The Epistle of Paul the Apostle to the Romans

By G. Campbell Morgan

Chapter 12

2. The Obligation of Grace. Rom. 6:15 - Rom. 7:6

a. Introductory Question and Answer. Rom 6:15

b. The Figure of the Bond-Slave. Rom 6:16-23

A Principle. Rom 6:16

The Application, Rom 6:17-22

The two Positions, Rom 6:17-18

Ye were . . . Servants of Sin,

Ye became . . . Servants of Righteousness.

The two Practices, Rom 6:19

Ye presented your members.

Present your members.

The two Products. Rom 6:20-22

Fruit, No righteousness. Death.

Fruit. Sanctification. Life.

Summary. Rom 6:23

c. The Figure of Marriage. Rom 7:1-6

A Principle. Rom 7:1-3

The Application. Rom 7:4-6

Death to Law through Death of Law in Christ,

Joined to Christ through Resurrection of Christ.

Change of Centre of Responsibility from Law to Christ.

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2. The Obligation of Grace

The greatness of the deliverance provided by grace creates a grave responsibility on the part of those receiving the benefits. With this new obligation the apostle deals by the use of two figures, that of the bond-slave, and that of marriage.

a. Introductory Question and Answer

So complete is the provision of grace that it is possible that some one may say, that seeing we are no longer under law, our responsibility about sin is at an end. That possibility is recognized in the introductory question and answer. It is stated in the form of the inquiry, "What then? shall we sin, because we are not under law, but under grace?" and is at once emphatically, comprehensively, and finally answered in the apostolic exclamation, "God forbid."

b. The Figure of the Bond-slave

The new obligation is then first set forth under the familiar figure of the bond-slave. In the statement of principle with which the argument opens, the apostle both suggested the illustration and applied it. Bond-slaves are responsible to their masters. The freedom of the will is recognized in the matter of the choice of masters, but when the choice is made, it must be remembered that the service rendered depends entirely upon the master chosen.

Proceeding to make application of his figure, he did so with great care as he showed the two positions, the two practices, and the two products possible, by contrasting the past life of believers with their present life. As to the two positions, they were servants of sin; they became servants of righteousness. As to the two practices, they depended entirely upon the two positions. When servants of sin, they presented their members to uncleanness and to iniquity; now that they are the servants of righteousness they are to present their bodies to righteousness unto sanctification. The two products result by a necessary sequence from the practices. When they presented their members as servants of uncleanness their fruit was that they were "free in regard of righteousness"; that is, they had no righteousness, and consequently death was the issue. Now, being made free from that service, and having become the servants of God, their fruit is unto sanctification, and the end eternal life.

Or to state the argument in other words. The servant of sin is the slave of sin. The servant of righteousness is the bond-servant of righteousness. The past experience of the service of sin was that of yielding themselves thereto, with the issue that they were mastered thereby. The present experience of the servants of righteousness must be that of the yielding of themselves thereto, with the issue of being mastered thereby. Sin is no longer to be the master, for from it those are made free who have a new master, to whom service is to be rendered. The old fruit of unrighteousness and death is destroyed, but the new fruit of sanctification and life must result.

At the close of this statement we have the declaration so often quoted, and so full of glorious meaning, "the wages of sin is death; but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.'' Sin as the master of the life pays the wage of death in every department thereof. God as the Master of life bestows the gift of eternal life in Christ Jesus the Lord, in every department of the life. The contrast is not merely that of ultimate issues. It has reference to the whole process. Death now and for ever is the issue of sin. Eternal life now and for ever is the issue of that obedience which results from faith. God begins with life bestowed as a free gift, and that life is at once a root principle, an impelling force, and a final fruitage; for it is not merely life, but age-abiding life, which He thus freely bestows.

Thus the believer is seen to be no longer in the place of bondage to sin, and no longer needing to yield to every demand of the lusts of the flesh; but now henceforth as the bondservant of God yields to the call of righteousness, and thus using the whole body as the instrument of the will of God, makes it the medium for the manifestation of the sanctified life.

c. The Figure of Marriage

The relation of the justified believer to the law is not merely that of a bond-slave to a master. There are elements in the union which are closer, and the apostle now adopted a new and perhaps more delicate figure, that namely of the marriage relationship and obligation. He uses it as an illustration of changed relationship. The whole argument may be summarized by the declaration that the believer is freed from the covenant of law by death, and brought into a covenant with Christ by life.

The underlying principle of the illustration is that death puts an end to all responsibility resulting from a covenant. A woman is bound by covenant to her husband. Nothing can end the responsibilities of such a covenant except death. If however the first husband die, then she is free from that covenant, and may enter into a new one with a second husband. An examination of this passage compels us to recognize the apparent breakdown of the apostle's figure. He started by the assumption that the law stands in the place of the husband, and that the sinner occupies that of the wife. The teaching of the figure is that so long as the husband lives, the wife is under his dominion by covenant. If she break that covenant, she is under penalty of death. On the other hand, if he die, she is free to enter into the marriage relationship with another. Now the apostle's argument is not that the sinner is set free by the death of the law, for the law does not die. In the application of the principle it is the sinner who, occupying the place of the wife, and having broken the covenant with law, must die.

Wherein then is the value of the figure? It can only be discovered as we remember that Christ was first of all the Fulfiller of the law. Himself being its Incarnation and Embodiment, and in that way all its rights were vested in Him. If the law is taken as representing the first husband, and Christ as representing the second, we must now come to see that the sinner is under the death penalty, for breaking the law as ultimately revealed in Christ; but Christ as the perfect One, Fulfiller of law. Embodiment of its ideals. Incarnation of its holiness, takes the death penalty which should fall upon the sinner, and dies, thus cancelling the penalty due to the sinner.

The death of Christ is not the final fact, however. He was raised from the dead, and now takes that sinner, - whose breaking of the covenant with Him as law issued in death, which death He has died, - into the place of a new union with Himself. The sinner breaks the covenant of obedience to Christ the Holy One. Christ dies instead of the sinner. Christ rises and marries the sinner, having satisfied His own claim as the Holy One.

If at first, therefore, it seems as though the apostle's figure had broken down, this closer examination reveals the fact that by the very change in his metaphor, he gave the most exact illustration of the true facts of the case. The sinner has violated the covenant of law, and consequently the law, as the first husband, proceeds to demand the sentence of death upon the guilty one. Then Christ in infinite graciousness takes the responsibility of that violated law upon Himself, and suffers the death penalty, righteously inflicted by law. Emerging therefrom He brings the sinner through death out of that responsibility to the law resulting from the broken covenant, into relationship with Himself in a new covenant. Thus there is a change of the centre of responsibility from the law to Christ.

The perfection of the figure is emphasized by that to which we have already drawn attention, that Christ is in Himself the Master and Embodiment of law, so that His emergence into life, bringing with Him the rescued sinner, does not leave an angry and disappointed law behind, but in recognition of all its claims, magnifies it and makes it honourable.

The value of this teaching is evident. The figure of the bond-slave teaches us that a change of masters must produce a change of service. The marital figure reveals the fact that a change of covenant changes the centre of responsibility.