Verse 1. Paul, a servant of Jesus Christ, called to be an apostle, separated unto the gospel of God.
Paul had not seen the Romans when he wrote this epistle. They were strangers to him, and therefore he begins by asserting his apostleship. “called to be an apostle, separated unto the gospel of God.” That expression should be true of every Christian minister. We are not apostles; but we are “separated unto the gospel of God.” I do not think that we are called to have anything to do with party politics, or social problems, or any such questions; we are set apart for this purpose. “separated unto the gospel of God.” There are plenty of people who can attend to those things better than we can/ If we mind our own business, or rather, if we mind our Master’s business, we who are ministers will have quite enough to do. “Separated unto the gospel of God.” There are some brethren who in preaching are as timid as mice; but on a political platform they can roar like lions. Had not they better take to what they like best, and give up the work at which they are not at home? For my part, I believe that I am like Paul when he says that he was “separated unto the gospel of God.” I am set apart unto the gospel, cut off from everything else that I may preach the glorious gospel of the blessed God to the perishing sons of men.
(Which he had promised afore by his prophets in the holy scriptures.)
Notice, brethren, how reverent the apostles were to Holy Scripture. They had no doubt about its inspiration. They quoted the old Testament, and delighted to make it a kind of basis for the New Testament: “which he had promised afore by his prophets in the Holy Scriptures.”
Paul has many titles, and he delights to mention them in writing to these Christians at Rome. He puts first his highest title: “A servant of Jesus Christ.” He glories in being a servant of the crucified Christ, a servant of him who was despised and rejected of men; so do we. Paul was called out from among men, effectually “called” of God “to be an apostle, separated” — set apart — “unto the gospel of God.” He believed that he was separated for that purpose at his birth; but he was specially “separated unto the gospel of God” on the road to Damascus. It is a happy thing when a minister feels that he has nothing to do with anything else but the gospel; that commands all his thought, all his talent, all his time.
2. (Which he had promised afore by his prophets in the holy scriptures,)
All the gospel is in the Old Testament as well as in the New, for the gospel which Paul was called to preach was promised afore by the prophets in the Holy Scriptures.
3, 4. Concerning his Son Jesus Christ our Lord, which was made of the seed of David according to the flesh; and declared to be the Son of God with power, according to the spirit of holiness, by the resurrection from the dead:
He is as much the Son of God as he was the Son of man. The humanity is as true as the divinity, the divinity as true as the humanity.
4. Concerning his Son Jesus Christ our Lord, which was made the seed of David according to the flesh; and declared to be the Son of God with power, according to the spirit of holiness, by the resurrection from the dead:
What a glorious Lord we serve! He is God’s Son: “Jesus Christ our Lord.” In his human nature, he is a Man of royal race: “of the seed of David.” He was a man, therefore he died: but he rose again, for he was more than man: “declared to be the Son of God with power.”
5. BY whom we have received grace and apostleship, for obedience to the faith among all nations, for his name:
Paul felt that he was sent to preach among all the, Gentiles. He bad a large bishopric; James might keep to the Jews, but Paul’s diocese included every land, he was to preach “among all nations.”
6. By whom we have received grace and apostleship, for obedience to the faith among all notions, for his name: among whom are you also the called of Jesus Christ:
That is a sweet name for every truly converted man. “called of Jesus Christ.” He has called you personally, he has called you effectually, he has called you out of the world, he has called you into fellowship with himself: “the called of Jesus Christ.” The revised version has it: “call to be Jesus Christ’s.” those who are called by Christ, are called to be his.
6, 7. Among whom are ye also the called of Jesus Christ: to all that be in Rome, beloved of God, called to be saints: Grace to you and peace from God our Father, and the Lord Jesus Christ.
The gospel is good news; and the man who has to preach it is full of good wishes. He wishes the best possible things to everybody with whom he comes in contact: “Grace to you and peace from God our Father, and the Lord Jesus Christ.”
8. To all that be in Rome, beloved of God, called to be saints: Grace to you and peace from God our Father, and the Lord Jesus Christ. First, I thank my God through Jesus Christ for you all, that your faith is spoken of throughout the whole world.
What contrasts we have in the seventh verse! “In Rome, beloved of God.” “In Rome called to be saints.” God has beloved ones in the darkest parts of the earth. There is all the more reason for them to be saints because they are surrounded by sinners. They must have had true faith, or they could not have confessed Christ between the jaws of a lion, for they lived in Rome, with Nero hunting after Christians, as if they had been wild beasts, and yet they were not ashamed of the gospel of Christ.
Oh, I would it were so with us, that we bad faith that could be spoken of throughout the whole world! I am afraid that some have none to speak of; these saints in Rome bad such faith that the noise thereof went abroad everywhere, and all people wondered at them.
9. For God is my witness, whom I serve with my spirit in the gospel of his Son, that without ceasing I make mention of you always in my prayers;
This man, Paul, did a great deal by prayer. I remember a minister, who is now with the Lord, who was thanked by his people for his wonderful sermons; but he said to them, “You never thanked me for my prayers, yet they were the best part of my service for you.” When men of God are mighty in prayer, we owe much to them.
No wonder that they prospered so well when Paul always made mention of them in his prayers. Some churches would prosper better if some of you remembered them more in prayer. Of course, you all pray for the church of which you are members; could you not set aside in your heart a little space for some poor church that is dwindling down to nothing? Could you not pray it up again? Who knows what blessing would come upon pastor and people if you bore them on your hearts?
10. Making request, if by any means now at length I might have a prosperous journey by the will of God to come unto you.
Paul wanted to go to Rome; but I do not suppose that he ever thought that he would go there at the expense of the government, with an imperial guard to take care of him all the way. We pray, and God gives us the answer to our petitions; but often in a way of which we should never have dreamed. Paul goes to Rome as a prisoner for Christ’s sake. Now suppose Paul had gone to Rome in any other capacity, he could not have seen Caesar, he could not have obtained admission into Caesar’s house. The prison of the Palatine was just under the vast palace of the Caesars; and everybody in the house could come into the guard-room. And have a talk with Paul if they were minded so to do. I suppose that, whatever I might be willing to pay, I could not have preached in the palace of the Queen, even in this nominally Christian country; but Paul was installed as a royal chaplain over Caesar’s household in the guard-room of the Palatine prison. How wonderfully God works to accomplish his divine purposes!
Paul prayed about that matter, and we may pray about our journeys. I like to hear the old-fashioned expression, “Be pleased, O Lord, to grant journeying mercies,” for there are such things; and when the servants of God are going about, with a view to spread the gospel, we ought to pray that they may travel in safety.
11. For I long to see, you, that I may impart unto you some spiritual gift, to the end ye may be established;
He wanted to go to Rome because he felt that he would take something with him. He was a poor man, so he could not take any golden or silvern gifts; but he was a chosen mail, so he believed that he could impart unto them some spiritual gift. Oh, what a largess does a man of God distribute when his Lord is with him! I do pray to-night that, feeble as I am, and unqualified as I am to bless you, yet even this night all of you who are the people of God may get some spiritual gift. I do not know what you want; but our heavenly Father does. May every one of you get, distinctly from his right band, some spiritual gift to the end that you may be established, that you may get good root-hold, that you may be firmly fixed on the sure foundation!
12. For I long to see you, that I may impart unto you some spiritual gift, to the end ye may be established; that is, that I may be comforted together with you by the mutual faith of you and me.
Paul wanted his faith to establish theirs, and their faith to establish his. Christians grow rich by and exchange of spiritual commodities; and I am afraid some Christians are very poor because they do not engage in the spiritual bartering with one another. You know how it was in the old time, “They that feared the Lord spake often one to another.” Shall I tell you how it is now? They that fear not the Lord speak often one against another. That is a very sad difference. Oh, for more Christian communion; for when we blend our “mutual faith:, we are “comforted together”; each believer grows stronger as he cheers his brother in the Lord!
12, 13. That is, that I may he comforted together with you by the mutual faith both of you and me. Now I would not have you ignorant, brethren, that oftentimes I purposed to come unto you, (but was let hitherto,) that I might have some fruit among you also, even as among other Gentiles.
Rome was a sink of iniquity; it was the den of the lions, where Nero was, who would speedily devour, like a lion, the minister of Christ. Paul wanted somehow to get into that old city on the seven bills, and to pluck some fruit for God even from the vine that was planted there; but he was hindered.
13. Now I would not have you ignorant, brethren, that oftentimes I purposed to come unto you, (but was let hitherto,) that I might have some fruit among you also, even as among other Gentiles.
Ah! Paul, you could not go when you wished. Caesar must convoy you. Your Master would have you go to Rome under the protection of the eagles of your empire. God has servants everywhere: he can make Satan himself provide the body-guard for his faithful apostle’s journey.
14. I am a debtor both to the Greeks, and to the Barbarians;both to the wise, and to the unwise.
Paul felt a debt to everybody. The God who saved him, had saved him that he might preach the gospel in every place he could reach. Brethren, if you have received much from God, you are so much the debtor to men; and you are debtors not only to the respectable, but to the disreputable, debtors not only to those who come to a place of worship, but to the dwellers in the slums, “to the Greeks, and to the barbarians; to the wise and to the unwise.”
14, 15. I am debtor both to the Greeks, and to the Barbarians; both to the wise, and to the unwise. So, as much as in me is, I am ready to preach tile gospel to you that are at Rome also.
I do not suppose that Paul guessed that he would be sent there at the government expense, but he was. The Roman Empire had to find a ship for him, and a fit escort for him, too; and he entered the city as an ambassador in bonds. When our hearts are set on a thing, and we pray for it, God may grant us the blessing; but, it may be, in a way that we never looked for. You shall go to Rome, Paul; but you shall go in chains. He had not thought of that plan; still, it was the best way in which he could go. I do not know how he could have preached to the Emperor except as a prisoner; but when he was brought before him to be tried, then he had an opportunity of speaking even to the brutal creature who was called the Emperor of Rome.
15. So, as much as in me is, I am ready to preach the gospel to you that are at Rome also. For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Jesus Christ:
Many other people were ashamed of the gospel of Christ. It was too simple; it had not enough of mystery about it; it had not enough of worldly wisdom about it. Paul says, “I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ,” and then gives his reason for not being ashamed of it, —
16, 17. For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the few first, and also to the Greek. For therein is the righteousness of God revealed from, faith to faith: as it is written, The just shall live by faith.
That is the sum and substance of the gospel: “The just shall live by faith.” The law is, “He that doeth these things shall live by them;” but the gospel is, “The just shall live by faith.” “Wherefore, being justified by faith, we have peace with God.” The Lord give to us all that saving faith, for Christ’s sake! Amen.
17. For it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek. For therein is the righteousness of God revealed from faith to faith: as it is written, The just shall live by faith.
The gospel tells us about this living by faith, this believing, this receiving righteousness through believing, and not through working. This is the sweet story of the cross, of which Paul was not ashamed.
18. For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who hold the truth in unrighteousness;
Those last words may be read, “Who hold down the truth in unrighteousness.” They will not let the truth work upon their hearts; they will not allow it to operate in their minds; but they try to make it an excuse for their sin. Is there anybody here who is holding down the truth to prevent its entering his heart? I fear that there are some such persons, who have come here for years, and the truth has pricked them, troubled them, made them lie awake at night; but they are holding it down, like one who grasps a wild animal by the ears, and holds it down for fear it should bite him. Oh, sirs, when you are afraid of the truth, you may be well be afraid of hell! When you and the truth quarrel, you had better end your fighting soon, for you will have the worst of it if you do not yield: “For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who hold down the truth in unrighteousness.”
20. Because that which may be known of God is manifest in them; for God hath shewed it unto them. For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse:
Men who never heard the gospel can see God in his works if they open their eyes. There is written upon the face of nature enough to condemn men if they do not turn to God. There is a gospel of the sea, and of the heavens, of the stars, and of the sun; and if men will not read it, they are guilty, for they are wilfully ignorant of what they might know, and ought to know.
22. Because that, when they knew God, they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened. Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools.
The way to be a fool is to pretend to be wise. A short cut to wisdom is the confession of folly. The near way to folly is the profession of wisdom.
24. And changed the glory of the uncorruptible God into an image made like corruptible man, and to birds, and fourfooted beasts, and creeping things. Wherefore God also gave them up to uncleanness through the lust of their own hearts, to dishonor their own bodies between themselves:
It is very easy to make a beast of yourself when you have made a beast to be your god, as the Egyptians did, when they worshipped the god that they had made in the form of an ox, or a crocodile, or a cat.
25. Who changed the truth of God into a lie, and worshipped and served the creature more than the Creator, who is blessed for ever. Amen.
There are many preachers who have “changed the truth of God into a lie”; and by their exaltation of man, they have “worshipped and served the creature more than the Creator, who is blessed for ever.” God save all of us from such idolatry as that! Amen.
Verse 1. What advantage then hath the Jew? Or what profit is there of circumcision?
If, after all, both Jew and Gentiles were under sin, what advantage had the Jew by the covenant under which he lived? Or what was the benefit to him of the circumcision which was his distinctive mark?
2. Much every way: chiefly, because that unto them were committed the oracles of God.
The Jews were God’s chronicle-keepers. They had to guard the holy Books, “the oracles of God.” They had also to preserve the knowledge of the truth by those divers rites and ceremonies by which God was pleased to reveal himself of old time.
If it be so that, after all, no outward rite or birth privileges can bestow grace, what advantage did the Jews possess? “Why!” says Paul, “they had this very great privilege, ’that unto them were committed the oracles of God.’” It is no small blessing to have a revelation from Jehovah, and to have the means of knowing what that revelation really is.
3. For what if some did not believe? Shall their unbelief make the faith of God without effect?
Did he not, after all, bless the Jews though among them were unbelievers? Could it be that their unbelief would turn God from his purpose to bless the chosen people? Would their want of faith affect God’s faithfulness?
Many of the seed of Israel did not believe the revelation that was made to them; yet the privilege of hearing it was just as great, even though they slighted it.
4. God forbid: yea, let God be true, but every man a liar; as it is written, that thou mightest be justified in thy sayings, and mightest overcome when thou are judged.
However faithless men might be, God was still true and faithful. Paul quotes the Septuagint, which thus renders David’s words.
5. But if our unrighteousness comment the righteousness of God, what shall we say?
If it so turns out, that even man’s sin makes the holiness of God the more illustrious, what shall we say?
5. Is God unrighteous who taketh vengeance? (I speak as a man)
Paul spoke as a mere carnal man might be supposed to speak. If ever we are obliged, for the sake of argument, to ask a question which is almost blasphemous, let us do it very guardedly, and say something to show that we really do not adopt the language as our own, just as Paul says, “I speak as a man.” If the very sin of man is made to turn to the glory of God, is God unjust in punishing that sin?
5-7. (I speak as a man)…
Yet I shall be. If God shall overrule my sin to his own glory, that will mate no difference to my responsibility. If I have lied, if I have done wrong in say way, I must be judged and condemned on that account, whatever may be the ultimate result of my sin.
6. God forbid: for then how shall God judge the world?
God will judge the world; and he does judge the world even now. There are judgments against nations already executed, and recorded on the page of history. If God were unjust, how could he judge the world?
7. For if the truth of God hath more abounded through my lie unto his glory; why yet am I also judged as a sinner?
If God has even turned the opposition of evil men to the establishment of his truth, as he has often done; why, then, are men punished for it? These are deep, dark questions, which come out of the proud heart of man, and Paul ventures to answer them.
8. And not rather, (as we be slanderously reported, and as some affirm that we say,) Let us do evil, that good may come? Whose damnation is just
We never said, we never even thought, that we might do evil that good should come; nay, if all the good in the world could come of a single evil action, we have no right to do it. We must never do evil with the hope of advancing God’s cause. If God chooses to turn evil into good, as he often does, that is no reason why we should do evil; and it is no justification of sin. The murder of Christ at Calvary has brought the greatest possible benefit to us; yet it was a high crime against God, the greatest of all crimes, when man turned deicides, and slew the Son of God.
If any man dares to say that, “Since God turns even evil into good, and by the forgiveness of sin brings glory to himself, ’Let us do evil that good may come,’” he is wresting truth to his own destruction, and his “ damnation is just.”
9. What then? are we better than they?
Are Jews better than Gentiles? Or, are Gentiles better than Jews?
9. No, in no wise: for we have before proved both Jews and Gentiles, that they are all under sin;
Nobody can read the first chapter of the Epistle to the Romans, and follow it by reading the second, without seeing how completely Paul has proved “that they are all under sin.”
This is a description of man given ’by prophets in the olden times. “Now,” says Paul, “we know that what things soever the law saith, it saith to them who are under the law.” So that this is a description of the Jews, a description of the people who had the light, the best people that then were upon the face of the earth, and if these be the good people, where are the Gentiles, the bad ones, without the light?
10. What then? Are we better than they?
no vain: for we have before proved both Jews and Gentiles, that they are under sin; as it is written.
Paul had already proved in the Epistle that both Jews and Gentiles were guilty before God. Now he quotes a set of texts from Israel’s own holy Books, to show the universal depravity of men. Notice how he rings the changes on the words “all” and “none.”
10. As it is written, There is none righteous, no, not one:
There is not, and there never has been, one of the human race, save our Lord, who also is God, who ever continued to live s righteous life. Adam commenced righteously, but how soon he fell; and all his descendants have both commenced and continued to be sinners: “There is none righteous, no, not one.”
11. There is none righteous, no, not one: there is none that understandeth, there is none that seeketh after God. They are all gone out of the way, they are together become unprofitable; there is none that doeth good, no, not one.
This is the character of all unregenerate men. It is a true description of the whole race of mankind, whether Jews or Gentiles. In their natural state, “there is non righteous … there is none that seeketh after God … there is none that doeth good, no, not one.”
That is, none do so by nature; those who seek after God are led to do so by a work of grace upon their hearts. Otherwise, men are blind, they do not see the right path; they are wilful, and do not seek after God.
12. They are all gone out of the way, they are together become unprofitable; there is none that doeth good, no, not one.
This is God’s verdict upon the whole human race. He has the best opportunity of seeing them, and he has the best capacity for judging them; and this is what he says of all men as they are by nature, “There is none that doeth good, no, not one.”
13. Their throat is an open sepulcher; with their tongues they have used deceit; the poison of asps is under their lips:
A reeking mass of corruption;
Paul does not use flattering words, as those preachers do who prate about the dignity of human nature. Man was a noble creature when he was made in the image of God; but sin blotted out all his dignity.
They are pleased to say a bad word of their neighbor; they are eager to repeat any slander that they hear, and they are not unwilling even to invent it themselves.
14. Whose mouth is full of cursing and bitterness; their feet are swift to shed blood: destruction and misery are in their ways: and the way of peace have they not known: there is no fear of God before their eyes. Now we know that what things soever the law saith, it saith to them who are under the law:
The Jews are comprehended here, for they are specially “under the law.” The whole chosen seed of Israel, highly privileged as they were, are described in these terrible words that we have been reading, which Paul quoted from their own sacred Books.
14, 15. Whose mouth is full of cursing and bitterness: their feet are swift to shed blood:
And when, by fear of the laws of the land, they are prevented from carrying out their evil purposes, yet their anger is itself murder in intent; and into what human heart has not that sin glanced?
16-19. Destruction and misery are in their ways: and the way of peace have they not known: there is no fear of God before their eyes. Now we know that what tidings never the law saith, it saith to them who are under the law:
All these passages, which Paul has put together in this dreadful mosaic, are taken from the Old Testament, so they apply to the Jews; and he had already proved, in the first chapter, the intolerable vice of the Gentiles, so that now he has shown that both Jews and Gentiles are guilty.
19. That very mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God.
That is the true condition of the whole world, “guilty before God.” This is the right attitude for the whole human race, to stand with its finger on its lip, having nothing to say as to why it should not be condemned.
The nineteenth-century world as well as the world of the first century, all the world, in all time, has “become guilty before God.”
There is no righteousness of works on the face of the earth. The law ’itself describes men as being sinful from their throat to their feet. Almost ,every member of the body is mentioned and described as being foul with sin. But, says Paul, there is another righteousness on the face of the earth, and that is the righteousness of God’s grace, which comes through believing in Christ.
20. Therefore by the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in his sight: for by the law is the knowledge of sin.
The law can convict and condemn, but it can never justify the guilty. Its special work is to prove that they are not justified in sinning, and to stop their mouths from uttering any excuse for their sin.
All the law does, is to show us how sinful we are. Paul has been quoting from the sacred Scriptures; and truly, they shed a lurid light upon the condition of human nature. The light can show us our sin; but it cannot take it away. The law of the Lord is like a looking-glass. Now, a looking-glass is a capital thing for finding out where the spots are on your face; but you cannot wash in a looking-glass, you cannot get rid of the spots by looking in the glass. The law is intended to show a man how much he needs cleansing; but the law cannot cleanse him. “By the law is the knowledge of sin.” The law proves that we are condemned, but it does not bring us our pardon.
3:20 By the law is the knowledge of sin
So when we meet with persons who say, "Our works are pure and clean and excellent," we bring the great microscope of the law of the Lord, and we bid them look through that. When they dolook through it and discover that even one sinful thought destroys their hope of salvation by self-righteousness, and when they see a whole host of sins in one of their prayers or acts or thoughts, then they are angry with the preacher. They try to break the microscope! But for all that, the truth remains, "By the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in his sight; for by the law is the knowledge of sin."
21-24. But now the righteousness of God without the law is manifested, being witneesed by the law and the prophets; even the righteousness of God which is by faith of Jesus Christ unto all and upon all them that believe: for there is no difference; for all have sinned, and come chart of the glory of God; being justified freely by hie grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus:
That is a very wonderful verse, every word of it is full of meaning. “Justified”; — that is, accounted just, made to be righteous in the sight of God. “Justified freely”; — without any merit or purchase money. “Freely by laic grace”; — not an act of justice, but an act of mercy has made sinners just in the sight of God. “Through the redemption”;— there is the foundation of it all, we are redeemed by precious blood: “Through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus.”
Now there comes in a new principle, — the principle of grace, which accomplishes what the law never could accomplish; that is, the free justification of all the guilty ones who believe in Jesus. And this justification is a righteous one, seeing that it is based upon “the redemption that is in Christ Jesus:” —
22. But now the righteousness of God without the law is manifested, being witnessed by the law and the prophets; even the righteousness of God which is by faith of Jesus Christ unto all and upon them that believe:
We have no righteousness of our own; but God gives us a righteousness through faith in Christ; and he gives that to everyone who believes.
The law is a looking-glass; you see your spots as you gaze into it. But no man ever washed his face in s looking-glass; it shows the spots, but it cannot remove them. The law is the indicator and the revealer of sin; but it has no power whatever to put away sin.
23. For there is no difference: for all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God;
There are degrees of guilt; but all men have sinned. There is no difference in that respect, whatever gradations there may be in sinners.
23 For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God."
I have heard of Robert Burns, that on one occasion when at church, he sat in a pew with a young lady whom he observed to be much affected by certain terrible passages of Scripture which the minister quoted in his sermon. The wicked wag scribbled on a piece of paper a verse which he passed to her. I fear that the sub-stance of that verse has been whispered into many of your ears often:
Fair maid, you need not take the hint,
This sermon is meant for those who think themselves angels as well as for those who know them-selves to be sinners. Cease from all dreamy confidences. Arouse your-selves from proud self-content, and come to Jesus the Savior, who alone can save from sin and death.
Seeing it is one God, which shall justify the circumcision by faith, and uncircumcision through faith. Do we then make void the law through faith? God forbid: yea, we establish the law.
24. Being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus:
Dear hearers, are you all justified, that is, made just, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus? You are certainly all guilty in the sight of God; have you all been made righteous by faith in the redemption accomplished on the cross by Christ Jesus our Lord? I beg you to consider this question most seriously; and if you must truthfully answer, “No,” may God make you tremble, and drive you to your knees in penitence to cry to him for pardon!
25. Whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood, to declare his righteousness for the remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God;
God holds back the axe which, were it not for his forbearance, would cut down the barren tree. He still forbears, and he is ready to pardon and blot out all the past if you will but believe in his dear Son.
Boasting is sure to be somewhere handy, ready to creep in if it can, for we are all prone to it; it is the common sin of our race: “Where is boasting then?”
27. To declare, I say, at this time his righteousness: that he might be just, and the justifier of him who believeth in Jesus.
Where is it? It is to be found in a great many people. It is common enough; but where ought it to be? Where does it get a footing? It is shut out/ There is no room for boasting in the heart that receives Christ. If a man were saved by works, he would have whereof to glory; boasting would not be shut out. But as salvation is all of grace, through faith in Christ, boasting is barred out in the dark, and faith gratefully ascribes all praise to God.
27. It is excluded.
Faith’s empty hand receives the free gift of grace, and that very fact excludes all boasting.
By what law? Of works? Nay: but by the law of faith. Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith without the deeds of the law. Is he the God of the Jews only? Is he not also of the Gentiles? Yes, of the Gentiles, also: seeing it is one God, which shall justify the circumcision by faith, and uncircumcision through faith. Do we then make void the law through faith? God forbid: yea, we establish the law.
Whether Jews or Gentiles, there was no salvation for them by the works of the law; the only way in which the circumcised or the uncircumcised could be justified was by faith. This principle does not make void God’s law; on the contrary, it establishes it, and sets it on the only right and solid foundation. The gospel of the grace of God is the best vindication of his law.
It is shut out; but by what law is it shut out?
27. Of works?
No; for, whenever we think that we have been performing any good works, we begin to boast at once.
27. Nay: but by the law of faith.
For if we are saved by believing, if we are justified freely by God’s grace, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, then there is no room for boasting.
28. Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith without the deeds of the law.
“We conclude” — we are shut up to this belief, “that a man is justified by faith without the deeds of the 1aw.”
29. Is he the God of the Jews only? is he not also of the Gentiles? Yes, of the Gentiles also:
He saved Abraham by faith, and he saves us by faith. The same saving principle is applicable to all parts of the human race.
30, 31. Seeing it is one God, which shall justify the circumcision by faith, and uncircumcision through faith. Do we then malice void the law through faith?
Some will be sure to say so; but it is not true.
31. God forbid: yea, we establish the law.
There is no one who so much loves the law of God, and delights in it after the inward man, as the one who is justified by faith. There is nothing that so honors the law as “the righteousness of God which is by faith of Jesus Christ.” It establishes for ever the law, even as Christ said to his disciples, “Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfill. For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled.”
There is a special blessedness, therefore, which comes to those who, by faith, are under the dispensation of grace. It came to Abraham, and it came to David; yet both Abraham and David were circumcised men belonging to a special race. So the question naturally arises, —
Romans 4:1. What shall we say then that Abraham our father as pertaining to the flesh, hath found?
What blessings did really come to Abraham, the father of the faithful? What is the nature of that covenant of grace which God made with him?
2. For if Abraham were justified by works, he hath whereof to glory; but not before God.
Certainly, before God, Abraham neither gloried nor yet was justified by his works.
3. For what saith the scripture?
That is the question for us always to ask, “What saith the Scripture?”
3. Abraham believed God, and it was counted unto him for righteousness.
There is no doubt about that point, for in Genesis 15:6 we read, “He believed in the Lord; and he counted it to him for righteousness.”
4. Now to him that worketh is the reward not reckoned of grace, but of debt.
He gets what he earns, what he deserves to have, what he receives is “not reckoned of grace, but of debt.”
So then it seems that the blessings of salvation come to men through faith, and not through their own efforts,-not as the reward of merit, but as the simple gift of God’s grace.
9-12. Cometh this blessedness then upon the circumcision only, or upon the uncircumcision also? for we say that faith was reckoned to Abraham for righteousness. How was it then reckoned? when he was in circumcision, or in uncircumcision? Not in circumcision, but in uncircumcision. And he received the sign of circumcision, a seal of the righteousness of the faith which he had yet being uncircumcised: that he might be the father of all them that believe, though they be not circumcised; that righteousness might be imputed unto them also: and the father of circumcision to them who are not of the circumcision only, but who also walk in the steps of that faith of our father Abraham, which he had being yet uncircumcised.
Is this blessing entailed upon the natural seed of Abraham alone, or is it for others besides the Jews?
The historical argument is a very forcible one. The blessing was not given to Abraham as a circumcised man, but as a believing man; and hence it comes also to all of us who believe. What a mercy it is that there is, in this sense, no distinction between Jew and Gentile now! I hate that plan of reading the Scriptures in which we are told, when we lay hold of a gracious promise, “Oh, that is for the Jews.” “Then I also am a Jew, for it is given to me.” Every promise of God’s Word belongeth to all those who have the faith to grasp it. We who have faith, are all in the covenant, and are thus the children of faithful Abraham; so be not afraid, ye who are the true seed, to take every blessing that belongs to your father Abraham and to all the seed.
If you turn again to Genesis 15:6, and then to 17:10, you will find that Abraham was justified by faith before the rite of circumcision was instituted. The blessing came to him “not in circumcision, but in uncircumcision.”
The vital question is not, “How were we born?”: or “What rites and ceremonies have been practiced upon us?” but, “Do we believe in God? Have we true faith in God’s Word? Are we trusting our souls to the keeping of God’s Son?”
13, 14. For the promise, that he should be the heir of the world, was not to Abraham, or to his seed, through the law, but through the righteousness of faith. For if they which are of the law be heirs, faith is made void, and the promise made of none effect:
But that would also make void circumcision and the whole of the ancient covenant, seeing that the blessing was given to a man whom God had chosen before his circumcision, and before the ceremonial law had been promulgated.
The law was promulgated on mount Sinai four hundred years after the covenant of grace was made with Abraham the father of believers, and so made with all believers, for they are his true seed, and God has entered into a covenant of grace and salvation with them.
So that the law is not for justification, but for condemnation. It is the law that reveals sin, and that shows sin to be sin; so men can never become right with God by the law.
That is, to all believers, who are the true seed of Abraham. He is the father of the faithful, and if thou art one of the faithful, he is thy father; and the covenant which God made with Abraham and his seed was made with thee, and on thy account, if thou art indeed a believer in the Lord Jesus Christ.
15-17. Because the law worketh wrath: for where no law is, there is no transgression. Therefore it is of faith, that it might be by grace; to the end the promise might be sure to all the seed; not to that only which is of the law, but to that also which is of the faith of Abraham; who is the father of us all, (as it is written, I have made thee a father of many nations,)
Not a father of one select race of people only, but a father of all who, in any land, and speaking any language, are believers in the glorious Jehovah, who is the God of Abraham, and of Isaac, and of Jacob.
17. Before him whom he believed, even God, who quickens the dead, and calleth those things which be not as though they were.
Abraham was a believer in the God of resurrection, expecting to see Isaac raised up from the dead if he did actually offer him as a sacrifice to God. He was a believer in things that were not yet apparent to him, looking forward to them, and expecting to see them in due time; believing in them because he believed in God, who “calleth those things which be not as though they were.”
O soul, if thou art like one who is dead, if thou art devoid of all strength, and grace, and savor, if thou canst but believe in God who can quicken the dead, if thou wilt but trust thy soul in the hands of him who is able even to raise dry bones out of their graves, and make them live, thy faith shall be imputed unto thee for righteousness! Thy faith is that which shall justify thee in the sight of God, and thou shalt be “accepted in the Beloved.” Oh, what marvels faith works! This is the root-grace, all manner of good things spring from faith, but there must be faith as the root if there are to be other graces as the fruit. Do thy God the honor to believe him,-to believe that he cannot lie,-to believe that he has never promised what he is not able to perform. If thou wilt do that, it is clear that thou art one of Abraham’s seed, and the covenant made with Abraham was made with thee also.
See the great object of saving faith,-Christ, once dead, has been raised from the dead, and if thou wouldst be saved, thou must rely upon the crucified and risen Savior. If thou thus believest that Jesus the crucified is the Christ of God, the anointed Messiah and Redeemer, thou provest that thou art born of God; and if thou trustest thyself to the risen and glorified Christ, thou hast risen in him, and thou shalt rise to be with him for ever and ever.
Romans 5:1-3. Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ: by whom also we have access by faith into this grace wherein we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God. And not only so, but we glory in tribulations also:
The gospel is full of “therefores”, it is above reason, but it is never against reason; it is the most reasonable thing under heaven “There-fore” — it is a matter of argument. You will have to read the previous chapters to see how this conclusion flows naturally from what he had before taught by the Holy Spirit.
Let us linger over these sentences while we read them. “Being justified by faith.” Is it so? Art thou indeed made just by faith in Jesus Christ thy Righteousness? Then thou hast peace this day and hour; peace within thine own conscience, and with thy fellow men, but what is much better thou hast peace with God. As soon as we are justified by reliance on Jesus, we cease to have any quarrel with God, and he has no quarrel with us; we are allies, we are in happy union, we have peace with God. Not shall have it by and by, but we have it now as our present glad possession, because we are justified by faith, we are now in the enjoyment of perfect peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. “By whom also we have access by faith into this grace wherein we stand.” Since we are at peace with God we may enter his house, his door is open to us, we have divine welcome unto his grace, and we abide in it, abide in it with certainty, and full assurance.
This verse (5:1) deserves to be printed in letters of gold. If you can truthfully say this, if it is indeed true of you, you are the happiest people under heaven. Let us read the verse again: “Therefore being justified by faith we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ:”
My friend, are these words true concerning you? Can you put your finger on this verse, and say, “this is true of me, ’Therefore being justified by faith, we have-I have-peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ’”? We who have believed in Jesus enjoy that peace, a deep, profound calm is upon our spirit whenever we think of God. We are not afraid of him; we are not afraid to meet him even on his judgment-seat: “Being justified by faith, we have peace with God.” Have you peace with God? Are you sure that you have it? If not, mayhap you are not justified by faith, for that is the root of it: “Being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.”
Do not let us simply read these words, but let us each one say in our hearts, “That is true; I have believed in Christ, therefore I am justified in the sight of God, and therefore I have peace with God through Jesus Christ our Lord.” There is nothing in the world that is half as valuable as the two precious gems in this verse, — justification and the peace which follows it.
Faith has such wondrous power that it makes us rejoice even in trial; it helps Christians to be glad even in the midst of sorrow.
It is a matter of present possession, and present enjoyment. Whatever tribulation there may be in the world, “we have peace with God.” Blessed be God for that glorious fact! We may not have peace with all men, though we would seek to have that; but “we have peace with God.”
These are matters of fact; not of fanatical delusion, but of logical conclusion, for Paul begins with a “therefore.” God’s people are justified on solid grounds, on reasonable grounds, on grounds that will bear the test even of the last great judgment day. “therefore, being “ — now, at the present time, this very moment, — “ justified by faith, we have peace:” not only we hope to have it, and trust we shall have it, but we have it. “We have peace,” — not only peace of conscience, and peace with our fellow-men, but “we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.:’ Mark that; we have it. O dear people of God, do not be satisfied unless you can talk in this confident fashion: “therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.”
5:1 We have peace with God
If you are to have peace with God, there must be war with Satan.
I hear poor souls crying, "I do believe, but I do not enjoy peace." I think I can tell you how it is. You make a mistake as to what this peace is. You say, "I am so dreadfully tempted. Sometimes I am drawn this way and some-times the other, and the devil never lets me alone." Did you ever read in the Bible that you were to have peace with the devil? Look at the text: "Being justified by faith, we have peace with God. "
1, 2. Through our Lord Jesus Christ: by whom also we have access by faith into this grace wherein we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God.
But why “therefore”? Because of the verge preceding it: “Who was delivered for our offences, and was raised again for our justification.” Christ died to atone for our sins, Christ rose again to secure our justification, “Therefore being justified by faith,” —
We have peace with God through our lord Jesus Christ;
We have peace, we know that we have, we enjoy it, it is not a thing of the future, we how peace, a deep calm like that which came to the disciples when Christ hushed the winds and waves to sleep. “We have peace with God,” his peace has entered into us, we possess it now; but it is all “through our Lord Jesus Christ.” It is all war apart from him, but all peace through him. We poor sinners, being justified by faith, have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.
So we ascend this golden ladder, from faith to peace, from peace to access with God, and from this to joy by the way of hope. Happy people, who know this blessed way of climbing out of the sorrows of the present into the glory that shall be revealed!
This is a golden staircase, justification brings peace, and peace brings access into this grace wherein we are established; and then comes the joy of hope, and that hope fixes its eye on nothing less than the glory of God. Grace is the stepping-stone to glory; and they who are justified by faith shall in due time be glorified by love.
2. By whom also —
What! is not that first verse all? Oh, no! there is more to follow. When you get a hold of one golden link of the blessed chain of grace, it pulls up another, and then another, and then another: “By whom also “ —
That is to say, we come near to God; we have the entre of the King’s palace; “we have access by faith” —
2. We have access by faith into this grace wherein we stand,
We come into this grace by Jesus Christ, and to this heavenly standing, this justified condition, through Jesus Christ who is the door.
With firm foot and confident heart, we stand in God’s presence. Happy people!
See what we owe to Christ, — not only justification and peace, but we have access into the grace in which we stand; for, when a man is at peace with God, then he longs to get to God, and to speak with God. Christ is the door, and Christ is the way; we come to God by Jesus Christ. This is no small privilege. Oh, you who have ever felt what it is to be shut out from God, let your heart sing as you know that you now have access by faith into this grace wherein you stand!
Well may the apostle add, “We rejoice in hope of the glory of God;” or, if there is any man who may and must rejoice, it is the man who has peace with God, and expects to dwell with God for ever, having access to God by Jesus Christ.
We are not only at peace with God, but we are permitted to draw near to him, we have access to him, we have access to his favor, to his grace. We may come to God when we will; for he is reconciled to us, and we are reconciled to him, so we may now think of him with joy and gladness.
Oh, what a comfort this is, to be rejoicing, especially, to be rejoicing in hope. It is better on before, there may be clouds and darkness here, but we can see the sunlight breaking yonder; “until the day break and the shadows flee away,” we will make hope to be our bright candle of the Lord. We “rejoice in the hope of the glory of God, and not only so.” When we once get into God’s house, we rise higher in it, we go up another pair of stairs. “Not only so,” though that seems to be enough, to be rejoicing in the hope of the glory of God, and to have access into his grace, and to have peace with him because we are justified, but it is not only so, but “we glory in tribulations also.” We transform our troubles into gladness and glorying, we get spiritually enriched by tribulation.
2. And rejoice in hope of the glory o/God.
Our joy is in the past and the present in some measure, but it is still more in the future: “We rejoice in hope of the glory of God.” We have three windows. — the one out of which we look back with gratitude upon the past, the one out of which we look with joy in the present, and the one out of which we look with expectation upon the future.
What a window hope is! It looks toward heaven; we have only to look out that way, and then we can “rejoice in hope of the glory of God.”
Not only have we peace, but we get into the favor of God, and we stand in it. This is the grace or favor which comes of being justified. We feel a freedom now to come into our Father’s presence, because he has forgiven us for Christ’s sake. We feel at home with him now though once we were prodigal sons, and had wandered far away, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. We have something yet in reserve — present peace, but future perfection. We have present rest, but there still remaineth a rest for the people of God. We rejoice in hope of the glory of God.
3. And not only so,
-there is for every child of God grace upon grace; every line of the apostle’s writing tells of more blessing: “And not only so.” Is not that enough? Justified, enjoying peace, having access into grace, rejoicing in hope of the glory of God; what can there be more? Why, there is something on the road as well as at the end of it: “And not only so,”-
We hope for glory, — ”the glory of God,” and we already “glory.” But in what do we glory? “ We glory” —
3. But we glory in tribulations also: —
We are not only acquiescent in the divine will; but, tutored by the Spirit of God, we come even to “glory in tribulations also: “ —
Paul is going upstairs, as it were, — rising from one platform to another. There is enough of glory in Christ to wrap up all our troubles in; it makes the black white, and the dark bright.
Somebody seemed to say to the apostle, “You talk about peace with God, and access to God; but you are troubled in mind, you are sickly in body, you are poor in estate, just as other people are;” so Paul replies, “Yes, we know that it is so, “but we glory in tribulations also:’” —
3. Knowing that tribulation worketh patience; —
That is the blackest thing a Christian has, — his tribulations; so, if we can glory in them, surely we can glory in anything. “We glory in tribulations also:” — A man cannot prove that he has patience if he has never been tried. Christian patience is not a weed, it is a cultivated plant; we only get patience through our trials.
Present trials even become subjects for thanksgiving. Surely, they have lost their sting when patience accepts them, and faith rejoices in them.
The more trial you have the more spiritual education you receive. You cannot learn the virtue of patience without tribulation, any more than a man can learn to be a sailor if he stops on shore: “Tribulation worketh patience;” —
We are not only acquiescent in the divine will; but, tutored by the Spirit of God, we come even to “glory in tribulations also: “ —
“Knowing.” Paul was no agnostic, he was a “knowing” man, and all God’s people ought to be the same. they are a very dogmatic people when they are what they ought to be; they have nothing to do with “ifs “, and “ands”, and “butt”, and “peradventures”; but they believe and are sure: “Knowing that tribulation worketh patience.” the natural tendency of tribulation is to work impatience, it produces peevishness in many; but where the Spirit of God is, there is a heavenly counteraction of natural tendencies, and “tribulation worketh patience;” —
A man who never suffers does not know what patience means; but trial works patience, yet not of itself. Trials work peevishness and murmuring and discontent; but grace brings sweet out of bitter, and — “tribulation worketh patience;” —
It is sent for our good; we accept our trials as a part of our estate, and in some respects, the very richest part of our estate. We get more good out of our adversity than out of our prosperity. Our troubles have made men of us, whereas our joys might have unmanned us. Trials have braced us up, and we glory in them, “knowing that tribulation worketh patience;” —
3-5. Knowing that tribulation worketh patience; and patience, and experience, hope: and hope maketh, not ashamed; because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us.
Like a sweet perfume, which enters every room, and fills every nook and cranny in the house, so does the delightful love of God fill the entire soul when, by the Holy Ghost, it is shed abroad in the heart. Beloved, may you feel that blessed influence this evening! This next verse may help us to love God, and to feel the love of God shed abroad in our hearts.
So that even what might seem to be the disadvantages of this present life are made to work into advantages; and what at one time might threaten our prosperity, really conduces to it. Patience, which we never could have if we never had a trouble, is given to us, and experience, which we never could have if we did not patiently endure the trouble, we obtain. We get pearls out of these deep seas. We get treasures out of these blazing furnaces which seem to smelt our blessings, that they may come to us rich and pure. And, above all, there rises a glorious hope, never to be drowned — never to be made ashamed — because we feel the love of God shed abroad in our hearts like a sweet perfume, making every part of our nature fragrant, because the Holy Ghost is there.
4. And patience, experience;
If you bear the trial patiently, it leaves the mark of its graving tool upon your spirit, and you thus become fashioned into an experienced Christian.
Again I cannot help observing how we seem to go through one door just to pass through another. We get into a silver chamber that we may go into a golden one; and before we can take stock of all the gold, we are ushered into a gorgeous palace of pearls and rubies and diamonds of priceless value.
Do you know what this means, dear friend, or is it all Greek to you? The Lord make it indeed plain every-day English to you! May you understand it, feel it, know it, prove it, taste it, enjoy it! If you do so, happy indeed are you.
The longer we wait, the brighter do our eyes get. Our very trials when they have passed over us, leave us stronger and happier than we were before. Our experience works in us hope.
4. And experience, hope:
What God has once done, he may do again; and as he has shown us so much favor we may reasonably hope that he will show ups so more, and that he who has given us grace will give us glory.
You cannot make an experienced Christian without trouble. You cannot make an old sailor on shore, nor make a good soldier without fighting. Here is that window of hope again, standing at the back of our experience, we look out of the window, and what God has done for us is a token of what God will do for us. Peace gives us courage, hope takes the blush out of the cheek when we confess Christ, for we remember the glory that is to be revealed in him and in us, so how can shame come in?
Another hope, or rather the same hope rising up into another form. We begin with rejoicing in the hope of the glory of God by faith, now we get a further hope which is born of experience; the things we have tasted and handled of the love of God create in us a more radiant hope inferred from what we have enjoyed.
What is the connection here? Is it not this: that the Holy Ghost makes us feel what a wonderful love the love of God is to us because when we were without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly? Wonderful love! When we were Godless and Christless, in due time Christ died for us.
5. And hope maketh not ashamed; —
Our hope brings us courage, no longer are we trembling and diffident, but we feel like children do towards a loving father, we are happily, restfully at home with our God. “ Hope maketh not ashamed; “ —
What a blessed thing it is that, when troubles are shed abroad outside us, the love of God is shed abroad inside us; when we are tried without, we are comforted within; and so we are made strong, and we have no cause to fear.
5 The love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost
Only by the Holy Ghost could this have been done. Would you ever have been charmed with the love of God through the influence of the devil?
5. Because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us.
If you have the Holy Ghost given unto you, then the love of God fills your nature like a sweet perfume. As when the woman broke the alabaster box, and the house was filled with the odor of the ointment, so, when the Spirit of God comes, and brings the broken alabaster of the Savior’s sacrifice, and we feel the love of God poured out among us, what a delightful perfume there is! “thy name is as ointment poured forth, therefore do the virgins love thee.” the way to make us love God is for the love of God to be shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost.
When Mary, the sister of Lazarus, anointed the feet of Jesus with the very costly ointment of spikenard, “the house was filled with the odour” of it, and in a similar fashion the love of God perfumes every part of our nature.
God’s love is like sweet perfume in an alabaster box; the Holy Spirit breaks that box, pours out the love of God into our souls, and the perfume fills our entire nature.
6 Christ died for the ungodly
Your sense of unworthiness, if it be properly used, should drive you to Christ. You are unworthy, but Jesus died for the unworthy.
Never did the human ear listen to a more astounding and yet cheering truth.
I would not mind if I were condemned to live fifty years more and never allowed to speak but these five words, if I might be allowed to utter them in the ear of every man, woman, and child who lives. "Christ Died for the Ungodly" is the best message that even angels could bring to men.
I love to think that the gospel does not address itself to those who might be supposed to have helped themselves a little out of the mire, to those who show signs of lingering goodness. It comes to men ruined in Adam and doubly lost by their own sin. It comes to them in the abyss where sin has hurled them and lifts them up from the gates of hell.
The devil often tells me, "You are not this, and you are not that," and I feel bound to own that the accuser of the brethren makes terrible work of my spiritual finery, so that I have to abandon one ground of glorying after another. But I never knew the devil himself dare to say, "You are not a sinner." He knows I am, and I know it too. And as "in due time Christ died for the ungodly," I just rest in him, and I am saved.
6. For when we were yet without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly.”
That was are character. There was no good point about us. We were ungodly and we had no strength to mend ourselves or to be other than ungodly. The strength for reformation had all gone. The strength for regeneration we never had. We were without strength, and then Christ died for us — died for the ungodly.
He did not regard us as saints, but as actually ungodly, when he died for our redemption. It was not man’s righteousness that brought Christ from heaven; but man’s sin, and the infinite pity of God.
What a wonderful statement! “Christ died for the ungodly.” Yet it was no slip of the pen, for the apostle takes up his own expression, and preaches the following little sermon upon it: —
And as he died for us when we were ungodly, what will he not do for us now that he has sought us as his own? He gave the highest proof of his love to us when we were most unworthy of it, so will he leave us now? God forbid!
When we had no power to do anything that was good, when we were strengthless and hopeless, then Christ died for us. This is a wonderful gospel expression, which ought to bring comfort to those here who have no pretence of godliness, “Christ died for the ungodly.”
Are not these very wonderful words? “Christ died for the ungodly.” Pick out all those who are the naturally good people, and this text has nothing to do with them; but find out the ungodly, the sinful, the wicked, and here is a text exactly suitable for them: “Christ died for the ungodly.”
Not, “Christ died for saints, because the saints were such gracious people.” No, no; but, “when we were yet without strength,” — when we could lift neither hand nor foot to help ourselves, — “in due time Christ died for the ungodly.”
This is one of the most surprising sentences on record. If it had not been inspired, there are many who would cavil at it. Indeed, many do cavil at it even now, for it is still currently believed that Christ must have died for the righteous. Yet thus is it written: “In due time Christ died for the ungodly.” And this is the commendation of that death, and of the love which suggested it:—
7. For scarcely for a righteous man will one die:
Now the apostle goes away from his theme, carried away by the still greater subject of the love of God in Christ Jesus, and the way of reconciliation by Christ, he goes on to that theme: “For scarcely” —
If a man is known to be sternly just, like Aristides, nobody would care enough for him to die for him.
However “just” Aristides might be, nobody would die for him. However “righteous” a man might be, he would not, by his justice or righteousness, win enough affection to induce anybody to die for him.
He is very righteous, but he is very stern; nobody cares much about him.
For a merely just man, scarcely would anybody die.
However upright and just a man may be, nobody thinks of dying for him.
For a man who is perfectly just, — there are few who would be willing to die for him.
Though he were as just as Aristides, though be were renowned for justice, nobody would die for him. There is no such attraction in the virtue as would win anyone’s love, so as to die for the man who displays it.
7. Yet peradventure for a good man some would even dare to die.
Nobody would feel impelled to die for a man who is only severely and strictly just, he may command our admiration, but not our affection. Aristides the Just is, indeed, at last banished; men cannot bear a man whose whole character is bare justice, for they are themselves usually so unjust. But “a good man,” he commands our love, a man of that character who is gratuitously kind, and gracious, and benevolent, peradventure — and it is a bare peradventure — somebody might be found to die for such as he. It is not, however, very probable.
He is “a good man “ — benevolent, kind, and tender.
That is to say, for a generous, kind, noble-hearted man, come might dare to die.
There might possibly be some who would die for a John Howard, or a man of that ilk.
For a benevolent man, a true philanthropist, a lover of his race, there are some who might say that they would die for him. Yet the apostle only says, “Peradventure for a good man some would even dare to die.” It is not very likely, but it is just possible.
For a benevolent, large-hearted, kindly-disposed man some might dare to die. Such a thing is not likely; but it is possible.
For a generous, noble-hearted man, some might be willing to die; yet there is a peradventure even about that.
And that is the glory of his love. While we were rebels against his government, he redeemed us. While we were far off from him by wicked works he sent his Son to die and bring us near. Free grace, indeed, was this — not caused by anything in us, but springing freely from the great heart of God.
8. But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.
He did the utmost for us when we were the least deserving of it. Oh, what a love is this. Let it be shed abroad in our poor stony hearts, and commended by us to others.
When we were not even just, much less good, “Christ died for us.”
It is under that aspect that Christ is to be regarded as dying for the ungodly, dying for sinners. Ungodly man, guilty sinner, is there not hope for you in this blessed truth? Does anyone say, “I shall be lost, for I am ungodly; I must necessarily perish, for I am a sinner”? Your logic is at fault, dear friend. “Christ died for the ungodly;” “while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us;” therefore, the ungodly,—sinners—be saved because of his death, and all who trust him shall be saved.
Certainly we were not “good” men, we were not even “just” men, but we are included in this black description “sinners”; and “while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” He died for us as sinners, he did not come to save saints, but to save sinners; and it was for sinners that he died.
We were without any attraction, without any righteousness, without any goodness, yet Christ loved us. Out of the graciousness of his own heart he loved us, according to that text, “I will love them freely.”
While we were neither righteous nor good, “while we were yet sinners, Christ” did the most he ever could, or ever can do for us, he “died for us.” this is the best gift for the worst of men, and that best gift given to them when they are at their worst state: “While we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.”
When we were not righteous, when we certainly were not good, when the whole description of our character could be summed up in that one word “sinners” — rebels offending against God: “while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.”
We were neither righteous nor yet good, yet Christ died for us. “Oh!” said a little boy once to his mother, “I do not think so much of Christ dying for men, I think I would be willing to die if I could save a hundred men by dying.” But his mother said,” Suppose it was a hundred mosquitoes, — would you die for them?” “Oh, no!” he said, “I would let the whole lot of them die.” Well, we were much less, in comparison with Christ than mosquitoes are in relation to men, yet he died for us, good-for-nothing creatures that we are. Well does one say, “God shows part of his love to us in many different ways, but he shows the whole of his love in giving Christ to die for us.” Here you see his heart laid bare, the very heart of God laid open for the inspection of every believing soul. To die for saints would be great love; but to die for sinners, while they are yet sinners, and regarding them as sinners, — this is love with emphasis, the very highest commendation that even divine dove can have.
9. Much more than, being now justified by his blood, we shall be saved from wrath through him.
This is a resistless argument, and should be the deathblow to all misgiving. If he died for us when we were unjust, will he let us perish now that he has made us just, and completely justified us? Impossible!
“Much more.” Paul has been giving us “also's” and “ands”; now he takes a bigger leap still, for he says, “Much more then, being now justified by his blood, we shall be saved from wrath through him.” If he saved us when we were sinners, he will certainly save us now that we are justified. If he called us when we were dead, he will not leave us now we are alive.
This is a fine piece of argument, and strictly logical. If, when we were sinners, Christ died for us, will he let us be condemned now that he has washed us in his precious blood? Is it possible that, after dying for us, he will let us fall from grace, and perish after all? That will never be. Notice the same kind of argument again: —
See how the apostle, when he had uttered a great truth, proceeds to say, something greater still. Just before, he had written, “And not only so,” and now he says, “Much more then,”
If Christ died for us when we were sinners, will he not save us now that he has made us saints? If, when we were condemned, he redeemed us, will be not preserve us now that we are justified? This is a strong plea for the final perseverance and ultimate salvation of all believers
He died for us when we were unrighteous; so, now that he has made us righteous in his own righteousness, he will never cast us away. That doctrine of believers falling from grace, and perishing, is clean contrary to Scripture: “Much more then, being now justified by his blood, we shall be saved from wrath through him.”
Did he die for us while we were sinners? Will he not, then, surely keep us now that we are Saved? Yes, that he will.
As he died for us, he will certainly save us. He who died for the ungodly will never cast away those whom he has justified. The death of Christ for his own people is the guarantee that he will love them even to the end.
See; it is a less thing for God to preserve us when we are justified than it is for him to justify us while we are yet sinners. The final perseverance of the saints may well be argued from their conversion, their entrance into glory is guaranteed by the ransom price that Christ has paid for their redemption. He died to save sinners, so how is it possible that he should let saints perish? Oh, no; that can never be! “Much more then, being now justified by his blood, we shall be saved from wrath through him.”
You see the force of the argument. If he loved us when we were still dead in sin, much more will he keep us and preserve us now that he hath justified us. Were his enemies redeemed? Shall not his friends be kept? Did he love those who were still far off? Will be not love those who are brought near, and love us even to the end?
10. For if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by his life.
There are three points which strengthen the argument here, which you will readily see by reading it at your leisure. The Lord our God who justified us when we were enemies by the death of his Son, will save us now that we are friends through the life of his Son. “And not only so.” Here we ascend again, it is ever higher and higher, something yet more, so that we are never at the end of this blessed record of mercy and grace.
There is a threefold argument here. If Christ died for us when we were his enemies, will he not save us now that we are his friends? If he died to reconcile us to God, will he not completely save us now that this great work has been accomplished? And as we were reconciled to God by Christ’s death, shall we not much more be saved by his life? There are three arguments, and each one is sound and conclusive. The believer in Jesus must be eternally saved. If Christ died for sinners, what will he not do for believers, who are no longer enemies, but are reconciled unto God by the death of his Son?
You see, there are three points here. When we were enemies, he blessed us; much more, now that we are reconciled, will he do so. If, in the second place, when we were enemies he reconciled us, how much more, after he has reconciled us, will he save us! And, thirdly, if he did all this for us by the death of his Son, much more will he do for us by his life; reconciled by his death, we shall be saved by his life.
What an invincible argument this is for the safety of all true believers in Jesus! Did he die for them, and reconcile them unto his Father by his death, when they were enemies? Then, will he not certainly save them now that they are reconciled, seeing that he ever lives to intercede for them? Will he not save them by his life? Assuredly, he will.
Did he love us when we were his enemies? Then most assuredly he will love us now that we are his friends. Did his death save us? Then, will not his life also save us? As he took such pains to reconcile us to his Father, will he not take equal pains-nay, “much more" to preserve us safe to the end?
Notice that while we were his enemies, he blessed us, so now that we are reconciled to him, will he not still bless us? If he reconciled us to him by the death of his son, will he not save us by his life now that we are reconciled to him? Does he make us his friends, intending afterwards to destroy us? Perish such a thought. This verge is like a trident, it is a three-pronged argument for our eternal safety. I will read it again: “For if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, being reconciled, we shall be raved by his life.”
10 When we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son
No more love to God is there in an unrenewed heart than there is life within a piece of granite. No more love to God is there within the soul that is unsaved than there is fire within the depths of the ocean's waves. And here is the wonder, that when we had no love for God, he should have loved us!
10, 11. For if, when we were enemies, toe were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by his life. And not only so,
The apostle is again up on the wing; he cannot fly high enough to describe all Christ’s work. “And not only so,”
See, the apostle has gone up to another platform. The gospel is a tale that we may be always telling, but it can never be fully told. It is a light that keeps on breaking upon us more and more; and even when we have come to what we suppose is the fall noontide of it, there is still seven times as much glory yet to be revealed. Yes; we go “from strength to strength:” “and not only so, but we also joy in God “ —
11. And not only so,
-there is no end to the blessing, dear brethren and sisters. the apostle seems to be always going up, and up, and up. this Paul, calm and cool and logical as he is, makes the fire burn most wondrously: “And not only so,” —
We cannot get to the end of these priceless boons. These precious pearls are too numerous even for the apostle to count, although he was a man who knew how to “reckon” up spiritual treasures: “And not only so,”—
Paul seems to go up a ladder, and when he gets to the top of it, he sets up another on the top of that one, and proceeds to mount that. This is the second time that we have read, “And not only so,” —
Surely we have got high enough when we have reached an absolute certainty of our eternal salvation. Yet we are to go still higher: “And not only so,” —
11. But we also joy in God —
That is a delightful experience, joying in God himself, in the very character and person of God. So perfectly reconciled are we that, not only do we rejoice in God’s gifts, and in his mercy; but we swim in a sea of delight in God himself: “We also joy in God” —
We are glad that he is God, glad that he is such a God as he is; we would not wish to have him altered. the God of Abraham, and of Isaac, and of Jacob, — the God of the Old testament, and the God of the New testament, — we love him altogether just as he is, and “we joy in God —
Christ has made atonements for us, and God has accepted that atonement on our behalf. We also have received it ourselves and now we are glad in God-glad that there is a God, glad that there is such a God, and glad that he is our God and Father in Christ Jesus.
Even now we joy in God, “although the fig tree shall not blossom, neither shall fruit be in the vines; the labour of the olives shall fail, and the field shall yield no meat; the flock shall be cut off from the fold, and there shall be no herd in the stalls,” yet do “we joy in God” —
We are at one with God, we are perfectly reconciled to him, and we have at present, at this very moment, a great joy and delight in God.
11. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom we have now received the atonement.
Every blessing comes to us through him. How Paul delights to harp upon that string! He says continually, “through our Lord Jesus Christ,” —
Now comes an admonition.
11 We also joy in God through our Lord Jesus Christ
Joy in God is the happiest of all joys. There are other sweets, but this is the virgin honey drip-ping fresh from the comb. Joy in God is also a most elevating joy. Those who joy in wealth grow avaricious. Those who joy in their friends too often lose nobility of spirit. But he who boasts in God grows like God. It is a solid joy, and he who joys in God has good reasons for rejoicing. He has arguments which will justify his joy at any time. It is an abiding joy. In a word, it is celestial joy.
11-21 through our Lord Jesus Christ…
Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned .. (for until the law sin was in the world: but sin is not imputed when there is no law. nevertheless death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over them that had not sinned after the similitude of Adam’s transgression, who is the figure of him that was to come. But not as the offense, so also is the free gift. For if through the offense of one many be dead, much more the grace of God, and the gift by grace, which is by one man, Jesus Christ, hath abounded unto many. And not as it was by one that sinned, so is the gift: .for the judgment was by one to condemnation, but the free gift is of many offenses unto justification. for if by one man’s offense death reigned by one; much more they which receive abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness shall reign in life by one, Jesus Christ.) therefore as by the offense of one judgment came upon all men to condemnation; even so by the righteousness of one the .free gift came upon all men unto justification of life. for as by one man’s disobedience many were made sinners, so by the obedience of one shall many be made righteous. Moreover the law entered, that the offense might abound. But where sin abounded, grace did much more abound: that as sin hath reigned unto death, even so might grace reign through righteousness unto eternal life by Jesus Christ our Lord.
I have not expounded the latter part of the chapter, as time fades me, and I shall dwell upon it somewhat in the sermon.
Through our Lord Jesus Christ, we are at one with God, we are reconciled to him by the death of his Son. All our sin is for ever put away we have received the atonement, and we rejoice in the God of our salvation Glory be to his holy name for ever and ever!
12 Sin entered into the world, and death by sin
Ask Noah as he looks out of his ark, "Does sin bring bitterness?" and he points to the floating carcasses of innumerable thou-sands that died because of sin (Ge 7:21). Turn to Abraham. Does sin bring bitterness? He points to the smoke of Sodom and Gomorrah that God destroyed because of their wickedness (Gen. 19). Ask Moses, and he reminds you of Korah, Dathan, and Abiram, who were swallowed up alive (Num. 16).
12. Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned:
Sinned, that is, in the first man.
It was by one man’s sin that we all fell through the first Adam. Does anyone object to the justice of that? I pray you, do not object to what is your only hope. If you and I had each one sinned for himself or herself apart from Adam, our case would probably have been hopeless, like the case of the fallen angels, who sinned individually, and fell never to be set up again, but inasmuch as we fell representatively in Adam, it prepared the way for us to rise representatively in the second Adam, Christ Jesus our Lord and Savior. As I fell by another, I can rise by another; as my ruin was caused by the first man, Adam, my restoration can be brought about by the second Man, the Lord from heaven.
13, 14. (For until the law sin was in the world: but sin is not imputed when there is no law. Nevertheless death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over them that had not sinned after the similitude of Adam’s transgression, who is the figure of him that was to come.
I suppose that Paul refers even to little children, who “had not sinned after the similitude of Adam’s transgression,” and yet died as the result of Adam’s sin.
Infants die, although they have never sinned; they die, because death is the penalty of sin; and as they die for faults not their own, so are the saved by righteousness not their own. They die, for Adam sinned; they live, for Jesus died.
14. After the similitude of Adam’s transgression, who is the figure of him that was to come.
So that the sin of Adam took effect upon the human race before the law came, and even Upon those who had no personal transgression,—unconscious infants, I mean,—causing them to die.
Adam’s fall was terribly effectual, it has brought death upon the human race age after age; and Christ’s death is wonderfully effectual, for on behalf of all those for whom he died his atonement so prevail as to put their sins away for ever.
15-20. But not as the offense, so also is the free gift…
Just as, sometimes, a physician may give a medicine which causes the disease to be more fully developed in order to its ultimate cure, so does the law make a discovery of our sin to us, and it also excites us to greater sin, by reason of the enmity of our nature, which is opposed to the law of God, and becomes the more active the more clearly the law is known, even as Paul says, further on in this Epistle, “I had not known lust, except the law had said, Thou shalt not covet.”
17, 18. Death reigned by one; much more they which receive abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness shall reign in fife by one, Jesus Christ.) Therefore as by the offense of one judgment came upon all men to condemnation; even so by the righteousness of one the free gift came upon all men unto justification of life.
That is to say, upon the “all” who are in Christ, as the condemnation came upon the “all” who were in the first Adam. He who believeth not in Jesus has no part in “the free gift unto justification of life;” but he who believeth is a partaker of the glorious justification which comes by Christ.
That is the wonderful doctrine of “the gospel of Christ.” It is rejected in these evil days; they call it simple, and I know not what beside; but here it is put as plainly as words can put it, “As by one man’s disobedience many were made sinners, so by the obedience of one shall many be made righteous.”
19 As by one man's disobedience many were made sinners
It is a happy circumstance for us that we did fall and were condemned in the bulk in our representative, because had we been individually put on the like probation, we would to a certainty all have fallen. But then it must have ended finally and fatally, for when the angels fell by sinning individually, there was no hope of restoration for them. But we, happily, had fallen through a representative, and therefore we could be restored by another representative.
19, 20. For as by one man’s disobedience many were made sinners, so by the obedience of one shall many be made righteous. Moreover the law entered, that the offense might abound.”
It was the practical result of the giving of the law that men became greater sinners than they were before, and it was the design of the law that they should see themselves to be greater sinners than before. The law is the looking-glass in which we see our spots, but it is not the basin in which we wash them away. The law has a provoking power, for such is-the perversity of our nature that, no sooner do we hear the command, “You shall not do so-and-so,” than at once we want to do it. Our nature is very much like quicklime. Throw cold water upon it, and straightway it generateth heat; acting, as it were, against the nature of that which is cast upon it. So, the more God says to a man, “Thou shalt,” the more the man says, “I will not;” and the more God says to him, “Thou shalt not,” the more doth the man resolve that he will. “The law entered, that the offense might abound.” It reveals the depravity and disobedience of human nature, and lays us low before God as convicted criminals.
20. Moreover the law entered, that the offense might abound.
The law was not given to Moses to stop sin, or to forgive sin, but to make men see how evil sin is, and to make it evident to them how evil they are.
Romans 5:20 "The law entered, that the offense might abound."
A stick is crooked, but you do not notice how crooked it is until you place a straight rule by the side of it. You have a handkerchief, and it seems to be quite white. You could hardly wish it to be whiter. But you lay it down on the newly fallen snow, and you wonder how you could ever have thought it to be white at all. So the pure and holy law of God, when our eyes are opened to see its purity, shows up our sin in its true blackness, and in that way it makes sin to abound. But this is for our good, for that sight of our sin awakens us to a sense of our true condition, leads us to repentance, drives us by faith to the precious blood of Jesus, and no longer permits us to rest in our self-righteousness.
20. But where sin abounded, grace did much more abound:
Blessed be God for that! Sin may be a river, but grace is an ocean. Sin may be a mountain, but grace is like Noah’s flood, which prevailed over the tops of the mountains fifteen cubits upward.
There was more grace than terror even in the law. It has served a gracious purpose, for it was given to make us realize our guilt, and so might drive us to seek the grace of God for its forgiveness. Salvation is all of grace. Sin cannot conquer grace; it has had a hard struggle for it, but grace will ultimately win the victory in all who believe in Jesus.
20, 21. But where sin abounded, grace did much more abound: that as sin hath reigned unto death, even so might grace reign through righteousness unto eternal life by Jesus Christ our Lord.
Blessed be his holy name! Amen.
21. That as sin hath reigned unto death, even so might grace reign through righteousness unto eternal life by Jesus Christ our Lord.
The drift of the whole chapter is to comfort believers in the time of trouble by the fact of the great love of God to them in the person of Jesus Christ their Lord and Savior.
Do you know, dear friends, by personal experience, all about this of which we have been reading? I know that many of you do. Would God that all did,—that they understood, by a living faith, what it is to be justified, having first understood, by sorrowful experience, what a sense of condemnation the guilty soul must feel. The Lord bring you all to himself, by Jesus Christ! Amen.
Verse 1. What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound?
Paul finishes the last chapter by saying, “That as sin hath reigned unto death, even so might grace reign through righteousness unto eternal life by Jesus Christ our Lord.” “What shall we say, then?” What inference shall we draw from the superabounding of grace over sin?
The fifth chapter ends up in this way, that “where sin abounded, etc… Jesus Christ our Lord.” Then he goes on to say, “What shall we say then?” What inference shall we draw from the fact that where sin abounded, grace did much more abound? Shall we be base enough to draw a wicked inference from a gracious statement? Shall we continue in sin that grace may abound? It is a horrible suggestion, and yet it is one which has come into the minds of many men, for some men are bad enough for anything; they will curdle the sweet milk of love into the sourest argument for sin. “Shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound? God forbid.” With all the vehemence of his nature, he saith: —
This seems to be a very plausible temptation, it is one which frequently came in the apostle’s way, and therefore he very often had to denounce it. It is one of the vilest suggestions of Satan that could possibly come to men.
If the sinfulness of man has really given an opportunity for the display of divine mercy, then the devil’s logic would be, “ Let us commit more sin, that there may be more room for grace to work.” But Christians have learned their reasoning in another school, and to such diabolical arguments they answer in the words of the apostle: —
“Shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound?” That were very horrible inference. It is one great instance of the shocking depravity of man that the inference has been drawn sometimes, I hope not often, for surely Satan himself might scarcely draw an inference of licentiousness from love. Still, some have drawn it.
1, 2 Shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound? God forbid.
2. God forbid. How shall we, that are dead to sin, live any longer therein?
Now, he goes on by an argument to prove that those in whom the grace of God has wrought the wondrous change cannot possibly choose sin, nor live in it.
The grace of God makes us dead to sin. This is the grace of God, which delivers us from the power of evil, and if this be so, how can we live any longer therein?
The whole spirit of the gospel is opposed to the idea of sinning because God is gracious. It is a horrible Satanic suggestion, — “As pardon can be so easily obtained from God, let us sin the more against him.” The bare suggestion is utterly degrading and diabolical. It is to be scouted at once.
The two terms are exactly opposite to one another. If, through grace, we are dead to sin how can we live in it ? If, sinners as we are, we come to Christ to be saved from sin, then it would be a complete misuse of language to talk of being saved from sin, yet still to continue in it. Besides, the apostle goes on to show that the ordinance, by which believers in Jesus are to be admitted into the visible Christian Church will not suffer them to continue in sin.
3. Know ye not, that as many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into his death?
That is the very hinge of our religion. His death, not into his example merely, nor primarily into his life, but “into his death.” In this we have believed — with a dying Savior we are linked, and our baptism sets this forth. We “were baptized into his death.”
If we are in Christ at all, we are partakers of his death; and as his was a death for sin and a death to sin, we are made partakers of it; we are really dead because Christ died, and we are in him. Therefore we are dead to the old life, to the old way of sin. We signify that by our baptism.
Was not that the real meaning of our baptism? Had it any meaning whatever unless we were really dead with Christ and therefore were buried with him?
You remember, my brethren and sisters in Christ, that hallowed hour when you went down into the liquid tomb, when, in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, you were immersed upon profession of your faith in Jesus Christ. By that solemn act you set forth your death to sin; and when you were raised again out of the opening element, you thereby made a profession of your faith in Christ’s resurrection; and, moreover, you did there and then, seeing that you had received the grace of God in truth, profess to rise unto newness of life. How could you, then, go back to sin? That would be to make your baptism a lie; indeed, you are all of you untoptized unless you have been baptized into Christ’s death.
4. Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even as we also should walk in newness of life.
The operations, therefore, of the Spirit of God forbid that a saved man should live in sin. He is dead; he is raised into newness of life: at the very entrance into the church, in the very act of baptism, he declares that he cannot live as he once did, for he is dead: he declares that he must live after another fashion, for has not he been raised again in the type and raised again in very deed from the dead?
There is a parallel between Christ and the true Christian. There is a likeness between the Head of the Church and the members of his mystical body. Christ died, and was buried, and his people are reckoned as dead and buried in him.
Our baptism, solemn as it was, was a great acted falsehood, a living pretense, unless we are dead to our former way of living, and have come to live unto God in a new life altogether, by virtue of the resurrection of Christ from the dead.
There has a death taken place in us, and though there be relics of corruption still alive, yet they are crucified: they will have to die, they must die they are nailed fast to the cross to die in union with the death of Christ.
If we have partaken of his death, we partake also of his rising power. We live because he lives, and we live as he lives, not after the old manner, but in newness of life.
6 Our old man is crucified with him."
One of the best men I ever knew said, at eighty years of age, "I find the old man is not dead yet." Our old man is crucified, but he is long at dying. He is not dead when we think he is. You may live to be very old, but you will have need still to watch against the carnal nature, which remains even in the regenerate.
We are to regard ourselves as persons that have been dead. We are ourselves, it is true; and yet in another sense we are not our own selves. We are not to look upon ourselves as though we owed any kind of service to the power which we obeyed before we knew the Lord. We are new people, we have got a new life, and have entered upon a new existence — the old man is crucified with him
6 that the body of sin might be destroyed
I may say of our sins what a Scottish officer said to his soldiers: "My lads, there are the enemy! Kill them, or they will kill you." And so must I say of all sins. There they are! Destroy them, or they will destroy you.
Christian, here is your practical lesson: Fight with your sins! Hack them in pieces, as Samuel did Agag. Let not one of them escape. Take them as Elijah took the prophets of Baal—hew them in pieces before the Lord. Revenge the death of Christ on your sins, but keep to Christ's cross for power to do it.
5-7. For if we have been planted together in the likeness of his death, we shall be also in the likeness of his resurrection: knowing this, that our old man is crucified with him, that the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin. For he that is dead is freed from sin.
That is, he that died to sin when Christ died is free from sin’s condemning power.
God has driven the nails through the active powers of our sin, both hands and feet are fastened to the cross of Christ, and though the heart and the head may sometimes wander, yet our old man is crucified with Christ that the body of sin may be destroyed; and we are looking forward to that happy day when the old man shall be dead altogether, and we shall be made meet to enter into the inheritance of the saints in light. We believe that our old man will never die until we die, but we thank God that the death of our body will be also the death of the body of sin.
7. For he that is dead is freed from sin.
He can no longer live in it, for he is dead; and if we are really dead in Christ, we can no longer live in sin as we were wont to do.
The man is dead. The law cannot ask more of a criminal than to yield his life. If, therefore, he should live again after death, he would not be one who could suffer for his past offenses. They were committed in another life, and “he that is dead is freed from sin.”
There was no getting free from the power of sin, except by dying to it; but, being dead to it, we are free from it; and, now being dead that way, we have entered into a new life that we might live as Christ lives.
Or, death will have dominion over him no more: he will never come a second time under death, and neither shall his people. “For in that he died, he died unto sin once.” There was an end of it in the sense of once for all, no second death for Christ.
So we, being raised from our former death, shall die no more; death hath no more dominion over us. That is to say, sin cannot reign in us again; we are dead to it, we are brought into a new life that can never end, even as our Lord Jesus Christ is. There is a parallel between us and Christ, even as there is a union between us.
And so do we; we have died unto sin once, but now that we live, we live unto God.
8-10. Now if we be dead with Christ we believe that we shall also live with him: knowing that Christ being raised from the dead dieth no more, death hath no more dominion over him. For in that he died, he died unto sin once: but in that he liveth, he liveth unto God.
In the next verse, the parallel between Christ and Christians comes up again. As Christ died, and was buried, and rose from the dead and now lives to die no more, so is it with us who believe in him, and are in him by a vital union. In him we died, and in him we rose, and in him we now live in newness of life.
If Christ could die again, then believers might lose their spiritual life, and there might be such a thing as falling from grace; but while Jesus lies, no member of his mystical body can die. His own promise is “Because I live ye shall live also.” He died unto sin once; we do the same. He lives no more to die; we also do the same. Highly privileged are they who are dead with Christ, and blessed is that ordinance in which we set forth our death and burial with him.
Peradventure, there were some who would say that in their spirits truth and righteousness were supreme, but that in their bodies sin had the mastery Aye, but that will not do. There must be left no lurking piece for sin within the complete system of our manhood: it must be hunted out and hunted down thoroughly, out of the body as well as out of the mind.
11-13. Likewise reckon ye also yourselves to be dead indeed unto sin, but alive unto God through Jesus Christ our Lord. Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, that ye should obey it in the lusts thereof. Neither yield ye your members as instruments of unrighteousness unto sin: but yield yourselves unto God, as those that are alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness unto God.
“Your members” — that is, the various parts of your body and the faculties of your mind are to be yielded up to God “as instruments of righteousness.”
Your legs used to carry you to the theatre; compel them now to carry you to the house of God even though you are weary. Your eyes could look long enough upon wickedness; let not their lids fall when you are sitting to hear a sermon. Let all the members of your body which once served Satan now serve God. Consider that your whole body is a consecrated temple, and be not satisfied unless the whole of it is reserved for the great God himself.
It is in the body that it tries to reign. These poor things, these mortal frames of ours, have so many passions, so many desires, so many weak-messes, all of which are apt to bring us under the dominion of sin, unless we watch with great care.
“Neither yield ye your members as instruments of unrighteousness unto sin” — neither eyes, nor ears, nor hands, nor feet, neither suffer any of these to become the tools of sin, “but yield yourselves unto God.” He is ready to use you, lay all the powers of your nature out as tools, for him to use. “Yield yourselves unto God as those that are alive from the dead.” He is not the God of the dead; he cannot use the dead, but he is the God of the living, and as you profess to have received a new life in Christ, yield up all the faculties of this new life unto the living God, “and your members as instruments of righteousness unto God.”
We do not, I think, make enough of the passive part of our religion We are often for doing, and quite right, too, and the more active we can be the better; still, before the doing there must come a yielding, because we remember who it is that worketh in us, “both to will and to do of his own good pleasure,” and our activities after all are not so much our own as we deem, if they are right. They are the activities of the divine life within us, of the Spirit of God himself working in us to the glory of the Father. One great point, therefore, is to yield ourselves up, our members, to be weapons in God’s hands for the fighting of the spiritual war.
14. For sin shall not have dominion over you: for ye are not under the law, but under grace.
While you were under the law, and simply heard it command you to do your duty, the command seemed to awaken all the hostility of your nature so that you remained under the dominion of sin, but now no longer does the law speak to you as it did aforetime. You are not now under the law, but another principle governs you. The grace, the favor, the love which God has shown to you in Christ Jesus, appeals to your heart, and you cheerfully yield to it the obedience which, when the law demanded it, your unregenerate spirit refused to render.
When you were under the law, sin did get dominion over you; that law which was ordained to life, worked towards death. The evil concupiscence of your nature revolted against the command, and led you astray. But now, beloved, it is of love and grace, and now sin cannot get in: stronger motives shall hold you to holiness than ever held you before, and the grace of Go itself, like a wall of fire, shall guard you from the dominion of sin.
The reigning, ruling principle now, is not “You must, you shall,” for reward, or under fear of punishment, but God has loved you, and now you love him in return and what you do springs from no mercenary or self-serving motive. You are not under law, but under grace; yet in another sense you never were so much under law as you are now, for grace puts about you a blessedly sweet, delightful law, which has power over us as the word of command never had. “I will write my law in their hearts, in their inward parts will I write them.” Aye, that is the glory of the new life, the delight of him who hath passed from death unto life.
14 Sin shall not have dominion over you
Has sin dominion over you? If so, then you are not a believer. I did not say, "Do you sin?" for "if we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us" (1 John 1:8). But I did say, "Has sin dominion over you? "
15. What then? shall we sin, because we are not under the law, but under grace? God forbid.
Oh! this old question keeps coming up. Somebody wants to sin. Well, if he wants to sin, why does not he leave this business alone and go and sin? What has he to do with these theological questions at all? But still, he wants, if he can, to make a coverlet for his wickedness; he wants to enjoy the sweets of the child of God, and yet live like an enemy of God, and so he pops in his head over and over again: “May we not sin because of this or that?” To which the apostle answers again, “God forbid.” Oh! may God always forbid it to you, and to me: may the question never be tolerated among us.
Again the apostle is shocked at such a suggestion. There are some who have denied that the law was binding upon them in any sense, and who have therefore claimed liberty to sin, but they can find no footing anywhere within the saved enclosure of God’s Word.
That must not be. Again the evil spirit crops up, trying to turn the grace of God into licentiousness, and to make us feel free to sin because of God’s love — that must not be.
This is another of the Antinomian suggestions that were made in the apostle’s time, and that are still made now; and how does Paul answer it? Why, with this solemn adjuration: —
If you are doing the deeds of sin, you are the servants of sin and only as you are doing the will of God can you claim to be the servant of God. “Hereby we know that we know him, if we keep his commandments.” That becomes the index of our condition. The man, then, that lives in sin and loves it, need not talk about the grace of God he is a stranger to it, for the mark of those that come under grace is this, that they serve God, and no longer serve sin.
Is not that a glorious sentence, “Being then made free from sin”? Yes, the fetters are all gone; we have put up our feet upon the block, and the chains have been knocked off; we have put our hands down, and the irons have been broken in pieces. Free from sin! ’Tis true that sin still tempts us, but it cannot prevail against us; it tries to put the bit in our mouth, and to ride us as once it did, but we no longer submit to its sway. Sin is now an enemy to fret and worry us, but not a king to trample upon us, and rule over us.
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?
If, then, a man lives a life of sin, he proves that he is the servant of sin, for he has obeyed its commands, and let that man know assuredly that he has nothing to do with Christ while he is living in sin. But if a man lives in obedience to Christ and seeks after righteousness, and true holiness, that man is evidently the servant of righteousness, and so the servant of God.
It is a wonderful heart-searching text, is this: let us put ourselves under its power. Whatever you obey, that is your master: and if you obey the suggestions of sin, you are the slave of sin: and it is only as you are obedient to God that you are truly the servants of God. So that, after all, our outward, walk and conversation are the best test of our true condition. Without holiness no man shall see the Lord, nor can. he have any reason to believe that he belongs to God.
17. But God be thanked, that ye were the servants of sin, but says have obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine which was delivered you.
Or, as the marginal reading renders it, in harmony with the original, “whereto ye were delivered,” for the doctrine was the mould, and ye were the metal, reduced to a molten condition, and then poured into the mould to take the shape of gospel truth. God be thanked for this, — that, though ye did formerly serve sin, ye now serve it no longer.
Or into which you were delivered. God has taken you, melted you down, and poured you into a new mold. God be thanked for flint; you are not what you used to be. Although you are not what you hope to be, yet you have reason to bless God you are not what once you were-you have obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine into which you were delivered.
17-18 Ye were the servants of sin, but … ye became the servants of righteousness
As long as the blood-red flag of Christ's cross floats over the castle of your heart, Satan may get possession of eye-gate and ear-gate and mouth-gate for a while, but Christ is still king. Your will is still good toward righteousness. Sin has not dominion over you.
The fetters are struck off, the lusts of the flesh do not hold us any longer. We are the Lord’s free men, and out of gratitude for this glorious freedom, we become the willing servants of the righteous God.
18, 19. Being then made free from sin, ye became the servant of righteousness. 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 servant to righteousness unto holiness.
How powerfully this plea ought to tell with any whose former life was full of positive, plain uncleanness in the sight of God! And how earnestly should the redeemed spirit cry to God to preserve the body pure and chaste before him!
It wants no explanation. In the days of our sin, we sinned with all our power. There was not one part of us but what became the willing servant of sin: and we went from iniquity into iniquity, and now the Cross has made us entirely new, and we have been melted down, poured out into a fresh mold. Now, let us yield every member of our body, soul, and spirit to righteousness, even unto holiness, till the whole of us, in the wholeness and consequently the holiness of our nature, shall be given unto God.
As you submitted yourselves to sin most cheerfully and voluntarily, and yet were slaves under it, so now come, and be slaves under Christ with most blessed cheerfulness and delight: endeavor now to lose your very wills in his will, for no man’s slavery is so complete as his who even yields his will. Now, yield everything to Christ. You shall never be so free as when you do that, never so blessedly delivered from all bondage as when you absolutely and completely yield yourselves up to the power and supremacy of your Lord.
You disdained the silken bonds of piety, you said that you would never wear what you called the iron fetters of grace; you were “Free from righteousness.” So, surely, now that you are the servants of righteousness, you should seek to be free from sin.
20. For when ye were the servants of sin, ye were free from righteousness.
You did not then trouble yourselves about that matter at all; you left the things of God and piety alone.
You did not care about righteousness then. When you served sin you felt it was utterly indifferent to you what the claims of righteousness might be. Well, now that you have become the servant of righteousness, be free from sin, let sin have no more dominion over you now, than righteousness used to have when you were the slaves of sin. “What fruit had ye then in those things whereof ye are now ashamed?” What profit did they ever bring you? There was a temporary delight, like the blossom on the tree in spring, but what fruit find you? Did it ever come, to anything? Is there anything to look back upon with pleasure in a life of sin? Oh no, those things whereof we are now ashamed were fruitless to us, “for the end of those things is death.”
21. What fruit had ye then in these things whereof ye are now ashamed? for the end of these things is death.
You had such pleasure as sin could give you, but was it worth having? You derived some profit, perhaps, from evil pursuits; but did the profit ever make up for the loss which you thereby sustained? O ye who have had experience of sin to the full, has it, after all, turned out to be the fair and lovely thing that it once seemed to be? No, the serpent had azure scales, but its fangs have poured poison into your blood. It came to you with all manner of deceivableness of unrighteousness, like Jezebel with her painted face, but it has wrought for you nothing but sorrow and suffering, and it will work your eternal ruin unless God, in his great mercy, shall prevent it.
22. But now being made free from sin, and become servants to God, ye have your fruit unto holiness, and the end everlasting life.
Oh, what wondrous changes the grace of God works! “But now.” Paul must have rejoiced to write those two words. He had dwelt upon what men were before the Lord began to deal with them in mercy, “but now” he could say, “being made free from sin, and become servants to God, ye have your fruit unto holiness, and the end everlasting life.”
23 The wages of sin is death
This whole world has been for ages a vast burying place. Men whine out their abhorrence of God's justice and hold in con-tempt the idea of future punishment with the question, "Would a father do thus and thus with his children?" The question needs no other reply than fact. All men die. Would a father allow his children to die when it was in his power to prevent it? Certainly not. Since, then, the great God evidently permits much pain and even death to happen to his creatures, he is evidently not Father merely, but something more. To ungodly men Jehovah reveals himself in the light of a Judge whose stern severity has brought to pass the terrible doom of death on every man of woman born.
That sin must die, or you will perish by it. Depend on it, that sin which you would save from slaughter will slaughter you.
23 The gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord
You may offer whatever terms you please, but God will never sell Christ. Judas did that, but the Father never will.