Shane Lems over at Reformed Reader, a blog I follow, posted a quote from Matthew Henry’s commentary on Romans. It truly is a brilliant statement that we need to hear, therefore I thought I would pass it along. So, with many thanks to Shane, here it is. “God’s promises to us are more powerful and effectual for the mortifying of sin than our promises to God.”
Matthew Henry is commenting on Romans 6.14 which states, “For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace” (ESV). This verse is part of a larger argument from Paul on the basis and necessity of sanctification. Paul begins the chapter by asking the following rhetorical questions,
What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it? Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life (Romans 6.1-4, ESV).
Paul goes on to build his argument for the necessity of sanctification not based on what we can or will or might do but based on who we are in Christ. Too often our tendency is to think of the christian life as beginning in the Spirit with the gospel and then continuing in the power of our flesh. Now, to be sure, we play a part in our sanctification that we do not play in our justification, but sanctification is no less of grace and no less founded on the gospel than justification. Notice the differences and similarities in the definitions of justification and sanctification given to us in the Westminster Shorter Catechism
Q.33. What is justification?
A. Justification is an act of God’s free grace, wherein he pardoneth all our sins, and accepteth us as righteous in his sight, only for the righteousness of Christ imputed to us, and received by faith alone.
Q.35. What is sanctification?
A. Sanctification is the work of God’s free grace, whereby we are renewed in the whole man after the image of God, and are enabled more and more to die unto sin, and live unto righteousness.
The thing we forget about sanctification is that, like justification, it is of God’s free grace. Our sanctification is not based on what we do to be more holy. Our sanctification is based on what God has declared us to be in Christ. This is the point of what Paul is saying in Romans 6.14. “For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace.” In 6.14 Paul is giving the reason behind verses 12-13 where he writes,
Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, to make you obey its passions. Do not present your members to sin as instruments for unrighteousness, but present yourselves to God as those who have been brought form death to life, and your members to God as instruments of righteousness (Romans 6.12-13, ESV).
Verse 14 is both the why and the how that sit behind verses 12-13. Why should we not present ourselves to sin as its instruments? Because, if we are in Christ, we are not sin’s instrument! How is it possible for us to not present ourselves to sin as its instruments? Because, if we are in Christ, we are not sin’s instrument! Knowing this, Matthew Henry wrote, “”God’s promises to us are more powerful and effectual for the mortifying of sin than our promises to God.” He then states, “Sin may struggle in a believer, and may create him a great deal of trouble, but it shall not have dominion; it may vex him, but shall not rule over him.” If we want to fight sin, we must rest in God’s free grace, we must believe the gospel!
Paul continues his argument from this point with more rhetorical questions.
What then? Are we to sin because we are not under law but under grace? By no means! Do you not know that if you present yourselves to anyone as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin, which leads to death, or of obedience, which leads to righteousness? But thanks be to God, that you who were once slaves to sin have become obedient from the heart to the standard of teaching to which you were committed, and, having been set free from sin, have become slaves of righteousness” (Romans 6.15-18, ESV).
Oh that we as Christians, oh that I as a Christian, may live as we are, as people who have been set free from sin.