Saturday, October 1, 2011
COMMENTARY ON ROMANS 6:14-23
(14) For sin shall not have dominion over you: for ye are not under law, but under grace. (15) What then? Shall we sin, because we are not under the law, but under grace? God forbid. (16) 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? (17) 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. (18) Being then made free from sin, ye became the servants of righteousness. (19) 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. (20) For when ye were the servants of sin, ye were free from righteousness. (21) What fruit had ye then in those things whereof ye are now ashamed? for the end of those things is death. (22) But now being made free from sin, and become servants to God, ye have your fruit unto holiness, and the end everlasting life. (23) For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.
Verse 14 For sin shall not have dominion over you: for ye are not under law, but under grace. As that union to Christ, in His death and life, implied in God’s method of justifying sinners, secures that we shall not continue in sin; so that freedom from Law, and that subjection to grace, which it equally implies, secures that sin shall not have dominion over us, for we are now, by grace, no longer the slaves of this tyrant lord. What is it for sin to “have dominion” over a man? “Sin” is here personified. The results of being in a state of sin are represented of the effects of regal power or influence. In our Romans epistle we have read of two different kinds of power or dominion, which sin, personified, is represented as possessing and exercising over men. In , we read of “sin reigning unto death,” the meaning is men are punished with death on account of sin (). At we read of “sin reigning over men’s mortal bodies, so that they obey it in their lusts” — i.e., in the exercise of their natural desires (Gen. 6:5). The meaning of that is, men act under the depraving influence of sin (
). The truth is that in the passage, sin or guilt, is viewed as securing punishment, according to the principles of God’s government. In the passage, it is viewed as producing and perpetuating depravity, according to the principles of the human constitution. The apostle’s object is plainly to show how deliverance from guilt delivers also from depravity — how God’s method of justification secures sanctification. To say that sin shall not condemn you, justified persons, is nothing to the point: his argument requires the assertion, sin shall not continue to deprave you. Jam.
It is those who are under the Law — under its claims to entire obedience; and so, next, under its curse for the breach of these — as a means of justification that are beneath sin’s dominion, that it holds full sway over them. As our Lord Christ declared, “Whosoever committeth sin is the servant of sin” (John ); that is to say, sin is his master. Nevertheless, he yields voluntary and ready submission to sin’s orders (Rom. ). No one coerces and compels him. The dominion of sin over the natural man is entire, for it pervades the spirit with all its powers, the soul with all its faculties, the body with all its members, at all times and under all circumstances (2 Tim. 2:14). And as all power to obey can reach the sinner only through free 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. But in the believer, sin does not so reign that he is held in unresisting captivity thereto. Grace is an actively opposing principle. Oh, sin will haunt and harass you; trip us up and occasion many a fall. Sin does not now, in the believer, sit on the throne of the heart, loved as an idol. Rather it is hated as an enemy, and trampled underfoot as an odious thing. Therefore, in the regenerate, sin does not have dominion or reign, though it exists within; it does not now please us, but torments (Rom. -25).
“For ye are not under the law, but under grace.” The contrast here is not between the Law of Moses and the Gospel of Christ, as 2 Divine economies: it is between Law and grace, as the principles of 2 methods of justification, the one false, and the one true; — what the apostle calls “the law of works,” and “the law of faith,” which is by grace. One principle is of human devising, the other of Divine provision. For an innocent being to be under Law, as in the case of Adam, is to have his final acceptance and salvation suspended on his obedience to the Law under which he is placed: for a guilty sinner to be under Law, is to be condemned to punishment for disobedience; while his obligation for perfect obedience remains unchanged, every new act of disobedience incurs new guilt, and eposes him to increased punishment; his deliverance from punishment is utterly hopeless as perfect obedience is unattainable. They are under the curse of the Law and foolishly think they can fulfill it — seek to be made righteous by it and expect salvation by it. This is to be “under the Law;” and the apostle declares that all those justified by grace through God-given faith are not thus under the Law, and because we are not thus under the Law, “sin shall not have dominion over us.”
But they are not only not under the condemning power of the Law, they are “under grace,” God’s free favor in Christ. In justifying sinners by grace — Christ’s Blood, His resurrection, His perfect righteousness, and faith — God dispenses pardon, acceptance and salvation, not as the specified rewards of specified services — wages for work done — but as free gifts; not something which we are to merit by doing s and sufferings; but enjoy as the result of the free sovereign grace and mercy of God, finding its way to poor guilty sinners through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus our Lord (Rom. 3:24). To be “under grace,” is to be under the glorious covering and saving effects of that “grace which reigns through righteousness unto eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord” (Rom. -21).
The true sense of this verse is well explained by Charles Hodge, “To be under the Law is to be under the obligation to fulfill the Law of God as a rule of duty, as the condition of salvation. Whosoever is under the Law in this sense is under the curse; for the Law says, ‘Cursed is every one who continueth not in all things written in the book of the law to do them.’ As no man is free from sin, as no man can perfectly keep the commandments of God, every man who rests upon his personal conformity to the Law, as the ground of his acceptance with God, must be condemned. It is the grace of God which brings salvation to men by providing a Surety for guilty sinners. Thus Christ was made under the Law in order to free those He represented from its curse (Gal -14; 4:4-5).”
Since this is the favorite verse with those who take the position that the Law has no relation to believers in our day — i. e., the Antinomians and the dispensationalists, and all those who have pitted the Gospel against the Law, thus taking from the Christian his rule of life — we see the need to briefly address this error as it relates to this verse of Scripture. “Under Law” means ruled by Law as a covenant of works. “Not under the Law” does not mean we are not under obligation to obey the precepts of the moral Law; but it signifies, not keeping the Law in order to be saved. The Holy Ghost is showing us by this Scripture that the saints are not under the Law, as an actual, effectual adequate means of justification or sanctification, and any who claim to be so, their case is hopeless; for ruin must ensue. That this is what He means is clear from the sequel of His words (). God’s bondservant, the apostle Paul, in chapter 7:12-14, shows that the moral Law as precept is altogether approved and loved by him, and the desire of his heart is to obey his Master by perfect compliance thereto. He mourned that he failed to faithfully and fully obey this transcript of His Lord’s will. As A.W. Pink well said, “If on the one hand we need to guard against legality (seeking to keep the Law in order to merit something good at the hands of God), on the other hand there is just as real a danger of dwelling so exclusively on the grace of Gospel that we lose sight of the holy living required.”
How clearly the Scriptures testify against all Antinomian tendencies will appear by citing just a few passages. These deceivers are “unruly and vain talkers and deceivers” (Titus -16). The Holy Ghost says through the apostle John, “If we say that we have fellowship with him, and walk in darkness, we lie, and do not the truth” (1 John 1:6). “He that saith, I know him, and keepeth not his commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him” (1 John 2:4). “Every man that hath this hope in him, purifieth himself, even as he is pure” (1 John 3:3). They may speak much of grace, but Peter tells us the true nature and corruption of their hearts, and the wickedness of their profession (2 Peter -14). Jude also exposes the liars in their deceitful profession (Jude 12-13). In the strong words of Scripture, such men are “abominable and disobedient, and to every good work reprobate” (Titus ).
Where the true Gospel of grace is preached and truly believed we find the most urgent calls to holiness founded on its gracious proposals. Reader, carefully consider the following 3 Scriptures; read, meditate and pray over them. “Having therefore these promises, dearly beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God” (2 Cor. 7:1); “For the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men. Teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world” (Titus -12); “Little Children, let no man deceive you: he that doeth righteousness is righteous, even as he is righteous. He that committeth sin is of the devil” (1 John 3:7-8).
Verse 15 What then? Shall we sin, because we are not under the law, but under grace? God forbid. The remainder of our chapter illustrates the incompatibility of a state of justification and a state of subjection to the dominant power of sin. To suppose a man really justified, and yet habitually living under sin, is to suppose one of the greatest absurdities and self-contradictions. Practical antinomians, living in sin under a mask of godliness; professing the truth, and doing every thing contrary to it, are those of whom Paul says “whose damnation is just” (Rom. 3:8). The Holy Ghost, forseeing the consequences that corrupt nature would draw from the doctrines of grace, moved the apostle Paul to write this chapter, which is almost entirely aimed at these perversions. But so far from discharging us by grace from all obligation to obedience, it only binds us the more closely to walk in the footsteps of our Lord Christ, and live in holy conformity to Him Who died for us. John Calvin comments, “But we are much deceived if we think, that the righteousness which God approves of in His Law is abolished, when the Law is abrogated; for the abrogation is by no means to be applied to the precepts which teach the right way of living, as Christ confirms and sanctions these [see Matt. 5:17-19, lvc], and does not abrogate them; but the right view is, that nothing is taken away but the curse, to which men without grace are subject.” It is wretched, damnable doctrine that teaches that under grace we are Lawless, and may live as we please.
In the remainder of this chapter the apostle clearly shows that the believer is not “under Law” as the ground of his justification, but he is under the Law as a rule of his Christian life (1 Cor. ). He is under obligations to obey its moral precepts; we are under the directions and discipline of our Lawgiver. Our subjection to our Lord remains the same — His Law has not changed. We are under restraint, but it is the restraint of filial fear. We are under constraint, but it is the love of Christ that constrains us (2 Cor. ). In verse 18 Paul answers the question asked here in our 15th verse where he declares: “Being then made free from sin, ye became the servants (bond-slaves) of righteousness. In verse 22 Paul states that we become servants of God and have fruit unto holiness. The true believer is the willing, loving bondslave of His Lawgiver, and, that, “under grace.” In regeneration God writes His holy Law in the heart of the born again sinner (Heb. ; -17), and in Romans Paul, speaking from his new heart given him by God in regeneration, says, “So then with the mind I myself serve the Law of God.” And as God’s inspired penman, our apostle is careful, both here and elsewhere, to prevent licentiousness, or the abuse of Christian liberty: see Gal. 5:13; 1 Pet. 2:16.
Verse 16 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? To sin, because we are not under the Law in a condemning sense and not trying to gain our acceptance with God by perfect compliance with it, but we are under grace — not sinfully taking encouragement to live in sin from our being justified freely, which would be the most enormous and loathsome of all self-contradictions and absurdities. Combining verses we see the apostle representing the 2 opposite influential states of sin: (1) guilt and condemnation, (2) and of righteousness or justification, These are the 2 masters, so opposed to one another as that we cannot at the same time serve both, but in the degree that we are subject to the one, we are (we must be) free from the other (Matt. 6:24). Any and all professors who, under the influence of a state of guilt, lives an unholy, godless life, whatever religious claims they may make, are condemned; the slaves of guilt. Only true believers, who, under the influence of justification, live holy lives, are justified; they are servants of righteousness. Their obedience results in a righteous character, as the enduring condition of the servant of new obedience. There are just these two, and only two masters. All the children of men are either the servants of sin, or the servants of God. Every man must serve one of them. This is the way to determine the state of our soul — are you and I really saved? To which of these two masters do you willingly yield? (John 8:34). If sin masters us, if we delight to do evil, if we enjoy evil companions, if we walk in darkness, then the truth is not in us, Christ is not our Master, and, thus, not our Saviour. The tenor of our lives reveals our master. Nothing is clearer than that one’s life evinces his real character. A good tree brings forth good fruit; and a corrupt tree, evil fruit. “His servants ye are to whom ye obey,” is the infallible rule. Our Lord Himself will apply that rule in the last day (Matt. 25:31-46). Sin and holiness, obedience and disobedience, righteousness and unrighteousness are utterly opposite, and we are the servants of that to which we habitually yield and addict ourselves, and in whose work we spend our time and strength, and skill, and abilities, day after day, and year after year. If we still love sin, we are not saved. If we truly loved Christ, we obey His commands willingly and lovingly.
“‘Of obedience unto righteousness;’ which will be rewarded with eternal life. But why doth he not say of obedience unto life? Then the antithesis had been more plain and full. Because though sin be the cause of death, yet obedience is not the cause of life, (as verse 23) but only the way to it” (Matthew Poole).
Verse 17 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. Paul does not mean that he was ever thankful for sin, or glad that the saints were sinners — that they had been the servants of sin — But he thank the Lord that they were so no longer; and his gratitude for their emancipation was increased by thinking of the debasing slavery in sin which they had previously been entangled in. We were once in darkness, “but now are ye light in the Lord” (Eph. 5:8). In times past we were not a people, “but now the people of God” (1 Pet. 2:1). Thank God, we have been delivered from the slavery and bondage of sin. By God-given faith we have been justified; and by that same faith of the Gospel, our justified state was exerting its influence, in transforming us by the renewing of our mine. By thanking God for the tremendous change, the apostle acknowledges Him as it Author. “Faith is the gift of God.” It is the act of man also, but the act of man acted upon by God. Men purify their souls “in obeying the truth through the Spirit” (1 Pet. ).
“Obeyed from the heart” — believing with the heart, is a phrase used in the New Testament to signify saving faith (Rom. 10:9-10). Philip uses even a stronger phrase when he preached to the eunuch, “with all thine heart” (Acts ). “No man can say that Jesus is the Lord, but by the Holy Ghost” (1 Cor. 12:3). A man might make a profession in these words without the Holy Ghost, but he could not do it heartily, or with all his heart. A true heart work is not just a mental acceptance of words or creeds, but a heart acceptance of the Gospel of Christ (Rom. -25). A sinner hears the truth of the utter fall and ruin of man, and the complete helplessness of the creature. He obeys this form of doctrine when, by Divine teaching, he is convinced in his conscience what a poor helpless creature he is; desists from all self-righteous attempts to please God; and in his helplessness and ruin he casts himself down before God, pleading for Him to work that which is well pleasing in His sight in him. A knowledge of the purity and spirituality of God’s Holy Law is another feature of Divine teaching into which the soul is cast. There is total submission to the righteousness of God (
10:3). There is true Gospel obedience set up in the heart as the sinner bows in true, complete submission to the Lordship of King Jesus — for the Holy Ghost in regeneration puts “my laws into their minds, and write them in their heart” (Heb. 8:10). Rom.
“That form of doctrine” speaks of the glorious Gospel as compared to a mold into which melted metals are cast; from which they receive their form and take their impression. The meaning is that the doctrine of the Gospel begets the form, figure, image, or likeness of itself in the hearts of them that believe. This phrase speaks of the efficacy of Divine doctrine, by the power of the Spirit, in the hearts of believers; it changes and fashions their hearts according to its likeness (2 Cor. ). Hence in James , it is called an ingrafted word; it turns the heart and life of the regenerated hearer into its own nature. As the Gospel of peace is the doctrine here stated, and as it is according to godliness; so those that receive impressions from it, must, in its heavenly influence, have their tempers and conduct conformed to the Holy Law of God as the rule of righteousness. Thus the truth becomes effectual, through the agency of the Holy Ghost, to produce that purity of heart which is the health of the soul; those good works which are the only ornament of a true Christian profession (Eph. 2:10). A person cannot be set free from sin — the absence of righteousness — except as they are delivered into the grip of righteousness. Our souls are renewed when molded into conformity of truth, and when it heartily loves that truth (1 Thes. 1:9).
A gracious soul that has ever tasted of the sweetness of the work of God in his own soul will be unfeignedly glad at the work of God in others. Christianity makes believers glad when God is glorified and when men are brought to Him in true repentance and faith.
Verse 18 Being then made free from sin, ye become the servants of righteousness. To be freed from sin, is just the reverse of being the servants of sin, and signifies, to be delivered from the prevailing depraving influence of a state of guilt and condemnation. “Righteousness” bears its ordinary sense in this epistle — “Justification;” and to be the servant of justification is just to be under the influence of a justified state in reference to our temper and conduct (1 Thes. 4:7). The apostle states that deliverance from the depraving influence of a state of guilt, and subjection to the sanctifying influence of a state of justification, go together, and are equally effected by the faith of the Gospel (2 Thes. 2:13-14). Paul is thanking God that wretches who were slaves to sin have now been freed and become servants of righteousness; and truly this is something to be thankful for! The case is one of emancipation from entire servitude to sin as our master, only to entire servitude to Christ as our Master, whose property we are (Col. 2:6). When we desired not that Christ should reign over us, we were in righteous judgment “sold under sin” (Luke ): now, being through grace “made free from sin,” it is to become “servants to righteousness” — which is our true freedom. In this passage the Holy Ghost is describing that wondrous transformation whereby the servants of sin become the servants of righteousness. They have been supernaturally renewed and conformed to the holy requirements of Law and Gospel alike (John ). Their minds, their affections, their wills have been formed according to the tenor of God’s standard revealed in His Word. In mercy our Lord wrought the change in His elect by bringing the soul from the love of sin to the love of holiness (1 Cor. ). If our religion does not conquer our strongest evil inclinations, it is not pure religion for “this man’s religion is vain” (James -27).
Verse 19 I speak after the manner of men because of the infirmity of your flesh: for as ye have yielded your members servants of uncleanness and to iniquity unto iniquity; even so now yield your members servants to righteousness unto holiness. Matthew Poole writes, “I accommodate myself to your capacity, because of the weakness of your understanding in spiritual things; therefore I use this familiar similitude of service and freedom, that by these secular and civil things you might the better understand such as are spiritual: see John 3:12.” Paul used this illustration from the affairs of men in order to meet the weakness of their spiritual understanding — spiritual truth was so hard for them to understand. He speaks here to that portion of the Roman Christians who were not as spiritual as others of their brethren, who in comparison were “carnal,” as “babes in Christ (1 Cor. 3:1). It requires a spiritual father to enter fully into the depths of Paul’s illustrations of the influence of justification on sanctification — from the union which subsists between the justified and Christ, in His death, resurrection, and new life — and from the different tendencies of a state of subjection to Law, and of a state of subjection to grace. From the first part of this 6th chapter, and in the 7th, and down to the 4th verse of the 8th, he feeds those of full age with “strong meat;” but in this paragraph before us he gives “milk to babes” (Heb. 5:13-14).
“For as ye have yielded your members servants of uncleanness and to iniquity unto iniquity; even so now yield your members servants to righteousness unto holiness.” The course of the natural man is described as “serving divers lusts and pleasures” (Titus 3:3); as “bringing forth evil fruits” (Matt. ); as yielding his members “servants to uncleanness and to iniquity.” The service rendered by the unsaved sinner to sin is a whole-hearted one, voluntary, and cordial. Unregenerate man is in love with sin, preferring darkness to light, and this world to Heaven (John ). His lusts are his idols. In his unregenerate state he does nothing but sin in though, desire, word, and deed (Gen. 6:5). “Uncleanness and iniquity” is the impure and lawless state of guilt they yield their members unto — their faculties, to the influence of that state, leading to practical lawlessness or iniquity — so becoming its servants. Servants of uncleanness to fleshly lusts which defile you; “To iniquity unto iniquity” i. e. adding one sin to another.
“Have yielded … Even so now,” as wicked men take great pains for Hell; oh that we would take the same for Heaven. As we have in the past cheerfully yielded our minds, hearts, tongues and hands to do evil, now cheerfully and lovingly yield them to God and holiness (Rom. 12:1-2). Being now justified, it is meet that we yield our members to the influence of our new state, leading to practical holiness — so becoming its servants. “The very God of peace sanctify you wholly, and your whole spirit and soul and body be preserved blameless” (1 Thes. ). As in unregeneracy we yielded our members to sin, now we are to yield them as servants to righteousness unto holiness. Perfect holiness is to be the aim of saints on earth (2 Cor. 7:1), as it will be the reward of the saints in Heaven.
Sanctification must always signify the making holy of what is unholy or less holy. (1) Justification works for the elect; sanctification in them. (2) Justification removes the guilt; sanctification the stain. (3) Justification imputes to us the righteousness of Christ, which is extraneous; sanctification works righteousness inherent as our own. (4) Justification is at once completed; sanctification continues throughout our earthly life; hence remains imperfect.
We conclude remarks on this verse with an important, though somewhat lengthy quote of A. W. Pink. “The grand reason why God, the alone Governor of the world, ever made the Law, requiring us to love Him with all our hearts, was because it is, in its own nature, infinitely just and fitting. That Law is an eternal and unalterable Rule of Righteousness, which cannot be abrogated or altered in the least iota, for it is an unchanging expression of God’s immutable moral character. To suppose that He would ever repeal or even abate the Law—when the grounds and reasons of God’s first making it remain as forcible as ever, when that which it requires is as just and meet as ever, and which it becomes Him as the moral Ruler of the universe to require as much as ever—casts the highest reproach upon all His glorious perfections. Such a horrible insinuation could have originated nowhere else than in the foul mind of the Fiend, the arch-enemy of God, and is to be rejected by us with the utmost abhorrence.
To imagine God repealing the moral Law, which is the rule of all holiness and the condemner of all sin, would be supposing Him to release His creatures from giving unto Him the full glory which is His due, and allowing them to hold back a part of it at least. It supposes Him releasing His creatures from that which is right and allowing them to do that which is wrong. Yea, such a vile supposition reflects upon God’s very goodness, for so far from it being a boon and benefit to His creatures, the repealing or altering this Law, which is so perfectly suited to their highest happiness, would be one of the sorest calamities that could happen. If God had rather that heaven and earth should pass away than that the least jot or tittle of the Law, should fail (Matt. 5:18), how steadfastly should we resist every effort of Satan’s to rob us of this Divine rule, weaken its authority over our hearts, or prejudice us against it.
In the light of what has been pointed out, how unspeakably horrible, that vile blasphemy, to imagine that the Son Himself should come from Heaven, become incarnate, and die the death of the cross, with the purpose of securing for His people a rescinding or abating of the Law, and obtain for them a lawless liberty.
What! Had He so little regard for His Father’s interests and glory, for the honour of His Law, that He shed His precious blood so as to persuade the great Governor of the world to slacken the reins of His government and obtain for His people an impious license? Perish the thought. Let all who love the Lord rise up in righteous indignation against such an atrocious slur upon His holy character, and loathe it as a satanic slander—no matter by whom propagated. Any Spirit-taught reader must surely see that such a wicked idea as the affirming that Christ is the one who has made an end of the Law, is to make Him the friend of sin and the enemy of God!
Pause for a moment and weigh carefully the implications. How could God possibly vindicate the honor of His great name were He to either repeal or abate that law which requires love to Him with all our hearts? Would not this be clearly tantamount to saying that He had previously required more than was His due? Or, to put it in another form, that He does not now desire so much from His creatures as He formerly did? Or, to state the issue yet more baldly: should God now (since the cross) relinquish His rights and freely allow His creatures to despise Him and sin with impunity? Look at it another way: to what purpose should Christ die in order to secure an abatement from that Law? What need was there for it?
Or what good could it do? If the Law really demanded too much, then justice required God to make the abatement; in such case the death of Christ was needless.
Or if the Law required what was right, then God could not in justice make any abatement, and so Christ died in vain!”
Verse 20 For when ye were the servants of sin, ye were free from righteousness. When we were the slaves of sin, we were in no degree subject to holy principle — we were utterly depraved; uninfluenced by justification or holiness. We had no use for or interest in righteousness and never did it one act of real service — our real services were all and always given to sin (R0m. 3:9-19). But we think the apostle means in these words: “When ye were the servants of sin — of guilt, ye became free — ye were emancipated, by righteousness” — by justification. It is justification that frees sinners from the dominant influence of guilt, as well as from its penal power. The miracle of God’s grace brings blessed transformation in the soul of His people (2 Cor. ). Our understanding was darkened by ignorance, error and prejudice is now spiritually enlightened; our affections, formerly fixed only on the things of time and sense, are now set upon Heavenly and eternal objects; our will was enslaved by sin, being “free from Righteousness” — is now emancipated from its bondage, being “free from sin” (Rom. 6:18). Now, that we are the servants of righteousness we are to be free from sin, in that, we are no longer in slavery to sin.
Fallen man is only free to act in the sense that he is at liberty to act according to his own choice, without compulsion from without; yet, since his nature has been defiled and corrupted, he is no longer free to do that which is good and holy. Fallen man only “wills” now according to the desires and dictates of his evil heart. The will of the sinner is in a prison cell. It is only made willing to do that which is spiritual — good — “in the day of God’s power” (Psa. 110:3). Man is under bondage to sin, and he is the captive of the devil (2 Tim. ). Arminian, free will preachers tell sinners that God has given them a free will, leaving the choice to them, but the Scripture plainly says that “No man can come to me (Christ), except the Father draw him” (John 6:44, 65). The natural man does as he pleases, but he pleases himself only in one direction — selfward and downward, never Godward and upward. Preachers tell sinners that it is by a decision of their will that they are saved. God says “That it is not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God that showeth mercy” (Rom. ). The Scripture denies the lies of the free will preachers by declaring that sinners are born again “not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man,” and asserting that this regeneration in the sinner takes place as that sinner is born “of God” (John 1:12-13). Oh, dear reader, “If the Son therefore shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed” (John ).
Verse 21 What fruit had ye then in those things whereof ye are now ashamed? for the end of those things is death. What fruit have you by your folly, pride, worldliness, envy — what fruit have you found in these things? What permanent advantage, and what abiding satisfaction, have they yielded? What good did you derive from your former way of life when you walked in the lusts of the flesh? What advantage did a life of sin and rebellion against God bring you? What lasting worth did your former sins afford you in committing them, much less now?
“Ye are now ashamed,” for nothing but shame and sorrow does follow upon the remembrance of them. The unsaved sinner is not ashamed of his sinful life. He may be ashamed when he gets caught, but he loves sin, and the practice of it. But, once the Holy Ghost breathes spiritual life in regeneration into that sinner, there is nothing but shame and sorrow on account of sin (Ezek. 16:63; 36:32). As a child of God we are pierced in heart and weighed down as we think of the dishonor which our past sins did to the name of our blessed Lord, the ingratitude it displayed, and the violence it did to our own conscience. As L. R. Shelton used to say, “Every individual who ever gets saved is so ashamed of his past life that he never gets over it. The believer, until his dying day, is ashamed of his evil past.” On this verse John Calvin remarks, “As soon as the godly begin to be enlightened by the Spirit of Christ and the preaching of the Gospel, they freely acknowledge that the whole of their past life, which they lived without Christ, is worthy of condemnation. So far from trying to excuse themselves, they are in fact ashamed of themselves. Indeed, they go farther, and continually bear their disgrace in mind, so that the shame of it may make them more truly and willingly humble before God.” God, in His sovereign grace and mercy, works in the heart of the new born sinner and teaches us to “deny ungodliness and worldly lusts, and to live soberly, righteously, and godly in this present evil world” (Titus -15). The wicked glory in their shame (Phil. ), but the regenerate glory in the Cross of our Lord Jesus Christ (Gal. ).
“The end of those things is death.” The answer to this question concerning fruit in our evil, unregenerate life is an emphatic NONE — absolutely none: for the end of these things is death. This is not limited to natural death, but looks to eternal death and everlasting damnation in the lake of fire (unless pardoning grace and mercy prevent it) will be the conclusion of those not brought to repentance (Luke 13:3). Sin certainly leads to Hell, and it leads nowhere else. It is vain for men to delude themselves with the hope that shame and everlasting contempt will not follow transgression. The wages of sin is death (Rom. ), often called the second death, John -52; Romans ; ; 7:5; 2 Tim. ; Heb. ; James ; Rev. 2:11; 20:6; 21:8. This death is as enduring as the life to which it is opposed. It is everlasting, Dan. 12:2; Matt. 25:46. It is called by our Lord Jesus Christ Himself everlasting punishment. This is the death which our Lord Jesus says the righteous shall never die, John 6:50; ; . This everlasting punishment, this second death that has no end, results from the sin of man in opposing the wise and holy will of God.
Verse 22 But now being made free from sin, and become servants to God, ye have your fruit unto holiness, and the end everlasting life. There are 4 stages in the “King’s highway of holiness” by which the children of God are brought to glory. We have these 4 stages described in this verse, which reveals to us “the pathway of grace.” First is “being made free from sin,” or freedom from sin. This does not mean sinless perfection or freedom from indwelling sin, for observe Paul in the next chapter greatly lamenting his inward corruption (Rom. ). This freedom is (1) from the consequence of sin, and that is death; “death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned” (Rom. ). This embraces that death spiritual in which all men are held, being by nature “dead in trespasses and sins” (Eph. 2:1), destitute of spiritual life, with neither desire nor power to move toward God, and totally ignorant of spiritual things (1 Cor. ). (2) We are freed from the condemnation of sin, the judgment to come, the wrath of God, and the penalty due us for our sins (Romans 8:1). (3) We are freed from the curse of sin, which is the broken Law of God — free from the condemnation of sin by the Saviour’s substitutionary death, and from the curse of sin by His life of obedience imputed (Gal. 3:13). (4) We are freed from the dominion or controlling power of sin. By God’s sovereign mercy, grace now reigns.
We, in the 2nd stage in the King’s highway to holiness, “Become servants to God,” in which “service” signifies actively directed to the doing of our Master’s will, as expressed by His Holy Word, directions, or precepts (1 Thes. 1:9). The spiritual service of our Lord is shown in the spiritual activities of the members of the new man. God gives faculties for use, and he enables His people to use them as He leads in bringing forth love, hope, and faith. (1) It is the service of seeking our Lord as we desire Him looking to us (Isa. 66:2). The Redeemed servants of the Lord, all true Christians, are always wanting their Lord (Phil. ); they cannot do without Him. “We love Him because He first loved us.” (2) It is a service of waiting to know our Master’s will. We wait for His will to be revealed; for Him to give strength to do His will and enable us to totally submit to Him (Acts 9:6). (3) The service of God is a service of trusting; utterly dependent upon our Lord while distrusting ourselves. In true faith we cleave to our Lord’s Word and cry, “Though He slay me, yet will I trust Him” (J15ob ).
The third stage is “fruit unto holiness.” The fruit of service must be holy to be accepted by a holy God. The object of love is our Lord’s will, His Word, and His Son, and these are perfect, pure, and good. The object of faith is our Lord Christ’s Person and work. By God-given faith alone are we “complete in Him.” The object of hope is the Blood and righteousness of Christ our Lord. These are all holy and make their partakers holy too. “By their fruits ye shall know them” (Matt. ). Those whom Christ has ransomed are given grace to live a holy life, freed from the bondage of their former corruptions: “redeemed ... from your vain conversation ... with the precious blood of Christ” (1 Pet. ). A humble, sincere, godly life, walk, and conversation is the outward mark of these inward fruits, which are produced by grace, to the glory of God, in the new creature of Heavenly birth, which is a plant truly planted by the Lord (Matt. 15:13).
The last stage is reached at “the end everlasting life.” This is the rich crown of glory which awaits every child of God. Eternal life is not the reward of a holy life, but a holy life is the effect of having eternal life. Eternal glory is to be with Christ and like Christ. In the words of David Brown: “As the final state of the justified believer; the beatific experience not only of complete exemption from the fall with all its effects, but to 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.”
So our sanctification is all in Christ. He has obtained it; it flows from Him, and He guarantees it. It is He Who obtained this gracious gift of sanctification for the elect, our Redeemer, and sanctification is the fruit of the Cross. God has ordered that our sanctification flow from Christ directly. The Holy Ghost works it in us, yet whatever He imparts to us He takes from Christ. “He shall glorify me: for He shall receive of Mine” (John ). Christ Himself is our sanctification. But let us not go to extremes and fall into the error of those who deny the work of the Holy Ghost in the soul which is so clearly brought out in our next chapter. “That the Holy Spirit pervades the inmost recesses of the man; He opens the closed and softens the hardened heart, and circumcises that which was uncircumcised; infuses new qualities into the will, which though heretofore dead, He quickens: from being evil, disobedient, and refactory, He renders it good, obedient, and pliable; actuates and strengthens it, that, like a good tree, it may bring forth the fruits of good actions.” (Canons of
Verse 23 For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord. These are the final outcomes of the 2 statements: The end of a state of subjection of sin is death; The end of a state of subjection to righteousness is eternal life. Guilt conducts through a shameful course of sin to eternal death; righteousness conducts through an honorable course of holiness to eternal life; and all under the curse of the broken Law must reach the first fearful termination, for death is the wages of sin (Ezek. 18:4). Death, temporal and eternal, is the stipulated and deserved wages of sin, even of every violation of God’s Holy Law: this every man has earned, and every unbeliever will receive (Gen. 2:17). No man can live, no, not for a moment, apart from Christ, in a life of sin, and escape this eternal death. The full reward of sin is the punishment of this threefold death. (1) First, is the death of guilt and condemnation in all the sons of Adam. (2) Second, our legal death issues a spiritual and experimental state of pollution by sin and our faculties enslaved. (3) Third, sin exposes the finally impenitent and unbelieving unto eternal death in the lake of fire (Psa. 104:35). This punishment of sin will be adapted to both parts of man — body and soul, which will suffer throughout eternity — there will never be an end to the miseries of Hell (Matt. 25:46). The essence of death is the wrath of God, the curse, separation of our whole being from the favor of God’s presence, to be forsaken of Him (Psa. 90:7, 9).
“The gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.” Grace reigns in the bestowal of it in every case, and that in Jesus Christ our Lord, as the righteous Channel of it (John ). Eternal life looks forward to the full glory that shall belong to the saved. This is a place of full fellowship with God and worship of Him in Christ, a reuniting with the whole body of Christ, a place of eternal bliss, happiness and purity. This is all through the merits of our Lord Jesus Christ. He is our eternal Life (John 17:3). God’s gift (freely given) is eternal life for ever through Him. Eternal life is the gift of God to those who condemn themselves, and renounce all dependence on their own filthy righteousness and their defective and defiled services, to rely entirely on free grace, through the righteousness and atonement of our Lord Jesus Christ: and that holiness, which is the meetness for Heavenly happiness, is as much “the gift of God through Christ,” as that imputed righteousness, which is the believer’s title to it.
The Holy Ghost in this 6th chapter destroys the delusive confidence of all those who rest in the thought that they are in a state of favor with God, while they live in the love and practice of sin in some of its forms (1 John 3:6). We fear that such characters are far from being rare among professors of what is termed evangelical Christianity. Many talk much of grace with their lips but in their practice they are “turning the grace of our God into lasciviousness, and denying the only Lord God, and our Lord Jesus Christ” (Jude 4). Such persons are in extreme danger; and their hazard is the greater in that they are unaware of it, saying to themselves, “Peace and safety.” Hell has no greater torments than those reserved for the abusers of our Lord’s Holy Gospel — the presumptuous claimants of the privileges of a state into which they prove that they have never passed, by being destitute of the character which God’s free grace uniformly produces; and their damnation will be as obviously just as intolerably severe (Heb. 2:3; Rev.21:8).
God’s method of justification secures holiness (Eph. 1:4; )! How powerfully does it oblige all under its influence to cultivate holiness! Without it, there can be no such thing as holiness in the heart of fallen man. He who is really interested in it is renewed in the inner man — created in our Lord Christ unto good works. The sovereign grace of God, and the infinite atonement of the Lord Jesus Christ, is the only solid foundation, not only of human hope and happiness, but of human holiness. “Other foundation can no man lay than that which is laid — Jesus Christ” (1 Cor. ). The Scriptural Word for all men who continue in sin, regardless of their profession or testimony is, “Without holiness no man shall see the Lord” (Heb. ). RCLVC.
Worthy Doctrinal and Spiritual Notes and Quotes on Romans 6:14-23.
You will find a number of quotes from A. W. Pink taken from his great book The Doctrine of Sanctification. We consider this to be the best book available on this important subject and we recommend it highly.
Verse 14. A sense of sin will cause manifold perplexities in the soul. Trouble, disquietment, sorrow, and anguish of heart, expressing themselves in sighs, mourning, groaning for deliverance, always attend it. But a little cruse of salt of the Gospel cast into these bitter waters will make them sweet and wholesome. Sense of the guilt of sin may consist with faith of its pardon and forgiveness in the blood of Christ. Godly sorrow may dwell in the same heart at the same time with joy in the Holy Ghost, and groaning after deliverance from the power of sin with a gracious persuasion that “sin shall not have dominion, because we are not under the Law but under grace.” — John Owen (1616-1683).
Law keeping is not the cause of sanctification anymore than it is the cause of justification. The Law is the instrument used by the Spirit to reveal our damnation. A delighting in the Law of God, and desire to obey it as a rule of life is the effect of justification and sanctification, but not the cause. Grace is the motive for sanctification. Grace leads us to a separated life. The love of Christ (the love He has for us) constrains us. I am sorry that many today misunderstand such statements as this, and, as a result, teach lawlessness. There are many crying “not under Law!” and feel that they have no rule of life. Christ said, “Not one jot of the Law would pass away!” It is a safe rule to live by — not in order to be saved, or sanctified, but because we are saved. — Ferrell Griswold (1928-1982).
The Law is void in respect of its power to condemn us, but it still has power to direct us; we are not under its curse, but yet under its commands. — Samuel Bolton (1606-1654).
Verse 15. Exactly what is the sanctification of the Spirit? Personally, we very much doubt whether that question can be satisfactorily answered in a single sentence, for in framing one, account needs to be taken of the change which is produced in the believing sinner’s relationship to God, his relationship to Christ as the Head of the Church, his relationship to the unregenerate, and his relationship to the Divine Law. Positionally, our sanctification by the Spirit results from our being vitally united to Christ, for the moment we are livingly united to Him, His holiness becomes ours, and our standing before God is the same as His. Relatively, our sanctification of the Spirit issues from our being renewed by Him, for the moment He quickens us we are set apart from those who are dead in sins. Personally, we are consecrated unto God by the Spirit’s indwelling us, making our bodies His temples. Experimentally, our sanctification of the Spirit consists in the impartation to us of a principle (“Nature”) of holiness, hereby we become conformed to the Divine Law. — A. W. Pink (1886-1952).
Some Antinomian libertines would persuade men that God is never displeased with His people, though they fall into adultery, or the like sin, no, not with a Fatherly displeasure; that God never chastiseth His people for any sin, no, not with a Fatherly chastisement; that God seeth no sin in His elect; that the very being of their sin is abolished out of God’s sight; that they cannot sin, or if they do, it is not they but “sin that dwelleth in them,” &c. What is this but to “turn the grace of God into wantonness,” whence thence-forth becometh the savour of death to death unto them; like as Moses’ rod, cast on the ground, turned to a serpent; or as dead men’s bodies, when the marrow melteth, do bring forth serpents? — John Trapp (1601-1669).
The Law sends us to Christ to be justified, and Christ sends us to the Law to be regulated. — John Flavel (1628-1691).
Sanctification is threefold. First, meritorious sanctification is Christ’s meriting and purchasing for His Church the inward inhabitation of the Spirit, and that grace whereby they may be sanctified: Heb. 10:10. Second, applicatory sanctification is the inward renovation of the heart of those whom Christ hath sanctified by the Spirit of regeneration, whereby a man is translated from death to life, from the state of nature to the state of grace. This is spoken of in Titus 3:5: this is the daily sanctification, which, with respect to the merit of Christ, is wrought by the Spirit and the ministry of the Word and sacraments. Third, practical sanctification is that by which those for whom Christ did sanctify Himself, and who are renewed by the Holy Spirit, and planted into Christ by faith, do more and more sanctify and cleanse themselves from sin in thought, word, and deed (1 Pet. 1:15; 1 John 3:3). — A. W. Pink (1886-1952).
Verse 16. It no more follows that because a true Christian cannot fall finally from grace, he may therefore come down from his watch-tower and commit sin with safety; than it will follow that our Lord might have thrown Himself down from the battlements of the temple, because it was written that God would give His angels charge concerning Him to bear Him in their hands. And how can it be thought that this important truth leads to licentiousness, when we lay down this as a fundamental maxim, that none have any shadow of pretence to consider themselves interested in the blessing of perseverance, but those only who manifest that interest, by being inwardly conformed to God, and outwardly observe His commandments. — Augustus M. Toplady (1740-1778).
Abiding in Obedience, in Love. "If ye keep My Commandments, ye shall abide in My love" (John ). These things cannot be parted — abiding in obedience and abiding in the love of Jesus. A life under the rule of Christ can alone prove that we are the objects of our LORD's delight. We must keep our LORD's command if we would bask in His love. If we live in sin we cannot live in the love of Christ. Without the holiness which pleases God we cannot please Jesus. He who cares nothing for holiness knows nothing of the love of Jesus. Conscious enjoyment of our LORD's love is a delicate thing. It is far more sensitive to sin and holiness than mercury is to cold and heat. When we are tender of heart and careful in thought, lip, and life to honor our LORD Jesus, then we receive tokens of His love without number. If we desire to perpetuate such bliss we must perpetuate holiness. The LORD Jesus will not hide His face from us unless we hide our face from Him. Sin makes the cloud which darkens our Sun: if we will be watchfully obedient and completely consecrated we may walk in the light, as God is in the light, and have as sure an abiding in the love of Jesus as Jesus has in the love of the Father. Here is a sweet promise with a solemn “if,” LORD, let me have this “if” in my hand; for as a key it opens this casket. — C. H. Spurgeon (1834-1892).
A fuller and better answer to the question of “What is sanctification?” would be, “Sanctification is, first, that act of God whereby He set the elect apart in Christ before the foundation of the world that they should be holy. Second, it is that perfect holiness which the Church has in Christ and that excellent purity which she has before God by virtue of Christ’s cleansing blood. Third, it is that work of God’s Spirit which, by His quickening operation, sets them apart from those who are dead in sins, conveying to them a holy life or nature, etc.” — A. W. Pink (1886-1952).
Verse 17. Reader, remember this: if thy knowledge do not now affect thy heart, it will at last with a witness afflict thy heart; if it do not now endear Christ to thee, it will at last provoke Christ the more against thee; if it do not make all the things of Christ to be very precious in thy eyes, it will at last make thee the more vile in Christ's eyes. — Thomas Brooks (1608-1680).
All doctrine, all experience, all precept are seen then to centre, as one grand harmonious whole, in the Glorious Person of the Son of God. From Him they all come; to Him they all flow. Severed from Him, doctrine is seen to be but a withered branch, experience but a delusive dream, precept but a legal service. But His light enlightening, His life quickening, His power attending the Word of His grace, doctrine is seen to be no longer dry and dead, but glorious truth: experience to be not a mere matter of fluctuating feeling, but a blessed reality, as the very kingdom of God set up with divine power in the heart; and obedience not legal duty but a high, holy, and acceptable service. — J. C. Philpot (1802-1869).