and its relationship to the Christian Life.
(A few notes on Romans 5. 12-6. 23, (which should first be read.)
Romans is the genesis of the Epistles. The opening chapters reveal the manner of mans departure from God and the standing of both Jew and Gentile in the light of judgment to come. " With or without law " man stands condemned, for all have sinned (Romans 2: 12 and 3: 23). Immediately following is revealed the foundation of God's glorious plan of Salvation, whereby He can be both just and the justifier of the ungodly. Yet the revelation is not new: it was evidenced in the life of Abraham (Romans 4 : 3) and described by David (Romans 4: 6, Thus it ante-dated the Law.
The position of man, apart from God, is indeed "without hope. " He can neither blot out the past with the wreckage he has caused in his own and other lives, nor break away from the law of sin, which is in his members (7: 23). Touched by the knowledge of righteousness, revealed in the Law, into a desire to do good; he finds his efforts mocked by the evil which he, through his own will, has himself planted. And so the Son of God, in infinite compassion, was made in the likeness of sinful flesh; was tempted in all points as we are and being without sin, nevertheless received its penalty-- death, even the death of the Cross. Death being " unable to hold Him," He rose again and ascended to the Father, there to make intercession for all who should draw near in faith.
And so Salvation is by faith, and FAITH alone. To the efficacy of His great work, we can add nothing. He satisfies God: " This is Mv Beloved Son in whom I am well pleased." He satisfies the mind and heart of the trusting believer: " being justified by faith, we have peace with God through Our Lord Jesus Christ." This leads us to our reading and to the main reason for picking up the thread in the fifth chapter.
Eternal Life is a Gift to be received through the merit of our Lord. Thus in our text we find salvation is called in
So the Holy Spirit, in addition to the plain statements of the text, has by mentioning " the Gift" SEVEN TIMES (note that 7 is the perfect number)* and seven only, emphasised the glad assurance that Salvation is all of Grace, being a complete gift of God. "As by one man's disobedience (Adam's) many were made sinners, so by the obedience of ONE (Christ) shall many be made righteous " (v. 19). By the obedience of ONE . . . many made righteous." Here is a glorious truth needing emphasis . . . by the obedience of One, not two; not by the obedience of Christ and the believer but by His obedience alone. Thus it is that Grace is able to Reign (verse 21). Add the most trivial point of obedience on the part of the believer as necessary to his Salvation and Grace would no longer reign.
The powers of darkness would hurl themselves at him at that one point and the throne of Grace would come tumbling down. "Well, if that be true," says one, "the believer may now sin with impunity, seeing that his Salvation rests wholly in the work of Christ." It is humbling to see that the Holy Spirit has anticipated the evil thought of the natural mind and so in the next verse (6: 1) we read, " What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin, that Grace may abound?" And the answer given is not merely "No" but is much stronger and more significant: it is "God forbid." On this question of continuance in sin the whole of the chapter hinges. A comparison of the 15th verse with the first verse, shows a return to the question halfway through the chapter and another line of truth is taken, starting again at the same point.
Thus the chapter is divided into two parts. The believer in the Lord Jesus Christ has, as it were, two lives. Colossians 3: 3, speaks of a life hid with Christ in God as being the blessed lot of the believer-a life which shall be made manifest when the Saviour returns in Glory (verse 4) and the next verse says: " Mortify therefore your members which are upon earth!" Members in Heaven and members on earth: that is the dual position of the Church of God. The Spirit of Christ, speaking in the Psalms (139: 16) records the blessed fact that the names of the members of His Body were written, "when as yet there was none of them." In the wondrous foreknowledge of God, believers were seen in Christ before the foundation of the world. (Ephesians 1: 4.)
Thus in Romans 6: the first division deals with our position in Christ which is all of Grace; the second part of the chapter deals with " our members which ,are upon earth." Now in verse 10, we read of Our Lord that He died unto sin, once, and that now He lives unto God. The death of Our Lord was such as to satisfy, if I may so put it, all the claims of sin; and in Resurrection He " lives unto God." Thus the initial act of the new believer is to be baptized into the death of Christ (verse 3). He puts his trust in the efficacy of the death of Christ for his salvation; he accepts that Death as a judgment for his sins. By baptism he identifies himself with the death and resurrection of his Lord. Baptism is a burial (verse 4) and a planting (verse 5) ; that is why the person baptized is wholly immersed. Having been baptized, God calls him to recognise by faith that he has an entirely new standing. He must now reckon himself as having died, and as verse 7 says, " he that is dead is freed from sin." "Freed from sin; " 0 how the heart of the believer longs for such words to be true ! 0 that he might be wholly free from those things which at times still trip him up and cast him into the pit of despair: those things of which God by his Holy Spirit has now made him ashamed.
Is this now your great longing and source of despair? Come, read and rejoice with me over verse 11: "RECKON ye also yourselves to be dead indeed unto sin, but alive unto God THROUGH JESUS CHRIS'I' OUR LORD." God recognises that being dead unto sin is not a fact at present in the life of the believer, and so He bids us RECKON that it is so, because it is true of the Lord Jesus into whom we have believed. How blessed is the force of that " also." "Reckon ye ALSO yourselves........ " You see how it identifies the believer with his Lord? God sees him now as "in Christ." There are only two positions for every man; he is either " without Christ " (Ephesians 2:12) or " in Christ " (Ephesians 2:13). I must pause here to ask you whether the blessedness of being " in Christ," is yours, or whether You are merely "religious?" Have you made a personal acceptance of the Free Gift of God offered in His Son, Jesus Christ? He reads the heart: He may read your acceptance NOW. Why hesitate over your Eternal destiny?
The world is under judgment. Let me give you the exhortation of the Angel in Gen: 19. 17 " Escape for thy life; look not behind thee . . . escape . . . lest thou be consumed." To return to our chapter, we are also exhorted to remember that the Work of Christ cannot be undone. "Knowing that Christ being raised from the dead dieth NO MORE; death hath no more dominion over Him. " (verse 9). Therefore God says " Sin shall not have dominion over you " (verse 11). That is the object of sin--dominion. The poor deluded sinner thinks he is choosing freedom. The cry of sinners is: "Let us break their bands asunder, and cast away their cords from us." (Psalms 2: 3.) Too late they come to know the meaning of the dominion of sin. Nay, not too late; it is never that while Grace waits. So we see that just as Jesus Christ is beyond the dominion of death (death being the wages of sin), so the believer stands by Grace beyond the further dominion of sin.
Having seen something of the riches of God's Grace, we now turn to the second division of the chapter and consider the believer's position in actual fact. Continuance in sin is not possible as far as his position in Christ is concerned. He is "dead" and is freed from sin. Only too evident is the sad fact however that continuance in sin IS a possibility to the believer. With great long-suffering does God continually have to exhort His children to cast off the works of darkness. And if the Salvation of the believer is not altered by further sin: the havoc wrought in his members which are upon earth " is incalculable. "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 obedience unto righteousness. " (Verse 16.) If uncontrolled by Scripture, I should at this point grope to find words strong enough to describe the base ingratitude of continuing to sin against a God who has become a Saviour. I should lead you to think of the shame brought upon the precious Name of Christ by the believer who wilfully sins.
This however, is not the emphasis of the Holy Spirit here: He is concerned with the effects on the believer himself. Can anyone measure such condescension; such love? The Grace of God is not a plan whereby a man may sow to the flesh and of his sowing reap no sorrow. This would be turning the Grace of God into lasciviousness (Jude 4). Those who yield to sin are the servants of sin and no servant could choose a more cruel master. Not only that, a servant receives wages, and " the wages of sin is death." 1 Corinthians 10 would have us remember Israel of old and how the things that happened to them were to be examples, especially recorded for the Church of God. They were delivered from the bondage of Egypt; they were baptized "in the Cloud and in the sea; " they were fed from Heaven and sustained by the Rock which was Christ; but with many of them God was not pleased and their carcasses fell in the wilderness." Those that fell, never came to know the joy of the Promised Land " flowing with milk and honey" through yielding to idolatry, to lust, to murmuring against the wise, decrees of their longsuffering Redeemer, they made their graves in the desert wastes.
'l'he Promised Land is not a type of Heaven but of a Spiritual state entered here and now by those who follow on to know the Lord. It has its battles to be fought; but it is there that we begin to enter into our heritage. How many Christians are there to whom the joy of the Lord is a meaningless phrase? How many there are who seem to have lost responsiveness to Spiritual things. Many a young convert, on the bridge of his new ship of glorious hope, on approaching an older Christian feels as if he is approaching ice. I do not condemn; I would only plead with tears that if you, reading this, are amongst those who are bought with a price, that you seek to fulfil the remainder of the verse and " glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are Gods." (1 Corinthians 6: 20.)
I would here have you return to two words, previously pointed out, descriptive of our baptism. By baptism we are buried (v. 4) and planted (v. 5). Burial follows death, and speaks of the end of an old life: planting also speaks of death but points forward to the promise of a new life; a life of fruitfulness. Here surely the Heart of God is revealed; for throughout Scripture we find Him seeking fruit. We think immediately of the failure of the Old Testament "vine" in Isaiah 5: and of the pathetic questions of verse 4. We think of the unappeased hunger of the Lord Jesus in Matthew 21: 18,19. We think of the rich teaching of John 15: And we remember that the object of our new relationship with the Lord, is that we should bring forth fruit unto God. (Romans 7: 4.)
Now God has a question waiting for an answer in verse 21 of our chapter. (Have you noticed how often the vital things in the Scripture are in the form of a question, leaving us to supply the answer?) Are not these questions a foretaste of the judgment seat of Christ before which we all must stand, when we give an account of our Stewardship? The question here is this: " What fruit had ye then in those things whereof ye are now ashamed?" We think of "the fruit of the Spirit, which is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance." (Galatians 5: 22.) But what fruit have we from sin? Love? Joy? Peace? Gentleness? Meekness? Temperance? May the question ever be with us when we are tempted to turn back again into Egypt ; " What fruit had ye then? . . . What fruit had ye THEN ?"
0 that God may be thanked for us, as He was for those to whom Paul first wrote (verse 17) : "But God be thanked, that ye were the servants of sin, but ye have OBEYED FROM THE HEART that form of doctrine which was delivered you." By Grace we are saved and safe by the OBEDIENCE of ONE, even as we have said: then let our lives show forth His praise in our own obedience, in the power of his indwelling Spirit. May I conclude with an extract from a prayer offered by the Psalmist of old, in which we may ever voice our own need: "Cleanse Thou me from secret faults. Keep back also Thy servant from presumptuous sins; Let them not have DOMINION over me. . ." May this be so, that we may glorify Him now; and at that day, meet Him face to face without shame." Amen.
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