Commentary Critical and Explanatory
on the Whole Bible
GRACE UPON A
1. What, &c.--The subject of this third division of our
Epistle announces itself at once in the opening question, "Shall we
(or, as the true reading is, "May we," "Are we to") continue in sin,
that grace may abound?" Had the apostle's doctrine been that salvation
depends in any degree upon our good works, no such objection to
it could have been made. Against the doctrine of a purely gratuitous
justification, the objection is plausible; nor has there ever been an
age in which it has not been urged. That it was brought against
the apostles, we know from
and we gather from
that some did give occasion to the charge; but that it was a total
perversion of the doctrine of Grace the apostle here proceeds to
2. God forbid--"That be far from us"; the instincts of the new
creature revolting at the thought.
How shall we, that are dead, &c.--literally, and more forcibly, "We
who died to sin (as presently to be explained), how shall we live any
3. Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus
were baptized into his death?--sealed with the seal of heaven, and as
it were formally entered and articled, to all the benefits and all
the obligations of Christian discipleship in general, and of His
death in particular. And since He was "made sin" and "a curse for
"bearing our sins in His own body on the tree," and "rising again for
our whole sinful case and condition, thus taken up into His Person, has
been brought to an end in His death. Whoso, then, has been baptized
into Christ's death has formally surrendered the whole state and life
of sin, as in Christ a dead thing. He has sealed himself to be not only
"the righteousness of God in Him," but "a new creature"; and as he
cannot be in Christ to the one effect and not to the other, for they
are one thing, he has bidden farewell, by baptism into Christ's death,
to his entire connection with sin. "How," then, "can he live any longer
therein?" The two things are as contradictory in the fact as they are
in the terms.
4. Therefore we are--rather, "were" (it being a past act, completed
buried with him, by baptism into death--(The comma we
have placed after "him" will show what the sense is. It is not, "By
baptism we are buried with Him into death," which makes no sense at
all; but, "By baptism with Him into death we are buried with
Him"; in other words, "By the same baptism which publicly enters us
into His death, we are made partakers of His burial
also"). To leave a dead body unburied is represented, alike in heathen
authors as in Scripture, as the greatest indignity
(Re 11:8, 9).
It was fitting, therefore, that Christ, after "dying for our sins
according to the Scriptures," should "descend into the lower parts of
As this was the last and lowest step of His humiliation, so it was the
honorable dissolution of His last link of connection with that life
which He laid down for us; and we, in being "buried with Him by our
baptism into His death," have by this public act severed our last link
of connection with that whole sinful condition and life which Christ
brought to an end in His death.
that like as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the
Father--that is, by such a forth-putting of the Father's power as was the effulgence of His whole glory.
even so we also--as risen to a new life with Him.
should walk in newness of life--But what is that "newness?" Surely
if our old life, now dead and buried with Christ, was wholly sinful,
the new, to which we rise with the risen Saviour, must be altogether
a holy life; so that every time we go back to "those things whereof we
are now ashamed"
we belie our resurrection with Christ to newness of life, and "forget
that we have been purged from our old sins"
(Whether the mode of baptism by immersion be alluded to in this verse,
as a kind of symbolical burial and resurrection, does not seem to us of
much consequence. Many interpreters think it is, and it may be so. But
as it is not clear that baptism in apostolic times was exclusively by
immersion [see on
so sprinkling and washing are indifferently used in the
New Testament to express the cleansing efficacy of the blood of Jesus.
And just as the woman with the issue of blood got virtue out of Christ
by simply touching Him, so the essence of baptism seems to lie
in the simple contact of the element with the body, symbolizing
living contact with Christ crucified; the mode and extent of suffusion
being indifferent and variable with climate and circumstances).
5. For if we have been planted together--literally, "have become
formed together." (The word is used here only).
in the likeness of his death, we shall be also in the likeness of
his resurrection--that is, "Since Christ's death and resurrection
are inseparable in their efficacy, union with Him in the one carries
with it participation in the other, for privilege and for duty alike."
The future tense is used of participation in His resurrection,
because this is but partially realized in the present state. (See on
6, 7. Knowing this, &c.--The apostle now grows more definite and
vivid in expressing the sin-destroying efficacy of our union with the
that our old man--"our old selves"; that is, "all that we were
in our old unregenerate condition, before union with Christ" (compare
Col 3:9, 10;
Ga 2:20; 5:24; 6:14).
crucified with him--in order.
that the body of sin--not a figure for "the mass of sin"; nor the
"material body," considered as the seat of sin, which it is not; but
(as we judge) for "sin as it dwells in us in our present embodied state, under the law of the fall."
might be destroyed--(in Christ's death)--to the end.
that henceforth we should not serve sin--"be in bondage to sin."
7. For he that is dead--rather, "hath died."
is freed--"hath been set free."
from sin--literally, "justified," "acquitted," "got his discharge from
sin." As death dissolves all claims, so the whole claim of sin, not only
to "reign unto death," but to keep its victims in sinful bondage, has
been discharged once for all, by the believer's penal death in the death
of Christ; so that he is no longer a "debtor to the flesh to live
after the flesh"
8. Now if we be dead--"if we died."
with Christ, &c.--See on
9-11. Christ being raised from the dead dieth no more; death hath no
more dominion over him--Though Christ's death was in the most absolute
sense a voluntary act
(Joh 10:17, 18;
that voluntary surrender gave death such rightful "dominion over
Him" as dissolved its dominion over us. But this once
past, "death hath," even in that sense, "dominion over Him no
10. For in that he died, he died unto--that is, in obedience to the
sin once--for all.
but in that he liveth, he liveth unto--in obedience to the claims of
God--There never, indeed, was a time when Christ did not "live unto
God." But in the days of His flesh He did so under the continual burden
of sin "laid on Him"
whereas, now that He has "put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself," He
"liveth unto God," the acquitted and accepted Surety, unchallenged and
unclouded by the claims of sin.
11. Likewise--even as your Lord Himself.
reckon ye also yourselves to be dead indeed--"dead on the one hand"
unto sin, but alive unto God through Jesus Christ our Lord--(The words,
"our Lord," at the close of this verse, are wanting in the best
Note, (1) "Antinomianism is not only an error; it is a falsehood
and a slander" [HODGE].
That "we should continue in sin that grace may
abound," not only is never the deliberate sentiment of any real believer
in the doctrine of Grace, but is abhorrent to every Christian mind, as a
monstrous abuse of the most glorious of all truths
(2) As the death of Christ is not only the expiation of guilt, but the
death of sin itself in all who are vitally united to Him; so the
resurrection of Christ is the resurrection of believers, not only to
acceptance with God, but to newness of life
(3) In the light of these two truths, let all who name the name of
Christ "examine themselves whether they be in the faith."
UNION TO THE
Not content with showing that his doctrine has no tendency to relax the
obligations to a holy life, the apostle here proceeds to enforce these
12. Let not sin therefore--as a Master
reign--(The reader will observe that wherever in this section the words
"Sin," "Obedience," "Righteousness," "Uncleanness," "Iniquity," are
figuratively used, to represent a Master, they are here printed in
capitals, to make this manifest to the eye, and so save explanation).
in your mortal body, that ye should obey it--sin.
in the lusts thereof--"the lusts of the body," as the Greek makes
evident. (The other reading, perhaps the true one, "that ye should obey
the lusts thereof," comes to the same thing). The "body" is here viewed
as the instrument by which all the sins of the heart become facts of the
outward life, and as itself the seat of the lower appetites; and it is
called "our mortal body," probably to remind us how unsuitable is
this reign of sin in those who are "alive from the dead." But the reign
here meant is the unchecked dominion of sin within us. Its outward
acts are next referred to.
13. Neither yield ye your members instruments of unrighteousness unto
Sin, but yield yourselves--this is the great surrender.
unto God as those that are alive from the dead, and--as the fruit of
your members--till now prostituted to sin.
instruments of righteousness unto God--But what if indwelling sin
should prove too strong for us? The reply is: But it will not.
14. For Sin shall not have dominion over you--as the slaves of a tyrant
for ye are not under the law, but under grace--The force of this
glorious assurance can only be felt by observing the grounds on which
it rests. To be "under the law" is, first, to be under its claim to
entire obedience; and so, next under its curse for the breach of these.
And as all power to obey can reach the sinner only through
Grace, of which the law knows nothing, it follows that to be
"under the law" is, finally, to be shut up under an inability to
keep it, and consequently to be the helpless slave of sin.
On the other hand, to be "under grace," is to be under the glorious
canopy and saving effects of that "grace which reigns through
righteousness unto eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord" (see on
Ro 5:20, 21).
The curse of the law has been completely lifted from off them; they are
made "the righteousness of God in Him"; and they are "alive unto God
through Jesus Christ." So that, as when they were "under the law," Sin
could not but have dominion over them, so now that they are
"under grace," Sin cannot but be subdued under them. If before,
Sin resistlessly triumphed, Grace will now be more than conqueror.
15, 16. What then? . . . Know ye not--it is a dictate of
16. that to whom ye yield yourselves servants to obey--with the view of
his servants ye are to whom ye obey--to whom ye yield that obedience.
whether of Sin unto death--that is, "issuing in death," in the awful
as the sinner's final condition.
or of Obedience unto righteousness--that is, obedience resulting in a
righteous character, as the enduring condition of the servant of new
17. But God be thanked, that ye were the servants of Sin--that is,
that this is a state of things now past and gone.
but ye have obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine which was
delivered you--rather, "whereunto ye were delivered" (Margin), or
cast, as in a mould. The idea is, that the teaching to which they had
heartily yielded themselves had stamped its own impress upon them.
18. Being then--"And being"; it is the continuation and conclusion of
the preceding sentence; not a new one.
made free from Sin, ye became the servants of--"servants to"
Righteousness--The case is one of emancipation from entire
servitude to one Master to entire servitude to another, whose property
we are (see on
There is no middle state of personal independence; for which we were
never made, and to which we have no claim. When we would not that God
should reign over us, we were in righteous judgment "sold under Sin";
now being through grace "made free from Sin," it is only to become
"servants to Righteousness," which is our true freedom.
19. I speak after the manner of men--descending, for illustration, to
the level of common affairs.
because of the infirmity of your flesh--the weakness of your spiritual
for as ye have yielded--"as ye yielded," the thing being viewed as now
your members servants to Uncleanness and to Iniquity unto--the
iniquity; even so now yield your members servants to Righteousness unto
holiness--rather, "unto (the attainment of) sanctification," as the
same word is rendered in
--that is, "Looking back upon the heartiness with which ye
served Sin, and the lengths ye went to be stimulated now to like
zeal and like exuberance in the service of a better Master."
20. For when ye were the servants--"were servants"
of Sin, ye were free from--rather, "in respect of"
Righteousness--Difficulties have been made about this clause where
none exist. The import of it seems clearly to be this:--"Since no
servant can serve two masters, much less where their interests come into
deadly collision, and each demands the whole man, so, while ye were in
the service of Sin ye were in no proper sense the servants of
Righteousness, and never did it one act of real service: whatever might
be your conviction of the claims of Righteousness, your real services
were all and always given to Sin: Thus had ye full proof of the nature
and advantages of Sin's service." The searching question with which this
is followed up, shows that this is the meaning.
21. What fruit had ye then in those things whereof ye are now
ashamed? for the end of those things is death--What permanent
advantage, and what abiding satisfaction, have those
things yielded? The apostle answers his own question:--"Abiding
satisfaction, did I ask? They have left only a sense of
'shame.' Permanent advantage? 'The end of them is
death.'" By saying they were "now ashamed," he makes it
plain that he is not referring to that disgust at themselves, and
remorse of conscience by which those who are the most helplessly "sold
under sin" are often stung to the quick; but that ingenuous feeling of
self-reproach, which pierces and weighs down the children of God, as
they think of the dishonor which their past life did to His name, the
ingratitude it displayed, the violence it did to their own conscience,
its deadening and degrading effects, and the death--"the second
death"--to which it was dragging them down, when mere Grace arrested
them. (On the sense of "death" here, see on
Note 3, and
--The change proposed in the pointing of this verse: "What fruit had ye
then? things whereof ye are now ashamed" [LUTHER,
THOLUCK, DE WETTE, PHILIPPI, ALFORD, &c.], seems unnatural and uncalled for. The
ordinary pointing has at least powerful support [CHRYSOSTOM, CALVIN, BEZA, GROTIUS, BENGEL, STUART, FRITZSCHE]).
22. But now--as if to get away from such a subject were unspeakable
being made free from Sin, and become servants to God--in the absolute
sense intended throughout all this passage.
ye have--not "ought to have," but "do have," in point of fact.
your fruit unto holiness--"sanctification," as in
meaning that permanently holy state and character which is built
up out of the whole "fruits of righteousness," which believers
successively bring forth. They "have their fruit" unto this,
that is, all going towards this blessed result.
and the end everlasting life--as the final state of the justified
believer; the beatific experience not only of complete exemption from
the fall with all its effects, but of the perfect life of acceptance
with God, and conformity to His likeness, of unveiled access to Him, and
ineffable fellowship with Him through all duration.
23. For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life
Jesus Christ our Lord--This concluding verse--as pointed as it is
brief--contains the marrow, the most fine gold, of the Gospel. As the
laborer is worthy of his hire, and feels it to be his due--his own of
right--so is death the due of sin, the wages the sinner has well
wrought for, his own. But "eternal life" is in no sense or degree the
wages of our righteousness; we do nothing whatever to earn or become
entitled to it, and never can: it is therefore, in the most absolute
sense, "THE GIFT OF
GOD." Grace reigns in the bestowal of it in every
case, and that "in Jesus Christ our Lord," as the righteous Channel of
it. In view of this, who that hath tasted that the Lord is gracious can
refrain from saying, "Unto Him that loved us, and washed us from our
sins in His own blood, and hath made us kings and priests unto God and
His Father, to Him be glory and dominion for ever and ever. Amen!"
(Re 1:5, 6).
Note, (1) As the most effectual refutation of the oft-repeated
calumny, that the doctrine of Salvation by grace encourages to continue
in sin, is the holy life of those who profess it, let such ever feel
that the highest service they can render to that Grace which is all
their hope, is to "yield themselves unto God, as those that are alive
from the dead, and their members instruments of righteousness unto God"
(Ro 6:12, 13).
By so doing they will "put to silence the ignorance of foolish men,"
secure their own peace, carry out the end of their calling, and give
substantial glory to Him that loved them. (2) The fundamental principle
of Gospel obedience is as original as it is divinely rational; that "we
are set free from the law in order to keep it, and are brought
graciously under servitude to the law in order to be free"
(Ro 6:14, 15, 18).
So long as we know no principle of obedience but the terrors of the
law, which condemns all the breakers of it, and knows nothing whatever
of grace, either to pardon the guilty or to purify the stained, we are
shut up under a moral impossibility of genuine and acceptable
obedience: whereas when Grace lifts us out of this state, and through
union to a righteous Surety, brings us into a state of conscious
reconciliation, and loving surrender of heart to a God of salvation, we
immediately feel the glorious liberty to be holy, and the
assurance that "Sin shall not have dominion over us" is as sweet to our
renewed tastes and aspirations as the ground of it is felt to be firm,
"because we are not under the Law, but under Grace." (3) As this most
momentous of all transitions in the history of a man is wholly of God's
free grace, the change should never be thought, spoken, or written of
but with lively thanksgiving to Him who so loved us
(4) Christians, in the service of God, should emulate their former
selves in the zeal and steadiness with which they served sin, and the
length to which they went in it
(5) To stimulate this holy rivalry, let us often "look back to the rock
whence we were hewn, the hole of the pit whence we were digged," in
search of the enduring advantages and permanent satisfactions which the
service of Sin yielded; and when we find to our "shame" only gall and
wormwood, let us follow a godless life to its proper "end," until,
finding ourselves in the territories of "death," we are fain to hasten
back to survey the service of Righteousness, that new Master of all
believers, and find Him leading us sweetly into abiding "holiness," and
landing us at length in "everlasting life"
(6) Death and life are before all men who hear the Gospel: the one, the
natural issue and proper reward of sin; the other, the absolutely free
"GIFT OF GOD" to sinners, "in
Jesus Christ our Lord." And as the one is the conscious sense of
the hopeless loss of all blissful existence, so the other is the
conscious possession and enjoyment of all that constitutes a rational
creature's highest "life" for evermore
Ye that read or hear these words, "I call heaven and earth to record
this day against you, that I have set before you life and death,
blessing and cursing, therefore choose life, that both thou and thy
seed may live!"