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  • ADAM CLARKE'S BIBLE COMMENTARY -
    ROMANS 6

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    CHAPTER VI.

    We must not abuse the boundless goodness of God by continuing in sin, under the wicked persuasion that the more we sin the more the grace of God will abound, 1. For, having been baptized into Christ, we have professed thereby to be dead to sin, 2-4. And to be planted in the likeness of his resurrection, 5. For we profess to be crucified with him, to die and rise again from the dead, 6-11. We should not, therefore, let sin reign in our bodies, but live to the glory of God, 12-14. The Gospel makes no provision for living in sin, any more than the law did; and those who commit sin are the slaves of sin, 15-19. The degrading and afflictive service of sin, and its wages eternal death; the blessed effects of the grace of God in the heart, of which eternal life is the fruit, 20-23.

    NOTES ON CHAP. VI.

    The apostle, having proved that salvation, both to Jew and Gentile, must come through the Messiah, and be received by faith only, proceeds in this chapter to show the obligations under which both were laid to live a holy life, and the means and advantages they enjoyed for that purpose. This he does, not only as a thing highly and indispensably necessary in itself-for without holiness none can see the Lord-but to confute a calumny which appears to have been gaining considerable ground even at that time, viz.

    that the doctrine of justification by faith alone, through the grace of Christ Jesus, rendered obedience to the moral law useless; and that the more evil a man did, the more the grace of God would abound to him, in his redemption from that evil. That this calumny was then propagated we learn from chap. iii. 8; and the apostle defends himself against it in the 31st verse of the same, by asserting, that his doctrine, far from making void the law, served to establish it. But in this and the two following chapters he takes up the subject in a regular, formal manner; and shows both Jews and Gentiles that the principles of the Christian religion absolutely require a holy heart and a holy life, and make the amplest provisions for both.

    Verse 1. "Shall we continue in sin" - It is very likely that these were the words of a believing Gentile, who-having as yet received but little instruction, for he is but just brought out of his heathen state to believe in Christ Jesus- might imagine, from the manner in which God had magnified his mercy, in blotting out his sin on his simply believing on Christ, that, supposing he even gave way to the evil propensities of his own heart, his transgressions could do him no hurt now that he was in the favour of God.

    And we need not wonder that a Gentile, just emerging from the deepest darkness, might entertain such thoughts as these; when we find that eighteen centuries after this, persons have appeared in the most Christian countries of Europe, not merely asking such a question, but defending the doctrine with all their might; and asserting in the most unqualified manner, "that believers were under no obligation to keep the moral law of God; that Christ had kept it for them; that his keeping it was imputed to them; and that God, who had exacted it from Him, who was their surety and representative, would not exact it from them, forasmuch as it would be injustice to require two payments for one debt." These are the Antinomians who once flourished in this land, and whose race is not yet utterly extinct.

    Verse 2. "God forbid" - mh genoito, Let it not be; by no means; far from it; let not such a thing be mentioned!-Any of these is the meaning of the Greek phrase, which is a strong expression of surprise and disapprobation: and is not properly rendered by our God forbid! for, though this may express the same thing, yet it is not proper to make the sacred NAME SO familiar on such occasions.

    "How shall we, that are dead to sin" - The phraseology of this verse is common among Hebrews, Greeks, and Latins. To DIE to a thing or person, is to have nothing to do with it or him; to be totally separated from them: and to live to a thing or person is to be wholly given up to them; to have the most intimate connection with them. So Plautus, Clitell. iii. 1, 16: Nihil mecum tibi, MORTUUS TIBI SUM. I have nothing to do with thee; I am DEAD to thee. Persa, i. 1, 20: Mihi quidem tu jam MORTUUS ERAS, quia te non visitavi. Thou wast DEAD to me because I visited thee not. So AElian, Var. Hist. iii. 13: Ĉoti filoinotaton eqnov to twn tapurwn, tosouton, wste zhn autouv en oinw, kai to pleiston tou biou en th prov auton omilia katanaliskein? "The Tapyrians are such lovers of wine, that they LIVE in wine; and the principal part of their LIFE is DEVOTED to it." They live to wine; they are insatiable drunkards. See more examples in Wetstein and Rosenmuller.

    Verse 3. "Know ye not, &c." - Every man who believes the Christian religion, and receives baptism as the proof that he believes it, and has taken up the profession of it, is bound thereby to a life of righteousness.

    To be baptized into Christ, is to receive the doctrine of Christ crucified, and to receive baptism as a proof of the genuineness of that faith, and the obligation to live according to its precepts.

    Baptized into his death?] That, as Jesus Christ in his crucifixion died completely, so that no spark of the natural or animal life remained in his body, so those who profess his religion should be so completely separated and saved from sin, that they have no more connection with it, nor any more influence from it, than a dead man has with or from his departed spirit.

    Verse 4. "We are buried with him by baptism into death" - It is probable that the apostle here alludes to the mode of administering baptism by immersion, the whole body being put under the water, which seemed to say, the man is drowned, is dead; and, when he came up out of the water, he seemed to have a resurrection to life; the man is risen again; he is alive! He was, therefore, supposed to throw off his old Gentile state as he threw off his clothes, and to assume a new character, as the baptized generally put on new or fresh garments. I say it is probable that the apostle alludes to this mode of immersion; but it is not absolutely certain that he does so, as some do imagine; for, in the next verse, our being incorporated into Christ by baptism is also denoted by our being planted, or rather, grafted together in the likeness of his death; and Noah's ark floating upon the water, and sprinkled by the rain from heaven, is a figure corresponding to baptism, 1 Pet. iii. 20, 21; but neither of these gives us the same idea of the outward form as burying. We must be careful, therefore, not to lay too much stress on such circumstances. Drowning among the ancients was considered the most noble kind of death; some think that the apostle may allude to this. The grand point is, that this baptism represents our death to sin, and our obligation to walk in newness of life: without which, of what use can it or any other rite be? Raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father] From this we learn, that as it required the glory of the Father, that is, his glorious energy, to raise up from the grave tho dead body of Christ, so it requires the same glorious energy to quicken the dead soul of a sinner, and enable him to walk in newness of life.

    Verse 5. "For if we have been planted together" - sumfutoi gegonamen.

    Dr. Taylor observes, that our translation does not completely express the apostle's meaning. ta sumfuta are such plants as grow, the one upon and in the other, deriving sap and nourishment from it, as the mistletoe upon the oak, or the scion upon the stock in which it is grafted. He would therefore translate the words: For if we have been growers together with Christ in the likeness of his death, (or in that which is like his death,) we shall be also growers together with him in the likeness of his resurrection; or in that which is like his resurrection. He reckons it a beautiful metaphor, taken from grafting, or making the scion grow together with a new stock.

    But if we take the word planted in its usual sense, we shall find it to be a metaphor as beautiful and as expressive as the former. When the seed or plant is inserted in the ground, it derives from that ground all its nourishment, and all those juices by which it becomes developed; by which it increases in size, grows firm, strong, and vigorous; and puts forth its leaves, blossoms, and fruit. The death of Jesus Christ is represented as the cause whence his fruitfulness, as the author of eternal salvation to mankind is derived; and genuine believers in him are represented as being planted in his death, and growing out of it; deriving their growth, vigour, firmness, beauty, and fruitfulness from it. In a word, it is by his death that Jesus Christ redeems a lost world; and it is from that vicarious death that believers derive that pardon and holiness which makes them so happy in themselves, and so useful to others. This sacrificial death is the soil in which they are planted; and from which they derive their life, fruitfulness, and their final glory.

    Verse 6. "Our old man is crucified with him" - This seems to be a farther extension of the same metaphor. When a seed is planted in the earth, it appears as if the whole body of it perished. All seeds, as they are commonly termed, are composed of two parts; the germ, which contains the rudiments of the future plant; and the lobes, or body of the seed, which by their decomposition in the ground, become the first nourishment to the extremely fine and delicate roots of the embryo plant, and support it till it is capable of deriving grosser nourishment from the common soil.

    The body dies that the germ may live. Parables cannot go on all fours; and in metaphors or figures, there is always some one (or more) remarkable property by which the doctrine intended is illustrated. To apply this to the purpose in hand: how is the principle of life which Jesus Christ has implanted in us to be brought into full effect, vigour, and usefulness? By the destruction of the body of sin, our old man, our wicked, corrupt, and fleshly self, is to be crucified; to be as truly slain as Christ was crucified; that our souls may as truly be raised from a death of sin to a life of righteousness, as the body of Christ was raised from the grave, and afterwards ascended to the right hand of God. But how does this part of the metaphor apply to Jesus Christ? Plainly and forcibly. Jesus Christ took on him a body; a body in the likeness of sinful flesh, chap. viii. 3; and gave up that body to death; through which death alone an atonement was made for sin, and the way laid open for the vivifying Spirit, to have the fullest access to, and the most powerful operation in, the human heart.

    Here, the body of Christ dies that he may be a quickening Spirit to mankind. Our body of sin is destroyed by this quickening Spirit, that henceforth we should live unto Him who died and rose again. Thus the metaphor, in all its leading senses, is complete, and applies most forcibly to the subject in question. We find that palaiov anqrwpov, the old man, used here, and in Eph. iv. 22, and Col. iii. 9, is the same as the flesh with its affections and lusts, Gal. v. 24; and the body of the sins of the flesh, Col. ii. 11; and the very same which the Jewish writers term ynwmdqh µda , Adam hakkadmoni, the old Adam; and which they interpret by [rh rxy yetsar hara, "evil concupiscence," the same which we mean by indwelling sin, or the infection of our nature, in consequence of the fall. From all which we may learn that the design of God is to counterwork and destroy the very spirit and soul of sin, that we shall no longer serve it, douleuein, no longer be its slaves. Nor shall it any more be capable of performing its essential functions than a dead body can perform the functions of natural life.

    Verse 7. "He that is dead is freed from sin." - dedikaiwtai, literally, is justified from sin; or, is freed or delivered from it. Does not this simply mean, that the man who has received Christ Jesus by faith, and has been, through believing, made a partaker of the Holy Spirit, has had his old man, all his evil propensities destroyed; so that he is not only justified freely from all sin, but wholly sanctified unto God? The context shows that this is the meaning. Every instance of violence is done to the whole scope and design of the apostle, by the opinion, that "this text is a proof that believers are not fully saved from sin in this life, because only he that is dead is freed from sin." Then death is his justifier and deliverer! Base and abominable insinuation, highly derogatory to the glory of Christ! Dr. Dodd, in his note on the preceding verse, after some inefficient criticism on the word katarghqh, destroyed, which, he thinks, should be rendered enervated, has the following most unevangelical sentiment: "The body of sin in believers is, indeed, an enfeebled, conquered, and deposed tyrant, and the stroke of death finishes its destruction." So then, the death of Christ and the influences of the Holy Spirit were only sufficient to depose and enfeeble the tyrant sin; but OUR death must come in to effect his total destruction! Thus our death is, at least partially, our saviour; and thus, that which was an effect of sin (for sin entered into the world, and death by sin) becomes the means of finally destroying it! That is, the effect of a cause can become so powerful, as to react upon that cause and produce its annihilation! The divinity and philosophy of this sentiment are equally absurd. It is the blood of Christ alone that cleanses from all unrighteousness; and the sanctification of a believer is no more dependent on death than his justification. If it he said, "that believers do not cease from sin till they die;" I have only to say, they are such believers as do not make a proper use of their faith; and what can be said more of the whole herd of transgressors and infidels? They cease to sin, when they cease to breathe. If the Christian religion bring no other privileges than this to its upright followers, well may we ask, wherein doth the wise man differ from the fool, for they have both one end? But the whole Gospel teaches a contrary doctrine.

    Verse 8. "Now if we be dead with Christ" - According to what is stated in the preceding verses. See particularly on the 5th verse.

    Verse 9. "Christ being raised from the dead dieth no more" - So we, believing in Christ Jesus, and having a death unto sin, and a life unto righteousness, should sin no more. If we be risen indeed with Christ, we should seek the things above, and set our affections on things above, and not on the earth. The man who walks in humble, loving obedience, to an indwelling Christ, sin has no more dominion over his soul than death has over the immortal and glorified body of his Redeemer.

    Verse 10. "He died unto sin once" - On this clause Rosenmuller speaks thus: "th amartia apeqanen efapax? propter peccatum mortuus est semel, et quidem misera morte. th amartia, i.e. eper thv amartiav, ad expianda peccata; res ipsa docet aliter homines apoqnhskein th amartia, aliter Christum: amat Paulus parallelismum, in quo interpretando multa cautione opus est." "He died unto sin once: i.e. he died on account of sin, and truly a miserable death. th amartia, is the same as uper thv amartiav, for the expiation of sin. Common sense teaches us that men die to sin in one sense; Christ in another: St. Paul loves parallelisms, in the interpretation of which there is need of much caution." From the whole scope of the apostle's discourse it is plain that he considers the death of Christ as a death or sacrifice for sin; a sin-offering: in this sense no man has ever died for sin, or ever can die.

    Verse 11. "Reckon ye also yourselves to be dead" - Die as truly unto sin, as he died for sin. Live as truly unto God, as he lives with God. This seems to be the spirit of the apostle's meaning.

    Verse 12. "Let not sin therefore reign" - This is a prosopopoeia, or personification. Sin is represented as a king, ruler, or tyrant, who has the desires of the mind and the members of the body under his control so that by influencing the passions he governs the body. Do not let sin reign, do not let him work; that is, let him have no place, no being in your souls; because, wherever he is he governs, less or more: and indeed sin is not sin without this. How is sin known? By evil influences in the mind, and evil acts in the life. But do not these influences and these acts prove his dominion? Certainly, the very existence of an evil thought to which passion or appetite attaches itself, is a proof that there sin has dominion; for without dominion such passions could not be excited. Wherever sin is felt, there sin has dominion; for sin is sin only as it works in action or passion against God. Sin cannot be a quiescent thing: if it do not work it does not exist.

    "That ye should obey it in the lusts thereof." - auth en taiv epiqumiaiv autou. This clause is wanting in the most ancient and reputable MSS. and in the principal versions. Griesbach has left it out of his text; and Professor White says, Certissime delenda: "These words should certainly he expunged" they are not necessary to the apostle's argument; it was enough to say, Let not sin reign in your mortal bodies, that ye should obey it. If it be there it will reign there; and its reign supposes, necessarily, the subjection of that in which it reigns. A king reigns when his laws are enforced, and the people obey them. When there is no executive government there is no reign. There may be a royal shadow there, but there is no king.

    Verse 13. "Neither yield ye your members" - Do not yield to temptation. It is no sin to be tempted, the sin lies in yielding. While the sin exists only in Satan's solicitation, it is the devil's sin, not ours: when we yield, we make the devil's sin our own: then we ENTER INTO temptation. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Satan himself cannot force you to sin: till he wins over your will, he cannot bring you into subjection. You may be tempted; but yield not to the temptation.

    "Yield yourselves unto God" - Let God have your wills; keep them ever on his side; there they are safe, and there they will be active. Satan cannot force the will, and God will not. Indeed it would cease to be will were it forced by either: it is essential to its being that it be free.

    "And your members as instruments, &c." - Let soul and body be employed in the service of your Maker; let him have your hearts; and with them, your heads, your hands, your feet. Think and devise what is pure; speak what is true, and to the use of edifying; work that which is just and good; and walk steadily in the way that leads to everlasting felicity. Be holy within and holy without.

    Verse 14. "Sin shall not have dominion over you" - God delivers you from it; and if you again become subject to it, it will be the effect of your own choice or negligence.

    "Ye are not under the law" - That law which exacts obedience, without giving power to obey; that condemns every transgression and every unholy thought without providing for the extirpation of evil or the pardon of sin.

    "But under grace." - Ye are under the merciful and beneficent dispensation of the Gospel, that, although it requires the strictest conformity to the will of God, affords sufficient power to be thus conformed; and, in the death of Christ, has provided pardon for all that is past, and grace to help in every time of need.

    Verse 15. "Shall we sin because we are not under the law" - Shall we abuse our high and holy calling because we are not under that law which makes no provision for pardon, but are under that Gospel which has opened the fountain to wash away all sin and defilement? Shall we sin because grace abounds? Shall we do evil that good may come of it? This be far from us!

    Verse 16. "To whom ye yield yourselves" - Can you suppose that you should continue to be the servants of Christ if ye give way to sin? Is he not the master who exacts the service, and to whom the service is performed? Sin is the service of Satan; righteousness the service of Christ.

    If ye sin ye are the servants of Satan, and not the servants of God.

    The word doulov, which we translate servant, properly signifies slave; and a slave among the Greeks and Romans was considered as his master's property, and he might dispose of him as he pleased. Under a bad master, the lot of the slave was most oppressive and dreadful; his ease and comfort were never consulted; he was treated worse than a beast; and, in many cases, his life hung on the mere caprice of the master. This state is the state of every poor, miserable sinner; he is the slave of Satan, and his own evil lusts and appetites are his most cruel task-masters. The same word is applied to the servants of Christ, the more forcibly to show that they are their Master's property; and that, as he is infinitely good and benevolent, therefore his service must be perfect freedom. Indeed, he exacts no obedience from them which he does not turn to their eternal advantage; for this master has no self-interest to secure. See on chap. i. 1.

    Verse 17. "But God be thanked, that ye were the servants of sin" - This verse should be read thus: But thanks be to God that, although ye were the servants of sin, nevertheless ye have obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine that was delivered unto you; or, that mould of teaching into which ye were cast. The apostle does not thank God that they were sinners; but that, although they were such, they had now received and obeyed the Gospel. The Hebrew phrase, Isa. xii. 1, is exactly the same as that of the apostle here: In that day thou shalt say, I will praise thee, for thou wast angry with me: that is, although thou wast angry with me, thou hast turned away thy wrath, &c.

    "That form of doctrine" - tupon didachv; here Christianity is represented under the notion of a mould, or die, into which they were cast, and from which they took the impression of its excellence. The figure upon this die is the image of God, righteousness and true holiness, which was stamped on their souls in believing the Gospel and receiving the Holy Ghost. The words eiv on paredoqhte tupon refer to the melting of metal; which, when it is liquified, is cast into the mould, that it may receive the impression that is sunk or cut in the mould; and therefore the words may be literally translated, into which mould of doctrine ye have been cast.

    They were melted down under the preaching of the word, and then were capable of receiving the stamp of its purity.

    Verse 18. "Being then made free from sin" - eleuqerwqentev is a term that refers to the manumission of a slave. They were redeemed from the slavery of sin, and became the servants of righteousness. Here is another prosopopoeia: both sin and righteousness are personified: sin can enjoin no good and profitable work; righteousness can require none that is unjust or injurious.

    Verse 19. "I speak after the manner of men" - This phrase is often used by the Greek writers to signify what was easy to be comprehended; what was ad captum vulgi, level with common understandings, delivered in a popular style; what was different from the high flights of the poets, and the studied sublime obscurity of the philosophers.

    "Because of the infirmity of your flesh" - As if he had said: I make use of metaphors and figures connected with well-known natural things; with your trades and situation in life; because of your inexperience in heavenly things, of which ye are only just beginning to know the nature and the names.

    Servants to uncleanness, &c.] These different expressions show how deeply immersed in and enslaved by sin these Gentiles were before their conversion to Christianity. Several of the particulars are given in the first chapter of this epistle.

    Verse 20. "Ye were free from righteousness." - These two servitudes are incompatible; if we cannot serve God and Mammon, surely we cannot serve Christ and Satan. We must be either sinners or saints; God's servants or the devil's slaves. It cannot be as a good mistaken man has endeavoured to sing:- "To good and evil equal bent, I'm both a devil and a saint." I know not whether it be possible to paint the utter prevalence of sin in stronger colours than the apostle does here, by saying they were FREE from righteousness. It seems tantamount to that expression in Genesis, Gen. vi. 5, where, speaking of the total degeneracy of the human race, the writer says, Every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. They were all corrupt; they were altogether abominable: there was none that did good; no, not one.

    Verse 21. "What fruit had ye then in those things" - God designs that every man shall reap benefit by his service. What benefit have ye derived from the service of sin? Whereof ye are now ashamed?] Ye blush to remember your former life.

    It was scandalous to yourselves, injurious to others, and highly provoking to God.

    "The end of those things is death." - Whatever sin may promise of pleasure or advantage, the end to which it necessarily tends is the destruction of body and soul.

    Verse 22. "But now being made free from sin" - As being free from righteousness is the finished character of a sinner, so being made free from sin is the finished character of a genuine Christian.

    "And become servants to God" - They were transferred from the service of one master to that of another: they were freed from the slavery of sin, and engaged in the service of God.

    "Fruit unto holiness" - Holiness of heart was the principle; and righteousness of life the fruit.

    Verse 23. "For the wages of sin is death" - The second death, everlasting perdition. Every sinner earns this by long, sore, and painful service. O! what pains do men take to get to hell! Early and late they toil at sin; and would not Divine justice be in their debt, if it did not pay them their due wages? But the gift of God is eternal life] A man may MERIT hell, but he cannot MERIT heaven. The apostle does not say that the wages of righteousness is eternal life: no, but that this eternal life, even to the righteous, is to carisma tou qeou, THE gracious GIFT of GOD. And even this gracious gift comes through Jesus Christ our Lord. He alone has procured it; and it is given to all those who find redemption in his blood. A sinner goes to hell because he deserves it; a righteous man goes to heaven because Christ has died for him, and communicated that grace by which his sin is pardoned and his soul made holy. The word oywnia, which we here render wages, signified the daily pay of a Roman soldier. So every sinner has a daily pay, and this pay is death; he has misery because he sins. Sin constitutes hell; the sinner has a hell in his own bosom; all is confusion and disorder where God does not reign: every indulgence of sinful passions increases the disorder, and consequently the misery of a sinner. If men were as much in earnest to get their souls saved as they are to prepare them for perdition, heaven would be highly peopled, and devils would be their own companions. And will not the living lay this to heart? 1. IN the preceding chapter we see the connection that subsists between the doctrines of the Gospel and the practice of Christianity. A doctrine is a teaching, instruction, or information concerning some truth that is to be believed, as essential to our salvation. But all teaching that comes from God, necessarily leads to him. That Christ died for our sins and rose again for our justification, is a glorious doctrine of the Gospel. But this is of no use to him who does not die to sin, rise in the likeness of his resurrection, and walk in newness of life: this is the use that should be made of the doctrine. Every doctrine has its use, and the use of it consists in the practice founded on it. We hear there is a free pardon-we go to God and receive it; we hear that we may be made holy-we apply for the sanctifying Spirit; we hear there is a heaven of glory, into which the righteous alone shall enter-we watch and pray, believe, love, and obey, in order that, when he doth appear, we may be found of him in peace, without spot and blameless. Those are the doctrines; these are the uses or practice founded on those doctrines.

    2. It is strange that there should be found a person believing the whole Gospel system, and yet living in sin! SALVATION FROM SIN is the long-continued sound, as it is the spirit and design, of the Gospel. Our Christian name, our baptismal covenant, our profession of faith in Christ, and avowed belief in his word, all call us to this: can it be said that we have any louder calls than these? Our self- interest, as it respects the happiness of a godly life, and the glories of eternal blessedness; the pains and wretchedness of a life of sin, leading to the worm that never dies and the fire that is not quenched; second most powerfully the above calls. Reader, lay these things to heart, and: answer this question to God; How shall I escape, if I neglect so great salvation? And then, as thy conscience shall answer, let thy mind and thy hands begin to act.

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