What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound?
Free Grace and Sin.
In this passage, under cover of a reply to a plausible objection to the doctrine of justification, we really enter upon the discussion of the bearing of gospel faith on moral character.
I. To the objection, the plausible but hateful objection, "What then? Are we to persist in our sin just in order that (as you say) the grace of God may abound in its forgiveness?" St. Paul's reply is a very blunt and staggering one. It amounts to this: such an abuse of free grace is in the nature of things impossible. It is practically unthinkable and out of the question. "For," says he, "persons who like us died to sin—how shall we any longer live in it?" Christians, then, are people who in the mere fact of becoming Christians died to sin; severed their old connection with it, that is, or passed through an experience which put a virtual end to their sinful life. This is what faith in Christ has done for everybody who has ever really believed in Him. After an experience like that it is, by the laws of human nature, impossible—if it were possible, it would be morally shameful—for the man any longer to live wilfully in his old sins.
II. One thing is sufficiently manifest. Christian faith is very far from a superficial or inoperative or merely intellectual act, such as a man can do without his moral character being affected by it. It is very much the opposite of that. It is connected with the deep roots of our moral and religious nature. It launches us on a totally fresh stream of vital influences. It is like a death and a birth in one; like a burial and a resurrection. Those who have been baptized into Christ and say they trust in His death as the ground of their peace with God are bound to satisfy themselves that their faith is of a sort to kill sin.
J. Oswald Dykes, The Gospel according to St. Paul, p. 143.
References: Romans 6:2.—J. Natt, Posthumous Sermons, p. 90. Romans 6:2-8.—Preacher's Monthly, vol. ii., p. 253. Romans 6:3.—Homilist, 3rd series, vol. ii., p. 55. Romans 6:3, Romans 6:4.—Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xxvii., No. 1627; Clergyman's Magazine, vol. i., p. 15. Romans 6:3-5.—Preacher's Monthly, vol. ii., p. 247. Romans 6:3-8.—Bishop Westcott, The Historic Faith, p. 129.
Romans 6:4Easter Even.
I. We know what an impression is made by the sight of a dead body, especially if it is that of one who has been near and dear to us. And every one who has felt this lesson has been for a time, for the moment it may be, or hour, or day, if not longer, a different man. The world has lost its power either to distress or please him, and appears in its true colours; and he sees what sin is before God. Yes; the one great truth of all truths is to know what sin is before God. Now this is the wisdom of the grave, yet of itself it is but a cold and lifeless wisdom; but combined with the death and burial of Christ, and the contemplation of it, this wisdom is quickened by love: love is able to overcome the power of death, not by avoiding it, but by wrestling with it.
II. There was an old heathen philosophy that taught deadness to the world: the thorough laying aside it required of all human feeling and passions; but what it inculcated partook of that awful and dead calm which nature itself derives from the grave of man; it had nothing of that peace which the Christian learns by the tomb of Christ, wherein there is release from sin by dying with His death, and in those fruits of righteousness wherein God still works, while He gives rest. Thus Christ, being dead, yet speaketh, while by His Spirit He quickeneth our mortal bodies. The world invites us to live to it; philosophy bids us to be dead to the world; but Christianity adds, in order that we may live to God, we are not only to be dead with Christ, but to learn of Him and live with Him, if we would find His rest for the soul.
III. Though the Christian be dead to the world, and so really unharmed by it, yet the world will not be dead towards him. Though unwilling, it bears testimony; and from a kind of uneasiness and fear which lies deep within it is urged to deeds of ill-will and enmity, and this is a trial to the love and faith of good but over-conscious disciples, because it seems to dishonour their Lord. But our blessed Saviour seems from the sepulchre to say: "Stand still, and see the salvation of God."
Isaac Williams, The Epistles and Gospels, vol. i., p. 386.
Romans 6:4There are three characteristics of the risen life of our Lord which especially challenge attention.
I. Of these the first is its reality. The resurrection of Jesus Christ was a real resurrection of a dead body. Men have thought to effect a compromise between their own unbelief or half belief and the language of the apostles, by saying that Christ rose in the hearts of His disciples—that their idea of the spirit and character and work of their Master was too bright, too glorious a thing to be buried in His grave, and that when the first agony of grief was passed the Crucified One presented Himself again vividly to their loving imaginations in even more than His ancient beauty. But, supposing a process of imagination such as this to have taken place in the case of one or two or three minds, is it reasonable to suppose that it can have taken place simultaneously in a great many minds? The nearer men came to the risen Jesus the more satisfied they were that He had risen indeed. The first lesson which the risen Christ teaches the Christian is reality, genuineness.
II. A second characteristic of Christ's risen life—it lasts. Jesus did not rise that, like Lazarus, He might die again. So, too, should it be with the Christian. His, too, should be a resurrection once for all.
III. A last note of Christ's risen life. Much of it, most of it, was hidden from the eyes of men. They saw quite enough to be satisfied of its reality, but of the eleven recorded appearances five took place on a single day, and there is, accordingly, no record of any appearance on thirty-three days out of the forty which preceded the Ascension. And who can fail to see here a lesson and a law for the true Christian life? Of every such life much, and the most important side, must be hidden from the eyes of men. Alas for those who know so little of the true source of our moral force as to see in secret communion with God only the indulgence of unpractical sentiment, as to fail to connect these precious hours of silence with the beauty and strength of many of the noblest and most productive lives that have been seen in Christendom.
H. P. Liddon, Penny Pulpit, No. 429.
Romans 6:4I. The death and burial of our Lord were but the fulfilment of His purpose when He took our flesh in the womb of the Virgin. He was in that grave before He appeared in the world. He appeared in this world that He might descend into the grave again. Every hour that He dwelt here He was giving up His body and soul, confessing that there was no life of their own in them. The glory of the Father had gone with Him through every hour of His earthly pilgrimage, raising up His body and soul, and enabling them to fulfil the work which had been given Him to do. The glory of the Father went with Him into the grave, and it brought Him back in that human soul and body, unhurt by death, unweakened by His conflict with the powers of darkness, to show forth the might of His heavenly life and to be the means through which it should be bestowed upon those for whom He died.
II. Christ's baptism was a burial: it was giving up His soul and body to death and the grave; it was "declaring life is not in them, but in Thee." Our baptism is a burial; it is a giving up of our body and soul, and declaring life is not in them, but in Him. As Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, so we have His glory with us to raise us from our grave, to enable us to think what of ourselves we cannot think, to do what of ourselves we cannot do. This life is given to us. It is not dependent upon the weakness of our bodies or of our souls. It is assured to us by a promise which cannot be broken. It is stored up for us in One who cannot die.
F. D. Maurice, Christmas Day and Other Sermons, p. 236.
Romans 6:4Consider the New Life of the Believer.
I. First, in this present life, our souls begin to be drawn up to ascending desires—to nearer communion, to loftier enjoyments, to a more heavenly-mindedness. Afterwards at the resurrection, by the same process, our bodies will be raised up. When He appears in the heavens, by a necessary, irresistible, attractive force, our bodies will be raised from the grave, and we shall be "for ever with the Lord." So that the Divine life in a man's soul does not take place till there is first a death and a burial and a resurrection within him; and all that is the result of a certain union with the Lord Jesus Christ; so that Christ's death and Christ's burial and Christ's resurrection are, to that man, not only facts done for him, but things done in him, and things actually taking place at this moment, real, felt, producing direct visible results. And when we trace the secret inworkings, in a Christian's soul, of such strange, unprecedented things as these, surely to such deep and wondrous mysteries we can only justly apply the Apostle's words, and say, "It is newness of life."
II. But as the formation of it is new, so it is in its own constitution. God's way of making a new thing is not man's way. God uses up the old materials, but by His using and moulding them makes them new. What is the new element thrown in to make a new man? Love—simply love. The man receives what he feels to be an inestimable gift, and his heart goes forth after the Giver—that Giver who bought that gift for him by the purchase of His own blood.
III. Once more, the Christian life is new by reason of that ceaseless variety and never-ending progression, that constant newness which it has in it. He who has set himself to be a Christian has to do with the infinities of God. He has a field in which he can expatiate for ever, and yet never retreat one pace. He is always enlarging his sphere, and with augmented capabilities taking in extended services; he experiences the charm of a sanctified novelty; and every hour he finds a literalness in the expression in this world, as he will find it for ever and ever, "newness of life."
J. Vaughan, Sermons, 1865, No. 491.
Romans 6:4Freshness of Being.
In everything which is really of God there is a singular freshness; it is always like that tree of life, which bare twelve manner of fruits, and yielded her fruit every month; there is a continual novelty. And yet some people speak of the sameness of a religious life!
I. What is newness? It is not the creation of new matter. Creations in that sense are things of the far past. It is better than creation. The old goes to make the new. The old passions, the old bias, the old elements of the natural man, go to make the strength, the elevation, of the new creation,—the same, yet not the same. Take an instance. Self is the ruling principle of every man whom the grace of God has not changed. Self is his god. Now, how is it in the Christian? He has union with Christ; therefore in him self and Christ are one. By a blessed reaction his God is now himself—his new self, his real self; his life is the life of God in his soul; his happiness is God's glory; therefore still he studies self, but self is Christ.
II. Let us trace where the newness lies. First, there is set in the believer a new motive, a new spring welling up. "I am forgiven—God loves me. How shall I repay Him?" A new current flows in the man's life-blood, he feels the springs of his immortality, he carries in him his own eternity. And he goes forth, that man, into the old world; its scenes are just the same, but a new sunshine lies upon everything—it is the medium of his new-born peace, it is a smile of God. Christ reveals Himself to him with ever-increasing clearness. And all the while he carries a happy conviction that it is inexhaustible, that his progress is to be perpetuated for ever and ever; and by faith he shall be learning more, feeling more, enjoying more, doing more, glorifying more—that for ever and ever he shall walk in newness of life.
J. Vaughan, Sermons, 2nd series, p. 141.
References: Romans 6:4.—E. Blencowe, Plain Sermons to a Country Congregation, vol. ii., p. 253; Preacher's Monthly, vol. ix., p. 1; Sermons on the Catechism, p. 219; J. Vaughan, Fifty Sermons, 7th series, p. 9; H. P. Liddon, Easter Sermons, vol. ii., p. 19.
Romans 6:4-8Christ's Resurrection an Image of our New Life.
Our new life is like that of our risen Saviour—
I. In the manner of His resurrection. In order to appear to His disciples in that glorified form, which already bore in it the indications of the eternal and immortal glory, it was necessary that the Saviour should pass through the pains of death. It was not an easy transformation; it was necessary for Him, though not to see corruption, yet to have the shadow of death pass over Him; and friends and enemies vied with each other in trying to retain Him in the power of the grave: the friends rolling a stone before it, to keep the beloved corpse in safety, the enemies setting a watch lest it should be taken away. But when the hour came which the Father had reserved in His own power, the angel of the Lord appeared and rolled away the stone from the tomb and the watch fled, and at the summons of omnipotence life came back to the dead form. Thus we know what is the new life that is to be like the resurrection life of the Lord. A previous life must die; the Apostle calls it the body of sin, the law of sin in our members, and this needs no lengthened discussion. We all know and feel that this life, which Scripture calls a being dead in sins, pleasant and splendid as may be the form it often assumes, is yet nothing but what the mortal body of the Saviour also was, an expression and evidence of the power of death, because even the fairest and strongest presentation of this kind lacks the element of being imperishable. Thus with the mortal body of the Saviour, and thus also with the natural life of man, which is as yet not a life from God.
II. And, secondly, this new life resembles its type and ideal, the resurrection life of Christ, not only in being risen from death, but also in its whole nature, way, and manner. (1) In this respect, that although a new life, it is nevertheless the life of the same man, and in the closest connection with his former life. (2) And as the Saviour was the same person in the days of His resurrection, so His life was also again of course a vigorous and active life; indeed we might almost say it bore the traces of humanity, without which it could be no image of our new life, even in this, that it gradually grew stronger and acquired new powers. (3) But along with all this activity and strength, the life of the risen Saviour was yet, in another sense, a secluded and hidden life. And so it is with the new life in which we walk, even if it is as it ought to be strong and vigorous, and ever at work for the kingdom of God; yet it is at the same time an unknown and hidden life, unrecognised by and hidden from the world, whose eyes are holden.
III. We cannot feel all these comforting and glorious things in which our new life resembles the resurrection life of our Lord, without being at the same time, on another side, moved to sorrow by this resemblance. For if we put together all that the evangelists and the apostles of the Lord have preserved for us about His resurrection life, we still cannot out of it all form an entirely consecutive history. Not that in Himself there was anything of a broken or uncertain life, but as to our view of it it is and cannot but be so. Well, and is it not, to our sorrow, the same with the new life that is like Christ's resurrection life? We are by no means conscious of this new life as an entirely continuous state; on the contrary, each of us loses sight of it only too often, not only among friends, among disturbances and cares, but amidst the commendable occupations of this world. Therefore we must go back to Him who is the only fountain of this spiritual life and find it in Him.
F. Schleiermacher, Selected Sermons, p. 266.
Romans 6:5-6Assimilation through Faith.
I. Among the elements of human character we have really no deeper or more powerful agent for working a great change than faith, if we understand it fairly. The word covers the most entire devotion of heart and will which a man can repose in any person whom he justly regards as wiser, nobler, stronger, and more trustworthy than himself. It means, if you will, what among men is called hero-worship; and there is no force known to the student of human nature or of history which has proved itself capable of altering the lives of men so profoundly as this. It combines the strongest motives and the most sustaining elements in character, such as confidence, loyalty, affection, reverence, authority, and moral attractiveness. Take a single element, not at all the noblest, in this complex relationship which we term "faith." Take the mere persuasion of one man that another is able and willing to aid him in his enterprises. What is there such a dependant will not do at the instance of his patron? What change will he not make in his plans rather than forfeit substantial assistance from that quarter on which all his hopes are built? This is faith of a sort, surely, which works powerfully. Add to such a selfish expectation of help the far deeper bond of personal reverence or of proud, admiring love. The Christian owes to Jesus obedience for the service He has rendered, and for the right He possesses to command. Does it seem any longer a thing futile or unreasonable to say, that through such faith as that a man may come to grow together into one with the Divine object of his devotion, until the man's life is penetrated with Christ's Spirit and conformed in everything to His matchless likeness?
II. Such a change as this, being not a change merely in a man's conduct, or in the mode in which his character manifests itself, but one deep enough to reverse the springs of character and form anew the spiritual attachments of the person himself, is reasonably enough ascribed to a special Divine agency. Such faith and such attachment come of the operation of God. When the old man dies and a new man lives in a human being there is an evident re-birth; and for that we must postulate an immediate operation of the Divine Giver of Life.
J. Oswald Dykes, The Gospel according to St. Paul, p. 155.
References: Romans 6:5, Romans 6:6.—Homilist, vol. vi., p. 124. Romans 6:5-7.—Ibid., new series, vol. iv. p. 208. Romans 6:6.—Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xv., No. 882; Ibid., Evening by Evening, p. 151.
Romans 6:7I. "For he that hath died," as it should be rendered, "is justified from sin." The moment the Spirit of God works within the human soul a conviction of sin, there springs up an intense longing to obtain rest. With a burning desire no language can portray, far less exaggerate, the soul cries out for peace. Conviction of sin burns within the breast like live coals. There is no peace, no happiness, no comfort in this life to the convinced sinner. He must have peace, or he feels that reason itself can hardly bear the dire strain. Only an intelligent view of how God saves a sinner can ever give a man a truly solid peace. Where many err, and therefore do not enter into real solid peace, is that they do not know the difference between forgiveness and justification. And yet there is a very great difference between the two. If the punishment due from the law to any sin be endured, the offender that moment becomes as if he had never committed the sin. As Paul says, "He that is dead"—that is, he that has had the penalty for sin and endured it—"i justified from sin." Every one who believes in the Lord Jesus Christ has the benefit of His death, and therefore it is just as if he had received his punishment. God cannot wink at sin. He never did and never will. But though He cannot excuse one sin, He can justly forgive a million.
II. The death of Christ settles the whole account. He has paid the last penny—cleared the score right off—and there is nothing left for you or me to pay. We can say of Christ, He is our Resurrection and our Life; in Him we died, and in His resurrection we rose again and rose to an immortal life, for we shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck us out of His hand.
A. G. Brown, Penny Pulpit, No. 1053.
Reference: Romans 6:7.—J. Vaughan, Fifty Sermons, 7th series, p. 303.
Romans 6:7-10Christ's Death to Sin.
When we ask what is meant by affirming of Christ, "The death that He died, He died unto sin," two questions emerge.
(1) What connection had Jesus with sin before His death?
(2) How came His dying to sever that connection?
I. As to the former. The connection of the Lord Jesus with sin so long as He lived an earthly life was the most complete which it is possible for a sinless person to have. Who will venture to say that St. Paul's terrible phrase "made a curse" is too strong to express the hold which sin's penalty laid upon our victim, or that the whole of our Lord's stainless humanity was not wrapt around and penetrated through and through by the tremendous retributive force of sin? Connection with sin! He was all sin's own; its prey, surrendered for some Divine necessity to the devourer; the choicest portion ever seized upon to be borne down to the keeping of sin's child, death, within sin's home, the grave.
II. The whole of this connection with sin is said to have terminated at death. It has not been so with any other man. Other men spend their earthly existence under the same penal conditions as I have described in His case; but what room have we to suppose that the act of dying has proved to be in any other case the end of sin, unless it were through their connection with Him? The death of Jesus closed His connection with sin, for the simple reason that in His case alone that connection had been outward, not inward; a guiltless submission to sin's penalty, not a guilty surrender to sin's power. From first to last the sin which is in our race remained to Him a foreign foe, that could gain no entrance into the citadel of His will to corrupt or master His spiritual nature; and the connection which He sustained with it was merely that of a sufferer who owes a death to justice for imputed sins of other men. Once that death was paid, and all the suffering endured which filled up the cup put into His hand to be drunk, His connection with imputed sin was of necessity dissolved. "The death which He died was a death unto sin—once for all."
J. Oswald Dykes, The Gospel according to St. Paul, p. 164.
Romans 6:8I. As a tree cannot live and grow, cannot bear flowers and fruit, and expand itself towards heaven, unless it be first rooted and buried in the ground, so neither can the love of God in the soul, unless that which is earthly be dead and buried with Christ in His death. It is therefore at baptism that this love is by the Holy Spirit planted within us; it is then that we are buried with Christ, in order that we may live with Him that life which is in God, in holy affections now and in fulness of joy hereafter. Such, therefore, is the subject of the Epistle for today (Sixth Sunday after Trinity). The Christian dwells in continual contemplation on the Cross and death of Christ; it is there his heart and affections are fixed; it is there he finds a remedy against sin and strength against temptation. And as we naturally become like that which we contemplate, it is to him an inexpressible satisfaction to reflect that by his very baptism and new birth he is himself there, dead with Christ and buried, in order that he might find in Him a better life; that the very strength and life of his baptism consists in his being thus made conformable to Christ's death. "Out of the strong comes forth sweetness," out of death life; and to resign earthly hopes, pleasures, and advantages does require that the heart hath found something better, the treasure of new affections which it values more.
II. Dead we are with Christ by baptism, by His power and grace, and dead we must also be in the habits of our new life, in order that such Divine life may be continued in Him; and all this from the most intimate reference to Him. The frequent mention of Christ in the inculcating of Christian precept and doctrine implies in our lives also, and in the fulfilling of all Christian precept and doctrine, the frequent recurrence to Him as that source of life. Love is ever thinking of the object beloved; delights in acting with a view to it; to be likened to it; to cling to it; to become more and more one with it. But this love, as being contrary to our corrupted nature, must be forcibly sustained by doing violence to ourselves, and by all outward means; by frequent communion with Him in prayer and meditation, by giving of alms and active charities, and more especially by a frequent participation of His body and blood.
J. Williams, The Epistles and Gospels, vol. ii., p. 82.
Love of Religion—a New Nature.
I. To be dead with Christ is to hate and turn from sin, and to live with Him is to have our hearts and minds turned towards God and heaven. To be dead to sin is to feel a disgust at it. We know what is meant by disgust. Take, for instance, the case of a sick man, when food of a certain kind is presented to him, and there is no doubt what is meant by disgust. On the other hand, consider how pleasant a meal is to the hungry, or some enlivening odour to the faint; how refreshing the air is to the languid, or the brook to the weary and thirsty; and you will understand the sort of feeling which is implied in being alive with Christ, alive to religion, alive to the thought of heaven. Our animal powers cannot exist in all atmospheres; certain airs are poisonous, others life-giving. So is it with spirits and souls: an unrenewed spirit could not live in heaven, he would die; an angel could not live in hell. To be dead to sin is to be so minded that the atmosphere of sin oppresses, distresses, and stifles us,—that it is painful and unnatural for us to remain in it. To be alive with Christ is to be so minded that the atmosphere of heaven refreshes, enlivens, stimulates, invigorates us. To be alive is not merely to bear the thought of religion, to assent to the truth of religion, to wish to be religious, but to be drawn towards it, to love it, to delight in it, to obey it. Now, I suppose most persons called Christians do not go further than this—to wish to be religious, and to think it right to be religious, and to feel a respect for religious men; they do not get so far as to have any sort of love for religion.
II. A holy man is by nature subject to sin equally with others; but he is holy because he subdues, tramples on, chains up, imprisons, puts out of the way this law of sin, and is ruled by religious and spiritual motives. Even those who in the end turn out to be saints and attain to life eternal, yet are not born saints, but have, with God's regenerating and renewing grace, to make themselves saints. It is nothing but the Cross of Christ without us and within us, which changes any one of us from being (as I may say) a devil, into an angel. Even to the end the holiest men have remains and stains of sin which they would fain get rid of if they could, and which keep this life from being to them, in all God's grace, a heaven upon earth. No, the Christian life is but a shadow of heaven. Its festal and holy days are but shadows of eternity. But hereafter it will be otherwise. In heaven sin will be utterly destroyed in every elect soul. We shall have no earthly wishes, no tendencies to disobedience or irreligion, no love of the world or the flesh, to draw us off from supreme devotion to God. We shall have our Saviour's holiness fulfilled in us, and be able to love God without drawback or infirmity.
J. H. Newman, Parochial and Plain Sermons, vol. vii., p. 179.
Reference: Romans 6:8.—Clergyman's Magazine, vol. iv., p. 87.
Romans 6:8-11I. The basis of the Apostle's sentiment here is the death of Christ. The death of Christ is the fact. Christ died for our sins. Calvary, its associations, its wonderful mystery and blessedness, were present to the Apostle's mind; and, however progressive spiritually his view might be, he never lost sight of what took place in Jerusalem—never lost sight of the Lord in His crucifixion and resurrection. In Christ's death he might be said to die to sin as well as for it, for he had done with sin.
II. In the second place, with this basis of history, we find that there is also a basis of prophecy,—it is implied here, at least respecting Christ and His people. Paul saw a grand future for Christ and the Church. "Christ being raised from the dead dieth no more; death hath no more dominion over Him." In the eighth chapter of this Epistle we have the outburst of the music, but in the sixth chapter we have the undertone in the same strain; for he says, "If we be dead in Christ, we believe that we shall also live with Him," and the eighth chapter is but the expansion and development of that sublime idea. There is therefore a basis of prophecy as well as of history.
III. Note the use which the Apostle makes of the past and the future in reference to his spiritual life. He fixes upon the historical fact that Christ died, and died for our sins, and he will not let that for an instant go. But he spiritualises it, and shows its relation to his daily experience. He teaches that between us and Christ there comes an identification and sympathy, through which we feel like Him, and act like Him, and become one with Him, imitating His example, and becoming conformed to His image and His type of life, from a moral power which flows from His death into our life. There is a dying unto sin in the case of all true believers, through their union by faith with Christ, who died so many years ago. So, too, St. Paul makes the resurrection of Christ a moral power in us, so that we rise from the death of sin to the life of righteousness.
J. Stoughton, Penny Pulpit, No. 637, new series.
References: Romans 6:8-11.—Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. ix., No. 503; G. Calthrop, Words Spoken to My Friends, p. 120; Preacher's Monthly, vol. iv., p. 83.
Romans 6:9Christ Risen, Dieth no More.
I. The resurrection brings joy to the human soul because it asserts that which is by no means written legibly for all men on the face of nature and of life—the truth that the spiritual is higher than the material; the truth that, in this universe, spirit counts for something more than matter. There are, no doubt, abstract arguments which might go to show that this is the case; but the resurrection is a palpable fact which means this, if it means anything at all,—that the ordinary laws of animal existence are visibly, upon sufficient occasion, set aside in obedience to a higher spiritual force. It was, we all of us know, no natural force, like that of growth, which raised Jesus Christ our Lord from His grave. "Christ being raised from the dead." The resurrection is not merely an article of the Creed; it is a fact in the history of mankind. That our Lord Jesus Christ was "begotten of the Father before all worlds" is also an article of the Christian faith; but then it has nothing to do with human history, and so it cannot be shown to have taken place, like any event, say, in the life of Julius Cæsar, by the reported testimony of eye-witnesses. It belongs to another sphere. It is believed simply on account of the proved trustworthiness of Him who has taught us this truth on His own authority about His eternal person. But that Christ rose from the dead is a fact which depends on the same sort of testimony as any event in the life of Cæsar, with this difference, that no one ever thought it worth his while, so far as I know, to risk his life in order to maintain that Cæsar defeated Vercingetorix or Pompey. The resurrection of Christ breaks the iron wall of uniformity which goes so far to shut out God. It tells us that matter is not the governing principle of the universe. It assures us that matter is controlled by mind, that there is a Being, that there is a will, to which matter can offer no effective resistance, that He is not bound by the laws of the universe, that He in fact controls them.
II. Christ's risen life is to us a fact of undying significance. The resurrection was not an isolated miracle, done and then over, leaving things much as they had been before. The risen Christ is not, like Lazarus, marked off from every other man as one who had visited the realms of death, but knowing that he must ere many years pass be a tenant of the grave. "Christ, being risen from the dead, dieth no more." His risen body is made up of flesh, bone, and all things pertaining to the perfection of man's nature; but then it has superadded qualities. It is so spiritual that it can pass through closed doors without collision or disturbance. It is beyond the reach of those causes which, slowly or swiftly, bring down our bodies to the dust. Throned in the heavens, now, as during the forty days on earth, it is endowed with the beauty, with the glory, of an eternal youth. Being raised from the dead, it dies no more. The perpetuity of the life of the risen Jesus is the guarantee of the perpetuity of His Church. Alone, among all forms of society which bind men together, the Church of Christ is insured against complete dissolution. When our Lord was born the civilised world was almost entirely comprised within the Roman empire, a vast social power which may well have appeared, as it did appear to the men of that age, destined to last for ever. Since then the Roman empire has as completely disappeared from the earth as if it had never been. And other kingdoms and dynasties have risen up and have in turn gone their way. Nor is there any warrant or probability that any one of the states or forms of civil government which exist at the present time will always last. And there are men who tell us that the kingdom of Christ is or will be no exception to the rule—that it too has seen its best days and is passing. We Christians know that they are wrong, that whatever else may happen one thing is impossible—the complete effacement of the Church of Jesus Christ. And what is our reason for this confidence? It is because we know that Christ's Church, although having likeness to other societies of men in her outward form and mien, is unlike them inwardly and really. She strikes her roots far and deep into the invisible; she draws strength from sources which cannot be tested by our political or social experience. Like her Master, she has meat to eat that men know not of. "God is in the midst of her, and therefore shall she not be removed; God shall help her, and that right early."
III. Christ, risen from death, dying no more, is the model of our new life in grace. I do not mean that absolute sinlessness is attainable by any Christian here. But at least faithfulness in our intentions, avoidance of known sources of danger, escape from presumptuous sins, innocence, as the Psalmist puts it, of the great offence—these things are possible, and indeed are necessary. Those lives which are made up of alternating recovery and relapse—recovery, perhaps, during Lent, followed by relapse after Easter, and even lives lived, as it were, with one foot in the grave, without anything like a strong vitality, with their feeble prayers, with their half-indulged inclinations, with their weaknesses which may be physical, but which a really regenerate will should at once away with—men risen from the dead, yet without any seeming promise of endurance in life—what would St. Paul say to these? "Christ," he would say, "being risen from the dead, dieth no more." Just as He left His tomb once for all, so should the soul, once risen, be dead indeed unto sin. There must be no hovering about the sepulchre, no treasuring the grave-clothes, no secret hankering after the scent and atmosphere of the guilty past. Cling to the risen Saviour. Cling to Him by entreaties which twine themselves round His sacred person. Cling to Him by sacraments, the revealed points of contact with His strengthening manhood. Cling to Him by obedience and by works of mercy, through which, He tells us Himself, we abide in His love. And then, not in your own strength but in His, "likewise reckon ye also yourselves to be dead indeed unto sin, but alive unto God through Jesus Christ our Lord."
H. P. Liddon, Easter Sermons, vol. i., p. 208.
Reference: Romans 6:9.—C. W. Furse, Sermons at Richmond, p. 42.
Romans 6:9-11I. The death to sin must be a death to its service as well as to its penalty, if the soul has come under that wretched bondage. There is hardly anything more emphatically and clearly laid down throughout St. Paul's epistles than this of the new life which is expected of Christian men, nor any doctrine with which the saintly life is more closely connected and on which it is as it were based, than the death and burial and resurrection of our Saviour Christ. And we must not put it away from us. Better a thousand times to be truthful witnesses and to abhor ourselves. Better a thousand times to hate the memory of that formal service which rests its confidence in continual acts of repentance for continual acts of wilful sin. The life of sin the Apostle supposes dead.
II. How marvellously persistent is the Apostle, is the Holy Spirit, in finding a plain living duty in the sublimest doctrines of religion; in drawing a precept which shall supply occupation for the whole human life, and exercise every faculty of the human heart, from events the most mysterious and Divine.
III. We must be ashamed when we examine ourselves to see how miserably short we fall of the Divine standard and requirements. Let us review our miserably imperfect practice, and seek to begin a higher, a purer, a better life.
J. W. Burgon, Ninety-one Short Sermons, No. 41.
References: Romans 6:9-11.—E. H. Gifford, The Glory of God in Man, p. 1. Romans 6:10, Romans 6:11.—Clergyman's Magazine, vol. vii., p. 20; Plain Sermons by Contributors to "Tracts for the Times," vol. vii., p. 111. Romans 6:11.—H. J. Wilmot Buxton, The Life of Duty, vol. ii., p. 53; Homilist, new series, vol. iii., p. 314; W. Cunningham, Sermons, p. 251; G. Bainton, Christian World Pulpit, vol. x., p. 169; C. G. Finney, Gospel Themes, p. 380; Bishop Temple, Rugby Sermons, 1st series, p. 306.
Romans 6:11-14On Realising the Ideal.
I. What is the theory of the Christian's condition? As just explained by the Apostle, it is this: The Christian is a man who, like his Master, is already dead to all sin and alive only towards God. He has ceased, in other words, to have anything further to do with sin. With God he has everything further to do. This has resulted, as a matter of course, from the close union, or, as it were, incorporation, which his faith has effected betwixt him and Jesus Christ. In theory, the believer has just as little to do with sin as Jesus has in heaven; which lets us see a little how St. Paul can elsewhere employ such amazing language about mortal man as this—"Risen with Christ," "Sitting with Christ in heaven," their life hid with Him in God. Such is Christian life in its conception. Such it must aim at becoming in fact.
II. It is obviously with a practical design that the writer bids the Christian cherish such a conception of his proper character. All life strives to fulfil itself. It makes for that which it was made to be. In the moral training of character, there is no better way of attaining an ideal than to be persuaded that it is the true ideal for us. Put the matter in this form: You are a man supposed to be in idea dead to all sin. Yet in a given instance an evil desire has mastered you. Is there not betwixt these two facts an incongruity, not simply painful, but intolerable? They cannot possibly hang together. A contradiction in fact between your theoretical position and your actual conduct is not a state of matters in which you can rest. Either your ideal must be abandoned, or an effort must be made to shape your behaviour in compliance with it. But your ideal is what you dare not abandon, for that would be to abandon Christ. The conclusion becomes irresistible: let not this wrong desire lord it any longer in this fashion over you—a man dead to all sin. Let the believer then think what he is, that he may become what he ought to be. Broken off from sin, let there be no feeble or furtive concession to it at any point. Live solely for the work of God. Let us spend ourselves wholly in His pure and beneficent service.
J. Oswald Dykes, The Gospel according to St. Paul, p. 172.
Romans 6:12The Dual Life of Man.
I. There are in every one of us opposing elements, there live within us an Adam and a Christ; the angel has us by the hand or the serpent by the heart. Plato describes human nature as consisting of a threefold being bound into one, a many-headed monster, a lion, and a man. The monster represents all the lowest and the basest and most animal impulses of our nature; the lion represents the passionate irascible side of our nature, in itself noble, but liable to be dangerously uncontrolled; the man represents the reason and the conscience, the ruling power within us. Plato says we can never attain the true nature of our being except when the man and the lion are at one, the man having supreme power, and both together holding the monster of the baser passions under absolute control.
II. Three warnings arise out of this subject. (1) We are accountable to God for ourselves—for our whole selves. We cannot disintegrate our individuality, we cannot claim to be good while yet we habitually do evil, we cannot be in a state of sin and yet claim to be in a state of grace. Yet this is the self-deception into which men constantly fall. When they go out, like Judas, to sell their Lord, it is not in the daytime; it is in the night of their own self-deception. We have all need of the daily prayer, "God harden me against myself." (2) We cannot be too careful what we make ourselves. Even the feelings which might be honourable and harmless may be betrayed by excess or by neglect. Our passions are like the waves of the sea, and without the aid of Him who made the human breast we cannot say to its tide, "Thus far shalt thou go, and no farther." (3) As we feel our evil passions and their mastery over us, so by the grace of God can we get rid of our worse selves altogether. It is not possible by our own unaided strength, but Christ died that it might be more than possible to all that trust in Him. They that are Christ's have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts; they are renewed in the image of God. In them the old self is conquered indeed, the body of sin is destroyed, so that they are no longer the slaves of sin; they walk in newness of life.
F. W. Farrar, Family Churchman, March 31st, 1886.
References: Romans 6:13.—Good Words, vol. iii., pp. 762, 763; R. Tuck, Christian World Pulpit, vol. v., p. 251. Romans 6:14.—Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xv., No. 901; vol. xxiv., No. 1410; T. Arnold, Sermons, vol. i., p. 103. Romans 6:14, Romans 6:15.—Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xxix., No. 1735.
Romans 6:15-23Bondmen of Righteousness.
I. St. Paul's manner of thinking is frequently hard to follow. One peculiarity which contributes to make it a difficult exercise to track his reasoning is this: on the threshold of a fresh train of ideas, when the subject which fills his mind has been no more than started, it is not uncommon to find him suddenly break off in order to interject some side thought which has just occurred to him. Of this habit we have an instance before us. The objection springs up suddenly. If a Christian is no longer under the law of Moses, but under the free, that is, the unmerited, favour of God as the source of His salvation, is not this a distinct licence to him to sin? To that recurring difficulty there never has been, nor ever can be, any valid reply save one: this, namely, that the very change which is involved in a man's becoming a believer in God's free grace through Christ renders his continuance in sin a practical impossibility. Christians were slaves to sin once, no doubt; but conversion has broken that service in order that they should enter another. They are now "servants unto righteousness."
II. The expression "enslaved to righteousness" is indeed an unusually strong one, even for St. Paul; so strong that he deems it well to apologise for it (ver. 19). For while the practice of sin is really a moral slavery, as our Lord Himself taught, seeing that it involves the subjugation of what is noblest in a man beneath some base or petty desire of which in his heart he feels ashamed, there is no true bondage in obeying God. On the contrary, the law of righteousness is the law of man's original, proper nature,—his native law, so to speak. To follow it is to act freely. Accordingly, when the Apostle spoke about being a slave of righteousness, he employed language which he felt to be harsh, because, in any strict sense of it, both inaccurate and unworthy. Nevertheless, St. Paul endeavours to say what he means in more precise and less metaphorical language. What it amounts to is this. That as a man previous to his conversion to Christ yielded up his faculties to execute lawless desires, and thus did the work of lawlessness as a slave serves his master, so, after conversion has put an end to that, he must, in a similar way, give himself up to perform the lawful or righteous will of God.
J. Oswald Dykes, The Gospel according to St. Paul, p. 182.
References: Romans 6:15-23.—Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xxv., No. 1482; Clergyman's Magazine, vol. i., p. 18; H. J. Wilmot Buxton, The Life of Duty, vol. ii., p. 61; Homilist, new series, vol. iv., p. 653; Church of England Pulpit, vol. xxi., p. 125; R. Molyneux, Ibid., vol. v., p. 189. Romans 6:16-19.—E. de Pressensé, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xvi., p. 93. Romans 6:17.—Bishop Westcott, The Historic Faith, p. 17.
Romans 6:18The Strictness of the Law of Christ.
I. Religion is a necessary service; of course it is a privilege too, but it becomes more and more of a privilege the more we exercise ourselves in it. The perfect Christian state is that in which our duty and our pleasure are the same, when what is right and true is natural to us, and in which God's service is perfect freedom. And this is the state towards which all true Christians are tending: it is the state in which the angels stand; entire subjection to God in thought and deed is their happiness; an utter and absolute captivity of their will to His will is their fulness of joy and everlasting life. But it is not so with the best of us, except in part. We have a work, a conflict all through life.
II. I may seem to have been saying what every one will at once confess. And yet, after all, nothing perhaps is so rare among those who profess to be Christians, as an assent in practice to the doctrine that they are under a law: nothing so rare as strict obedience, unreserved submission to God's will, uniform conscientiousness in doing their duty. Most Christians will allow in general terms that they are under a law, but then they admit it with a reserve; they claim for themselves some dispensing power in their observance of the law. Whether men view the law of conscience as high or low, as broad or narrow, few indeed there are who make it a rule to themselves.
III. Let us not deceive ourselves: what God demands of us is to fulfil His law, or at least to aim at fulfilling it; to be content with nothing short of perfect obedience,—to attempt everything,—to avail ourselves of the aids given us, and throw ourselves, not first but afterwards, on God's aid for our shortcomings. We Christians are indeed under the law as other men, but it is the new law, the law of the Spirit of Christ. We are under grace. That law which to nature is a grievous bondage, is to those who live under the power of God's presence, what it was meant to be, a rejoicing. Let us go to Him for grace. Let us seek His face. "They that wait upon the Lord," says the Prophet, "shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint."
J. H. Newman, Parochial and Plain Sermons, vol. iv., p. 1.
References: Romans 6:18.—Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xxv., No. 1482. Romans 6:19.—Clergyman's Magazine, vol. i., p. 18. Romans 6:20.—H. J. Wilmot Buxton, The Life of Duty, vol. ii., p. 61. Romans 6:21.—Prothero, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xxix., p. 161. Romans 6:22.—Homilist, new series, vol. iv., p. 653; 3rd series, vol. iv., p. 39; Preacher's Monthly, vol. vi., p. 21; Church of England Pulpit, vol. xxi., p. 125; R. Molyneux, Ibid., vol. v., p. 189.
Romans 6:23The Choice of Life.
I. St. Paul is setting before us in a figure the choice of two lives—the life of a Christian, life in Christ, and the life of one who is not a Christian, who has not the Christian's aim nor the Christian's hope. He is setting this before us in a figure; and it is, on the whole, the figure which is so familiar to us in our own baptismal service and catechism. Both, he tells us, involve service. In some of the expressions he is thinking of the service of a servant, in others (as in this word wages—ὀψώνια the soldier's allowance) of military service. We can choose our master, our leader; but serve some one, do some one's work, fight in some one's cause, we must. We may serve God or we may serve sin. He has been striving in the last verses to bring out the contrasts of the two services. They differ in their objects, their aim, their methods, their issue. The text is the last word in the comparison. It contrasts their rewards. But in doing so St. Paul breaks away, as it were, from the similitude; says, as he so often does, "Remember that it is a figure, not the whole truth; no figure can comprehend that." Life is a service; all fight in some ranks. The figure holds in many points, but not in all, not absolutely in one particular point. Service supposes wages, some return for the service, earned and to be paid. And the service of sin has its wages, something that answers to that figure in at least one regard. They are wages earned, the pay of a soldier's toilsome and dangerous service,—though they are not the wages looked for, nor such as make up the campaign. "The wages of sin, the hard-earned wages, is death." It would have followed, it might seem, to say, "The wages, the earned reward, of righteousness is life"; but St. Paul does not say so. There the figure fails. The true soldier and servant of goodness and God knows only too well that he earns no reward; the enemy whom he is to fight is not without him only, but within, in his own half-traitorous heart. No; it is not the wages of goodness, but "the gift of God" given to the unworthy through Jesus Christ our Lord.
II. The wages of sin is death. That will be the end of living for pleasure, living for self, living only for this world. The end of living for pleasure is death. You must sacrifice to it things infinitely more precious, and then the pleasures die. They last but a moment; and presently the faculty of pleasure dies. At first we fail to see that this is happening, because there is a change and succession of pleasures. Life has some small variety of pleasures, and they are so disposed that to our inexperienced eye they look endless; but we soon exhaust them. They become but repetitions, and then they cease to please. And so is all self-seeking. We cannot live for self without starving the more generous instincts and forfeiting the higher blessings of life. And self cannot satisfy. All purely selfish success turns to vanity and vexation of spirit. And this world itself passes. The things that are seen are temporal. "The gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord"—life ever deepening, widening; self-conquest, freedom, the conscience growing more sensitive and more completely mistress of the life, all instincts and perceptions of moral beauty growing keener, all lofty and generous emotions strengthening the sense of God's nearness, the trust in His goodness, the sympathy with His purposes, for ever increasing, brightening to the perfect day.
E. C. Wickham, Wellington College Sermons, p. 125.
References: Romans 6:23.—E. Cooper, Practical Sermons, vol. i., p. 15; Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xxxi., No. 1459; C. G. Finney, Sermons on Gospel Themes, p. 37; J. Vaughan, Sermons, 6th series, p. 29; Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xxxi., No. 1868; G. Brooks, Five Hundred Outlines, p. 186; Clergyman's Magazine, vol. iv., p. 84; Ibid., vol. vii., p. 22; Church of England Pulpit, vol. v., p. 125; J. Burbidge, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xi., p. 33; J. Vaughan, Sermons, 6th series, p. 29; C. G. Finney, Gospel Themes, p. 37. Romans 6:23.—E. Cooper, Practical Sermons, vol. i., p. 15.
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.