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Bible Commentaries

James Nisbet's Church Pulpit Commentary

Romans 6

 

 

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Verse 3

UNION WITH CHRIST

‘Baptized into Jesus Christ.’

Romans 6:3

Try and think what baptism is, how it is a real part of living theology. I do want you to have firmly fixed in your mind the main idea about Holy Baptism. What is it?

I. It is union with Christ.—In that great sacrament of baptism we are put in a different state from that in which we were before; we are brought into actual contact with our Lord Himself. Thus, you may see, the Church is perfectly right when she says this sacrament is generally necessary to salvation. She cannot go behind our Lord’s own words, and therefore we may well think there is something wrong in any teaching or preaching where baptism does not have a foremost place, because it is a sacrament which brings us into union with Christ Himself. That is contrary to very much of what we call the modern gospel. Conversion, of course, is necessary, but it must not be confounded with the change of state at baptism. Remember this, that all the promises of the Gospel are made to those who already are, as the expression goes, in Christ. Union, of course, is inoperative without faith. It is perfectly true that we may be brought into union with Him, and yet it may be inoperative; but it does not depend upon faith, it is there whether we believe it or not. It is perfectly true, of course, that repentance and faith may be given in the case of adults before Holy Baptism. There may be true conversion of the heart before it. We mean, then, when we say ‘members of Christ,’ Christ living in us because we have been brought into union with Him in Holy Baptism. There can be no true life unless we abide in Him; remain in that union to which we have been brought in Holy Baptism.

II. What follows?—Let us notice what follows on this: the remission of sins. This must be so if we are brought into union with Christ; and so, as we have asserted in our creed, we ‘acknowledge one baptism for the remission of sins.’ And the symbolism of the water reminds us that there is a cleansing connected with Holy Baptism. When our Blessed Lord used the word water, His hearers would understand what He meant. They had learned by John the Baptist’s baptism that there was a cleansing use connected with it. Flesh may attain to great degrees of holiness, as it did in the case of John the Baptist, but remember what our Lord said of him: ‘The least in the Kingdom of Heaven is greater than he,’ that is, on a higher scale of being even than was John the Baptist.

III. Practical application.—To be practical—

(a) Let us think more of the great sacrament of baptism. Is sufficient reverence and honour paid to that sacrament? Is there not a tendency, not only in our branch of the Church but elsewhere, to have this sacrament of Holy Baptism administered in too much of a hole-and-corner way? Our Prayer Book is quite clear; it is to be public baptism. Every one of us ought from time to time to take an opportunity of being present at the sacrament of Holy Baptism. It is not a matter of indifference.

(b) It ought to be oftener that we remember our vows. Let our minds go back, although we cannot recollect it ourselves, to the fact that we have been baptized, that certain promises were made in our name, and that, at the moment of our baptism, we were innocent. Let us struggle as far as we can to keep that innocence, and, if we have lost it, to regain it by repentance, by keeping our conscience tender, and being on our guard against all those little sins which come in and defile the soul; and then, not only that, but let us stir up that gift which is in us through the waters of Holy Baptism, remembering that we are not our own.

Christ has claimed us as His own, having bought us with a price, and therefore we are to glorify Him in our bodies and in our spirits which are His.

—Archdeacon J. R. Vincent.

Illustration

‘Baptism is one of the foundation truths of the doctrines of Christ, which every Christian ought to know about, yet, for all that, you are perfectly well aware that there is a great deal of indefiniteness about this sacrament, and there is so much in the popular teaching of the day which goes clean contrary to the teaching of the Church on this subject—nay, to the teaching of Holy Scripture itself—that we have to be careful. Holy Baptism, to the ordinary man, is just a kind of form which babies have to go through, to be got over in as quick and easy a way as possible. The father may stay at home; the mother, who cannot help herself, will just come and bring the child to the font at the most convenient time to her, and then it is all done with; and I suppose to a great many of us baptism is something which is past and gone. It has really no practical bearing upon our lives to-day. That ought not so to be.’


Verse 4

AIMS IN THE CHRISTIAN LIFE

‘Newness of life.’

Romans 6:4

A new life springs from a new motive, goes by a new way on to a new end.

From that singleness of aim and end, as soon as a man has it, three results immediately ensue.

I. Having now one great, high object before him, gives a fullness and consistency to his character.—It is just what every man wants to make him really happy, or really useful, or really great; a definite intention—a scope, a purpose worthy of his being; and that concentration of purpose gives strength of character. A thousand things, which used to seem very great to him, grow into littleness. He has a grand design. That design lies on far in eternity; and he lives up to his mark. And so, with greater force than he ever had before, he gathers himself to attain that which is eternal.

II. As soon as God’s glory is your chief pursuit in life, your will must necessarily be conformed to God’s will, and God’s will is always for His own glory—and everything He does in this world is for His own glory—therefore, if you desire God’s glory, whatever is His, must be after your mind, and nothing can offend it. And this oneness of the will with the will of God is rest, the only rest which it is possible to have in this world, because it is rest in God, and rest on God, being at rest with God.

III. Whoever lives for the glory of God must live to do good to his fellow-creatures; for God is glorified by the extension of His own kingdom, by the propagation of truth, by the salvation of souls, by the reflection of His own image, by the happiness of His creatures. To promote these things, therefore, that man must now begin to live. Therefore he becomes a labourer in God’s vineyard—he wins souls—he has a daily work to do. And therefore he is never listless. He is a man engaged and busy. And, all the while, he is serving the tenderest Master, Who loves him well; and Whom he loves well. And that service is perfect liberty. That is health; and that health is happiness; and that happiness is ‘newness of life.’

Illustration

‘Every man must live according to his level; and no one could, honestly, live above his level. But, where the grace of God is, the level is always rising. And thus these “new” pleasures coming in necessarily drive out the “old” ones, and so make “the new life.”’

(SECOND OUTLINE)

A NEW CREATURE

Self is the ruling principle of every man whom the grace of God has not changed. Self is his God. Now how is it in the Christian? He has union with Christ, therefore, in him, Christ and self are one. By a blessed reaction, his God is now himself—his new self—his real self; his life is the life of God in his soul; his happiness is God’s glory; therefore still he studies self, but self is Christ.

Let us trace where the ‘newness’ lies.

I. A new motive.—First there is set, in that man, a ‘new’ motive, a ‘new’ spring welling up—‘I am forgiven, God loves me, God has made me His. Oh,! how shall I pay Him? Never! But how can I show Him that I do indeed love Him Who has been so exceedingly kind to me?’ That is ‘newness’; and ‘the the dew of its birth is of the womb of the morning.’

II. A new principle.—Bars and fetters have been falling off from that man’s soul, and he feels a ‘new’ principle, and it is as delightful to him as it is strange. He is emancipated from a long dark bondage—he is ‘free among the dead’—free to pray from his heart—free to speak out everything. The thoughts of deep communion with God run leapingly—he can go into His very presence—the burden is gone—the barrier of unbelief, the charnel-house of wicked lust, he has got out of them—they are left behind—the past is an empty grave, and there is a ‘newness’—the ‘newness’ of constant resurrection morning. And a ‘new’ current flows in his very life-blood, he feels the springs of his immortality, he carries in him his own eternity. And he goes forth, that man, into the old world—its scenes are just the same, but a ‘new’ sunshine lies upon everything—it is the medium of his ‘new-born’ peace—it is a smile of God. And oh.! how changed that world looks to him; every day and every moment there are secret comings in of grace to his soul—hidden supplies of wisdom, patience, power, holiness, sweetness, love; and each one brings its own gushing.

III. A new standard.—And so his standard is always rising. He leaves the past attainments behind, as nothing to the heights which are opening before him. He has ever a new ambition; and new aspirations bear him up to new ranges in the Christian journey, and therefore he enterprises new works for God. This soul and that soul wake up an interest in his thoughts and prayers. Another and another mission for Christ forces itself upon his mind. His charities go forth ‘beside all waters,’ into wider and wider circles. He can never do enough; the more he does the more he feels undone—the greater his works, the deeper his un-profitableness. And all the while, Christ reveals Himself to him with ever-increasing clearness.

—Rev. James Vaughan.

Illustration

‘In everything which is really of God there is a singular freshness; it is always like that “tree of life, which bare twelve manner of fruits, and yielded her fruit every month”; there is a continual novelty. And yet some people speak of the sameness of a religious life. Strange! how often things are least rightly read in their characterising features. Through a new spirit—endowed with a new heart—by a new and living way—in obedience to a new commandment—with mercies new to us every morning—carrying a new name—we travel to a new heaven and a new earth, where we shall sing a new song for ever and ever. Well might Christ say of Himself, “Behold, I make all things new.”’

(THIRD OUTLINE)

A RELIGION OF NEWNESS

Christianity is a religion of newness.

I. It consists in a new covenant.

II. It imposes a new commandment.

III. It announces a new creation.

IV. It constructs a new humanity and a new man.

V. It imposes a new name.

VI. It teaches a new song.

VII. It promises a new heaven and a new earth.

VIII. It summons to a new life.

Illustration

‘There is a daily renewing of the Holy Ghost, there is a freshness of spiritual fervour and achievement, which points on to the time when God shall make all things new, and when the great and final regeneration shall be Divinely consummated.’


Verse 7

FREEDOM BY DEATH

‘He that is dead is freed from sin.’

Romans 6:7

Christ came to be a federal Head. As the natural members of our body gather up into the natural head, so spiritual believers gather up into Christ. The Head acts, the Head feels, the Head loves, the Head does, the Head suffers, the Head dies. What the Head does, in God’s calculation, it is as if the members had done it. What the Head suffers, it is, in God’s calculation, as if the members had suffered it.

I. Observe the consequence of this representative system.—As soon as ever you are really united to the Lord Jesus Christ—which union is effected first by goings forth or drawings of love on His part, then by reciprocal acts of faith and gratitude on yours—as soon as that union takes place, you have died—you have died in your covenant Head. There was a sentence of death against you which must be executed, but in Christ you have undergone it. All the punishment, all the penalty you had to pay—the exile you had to endure—the execution you had to suffer—are past. God’s extremest justice is satisfied, and more than satisfied. What is the result? You cannot be punished for your own sins—you can never be required to pay the forfeit which has been paid, or to undergo the exile which has been endured, or to die the death which has been died—it is done in Christ, and you are dead—and ‘he that is dead is freed from sin.’

II. This was the only conceivable way in which it was possible that any man should be ‘freed from sin.’—God’s government of this world is a moral government, according to all our ideas of justice and truth. It is essential to moral government that every sin should have its retribution. Therefore, God laid it down at the first, ‘The soul that sinneth, it shall die.’ And bad and disordered as this world is, what would it have been—what a pandemonium!—if there had been no fear of judgment to come in this world! Having once laid it down, it would not have been compatible with the faithfulness of God to depart from it by one iota. Every soul that sins must die.

III. Look at the condition of a man who is ‘freed from sin.’—Had sin never entered into our world—or, having entered, had it been simply forgiven by a word—we should have been, I suppose, just as Adam was. But what is all that compared to what you have? An eternity of Christ—sunned for ever in His smile, never separated from His side, a part of His mystical body, higher than the highest archangel, called to the noblest services, reflecting the very image of God. To what do we owe that? To the necessity that was laid on the heart of Jesus to come and die for us. And the title He has given us, and the merit with which He has invested us, the sanctity of which He has made us capable, and the unity to which He has called us—oh! it is a good thing for us that Adam ever fell and that death did ever reign, since by death we are free from death, and being made free from death, we are the freemen of heaven.


Verse 8

CHRIST AND HIS PEOPLE

‘Now if we be dead with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with Him.’

Romans 6:8

The text exhibits a parallel between Christ’s literal death and resurrection and our spiritual death and resurrection, and not only a parallel, but also the real connection between them.

I. The parallel.—Is one of death and life.

(a) Of death. Christ ‘died unto sin’; we ‘died,’ and are ‘to reckon ourselves dead unto sin.’ ‘Died unto sin’ is not equivalent to ‘died for sin.’ These are not convertible terms, and we cannot ‘die for sin’ as Christ did. That meaning, therefore, cannot be allowed here. The expression refers to the end put to Christ’s connection with sin and our connection with it by death. In Christ’s case it cannot point to His separation from sin as a defiling and inward thing in Him when He died; for He knew no sin. But before His death He had a certain real connection with sin which His death ended—a connection such that He could be tempted by sin, came in contact with it in its various forms among men, e.g. in the contradiction of sinners against Himself, and bore it through Divine imputation as the Substitute of sinners, the Lamb of God. Dying, He passed forth from its dominion, having thereby expiated guilt and magnified the law. Being dead He was free from sin and the sway which the law gave to the sin He bore. Sin could no more condemn Him and bring Him to death, the penalty of the law, when by death He had exhausted the law’s penalty. So with His people. Their ‘death unto sin’ is parallel to this. As His death dissolved His connection with sin, so, if they be dead with Him, their death has dissolved their connection with it. They die to its condemning power and its legal dominion, as thoroughly as if sin had slain them personally and the law had literally exacted its penalty from them.

(b) Of life. ‘Christ being raised from the dead, dieth no more, death hath no more dominion over Him … in that He liveth, He liveth unto God. Likewise reckon ye yourselves … alive unto God.’ In both the life is a resurrection life. Spiritually His people live through a Resurrection. They rise from the death which the law inflicts upon them when they die with Christ. Planted in the likeness of His death, they are so also in the likeness of His resurrection, rise with Him to walk in newness of life. The life of both is undying. Christ dieth no more. The spiritual life of His people is as undying as His own: its vitality is unquenchable; death cannot hurt it, or end it, or have dominion over it. Death may touch the body, but in doing so only helps to perfect the life of the soul, and must resign its dominion over the body (cf. chap. Romans 8:10-11). Both live unto God. Christ’s resurrection life is not one of inactive repose or passive communion with God, but one of holy service, ceaseless ministry, continual intercession ‘within the veil,’ government of the world, and perfecting of the Church. So His people, risen with Him, are alive unto God, with a life of holy service, in the cause of righteousness, are priests unto God, are subduing the world to Him as kings.

II. The connection.—This lies in the union between Christ and His people.

III. Practical application.—‘Likewise reckon ye also yourselves to be dead indeed unto sin, but alive unto God through Jesus Christ.’

(a) To the believer. You are dead with Christ and alive unto God. Therefore count yourself so and aspire after freedom from sin and life unto God.

(b) To the sinner. Why should not this privilege be yours? Close with the offer of mercy and enter by faith into union with Christ in His death, resurrection, and life.


Verse 11

FROM DEATH UNTO LIFE

‘Likewise reckon ye also yourselves to be dead indeed unto sin, but alive unto God through Jesus Christ our Lord.’

Romans 6:11

The Epistle to the Romans contains the very sum and substance of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. It has been excellently styled ‘The Cathedral of the Christian Faith.’ In words inspired by God the Holy Ghost, the grand, the vital truth is laid down, that ‘We are accounted righteous before God, only for the merit of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ by faith, and not for our own works and deservings’ (Art. XI).

But the hope that is held out to Christians does not end with this great doctrine. By faith in the expiatory sacrifice of Jesus Christ, ‘he that believeth in Jesus’ obtains a sentence of justification in virtue of which he stands reconciled to God. But there is something more. Christ died and rose again.

I. He is our living Lord.—The Christian not only partakes in His Death and in His Burial, but also in His Resurrection. He rose with and in Him; he is to live with and in Him. Of this, his baptism is not only the symbol, but the seal and pledge. And to live is not merely to regain peace with God through the forgiveness of sin. It is to seek the light of His holiness, to walk in newness of life, in communion with the Father and the Son through the Spirit. As Godet says: ‘In the cure of the soul, pardon is only the crisis of convalescence; the restoration of health is sanctification.’ This brings us to the thought expanded and enforced in chapters 6–8.

II. The end which God has in view, the Apostle teaches, is the restoration of the sinner to life with Himself. Holiness is true life. Reconciliation is the first step; justification by faith is the means; sanctification is the end. The Gospel of Jesus Christ, however, while it brings freedom from guilt, does not prescribe freedom from moral obligation. On the contrary:

III. It enjoins practical holiness.—The objection, therefore, that Christianity encourages its disciples to ‘continue in sin, that grace may abound,’ is utterly without foundation. So far is this from the truth, that the Apostle exclaimed, with all the strength of asseveration, and we exclaim with him, ‘God forbid!’ The doctrines of Jesus Christ have the very opposite tendency.

Prebendary Eardley-Wilmot.

Illustration

‘This is perhaps one of the very strongest statements in all the New Testament. We are to account ourselves dead to sin. And yet all the while we know that we go on sinning. Even the just falleth seven times a day. And St. Paul himself, in this very Epistle, bewails with the most impassioned bitterness the all too undeniable fact that what the Christian would not, that he still continues to do. But for all this here the words stand.’

(SECOND OUTLINE)

THE RECKONING

This is an emphatic exhortation drawn from a great argument. St. Paul has been discoursing on the prime duties and immunities of Christian believers. His main point is this—that Jesus died for their sin that they might live to God.

I. The first part of the reckoning relates

(a) To the greatest evil—‘Sin.’ There was a time when sin was a very little thing, but a paradise has been changed into a pandemonium, and pure beings into corrupt souls. The history of the world is the history of sin.

(b) To separation from this tremendous evil. ‘Dead indeed unto sin.’ A dead man is wholly insensible to the sounds, the tastes, the pleasures, and the avocations of life; and so should be a Christian man to all kinds of sin; they should have no dominion over him.

II. The second part of the reckoning relates

(a) To the greatest Being—‘God.’ He is absolute love. And herein is His supreme greatness manifested.

(b) To connection with Him. ‘Alive unto God.’ The Apostle does not attempt to explain or prove this. He prefers to assert it independent of all metaphysical principle. But his statement, brief though it is, contains a world of meaning.

Illustration

‘Is it a paradox, or is it said in sober earnest? Is it a contradiction, stating what is not, only with the intention of fixing your minds more strongly on what really is; or is it the statement of a living fact which is to have a place and home in daily life? We know full well it is the latter. It is a paradox no doubt; but the life of faith is full of paradoxes. We may even say that the life of faith upon earth is itself one great paradox. You may say that such a precept as this is in itself a call to the impossible. But is not Christianity itself a call to the impossible?—to the impossible, that is, looked at from the merely human point of view.’

(THIRD OUTLINE)

DEATH AND LIFE

The religious and the irreligious man take different views alike of sin and of God.

I. The Christian’s view.

(a) He deems himself ‘dead unto sin.’ Sin once had mastery over him, but now it has lost its charm, its power, and its dreadful threatening. He is emancipated through a spiritual death.

(b) He reckons himself to be ‘alive to God.’ Formerly his soul was dead unto God; but now the thought of God is congenial, the voice of God is welcome, the will of God is authoritative. This spiritual life unto God involves the glorious resurrection and the life eternal.

II. This view derived from relation to Christ.—What we need for our true well-being is a revelation of God and a victory over sin.

(a) The change is in the likeness of Christ’s death and resurrection. In his crucifixion, our Lord died unto sin; in His resurrection, Jesus rose, and lived unto God. When we affirm that our death unto sin, and our life unto God, are in the likeness of Christ, we mean in fact and not in measure.

(b) The change is by the power of Christ’s death and resurrection. ‘In Christ Jesus’ here means in union with Him.

Illustration

‘Truth, honour, the craving after better things, which even bad men show, are the struggling witnesses to the fact that scarcely any depravity in this life can quite crush out the new life which God of His goodness has put within us. These are the facts. If you have sinned ever so deeply, or ever so long, it cannot alter the fact. It is the Christian’s birthright. Let your sins have been what they may, you may at any time turn round upon the Tempter, and, in the power of God which is yours in Christ, you may defy him to do his worst. Alive towards God. Yes, so we are. Would to God we could believe it.’

(FOURTH OUTLINE)

ALIVE UNTO GOD

I. This principle is of the very essence of the Christian life.—The words are express and uncompromising, but they are not more so than scores of parallel expressions.

II. We must make it our business so to live in this world as to carry out this idea of deadness to all that is merely of the world and evil.

III. There is a whole world of life on the side next God.—Try this and you will find it true. What does life mean? It means action and energy, and not mere existence. Life means love, and affection, and desire, and intercourse, and active energy on behalf of that for which we live. And the life of the soul is drawn from God and tends to God.

IV. Here we have the grand secret of Christian improvement.—It does not lie so much in merely taking precautions against individual sins—though this, alas! is all too necessary—as in vigorous pressing on in goodness, and in living in perpetual intercourse with God. How do we live in intercourse with God? There are three ways mainly.

(a) There is the closest of all when we come to Him—or rather when He comes to us—in Holy Communion.

(b) There is the next in our stated prayers, whether in His own house or in private.

(c) And then, linked on with these, and carrying their fragrance into our hourly life, there is the perpetual recollection and realising of His Presence.

Illustration

‘When Christ our Lord became man, He was not merely man minus human imperfections, He was more than that. Adam had been that once. So when Christ became man it was not merely a going back to what once had been, but a going forward to something new and better. The second man was the Lord from “heaven.” And this teaches us wherein our renewal must consist. As when Christ became man, the Godhead came into our nature, so when we are baptized into Christ, a new and Divine vitality is set a-going in our personality as well.’


Verse 13

A LIVING SACRIFICE

‘Yield yourselves unto God, as those that are alive from the dead.’

Romans 6:13

As it is the living ‘self,’ ‘which after God hath been created in righteousness and holiness of truth’ (Ephesians 4:24), not the old self forfeited through sin, and dead already to all things, that is to be presented, so it follows that the surrender will express itself in the life. ‘I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service’ (Romans 12:1). This life will consist in—

I. Obedience.—The will of God as a higher law will constrain the spirit. It will seek to know it and to conform to its requirements. Where there is no reason manifested for these there will nevertheless be an instant and unhesitating acquiescence. It is part of the discipline of earth thus to submit cheerfully to the unknown and inexplicable, when it is recognised as the ordinance of heaven. The child of grace will attain by degrees to—

II. Communion.—The will of God will be ascertained by actual experience and analogy as the best and wisest. The affections and desires, illuminated and purified by the Divine Spirit, will follow hard after it and lose themselves in it. Henceforth the life will not be so much a living for and a striving towards this heavenly will as an identification with and resting in it. Its inspirations will impart new joy and strength; its demands will call forth ever fresh responses of gratitude and love. The first expression of sacrifice will therefore be—

III. Service.—They alone are profitable servants who are conscious of no will but their Lord’s.

Illustration

‘According as our offering is more or less an external thing do we find our place in one of three great classes that divide mankind. To give Him something that we have is Heathen; to offer Him what we do is Jewish; to surrender to Him what we are is Christian.’


Verse 14

A GREAT PROMISE

‘Sin shall not have dominion over you.’

Romans 6:14

Never think that a really religious life will go on by itself. There are a very great many things necessary to carry on a religious life.

I. All life worth the name, all spiritual life, is in Christ.—He is the life, and nothing lives but as it is in union with Christ. No branch can live unless joined to the tree. You must be in Christ, a real member of His mystical body. Then, as He says, ‘Because I live, ye shall live also.’ ‘As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine, no more can ye, except ye abide in Me.’ ‘I am the life.’ If you do not recognise and act out that principle, whatsoever be the position of your soul to Christ, before you can overcome, you will be bitterly taught how true and accurate it is that Christ and Christ only is life.

II. There must be the constant inward breathing of the Holy Spirit in you.—He must prompt, He must guide, He must strengthen, He must give both the will and the power, He must make you to understand, He must make you to love God’s Word, He must pray in you, He must reprove, He must encourage, He must impart grace to you as the sap gathers nourishment for the branch. Without these two grand truths you will never hold from your domineering sin. The only way to get rid of any ‘sin’ is to put God in His right place.

III. A life which is not under the dominion of Christ is under the dominion of some sin; and, if eternity were to dawn at this moment, the question with you would be, ‘Sin or Christ? Sin or Christ?’ More of sin and less of Christ, or more of Christ and less of sin? But remember, remember that heart of yours is, and is meant to be always, the seat of the kingdom of Christ.

Illustration

‘There is no master so wretched, there is no tyrant so cruel; there is no chain so fast and so galling; there is no bondage so degrading, as the “sin” which has “dominion.”’


Verse 20

SLAVES OF SIN

‘When ye were the servants of sin, ye were free from righteousness.’

Romans 6:20

St. Paul encourages the Christian to remember the bondage of sin, that he may appreciate the blessings of redemption. The assertion is made of the Roman Christians that such had been their condition. And it has been ours, for all have sinned.

I. What is the slavery of sin?

(a) It is the subjugation of the whole nature—of the soul first, and then of the body, which is the instrument of the soul.

(b) It is subjection to the condemnation of the law. Sin is the transgression of the law.

(c) It is rebellion against the rightful Governor.

II. What are its results?

(a) It brings its own punishment in the habit and love of sinning.

(b) It incurs God’s displeasure.

(c) It involves condemnation.

Illustration

‘Slaves who came to the English settlement for shelter had had cruel task-masters; wounds caused by chains were on their wrists and ankles, bruises from heavy burdens on their shoulders. We have been “tied and bound with the chain of our sins”; we know the heavy weight of some sinful habit, that seemed pleasant enough at first, but grew into a chain that cuts and wounds us. But our Redeemer waits to set us free from the task-master, and shows the price of His most precious blood.’


Verse 21

THE HIDEOUSNESS OF SIN

‘What fruit had ye then in those things whereof ye are now ashamed? for the end of those things is death.’

Romans 6:21

I. The fruitlessness of sin.—‘What fruit had ye?’ asks the Apostle, appealing to their own memory and judgment.

(a) The reward that sin offers gratifies only the lowest desires of our nature.

(b) The pleasantness that sin offers is more than neutralised by its bitterness. Take the devotee of pleasure. What is his enjoyment compared to the disappointment, chagrin, ennui which he endures?

(c) Sin’s pleasures are purchased at a dreadfully disproportionate cost. What does the sinner barter away? God’s smile, peace of conscience, life itself in the highest sense. This is the price he pays for his pleasures, such as they are.

(d) Sin’s pleasures are short-lived. Follow out any degrading, sinful pleasure, and how soon it consumes itself!

II. The shamefulness of sin.—Looking back they were ‘ashamed.’

(a) The shame of putting high faculties and great opportunities to low uses.

(b) The shame of ingratitude. ‘How much owest thou unto my Lord’—thou to whom He has given so royally? How deep the shame to spend His substance upon riotous living.

III. The fatal end of sin.—‘The end of those things is death.’ No one dares to say that a life of sin can lead to happiness. God’s Word says that it leads to ‘death’; and we have no line that can fathom that ocean of despair.


Verse 22

THE GREAT CHANGE

‘But now being made free from sin, and become servants to God, ye have your fruit unto holiness, and the end everlasting life.

Romans 6:22

I. Consider the practical lessons contained in the text:—

(a) It speaks of those who are free from sin. ‘But now being made free from sin.’ Is this the possible condition of any one who carries about with him a sinful nature, and whose daily lot is cast in a world lying in wickedness? But the words are plain and express; of whom, then, is this spoken? In answering the question, observe the force of the emphatic ‘Now.’ It is a note of time; it declares a conclusion; it expresses a result. The man, says the Apostle, who has apprehended the justifying righteousness of Christ, who has repented of his sin, left the service of Satan, and united himself in Christ to the living God, has been brought into this state, and is now in this condition. And so it must be, because God in His Holy Word assures us of it. What is the Gospel felt in the heart, but freedom from the tyranny of sin? ‘Sin,’ says the Apostle, ‘shall not have dominion over you; for ye are not under the law, but under grace.’

(b) But there is a further step in the practical results of true Christianity: ‘Being made free from sin, and become the servants of God.’ Freedom from one master to become the servant of another. Servant is a term of relation, and signifies here one who renders obedience to God; one who is supported by His grace and interested in His cause. And is not every Christian in covenant with, and, by profession, made a surrender of himself to, his God? Is he not bought with the precious Blood of Christ; and has he not bound himself to be ‘Christ’s faithful soldier and servant unto his life’s end’?

(c) But further the duties deepen. As servants of God, your moral developments all tend towards the attainment of ‘holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord.’ Once free from righteousness, and the servants of sin; but now servants to God, ye have your fruit unto sanctification. What fruit? The fruit of your hearts; the fruit of your lips; the fruit of your lives. Think, then, what manner of people ought ye to be? Should not our hearts be given to God? What is obedience, unless it be heart-obedience? Are the enlightening of the understanding, the sanctifying of the affections, the informing of the heart, the renewing of the will—are these meaningless expressions, the shibboleth of a dead theology? or are they realities, and the real workings of the Divine Spirit in the heart of man? And will not the principle of religion in the heart equally govern the lips? The Christian will not say, ‘My tongue is my own, who is Lord over me?’ but will strive to have every thought brought into captivity, to the obedience of Christ. We are bound to see to it, that in our lips there is no guile. ‘I said, I will take heed to my ways, that I sin not with my tongue.’

(d) There must be the fruit of our lives, fruit unto holiness. We are to take care that what God hates, we disapprove; what He forbids, we forsake; what He commands, we do. Yet, alas! how absolutely unfruitful are the lives of many, or fruitful only unto evil! The fruit of the Christian’s life is not to be evil, it is not to be of a doubtful kind; it is to be fruit unto holiness. This is to be the evidence and token that he is free from sin, and become the servant of God.

(e) And then the end. Not as if the holiness and happiness of the Christian had a limit; as if his hope were one day to terminate and his expectation perish; but an end which implies the consummation of this present life for good; the fruition, the full crowning of that blessed state into which God’s believing ones are brought; a state of eternal and uninterrupted union with Christ; the realisation in His Presence of His promise: ‘Because I live, ye shall live also.’

II. Are we really free from sin, and become servants to God?—Do our lives testify as much, our consciences witness to it? Are we fruitful members of the Church of Christ—faithful, devoted, obedient disciples of the Son of God? We are but strangers here, heaven is our home. If we look heavenward, let us walk heavenward. He Who promises the end in glory will give us strength for the way. If we have our ‘fruit unto sanctification,’ the end will assuredly be ‘eternal life.’

—Prebendary Eardley-Wilmot.

Illustrations

(1) ‘A number of runaway slaves came to an English settlement in Africa for shelter. When the English company found what these poor people were, they paid the price of every one to his owner, and let them all go free. A missionary belonging to the settlement said it was a touching sight when all the freed slaves came to church to thank God for their liberty. He wept for joy himself, as well he might. The Englishman with a great sum obtained the freedom of these slaves. But what has our Deliverer spent on His gift to us? “God so loved the world that He gave His only-begotten Son.” We were not redeemed with silver and gold, “but with the precious blood of Christ.”’

(2) ‘A sailor, just home from sea, stood on London Bridge watching a bird-catcher, with a cage of skylarks, beating their wings against the bars. The sailor held out a handful of silver, saying, “Yours, if you will let me see them all fly away.” The birds fluttered in terror as their gaoler’s hand touched the door; but the prison was open, the cage fell to the ground, and lark after lark rose singing into the sky. When death comes near, if we have received our Saviour’s precious gift, we need have “no fearing or doubting, with Christ on our side.” The body—the cage—will fall, and be cast aside; but the spirit, the true self, shall be set free, to be “with Christ, which is far better.”’

(SECOND OUTLINE)

THE HIGHER LIFE

The higher life is directly and strongly opposed to the lower, and therefore there is a struggle from first to last between them. Hence there is an endeavour here to cheer all Christians by a representation as glorious as it is correct.

I. A great deliverance.—‘Made free from sin.’

(a) Free from the bondage of sin.

(b) Free from the dominion of sin.

(c) Free from the curse of sin.

II. A distinguished privilege.—‘Become servants to God.’

(a) In His service there is dignity.

(b) In His service there is profit.

III. A twofold consequence.—‘Ye have your fruit unto holiness, and the end everlasting life.’

(a) The first is in the present. It is figuratively described as ‘fruit’—the fruit of holiness. Holiness is God-likeness.

(b) The second and final is in the future. ‘Everlasting life’ is the crown of the text. It is the same piety in heaven as on earth, only in heaven it will be expanded, perfected, glorified.


Verse 23

GOD’S GIFT

‘The gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.’

Romans 6:23

If death—death both temporal and eternal—is the wages of sin, what, we may ask, is the wages of righteousness? Can we earn life by obeying God, even as sinners earn death by obeying the devil? Alas! if this were our only hope of life, we should be of all men the most miserable. Who among us can say, ‘I am holy; I obey all God’s commandments; I look forward to eternal life as the fair wages of my service’? We all know but too well—if, indeed, we have thought at all about it—that we do not obey all God’s commandments, that we are not as holy as we should be. We know that if we get only what we deserve, we too shall earn death, and shall only differ from the abandoned sinner in knowing our future misery. But, thanks be to God, life is not offered to us as the due reward of holiness, as the wages of righteousness.

I. Eternal life is God’s gift.—He gives it to us from the very first. He it was that breathed into Adam the breath of life, whereby he became a living soul. He it is that in our Baptism gives to us His Spirit to purify and sanctify us so that we are joined to the Lord and are ‘one spirit’ with Him. In that holy sacrament He received us into the number of His children and gave us the promise of eternal life. And ever since that time He has continually been fitting us to enjoy it; by every trial and suffering we have undergone, by every holy thought and good desire He has put into our hearts; whenever we have assembled in His house we have heard Him warning and exhorting us by the voice of His Holy Scripture, and of his authorised ministers, setting before us life and death, and bidding us choose life; whenever we have approached His holy table with faith and repentance, He has fed us with the spiritual food of the body and blood of His dear Son, assuring us thereby that we are heirs through hope of His everlasting Kingdom. When He calls us away from this world, He will give us rest and peace with all His holy ones who have gone before us; and in that day, which is steadily drawing on, though we know not when it shall come, He shall raise our bodies from the dust, and we shall really enter on the enjoyment of life, and that a life eternal. Such is the gift of God.

II. Our eternal life is the wages of the righteousness of Christ.—He earned it for us. So that while it is His wages, to us it is a free and undeserved gift. It is God’s gift to us through Christ. But it does not follow that because we cannot do anything to deserve it, that therefore we need do nothing to obtain it. It is the gift of God ‘through Christ.’ To whom, then, will He give it but to the faithful followers of Christ—to those who love their Lord and His appearing? And this shows more clearly the meaning of the Apostle in the text. He says not there one word of righteousness, but it is implied in the expressions he uses: ‘The wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.’ As though he had said, ‘Your sins, if you give way to them, and persevere in them, will at last bring you to death eternal; which is indeed their wages, their well-earned and well-deserved punishment; but if you live a different life, if you strive by the grace of God to overcome your sins, and to conform yourselves to the likeness of your Lord and Saviour, that course of life will bring you to the life eternal; not as a reward, not as something due to you, but it will be given you by God, for the sake of Christ.’

III. The text is an encouragement, because it shows us that life is not the reward of our righteousness, but the gift of God; so that we may hope to receive that gift, even though our righteousness be not quite perfect. What is absolutely necessary is that we should be united to Christ. It is through Him that God gives life; through our union with Him we receive it.

Bishop Lord Alwyne Compton.

Illustration

‘The whole parable of the verse, Romans 6:23, lies in the two words Wages and Gift. Each of these words has a special meaning. The word wages is the word used for a soldier’s pay: not merely a servant’s wages, but the “pay” of a soldier. And the word gift is the word used for the largess of a successful general after a victory: not merely a gift in the ordinary sense of any one making a present or gift to some one else, but that particular gift—or largess—which the commander of an army gives his soldiers when a battle has been won or a city taken. Both words belong to soldiers, and not merely to servants. The first word means the regular stated “pay.” The second word means something over and above “pay”; that largess which, after victory, a general, in the joy of victory, gives bountifully to the soldiers who had shared his labours and fought under his banners.’

(SECOND OUTLINE)

THAT THEY MIGHT HAVE LIFE

Observe how God’s great gift in Christ Jesus gives life to the world and life to each individual soul.

I. God’s gift in Christ of eternal life to the world.—Since sin entered into the world, its end has not only been eternal death, but it frustrates the purpose of God for eternal life, for it separates God from man and increases the weakness in our fallen human nature. But God so eternally loved us that He provided His own remedy for sin in the person of our Lord Jesus Christ, who said, ‘I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly.’

II. Christ claimed in His own person to meet and correct every individual need of man.—In order to make it quite intelligible to us how our life is sustained by incorporation into His, our Blessed Lord reveals His intimate relation with every soul by that series of claims which declare Him to be:—

(a) The Source of Life—‘The True Vine.’

(b) The Redeemer and Protector of Life—‘The Good Shepherd.’

(c) The Sustainer of Life—‘The Bread of Life.’

(d) The Restorer of Life—‘The Resurrection and the Life.’

Rev. G. Perry-Gore.

Illustrations

(1) ‘There is a great picture by a distinguished French artist, in which in the foreground of the picture he has portrayed the different ages of the world, whilst in the background, right on the horizon, he has placed the cross which forms the focus for his light and colour, and which he spreads with a masterly power in varying shades of vermilion over all the clustered scenes of his picture. And as the picture is studied, two lessons are disclosed. First, that the cross, as it fills the background of the picture, unites, in the person of our Lord, earth with heaven; and, secondly, that the colour which radiates from the cross lights up every age over which it falls, and so tells the story of the universality of Christ’s Incarnate work; and as the painter makes the light from the Christ to fill with warmth and life the whole picture, so, as we contemplate our Lord’s Incarnate work, we see how His great redemption meets the whole world’s needs.’

(2) ‘The story is told of one who had to minister to an old shepherd who could not read, and to help him to realise our Blessed Lord’s care and love for his soul. The clergyman gave him a picture of Christ as the Good Shepherd, with a crown of thorns on His head and carrying on His shoulders a wounded lamb, and some time afterwards, when calling to see him, the old man pointed to the picture and said, “Ah! I want Him to carry me back just like that; but,” added the old shepherd, “what touches me most of all is that”—pointing to the crown of thorns.’

(THIRD OUTLINE)

WHAT IS LIFE?

What is the reward we have set before us? It is said to be Life Eternal. And what is Life Eternal? Observe that this Life Eternal is said to be God’s largess to those who have fought and conquered under Christ their Captain; so that it must be something coming direct from God, as God’s own peculiar, best, gift.

I. Life here.—What then is life! The beasts have a life; but of man only was it said that God breathed into his nostrils the breath of life. There is therefore a difference between their life and ours. God created them living creatures. Then God created man with an animal life like the beasts. And then over and above that animal life God gave man a higher life as well, by which he became ‘a living soul.’ That higher life which we now have is God’s gift. And so perhaps this difference may help us to conceive something of the still higher life which is meant by the words Eternal Life, which describe the state to which God will raise those who have spent this life in the service of His Son. That nobler life which He will raise us to will be something as much higher and more exalted than our present life, as our present life is nobler and better than that of the beasts. And what is it that constitutes life? Life is energy, and action, and intelligence and thought, and above all, it is love. How often do we say of the slothful, or the dull, or the inactive, that he does not live, he only exists or vegetates. Even now we hardly think it worth while to call a mere slothful existence by the name of life. A man who never exerts himself, or a man who never thinks, but only goes on in a miserable routine, or the miser who lives only for himself, or the selfish man who seems incapable of loving wife or friend—such men we scarcely think of as truly living. Whereas when, even in the lower animals, we see traces of something like a real, unselfish love and self-devotion, the first thing we say is, we wonder that such a being can really die.

II. Life hereafter.—And all this teaches us, then, to have some kind of imagination what that eternal life which is here spoken of may mean.

(a) Certainly not a state of being in which less activity, less intelligence, less opportunities of showing love and affection, will occur than we have now, but more. More of all of them; and that, too, set free from the burdensomeness which all energy brings with it in this life. Here labour, even in the noblest forms of it, brings fatigue, and it wears us down, and the higher forms of labour wear us down faster than the lower. The mind is nobler than the body, and mental labour wears us down faster than bodily exertion. The heart is nobler than the mind, the power of loving is a higher thing than the power of thinking, and so the anxieties we encounter through our affections wear us down more utterly than all intellectual work. But hereafter this will not be so. There life in all its forms of action will be a delight.

(b) It will never wear down. It will be eternal. Very noticeable are those words of the Apocalypse, ‘there shall be no night there.’ Here we need night for repose and rest, and our rest is but like a daily portion of the death which at last will stop our present lives altogether. There we shall need no rest, for there shall be no fatigue, and there will be no death to stop the eternal life which God will give us.

Such is our glorious prospect. Only let us bear in mind that to win that glorious gift of God, we must be ready to spend this life in the service of the Captain Whom we follow: remembering that it is only the man who is willing to lose his life who has the promise of finding it. It is God’s gift, not our earning.

 


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Bibliography Information
Nisbet, James. "Commentary on Romans 6:4". Church Pulpit Commentary. http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/cpc/romans-6.html. 1876.

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