Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges
What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound?Ch. Romans 6:1-14. Justification organically connected with sanctification: grace the supreme motive to obedience
1. What shall we say then?] Here begins the direct treatment of a great topic already suggested, (Romans 3:5-8,) the relation of gratuitous Pardon to Sanctity. This discussion occupies ch. 6 and Romans 7:1-6; and is closely connected with the rest of ch. 7.
Let us distinctly note that up to this point it has not been explicitly in the argument at all. The strongest statements of the evil and the doom of sin were made e. g. in cch. 1 and 2; but the argument thus far has been wholly occupied with acceptance; with Justification. No part of the passage from Romans 3:9 to this point, has purification of heart for its proper subject.
continue, &c.] Lit. remain upon sin. The phrase is frequent in other connexions, and tends to mean not mere continuance, but perseverance in will and act. See e.g. 1 Timothy 4:16.—The objection anticipated in this verse is abundantly illustrated in Church history. It may be prompted either by the craving for sinful licence, or by a prejudice against the doctrine of purely gratuitous pardon under the belief that it does logically favour security in sin. It is all the more noteworthy that St Paul meets it not by modifying in the least the gratuitous aspect of pardon; not by presenting any merit of the pardoned person as even the minutest element in the cause of pardon. He takes sanctity as entirely the effect of Justification, not at all its cause.
God forbid. How shall we, that are dead to sin, live any longer therein?2. we, that are dead, &c.] More lit. and fully, we, as those who died to sin. The reference is again to a single past act; the death of the Second Adam, at which His brethren too, regarded as “in Him,” “died to sin.” See last note on ch. Romans 5:12.
dead to sin] See below, Romans 6:10 : “He died to sin, once and for ever.” It appears then that our “death to sin” (in Christ) must be explained by what His death to it was. And His was a death such as to free Him not from its impulses (for He was essentially free from them) but from its claim, its penalty, endured for us by Him. His death once over, the claim of sin was cancelled. Therefore, for those who “died in Him,” it was cancelled likewise. The phrase thus has, in the strict sense of it, not a moral but a legal reference. But the transition to a moral reference is inevitable when the Redeemer’s Death is seen to be the act which exhausted the claim: in that death we see not only the strength of the claim, but the malignity of the claimant.
 Sin here, obviously, is used as a practical synonym for the broken Law; but so that its proper meaning is ready at once to reappear. Properly, sin’s only “claim” is to be itself put down; but by a natural modification it appears as that which exacts the punishment of the sinner.
live any longer therein] “Live” is emphatic, in contrast to “dead.” St Paul puts it as inconceivable that the soul which is so freed from such claim can endure, after its death in Christ to sin, (or, in other words, after His death to sin for it,) to yield its faculties as before to sin’s influence.—Strictly, death and life are used here in different respects; death in a legal respect, life in a moral; but see last note for the reconcilement of the seeming inconsistency.—“Therein:”—surrounded by it, as the body by the air it breathes; in vital connexion.
Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into his death?3. so many of us, &c.] Not implying that some were, and some were not. This is plain from the Gr. All Christian believers are contemplated; for each his baptism was all this, if a true baptism.—This and Romans 6:4 contain the only mentions of Baptism in the Epistle. He refers the converts to their baptism as to the great crisis of their lives, when, having already, by Divine grace, “turned from idols to serve the living God,” they made (so to speak) their formal self-surrender to their Redeemer, and received His formal acceptance of them as His own.
into Jesus Christ] i.e. so as to belong to Him, to obey Him, and to learn of Him. Cp. the parallel phrase “baptized into Moses,” 1 Corinthians 10:2.
into his death] i.e. so as to come into special relations with it. We may paraphrase, “into Him as the Slain One.” His atoning death was the primary point of apostolic teaching. See 1 Corinthians 15:3.
Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.4. we are buried with him] Better, we were buried, &c.; the reference being to the past fact of baptism. Burial is the final token of death, and so the strongest expression of death as a fact. Perhaps there is an allusion to the immersion of baptism, as a quasi-burial. (The only parallel passage is Colossians 2:12.) But the significance of the rite would not depend on such a form of it: the essential is that every true baptism is the ratification of covenant connexion with Christ and His Death. It thus lays the baptized Christian, as it were, with the Lord in that grave where He lay as the slain Propitiation; i.e. it ratifies our share in the Justification of the Cross.
by baptism] by means of baptism, i.e., of course, not by the mere act, but by all that is involved in a true baptism. Baptism is not an isolated thing, but a summary and seal.
into death] Better, into the death, the Lord’s Death. Connect these words with “we were buried.” The whole idea is a union with Christ as the Slain One, so real that it is expressed by the figure of a share in His grave.
that, &c.] The sequence indicated is as follows:—Our new position and conduct as Christians was both to be, and to seem, radically new; as new as resurrection-life after death. Therefore our admission to the covenant was by a rite essentially connected with the Lord’s Death, and thus intended both to remind us of the price of justification, and of the totally new position, principles, and conduct, of the justified.
by the glory of the Father] By the majestic harmony of His Power, Holiness, and Love; all consenting in the great miracle. Perhaps the thought is suggested here that the same “glory” shall be exercised in the “new life” of the justified.
walk in newness of life] i.e. move and act with the new principles and powers of those who, as the justified, are “born again to a living hope.”—“Newness:”—the Gr. word expresses not so much youth as novelty; a condition without precedent in our experience.—“Life:”—in the sense not of a course of life, but of the principle of life. Through the Death of Christ, the justified “live;” in the “newness” of that condition they are to “walk.”—Here again (as in Romans 6:2) note the transition of ideas; from a “death to sin” (with Christ) in respect of penalty, to a “life” (with Christ) in respect not merely of remission but of new principles and acts; i.e. from Justification simply to Justification as resulting in Sanctification. The “life” is not merely the extension of existence to a pardoned man, but the condition and use of that existence where the pardoned are also, as such, accepted among the “brethren” of Christ.
For if we have been planted together in the likeness of his death, we shall be also in the likeness of his resurrection:5. if] i.e. “as;” an assumed fact
planted together] Better (with regard to the form of the Gr. word), vitally connected. Not implanting but coalescence is the idea. (The word occurs nowhere else in N. T.)
in the likeness] Not His Death, but its Likeness; i.e. our “death unto sin” in Him. (See on Romans 6:2.) As believers, we have become vitally, inseparably, connected with that “death;” in other words, freedom from the claim of doom is an essential of our condition “in Him.” (Romans 8:1.)
we shall be] i.e., practically, “we are and shall be.” This is to be the sequel of justification, now and ever.
his resurrection] Which was not merely the reversal of His Death, but His entrance on the “power of an endless life.” So the justified live, not merely “not unto sin,” but “unto God.”
Knowing this, that our old man is crucified with him, that the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin.6. knowing this] Not precisely = “for we know this;” but more fully, “as those who know this.” This knowledge is to be a working motive in the new life.
our old man] Cp., for illustrative passages, Romans 7:22; 2 Corinthians 4:16; Ephesians 3:16; Ephesians 4:22; Ephesians 4:24; Colossians 3:9; 1 Peter 3:4. In view of these, the word “self” in its popular use (“a man’s true self,” &c.) appears to be a fair equivalent for “man” here. Meyer here gives “unser altes Ich,” (“our old Ego”). Here the Apostle views the Christian before his union to Christ as (figuratively, of course,) another person; so profoundly different was his position before God, as a person unconnected with Christ.
is crucified with him] Better, was crucified. Here again the idea is the Representative Death of the Substitute, appropriated and made efficacious for justification, by faith. Not merely Death, but the Cross, is here named; the ideas of shame and pain being specially fit here, to emphasize both the requirements of the law and the claims of grace.
the body of sin] i.e. the body regarded as the special seat and stronghold of sin. Cp. 1 Corinthians 9:27; and below, Romans 6:12-13. The body is “the external basis of human nature;” “the medium for the reception … of life;” and thus “the sinfulness of human nature is … manifested by means of it.” (Cremer.) In connexions like the present it nearly = “the flesh.”
destroyed] Better, cancelled, as to its fatal power on the spirit. Same word as Romans 3:3; Romans 3:31; where see notes. Cp. especially 2 Timothy 1:10; where E. V. “abolished.” For a comment on the meaning here see Romans 8:3, and 1 Corinthians 9:27.
serve] Lit., be slaves to; and so in the whole context. This clause explains the last: “The body of sin” is so “cancelled” as to its power that the “inner man” no longer is the slave, or obedient victim, of sin, but combats it, with final victory. Before our “death with Christ,” the will, although it was swayed by conscience away from single acts or courses of sin, had never decisively revolted from sin as such, under the one effective motive—supreme love to the Holy God as the God of Peace. Hence, little as he might know it, the man’s will was, in the main respect of all, in harmony with sin, and the tool of sin; for sin in its essence is the not-loving the true God. And the impending doom of sin, (in other words, sin as unforgiven sin,) was the strength and secret of this bondage; for till the removal of the doom the man could not love God; God could not be to him the God of Peace. Hence St Paul speaks now immediately of deliverance from the doom of sin as implying deliverance from its bondage.
For he that is dead is freed from sin.7. For he that is dead, &c.] Better, with a slight paraphrase, for he who has once died to sin now stands free from its claim. The legal claim of sin is meant here, not its moral dominion, for the Gr. word rendered “freed” in E. V., is lit. (see margin of E. V.) justified. The argument is that, since death is the penalty of sin, then if death has been suffered and passed, the penalty is exhausted and the claim cancelled: now such is the position of the justified in Christ; His death was endured, and is now past, for them and as theirs; therefore they live as those who have exhausted penalty and are free from its claim—in fact, “justified from sin.”
Now if we be dead with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with him:8. Now, &c.] This ver. and Romans 6:9-11 carry on, in a brief paragraph, the truth just stated, with special reference to the permanence and power of the Lord’s resurrection-life, which is the pledge of the Christian’s “new life.” Here too the view of His resurrection-life as a life “unto God” is distinctly stated; (see below on Romans 6:12;) the point which specially affects the argument then following.
if we be dead with Christ] Better, as we died with Christ; (see on Romans 6:2).—Here observe that it is in different senses respectively that man “dies in Adam” (1 Corinthians 15:22), and “dies with Christ.” “In Adam,” he incurs death in his own person, as penalty for inherited guilt (see on ch. Romans 5:12). “With Christ” he, not in his own person, but in that of Christ, his Representative, suffers death as expiation; is viewed as having thereby exhausted the claim of the law against him; and thus arrives in the happy state of justification, with its attendant results of sanctifying change in affections and will.
we believe] On the firm ground of our “death with Him.”
we shall also live] The future points not so much to bodily resurrection and life in glory, as to the immediate prospect, on justification, of “newness of life.” Q. d., “We live, and shall continue to do so, in our near and distant future.” The future “glory” is not yet the direct subject, as it is in parts of ch. 8: the future of the life of grace is in view here.
with him] i.e., by connexion with Him as the Second Adam.
Knowing that Christ being raised from the dead dieth no more; death hath no more dominion over him.9. knowing] As an admitted foundation-truth. Christian faith is always viewed as grounded upon knowledge, upon fact.
dieth no more] His life is continuous and endless; such then also is that of those to whom He is the Second Adam; who therefore “shall live with Him.” Through this whole context the parallel of Adam and Christ needs to be borne in mind.
death hath no more dominion over him] “Him” is emphatic.—The Second Adam, as Representative and Substitute, submitted to the “dominion,” or mastery, of death as the appointed penalty of sin. But by that very act He exhausted death’s claim on Himself and His brethren; He “cancelled death.” (2 Timothy 1:10.)
For in that he died, he died unto sin once: but in that he liveth, he liveth unto God.10. in that he died] Lit. that which He died; His dying, in all that it involved. So below, that which He liveth.
unto sin] i.e., as the previous argument shewed, “with reference to the claim of sin;” to meet and cancel it; and therefore so as now to be out of reach of its doom.
once] once for all, “once and for ever.” The word here is not necessary to the argument, but it enforces, by contrast, the continuousness of His life. It also, though less pointedly, suggests the completeness of the atonement, and so the greatness of its results. (On the latter reference see Hebrews 7:27; Hebrews 9:12; Hebrews 10:10; where “once,” “once for all,” is the same word as that here, in the Gr.).
unto God] i.e. with respect to God; as having obtained (representatively for us) God’s acceptance, and having thus entered on an immortal permanence (representatively for us) of joy and power before Him. (The same phrase, but with different special reference, occurs Luke 20:38.)
Likewise reckon ye also yourselves to be dead indeed unto sin, but alive unto God through Jesus Christ our Lord.11. Likewise] Here is the strict result of the truth just stated, when the position of Christ as the Second Adam is remembered. What He did and does, as such, was done and is done by those who are “in Him” as their Head.
reckon] This word, just as in Romans 3:28, (E. V., “conclude,”) marks a solid inference from facts. It implies also here an application of that inference to conscience, affections, and will; such as is now developed by the argument.
through Jesus Christ] Lit., and far better, in Jesus Christ. The word “in” is quite strictly used here, of the relation of the Second Adam to His brethren.—“Our Lord” should be omitted, on evidence of MSS., &c.
Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, that ye should obey it in the lusts thereof.12. Let not sin therefore reign] Here begins the direct moral appeal to the will. This till now has been either withheld, (while the Divine motive was being explained,) or made only indirectly, as in Romans 6:2; Romans 6:6, and Romans 3:31.—Notice how perfectly free and natural is the appeal to the will.
reign] This word implies sin’s presence still in the “mortal body” of the justified; a presence dwelt upon so fully in ch. 7, at the close. But they are to resist and subdue it, just because they are (1) judicially free from its claim, or doom; and (2) freed by a means, exactly such as to bring them into the “newness” of a “life unto God;” i.e. a totally new condition of connexion and intercourse with Him as the Father of their Head. Such a condition, in the nature of things, cannot be merely objective. It is objective as regards the acceptance of believers in the Risen Lord, and His intercessory life for them; but it must also inevitably be subjective on its other side, because the final cause of the objective position is the realization of a subjective spiritual state; namely, that of holiness and love before God. The facts are expressly given in order to work upon the conscience and will. See further, Postscript, p. 268.
in your mortal body] See on “the body of sin,” Romans 6:6. Here the “mortality” is emphasized, because it marks the fact (see further on Romans 8:23) that the deliverance of the body is still incomplete, so that it is still a special field for the action of sin. See below on Romans 7:24.
that ye should obey it, &c.] Better read, so as to obey the lusts thereof; i.e. of the body. This clause explains the word “reign.” Sin “reigns” when the will goes with solicitations to evil—as it does on the whole go, since the Fall, till Redemption gives it the motive power to resist and prevail.—“Lusts:” desires after evil, and away from God, of every kind; whether “sensual” or not. The most refined æstheticism may be as truly a “lust of the mortal body” as the grossest vice, if it perverts the will from holiness.
Neither yield ye your members as instruments of unrighteousness unto sin: but yield yourselves unto God, as those that are alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness unto God.13. your members] your limbs; the bodily organs and their constitution. The words thus = “your body,” (see Romans 12:1,) only with the suggestion of its varied powers for good or evil. See on Romans 6:6 (on “the body.” Cp. Colossians 3:5).
instruments] Lit., weapons. The word in classical Gr. has very various references, but N. T. usage makes it best here to keep the military reference. The will is regarded as at war, whether for or against holiness.
unto sin] Connect these words with “yield;” q. d., “Do not put them as weapons into the hand of sin to use for unrighteousness.” So below, “Put them into the hand of God as weapons to use for righteousness.”
yourselves] This word was not used in the previous clause, and here emphasizes the cordial allegiance resulting from justification.
as those that are alive, &c.] Rather better, who were dead and are alive. The facts both of death and life are emphatic in the Gr.—The reference is to acceptance in Him who “was delivered because of our offences and raised again because of our justification” (Romans 4:25). In Him the believer has, as it were, suffered expiatory death and passed into “newness of life.” This seems to be the reference proper to this context, rather than a reference to the spiritual death-state of unrenewed man. (Ephesians 2:1.)
righteousness] Here, of course, in the sense of active good; not, as so often before, in that of “righteousness in the eye of the law.”
For sin shall not have dominion over you: for ye are not under the law, but under grace.14. For sin, &c.] It is not quite clear whether this verse closes or opens a paragraph. Meyer takes it as opening the new section of argument. But it is quite in place as closing the previous one, while yet pointing forward also. On this view, St Paul makes the statement on purpose to animate the disciple to that exercise of will which yields his whole being to God. He is reminded of the reality of Justification, with its results of strength-giving peace and joy.
shall not have dominion] i.e. in the way of claim and doom. Same word as Romans 6:9, where see note. The future means that this freedom from condemnation shall be mercifully continued to them in their conflict; they “shall not come into condemnation.” This truth was to be their invigoration.
for] This clause fixes the reference of the last to justification, when read with the commentary on “law” and “grace” supplied by ch. 4.
under the law] Lit. under law; and so best here. Law in its widest reference is meant; a code of precepts, to be fulfilled as the preliminary to acceptance.—The Gr. suggests the paraphrase, “Ye are now placed not under the law but under grace;” with the idea not of the mere position, but of the transferring process.
What then? shall we sin, because we are not under the law, but under grace? God forbid.15–23. The same subject. Illustration from slavery
15. What then?] This takes up the question of Romans 6:1, and introduces the explicit answer, for which the passages between have fully prepared us. The form of the question here, as there, helps further to fix the reference of Romans 6:14 to justification. Sin was there said to have “no dominion” over the believer, in such a sense as to give (momentary) colour to such a question; therefore we now are shewn that the “dominion” there referred to was one of claim, not of influence.
Know ye not, that to whom ye yield yourselves servants to obey, his servants ye are to whom ye obey; whether of sin unto death, or of obedience unto righteousness?16. Know ye not] As a self-evident truth, that bond-service, once accepted, becomes binding. This general principle is at once applied to the special cases of Sin and Obedience regarded as personified Masters. The clauses to the end of Romans 6:18 may be thus summarized:—“All bond-service, once accepted, is binding, and forbids divided servitude;—this is as true of the obligations of Pardon as of those of Condemnation; of Justification as of Death. And you, thank God, have now passed from the latter to the former. Remember then, that in the very act of leaving the bond-service of sin you entered that of Pardon as taught in the Gospel, and are thus bound to obey as much as ever, though in the opposite direction.”
unto death—unto righteousness] The results (“death,” “righteousness”) of the respective “servitudes” are not necessary to the immediate statement, but are brought in as inseparable from the whole subject.
obedience] This is here the personified Master, the antithesis of Sin. The context, (Romans 6:17,) and Romans 10:3, (see also 1 Peter 1:2,) shew its meaning here to be the act of submission to the Divine terms of pardon. It is thus the practical equivalent of those terms, which are to be the ruling principle of the new life.
righteousness] The Gr. may here be paraphrased (not translated) by Justification. In such a paraphrase we are far from shutting a moral meaning out of the word; but a careful collation of passages in this Epistle makes it reasonably clear that its ruling reference in this argument is to the legal side of righteousness; i.e. to what the Law will view as righteous, and so to the persons whom it will view as possessing righteousness. Such a possession, in the case of “the ungodly” (Romans 4:5), is explained by St Paul as wholly due to the righteousness of their Representative. In other words they are justified for His sake.—Thus “righteousness” is used as a summary for the process of justification, though strictly applicable only to one part of the subject. Here we may paraphrase: “Ye became the bond-servants of God’s Terms of Pardon, to which you submitted with a submission that resulted in your being reckoned righteous in the eye of His Law.”
But God be thanked, that ye were the servants of sin, but ye have obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine which was delivered you.17. that ye were] i.e. obviously, “that whereas you were, &c.”
servants of sin] Such, without exception, was the former state and position of the justified. They were ruled by the principles, and under the claim, of sin; the will alienated from God, the person liable to doom.
ye have obeyed] Better, ye obeyed; at the time of faith. See note on obedience, Romans 6:16.
from the heart] The words are added as indicating the grand requisite of reality, and as implying the heartiness of the consequent life of holy “bond-service” (see Romans 10:9-10); perhaps too in allusion and contrast to any idea of a forcible subjection which might be suggested by the phrase “ye were delivered over” just below. See next note.
that form of doctrine which was delivered you] This rendering of the Gr. cannot stand. The margin E. V. is correct: the form of doctrine into which yon were delivered. Here we have to ask, (1) what is the “form of doctrine”? The word rendered “form,” (same word as ch. Romans 5:14, but there certainly with different reference), usually means, in St Paul, something guiding or formative—whether fact, principle, or person; (e.g. Php 3:17; and 1 Corinthians 10:6, where literally “figures, types, of us”). The phrase here would thus mean, “the principle, the rule of doctrine;” i.e. that rule of life which the “doctrine” in question, viz. the apostolic teaching, furnishes. Such a reference of the word “form” is specially apt here, since the moral results of faith are now in view. The reference of the phrase to shades and varieties of Christian teaching is certainly wrong; for such a reference would be out of place here, where the subject is the antithesis of the main truths of sin and salvation.—The phrase thus = “The guiding principles learnt from the preaching of the Gospel.”—(2) What is the meaning of “into, or unto, which ye were delivered, or handed over”? The allusion is to that metaphor of slavery which runs through the context. The Christian has been taken, by Divine mercy, from the hands of one Master to be put into the hands of another. The transference is, in one aspect, voluntary, (“yield yourselves,” “from the heart,”) but in another aspect it is the sovereign act of grace. (See Colossians 1:13 for similar imagery). The new Master is here the Ruling-Principle of the Gospel, just as, in Romans 6:16, it was Obedience to that Gospel.
Being then made free from sin, ye became the servants of righteousness.18. Being then, &c.] This verse is a brief summary, in more direct terms, of the previous two verses. The emphasis is the reality, and immediateness, of the new servitude.—“Then:”—better, But. A slight contrast of thought is indicated, between the willingness of the obedience (Romans 6:17), and the consequent obligation.
righteousness] See last note on Romans 6:16. The same reference of the word will hold good both here and there. The practical meaning thus is that pardon, as conveyed in the Divine justification, is now the (as it were) Master, the possessor of the obedience of the will; in other words, the ruling principle and motive.
I speak after the manner of men because of the infirmity of your flesh: for as ye have yielded your members servants to uncleanness and to iniquity unto iniquity; even so now yield your members servants to righteousness unto holiness.19. after the manner of men] More lit., humanly. He apologizes, so to speak, for using the peculiarly earthly image of the slave-market to enforce a truth of the most exalted spiritual dignity; namely, the necessary conformity of the wills of the justified to the will of God.
because of the infirmity of your flesh] i.e., because you are “weak” to apprehend spiritual truth, as being still “in the flesh;” affected by that element of your nature which (besides being the stronghold of sin) is always the antithesis of “the spirit.” This is his reason for going so low for his metaphor; for boldly depicting their state of justification as one also of slavery. No illustration less harsh would convey the full reality of obligation to their minds.
to uncleanness and to iniquity] Two main aspects of sin. “Iniquity “is lit., and better, lawlessness. The first of the two words means, the craving for evil as such; the second, the hatred of holy restraint as such.
unto iniquity] Lit., again, unto lawlessness; i.e. “with the result of lawless acts on the lawless principle.” See 1 John 3:4, where the Gr. precisely means, “sin and lawlessness are convertible terms.”
servants] The word is, of course, emphatic in both parts of the verse.
righteousness] See notes above on Romans 6:16-18, in favour of still referring this word to justification, the “gift of righteousness” (see on ch. Romans 5:17) regarded as the new motive in the life of the justified; the new power which was to use their “members” as its “weapons” against sin. (See on Romans 6:13.)
unto holiness] Lit., and better, unto sanctification. The Gr. noun indicates rather a process than a principle or a condition. (So too Hebrews 12:14.) The result of the new “bondage” was to be a steady course of purification; a process of self-denial, watchfulness, and diligent observance of the holy will of the God of Peace.
For when ye were the servants of sin, ye were free from righteousness.20. For when, &c.] This verse enforces the exhortation just given, by reminding the Christian that once he was emphatically not the “bond-servant of righteousness.”
free from righteousness] Lit. free unto righteousness; i.e. with respect to it, both as to its mercy and as to its consequent claim. There is here a deep and solemn irony, (if we may venture the word), which has some parallel in 1 Peter 4:3; q. d., “You had nothing to do with the righteousness of God; you were not justified before Him: therefore His righteousness had, as it were, nothing to do with you; it laid no bond of grateful love upon you.”
What fruit had ye then in those things whereof ye are now ashamed? for the end of those things is death.21. What fruit had ye then] “Then,” or “therefore,” points to the resulting practice due to their just-described position.
fruit] The word is very often used as a figure for “result,” and almost always in a good sense. The probable meaning here will thus be, “Did you find any happiness or profit resulting?” For a comment on these clauses see the passage 1 Peter 4:1-4, which is pregnant with illustration of this whole context. (Cp. e.g. Romans 6:3; Romans 6:7, with 1 Peter 4:1; Romans 6:12-13, with 1 Peter 4:2.) See too, for the deep and gracious contrast between the past and the present of other Christian converts, 1 Corinthians 6:9-11.
death] See on Romans 1:32. From, Romans 6:23 here it is plain that this “death” is the correlative of “eternal life.” It is the “second death” of the Revelation; the “destruction,” or “ruin,” of Matthew 7:13.
But now being made free from sin, and become servants to God, ye have your fruit unto holiness, and the end everlasting life.22. now] i.e. as things are, by Divine mercy.
to God] The real Master of the justified. The figures, “Obedience,” “Righteousness,” “Rule of Doctrine,” &c., are now laid aside, that He to whom they refer may at last appear in the Divine simplicity of His ownership over the soul.
ye have your fruit] The verb, by position, is emphatic. “You now have, what you then lacked, namely fruit; ‘your’ fruit, a real and happy profit and result from your new principle.”
unto holiness] unto sanctification; see on Romans 6:19. The “fruit” amounted to, consisted in, a steady course of self-denial and conflict against sin.
everlasting life] i.e. in this context, the bliss of the life to come; the “sight of the Lord” which is attained only by the path of “sanctification” (Hebrews 12:14); being, as it is, the issue and crown of the process.—Here, as in many other cases, note the varying reference of a single phrase. “Eternal life” is sometimes viewed as present (John 3:36; John 5:24;) sometimes, and more often, as future (e.g. John 4:36). In the first case it is the grace of regeneration, in the second, the developement of this in the glory to come.
For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.23. For] The “for” refers to the last statement. The verse may be paraphrased, “For whereas the wages of sin is death, the gift of God is, as we have now said, eternal life.”
wages] The Gr. is same word as Luke 3:14; 1 Corinthians 9:7; 2 Corinthians 11:8. It strictly denotes pay for military service; and the metaphor here therefore points not to slavery so much as to the warfare of Romans 6:13 (where see note on weapons). The word is full of pregnant truth. Death, in its most awful sense, is no more than the reward and result of sin; and sin is nothing less than a conflict against God.
gift] The Gr. is same word as free gift, ch. Romans 5:15.—This word here is, so to speak, a paradox. We should have expected one which would have represented life eternal as the issue of holiness, to balance the truth that death is the issue of sin. And in respect of holiness being the necessary preliminary to the future bliss, this would have been entirely true. But St Paul here all the more forcibly presses the thought that salvation is a gift wholly apart from human merit. The eternal Design, the meritorious Sacrifice, the life-giving and love-imparting Spirit, all alike are a Gift absolutely free. The works of sin are the procuring cause of Death; the course of sanctification is not the procuring cause of Life Eternal, but only the training for the enjoyment of what is essentially a Divine gift “in Jesus Christ our Lord.”
through] Lit., and better, in. The “life eternal” is to be found only “in Him,” by those who “come to Him.” His work is the one meritorious cause; and in His hands also is the actual gift. (John 17:2-3).