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Dying and Rising with Christ
What then are we to say? Should we continue in sin in order that grace may abound?
1. What then shall we say? Throughout this chapter the Apostle proves, that they who imagine that gratuitous righteousness is given us by him, apart from newness of life, shamefully rend Christ asunder: nay, he goes further, and refers to this objection, — that there seems in this case to be an opportunity for the display of grace, if men continued fixed in sin. We indeed know that nothing is more natural than that the flesh should indulge itself under any excuse, and also that Satan should invent all kinds of slander, in order to discredit the doctrine of grace; which to him is by no means difficult. For since everything that is announced concerning Christ seems very paradoxical to human judgment, it ought not to be deemed a new thing, that the flesh, hearing of justification by faith, should so often strike, as it were, against so many stumbling-stones. Let us, however, go on in our course; nor let Christ be suppressed, because he is to many a stone of offense, and a rock of stumbling; for as he is for ruin to the ungodly, so he is to the godly for a resurrection. We ought, at the same time, ever to obviate unreasonable questions, lest the Christian faith should appear to contain anything absurd.
The Apostle now takes notice of that most common objection against the preaching of divine grace, which is this, — “That if it be true, that the more bountifully and abundantly will the grace of God aid us, the more completely we are overwhelmed with the mass of sin; then nothing is better for us than to be sunk into the depth of sin, and often to provoke God’s wrath with new offenses; for then at length we shall find more abounding grace; than which nothing better can be desired.” The refutation of this we shall here after meet with.
2. By no means. To some the Apostle seems to have only intended indignantly to reprove a madness so outrageous; but it appears from other places that he commonly used an answer of this kind, even while carrying on a long argument; as indeed he does here, for he proceeds carefully to disprove the propounded slander. He, however, first rejects it by an indignant negative, in order to impress it on the minds of his readers, that nothing can be more inconsistent than that the grace of Christ, the repairer of our righteousness, should nourish our vices.
Who have died to sin, etc. An argument derived from what is of an opposite character. “He who sins certainly lives to sin; we have died to sin through the grace of Christ; then it is false, that what abolishes sin gives vigor to it.” The state of the case is really this, — that the faithful are never reconciled to
God without the gift of regeneration; nay, we are for this end justified, — that we may afterwards serve God in holiness of life. Christ indeed does not cleanse us by his blood, nor render God propitious to us by his expiation, in any other way than by making us partakers of his Spirit, who renews us to a holy life. It would then be a most strange inversion of the work of God were sin to gather strength on account of the grace which is offered to us in Christ; for medicine is not a feeder of
the disease, which it destroys.
This phrase, “died to sin,” is evidently misapprehended by Haldane Having been offended, and justly so, by an unguarded and erroneous expression of Stuart, derived from Chrysostom, and by the false rendering of Macknight, he went to another extreme, and maintained, that to die, or to be dead to sin, means to be freed from its
guilt, while the whole context proves, that it means deliverance from its power as a master, from the servitude or bondage of sin. To live in it, does not mean to live under its guilt, but in its service and under its ruling power; and this is what the Apostle represents as a contrast to being dead to sin. Not to “serve sin,” in Romans 6:6, is its true explanation. See also
Romans 6:11, 12, and 14.
The very argument requires this meaning. The question in the first verse, — Shall we continue in sin?” does not surely mean — shall we continue in or under the guilt of sin? but in its service, and in the practice of it. It was the chapter of practical licentiousness that the Apostle rebuts; and he employs an argument suitable to the purpose, “If we are dead to sin, freed from it as our master, how absurd it is to suppose that we can live any longer in its service?” Then he shows in what follows how this had been effected. This is clearly the import of the passage, and so taken by almost all commentators.
But it must be added, that Venema and Chalmers materially agree with Haldane The former says that to “die to sin” is to give to sin what it demands and that is, death; and that when this is given, it can require nothing more. In this sense, he adds, Christ died to sin (Romans 6:10); and in the same sense believers die to sin, being, as they are, united to Christ, his death being viewed as their death. However true this theology may be, (and Chalmers shows this in his own inimitable manner,) it does not seem to be taught here: though there may be something in one or two expressions to favor it; yet the whole tenor of the passage, and many of the phrases, seem clearly to constrain us to adopt the other view. — Ed. We must further bear in mind, what I have already referred to — that Paul does not state here what God finds us to be, when he calls us to an union with his Son, but what it behoves us to be, after he has had mercy on us, and has freely adopted us; for by an adverb, denoting a future time, he shows what kind of change ought to follow righteousness.