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sin, came to signify also the sin itself, or generally a state of sinfulness. Perhaps it originated in this circumstance; as the dead were observed to be no longer amenable to the laws, or called upon for the duties of life, so the wicked acted as if they too were absolved from all obligations; that is, as if dead in respect to the laws and duties of religion. But however the use of the word in this secondary sense may be explained, the frequency of its occurrence with this meaning, is remarkable. Alienation from God, and a state of great sinfulness was called “ death," and he who was in such a state was said to be “dead.” Thus, in Rom. viii. 6, the apostle says, “ To be carnally minded is death.” So, in John v. 24, our Saviour speaks of those who believed on him, as having "passed from death unto life." The word "dead" is used in the same sense, in Matt. viii. 22, where Christ says, to one desiring to go and bury his father, “Follow me, and let the dead bury their dead;" that is, let those spiritually dead bury those literally dead. But more clearly still does St. Paul express himself in Eph. ii. 1,“ And you hath he quickened who were dead in trespasses and sins.” In like manner, in Eph. v. 14, “ Awake thou that sleepest, and arise from the dead, and Christ shall give thee light.” (Compare also Col. ü. 13, and 1 Tim. v. 6.)
3. The Mosaic law, considered as dead, and Christians considered as dead to that law. St. Paul teaches us, Rom. x. 4, that “ Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to every one that believeth;" and in Eph. ii. 14, 15, he represents him as having “broken down the middle wall of partition " between Jews and Gentiles, and "abolished in his flesh the enmity, even the law of commandments contained in ordinances.” In accordance with this view he says, Rom. vi. 6, “But now are we delivered from the law, that being dead, wherein we were held; that we should serve in newness of spirit and not in the oldness of the letter."
In like manner, the same apostle shows that Christians were to be regarded as “dead to the law.” The reader by consulting Rom. vii. 1-6, will see how he treats and how he illustrates this subject. As a woman is bound to her husband as long as he lives, so was the Jew bound to the law. But Paul shows that through the death of Christ, this relation had been broken up. The law had not only been abolished, or become dead, but they by their participation in Christ's death, were also dead to the law. “ Wherefore my brethren, ye also are become dead to the law, by the body of Christ, that ye should be married to another, even to him who is raised from the dead." The same thought is expressed in Gal. ii. 19, 20, “For I through the law am dead to the law, that I might live unto God. I am crucified with Christ," etc.
It is obvious that this form of expression was intended to show that the law, since Christ had thus abolished it, was dead, and could no longer claim the obedience that once belonged to it. While on the other hand, as Christ, by his death was freed from its control, so all who participated in the virtues of that death, were in like manner dead to the law. Its power could no longer be acknowled, but Christians were henceforth bound to live to Christ.
4. Dead to sin. As those who were alienated from God, and were ignorant of the grace and spirit of the gospel, were said to be morally or spiritually dead, so on the other hand, those who believed the gospel, and had thus become united with Christ and shared in his life, were said to be " dead to sin." Sin seems to have been contemplated as a tyrannical master, while sinners were regarded as his slaves. Our Saviour says, John viii. 34, “ Whosoever committeth sin is the servant (or slave) of sin." So also, Paul, Rom. vi. 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 ?” Now St. John tells us that " whosoever believeth that Jesus is the Christ, is born of God,” and that " whatsoever is born of God overcometh the world.” In other words, he who believes in the gospel of Christ, is brought under the highest obligations and the strongest motives to a holy life. In the emphatic language of the beloved disciple, “whosoever is born of God doth not commit sin; he cannot sin because he is born of God.” This strong language is not to be interpreted in an absolute manner, as if the Christian were of necessity perfectly sinless, for John himself says in another place, “If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves.” The apostle means that the Christian has been redeemed from the dominion of sin; he is no longer under its control.
Now this Christian state, St. Paul calls, being “dead to sin.” He says, Col. i. 13, that the Father " hath delivered us from the power of darkness, and translated us into the kingdom of his dear Son." So, Rom. vi. 2, " How shall we that are dead to sin, live any longer therein ?" Formerly, (see verse 20,) they had been “servants of sin,' and then they were free from righteousness;" “but now, (verse 22,) being made free from sin, and become servants of God," they were called to holiness of life. (Compare also Rom. vi. 11, and 1 Pet. ii. 24.)
It will not be supposed that I have embraced every shade of meaning which the words “death," “ dead,” &c., exhibit in the New Testament. This I have not attempted; but I think these may be regarded as the principal heads under which the words would naturally be arranged.
Of these four meanings of the words under consideration, only two are possibly applicable to the passage of Scripture before us. It cannot be said that he that is spiritually dead is freed from sin, nor of him that is dead to the law, unless that should be regarded as equivalent to being dead to sin. Either he that is dead in the common sense of the word, is freed from sin, or he that is dead to sin is free from it. Which did the apostle mean?
II. To answer this question, we must examine the context, trace out the apostle's course of thought, and thus ascertain what relation this passage holds to its connection.
In the preceding chapter, the apostle had been drawing a protracted and remarkable contrast, or presenting a series of antitheses, between sin and its consequences on the one hand, and divine grace and its influences on the other. Adam and Christ, offence and free gift, condemnation and justification, sin and grace, death and eternal life, are here exhibited in such a manner as to show triumphantly that where sin abounded, grace did much more abound, and that if sin has reigned unto death, so shall grace, reign through righteousness unto eternal life, by Jesus Christ our Lord. This closes the fifth chapter. The sixth opens by presenting an objection to this broad,
cheering view of the gospel. By a singular coincidence, it is precisely the objection that constitutes, to-day, the prominent, standing, orthodox difficulty in respect to universal grace and salvation, namely, that the doctrine is licentious. “If these things are so, shall we not continue in sin ?” How it was in the apostle's times, I know not, but many in our day tell us very plainly that if they believed as we do, they would not only continue in sin, but plunge into it deeper.
Now it is the aim of the apostle in this chapter to answer this objection, and to show that the gospel not only does not encourage sin, but on the contrary lays the Christian under the greatest obligations, and the strongest motives, to live a blameless and holy life. 6. How shall we that are dead to sin," he asks, " live any longer therein ?" (Verse 2.) That the believers in Christ are so dead, he proves, by showing that when they " were baptized into Christ,” they " were baptized into his death.” (Verse 3.) They were even “ buried with him in baptism into death," and also shared with him “ a newness of life.” (Verse 4.) Thus they had been planted with him in the likeness of his death, and were brought forth also in the likeness of his resurrection. (Verse 5.) Their old man had been crucified with Christ, that the body of sin, that is, their sinful character and inclinations, might be destroyed, so that thenceforth they should not serve sin. (Verse 6.)
It is perfectly clear that thus far the apostle is consider. ing Christ's death on the cross, his burial and resurrection as literal facts, central facts in the gospel. At the same time he carries along with these facts a fine spiritual application of them, in their virtue and influences, to all Christians. Christ died literally. Christians were par. takers of this death by their spiritual union with him, and were so said to be dead with him; he also was buried and rose again the third day, in which his disciples were likewise spiritual participants. As he came forth to å new life, so did they, but his was in heaven, while theirs was here on earth; their old man which is corrupt according to deceitful lusts had been crucified, and they had put on the new man which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness. In verse eight, the apostle pursues the argument, show
ing that if we be thus dead with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with him ; that is, we shall exhibit in our lives here, our participation of his spirit. 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.” Now comes the practical use of these great facts. “Likewise reckon ye yourselves to be dead indeed unto sin, but alive unto God, through Jesus Christ. Let not sin, therefore, reign in your mortal body, that ye should obey it in the lusts thereof.”
It is not necessary to follow the apostle farther. It may safely be said, that through this whole chapter there is not a word relating to natural death, except what is spoken of Christ, unless we give that meaning to the passage before us.
All that relates to Christians, concerns their death with Christ, or their death to sin; from which their obligations to virtue are so strongly and effectively urged. They were as really alive as the reader is this moment. They had neither been crucified, dead, nor buried, literally; but, in a certain figurative, spiritual sense, they shared with him in all; and so, sharing in these, they could not, without great guilt, fail to consecrate themselves to Christ, and, being made free from sin, to become the servants of righteousness.
The argument of the apostle, then, is simply this : The doctrine of grace does not lead to licentiousness, because the believer is dead to sin by his union with the death of Christ; and, being planted in the likeness of his death, he must also appear in the likeness of his resurrection; that is, he must live holily. The old man is crucified with Christ, so that the body of sin might be destroyed, that the believer should not serve sin; “For he that is thus dead with Christ-dead to sin-is freed from sin." And as Christ, by dying to sin once, now lives forever unto God, so should the Christian reckon himself also dead to sin, and alive to God and holiness.
This exposition, it will be observed, agrees at once with Paul's usus loquendi in respect to the word dead, and also with the aim and argument exhibited in the context. Against the hypothesis that it was of natural death or the literally dead the apostle here spoke, it may be urged :