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

This post begins with Fr. MacEvilly’s brief analysis of all of chapter 6, followed by his notes on verses 3-11. Text in purple indicates his paraphrasing of the verses he is commenting on.

ANALYSIS OF ROMANS 6

In this chapter, the Apostle answers an objection to which his doctrine in the preceding (verse 20), might give rise (1). From the very rite of baptism, he shows that we should no longer commit sin; on the contrary, we should lead a new life of grace; for the rite of immersion practised in his time in baptism, was a type of our death to sin, and the egress from the waters of baptism was a type of our spiritual resurrection, both of which were effected, as well as signified, by the sacrament of baptism; and both had the death and resurrection of Christ for models (2–9). He next shows, from the very nature of Christ’s death, which took place but once, and of his resurrection, which was the entrance to an immortal life, that we, too, after his example, should persevere in a life of grace (9–11). He exhorts to a life of sanctity (11–20). He points out the present and future fruits of a life of sin and of a life of grace.

Rom 6:3  Know you not that all we who are baptized in Christ Jesus are baptized in his death?

For that we are dead to sin, you may clearly see, by calling to mind what you already know, viz., that when we are baptized in the name and by the authority of Jesus Christ, we are baptized into the likeness and representation of his death.

He now proves that they are dead to sin, since by being “baptized in Christ Jesus,” in the Greek, εἰς Χριστὸν Ἰησοῦν, into Christ Jesus, i.e., by professing ourselves followers of Christ in the rite of baptism. In the Codex Vaticanus, the word “Jesus” is wanting, it simply is, “baptized unto Christ.” “Are baptized in his death”; in the Greek, εἰς τὸν θάνατον, into his death, i.e., into the likeness and representation of his death. So that his death on the cross would be represented by our death to sin, of which the baptism by immersion—the form of baptism in use in the time of the Apostle—was a significant type; and this death to sin on our part is effected by baptism, since, according to the doctrine of St. Thomas, the sacraments operate what they signify.

Rom 6:4  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, in order vividly to represent his death, we have been buried with him in the baptismal rite of immersion. So that as Christ has been resuscitated from the grave by the glorious operation of his Father’s power, we also, emerging from the baptismal waters, would lead a new life, as he did after his resurrection, and continue perseveringly in it.

He shows how our spiritual death to sin is signified by baptism. For, our immersion in baptism is a type of our burial, and, consequently, of our death to sin, of which his death on the cross was the model. “For we are buried together with him by baptism,” his burial, and, consequently, his death, being the model of our burial and death to sin, signified by our immersion in the waters of baptism. In all the Greek copies we have, οὖν, therefore, instead of “for.” “Into death,” to represent his death, which must precede burial. “That as Christ is risen from the dead by the glory of the Father,” i.e., by the glorious operation of the Father’s power, to enter on a new and immortal life, we too, after emerging from the waters of baptism, which is a type of our spiritual resurrection, would, like Christ, risen from the grave—our resuscitated model—enter on a new and holy life. As the death of Christ is the model of our death to sin, so is his resurrection from the tomb the model of our spiritual resurrection, and both signified by the rite of baptism, then conferred by immersion.

Rom 6:5  For if we have been planted together in the likeness of his death, we shall be also in the likeness of his resurrection.

For, if, like young shoots, we have been engrafted on him by baptism, so as to represent, by our death to sin, his death on the cross, we shall certainly, for a like reason, be engrafted also unto the likeness of his resurrection, which will be effected by our leading a new life of grace, after the model of his glorious and immortal life.

He shows why we should walk in the newness of life, or become assimilated to Christ in his resurrection; for, our assimilation to him in our spiritual death, was not to rest there. Baptism not only represented and effected our spiritual death to sin—for this was but one spiritual effect signified and caused by baptism—but it also signified and effected our resurrection to a new life, in which we are to live after the model of Christ resuscitated from the grave. Our death to sin was the precursor of our new life of grace. Hence, if we die with Christ, with much greater reason shall we rise with him. “Planted together with him,” συμφυτοι γεγοναμεν; there is allusion in these words to the grafting of young shoots on the stock of another tree: Christ is the stock of the true and faithful vine on which we must be engrafted, to die with him to sin, and to live with him to grace, as the young graft participates in all the vicissitudes of the stock on which it is inserted. The nutriment we derive from our insertion on him, will not be merely confined to our dying to sin; it is intended to produce in us the fruits of a new and spiritual life.

Rom 6:6  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.

We should die to sin and live a new life of grace, if we consider that in baptism, our old man, i.e., the corruption of nature, which we inherited from Adam, is crucified with Christ, so that the whole mass, or body of sin consisting of different members, may be destroyed, and we may no longer serve as slaves under the tyranny of sin.

From the end of baptism he shows that we should be dead to sin, and walk in the newness of life (verse 4); for, while baptism represents the crucifixion of Christ, it also signifies and effects the crucifixion of our vices. “Our old man,” i.e., the sinfulness and corruption inherited from Adam, or rather man himself, as affected by this sinfulness. The Apostle distinguishes two men, the old and the new. The “old man was crucified” with Christ; for, in his person “who was made for us a malediction,” the entire fallen race of Adam was nailed to the cross. “That the body of sin,” i.e., the entire mass or collection of sins—the members of which collection are uncleanness, avarice, &c. (Colossians, 3). They are called a body, because as different members joined together constitute a body, so all the particular sins committed by the “old man” constitute a “body” also; in using the word body, the Apostle carries with him the idea of crucifixion, and alludes to the body of man after he fell in Adam, before he was renewed in Christ. This corrupt body was made by man the instrument of indulging his concupiscences. “May be destroyed,” by mortifying and restraining its members, “and may serve sin no longer.” “Sin” is represented as a tyrant exercising dominion over us.

Rom 6:7  For he that is dead is justified from sin.

For, as the dead slave is freed from servitude, so are we, who are dead to sin by baptism, freed from its tyranny; and hence, we should no longer serve it.

He continues to represent sin as a tyrant exercising sway—“is justified from sin?” “justified” is taken in a legal sense to signify acquitted, fully absolved, so as not to be again questioned on that account.

Rom 6:8  Now, if we be dead with Christ, we believe that we shall live also together with Christ.

But if we be really dead to sin with Christ, we have a firm hope and confidence, that one day we shall enjoy with Christ a glorious and immortal life.

“We believe,” i.e., we confidently hope, “we shall live together with Christ.” These words are understood by Estius to refer to our living a life of grace after the model of His glorious and immortal life. The interpretation in the Paraphrase, which makes it refer to our living with him one day a life of glory in heaven, is, however, to be preferred; for, the Apostle would appear to take occasion, from treating of the life of grace, to refer to the reward of future glory, as a means of stimulating men to the practice of virtue. The opinion of Estius, however, derives great probability from the meaning given to the words, alive unto God, verse 11, where the foregoing example is applied.

Rom 6:9  Knowing that Christ, rising again from the dead, dieth now no more. Death shall no more have dominion over him.

As we know that Christ, resuscitated from the tomb, dies no more, death has no further dominion over him he (enjoys a glorious and immortal life, free from all the ills of mortality).

These words show that Christ, now risen, shall live for ever; and hence, as we are to live with him, we are to enjoy an immortal life. The connexion is more easily seen in the interpretation of Estius: “We shall live also together with Christ,” (verse 8). But what life is that?—an unceasing, continuous life of grace; for such is its model—the life of Christ resuscitated from the tomb; or, perhaps, it might be more probably said, that this verse has no immediate connexion with the foregoing; but that in it is merely introduced a new reason for persevering in grace—founded on the mode of Christ’s death and resurrection. From the very nature, the oneness, of Christ’s resurrection, he shows our obligation to persevere in good, and not relapse again into the state of sin.

Rom 6:10  For in that he died to sin, he died once: but in that he liveth, he liveth unto God.

For, so far as his death is concerned, it took place but once for the expiation of sin, but as to his life, it is altogether employed for the glory of God.

“He died to sin, he died once,” i.e., he died one death to expiate and atone for sin. In the common Greek, the punctuation is so placed that the words “to sin” are joined to “once,” thus, “he died to sin once.” The punctuation in the Codex Vaticanusὅ γὰρ απεθανεν, τῆ αμαρτία, απεθανεν εφαπαξ,” leaves the matter doubtful. “But he liveth unto God,” i.e., solely for God’s glory; and hence, our life of grace should be devoted to the same; or, the words, “unto God,” may mean, he lived a life worthy of God, immortal and unchangeable.

Rom 6:11  So do you also reckon that you are dead to sin, but alive unto God, in Christ Jesus our Lord. 

So do you, therefore, after his example, regard yourselves as dead to sin by baptism, and gifted with an unchanging, unfading life of grace, to be wholly devoted to the promotion of God’s glory, through the grace and merits of Jesus Christ our Lord.

He applies the foregoing, and founds on it the exhortation to sanctity of life. Hence, we should regard ourselves after baptism as dead once and for ever to sin, and living, like Christ, solely for God, performing all the actions of our life solely for the end of advancing his glory.

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

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

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