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Bible Commentaries

Joseph Beet's Commentary on Selected Books of the New Testament

Romans 6

 

 

Other Authors
Verses 1-10

DIVISION III.

THE NEW LIFE IN CHRIST

CHS. 6-8

SECTION 17 — IN THE DEATH OF CHRIST WE DIED TO SIN

CH. 6:1-10

What then shall we say? Let us continue in sin, in order that grace may multiply? Be it not so. We who died to sin, how shall we still live in it? Or, are ye ignorant that so many of us as were baptized for Christ were baptized for His death? We were buried therefore with Him through this baptism for death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we also may walk in newness of life. For if we have become united in growth in the likeness of His death, we shall on the other hand be so in that of His resurrection also knowing this, that our old man was crucified with Him, in order that the body of sin may be made of no effect, that we may no longer be servants to sin. For he that has died is justified from sin. But if we died with Christ we believe that we shall also live with Him; knowing that Christ, raised from the dead, dies no more: of Him, death is no longer lord. For the death He died, He died to sin, once: but the life He lives, He lives for God.

On entering Romans 6, we are at once conscious of a complete change of tone and feeling, a change more remarkable than that in Romans 3:21, because not accounted for by the altered position and prospects of the persons referred to. Justification, the great feature of DIV. II., meets us no more: other ideas take its place. We have entered another court of this wing of the temple of truth. DIV. I. revealed to us the anger of God against all sin: DIV. II. has now revealed deliverance from this anger, and restoration to His favour. DIV. III. will reveal deliverance from the power of sin, and a new life free from sin. The one teaches what we receive through Christ; the other what we are in Christ. The order is significant: first reconciliation to God, then rescue from the power of sin. In Romans 6, we have the new life in its relation to sin and to God; in Romans 7, in its relation to the Law; in Romans 8, in its relation to the Holy Spirit. DIV. II. was a logical development of the two great doctrines stated in Romans 3:21-26; in DIV. III., we shall find other fundamental doctrines, from which will be derived results of an altogether different kind.

Romans 6:1. What then shall we say? as in Romans 3:5; Romans 4:1. Shall we infer from Romans 5:20-21 that we may accomplish God’s purposes by adding to the number of our sins in order that they may show forth the superabundant favour of God? The connection of thought is kept up by the words grace and multiply. What Paul here suggests was the actual result of his own early hostility to the Gospel: 1 Timothy 1:14.

Romans 6:2. An emphatic denial, supported by two questions introducing a new and important topic. Thus the questions in Romans 6:1 are stepping-stones to the new teaching in DIV. III., and show that it guards from immoral perversion the teaching of DIV. II. We must not continue in sin, because (Romans 6:1-10) God’s purpose is that we be dead to sin and living for God, and because (Romans 6:15-23) sin is obedience to a master whose purpose is death.

Died to sin: separated from it, as a dead man is completely separated from the environment in which he lived: same phrase in Romans 6:10-11; Galatians 2:19; Galatians 6:14; cp. Colossians 2:20, “died with Christ from the rudiments of the world.” Paul assumes that we are in some sense dead to sin. If he can prove this, he will compel us, by the very meaning of his words, to admit that in the same sense we can no longer live in it.

Romans 6:3. Another question introducing, as something which the readers ought to know, a proof that we are dead to sin.

Baptized: the formal and visible gate into the Christian life. Since Paul has not yet spoken of salvation except through faith, we must understand him to refer here to the baptism of believers: so Galatians 3:27; Colossians 2:12. It was a conspicuous mode of confession, which, together with faith, is a condition of salvation: cp. Romans 10:9.

For: see under Romans 1:1.

Baptized for: as in Galatians 3:27; Matthew 28:19; Acts 8:16; Acts 19:5; 1 Corinthians 10:2; 1 Corinthians 1:13; 1 Corinthians 1:15; Matthew 3:11; Mark 1:4. It means that baptism is designed to place the baptized in a new relation to the object named; but does not say exactly what the relation is. We shall learn in Romans 6:5 that this new relation is an inward and spiritual contact with Christ which makes the baptized sharers of His life and moral nature: cp. 1 Corinthians 6:17; Galatians 3:27.

That God designs the justified to be thus united to Christ, Paul further expounds in Romans 6:4-10, by calling attention to those elements in Him which we are to share.

For His death: more exact statement of the new relation to Christ to which baptism has special reference. This recalls Doctrine 2, stated in Romans 3:25; Romans 4:25; Romans 5:9-10. Paul thus approaches his proof that his readers have died to sin.

Romans 6:4. Inference from Romans 6:3.

Buried-with Him: so Colossians 2:11.

If baptism was a baptism for death, i.e. if it symbolized a union with Christ in His death, it was the funeral service of the old life; a formal announcement that the baptized were dead, and a visible removal of them from the world, Jewish or heathen, in which they formerly lived.

From the earliest sub-apostolic writings, we learn that immersion was the usual form of baptism. So Epistle of Barnabas Romans 11 : “We go down into the water full of sins and defilement; and we go up bearing fruit in the heart.” To this, probably, Paul here refers. Even the form of their admission to the Church sets forth a spiritual burial and resurrection. But this is a mere allusion: and the argument is complete without it. The hour of his readers’ baptism, in which they ranged themselves formally in the ranks of the persecuted followers of Christ, was no doubt indelibly printed in their memory. Paul here teaches them the significance and purpose of that rite, and the nature of the new life they then formally entered.

That immersion was not the only valid mode of baptism, we learn from The Teaching of the Twelve Apostles Romans 7, where, in reference to baptism, the writer bids, if water be not abundant, to “pour water three times on the head, in the name of Father and Son and Holy Spirit.”

In order that etc.: further purpose to be accomplished by our union with Christ.

Christ not only died but was raised from the dead, among whom He lay.

Through the glory of the Father: amid an outshining of the splendour of God manifested in Christ’s rescue from the grave.

Just as Christ etc.: in harmony with the historic fact that Christ’s death was followed by a glorious resurrection, God’s purpose is that we also as well as Christ henceforth live a resurrection life. Of this life, newness (see Romans 7:6) is a conspicuous feature. For the change is so complete that in Christ the old things have passed away or rather are become new: 2 Corinthians 5:17. And, since life is movement, in this newness of life God designs us to walk. This last is a favourite metaphor of Paul: Romans 8:4; Romans 13:13; Romans 14:15; Ephesians 2:2; Ephesians 2:10, etc.; also John 8:12; John 12:35; 1 John 2:6.

Romans 6:5. Proof that our burial with Christ was designed to lead to a life altogether new.

If: argumentative, as in Romans 6:8; Romans 5:10, etc.

United-in-growth: literally growing-together, so that our development corresponds with, and is an organic outflow of, His.

Likeness: as Romans 1:23; Romans 5:14. By union with Him, we undergo a death like His.

On the other hand: αλλα: a strong adversative particle indicating that the second cause utterly overpowers the first, Same word in Romans 3:31; Romans 5:14; Romans 8:37. “It is true that we suffer a death like His: but this we need not regret; for from it we infer that we shall share a resurrection like His.”

We shall be: probably a rhetorical or logical future. For believers are already living a resurrection life. Same use of the future in Romans 6:8, where the argument of this verse is repeated, after an exposition of the former part of it: cp. Romans 4:24; Romans 5:14; Romans 5:19.

Romans 6:6. Collateral explanation of our union with Christ in His death, followed by a statement of its purpose.

Our old man: so Ephesians 4:22; Colossians 3:9 : our old self. So complete is the change that Paul says that the man himself is dead.

Crucified-together-with: so Galatians 2:20; Matthew 27:44; Mark 15:32; John 19:32 : shared with Christ His death on the cross. In what aspect of His death we are to be sharers with Him, we shall learn in Romans 6:10 : how we are to become such, we shall learn in Romans 6:11. Paul here asserts that on the cross of Christ not only His life on earth but our own former selves came to an end.

In order that etc.: purpose of this union with Christ in His death.

The body of Sin: the sinner’s own body in which (see Romans 6:12-13) sin has set up its royal throne, whose desires he obeys, and whose members he presents to sin as instruments of unrighteousness. See also Romans 7:5; Romans 7:23. The importance of the body in Paul’s theology and the subsequent argument here permit no other interpretation.

Made-of-no-effect: as in Romans 3:3; Romans 4:14. In former times the indolence, appetites, necessities, and dangers of the body ruled us with an influence we could not resist; and led us into sin. It thus became a body of sin. But, now that our old self has been nailed to the cross of Christ, our body has lost its adverse power.

No longer servants (or slaves: see Romans 1:1) to sin: purpose of this destruction of the power of the body, and ultimate aim of our crucifixion with Christ. In explanation of the words grown-together with the likeness of His death in Romans 6:5, Paul says that we have shared the death of Christ on the cross, in order that our bodies, hitherto organs of sin, may lose their control over us, and in order that thus we may escape from our former bondage to sin.

Romans 6:7. Explains the foregoing ultimate purpose of our crucifixion with Christ.

He that has died, or, as we should say, is dead: the believer, whom Paul looks upon as not merely dying but dead on the cross. His former life has actually come to an end.

Justified: proclaimed by law free from sin, this being looked at as an adversary at law claiming rights over us. The word thus returns to its simplest meaning, in O.T. and N.T., of judgment in a man’s favour. Cp. Sirach xxvi. 29: “With difficulty will a merchant be saved from wrong-doing: and a huckster will not be justified from sin.” Over a criminal who has been put to death, the law has no further claim. And Paul here argues that in Christ’s death we are dead, and therefore legally free from the master to whose power, for our sins, we were justly surrendered.

Romans 6:8-10. Proof of the latter part, as Romans 6:6-7 proved the former part, of Romans 6:5.

Died with Christ: crucified with Him, in Romans 6:6.

We believe: an assured conviction. It is also faith in God: for our hope of life rests, like Abraham’s faith, on His promise and character.

Shall live with Him: logical future as in Romans 6:5 : very appropriate here because this life will continue to endless ages.

Knowing that etc.: ground of the assurance just expressed, viz. the deathless life of Christ, raised from the dead.

He dies no more: an unchanging truth, suitably put in the present tense.

Of Him, death is no longer lord: recalling the royalty usurped in Romans 5:14; Romans 5:17, to which even Christ submitted.

Of Romans 6:9;-Romans 6:10 is proof Christ’s death on the cross was a death to sin: these last words emphatic. Since death is the end of life, and removes a man absolutely from the environment in which he lived, this phrase can only mean that in some real sense, by His death on the cross, Christ escaped absolutely from all contact with sin; just as by death the martyr escapes from his persecutors and his prison. And this we can understand. In Gethsemane, He groaned under the burden of our sins; after His arrest, He was exposed to the insult and fury of bad men; and during many hours He hung in agony on the cross. All this was painful and shameful, though not defiling, contact with sin. And we know not how much it was aggravated by inward conflict with sin. But at sunset the Sufferer was free: by death He had for ever escaped from all contact with the powers of darkness. In this very real sense, the death which He died, He died to sin. For His death on the cross put an end to the mysterious relation to sin into which for our sakes He entered.

Once, or once for all: cp. Hebrews 7:27; Hebrews 9:12; Hebrews 9:26; Hebrews 9:28; Hebrews 10:10. The separation from sin was final. Moreover, though dead, Christ still lives. This is implied in Romans 6:8, we shall live with Him.

And the life which He lives, He lives for-God. This last word is the dative of advantage, as in 2 Corinthians 5:15, and five times in 1 Corinthians 6:13. It asserts that, of the life of our Risen Lord, God is the one aim, that His every purpose and effort aims only to accomplish the purposes of God. Such was also His life on earth: John 4:34; John 6:38; John 17:4. And such doubtless was the life of the pre-incarnate Son of God. Notice here a complete picture of Christ raised from the dead. By His death on the cross He escaped once and for ever from all contact with sin, and He now lives a life of which God is the one and only aim. This is the new life which they who share His escape from sin by His death on the cross expect (Romans 6:8) also to share.

The different renderings of the dative, dead to sin… living for God, are unavoidable. Literally, Paul’s words mean, dead in relation to sin… living in relation to God. But the whole context shows that the relation to sin is separation from it, and the relation to God is devotion to Him. The R.V. rendering dead unto sin but alive unto God is unmeaning. Uniformity is dearly purchased at such a price.

We will now endeavour to rebuild the argument of Romans 6:1-10. Christ lived once under the curse of sin, and in a body subject to death. But He died; and rose from the dead. By dying, He escaped for ever from all painful contact with sin and sinners, and from death, the result of sin: and He now lives a life of unreserved devotion to God. In former days, we were slaves to sin, and were thus exposed to the righteous anger of God.

To make our justification consistent with His own justice, God gave Christ to die; and raised Him from the dead in order that He may be the personal Object of justifying faith. God’s purpose is so to unite us to Christ that we may share all that He has and is: and for this end we were united to Him in baptism. We were thus formally joined to One who was by death set free from sin and death, and who was raised by God to a deathless life. Therefore, so far as the purpose of God is accomplished in us, we are dead with Christ. And, if so, all law proclaims us free. We therefore infer that God’s purpose is to set us free from all bondage to our own bodies and to sin. We also infer that God designs us to share the resurrection life of Christ. For we see Him, not only rescued from His enemies by His own death, but living in heaven a life of which God is the only aim. This assures us that God designs us to be united to Christ both in His separation from sin and in His active devotion to God. Therefore, so far as God’s purpose is accomplished in us, we are (Romans 6:2) dead to sin. Consequently, to continue (Romans 6:1) to live in sin, is to resist God’s purpose and to renounce the new life to which baptism was designed to be the visible portal.

In the above argument, we find, stated and assumed without proof but with perfect confidence, and made a basis of important moral teaching, a THIRD FUNDAMENTAL DOCTRINE, viz. that God designs the justified to share, so far as creatures can share, by vital union with Christ, all that He has and is, to be like Him by inward contact with Him. This doctrine will meet us again in Romans 6:11; Romans 7:4; Romans 8:1; Romans 8:17; also in 1 Corinthians 6:17; 2 Corinthians 5:15; 2 Corinthians 5:17; Galatians 2:20; Ephesians 1:19-20; Ephesians 2:5-6, etc. Similar teaching in John 15:1-8; John 17:21; John 17:26; 1 John 2:6; 1 John 2:24; 1 John 2:28; 1 John 3:6; 1 John 3:24; 1 John 4:17. That this remarkable doctrine is assumed with complete confidence but without proof by the two greatest apostles, men altogether different in temperament and modes of thought and almost unknown to each other, and that by one of them it is expressly attributed to Christ, can be accounted for only on the supposition that, like Justification through Faith and through the Death of Christ, it was in some equivalent form actually taught by Christ. This proof is independent of the apostolic authority of Paul.

Notice that the above argument assumes Paul’s Second Fundamental Doctrine, viz. Justification through the Death of Christ, taught in Romans 3:24-26; Romans 4:25; Romans 5:9-10. For the only sense in which we can be crucified, dead, and buried with Christ, and thus dead to sin, is that through His death we are saved from sin. Moreover, the conspicuous place of the resurrection of Christ in Romans 6:4-5; Romans 6:9 reveals its importance as a link in the chain of salvation, and Paul’s firm confidence that He had actually risen: cp. Romans 1:4. This importance is explained in Romans 4:24-25, where we read that the faith which justifies is a reliance “on Him who raised Jesus from the dead,” and that He “was raised for our justification.” Thus the argument now before us assumes Paul’s First great Doctrine of Justification through Faith. As we proceed, we shall find that these earlier doctrines imply, as a necessary moral sequence, the new doctrine now before us. Thus each of these three great doctrines implies and confirms and supplements the others.


Verses 11-14

SECTION 18 — WE SERVE SIN NO MORE

CH. 6:11-14

So also ye, reckon yourselves to be dead to sin but living for God in Christ Jesus. Then let not sin reign as king in your mortal body, in order to obey its desires. Neither present the members of your body, as weapons of unrighteousness, to sin; but present yourselves to God as if living from the dead, and the members of your body, as weapons of righteousness, to God. For of you sin shall not be lord: for ye are not under law but under grace.

In Romans 6:1-10, Paul proved that God wills us to be dead to sin and living a new life: in Romans 6:11-14, he teaches how God’s purpose may be realised in us, and bids us claim its realisation: in Romans 6:15-23, he will go on to prove, by comparison of the old and new, that this realisation is for our highest good.

Romans 6:11. Practical application of Romans 6:10.

So also ye: just as Christ once for all died to sin and lives for God, the case of the servants being added to, and corresponding with, that of their Lord.

Reckon: a mental calculation, as in Romans 2:3; Romans 3:28. Since, in this case, it results in a rational and assured conviction resting upon the word and character of God, it is the mental process of faith.

Dead to sin: completely delivered from it, as Christ escaped from His enemies by His death on the cross.

Living for God: as Christ lives (Romans 6:10) upon the throne. [The particle μεν makes these two sides, negative and positive, of the new life distinct objects of thought.]

In Christ Jesus: by inward and spiritual contact and union with Him who once died to sin and ever lives for God. So Romans 6:23; Romans 3:24; Romans 8:1-2; Romans 12:5; Ephesians 1:3-4; Ephesians 1:6-7; Ephesians 1:9-10; Ephesians 1:12-13, etc. Same phrase in a slightly different form in John 6:56; John 14:20; John 15:2-7; John 17:21; 1 John 2:6; 1 John 2:24; 1 John 2:28, etc. It is a conspicuous feature of the teaching of Paul and of John; and represents Christ as the secure refuge and home and vital atmosphere of His servants, in which they are safe and at rest and live. Notice here a double relation to Christ: they are like Him, sharing His death to sin and life of devotion to God; and in Him, their likeness to Him being an outflow of inward and vital contact with Him.

The exhortation of this verse is not, like that in Romans 5:1, merely rhetorical. For it is repeated with evident practical earnestness in Romans 6:12-13; Romans 6:15-21, as a needful warning and encouragement. The experience here set forth is thus contrasted with pardon or justification, which the N.T. writers never exhort their readers to claim, but always assume that they already have: cp. Romans 5:9-11; 1 Corinthians 6:11; Ephesians 1:7; 1 John 2:12. We have here two stages or sides of the new life, closely related but distinct in thought and usually in time. For many venture to believe that God here and now forgives their past sins, and thus by faith obtain forgiveness, who have not yet dared to believe that in Christ’s grave their past life of sin is buried, and that by inward union with Him they will henceforth live a life of unreserved devotion to God.

In this verse, we learn how to obtain this full salvation. viz. by reckoning, at God’s bidding and in reliance upon His promise and His wonder-working power, that what He bids us reckon He will Himself, in the moment of our reckoning and henceforth, work in us by inward contact with Him who Himself died to sin and ever lives for God. This involves the great truth that, whatever God requires us to do and to be, He will work in us through Christ and in Christ. In Romans 8:2-16, we shall learn that this inward union with Christ and new life in Christ is wrought in us by the agency of the Spirit of God.

We come therefore to the cross and to the empty grave of Christ. We remember the sinlessness and the devotion to God of the dead and risen Saviour; and we know that He died in order that we, by spiritual union with Him, may be like Him. Perhaps until this moment we have been defiled and enslaved by sin and only in small part loyal to God. But God bids us reckon ourselves to be sharers of the death and life of Christ. In view of the earnest love and infinite power manifested in the death and resurrection of Christ, we dare not hesitate; and in contradiction to our past experience and to our present sense of utter weakness, we say, In Him I am dead to sin and henceforth living only for God. What we say, we reckon at God’s bidding to be true; and God realises in us, in proportion to our faith, by uniting us to Christ, His own word and our faith. Thousands have thus found by happy experience of the grace and power of God, in a measure unknown to them before, a new life of victory over sin and of loyal devotion to God.

Notice in this verse a FOURTH FUNDAMENTAL DOCTRINE viz. that the new life of victory over sin and devotion to God is wrought by God, through faith, in those who believe. This doctrine may be called (see under Romans 6:19) Sanctification through Faith. It is in close harmony with, and a needful supplement to, Justification through Faith. For complete harmony with God, victory over all sin and unreserved devotion to God are as needful as forgiveness: and we are as little able by our own works to obtain the one as the other. When therefore we have learnt that God, who accepts as righteous those that believe, designs them to be sharers of the moral life of Christ, we are prepared to learn that also this new life in Christ is God’s gift to those that believe. This close correspondence and natural inference account for the informal manner in which this fourth doctrine comes before us. It was needless to state it explicitly, or to defend it. For the exposition and defence of justifying faith. In Romans 4 avails equally for sanctifying faith. Like the faith of Abraham, expounded in Romans 4:17-21, the faith which apprehends the new life in Christ is a reliance upon the word and power of God. Paul’s explicit assertion and abundant defence of faith as the condition of justification give him a right to assume it silently, as he does here, as the condition of sanctification.

Like justifying faith, sanctifying faith is a reliance upon the word and character of God. But they differ in their object-matter. The one accepts and appropriates the promise of pardon for all who believe: the other accepts and appropriates the promise of complete salvation from all sin and of a new life of devotion to God like that of Christ. Moreover, this latter is at once verified by a conscious experience of victory over sin and of felt loyalty to God: and this inward verification verifies also the faith with which we ventured to accept the Gospel of pardon.

Romans 6:12. Further exhortation arising out of the exhortation foregoing.

Sin reign: as in Romans 5:21.

In your body: as the throne and basis of its royal power. Cp. Revelation 3:21 : “sit with Me in My throne.”

Mortal: emphatic, as in Romans 8:11, “your mortal bodies.” That our body is not yet rescued from corruption and is therefore still under the dominion of the foe, is a reason why we should not submit to a power which seeks to dominate us by means of our body.

In order to obey etc.: purpose for which men permit sin to usurp authority over them through their bodies, viz. they wish to gratify, i.e. to obey its desires.

Desire: a definite wish going after an object pleasant or helpful. Same word in Romans 1:24; Romans 7:7-8; Romans 13:14 : cp. “desire of the flesh” in Galatians 5:16; Galatians 5:24; Ephesians 2:3. It is in itself neither good nor bad: see Philippians 1:23, 1 Thessalonians 2:17; Luke 15:16; Luke 16:21; Luke 17:22; Luke 22:15. The moral colour of the desire is reflected on it from the context. Hence the unsuitability of the R.V. rendering lust. But obedience to the desires of the body as a directive principle of action always leads to sin. For the body is the lower side of our nature, is essentially selfish, caring for nothing except itself, and is unconscious of the moral law. It therefore needs to be held in by a strong hand, to be laid (see Romans 6:13) on the altar of God, and to be used for His service. To permit the body to rule, i.e. to make gratification of its appetites, or even its preservation, the end of life, is to permit sin to reign over us as king, and our bodies, already doomed to decay, to become its throne. Against such submission, and such motive, Paul warns his readers.

Romans 6:13. Another exhortation, the negative side expounding the practical result of obeying the desires of the body, and the positive side expounding what is involved in “living for God.”

Present: so Romans 6:16; Romans 6:19; Romans 12:1; cp. Romans 16:2; Colossians 1:22; Colossians 1:28 : to place at the disposal of another.

Members: the various parts of the body, each with its own faculty: Romans 12:4; 1 Corinthians 12:12; 1 Corinthians 12:14; 1 Corinthians 12:18-19; Matthew 5:29-30, etc. Its looser modern use has led me to render members of your body.

Weapons: instruments for carrying on war: Romans 13:12; 2 Corinthians 6:7; 2 Corinthians 10:4; John 18:3. Being used for an evil purpose, they are weapons of unrighteousness. To obey the desires of our body, is to place our hands and lips at the disposal of sin to be weapons which it will use in unrighteous war.

Yourselves: the personality behind the bodily powers, given up, not to sin, but to God.

Present yourselves as if living from the dead: looking upon yourselves as if your life had come to an end, as if ye had been laid in, and raised from, the grave, and thus raised from among the dead, and as if now living a resurrection life; and, thus viewing your position, place yourselves at the disposal of God.

And your members etc.: a detail involved in present yourselves.

Weapons of righteousness: a marked contrast: our hands and lips given to God to be used by Him in His righteous war. Instead of obeying the desires of our body, and thus permitting sin to erect its throne there and to use our bodily powers for its own ends, Paul bids us place our whole personality at the disposal of God, resolving that henceforth our hands shall do His work, our feet run on His errands, and our lips speak His message, in His conflict against sin. Notice here a new view of Christian duty. God bids us, not merely to avoid sin, but to place ourselves with all we have and are at His disposal for use in the tremendous struggle now going on between good and evil.

Romans 6:14. Encouragement to obey the foregoing exhortation. This last implies complete deliverance from service of sin. And Paul assures us, sin shall not be your lord.

Under law: governed by God on the principle, Do this and live, i.e. treated by Him according to our obedience. Such was God’s relation to Israel under the Old Covenant. Hence the Jews were under law: 1 Corinthians 9:20; Galatians 4:4-5. Some Christians desired to remain under the same terms: Galatians 4:21. This momentary reference to the Law prepares a way for further teaching about it in Romans 7.

Under grace: under a method of government determined not by mere justice but by the undeserved favour of God, i.e. under the reign (Romans 5:21) of grace. God makes, not our deserts, but His own goodwill the standard of His treatment of us. Otherwise He would never have given His Son to die for us, or have brought to bear upon us, while in our sins, those influences (see Romans 2:4) which led us to repentance and salvation. Upon the ground that God will treat us, not according to our works, i.e. according to the letter of the Law, but according to His undeserved favour, rest all our hopes of blessing from Him.

In Romans 6:11-14, we have the Law and the Gospel of the new life in Christ, what God claims from us and what He is ready to work in us. He claims that we devote to Him and His service our whole personality and all our bodily powers. Incidentally we learn that He who makes this claim is engaged in tremendous conflict, and that He claims our devotion in order that He may use us in His righteous war against sin. Unfortunately we are not free to render to God the devotion He justly claims. For His foe is our lord: we are the fettered slaves of sin, and therefore cannot serve God.

Paul bids us look upon ourselves as if we were dead, dead on the cross of Christ and buried in His grave, and thus free from our former bondage; and, though dead, yet living, sharing the life of the Risen One, a life of unreserved loyalty to God.

In obedience to this claim, we now lay, upon the altar consecrated by the blood of Christ, ourselves and all our bodily powers; and we do this in faith, relying upon the promise and power of God that from this moment we shall be free from our old master and shall live by inward contact with Christ a life like His. This consecration and faith are a higher counterpart to the repentance and faith which are the condition of justification.


Verses 15-23

SECTION 19 — EXPERIENCE PROVES HOW BAD IS THE SERVICE OF SIN

CH. 6:15-23

What then? Let us sin because we are not under law but under grace? Be it not so. Know ye not that, to whom ye present yourselves servants for obedience, his servants ye are, of him whom ye obey, whether of sin for death or of obedience for righteousness? But thanks to God that ye were servants of sin, but ye obeyed from the heart the type of teaching to which ye were given up. And, having been made free from sin, ye were made servants to righteousness. After the manner of men I speak, because of the weakness of your flesh. For just as ye presented the members of your body, as servants, to uncleanness and to lawlessness, for lawlessness, so now present the members of your body, as servants, to righteousness for sanctification. For, when ye were servants of sin, ye were free in regard of righteousness. What fruit had ye at that time from the things of which ye are now ashamed? For the end of those things is death. But now, having been made free from sin and having been made servants to God, ye have your fruit, for sanctification; and the end, eternal life. For the wages of sin is death: but God’s gift of grace is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.

The two courses set before us in Romans 6:13, Paul will now further describe, and will thus give good reasons why we should refuse the one and choose the other.

Romans 6:15. What then? as in Romans 6:1. Does anyone say, Let us sin because God treats us not on principles of strict law but of undeserved grace? This is another objection, in addition to that in Romans 6:1, to the Gospel. This last reveals the favour of God to our race; and, relying on His favour, some have carelessly run into sin.

Romans 6:16. They who thus sin know not what they do.

Present yourselves: thrust prominently forward to recall the same words in Romans 6:13. The natural order would be, Do ye not know that ye are servants of him to whom ye present yourselves etc. This verse implies the universal principle that if we obey a man we so far make ourselves his servants and use our powers to work out his purposes. So Aristotle, Nic. Ethics bk. viii. 11. 6: “The servant (slave) is a living instrument; the instrument, a lifeless servant.” Therefore, before we do the bidding of another, we must inquire who he is and what are his purposes.

Servant, or slave: so Romans 1:1 : one who acts habitually at the bidding of another, his lord; cp. Matthew 8:9 : a cognate verb in Romans 6:6. It was the common word for Greek and Roman slaves: hence the contrast with “made free” in Romans 6:18; Romans 6:20; Romans 6:22; cp. 1 Corinthians 7:21-22; 1 Corinthians 12:13; Galatians 3:28; Ephesians 6:8; Colossians 3:11; Revelation 6:15. In contrast to a freeman, the slave was compelled to do the bidding of his lord.

For obedience: purpose for which one gives himself up to be. a slave. This is emphasised by the repetition, whom ye obey.

Whether of sin… or of obedience: the only alternative. That to commit sin is to be a slave of sin, Christ solemnly asserts in John 8:34.

Death: not of the body, which is not a result of our own sin, but of the whole man: so Romans 6:21; Romans 6:23; Romans 8:13; Revelation 20:14; cp. Matthew 10:28. It is the “destruction” of Romans 2:12; Philippians 3:19; the final penalty of sin. All sin tends inevitably to death: therefore, in Paul’s personification, they who commit sin may be said to surrender themselves to the abstract principle of sin in order to work out death. On the other hand, obedience, also personified, tends always to righteousness, i.e. to conformity with the moral law. See under Romans 1:17. This verse implies that the only alternative is either to commit sin and thus work out its constant tendency, death, or to obey God and thus act in harmony with that which the moral law requires.

Romans 6:17. Review of the past, in the light of Romans 6:16, and evoking thanks to God.

Ye were slaves etc.: their former bondage, by its contrast with their present liberty, itself calls forth gratitude.

Type: as in Romans 5:14.

Type of teaching: in outline, like the mark (John 20:25) made by iron on clay. The English word stamp is used in a similar way.

Given-up: as in Romans 1:24; Romans 1:26; Romans 1:28; Romans 4:25, and especially Acts 14:26. These words imply that the obedience of the Roman Christians was submission to the Gospel in that form in which, by the Providence of God, it had been preached to them. Practically it was the Gospel as preached to Gentiles, (cp. Romans 1:5; Acts 17:30,) in contrast to Jewish perversions; but not in contrast to the teaching of other apostles. For we cannot conceive Paul thanking God that the Romans heard the Gospel from men taught by himself rather than from the disciples of Peter or John.

The patriarchs, and the Israelites under Moses and afterwards under the prophets, were handed over to other types of teaching.

Romans 6:18. Further description of the change. Being “dead to sin,” they were made free from sin. Paul here assumes that his readers have made the reckoning to which in Romans 6:11 he exhorted them.

Made-servants, literally enslaved, to righteousness: cp. 1 Corinthians 7:22, “the freeman, having been called, is a slave of Christ.” The whole context (see my note) and the sustained contrast of slave and freeman demand some such rendering. We are not hired servants who can leave their master’s employ. For we are Christ’s by creation and ransom; and are therefore bound to Him by a tie we cannot break. Yet we are free: for His service is our delight.

Servants to righteousness: bound by loyalty to Christ to do that which the moral law demands.

Romans 6:19. After the manner of men: cp. Romans 3:5. It might seem improper to describe the servants of Christ by the common term for slaves. But Paul teaches divine truth by the words of common life; and here warns us to distinguish between the outward form and the underlying truth. This warning holds good for the whole Bible: to men God always speaks as men do.

Flesh: see note under Romans 8:11.

Weakness of your flesh: inability to understand, arising from the limitations of bodily life, which always tend to warp our mental vision; and from the peculiar limitations of the Roman Christians. Paul uses a comparison made needful by their only partial emancipation from the intellectual rule of flesh and blood.

Now follows, as a reason for the foregoing warning, an exhortation closely parallel to that in Romans 6:13.

Just as… so now: the past affording a pattern, in an opposite direction, for the present. Instead of “weapons,” as in Romans 6:13, we have here servants, or slaves: used as a neuter adjective.

Uncleanness… lawlessness: further personifications parallel to, and specifying, “sin” in Romans 6:16. They remind us that sin defiles, and forces into antagonism to the Law, those who obey it.

For lawlessness: in order to do that which the Law forbids: parallel to “for death” in Romans 6:16. Sin leads, first to defilement and lawlessness, and then to death.

To righteousness: as in Romans 6:18.

Sanctification: the act of making holy: so Romans 6:22; 1 Corinthians 1:30; 1 Thessalonians 4:3-4; 1 Thessalonians 4:7; 2 Thessalonians 2:13; 1 Timothy 2:15; Hebrews 12:14; 1 Peter 1:2. See note under Romans 1:7. As claimed by God, all Christians are already objectively holy: so Romans 1:7. Paul now bids his readers to lay their various bodily powers upon the altar of God to do His work in harmony with the moral law, in order that thus they may become subjectively holy: for sanctification. Cp. 1 Corinthians 7:34; 1 Thessalonians 5:23.

Romans 6:20-22. A comparison of the two kinds of service, based on experience.

Free in regard of righteousness: if there is any bondage in doing right, they were free from it. They have therefore given the service of sin a fair trial.

What fruit? what good result, as an organic outworking of certain actions? See under Romans 1:13. The actions are past, but the shame still remains: ye are now ashamed. Paul passes in silence over the answer which memory and conscience are compelled to give; and states the reason why his readers reaped no harvest from the fields of shame in which they toiled.

The end: the final outworking in which influences attain their goal: so Romans 6:22; Romans 10:4; 1 Corinthians 15:24; 2 Corinthians 11:15; Philippians 3:19. Inasmuch as influences which have attained their full result cease to operate-otherwise they have not attained their full result-the word sometimes connotes the idea of cessation. So Luke 1:33. But the idea of a goal attained is always present. The final outworking of those things to which Paul refers is death: as in Romans 6:16. His readers gathered no fruit from their former actions: for they trod a path whose end is death.

Romans 6:22. Their present position, in joyful contrast to their former fruitless toil.

Having-been-made-free… having-been-made-servants: solemn repetition, from Romans 6:19.

Ye have your fruit: the good results of your toil are your abiding possession: cp. Philippians 1:22.

For sanctification: as in Romans 6:19 : direction and tendency of these good results. They tend towards the devotion of our powers to the service of God.

The end: in conspicuous antithesis to the same words in Romans 6:21.

Eternal life: see under Romans 2:7. It recalls Romans 5:21. Notice in solemn contrast, in Romans 6:21-22, the two poles of N.T. eschatology: death… eternal life.

Romans 6:23. Compact restatement of the foregoing contrast.

Wages: so Luke 3:14; 1 Corinthians 9:7; 2 Corinthians 11:8 : the common term for the pay and rations of a soldier, thus recalling Romans 6:13. They who serve in the army of sin receive death in return for their service.

Gift-of-grace: recalling the same word in Romans 5:15-16.

Death is the just wages of sin: but eternal life is a gift of the undeserved favour of God.

In Christ Jesus: as in Romans 6:11. Eternal life is ours in virtue of His death and resurrection, and by vital union with the dead and risen One.

Our Lord: the Master whom we serve. This addition (contrast Romans 6:11) recalls the idea of service, and the contrast of masters, which run through Romans 6:12-23. In each case, the end is in harmony with the nature of the master obeyed.

The contrast of past and present in Romans 6:16-23 is a very powerful motive for avoiding all sin, and is therefore a complete answer to the question in Romans 6:15. To commit sin, is to place our bodily faculties at the disposal of an unseen power absolutely and actively hostile to God and tending always to death, a murderer from the beginning. On the other hand, the consecration of our faculties to the service of God produces for us good and abiding results culminating in eternal life. To commit sin, and thus to abandon the service of God, because God treats us, not on principles of mere justice, but with undeserved favour, is to destroy ourselves simply because we have power to do so.

CHAPTER VI. deals with one subject, the believer’s relation to his former life of sin, in answer to the question of Romans 6:1. We must not continue in sin in order to work out the gracious purposes of God: for His purpose is that our former life of sin be buried in the grave of Christ and that we henceforth share His resurrection life: Romans 6:2-10. Paul then teaches how this purpose of God may be accomplished in us, viz. by reckoning it to be here and now achieved in us by inward union with Christ; and urges us to claim the fulfilment of this purpose: Romans 6:11-13. To this he encourages us, in Romans 6:14, by pointing to our altered relation to God; and gives, in Romans 6:16-23, a very strong motive for unreserved consecration to the service of God. The chapter concludes with words almost the same as those at the end of Romans 5. But how vast the progress we have made. Each chapter brings us within view of life eternal. But, as a consequence of the reign of grace through Christ, announced in Romans 5., we have now an inward and vital union with Him in His death, burial, and resurrection, resulting in complete deliverance from the service of sin and in a life of unreserved devotion to God like that of Christ. In Romans 5, we had justification, knowledge of God’s love to us, and a joyful hope of glory: we are now sharers of the holy and immortal life of Christ.

 


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Bibliography Information
Beet, Joseph. "Commentary on Romans 6:4". Joseph Beet's Commentary. http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/jbc/romans-6.html. 1877-90.

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