Father Callan’s Commentary on Romans 6:3-11

This post includes Father Callan’s brief summary of Romans 6:1-11, the notes on today’s reading follow.

THE CHRISTIAN, DEAD TO SIN AND LIVING TO CHRIST THROUGH BAPTISM, SHOULD LIVE HENCEFORTH UNTO GOD

A Summary of Romans 6:1-11~The Apostle discusses in this chapter the second fruit of justification, which consists in dominion over sin and freedom from its tyranny. The Christian, dead to sin, and reborn in Christ through Baptism, lives a new life, in which sin should have no part. There is, therefore, something yet more beautiful than justification through faith, and it is to live in Christ for God. St. Paul was the more anxious to treat this subject, because there was danger that his doctrine of justification without the works of the Law might be misunderstood. It might be so interpreted as to make people indifferent to the moral life, or even as an invitation to sin, so that the grace of God might abound (cf. Lagr., h. 1.).

3. Know you not that all we, who are baptized in Christ Jesus, are baptized in his death?

The Apostle here recalls to the minds of his readers something they very well knew. Baptism in the early Church was generally administered by immersion; and this form of giving the Sacrament quite aptly represented the death, burial and Resurrection of Christ. The complete plunge into the water was at once an image of Christ’s death and burial, and of the Christian’s death to sin; while the emersion from the water signified the Resurrection of Jesus and the Christian’s birth to the new spiritual life of grace.

To be baptized in Christ Jesus means to be consecrated to Christ, to become His property and members of His mystical body through the Sacrament of Baptism. To be baptized in his death means not only to represent through Baptism Christ’s death, burial and Resurrection by dying and being buried to sin, and rising to the spiritual life of grace; but also to be intimately united with Christ in His death (2 Tim 2:11), in his burial (Rom 5:4; Col 2:12), in His Resurrection (Eph 2:5; Col 2:13) and in the life of grace (Rom 5:8; 2 Tim 2:12).

4. For we are buried together with him by baptism into death; that as Christ is risen from the dead by the glory of the Father, so we also may walk in newness of life.

For is therefore (ουν) in all the Greek MSS. The Apostle is treating of a consequence and hence therefore is the proper connective here. Through Baptism we are dead and buried to sin, as Christ died and was buried to this world. The total immersion of the Christian in the baptismal waters was a fitting representation of Christ’s envelopment in the tomb. But as Christ died and was buried, only to be raised from the dead by the power of His father; so we are immersed in the waters of Baptism only to emerge and rise to the new spiritual life of sanctifying grace, and to continue in that new life as Christ continues in His glorious risen life.

Is risen. Rather, was raised (ηγερθη) from the dead.

By the glory of the Father, i.e., by the glorious power of the Father. The Resurrection is usually attributed to the power of the Father (Rom 4:24; 2 Cor 13:4; Eph 1:19; Col 2:12), and this power is here called “glory”; id est per virtutem Patris ex qua ipse Pater glorificatur (St. Thomas).

5. For if we have been planted together in the likeness of his death, we shall be also in the likeness of his resurrection.

For (γαρ) indicates a continuation of the thought already expressed in the preceding verse, which supposes that Baptism effects a real, mystical resurrection (Col 2:12; Eph 2:5).

Planted (συμφυτοι) conveys the idea of being united and growing together, after the manner of a graft on a tree, so as to form one plant or growth with the tree. Hence, the sense is: if we, through Baptism, have become participants in Christ’s death by dying spiritually to sin, as He died physically to the world, we shall also have a mystical part in His Resurrection by rising spiritually to a new life of sanctity as He rose to a new and glorified physical life.

We shall (εσομεθα) refers to the future spiritual life we shall live after rising from our death to sin, in mystical imitation of Christ’s Resurrection.

St. Chrysostom, St. Thomas and others think St. Paul is alluding to our future glorious resurrection from the dead; but this seems hardly possible since the Apostle here throughout is concerned with the actual present life of Christians.

In English “then also” should precede the last clause, “we shall be,” etc.

6. Knowing this, that our old man is crucified with him, that the body of sin may be destroyed, to the end that we may serve sin no longer.

St. Paul reminds the Christians that they know, as a matter of fact, that through Baptism our old man, i.e., our corrupt and sinful nature which we inherited from the old Adam and which made us slaves to sin, has been nailed to the cross with Christ, the new Adam, to the end that we may live a new life of sanctity and serve sin no longer.

The Apostle distinguishes in us two men, the old (Eph 4:22; Col 3:9) and the new (Eph 4:24); or rather two different states, one in which we were slaves to sin, by reason of the moral corruption we inherited from Adam, the other in which we live according to God.

Our old man was crucified with Christ (Gal 2:20), because of our sins. “Christ was made a malediction” (Deut 21:23), and died on the cross in order to destroy the dominion of sin over us; Christ took upon Himself our sins and died in our stead, and through Baptism the merits of His Passion and death are applied to our souls.

The body of sin means our body, inasmuch as it is an instrument of sin and concupiscence, or as subjected to sin and concupiscence. It is contrary to the thought of St. Paul to say that “body of sin” here means the ensemble of our sins (Lagr.).

7. For he that is dead is justified from sin.

Is justified, i.e., is acquitted, freed. There is question here of liberation from the servitude of sin (Cornely). As he that is dead is freed from the servitude of sin, i.e., is not any longer in danger of committing it, so also we, who, as said before, are dead with Christ, should no longer have any doings with sin. “If you are dead in Baptism, remain dead; for no dead man can sin any more” (St. Chrysostom). Of course we always retain liberty, and consequently the power of overturning the effects of Baptism and reverting to sin.

8. Now if we be dead with Christ, we believe that we shall live also together with Christ

In verse 5 the Apostle spoke of union with Christ’s death and Resurrection, and in verses 6 and 7 he insisted on union with the Saviour’s death. Now he passes on to consider our union with the risen, living Christ (Cornely, Lagrange, etc.).

If we be mystically dead with Christ we believe, i.e., we firmly trust (Cornely) that we shall also live with Him by a life of grace in this world and of glory hereafter. There is question here of the new life of Christians through grace, and not of our future resurrection, except in so far as this latter is the natural sequel to our present spiritual life with Christ. Verse 11 shows that St. Paul has always in view present moral renovation, rather than future glory (Lagrange).

9. Knowing that Christ rising again from the dead, dieth now no more, death shall no more have dominion over him.

Christ having risen from the dead, having conquered death, shall live forever, and hence we, now through grace living in union with our risen, immortal Saviour, have part in His eternal and immortal life. The life of grace is a participation in Christ’s life, because grace is a participation of the divine nature of Christ.

Shall no more have dominion, etc. Better, “Hath no more dominion,” etc.

10. For in that he died to sin, he died once ; but in that he liveth, he liveth unto God:

Christ died to sin, i.e., He died for our sins, to redeem us all from the slavery of sin (Gal 3:13; 2 Cor 5:21; 1 Peter 2:24); He died to a world in which sin was dominant. And since Christ’s death was of infinite expiatory value He needed to die only once to pay the debt of our sins (Heb 7:27; Heb 9:12, Heb 9:26, Heb 9:28; Heb 10:10). Death, therefore, has no longer any dominion over Him; it has freed Him from the obligation which He had contracted in our behalf. Henceforth He liveth unto God, i.e., in God and for God.

In the Vulgate the comma should be after mortuus est, and not after peccato. Corresponding punctuation should be observed in the English.

11. So do you also reckon, that you are dead to sin, but alive unto God, in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Applying the foregoing to Christians St. Paul reminds them that through Baptism they have died to sin and risen again to the life of grace; and through this mystic death and resurrection they have become participants in Christ’s death and Resurrection, and ought henceforth to live only for God “in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Our Lord (Vulg., Domino nostro) is not in the Greek. The Christian is a new creature in Christ, and Christ liveth in him (2 Cor 5:17; Gal 2:20).

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One Response to Father Callan’s Commentary on Romans 6:3-11

  1. Pingback: Commentaries for the Thirteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A | stjoeofoblog

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