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Chapter VI. 1-14
The Christian life a living by dying.
St. Paul’s Epistle to the Romans: A Practical Exposition
by Charles Gore, M.A., D.D. 
(Volume I, London, 1899)
...The passage is extraordinarily condensed, and is full of some of the most characteristic of St. Paul’s thoughts—amongst them that of the life in Christ as being a living by dying, or a life out of death. 

It is impossible to try to lead a human life under any standard that can be called moral without knowing that it involves some sort of ‘mortification’ of selfish and sensual appetites.  There is that in human nature which, as moralists generally must recognize and in fact have in a measure recognized, must be ‘done to death.’  It was this principle that was expressed with such terrible vigour by our Lord when He bade us pluck out the offending eye and cut off the  offending hand. But the novelty in Christianity was the emphasis which it laid rather on the living than on the dying; it was its teaching as to the infusion into human life of a new and positive spiritual force, which was to overcome evil with good and swallow up death in victory.  It was by their belief in a gift of the Spirit imparted to them, and by their resulting power to think and act freely according to God, that the Christians were distinguished from the rest of the world.  It is this upon which their apostolic teachers continually insist.  ‘I have written unto you young men, because ye are strong.’  ‘As many as are lead by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God.’  It is only as it were in the second place that it appears that this living in the new life will involve dying to an old one.  Thus the dying is always made to appear to be in order to a living.  The end is always the life.   ‘I came that they may have life,’ our Lord had said, ‘and have it abundantly.’ 

The phrases about dying in order to live have their root in our Lord’s teaching, as St. John represents it (xii. 24, 25), but belong most characteristically to St. Paul.  The principle which they enforce belongs only to a fallen world, for it is only the sin within us and about us that has to be put to death, or to which we have to die.  But it finds its highest exemplification in the case of Christ who, sinless Himself, came into a world of sin and lived under its conditions.  Therefore He had to ‘die’ to sin and selfishness in the world in order to ‘live’ in His own proper life to God.  And this dying to sin—this refusing it and repudiating it—is summarily represented in His death upon the cross.  The worldly world killed Him because He would have none of its selfishness and sin.  He, by voluntarily dying sooner than surrender to the demands of this world, made a final separation of Himself from sin.  Thus He lived His life to God at the cost of dying.  And this law of Christ’s life is to be the law of ours.  We must die to sin—-not on a visible cross, but by a repudiation of it as thorough and real: nor to sin outside us only, but to sin in ourselves.  It is only to express this attitude toward sin in ourselves in other words, to say that we have to mortify and crucify our own carnal and selfish selves. 

And just as Christ summed up His attitude towards the world by His death upon the cross, so the Christian’s attitude to the world was summed up in his baptism.  At that moment he died to the world of sin.  This state of deadness to sin has to be constantly renewed, or again and again recovered.  But it was in that sacramental moment realized in principle and symbolically represented.  The convert who was immersed beneath the baptismal waters and emerged again, realized easily that this ‘bath of regeneration’ was, what the early Christians called it, ‘his grave and his mother.’  All the circumstances of his baptism forced it upon him that he had passed out of an old life into a new—that he died to one state of things and came to life in another.  The Christians of St. Paul’s churches, like newly-made Christians in Central Africa or India to-day, were very often highly imperfect; but they knew—they could not but know—that they had passed under a new allegiance; that like the just-converted Frankish 
idolater, they must ‘burn what they had adored, and adore what they had burned. 

We in our generation, and in a country where Christianity has become traditional, realize this much less easily.  It is not only that we have, in our Church and country, almost wholly lost the symbolism which belongs to baptism by immersion; though that is as great a loss as any symbolic action, not necessary to the administration of a sacrament, can be.  It is not only that we are as a general rule baptized in infancy, for that under right conditions embodies a fundamental Christian principle and comes down from the origin of Christianity.  It is much more that Christianity has been allowed to become conventional and cheap.  It requires no effort or moral courage to own, in a formal sense, the name of Christ.  The result is that masses of men belong to the Church who are in practice living purely worldly lives, and that the Church and the world are fused together.  Hence it follows again that what the majority of Christians do is supposed to represent a tolerable manner of life for an ordinary Christian, who does not profess to be better than his neighbours.  Under these circumstances there is nothing which is more important than to reassert the law of life through death as the only Christian law of living.  The ‘old man’ is as vigorous as ever.  The world is still gratifying its sensual appetites and grasping after wealth without regard to the law of God.  Malice, jealousy, and hatred are alive and flourishing.  God is still being ignored, refused, blasphemed.  That is to say, the world of sin is still what it always was.  It is still under the same unchangeable wrath of God; and still therefore to live to God is only possible for one who will, and that deliberately and persistently, die to the world.  The renunciation must be conscious and deliberate.  The mortification and crucifixion of the ‘old man’ and ‘the body of sin’ must be painful, at times even agonizing.  A reasonable Christian will be indeed surprised if something painful is not being continually required of him.  And a reasonable Christian rejoices to purchase, even by great sacrifices, the pearl of great price, which is fellowship with Christ:—‘that he may know him and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable unto his death.’  This is the point.  It is not enough for us to be baptized.  Our baptism is evacuated of all meaning unless we are also ‘being converted,’ or ‘turning’ from the world to God; unless we are turning our back upon its lawless lusts, its worldly ambitions, its graspings after money, its refusals of pain, its selfish and unloving life.  Nay: all this renunciation was already involved in the Name spoken over us at our baptism.  The Christian name pledges us to the Christian law of living by dying, progress by conversion.  You cannot refuse the dying without repudiating the Name.  ‘Die and re-exist,’ said Goethe, ‘for so long as this is not accomplished thou art but a troubled guest upon an earth of gloom.’ 

‘Reckon ye, therefore, yourselves to be dead unto sin.’  This phrase, addressed to common Christians, supplies a magnificent instance of St. Paul’s idealism, that is to say, of his love of considering things, and his desire that others should consider things, in the light of their central and dominant idea or principle—as they ought to be rather than as they are.  This is his continual practice: to idealize not in the sense of thinking unreally of things, but in the sense of thinking of them in the light of that which is most fundamental in them.  It is in this way that he thinks of ‘the world,’ or godless human society, and seems to represent it as worse than it sometimes appears, because its governing principle is radically evil.  It is in this way that he thinks of the Church, and speaks of it in terms of glory not justified by the facts simply as they appear; because it has that at work within it which is capable of transforming it until it not only is, but looks like, the body of Christ, or the city of God.  This idealizing method is naturally distasteful to English common sense in most departments of thinking, and perhaps particularly in the region of religion.  But we suffer from an over-close adhesion to the ‘matters of fact’ or ‘the things which do appear.’ We do not think of our life, ourselves, our church according to the divine principle which they embody, or ‘according to the pattern shown to us in the mount.’ Thus we are never uplifted, enlarged, ennobled by the vision of 
                                            …The gleam, 
                          The light that never was on sea or land. 

That light never was or is manifest on the surface of actual experience, and yet it is always latent—the touch of glory in common things, the radiance in even our dim world, ‘the master light of all our seeing.’  We have almost all of us got to learn the practical power of the Christian imagination, disciplined and spiritually enlightened, to enrich and ennoble actual life.  The objects which our imagination should reflect are realities, but realities not yet developed.  What our imagination should do for us is to teach us to see things not as they are, but as they are coming to be. 

2.  ‘ Life in Christ Jesus,’ ‘Christ living in me ‘—there can be no question that these beautiful phrases which, if St. John’s witness be true, represent the teaching of Christ Himself, express also what is most central in St. Paul’s idea of Christianity.  It was the great merit of Matthew Arnold’s St. Paul and Protestantism that it recalled the fact to notice in ordinary educated circles.  Recent scientific study of St. Paul has gone in the same direction.  The doctrines of atonement and justification are essential to St. Paul’s theology, but not central: the doctrine of life in Christ, spiritual and moral identification with Christ, is both essential and central.  The maintenance of this life of union is again, as Matthew Arnold teaches us, the final and most developed function of faith—’that Christ may dwell in our hearts by faith’; for faith is, or grows to be, such devotion to Christ’s person as desires to lose itself and its selfish aims in Him and His work.  But Matthew Arnold strangely leaves out of sight the two-sidedness of this relation: we abide in Christ by faith, because Christ first of all abides in us by His loving-kindness and grace.  It is His love, always beforehand with us—not merely to forgive us our sins, but to pour itself out in the communicated Spirit—that takes us up within the circle of His own life; it is the act of God incorporating us into Christ which evokes and makes possible the response of our faith to realize His indwelling and make the adhesion mutual.  God’s gift is prior to our response and the ground of it; and moreover God’s gift is permanent and abiding.  It would indeed be a thought of despair if the bond between Christ and us depended upon the continuous energy of our faith to maintain it.  Nay, it is always there—unintermittent through all our broken efforts and vicissitudes of will—always there for us to recur to.  We are to reckon ourselves ‘dead to sin and alive to righteousness,’ because and only because we are also to reckon ourselves ‘in Christ.’ That is our permanent state, and it is the function of faith not to create, but to realize it. 

It is St. Paul’s clear and vivid perception of a divine gift given, a relationship to God established by God’s act, not ours, and that at a particular time, which is closely connected with his sacramental teaching.  If a divine gift is to be given (1) definite at a definite time, (2) to men of body as well as spirit in a world not only spiritual but material, (3) publicly as to members of a social organization-—it is most natural that the gift should be embodied in an outward rite and outward vehicle.  So St. Paul appears to think.  There is no shrinking about his sacramental language.  It can be said with justice that certain forms of sacerdotal or ecclesiastical government which have appeared in Church history would to his mind have savoured, or more than savoured, of bondage to men and bondage to the ‘beggarly rudiments’ of ceremonial observances.  St. Paul is very jealous of maintaining what we may call spiritual individuality and personal liberty.  But there is no justification to be found in St. Paul’s epistles for saying that he connects sacramentalism—i. e. the idea of necessary spiritual gifts divinely promised on the occasion, and through the medium, of certain outward religious rites of a community—with that ‘bondage’ to ‘beggarly rudiments’ of which he has so great a dread.  St. Paul’s language does not admit of our supposing that he knew of any other way of admission ‘into Christ’ except through the gate of baptism, or any other means of communion in Christ’s body and blood except ‘the breaking of the bread.’ 

3.  It will be necessary before we leave this great passage to give some special attention to three phrases. 

'Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father.'   In the New Testament the sacrifice of Christ, the atonement won by Christ, is continually ascribed to the Father, acting through and in the Son— 'God was in Christ reconciling the world unto himself.’  So also the resurrection is uniformly ascribed to the Father’s power acting in the case of the Son.  Our current Christian language has in both cases departed too widely from apostolic practice.  The doctrine of the Holy Trinity would be more intelligently held, and the worship of the Church more normally offered in the Spirit through the Son to the Father, if we had not fallen into the habit of so speaking of the action of the Son in dying and rising as habitually to leave out of sight the truth that His action, as Son, is and must always be the Father’s action through Him; and that reversely our worship of the Son must always be really, and ought to be in our habitual consciousness, the worship of the Father through Him. 

'Our old man was crucified with him.'   As Shelley said that, when Adonais died, ‘‘tis death is dead, not he,’ so in an infinitely deeper sense St. Paul says that what was killed upon the cross was (he does not say ‘instead of Christ,’ but ‘with Christ’) sin and the ‘old man.’  The ‘old man’ means the old way of living, or rather the old way of living considered as having been appropriated by the sinful individual and thus made his own self.  Thus it was the old self that was put to death on the cross, and a new self came to life, which was the same in unchanged personality and yet so practically different in all its relationships, that it could assert and claim exemptions from the obligations contracted by the ‘old man.’ 

'That the body of sin might be done away.’  The identification of sin with the individual had been specially with his body.  His bodily appetites and impulses and parts had been so used to the ways of sin as to become a ‘body of sin,’ and this, St. Paul says, has to be ‘done away’ or annulled.  It is not that we are to harm the body itself: for the body itself is good, and is to be offered, with all its members, to become the weapon of Christian warfare.  There is indeed no material thing as such that is evil.  The ‘body of sin’ means exactly ‘the body considered as having become the receptacle of sin’: as when our Lord speaks of the ‘mammon of unrighteousness,’ (Luke xvi. 9.) He means money which has become the instrument of unrighteousness, but which the children of light are to convert to profitable uses.  ‘To annul the body of sin’ means, therefore, almost the same as ‘to annul sin in the body’ and leave the body free; but it emphasizes the fact that sin has got such hold of the body that to annul sin involves annulling the body: as St. Paul says elsewhere, ‘I buffet’ (or ‘distress’) ‘my body and bring it into bondage.’ (1 Cor. ix. 27.)