III.3. Romans 6:1-14. The Christian Life a Living by Dying.
It has now been made apparent that belief in Christ introduces a man into a new sphere of 'life in Christ' or 'state of grace' — a state, that is, in which the divine grace or goodwill is the atmosphere and motive force. And just as with his natural life he inherited all the taint and curse attaching to sin in the unredeemed humanity, so now in his new state he receives from Christ all the bountiful outpouring, not of acquittal only, but of divine life. What he is called to witness is the triumph of the divine goodwill over the old forces and tendencies of sin in himself and in the world.
But now a monstrous suggestion presents itself, akin to that attempt of the Jew (of which we heard in chapter iii) to claim exemption from the divine judgement on his own sins on the ground that Jewish unfaithfulness had but given God a background upon which to reveal Himself and His righteousness more effectively. St. Paul, we saw, indignantly crushed that attempt to use logic against conscience. Now, however, a similar suggestion makes itself heard, only from the side not of Jewish factiousness, but of Gentile lawlessness. Would it not give divine grace a still better opportunity to show its quality if, now that we are Christians, we go on living our old life of sin? The more it has got to forgive in us, the more superabundant will its mercy appear. Shall we not then continue in sin that grace may abound? We have other reasons, besides this passage, for believing that St. Paul's teaching about divine grace and justifying faith not only admitted of being misunderstood, but was misunderstood, in his own time as at later periods, in such a way as to cut the roots of moral effort. 'Unlearned and unstable men were wresting his words to their own destruction.' And to any lawless suggestions based upon the misuse of God's free grace, St. Paul had already given the easiest answer when he had laid it down as an absolutely universal truth that God will at last 'render to every man according to his works ... to them that are factious and obey not the truth but obey unrighteousness, wrath and indignation, tribulation and anguish, upon every soul of man that works evil'; or when he had met the developed logic of the self-excusing Jew with the sharp and final rejoinder — 'whose condemnation is just.'
Here however St. Paul gives not the easiest answer to the antinomian suggestion, but a deep, fruitful, and decisive one. He demonstrates the absolute incompatibility of principle between the life of sin and the Christian state. By the very nature of the case no man can belong to both. As St. John said, 'he that is begotten of God' in the new life in Christ 'cannot sin' without thereby abandoning his new standing-ground. At the moment when we became Christians by the act of baptism, we said good-bye to the old life of sin as completely as a dying man says good-bye to the familiar scenes and passes over to 'yonder side.' We were admitted by baptism into Christ Jesus; that is, we were admitted into a certain sort of human life with a certain law or character. What is then the character and law of Christ's life? 'We believe that Jesus died and rose again.' That is the central and summary fact about Him. He passed to life through death. And this physical death of His on the cross was not merely a fact in history, it was a fact with a moral significance. While He had been in this sinful world of ours He had borne its sin, but had no part in it. He was in the sinful world, but not of it. He was to sin and all its motives as one dead. And by His physical death upon the cross He gave summary expression to this moral alienation. He made a final and outward breach with sin, and passed out of its range, for evermore 'separated from sinners.' 'He died to sin once for all.' And the glory of the Father broke forth from its customary concealment and vindicated the Christ by raising Him from the dead, because of what His death had morally meant.
Thus the 'likeness,' or moral counterpart, of Christ's death is to be, like Him, dead to sin. And if we are not called to be physically crucified, we are called to its moral counterpart. We must become morally 'of one growth' with Christ's death, like the slip with the tree it is grafted into. Only so can we share the new life of His resurrection. This is represented in the very ceremony of our baptism. It was impressed upon us by all its outward symbolism that to become a Christian we must die to the old life. We were brought to the margin of the water as to a death, and descended, bowed beneath the waves, as into the tomb with Christ: in order so, and only so, as having died and been buried, to emerge again into the new life under the conditions of which from now onwe are to conduct ourselves. And this new life is not only an actual present fellowship in the risen Christ (ver. 4): it expects to become so (ver. 5) in a fuller and completer measure, but always on the basis of one and the same clear conviction, which we may express thus — When Christ was nailed to the cross, our old sinful humanity was nailed there with Him, so that from now onour animal nature, until the point in time the haunt and stronghold of sin, might be paralyzed and rendered as powerless as any crucified criminal, and we, set free to become new men, might no longer be sin's slaves. That old sinful self of ours was put to death, and we passed, as new men, into another life. From now onthe tyrant sin has no claim on us, for death closes all scores and acquits of all claims. 'The man is dead' is a summary and final plea against all claimants, and that is our plea against the claim of sin. We have died to it once and for all. Therefore, and only therefore, we can hope to share the deathless glory of Christ's resurrection. He died once, and passed from that time on altogether out of death's control. For the death that He died was to make an end with sin, and that was done once for all. From now onthere is nothing left but life, and that life in the eternal God. This therefore is the view we are to take of ourselves as now included in Christ: we are, in regard to sin, dead men who are no longer responsive to its impulses or alive to its interests: and therefore, in regard to God, we are alive in Christ to whom we are united.
And (ver. 12) the practical duty which follows from this is plain. Christians must not acknowledge a tyrant whose strength and power is gone for ever, by letting sin still reign in the lower part of their nature — the body still subject to physical death — and so bring their higher nature into an unnatural subjection to its appetites: they must not leave the limbs of their redeemed selves at the disposal of the dethroned king Sin, to be used as weapons for the warfare of iniquity. No: they must correspond to the privileges of the new life in God into which they have passed, by making an offering of themselves to God, with all the free will which befits those who were dead and are alive again; and an offering also of their limbs, now restored to their own control, as weapons for God's warfare of righteousness. Sin shall no longer be their lord. That despotism belonged to the days when they were under the law. Now it is not the law they are under, but the sovereignty of the divine goodwill.
What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound? God forbid. We who died to sin, how shall we any longer live therein? Or are you ignorant that all we who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were buried therefore with him through baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we also might walk in newness of life. For if we have become united with the likeness of his death, we shall be also with the likeness of his resurrection; knowing this, that our old man was crucified with him, that the body of sin might be done away, that so we should no longer be in bondage to sin; for he that has died is justified from sin. But if we died with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with him; knowing that Christ being raised from the dead dies no more; death no more has dominion over him. For the death that he died, he died to sin once: but the life that he lives, he lives to God. Even so reckon you also yourselves to be dead to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus.
Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, that you should obey the lusts thereof: neither present your members to sin as instruments of unrighteousness; but present yourselves to God, as alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness to God. For sin shall not have dominion over you: for you are not under law, but under grace.
1. In the analysis of the passage given above, the order of the ideas has been somewhat altered, and their meaning expanded, with the intention of rendering the real argument more intelligible; while I believe that no idea is suggested that is foreign to the original. The passage, however, is extraordinarily condensed, and is full of some of the most characteristic of St. Paul's thoughts — among them that of the life in Christ as being a living by dying, or a life out of death.
It is impossible to try to lead a human life under any standard that can be called moral without knowing that it involves some sort of 'mortification' of selfish and sensual appetites. There is that in human nature which, as moralists generally must recognize and in fact have in a measure recognized, must be 'done to death.' It was this principle that was expressed with such terrible vigour by our Lord when He bade us pluck out the offending eye and cut off the offending hand. But the novelty in Christianity was the emphasis which it laid rather on the living than on the dying; it was its teaching as to the infusion into human life of a new and positive spiritual force, which was to overcome evil with good and swallow up death in victory. It was by their belief in a gift of the Spirit imparted to them, and by their resulting power to think and act freely according to God, that the Christians were distinguished from the rest of the world. It is this upon which their apostolic teachers continually insist. 'I have written to you young men, because you are strong.' 'As many as are lead by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God.' It is only as it were in the second place that it appears that this living in the new life will involve dying to an old one. Thus the dying is always made to appear to be in order to a living. The end is always the life. 'I came that they may have life,' our Lord had said, 'and have it abundantly.'
The phrases about dying in order to live have their root in our Lord's teaching, as St. John represents it, but belong most characteristically to St. Paul. The principle which they enforce belongs only to a fallen world, for it is only the sin within us and about us that has to be put to death, or to which we have to die. But it finds its highest exemplification in the case of Christ who, sinless Himself, came into a world of sin and lived under its conditions. Therefore He had to 'die' to sin and selfishness in the world in order to 'live' in His own proper life to God. And this dying to sin — this refusing it and repudiating it — is summarily represented in His death upon the cross. The worldly world killed Him because He would have none of its selfishness and sin. He, by voluntarily dying sooner than surrender to the demands of this world, made a final separation of Himself from sin. Thus He lived His life to God at the cost of dying. And this law of Christ's life is to be the law of ours. We must die to sin — not on a visible cross, but by a repudiation of it as thorough and real: nor to sin outside us only, but to sin in ourselves. It is only to express this attitude toward sin in ourselves in other words, to say that we have to mortify and crucify our own carnal and selfish selves.
And just as Christ summed up His attitude towards the world by His death upon the cross, so the Christian's attitude to the world was summed up in his baptism. At that moment he died to the world of sin. This state of deadness to sin has to be constantly renewed, or again and again recovered. But it was in that sacramental moment realized in principle and symbolically represented. The convert who was immersed beneath the baptismal waters and emerged again, realized easily that this 'bath of regeneration' was, what the early Christians called it, 'his grave and his mother.' All the circumstances of his baptism forced it upon him that he had passed out of an old life into a new — that he died to one state of things and came to life in another. The Christians of St. Paul's churches, like newly-made Christians in Central Africa or India to-day, were very often highly imperfect; but they knew — they could not but know — that they had passed under a new allegiance; that like the just-converted Frankish idolater, they must 'burn what they had adored, and adore what they had burned.'
We in our generation, and in a country where Christianity has become traditional, realize this much less easily. It is not only that we have, in our Church and country, almost wholly lost the symbolism which belongs to baptism by immersion; though that is as great a loss as any symbolic action, not necessary to the administration of a sacrament, can be. It is not only that we are as a general rule baptized in infancy, for that under right conditions embodies a fundamental Christian principle and comes down from the origin of Christianity. It is much more that Christianity has been allowed to become conventional and cheap. It requires no effort or moral courage to own, in a formal sense, the name of Christ. The result is that masses of men belong to the Church who are in practice living purely worldly lives, and that the Church and the world are fused together. Hence it follows again that what the majority of Christians do is supposed to represent a tolerable manner of life for an ordinary Christian, who does not profess to be better than his neighbours. Under these circumstances there is nothing which is more important than to reassert the law of life through death as the only Christian law of living. The 'old man' is as vigorous as ever. The world is still gratifying its sensual appetites and grasping after wealth without regard to the law of God. Malice, jealousy, and hatred are alive and flourishing. God is still being ignored, refused, blasphemed. That is to say, the world of sin is still what it always was. It is still under the same unchangeable wrath of God; and still therefore to live to God is only possible for one who will, and that deliberately and persistently, die to the world. The renunciation must be conscious and deliberate. The mortification and crucifixion of the 'old man' and 'the body of sin' must be painful, at times even agonizing. A reasonable Christian will be indeed surprised if something painful is not being continually required of him. And a reasonable Christian rejoices to purchase, even by great sacrifices, the pearl of great price, which is fellowship with Christ: — 'that he may know him and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable to his death.' This is the point. It is not enough for us to be baptized. Our baptism is evacuated of all meaning unless we are also 'being converted,' or 'turning' from the world to God; unless we are turning our back upon its lawless lusts, its worldly ambitions, its graspings after money, its refusals of pain, its selfish and unloving life. No: all this renunciation was already involved in the Name spoken over us at our baptism. The Christian name pledges us to the Christian law of living by dying, progress by conversion. You cannot refuse the dying without repudiating the Name. 'Die and re-exist,' said Goethe, 'for so long as this is not accomplished you are but a troubled guest upon an earth of gloom.'
'Reckon you, therefore, yourselves to be dead to sin.' This phrase, addressed to common Christians, supplies a magnificent instance of St. Paul's idealism, that is to say, of his love of considering things, and his desire that others should consider things, in the light of their central and dominant idea or principle — as they ought to be rather than as they are. This is his continual practice: to idealize not in the sense of thinking unreally of things, but in the sense of thinking of them in the light of that which is most fundamental in them. It is in this way that he thinks of 'the world,' or godless human society, and seems to represent it as worse than it sometimes appears, because its governing principle is radically evil. It is in this way that he thinks of the Church, and speaks of it in terms of glory not justified by the facts simply as they appear; because it has that at work within it which is capable of transforming it until it not only is, but looks like, the body of Christ, or the city of God. This idealizing method is naturally distasteful to English common sense in most departments of thinking, and perhaps particularly in the region of religion. But we suffer from an over-close adhesion to the 'matters of fact' or 'the things which do appear.' We do not think of our life, ourselves, our church according to the divine principle which they embody, or 'according to the pattern shown to us in the mount.' Thus we are never uplifted, enlarged, ennobled by the vision of
... The gleam,The light that never was on sea or land.
That light never was or is manifest on the surface of actual experience, and yet it is always latent — the touch of glory in common things, the radiance in even our dim world, 'the master light of all our seeing.' We have almost all of us got to learn the practical power of the Christian imagination, disciplined and spiritually enlightened, to enrich and ennoble actual life. The objects which our imagination should reflect are realities, but realities not yet developed. What our imagination should do for us is to teach us to see things not as they are, but as they are coming to be.
2. 'Life in Christ Jesus,' 'Christ living in me' — there can be no question that these beautiful phrases which, if St. John's witness be true, represent the teaching of Christ Himself, express also what is most central in St. Paul's idea of Christianity. It was the great merit of Matthew Arnold's St. Paul and Protestantism that it recalled the fact to notice in ordinary educated circles. Recent scientific study of St. Paul has gone in the same direction. The doctrines of atonement and justification are essential to St. Paul's theology, but not central: the doctrine of life in Christ, spiritual and moral identification with Christ, is both essential and central. The maintenance of this life of union is again, as Matthew Arnold teaches us, the final and most developed function of faith — 'that Christ may dwell in our hearts by faith'; for faith is, or grows to be, such devotion to Christ's person as desires to lose itself and its selfish aims in Him and His work. But Matthew Arnold strangely leaves out of sight the two-sidedness of this relation: we abide in Christ by faith, because Christ first of all abides in us by His loving-kindness and grace. It is His love, always beforehand with us — not merely to forgive us our sins, but to pour itself out in the communicated Spirit — that takes us up within the circle of His own life; it is the act of God incorporating us into Christ which evokes and makes possible the response of our faith to realize His indwelling and make the adhesion mutual. God's gift is prior to our response and the ground of it; and moreover God's gift is permanent and abiding. It would indeed be a thought of despair if the bond between Christ and us depended upon the continuous energy of our faith to maintain it. No, it is always there — unintermittent through all our broken efforts and vicissitudes of will — always there for us to recur to. We are to reckon ourselves 'dead to sin and alive to righteousness,' because and only because we are also to reckon ourselves 'in Christ.' That is our permanent state, and it is the function of faith not to create, but to realize it.
It is St. Paul's clear and vivid perception of a divine gift given, a relationship to God established by God's act, not ours, and that at a particular time, which is closely connected with his sacramental teaching. If a divine gift is to be given (1) definite at a definite time, (2) to men of body as well as spirit in a world not only spiritual but material, (3) publicly as to members of a social organization — it is most natural that the gift should be embodied in an outward rite and outward vehicle. So St. Paul appears to think. There is no shrinking about his sacramental language. It can be said with justice that certain forms of sacerdotal or ecclesiastical government which have appeared in Church history would to his mind have savoured, or more than savoured, of bondage to men and bondage to the 'beggarly rudiments' of ceremonial observances. St. Paul is very jealous of maintaining what we may call spiritual individuality and personal liberty. But there is no justification to be found in St. Paul's epistles for saying that he connects sacramentalism — i.e. the idea of necessary spiritual gifts divinely promised on the occasion, and through the medium, of certain outward religious rites of a community — with that 'bondage' to 'beggarly rudiments' of which he has so great a dread. St. Paul's language does not admit of our supposing that he knew of any other way of admission 'into Christ' except through the gate of baptism, or any other means of communion in Christ's body and blood except 'the breaking of the bread.'
3. It will be necessary before we leave this great passage to give some special attention to three phrases.
'Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father.' In the New Testament the sacrifice of Christ, the atonement won by Christ, is continually ascribed to the Father, acting through and in the Son — 'God was in Christ reconciling the world to himself.' So also the resurrection is uniformly ascribed to the Father's power acting in the case of the Son. Our current Christian language has in both cases departed too widely from apostolic practice. The doctrine of the Holy Trinity would be more intelligently held, and the worship of the Church more normally offered in the Spirit through the Son to the Father, if we had not fallen into the habit of so speaking of the action of the Son in dying and rising as habitually to leave out of sight the truth that His action, as Son, is and must always be the Father's action through Him; and that reversely our worship of the Son must always be really, and ought to be in our habitual consciousness, the worship of the Father through Him.
'Our old man was crucified with him.' As Shelley said that, when Adonais died, ''tis death is dead, not he,' so in an infinitely deeper sense St. Paul says that what was killed upon the cross was (he does not say 'instead of Christ,' but 'with Christ') sin and the 'old man.' The 'old man' means the old way of living, or rather the old way of living considered as having been appropriated by the sinful individual and thus made his own self. Thus it was the old self that was put to death on the cross, and a new self came to life, which was the same in unchanged personality and yet so practically different in all its relationships, that it could assert and claim exemptions from the obligations contracted by the 'old man.'
'That the body of sin might be done away.' The identification of sin with the individual had been specially with his body. His bodily appetites and impulses and parts had been so used to the ways of sin as to become a 'body of sin,' and this, St. Paul says, has to be 'done away' or annulled. It is not that we are to harm the body itself: for the body itself is good, and is to be offered, with all its members, to become the weapon of Christian warfare. There is indeed no material thing as such that is evil. The 'body of sin' means exactly 'the body considered as having become the receptacle of sin': as when our Lord speaks of the 'mammon of unrighteousness,' He means money which has become the instrument of unrighteousness, but which the children of light are to convert to profitable uses. 'To annul the body of sin' means, therefore, almost the same as 'to annul sin in the body' and leave the body free; but it emphasizes the fact that sin has got such hold of the body that to annul sin involves annulling the body: as St. Paul says elsewhere, 'I buffet' (or 'distress') 'my body and bring it into bondage.'
 See Gal. v. 13: 'Only use not your freedom for an occasion of the flesh.' Cf. 2 Pet. iii. 16, and the implications of St. James' Epistle.
 1 Thess. iv. 14.
 The meaning of ver. 4 is interpreted in vers. 10, 11.
 Ver. 4; cf. John xi. 40. 'The glory of God' is specially manifest in the resurrection of the dead.
 This is the original suggestion of the word 'united' in ver. 5.
 Cf. Col. ii. 12.
 The Greek words represented by 'leave at the disposal of,' 'make an offering to,' are different parts of the same verb. 'The tense of the former expresses continuance, habit; ... of the latter, a single irrevocable act of surrender' (Vaughan, in loc.).
 John xii. 24, 25.
 It is one gain of the R.V. that for 'you are dead' (Col. iii. 3, ii. 20), 'we are dead' (Rom. vi. 2, 8), &c., we read 'you died,' 'we died,' i.e. at the definite moment of baptism.
 Gregory of Tours, Attention. Franc. ii. 31: 'To whom (Chlovis) as he enters the font to be baptized, the holy man of God (Remigius) thus eloquently spoke — "Meekly bow your neck, Sigambrian: adore what you have burnt; burn what you have adored."'
 Baptism by 'affusion' began within the first century, but as the exception, not the rule. See app. note F.
 By infant baptism under right conditions, I mean the baptism of infants when there is some real security provided, through their parents or proper sponsors, for their Christian education, according to the intention of the Church. On the primitive origin of infant baptism, see Ephesians, pp. 230, 231.
 'Stirb und werde!Denn so lang du das nicht have,Bist du nur ein trüber GastAuf der dunkeln Erde' (quoted by M. Arnold).
 John vi. 53-58; xiv. 19, 20; xv. 1-10; xvii. 21-23.
 P. 81 (2nd ed.): 'The three essential terms of Pauline theology are not, therefore, as popular theology makes them — calling, justification, sanctification: they are rather these — dying with Christ, resurrection from the dead, growing into Christ.' Cf. p. 76: 'How did Paul's faith, working through love, help him [to control appetite and self-will]? It enabled him to reinforce duty by affection. In the central need of his nature, the desire to govern these motives of unrighteousness, it enabled him to say: Die to them! Christ did. If any man be in Christ, said St. Paul — that is, if any man identifies himself with Christ by attachment, so that he enters into His feelings and lives with His life — he is a new creature; he can do, and does, what Christ did.' It would be truer, surely, to say in the first of these two passages not 'the three essential,' &c., but 'the three central.' Nothing can be more truly essential to Pauline theology than the terms, calling, justification, atonement; but the two last of them at least do not belong to the central region of religion, but have to do with the removal of preliminary obstacles to our entrance upon it.
 The apparent exception is John x. 18; but even there the word rendered 'take' would perhaps be better rendered 'receive.' Christ had the right to lay down His own life and the right to receive it again from the Father. So Hort, First Ep. of Peter, pp. 34, 84.
 Luke xvi. 9.
 1 Cor. ix. 27.
From St. Paul's Epistle to the Romans, Vol. I A Practical Exposition by Charles Gore D.D. Reprinted in 1900. Lightly updated to the language of the 21st century by D. N. Pham. (c) 2012.
Insights of the past for the present
To the Romans, vol I - C. Gore
ON THE BOOK SHELF
May your insights be worthy.