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Bible Commentaries

Calvin's Commentary on the Bible

Romans 6

 

 

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Verse 1

1.What then shall we say? Throughout this chapter the Apostle proves, that they who imagine that gratuitous righteousness is given us by him, apart from newness of life, shamefully rend Christ asunder: nay, he goes further, and refers to this objection, — that there seems in this case to be an opportunity for the display of grace, if men continued fixed in sin. We indeed know that nothing is more natural than that the flesh should indulge itself under any excuse, and also that Satan should invent all kinds of slander, in order to discredit the doctrine of grace; which to him is by no means difficult. For since everything that is announced concerning Christ seems very paradoxical to human judgment, it ought not to be deemed a new thing, that the flesh, hearing of justification by faith, should so often strike, as it were, against so many stumbling-stones. Let us, however, go on in our course; nor let Christ be suppressed, because he is to many a stone of offense, and a rock of stumbling; for as he is for ruin to the ungodly, so he is to the godly for a resurrection. We ought, at the same time, ever to obviate unreasonable questions, lest the Christian faith should appear to contain anything absurd.

The Apostle now takes notice of that most common objection against the preaching of divine grace, which is this, — “That if it be true, that the more bountifully and abundantly will the grace of God aid us, the more completely we are overwhelmed with the mass of sin; then nothing is better for us than to be sunk into the depth of sin, and often to provoke God’s wrath with new offenses; for then at length we shall find more abounding grace; than which nothing better can be desired.” The refutation of this we shall here after meet with.


Verse 2

2.By no means. To some the Apostle seems to have only intended indignantly to reprove a madness so outrageous; but it appears from other places that he commonly used an answer of this kind, even while carrying on a long argument; as indeed he does here, for he proceeds carefully to disprove the propounded slander. He, however, first rejects it by an indignant negative, in order to impress it on the minds of his readers, that nothing can be more inconsistent than that the grace of Christ, the repairer of our righteousness, should nourish our vices.

Who have died to sin, etc. An argument derived from what is of an opposite character. “He who sins certainly lives to sin; we have died to sin through the grace of Christ; then it is false, that what abolishes sin gives vigor to it.” The state of the case is really this, — that the faithful are never reconciled to God without the gift of regeneration; nay, we are for this end justified, — that we may afterwards serve God in holiness of life. Christ indeed does not cleanse us by his blood, nor render God propitious to us by his expiation, in any other way than by making us partakers of his Spirit, who renews us to a holy life. It would then be a most strange inversion of the work of God were sin to gather strength on account of the grace which is offered to us in Christ; for medicine is not a feeder of the disease, which it destroys. (183) We must further bear in mind, what I have already referred to — that Paul does not state here what God finds us to be, when he calls us to an union with his Son, but what it behoves us to be, after he has had mercy on us, and has freely adopted us; for by an adverb, denoting a future time, he shows what kind of change ought to follow righteousness.

The very argument requires this meaning. The question in the first verse, — Shall we continue in sin?” does not surely mean — shall we continue in or under the guilt of sin? but in its service, and in the practice of it. It was the chapter of practical licentiousness that the Apostle rebuts; and he employs an argument suitable to the purpose, “If we are dead to sin, freed from it as our master, how absurd it is to suppose that we can live any longer in its service?” Then he shows in what follows how this had been effected. This is clearly the import of the passage, and so taken by almost all commentators.

But it must be added, that [Venema ] and [Chalmers ] materially agree with [Haldane ] The former says that to “die to sin” is to give to sin what it demands and that is, death; and that when this is given, it can require nothing more. In this sense, he adds, Christ died to sin (Romans 6:10); and in the same sense believers die to sin, being, as they are, united to Christ, his death being viewed as their death. However true this theology may be, (and [Chalmers ] shows this in his own inimitable manner,) it does not seem to be taught here: though there may be something in one or two expressions to favor it; yet the whole tenor of the passage, and many of the phrases, seem clearly to constrain us to adopt the other view. — Ed.


Verse 3

3.Know ye not, etc. What he intimated in the last verse — that Christ destroys sin in his people, he proves here by mentioning the effect of baptism, by which we are initiated into his faith; for it is beyond any question, that we put on Christ in baptism, and that we are baptized for this end — that we may be one with him. But Paul takes up another principle — that we are then really united to the body of Christ, when his death brings forth in us its fruit; yea, he teaches us, that this fellowship as to death is what is to be mainly regarded in baptism; for not washing alone is set forth in it, but also the putting to death and the dying of the old man. It is hence evident, that when we become partakers of the grace of Christ, immediately the efficacy of his death appears. But the benefit of this fellowship as to the death of Christ is described in what follows. (184)


Verse 4

4.We have then been buried with him, etc. He now begins to indicate the object of our having been baptized into the death of Christ, though he does not yet completely unfold it; and the object is — that we, being dead to ourselves, may become new creatures. He rightly makes a transition from a fellowship in death to a fellowship in life; for these two things are connected together by an indissoluble knot — that the old man is destroyed by the death of Christ, and that his resurrection brings righteousness, and renders us new creatures. And surely, since Christ has been given to us for life, to what purpose is it that we die with him except that we may rise to a better life? And hence for no other reason does he slay what is mortal in us, but that he may give us life again.

Let us know, that the Apostle does not simply exhort us to imitate Christ, as though he had said that the death of Christ is a pattern which all Christians are to follow; for no doubt he ascends higher, as he announces a doctrine, with which he connects, as it is evident, an exhortation; and his doctrine is this — that the death of Christ is efficacious to destroy and demolish the depravity of our flesh, and his resurrection, to effect the renovation of a better nature, and that by baptism we are admitted into a participation of this grace. This foundation being laid, Christians may very suitably be exhorted to strive to respond to their calling. Farther, it is not to the point to say, that this power is not apparent in all the baptized; for Paul, according to his usual manner, where he speaks of the faithful, connects the reality and the effect with the outward sign; for we know that whatever the Lord offers by the visible symbol is confirmed and ratified by their faith. In short, he teaches what is the real character of baptism when rightly received. So he testifies to the Galatians, that all who have been baptized into Christ, have put on Christ. (Galatians 3:27.) Thus indeed must we speak, as long as the institution of the Lord and the faith of the godly unite together; for we never have naked and empty symbols, except when our ingratitude and wickedness hinder the working of divine beneficence. (185)

By the glory of the Father, that is, by that illustrious power by which he exhibited himself as really glorious, and as it were manifested the greatness of his glory. Thus often is the power of God, which was exercised in the resurrection of Christ, set forth in Scripture in sublime terms, and not without reason; for it is of great importance, that by so explicit a record of the ineffable power of God, not only faith in the last resurrection, which far exceeds the perception of the flesh, but also as to other benefits which we receive from the resurrection of Christ, should be highly commended to us. (186)

“Buried with him,” means buried like him, or in like manner; and so “crucified with him,” in Romans 6:6, is the same : συν prefixed to verbs, has clearly this meaning. See Romans 8:17; Colossians 3:1; 2 Timothy 2:11. “Into death” is not to be connected with “planted,” but with “baptism,” it was “a baptism into death,’ that is, which represented death, even death unto sin. — Ed.


Verse 5

5.For if we have been ingrafted, etc. He strengthens in plainer words the argument he has already stated; for the similitude which he mentions leaves now nothing doubtful, inasmuch as grafting designates not only a conformity of example, but a secret union, by which we are joined to him; so that he, reviving us by his Spirit, transfers his own virtue to us. Hence as the graft has the same life or death in common with the tree into which it is ingrafted, so it is reasonable that we should be partakers of the life no less than of the death of Christ; for if we are ingrafted according to the likeness of Christ’s death, which was not without a resurrection, then our death shall not be without a resurrection. But the words admit of a twofold explanation, — either that we are ingrafted in Christ into the likeness of his death, or, that we are simply ingrafted in its likeness. The first reading would require the Greek dative ὁμοιώματι, to be understood as pointing out the manner; nor do I deny but that it has a fuller meaning: but as the other harmonizes more with simplicity of expression, I have preferred it; though it signifies but little, as both come to the same meaning. [Chrysostom ] thought that Paul used the expression, “likeness of death,” for death, as he says in another place, “being made in the likeness of men.” But it seems to me that there is something more significant in the expression; for it not only serves to intimate a resurrection, but it seems also to indicate this — that we die not like Christ a natural death, but that there is a similarity between our and his death; for as he by death died in the flesh, which he had assumed from us, so we also die in ourselves, that we may live in him. It is not then the same, but a similar death; for we are to notice the connection between the death of our present life and spiritual renovation.

Ingrafted, etc. There is great force in this word, and it clearly shows, that the Apostle does not exhort, but rather teach us what benefit we derive from Christ; for he requires nothing from us, which is to be done by our attention and diligence, but speaks of the grafting made by the hand of God. But there is no reason why you should seek to apply the metaphor or comparison in every particular; for between the grafting of trees, and this which is spiritual, a disparity will soon meet us: in the former the graft draws its aliment from the root, but retains its own nature in the fruit; but in the latter not only we derive the vigor and nourishment of life from Christ, but we also pass from our own to his nature. The Apostle, however, meant to express nothing else but the efficacy of the death of Christ, which manifests itself in putting to death our flesh, and also the efficacy of his resurrection, in renewing within us a spiritual nature. (187)

For if we have been united (or, connected) by a similarity to his death, we shall certainly be also united by a similarity to his resurrection.

The genitive case here may be regarded as that of the object, as the love of God means sometimes love to God. Evidently the truth intended to be conveyed is, that as the Christian’s death to sin bears likeness to Christ’s death, so his rising to a spiritual life is certain to bear a similar likeness to Christ’s resurrection. Then in the following verses this is more fully explained.

“The Apostle,” says [Beza ], “uses the future tense, ‘we shall be,’ because we are not as yet wholly dead, or wholly risen, but are daily emerging.” But the future here, as [Stuart ] remarks, may be considered as expressing what is to follow the death previously mentioned, or as designating anobligation, as in Matthew 4:10; Luke 3:10; or acertainty as to the result. — Ed.


Verse 6

6.That our old man, etc. The old man, as the Old Testament is so called with reference to the New; for he begins to be old, when he is by degrees destroyed by a commencing regeneration. But what he means is the whole nature which we bring from the womb, and which is so incapable of the kingdom of God, that it must so far die as we are renewed to real life. This old man, he says, is fastened to the cross of Christ, for by its power he is slain: and he expressly referred to the cross, that he might more distinctly show, that we cannot be otherwise put to death than by partaking of his death. For I do not agree with those who think that he used the word crucified, rather than dead, because he still lives, and is in some respects vigorous. It is indeed a correct sentiment, but not suitable to this passage. The body of sin, which he afterwards mentions, does not mean flesh and bones, but the corrupted mass; for man, left to his own nature, is a mass made up of sin. (188)

He points out the end for which this destruction is effected, when he says, so that we may no longer serve sin. It hence follows, that as long as we are children of Adam, and nothing more than men, we are in bondage to sin, that we can do nothing else but sin; but that being grafted in Christ, we are delivered from this miserable thraldom; not that we immediately cease entirely to sin, but that we become at last victorious in the contest.


Verse 7

7.For he who has died, etc. This is an argument derived from what belongs to death or from its effect. For if death destroys all the actions of life, we who have died to sin ought to cease from those actions which it exercised during its life. Take justified for freed or reclaimed from bondage; for as he is freed from the bond of a charge, who is absolved by the sentence of a judge; so death, by freeing us from this life, sets us free from all its functions. (189)

But though among men there is found no such example, there is yet no reason why you should think, that what is said here is a vain speculation, or despond in your minds, because you find not yourselves to be of the number of those who have wholly crucified the flesh; for this work of God is not completed in the day in which it is begun in us; but it gradually goes on, and by daily advances is brought by degrees to its end. So then take this as the sum of the whole, — “If thou art a Christian, there must appear in thee an evidence of a fellowship as to the death of Christ; the fruit of which is, that thy flesh is crucified together with all its lusts; but this fellowship is not to be considered as not existing, because thou findest that the relics of the flesh still live in thee; but its increase ought to be diligently labored for, until thou arrivest at the goal.” It is indeed well with us, if our flesh is continually mortified; nor is it a small attainment, when the reigning power, being taken away from it, is wielded by the Holy Spirit. There is another fellowship as to the death of Christ, of which the Apostle often speaks, as he does in 2 Corinthians 4:0, that is, the bearing of the cross, which is followed by a joint-participation also of eternal life.


Verse 8

8.But if we have died, etc. He repeats this for no other end but that he might subjoin the explanation which follows, that Christ, having once risen, dies no more. And hereby he teaches us that newness of life is to be pursued by Christians as long as they live; for since they ought to represent in themselves an image of Christ, both by crucifying the flesh and by a spiritual life, it is necessary that the former should be done once for all, and that the latter should be carried on continually: not that the flesh, as we have already said, dies in us in a moment, but that we ought not to retrograde in the work of crucifying it. For if we roll again in our own filth, we deny Christ; of whom we cannot be the participators except through newness of life, inasmuch as he lives an incorruptible life.


Verse 9

9.Death no more rules over him, etc. He seems to imply that death once ruled over Christ; and indeed when he gave himself up to death for us, he in a manner surrendered and subjected himself to its power; it was however in such a way that it was impossible that he should be kept bound by its pangs, so as to succumb to or to be swallowed up by them. He, therefore, by submitting to its dominion, as it were, for a moment, destroyed it for ever. Yet, to speak more simply, the dominion of death is to be referred to the state of death voluntarily undergone, which the resurrection terminated. The meaning is, that Christ, who now vivifies the faithful by his Spirit, or breathes his own life into them by his secret power from heaven, was freed from the dominion of death when he arose, that by virtue of the same dominion he might render free all his people.


Verse 10

10.He died once to sin, etc. What he had said — that we, according to the example of Christ, are for ever freed from the yoke of death, he now applies to his present purpose, and that is this — that we are no more subject to the tyranny of sin, and this he proves from the designed object of Christ’s death; for he died that he might destroy sin.

But we must observe what is suitable to Christ in this form of expression; for he is not said to die to sin, so as to cease from it, as the words must be taken when applied to us, but that he underwent death on account of sin, that having made himself ἀντίλυτρον, a ransom, he might annihilate the power and dominion of sin. (190) And he says that he died once, not only because he has by having obtained eternal redemption by one offering, and by having made an expiation for sin by his blood, sanctified the faithful for ever; but also in order that a mutual likeness may exist between us. For though spiritual death makes continual advances in us, we are yet said properly to die only once, that is, when Christ, reconciling us by his blood to the Father, regenerates us at the same time by the power of his Spirit.

But that he lives, etc. Whether you addwith or in God, it comes to the same meaning; for he shows that Christ lives a life subject to no mortality in the immortal and incorruptible kingdom of God; a type of which ought to appear in the regeneration of the godly. We must here remember the particle of likeness, so; for he says not that we shall now live in heaven, as Christ lives there; but he makes the new life, which after regeneration we live on earth, similar to his celestial life. When he says that we ought to die to sin, according to his example, we are not to suppose it to be the same kind of death; for we die to sin, when sin dies in us, but it was otherwise with Christ; by dying it was that he conquered sin. But he had just said before, that we believe that we shall have life in common with him, he fully shows by the word believing that he speaks of the grace of Christ: for if he only reminded us of a duty, his mode of speaking would have been this, “Since we die with Christ, we ought also to live with him.” But the word believing denotes that he treats here of doctrine which is based on the promises; as though he had said, that the faithful ought to feel assured that they are through the kindness of Christ dead as to the flesh, and that the same Christ will preserve them in newness of life to the end. But the future time of the verb live, refers not to the last resurrection, but simply denotes the continued course of a new life, as long as we peregrinate on the earth.

It is usual with the Apostle to adopt the same form of words in different senses, which can only be distinguished by the context or by other parts of Scripture, as it has been noticed in a note on Romans 4:25. — Ed.


Verse 11

11.So count ye also yourselves, etc. Now is added a definition of that analogy to which I have referred. For having stated that Christ once died to sin and lives for ever to God, he now, applying both to us, reminds us how we now die while living, that is, when we renounce sin. But he omits not the other part, that is, how we are to live after having by faith received the grace of Christ: for though the mortifying of the flesh is only begun in us, yet the life of sin is destroyed, so that afterwards spiritual newness, which is divine, continues perpetually. For except Christ were to slay sin in us at once to the end, his grace would by no means be sure and durable.

The meaning, then, of the words may be thus expressed, “Take this view of your case, — that as Christ once died for the purpose of destroying sin, so you have once died, that in future you may cease from sin; yea, you must daily proceed with that work of mortifying, which is begun in you, till sin be wholly destroyed: as Christ is raised to an incorruptible life, so you are regenerated by the grace of God, that you may lead a life of holiness and righteousness, inasmuch as the power of the Holy Spirit, by which ye have been renewed, is eternal, and shall ever continue the same.” But I prefer to retain the words of Paul,in Christ Jesus, rather than to translate with [Erasmus ], through Christ Jesus; for thus the grafting, which makes us one with Christ, is better expressed.


Verse 12

12.Let not sin then, etc. He now begins with exhortation, which naturally arises from the doctrine which he had delivered respecting our fellowship with Christ. Though sin dwells in us, it is inconsistent that it should be so vigorous as to exercise its reigning power; for the power of sanctification ought to be superior to it, so that our life may testify that we are really the members of Christ. I have already reminded you that the word body is not to be taken for flesh, and skin, and bones, but, so to speak, for the whole of what man is. (191) This may undoubtedly be inferred from the passage; for the other clause, which he immediately subjoins respecting the members of the body, includes the soul also: and thus in a disparaging manner does Paul designate earthly man, for owing to the corruption of our nature we aspire to nothing worthy of our original. So also does God say in Genesis 6:3; where he complains that man was become flesh like the brute animals, and thus allows him nothing but what is earthly. To the same purpose is the declaration of Christ, “What is born of the flesh is flesh.” (John 3:6.) But if any makes this objection — that the case with the soul is different; to this the ready answer is — that in our present degenerate state our souls are fixed to the earth, and so enslaved to our bodies, that they have fallen from their own superiority. In a word, the nature of man is said to be corporeal, because he is destitute of celestial grace, and is only a sort of empty shadow or image. We may add, that the body, by way of contempt, is said by Paul to be mortal, and this to teach us, that the whole nature of man tends to death and ruin. Still further, he gives the name of sin to the original depravity which dwells in our hearts, and which leads us to sin, and from which indeed all evil deeds and abominations stream forth. In the middle, between sin and us, he places lusts, as the former has the office of a king, while lusts are its edicts and commands.


Verse 13

13.Nor present your members, etc. When once sin has obtained dominion in our soul, all our faculties are continually applied to its service. He therefore describes here the reign of sin by what follows it, that he might more clearly show what must be done by us, if we would shake off its yoke. But he borrows a similitude from the military office, when he calls our members weapons or arms (arma ); (192) as though he said, “As the soldier has ever his arms ready, that he may use them whenever he is ordered by his general, and as he never uses them but at his command; so Christians ought to regard all their faculties to be the weapons of the spiritual warfare: if then they employ any of their members in the indulgence of depravity, they are in the service of sin. But they have made the oath of soldiers to God and to Christ, and by this they are held bound: it hence behoves them to be far away from any intercourse with the camps of sin.” — Those may also here see by what right they proudly lay claim to the Christian name, who have all their members, as though they were the prostitutes of Satan, prepared to commit every kind of abomination.

On the other hand, he now bids us to present ourselves wholly to God, so that restraining our minds and hearts from all wanderings into which the lusts of the flesh may draw us, we may regard the will of God alone, being ready to receive his commands, and prepared to execute his orders; and that our members also may be devoted and consecrated to his will, so that all the faculties both of our souls and of our bodies may aspire after nothing but his glory. The reason for this is also added — that the Lord, having destroyed our former life, has not in vain created us for another, which ought to be accompanied with suitable actions.


Verse 14

14.For sin shall not rule over you, etc. It is not necessary to continue long in repeating and confuting expositions, which have little or no appearance of truth. There is one which has more probability in its favor than the rest, and it is this — that bylaw we are to understand the letter of the law, which cannot renovate the soul, and by grace, the grace of the Spirit, by which we are freed from depraved lusts. But this I do not wholly approve of; for if we take this meaning, what is the object of the question which immediately follows, “Shall we sin because we are not under the law?” Certainly the Apostle would never have put this question, had he not understood, that we are freed from the strictness of the law, so that God no more deals with us according to the high demands of justice. There is then no doubt but that he meant here to indicate some freedom from the very law of God. But laying aside controversy, I will briefly explain my view.

It seems to me, that there is here especially a consolation offered, by which the faithful are to be strengthened, lest they should faint in their efforts after holiness, through a consciousness of their own weakness. He had exhorted them to devote all their faculties to the service of righteousness; but as they carry about them the relics of the flesh, they cannot do otherwise than walk somewhat lamely. Hence, lest being broken down by a consciousness of their infirmity they should despond, he seasonably comes to their aid, by interposing a consolation, derived from this circumstance — that their works are not now tested by the strict rule of the law, but that God, remitting their impurity, does kindly and mercifully accept them. The yoke of the law cannot do otherwise than tear and bruise those who carry it. It hence follows, that the faithful must flee to Christ, and implore him to be the defender of their freedom: and as such he exhibits himself; for he underwent the bondage of the law, to which he was himself no debtor, for this end — that he might, as the Apostle says, redeem those who were under the law.

Hence,not to be under the law means, not only that we are not under the letter which prescribes what involves us in guilt, as we are not able to perform it, but also that we are no longer subject to the law, as requiring perfect righteousness, and pronouncing death on all who deviate from it in any part. In like manner, by the word grace, we are to understand both parts of redemption — the remission of sins, by which God imputes righteousness to us, — and the sanctification of the Spirit, by whom he forms us anew unto good works. The adversative particle, [ ἀλλὰ, but, ] I take in the sense of alleging a reason, which is not unfrequently the case; as though it was said — “We who are under grace, are not therefore under the law.”

The sense now is clear; for the Apostle intended to comfort us, lest we should be wearied in our minds, while striving to do what is right, because we still find in ourselves many imperfections. For how much soever we may be harassed by the stings of sin, it cannot yet overcome us, for we are enabled to conquer it by the Spirit of God; and then, being under grace, we are freed from the rigorous requirements of the law. We must further understand, that the Apostle assumes it as granted, that all who are without the grace of God, being bound under the yoke of the law, are under condemnation. And so we may on the other hand conclude, that as long as they are under the law, they are subject to the dominion of sin. (194)


Verse 15

15.What then? As the wisdom of the flesh is ever clamorous against the mysteries of God, it was necessary for the Apostle to subjoin what might anticipate an objection: for since the law is the rule of life, and has been given to guide men, we think that when it is removed all discipline immediately falls to the ground, that restraints are taken away, in a word, that there remains no distinction or difference between good and evil. But we are much deceived if we think, that the righteousness which God approves of in his law is abolished, when the law is abrogated; for the abrogation is by no means to be applied to the precepts which teach the right way of living, as Christ confirms and sanctions these and does not abrogate them; but the right view is, that nothing is taken away but the curse, to which all men without grace are subject. But though Paul does not distinctly express this, yet he indirectly intimates it.


Verse 16

16.By no means: know ye not? This is not a bare denial as some think, as though he preferred to express his abhorrence of such a question rather than to disprove it: for a confutation immediately follows, derived from a contrary supposition, and to this purpose, “Between the yoke of Christ and that of sin there is so much contrariety, that no one can bear them both; if we sin, we give ourselves up to the service of sin; but the faithful, on the contrary have been redeemed from the tyranny of sin, that they may serve Christ: it is therefore impossible for them to remain bound to sin.” But it will be better to examine more closely the course of reasoning, as pursued by Paul.

To whom we obey, etc. This relative may be taken in a causative sense, as it often is; as when one says, — there is no kind of crime which a parricide will not do, who has not hesitated to commit the greatest crime of all, and so barbarous as to be almost abhorred even by wild beasts. And Paul adduces his reason partly from the effects, and partly from the nature of correlatives. For first, if they obey, he concludes that they are servants, for obedience proves that he, who thus brings one into subjection to himself, has the power of commanding. This reason as to service is from the effect, and from this the other arises. “If you be servants, then of course sin has the dominion.”

Or of obedience, etc. The language is not strictly correct; for if he wished to have the clauses correspondent, he would have said, “or of righteousness unto life” (195) But as the change in the words does not prevent the understanding of the subject, he preferred to express what righteousness is by the word obedience; in which however there is a metonymy, for it is to be taken for the very commandments of God; and by mentioning this without addition, he intimated that it is God alone, to whose authority consciences ought to be subject. Obedience then, though the name of God is suppressed, is yet to be referred to him, for it cannot be a divided obedience.


Verse 17

17.But thanks be to God, etc. This is an application of the similitude of the present subject. Though they were only to be reminded that they were not now the servants of sin, he yet adds a thanksgiving; first, that he might teach them, that this was not through their own merit, but through the special mercy of God; and secondly, that by this thanksgiving, they might learn how great was the kindness of God, and that they might thereby be more stimulated to hate sin. And he gives thanks, not as to that time during which they were the servants of sin, but for the liberation which followed, when they ceased to be what they were before. But this implied comparison between their former and present state is very emphatical; for the Apostle touches the calumniators of the grace of Christ, when he shows, that without grace the whole race of man is held captive under the dominion of sin; but that the kingdom of sin comes to an end, as soon as grace puts forth its power. (196)

We may hence learn, that we are not freed from the bondage of the law that we may sin; for the law does not lose its dominion, until the grace of God restores us to him, in order to renew us in righteousness: and it is hence impossible that we should be subject to sin, when the grace of God reigns in us: for we have before stated, that under this term grace, is included the spirit of regeneration.

You have obeyed from the heart, etc. Paul compares here the hidden power of the Spirit with the external letter of the law, as though he had said, “Christ inwardly forms our souls in a better way, than when the law constrains them by threatening and terrifying us.” Thus is dissipated the following calumny, “If Christ frees us from subjection to the law, he brings liberty to sin.” He does not indeed allow his people unbridled freedom, that they might frisk about without any restraint, like horses let loose in the fields; but he brings them to a regular course of life. — Though [Erasmus ], following the old version, has chosen to translate it the “form” (formam) of doctrine, I have felt constrained to retaintype, the word which Paul uses: some may perhaps prefer the word pattern. (197) It seems indeed to me to denote the formed image or impress of that righteousness which Christ engraves on our hearts: and this corresponds with the prescribed rule of the law, according to which all our actions ought to be framed, so that they deviate not either to the right or to the left hand.

But thanks be to God; for ye have been the servants of sin, but have obeyed the form of doctrine, in which ye have been taught. — Ed.

The word τύπος, is rendered in John 20:25, print, that is, of the nails, — in Acts 7:43, in the plural, fiqures, that is, images, — in Acts 7:44, fashion, that is, pattern or model, — in Hebrews 8:5, pattern, — in Acts 23:25, manner, that is, form, — in Romans 5:14, figure, that is, representative, — in Titus 2:7,pattern; and in all other instances in which it occurs, except in this place, it is renderedexample, and in the plural, examp1es, as afforded by the conduct of others, or by events; see 1 Corinthians 10:6; Philippians 3:17; 1 Thessalonians 1:7; 2 Thessalonians 3:9; 1 Timothy 4:12; 1 Peter 5:3. The idea of mould, which some give to it, is without an example in the New Testament.

Our version is that of [Castellio ], in the meaning of which most critics agree. [Grotius ] gives this paraphrase, “Obedistis ad eum modum quem doctrina evangelii præscribit — Ye became obedient to that rule which the doctrine of the gospel prescribes.” [Wolfius ] quotes from [Iamblichus ], in his life of [Pythagoras ], passages in which τύπος is used for form, model, or manner , —”τὢς παιδεύσεως ὁ τύπος — the form of instruction;” and “τύπος διδασκαλίας — the form or manner of teaching.”

The grammatical difficulty is best removed by [Stuart ], who considers τύπον to be for τυπω, the case being changed by the preceding pronoun, no uncommon thing in Greek: the literal rendering would then be, —”Ye have obeyed the form of doctrine, respecting which (or, in which, see Mark 5:34) ye have been instructed.” — Ed.


Verse 18

18.And having been made free from sin, etc. The meaning is, “It is unreasonable that any one, after having been made free, should continue in a state of bondage; for he ought to maintain the freedom which he has received: it is not then befitting, that you should be brought again under the dominion of sin, from which you have been set at liberty by Christ.” It is an argument derived from the efficient cause; another also follows, taken from the final cause, Ye have been liberated from the bondage of sin, that ye might pass into the kingdom of righteousness; it is hence right that you should wholly turn away from sin, and turn your minds wholly to righteousness, into the service of which you have been transferred.”

It must be observed, that no one can be a servant to righteousness except he is first liberated by the power and kindness of God from the tyranny of sin. So Christ himself testifies,

“If the Son shall free you, you shall be free indeed.”
(
John 8:36.)

What are then our preparations by the power of free will, since the commencement of what is good proceeds from this manumission, which the grace of God alone effects?


Verse 19

19.I speak what is human, etc. He says that he speaks after the manner of men, not as to the substance but as to the manner. So Christ says, in John 3:12, that he announced earthly things, while yet he spoke of heavenly mysteries, though not so magnificently as the dignity of the things required, because he accommodated himself to the capacities of a people ignorant and simple. And thus the Apostle says, by way of preface, that he might more fully show how gross and wicked is the calumny, when it is imagined, that the freedom obtained by Christ gives liberty to sin. He reminds the faithful at the same time, that nothing is more unreasonable, nay, base and disgraceful, than that the spiritual grace of Christ should have less influence over them than earthly freedom; as though he had said, “I might, by comparing sin and righteousness, show how much more ardently ye ought to be led to render obedience to the latter, than to serve the former; but from regard to your infirmity I omit this comparison: nevertheless, though I treat you with great indulgence, I may yet surely make this just demand — that you should not at least obey righteousness more coldly or negligently than you served sin.” It is a sort of reticence or silence, a withholding of something when we wish more to be understood than what we express. He does yet exhort them to render obedience to righteousness with so much more diligence, as that which they served is more worthy than sin, though he seems not to require this in so many words. (198)

As ye have presented, etc.; that is, “As ye were formerly ready with all your faculties to serve sin, it is hence sufficiently evident how wretchedly enslaved and bound did your depravity hold you to itself: now then ye ought to be equally prompt and ready to execute the commands of God; let not your activity in doing good be now less than it was formerly in doing evil.” He does not indeed observe the same order in the antithesis, by adapting different parts to each other, as he does in 1 Thessalonians 4:7, where he sets uncleanness in opposition to holiness; but the meaning is still evident.

He mentions first two kinds — uncleanness and iniquity; the former of which is opposed to chastity and holiness, the other refers to injuries hurtful to our neighbour. But he repeats iniquity twice, and in a different sense: by the first he means plunders, frauds, perjuries, and every kind of wrong; by the second, the universal corruption of life, as though he had said, “Ye have prostituted your members so as to perpetrate all wicked works, and thus the kingdom of iniquity became strong in you” (199) By righteousness I understand the law or the rule of a holy life, the design of which is sanctification, as the case is when the faithful devote themselves to serve God in purity.

Then comes the word “righteousness,” which I am disposed to think is that which all along has been spoken of, the righteousness of faith; this is not innate, not inward, but which comes from without, and is apprehended by faith, by which sins are forgiven, and God’s favor obtained; and they who become the servants of this are to cultivate holiness both inward and outward; they ought to present all their members, that is, all their faculties, to the service of this master, so that they may become holy in all manner of conversation.

But if this idea of righteousness be disapproved of, we may still account for the apparent irregularity in the construction of the passage. It is an instance of an inverted order, many examples of which are found even in this Epistle. He begins with “uncleanness,” he ends with “holiness,” and then the intervening words which are in contrast correspond, “iniquity” and “righteousness.” Here is also an inversion in the meaning; “uncleanness” is the principle, and “holiness” is the action; while “iniquity” is the action, and “righteousness” is the principle. If this view is right, we have here a singular instance of the inverted parallelism, both as to words and meaning. — Ed.


Verse 20

20.For when ye were, etc. He still repeats the difference, which he had before mentioned, between the yoke of righteousness and that of sin; for these two things, sin and righteousness, are so contrary, that he who devotes himself to the one, necessarily departs from the other. And he thus represents both, that by viewing them apart we may see more clearly what is to be expected from each; for to set things thus apart enables us to understand better their distinctive character. He then sets sin on one side, and righteousness on the other; and having stated this distinction, he afterwards shows what results from each of them.

Let us then remember that the Apostle still reasons on the principle of contraries, and in this manner, “While ye were the servants of sin, ye were freed from righteousness; but now a change having taken place, it behoves you to serve righteousness; for you have been liberated from the yoke of sin. He calls those free from righteousness who are held by no bridle to obey righteousness. This is the liberty of the flesh, which so frees us from obedience to God, that it makes us slaves to the devil. Wretched then and accursed is this liberty, which with unbridled or rather mad frenzy, leads us exultingly to our destruction.


Verse 21

21.What fruit, then, etc. He could not more strikingly express what he intended than by appealing to their conscience, and by confessing shame as it were in their person. Indeed the godly, as soon as they begin to be illuminated by the Spirit of Christ and the preaching of the gospel, do freely acknowledge their past life, which they have lived without Christ, to have been worthy of condemnation; and so far are they from endeavouring to excuse it, that, on the contrary, they feel ashamed of themselves. Yea, further, they call to mind the remembrance of their own disgrace, that being thus ashamed, they may more truly and more readily be humbled before God.

Nor is what he says insignificant, Of which ye are now ashamed; for he intimates that we are possessed with extreme blind love for ourselves, when we are involved in the darkness of our sins, and think not that there is so much filth in us. The light of the Lord alone can open our eyes to behold the filthiness which lies hid in our flesh. He only then is imbued with the principles of Christian philosophy, who has well learnt to be really displeased with himself, and to be confounded with shame for his own wretchedness. He shows at last still more plainly from what was to follow, how much they ought to have been ashamed, that is, when they came to understand that they had been standing on the very precipice of death, and had been nigh destruction; yea, that they would have already entered the gates of death, had they not been reclaimed by God’s mercy.


Verse 22

22.Ye have your fruit unto holiness, etc. As he had before mentioned a twofold end of sin, so he does now as to righteousness. Sin in this life brings the torments of an accusing conscience, and in the next eternal death. We now gather the fruit of righteousness, even holiness; we hope in future to gain eternal life. These things, unless we are beyond measure stupid, ought to generate in our minds a hatred and horror of sin, and also a love and desire for righteousness. Some render τελος, “tribute” or reward, and not “end,” but not, as I think, according to the meaning of the Apostle; for though it is true that we bear the punishment of death on account of sin, yet this word is not suitable to the other clause, to which it is applied by Paul, inasmuch as life cannot be said to be the tribute or reward of righteousness.


Verse 23

23.For the wages of sin, etc. There are those who think that, Paul, by comparing death to allowances of meat, (obsoniis ,) points out in a disparaging manner the kind of wretched reward that is allotted to sinners, as this word is taken by the Greeks sometimes for portions allowed to soldiers. But he seems rather indirectly to condemn the blind appetites of those who are ruinously allured by the enticements of sin, as the fish are by the hook. It will however be more simple to render the word “wages,” for surely death is a sufficiently ample reward to the wicked. This verse is a conclusion to the former, and as it were an epilogue to it. He does not, however, in vain repeat the same thing again; but by doubling the terror, he intended to render sin an object of still greater hatred.

But the gift of God. They are mistaken who thus render the sentence, “Eternal life is the gift of God,” as though eternal life were the subject, and the gift of God the predicate; for this does not preserve the contrast. But as he has already taught us, that sin produces nothing but death; so now he subjoins, that this gift of God, even our justification and sanctification, brings to us the happiness of eternal life. Or, if you prefer, it may be thus stated, — “As the cause of death is sin, so righteousness, which we obtain through Christ, restores to us eternal life.”

It may however be hence inferred with certainty, that our salvation is altogether through the grace and mere beneficence of God. He might indeed have used other words — that the wages of righteousness is eternal life; and then the two clauses would correspond: but he knew that it is through God’s gift we obtain it, and not through our own merits; and that it is not one or a single gift; for being clothed with the righteousness of the Son, we are reconciled to God, and we are by the power of the Spirit renewed unto holiness. And he adds, in Christ Jesus, and for this reason, that he might call us away from every conceit respecting our own worthiness.

 


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Bibliography Information
Calvin, John. "Commentary on Romans 6:4". "Calvin's Commentary on the Bible". http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/cal/romans-6.html. 1840-57.

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