(1-5) These considerations might seem to lead to an Antinomian conclusion. If the increase of sin has only led to a larger measure of forgiveness it might be thought well to continue in sin, and so to enhance the measure and glory of forgiving grace. But to the Christian this is impossible. In regard to sin he is, in theory and principle, dead. When he was converted from heathenism and received Christian baptism he gave himself up unreservedly to Christ; he professed adhesion to Christ, and especially to His death; he pledged himself to adopt that death as his own; he entered into fellowship with it in order that he might also enjoy the fellowship of the resurrection of Christ. This fellowship or participation is both physical and ethical.
(1) Shall we continue in sin?—Again the Apostle is drawn into one of those subtle casuistical questions that had such a great attraction for him. But he soon returns to the root-ideas of his own system. In previous chapters he had dealt with one of the two great root-ideas, justification by faith; he now passes to the second, union with Christ. The one might be described as the juridical, the other as the mystical, theory of salvation. The connecting-link which unites them is faith. Faith in Christ, and especially in the death of Christ, is the instrument of justification. Carried a degree further. it involves an actual identification with the Redeemer Himself. This, no doubt, is mystical language. When strictly compared with the facts of the religious consciousness, it must be admitted that all such terms as union, oneness, fellowship, identification, pass into the domain of metaphor. They are taken to express the highest conceivable degree of attachment and devotion. In this sense they are now consecrated by the use of centuries, and any other phrases substituted for them, though gaining perhaps somewhat in precision, would only seem poor and cold. (See Excursus G: On the Doctrine of Union with Christ.)
It would be well for the reader to note at once the corrections suggested in the rendering of this verse by Dr. Lightfoot’s criticism:—In Romans 6:4, “we were buried” for “we are buried;” in Romans 6:6, “the old man was crucified” for “is crucified;” in Romans 6:8, “if we died” for “if we be dead.”
Were baptized into Jesus Christ—i.e., “into communion with Him and incorporation in His mystical body” (Ellicott on Galatians 3:27). “As many of you as have been baptised in Christ have put on Christ.” Your baptism signified an intimately close and indissoluble attachment to Christ.
Were baptized into his death.—And this attachment had a special relation to His death. It involved a communion or fellowship with His death. This fellowship is ethical, i.e., it implies a moral conduct corresponding to that relation to Christ which it assumes.
Why has baptism this special connection with the death of Christ? In the first place, the death of Christ is the central and cardinal fact of the Christian scheme. It is specially related to justification, and justification proceeds from faith, which is ratified in baptism. In the second place, the symbolism of baptism was such as naturally to harmonise with the symbolism of death. It was the final close of one period, and the beginning of another—the complete stripping off of the past and putting on of the “new man.”
Into death.—The ideas of physical and moral death and resurrection and life are inextricably blended in the thought of the Apostle.
By the glory of the Father.—The resurrection of Christ is more usually and more naturally ascribed to the power or Omnipotence of God. The word “Glory” is here to be taken as standing for the sum of the divine perfections, power being included among them, “the Majesty on High.”
Even so.—It is to be observed that the mysticism is here resolved into a relation of resemblance. The resurrection of Christ, and the new life of the Christian, are compared instead of being identified. The Apostle does not say “being dead with Christ, let us rise with Him;” but, “as Christ rose again, so we also should walk in newness of life.” The mystical expression for this is given in the next verse.
In the likeness of his death.—Not here “His death itself,” but “the likeness of His death,” i.e., an ethical condition corresponding to, or conformable to, the death of Christ. If our nature has grown “into conformity with” His death, it will be also conform able to His resurrection.
This conformity means, of course, dying to trespasses and sins, being completely removed from the sphere of their influence, and entering a new sphere corresponding to the glorified life of the Redeemer. The ethical resurrection of the Christian begins (or is ideally supposed to begin, and with the early Christian usually did begin) in baptism, is continued through life, and is completed with his physical resurrection.
(6) Our old man.—“Our old self” (Vaughan), as in Ephesians 4:22; Ephesians 4:24; Colossians 3:9-10.
The old self, or that congeries of evil habits acquired in the state of heathenism, was, ideally if not actually, mortified and killed in our baptism. This change was wrought by a power brought to bear upon the will through the contemplation of the crucifixion of Christ. Hence, instead of saying simply “mortified,” the Apostle writes rather “crucified,” i.e. put to death, not in any way, but specially through the cross.
That the body of sin might be destroyed.—The “body of sin” is the body subject to sin, or that supplies sin with the material on which it works. This substratum of carnal and fleshly desire, the Apostle tells us, is to be ascetically chastened and disciplined until it ceases to be a source of sin.
(12) Mortal.—And therefore at variance with the immortal life just described.
(15) The Apostle returns to a difficulty very similar to that which presented itself at the beginning of the chapter. The answer is couched under a slightly different metaphor. It is no longer death to the one, life to the other, but freedom from the one, service to the other. These are correlative terms. Freedom from sin implies service to God, just as freedom from God means service to sin. The same idea of service and freedom will be found worked out in John 8:32-34; John 8:36, and in Galatians 5:1.
That form of doctrine.
Delivered you.—Literally, to which you were delivered—to the direction of which you were handed over.
Your flesh.—This corresponds nearly to what is elsewhere called “the carnal mind,” a mind alive only to material and sensible things.
To iniquity unto iniquity.—Ye yielded up your members to iniquity for the practice of iniquity.
Unto holiness.—Rather, for sanctification; to be made holy.