But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die.
~ Genesis 2:17
Woe unto the wicked! it shall be ill with him: for the reward of his hands shall be given him. Behold, all souls are mine; as the soul of the father, so also the soul of the son is mine: the soul that sinneth, it shall die. Then when lust hath conceived, it bringeth forth sin: and sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth death.
~ Isaiah 3:11, Ezekiel 18:4, James 1:15
To them who by patient continuance in well doing seek for glory and honour and immortality, eternal life: For if by one man’s offence death reigned by one; much more they which receive abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness shall reign in life by one, Jesus Christ. As thou hast given him power over all flesh, that he should give eternal life to as many as thou hast given him. And this is the record, that God hath given to us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. He that hath the Son hath life; and he that hath not the Son of God hath not life.
~ Romans 2:7, Romans 5:17, John 17:2, 1 John 5:11-12
Romans 6:23. An Exposition, by Robert Haldane.
For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.
~ Romans 6:23
The wages of sin is death. — Here, as in the conclusion of the preceding chapter, death is contrasted with eternal life. Sin is a service or slavery, and its reward is death, or eternal misery. As death is the greatest evil in this world, so the future punishment of the wicked is called death figuratively, or the second death. In this sense death is frequently spoken of in Scripture; as when our Lord says, ‘Whosoever believeth on Me shall never die.’ Death is the just recompense of sin. The Apostle does not add, But the wages of obedience is eternal life. This is not the doctrine of Scripture. He adds, But the gift of God is eternal life. The gift that God bestows is eternal life. He bestows no less upon any of His people; and it is the greatest gift that can be bestowed.
Dr. Gill on this passage remarks, ‘These words, at first sight, look as if the sense of them was, that eternal life is the gift of God through Christ, which is a great and glorious truth of the Gospel; but their standing in opposition to the preceding words require another sense, namely, that God’s gift of grace issues in eternal life, through Christ: Wherefore, by the gift of God is not meant eternal life, but either the gift of a justifying righteousness or the grace of God in regeneration and sanctification, or both, which issue in eternal life.’ This remark does not appear to be well founded. The wages of sin do not issue in death, or lead to it, but the wages of sin is death.
Death is asserted to be the wages of sin, and not to be another issue to which the wages of sin lead; and the gift of God is not said to issue in eternal life, but to be eternal life. Eternal life is the gift here spoken of. It is not, as Dr. Gill represents, ‘eternal life is the gift of God,’ but ‘the gift of God is eternal life.’ The meaning of these two propositions, though nearly alike, are not entirely coincident. The common version is perfectly correct.
Both of the propositions might with truth be rendered convertible, but as they are expressed by the Apostle they are not convertible; and we should receive the expression as it stands. No doubt the gift of righteousness issues in eternal life; but it is of the gift of eternal life itself, and not of the gift of righteousness, that the Apostle is here speaking; and the Apostle’s language should not be pressed into a meaning which is foreign to his design.
Life after death are set before us in the Scriptures. On the one hand, indignation and wrath, tribulation and anguish; on the other, glory, and honor, and peace. To one or other of these states every child of Adam will finally be consigned. To both of them, in the concluding verse of this chapter, our attention is directed; and the grounds on which never-ending misery or everlasting blessedness will be awarded, are expressly declared. ‘The wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life, through Jesus Christ our Lord. ’ The punishment of that death which was the threatened penalty of the first transgression, will, according to Scripture, consist in the pains both of privation and suffering. Its subjects will not only be bereaved of all that is good, they will also be overwhelmed with all that is terrible. As the chief good of the creature is the enjoyment of the love of God, how great must be the punishment of being deprived of the sense of His love, and oppressed with the consciousness of His hatred! The condemned will be entirely divested of every token of the protection and blessing of God, and visited with every proof of His wrath and indignation. According to the awful declaration of the Apostle, they shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord, and from the glory of His power, in that day ‘when the Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven with His mighty angels, in flaming fire, taking vengeance on them that know not God, and that obey not the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ.’
This punishment will be adapted to both the component parts of man’s nature — to the soul as well as to the body. It will connect all the ideas of the past, the present, and the future. As to the past, it will bring to the recollection of the wicked the sins they committed, the good they abused, and the false pleasures by which they were deluded. As to the present, their misery will be aggravated by their knowledge of the glory of the righteous, from which they themselves are for ever separated, and by the direful company of the devil and his angels, to the endurance of whose cruel slavery they are for ever doomed. As to the future, the horrors of their irreversible condition will be rendered more insupportable by the overwhelming conviction of its eternity. To the whole must be added that rage against God, whom they will hate as their enemy, without any abatement or diminution.
It is not to be questioned that there will be degrees in the punishment of the wicked. This is established by our Lord Himself, when He declares that it shall be more tolerable for Tyre and Sidon in the day of judgment than for the Jews. This punishment being the effect of Divine justice, the necessary proportion between crime and suffering will be observed; and as some crimes are greater and more aggravated than others, there will be a difference in the punishment inflicted. In one view, indeed, all sins are equal, because equally offences against God, and transgressions of His law; but, in another view, they differ from each other. Sin is in degree proportioned not only to the want of love to God and man which it displays, but likewise to the manner in which it is perpetrated. Murder is more aggravated than theft, and the sins against the second table of the law are less heinous than those committed against the first. Sins likewise vary in degree, according to the knowledge of him who commits them, and inasmuch as one is carried into full execution, and another remains but in thought or purpose. The difference in the degree of punishment will not consist, however, in what belongs to privation — for in this it must be equal to all — but in those sufferings which will be positively inflicted by God.
Our Lord three times in one discourse repeats that awful declaration, ‘Their worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched.’ The term fire presents the idea of the intensity of the wrath or vengeance of God. It denotes that the sufferings of the condemned sinner are such as the body experiences from material fire, and that entire desolation which accompanies its devouring flames. Fire, however, consumes the matter on which it acts, and is thus itself extinguished. But it is not so with those who shall be delivered over to that fire which is not quenched. They will be upheld in existence by Divine justice, as the subjects on which it will be ever displayed. The expression, ‘their worm dieth not,’ indicates a continuance of pain and putrefaction such as the gnawing of worms would produce. As fire is extinguished when its fuel is consumed, in the same way the worm dies when the subject on which it subsists is destroyed.
But here it is represented as never dying, because the persons of the wicked are supported for the endurance of this punishment. In employing these figures, the Lord seems to refer to the two methods in which the bodies of the dead were in former times consigned to darkness and oblivion, either by in cremation or interment. In the first, they were consumed by fire; in the second, devoured by worms. The final punishment of the enemies of God is likewise represented by their being cast into the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone. This imports the multitude of griefs with which the wicked will be overwhelmed. What emblem can more strikingly portray the place of torment than the tossing waves, not merely of a flood of waters, but of liquid fire? And what can describe more awfully the intensity of the sufferings of those who are condemned, than the image of that brimstone by which the fierceness of fire is augmented?
These expressions, their worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched, to which it is added, ‘for every one shall be salted with fire,’ preclude every idea either of annihilation or of a future restoration to happiness. Under the law, the victims offered in sacrifice were appointed to be salted with salt, called ‘the salt of the covenant,’ Leviticus 2:13. Salt is an emblem of incorruptibility, and its employment announced the perpetuity of the covenant of God with His people. In the same manner, all the sacrifices to His justice will be salted with fire. Every sinner will be preserved by the fire itself; becoming thereby incorruptible, and fitted to endure those torments to which he is destined. The just vengeance of God will render incorruptible the children of wrath, whose misery, any more than the blessedness of the righteous, will never come to an end. ‘The Son of Man,’ said Jesus, ‘goeth, as it is written of Him; but woe unto that man by whom the Son of Man is betrayed! it had been good for that man if he had not been born.’ If the punishment of the wicked in the future state were to terminate in a period, however remote, and were it to be followed with eternal happiness, what is here affirmed of Judas would not be true. A great gulf is fixed between the abodes of blessedness and misery, and every passage from the one to the other is for ever barred.
The punishment, then, of the wicked will be eternal, according to the figures employed, as well as to the express declarations of Scripture. Sin being committed against the infinity of God, merits an infinite punishment.
In the natural order of justice, this punishment ought to be infinitely great; but as that is impossible, since the creature is incapable of suffering pain in an infinite degree, infinity in greatness is compensated by infinity in duration. The punishment, then, is finite in itself, and on this account it is capable of being inflicted in a greater or less degree; but as it is eternal, it bears the same proportion to the greatness of Him who is offended.
The metaphors and comparisons employed in Scripture to describe the intensity of the punishment of the wicked, are calculated deeply to impress the sentiment of the awful nature of that final retribution. ‘Tophet is ordained of old; yea, for the king it is prepared; he hath made it deep and large; the pile thereof is fire and much wood; the breath of the Lord, like a stream of brimstone, doth kindle it,’ Isaiah 30:33.
While the doctrine of eternal happiness is generally admitted, the eternity of future punishment is doubted by many. The declarations, however, of the Holy Scriptures respecting both are equally explicit. Concerning each of them the very same expressions are used. ‘These shall go away into everlasting (literally, eternal) punishment: but the righteous unto life eternal,’ Matthew 25:46. Owing to the hardness of their hearts, men are insensible to the great evil of sin. Hence the threatenings of future punishment, according to the word of God, shock all their prejudices, and seem to them unjust, and such as never can be realised. The tempter said to the woman, ‘Ye shall not surely die, ’ although God had declared it. In the same way that malignant deceiver now suggests that the doctrine of eternal punishment, although written as with a sunbeam in the book of God, although expressly affirmed by the Saviour in the description of the last judgment, and so often repeated by Him during His abode on earth, is contrary to every idea that men ought to entertain of the goodness and mercy of God. He conceals from his votaries the fact that if God is merciful He is also just; and that, while forgiving iniquity, and transgression, and sin, He will by no means clear the guilty. Some who act as His servants in promoting this delusion, have admitted that the Scriptures do indeed threaten everlasting punishment to transgressors, but they say that God employs such threatenings as a veil to deter men from sin, while He by no means intends their execution. The veil, then, which God has provided, is, according to them, too transparent to answer the purpose He designs, and they, in their superior wisdom, have been able to penetrate it. And this is one of their apologies for the Bible, with the design of making its doctrines more palatable to the world. On their own principles, then, they are chargeable with doing all in their power to frustrate what they affirm to be a provision of mercy. Shall men, however eminent in the world, be for a moment listened to, who stand confessedly guilty of conduct so impious?
Infinitely great are the obligations of believers to that grace by which they have been made to differ from others, to flee to the refuge set before them in the Gospel, and to wait for the Son of God from heaven, whom He raised from the dead, even Jesus, which delivered us from the wrath to come. Eternal life. — Of the nature of that glory of which the people of God shall be put in possession in the day of their redemption, we cannot form a clear and distinct idea. ‘It doth not yet appear what we shall be; but we know that, when He shall appear, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is.’ In the present state, believers, beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory, as by the Spirit of the Lord. This transformation, while they see only through a glass darkly, is gradually proceeding; but when they see face to face, and shall know even as they are known, this image shall be perfected.
Their blessedness will consist in a knowledge of God and His mysteries, a full and exquisite sense of His love, ineffable consolation, profound tranquillity of soul, a perfect concord and harmony of the soul with the body, and with all the powers of the soul among themselves; in one word, in an assemblage of all sorts of blessings. These blessings will not be measured in the proportion of the creatures who receive them, but of God who confers them; and of the dignity of the person of Jesus Christ, and of His merit: of His person, for they shall obtain that felicity only in virtue of the communion which they have with Him; of His merit, for He has purchased it with the price of His blood. So far, then, as we can conceive of majesty, excellency, and glory, in the person of the Redeemer, so far, keeping always in view the proportion of the creature to the Creator, ought we to conceive of the value, the excellence, and the abundance of the eternal blessings which He will bestow upon His people. The Scriptures call it a fullness of satisfaction, not a fullness of satiety, but a fullness of joy, at the right hand of God, where there are pleasures for evermore. It will be a crown of righteousness; they shall sit down with Christ in His throne, as He is set down with His Father in His throne. ‘Blessed are they which are called unto the marriage-supper of the Lamb.’
As to the duration of this blessedness, it shall be eternal. But why eternal?
Because God will bestow it upon a supernatural principle, and consequently upon a principle free from changes to which nature is exposed, in opposition to the happiness of Adam, which was natural.
Because God will give it, not as to hirelings, but as to His children in title of inheritance. ‘The servant,’ or the hireling, says Jesus Christ, ‘abideth not in the house for ever, but the son abideth ever.’ Because God will confer it as a donation, that is to say, irrevocably. On this account Paul declares that ‘the gift of God is eternal life.’ None of the causes which produce changes will have place in heaven; — not the inequality of nature, for it shall be swallowed up in glory — not sin, for it will be entirely abolished — not the temptations of Satan, for Satan will have no entrance there — not the mutability of the creature, for God will possess His people fully and perfectly. Through Jesus Christ. — Eternal life comes to the people of God as a free gift, yet it is through Jesus Christ. By His mediation alone reconciliation between God and man is effected, peace established, communion restored, and every blessing conferred. The smallest as well as the greatest gift is bestowed through Him; and they are not the less free gifts from God, because Christ our Lord has paid the price of redemption. He Himself was given for this end by the Father, and He and the Father are one. He, then, who pays the ransom is one and the same who justifies, so that the freeness of the gift is not in the smallest degree diminished.
This gift of eternal life is bestowed through Jesus Christ, and by Him it is dispensed, — ’Glorify Thy Son, that Thy Son may also glorify Thee: as Thou hast given Him power over all flesh, to give eternal life to as many as Thou hast given Him.’ ‘My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me, and I give unto them eternal life.’ Our Lord. — His people are constantly to keep in mind that Jesus Christ is their Lord, whose authority they are ever to regard, and whom, as their Lord and Master, they are implicitly to obey. He is the Lord both of the dead and the living, to whom every knee shall bow, and before whose judgment-seat we shall all stand.
There is a striking similarity between the manner in which the Apostle winds up his discussion on the free justification of sinners, in the close of the preceding chapter, and that in which he now concludes the doctrine of their sanctification. ‘Grace,’ he there says, reigns ‘through righteousness, unto eternal life, by Jesus Christ our Lord;’ and through Him, it is here said, ‘the gift of God is eternal life.’ All is of grace, all is a free gift, all is vouchsafed through and in Him who was delivered for our offences, and raised again for our justification, from whom neither death nor life shall separate us. ‘Thanks be unto God for His unspeakable gift.’
The doctrine of free justification by faith without works, on which the Apostle had been insisting in the preceding part of the Epistle, is vindicated in this chapter from the charge of producing those consequences which are ascribed to it by the wisdom of the world, and by all who are opposed to the Gospel. Far from conducting to licentiousness, as many venture to affirm, it stands inseparably connected with the sanctification of the children of God.
In the conclusion of the preceding chapter, Paul had asserted that, as the reign of sin had been terminated by the death of the Redeemer, so the reign of grace, through righteousness, unto eternal life, by Jesus Christ our Lord, has succeeded. He had shown in the third and fourth chapters that this righteousness is upon all them that believe, who are thus justified freely by grace. In the fifth chapter, he had exhibited the effects and accompaniments of their justification. The objection which he had seen it proper to introduce in the beginning of this sixth chapter, had led to a further development of the way in which these blessed effects are produced. In order to this, he says nothing, as has been observed, of the character or attainments of believers, but simply describes their state before God, in consequence of their union with Christ. The sanctification of believers, he thus shows, proceeds from the sovereign determination, the eternal purpose, and the irresistible power of God, which are exerted according to His everlasting covenant, through the mediation of His beloved Son, and in consistency with every part of the plan of salvation.
While this, however, is the truth — truth so consolatory to every Christian — it is an incumbent duty to consider, and to seek to give effect to those motives to holiness, presented by the Spirit of God in His own word, as the means which He employs to carry on this great work in the soul — presented, too, in those very doctrines which the wisdom of the world has always supposed will lead to licentiousness. Every view of the character of God, and every part of the plan of salvation, tends to promote holiness in His people; and on every doctrine contained in the Scriptures, holiness is conspicuously inscribed.
The doctrine of justification without works, so far from leading to licentiousness, furnishes the most powerful motive to obedience to God.
They who receive the doctrine of justification by the righteousness of God, have the fullest and most awful sense of the obligation which the holy law of God enforces on His creatures, and of the extent and purity of that law connected with the most profound sentiment of the evil of sin.
Every new view that believers take of the Gospel of their salvation is calculated to impress on their minds a hatred of sin, and a desire to flee from it. In the doctrine of Christ crucified, they perceive that God, who is holy and just, pardons nothing without an atonement, and manifests His hatred of sin by the plan which He adopts for the salvation of sinners. The extent of the evil of sin is exhibited in the dignity and glory of Him by whom it has been expiated, the depth of His humiliation, and the greatness of His sufferings. The obligation of the law of God also derives unutterable force from the purity of its precepts as well as from the awfulness of its sanction.
If the principal object, or one of the essential characteristics, of the doctrine of justification by faith was to represent God as easily pacified towards the guilty, as taking a superficial cognizance of the breach of His holy law, and punishing it lightly, it might with reason be concluded that it relaxes the bonds of moral obligation. But far from this, that doctrine maintains in the highest degree the holiness of God, and discovers the danger of continuing in sin. It teaches that, even when the Almighty is determined to show compassion to the sinner, He cannot deny Himself, and therefore His justice must be satisfied. That Jesus Christ should have purchased, at the price of His own blood, a license to sin against God, would be utterly incompatible with the wisdom and uniformity of the Divine government. God cannot hate sin before its expiation by His Son, and love it after the sufferings inflicted on account of it. If it behooved Him to punish sin so severely in the Divine Surety of His people, it can never be pleasing to Him in those for whom the Surety has made satisfaction. His holiness is further displayed by this doctrine, which teaches that it is only through a righteous advocate and intercessor that they who are justified have access to God.
The Gospel method of justification by the blood of Christ discovers sin and its fatal consequences in the most hideous aspect, while at the same time it displays the mercy of God in the most attractive form. Believers are punished with death in the person of their Divine Surety, according to the original and irrevocable sentence pronounced against man on account of his transgression. But as Jesus Christ has been raised from the dead by the power of the Father, they also have been raised with Him to walk in newness of life. They are therefore bound by every consideration of love and fear, of gratitude and joyful hope, to regulate the actions of that life which has thus been granted to them in a new and holy way. Being baptized into the death of Christ, in whom they are ‘complete,’ they ought to be conformed to Him, and to separate themselves from sin by its entire destruction. Their baptism, which is the instituted sign of their forfeiture by sin of Adam’s life, and their regeneration and fellowship with Christ in His death and resurrection, exhibit to them in the clearest manner the necessity of purity and holiness, the way by which these are attained conformably to the Gospel, and their obligation to renounce everything incompatible with the service of God. ‘I am crucified,’ says the Apostle Paul, ‘with Christ; nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh, I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave Himself for me.’ And, addressing the believers to whom he wrote, he says, ‘As many of you as have been baptized into Christ, have put on Christ.’ Ye are ‘buried with Him in baptism, wherein also ye have risen with Him through the faith of the operation of God, who hath raised Him from the dead,’ Colossians 2:12.
These blessings believers enjoy by that faith which unites them to Christ, and which is wrought in their hearts by the same power that raised up Jesus from the dead, and that will raise them up at the last day.
The inducements, then, to love and gratitude to God, held out and enforced by the doctrine of justification by faith, are the strongest that can be conceived. The inexpressible magnitude of the blessings which they who are justified have received; their deliverance from everlasting destruction; the right they have obtained to eternal blessedness, and their meetness for its enjoyment; the infinite condescension of the great Author of these gifts, extending mercy to those who, so far from serving Him, have provoked His wrath; the astonishing means employed in the execution of His purpose of saving them, and the conviction which believers entertain of their own unworthiness, — all impose the strongest obligations, and furnish the most powerful motives, to walk in obedience to God. ‘We have known and believed,’ says the Apostle John, ‘the love that God hath to us.’ As long as the sinner continues to live under the burden of unpardoned guilt, so long as he sees Divine justice and holiness armed against him, he can only be actuated, in any attempt towards obedience, by servile fear; but when he believes the precious promises of pardon flowing from the love of God, when he knows the just foundation on which this pardon is established, he cleaves with reciprocal love to God.
He rests his confidence solely on the merits of the Lord Jesus Christ, and ascribes to his Heavenly Father all the glory of his salvation. Being justified by faith, he has peace with God, which he no longer labours to acquire by his own works. His obedience is a constant expression of love and thankfulness for the free gift of that righteousness which the Son of God was sent to introduce, which He finished on the cross, and which confers a title to Divine favour sufficient for the most guilty of mankind. If any man professes to believe in Jesus Christ, to love His name, and to enjoy communion with God, yet obeys not His commandments, he ‘is a liar, and The truth is not in Him. But whose keepeth His word, in Him verily is the love of God perfected.’ That which does not produce obedience is not love; and what does not proceed from love is unworthy of the name of obedience. The pretense of love without obedience is hypocrisy; and obedience without love is a real slavery.
The sanctification of the people of God depends on the death of Christ in the way of its meritorious cause: for through His death they receive the Holy Spirit, by whom they are sanctified. Jesus Christ has also sanctified Himself, that He might sanctify them. — He had, indeed, no corruption from which He needed sanctification; but when He took on Him the sins of His people, they were His sins as truly as if He had been personally guilty. This is in accordance with what is declared, 2 Corinthians 5:21, ‘He hath made Him to be sin for us, who knew no sin: that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him.’ In this light, then, He must be sanctified from sin, and this was effected by His suffering death. He was sanctified from the sin He had taken upon him by His own blood shed upon the cross, and in Him they are sanctified.
The sanctification of believers depends, too, on the death of Jesus Christ in the way of obligation; for, having redeemed His people to Himself, He has laid them under an inviolable obligation to be holy.’ ‘Ye were not redeemed with corruptible things, as silver and gold, from your vain conversation received by tradition from your fathers, but with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot.’ ‘Ye are bought with a price, therefore glorify God in your body and in your spirit which are God’s.’ Their sanctification arises also from the example of Jesus Christ; for, in His death, as well as in His life, all Christian virtues were exhibited and exercised in a manner the most admirable, and set before us for our imitation. ‘Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example that we should follow His steps’ The sanctification of believers likewise depends on the death of Christ in the way of motive; for it furnishes an almost infinite number of motives to holiness of life. In His death, believers discover the profound misery in which they were plunged in the slavery of sin and Satan — as children of rebellion and wrath separated from the communion of God. To procure their deliverance, it was necessary not only that the Son of God should come into the world, but that He should suffer on the cross; whence they ought to regard their former condition with holy terror and abhorrence. In His death they perceive how hateful sin is in the sight of God, since it was necessary that the blood of an infinite and Divine person should be shed in order to its expiation. In that death they discover the ineffable love of God, which has even led to the delivering up of His only-begotten Son for their salvation. They discover the love and compassion of the Son Himself, which induced Him to come down from heaven to save them, which should beget reciprocal love, and an ardent zeal for His service.
They perceive the hope of their calling, and realise the blessings of the eternal inheritance of God, which have been acquired by that death. They contemplate the honour and dignity of their adoption, for Jesus Christ has died that they might become the children of God. They have been born of His blood, which binds them never to lose sight of this heavenly dignity, but to conduct themselves in a manner suitable to their high vocation.
In the death of Jesus Christ the eyes of believers are directed to the Spirit of sanctification, whom God hath sent forth; for in dying Jesus Christ has obtained for His people the inexhaustible graces of the Holy Spirit. This leads them to renounce the spirit of the world, and submit to the direction and guidance of the Spirit from on high. ‘They feel the honour of their communion with Jesus Christ, being His brethren and joint heirs, the members of His body, those for whom He shed His blood, and whom He hath redeemed at so astonishing a price. They behold the peace which He has made between God and them, which imposes on them the duty of never disturbing that blessed reconciliation, but, on the contrary, of rendering the most profound obedience to the Divine law. They discover the most powerful motives to humility; for the death of Jesus Christ is a mirror, in which they behold the vileness and indignity of their natural corruption, and perceive that they have nothing in themselves wherewith to satisfy Divine justice for their sins. His death, placing before their eyes their original condition, leads them to cry out before God, ‘O Lord, righteousness belongeth unto Thee; but unto us confusion of face.’ Our justification is a blessing which proceeds from Thy grace: Thou hast conferred on us the righteousness of Thy Son; but to ourselves belongeth nothing but misery and ruin. The death of Jesus Christ presents the strongest motives to repentance; for if, after the redemption He has wrought, they should still continue in their sins, it would be making Him, as the Apostle says, ‘the minister of sin.’ And, finally, the death of Jesus Christ teaches them not to dread their own death; for He hath sanctified the tomb, and rendered death itself innoxious to His people, since for them He has condescended to suffer it Himself. Their death is the last part of their fellowship on earth with their suffering Redeemer; and as His death was the gate through which He entered into His glory, so the earthly house of their tabernacle must be dissolved, that they may be also glorified together with Him. ‘O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory? Thanks be to God which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.’
The resurrection of Jesus Christ, as well as His death, presents the strongest motives for the encouragement and sanctification of believers.
His resurrection establishes their faith, as being the heavenly seal with which God has been pleased to confirm the truth of the Gospel. Having been declared to be the Son of God with power by His resurrection from the dead, they regard Him as the Creator of the world, and the eternal Son of the Father. It assures them of the effect of His death in expiating their sins, and obliges them to embrace the blood of His cross as the price of their redemption. His resurrection being the victory which He obtained over the enemies of His Church, they are bound to place all their confidence in Him, and to resign themselves for ever to His guidance. It presents the most powerful motive to have constant recourse to the mercy of the Father, for having Himself raised up the Head and Surety of His people; it is an evident pledge of His eternal purpose to love them, and of their freedom of access to God by His Son.
In the resurrection and exaltation of Jesus Christ, believers are taught the certainty of their immortality and future blessedness. Lazarus, and others who were raised up, received their life in the same state as they possessed it before; and after they arose they died a second time; but Jesus Christ, in His resurrection, obtained a life entirely different. In his birth a life was communicated to Him which was soon to terminate on the cross. His resurrection communicated a life imperishable and immortal. Jesus Christ being raised from the dead, death hath no more dominion over him. Of this new life the Apostle speaks as being already enjoyed by His people. ‘He hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus.’ Elsewhere he calls that heavenly life which Jesus Christ now possesses, their life. ‘Your life is hid with Christ in God.’ ‘When Christ, who is our life, shall appear, ye also shall appear with Him in glory.’ ‘Whosoever liveth and believeth in Me,’ He Himself hath said, ‘shall never die.’ All this should inspire His people with courage to finish their course here, in order to go to take possession of the heavenly inheritance which He has gone before to prepare for them, and from whence He will come again to receive them to Himself. It should inspire them with fortitude, that they may not sink under the afflictions and trials which they experience on earth. The Apostle counted all things but loss and dung that he might win Christ — that he might know Him, and the power of His resurrection. On the resurrection of Jesus Christ he rests the whole value and evidence of the truth of the Gospel. ‘If Christ be not risen, then is our preaching vain, and your faith is vain.’ ‘But now is Christ risen from the dead, and become the first fruits of them that slept.’
The resurrection of Jesus Christ, on which believers rest their hope, is intimately connected with every part of the Christian religion. The perfections of the Father — His power, His justice, His faithfulness — were all engaged in raising up His Son from the grave. The constitution of the person of Jesus Christ Himself also required it. He was the Son of God, the Prince of Life, holy, and without spot, — consequently, having nothing in common with death. His body was joined with His deity, of which it was the temple, so that it could not always remain under the power of the grave. His resurrection was also necessary on account of His office as Mediator, and of the general purposes of His coming into the world to destroy the works of the devil, to subvert the empire of death, to make peace between God and man, and to bring life and immortality to light. It was necessary, too, in consideration of His office as a Prophet, in order to confirm by His resurrection the word which He had spoken; and of His office as a Priest, for, after having presented His sacrifice, He must live to intercede for His people and to bless them. And to reign as a King, He must first triumph personally Himself over all His enemies, in order to cause His people to triumph.
Upon the whole, as in the preceding part of the Epistle, the Apostle had rested the justification of believers on their union with Jesus Christ, so upon the same union he rests in this chapter their sanctification. It is in virtue of this union between Him as the Head, and the Church as His body, that the elect of God are the subjects of His regenerating grace, enjoy the indwelling of his Spirit, and bring forth fruit unto God. ‘As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine; no more can ye, except ye abide in Me. I am the vine, ye are the branches. He that abideth in Me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit; for without Me ye can do nothing.’
This union of believers with Jesus Christ is represented in Scripture in various expressions, and by different images. The Scriptures declare that we are one with Him, that He dwells in our hearts, that He lives in us and we in Him, that we are changed into His image, and that He is formed in us. This union is spoken of as resembling the union of the head with the other parts of the body, and the foundation with the superstructure. This union does not result solely from Jesus Christ having taken upon Him, by His incarnation, the human nature. For if in this alone our union with Him consisted, unbelievers would be as much united with Him as believers. The union of believers with Jesus Christ is a spiritual and mystical union; and, as one with Him, by Him they are represented. He represents them in the act of making satisfaction to the Father, taking their sins upon Him, and enduring the punishment they deserved; for it was in their place, as their Head and Mediator, that He presented to God that great and solemn sacrifice which has obtained for them heavenly glory. He represents them in the act of His resurrection; for, as the Head, He has received for them of His Father life and immortality. He represents them in His intercession in their name, and also in His exaltation on His throne. The spiritual life which they derive from Him consists in present grace and future glory. In grace there are three degrees. The first is peace with God; the second is holiness, comprehending all that constitutes their duty; and the third is hope, which, like an anchor of the soul, enters into that within the veil. In glory there are also three degrees: the resurrection of the bodies of believers; their elevation to heaven; and the eternal enjoyment of the kingdom prepared for them from the foundation of the world.
Paul enjoins on Titus to affirm constantly the great truths he had been declaring, in order that they which have believed in God might be careful to maintain good works. Those doctrines alone, which, in the opinion of many, make void the law, and give a license to sin — against which, since the days of the Apostle, the same objections have been repeated which in this chapter Paul combats — those doctrines are the means which the Holy Spirit employs for the conversion of sinners, and for producing effects entirely the opposite in their hearts. The Bible teaches us that the plan of salvation, which delivers man from sin and from death by the death of the Son of God, which had its origin in eternity in the counsels of God, both as to the choice of its objects, and the manner in which they are justified and sanctified, and as to its consummation in glory, is founded wholly in grace. ‘By the grace of God,’ says Paul, ‘I am what I am.’ ‘Now unto Him that is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that worketh in us, unto Him be glory in the Church by Christ Jesus, throughout all ages, world without end. Amen.’