Romans 6
Pulpit Commentary Homiletics
Here the apostle enlarges still more fully upon the truth that the Christian's faith leads not merely to the pardon of sin, but also to deliverance from its power. Because grace has abounded over sin, and our unrighteousness has commended the righteousness of God, it does not therefore follow that we are to continue in sin. If we have a real union with Christ, we have been baptized into his death. We are buried with him by baptism into death; "that like as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life" (ver. 4).

I. THE FACT OF THE RESURRECTION. That the resurrection of Christ is surrounded with mystery, no one will deny. But the evidence by which the great central fact itself is established is so strong, so clear, so decisive, that even scepticism has sometimes to admit itself convinced. The effect of the most able and adverse criticism has only been to establish more and more certainly the fact of the Resurrection, and thus to confirm more strongly the Christian's faith. It is remarkable that two of the greatest rationalists of the present century, who doubted almost every fact of the New Testament history, admitted that the Resurrection was a fact which they could not doubt. Ewald, who deals destructively with most of the gospel incidents, "regarding some as mythical, some as admitting of a rationalistic interpretation, and some as combining the elements of both," is unable to destroy or explain away the Resurrection. "Rejecting all attempts to explain it, he accepts the great fact of the Resurrection on the evidence of history, and declares that nothing can be more historical." The testimony of De Wette is even more remarkable. He was more sceptical than Ewald; so much so that he was called "The Universal Doubter." Nevertheless, such is the force of the evidence, that this great rationalistic critic, in his last work, published in 1848, said that the fact of the Resurrection, although a darkness which cannot be dissipated rests on the way and manner of it, cannot itself be called in question any more than the historical certainty of the assassination of Julius Caesar.

1. The fact of the Resurrection is attested by the four evangelists. The four Gospels were written by men widely separated both in time and place. Their very variations are a proof of their substantial truth. They give varying accounts of the Resurrection, as would naturally be expected from men whom so great an event impressed in different ways, but they all agree in testifying that the event occurred.

2. The narrative of the Resurrection was accepted by the early Christians who lived at the time when the event took place. It is spoken of constantly in the Epistles to the various Churches as an event with which they were all familiar, and about which there was not the slightest doubt. When Peter is proposing the appointment of a successor to Judas, he speaks of the Resurrection as one of the great subjects of apostolic preaching. Indeed, it would appear that he regarded the preaching of the Resurrection as the great subject for which the apostle should be chosen. His words were, "Wherefore of these men who have companied with us all the time that the Lord Jesus went in and out amongst us, must one be ordained to be a witness with us of his resurrection."

3. The conversion of St. Paul, and his subsequent advocacy of the doctrine of the Resurrection, are perhaps the strongest proofs of its truth. Paul was a persecutor and a bigoted Pharisee. He suddenly became a member of the sect that was so hated and despised. The explanation that he himself gave of this change was that Jesus Christ had appeared unto him. It was not likely that Paul, a clear-headed man, accustomed to weigh evidence, would be deceived as to Christ's appearance. He could not be lightly led to take a step of such immense importance to his whole life. Something more than a mere dream or hallucination must be found to account for his whole subsequent career. He was not likely to undertake those missionary journeys through Asia Minor, through Macedonia, and through Greece, and to persevere in them, in the face of much opposition, ridicule, persecution, and many hardships and dangers, for the sake of a mere fancy. He was not a mere visionary or fanatic. His Epistles show him to have been a man of robust mind, great reasoning power, and soberness of judgment. And yet, in every instance in which a public speech of his is recorded in the Acts of the Apostles; in his address at Antioch in Pisidia, in his address at Athens, in his address to the multitude when he was taken prisoner at Jerusalem; whether he is in the presence of the high priest, of Felix, or of Festus and Agrippa, he most distinctly proclaims the fact of the resurrection of Christ.

4. As the life of the Apostle Paul was changed, so the lives of all the apostles were changed from the moment that the risen Christ appeared to them. Before that they were timid and frightened. The boldest of them became so cowardly as to deny that he knew Christ at all. They had all forsaken him and fled when the time of crucifixion drew near. After the crucifixion they became disheartened and depressed. We can easily see what would have become of Christianity had there been no resurrection, as we study the conduct and words of the disciples when they knew that their Master was so soon to be taken from them, and when they thought he was still in the grave. But the Resurrection altered everything. The change that occurred can only be explained by the actual reappearance of Christ to them. The timid became brave again. They cannot but speak the things which they have seen and heard. They endure persecution and suffering and martyrdom now, for the grave is no longer dark, and the crown of life is beyond the struggle and the pain.


1. That there shall be a general resurrection of the dead. "Because he hath appointed a day, in the which he will judge the world in righteousness by that Man whom he hath ordained; whereof he hath given assurance unto all men, in that he hath raised him from the dead" (Acts 17:31).

2. That those who believe on the Lord Jesus shall live with him for ever. "I am the Resurrection, and the Life: he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live" (John 11:25). And here the apostle says, "Now if we be dead with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with him" (ver. 8). Christ has brought life and immortality to light through the gospel. He has satisfied the yearning of the human heart for a life beyond the present - a yearning so strong that one of the greatest thinkers of our own time, though the logical conclusion of his system is universal death, nevertheless tries to avoid or overcome this dreary prospect by the suggestion that out of this death another life may spring. Our poet-laureate has expressed that yearning thus. Speaking of love, he says -

"He seeks at last
Upon the last and sharpest height
Before the spirits fade away,
Some landing-place, to clasp and say,
'Farewell! We lose ourselves in light!'" Yes, it is when the grave is near, it is when our loved ones are suddenly taken from us by death, that we learn what a precious truth the resurrection of Jesus is to rest on.

III. THE PRACTICAL LESSONS WHICH IT CONVEYS. "That like as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life" (ver. 4); "Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, that ye should obey it in the lusts thereof" (ver. 12). Elsewhere the apostle expresses the same truth. "If ye then be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ sitteth at the right hand of God" (Colossians 3:1). This is the practical power of the fact and doctrine of the Resurrection. If we have in our hearts the hope of being with Christ, what a transforming influence that hope should exercise upon our lives! We should "yield ourselves unto Cod, as those that are alive from the dead, and our members as instruments of righteousness unto God" (ver. 13). Thus the risen life of Christ enters into and becomes part of the present life of his people. Thus their life enters into and becomes part of his. "Our life is hid with Christ in God." - C.H.I.

Attaching to almost all privileges and blessings there are dangerous possibilities of abuse. So with the blessed doctrine of justification by faith, which has been so largely dwelt on hitherto. So especially with that aspect of it just referred to (Romans 5:20). How readily the question might spring to the lip, "Shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound?" But how readily, from every Christian heart, would spring the response, "God forbid! How shall we?" This answer amplified in the following verses: The relation of the believer, through the death and resurrection of Christ, to sin and holiness.


1. The relation of the death of Christ to sin. Two elements entering into the atoning work of Christ, each of which, in its bearings, must be distinguished from the other - the Divine, and the human.

(1) As to guilt. The guilt of the race an accomplished fact; the stain ineffaceable; the white purity of the infinite Law blotted. What are the bearings of Christ's atonement, divinely and humanly, on this guilt of the past?

(a) Divinely: condemnation for ever;

(b) humanly: expiation for ever.

(2) As to sin. An existent, a persistent fact; a possibility always; a strong power of evil. What are the bearings of Christ's atonement on this sin of the present?

(a) Divinely: stamp of condemnation; the thing which has brought guilt that must be expiated by death, is by that very death a branded thing;

(b) humanly: renunciation and conflict; the thing which is branded, in the atonement, on the part of God, is forsworn on the part of man.

2. Our relation through the death of Christ to sin. A natural identification of Christ with us, as federal Head of the race; and a spiritual - this latter of voluntary, sympathetic oneness. So a corresponding identification of ourselves with Christ: natural and spiritual. This latter, by faith; the spiritual analogue corresponding with the historical fact, or, in other words, our voluntary spiritual sympathy with Christ's own work.

(1) As to guilt.

(a) Acquiescence in the condemnation: every mouth stopped;

(b) acquiescence in the. expiation: for me!

(2) As to sin.

(a) A thing condemned of God: so we regard it henceforth, as bearing a stigma of evil;

(b) a thing forsworn by us: so we regard it henceforth; perpetual war.

Therefore our faith in Christ not merely gives us pardon and peace with God, but commits us too a stern and uncompromising battle with all that is opposed to God. "Ye see your calling, brethren!" Your very baptism is your pledge to wage such warfare.


1. The relation of the life of Christ to God. Two elements entering into the resurrection-life of Christ: raised by God, raised as Man.

(1) As to favour with God.

(a) Divinely: the accepted sacrifice; "through the glory of the Father;"

(b) humanly: from darkness into light; "Ought not Christ to have suffered these things, and to enter into his glory?" (Luke 24:26).

(2) As to devotion to God.

(a) Divinely: God could not suffer his Holy One to see corruption; "having received of the Father the promise of the Holy Ghost" (Acts 2:33);

(b) humanly: "he liveth unto God;" for us.

2. Our relation through the life of Christ to God. Identification as before - potential for all, actual through faith.

(1) As to favour with God.

(a) Acquiescence in the approval: gratitude;

(b) acquiescence in the joy: for me!

(2) As to devotion to God.

(a) A life claimed by God: henceforth we bear these "marks;"

(b) a life yielded to God: "the likeness of his resurrection."

So our faith in Christ has regard, not only negatively to sin, but positively to God. We are his; freemen in Christ; risen ones! Reckon ye this! The potential fact will but aggravate our condemnation and our woe, if it be not actualized through faith. Enter into spiritual sympathy with the work of the Redeemer; be dead to the past, be alive to all the glorious future of an immortality in God. - T.F.L.

St. Paul has been speaking in the previous paragraph of "grace abounding," and a very natural insinuation might be made that continuance, permanent abiding, in sin would be the condition of the most abounding grace. If, therefore, our pardon and acceptance are secured through Christ's obedience unto death, what motive can the justified have in warring with sin? Why not sin up to our bent, that grace may abound? It is this immoral insinuation that the apostle combats, and combats successfully, in the present section. He does so by bringing out the full significance of Christ's death to the believer. Now, the peculiar beauty of our Lord's history lies in this, that, as Pascal long ago pointed out, it may have, and is intended to have, its reproduction in the experience of the soul. The salient facts of Christ's history - for example, his death, burial, and resurrection - get copied into the experience of the regenerated soul. The apostle had experienced this himself. At Damascus he had experienced

(1) a burial of the past;

(2) a resurrection into a new life;

(3) a walking in newness of life.

This he believes to be the normal experience of the believer in Jesus. Let us see how these facts of Christ's history, death, burial, and resurrection, get duplicated in our experience.

I. OUR BAPTISM INTO CHRIST IMPLIES A BAPTISM INTO HIS DEATH. The apostle speaks to the baptized Roman Christians in these terms: "Are ye ignorant that all we who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were buried therefore with him through baptism into death" (Revised Version). What we have got first to determine here is the exact meaning of being baptized in or into the name of a Person. In a remarkable essay on ' Baptism and the Third Commandment,' a thoughtful writer says, "There is an evident connection between these two. We are baptized in the Name of the Lord our God. And that is the Name which we are commanded not to take in vain It is to tell that we are the Lord's, claimed by him for his service, called to be followers of him 'as dear children' (Ephesians 5:1). This is the real meaning of a phrase, much used but little reflected on - a Christian name. Such are the names, John, James, Thomas, among men; Jane, Mary, Elizabeth, among women. They tell that the bearers belong to Christ. We have two names. The latter of these, our surname, distinguishes us as the children of our earthly father; the former avouches us as the children of a Father in heaven. And let us mark well what comes out of this solemn verity. If we have upon us the name of the God of gentleness while we ourselves are men of strife, or the name of the God of purity while our own lives are impure, or the name of the God of truth while we are given to lying, we are taking that name in vain." Following out this clue, let us notice that baptism into Christ implies a baptism into his death. For Jesus "died unto sin once;" "he died for the ungodly;" "he died for us;" that is, he passed through the experience of crucifixion to save the lost. Now, the counterpart of this death for sin is found in us if we believe upon him. We realize that we have died in him unto or for sin. "If One died for all, then all died" (2 Corinthians 5:14). Accordingly, we are to "reckon ourselves to be dead" in Jesus Christ "unto sin." Coleridge has rightly remarked, in his 'Literary Remains,' that "in the imagination of man exist the seeds of all moral and scientific improvement;" and it is by placing ourselves imaginatively on the cross with Christ, and realizing in his atoning sacrifice our death for sin, that we come to appreciate our individual justification before God. We are thus baptized into his death.

II. OUR BAPTISM INTO DEATH IMPLIES A BURIAL WITH JESUS. For our blessed Lord not only died upon the cross; he was also buried in the tomb. Friends begged the body, took it down tenderly from the accursed tree, wrapped it in spices, and laid it in Joseph's well-known sepulchre. Now, in burial one thought overpowers all others; it is the putting of the dead out of sight, out of all relation to the struggling world around. As long as a man's body remains in the tomb

"He has no share in all that's done
Beneath the circuit of the sun." Such a separation took place through burial between the once-living Christ and the bustling world. The throngs might seethe around the temple court and settle down to selfishness again, but the Master-spirit who had been among them is now withdrawn, and sleeping for a season in his tomb. Now, the apostle implies in this passage that a similar sharp separation is experienced by the truly Christian soul from the world. In casting in his lot with Christ, he is buried out of sight, so to speak, and becomes a stranger in the world. His reception by baptism into the Christian community implies his withdrawal from the previous worldly relations in which he stood to other men. And here it is only right to guard against the superficial use made of the burial reference, as if it implied a mode in baptism. "This word (συνετάφημεν), 'we were entombed,' contrary to the opinion of many commentators," says Dr. Shedd, "has no reference to the rite of baptism, because the burial spoken of is not in water, but in a sepulchre Burial and baptism are totally diverse ideas, and have nothing in common. In order to baptism, the element of water must come into contact with the body baptized; but in a burial, the surrounding element of earth comes into no contact at all with the body buried. The corpse is carefully protected from the earth in which it is laid. Entombment, consequently, is not the emblem of baptism, but of death." Consequently, the idea of the apostle is that we are spiritually separated from the world by our reception into the Christian community by baptism, just as Jesus was physically separated through his burial in the tomb. Godet, in a note to his comment upon this passage, gives a beautiful illustration of the truth from what a Bechuana convert said to the missionary Casalis some years ago. The convert was a shepherd, and thus expressed himself: "Very soon I shall be dead, and they will bury me in my field. My sheep will come and pasture above me. But I shall no more attend to them, nor go out of my tomb to seize them and carry them back with me into the sepulchre. They will be strange to me and I to them. Behold the image of my life in the midst of the world, from the time that I have believed in Christ." The idea, therefore, is that by our baptism, i.e. by our union with the Christian Church, we are buried out of the world. The Church proves, so to speak, the cemetery where, in holy peace and blissful fellowship, God's people rest. And so, as we manfully throw in our lot with Christ, we pass into the grave-like peace of the Christian Church, and enjoy therein fellowship with Christ and his peaceful people. It is to this burial out of the world and into the kingdom of God we are called.

III. ALONG WITH THIS DEATH AND BURIAL WITH CHRIST THERE IS EXPERIENCED A CRUCIFIXION OF OUR OLD NATURE. Historically the crucifixion precedes the death, but experimentally we shall find that, as the apostle here puts it, it succeeds it (ver. 6). It is when we have realized our death in Jesus for sin, and our burial with Jesus out of the world, that the crucifixion and mortification of our old nature begin. A counterpart of the crucifixion is realized within us. The "body of sin," elsewhere called "the flesh" (σάρξ), must be destroyed, and we nail it to the cross, so to speak, with as much alacrity as the Roman soldiers crucified Christ. We "crucify the flesh with the affections and lusts;" we "mortify our members which are upon the earth" (Galatians 5:24; Colossians 3:5). We feel that "our old man" is incapable of amendment; that the only way in which to improve him is to improve him off the face of the earth and out of existence. This is, consequently, the steady effort of the regenerate soul to kill, by patient crucifixion, the old nature within. As the Saviour was several hours on the cross, as crucifixion, though in his case comparatively speedy, is yet a tardy ordeal, not a momentary execution; so the death of our old nature takes time for its accomplishment, and must be patiently passed through. We must be crucified with Christ, as well as feel that we have died in Christ for sin (Galatians 2:20).

IV. OUR BURIAL WITH JESUS IS WITH A VIEW TO OUR RESURRECTION WITH HIM INTO NEWNESS OF LIFE. After death and burial there came to Jesus, as the Father's glorious gift, resurrection to a new life. Let us consider what resurrection as an experience brought to Jesus. From the cradle to the cross Christ had been the "Man of sorrows." The weary weight of all this sinful, sorrow-stricken world lay on him; the Father had laid on his strong and willing shoulders the iniquity of us all. It was not wonderful, then, that his life was one long burden, taking end only on the cross. But the first glimpse we get of the risen Saviour conveys the notion of sturdy, stalwart strength, for the Magdalene mistakes him for the gardener. And all that we can gather from subsequent interviews with his disciples goes to show that life has ceased to be the burden it was once, and is now free, joyous, triumphant. All sense of sin-bearing is gone like a dream of the night; he is out in the glad morning of the resurrection with everlasting joy upon his head. Now, such a joyful experience should be the possession of every regenerate soul. We should feel not only that guilt is cancelled through the death of Jesus for us, and that we are "accepted in the Beloved," but also that a new life is ours - a life of fellowship with God. For just as Jesus during "the great forty days" was more in the unseen with the Father than in the seen with the disciples, so in our new life we shall largely cultivate fellowship with the Father.

V. THE NEW LIFE WE LEAD WILL BE LIKE OUR LORD'S, ONE OF ENTIRE CONSECRATION TO GOD. Now, of the risen Saviour it may well be said that he lived unto God. All his faculties and powers were instruments of righteousness unto God. So it is in the Christian life. It is one of entire consecration. In this way it will be seen that justification leads necessarily to sanctification. The leading facts of our Lord's history get duplicated in our experience, and death, burial, resurrection, and consecration become ours. - R.M.E.

To suppose that the acceptance of the grace of God in Christ renders us careless about the further committal of sin is to misapprehend the nature of redemption. We cannot dissociate the external results of Christ's work from a consideration of its inward effects upon the mind and heart of the man who profits by it. For a practical refutation of the supposition, the apostle points to the acknowledged meaning of the ceremony wherein each believer indicates his close relationship to the Saviour.

I. BAPTISM THE SYMBOL OF AN ALTERED LIFE. What can more forcibly set forth an abandonment of former feelings and, behaviour than being "dead and buried"? The allusion here to immersion is questioned by none, and a water grave speaks eloquently of a changed attitude to sin and the world. We are so constituted that this appeal to the senses powerfully impresses both the actual participator in the act and the spectators of the living picture.

II. A SYMBOL OF COMPLETE FELLOWSHIP WITH CHRIST. The follower of Christ repeats in his inward experience the death, the burial, and the resurrection of Christ. These were necessitated by the presence and enormity of sin, and to "put on Christ" as our Redeemer is to adopt his crucifixion and subsequent triumph as our expression of hatred against all that perverts the moral order of the world. To be immersed into the death of Christ is to be completely surrendered to the claims of the Son of God, and to share his hostility to evil, rejoicing in his conquest over death and the grave, and the adversary of mankind. By compliance with his commandment does the disciple signify his entire dedication to his Master's service.

III. CHARACTERISTICS OF THIS NEW LIFE. Emerging from the Burial, the candidate rises with Christ as his Example and Companion. His is to be an active life, "a walk," not a dreamy repose of self-absorption into the bliss of Nirvana. The contrast to the old career was exemplified in the resurrection gladness and glory of the Lord. No more was sin to exert its baleful influence; the body of the risen Lord no longer could be tortured with hunger and thirst and suffering. The Saviour was limited no longer by material barriers; he was endowed with full authority from on high, and crowned with ever-increasing splendour. When the Apostle Paul saw his Lord, the Brightness excelled the noonday sun. These triumphs are in their degree repeated in the spiritual life of the baptized believer. He casts off the works of darkness and puts on the armour of light. He keeps his body under, so that the spirit rules. The voice from heaven proclaims him God's beloved son. Instead of anguish there is peace and joy. He sits in heavenly places, and God causeth him always to triumph in Christ Jesus. Such is the ideal life of fellowship with Christ in his resurrection, shadowed forth By the ascent from the baptismal waters. - S.R.A.

A renewed application of the subject just discussed. The reign of sin; the reign of grace. I. THE REIGN OF SIN.

1. The self yielded to sin. Man's higher self - reason, conscience, and will - should dominate over the "soul" and the "flesh," the mere passions and lusts; man's spirit should be king. But the true self has been discrowned, and the lower self - the lusts - has gained the mastery. And in this false mastery of the flesh, sin reigns. Oh, degradation! we are led in chains, and sin lords it over us!

2. The members yielded to unrighteousness. Man's lower nature should be the instrument of the higher, for the working of all that is just and good. In Paul's philosophy of human nature the "body" is synonymous with all the active life; and is not the activity of our whole life to be used subordinately to the dictates of the enlightened will? But the activity of life is yielded to the usurping power of sin, instrumental to unrighteousness.


1. The self yielded to God. Man is not an irresponsible ruler of his own nature; his sovereignty is delegated by God. And only in absolute devotion to God does he realize a true self-conquest. God claims again possession of the spirit which has been torn from him by the power of sin. The claim is one of authority; but the authority is the authority of love.

2. The members yielded to righteousness. God requires the homage of the heart; he also requires the service of the life. Only through the heart can the life be rightly swayed. "Not under law." A resurrection, and a resurrection-power. Yes, because he lives, we may live also! But the appropriation of this power is of man: "Present yourselves." Here is the marvellous gift of human freedom, which may be a freedom unto death; but there is the boundless power of love and life! Therefore choose life, that thou mayest live! - T.F.L.

We saw in last section how the leading facts of our Lord's life get copied into the experience of the regenerate; so that we have a death and burial, and crucifixion, and resurrection, and new life along with Christ. Sanctification in this way naturally issues out of justification. The apostle consequently proceeds to show that the dominion of sin is broken by the same means as the removal of our condemnation, viz. by outlook to Jesus. We find ourselves to be no longer under law as a condemning power, but under a reign of grace. But if we are under a reign of grace, and not under a condemning law, might we not be tempted to think lightly of sin; nay, more, to sin that grace may abound? To meet this objection, the apostle discusses the reign of sin, and contrasts it with the reign of grace. Sin may be our master, but as the slave of sin we shall get rewarded in shame and death; or righteousness, that is, the God of grace himself may be our Master, and, as the slave of righteousness or slave of God, we shall have our reward - a reward of grace, in the development of holiness, and in the gift of eternal life. We cannot do better, then, than contrast the reign of sin with the reign of grace.

I. THE REIGN OF SIN. (Vers. 12, 13, 21.) And in this connection let us notice:

1. Sin is a very exacting tyrant. In fact, when we become slaves of sin, we cease being our own masters. We lose the dignity of our nature; we lose self-command; we lose will-power and decision of character. Our bodies become the instruments of unrighteousness, and the lusts of the flesh are obeyed. The prodigal in the parable presents vividly the condition of one under the tyranny of sin (Luke 15:11-25). Then we notice:

2. Sin is a very poor paymaster. For even allowing that it has pleasures to bestow, these are found to be only for a season (Hebrews 11:25). After these come shame, remorse, and the horrible tempest which infuriated sin entails. Then comes death, the real wages, or rations (ὀφώνια from ὄφον, "cooked meat," see Shedd, in loc.). This means, of course, alienation from God, and, when it sets finally into the experience, proves a hopeless and helpless condition.

3. The sooner all slaves of sin change their master the better. The reign of sin only tends to torment. The soul that sells itself to such a tyrant is a fool. He is beside himself, like the prodigal, when he does so. He comes to himself when he renounces the tyranny and transfers his allegiance.

II. THE REIGN OF GRACE. (Vers. 16-23.) Now, in this passage the apostle uses no less than three terms to express the new and better reign. These are "grace," "obedience," "righteousness." And then, dropping personification altogether, he shows how we become subjects and slaves of God. From the slavery of sin it is possible to pass into the service and slavery of God. We may get free from sin, and then shall we be at liberty to serve God and be his slaves. We shall not make much mistake if we take up Paul's teaching under the idea of a reign of grace, And here we have to notice:

1. We enter of our own free-will into the slavery of the God of grace. We are not forced into it; we are "made willing in the day of God's power" (Psalm 110:3). The slavery to God is voluntary. It is a yielding of ourselves. In both slaveries we must remember that the will is not forced, but free. We are free in our slavery to sin; we are free when we turn from it to the slavery of a God of grace. No one forces our hand.

2. We enter our state of grace through obeying from the heart "that form of teaching whereunto we were delivered (Revised Version). This refers clearly to the all-important doctrine of justification by faith, through the reception of which we get delivered from condemnation, and started on our course of sanctification. It is most important, therefore, that that doctrine should be faithfully and clearly stated to the soul which is enslaved through sin. It is the very charter of its spiritual freedom.

3. We find that in serving a God of grace we secure holiness of character. For this voluntary and gracious slavery implies the dedication of all our powers to God. We lay ourselves as living sacrifices" on God's altar. We find ourselves in consequence visited by an increasing sense of consecration. We learn to live not unto ourselves, but unto him who died for us and rose again (2 Corinthians 5:14). This sense of consecration becomes habitual. We feel that we are not our own, but bought with a price, and therefore bound to glorify God with our bodies as well as spirits, which are God's. (1 Corinthians 6:20).

4. We find this service of grace happy as well as holy. In other words, we find in God an excellent Paymaster. His service is delightful. Feeling that we are less than the least of all his mercies, feeling that we are at best but unprofitable servants, we accept joyfully whatever he sends; we feel that he daily loadeth us with his benefits, and then, regarding the great future, he gives us therein "eternal life." Doubtless we do not, strictly speaking, deserve such rewards; they are rewards of grace, not of debt; they are free" gifts" from a gracious Master. Yet they are none the less welcome. Let us, then, renounce the reign of sin, and accept the reign of grace. Its fruit, increasing with the consistent years, is unto holiness, and its end is everlasting life. We are real freemen only when we have become the slaves of a gracious God. - R.M.E.

In the closing part of the fifth chapter, and throughout this chapter, the apostle is contrasting the operation of two great principles. The one is the principle of sin; the other is the principle of righteousness. He compares them to two kings reigning in the world, controlling men's lives, and influencing men in certain directions and to certain actions. Sin reigns unto death. That has been its operation all through human history. But a new power has entered to dispute its influence. That power is the free grace of God, exhibited in Christ, God's Son. That power operates in righteousness. It provides a righteousness for men by the blood of Christ. It produces a righteousness in men. "Where sin abounded, grace did much more abound: that as sin hath reigned unto death, even so might grace reign through righteousness unto eternal life by Jesus Christ our Lord." And now in these immediate verses St. Paul is making an appeal to his readers. He has set before them the two great principles. He has contrasted them in their operation and their results. Now he makes the matter personal. He enforces his appeal by the question of the sixteenth verse, "Know ye not, that to whom ye yield yourselves servants to obey, his servants ye are to whom ye obey; whether of sic unto death, or of obedience unto righteousness?" And then he says, "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" (ver. 19).


1. Some are servants of the love of money. Of money and how to make it they are always thinking; for the sake of it they will go through many risks and toils and hardships. Their first question about everything is, "Will it pay?" and all their money-grasping does not pay them in the end. They may have much goods laid up for many years; they may have good securities for their investments; but they have made no provision for their immortal souls; they have laid up no treasure that will be of use to them beyond the grave. That is a poor service for a being who must soon go into the presence of the eternal God.

2. Some are servants of the love of dress. Even in our Lord's time, he found it necessary to warn his hearers against thinking too much about their dress. Even Christian people, who profess to be the servants of Christ, are too frequently the servants of fashion. There is sometimes more attention given to the dress of our neighbours or of ourselves in the house of God than there is to the voice of our Creator and our Saviour, or than there is to the question whether we have the ornament of a meek and quiet spirit, or the spotless robe of Christ's righteousness. It is said that St. Bernard of Clairvaux, who rebuked princes, and fired all Europe with a new crusade, all the while living himself in utter poverty, used to ask himself every day the stern question, "Bernarde, ad quid venisti?" - "Bernard, wherefore art thou here? So it would be well if we would ask ourselves more frequently what is the purpose of our lives.

3. Others, again, are the servants of ambition. To be higher than their fellow-men, to be fawned upon and flattered, to receive the homage of the poor and the favour of the rich, to be talked about in the gossip of society, - that is the object for which many persons live. Yet, when attained, it brings no lasting peace or contentment to the mind. The praise of men, moreover, is a very fickle and uncertain thing. The hero of today will be forgotten tomorrow. Earthly fame has ever been -

Like a snow-flake on the river,
A moment seen, then lost for ever." Such are some of the services to which men devote their thoughts, their time, their energies. How vain and profitless are they all! When the hour of death draws nigh, let any one who has spent his life in the service of any of these masters ask them to help him in the death-struggle, to give him hope for the future: will they be able to give him any assistance? They cannot even keep his poor mortal body from the dust; much less can they give life to the soul. They have already helped to produce death in the soul. They have dragged him downwards to the earth. And so it is that, when the soul must go from this world into the unseen, it is earthly still. There is no fitness for heaven in it at all. The pleasures and possessions of the world, innocent in themselves, become positively harmful to many. They become sinful to them, because they keep the soul away from God.

II. THE SERVICE OF SIN AND ITS RESULTS. Even what we call the more innocent service of the world results in death at last. The death of the body is accompanied by the death of the soul. Much more is this true of all kinds of positive sin. The apostle seeks to point out here the result of being the servant of sin. "His servants ye are to whom ye obey, wether of sin unto death, or of obedience unto righteousness" (ver. 16); "The end of those things is death" (ver. 21); The wages of sin is death (ver. 23). Even in this life there is a clear connection between sin and death. The service of sin is a fatal service. Take, for instance, those who are the servants of the craving for intoxicating drink. A special committee of the British Medical Association brought in a report at the meeting of 1887 on the relation of alcohol to disease, which stated that, after careful and prolonged examination of the subject from a scientific point of view, they came to the conclusion that every man who indulged in alcohol beyond the most moderate amounts shortened his life by at least ten years. The President of the United States, General Harrison, has testified that of a class of sixteen young men who graduated with him, almost all had gone to early graves through intemperate habits. Even in this world the sin of intemperance leads to death. But it brings a more lasting and more terrible death than this. The besotted mind, the darkened intellect, is but a beginning of blackness of darkness in the future. "No drunkard shall enter into the kingdom of heaven." When drink becomes the master, how terrible are the results for time and for eternity! In like manner it is true of all other sinful services, that they lead to death. "He that soweth to the flesh, shall of the flesh reap corruption;" "The wages of sin is death."

III. THE SERVICE OF CHRIST. "Being then made free from sin, ye became the servants of righteousness" (ver. 18); "But now, being made free from sin, and become servants to God, ye have your fruit unto holiness, and the end everlasting life" (ver. 22). This is the only service that leads to everlasting life. It is the only service which is not slavery. It is the only service which men never regret entering into. It is the only service which can be called an unmixed good, the only service that brings perfect peace to heart and mind and conscience. It is an easy service, for it is a service of love. Instead of growing weaker by our efforts in the service of Christ, as we do by our efforts to serve sin, we grow stronger; for the true Christian is a better man, a stronger man spiritually, every day he lives. It is the only service that has a hope beyond the grave. It was because Christ saw us perishing in the service of sin, guilty, lost, and helpless, that he came to save us. He calls us now to believe on him, to follow him, and he promises to all who do so the gift of everlasting life. "The gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord."

"How long to Streams of false delight
Will ye in crowds repair?
How long your strength and substance waste
On trifles light as air?" Over the triple doorways of the Cathedral of Milan there are three inscriptions spanning the beautiful arches. Over one is carved a beautiful wreath of roses, and underneath is the legend, "All that which pleases is but for a moment." Over the other is sculptured a cross, and there are the words, "All that which troubles us is but for a moment." But underneath the great central entrance to the main aisle is the inscription, "That only is important which is eternal." If we would only realize these three truths, we should not let the world or its pleasures keep us from Christ, we should not let trifles trouble us, we should not hesitate long about making our choice. "Choose ye this day whom ye will serve. - C.H.I.

A slight but suggestive difference between the question of ver. 15 and that with which the chapter opens. "Shall we continue in sin," the apostle had asked, "that grace may abound?" And he had flung away such a thought by the presentation of the believer's new life as a life pledged to God through Christ. In vers. 12-14 also he had insisted on the consistent fulfilment of the pledge. But now he supposes another and more subtle question - Shall we, not "continue" in sin, but sin, once and again, as we may please, presuming on the easily procured pardon of a gracious God? Alas! how this question insinuates itself into the Christian consciousness: how readily we condone our carelessness by thoughts of the restoring mercy of God! But we are grievously wrong if we think to ourselves that sin and obedience may be played with. We have the dread power to choose our master; but he is a master, and our choice in either case commits us to a course, and. to a consequence. The train may be turned on to this line or that, but the line must be followed, and the destinations are wide as the poles apart. Let us look at these three thoughts - A choice, a course, a consequence.

I. A CHOICE. The false doctrine of law in the necessarian scheme of morals - so many weights upon the scale. But man's will is not a dead scale, determined by weights; it is a living thing, and unless its peculiar life be taken into account all calculations must be wrong. True, if we know the causes, we can predict the result, And certain teachers have said - These are the causes: man's own susceptible nature, and the divers influences which play upon it. Therefore, given the temperament and the influences, we can predict the result. Very plausible. True, if these are the only causes, the result may thus be known. But the cause of causes is the will itself. This is the great factor in the problem. And, after all, when the most scientific calculations have been made, this self-determining power in man may defy all your calculations to predict a right result. Let us not attempt to prove this freedom by elaborate arguments; we need but appeal to each one's consciousness. "I know that I am free; I have power of choice; when I have willed, I know that I might have willed otherwise." This must be each one's true confession. Just as surely as we know that we exist, by the same intuition, which is deeper and truer than all reasoning, do we know that we can yield ourselves to any one of all the manifold motives that are playing upon our will. Does not the history of the Fall illustrate this freedom? For what is the essential truth of that history, but that man had it in his power, either to obey God or to gratify himself, and that he chose self-gratification rather than obedience? But the results were not by any means so transient as the choice itself might seem to be. In the highest sense, freedom was gone. There still remained freedom of choice among the various objects of self-gratification, but there was no longer the power to serve God as before. A great gulf was fixed between man and God. And in this consists what is called the total depravity of man: totally separated from God, and without the power to return. And certain, moreover, to drift from bad to worse. But under the redeeming influences with which God visits the heart of man, and more especially in view of the great redeeming fact with which God has visited the world, this total depravity becomes in some sense neutralized, man's enfeebled will receives new power, and it is once more possible for him to place his choice on God. The freedom of true duty is once more within his reach; from the depths he may yet climb back to God. So, then, taking men as they now are, and especially taking them as we find them in contact with the redeeming truths of the gospel of Christ, we see that each has his alternative choice between godliness and ungodliness, truth and falseness: the right and good, and the wrong and bad, or, in the words of St. Paul, between obedience and sin. "Ye yield yourselves:" the supreme fact of every one's life is wrapped up in those words. From childhood upwards good and bad influences contend for the mastery. God and sin ask for our service, and we cannot but "yield ourselves" to the one or the other. We make our choice, whether consciously and with full deliberatenes of purpose, or well-nigh unconsciously and with careless neglect. We choose sin, and thereby' set the seal on our own death; or we choose God, and thereby rise to newness of life. But in either case our own choice determines our course, and the course to which we commit ourselves works out its inevitable consequence.

II. A COURSE. Let us now consider the course to which our choice in either case commits us.

1. In the one case we become servants, or slaves, of sin. Our Lord's words (John 8:32-36). Man may refuse to bow to sin; but when he does bow, sin holds him fast. Nay, he may yet rise from his thraldom and be free; but every yielding is the taking on of a new chain, and every continuance in sin is the rivetting of the chain. The slave of sin? Oh, it is no fiction! The man who yields to sin is led captive by a master stronger than himself. So with the inebriate, the man of passion, the miser. Yes; dragged in chains. And yet it is a "free" man, forsooth, who has thus sold himself to serve sin!

2. In the other case we become servants, or slaves, of obedience. The same law works, whatever the material of its working. Hence the degrading slavery of the servant of sin is but the dark side of the result of that same law which, in its brighter results, is the safeguard and glory of our righteousness. But is not the result slavery still? Ah! let us ask, what is slavery? Mere service - intent, earnest, unremitting service - is not. Service is slavery when it is forced. Contrast the service of a Crusader, and that of a captive among the Moors. It is slavery also when, even if not forced, it is degrading and low. Contrast slave-trader, and pure, virtuous man enthralled. So Epictetus. The service of sin, then, is slavery because it is degrading and base; whereas, to yield obedience to God, and thenceforth to serve him with unremitting ardour and with the enthusiasm of lofty joy, that is not slavery, that is freedom of the highest kind (so John 8:36). Yes; this the secret of liberty: the "spirit of a son" (Galatians 4:6, 7).

III. A CONSEQUENCE. But now let us consider the consequence to which such a course of conduct in either case must lead.

1. "Sin unto death. Yes, towards this inevitable result the service of sin must tend. A fixity of corrupt character. Recovery of freedom possible now; not always. Death - the death of man's best nature, - this the doom which the service of sin ensures. The victims of Circe: so the slaves of sin. But no wizardry can undo that death!

2. Obedience unto righteousness. A fixity again. This the process of all true moral life. So was it to have been with the first man; so was it with the second (yet learned he obedience "). So, doubtless, with the angels. And so with us: we are fighting towards the crown which Paul desired (Philippians 3:12; 2 Timothy 4:7, 8), the crown of a consummate righteousness, or, in other words Revelation 2:10), "the crown of life." Such the two consequences of the two courses, to one or other of which each man, by his free choice, commits himself. But whereas death is the wages of sin, the eternal life is God's free gift. And to all of us, in words of hope, the voice from heaven says, "Fight the good fight of faith; lay hold on eternal life! " - T.F.L.

The knowledge of a truth is not synonymous with its practical recognition in our daily life. "Know ye not? ' calls plain attention to the consequences of behaviour. It is the business of Scripture and preaching to emphasize the importance of our personal acts. We are not really masters in any condition. The curbed or uncurbed steed of our desires is working in some service, be it of sin or of God.

I. THE ALTERNATIVE. 'We yield to the motions either of "sin unto death" or of "obedience unto righteousness." No middle course is possible. Though the notorious transgressor may do a kind action, and the distinguished saint disappointingly err, yet the distinction is real. Characters are only of two sorts; they verge to good or evil. It is not for others, but ourselves, to estimate our position and tendency. Men are deluded by the imaginary difficulty of drawing a boundary-line because of the way in which apparently the good shades off into evil. In the one service or the other we are actually enlisted.

II. THE FREEDOM OF CHOICE. There is the option of the two careers; we are not compelled to either. Motives, longing, circumstances, do not amount to constraint. The apostle pictures men as voluntarily yielding themselves, presenting themselves to the chosen employer. This does not mean that men willingly elect sin as such. The moral bent, the image of God, is shown in their use of terms to hide the viciousness of actions; "a gay life" instead of debauchery; "embellishing a story" instead of a perversion of the truth. Milton describes sin as leaping from the head of the arch-fiend, a form that struck the rebel host at first with horror, "but familiar grown she pleased." That is the death of the soul when evil is deliberately selected: "Evil, be thou my good." And the freedom of choice does not imply the absence of obligations to serve God. To delay is to adhere to sin.

III. THE SERVICE OF SIN A DISOBEDIENCE TO GOD. The statement of the alternative, by its sharp antithesis of "sin" and "obedience," indicates the essential nature of sin. Disobedience is the wanting our own way in opposition to some command of a rightful authority. God's government being moral, to elect a course of life which violates his laws is to give one's self to the service of God's enemy. As compliance with some small order evinces the loyalty of the soldiers; so with us, like our first parents, it may be a so-called trifling matter which tests our disposition. To sin is to disobey a physical, moral, or religious commandment, and this transgression is not merely an individual concern; it affects the Ruler of the universe. Treason is the worst crime against the state, and no man can be allowed to become a centre of infection to the body politic. The disobedience may be in thought, affection, or will, apart from any outward act. Human laws can rarely take note of the inner man; but it is the perfection of Divine laws to regard the heart of the agent.

IV. THE HAPPY RESULT OF OBEDIENCE. Obedience to "the highest we know" is justified by its consequences, "righteousness" and "life." Men are often afraid lest, by keeping the commandments, they may be debarred from gain and enjoyment; yet is it obedience which augments true power and satisfaction. The laws of God were framed and written upon the heart of man to secure his well-being; to break them is to mar the working of the beautiful machine. If conscience warn you of danger, only folly will silence the monitory voice and darken the beacon-light. Note the work of Christ in removing hard thoughts of the Lawgiver, and exhibiting the beauty of a blamelessly obedient life. He manifested the goal of obedience to be peace, joy, triumph. Our obedience is not the life of despotism, where to reason is illegal; nor of slavery, where is work without a recompense; nor of penance, where merit is sought by righteous deeds as a title to heaven; but Christian obedience is rendered as the joyous intelligent outcome of salvation through Christ, bringing us righteousness and life. Persevering obedience begets a habit of virtue, and surrounds us with a holy environment, wherein it is easier to do right than wrong. Conscience as the approving faculty ministers constant delight. This, at least, is the ideal, to which we may increasingly conform. Compare the lines, spoken by Adam to Michael, in the 'Paradise Lost' -

"Henceforth I learn that to obey is best,
And love, with fear, the only God, etc.
; and the angel's reply-

"This having learnt, thou hast attained the sum
Of wisdom: hope no higher," etc. S.R.A.

Some memories are best forgotten, like a horrid dream. Not so the Christian's recollection of his conversion. As the Corinthians were reminded of their previous wretched career - " such were some of you" - so here the Romans. In reading the Authorized Version stress must be laid on the past tense, "were;" then it suggests the clearer translation of the Revised edition.

I. THE FORMER SLAVERY. Absolute freedom is impossible to man, who is surrounded by higher powers, and has a Divine law impressed on his nature. The headstrong youth is really in bondage to sin; and the recluse in his solitude, whilst free from some of the restrictions of civilization, yet deprives himself of some advantages, and thereby imposes on himself certain limits. The description of sin as bond-service is just when we think of the manner in which men are worn out by vice. The silken cords of pleasure become adamantine bonds. The man who delays to reform his life becomes a prisoner, unable to turn the key in the rusty lock. Dislike of the epithet, "servants of sin," must not blind us to its accuracy, in spite of the euphemistic terms which would hide the flagrancy of our transgressions. Without supposing that statistics of the members of Churches accurately embrace all servants of righteousness, the condition of slavery is all too common, even in Christian England. Press home this fact, and remember that the great, question is not whether we can fix the date and enumerate the details of our conversion, but whether we are conscious of a renewed heart and life.

II. THE NEW SERVICE. The text speaks of a changed state of obedience to God and adoption of righteousness - a state sanctioned by conscience, ratified by the judgment, pleasing to the Almighty, and every way beneficial to ourselves and others. Its cause is the new teaching concerning Jesus Christ. The tense is definite; these Christians had received the doctrine and embraced it gladly. Perhaps the good news is today too much encumbered with technical phraseology, or, having been frequently listened to from infancy, fails to excite in us the glad wonder which it evoked when fresh to the ear. To the Romans it brought tidings of the abrogation of the Sinaitic Law as a covenant of life; it told of the one perfect Offering whereby those that believe are sanctified; it spoke of the all-providing love of the Father for his erring children. The gospel comes as a law to be obeyed, but supplies adequate motives and spiritual power for its fulfilment. The code is discipleship to Christ, hearkening to his preaching and copying his life. This doctrine is represented in the text as "a mould" into which the life of the obedient is cast, imparting to them a righteous form - a likeness to their teacher - Christ. And in hearty obedience true freedom is realized. The father, toiling home laden with gifts for his children, does not look upon his load as a wearisome burden. The mother, with her fresh responsibilities and cares, delights in the maternal yoke. Love alters the bias, oils the wheels of duty. Christ has won the hearts of his people, and to serve him is an honour and a joy. He strikes off the shackles of sin, and we welcome the golden chains of righteous obedience. We do not deny that sin has its pleasures; but, in comparison with the sense of purity and elevation which the service of Christ furnishes, there is the difference between the hot, stifling atmosphere of the music-hall and the sweet bracing air of the mountain-top.

III. THE THANKSGIVING FOR THE DELIVERANCE. None could think that the rendering of the Authorized Version implied Paul's delight at the former unrighteousness; but the Revised rendering is less ambiguous to the hurried reader. The phrase, "thank God," used to be a stock insertion in ordinary letters. Here it is no unmeaning ascription, filling up the interstices of speech, but a devout acknowledgment of sincere gratitude to him who instituted the gracious plan of salvation, giving up his beloved Son, and by his Spirit opens the hearts of an audience to attend to the message of everlasting life. It is the outpouring of the heart for the safety and honourable obedience of fellow-Christians. A pastor may offer it for his flock, a teacher for her scholars. Give glory to God! thank him with lip and life, by seeking to understand and obey the statutes and principles of the Word of truth, and by leading others to know the joys of redemptive obedience. - S.R.A.

Contrast heightens effect, as artists by a dark background throw the foreground into brighter relief. So the apostle places two careers in close proximity. He will not allow that it makes little difference which path men tread, in which condition they are found, or what qualifications they seek.

I. A MOMENTOUS BLESSING. "Eternal life." All life is wonderful Easy is it to destroy the ephemeral life of a moth, but to restore it is beyond human skill. The disciples were assured of eternal life, yet they died; consequently the life they received was not to be measured in ordinary scales, nor to be probed by a material dissecting knife. Eternal life is a different kind of life from mere transitory existence; it passes unharmed through the crucible of animal death, for spiritual powers are untouched by earthly decay and corruption. Eternal life means the quickening of the moral nature, its resuscitation from the sleep of trespasses and sins. And as ordinary life in its fulness involves freedom from pain and sickness, and a vigorous activity, so spiritual life, when fully realized, implies peace of mind and the power to do right. They are feeble Christians who do not know the joyous energy of children "with quicksilver in their veins," delighting to exercise their limbs and thus to develop their growing faculties.

II. THIS BLESSING RECEIVED AS A GIFT. By a sinful course of action we merit death, as a soldier by his service earns his rations and his pay. We disobey the Law, and bring the sentence upon ourselves. But we have no power available to procure for ourselves acquittal and favour. Much as the youth joys to see his first-earned sovereign glittering in his palm, he could take no delight in the stripes which his disobedience brings upon him. Human weakness has been provided for in God's plan of salvation. He who breathed natural life into man comes again graciously to inspire his creatures with spiritual life. God knows the needs of his creatures, and the gift is pre-eminently suitable. The Romans loved the games of the amphitheatre; but when famine threatened the city, the curses were loud and deep against Nero because the Alexandrian ships expected with corn arrived instead with sand for the arena. And men like a beautiful present; let us not, therefore, hang back from accepting the royal bounty so adapted to our wants. Treat the gilt with care, prize and use the treasure.

III. THE BEARER OF THE GIFT. It comes "through Jesus Christ our Lord." He is the Channel through which new life streams into us, the envelope containing the promise of life. Life in the abstract we cannot comprehend; it is ever connected with some person or organism. "In him was life; .... Your life is hid with Christ in God." Life has been scientifically declared to consist in the harmonizing of our external and internal conditions. The chief condition on our part is sinfulness, on God's part righteousness; and it is Christ who reconciles us unto God, putting away sin by the cross, and investing us with the righteousness of the Holy One. In his words, example, and offices we find all help and blessedness. As the navigator passing through the Straits of Magellan into the Pacific connected its tranquility with the southern cross gleaming in the sky above, so can we rejoice in the peace which Christ brings. It is not a creed we are invited to accept, but a living Person, with whom we may hold converse, and be instructed in perplexity and cheered when despondent. We have this earthly life as the period and opportunity of "laying hold on eternal life." - S.R.A.

The Pulpit Commentary, Electronic Database.
Copyright © 2001, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2010 by Biblesoft, Inc.
All rights reserved. Used by permission.

Bible Hub
Romans 5
Top of Page
Top of Page