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An Exposition Of the Epistles Of Saint Paul And Of The Catholic Epistles Volumes 1&2

Analysis

In this chapter, the Apostle answers an objection to which his doctrine in the preceding (verse 20), might give rise (1). From the very rite of baptism, he shows that we should no longer commit sin; on the contrary, we should lead a new life of grace; for the rite of immersion practised in his time in baptism, was a type of our death to sin, and the egress from the waters of baptism was a type of our spiritual resurrection, both of which were effected, as well as signified, by the sacrament of baptism; and both had the death and resurrection of Christ for models (2–9). He next shows, from the very nature of Christ’s death, which took place but once, and of his resurrection, which was the entrance to an immortal life, that we, too, after his example, should persevere in a life of grace (9–11). He exhorts to a life of sanctity (11–20). He points out the present and future fruits of a life of sin and of a life of grace.

Paraphrase

1. What inference, then, are we to draw from the foregoing doctrine, viz., that “where sin abounded, grace did more abound.” Is it that we should continue in sin in order that grace may abound the more?

2. Far be it from us to entertain for a moment so foolish and impious a thought. For how could we, who are dead to sin, who, from our Christian profession, should have no more commerce with sin than the living have with the dead, live any longer in that unhappy state? How is it possible to live and die to the same thing?

3. For that we are dead to sin, you may clearly see, by calling to mind what you already know, viz., that when we are baptized in the name and by the authority of Jesus Christ, we are baptized into the likeness and representation of his death.

4. For, in order vividly to represent his death, we have been buried with him in the baptismal rite of immersion. So that as Christ has been resuscitated from the grave by the glorious operation of his Father’s power, we also, emerging from the baptismal waters, would lead a new life, as he did after his resurrection, and continue perseveringly in it.

5. For, if, like young shoots, we have been engrafted on him by baptism, so as to represent, by our death to sin, his death on the cross, we shall certainly, for a like reason, be engrafted also unto the likeness of his resurrection, which will be effected by our leading a new life of grace, after the model of his glorious and immortal life.

6. We should die to sin and live a new life of grace, if we consider that in baptism, our old man, i.e., the corruption of nature, which we inherited from Adam, is crucified with Christ, so that the whole mass, or body of sin consisting of different members, may be destroyed, and we may no longer serve as slaves under the tyranny of sin.

7. For, as the dead slave is freed from servitude, so are we, who are dead to sin by baptism, freed from its tyranny; and hence, we should no longer serve it.

8. But if we be really dead to sin with Christ, we have a firm hope and confidence, that one day we shall enjoy with Christ a glorious and immortal life.

9. As we know that Christ, resuscitated from the tomb, dies no more, death has no further dominion over him he (enjoys a glorious and immortal life, free from all the ills of mortality).

10. For, so far as his death is concerned, it took place but once for the expiation of sin, but as to his life, it is altogether employed for the glory of God.

11. So do you, therefore, after his example, regard yourselves as dead to sin by baptism, and gifted with an unchanging, unfading life of grace, to be wholly devoted to the promotion of God’s glory, through the grace and merits of Jesus Christ our Lord.

12. Do not, therefore, permit sin to exercise dominion or tyranny over your mortal bodies, by obeying and consenting to its corrupt desires.

13. And do not yield your members to the tyrant sin, as instruments for carrying out the ends of iniquity; but rather devote and give up your entire being to God, as having been raised from the death of sin to lead a new life of grace, and yield your members to God as instruments for carrying out the ends of justice.

14. Nor should you apprehend any great difficulties in this struggle, from the fear that concupiscence would once more regain dominion over you; it will no longer domineer over you; for, you are no longer under the Mosaic Law, where sin reigned with such uncontrollable dominion, but you are under the New Law, where grace abounds and enables you to keep sin under subjection.

15. As, then, we are “not under the law,” does it not follow that we are free to neglect its precepts and thus sin against it? And as we are “under grace,” should we not sin that grace may abound the more (verse 1)? The inference is, in the first place, too impious and silly to deserve refutation.

16. In the next place, the contrary should be deduced; viz., that you should no longer sin. For, are you not aware, that to whomsoever you give yourselves as servants to obey, you are his servants; you acknowledge him as your master, whether it be sin that entails eternal death, or gospel obedience—the fruit of which is justice here and eternal life hereafter?

17. But thanks be to God, that having ceased to be servants of sin, you have become servants of Christ, by sincerely obeying the true form of gospel teaching, which has been delivered to you, or, to which you voluntarily submitted.

18. But having been freed from the galling servitude of sin, you have passed to the glorious service of justice, in regard to God, to serve whom, is to reign.

19. I propose to you an easy precept, by no means beyond your reach, and perfectly accommodated to human weakness, and it is, that you would now, after becoming servants of justice, use the same exertions in advancing the cause of justice and sanctification, that you have, heretofore, employed in your former degraded state, towards forwarding the purposes of iniquity and uncleanness.

20. For, while you were the degraded slaves of sin, and so wholly engrossed with its degrading servitude, you had nothing at all to do with justice—no thoughts or concern whatever about it. (Hence, now, in serving justice, you should be wholly engrossed with it, having no further thoughts about sin or injustice).

21. And in order to exert greater zeal in the service of justice than you have shown in the cause of iniquity, consider the rewards of both. The present fruit of your past services in the cause of sin, is shame at the remembrance of them, and their final end shall be everlasting death.

22. But the present fruit of your labours in the cause of God, in whose service you are engaged, after having been freed from the degrading servitude of sin, is the sanctification of your souls; and the final recompense shall be, eternal life.

23. For, the wages given to the sinner, like the military pay given to the soldier, is eternal death; but the donative of God, given to the man who fights under the banner of justice, is eternal life, which is merited for us by Christ Jesus our Lord.

Commentary

1. The Apostle proposes an objection which might be derived from his words in the preceding chapter, verse 20, that “where sin abounded, grace abounded more,” why not then continue in sin to give occasion to the abundant effusion of grace? Instead of “shall we continue,” the chief MSS. have, επιμενωμεν, “should we continue.”

2. He at once rejects the thought as impious and absurd—since it would be absurd for men who, by their Christian profession, “are dead to sin.” i.e., who renounced all intercourse with sin, as the dead do in regard to the living, to live any longer in a state which they have so thoroughly renounced. He shows the absurdity of the consequence, since it is impossible to live and die to the same thing.

3. He now proves that they are dead to sin, since by being “baptized in Christ Jesus,” in the Greek, εἰς Χριστὸν Ἰησοῦν, into Christ Jesus, i.e., by professing ourselves followers of Christ in the rite of baptism. In the Codex Vaticanus, the word “Jesus” is wanting, it simply is, “baptized unto Christ.” “Are baptized in his death”; in the Greek, εἰς τὸν θάνατον, into his death, i.e., into the likeness and representation of his death. So that his death on the cross would be represented by our death to sin, of which the baptism by immersion—the form of baptism in use in the time of the Apostle—was a significant type; and this death to sin on our part is effected by baptism, since, according to the doctrine of St. Thomas, the sacraments operate what they signify.

4. He shows how our spiritual death to sin is signified by baptism. For, our immersion in baptism is a type of our burial, and, consequently, of our death to sin, of which his death on the cross was the model. “For we are buried together with him by baptism,” his burial, and, consequently, his death, being the model of our burial and death to sin, signified by our immersion in the waters of baptism. In all the Greek copies we have, οὖν, therefore, instead of “for.” “Into death,” to represent his death, which must precede burial. “That as Christ is risen from the dead by the glory of the Father,” i.e., by the glorious operation of the Father’s power, to enter on a new and immortal life, we too, after emerging from the waters of baptism, which is a type of our spiritual resurrection, would, like Christ, risen from the grave—our resuscitated model—enter on a new and holy life. As the death of Christ is the model of our death to sin, so is his resurrection from the tomb the model of our spiritual resurrection, and both signified by the rite of baptism, then conferred by immersion.

5. He shows why we should walk in the newness of life, or become assimilated to Christ in his resurrection; for, our assimilation to him in our spiritual death, was not to rest there. Baptism not only represented and effected our spiritual death to sin—for this was but one spiritual effect signified and caused by baptism—but it also signified and effected our resurrection to a new life, in which we are to live after the model of Christ resuscitated from the grave. Our death to sin was the precursor of our new life of grace. Hence, if we die with Christ, with much greater reason shall we rise with him. “Planted together with him,” συμφυτοι γεγοναμεν; there is allusion in these words to the grafting of young shoots on the stock of another tree: Christ is the stock of the true and faithful vine on which we must be engrafted, to die with him to sin, and to live with him to grace, as the young graft participates in all the vicissitudes of the stock on which it is inserted. The nutriment we derive from our insertion on him, will not be merely confined to our dying to sin; it is intended to produce in us the fruits of a new and spiritual life.

6. From the end of baptism he shows that we should be dead to sin, and walk in the newness of life (verse 4); for, while baptism represents the crucifixion of Christ, it also signifies and effects the crucifixion of our vices. “Our old man,” i.e., the sinfulness and corruption inherited from Adam, or rather man himself, as affected by this sinfulness. The Apostle distinguishes two men, the old and the new. The “old man was crucified” with Christ; for, in his person “who was made for us a malediction,” the entire fallen race of Adam was nailed to the cross. “That the body of sin,” i.e., the entire mass or collection of sins—the members of which collection are uncleanness, avarice, &c. (Colossians, 3). They are called a body, because as different members joined together constitute a body, so all the particular sins committed by the “old man” constitute a “body” also; in using the word body, the Apostle carries with him the idea of crucifixion, and alludes to the body of man after he fell in Adam, before he was renewed in Christ. This corrupt body was made by man the instrument of indulging his concupiscences. “May be destroyed,” by mortifying and restraining its members, “and may serve sin no longer.” “Sin” is represented as a tyrant exercising dominion over us.

7. He continues to represent sin as a tyrant exercising sway—“is justified from sin?” “justified” is taken in a legal sense to signify acquitted, fully absolved, so as not to be again questioned on that account.

8. “We believe,” i.e., we confidently hope, “we shall live together with Christ.” These words are understood by Estius to refer to our living a life of grace after the model of His glorious and immortal life. The interpretation in the Paraphrase, which makes it refer to our living with him one day a life of glory in heaven, is, however, to be preferred; for, the Apostle would appear to take occasion, from treating of the life of grace, to refer to the reward of future glory, as a means of stimulating men to the practice of virtue. The opinion of Estius, however, derives great probability from the meaning given to the words, alive unto God, verse 11, where the foregoing example is applied.

9. These words show that Christ, now risen, shall live for ever; and hence, as we are to live with him, we are to enjoy an immortal life. The connexion is more easily seen in the interpretation of Estius: “We shall live also together with Christ,” (verse 8). But what life is that?—an unceasing, continuous life of grace; for such is its model—the life of Christ resuscitated from the tomb; or, perhaps, it might be more probably said, that this verse has no immediate connexion with the foregoing; but that in it is merely introduced a new reason for persevering in grace—founded on the mode of Christ’s death and resurrection. From the very nature, the oneness, of Christ’s resurrection, he shows our obligation to persevere in good, and not relapse again into the state of sin.

10. “He died to sin, he died once,” i.e., he died one death to expiate and atone for sin. In the common Greek, the punctuation is so placed that the words “to sin” are joined to “once,” thus, “he died to sin once.” The punctuation in the Codex Vaticanus “ὅ γὰρ απεθανεν, τῆ αμαρτία, απεθανεν εφαπαξ,” leaves the matter doubtful. “But he liveth unto God,” i.e., solely for God’s glory; and hence, our life of grace should be devoted to the same; or, the words, “unto God,” may mean, he lived a life worthy of God, immortal and unchangeable.

11. He applies the foregoing, and founds on it the exhortation to sanctity of life. Hence, we should regard ourselves after baptism as dead once and for ever to sin, and living, like Christ, solely for God, performing all the actions of our life solely for the end of advancing his glory.

12. He continues the metaphor, wherein “sin” is represented as a tyrant. By “sin” is meant, concupiscence, which the Apostle calls “sin,” because it is an effect of sin, and inclines us to it, quia ex peccato est et ad peccatum inclinat.—(Concil. Trid. SS. v., Can. 5). “In your mortal body;” he reminds them of their mortality and of the short duration of their shameful gratifications, in order to stimulate them to trample on them, and seek these rewards which are eternal. “So as to obey the lusts thereof.” It is by obeying the lusts of concupiscence, that we permit it to exercise tyranny over us. In the common Greek the words run thus: εἰς τὸ ὑπακούειν (αυτῃ ἐν) ταῖς επιθυμιαῖς αυτοῦ, “so as to obey (it in) its lusts.” The Vulgate is conformable to the chief MSS. and ancient versions, in which, αυτῃ εν, are altogether omitted.

14. The Apostle points out the facility with which they can obtain the victory. There is no fear that sin would exercise its dominion over them; they are no longer under the Mosaic law, which pointed out the sin to be avoided, but did not give grace to overcome or avoid it; and hence, sin reigned with more uncontrollable dominion under it; but they are under the Gospel law, in which they have ample graces to resist and battle against sin. “Under the law” has reference to the threats and menaces which the law holds out against those who are unable to fulfil its precepts, for the fulfilment of which the law itself gives no assistance. They, therefore, are said “not to be under the law,” who, though bound by the precepts of the law, still, in consequence of being enabled, owing to the numerous graces liberally dealt out to them “under grace,” to fulfil all its precepts, can set its threats and menaces at defiance. In the Greek it is, “under Law.” The article is wanting.

15. This wrong influence is founded on the erroneous interpretation of the words, “under the law.” His first answer to it is, “God forbid,” i.e., far be it from us to assent to so unmeaning and impious an idea. Instead of, “shall we sin,” the reading of the chief MSS. is, ἁμαρτησωμεν, should we sin.

16. He answers it, in the second place, by showing that if they were to adopt the wrong and unmeaning inference referred to, they would be incurring the very inconvenience for the avoiding of which he proposed to them the abundant grace of the Gospel—viz., they would become the slaves of the tyrant, “sin;” because, men are the slaves of whomsoever they obey. “Of obedience unto justice.” By “obedience” he means the Gospel law, which prescribes obedience, and it is opposed to “sin.” because every sin involves disobedience.

17. “That you were the servants of sin,” is the same as, that you have long since ceased to be what you were—viz., “the servants of sin.” “That form of doctrine,” i.e., that doctrine marked out by the Gospel. “Into which you have been delivered,” i.e., you have voluntarily and spontaneously submitted and yielded yourselves.

18. They have ceased to be what they heretofore were, “the servants of sin;” and hence, they should no longer sin, which is the contrary inference of that deduced by the impious (verse 15). “Made the servants of justice;” they should serve justice, and have no part in a service incompatible with it.

19. Having shown that they were servants of justice, and therefore bound to promote the ends of sanctity, he points out the extent to which he requires of them to exert themselves in this service. “I speak a human thing,” i.e., a precept not above human strength, aided by ordinary grace, “because of the infirmity of your flesh,” more in accommodation to your weakness than in accordance with what God, your new master, deserves at your hands. The easy precept is, to do as much for justice as they did before for uncleanness and sin, although the Apostle might require of them to use greater zeal in the service of the former.

20. They will comply with this easy precept, by altogether discarding any connexion with sin; for, their service under sin was equally exclusive of justice.

21. He stimulates them in the discharge of the duties which they owe in justice to God, by pointing out the present and future rewards, and fruits of their service to both.

22. The present fruit of justice is not shame, but sanctification, wherein we should glory; and the final end to which it conducts, is not death, but everlasting life.

23. “The wages of sin,” (the Greek word for “wages,” ὀψωνια, means, the military pay given to soldiers); as if he said, the military pay, to which those that fight under the banners of sin are entitled, is death. “But the grace of God.” The Greek word for “grace,” χαρισμα, means, the donative or liberal allowance which the generals were sometimes accustomed to give the soldiers beyond their ordinary pay. Here, then, the words mean: the liberal donative given by God to the followers of justice is eternal life.

OBJECTION.—If eternal life can be merited as a reward of good works, as faith teaches, how could the Apostle call it a “grace,” since a reward is strictly due, and a “grace” is essentially gratuitous?

RESP.—Although eternal life be a merces or reward, the Apostle still calls it a “grace,” because it is really such in a certain sense—viz., inasmuch as the very works by which it is earned must proceed from grace. Hence, St. Augustine has said, “that in crowning our good works, God only crowns his own grace;” 2ndly, the Apostle calls it a “grace” here, because it is not the wages or stipend of good works, in the same way that death is the wages of sin, i.e., deserving it of its own intrinsic nature. Good works, viewed in themselves, are not deserving of eternal life, only inasmuch as God has graciously promised to attach to them eternal life; and it is on this promise of God, and not on the nature of abstract distributive justice, that the right to eternal life, resulting from good works, is founded. St. Paul, then, calls eternal life a “grace,” because grace is the more exalted principle for gaining it; and, besides, as eternal life far exceeds the merits of good works, it may be called a grace in this respect also. The chief object which the Apostle had in view in this Epistle was to refute the errors of the Jewish and Gentile converts at Rome, who relied too much on the merit of their natural good works. Hence, he directs his whole reasoning to prove the gratuitousness of eternal life, and of the means to obtain it, and he abstracts from the other view, in which it may be regarded—viz., as a subject of merit. For, to consider it under this latter respect, would only involve his reasoning in obscurity, and interfere, in a great measure, with his principal object in this Epistle. The same is observable in his reasoning (chap. 4) regarding Abraham’s justification. He there abstracts from the good works of the Patriarch, and attributes all to faith.








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