As The Gospel Reveals The Only Effectual Method Of Justification, So Also It Alone Can Secure The Sanctification Of Men. To Exhibit This Truth Is The Object Of This And The Following Chapter. The Sixth Is Partly Argumentative And Partly Exhortatorty. In Vers. 1-11, The Apostle Shows How Unfounded Is The Objection, That Gratuitous Justification Leads To The Indulgence Of Sin. In Vers. 12-23, He Exhorts Christians To Live Agreeably To The Nature And Design Of The Gospel; And Presents Various Considerations Adapted To Secure Their Obedience To This Exhortation.
THE most common, the most plausible, and yet the most unfounded objection to the doctrine of justification by faith, is, that it allows men to live in sin that grace may abound. This objection arises from ignorance of the doctrine in question, and of the nature and means of sanctification. It is so preposterous in the eyes of an enlightened believer, that Paul deals with it rather by exclamations at its absurdity, than with logical arguments. The main idea of this section is, that such is the nature of the believer's union with Christ, that his living in sin is not merely an inconsistency, but a contradiction in terms, as much so as to speak of a live dead man, or a good bad one. Union with Christ, being the only source of holiness, cannot be the source of sin. In ver. 1, the apostle presents the objection. In ver. 2, he declares it to be unfounded, and exclaims at its absurdity. In vers. 3, 4, he exhibits the true nature and design of Christianity, as adapted and intended to produce newness of life. In vers. 5-7, he shows that such is the nature of union with Christ, that it is impossible for any one to share the benefits of his death, without being conformed to his life. Such being the case, he shows, verses 8-11, that as Christ's death on account of sin was for once, never to be repeated, and his life, a life devoted to God; So our separation from sin is final, and our life a life consecrated to God.
—Commentary on the Epistle to the Romans
VERSE 1. What shall we say then? What inference is to be drawn from the doctrine of the gratuitous acceptance of sinners, or justification without works, by faith in the righteousness of Christ?
Shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound? i.e., be more conspicuously displayed. The form in which the objection to the apostle's doctrine is here presented, is evidently borrowed from the close of the preceding chapter. Paul had there spoken of the grace of the gospel being the more conspicuous and abundant, in proportion to the evils which it removes. It is no fair inference from the fact that God has brought so much good out of the fall and sinfulness of men, that they may continue in sin. Neither can it be inferred from the fact that he accepts of sinners on the ground of the merit of Christ, instead of their own, (which is one way in which grace abounds,) that they may sin without restraint.
VERSE 2. God forbid, μὴ γένοιτο let it not be. Paul's usual mode of expressing denial and abhorrence. Such an inference is not to be thought of.
How shall we, that are dead to sin, live any longer therein? The relative οἵτινες as usual causative, and it stands first, for the sake of emphasis; ἀπεθάνομεν does not mean are dead, nor have died, but died. It refers to a specific act in our past history: 'Since we died to sin, how can we still live in it?' The act which in its nature was a dying to sin, was our accepting of Christ as our Savior. That act involves in it not only a separation from sin, but a deadness to it. No man can apply to Christ to be delivered from sin, in order that he may live in it. Deliverance from sin, as offered by Christ, and as accepted by the believer, is not mere deliverance from its penalty, but from its power. We turn from sin to God when we receive Christ as a Savior. It is, therefore, as the apostle argues, a contradiction in terms, to say that gratuitous justification is a license to sin, as much as to say that death is life, or that dying to a thing is living in it. Instead of giving τῇ ἁμαρτίᾳ the usual force of the dative, to, or as it respects, sin, Storr, Flatt, and many other commentators, say it should be understood as in Romans 5:15; 11:20, on account of. 'How shall we, who in Christ, died on account of sin, i.e., who suffered vicariously its penalty, inasmuch as we were crucified in him, live any longer therein?'
In favor of this interpretation, it is urged,
1. That this phrase must express the same idea with the subsequent clauses, buried with him, ver. 4; associated in his death, ver. 5; dead with Christ, ver. 8.
2. That it must have this meaning in ver. 10, where it is said of Christ, he died unto sin i.e., on account of sin.
3. The other interpretation, 'How shall we, who have renounced sin, live any longer therein?' it is said, is not suited to the apostle's object; because it does not give any adequate answer to the objection presented in ver. 1. In order to answer that objection, it was necessary to show not merely that the believer had renounced sin, but that the doctrine of gratuitous justification effectually secures this renunciation.
According to the second interpretation, this answer is plain and conclusive: 'How shall we, who have died on account of sin, live any longer therein? If we are regarded and treated by God, in virtue of our union with Christ, and if we regard ourselves, as having suffered and died with him on account of sin, we cannot but look upon it as hateful, and deserving of punishment.'
The objections to this interpretation, however, are serious.
1. It is not consistent with the common and familiar import of the expression, to be dead to anything, which occurs frequently in the New Testament; as Galatians 2:19, "dead to the law;" 1 Peter 2:24, "dead to sins;" Romans 7:4; Colossians 2:20; Galatians 6:14, etc. In all cases the meaning is, to be free from. Sin has lost its power over the believer, as sensible objects are not able to affect the dead.
2. The opposite phrase, to live therein, requires this interpretation.
3. The object of the apostle does not require that a formal, argumentative answer should be supposed to commence in this verse. He simply denies the justice of the inference from his doctrine, stated in ver. 1, and asks how it is possible it should be correct. How can a Christian, which is but another name for a holy man, live any longer in sin?
VERSE 3. Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ, were baptized into his death? In this and the following verse, we have something more in the form of argument in answer to the objection in question. The apostle reminds his readers, that the very design of Christianity was to deliver men from sin; that every one who embraced it, embraced it for that object; and, therefore, it was a contradiction in terms to suppose that any should come to Christ to be delivered from sin, in order that they might live in it. And, besides this, it is clearly intimated that such is not only the design of the gospel, and the object for which it is embraced by all who cordially receive it, but also that the result or necessary effect of union with Christ is a participation in the benefits of his death.
Or know ye not, ἢ ἀγνοεῖτε, or are you ignorant? If any doubt what is said in ver. 2, he must be ignorant of the nature and design of baptism, and of the relation to Christ which it involves. Βαπτίζειν εἰς always means to baptize in reference to. When it is said that the Hebrews were baptized unto Moses, 1 Corinthians 10:2; or when the apostle asks the Corinthians, 'Were ye baptized unto the name of Paul?' 1 Corinthians 1:13; or when we are said to be baptized unto Christ, the meaning is, they were baptized in reference to Moses, Paul, or Christ; i.e., to be brought into union with them, as their disciples, or worshippers, as the case may be. In like manner, in the expression baptized into his death, the preposition expresses the design and the result. The meaning therefore is, 'we were baptized in order that we should die with him,' i.e., that we should be united to him in his death, and be partakers of its benefits. Thus, "baptism unto repentance," Matthew 3:11, is baptism in order to repentance; "baptism unto the remission of sins," Mark 1:4, that remission of sins may be obtained; "baptized unto one body," 1 Corinthians 12:13, i.e., that we might become one body, etc. Paul does not design to teach that the sacrament of baptism, from any inherent virtue in the rite, or from any supernatural power in him who administers it, or from any uniformly attending Divine influence, always secures the regeneration of the soul. This is contrary both to Scripture and experience. No fact is more obvious than that thousands of the baptized are unregenerate. It cannot be, therefore, that the apostle intends to say, that all who are baptized are thereby savingly united to Christ. It is not of the efficacy of baptism as an external rite, that he assumes his readers are well informed: it is of the import and design of that sacrament, and the nature of the union with Christ, of which baptism is the sign and the seal. It is the constant usage of Scripture to address professors as believers, to predicate of them as professors what is true of them only as believers. This is also the usage of common life. We address a company of professing Christians as true Christians; we call them brethren in Christ; we speak of them as beloved of the Lord, partakers of the heavenly calling, and heirs of eternal life. Baptism was the appointed mode of professing faith in Christ, of avowing allegiance to him as the Son of God, and acquiescence in his gospel. Those, therefore, who were baptized, are assumed to believe what they professed, and to be what they declared themselves to be. They are consequently addressed as believers, as having embraced the gospel, as having put on Christ, and as being, in virtue of their baptism as an act of faith, the children of God. When a man was baptized unto Christ, he was baptized unto his death; he professed to regard himself as being united to Christ, as dying when he died, as bearing in him the penalty of sin, in order that he might be reconciled to God, and live unto holiness. How could a man who was sincere in receiving baptism, such being its design and import, live in sin? The thing is impossible. The act of faith implied and expressed in baptism, is receiving Christ as our sanctification as well as our righteousness. "Extra controversiam est," says Calvin, "induere nos Christum in baptismo; et hac lege nos baptizari, ut unum cum ipso simus." Baptism, therefore, as an act of faith, as the formal reception of Christ as our Savior, brings us into intimate union with him: "For as many as have been baptized unto Christ, have put on Christ." Galatians 3:27. And this baptism has special reference to the death of Christ; we are baptized unto his death. That is, we are united to him in death. His death becomes ours; ours as an expiation for sin, as the means of reconciliation with God, and consequently as the means of our sanctification. Although justification is the primary object of the death of Christ, yet justification is in order to sanctification. He died that he might purify unto himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works. If such is the intimate connection between justification and sanctification in the purpose of God in giving his Son to die for us, there must be a like intimate connection between them in the experience of the believer. The very act of faith by which we receive Christ as the propitiation for sin, is spiritually a death to sin. It is in its very nature a renunciation of every thing which it was the design of Christ's death to destroy. Every believer, therefore, is a saint. He renounces sin in accepting Christ.
VERSE 4.Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death. This is an inference from ver. 3, to confirm the proposition in ver 2, viz. that those dead in sin cannot live therein. Therefore, says the apostle, such being the nature of our union with Christ, expressed in baptism, it follows, that those who are baptized are buried with Christ; they are as effectually shut out from the kingdom of Satan, as those who are in the grave are shut out from the world. The words διὰ τοῦ βαπτίσμαπος εἰς τὸν θάνατον go together; by baptism unto death, i.e. by a baptism which has reference to Christ's death, and by which we are associated with him therein.
We are buried with him, i.e. we are cut off from the world in and with him. If the words unto death are connected with we were buried, the sense would be, we were buried unto death, i.e. we were buried so as to come into the power of death. But this is an incongruous idea, and an unexampled form of expression. As in ver. 3 the apostle had said εἰς τὸν θάνατον αὐτοῦ ἐβαπτισθημεν, there is no reason to doubt that he here designs to speak of baptism unto death. Compare Colossians 2:12, "buried with him in baptism." The same idea is expressed in ver. 8, by saying, "we are dead with him," and in ver. 5, "we are planted with him in the likeness of his death." It is not necessary to assume that there is any reference here to the immersion of the body in baptism, as though it were a burial. No such allusion can be supposed in the next verse, where we are said to be planted with him. The reference is not to the mode of baptism, but to its effect. Our baptism unites us to Christ, so that we died with him, and rose with him. As he died to sin, so do we; as he rose to righteousness and glory, so do we. The same doctrine concerning baptism, and of the nature of union with Christ, therein expressed, is taught in Galatians 3:27, and Colossians 2:12.
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. We die with Christ, in order that we should live with him. We share in his death, that we may be partakers of his life. Justification is in order to sanctification. The two are inseparable. There can be no participation in Christ's life without a participation in his death, and we cannot enjoy the benefits of his death unless we are partakers of the power of his life. We must be reconciled to God in order to be holy, and we cannot be reconciled without thereby becoming holy. Antinomianism, or the doctrine that the benefits of the atonement can be enjoyed without experiencing the renewing of the Holy Ghost, is therefore contrary to the very nature and design of redemption. As Christ died and rose again literally, so his people die and rise spiritually. As Christ's resurrection was the certain consequence of his death, so is a holy life the certain consequence of our dying with Christ. There is not only an analogy between Christ's literal death and resurrection, and the spiritual death and resurrection of the believer, but there is a causal relation between the two. The death and resurrection of Christ render certain the justification and sanctification of his people. Paul says Christ rose, διὰ τῆς δὸξης τοῦ Πατρός, by the glory of the Father. Δόξα, glory, is the excellence of God, the sum of all his perfections, or any one perfection specially manifested. The exhibition, therefore, of God's holiness, or of his mercy, or of his power, is equally an exhibition of his glory. Here the reference is to his omnipotence, which was gloriously displayed in the resurrection of Christ. In 1 Corinthians 6:14, and 2 Corinthians 13:4, it is said Christ was raised ἐκ δυνάμεως Θεοῦ, by the power of God. In Colossians 1:11, the apostle refers the sanctification of believers to the κράτος τῆς δόξης Θεοῦ, to the power of his glory. It is according to the analogy of Scripture, that the same event is attributed at one time to the efficiency of the Father, and at another to that of the Son. Christ rose from the dead by his own power. He had power to lay down his life, and he had power to take it again. This is perfectly consistent with the apostle's declaration, that he was raised by the power of God. The three persons of the Trinity are one God. The efficiency of the Father is also the efficiency of the Son. What the Father does, the Son also does.
That we should walk in newness of life, ἐν καινότητι ζωῆς. The idea of purity is associated with that of newness in the word of God—a new heart, a new creature, the new man. Newness of life is a life that is new, compared with what is natural and original; and it is a holy life, springing from a new source. It is not we that live, but Christ that liveth in us; and therefore our life is, in its manifestations, analogous to his. His people are like him.
VERSE 5. For if we have been planted together in the likeness of his death, we shall be also in the likeness of his resurrection. This is a confirmation of what precedes. We shall walk in newness of life, if we are partakers of Christ's death, for community of death involves community of life. The general meaning of the verse is plain, although there is doubt as to the force of some of the words, and as to the construction. First, as to the words. Calvin and many others render σύμφυτος insitus, inserted, engrafted, as though it were derived from φυτεύω. It is, however, from φύω, which means both to bear and to grow. Hence σύμφυτος sometimes means born with, in the sense of innate; sometimes it expresses community of origin, or nature, in the sense of cognate, congenial; and sometimes it is used in reference to things born or produced at the same time. From the other meaning of the word φύω come the senses growing with, overgrown with, etc. In all cases there is the idea of intimate union, and that is the idea which the word is here intended to express. As to the construction, so far as the first clause of the verse is concerned, we may connect σύμφυτοι with ὁμοιώματι, we have grown together in death, i.e. been united in a like death; or we may supply the words τῷ Χριστῷ, we have been united with Christ, as to, or by, similarity of death. The former as it requires nothing to be supplied, is to be preferred. In the second clause, the word ὁομιώτατι may be supplied, as in our version: we shall be (united) in the likeness of his resurrection. But as σύμφυτος; may be construed with the genitive as well as the dative, many commentators unite σύμφυτοι τῆς ἀναστάσεως ἐσὸμεθα, we shall partake of the resurrection. The sense is the same; if united in death, we shall be united in life; if we die with him, we shall live with him. The future ἐσόμεθα does not here express obligation, nor futurity. The reference is not to what is to happen hereafter, but to the certainty of sequence, or causal connection. If the one thing happens, the other shall certainly follow. The doctrine of this passage is not simple that the believer dies and rises, as Christ died and rose; that there is an analogy between his death and theirs; but, as before remarked, the main idea is, the necessary connection between the death and resurrection of Christ and the death and resurrection of his people. Such is the union between them and him, that his death and resurrection render theirs a matter of necessity. The life or death of a tree necessitates the life or death of the branches. Says Calvin,
"Insitio, non tantum exempli conformitatem designat, sed arcanam conjunctionem per quam cum ipso coaluimus, ita ut nos Spiritu suo vegetans ejus virtutem in nos transfundat. Ergo ut surculus communem habet vitae et mortis conditionem cum arbore in quam insertus est; ita vitae Christi non minus quam et mortis participes nos esse consentaneum est."
That the resurrection here spoken of is a spiritual rising from the dead, seems plain, both from what precedes and from what follows. The whole discussion relates to sanctification, to the necessary connection between the death of Christ as an atonement for sin, and the holiness of his people. Those who are cleansed from the guilt of sin, are cleansed also from its pollution. Although this is obvious, yet all reference to the future resurrection of the body is not to be excluded. In Romans 8:11, the apostle represents the quickening of our mortal bodies as a necessary consequence of our union with Christ, and the indwelling of his Spirit. If, therefore, we are baptized unto the death of Christ, united and conformed to him in his death, the sure result will be, that we shall be conformed to him in a holy life here, and in a life of glorious immortality of the soul and body hereafter. All this is included in the life which flows to us from Christ.
VERSE 6. Knowing this, that our old man is crucified with him, etc. What in the preceding verses is represented as the consequence of our union with Christ as a matter of doctrine, is here presented as a matter of experience. We are united to Christ as our head and representative, so as to be partakers of his death and resurrection, as a matter of law or of right. What is thus done, as it were, out of ourselves, is attended by an analogous spiritual experience.
This knowing, i.e. experiencing this. Our inward experience agrees with this doctrinal statement.
Our old man, that is, our corrupt nature as opposed to the new man, or holy nature, which is the product of regeneration, and the effect of our union with Christ. In Ephesians 4:22, 24, we are exhorted to put off the old man, and to put on the new man. Colossians 3:8, 9. The Scriptures everywhere assert or assume the fall and native depravity of man. We are born the children of wrath. We are aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, without God, and without hope. This is the inward state and outward condition in which every man comes into the world. Through the redemption that is in Christ, a radical change is effected; old things pass away, all things become new. The old man, the nature which is prior in the order of time, as well as corrupt, is crucified, and a nature new and holy is induced. The word man is used, because it is no one disposition, tendency, or faculty that is changed, but the man himself; the radical principle of his being, the self. Hence Paul uses the pronoun I—"I am sold under sin;" "I cannot do the things that I would." It is plain from this whole representation, that regeneration is not merely a change of acts, or of the affections in distinction from the understanding, but a change of the whole man. Another thing is also plain, viz. that such a radical change of nature cannot fail to manifest itself in a holy walk and conversation. This is what Paul here insists upon. To the believer who knows that the old man is crucified with Christ, the objection that gratuitous justification leads to licentiousness, is contradictory and absurd. The old man is said to be crucified, not because the destruction of the principle of sin is a slow and painful process, but because Christ's death was by crucifixion, in which death we were associated, and because it is from him, as crucified, the death of sin in us proceeds.
"Hunc veterem hominem dicit esse affixum cruci Christi, quia ejus virtute conficitur. Ac nominatim allusit ad crucem, quo expressius indicaret non aliunde nos mortificari, quam ex ejus mortis participatione."
That the body of sin might be destroyed. "The body of sin" is only another name for "the old man," or rather for its concrete form. The design of our crucifixion with Christ is the destruction of the old man, or the body of sin; and the design of the destruction of the inward power or principle of evil, is our spiritual freedom. This latter idea the apostle expresses by saying, that henceforth we should not serve sin, i.e. be in bondage to it. The service of sin is a δουλεία, a slavery, a state from which we cannot free ourselves; a power which coerces obedience in despite of the resistance of reason, conscience, and as the apostle teaches, even of the will. It is a bondage from which we can be delivered in no other way than by the death of the inward principle of evil which possesses our nature, and lies back of the will, beyond the reach of our power, and which can be destroyed only by union with Christ in his death, who died for this very purpose, that he might deliver us from the bondage of corruption, and introduce us into the glorious liberty of the sons of God. Compare John 8:34; Hebrews 2:14-16. Although the general sense of this verse is thus plain, there is great diversity of opinion as to the precise meaning of the words σῶμα τῆς ἁμαρτίας, body of sin.
1. Some say it means the sinful body, that is, the body which is the seat and source of sin. But it is not the doctrine of the Bible, that sin has its source in matter; it is spiritual in its nature and origin. The body is not its source, but its instrument and slave. Moreover, the design of Christ's death is never said to be to destroy the body.
2. Others say that σῶμα means the physical body, not as the source, but as the appurtenance of sin, as belonging to it, and ruled by it. But this is subject in part to the same objection.
3. Others say that σῶμα means mass, "the mass of sin." "Corpus peccati," says Calvin, "non carnem et ossa, sed massam designat; homo enim naturae propriae relictus massa est ex peccato conflata."
4. Others assume that σῶμα has the same sense as σάρξ corrupt nature; so that "body of sin" means our "sinful, carnal nature." This no doubt is the idea, but it is not expressed by the word σῶμα, which is not equivalent to σάρξ.
5. Others take σῶμα, in accordance with the Rabbinical use of the corresponding Hebrew word, to mean essence or substance, for which, however, there is no authority from the usus loquendi of the Scriptures.
6. Perhaps the most satisfactory view is that of those who understand the phrase as figurative. Sin is personified. It is something that has life, is obeyed; that can be put to death. It is represented as a body, or organism; as having its members. Compare Colossians 3:5. In Colossians 2:11, the apostle speaks of putting off "the body of the sins of the flesh," by which he means the totality of our corrupt nature. So here, "the body of sin," is sin considered as a body, as something which can be crucified.
VERSE 7. For he that is dead is free from sin. The Greek here is, ὁ γὰρ ἀποθανὼν δεδικαιωται ἀπὸ τῆς ἁμαρτίας, for he who has died is justified from sin. The particle γάρ, for, shows that this verse is a confirmation of what precedes: 'The believer (he who is by faith united to Christ in his death) cannot any longer serve sin, for he who has died is justified from sin.' The word ἀποθανών may be taken in a physical, a moral, or a mystical sense. If in a physical sense, then the meaning is, that death frees from sin. This may be understood in two ways: first, on the theory that the body is the source of sin, death, or freedom from the body, involves freedom from sin; or, secondly, death considered as a penalty, is the expiation of sin; so that he who dies, is judicially free from sin. Some who adopt this interpretation, suppose that the apostle sanctions the unscriptural Jewish doctrine (see Eisenmenger's Entdeckt. Judenthum, 2., p. 283), that death is the full penalty of sin, and therefore its expiation. Others say he is to be understood as speaking only of sin or guilt in relation to human law: 'He who has died for his crime is free from guilt or further liability.' In either way, the only relation which this verse, when understood of physical death, can have to the apostle's argument, is that of an illustration: 'As the man who has suffered for his crime is freed from it, so he who is crucified with Christ is free from sin. In either case the power of sin is destroyed.' If the moral sense of the word be adopted, then the meaning is either, 'he who is spiritually dead is free from sin,' (which amounts to saying, 'he that is holy is holy;') or, 'he who is spiritually dead is justified from sin.' But this last sense is utterly unsuited to the context, and implies that spiritual death, or holiness, is the ground of justification; which is contrary to all Scripture, and especially to Paul's doctrine. The mystical sense of the word is the only one consistent with the context. The apostle has not been speaking of natural death, but of death with Christ; of the believer being crucified with him. It is of that he is now speaking. He had just said that the believer cannot continue to serve sin. He here gives the reason: for he who has died (with Christ) is justified, and therefore free from sin, free from its dominion. This is the great evangelical truth which underlies the apostle's whole doctrine of sanctification. The natural reason assumes that acceptance with a holy and just God must be founded on character, that men must be holy in order to be justified. The gospel reverses this, and teaches that God accepts the ungodly; that we must be justified in order to become holy. This is what Paul here assumes as known to his readers. As justification is the necessary means, and antecedent to holiness, he that is justified becomes holy; he cannot live in sin. And he who is dead, i.e. with Christ, (for it is only his death that secures justification,) is justified from sin. To be justified from sin means to be delivered from sin by justification. And that deliverance is twofold; judicial deliverance from its penalty, and subjective deliverance from its power. Both are secured by justification; the former directly, the other consequentially, as a necessary sequence. Compare Galatians 2:19, 20; 6:14; Colossians 2:13; 3:3; 1 Peter 4:1, and other passages in which the sanctification of believers is represented as secured by the death of Christ.
VERSES 8-11. These verses contain the application of the truth taught in the preceding passage: 'If we are dead with Christ, we shall share in his life. If he lives, we shall live also. As his life is perpetual, it secures the continued supplies of life to all his members. Death has no more any dominion over him. Having died unto, or on account of, sin once, he now ever lives to, and with God. His people, therefore, must be conformed to him; dead indeed unto sin, but alive unto God.' This passage does not contain a mere comparison between the literal death and resurrection of Christ, and the spiritual death and resurrection of believers, but it exhibits the connection between the death and life of the Redeemer and the sanctification of his people.
VERSE 8. Now, if we be dead with Christ, etc. If the truth stated in the preceding verses be admitted, viz. that our union with Christ is such that his death secures our deliverance from the penalty and power of sin, we believe we shall also live with him. That is, we are sure that the consequences of his death are not merely negative, i.e., not simply deliverance from evil, moral and physical, but also a participation in his life.
We believe, i.e., we have a confidence, founded on the promise and revealed purpose of God. It is not a conclusion of reason; it is not simply a hope, a peradventure; it is a faith, an assured conviction that God, after having justified us through the blood of Christ, will not leave us spiritually defiled.
We shall live, συζήσομεν, the future, referring not to what is to happen hereafter, but to what is the certain consequence of our union with Christ. If we are united mystically with Christ in his death, we shall certainly live with him, i.e., we shall certainly partake of his life. As, however, this life is a permanent and eternal life, as it pertains to the body as well as to the soul, a participation of his life now involves a participation of it, with all its glorious consequences, for ever.
To live with Christ, therefore, includes two ideas; association with him, and similarity to him. We partake of his life, and consequently our life is like his. In like manner, since we die with him, we die as he died. So, too, when we are said to reign with him, to be glorified together, both these ideas are included; see Romans 8:17, and many similar passages. The life here spoken of is that "eternal life" which believers are said to possess even in this world; see John 3:36, 5:24; and which is manifested here by devotion to God, and hereafter in the purity and blessedness of heaven. It includes, therefore, all the consequences of redemption. We are not to consider the apostle as merely running a parallel between the natural death and resurrection of Christ, and the spiritual death and resurrection of his people, as has already been remarked, but as showing that, in consequence of union to him in his death, we must die as he died, and live as he lives. That is, that the effect of his death is to destroy the power of sin; and the result of his living is the communication and preservation of Divine life to all who are connected with him. This being the case, the objection stated in ver. 1 of this chapter, is seen to be entirely unfounded. This life of Christ, to which we are conformed, is described in the following verses, first as perpetual, and secondly, as devoted unto God.
VERSE 9. Knowing that Christ, being raised from the dead, dieth no more. Knowing εἰδότες is either equal to καὶ οἴδαμεν, and we know, thus introducing a new idea, or it is causal, because we know. The latter is to be preferred. We are sure we shall be partakers of the life of Christ, because we know that he lives. Were he not a living Savior, if his life were not perpetual, he could not be the source of life to his people in all ages. The perpetuity of Christ's life, therefore, is presented,
1. As the ground of assurance of the perpetuity of the life of believers. We shall partake of the life of Christ, i.e. of the spiritual and eternal blessings of redemption, because he ever lives to make intercession for us, and to grant us those supplies of grace which we need; see Romans 5:10: John 14:19; 1 Corinthians 15:22, etc. As death has no more dominion over him, there is no ground of apprehension that our supplies of life will be cut off. This verse, therefore, is introduced as the ground of the declaration, "we shall live with him," at the close of ver:8.
2. The perpetuity of the life of Christ is one of the points in which our life is to be conformed to his. Christ dieth no more, death hath no more dominion over him. This repetition is for the sake of emphasis. Christ's subjection to death was voluntary.
It was not from a necessity of nature, nor from any obligation to justice. He laid down his life of himself. He voluntarily submitted to death for our sakes, and was the master of death even in dying; and therefore he is, so to speak, in no danger of ever being subject to its power. The object of his voluntary submission to death having been accomplished, he lives for evermore. This is more fully expressed in the following verse.
VERSE 10. For in that he died, he died unto sin once, etc. He can never die again, for in dying he died once for all. By the one offering of himself, he has for ever perfected them that are sanctified. The apostle, in the Epistle to the Hebrews, while arguing to show the necessity of the death of Christ as a sacrifice for sin, argues also to show that such was the efficacy of that sacrifice, it need not, and cannot be repeated. Hebrews 7:27, 9:12, 10:10; 1 Peter 3:18.
In that he died, ὁ ἀπέθανε; ὁ may be taken absolutely quod attinet ad id, quod, as to that he died, so far as concerns his dying; compare Galatians 2:20; or the relative may be taken as the object, the death he died. See Winer, 3., § 24. 4. 3.
He died unto sin, τῇ ἁμαρτίᾳ ἀπέθανεν so far as the words are concerned, admits of different interpretations. It may mean, he died for the destruction of sin; or, he died for its expiation, i.e., on account of sin; or, in accordance with the force of the same words in ver. 2, and the analogous expression, νεκροὺς τῇ ἁμαρτίᾳ, dead to sin, ver. 11, he died as to sin, was by death freed from sin. In this last sense, although the words are the same, the idea is very different in the two cases. The believer dies to sin in one sense, Christ in another. In both cases the idea of separation is expressed; but in the case of the believer, it is separation from personal, indwelling sin; in that of Christ, it is separation from the burden of his people's sin, which he bore upon the cross. The context and the argument favor this last interpretation. Death has no more dominion over Christ, for he died to sin; by the one sacrifice of himself, he freed himself from the burden of sin which he had voluntarily assumed. The law is perfectly satisfied; it has no further penalty to inflict. Of course the same truth or doctrine is expressed, if the other expositions of the phrase be preferred. It is only a question as to the form in which the same general truth is presented. Christ's death was for the destruction of sin, for its expiation; and it was a deliverance from it, i.e., from the burden of its imputed guilt. He came the first time with sin; he is to come the second time without sin (without that burden), unto salvation.
In that he liveth, he liveth unto God. This is said in contrast to what precedes. He died unto sin, he lives unto God. So must the believer. Death must be followed by life; the one is in order to the other. It is of course not implied that our Lord's life on earth was not a living unto God, i.e., a living having God for its end and object. The antithetical expression is used simply to indicate the analogy between Christ and his people. They must be freed from sin, and be devoted to God, because their Lord and Savior, in whose death and life they share, died unto sin, and lives unto God. Many of the Fathers, and some later interpreters, take τῷ Θεῷ as equivalent to τῇ δυνάμει τοῦ Θεοῦ, by the power of God. But this is unsuited to the connection. It is not the source of Christ's life, but the nature of it, as perpetual and holy, that the apostle would bring into view. Olshausen says τῷ Θεῷ means for God, i.e., for righteousness, as opposed to sin, in the first clause: "He died for the destruction of sin, he lives for the promotion of righteousness." But this is unnecessary, and inconsistent with the context.
VERSE 11. Likewise reckon ye also yourselves to be dead indeed unto sin, but alive unto God, etc. What is true in itself, should be true in their convictions and consciousness. If in point of fact believers are partakers of the death and life of Christ; if they die with him, and live with him, then they should so regard themselves. They should receive this truth, with all its consoling and sanctifying power, into their hearts, and manifest it in their lives.
So also ye, οὕτω καὶ ὑμεῖς, a point may be placed after ὑμεῖς; so that the sense is, so also are ye, as is done by Griesbach and others. The simpler and more common method is to read the words continuously: so also regard ye yourselves as dead to sin, νεχροὺς τῇ ἁμαρτίᾳ; not reckon yourselves to be dead, as the word εἶναι, although found in the common text, is omitted by almost all the critical editors, on the authority of the oldest manuscripts, and the sense is complete without it; λογίζεσθαι τινά τι, means to regard one as something. Believers are to look upon themselves in their true light, viz., as dead to sin, freed from its penalty and dominion. This is a freedom which belongs to them as believers, and therefore the apostle adds, ἐν Χριστῷ ·Ιησοῦ, not through, but in Christ Jesus, that is, in virtue of union with him. These words belong equally to both clauses of this verse. It is in Christ that the believer is dead to sin, and alive to God. The old man is crucified; the new man, the soul as renewed, is imbued with a new life, of which God is the object; which consists in fellowship with him, and which is manifested by devotion to his service, and by obedience to his will. The words our Lord τῷ Κυρίῳ ἡμῶν, are not found in the best manuscripts.
—Commentary on the Epistle to the Romans
1. Truth cannot lead to unholiness. If a doctrine encourages sin, it must be false, vers. 1, 2.
2. There can be no greater contradiction and absurdity than for one who lives in sin to claim to be a Christian, ver. 2.
3. Antinomianism is not only an error, it is a falsehood and a slander. It pronounces valid the very objection against the gospel which Paul pronounces a contradiction and absurdity, and which he evidently regards as a fatal objection, were it well founded, vers. 2-4, etc.
4. Baptism includes a profession of the religion taught by him in whose name we are baptized, and an obligation to obey his laws, vers. 3, 4.
5. The grand design of Christianity is the destruction of sin. When sincerely embraced, therefore, it is with a view to this end, ver. 3.
6. The source of the believer's holiness is his union with Christ, by which his reconciliation to God, and his participation of the influences of the Holy Spirit are secured, vers. 4, 6.
7. The fact that Christ lives, renders it certain that his people shall live in holiness here, and in glory hereafter, ver. 8.
8. The only proper evidence that we are partakers of the benefits of the death and life of Christ, is our dying to sin, and living to God, ver. 11.
9. The gospel, which teaches the only true method of justification, is the only system that can secure the sanctification of men. This is not only the doctrine of this section, but it is the leading truth of this and the following chapter.
—Commentary on the Epistle to the Romans
1. As the most prominent doctrinal truth of this passage is, that the death of Christ secures the destruction of sin wherever it secures its pardon; so the most obvious practical inference is, that it is vain to hope for the latter benefit, unless we labor for the full attainment of the former, vers. 2-11.
2. For a professing Christian to live in sin, is not only to give positive evidence that he is not a real Christian, but it is to misrepresent and slander the gospel of the grace of God, to the dishonor of religion, and the injury of the souls of men, vers. 2-11.
3. Instead of holiness being in order to pardon, pardon is in order to holiness. This is the mystery of evangelical morals, vers. 4, etc.
4. The only effectual method of gaining the victory over our sins, is to live in communion with Jesus Christ; to regard his death as securing the pardon of sin, as restoring us to the Divine favor, and as procuring for us the influences of the Holy Spirit. It is those who thus look to Christ not only for pardon, but for holiness, that are successful in subduing sin; while the legalist remains its slave, vers. 6, 8.
5. It is a consolation to the believer to know, that if he has evidence of being now a Christian, he may be sure that he shall live with Christ. As long and as surely as the head lives, so long and so surely must all the members live, ver. 8, etc.
6. To be in Christ is the source of the Christian's life; to be like Christ is the sum of his excellence; to be with Christ is the fullness of his joy, vers. 2-11.
—Commentary on the Epistle to the Romans
Paul having shown, in the preceding section, that union with Christ secures not only the pardon, but the destruction of sin, exhorts his brethren to live agreeably to the nature and design of the gospel, vers. 12, 13. As an encouragement in their efforts to resist their corruptions he assures them that sin shall not have dominion over them, because they are not under the law, but under grace, ver. 14. This is another fundamental principle in the doctrine of sanctification. Holiness is not attained, and cannot be attained by those who, being under the law, are still unreconciled to God. It is necessary that we should enjoy his favor, in order to exercise towards him right affections. This doctrine is not justly liable to the objection, that we may sin with impunity if not under the law, ver. 15. The true situation of the Christian is illustrated by a reference to the relation between a servant and his master. Believers, before conversion, were the servants of sin; after it, they are the servants of righteousness. Formerly they were under an influence which secured their obedience to evil; now they are under an influence which secures their obedience to good. The consequence of the former service was death; of the present, life. The knowledge of these consequences tends to secure the continued fidelity of the Christian to his new Master, vers. 16-23.
—Commentary on the Epistle to the Romans
VERSE 12. Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, etc. This is a practical inference (οὖν) from what precedes. Since the believer is in fact united to Christ in his death and life, he should live accordingly. The exhortation contained in this and the following verse has a negative and positive form—yield not to sin, but give yourselves up to God—corresponding to the clauses, dead to sin, and alive unto God, in ver. 11.
To reign signifies to exercise uncontrolled authority. Sin, although mortified in the believer, is not destroyed. Its power to injure remains after its dominion is overthrown. The exhortation is, that we should not yield to this dethroned adversary of Christ and the soul, but strenuously strive against its efforts to gain ascendancy over us, and to bring us again into bondage. Let not sin reign in your mortal body. This is a difficult clause.
1. Mortal body may be a periphrase for you: 'Let not sin reign within you;' as in the next verse, your members may stand for yourselves.
2. Others say that θνητός (mortal) is to be taken in the figurative sense in which νεκρός, dead, i.e., corrupt, is often used.
3. Others take σῶμα in the sense of σάρξ, corrupt nature, including everything in man as fallen, which is not due to the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. Thus Calvin says,
"Nuper admonui vocem Corporis non pro carne et cute et ossibus accipi, sed pro tota hominis massa, ut ita loquar. Id certius colligere licet ex praesenti loco: quia alterum membrum, quod mox subjiciet de corporis partibus, ad animum quoque extenditur. Sic autem crasse Paulus terrenum hominem significat."
He says the word mortal is used, "per conemptum, ut doceat totam honninis naturam ad mortem et exitium inclinare." So also Philippi, among the modern commentators says that here, as in Romans 8:10, 13 (where θανατοῦν τὰς πράξεις τοῦ σώματος is opposed to κατὰ σάρκα ζῆν), σῶμα is the antithesis of πνεῦμα, the latter being the soul as pervaded by the Spirit of God, and the former our nature considered as corrupt. This, however, is so contrary to the general usage of Scripture, that the ordinary sense of the words is to be preferred. Paul does not teach that the body is the source of sin, nor its exclusive or principal seat; but it is the organ of its manifestation. It is that through which the dominion of sin is outwardly revealed. The body is under the power of sin, and that power the apostle would have us resist; and on the other hand, the sensual appetites of the body tend to enslave the soul. Body and soul are so united in a common life, that to say, 'Let not sin reign in your mortal body,' and to say, 'Let not sin reign in you,' amount to the same thing. When we speak of sin as dwelling in the soul, we do not deny its relation to the body; so neither does the apostle, when he speaks of sin dwelling in the body, mean to deny its relation to the soul.
That ye should obey it (αὐτῇ, i.e., sin,) in the lusts thereof, (αὐτοῦ, viz., of the body.) We should not obey sin by yielding to carnal appetites. The common text has here, εἰς τὸ ὑπακούειν αὐτῇ ἐν ταῖς ἐπιθυμίαις αὐτοῦ. Knapp, Lachmann, and other editors, adopt the simpler and better authenticated reading, εἰς τὸ ὑπακούειν ταῖς ἐπιθυμίαις αὐτοῦ, to obey its lusts, i.e., the lusts of the body.
"A man," says Olshausen, "must always serve. There is no middle ground between the service of sin and the service of God. We have justification completely, or we have it not at all. Sanctification, as springing from a living faith, and as the fruit of God's love to us, admits of degrees, and may be more or less earnestly cultivated; but this determines, not our salvation, but only the measure of future blessedness. No wisdom or caution," he adds, "can guard this doctrine from misunderstanding, whether such misunderstanding arise unintentionally from the understanding, or designedly from insincerity of heart. It nevertheless is the only way which leads to God, in which the sincere and humble cannot err."
"The key to the mystery," he goes on to say, "that the doctrine of redemption, although not demanding good works, produces them, is to be found in the fact that love excites love and the desire for holiness. Hence obedience is no longer slavish. We strive to obey, not in order to be saved or to please God, but because God saves us without works or merit of our own, whom, because he is reconciled in the Beloved, we delight to serve."
VERSE 13. Neither yield ye your members, etc. Do not permit sin to reign in you, nor yield your powers as its instruments.
Your members, either literally, members of the body, the eye, ear, hand, etc., or figuratively, your powers, whether of mind or body. The choice between the literal and figurative interpretation depends on the view taken of the preceding verse. If there σῶμα (body) be understood literally, then your members can only mean the members of the body; but if mortal body is there a periphrase for you, than your members must mean your faculties. The μέλη (members) are the parts of which the σῶμα consists; and therefore if the σῶμα stands for the whole person, the members must include all our powers, mental as well as corporeal. In Romans 7:5, Paul says that sin "did work in our members;" and in ver. 23, he speaks of "a law in his members." In neither of those cases is the reference exclusively to the body.
As instruments of unrighteousness. That is, instruments which unrighteousness uses, or which are employed to effect unrighteousness. The word ὅπλα is generic; it is used in the general sense of instruments, for the tackle of a ship, the tools of an artisan, though most frequently for weapons. On account of this general usage, and of Paul's own use of the word in 13:12, "armor of light," (2 Corinthians 6:7, "armor of righteousness," and 2 Corinthians 10:4, "the weapons of our warfare,") many prefer the restricted sense in this place. Our members are regarded as weapons which sin uses to regain its dominion, or the predominance of unrighteousness. The context, however, does not favor the assumption of this allusion to a strife; and therefore the general sense of instruments, or implements, is more in keeping with the rest of the passage.
But yield yourselves unto God; ἀλλὰ παραστήσατε, but on the contrary, present yourselves, i.e., give yourselves up to God, not only your several powers, but your very selves, a dedication which of necessity involves that of each separate faculty. In the first clause of the verse the present tense, παριστάνετε is used; here it is the first aorist, present yourselves once for all.
As alive from the dead, i.e., as those who having been dead, are now alive. Having been quickened by the power of God, raised from the death of sin and all its dreadful consequences, they were bound to live unto God. Who, having been restored to life, would desire to return to the loathsomeness of the grave?
And, i.e., and especially, your members (i.e., παριστάνετε present your members) as instruments of righteousness to God. Present all your powers to God, to be employed by him as implements of righteousness; that is, instruments by which righteousness may be effected.
VERSE 14. For sin shall not have dominion over you, etc. The future here is not to be understood as expressing either a command or an exhortation, not only because the third, and not the second person is used, but also because of the connection, as indicated by for. We should yield ourselves to God, for sin shall not have dominion, etc. It is not a hopeless struggle in which the believer is engaged, but one in which victory is certain. It is a joyful confidence which the apostle here expresses, that the power of sin has been effectually broken, and the triumph of holiness effectually secured by the work of Christ. The ground of the confidence that sin shall not have dominion, is to be found in the next clause:
For ye are not under the law, but under grace. By law here, is not to be understood the Mosaic law. The sense is not, 'Sin shall not have dominion over you, because the Mosaic law is abrogated.' The word is to be taken in its widest sense. It is the rule of duty, that which binds the conscience as an expression of the will of God. This is plain:
1. From the use of the word through this epistle and other parts of the New Testament.
2. From the whole doctrine of redemption, which teaches that the law from which we are delivered by the death of Christ, is not simply the Mosaic law; we are not merely delivered from Judaism, but from the obligation of fulfilling the law of God as the condition of salvation.
3. Deliverance from the Mosaic law does not secure holiness. A man may cease to be a Jew, and yet not be a new creature in Christ Jesus.
4. The antithesis between law and grace shows that more than the law of Moses is here intended. If free from the Mosaic law, they may still be under some other law, and as little under grace as the Pharisees.
To be under the law is to be under the obligation to fulfill the law of God as a rule of duty, as the condition of salvation. Whosoever is under the law in this sense, is under the curse; for the law says, "Cursed is every one who continueth not in all things written in the book of the law to do them." As no man is free from sin, as no man can perfectly keep the commandments of God, every man who rests upon his personal conformity to the law, as the ground of his acceptance with God, must be condemned. We are not under the law in this sense, but under grace; that is, under a system of gratuitous justification. We are justified by grace, without works. We are not under a legal dispensation, requiring personal conformity to the law, and entire freedom from sin, past and present, as the condition of our acceptance; but we are under a gracious dispensation, according to which God dispenses pardon freely, and accepts the sinner as a sinner, for Christ's sake, without works or merit of his own. Whoever is under the law in the sense just explained, is not only under condemnation, but he is of necessity under a legal or slavish spirit. What he does, he does as a slave, to escape punishment. But he who is under grace, who is gratuitously accepted of God, and restored to his favor, is under a filial spirit. The principle of obedience in him is love, and not fear. Here, as everywhere else in the Bible, it is assumed that the favor of God is our life. We must be reconciled to him before we can be holy; we must feel that he loves us before we can love him. Paul says it was the love of Christ to him, that constrained him to live for Him who thus loved him, and gave Himself for him. The only hope therefore of sinners, is in freedom from the law, freedom from its condemnation, freedom from the obligation to fulfill it as the condition of acceptance, and freedom from its spirit. Those who are thus free, who renounce all dependence on their own merit or strength, who accept the offer of justification as a free gift of God, and who are assured that God for Christ's sake is reconciled to them, are so united to Christ that they partake of his life, and their holiness here and salvation hereafter are rendered perfectly certain.
VERSE 15. What then? shall we sin, because we are not under the law, but under grace? God forbid. Because works are not the ground of our justification; because we are justified freely by his grace, are we at liberty to sin without fear and without restraint? Does the doctrine of gratuitous salvation give a license to the unrestrained indulgence of all evil? Such has been the objection to the doctrines of grace in all ages. And the fact that this objection was made to Paul's teachings, proves that his doctrine is the same with that against which the same objection is still urged. As the further consideration of this difficulty is resumed in the following chapter, the apostle here contents himself with a simple negation, and a reference to the constraining influence under which the freely pardoned sinner is brought, which renders it as impossible for him to serve sin, as it is for the slave of one man to be obedient to another man. The slave must serve his own master.
VERSE 16. Know ye not, that to whom ye yield yourselves servants to obey, his servants ye are to whom ye obey, etc. 'Know ye not that those who obey sin are its slaves; hurried on from one degrading service to another, until it works their ruin; but those who serve holiness are constrained, though sweetly, to constancy and fidelity, until the glorious consummation of their course?' As a servant or slave is under an influence which secures the continuance of his obedience, and he who serves holiness is under an influence which effectually secures the constancy of his service. This being the case, it is not possible for the Christian or servant of holiness to be found engaged in the service of sin. The language and the construction are here nearly the same as in verse 13. Here, as there, we have παριστάνετε in the sense of giving up to the power and disposal of. Paul says, that those who give themselves up to another as δούλους εἰς ὑπακοὴν, slaves to obedience, are the δοῦλοι of him whom they thus obey. It enters into the idea of slavery, that the subjection is absolute and continued. The slave does not obey his own will, but his masterís. He is subject not for a time, but for life. He is under an influence which secures obedience. This is as true in spiritual as in external relations. He who serves sin is the slave of sin. He is under its power. He cannot free himself from its dominion. He may hate his bondage; his reason and conscience may protest against it; his will may resist it; but he is still constrained to obedience. This is the doctrine of our Lord, as taught in John 8:34: "He that committeth sin is the slave of sin." This remains true, although this service is unto death: "The wages of sin is death." The death intended is spiritual and eternal. It is the absolute loss of the life of the soul, which consists in the favor and fellowship of God, and conformity to his image. What is true of sin is true of holiness. He who by virtue of union with Christ is made obedient to God, becomes, as Paul says, a δοῦλος ὑπακοῆς, a slave of obedience. Obedience (personified) is the master to whom he is now subject. He is not only bound to obey, but he is made to obey in despite of the resistance of his still imperfectly sanctified nature. He cannot but obey. The point of analogy to which reference is here made, is the certainty of the effect, and the constraining influence by which that effect is secured. In the case both of sin and of holiness, obedience is certain; and it is rendered certain by a power superior to the will of man. The great difference is, that in the one case this subjection is abnormal and destructive, in the other it is normal and beneficent. A wise man is free in being subject to his reason. The more absolute and constant the authority of reason, the more exalted and free is the soul. In like manner, the more completely God reigns in us, the more completely we are subject to his will, so much the more are we free; that is, so much the more do we act in accordance with the laws of our nature and the end of our being.
Servants of obedience unto righteousness; δικαιοσύνη must here be taken in its subjective sense. It is inward righteousness, or holiness. And in this sense it is eternal life, and therefore antithetical to θάνατος, which is spiritual and eternal death. The service of sin results in death, the service of God results in righteousness; that is, in our being right, completely conformed to the image of God, in which the life of the soul consists.
VERSE 17. But God be thanked, that ye were the servants of sin; but ye have obeyed from the heart, etc. As it is the apostle's object to show that believers cannot live in sin, inasmuch as they have become the servants of another master, he applies the general truth stated in the preceding verses more directly to his immediate readers, and gives thanks that they, being emancipated from their former bondage, are now bound to a master whose service is perfect liberty. The expression in the first member of this verse is somewhat unusual, although the sense is plain: "God be thanked, that ye were the servants of sin;" that is, that this slavery is past; or, 'God be thanked, that ye, being the servants of sin, have obeyed,' etc.
Ye have obeyed from the heart; this obedience is voluntary and sincere. They had not been passively transferred from one master to another; but the power of sin being broken, they gladly renounced their bondage, and gave themselves unto God.
Ye obeyed, says the apostle, the form of doctrine which was delivered to you. The τύπος διδαχῆς, the form of doctrine, may mean the doctrine which is a τύπος, a model or standard to which we should conform—sentiendi agendique norma et regula. Calvin says it means "expressam justitiae imaginem, quam cordibus nostris Christus insculpsit." Another explanation assumes τύπος to be equivalent to form, contents, or substance of the doctrine. Compare μόρφωσις τῆς γνώσεως, Romans 2:20. The former explanation is sustained by a reference to 2 Timothy 1:13, where Paul speaks of a ὑποτύπωσις ὑγιαινόντων λόγων, a form of sound words that is, sound words which are a pattern or standard of faith. Compare Acts 23:25: 'Having written an epistle containing this type,' i.e. form of words. By form of doctrine is to be understood the Gospel, either in its limited sense of the doctrine of gratuitous justification through Christ, of which the apostle had been speaking; or in its wider sense of the whole doctrine of Christ as a rule both of faith and practice. The former includes the latter. He who receives Christ as priest, receives him as a Lord. He who comes to him for justification, comes also for sanctification; and therefore obedience to the call to put our trust in Christ as our righteousness, implies obedience to his whole revealed will. The words ὑπηκούσατε εἰς ὃν παρεδόθητε τύπον διδαχῆς, may be resolved thus, ὑπηκούσατε τύπῳ διδαχῆς, εἰς ὃν παρεδόθητε, ye have obeyed the type of doctrine to which ye have been delivered. That is, the mold into which, as it were, ye have been cast; as Beza says, the gospel is regarded "quasi instar typi cujusdam, cui veluti immittamur, ut ejus figurae conformemur." This last idea is unnatural:, εἰς ὃν παρεδόθητε is either equivalent to ὃς παρεδόθη ὑμῖν, which was delivered unto you, (see Winer, § 24, 2,) or, to which ye were delivered, "cui divinitus traditi estis." That is, to which ye were subjected. The intimation is, that faith in the gospel is the gift of God, and obedience is our consequent act. "The passive (παρεδόθητε)" says Philippi, "indicates the passive relation of man to work of regeneration of which his activity (ὑπηκούσατε) is the consequence, according to the familiar dictum: Ita a Spiritu Dei agimur ut ipsi quoque agamus."
VERSE 18. Being made free from sin, ye became the servants of righteousness. This verse may be regarded as the conclusion from what precedes, δέ being used for οὖν: 'Being freed then from sin,' etc.; or it may be connected immediately with ver. 17, a comma instead of a period intervening: 'Ye have obeyed the form of doctrine, having been freed,' etc. The latter is better. Freed by the grace of God from sin as a despotic master, ye became the servants, ἐδουλώθητε, ye were made slaves to righteousness. It was not license, but a change of masters, that they had experienced. This being the case, it is impossible they should serve sin; they have now another master. A manumitted slave does not continue subject to his former master.
"Absurdum est, ut post manumissionem quis in servitutis conditione maneat. Observandum, quomodo nemo possit justitiae servire nisi Dei potentia et beneficio prius a peccati tyrannide liberatus." Calvin.
To the same effect our Lord says: "If the Son make you free, ye shall be free indeed." John 8:36. This subjection to righteousness is perfect liberty. It is the subjection of the soul to God, reason, and conscience, wherein true liberty consists. This being the case, the apostle in the following verse explains the reason why he used a figure apparently so incongruous, in speaking of the relation of the believer to righteousness.
VERSE 19. I speak after the manner of men, ἀνθρώπινον λέγω; I say what is human, i.e. common among men. The only difference between this expression and the more common phrase, κατ· ἄνθρωπον λέγω, is, that the former characterizes as human the thing said, and the other the manner of saying it. The idea in this case is the same. The apostle means to say, that he uses an illustration drawn from the common relations of men, to set forth the relation of the believer to God. The slave is bound to serve his master; the obedience of the believer to God is no less certain. The one is slavery, because the obedience is independent of the will, and coerced; the other is perfect freedom, because rendered from the heart, and with full consent of the will. Yet both are a δουλεία so far as certainty of obedience is concerned. This is the common and natural interpretation of this clause. Others, however, take ἀνθρώπινον in the sense in which it is used in 1 Corinthians 10:13. There it is opposed to what is superhuman, beyond the strength of man to bear: 'I demand only what is human. The obedience required is, on account of the weakness of your flesh, only such as you are able to render.
For as ye served sin, so you can serve righteousness. The one is as easy as the other. The one is the measure of the other.' But this does violence to the connection. The ὥσπερ—οὓτω do not refer to the measure of the obedience, but to the change of masters: 'As ye served sin, so now serve God.' Besides, the principle that the measure of obedience is determined by our ability, is utterly at variance with the word of God and the dictates of conscience. The simple design of the apostle in this passing or parenthetical remark is, to state the reason why he designated our new relation to God a slavery. He used this illustration, he says, on account of the weakness of their flesh; not intellectual weakness, but such as arose from the σάρξ, their nature as corrupt. It was their lack of spirituality which rendered such illustrations necessary. The γάρ (for) of the next clause refers to ver. 18: 'Being freed from sin, ye became the servants of righteousness; for as ye yielded your members,' etc.
Your members, yourselves, your various faculties, with special reference to their bodily organs as the outward, visible instruments of evil. Ye yielded your members, δοῦλα, bound. This is the only passage in the New Testament in which δοῦλος is used as an adjective. They yielded their members to uncleanness and to iniquity, τῇ ἀκαθαρσίᾳ καὶ τῇ ἀνομίᾳ. These two words express the same thing under different aspects. Sin subjectively considered is pollution, a defilement of the soul; relatively to the law of God, it is ἀνομία, what is unlawful, what fails of conformity to the law. In the next clause, unto iniquity, the word is used in a wider sense. They gave themselves up to iniquity, that is, to do evil; εἰς τὴν ἀνομίαν being equivalent to εἰς τὸ ποιεῖν ἀνομίαν. Men give themselves up to sin as a master, to do what the law forbids. The same idea is expressed, if εἰς τὴν ἀνομίαν means, for the manifestation of iniquity. So now yield your members as servants to righteousness. Having been delivered from bondage to the tyrant sin, ye should act as becomes your new relation, and be obedient to your new master, even to him who hath bought you with his blood. To righteousness, unto holiness, εἰς ἁγιασμόν, so as to be pure in heart and life. The proximate result of obedience to God is inward conformity to the Divine image. Compare 1 Thessalonians 3:13; 4:7.
VERSE 20. For when ye were the servants of sin, ye were free from righteousness. This verse introduces a confirmation of what precedes. The foregoing exhortation is enforced by the consideration developed in vers. 21, 22, that the service of sin is death. The particle γάρ therefore, is used in its common sense, for, and not namely. Formerly, when the slaves of sin, ye were ἐλεύθεροι τῇ δικαιοσύνῃ, that is, either 'free in the estimation of righteousness,' ("An ille mihi liber, cui mulier imperat?" Cicero;) or, what is more natural, as to righteousness; so far as righteousness is concerned, ye were free. Righteousness had no power over you; your service was rendered to another master. This is not to be understood ironically, as though the apostle designed to refer to their former state as one of freedom in their estimation. It is the simple statement of a fact of experience. While the servants of sin, they did not and could not serve righteousness. Here are two services, which is to be preferred? This is the question which the apostle presents for their consideration.
VERSE 21. The sense of this verse depends mainly on the pointing. It may be read thus: 'What fruit had ye then of those things of which ye are now ashamed? (Answer, None,) for the end of those things is death.' Or, 'What fruit had ye then? (Answer, Such,) of which ye are now ashamed, for,' etc. The choice between these interpretations is not very easy, and accordingly commentators are about equally divided between them. The Vulgate, the English version, Calvin, Beza, Bengel, Meyer, Fritzsche, etc., adopt the former. Luther, Melanchthon, Koppe, Tholuck, De Wette, Olshausen, etc., the latter. The decision seems to depend principally on the meaning given to the phrase, to have fruit. If this means, to derive benefit, then the sense is, 'What benefit did you derive from the things of which you are now ashamed?' The natural answer is, 'None; a course of conduct which ends in death can yield no benefit.' This gives a pertinent sense: it is suited to ver. 22, where fruit may also mean advantage; and especially it agrees best with the words ἐφ· οἷς, which otherwise must refer to καρπόν, (fruit of which,) which is not natural. In favor of the second interpretation, however, it is urged that fruit is never in the New Testament used of reward or emolument, but always of acts. The familiar illustration is that of a tree whose fruit is good or bad according to its nature. According to this view, Paul means to ask, 'What fruit did you then produce? Such,' he answers, 'of which you are now ashamed.' Besides this general use of the word (fruit), it is urged that in ver. 22, this is the natural sense of the word: "Ye have your fruit unto holiness;" that is, 'Ye produce fruit which tends to holiness.'
"This figure," says Olshausen, "is the more significant, because it is so directly opposed to that Pelagianism which is so congenial with our fallen nature. The natural man, destitute of the knowledge of God, of himself, and of sin, dreams that by his own strength and efforts he can produce a form of virtue which can stand before the bar of God. He does not know that of necessity, and by a law of his nature, he can only produce evil fruit, just as a wild tree can produce only bitter fruit. Even should he succeed in calling into exercise all the good he has in the, most perfect form, it is so destitute of love, and so corrupted by conceit, that it merits condemnation, as fully as though the life were openly immoral. The beginning of truth, of which holiness, (which is true liberty,) by a like organic necessity and law of nature, is the fruit, is for man the acknowledgment that death reigns in him, and that he must be imbued with life."
All this is true, and all this is really involved in the familiar figure which our Lord uses to illustrate the relation between the state of the heart and of the outward life. But this does not seem to be the idea which the apostle here intends to present. The phrase, καρπὸν ποιεῖν, does indeed always mean to produce fruit, and figuratively, to do good or evil; but καρπὸν ἔχειν, to have fruit, means to have the advantage or profit. Thus, in 1:13, Paul says: "That I might have some fruit among you;" i.e. that he might gain something, win some souls for Christ. If this be the true meaning of the phrase here, then the former of the two interpretations is to be preferred. What advantage had you of the service of sin? None; for the end of those things, the τέλος the final result of the service of sin, is death; not physical death, but the death of the soul, final and hopeless perdition. Such was their former condition; to this the contrast is given in the next verse.
VERSE 22. But now, being made free from sin, ἐλευθερωθέντες ἀπὸ τῆς ἁμαρτίας; having been emancipated from one master. δουλωθέντες δὲ τῷ Θεῷ, and become slaves to God, i.e. being subject to his controlling influence by the power of his Spirit, ye have your fruit unto holiness that is, the benefit or effect derived from the service of God is holiness. Sanctification is the proximate result of this new service.
And the end eternal life. The final issue of this service is complete salvation; the restoration of the soul to the favor and enjoyment of God for ever.
"Quemadmodum duplicem peccati finem ante proposuit, ita nunc justitiae. Peccatum in hac vita malae conscientiae tormenta affert, deinde aeternam mortem. Justitiae praesentem fructum colligimus, sanctificationem: in futurum, speramus vitam aeternam."
VERSE 23. For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life, through Jesus Christ our Lord. The reason why death is the result of sin is, that sin deserves death. Death is due to it in justice. There is the same obligation in justice, that sin should be followed by death, as that the laborer should receive his wages. As it would be unjust, and therefore wrong, to defraud the laborer of his stipulated reward, so it would be unjust to allow sin to go unpunished. Those, therefore, who hope for pardon without an atonement, hope that God will in the end prove unjust. The word ὀψώνια is, strictly, the rations of soldiers; in a wider sense, the same as ἀντιμισθία or μισθός, anything which is due as a matter of debt. But the gift of God, τὸ δὲ χάρισμα τοῦ Θεοῦ, the free, unmerited gift of God, is eternal life. The connection between holiness and life is no less certain than that between sin and death, but on different grounds. Sin deserves death; holiness is itself the gift of God, and is freely crowned with eternal life. The idea of merit is everywhere and in every way excluded from the gospel method of salvation. It is a system of grace, from the beginning to the consummation.
Through (rather in) Jesus Christ our Lord. It is in Christ, as united to him, that we are made partakers of eternal life. Jesus Christ and his gospel, then, instead of being the ministers of sin—as the Jews, and since them, the opponents of the doctrines of grace, confidently asserted—effectually secure what the law never could accomplish, an obedience resulting in holiness here, and in eternal life hereafter.
—Commentary on the Epistle to the Romans
1. The leading doctrine of this section, and of the whole gospel, in reference to sanctification, is, that grace, instead of leading to the indulgence of sin, is essential to the exercise of holiness. So long as we are under the influence of a self-righteous or legal spirit, the motive and aim of all good works, are wrong or defective. The motive is fear, or some merely natural affection, and the aim, to merit the bestowment of good. But when we accept of the gracious offers of the gospel, and feel that our sins are gratuitously pardoned, a sense of the divine love, shed abroad in the heart of the Holy Spirit, awakens all holy affections. The motive to obedience is now love, and its aim the glory of God, ver. 14, etc.
2. Paul teaches that it is not only obligatory on Christians to renounce the service of sin, but that, in point of fact, the authority and power of their former master are destroyed, and those of their new master experienced, whenever they embrace the gospel. This is the very nature of the change. The charge, therefore, that the gospel leads to the service of sin, is an absurdity, vers. 15-18.
3. Religion is essentially active. It is the yielding up of ourselves, with all our powers, to God, and the actual employment of them as instruments in doing good. Nothing can be at a greater remove from this, than making religion a mere matter of indolent profession, (a saying, Lord, Lord,) ver. 12, etc.
4. Both from the nature of things, and the appointment of God, the wages of sin is death. It renders intercourse with God, who is the fountain of life, impossible. It consists in the exercise of feelings, in their own nature, inconsistent with happiness; it constantly increases in malignity, and in power to destroy the peace of the soul. Apart from these essential tendencies, its relation to conscience and the justice of God, renders the connection between sin and misery indissoluble. Salvation in sin is as much a contradiction, as happiness in misery, vers. 21, 23.
5. Eternal life is the GIFT of God. It does not, like eternal death, flow, as a natural consequence, from anything in us. With the holy angels, who have never lost the favor of God, this may be the case. But the tendency of all that belongs to us, is to death; this must be counteracted; those excellencies, in which life consists, and from which it flows, must be produced, sustained, and strengthened by the constant, condescending, and long-suffering grace of the Holy Spirit. The life thus graciously produced, and graciously sustained, is at last graciously crowned with eternal glory, vers. 22, 23.
—Commentary on the Epistle to the Romans
1. We should cultivate a sense of the Divine favor as a means to holiness. We must cease to be slaves, before we can be children. We must be free from the dominion of fear, before we can be under the government of love. A self-righteous spirit, therefore, is not more inconsistent with reliance on the righteousness of Christ, in order to justification, than it is with the existence and progress of sanctification. Whatever tends to destroy a sense of the Divine favor, must be inimical to holiness. Hence the necessity of keeping a conscience void of offense, and of maintaining uninterrupted our union with Christ as our sacrifice and advocate, ver. 14, etc.
2. Those Christians are under a great mistake, who suppose that despondency is favorable to piety. Happiness is one of the elements of life. Hope and joy are twin daughters of piety, and cannot, without violence and injury, be separated from their parent. To rejoice is as much a duty as it is a privilege, ver. 14, etc.
3. Sinners are slaves. Sin reigns over them; and all their powers are delivered to this master as instruments of unrighteousness. He secures obedience with infallible certainty; his bonds become stronger every day, and his wages are death. From his tyranny and recompense there is no deliverance by the law; our only hope is in Jesus Christ our Lord, vers. 12, 13, 16, etc.
4. Christians are the servants of God. He reigns over them, and all their powers are consecrated to him. He, too, secures fidelity, and his bonds of love and duty become stronger every day. His reward is eternal life, vers. 12, 13, 16, etc.
5. It is of God, that those who were once the servants of sin, become the servants of righteousness. To him, therefore, all the praise and gratitude belong, ver. 17.
6. When a man is the slave of sin, he commonly thinks himself free; and when most degraded, is often the most proud. When truly free, he feels himself most strongly bound to God; and when most elevated, is most humble, vers. 20-22.
7. Self-abasement, or shame in view of his past life, is the necessary result of those views of his duty and destiny, which every Christian obtains when he becomes the servant of God, ver. 21.
—Commentary on the Epistle to the Romans