That grace should so triumphantly rise above sin, even where sin abounded most, leads to the various objections of unbelief and the answers of the Holy Spirit for our furtherance and joy of faith. Grace in no way slights sin. From first to last Christianity and evil are proved to be incompatible.
“What then shall we say? Let us continue in sin that grace may abound? Let it not be. We who died to sin, how shall we still live in it? Are ye ignorant that as many of us as were baptized unto Christ Jesus were baptized unto his death? Therefore we were buried with him by baptism unto death, that, as Christ was raised from among [the] dead by the glory of the Father, so we also should walk in newness of life.” (Ver. 1-4.)
Is this then the deduction from the gospel of God? May we continue in sin, in order that His grace may be the more richly displayed? Away with such a thought. But here the apostle deals with the wicked inference or imputation, not from its intrinsic heinousness, nor from its reflection on the character of God, as in Romans 3:8, but from its flat contradiction of Christianity in its first principles. It is not again a motive drawn from the sense we have of our Saviour’s love; it is not here a question how can we so wound His heart or grieve the Holy Spirit of God.
The apostle replies from the starting-point of each confessor of Christ. Not merely did He die for our sins, laying us under an infinite obligation, but we died to sin:18 how then shall we longer live in it? This is the meaning of our baptism. Are you ignorant of so plain a truth? It is not some special quality of blessing that is the privilege of a few Christians only; it is the common property of all the baptized. As many of us as were baptized unto Christ Jesus were baptized unto His death.
Thus is laid down clearly and beyond question the fundamental truth that not more surely did Christ die for us, than we died to sin in His death. Our baptism sets forth this as well as that. The conclusion is inevitable: “We were buried then with him by baptism unto death, that, as Christ was raised from among the dead by the glory of the Father, so we also should walk in newness of life.”
Let us weigh the immense importance of this truth stated with the simplicity and the force characteristic of a divine revelation.
Evangelicalism (whether in national or dissenting bodies) takes its stand (at least it used to do so) on the truth of Christ dying for our sins. This is most true, and a capital truth; without which there is no bringing of the soul to God, no divine judgment of our iniquities, no possible sense of pardon. But it is very far from being the truth even of the Saviour’s death, to speak of no more now. Hence evangelicalism, as such, having no real apprehension of our death in Christ, never understands the force and place of baptism, is habitually infirm as to christian walk, and is apt to take the comfort of forgiveness by the blood of Christ so as to mix with the world and enjoy the life that now is, often helping on the delusion of ameliorating man and improving Christendom.
Mysticism on the other hand, whether Catholic or Protestant, dissatisfied with the worldly case and self-complacency of the evangelicals, is ever pining after a deeper reality, but seeks it within. Hence the continual effort of the pietist school is to die to self and so to enjoy God, unless perhaps with the few who flatter themselves that they have arrived at such a state of perfection as they can rest in. But for the mass, and I suppose indeed all whose conscience retains its activity, they never go beyond godly desires and inward strainings after holiness. They cannot dwell consciously in God’s love to them as a settled fact known in Christ, producing self-forgetfulness in presence of His own perfect grace which made Christ to be sin for us, that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him. The system tends even in its fairest samples to turn the eye inwardly in a search after a love which may aspire to resemble as closely as possible the love of God, and so satisfy itself with the hope of a life ever higher and higher. Hence pious sentimentalism, which is little more than imagination at work in religion, reigns in the heart, not grace through righteousness.
Thus the ground the apostle here insists on is ignored by evangelicals and mystics; and indeed in Christendom at large it is excluded by its legalism and ordinances as decidedly as by rationalism. They are all, in every part, judged by the simple elementary truth couched under and expressed in baptism, that the Christian is dead to sin. To teach that we ought to die to sin is well meant, but it is not the truth, and therefore can but deeply injure the soul in its real wants. The true view is, no doubt, the reverse of death in sin; it is death to sin. Grace gives us this blessed portion — gives it now in this world from the commencement of our career — gives it once for all as the one baptism recognizes. Hence the Christian is false to the primary truth he confesses who should live still in sin. In his baptism he owns he died in Christ. He is bound to walk accordingly — as one already and always dead to sin.
Is there then no mortification? no practical carrying out of death with Christ? Unquestionably. It is the constant duty of the Christian; but then, mark well the difference: — christian practice consists, not in our dying to sin, but in our putting to death our members which are on the earth, even the various lusts of the old man. In his baptism the believer openly renounces all hope of himself or the first man; nor does he, like a Jew, merely hope for a Messiah to be born and reign on the throne of David. In baptism he confesses His death, and his own death therein — not only his sin but its end in the death of Christ. If we had not another life, who could thus give up his own life as dead? Yet what is attested in baptism is not life but death — our death to sin in Christ’s death — which we could not do save as living through Him.
Thus it is as different from Jewish ground as from that of the Gentiles who know not God, some of whose sages in West as well as East have tried to die to sin. The distinctive christian ground is that, as baptized unto Christ’s death, we died to Pin from the commencement of our career. “We were buried then with him in baptism unto death, that, even as Christ was raised from among the dead by the glory of the Father, so we also should walk in newness of life.” It is a poor interpretation to take the Father’s glory as equivalent to His almightiness or power. Every motive which animates Him morally, every way and end whereby He is set forth in His perfections, all that goes forth in excellence and delight, not toward the creature only but His Son, was exercised in raising up the Lord Jesus. After such a standard are we too called to walk in newness of life. It is no longer a question of original creation, still less of fallen Adam, but of Christ, who is the life of which by grace we live; and He is risen. May we walk accordingly!
The apostle carries out the comparison of our blessing after the pattern of Christ to actual resurrection. “For if we have become united in nature with the likeness of his death, we shall be also [with that] of his resurrection, knowing this that our old man was crucified with him, that the body of sin might be annulled, that we should no longer serve sin. For he that died has been justified from sin.”
Resurrection, as far as we are concerned, is a matter of hope. We have part with Christ in His death; we shall have in resurrection also for our bodies. Meanwhile, we, as alive through Him risen, have all the benefit of His death as a power delivering from sin. Our old man we know to be crucified with Him. Without this the root of evil had not been dealt with, nor consequently had we against self that weapon of divine temper which a God of resurrection puts in our hands. Nor is it a feeling — a consciousness — of death which might only minister to self-satisfaction. It is a fact objectively known, though only within the ken of faith: knowing (
γινώσκοντες) this, etc. Thus only as a practical means can the body of sin come to nought, that we should no more be slaves to it. Here the point of need is liberty from sin to do the holy will of God for those who were only slaves of sin. There is no other way, though when we take this the path of faith, there is much to help us along the road. If I have died, it is evident that there is no longer a question of sinning. A dead man cannot sin more; and the Christian is given to know himself dead in Christ’s death that he may henceforth enjoy this quittance from the power of sin. How can one dead be charged with going on in sin? For he that died (
ἀποθάνων, the completed act) has been justified (
δεδικαίωται, the subsisting effect of the past action) from sin. It is a deliverance worthy of God both in His wisdom and in His holiness; and as it is of grace, so it is by faith.
Hence verse 8 repeats the conclusion as to the future which follows from the death and resurrection of Christ. “Now if we died with Christ, we believe we shall also live with him.” Our condition when actually risen is once more anticipated and rehearsed. “Knowing that Christ being raised from among [the] dead dieth no more: death hath no more dominion over him.” It is interesting to note the difference here. We only know because we are taught it, as a truth outside us, that our old man has been crucified with Christ. It is not really, what so many would like to make it, a matter of subjective experience; for this would flatter the flesh in its pious frames and aspirations, instead of honouring the grace of God in the death of Christ. On the other hand we have the inward conscious knowledge (
εἰδότες) that Christ, being risen, dies no more: death has no more dominion over Him. It is not a mere outward fact of knowledge: we feel from our soul that so it is and must be. Sin never had dominion over Him, but death had, that God might be glorified, sin judged, Satan’s power abolished, and we delivered.
“For in that he died, he died to sin once; but in that he liveth, he liveth to God.” Life has now the victory, so much the more strikingly and conspicuously because that death seemed to gain it at first. Thus as sin never had the least advantage, so death has lost its claim through His bowing to it and thus securing our freedom who have part in His death. If sin’s wages are death, what a gain to us His death has been who, personally without sin, was made sin by God for us, as truly as we became the righteousness of God in Him.
Not of course that on the cross He was not as holy as in all that preceded it; but He gave Himself to be judicially treated according to all that was imputed to Him, and for which in grace He became responsible. In nothing did He spare Himself; in nothing did God, who forsook Him thus identified with our sin and all its consequences under divine judgment, that we might come out free. By dying all was ended; and we, having our part with Him, have done with sin. “So also do ye reckon yourselves dead to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus.” We are entitled so to reckon ourselves; we ought to do so; we wrong the death and resurrection of Christ if we do not account ourselves thus dead to sin and alive to God in Him — a great and wondrous boon to those who delight to have an end of sin, a real if but a small part of Christianity, yet even this, I may say, ignored in Christendom, its force misunderstood, its joy untasted.
It is to be observed that verse 11 carries the subject beyond the reasoning of verse 8, where our living with Christ is shown to be a just and sure consequence for the believer: if we died with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with Him. It is future. But now we have a weighty present result founded on what intervenes, especially verse 10. Christ died to sin once and lives to God; and He is the life as well as the resurrection. As thus alive to God, all closed as to sin in His death, we live of His life, and are thus also to reckon ourselves to be dead to sin but alive to God, not here with Him, but through or in virtue of (
ἐν) Him. This epistle never, in its doctrinal province, goes so far as union with Him, though it does employ the truth of the body to enforce the right use of spiritual gifts on Christians. In the Epistle to the Ephesians we are shown to be quickened together with Christ and raised up together with Him. Here however we are alive to God in Him.
“Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body that ye should obey its lusts.”19 (Ver. 12.) The truth is then, not that sin is dead, but that we are entitled by Christ’s death and resurrection to regard ourselves in the account of faith as dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus. Let not sin therefore reign. It is personified here as elsewhere sometimes, seeking the upper hand in our mortal body so as to subject us to its lusts. But through Christ it has no claim over us. As He lives to God who died to sin once for all, so also we are to reckon ourselves done with the dominion of sin and not to obey its lusts. As dead to sin we owe it no allegiance whatever.
Nor is this all. The apostle pushes the matter farther. “Neither yield your members instruments of unrighteousness to sin, but yield yourselves to God as alive from out of dead [men], and your members instruments of righteousness to God.” (Ver. 13.) The first occurrence of “yield” means, in the form of the word, the habit of yielding; the second, by its form, implies the surrender already made. It is not a gradual improvement of the nature or the will as men speak, but the giving up of ourselves in a single and complete act to God as alive from among the dead, and our members as instruments of righteousness to God.
This is the new place of positive blessing given to us, counting ourselves thus by faith. Such is the present practical consequence, as we have seen also what is future for us. “For sin shall not have dominion over you” — not sin as a personified ruler now, but no sin in any shape or measure; “for ye are not under law20 but under grace.” (Ver. 14.) This closes the foregoing discussion and prepares for a new step taken in the argument following.
What a blessed comfort thus far and how uncompromisingly laid down in the very portion that refutes the flesh’s misuse of God’s mercy and of the Christian’s liberty! “Ye are not under law but under grace.”
It is painful to see how those who profess to believe the gospel, valuing both Christ and His work, elude the force of His word, and essay to foist on the Christian subjection to law, which the Spirit is here flatly negativing. The law is the strength of sin; for by its restraint and interdict it can but provoke the flesh. It never gives power of holiness any more than life: grace, not law, quickens, saves, and strengthens. If believers could be under law, sin must have dominion over them.
It is in vain to say that the apostle is here treating of our being accounted righteous in Christ. Not so: he is discussing the walk of the Christian in answer to the cavil that grace tends to sanction lax ways. It is a question therefore of a rule of life, of its principle and spring. The objectors then as now had fallen into the error of supposing that the law, though unable to give the remission of sins, is the rule of righteousness for the Christian. Justification from sin, not from sins, is the point in hand, and as the blood of Christ washes away the sins of the believer in the sight of God, so he is cleansed from sin; not simply by Christ’s dying for him, but by his dying with Christ. For he that died is justified from sin. The nature is in question, and consequently the walk of the believer; and the remedy here, as everywhere, is in Christ; but it is in death with Him of which baptism is the sign.
Nor can there be a less holy doctrine than the notion so prevalent among the Puritans as well as others still less intelligent and with less godly desire, that the death of Christ has taken away the condemnatory power of the law for faith, but left the Christian under it as a directory of his ways. A law which can no longer condemn departure from itself or those guilty of it is nugatory. It is of the essence of law not only to prescribe duty but to condemn any and every infraction of its requirements. Hence our apostle teaches elsewhere, “as many as are of the works of the law” (i.e., as many people as are on the ground or principle of works of law, not merely as many as have broken the law) “are under the curse.”
It is false doctrine, then, and really Antinomian in its basis, that the law has lost its sting or condemnatory power for those under it. Such is not the boon of redemption. The law is not dead. It retains all its force against the wicked, as the apostle shows. It is not an evil thing but excellent, when used lawfully; but it is unlawfully imposed on the righteous and holy. The Christian, even if he had been a Jew, is not under law but under grace; and this not by the death of law, which cannot be and ought not to be, but by his own death with Christ. As a dead man can sin no more, so the law does not apply to one viewed as dead. Such is God’s way of considering the Christian, not only atoned for but dead with Christ; and faith considers him who possesses it as God does. Thus the law remains inviolable; and the deliverance of the Christian consists, not in the weakening or even mitigation of the law, but in the change of place which grace gives. The believer died with Christ, and is thus justified from sin and freed from law. Nebuchadnezzar’s furnace did not burn the less, though the three Hebrews were preserved unscathed. The curse fell on Christ crucified; the believer is in Christ risen. “There is therefore no condemnation to them that are in Christ Jesus.”
Verse 15 puts a new question. It is no longer, as in verse 1, “Shall we continue in sin that grace may exceed?” This is the primary objection to grace for Christians just delivered from the ruin of the first man. Moral relaxation is dreaded, if where sin abounded, grace still more exceeded. It was met by counter questions which prove that grace does not merely help by motive against sin, but delivers the believer from it by that most decisive and ultimate weapon, even death. How shall we that died to sin live any longer in it? Know ye not that so many of us as were baptized unto Christ Jesus were baptized unto his death? Therefore we were buried with Him by baptism unto death . . . . He that died is justified from sin. Likewise reckon ye also yourselves to be dead indeed unto sin, but alive unto God through Christ Jesus our Lord. Let not sin therefore reign. Such is the apostle’s argument in answer to the first question.
“What then? are we to sin because we are not under law but under grace? Let it not be.” (Ver. 15.) Thus his second question is not answered by our death with Christ. That we cannot live longer in sin is conclusively set aside by the fact that we died to sin with Christ and therefore are not to abide in it. All this sinful first Adam life is closed to us, both for the future in resurrection and for the present in the part we have with Christ for our souls. Christ dead and risen is the pattern for faith; His death is the principle of present deliverance from the reign of sin. But do we not need a mighty spring to move, and cheer, and strengthen us along the way of the Lord? Unquestionably we do; and this is none other than grace. Nothing else could keep the believer from yielding his members as implements of unrighteousness to sin, nothing else could enable him to act consistently with that surrender of himself, once for all, to God and of his members as implements of righteousness to God, which is characteristic of the Christian. And we are under grace, the power for holiness, as the Jew was under law, the strength of the sin he was so slow to feel and confess. And therefore sin, which for the present has absolutely governed the chosen nation, shall not lord it over the Christian. May we then sin because we are not under law that condemns, but under God’s free unmerited favour that imputes no sin, but justifies and saves? Far be it from us. Is it thus we would or could use our liberty? What could be more base? If I am by Christ thus freed, for what, for whom, shall I use my freedom? “Know ye not that to what ye yield yourselves bondmen to obey, ye are bondmen to what ye obey, whether of sin unto death or of obedience unto righteousness?”21 (Ver. 16.)
This again is another characteristic of Christianity. Christ makes the soul, once the slave of sin, to be free, and calls it to stand fast in His liberty, never again to be held in a yoke of bondage. For there is no middle ground or other alternative. But grace uses this liberty to be so much the more His bondman, free from sin to serve the Lord Christ. It was precisely what He did here below, evermore the true and perfect servant. Into this love always leads. With Him we have communion in this, and in order to express its absoluteness we, however free from our old slavery, are said to be bondmen of Jesus, His will and work, or, as suits the argument here, “of obedience unto righteousness.” The Christian’s righteousness is never doing things because they are right, which is pride, independence, or deification of self, but because they are God’s will for us. We must obey in order to practical righteousness. How complete the change from all we were! “But thanks to God that ye were bondmen of sin, but ye obeyed from [the] heart [the] form of teaching into which ye were delivered.” (Ver. 17.)
Man does not suffice for himself; for he is but a creature and therefore necessarily dependent on God. If he seeks to be his own master, if he affects independence, he only falls the more thoroughly under Satan; and, instead of obeying God, he becomes the slave of sin. From this servitude redemption delivers the believer, but only to bind him heartily (and so much the more because under grace, not law) to do as the christian form of teaching instructs us; for obedience is always according to, and measured by, the relationship in which we stand. Legal obedience, if practicable, is not that which grace produces, which is in unison with the truth in Christ — that mould, as it were, into which the believer is cast.
Such then is the character and effect of christian deliverance and the vital connection which we shall see more fully afterwards between redemption by Christ and life in Him. “Being made free from sin ye became enslaved to righteousness.” (Ver. 18.) Two masters no man can serve. Freed from sin, we are now indissolubly bound to righteousness. Grace is the only power for righteousness. The law defined and demanded that measure and form of righteousness which God could not but exact from man in the flesh. But grace, under which the Christian is, makes good in his practice what we have been taught since Christ is revealed. Thus the very fact that God does not impute iniquity to the believer encourages and fortifies him in willing self-surrender to the Lord, instead of simply provoking sin and condemning the sinner as law did and could do nothing else. Under grace we are free, but withal servants. Freed from sin, we become bondmen to righteousness. Such is the effect of our hearty obedience of the gospel.
As the first question of our chapter, then, is met by the great fact of God’s judgment of the old man and deliverance of the Christian by the death and resurrection of Christ, as he confesses his own death with Christ (witnessed in baptism from the starting-point of Christianity), so the second is an appeal to his motives as set free according to the liberty of grace. Is he going to use it for sinning? Not as the power of sin is the law (1 Cor. 15), grace is the power of holiness and makes him who is under it a more devoted bondman of righteousness to the God who imputes no sin, than the law even asked, but never obtained, with all its rewards and penalties: why this is will appear fully and definitely in Romans 7, where the special question of man under law, even though converted and indeed only as converted, is brought to issue.
For having spoken of the Christian as enslaved to righteousness, the apostle hastens to excuse his language. He had shown the impossibility of a middle place, maintaining the absoluteness of the surrender to God, which is made good in the heart and ways of the believer; he had characterized the new relation as one of bondage to righteousness. This required explanation; for in truth it is real, and the only real, liberty of heart; yet is the bond none the less firm and thorough. “I speak after a human sort on account of the weakness of your flesh; for as ye yielded your members in bondage to uncleanness and to lawlessness unto lawlessness, so now yield your members to righteousness unto holiness.” (Ver. 19.) Their former estate manifested its corruption and wilfulness increasingly. Evil ripens and waxes worse and worse. Willing service issues not only in a just appreciation of our relative place to God and man, but in an ever deepening sense of separation to God. To this the saints are exhorted. The life is exercised and progress is looked for. Righteousness is here the practical maintenance of our responsibility according to the relation in which we now stand to God (our mere creature-place as of the first Adam being closed by death). Holiness is the intrinsic delight of the new life in good and its abhorrence of evil, according to God as revealed in Christ.
“For when ye were bondmen of sin, ye were free to righteousness. What fruit had ye then at that time? [Things] of which ye are now ashamed. For the end of those things [is] death.” (Ver. 20, 21.) There seems to be a grave but cutting irony in this allusion to their old condition, when the only freedom they knew was in respect to righteousness. They were slaves of sin and had nothing to do with righteousness. And what was the result? Nothing to boast of certainly: how much to fill these representatives with shame! And what is the .end of those things? Death.
Here then we stand on the ground of motives which test the heart. It is no longer, as at the beginning of the chapter, a great fact which is true of the Christian because he has a part with Christ in His death, and so is dead to sin and lives to God. It is an appeal to his appreciation of the grace of God which has freed him from his slavery to sin. To what account and use then is he going to turn his freedom? What was the fruit of his old life when he was free enough in relation to righteousness? Nothing, as far as he was concerned, but a source of present shame, save death the end.
How admirable is the wisdom of the inspired word! The sense of grace thus corrects the otherwise inevitable effect of the light of God, cast on the past and the present and the future: for if it were possible that a soul should be awakened to a just sense of its sinfulness and then left with earnest desires to serve God, to a new life, battling with its old evil, how occupied with self must be the whole of its experience! Alas! so it is too deeply as well as extensively among real children of God, who imperfectly know the blessed consequences for them of the work of Christ. They are not redeemed to be put under law, but contrariwise under grace. Saved by grace, they stand in grace. And this is the strongest motive to the renewed mind, the most fatal snare to the hypocritical professor, the ready objection of the natural mind, which sees the latter without being able to estimate the former.
“But now freed from sin, and made bondmen to God, ye have your fruit unto holiness, and the end life eternal.” Observe the relation of grace. It is not slaves to the law, but bondservice to God. Man in flesh was tried by the ten words; but they were too weighty for his weakness, and only riveted a chain of judgment on his guilt. But now, emancipated by the death and resurrection of Christ, received by faith, having the life of Him risen from the dead as well as redemption — the forgiveness of sins, we are freed from sin and enslaved to God. Hence follows not a mere test by certain commands, but subjection to Himself who speaks to us by all His word. Every part of scripture has His authority to our souls: only we must learn by the Spirit its just application; and this, holding fast our association with Christ no longer as in the first Adam. It is clear that this both gives a more intimate relation to God, and opens a boundless sphere in which our obedience is to be exercised.
Nor is it only subjection to God, which takes the place of the Jewish position under law; but, thus walking, we have our “fruit unto holiness, and the end life eternal.” Such is the pathway here, and such its crown in glory by and by. There is growth in the value of good and its issue in the attracted separation of the heart from evil to God; and the end is suited to the way, though surely according to the personal dignity of Christ, and that which alone meets the character and counsels of God.
“For the wages of sin [is] death; but the free gift of God life eternal in Christ Jesus our Lord.” This is a summary of the general truth; it is the result on man’s side and on God’s. He does not limit it to transgression, though of course its wages are no less; he takes man, the Gentile sinner, as well as the Jewish transgressor. Both were sinners; and the wages of sin is death. But the blessing is quite as rich and free: eternal life is the need of the Jew no less than of the Gentile: it is God’s free gift, and thus equally open to either or both. Let it be carefully noted that the Holy Spirit, by the structure of the phrase, carefully avoids intimating that the wages of sin are limited to death; for in truth judgment remains, and is appointed to man no less than death. Together they are the full wages of sin. Nor would it be safe to affirm that even eternal life exhausts the free gift of God; for, as we shall find in Romans 8, no less than in many scriptures more, He gives the Holy Ghost to be the portion of the believer, not to speak of the relation of son and the accompanying inheritance. Boundless indeed is His grace to us in Christ Jesus our Lord.
18 The notion of Macknight and Rosenmüller, that death by sin is intended, misses all the force of the passage, and is clean contrary to the argument in the context, which is founded on our being baptized unto the death of Christ.
19 Beza notices the critical reading as that of the old interpreter (the Vulgate) and of Augustine, and as also so found in one Greek. This may serve to show how much more fully and accurately the authorities are now known; for it is so read in the Sinai, Vatican, Alexandrian, and Rescript of Paris (C); in six cursives; in the Coptic, Sahidic, Syriac, Æthiopic, Armenian, etc., besides the Latin, not to speak of many fathers Greek and Latin.
20 The commentators torture themselves to reconcile these words with their own views, which they condemn; but even Calvin and Beza own that it is a question of law, moral law (not the law of our members, nor of ceremonies, still less national or political law). “Quare non est dubium, quin hic aliquam ab ipsa Domini Lege manumissionem indicare voluerit,” says the former (in loco). That is, the context decides for him beyond doubt that the apostle meant here to indicate some freedom from the very law of the Lord. But his explanation is altogether imperfect and unsound, falling in with and helping on mere natural thoughts, and thus contributing to bring about the low state of practice which prevails even among the godly portion of the Reformed. “Therefore, lest broken in mind by a consciousness of their infirmity they should despond, he seasonably comes to their help, by interposing a consolation derived from the consideration that their works are not now tested by the severe criterion of the law, but God, remitting their impurity, accepts them kindly and benignantly . . . . Therefore not to be under law means that we are no longer exposed to the law as requiring perfect righteousness, with death pronounced on all who have in any part deviated from it.” The notion is that, being under grace, we are freed from the rigorous exactions of law. Thus grace becomes a sort of mitigated law, which is just what flesh would desire — a law that prescribes but has no power to condemn. That this must of itself lead to laxity, and is therefore really Antinomian in principle, seems evident and certain. It is an unwarrantable mixture of law and grace, which destroys the true character and scope of both. The truth is that Christ redeemed such believers as were under law from the curse; but He has in no way taken away its curse from law. Our blessing is of faith that it might be by grace; but the law, as scripture says, is not of faith. As we were justified by faith, so by it we walk, for we are not under law but under grace. He who abstains from murder simply because the law forbids it is a wicked man, and not a believer.
21 Think of Calvin’s temerity in saying that the apostle “improprie locutus est,” and this for so petty and technical a reason as this: “nam si partes partibus reddere voluisset dicendum erat: sive justitiae in vitam.” The apostle does (in ver. 19) guard his use of the figure of bondage; but here all is perfectly accurate — far more so than the correspondency suggested. “Righteousness unto life” might be gravely misunderstood and seems in every way a questionable statement.