For sin shall not have dominion over you: for you are not under the law, but under grace.
Wherein lies the force of the reason advanced? What is there in the covenant of grace, as set in contrast with the covenant of works, on which to rest the above declaration? At first sight we might be apt to suppose (arguing from the tendencies and susceptibilities of the human constitution) that men would be more energetic after holiness if left to earn heaven for themselves than if invited to accept it as a gift. But on second thoughts this will not be found so. Look at —
I. THE COVENANT OF WORKS.
1. As it requires perfect obedience without containing any provision for pardon, mediation, or escape, will it not produce despair and even recklessness to fallen beings in whom there is a tendency to sin, and a decay in all the powers of resistance, and who at the best can only give an imperfect obedience, which is of no avail?
2. Such is the constitution of our nature that the prospect of success is indispensable for vigour and exertion. Place me, therefore, under a covenant of works — shut out from me all notices of a Redeemer — read me that, by keeping them, I may insure myself a blessed immortality — and I shall either fold my arms in inactivity or resign myself to my sinfulness, Why mortify imperious desires, why deny craving appetites in the face of a moral certainty that I could not come up to what the law demanded, and that, if I failed, I was irretrievably condemned? No, there must be some provision in the case of failure, else will there never be any effort to obey. There must be room for second thoughts for repentance, otherwise will the law, with all its rewards, be set at nought as unadapted to the beings on whom it is imposed.
II. THE COVENANT OF GRACE.
1. There is an energy of motive of the most powerful character. There is more — immeasurably more — to lead to the hatred of sin and the striving after holiness in the fact that Christ died for me than in a thousand statute books with multiplied enactments and many rewards. Only let this fact seat itself in the soul, and it must excite such love to the Being who bought us with His blood — such abhorrence of the sin which caused that blood to be shed — as will urge a man to exert every power that he may not crucify the Son of God afresh. And as he gathers all his strength to the overcoming of evil, urged by the freeness of salvation as proffered to him — every blessing reminding him of Calvary, every promise being eloquent of the great propitiation — and thus the whole Christian system exciting, in all its workings, recollections which make him shun even the appearance of evil — oh, will he not furnish the strongest practical evidence that St. Paul advanced an argument which made good his proposition when he gave, "Ye are not under the law, but under grace" as his reason for saying, "Sin shall not have dominion over you"?
2. The words are also a promise or prophecy.
(1) They point to Divine assistance. They assure us of the aids of the Holy Spirit in the mortification of evil passions, the abandonment of evil pursuits, and in the attainment of holiness and righteousness.
(2) Hence the gospel makes victory possible — nay, sure — exciting the spirit and then providing the means of resistance. It does all which the moral combatant can need; so that he who would have succumbed at once, feeling the case to be desperate, had he been brought under the law, girds himself to the task of the resisting of sin because brought under grace.
(H. Melvill, B. D.)
Parallel VersesKJV: For sin shall not have dominion over you: for ye are not under the law, but under grace.