Romans 6
Pulpit Commentary
What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound?
Verse 1-8:39. - (7) Moral results to true believers of the revelation to them of the righteousness of God. The righteousness of God having been announced as revealed in the gospel (Romans 1:17), set forth as available for all mankind (Romans 3:21-31), shown to be in accordance with the teaching of the Old Testament (Romans 4:1-25), viewed with regard to the feelings and hopes of believers fell Romans 5:1-11) and to the position of the human race before God (Romans 5:12-21), the necessary moral results of a true apprehension of the doctrine are treated in this section of the Epistle. And first is shown from various points of view - Verse 1-7:6. - (a) The obligation believers of holiness of life. The subject is led up to by meeting certain supposed erroneous conclusions from what has been said in the preceding chapter. It might be said that, if where sin abounded grace did much more abound - if in the obedience of the one Christ all believers are justified - human sin must be a matter of indifference; it cannot nullify the free gift; nay, grace will be even the more enhanced, in that it abounds the more. The apostle rebuts such antinomian conclusions by showing that they imply a total misunderstanding of the doctrine which was supposed to justify them; for that our partaking in the righteousness of God in Christ means our actually partaking in it - our being influenced by it, loving it and following it, not merely our having it imputed to us while we remain aloof from it; that justifying faith in Christ means spiritual union with Christ, a dying with him to sin and a rising with him to a new life, in which sin shall no longer have dominion over us. He refers to our baptism as having this only meaning, and he enforces his argument by three illustrations: firstly, as aforesaid, that of dying and rising again, which is signified in baptism (vers. 1-14); secondly, that of service to a master (vers. 15-23); thirdly, that of the relation of a wife to a husband (Romans 7:1-16). It will be seen, when we come to it, that the third of these illustrations is a carrying out of the same idea, though it is there law, and not sin, that we are said to be emancipated from. Verse 1. - What shall we say then? So St. Paul introduces a difficulty or objection arising out of the preceding argument (cf. Romans 3:5). Shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound? Referring to the whole preceding argument, and especially to the concluding verses (Romans 5:20, 21).
God forbid. How shall we, that are dead to sin, live any longer therein?
Verse 2. - God forbid! (Μὴ γένοιτο: St. Paul's usual way of rejecting an idea indignantly). We who (οἵτινες, with its proper meaning of being such as) died (not, as in the Authorized Version, "are dead." The reference is to the time of baptism, as appears from what follows) to sin, how shall we live any longer therein! The idea of dying to sin in the sense of having done with it, is found also in Macrob., 'Somn. Scip.,' 1:13 (quoted by Meyer), "Mori etiam dicitur, cum anima adhuc in corpora constituta corporeas illecebras philosophia docente contemnit et cupiditatum dulces insidias reliquasque omnes exuit passiones."
Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into his death?
Verse 3. - Or know ye not that so many of us as were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death! η}, if taken in the sense of "or," at the beginning of ver. 3, will be understood if we put what is meant thus: Do you not know that we have all died to sin? Or are you really ignorant of what your very baptism meant? But cf. Romans 7:1, where the same expression occurs, and where η} appears only to imply a question. The expression βαππτίζεσθαι εἰς οξξυρσ also in 1 Corinthians 10:2 and Galatians 3:27; in the first of these texts with reference to the Israelites and Moses. It denotes the entering by baptism into close union with a person, coming to belong to him, so as to be in a sense identified with him. In Galatians 3:27 being baptized into Christ is understood as implying putting him on (ἐνεδύσασθε) The phrases, βαπτιξεῖν ἐπὶ τῷ ὀνόματι, or ἐν τῷ ὀνόματι, or εἰς τὸ ὄνομα, were understood to imply the same idea, though not so plainly expressing it. Thus St. Paul rejoiced that he had not himself baptized many at Corinth, lest it might have been said that he had baptized them into his own name (εἰς τὸ ἐμὸν ὄνομα), i.e. into such connection with himself as baptism implied with Christ alone. Doubtless in the instruction which preceded baptism this significance of the sacrament would be explained. And if "into Christ," then "into his death." "In Christum, inquam, totum, adeoque in mortem ejus baptizatur" (Bengel). The whole experience of Christ was understood to have its counterpart in those who were baptized into him; in them was understood a death to sin, corresponding to his actual death. This, too, would form part of the instruction of catechumens. St. Paul often presses it as what he conceives to be well understood; and in subsequent verses of this chapter he further explains what he means.
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.
Verse 4. - Therefore we were buried (not are, as in the Authorized Version) with him by baptism into death; that like as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, so we also should walk in newness of life. The mention here of burial as well as death does not appear to be meant as a further carrying out of the idea of a fulfilment in us of the whole of Christ's experience, in the sense - As he died and was buried, so we die and are even buried too. Such a conception of burial being in our case a further process subsequent to our death in baptism, is indeed well expressed in our Collect for Easter Eve: but the form of expression, "buried into death," does not suit it here. The reference rather is to the form of baptism, viz. by immersion, which was understood to signify burial, and therefore death. So Chrysostom, on John 3, Καθάπερ γὰρ ἐν τινι τάφῳ τῷ ὕδατι καταδύοντων ἡμῶν τᾶς κεφαλὰς ὁ παλαὶος ἄνθρωπος θάπτεται καὶ καταδὺς κάτω κρύπτεται ὅλος καθάπαξ. The main intention of the verse is to bring out the idea of resurrection following death in our case as in Christ's. The sense, therefore, is - As our burial (or total immersion) in the baptismal water was followed by entire emergence, so our death with Christ to sin, which that immersion symbolized, is to be followed by our resurrection with him to a new life. As to the δόξα τοῦ πατρὸς, through which Christ is here said to have been raised, see what was said under Romans 3:23. "Δόξα est gloria divinae vitae, incorruptiblitatis, potentiae, et virtutis, per quam et Christus resuscitatus est, et nos vitae novas restituimur, Deoque conformamur. Ephesians 1:19, seqq." (Bengel). In some passages our Lord is regarded as having been raised from the dead in virtue of the Divine life that was in himself, whereby it was impossible that he should be holden of death. (see under Romans 1:4). And he said of his own ψυχή, "I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again" (John 10:18). But . here as most commonly elsewhere, his resurrection is attributed to the operation of the glory of the Father - the same Divine power that regenerates us in him (cf. 1 Corinthians 6:14; 2 Corinthians 13:4; Ephesians 1:19, etc.; Colossians 2:12; also our Lord's own prayers to the Father previously to his suffering, as given by St. John). The two views are not inconsistent, and may serve to show Christ's oneness with the Father as touching his Godhead. The marked association here and elsewhere of union with Christ, so as to die and rise again with him, with the rite of baptism, supports the orthodox view of that sacrament being not only a signum significans, but a signum efficax; as not only representing, but being "a means whereby we receive" regeneration. The beginning of the new life of believers, with the power as well as the obligation to lead such a life, is ever regarded as dating from their baptism (cf. Galatians 3:27; Colossians 2:12). It is true, however, that in all such passages in the New Testament the baptism of adults is referred to; that is, of persons who at the time of baptism were capable of actual repentance and faith, and hence of actual moral regeneration, and they are supposed to have understood the significance of the rite, and to have been sincere in seeking it. Hence what is said or implied cannot fairly be pressed as applicable in all respects to infant baptism. This, however, is not the place for discussing the propriety of infant baptism, or the sense in which all baptized persons are regarded by the Church as in their very baptism regenerate.
For if we have been planted together in the likeness of his death, we shall be also in the likeness of his resurrection:
Verse 5. - For if we have been planted together in the likeness of his death, we shall be also in the likeness of his resurrection. So the Authorized Version. But the English word "planted" (though the idea expressed by it has the support of Origen, Chrysostom, and other ancient Fathers; also of the Vulgate, and, among moderns, Beza, Luther, and others; while some, including Erasmus, Calvin, Estius, Cornelius a Lapide, understand "engrafted") probably suggests what was not intended. Σύμφυτος is from συμφύω (not συμφυτεύω), and need only express being made to grow together in close association. In classic authors it commonly means innate. It seems here used, not to introduce a new figure, whether of planting or grafting, but only to express the close union with Christ, already intimated, into which we entered in baptism. The Revised Version has "have become united with him," which may perhaps sufficiently express what is meant, though hardly a satisfactory rendering of σύμφυτοι, Tyndale and Cranmer translate "graft in deeth lyke unto him;" and perhaps "graft into" may be as good a rendering as any other. Meyer, Tholuck, Alford, and others take the dative τῷ ὁμοιώματι as governed by σύμφυτοι, equivalent to ὁμοίως ἀπεθάνομεν ὥσπερ αὐτὸς (Tholuck). But it may be better to understand Ξριστῷ: "Graft into Christ, in the likeness of his death," τῷ ὁμοιώματι being added because Christ's death and ours, in the senses intended, are not the same kind of death literally, ours only corresponding to, and in a certain sense like his. The main purpose of this verse, as of ver. 4, is to press resurrection with Christ as following death with him. But why here the future ἐσόμεθα? Did we not rise with Christ to a new life when we emerged from our baptismal burial? Future verbs are used also with a similar reference in ver. 8 and ver. 14. Now, there are three senses in which our resurrection with Christ may be understood.

(1) As above (cf. Colossians 2:12, etc., where the expression is συνηγέρθητε).

(2) Our realization of our position of power and obligation in subsequent life - actually in practice "dying from sin and rising again unto righteousness" (cf. below, vers. 12-14).

(3) The resurrection of the dead hereafter. Some (including Tertullian, Chrysostom, (Ecumenins) have taken sense

(3) to be here intended; but, though the words themselves, ἐσόμεθα and συζήσομεν in ver. 8, suggest this sense, it can hardly be intended here, at any rate exclusively or prominently, since the drift of the whole passage is to insist on the necessity of an ethical resurrection now; and it is evident that the clause before us corresponds with οὕτω καὶ ἥμεις, etc., in the previous verse, and to ver. 11, et seq. The future ἐσόμεθα is understood by some as only expressing consequence - a necessary conclusion from a premiss, thus: If such a thing is the case, such other thing will follow. If so, sense (1) might still be understood; so that the idea would be the same as in Colossians 2:12, etc., viz. that of our rising in baptism itself to a new life with Christ, in which sin need not, and ought not to, have dominion. But still the repeated use of the future tense (especially ἁμαρτία ὑμῶν οὐ κυριεύσει in ver. 14), together with the whole drift of what follows, seems rather to imply sense (2); that is, our realization of our position in our actual lives subsequent to baptism. If it be objected that in this case we should expect "we ought to be" rather than "we shall be" it may be replied that it is what God will do for us, rather than what we shall do for ourselves, that the apostle has in view. If he has made us partakers in the atoning death of Christ, having forgiven us all trespasses, etc. (Colossians 2:13, seq.), he will also make us partakers, as our life goes on, in the power of his resurrection too, delivering us from sin's dominion. Further, if this be so, the thought may also include sense (3) For elsewhere the future resurrection seems to be regarded as only the consummation of a spiritual resurrection which is begun in the present life, Christians being already partakers in the eternal life of God, of which the issue is immortality; cf. Ephesians 1:5, 6; Colossians 3:3, 4; Galatians 2:20; also our Lord's own words, which are peculiarly significant in this regard, "He that heareth my word, and believeth on him that sent me, hath everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation; but is passed from death unto life. Verily, verily, I say unto you. The hour is coming, and now is, when the dead shall hear the voice of the Son of God: and they that hear shall live" (John 5:24, 25). Again, "I am the Resurrection, and the Life: he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live: and whosoever liveth and believeth in me shall never die' (John 11:25, 26).
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.
Verses 6, 7. - Knowing this (cf. η} ἀγνοεῖτε, ver. 3), that our old man was (not is, as in the Authorized Version) crucified with him that the body of sin might be destroyed (or abolished, or done away, καταργήθῃ), that henceforth we should not serve (δουλεύειν, expressing bondage, or slavery; and so throughout the chapter in the word δοῦλοι, translated "servants") sin. For he that hath died is freed from sin. The word "crucified" has, of course, reference to the mode of Christ's death into which we were baptized. It does not imply anything further (as some have supposed) as to the manner of our own spiritual dying, such as painfulness or lingering; it merely means that in his death our old man died (cf. Colossians 2:14, προφηλώσας αὐτὸ τῷ σταυρῷ). The term "old man" (παλαὶος ἄνθρωπος) occurs also Ephesians 4:22; Colossians 3:9. It denotes man's unregenerate self, when under sin and condemnation; the καινός or νεος ἄνθρωπος being his regenerate self. It is, of course, a different conception from that of ἐξω and ὁ ἔσωθεν ἄνθωππος of 2 Corinthians 4:16. In Ephesians and Colossians the old man is said to be put away, or put off, and the new one put on, as though they were two clothings, or investments, of his personality, determining its character. Here, by a bolder figure, they are viewed as an old self that had died and a new one that had come to life in its place (cf. 2 Corinthians 5:17, Αἴ τις ἐν Ξριστῷ καινὴ κτίσις τὰ ἀρχαῖα παρῆλθεν). The idea of a new man being born into a new life in baptism was already familiar to the Jews in their baptism of proselytes (see Lightfoot, on John 3.); and our Lord, discoursing to Nicodemus of the new birth, supposes him to understand the figure; but he teaches him that the change thus expressed should be no mere change of profession and habits of life, but a radical inward change, which could only be wrought by the regenerating Spirit. Such a change St. Paul teaches to be signified by Christian baptism; not only deliverance from condemnation through participation in the benefits of the death of Christ, but also the birth or creation of a new self corresponding to his risen body, which will not be, like the old self, under the thraldom of sin. "The body of sin" may be taken as meaning much the same as "our old man;" sin being conceived as embodied in our former selves, and so possessing them and keeping them in bondage. It certainly does not mean simply our bodies as distinct from our souls, so as to imply the idea that the former must be macerated that the latter may live. The asceticism inculcated elsewhere in the New Testament is in no contradiction to the ideal of mens sana in corpore sano. Our former sin-possessed and sin-dominated personality being now crucified with Christ, dead, and done away with, we are no longer, in our new personality, in slavery to sin, and are both bound and able to renounce it; "for he that hath died is freed [δεδικαίωται, literally, 'is justified'] from sin." In Scotland, one who is executed is said to be justified, the idea apparently being that he has satisfied the claims of law. So here ' δεδικαίωται. The word δουλεύειν, be it observed, in ver. 6 introduces by the way the second figure under which, as above said, the apostle regards his subject, though it is not taken up till ver. 16.
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:
Verse 8. - Now if we died with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with him; i.e. as explained with regard to the future ἐσόμεθα under ver. 5. The explanation there given accounts for the phrase here, πιστεύομεν ὅτι, without its being necessary to refer our living with Christ exclusively to the future resurrection. For the continuance of God's vivifying grace during life after baptism is a subject of belief.
Knowing that Christ being raised from the dead dieth no more; death hath no more dominion over him.
Verse 9. - Knowing that Christ being raised from the dead dieth no more; death hath no more dominion over him. When it is implied here that death had once dominion over him, it is not, of course, meant that he was in his own Divide nature subject to death, or that . 'it was possible that he should be holden of it." All that is implied is that he had made himself subject to it by taking on him our nature, and voluntarily submitted to it, once for all, as representing us (cf. John 10:17; Acts 2:24).
For in that he died, he died unto sin once: but in that he liveth, he liveth unto God.
Verse 10. - For in that he died, he died unto sin once: but in that he liveth, he liveth unto God. "Died unto sin" certainly does not mean here, as some have taken it, died by reason of sin, or to atone for sin, but has the sense, elsewhere obvious in this chapter, of ἀποθνήσκειν, followed by a dative, which was explained under ver. 2. Christ was, indeed, never subject to sin, or himself infected with it, as we are; but he "bore the sins of many;" "the Lord laid on him the iniquity of us all." He submitted for us to the condition and penalty of human sin; but, when he died, he threw off its burden, and was done with it for ever (cf. Hebrews 9:28, "Unto them that look for him shall he appear the second time without sin unto salvation"). The purpose of thus describing the permanent life to God of the risen Christ is, of course, to show that the new life of us who are accounted to have risen with Christ must in like manner be permanent and free from sin. "Quo docere vult hanc vitae novitatem tota vila esse Christianis persequendam, Nam si Christi imaginem in se repraesentare debent, hanc perpetuo durare necesse est. Non quod uno momento emoriatur caro in nobis, sicuti nuper diximus: sed quia retrocedere in ea mortificanda non liceat. Si enim in coenum nostrum revolvimur, Christum abnegamus; cujus nisi per vitae novitatem consortes esse non possumus, sicut ipse vitam incorruptibilem agit" (Calvin). The next verse expresses this clearly.
Likewise reckon ye also yourselves to be dead indeed unto sin, but alive unto God through Jesus Christ our Lord.
Verse 11. - Even so reckon ye also yourselves to be dead indeed unto sin, but alive unto God in Christ Jesus our Lord. In the verses which follow (12-14) the apostle exhorts his readers to do their own part in realizing this their union with the risen Christ, to give effect to the regenerating grace of God. For their baptism had been but the beginning of their new life; it depended on themselves whether sanctification should follow on regeneration, as it needs must do in order to salvation.
Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, that ye should obey it in the lusts thereof.
Verse 12. - Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, that ye should obey the lusts thereof. (The reading of the Textus Receptus, "obey it in the lusts thereof," has but weak support.) Though our "old man" is conceived of as crucified with Christ - though this is theoretically and potentially our position - yet our actual lives may be at variance with it; for we are still in our present "mortal body," with its lusts remaining; and sin is still a power, not yet destroyed, which may, if we let it, have domination over us still. Regeneration is not regarded as having changed our nature, or eradicated all our evil propensions, but as having introduced into us a higher power - "the power of his resurrection" (Philippians 3:10) - in virtue of which we may resist the attempted domination of sin. But it still rests with us whether we will give our allegiance to sin or to Christ. Οὐ γὰρ τὴν φύσιν η΅λθεν ἀνελεῖν ἀλλὰ τὴν προαίρεσιν διορθῶσαι (Chrysostom). The lusts, obedience to which is equivalent to letting sin reign, are said to be those of our "mortal body," because it is in our present bodily organization that the lusts tempting us to evil rise. But it is not in their soliciting us, but in the will assenting to them, that the sin lies. "Quia non consentimus desideriis pravis in gratia sumus" (Augustine, 'Prop.,' 35). "Cupiditates corporis sunt fomes, peccatum ignis" (Bengel). The epithet θνητῷ ("mortal") is fitly used as distinguishing our present perishable framework - the earthen vessels in which we have our treasure (2 Corinthians 4:7) - from our real inward personality, ἔσωθεν ἄνθρωπος (2 Corinthians 4:16), which is regarded as having risen with Christ, so as to live to God for ever. "Vos enim, viventes, abalienati estis a corpore vestro (cf. Romans 8:10)" (Bengel).
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.
Verse 13. - Neither yield ye your members as instruments of unrighteousness unto sin: but yield yourselves unto God, as being alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness unto God. By our members seem to be meant, not merely the several parts of our bodily frame - eye. tongue, hand, foot, etc. - but generally all the parts or constituents of our present human nature, which sin may use as its instruments, but which ought to be devoted to God (cf. Colossians 3:5). Many commentators would translate ὅπλα "weapons" rather than "instruments," on the ground that St. Paul usually uses the word in this sense (Romans 13:12; 2 Corinthians 6:7; 2 Corinthians 10:4; Ephesians 6:11, 13); and also that ὀψώνια in ver. 22, taken in the sense of the pay of a soldier (as in Luke 3:14; 1 Corinthians 9:7), is supposed to imply that the apostle has had all along the idea of warfare in view. The second of these reasons really proves nothing. Whatever the meaning of ὀψώνια in ver. 23, it is too far removed from the passage before us to be taken in any connection with it. Neither is the first reason at all cogent. Ὅπλα bears the sense of instruments as well as of weapons, and may more suitably bear it here. When St. Paul elsewhere speaks of armour, it is the armour of light, or of righteousness, which we are told to take up, and to put on, in order to fight against our spiritual enemies. Such a conception is inapplicable to our own members, which we have already, which we may use either for good or evil, and which require the protection of heavenly armour rather than being themselves armour; and we certainly could not be told to take them up or put them on. We may, in the next place, observe that the two clauses of this verse are differently expressed in two respects.

(1) It is our members only that we are forbidden to yield to sin; but ourselves, with our members, we are bidden to yield to God. For few of the persons addressed, if even any, could be supposed, deliberately and of choice, to offer their whole being to the service of sin as such; they were only liable to succumb to sin, in this or that way, through soliciting lusts. But the regenerate Christian offers and presents his whole serf to God, and desires to be his entirely.

(2) In the first clause we find the present imperative, παριστάνετε; but in the second the aorist imperative, παραστήσατε. The distinction between the two tenses in the imperative is thus expressed in Matthiae's 'Greek Grammar:' "that the aorist designates an action passing by, and considered abstractedly in its completion, but the present a continued and frequently repeated action." Our giving ourselves to God is something done once for all; our yielding our members as instruments of sin is a succession of acts of yielding.
For sin shall not have dominion over you: for ye are not under the law, but under grace.
Verse 14. - For sin shall not have dominion over you; for ye are not under law, but under grace. As to the force of the future here, οὐ κυριεύσει, see what was said under ver. 5. Here also no more seems, at first sight, to be meant than that God, if we respond to his grace, will not let sin have dominion over us; we shall, in fact, if we are willing, be enabled to resist it. "Invitos nos non coget [peccatum] ad serviendum tibi" (Bengel). And the reason given is suitable to this meaning: "For ye are not under law" (which, while it makes sin sinful and exacts its full penalty, imparts no power to overcome it), "but under grace" (which does communicate such power). Thus understanding the verse, we see the distinction between βασιλευέτω in ver. 12 and κυριεύσει here. In ver. 12 we are exhorted not to let sin reign; we are to own no allegiance to it as a king whose rule we must obey. But it still will try to usurp lordship over us - in vain, however, if we resist the usurpation: οὑ κυριεύσει ἡμῶν. The sense thus given to the verse is what its own language and the previous context suggest. But ver. 15, which follows, suggests a different meaning. "What then? shall we sin, because we are not under law, but under grace?" Such a question could not arise on the statement of the preceding verse, if its meaning were understood to be that grace will enable us to avoid sin; it rather supposes the meaning that grace condones sin. Hence, in ver. 15 at least, a different aspect of the difference between being under law and being under grace seems evidently to come in; namely, this - that the principle of law is to exact complete obedience to its behests; but the principle of grace is to accept faith in lieu of complete obedience. If, then, ἁμαρτία ὑμῶν οὐ κυριεύσει in ver. 14 is to be understood in agreement with this idea, it must mean, "Sin, though it still infects you, shall not lord it over you so as to bring you into condemnation." Calvin has a good note on the verse. He allows the first of the expositions of it given above to be "una quae caeteris prohabilius sustineri queat." But he thinks that ver. 15, following, requires the other, and he concludes thus: "Vult enim nos consolari apostolus, ne animis fatiscamus in studio bene agendi, propterea quod multas imperfectiones adhuc in nobis sentiamus. Uteunque enim peccati aculeis vexemut, non petest tamen nos subigere, quia Spiritu Dei superiores reddimur: deinde in gratia constituti, sumus liberati a rigida Legis exactione." It may be that the apostle, when he wrote ver. 14, meant what the previous context suggests, but passed on in ver. 15 to the other idea in view of the way in which his words might be understood. In what follows next (vers. 15-23) is introduced the second illustration (see former note), drawn from the human relations between masters and slaves. It comes in by way of meeting the supposed abuse of the statement of ver. 14; but it serves as a further proof of the general position that is being upheld. The word κυριεύσει in ver. 14 suggests this particular illustration. We being under grace, it had been said, sin will not be our master, whence the inference was supposed to be drawn that we may sin with impunity, and without thereby subjecting ourselves to the mastery of sin. Nay, it is replied, but it will be our master, if in practice we consent to be its servants.
What then? shall we sin, because we are not under the law, but under grace? God forbid.
Verses 15, 16. - What then? shall we sin, because we are not under law, but under grace! (Does being under grace mean that we may allow ourselves in sin without being under sin's thraldom?) God forbid. Know ye not, that to whom ye yield yourselves servants to obey (literally, unto obedience), his servants ye are to whom ye obey; whether of sin unto death, or of obedience unto righteousness? This is not a truism, as it would seem to be if it only meant, "whoso servants ye become, his servants ye are." "Ye yield yourselves" (παριστάνετε, cf. ver. 13) denotes acts of yielding. "Ye are" (ἕστε) denotes condition. The meaning is that by our conduct we show which master we are under; and we cannot serve two (Matthew 6:24; Luke 16:13; cf. John 8:34, "Whosoever committeth sin is the servant of sin;" and 1 John 3:7, "He that doeth righteousness is righteous"). The two incompatible services are here said to be of sin and of obedience, with their respective tendencies or results, death and righteousness. A more exact antithesis to the first clause would have been "of righteousness unto life;" life being the proper antithesis of death, and righteousness being afterwards said, in vers. 18 and 19, to be what we ought to be in bondage to. But though the sentence seems thus defective in form, its meaning is plain. Ὑπακοῆς means here specifically obedience to God, not obedience to any master as in ver. 16; and though in English "servants of obedience," as though obedience were a master, is an awkward phrase, yet we might properly say, "servants of duty," in opposition to "servants of sin;" and this is what is meant. It may be that the apostle purposely avoided here speaking of believers being slaves of righteousness in the sense in which they had been slaves of sin, because subjection to righteousness is not properly slavery, but willing obedience. He uses the expression, indeed, afterwards (ver. 18), but adds at once, ἀνθρώπινον λέγω, etc. (see note on this last expression). Death, "unto" which the service of sin is here said to be, cannot be mere natural death, to which all are subject. Meyer (with Chrysostom, Theophylact, and other ancients) takes it to mean eternal death, as the final result of bondage to sin; δικαιοσύνη, antithetically correlative, being regarded as applying to the time of final perfection of the faithful in the world to come - "the righteousness which is awarded to them in the judgment." Seeing, however, that the word δικαιοσύνη is used throughout the Epistle to denote what is attainable in this present life, and that θάνατος is often used to express a state of spiritual death, which men may be in at any time (see additional note on ver. 12; and cf. Romans 7:9, 10, 13, 24; Romans 8:6, 13; also John 5:24; 1 John 3:14), it is at least a question whether the final doom of the last judgment is here at all exclusively in the apostle's view.
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.
Verses 17, 18. - But thanks be to God, that ye were the servants of sin, but ye obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine whereunto ye were delivered. (Not, as in the Authorized Version, which was delivered you). Being then made free from sin, ye became the servants of righteousness. There is no contradiction between what is here said and the fear previously implied lest the persons addressed might still serve sin. He refers them back to the time of their baptism, when he conceives them both to have understood their obligation (cf. ver. 3), and also to have been heartily sincere. The fear was lest they might have relaxed since, perhaps through infection with antinomian teaching. By the "form of doctrine" or "of instruction" (τύπον διδαχῆς) is not at all likely to be meant (as some have supposed) any distinctive type of Christian teaching, such as the Pauline (so Meyer). Usually elsewhere, where St. Paul uses the word τύπος, it is of persons being examples or patterns to others (1 Corinthians 10:6; Philippians 3:17; 1 Thessalonians 1:7; 2 Thessalonians 3:9; 1 Timothy 4:12; Titus 2:7). Somewhat similarly, in Romans 5:14, Adam is τύπος τοῦ μέλλοντος; and in 1 Corinthians 10:6 the things which happened to the Israelites in the wilderness were τύποι to us. These are all the instances of the use of the word in St. Paul's Epistles. Here, therefore, it may be best to understand it (so as to retain the idea of pattern) as the general Christian code into which converts had been indoctrinated, regarded as a norton agendi "Norma ilia et regula, ad quam se conformat servus, tautum ei per doctrinam ostenditur; urgeri eum non opus est" (Bengel on διδαχῆς).
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.
Verse 19. - I speak after the manner of men because of the infirmity of your flesh. Here ἀνθρώπινον λέγω ("I speak humanly") may be taken as referring to the expression immediately preceding, viz. ἐδουλώθητε τῇ δικαιοσύνῃ. St. Paul may mean, "In saying you were made slaves to righteousness, I am using human language not properly applicable to your spiritual relations. For you are not really in bondage now; you have been emancipated from your former bondage to sin, and are now called upon to render a free willing allowance to righteousness; being, in fact, sons, not slaves." This view of the true position of the Christian being one of freedom recurs so often and so forcibly with St. Paul that it is peculiarly likely to be the thought before him here; the very word ἐδουλώθητε would be likely to suggest it (cf. Romans 8:15, seq.; 2 Corinthians 3:17; Galatians 4:4-7; Galatians 5:1, 13). If (he would say) you fully realized your position as sons of God, you would feel it impossible even to think of sinning willingly; but, in accommodation to your human weakness, I put the case as if you had only been transferred from one bondage to another, so as to show that, even so, you are under an obligation not to sin. According to this view of the meaning of the passage, "the infirmity of your flesh" has reference to dulness of spiritual perception, σάρξ being opposed in a general sense to πνεῦμα. Had they been πνευματικοὶ, they would have discerned τὰ τοῦ πνεύματος τοῦ Θεοῦ without need of any such human view of the matter being put before them (cf. 1 Corinthians 2:14). Some, however, taking ἀσθένειαν τῆς σαρκὸς to denote moral weakness, which renders the attainment of holiness difficult for man (cf Mark 14:38), understand ἀνθρώπινον λέγω as meaning, "I require of you no more than is possible Ñ for your frail humanity; for I call on you only to render to righteousness the same allegiance you once rendered to sin." This interpretation gives a totally different meaning to the clause. It has the support of Origen, Chrysostom, Theodoret, Calvin, Estius, Wetstein, and others; but it does not appear so natural or probable as the other, which is accepted by most modern commentators. For as ye yielded your members servants to uncleanness and to iniquity unto iniquity; even so now yield your members servants to righteousness unto sanctification (rather than holiness, as in the Authorized Version; the word is ἁγιασμός, always so translated elsewhere). This is a setting forth of what must follow in practice from the view that has been taken of the change in the Christian's position resembling the transference of bondservants from one master to another. They must devote their members (see above on ver. 13) to the service of the new master in the same way as they had done to that of the old one; the aims or results of the two services being also intimated. The old service was in giving themselves up to uncleanness (with reference to sins of sensuality), and generally to ἀνομίᾳ, i.e. lawlessness, or disregard of duty; and its result is expressed by a repetition of the latter word. For sin leads to nothing positive; lawless conduct only results in a habit or state of lawlessness; whereas the service of righteousness in itself leads to sanctification to the abiding result of participation in the holiness of God. "Qui justitiae serviunt, proficiunt; ἄνομοι, iniqui, sunt iniqui, nil amplius" (Bengel).
For when ye were the servants of sin, ye were free from righteousness.
Verses 20-23. - For when ye were the servants of sin, ye were free from righteousness (more literally, to righteousness; i.e. ye were not in any bondage to righteousness). What fruit had ye then (i.e. when you were formerly slaves of sin) in those things whereof ye are now ashamed?, for the end of those things is death. But now being made free from sin, and made servants to God, ye have your fruit unto sanctification; and the end life eternal. For the wages of sin is death; but the free gift of god is life eternal in Christ Jesus our Lord. The logical connection with the previous context of the above series of verses, beginning with ver. 20, as well as the sequence of thought running through them (intimated by the particles γὰρ σῦν, and δὲ), is not at once obvious. It seems to be as follows: the γὰρ in ver. 20 introduces a reason for the exhortation of ver. 19, παραστήσατε, etc. But ver. 20 is not in itself the reason, being only an introduction to the statement of it in the verses that follow. The drift of the whole passage seems to be this: Yield ye your members to the sole service of righteousness; for (ver. 20) ye were once in the sole service of sin, owning no allegiance to righteousness at all; and (ver. 21) what fruit had ye from that service? None at all; for ye know that the only end of the things ye did then, and of which ye are now ashamed, is death. But (ver. 22) your new service has its fruit: it leads to your sanctification now, and in the end eternal life. Authorities, however, both ancient and modern, are divided as to the punctuation, and consequent construction, of ver. 21. In the Vulgate and the Authorized Version (as in the interpretation given above) the stop of interrogation is placed after "ashamed;" the answer, none, being understood, and "for the end," etc., being the reason why there is no fruit The other way is to take the question as ending at "had ye then," and "those things whereof," etc., as the answer to it, and for the end, etc., as the reason why they are ashamed. Thus: "What fruit had ye then (when you were free from righteousness)? The works (or pleasures) of which you are now ashamed were the only fruit; you are ashamed of them now; for their end is death." The latter interpretation is defended by Alford on the ground that it is more consistent "with the New Testament meaning of καρπός, which is 'actions,' the ' fruit of the man' considered as the tree, not 'wages' or 'reward,' the 'fruit of his actions.'" This is true. But, on the other hand, it may be argued that such use of the word καρπός by St. Paul is always in a good sense; he usually regards sin as having no fruits at all; to the fruit of the Spirit is opposed, not any fruit of a different character, but the works (ἔργα) of the flesh (Galatians 5:19, 22); and in Ephesians 5:11 (again in opposition to the fruit of the Spirit) he speaks of the unfruitful works (ἔργοις τοῖς ἀκάρποις) of darkness. Thus the idea of ver. 21, understood as in the Authorized Version, seems closely to correspond with that of the passage last cited. "The things of which ye are now ashamed," in ver. 21, are "the works of darkness" of Ephesians 5:11; and in both places they are declared to have no fruit. Sin is a barren tree, and only ends in death. Cf. what was said above with respect to εἰς τὴν ἀνομίαν and εἰς ἁγιασμόν in ver. 19. It is true, however, that the expression in the next chapter, καρποφορῆσαι τῷ θανάτῳ (Romans 7:5), in opposition to καρποφορήσωμεν τῷ Θεῷ, in some degree weakens the force of the above argument. We observe, lastly, on ver. 23, that to the "wages" of sin (ὀψώνια , used usually to denote a soldier's pay) is opposed "free gift" (χάρισμα for sin earns death as its due reward; but eternal life is not earned by us, but granted us by the grace of God. As to the phrase, δουλωθέντες τῷ Θεῷ, in ver. 22, it can be used without the need of any such apology as seems to be implied in ver. 19 (according to the meaning of the verse that has been preferred) for speaking of our becoming slaves to righteousness. For we do belong to God as his δοῦλοι, and to Christ, having been "bought with a price" (cf. 1 Corinthians 7:23); and St. Paul at the beginning of his Epistles often calls himself δοῦλος Ξριστοῦ (cf. also Luke 17:10). But it does not follow that our service should be the service of slaves; it may be a free, willing, enthusiastic obedience notwithstanding; we obey, not because we are under bondage to obey, but because love inspires us (cf. Galatians 4:6, etc., "Because ye are sons, God sent the Spirit of his Son into your hearts, crying, Abba, Father. Wherefore thou art no longer a servant, but a son").

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.
The Pulpit Commentary, Electronic Database. Copyright © 2001, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2010 by BibleSoft, inc., Used by permission

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