ICC New Testament Commentary
What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound?THE MYSTICAL UNION OF THE CHRISTIAN WITH CHRIST
6:1-14. If more sin only means more grace, shall we go on sinning? Impossible. The baptized Christian cannot sin. Sin is a direct contradiction of the state of things which baptism assumes. Baptism has a double function. (1) It brings the Christian into personal contact with Christ, so close that it may be fitly described as union with Him. (2) It expresses symbolically a series of acts corresponding to the redeeming acts of Christ.
Immersion = Death.
Submersion = Burial (the ratification of Death).
Emergence = Resurrection.
All these the Christian has to undergo in a moral and spiritual sense, and by means of his union with Christ. As Christ by His death on the Cross ceased from all contact with sin, so the Christian, united with Christ in his baptism, has done once for all with sin, and lives henceforth a reformed life dedicated to God. [This at least is the ideal, whatever may be the reality.] (vv. 1-11.) Act then as men who have thrown off the dominion of Sin. Dedicate all your powers to God. Be not afraid; Law, Sin’s ally, is superseded in its hold over you by Grace (vv. 12-14).
1 Objector. Is not this dangerous doctrine? If more sin means more grace, are we not encouraged to go on sinning?
2 St. Paul. A horrible thought! When we took the decisive step and became Christians we may be said to have died to sin, in such a way as would make it flat contradiction to live any longer in it.
3 Surely you do not need reminding that all of us who were immersed or baptized, as our Christian phrase runs, ‘into Christ,’ i. e. into the closest allegiance and adhesion to Him, were so immersed or baptized into a special relation to His Death. I mean that the Christian, at his baptism, not only professes obedience to Christ but enters into a relation to Him so intimate that it may be described as actual union. Now this union, taken in connexion with the peculiar symbolism of Baptism, implies a great deal more. That symbolism recalls to us with great vividness the redeeming acts of Christ—His Death, Burial, and Resurrection. And our union with Christ involves that we shall repeat those acts, in such sense as we may, i. e. in a moral and spiritual sense, in our own persons.
4 When we descended into the baptismal water, that meant that we died with Christ—to sin. When the water closed over our heads, that meant that we lay buried with Him, in proof that our death to sin, like His death, was real. But this carries with it the third step in the process. As Christ was raised from among the dead by a majestic exercise of Divine power, so we also must from henceforth conduct ourselves as men in whom has been implanted a new principle of life.
5 For it is not to be supposed that we can join with Christ in one thing and not join with Him in another. If, in undergoing a death like His, we are become one with Christ as the graft becomes one with the tree into which it grows, we must also be one with Him by undergoing a resurrection like His, i. e. at once a moral, spiritual, and physical resurrection. 6 For it is matter of experience that our Old Self—what we were before we became Christians—was nailed to the Cross with Christ in our baptism: it was killed by a process so like the Death of Christ and so wrought in conjunction with Him that it too may share in the name and associations of His Crucifixion. And the object of this crucifixion of our Old Self was that the bodily sensual part of us, prolific home and haunt of sin, might be so paralyzed and disabled as henceforth to set us free from the service of Sin. 7 For just as no legal claim can be made upon the dead, so one who is (ethically) dead is certified ‘Not Guilty’ and exempt from all the claims that Sin could make upon him.
8 But is this all? Are we to stop at the death to sin? No; there is another side to the process. If, when we became Christians, we died with Christ (morally and spiritually), we believe that we shall also live with Him (physically, as well as ethically and spiritually): 9 because we know for a fact that Christ Himself, now that He has been once raised from the dead, will not have the process of death to undergo again. Death has lost its hold over Him for ever. 10 For He has done with Death, now that He has done once for all with Sin, by bringing to an end that earthly state which alone brought Him in contact with it. Henceforth He lives in uninterrupted communion with God.
11 In like manner do you Christians regard yourselves as dead, inert and motionless as a corpse, in all that relates to sin, but instinct with life and responding in every nerve to those Divine claims and Divine influences under which you have been brought by your union with Jesus Messiah.
12 I exhort you therefore not to let Sin exercise its tyranny over this frail body of yours by giving way to its evil passions. 13 Do not, as you are wont, place hand, eye, and tongue, as weapons stained with unrighteousness, at the service of Sin; but dedicate yourselves once for all, like men who have left the ranks of the dead and breathe a new spiritual life, to God; let hand, eye, and tongue be weapons of righteous temper for Him to wield. 14 You may rest assured that in so doing Sin will have no claims or power over you, for you have left the régime of Law (which, as we shall shortly see, is a stronghold of Sin) for that of Grace.
1. The fact that he has just been insisting on the function of sin to act as a provocative of Divine grace recalls to the mind of the Apostle the accusation brought against himself of saying ‘Let us do evil, that good may come’ (3:8). He is conscious that his own teaching, if pressed to its logical conclusion, is open to this charge; and he states it in terms which are not exactly those which would be used by his adversaries but such as might seem to express the one-sided development of his own thought. Of course he does not allow the consequence for a moment; he repudiates it however not by proving a non sequitur, but by showing how this train of thought is crossed by another, even more fundamental. He is thus led to bring up the second of his great pivot-doctrines, the Mystical Union of the Christian with Christ dating from his Baptism. Here we have another of those great elemental forces in the Christian Life which effectually prevents any antinomian conclusion such as might seem to be drawn from different premises. St. Paul now proceeds to explain the nature of this force and the way in which the Christian is related to it.
The various readings in this chapter are unimportant. There can be no question that we should read ἐπιμένωμεν for ἐπιμενοῦμεν in ver. 1; ζήσομεν and not ζήσωμεν in ver. 2; and that τῷ Κυρίῳ ἡμῶν should be omitted at the end of ver. 11. In that verse the true position of εἶναι is after ἑαυτούς (א * B C, Cyr.-Alex. Jo.-Damasc.): some inferior authorities place it after νεκροὺς μέν: the Western text (A D E F G, Tert.; cf. also Pesh. Boh. Arm. Aeth.) omits it altogether.
2. οἵτινες ἀπεθάνομεν. Naturally the relative of quality: ‘we, being what we are, men who died (in our baptism) to sin,’ &c.
3. ἢ ἀγνοεῖτε: ‘Can you deny this, or is it possible that you are not aware of all that your baptism involves?’ St. Paul does not like to assume that his readers are ignorant of that which is to him so fundamental. The deep significance of Baptism was universally recognized; though it is hardly likely that any other teacher would have expressed that significance in the profound and original argument which follows.
ἐβαπτίσθημεν εἰς Χριστὸν Ἰησοῦν: ‘were baptized unto union with’ (not merely ‘obedience to’) ‘Christ.’ The act of baptism was an act of incorporation into Christ. Comp. esp. Galatians 3:27 ὅσοι γὰρ εἰς Χριστὸν ἐβαπτίσθητε, Χριστὸν ἐνεδύσασθε.
This conception lies at the root of the whole passage. All the consequences which St. Paul draws follow from this union, incorporation, identification of the Christian with Christ. On the origin of the conception, see below.
εἰς τὸν θάνατον αὐτοῦ ἐβαπτίσθημεν. This points back to ἀπεθάνομεν above. The central point in the passage is death. The Christian dies because Christ died, and he is enabled to realize His death through his union with Christ.
But why is baptism said to be specially ‘into Christ’s death’? The reason is because it is owing primarily to the Death of Christ that the condition into which the Christian enters at his baptism is such a changed condition. We have seen that St. Paul does ascribe to that Death a true objective efficacy in removing the barrier which sin has placed between God and man. Hence, as it is Baptism which makes a man a Christian, so is it the Death of Christ which wins for the Christian his special immunities and privileges. The sprinkling of the Blood of Christ seals that covenant with His People to which Baptism admits them. But this is only the first step: the Apostle goes on to show how the Death of Christ has a subjective as well as an objective side for the believer.
4. συνετάφημεν ̣ ̣ ̣ θάνατον. A strong majority of the best scholars (Mey.-W. Gif. Lips. Oltr. Go.) would connect εἰς τὸν θάνατον with διὰ τοῦ βαπτίσματος and not with συνετάφημεν, because of (i) ἐβαπτ. εἰς τ. θαν. αὐτ. just before; (ii) a certain incongruity in the connexion of συνετάφ. with εἰς τὸν θάνατον: death precedes burial and is not a result or object of it. We are not sure that this reasoning is decisive. (i) St. Paul does not avoid these ambiguous constructions. as may be seen by 3:25 ὃν προέθετο ̣ ̣ ̣ διὰ τῆς πίστεως ἐν τῷ αὐτοῦ αἵματι, where ἐν τῷ αὐτοῦ αἵματι goes with προέθετο and not with διὰ τῆς πίστεως. (ii) The ideas of ‘burial’ and ‘death’ are so closely associated that they may be treated as correlative to each other—burial is only death sealed and made certain. ‘Our baptism was a sort of funeral; a solemn act of consigning us to that death of Christ in which we are made one with Him,’ Va. (iii) There is a special reason for saying here not ‘we were buried into burial,’ but ‘we were buried into death,’ because ‘death’ is the keynote of the whole passage, and the word would come in appropriately to mark the transition from Christ to the Christian. Still these arguments do not amount to proof that the second connexion is right, and it is perhaps best to yield to the weight of authority. For the idea compare esp. Colossians 2:12 συνταφέντες αὐτῷ ἐν τῷ βαπτίσματι ἐν ᾧ καὶ συνηγέρθητε.
εἰς τὸν θάνατον is best taken as = ‘into that death (of His),’ the death just mentioned: so Oltr. Gif. Va. Mou., but not Mey.-W. Go., who prefer the sense ‘into death’ (in the abstract). In any case there is a stress on the idea of death; but the clause and the verse which follow will show that St. Paul does not yet detach the death of the Christian from the death of Christ.
διὰ τῆς δόξης τοῦ πατρός: δόξης here practically = ‘power’; but it is power viewed externally rather than internally; the stress is laid not so much on the inward energy as on the signal and glorious manifestation. Va. compares John 11:40; Joh 11:23, where ‘thou shalt see the glory of God’ = ‘thy brother shall rise again.’ See note on 3:23.
5. σύμφυτοι: ‘united by growth’; the word exactly expresses the process by which a graft becomes united with the life of a tree. So the Christian becomes ‘grafted into’ Christ. For the metaphor we may compare 11:17 σὺ δὲ ἀγριέλαιος ὢν ἐνεκεντρίσθης ἐν αὐτοῖς, καὶ συγκοινωνὸς τῆς ῥίζης καὶ τῆς πιότητος τῆς ἐλαίας ἐγένου, and Tennyson’s ‘grow incorporate into thee.’
It is a question whether we are to take σύμφ. γεγόν. directly with τῷ ὁμοιώμ. κ.τ.λ. or whether we are to supply τῷ Χριστῷ and make τῷ ὁμοιώμ. dat. of respect. Probably the former, as being simpler and more natural, so far at least as construction is concerned, though no doubt there is an ellipse in meaning which would be more exactly represented by the fuller phrase. Such condensed and strictly speaking inaccurate expressions are common in language of a quasi-colloquial kind. St. Paul uses these freer modes of speech and is not tied down by the rules of formal literary composition.
6. γινώσκοντες: see Sp. Comm. on 1 Corinthians 8:1 (p. 299), where γινώσκω as contrasted with οἶδα is explained as signifying ‘appreciative or experimental acquaintance.’ A slightly different explanation is given by Gif. ad loc., ‘noting this,’ as of the idea involved in the fact, a knowledge which results from the exercise of understanding (νοῦς).
ὁ παλαιὸς ἡμῶν ἄνθρωπος: ‘our old self’; cp. esp. Suicer, Thes. i. 352, where the patristic interpretations are collected (ἡ προτέρα πολιτεία Theodrt;; ὁ κατεγνωσμένος βίος Euthym.-Zig., &c.).
This phrase, with its correlative ὁ καινὸς ἄνθρωπος, is a marked link of connexion between the acknowledged and disputed Epp. (cf. Ephesians 2:15; Ephesians 4:22, Ephesians 4:24; Colossians 3:9). The coincidence is the more remarkable as the phrase would hardly come into use until great stress began to be laid upon the necessity for a change of life, and may be a coinage of St. Paul’s. It should be noted however that ὁ ἐντὸς ἄνθρωπος goes back to Plato (Grm.-Thay. s. v. ἄνθρωπος, 1.e.).
συνεσταυρώθη: cf. Galatians 2:20 Χριστῷ συνεσταύρωμαι. There is a difference between the thought here and in Imit. Xti. II. 1xii. 3 ‘Behold! in the cross all doth consist, and all lieth in our dying thereon; for there is no other way unto life, and unto true inward peace, but the way of the holy cross, and of daily mortification.’ This is rather the ‘taking up the cross’ of the Gospels, which is a daily process. St. Paul no doubt leaves room for such a process (Colossians 3:5, &c.); but here he is going back to that which is its root, the one decisive ideal act which he regards as taking place in baptism: in this the more gradual lifelong process is anticipated.
καταργηθῇ. For καταργεῖν see on 3:3. The word is appropriately used in this connexion: ‘that the body of sin may be paralyzed,’ reduced to a condition of absolute impotence and inaction, as if it were dead.
τὸ σῶμα τῆς ἁμαρτίας: the body of which sin has taken possession. Parallel phrases are 7:24 τοῦ σώματος τοῦ θανάτου τούτου: Php 3:21 τὸ σῶμα τῆς ταπεινώσεως ἡμῶν: Colossians 2:11 [ἐν τῇ ἀπεκδύσει] τοῦ σώματος τῆς σαρκός. The gen. has the general sense of ‘belonging to,’ but acquires a special shade of meaning in each case from the context; ‘the body which is given over to death,’ ‘the body in its present state of degradation,’ ‘the body which is so apt to be the instrument of its own carnal impulses.’
Here τὸ σῶμα τῆς ἁμαρτίας must be taken closely together, because it is not the body, simply as such, which is to be killed, but the body as the seat of sin. This is to be killed, so that Sin may lose its slave.
τοῦ μηκέτι δουλεύειν. On τοῦ with inf. as expressing purpose see esp. Westcott, Hebrews, p. 342.
τῇ ἁμαρτίᾳ: ἁμαρτία, as throughout this passage, is personified as a hard taskmaster: see the longer note at the end of the last chapter.
7. ὁ γὰρ ἀποθανὼν ̣ ̣ ̣ ἁμαρτίας. The argument is thrown into the form of a general proposition, so that ὁ ἀποθανών must be taken in the widest sense, ‘he who has undergone death in any sense of the term’—physical or ethical. The primary sense is however clearly physical: ‘a dead man has his quittance from any claim that Sin can make against him’: what is obviously true of the physically dead is inferentially true of the ethically dead. Comp. 1 Peter 4:1 ὅτι ὁ παθὼν σαρκὶ πέπαυται ἁμαρτίας: also the Rabbinical parallel quoted by Delitzsch ad loc. ‘when a man is dead he is free from the law and the commandments.’
Delitzsch goes so far as to describe the idea as an ‘acknowledged locus communis,’ which would considerably weaken the force of the literary coincidence between the two Apostles.
δεδικαίωται ἀπὸ τῆς ἁμαρτίας. The sense of δεδικαίωται is still forensic: ‘is declared righteous, acquitted from guilt.’ The idea is that of a master claiming legal possession of a slave: proof being put in that the slave is dead, the verdict must needs be that the claims of law are satisfied and that he is no longer answerable; Sin loses its suit.
8. συζήσομεν. The different senses of ‘life’ and ‘death’ always lie near together with St. Paul, and his thought glides backwards and forwards from one to another almost imperceptibly; now he lays a little more stress on the physical sense, now on the ethical; at one moment on the present state and at another on the future. Here and in ver. 9 the future eternal life is most prominent; but ver. 10 is transitional, and in ver. 11 we are back again at the stand-point of the present.
9. If the Resurrection opened up eternity to Christ it will do so also to the Christian.
κυριεύει. Still the idea of master and slave or vassal. Death loses its dominium over Christ altogether. That which gave Death its hold upon Him was sin, the human sin with which He was brought in contact by His Incarnation. The connexion was severed once for all by Death, which set Him free for ever.
10. ὃ γὰρ ἀπέθανε. The whole clause forms a kind of cognate accus. after the second ἀπέθανεν (Win. § xxiv. 4, p. 209 E. T.); Euthym.-Zig. paraphrases τὸν θάνατον ὃν ἀπέθανε διὰ τὴν ἁμαρτίαν ἀπέθανε τὴν ἡμετέραν, where however τῇ ἁμαρτίᾳ is not rightly represented by διὰ τὴν ἁμαρτίαν.
τῇ ἁμαρτίᾳ ἀπέθανεν. In what sense did Christ die to sin? The phrase seems to point back to ver. 7 above: Sin ceased to have any claim upon Him. But how could Sin have a claim upon Him ‘who had no acquaintance with sin’ (2 Corinthians 5:21)? The same verse which tells us this supplies the answer: τὸν μὴ γνόντα ἁμαρτίαν ὑπὲρ ἡμῶν ἁμαρτίαν ἐποίησεν, ‘the Sinless One for our sake was treated as if He were sinful.’ The sin which hung about Him and wreaked its effects upon Him was not His but ours (cp. 1 Peter 2:22, 1 Peter 2:24). It was in His Death that this pressure of human sin culminated; but it was also in His Death that it came to an end, decisively and for ever.
ἐφάπαξ. The decisiveness of the Death of Christ is specially insisted upon in Ep. to Hebrews. This is the great point of contrast with the Levitical sacrifices: they did and it did not need to be repeated (cf. Hebrews 7:27; Hebrews 9:12, Hebrews 9:26, Hebrews 9:28; Hebrews 10:10; also 1 Peter 3:18).
ζῇ τῷ Θεῷ. Christ died for (in relation to) Sin, and lives hence-forth for God. The old chain which by binding Him to sin made Him also liable to death, is broken. No other power κυριεύει αὐτοῦ but God.
This phrase ζῇ τῷ Θεῷ naturally suggests ‘the moral’ application to the believer.
11. λογίζεσθε ἑαυτούς. The man and his ‘self’ are distinguished. The ‘self’ is not the ‘whole self,’ but only that part of the man which lay under the dominion of sin. [It will help us to bear this in mind in the interpretation of the next chapter.] This part of the man is dead, so that sin has lost its slave and is balked of its prey; but his true self is alive, and alive for God, through its union with the risen Christ, who also lives only for God.
λογίζεσθε: not indic. (as Beng. Lips.) but imper., preparing the way, after St. Paul’s manner, for the direct exhortation of the next paragraph.
ἐν Χριστῷ Ἰησοῦ. This phrase is the summary expression of the doctrine which underlies the whole of this section and forms, as we have seen, one of the main pillars of St. Paul’s theology. The chief points seem to be these. (1) The relation is conceived as a local relation. The Christian has his being ‘in’ Christ, as living creatures ‘in’ the air, as fish ‘in’ the water, as plants ‘in’ the earth (Deissmann, p. 84; see below). (2) The order of the words is invariably ἐν Χριστῷ Ἰησοῦ, not ἐν Ἰησοῦ Χριστῷ (Deissmann, p. 88; cp. also Haussleiter, as referred to on p. 86 sup.). We find however ἐν τῷ Ἰησοῦ in Ephesians 4:21, but not in the same strict application. (3) In agreement with the regular usage of the words in this order ἐν Χρ. Ἰ. always relates to the glorified Christ regarded as πνεῦμα, not to the historical Christ. (4) The corresponding expression Χριστὸς ἔν τινι is best explained by the same analogy of ‘the air.’ Man lives and breathes ‘in the air,’ and the air is also ‘in the man’ (Deissmann, p. 92).
Deissmann’s monograph is entitled Die neutestamentliche Formel in Christo Jesu, Marburg, 1892. It is a careful and methodical investigation of the subject, somewhat too rigorous in pressing all examples of the use into the same mould, and rather inclined to realistic modes of conception. A very interesting question arises as to the origin of the phrase. Herr Deissmann regards it as a creation—and naturally as one of the most original creations— of St. Paul. And it is true that it is not found in the Synoptic Gospels. Approximations however are found more or less sporadically, in 1 St. Peter (3:16, 5:10,14; always in the correct text ἐν Χριστῷ), in the Acts (4:2 ἐν τῷ Ἰησοῦ: 9, 10 ἐν τῷ ὀνόματι Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ: 12; 13:39 ἐν τούτῳ πᾶς ὁ πιστεύων δικαιοῦται), and in full volume in the Fourth Gospel (ἐν ἐμοί, μένειν ἐν ἐμοί John 6:56; Job 14:20, 30; Job 15:2-7; 16:33; 17:21), in the First Epistle of St. John (ἐν αὐτῷ, ἐν τῷ υἱῷ εἶναι, μένειν 2:5, 6, 8, 24, 27, 28; 3:6, 24; 5:11, 20; ἔχειν τὸν υἱόν 5:12), and also in the Apocalypse (ἐν Ἰησοῦ 1:9; ἐν Κυρίῳ 14:13). Besides the N. T. there are the Apostolic Fathers, whose usage should be investigated with reference to the extent to which it is directly traceable to St. Paul*. The phrase ἐν Χριστῷ Ἰησοῦ occurs in 1 Clem. 32:4; 38:1; Ign. Eph. i. 1; Trall. ix. 2; Rom. i. 1; ii. 2 The commoner phrases are ἐν Χριστῷ in Clem.-Rom. and ἐν Ἰησοῦ Χριστῷ which is frequent in Ignat. The distinction between ἐν Ἰησοῦ Χριστῷ and ἐν Χριστῷ Ἰησοῦ is by this time obliterated. In view of these phenomena and the usage of N. T. it is natural to ask whether all can be accounted for on the assumption that the phrase originates entirely with St. Paul. In spite of the silence of Evv. Synopt. it seems more probable that the suggestion came in some way ultimately from our Lord Himself. This would not be the only instance of an idea which caught the attention of but few of the first disciples but was destined afterwards to wider acceptance and expansion.
12. βασιλευέτω: cf. 5:21 of Sin; 5:14, 17 of Death.
With this verse comp. Philo, De Gigant. 7 (Mang. i.266) Αἴτιον δὲ τῆς ἀνεπιστημοσύνης μέγιστον ἡ σὰρξ καὶ ἡ πρὸς σάρκα οἰκείωσις.
13. Observe the change of tense: παριστάνετε, ‘go on yielding,’ by the weakness which succumbs to temptation whenever it presses; παραστήσατε, ‘dedicate by one decisive act, one resolute effort.’
ὅπλα: ‘weapons’ (cf. esp. Romans 13:12; 2 Corinthians 6:7; 2 Corinthians 10:4). ἀδικίας and δικαιοσύνης are gen. qualitatis. For a like military metaphor more fully worked out comp. Ephesians 6:11-17.
14. ἁμαρτία γάρ. You are not, as you used to be, constantly harassed by the assaults of sin, aggravated to your consciences by the prohibitions of Law. The fuller explanation of this aggravating effect of Law is coming in what follows, esp. in ch. 7; and it is just like St. Paul to ‘set up a finger-post,’ pointing to the course his argument is to take, in the last clause of a paragraph. It is like him too to go off at the word νόμον into a digression, returning to the subject with which the chapter opened, and looking at it from another side.
The Doctrine of Mystical Union with Christ
How did St. Paul arrive at this doctrine of the Mystical Union? Doubtless by the guiding of the Holy Spirit. But that guiding, as it usually does, operated through natural and human channels. The channel in this instance would seem to be psychological. The basis of the doctrine is the Apostle’s own experience. His conversion was an intellectual change, but it was also something much more. It was an intense personal apprehension of Christ, as Master, Redeemer and Lord. But that apprehension was so persistent and so absorbing; it was such a dominant element in the life of the Apostle that by degrees it came to mean little less than an actual identification of will. In the case of ordinary friendship and affection it is no very exceptional thing for unity of purpose and aim so to spread itself over the character, and so to permeate thought and feeling, that those who are joined together by this invisible and spiritual bond seem to act and think almost as if they were a single person and not two. But we can understand that in St. Paul’s case with an object for his affections so exalted as Christ, and with influences from above meeting so powerfully the upward motions of his own spirit, the process of identification had a more than common strength and completeness. It was accomplished in that sphere of spiritual emotion for which the Apostle possessed such remarkable gifts—gifts which caused him to be singled out as the recipient of special Divine communications. Hence it was that there grew up within him a state of feeling which he struggles to express and succeeds in expressing through language which is practically the language of union. Nothing short of this seemed to do justice to the degree of that identification of will which the Apostle attained to. He spoke of himself as one with Christ. And then his thoughts were so concentrated upon the culminating acts in the Life of Christ—the acts which were in a special sense associated with man’s redemption—His Death, Burial and Resurrection —that when he came to analyze his own feelings, and to dissect this idea of oneness, it was natural to him to see in it certain stages, corresponding to those great acts of Christ, to see in it something corresponding to death, something corresponding to burial (which was only the emphasizing of death), and something corresponding to resurrection.
Here there came in to help the peculiar symbolism of Baptism. An imagination as lively as St. Paul’s soon found in it analogies to the same process. That plunge beneath the running waters was like a death; the moment’s pause while they swept on overhead was like a burial; the standing erect once more in air and sunlight was a species of resurrection. Nor did the likeness reside only in the outward rite, it extended to its inner significance. To what was it that the Christian died? He died to his old self, to all that he had been, whether as Jew or Gentile, before he became a Christian. To what did he rise again? Clearly to that new life to which the Christian was bound over. And in this spiritual death and resurrection the great moving factor was that one fundamental principle of union with Christ, identification of will with His. It was this which enabled the Christian to make his parting with the past and embracing of new obligations real.
There is then, it will be seen, a meeting and coalescence of a number of diverse trains of thought in this most pregnant doctrine. On the side of Christ there is first the loyal acceptance of Him as Messiah and Lord, that acceptance giving rise to an impulse of strong adhesion, and the adhesion growing into an identification of will and purpose which is not wrongly described as union. Further, there is the distributing of this sense of union over the cardinal acts of Christ’s Death, Burial and Resurrection. Then on the side of the man there is his formal ratification of the process by the undergoing of Baptism, the symbolism of which all converges to the same end; and there is his practical assumption of the duties and obligations to which baptism and the embracing of Christianity commit him—the breaking with his tainted past, the entering upon a new and regenerate career for the future.
The vocabulary and working out of the thought in St. Paul are his own, but the fundamental conception has close parallels in the writings of St. John and St. Peter, the New Birth through water and Spirit (John 3:5), the being begotten again of incorruptible seed (1 Peter 1:23), the comparison of baptism to the ark of Noah (1 Peter 3:20, 1 Peter 3:21) in St. Peter; and there is a certain partial coincidence even in the ἀπεκύησεν of St. James (Jam 1:18).
It is the great merit of Matthew Arnold’s St. Paul and Protestantism, whatever its defects and whatever its one-sidedness, that it did seize with remarkable force and freshness on this part of St. Paul’s teaching. And the merit is all the greater when we consider how really high and difficult that teaching is, and how apt it is to shoot over the head of reader or hearer. Matthew Arnold saw, and expressed with all his own lucidity, the foundation of simple psychological fact on which the Apostle’s mystical language is based. He gives to it the name of ‘faith,’ and it is indeed the only kind of faith which he recognizes. Nor is he wrong in giving the process this name, though, as it happens, St. Paul has not as yet spoken of ‘faith’ in this connexion, and does not so speak of it until he comes to Ephesians 3:17. It was really faith, the living apprehension of Christ, which lies at the bottom of all the language of identification and union.
‘If ever there was a case in which the wonder-working power of attachment, in a man for whom the moral sympathies and the desire for righteousness were all-powerful, might employ itself and work its wonders, it was here. Paul felt this power penetrate him; and he felt, also, how by perfectly identifying himself through it with Christ, and in no other way, could he ever get the confidence and force to do as Christ did. He thus found a point in which the mighty world outside man, and the weak world inside him, seemed to combine for his salvation. The struggling stream of duty, which had not volume enough to bear him to his goal, was suddenly reinforced by the immense tidal wave of sympathy and emotion. To this new and potent influence Paul gave the name of faith’ (St. Paul and Protestantism, p. 69 f.).
‘It is impossible to be in presence of this Pauline conception of faith without remarking on the incomparable power of edification which it contains. It is indeed a crowning evidence of that piercing practical religious sense which we have attributed to Paul. … The elemental power of sympathy and emotion in us, a power which extends beyond the limits of our own will and conscious activity, which we cannot measure and control, and which in each of us differs immensely in force, volume, and mode of manifestation, he calls into full play, and sets it to work with all its strength and in all its variety. But one unalterable object is assigned by him to this power: to die with Christ to the law of the flesh, to live with Christ to the law of the mind. This is the doctrine of the necrosis (2 Corinthians 4:10), Paul’s central doctrine, and the doctrine which makes his profoundness and originality. … Those multitudinous motions of appetite and self-will which reason and conscience disapproved, reason and conscience could yet not govern, and had to yield to them. This, as we have seen, is what drove Paul almost to despair. Well, then, how did Paul’s faith, working through love, help him here? It enabled him to reinforce duty by affection. In the central need of his nature, the desire to govern these motions of unrighteousness, it enabled him to say: Die to them! Christ did. If any man be in Christ, said Paul,—that is, if any man identifies himself with Christ by attachment so that he enters into his feelings and lives with his life,—he is a new creature; he can do, and does, what Christ did. First, he suffers with him. Christ, throughout His life and in His death, presented His body a living sacrifice to God; every self-willed impulse, blindly trying to assert itself without respect of the universal order, he died to. You, says Paul to his disciple, are to do the same. … If you cannot, your attachment, your faith, must be one that goes but a very little way. In an ordinary human attachment, out of love to a woman, out of love to a friend, out of love to a child, you can suppress quite easily, because by sympathy you become one with them and their feelings, this or that impulse of selfishness which happens to conflict with them, and which hitherto you have obeyed. All impulses of selfishness conflict with Christ’s feelings, He showed it by dying to them all; if you are one with Him by faith and sympathy, you can die to them also. Then, secondly, if you thus die with Him, you become transformed by the renewing of your mind, and rise with Him. … You rise with Him to that harmonious conformity with the real and eternal order, that sense of pleasing God who trieth the hearts, which is life and peace, and which grows more and more till it becomes glory’ (ibid. pp. 75-78).
Another striking presentation of the thought of this passage will be found in a lay sermon, The Witness of God, by the philosopher, T. H. Green (London, 1883; also in Works). Mr. Green was as far removed as Matthew Arnold from conventional theology, and there are traces of Hegelianism in what follows for which allowance should be made, but his mind had a natural affinity for this side of St. Paul’s teaching, and he has expressed it with great force and moral intensity. To this the brief extracts given will do but imperfect justice, and the sermon is well worth reading in its entirety.
‘The death and rising again of the Christ, as [St. Paul] conceived them, were not separate and independent events. They were two sides of the same act—an act which relatively to sin, to the flesh, to the old man, to all which separates from God, is death; but which, just for that reason, is the birth of a new life relatively to God, … God was in [Christ], so that what He did, God did. A death unto life, a life out of death, must then be in some way the essence of the divine nature—must be an act which, though exhibited once for all in the crucifixion and resurrection of Christ, was yet eternal— the act of God Himself. For that very reason, however, it was one perpetually re-enacted, and to be re-enacted, by man. If Christ died for all, all died in Him: all were buried in His grave to be all made alive in His resurrection … In other words, He constitutes in us a new intellectual consciousness, which transforms the will and is the source of a new moral life.’ There is special value in the way in which the difference is brought out between the state of things to which the individual can attain by his own effort and one in which the change is wrought from without. The first ‘would be a self-renunciation which would be really the acme of self-seeking. On the other hand, presented as the continuous act of God Himself, as the eternal self-surrender of the Divine Son to the Father, it is for us and may be in us, but is not of us. Nay, it is just because not of us, that it may be in us. Because it is the mind of Christ, and Christ is God’s, in the contemplation of it we are taken out of ourselves, we slip the natural man and appropriate that mind which we behold. Constrained by God’s manifested love, we cease to be our own that Christ may become ours’ (The Witness of God, pp. 7-10).
We may quote lastly an estimate of the Pauline conception in the history of Religion. ‘It is in Christendom that, according to the providence of God, this power has been exhibited; not indeed either adequately or exclusively, but most fully. In the religions of the East, the idea of a death to the fleshly self as the end of the merely human, and the beginning of a divine life, has not been wanting; nor, as a mere idea, has it been very different from that which is the ground of Christianity. But there it has never been realized in action, either intellectually or morally. The idea of the withdrawal from sense has remained abstract. It has not issued in such a struggle with the superficial view of things, as has gradually constituted the science of Christendom. In like manner that of self-renunciation has never emerged from the esoteric state. It has had no outlet into the life of charity, but a back-way always open into the life of sensual licence, and has been finally mechanized in the artificial vacancy of the dervish or fakir’ (ibid. p. 21).
One of the services which Mr. Green’s lay sermon may do us is in helping us to understand—not the whole but part of the remarkable conception of ‘The Way’ in Dr. Hort’s posthumous The Way, the Truth, and the Life (Cambridge and London, 1893). When it is contended, ‘first that the whole seeming maze of history in nature and man, the tumultuous movement of the world in progress, has running through it one supreme dominating Way; and second, that He who on earth was called Jesus the Nazarene is that Way’ (The Way, &c. p. 20 f.), we can hardly be wrong, though the point might have been brought out more clearly, in seeking a scriptural illustration in St. Paul’s teaching as to the Death, Burial, and Resurrection of Christ. These to him are not merely isolated historical events which took place once for all in the past. They did so take place, and their historical reality, as well as their direct significance in the Redemption wrought out by Christ, must be insisted upon. But they are more than this: they constitute a law, a predisposed pattern or plan, which other human lives have to follow. ‘Death unto life,’ ‘life growing out of death,’ is the inner principle or secret, applied in an indefinite variety of ways, but running through the history of most, perhaps all, religious aspiration and attainment. Everywhere there must be the death of an old self and the birth of a new. It must be admitted that the group of conceptions united by St. Paul, and, as it would seem, yet more widely extended by St. John, is difficult to grasp intellectually, and has doubtless been acted upon in many a simple unspeculative life in which there was never any attempt to formulate it exactly in words. But the conception belongs to the length and depth and height of the Gospel: here, as we see it in St. Paul, it bears all the impress of his intense and prophet-like penetration: and there can be little doubt that it is capable of exercising a stronger and more dominating influence on the Christian consciousness than it has done. This must be our excuse for expanding the doctrine at rather considerable length, and for invoking the assistance of those who, just by their detachment from ordinary and traditional Christianity, have brought to bear a freshness of insight in certain directions which has led them, if not exactly to discoveries, yet to new and vivid realization of truths which to indolent minds are obscured by their very familiarity.
THE TRANSITION FROM LAW TO GRACE. ANALOGY OF SLAVERY
6:15-23. Take an illustration from common life—the condition of slavery. The Christian was a slave of sin; his business was uncleanness; his wages, death. But he has been emancipated from this service, only to enter upon another—that of Righteousness.
15Am I told that we should take advantage of our liberty as subjects of Grace and not of Law, to sin? Impossible! 16Are you not aware that to render service and obedience to any one is to be the slave of that person or power to which obedience is rendered? And so it is here. You are either slaves of Sin, and the end before you death; or you are true to your rightful Master, and the end before you righteousness. 17But, thank God, the time is past when you were slaves of Sin; and at your baptism you gave cordial assent to that standard of life and conduct in which you were first instructed and to the guidance of which you were then handed over by your teachers. 18Thus you were emancipated from the service of Sin, and were transferred to the service of Righteousness.
19I am using a figure of speech taken from every-day human relations. If ‘servitude’ seems a poor and harsh metaphor, it is one which the remains of the natural man that still cling about you will at least permit you to understand. Yours must be an undivided service. Devote the members of your body as unreservedly to the service of righteousness for progressive consecration to God, as you once devoted them to Pagan uncleanness and daily increasing licence. 20I exhort you to this. Why? Because while you were slaves to Sin, you were freemen in regard to Righteousness. 21What good then did you get from conduct which you now blush to think of? Much indeed! For the goal to which it leads is death. 22But now that, as Christians, you are emancipated from Sin and enslaved to God, you have something to show for your service—closer and fuller consecration, and your goal, eternal Life! 23For the wages which Sin pays its votaries is Death; while you receive—no wages, but the bountiful gift of God, the eternal Life, which is ours through our union with Jesus Messiah, our Lord.
15-23. The next two sections (6:15-23; 7:1-6) might be described summarily as a description of the Christian’s release, what it is and what it is not. The receiving of Christian Baptism was a great dividing-line across a man’s career. In it he entered into a wholly new relation of self-identification with Christ which was fraught with momentous consequences looking both backwards and forwards. From his sin-stained past he was cut off as it were by death: towards the future he turned radiant with the quickening influence of a new life. St. Paul now more fully expounds the nature of the change. He does so by the help of two illustrations, one from the state of slavery, the other from the state of wedlock. Each state implied certain ties, like those by which the convert to Christianity was bound before his conversion. But the cessation of these ties does not carry with it the cessation of all ties; it only means the substitution of new ties for the old. So is it with the slave, who is emancipated from one service only to enter upon another. So is it with the wife who, when released by the death of one husband, is free to marry again. In the remaining verses of this chapter St. Paul deals with the case of Slavery. Emancipation from Sin is but the prelude to a new service of Righteousness.
15. The Apostle once more reverts to the point raised at the beginning of the chapter, but with the variation that the incentive to sin is no longer the seeming good which Sin works by calling down grace, but the freedom of the state of grace as opposed to the strictness of the Law. St. Paul’s reply in effect is that Christian freedom consists not in freedom to sin but in freedom from sin.
ἁμαρτήσωμεν: from a late aor. ἡμάρτησα, found in LXX (Veitch, Irreg. Verbs, p. 49). Chrys. codd. Theodrt. and others, with minuscules, read ἀμαρτήσομεν.
16. A general proposition to which our Lord Himself had appealed in ‘No man can serve two masters’ (Matthew 6:24). There are still nearer parallels in John 8:34; 2 Peter 2:19: passages however which do not so much prove direct dependence on St. Paul as that the thought was ‘in the air’ and might occur to more writers than one.
ἤτοι … ἤ: these disjunctives state a dilemma in a lively and emphatic way, implying that one limb or the other must be chosen (Bäumlein, Partikellehre, p. 244; Kühner, Gram. § 540. 5).
17. … εἰς ὃν … διδαχῆς: stands for [ὑπηκούσατε] τύπῳ διδαχῆς εἰς ὃν παρεδόθητε. We expect rather ὃς ὑμῖν παρεδόθη: it seems more natural to say that the teaching is handed over to the persons taught than that the persons taught are handed over to the teaching. The form of phrase which St. Paul uses however expresses well the experience of Christian converts. Before baptism they underwent a course of simple instruction, like that in the ‘Two Ways’ or first part of the Didaché (see the reff. in Hatch, Hibbert Lectures, p. 314). With baptism this course of instruction ceased, and they were left with its results impressed upon their minds. This was to be henceforth their standard of living.
τύπον διδαχῆς. For τύπος see the note on ch. 5:14. The third of the senses there given (‘pattern,’ ‘exemplar,’ ‘standard’) is by far the most usual with St. Paul, and there can be little doubt that that is the meaning here. So among the ancients Chrys. (τίς δὲ ὁ τύπος τῆς διδαχῆς; ὀρθῶς ζῆν καὶ μετὰ πολιτείας ἀρίστης) Euthym.-Zig. (εἰς τύπον, ἤγουν τὸν κανόνα καὶ ὅρον τῆς εὐσεβοῦς πολιτείας), and among moderns all the English commentators with Oltr. and Lips. To suppose, as some leading Continental scholars (De W. Mey.-W. Go.) have done, that some special ‘type of doctrine,’ whether Jewish-Christian or Pauline, is meant, is to look with the eyes of the nineteenth century and not with those of the first (cf. Hort, Rom. and Eph. p. 32 ‘Nothing like this notion of a plurality of Christian τύποι διδαχῆς occurs anywhere else in the N. T., and it is quite out of harmony with all the context’).
19. ἀνθρώπινον λέγω. St. Paul uses this form of phrase (cf. Galatians 3:15 κατὰ ἄνθρωπον λέγω) where he wishes to apologize for having recourse to some common (or as he would have called it ‘carnal’) illustration to express spiritual truths. So Chrys. (first explanation) ὡσανεὶ ἔλεγεν, ἀπὸ ἀνθρωπίνων λογισμῶν, ἀπὸ τῶν ἐν συνηθείᾳ γινομένων.
διὰ τὴν ἀσθένειαν τῆς σαρκός. Two explanations are possible: (1) ‘because of the moral hindrances which prevent the practice of Christianity’ (Chrys. Theodrt. Weiss and others); (2) ‘because of the difficulties of apprehension, from defective spiritual experience, which prevent the understanding of its deeper truths’ (most moderns). Clearly this is more in keeping with the context. In any case the clause refers to what has gone before, not (as Orig. Chrys., &c.) to what follows.
σάρξ = human nature in its weakness, primarily physical and moral, but secondarily intellectual. It is intellectual weakness in so far as this is determined by moral, by the limitations of character: cf. φρονεῖν τὰ τῆς σαρκός, φρόνημα τῆς σαρκός Romans 8:5 f.; σοφοὶ κατὰ σάρκα 1 Corinthians 1:26. The idea of this passage is similar to that of 1 Corinthians 3:2 γάλα ὑμᾶς ἐπότισα, οὐ βρῶμα· οὔπω γὰρ ἠδύνασθε.
τῇ ἀκαθαρασίᾳ. ἀκαθαρσία and ἀνομία fitly describe the characteristic features of Pagan life (cf. 1:24 ff.). As throughout the context these forms of sin are personified; they obtain a mastery over the man; and εἰς τὴν ἀνομίαν describes the effect of that mastery—‘to the practice of iniquity.’ With these verses (19-21) compare especially 1 Peter 4:1-5.
εἰς ἁγιασμόν. Mey. (but not Weiss) Lips. Oltr. Go. would make ἁγιασμός here practically = ἁγιωσύνη, i. e. not so much the process of consecration as the result of the process. There is certainly this tendency in language; and in some of the places in which the word is used it seems to have the sense of the resulting state (e. g. 1 Thessalonians 4:4, where it is joined with τιμή; 1 Timothy 2:15, where it is joined with πίστις and ἀγάπη). But in the present passage the word may well retain its proper meaning: the members are to be handed over to Righteousness to be (gradually) made fit for God’s service, not to become fit all at once. So Weiss Gif. Va. Mou. (‘course of purification’). For the radical meaning see the note on ἄγιος ch. 1:7, and Dr. A. B. Davidson, Hebrews, p. 206: ἁγιασμός = ‘the process of fitting for acceptable worship,’ a sense which comes out clearly in Hebrews 12:14 διώκετε … τὸν ἁγιασμὸν οὗ χωρὶς οὐδεὶς ὄψεται τὸν Κύριον. The word occurs some ten times (two vv. ll.) in LXX and in Ps. Sol. 17:33, but is not classical.
21. τίνα οὖν … ἐπαισχύνεσθε; Where does the question end and the answer begin? (1) Most English commentators and critics (Treg. WH. RV. as well as Gif. Va.) carry on the question to ἐπαισχύνεσθε. In that case ἐκείνων must be supplied before ἐφʼ οἷς, and its omission might be due to the reflex effect of ἐκείνων in the sentence following (comp. ἀποθανόντες ἐν ᾧ κατειχόμεθα 7:6 below). There would then be a common enough ellipse before τὸ γὰρ τέλος, ‘What fruit had ye …? [None:] for the end,’ &c. (2) On the other hand several leading Germans (Tisch. Weiss Lips., though not Mey.) put the question at τότε, and make ἐφʼ οἷς ἐπαισχύνεσθε part of the answer. ‘What fruit had ye then? Things [pleasures, gratifications of sense] of which you are now ashamed: for their end is death.’ So, too, Theod.-Mops. (in Cramer) expressly: κατʼ ἐρώτησιν ἀναγνωστέον τὸ τίνα οὖν κάρπον εἴχετε τότε, εἶτα κατὰ ἀπόκρισιν ἐφʼ οἷς νῦν ἐπαισχύνεσθε. Both interpretations are possible, but the former, as it would seem, is more simple and natural (Gif.). When two phrases link together so easily as ἐφʼ οἷς ἐπαισχ. with what precedes, it is a mistake to separate them except for strong reasons; nor does there appear to be sufficient ground for distinguishing between near consequences and remote.
τὸ γάρ: τὸ μὲν γάρ אc B D* E F G. There is the usual ambiguity of readings in which B alone joins the Western authorities. The probability is that the reading belongs to the Western element in B, and that μέν was introduced through erroneous antithesis to νυνὶ δέ.
23. ὀψώνια. From a root πεπ- we get ἕψω, ὄψον, ‘cooked’ meat, fish, &c. as contrasted with bread. Hence the compound ὀψώνιον (ὠνέομαι, ‘to buy’) = (1) provision-money, ration-money, or the rations in kind given to troops; (2) in a more general sense, ‘wages.’ The word is said to have come in with Menander: it is proscribed by the Atticists, but found freely in Polybius, 1 Macc. &c. (Sturz, Dial. Maced. p. 187).
χάρισμα. Tertullian, with his usual picturesque boldness, translates this by donativum (De Res. Carn. c. 47 Stipendia enim delinquentiae mors, donativum autem dei vita aeterna). It is not probable that St. Paul had this particular antithesis in his mind, though no doubt he intends to contrast ὀψώνια and χάρισμα.
B Cod. Vaticanus
C Cod. Ephraemi Rescriptus
Cyr.-Alex. Cyril of Alexandria.
A Cod. Alexandrinus
D Cod. Claromontanus
E Cod. Sangermanensis
F Cod. Augiensis
G Cod. Boernerianus
&c. always qualify the word which precedes, not that which follows:
Euthym.-Zig. Euthymius Zigabenus.
Grm.-Thay. Grimm-Thayer’s Lexicon.
Win. Winer’s Grammar.
* It is rather strange that this question does not appear to be touched either by Bp. Lightfoot or by Gebhardt and Harnack. There is more to the point in the excellent monograph on Ignatius by Von der Goltz in Texte u. Unters. xii. 3, but the particular group of phrases is not directly treated.
Clem.-Rom. Clement of Rome.
De W. De Wette.
WH. Westcott and Hort.
RV. Revised Version.
Theod.-Mops. Theodore of Mopsuessia.
אԠCod. Sinaiticus, corrector c
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.