that we can gather from subsequent interviews with His
disciples goes to show that life has ceased to be the burden it was once,
and is now free, joyous, triumphant. All sense of sin-bearing is gone like a
dream of the night; He is out in the glad morning of the resurrection with
everlasting joy upon His head. Now, such a joyful experience should be the
possession of every regenerate soul. We should feel not only that guilt is
cancelled through the death of Jesus for us, and that we are “accepted in
the Beloved,” but also that a new life is ours — a life of fellowship with
God. For just as Jesus during “the great forty days” was more in the
unseen with the Father than in the seen with the disciples, so in our new life
we shall largely cultivate fellowship with the Father.
· THE NEW LIFE WE LEAD WILL BE LIKE OUR LORD’S, ONE
OF ENTIRE CONSECRATION TO GOD. Now, of the risen Saviour it
may well be said that He lived unto God. All His faculties and powers were
instruments of righteousness unto God. So it is in the Christian life. It is
one of entire consecration. In this way it will be seen that justification leads
necessarily to sanctification. The leading facts of our Lord’s history get
duplicated in our experience, and death, burial, resurrection, and
consecration become ours.
Buried and Risen with Christ (vs. 1-11)
Attaching to almost all privileges and blessings there are dangerous
possibilities of abuse. So with the blessed doctrine of justification by faith,
which has been so largely dwelt on hitherto. So especially with that aspect
of it just referred to (ch. 5:20). How readily the question might
spring to the lip, “Shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound?” But
how readily, from every Christian heart, would spring the response, “God
forbid! How shall we?” This answer amplified in the following verses: The
relation of the believer, through the death and resurrection of Christ, to sin
· THE DEATH.
Ø The relation of the death of Christ to sin. Two elements entering into
the atoning work of Christ, each of which, in its bearings, must be
distinguished from the other: the Divine, and the human.
o As to guilt. The guilt of the race an accomplished fact; the stain
ineffaceable; the white purity of the infinite Law blotted. What
are the bearings of Christ’s atonement, divinely and humanly, on this guilt of the past?
§ Divinely: condemnation for ever;
§ humanly: expiation for ever.
o As to sin. An existent, a persistent fact; a possibility always; a strong power of evil. What are the bearings of Christ’s atonement on this sin of the present?
§ Divinely: stamp of condemnation; the thing which has brought guilt that must be expiated by death, is by that very death a branded thing;
§ humanly: renunciation and conflict; the thing which is branded, in the atonement, on the part of God, is
forsworn on the part of man.
Ø Our relation through the death of Christ to sin. A natural identification
of Christ with us, as federal Head of the race; and a spiritual — this latter
of voluntary, sympathetic oneness. So a corresponding identification of
ourselves with Christ: natural and spiritual. This latter, by faith; the
spiritual analogue corresponding with the historical fact, or, in other
words, our voluntary spiritual sympathy with Christ’s own work.
o As to guilt.
§ Acquiescence in the condemnation: every mouth stopped;
§ acquiescence in the. expiation: for me!
o As to sin.
§ A thing condemned of God: so we regard it henceforth,
as bearing a stigma of evil;
§ a thing forsworn by us: so we regard it henceforth; perpetual war.
Therefore our faith in Christ not merely gives us pardon and peace with God, but commits us too a stern and uncompromising battle with all that is opposed to God. “Ye see your calling, brethren!”
(I Corinthians 1:26) Your very baptism is your pledge to wage such warfare.
· THE LIFE.
Ø The relation of the life of Christ to God. Two elements entering into the
resurrection-life of Christ: raised by God, raised as
o As to favor with God.
§ Divinely: the accepted sacrifice; “through the glory of the
§ humanly: from darkness into light; “Ought not Christ to have suffered these things, and to enter into His glory?” (Luke 24:26).
o As to devotion to God.
§ Divinely: God could not suffer his Holy One to see corruption; “having received of the Father the
promise of the Holy Ghost” (Acts 2:33);
§ humanly: “He liveth unto God;” for us.
Ø Our relation through the life of Christ to God. Identification as before
— potential for all, actual through faith.
o As to favor with God.
§ Acquiescence in the approval: gratitude;
§ acquiescence in the joy: for me!
o As to devotion to God.
§ A life claimed by God: henceforth we bear these “marks;”
§ a life yielded to God: “the likeness of his resurrection.”
So our faith in Christ has regard, not only negatively to sin, but positively
to God. We are His; freemen in Christ; risen ones! “Reckon ye” this!
The potential fact will but aggravate our condemnation and our woe,
if it be not actualized through faith. Let us enter into spiritual
sympathy with the work of the Redeemer; be dead to the past,
and be alive to all the glorious future of an immortality in God.
12 “Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, that ye should obey
it in the the lusts thereof.” Though our “old man” is conceived of as crucified
with Christ — though this is theoretically and potentially our position — yet our
actual lives may be at variance with it; for we are still in our present “mortal
body,”with its lusts remaining; and sin is still a power, not yet destroyed, which
may, if we let it, have domination over us still. Regeneration is not regarded as
having changed our nature, or eradicated all our evil propensities, but as having
introduced into us a higher power — “the power of His resurrection” (Philippians
3:10) — in virtue of which we may resist the attempted domination of sin. But
it still rests with us whether we will give our allegiance to sin or to Christ. The
lusts, obedience to which is equivalent to letting sin reign, are said to be those of
our “mortal body,” because it is in our present bodily organization that the lusts
tempting us to evil rise. But it is not in their soliciting us, but in the will assenting
to them, that the sin lies. The old saying “You can’t keep a bird from flying
over your head but you can keep it from building a nest in your hair” applies
here. The epithet θνητῷ |- thnaeto – mortal is fitly used as distinguishing our
present perishable framework — the earthen vessels in which we have our
treasure (II Corinthians 4:7) — from our real inward personality, ἔσωθεν ἄνθρωπος –
esothen anthropos – inward man - (Ibid. v.16), which is regarded as having risen
with Christ, so as to live to God for ever.
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.” By our members seem to be meant, not merely the several parts of
our bodily frame, the eye, tongue, hand, foot, etc.but generally all the parts or
constituents of our present human nature, which sin may use as its instruments,
but which ought to be devoted to God (Colossians 3:5). Many commentators
would translate ὅπλα – hopla – instruments - “weapons” rather than
“instruments,” on the ground that Paul usually uses the word in this sense
(ch. 13:12; II Corinthians 6:7; 10:4; Ephesians 6:11,13); and also that
ὀψώνια – opsonia – wages - in v. 23, taken in the sense of the pay of a
soldier (as in Luke 3:14; I Corinthians 9:7), is supposed to imply that the
apostle has had all along the idea of warfare in view. The second of these
reasons really proves nothing. Whatever the meaning of ὀψώνια in v. 23, it
is too far removed from the passage before us to be taken in any connection
with it. Neither is the first reason at all cogent. Ὅπλα bears the sense of
instruments as well as of weapons, and may more suitably bear it here. When
Paul elsewhere speaks of armor, it is the armor of light, or of righteousness,
which we are told to take up, and to put on, in order to fight against our
spiritual enemies. Such a conception is inapplicable to our own members,
which we have already, which we may use either for good or evil, and which
require the protection of heavenly armor rather than being themselves
armor; and we certainly could not be told to take them up or put them on.
We may, in the next place, observe that the two clauses of this verse are
differently expressed in two respects:
ourselves, with our members, we are bidden to yield to God. For few of
the persons addressed, if even any, could be supposed, deliberately and of
choice, to offer their whole being to the service of sin as such; they were
only liable to succumb to sin, in this or that way, through soliciting lusts.
But the regenerate Christian offers and presents his whole self to God,
And desires to be his entirely.
paristanete – yield; - but in the second the aorist imperative,
παριστάνετε - parastaesate - yield. The distinction between
the two tenses in the imperative is thus expressed in Matthiae’s ‘Greek
Grammar:’ “that the aorist designates an action passing by, and
considered abstractedly in its completion, but the present a continued
and frequently repeated action.” Our giving ourselves to God is
something done once for all; our yielding our members as
instruments of sin is a succession of acts of yielding.
Sin is condemned by God and to us is a stigma of evil. We are to be
committed to a stern and uncompromising battle with all that is opposed
14 “For sin shall not have dominion over you; for ye are not under law,
but under grace.” As to the force of the future here, οὐ κυριεύσει –
ou kurieusei – dominion – (denoting lordship) - see what was said under v. 5.
Here also no more seems, at first sight, to be meant than that God, if we
respond to His grace, will not let sin have dominion over us; we shall, in
fact, if we are willing, be enabled to resist it. (“But as many as received
Him, to them gave He power to become the sons of God, even to them
that believe on His name.” - John 1:12). And the reason given is suitable
to this meaning: “For ye are not under law” (which, while it makes sin
sinful and exacts its full penalty, imparts no power to overcome it),
“but under grace” (which does communicate such power). Thus
understanding the verse, we see the distinction between βασιλευέτω -
basileueto – reign - in v. 12 and κυριεύσει – dominion - here. In v.12
we are exhorted not to let sin reign; we are to own no allegiance to it as
a king whose rule we must obey. But it still will try to usurp lordship over
us — in vain, however, if we resist the usurpation: ouJ οὑ κυριεύσει ἡμῶν –
ou kurieusei humon – not have dominion. The sense thus given to the
verse is what its own language and the previous context suggest. But v. 15,
which follows, suggests a different meaning. “What then? shall we sin,
because we are not under law, but under grace?” Such a question could
not arise on the statement of the preceding verse, if its meaning were
understood to be that grace will enable us to avoid sin; it rather supposes
the meaning that grace condones sin. Hence, in v. 15 at least, a different
aspect of the difference between being under law and being under grace
seems evidently to come in; namely, this — that the principle of law is to
exact complete obedience to its behests; but the principle of grace is
to accept faith in lieu of complete obedience. If, then, ἁμαρτία ὑμῶν οὐ κυριεύσει –
hamartia humon ou kurieusei – sin shall not have dominion in v. 14 is to be
understood in agreement with this idea, it must mean, “Sin, though it still infects
you, shall not lord it over you so as to bring you into condemnation.’’ It may be
that the apostle, when he wrote v. 14, meant what the previous context suggests,
but passed on in v. 15 to the other idea in view of the way in which his words might
be understood. In what follows next (vs. 15-23) is introduced the second
illustration (see former note), drawn from the human relations between
masters and slaves. It comes in by way of meeting the supposed abuse of
the statement of v. 14; but it serves as a further proof of the general
position that is being upheld. The word κυριεύσει – dominion - in v. 14
suggests this particular illustration. We being under grace, it had been said,
sin will not be our master, whence the inference was supposed to be drawn
that we may sin with impunity, and without thereby subjecting ourselves to
the mastery of sin. Nay, it is replied, but it will be our master, if in practice
we consent to be its servants. (I once saw on a church marquee – “If you
give the devil a ride, he will end up wanting to drive.” – CY – 2011)
Man’s higher self - reason, conscience, and will - should dominate over the
“soul” and the “flesh,” the mere passions and lusts; man’s spirit should be king.
But the true self has been uncrowned, and the lower self — the lusts — has
gained the mastery. And in this false mastery of the flesh, SIN REIGNS.
Oh, what degradation! we are led in chains, and sin lords it over us!
(The chains of habit are too light to be felt until they are too strong to be
The Practical Power of the Resurrection (vs. 1-14)
Here the apostle enlarges still more fully upon the truth that the Christian’s
faith leads not merely to the pardon of sin, but also to deliverance from its
power. Because grace has abounded over sin, and our unrighteousness has
commended the righteousness of God, it does not therefore follow that we
are to continue in sin. If we have a real union with Christ, we have been
baptized into His death. We are buried with Him by baptism into death;
“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” (v. 4).
· THE FACT OF THE RESURRECTION. That the resurrection of Christ
is surrounded with mystery, no one will deny. But the evidence by which
the great central fact itself is established is so strong, so clear, so decisive,
that even skepticism has sometimes to admit itself convinced. The effect of
the most able and adverse criticism has only been to establish more and
more certainly the fact of the Resurrection, and thus to confirm more
strongly the Christian’s faith. It is remarkable that two of the greatest
rationalists of the present century, who doubted almost every fact of the
New Testament history, admitted that the Resurrection was a fact which
they could not doubt. Ewald, who deals destructively with most of the
gospel incidents, “regarding some as mythical, some as admitting of a
rationalistic interpretation, and some as combining the elements of both,” is
unable to destroy or explain away the Resurrection. “Rejecting all attempts
to explain it, he accepts the great fact of the Resurrection on the evidence
of history, and declares that nothing can be more historical.” The testimony
of De Wette is even more remarkable. He was more skeptical than Ewald;
so much so that he was called “The Universal Doubter.” Nevertheless,
such is the force of the evidence, that this great rationalistic critic, in his
last work, published in 1848, said that the fact of the Resurrection,
although a darkness which cannot be dissipated rests on the way and
manner of it, cannot itself be called in question any more than the historical
certainty of the assassination of Julius Caesar.
Ø The fact of the Resurrection is attested by the four evangelists. The four
Gospels were written by men widely separated both in time and place.
Their very variations are a proof of their substantial truth. They give
varying accounts of the Resurrection, as would naturally be expected from
men whom so great an event impressed in different ways, but they all agree
in testifying that the event occurred.
Ø The narrative of the Resurrection was accepted by the early Christians
who lived at the time when the event took place. It is spoken of constantly
in the Epistles to the various Churches as an event with which they were all
familiar, and about which there was not the slightest doubt. When Peter is
proposing the appointment of a successor to Judas, he speaks of the
Resurrection as one of the great subjects of apostolic preaching. Indeed, it
would appear that he regarded the preaching of the Resurrection as the
great subject for which the apostle should be chosen. His words were,
“Wherefore of these men who have companied with us all the time that the
Lord Jesus went in and out amongst us, must one be ordained to be a
witness with us of His resurrection.” (Acts 1:22)
Ø The conversion of Paul, and his subsequent advocacy of the doctrine
of the Resurrection, are perhaps the strongest proofs of its truth. Paul was
a persecutor and a bigoted Pharisee. He suddenly became a Christian, the
sect that was so hated and despised. The explanation that he himself gave
of this change was that Jesus Christ had appeared unto him. It was not
likely that Paul, a clear-headed man, accustomed to weigh evidence, would
be deceived as to Christ’s appearance. He could not be lightly led to take a
step of such immense importance to his whole life. Something more than a
mere dream or hallucination must be found to account for his whole
subsequent career. He was not likely to undertake those missionary
through Asia Minor, through
and to persevere in them, in the face of much opposition, ridicule,
persecution, and many hardships and dangers, for the sake of a mere fancy.
He was not a mere visionary or fanatic. His Epistles show him to have been
a man of robust mind, great reasoning power, and soberness of judgment.
And yet, in every instance in which a public speech of his is recorded in the
Acts of the
Apostles; in his address at
Festus and Agrippa, he most distinctly proclaims the fact of the
resurrection of Christ.
Ø As the life of the Apostle Paul was changed, so the lives of all the
apostles were changed from the moment that the risen Christ appeared
to them. Before that they were timid and frightened. The boldest of them
became so cowardly as to deny that he knew Christ at all. They had all
forsaken him and fled when the time of crucifixion drew near. After the
crucifixion they became disheartened and depressed. We can easily see
what would have become of Christianity had there been no resurrection,
as we study the conduct and words of the disciples when they knew that their
Master was so soon to be taken from them, and when they thought He was
still in the grave. But the Resurrection altered everything. The change that
occurred can only be explained by THE ACTUAL REAPPEARANCE
OF CHRIST TO THEM! The timid became brave again. They cannot but speak the things which they have seen and heard. They endure persecution
and suffering and martyrdom now, for the grave is no longer dark, and the
crown of life is beyond the struggle and the pain.
· THE DOCTRINES WHICH IT TEACHES.
Ø That there shall be a general resurrection of the dead. “Because He hath appointed a day, in the which he will judge the world in righteousness by that Man whom He hath ordained; whereof He hath given assurance unto all men, in that Hhe hath raised Him from the dead” (Acts 17:31).
Ø That those who believe on the Lord Jesus shall live with Him for ever. “I am the Resurrection, and the Life: he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live” (John 11:25). And here the apostle says, “Now if we be dead with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with Him” (v. 8). Christ has abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel. (II Timothy 1:10) He
has satisfied the yearning of the human heart for a life beyond the present
— a yearning so strong that one of the greatest thinkers of our own time,
though the logical conclusion of his system is universal death nevertheless
tries to avoid or overcome this dreary prospect by the suggestion that out
of this death another life may spring. Our poet-laureate has expressed that
yearning thus. Speaking of love, he says:
“He seeks at last
Upon the last and sharpest height
Before the spirits fade away,
Some landing-place, to clasp and say,
‘Farewell! We lose ourselves in light!’”
Yes, it is when the grave is near, it is when our loved ones are suddenly
taken from us by death, that we learn what a precious truth the
resurrection of Jesus is to rest on.
· THE PRACTICAL LESSONS WHICH IT CONVEYS. “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” (v. 4); “Let not sin therefore reign in your
mortal body, that ye should obey it in the lusts thereof” (v. 12).
Elsewhere the apostle expresses the same truth. “If ye then be risen with
Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ sitteth at the right
hand of God” (Colossians 3:1). This is the practical power of the fact
and doctrine of the Resurrection. If we have in our hearts the hope of being
with Christ, what a transforming influence that hope should exercise upon
our lives! We should “yield ourselves unto God, as those that are alive
from the dead, and our members as instruments of righteousness unto
God” (v. 13). Thus the risen life of Christ enters into and becomes part
of the present life of His people. Thus their life enters into and becomes
part of His. “Our life is hid with Christ in God.” (Colossians 3:3)
The Two Dominions (vs. 12-14)
A renewed application of the subject just discussed. The reign of sin; the
reign of grace.
· THE REIGN OF SIN.
Ø The self yielded to sin. Man’s higher self — reason, conscience, and will — should dominate over the “soul” and the “flesh,” the mere passions and lusts; man’s spirit should be king. But the true self has been uncrowned, and the lower self — the lusts — has gained the mastery. And in this false mastery of the flesh, sin reigns. Oh, degradation! we are led in chains, and SIN LORDS IT OVER US!
Ø The members yielded to unrighteousness. Man’s lower nature should be
the instrument of the higher, for the working of all that is just and good. In
Paul’s philosophy of human nature the “body” is synonymous with all the
active life; and is not the activity of our whole life to be used subordinately to the dictates of the enlightened will? But the activity of life is yielded to the usurping power of sin, instrumental to unrighteousness.
· THE REIGN OF GRACE.
Ø The self yielded to God. Man is not an irresponsible ruler of his own
nature; his sovereignty is delegated by God. And only in absolute devotion to God does he realize a true self-conquest. God claims again possession of the spirit which has been torn from Him by the power of sin. The claim is one of authority; but the authority is the authority of love.
Ø The members yielded to righteousness. God requires the homage of the
heart; He also requires the service of the life. Only through the heart can the life be rightly swayed. “Not under law.” A resurrection, and a resurrection power. Yes, because He lives, we may live also! But the appropriation of this power is of man: “Present yourselves.” (ch. 12:1)
Here is the marvelous gift of human freedom, which may be a
freedom unto death; but there is the boundless power of love and life! Therefore choose life, that thou mayest live! (Deuteronomy 30:19)
The Enfranchisement of Grace (v. 14)
The Law, by exhibiting the heinousness of sin and its awful consequences,
was the occasion of the introduction of the gospel and of the victories of
God’s grace. If, then, where sin abounds, grace much more abounds, some
sophistical reasoner may propose to continue in sin. It is against this
wretched argument that the apostle appeals in the language of the text.
“Sin shall not have dominion over you; for ye are not under law, but under
grace.” The very fact which was adduced by some as an excuse for sin is
shown to be the chief reason for freedom from sin.
under the rule and bondage of a tyrannical and wicked lord. Turning
away in a rebellious spirit from their rightful King and Ruler, they
have submitted themselves to the usurper’s sway. Sin takes possession
of their affections, their judgment, and their will.
HABITUALLY UNDER THE MASTERY OF SIN. It is urged
that those under the Law were in very many cases the slaves of sin; for
the Law entered that the offence might abound. History, sacred and
profane, bears out these assertions. The standard of morality by which
men judged themselves was low, and even to this they did not
generally approach, much less attain. This was so with the Jews, and
more conspicuously with the Gentiles.
SET MEN FREE FROM THE MASTERY OF SIN.
Ø What is it to be “under grace”? It is voluntarily and consciously to
receive the free favor of God bestowed through Jesus Christ
UPON ALL WHO BELIEVE! (A former pastor of ours, Bro.
John Christian said that grace was “GOD’S RICHES AT
CHRIST’S EXPENSE” – CY – 2011). It is to participate
in the new and distinctively Christian righteousness. It is in the
exercise of faith to be brought into harmony with God’s
government and purposes. It is to come under the influence of a
new, Divine, and powerful motive, furnished by the infinite love
and clemency of God.
Ø How does being “under grace” set and keep a man free from sin?
The apostle explains the process by employing three figures:
o First, by baptism, the initiative act of faith and consecration,
the Christian is joined to his Saviour in his death upon the
cross, and, thus being united to an almighty Saviour, must
consequently rise in the likeness of His resurrection to a
new and holy life.
o Second, the Christian, forsaking the service of sin, yields
himself by faith to the service of Christ, and is therefore
bound to fulfill the obligations which he has undertaken.
o The third figure represents his state under the Law as
abolished by faith in Christ, just as a woman is released
from her husband by his death; fidelity to Christ’s service
and law are as binding upon the Christian as is fidelity to
her second husband on the part of the newly married
woman. Duty and love combine to render the obligation
to holiness stringent and effective.
In explaining how this is we may observe:
Ø The principles appealed to are higher; love and gratitude are higher
than fear and interest.
Ø The aid afforded is greater; it is the aid of the Holy Spirit of God.
Ø The example set before the Christian is more stimulating and inspiring.
Ø The prospects presented are more alluring and glorious.
15 “What then? shall we sin, because we are not under law, but under
Grace?” (Does being under grace mean that we may allow ourselves in sin
without being under sin’s thraldom?) “God forbid. 16 “Know ye not,
that to whom ye yield yourselves servants to obey (literally, unto
obedience), his servants ye are to whom ye obey; whether of sin unto
death, or of obedience unto righteousness?” This is not a truism, as it
would seem to be if it only meant, “whoso servants ye become, his servants
ye are.” “Ye yield yourselves” (παριστάνετε, in v. 13) denotes acts of
yielding. “Ye are” (ἕστε – este – ye are) denotes condition. The meaning
is that by our conduct we show which master we are under; and we cannot
serve two (Matthew 6:24; Luke 16:13; John 8:34, “Whosoever committeth
sin is the servant of sin;” and I John 3:7, “He that doeth righteousness is
righteous”). The two incompatible services are here said to be of sin and
of obedience, with their respective tendencies or results, death and
righteousness. A more exact antithesis to the first clause would have been
“of righteousness unto life;” life being the proper antithesis of death, and
righteousness being afterwards said, in vs. 18 and 19, to be what we ought
to be in bondage to. But though the sentence seems thus defective in form,
its meaning is plain. Ὑπακοῆς – hupakoaes – obedience - means here
specifically obedience to God, not obedience to any master as in v. 16; and
though in English “servants of obedience,’’ as though obedience were a
master, is an awkward phrase, yet we might properly say, “servants of duty,”
in opposition to “servants of sin;” and this is what is meant. It may be that
the apostle purposely avoided here speaking of believers being slaves of
righteousness in the sense in which they had been slaves of sin, because
subjection to righteousness is not properly slavery, but willing obedience.
He uses the expression, indeed, afterwards (v. 18), but adds at once,
ἀνθρώπινον λέγω – anthropinon lego – speaking as a man - (v. 19 –
see note on this last expression). Death, “unto”which the service of sin
is here said to be, cannot be mere natural death, to which all are subject.
Many take it to mean eternal death, as the final result of bondage to
sin; δικαιοσύνη – dikaiosunae – righteousness - antithetically correlative,
being regarded as applying to the time of final perfection of the faithful
in the world to come — “the righteousness which is awarded to them in
the judgment.” Seeing, however, that the word δικαιοσύνη is used
throughout the Epistle to denote what is attainable in this present life –
talking about “righteousness”, and that θάνατος – thanatos – death –
is often used to express a state of spiritual death, which men may be in
at any time (see additional note on v. 12; and ch.7:9-10, 13, 24; 8:6, 13;
also John 5:24; I John 3:14), it is at least a question whether the final
doom of the last judgment is here at all exclusively in the apostle’s view.
Not Masters, but Servants (v. 16)
The knowledge of a truth is not synonymous with its practical recognition
in our daily life. “Know ye not?” calls plain attention to the consequences
of behavior. It is the business of Scripture and preaching to emphasize the
importance of our personal acts. We are not really masters in any
condition. The curbed or uncurbed steed of our desires is working in some
service, be it of sin or of God.
· THE ALTERNATIVE. ‘We yield to the motions either of “sin unto
death” or of “obedience unto righteousness.” No middle course is possible.
Though the notorious transgressor may do a kind action, and the
distinguished saint disappointingly err, yet the distinction is real. Characters
are only of two sorts; they verge to good or evil. It is not for others, but
ourselves, to estimate our position and tendency. Men are deluded by the
imaginary difficulty of drawing a boundary-line because of the way in
which apparently the good shades off into evil. In the one service or the
other we are actually enlisted.
· THE FREEDOM OF CHOICE. There is the option of the two careers;
we are not compelled to either. Motives, longing, circumstances, do not
amount to constraint. The apostle pictures men as voluntarily yielding
themselves, presenting themselves to the chosen employer. This does not
mean that men willingly elect sin as such. The moral bent, the image of
God, is shown in their use of terms to hide the viciousness of actions; “a
gay life” instead of debauchery; “embellishing a story” instead of a
perversion of the truth.
arch-fiend, a form that struck the rebel host at first with horror, “but
familiar grown she pleased.” That is THE DEATH OF THE SOUL
WHEN EVIL IS DELIBERATELY SELECTED! “Evil, be thou my
good.” And the freedom of choice does not imply the absence of obligations
to serve God. To delay is to adhere to sin.
· THE SERVICE OF SIN IS A DISOBEDIENCE TO GOD. The
statement of the alternative, by its sharp antithesis of “sin” and
“obedience,” indicates the essential nature of sin. Disobedience is the
wanting our own way in opposition to some command of a rightful
authority. God’s government being moral, to elect a course of life which
violates His laws is to give one’s self to the service of God’s enemy. As
compliance with some small order evinces the loyalty of the soldiers; so
with us, like our first parents, it may be a so-called trifling matter which
tests our disposition. To sin is to disobey a physical, moral, or religious
commandment, and this transgression is not merely an individual concern;
it affects the Ruler of the universe. Treason is the worst crime against the
state, and no man can be allowed to become a center of infection to the
body politic. The disobedience may be in thought, affection, or will, apart
from any outward act. Human laws can rarely take note of the inner man;
but it is the perfection of Divine laws to regard the heart of the agent.
(“O Lord, thou hast searched me, and known me. Thou knowest my
downsittings and mine uprising, thou understandest my thought afar
off. Thou compassest my path and my lying down, and art
acquainted with all my ways. For thre is not a word in my tongue,
but, lo, O Lord, thou knowest it altogether.” Psalm 139:1-4)
· THE HAPPY RESULT OF OBEDIENCE. Obedience to “the highest
we know” is justified by its consequences, “righteousness” and “life.” Men
are often afraid lest, by keeping the commandments, they may be debarred
from gain and enjoyment; yet is it obedience which augments true power
and satisfaction. The laws of God were framed and written upon the heart
of man to secure his well-being; to break them is to mar the working of the
beautiful machine. If conscience warn you of danger, only folly will silence
the monitory voice and darken the beacon-light. Note the work of Christ in
removing hard thoughts of the Lawgiver, and exhibiting the beauty of a
blamelessly obedient life. He manifested the goal of obedience to be peace,
joy, triumph. Our obedience is not the life of despotism, where to reason is
illegal; nor of slavery, where is work without a recompense; nor of
penance, where merit is sought by righteous deeds as a title to heaven; but
Christian obedience is rendered as the joyous intelligent outcome of
SALVATION THOUGH CHRIST bringing us righteousness and life. Persevering obedience begets a habit of virtue, and surrounds us with A
HOLY ENVIRONMENTwherein it is easier to do right than wrong.
Conscience as the approving faculty ministers constant delight. This, at
least, is the ideal, to which we may increasingly conform. Compare the lines, spoken by Adam to Michael, in the ‘Paradise Lost’ —
“Henceforth I learn that to obey is best,
And love, with fear, the only God, etc.;
and the angel’s reply-
“This having learnt, thou hast attained the sum
Of wisdom: hope no higher,” etc.
17 “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” (whereunto ye were delivered).
The Mold of Christian Doctrine (v. 17)
The Christian, in remembering what he was, deepens his impression of
Divine grace, to which he owes it that the change has been effected in
which he now rejoices. Paul took a peculiar satisfaction in reviewing his
own experience, and acknowledging his indebtedness to that Divine grace
which had fashioned his character anew. And if the Christian will consider
the state in which he would have been apart from the supernatural doctrine
and influences of Christianity, he will see reason for gratitude in the
provision made for the transformation and renewal of his character. In this
verse the change is attributed, instrumentally, to the power of Christian
doctrine (compare ch. 1:16), which is, as it were, a pattern by which he is
reconstructed, or a mold into which the metal of his nature has been cast,
in order to its taking a new and divinely ordered shape and form.
ORDER TO GIVE A NEW SHAPE AND FORM TO THE HUMAN
CHARACTER. When iron is “cast,” it is run, in a liquid state, into a
shape or mold of earth or sand of the desired form; and thus the artificer
produces a bolt or a cannon (in this day a skate board wheel or a
computer chip – CY – 2011) Thus, in the intellectual and spiritual
realm, ideas govern men; and the character and life are largely
owing to the thoughts which are familiar and congenial And Christian
doctrine is not an end, but a means; the righteousness and love of God,
revealed in Christ, having power to reconstruct the character and to
renew the life. The doctrine is alive with the power of the Holy Spirit
MOLD, THAT HE MAY TAKE ITS NEW SHAPE AND FORM.
The old elements of human nature, old errors and old sins, are dissolved
and melted down when brought into contact with the gospel of
Jesus Christ. Old things pass away, in order that all things may become
new (II Corinthians 5:17). We may fancy that the doctrine is delivered
unto us, to do what we like with it; but the reverse is the case. We are
delivered unto it, in order that it may do its work upon us. So it is with
the Christian education of the young, and with the evangelization of the
heathen. The mold of Christian doctrine imparts to him who is brought
into living contact with it a new motive to holiness, in the redeeming
and sacrificial love of the Saviour; a new rule of holiness, in his law
and life; and new help towards holiness, in the provision of the
Spirit’s help and grace. A moral transfiguration is effected, as the
natural result of intelligent acceptance and voluntary allegiance. For
if faith is the soul of obedience, obedience is the body of faith. There
is no change so wonderful and so admirable as that which is wrought
in human character by the molding power of Christian doctrine.
The Gospel a Mold of Obedience (v. 17)
Some memories are best forgotten, like a horrid dream. Not so the
Christian’s recollection of his conversion. As the Corinthians were
reminded of their previous wretched career — “ such were some of you”
(I Corinthians 6:11) so here the Romans. In reading the Authorized Version
stress must be laid on the past tense, “were;” then it suggests the clearer
translation of the Revised edition.
· THE FORMER SLAVERY. Absolute freedom is impossible to man,
who is surrounded by higher powers, and has a Divine law impressed on
his nature. The headstrong youth is really in bondage to sin; and the recluse
in his solitude, whilst free from some of the restrictions of civilization, yet
deprives himself of some advantages, and thereby imposes on himself
certain limits. The description of sin as bond-service is just when we think
of the manner in which men are worn out by vice. The silken cords of
pleasure become adamantine bonds. The man who delays to reform his life
becomes a prisoner, unable to turn the key in the rusty lock. Dislike of the
epithet, “servants of sin,” must not blind us to its accuracy, in spite of the
euphemistic terms which would hide the flagrancy of our transgressions.
Without supposing that statistics of the members of Churches accurately
embrace all servants of righteousness, the condition of slavery is all too
common, even in Christian
· THE NEW SERVICE. The text speaks of a changed state of obedience
to God and adoption of righteousness — a state sanctioned by conscience,
ratified by the judgment, pleasing to the Almighty, and every way beneficial
to ourselves and others. Its cause is the new teaching concerning Jesus
Christ. The tense is definite; these Christians had received the doctrine and
embraced it gladly. Perhaps the good news is today too much encumbered
with technical phraseology, or, having been frequently listened to from
infancy, fails to excite in us the glad wonder which it evoked when fresh to
the ear. To the Romans it brought tidings of the abrogation of the Sinaitic
Law as a covenant of life; it told of THE ONE PERFECT OFFERING
whereby those that believe are sanctified; it spoke of the all-providing love of the Father for His erring children. The gospel comes as a law to be obeyed, but
supplies adequate motives and spiritual power for its fulfillment. The code
is discipleship to Christ, hearkening to His preaching and copying His life.
This doctrine is represented in the text as “a mold” into which the life of
the obedient is cast, imparting to them a righteous form — a likeness to
their teacher — Christ. And in hearty obedience true freedom is realized.
The father, toiling home laden with gifts for his children, does not look
upon his load as a wearisome burden. The mother, with her fresh
responsibilities and cares, delights in the maternal yoke. Love alters the
bias, oils the wheels of duty. Christ has won the hearts of His people, and to
serve Him is an honor and a joy. He strikes off the shackles of sin, and we
welcome the golden chains of righteous obedience. We do not deny that
sin has its pleasures; but, in comparison with the sense of purity and
elevation which the service of Christ furnishes, there is the difference
between the hot, stifling atmosphere of the music-hall and the sweet
bracing air of the mountain-top.
· THE THANKSGIVING FOR THE DELIVERANCE. None could
think that the rendering of the Authorized Version implied Paul’s delight at
the former unrighteousness; but the Revised rendering is less ambiguous to
the hurried reader. The phrase, “thank God,” used to be a stock insertion in
ordinary letters. Here it is no unmeaning ascription, filling up the interstices
of speech, but a devout acknowledgment of sincere gratitude to Him who
instituted the gracious plan of salvation, giving up his beloved Son, and by
his Spirit opens the hearts of an audience to attend to the message of
everlasting life. It is the outpouring of the heart for the safety and
honorable obedience of fellow-Christians. A pastor may offer it for his
flock, a teacher for her scholars. Give glory to God! thank Him with lip and
Ø by seeking to understand and obey the statutes and principles of the
Word of truth, and
Ø by leading others to know the joys of redemptive obedience.
18 Being then made free from sin, ye became the servants of
righteousness.” There is no contradiction between what is here said and the
fear previously implied lest the persons addressed might still serve sin. He refers
them back to the time of their baptism, when he conceives them both to have
understood their obligation (v. 3), and also to have been heartily sincere. The
fear was lest they might have relaxed since, perhaps through infection with
antinomian teaching (those who set themselves against and above the Law).
By the (τύπον διδαχῆς – tupon didachaes – form of doctrine or “of
instruction”) is not at all likely to be meant (as some have supposed) any
distinctive type of Christian teaching, such as the Pauline. Usually elsewhere,
where Paul uses the word tu>pov – tupos – type - it is of persons being
examples or patterns to others (I Corinthians 10:6; Philippians 3:17;
I Thessalonians 1:7; II Thessalonians 3:9; I Timothy 4:12; Titus 2:7).
Somewhat similarly in ch. 5:14, Adam is τύπος τοῦ μέλλοντος – tupos tou
mellontos – type or figure of Him that was to come - and in I Corinthians 10:6
the things which happened to the Israelites in the wilderness were τύποι – tupoi –
examples - to us. These are all the instances of the use of the word in
Paul’s Epistles. Here, therefore, it may be best to understand it
(so as to retain the idea of pattern) as the general Christian code into which
converts had been indoctrinated.
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.” I speak after the manner of men because of the infirmity of
your flesh:” - Here ἀνθρώπινον λέγω – anthropinon lego - I speak
humanly - may be taken as referring to the expression immediately
preceding, viz. ἐδουλώθητε τῇ δικαιοσύνῃ - edoulothaete tae
dikaiosunae – servants of righteousness - Paul may mean, “In saying
you were made slaves to righteousness, I am using human language
not properly applicable to your spiritual relations. For you are not really
in bondage now; you have been emancipated from your former bondage
to sin, and are now called upon to render a free willing allowance to
righteousness; being, in fact, sons, not slaves.” This view of the true
position of the Christian being one of freedom recurs so often and
so forcibly with Paul that it is peculiarly likely to be the thought before
him here; the very word ἐδουλώθητε (servants) would be likely to
suggest it (ch. 8:15, seq.; II Corinthians 3:17; Galatians 4:4-7; 5:1,13).
If (he would say) you fully realized your position as sons of God, you
would feel it impossible even to think of sinning willingly; but, in
accommodation to your human weakness, I put the case as if you had
only been transferred from one bondage to another, so as to show that,
even so, you are under an obligation not to sin. According to this view
of the meaning of the passage, “the infirmity of your flesh” has
reference to dullness of spiritual perception, σάρξ – sarx – flesh –
being opposed in a general sense to πνεῦμα – pneuma – spirit. Had they
been πνευματικοὶ - pneumatikoi – spiritual – they would have discerned
τὰ τοῦ πνεύματος τοῦ Θεοῦ - ta tou pneumatos tou Theou – the things
of the Spirit of God - without need of any such human view of the matter
being put before them (I Corinthians 2:14). Some, however, taking
ἀσθένειαν τῆς σαρκὸς – astheneian taes sarkos – infirmity or
weakness of the flesh - to denote moral weakness, which renders the
attainment of holiness difficult for man (Mark 14:38), understand
ἀνθρώπινον λέγω (I speak humanly) as meaning, “I require of
you no more than is possible for your frail humanity; for I call on you
only to render to righteousness the same allegiance you once rendered to
sin.” This interpretation gives a totally different meaning to the clause -
“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. (sanctification rather than holiness, the
word is ἁγιασμός – hagiasmos – sanctification - always so translated
elsewhere). This is a setting forth of what must follow in practice from
the view that has been taken of the change in the Christian’s position
resembling the transference of bondservants from one master to another.
They must devote their members (see above on v. 13) to the service of the
new master in the same way as they had done to that of the old one; the
aims or results of the two services being also intimated. The old service
was in giving themselves up to uncleanness (with reference to sins of
sensuality), and generally to ἀνομίᾳ - anomia - i.e. lawlessness, or disregard
of duty; and its result is expressed by a repetition of the latter word. For sin
leads to nothing positive; lawless conduct only results in a habit or state of
lawlessness; whereas the service of righteousness in itself leads to
sanctification to the abiding result of participation in the holiness of God.
Peter terms it “partakers of the divine nature” – II Peter 1:4)
20 “For when ye were the servants of sin, ye were free from righteousness.”
(more literally, to righteousness; i.e. ye were not in any bondage to
righteousness). 21 What fruit had ye then (i.e. when you were formerly
slaves of sin) in those things whereof ye are now ashamed?, for the end
of those things is death.”
THAN YOU WANT TO GO AND COST YOU MORE THAN
YOU WANT TO PAY! (Kay Arthur) JUST ASK ANYONE CAUGHT
UP IN THE DRUG CULTURE! In fact, when we become slaves of sin,
we cease being our own masters. We lose the dignity of our nature;
we lose self-command; we lose will-power and decision of character.
Our bodies become the instruments of unrighteousness, and the
lusts of the flesh are obeyed. The prodigal in the parable of Jesus
presents vividly the condition of one under the tyranny of sin Luke
15:11-25). Thankfully, he came to himself in the pig pen (Ibid. vs.
16-17) Then we notice:
to bestow, these are found to be only for a season (Hebrews 11:25).
After these come shame, remorse, and the horrible tempest which
infuriated sin entails. Then comes death, the real wages, or rations
(ὀψώνια - opsonia – wages - from ὀψών – opson - cooked meat and
ὠνέομαι – oneomai – to buy). This means, of course, alienation from
God, and, when it sets finally into the experience, proves a HOPELESS
AND HELPLESS CONDITION!
of sin only tends to torment. The soul that sells itself to such a tyrant
is a fool. He is beside himself, like the prodigal, when he does so. He
comes to himself when he renounces the tyranny and transfers his
22 “But now being made free from sin, and become servants to God,
ye have your fruit unto holiness (sanctification as above) 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.” The
logical connection with the previous context of the above series of verses,
beginning with v. 20, as well as the sequence of thought running through
them (intimated by the particles:
is not at once obvious. It seems to be as follows: the γὰρ in v. 20 introduces
a reason for the exhortation of v. 19, παραστήσατε – parastaesate – yield –
etc. But v. 20 is not in itself the reason, being only an introduction to the
statement of it in the verses that follow. The drift of the whole passage seems
to be this: Yield ye your members to the sole service of righteousness; for
(v. 20) ye were once in the sole service of sin, owning no allegiance to
righteousness at all; and (v. 21) what fruit had ye from that service?
None at all; for ye know that the only end of the things ye did then, and
of which ye are now ashamed, is death. But (v. 22) your new service has
its fruit: it leads to your sanctification now, and in the end eternal life.
Authorities, however, both ancient and modern, are divided as to the
punctuation, and consequent construction, of ver. 21. In the Vulgate and
the Authorized Version (as in the interpretation given above) the stop of
interrogation is placed after “ashamed;” the answer, none, being understood,
and “for the end,” etc., being the reason why there is no fruit. The other way
is to take the question as ending at “had ye then,” and “those things whereof,”
etc., as the answer to it, and for the end, etc., as the reason why they are
ashamed. Thus: “What fruit had ye then (when you were free from
righteousness)? The works (or pleasures) of which you are now ashamed
were the only fruit; you are ashamed of them now; for their end is death.”
The latter interpretation is defended on the ground that it is more consistent
“with the New Testament meaning of καρπός – karpos – fruit - which is
‘actions,’ the ‘ fruit of the man’ considered as the tree, not ‘wages’ or
‘reward,’ the ‘fruit of his actions.’” This is true. But, on the other hand, it
may be argued that such use of the word καρπός by Paul is always in a
good sense; he usually regards sin as having no fruits at all; to the fruit of
the Spirit is opposed, not any fruit of a different character, but the works
(ἔργα – erga - works ) of the flesh (Galatians 5:19, 22); and in Ephesians
5:11 (again in opposition to the fruit of the Spirit) he speaks of the unfruitful
works (ἔργοις τοῖς ἀκάρποις) of darkness. Thus the idea of v. 21,
understood as in the Authorized Version, seems closely to correspond with
that of the passage last cited. “The things of which ye are now ashamed,”
in ver. 21, are “the works of darkness” of Ephesians 5:11; and in both
places they are declared to have no fruit. SIN IS A BARREN TREE and
ONLY ENDS IN DEATH! What was said above with respect to εἰς τὴν
ἀνομίαν (into the iniquity or lawlessness) and εἰς ἁγιασμόν (into
sanctification or holiness) in v. 19. It is true, however, that the expression
in the next chapter, καρποφορῆσαι τῷ θανάτῳ - karpophoraesai to
thanto – bring forth fruit unto death - (ch.7:5), in opposition to
καρποφορήσωμεν τῷ Θεῷ - karpophopaesomen to Theo – we should
bring forth fruit unto God – (Ibid. v. 4) - in some degree weakens the
force of the above argument. We observe, lastly, on v. 23, that to the
“wages’’ of sin (ὀψώνια - opsonia – wages - used usually to denote a
soldier’s pay) is opposed “free gift” (χάρισμα – charisma – gift [gracious]
for sin earns death as its due reward; but eternal life is not earned by us,
but granted us by the grace of God. As to the phrase, δουλωθέντες τῷ Θεῷ
(servants to God) in v. 22, it can be used without the need of any such
apology as seems to be implied in v. 19 (according to the meaning of the
verse that has been preferred) for speaking of our becoming slaves to
righteousness. For we do belong to God as His dou~loi, (servants) and to
Christ, having been “bought with a price” (I Corinthians 7:23); and Paul
at the beginning of his Epistles often calls himself δοῦλος Ξριστοῦ -
doulos Christou - a servant of Christ) (also Luke 17:10). But it does not
follow that our service should be the service of slaves; it may be a free,
willing, enthusiastic obedience notwithstanding; we obey, not because we
are under bondage to obey, but because love inspires us! “For the love
of Christ contrains us) (I Corinthians 5:14) “Because ye are sons, God
sent the Spirit of His Son into your hearts, crying, Abba, Father.
Wherefore thou art no longer a servant, but a son.” (Galatians 4
The Reign of Grace (vs. 12-23)
We saw in last section how the leading facts of our Lord’s life get copied
into the experience of the regenerate; so that we have a death and burial,
and crucifixion, and resurrection, and new life along with Christ.
Sanctification in this way naturally issues out of justification. The apostle
consequently proceeds to show that the dominion of sin is broken by the
same means as the removal of our condemnation, viz. by outlook to Jesus.
We find ourselves to be no longer under law as a condemning power, but
under a reign of grace. But if we are under a reign of grace, and not under
a condemning law, might we not be tempted to think lightly of sin; nay,
more, to sin that grace may abound? To meet this objection, the apostle
discusses the reign of sin, and contrasts it with the reign of grace. Sin may
be our master, but as the slave of sin we shall get rewarded in shame and
death; or righteousness, that is, the God of grace Himself may be our
Master, and, as the slave of righteousness or slave of God, we shall have
our reward — a reward of grace, in the development of holiness, and in
the gift of eternal life. We cannot do better, then, than contrast the reign of sin
with the reign of grace.
· THE REIGN OF SIN. (vs. 12-13, 21.) And in this connection let us
Ø Sin is a very exacting tyrant. In fact, when we become slaves of sin, we
cease being our own masters. We lose the dignity of our nature; we lose
self-command; we lose will-power and decision of character. Our bodies
become the instruments of unrighteousness, and the lusts of the flesh are
obeyed. The prodigal in the parable presents vividly the condition of one
under the tyranny of sin (Luke 15:11-25). Then we notice:
Ø Sin is a very poor paymaster. For even allowing that it has pleasures to
bestow, these are found to be only for a season (Hebrews 11:25). After
these come shame, remorse, and the horrible tempest which infuriated sin entails. Then comes death, the real wages, or rations (ὀψώνια - opsonia – wages - from ὀψών – opson - cooked meat and
ὠνέομαι – oneomai – to buy) This means, of course, alienation from
God, and, when it sets finally into the experience, proves a hopeless and
helpless condition. infuriated sin entails.
Ø The sooner all slaves of sin change their master the better. The reign of
sin only tends to torment. The soul that sells itself to such a tyrant is a fool. He is beside himself, like the prodigal, when he does so. He comes to
himself when he renounces the tyranny and transfers his allegiance.
· THE REIGN OF GRACE. (vs. 16-23.) Now, in this passage the
apostle uses no less than three terms to express the new and better reign.
And then, dropping personification altogether, he shows how we become
subjects and slaves of God. From the slavery of sin it is possible to pass into the service and slavery of God. We may get free from sin, and then shall we be at liberty to serve God and be his slaves. We shall not make a mistake if we take
up Paul’s teaching under the idea of a reign of grace, And here we have to
Ø We enter of our own free-will into the slavery of the God of grace. We
are not forced into it; we are “made willing in the day of God’s power”
(Psalm 110:3). The slavery to God is voluntary. It is a yielding of
ourselves. In both slaveries we must remember that the will is not forced,
o We are free in our slavery to sin;
o we are free when we turn from it to the slavery of a God
NO ONE FORCES OUR HAND!
Ø We enter our state of grace through obeying from the heart “that
form of teaching whereunto we were delivered” (Revised Version).
This refers clearly to the all-important doctrine of justification by faith, through the reception of which we get delivered from condemnation,
and started on our course of sanctification. It is most important, therefore, that that doctrine should be faithfully and clearly stated to the soul which is enslaved through sin. It is the very charter of its spiritual freedom.
Ø We find that in serving a God of grace we secure holiness of character.
For this voluntary and gracious slavery implies the dedication of all our
powers to God. We lay ourselves as “living sacrifices” (ch. 12:1) on God’s altar. We find ourselves in consequence visited by an increasing sense of consecration. We learn to live not unto ourselves, but unto Him who died for us and rose again (II Corinthians 5:14). This sense of consecration becomes HABITUAL! We feel that we are not our own,
but bought with a price, and therefore bound to glorify God with our bodies as well as spirits, which are God’s. (I Corinthians 6:20).
Ø We find this service of grace happy as well as holy. In other words, we
find in God an excellent Paymaster. His service is delightful. Feeling
that we are unworthy of the least of all His mercies, feeling that we are at
best but unprofitable servants, we accept joyfully whatever He sends; we feel that He daily loadeth us with His benefits (Psalm 68i:19), and then, regarding the great future, He gives us therein “eternal life.” Doubtless we do not, strictly speaking, deserve such rewards; they are rewards of grace, not of debt; they are free “gifts” from a gracious Master. Yet they are none the less welcome. Let us, then, renounce the reign of sin, and accept THE REIGN OF GRACE! Its fruit, increasing with the consistent years, is unto holiness, and its end is EVERLASTING LIFE!
We are real freemen only when we have become the slaves of A
The Two Services and Their Rewards (vs. 15-23)
In the closing part of the fifth chapter, and throughout this chapter, the
apostle is contrasting the operation of two great principles.
Ø The one is the principle of sin;
Ø the other is the principle of righteousness.
He compares them to two kings reigning in the world, controlling men’s lives, and
influencing men in certain directions and to certain actions. Sin reigns unto
death. That has been its operation all through human history. But a new
power has entered to dispute its influence. That power is the free grace of
God, exhibited in Christ, God’s Son. That power operates in righteousness.
It provides a righteousness for men by the blood of Christ. It produces a
righteousness in men. “Where sin abounded, grace did much more abound:
that as sin hath reigned unto death, even so might grace reign through
righteousness unto eternal life by Jesus Christ our Lord.” And now in these
immediate verses Paul is making an appeal to his readers. He has set
before them the two great principles. He has contrasted them in their
operation and their results. Now he makes the matter personal. He
enforces his appeal by the question of the sixteenth verse, “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?” And then he says, “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” (v. 19).
· EVERY LIFE IS A SERVICE OF SOME SORT.
Ø Some are servants of the love of money. Of money and how to make it
they are always thinking; for the sake of it they will go through many risks
and toils and hardships. Their first question about everything is, “Will it
pay?” and all their money-grasping does not pay them in the end. They may
have much goods laid up for many years; they may have good securities for
their investments; but they have made no provision for their immortal
souls; they have laid up no treasure that will be of use to them beyond the
grave. That is a poor service for a being who must soon go into the
presence of THE ETERNAL GOD!
Ø Some are servants of the love of dress. Even in our Lord’s time, He
found it necessary to warn His hearers against thinking too much about
their dress. Even Christian people, who profess to be the servants of
Christ, are too frequently the servants of fashion. There is sometimes more
attention given to the dress of our neighbors or of ourselves in the house
of God than there is to the voice of our Creator and our Saviour, or than
there is to the question whether we have the ornament of a meek and quiet
spirit, or the spotless robe of Christ’s righteousness. It is said that St.
Clairvaux, who rebuked princes, and fired all
new crusade, all the while living himself in utter poverty, used to ask
himself every day the stern question, “Bernarde, ad quid venisti?” —
“Bernard, wherefore art thou here?” So it would be well if we would ask
ourselves more frequently what is the purpose of our lives.
Ø Others, again, are the servants of ambition. To be higher than their
fellow-men, to be fawned upon and flattered, to receive the homage of the
poor and the favour of the rich, to be talked about in the gossip of society,
— that is the object for which many persons live. Yet, when attained, it
brings no lasting peace or contentment to the mind. The praise of men,
moreover, is a very fickle and uncertain thing. The hero of today will be
forgotten tomorrow. Earthly fame has ever been:
“Like a snow-flake on the river,
A moment seen, then lost for ever.”
Such are some of the services to which men devote their thoughts, their
time, their energies. How vain and profitless are they all! When the hour of
death draws nigh, let any one who has spent his life in the service of any of
these masters ask them to help him in the death-struggle, to give him hope
for the future: will they be able to give him any assistance? They cannot
even keep his poor mortal body from the dust; much less can they give life
to the soul. They have already helped to produce death in the soul. They
have dragged him downwards to the earth. And so it is that, when the soul
must go from this world into the unseen, it is earthly still. There is no
fitness for heaven in it at all. The pleasures and possessions of the world,
innocent in themselves, become positively harmful to many. They become
sinful to them, because they keep the soul away from God.
· THE SERVICE OF SIN AND ITS RESULTS. Even what we call the
more innocent service of the world results in death at last. The death of the
body is accompanied by the death of the soul. Much more is this true of all
kinds of positive sin. The apostle seeks to point out here the result of being
the servant of sin. “His servants ye are to whom ye obey, wether of sin
unto death, or of obedience unto righteousness” (v. 16); “The end of
those things is death” (v. 21); The wages of sin is death (v. 23). Even
in this life there is a clear connection between sin and death. The service of
sin is a FATAL SERVICE. Take, for instance, those who are the servants of the
craving for intoxicating drink. A special committee of the British Medical
Association brought in a report at the meeting of 1887 on the relation of
alcohol to disease, which stated that, after careful and prolonged
examination of the subject from a scientific point of view, they came to the
conclusion that every man who indulged in alcohol beyond the most
moderate amounts shortened his life by at least ten years. The President of
young men who graduated with him, almost all had gone to early graves
through intemperate habits. Even in this world the sin of intemperance
leads to death. But it brings a more lasting and more terrible death than
this. The besotted mind, the darkened intellect, is but a beginning of
BLACKNESS OF DARKNESS in the future. “No drunkard shall enter into the
kingdom of heaven.” (I Corinthians 6:10) When drink becomes the master, how terrible are the results for time and for eternity! In like manner it is true of all other sinful services, that they lead to death. “He that soweth to the flesh, shall
of the flesh reap corruption ” (Galatians 6:8); “The wages of sin is death.”
· THE SERVICE OF CHRIST. “Being then made free from sin, ye
became the servants of righteousness” (v. 18); “But now, being made
free from sin, and become servants to God, ye have your fruit unto
holiness, and the end everlasting life” (v. 22).
Ø This is the only service that leads to EVERLASTING LIFE!
Ø It is the only service which is not SLAVERY!
Ø It is the only service which men never regret entering into.
Ø It is the only service which can be called an unmixed good, the only service that brings perfect peace to heart and mind and conscience.
Ø It is an easy service, for it is a service of love.
Instead of growing weaker by our efforts in the service of Christ, as we do by
our efforts to serve sin, we grow stronger; for the true Christian is a better
man, a stronger man spiritually, every day he lives.
Ø It is the only service that has A HOPE BEYOND THE GRAVE!
It was because Christ saw us perishing in the service of sin, guilty, lost, and helpless, that He came to save us. He calls us now to believe on Him, to
follow Him, and He promises to all who do so the gift of everlasting life.
“The gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.”
“How long to Streams of false delight
Will ye in crowds repair?
How long your strength and substance waste
On trifles light as air?”
Over the triple doorways of the Cathedral of Milan there are three
inscriptions spanning the beautiful arches. Over one is carved a beautiful
wreath of roses, and underneath is the legend, “All that which pleases is
but for a moment.” Over the other is sculptured a cross, and there are the
words, “All that which troubles us is but for a moment.” But underneath
the great central entrance to the main aisle is the inscription, “That only is
important which is eternal.” If we would only realize these three truths, we
should not let the world or its pleasures keep us FROM CHRIST!
We should not let trifles trouble us, we should not hesitate long about
making our choice. “Choose ye this day whom ye will serve.”
Servants to Obey (vs. 15-23)
A slight but suggestive difference between the question of v. 15 and that
with which the chapter opens. “Shall we continue in sin,” the apostle had
asked, “that grace may abound?” And he had flung away such a thought by
the presentation of the believer’s new life as a life pledged to God through
Christ. In vs. 12-14 also he had insisted on the consistent fulfillment of
the pledge. But now he supposes another and more subtle question —
Shall we, not “continue” in sin, but sin, once and again, as we may please,
presuming on the easily procured pardon of a gracious God? Alas! how
this question insinuates itself into the Christian consciousness: how readily
we condone our carelessness by thoughts of the restoring mercy of God!
But we are grievously wrong if we think to ourselves that sin and
obedience may be played with. We have the dread power to choose our
master; but he is a master, and our choice in either case commits us to a
course, and. to a consequence. The train may be turned on to this line or
that, but the line must be followed, and the destinations are wide as the
poles apart. Let us look at these three thoughts:
Ø A choice,
Ø a course,
Ø a consequence.
· A CHOICE. The false doctrine of law in the necessarian scheme of
morals — so many weights upon the scale. But man’s will is not a dead
scale, determined by weights; it is a living thing, and unless its peculiar life
be taken into account all calculations must be wrong. True, if we know the
causes, we can predict the result, And certain teachers have said — These
are the causes: man’s own susceptible nature, and the divers influences
which play upon it. Therefore, given the temperament and the influences,
we can predict the result. Very plausible. True, if these are the only causes,
the result may thus be known. But the cause of causes is THE WILL ITSELF!
This is the great factor in the problem. And, after all, when the most scientific
calculations have been made, this self-determining power in man may defy
all your calculations to predict a right result. Let us not attempt to prove
this freedom by elaborate arguments; we need but appeal to each one’s
consciousness. “I know that I am free; I have power of choice; when I have
willed, I know that I might have willed otherwise.” This must be each
one’s true confession. Just as surely as we know that we exist, by the same
intuition, which is deeper and truer than all reasoning, do we know that we
can yield ourselves to any one of all the manifold motives that are playing
upon our will. Does not the history of the Fall illustrate this freedom? For
what is the essential truth of that history, but that man had it in his power,
either to obey God or to gratify himself, and that he chose self-gratification
rather than obedience? But the results were not by any means so transient
as the choice itself might seem to be. In the highest sense, freedom was
gone. There still remained freedom of choice among the various objects of
self-gratification, but there was no longer the power to serve God as
before. A great gulf was fixed between man and God. And in this consists
what is called THE TOTAL DEPRAVITY OF MAN totally separated from God, and without the power to return. And certain, moreover, to drift from bad to
worse. But under the redeeming influences with which God visits the heart
of man, and more especially in view of the great redeeming fact with which
God has visited the world, this total depravity becomes in some sense
neutralized, man’s enfeebled will receives new power, and it is once more
possible for him to place his choice on God. The freedom of true duty is
once more within his reach; from the depths he may yet climb back to God.
So, then, taking men as they now are, and especially taking them as we find
them in contact with the redeeming truths of the gospel of Christ, we see
that each has his alternative choice between godliness and ungodliness,
truth and falseness: the right and good, and the wrong and bad, or, in the
words of Paul, between obedience and sin. “Ye yield yourselves:” the
supreme fact of every one’s life is wrapped up in those words. From
childhood upwards good and bad influences contend for the mastery. God
and sin ask for our service, and we cannot but “yield ourselves” to the one
or the other. We make our choice, whether consciously and with full
deliberatenes of purpose, or well-nigh unconsciously and with careless
neglect. We choose sin, and thereby’ set the seal on our own death; or we
choose God, and thereby rise to newness of life. But in either case our own
choice determines our course, and the course to which we commit
ourselves works out its inevitable consequence.
· A COURSE. Let us now consider the course to which our choice in
either case commits us.
Ø In the one case we become servants, or slaves, of sin. Our Lord’s words
(John 8:32-36). Man may refuse to bow to sin; but when he does bow,
sin holds him fast. Nay, he may yet rise from his thraldom and be free; but
every yielding is the taking on of a new chain, and every continuance in sin is the riveting of the chain. The slave of sin? Oh, it is no fiction! The man who yields to sin is led captive by a master stronger than himself.
(The chains of habit are too light to be felt until they are too strong to
be broken. CY – 2020) So with the inebriate, the man of passion, the miser. Yes; dragged in chains. And yet it is a “free” man, forsooth,
who has thus sold himself to serve sin!
Ø In the other case we become servants, or slaves, of obedience. The same
law works, whatever the material of its working. Hence the degrading
slavery of the servant of sin is but the dark side of the result of that same
law which, in its brighter results, is the safeguard and glory of our
righteousness. But is not the result slavery still? Ah! let us ask, what is
slavery? Mere service — intent, earnest, unremitting service — is not.
Service is slavery when it is forced. Contrast the service of a Crusader, and that of a captive among the Moors. It is slavery also when, even if not
forced, it is degrading and low. Contrast slave-trader, and pure, virtuous
man enthralled. So Epictetus. The service of sin, then, is slavery
because it is degrading and base; whereas, to yield obedience to God,
and thenceforth to serve Him with unremitting ardor and with the enthusiasm of lofty joy, that is not slavery, that is freedom of the highest kind (so John 8:36). Yes; this the secret of liberty: the “spirit of a son” (Galatians 4:6-7).
· A CONSEQUENCE. But now let us consider the consequence to
which such a course of conduct in either case must lead.
Ø “Sin unto death.” Yes, towards this inevitable result the service of sin
must tend. A permanance of corrupt character. Recovery of freedom possible now; not always. Death — the death of man’s best nature, — this the doom which the service of sin ensures. The victims of Circe: so the slaves of sin. But no wizardry can undo that death!
Ø “Obedience unto righteousness.” A permanance again. This is the process of all true moral life. So was it to have been with the first man; so was it with the second (“yet learned He obedience “ Hebrews 5:8). So, doubtless, with the angels. And so with us: we are fighting towards the crown which Paul desired (Philippians 3:12; II Timothy 4:7-8), the
crown of a consummate righteousness, or, in other words Revelation 2:10), “the crown of life.”
Such the two consequences of the two courses, to one or other of which each man,
by his free choice, COMMITS HIMSELF! But whereas death is the wages of sin,
the eternal life is God’s free gift. And to all of us, in words of hope, the voice from heaven says, “Fight the good fight of faith; lay hold on eternal life!” (II Timothy
Covet the Best Gift! (V. 23)
Contrast heightens effect, as artists by a dark background throw the
foreground into brighter relief. So the apostle places two careers in close
proximity. He will not allow that it makes little difference which path men
tread, in which condition they are found, or what qualifications they seek.
· A MOMENTOUS BLESSING. “Eternal life.” All life is wonderful! Easy
is it to destroy the ephemeral life of a moth, but to restore it is beyond
human skill. The disciples were assured of eternal life, yet they died;
consequently the life they received was not to be measured in ordinary
scales, nor to be probed by a material dissecting knife. Eternal life is a
different kind of life from mere transitory existence; it passes unharmed
through the crucible of animal death, for spiritual powers are untouched by
earthly decay and corruption. Eternal life means the quickening of the
moral nature, its resuscitation from the sleep of trespasses and sins. And as
ordinary life in its fullness involves freedom from pain and sickness, and a
vigorous activity, so spiritual life, when fully realized, implies peace of
mind and the power to do right. They are feeble Christians who do not
know the joyous energy of children “with quicksilver in their veins,”
delighting to exercise their limbs and thus to develop their growing
· THIS BLESSING RECEIVED AS A GIFT. By a sinful course of
action we merit death, as a soldier by his service earns his rations and his
pay. We disobey the Law, and bring the sentence upon ourselves. But we
have no power available to procure for ourselves acquittal and favor.
Much as the youth joys to see his first-earned dollar in his palm,
he could take no delight in the stripes which his disobedience brings
upon him. Human weakness has been provided for in God’s plan of
salvation. He who breathed natural life into man comes again graciously to
inspire His creatures with spiritual life. God knows the needs of His
creatures, and the gift is pre-eminently suitable. The Romans loved the
games of the amphitheatre; but when famine threatened the city, the curses
were loud and deep against Nero because the Alexandrian ships expected
with corn arrived instead with sand for the arena. And men like a beautiful
present; let us not, therefore, hang back from accepting the royal bounty so
adapted to our wants. Treat the gilt with care, prize and use the treasure.
· THE BEARER OF THE GIFT. It comes “through Jesus Christ our
Lord.” He is the Channel through which new life streams into us, the
envelope containing the promise of life. Life in the abstract we cannot
comprehend; it is ever connected with some person or organism. “In Him
was life; .... Your life is hid with Christ in God.” (John 1:4; Colossians 3:3)
Life has been scientifically declared to consist in the harmonizing of our
external and internal conditions. The chief condition on our part is sinfulness,
on God’s part righteousness; and it is Christ who reconciles us unto God,
putting away sin by the cross, and investing us with the righteousness of
the Holy One. In His words, example, and offices we find all help and blessedness. As the navigator passing through the Straits of Magellan into the Pacific connected its tranquility with the southern cross gleaming in the sky above, so can we rejoice in the peace which Christ brings. It is not a creed
we are invited to accept, but a living Person, with whom we may hold converse,
and be instructed in perplexity and cheered when despondent. We have this
earthly life as the period and opportunity of “laying hold on eternal life
whereunto you are also called!” (I Timothy 6:12)
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