Expositor's Dictionary of Texts
What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound?No Compromise
I. What did the Apostle mean by the Words—Dead unto Sin?—(1) He meant death of the Judicial Penalty of Sin—beyond the power of sin to inflict its penalty upon us. The judicial idea runs through the whole Epistle. A criminal who has served his term of imprisonment for an offence against the law, at the expiration of his sentence is dead to that particular crime. The penalty will not be exacted of him twice over. Even so the Christian, who implicitly accepts Christ's finished work for him upon the cross, becomes dead to the penalty of all his past transgression. (2) Death to the Appeals of Sin—unresponsive to its temptations. How still, how unmoved the dead are! Fill the dead hand of the miser with gold, and his fingers do not clutch it. Even so it is with the believer in Christ (3) Complete and final severance from the practice and love of sin. Death is a state from which there is no return. Even so in Christ Jesus the Christian is to regard himself as finally and irrevocably separated from the life of sin.
II. Alive unto God.—Then there is a positive side to Christian life. That is a truth which needs insistence in these weak and effeminate times. It was said of Mark Pattison that 'he spent all his life in the tents of compromise'. What a wretched life to live! Why should we try to get to heaven by what Dr. Robertson Nicoll finely called 'spiritual blondinism,' when there is the highway of the Lord always open to us on which the ransomed of the Lord journey with songs and everlasting joy upon their heads? Turn to the Apostle's words. What did he mean by them? (1) Obedience. The will has been yielded up to Christ in an intelligent, deliberate, and final act of surrender. (2) Fellowship. How sweet and refreshing is the communion of saints 1 Fellowship with God! What bliss it affords! (3) And, finally, as the result of daily responsive obedience to God and unbroken communion with God, the believer at last attains likeness to God. I cannot linger to name all the features of the Divine character which are reproduced in the Christian. Let me emphasise one only: 'God is love'. To be alive unto God, therefore, is to live the life of pure, self-sacrificing love.
—J. Tolefrae Parr, The White Life, p. 133.
References.—VI. 3.—F. St. John Corbett, The Preacher's Year, p. 122. Bishop Gore, Christian World Pulpit, vol. lv. p. 168. Bishop Westcott, Village Sermons, p. 271. Expositor (6th Series), vol. v. p. 48; ibid. vol. vi. p. 252. VI. 3, 4.—J. M. Witherow, Christian World Pulpit, vol. lvi. p. 131. C. Parsons Reichel, Sermons, p. 95. Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xxvii. No. 1627. Expositor (4th Series), vol. ix. p. 275. VI. 3-5.—J. N. Bennie, The Eternal Life, p. 102. VI. 3- 6.—Expositor (4th Series), vol. vi. p. 28. VI. 4.—C. F. Aked, Baptist Times, vol. liv. p. 415. J. Keble, Village Sermons on the Baptismal Service, p. 246. B. J. Snell, Sermons on Immortality, p. 56. Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xxxvii. No. 2197. Expositor (6th Series), vol. iv. p. 12. VI. 4-6.—Expositor (4th Series), vol. x. p. 114. VI. 5.—F. D. Maurice, Sermons, vol. ii. p. 213. Expositor (6th Series), vol. xii. p. 257. VI. 6.—W. J. Knox-Little, Christian World Pulpit, vol. li. p. 228. H. C. Lees, The Record, vol. xxvii. p. 769. Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xv. No. 882. Expositor (6th Series), vol. vii. p. 265. VI. 7.—Ibid. (4th Series), vol. viii. p. 468. VI. 8-11.—Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. ix. No. 503.
The Model of Our New Life
Easter Day is like the wedding-day of an intimate friend: our impulse as Christians is to forget ourselves, and to think only of the great Object of our sympathies. On Good Friday we were full of ourselves—full of our sins, of our sorrows, of our resolutions. If we entered into the spirit of that day at all, we spread them out, as well as we could, before the dying eyes of the Redeemer of the world; we asked Him, of His boundless pity, to pardon and to bless us. To-day is His day, as it seems, not ours. It is His day of triumph; His day of re-asserted rights and recovered glory; and our business is simply to forget ourselves; to intrude with nothing of our own upon hours which are of right consecrated to Him; to think of Him alone; to enter with simple, hearty, disinterested joy upon the duties of congratulation and worship which befit the yearly anniversary of His great victory. 'This is the day which the Lord hath made: let us rejoice and be glad in it'.
I. 'Like as—even so.' St. Paul's words will suggest to a great many minds a question which must here be answered. What is the connection, they will say, between the raising Christ's body from the dead, on the one hand, and our 'walking in newness of life' on the other?
The answer is, that the source, the motive power of the two things—of Christ's Resurrection, and of the Christian's new life—is one and the same. They are equally effects of one Divine agency. They belong, indeed, themselves, to two different spheres of being. But that does not interfere with the fact of one common cause lying at the root both of one and the other. St. Paul glances at this truth when he prays that the Ephesians may know 'what is the exceeding greatness of God's power to usward who believe, according to the greatness of His mighty power which He wrought in Christ when He raised Him from the dead'. Why should God's power, as shown to us Christians, be according to the greatness of the power which He wrought at the Resurrection of Christ? Why? Because the same Divine Artist shows His hand in either work; because the Resurrection of Christ is in one sphere what the Baptismal New Birth or the Conversion of a soul is in another; because the manner and proportion of the Divine action here at the tomb of Christ, where it is addressed to sight and sense, enables us to trace and measure it there in the mystery of the soul's life, where it is for the most part addressed to spirit.
II. Speaking roughly, then, there are three characteristics of the risen life of our Lord which especially challenge attention, as corresponding to certain features of the new life of Christians.
(1) Of these the first is its reality. The Resurrection of Jesus Christ was the real Resurrection of a really dead Body. The piercing of our Lord's side, to say nothing of the express language of the Evangelists, implied the truth of His Death.
(2) A second characteristic of Christ's risen life: it lasts. Jesus did not rise, that, like Lazarus, He might die again. 'I am He'—so ran the message to St. John in Patmos—'that liveth and was dead; and behold I am alive for evermore, and have the keys of hell and of death.' For evermore. No new life upon the earth to be followed by a death of pain and shame—no new victory over the tomb—awaited Him. Sin was conquered once for all. Christ's triumphant life as Man with God the Father could not again be exchanged for a state of suffering. 'Christ being raised from the dead dieth no more: death hath no more dominion over Him, for in that He died, He died unto sin once, but in that He liveth He liveth unto God.' So with the new life of the Christian. It should be a resurrection once for all. I say, 'it should be'; for God's grace does not put force upon us, and what it does in us and for us depends upon ourselves. The Christian must 'reckon himself to be dead indeed unto sin, but alive unto God, through Jesus Christ our Lord'.
(3) A third note of Christ's risen life. Much of it—most of it—was hidden from the eyes of men. They saw enough to be satisfied of its reality. But of His eleven recorded appearances, five took place on a single day; and there is accordingly no record of any appearance on thirty-three days out of the forty which preceded the Ascension. And yet we cannot help asking, what was the risen Christ doing during these long absences from His disciples? Ah! what? Who can doubt? Certainly He needed not strength, as we need it, but communion with the Father was His glory and His joy. And who can here fail to see a lesson and a law for all true Christian lives? Of every such life, much, and the most important side, must be hidden from the eyes of men. It is a matter of the first necessity to set aside some time in each day for secret communion with Him, in Whose presence we hope to spend our eternal future. Doubtless our business, our families, our friendships, our public duties, have their claims: in many a life, such claims may leave a very scanty margin for anything beyond. But where there is a will there is a way: and time must be made for secret earnest prayer, for close self-questioning, for honestly facing all that touches our present condition, and our tremendous destinies, for planting our foot, humbly yet firmly, upon the threshold of Eternity.
—H. P. Liddon.
Free From Death
I. 'Christ was raised from the dead.' Then He was among them. It is a medicine good for all diseases. It is the light which turns what would otherwise be darkness and sorrow into brightness and joy. Do any men think that their sins cannot be forgiven? that they pass the mercies even of God? that the promises of the Holy Ghost were not meant for them? Christ was dead. Can anything be impossible after that? Can there be any sin that such a death will not wash away.
II. 'Dieth no more.' All this was done once, that it might be done for ever. And as with Him so with us. 'It is appointed unto men once to die.' He will have us to do that which He did—but not more. It is a very bitter cup, but then we can only swallow it once. These bodies of ours will be so put together at the last day that they cannot come to pieces any more. We shall be like our Lord in that also. We, being raised from the dead, shall never die again.
III. Here, we are all in the dominion of death. But if God gives us grace to enter into His kingdom, then we shall be like unto our Lord, that is, shall be free from this dominion of death. Then, perhaps, we shall know better than we do now, how it has made bitter, how it has eaten into, how it has spoiled everything here. Here we shall never entirely lose it; there we cannot for a moment even fear it.
—J. M. Neale, Sermons in Sackville College Chapel, vol. ii. p. 64.
References.—VI. 9-11.—W. P. S. Bingham, Sermons on Easter Subjects, p. 15. J. H. Holford, Memorial Sermons, p. 56. VI. 10.—J. C. M. Bellew, Sermons, vol. i. p. 1. VI. 10, 11.—R. W. Church, Village Sermons (2nd Series), p. 152. J. Keble, Sermons for Easter to Ascension Day, p. 138.
Am I wrong in saying that he who has mastered the meaning of those two prepositions now truly rendered—'into the Name,' 'in Christ'—has found the central truth of Christianity? Certainly I would gladly have given the ten years of my life spent on the Revision to bring only these two phrases of the New Testament to the heart of Englishmen.
References.—VI. 11.—H. C. Lees, The Record, vol. xxvii. p. 769. W. J. E. Bennett, Sermons at the London Mission, 1869, p. 21. W. H. Evans, Sermons for the Seasons, p. 97. C. D. Bell, The Saintly Calling, p. 41. Expositor (5th Series), vol. v. p. 142. VI. 11, 12.—Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. li. No. 2933. VI. 12, 13.—H. Howard, The Raiment of the Soul, p. 19. VI. 12-14.—Expositor (5th Series), vol. ix. p. 346.
Alive From the Dead (An Easter Sermon)
'Alive from the dead.' These words have the true Easter ring. The background of Easter is required to make clear their meaning. Good Friday lies behind us. Good Friday must always be sad, for the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ is not only the revelation of the love of God; it is also the abiding monument of the shame of our race—its revolt against goodness, its betrayal of the best, its refusal of ordinary justice, its fickleness and cowardice, its love of self, and its enmity against God. No man who looks at the cross and seriously reflects what it means can fail to be bowed down with shame and penitence. We cannot separate ourselves from that fearful act The best men have said ever since, 'My sins helped to nail Him there'. We have wished that all our past, the good and bad of it alike, should simply go down into the grave with Christ, that the full force of our baptism should be realised and our old man, our former self, should be buried with Him. And we have learned that this is just what God grants to us in His wonderful forgiving love, that, as St. Paul tells us in this passage, we should be planted in the likeness of His death, and why? In order that we may be also with His Resurrection.
I. Easter meets us with its Splendid Hope and its Thrilling Charity.—He died unto sin once; He liveth unto God. 'Likewise reckon ye also yourselves to be dead indeed unto sin, but alive unto God through Jesus Christ our Lord.'
'Yield yourselves unto God, as those that are alive from the dead.' Christ is risen. We are risen. Easter has many messages, but that is the deepest and the highest of all. Easter tells of immortality. It is a sure pledge that death, though strong, is not the strongest. It speaks tender words of consolation to those who have parted with their dear ones for a while. It promises that our training here will not be wasted, but is a schooling for the higher life. It assures us also that the great God in heaven has accepted the sacrifice of Him Who died for our sins and rose again for our sanctification, and it tells us that in the great conflict between evil and good the triumph must be with God. Christ is living, conquering, reigning. 'Alive from the dead.'
II. If that is its Message, what is its Challenge?—'Yield yourselves unto God.' Let the past be past Let it lie buried in the grave of Christ. God looks on you as He looks on His only begotten Son, Who has taken your nature and carried it to the cross and to the grave, and He says to you in Him, 'This is My Son, Who was dead and is alive again. He has come back to be an obedient Son, to yield Himself to His Father's will.' 'Yield yourselves unto God, as those that are alive from the dead.' Is it all too mysterious? Does it even sound unreal? No; I appeal to your spiritual being, to its experiences, or else to its needs. I speak that which some of you have known once and, it may be, have lost awhile through carelessness or wilful sin, which all of you may know if you will ask, that the Holy Spirit may be given to you to take the things of Christ and show them unto you.
III. What will it Mean for our whole Life, this yielding of ourselves to God? It will mean the study of the will of God, God's will which is revealed to us in the Holy Scripture, as it is disclosed by the providence which sets us our daily task, and which is personally known to us by the promptings of the Holy Spirit in answer to our prayers for guidance; understanding what the will of God is, studying it in order to do it, and so yielding ourselves as instruments with which He may be able to work His will. It will mean that in the broadest sense, but in the particular it may be something different for each of us. We cannot say one for another, we cannot foresee for ourselves, what it may involve. We cannot know what it may cost, this offer of our new lives to God. Here is where great faith is demanded of us. Can we trust Him to lay no greater burden on us than in the strength which He gives us we can bear? This is where we mostly fail; yet this is what He asks most from us. A father loves to be trusted by his son. It is our Father Who bids us yield ourselves to Him. Did ever any trust in Him who was confounded?
References.—VI. 13.—J. Keble, Sermons for Easter to Ascension Day, p. 240. Expositor (6th Series), vol. x. p. 443. VI. 14.—T. Arnold, Sermons, vol. i. p. 103. Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xv. No. 901, and vol. xxiv. No. 1410. J. Keble, Sermons for Easter to Ascension Day, p. 293. Expositor (4th Series), vol. iv. p. 427; ibid. vol. x. p. 121. VI. 14, 15.—Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xxix. No. 1735. VI. 15-23.—Bishop Gore, The Epistle to the Romans, p. 226. VI. 17.—J. S. Boone, Sermons, p. 334. Expositor (5th Series), vol. vi. p. 381.
Conduct, the Test of Character
In our text we are taught to look to the general tendency of life for the test of character and condition. If we have yielded ourselves, in resolve and in act, as servants to obey, whether it be to sin or to righteousness, then his servants we are whom we obey.
I. We are ready enough in our judgment of others, though often mistaken in our own conclusions about them.
No doubt there are sins so obvious that 'they go beforehand unto judgment'. The profligate, the drunkard, the cruel and the sensual, the proud and the worldly, are condemned as those who have no inheritance in Christ with the sanctified. And our Lord teaches us, by His revelation of the severance at the last day, that the habitual negation of good, the non-doing of duty, is also decisive of character, and therefore of destiny. All this is known to God, and will be determined by Him; but again and again we are warned against attempting to assume His place by taking up the role of judge. Thus James says: 'There is one Lawgiver, Who is able to save and to destroy; who art thou then that judgest another?'And our Lord, in His Sermon on the Mount, says: 'Judge not, that ye be not judged'.
We are often misunderstood. We offend others innocently and inadvertently, and they think and say evil of us. On the other hand, we are sometimes far too highly thought of by those who do not know us well. We have undiscovered faults, and perhaps unrecognised virtues. We are both better and worse than others think us to be. Good Thomas à Kempis said as truly as wisely: 'Thou art not the more holy for being praised, nor the more worthless for being dispraised. What thou art, that thou art; neither by words canst thou be made greater than what thou art in the sight of God.'
II. But though all this and much more might be said of the judgment of a man by others, it does not lessen the responsibility resting on every one to judge himself. It was a pagan philosopher who left on record the immortal dictum: 'Know thyself. And it was an inspired Psalmist who taught us where to find illumination for this when he exclaimed, 'For Thou wilt light my candle; the Lord my God will enlighten my darkness'. And another Psalmist, conscious of self-ignorance, prayed: 'Search me, O God, and know my heart; try me, and know my thoughts; and see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting'.
The difficulties in the way of self-knowledge are greater now than in the Psalmist's days, because the rush of life is swifter, and noisier, and meditation is, to many, almost impossible. But still, they are fools who, through thoughtlessness, fail to see how they stand in relation to God—for this we may know, and ought to know for our own good always.
III. The Apostle further teaches us in this passage that character and habit tend to a consummation, 'whether of sin unto death, or of obedience unto righteousness'.
(1) In the twenty-third verse we read, 'the wages of sin is death'. It is a solemn declaration. You may disbelieve it, or forget it, or refuse to consider it, but it abides true as ever. What it involves—so far as life after death is concerned—we do not know, except that all that is experienced here, whether good or evil, will be intensified there. But is there no death of the spiritual even on earth, the premonition of the eternal? There are those who so far make themselves the 'servants of sin' that their sensibilities are dulled, till they cannot feel and cannot pray. They have grieved the Spirit, and even quenched the Spirit. God and heaven, sin and salvation, have lost all meaning to them, and they already know what it is to 'sin unto death'.
(2) God who begins this new work will carry it on, prompting us daily to the obedience which tends to righteousness. In other words, repeated acts of obedience to God's known will end in established character.
—Alfred Rowland, The Exchanged Crowns, p. 69.
There is but one passion which cannot go astray, cannot be too great—the passion for righteousness embodied in Jesus. Philosophy and love are here the same thing. No vague ideals are these, dressed up in fine words, drawing on tomorrow because they have had no yesterday, but ascertained and ascertainable experience. Life is an art too complex for any rule but one, and that is the Imitation of Christ.
—Dr. William Barry, in The Two Standards.
Your liberty will be sacred, so long as it shall be governed by and evolved beneath an idea of Duty.
References.—VI. 18.—Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xxv. No. 1482. VI. 19.—Basil Wilberforce, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xlvi. p. 149. VI. 21.—G. W. Brameld, Practical Sermons, p. 373. Expositor (4th Series), vol. i. p. 36. VI. 21-23.—Ibid. pp. 205, 207, 211.
'By holiness,' says Mr. John Morley, 'do we not mean something different from virtue? It is not the same as duty; still less is it the same as a religious belief. It is a name for an inner grace of nature, an instinct of the soul, by which, though knowing of earthly appetites and worldly passions, the spirit, purifying itself of these, and independent of reason, argument, and the struggles of the will, dwells in patient and confident communion with the seen and the unseen Good.'
References.—VI. 22.—F. Ballard, Christian World Pulpit, vol. lix. p. 113. VI. 22, 23.—Expositor (4th Series), vol. i. p. 203.
Wages Or Gift?
I. What is the 'eternal life' which is here spoken of? It is endless life, undoubtedly, but it is more than that When we read (as in the Authorised Version), 'The gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord,' we recognise, as Bishop Westcott says, 'A general description of the work of Christ, of what He has wrought for us, standing apart from us'. But what Paul really wrote was, 'Eternal life in Jesus Christ our Lord,' that is to say (to quote Westcott again), 'Life is not an endowment apart from Christ, it is Himself, and enjoyed in Him'. Now we see that the adjective 'eternal' is not quantitative only but qualitative also; it indicates not endlessness simply, but a certain kind of life, the best and highest kind, life in Christ, the very life of God Himself. But if this be so, 'eternal life' is not a gift for the bestowal of which we must look in the world to come. Not till then, indeed, can it be ours in its fulness, but in measure at least it may be ours here and now.
II. How does this 'eternal life 'become the possession of man? The answer—the astonishing answer of Paul is, that (to quote the Revised Version) it is 'the free gift of God'. Now that is a conception of salvation that nowadays is often lost sight of. Salvation, we think, is to be from within; it must be wrought out by ourselves, it will come to us only as the last result of long and laborious striving. And, of course, there is much in all this that is profoundly true. But it was not so that Paul conceived the Gospel of Christ. No word indicates more clearly the whole drift of Paul's thinking on this matter than the word 'grace'. By 'grace' are we saved; and 'grace' speaks not of the doing of man, but of the giving of God. If I could sum up in one sentence the difference between these two opposite conceptions of the Christian life I think it would be this: the one makes God the centre of religion, the other finds it in man. The whole colour and tone of character of our religious life will be determined by the choice which (consciously or unconsciously) we make between these opposite conceptions of the meaning of salvation. (1) Why is it that so many of us have so little gladness in our Christian life? We have talked and lived as if the whole responsibility of our salvation rested on our own weak shoulders. (2) Why is it, again, that we make so little progress in the Christian life? Self is at the centre where only God should be. (3) Why is it that so many today hesitate even to enter upon the Christian life? Is not one answer at least this, that they wholly misconceive religion? They are weary and overburdened, and religion seems to add new burdens. Christianity tells not of something that man must do, but of something done for man.
—G. Jackson, Table Talk of Jesus, p. 99.
'For the present, however, consider Longchamp; now when Lent is ending, and the glory of Paris and France has gone forth as in annual wont. Not to assist at Tenebris masses, but to sun itself and show itself, and salute the Young Spring. Manifold, bright-tinted, glittering with gold; all through the Bois du Boulogne, in long-drawn, variegated rows;—like long-drawn living flower-borders, tulips, dahlias, lilies of the valley; all in their moving flower-pots (of new-gilt carriages); pleasure of the eye and the pride of life. So rolls and dances the Procession: steady, of firm assurance, as if it rolled on adamant and the foundations of the world; not on mere heraldic parchment—under which smoulders a lake of fire. Dance on, ye foolish ones; ye sought not wisdom, neither have ye found it. Ye and your fathers have sown the wind, ye shall reap the whirlwind. Was it not, from of old, written: The wages of sin is death?
—Carlyle's French Revolution, Book II. vi.
Compare the description of the second last of Hogarth's series of pictures, in Mariage à la Mode, given by Dr. Brown in Horœ Subsecivœ ('Notes on Art'—Distraining for Rent).
That is the worst of the wages of sin. Sinners cannot pay them all—however willing, however passionately desirous even they may be to do so. Those wages are always paid in part, of necessity must be, by the innocent in place of the guilty.
References.—VI. 23.—Christian World Pulpit, vol. lii. p. 182. F. D. Maurice, Sermons, vol. ii. p. 223. E. J. Boyce, Parochial Sermons, p. 228. Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xiii. No. 1868. Bishop Westcott, Village Sermons, p. 250. C. Ensor Walters, The Deserted Christ, p. 61.
God forbid. How shall we, that are dead to sin, live any longer therein?
Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into his death?
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.
For if we have been planted together in the likeness of his death, we shall be also in the likeness of his resurrection:
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.
For he that is dead is freed from sin.
Now if we be dead with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with him:
Knowing that Christ being raised from the dead dieth no more; death hath no more dominion over him.
For in that he died, he died unto sin once: but in that he liveth, he liveth unto God.
Likewise reckon ye also yourselves to be dead indeed unto sin, but alive unto God through Jesus Christ our Lord.
Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, that ye should obey it in the lusts thereof.
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.
For sin shall not have dominion over you: for ye are not under the law, but under grace.
What then? shall we sin, because we are not under the law, but under grace? God forbid.
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?
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.
Being then made free from sin, ye became the servants of righteousness.
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.
For when ye were the servants of sin, ye were free from righteousness.
What fruit had ye then in those things whereof ye are now ashamed? for the end of those things is death.
But now being made free from sin, and become servants to God, ye have your fruit unto holiness, and the end everlasting life.
For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.