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Romans 6:15-23 - Homilies By C.h. Irwin

The two services and their rewards.

In the closing part of the fifth chapter, and throughout this chapter, the apostle is contrasting the operation of two great principles. The one is the principle of sin; the other is the principle of righteousness. He compares them to two kings reigning in the world, controlling men's lives, and influencing men in certain directions and to certain actions. Sin reigns unto death. That has been its operation all through human history. But a new power has entered to dispute its influence. That power is the free grace of God, exhibited in Christ, God's Son. That power operates in righteousness. It provides a righteousness for men by the blood of Christ. It produces a righteousness in men. "Where sin abounded, grace did much more abound: that as sin hath reigned unto death, even so might grace reign through righteousness unto eternal life by Jesus Christ our Lord." And now in these immediate verses St. Paul is making an appeal to his readers. He has set before them the two great principles. He has contrasted them in their operation and their results. Now he makes the matter personal. He enforces his appeal by the question of the sixteenth verse, "Know ye not, that to whom ye yield yourselves servants to obey, his servants ye are to whom ye obey; whether of sic unto death, or of obedience unto righteousness?" And then he says, "As ye have yielded your members servants to uncleanness and to iniquity unto iniquity; even so now yield your members servants to righteousness unto holiness" ( Romans 6:19 ).


1. Some are servants of the love of money. Of money and how to make it they are always thinking; for the sake of it they will go through many risks and toils and hardships. Their first question about everything is, "Will it pay?" and all their money-grasping does not pay them in the end. They may have much goods laid up for many years; they may have good securities for their investments; but they have made no provision for their immortal souls; they have laid up no treasure that will be of use to them beyond the grave. That is a poor service for a being who must soon go into the presence of the eternal God .

2. Some are servants of the love of dress. Even in our Lord's time, he found it necessary to warn his hearers against thinking too much about their dress. Even Christian people, who profess to be the servants of Christ, are too frequently the servants of fashion. There is sometimes more attention given to the dress of our neighbours or of ourselves in the house of God than there is to the voice of our Creator and our Saviour, or than there is to the question whether we have the ornament of a meek and quiet spirit, or the spotless robe of Christ's righteousness. It is said that St. Bernard of Clairvaux, who rebuked princes, and fired all Europe with a new crusade, all the while living himself in utter poverty, used to ask himself every day the stern question, "Bernarde, ad quid venisti?"—" Bernard, wherefore art thou here? " So it would be well if we would ask ourselves more frequently what is the purpose of our lives.

3. Others, again, are the servants of ambition. To be higher than their fellow-men, to be fawned upon and flattered, to receive the homage of the poor and the favour of the rich, to be talked about in the gossip of society,—that is the object for which many persons live. Yet, when attained, it brings no lasting peace or contentment to the mind. The praise of men, moreover, is a very fickle and uncertain thing. The hero of today will be forgotten tomorrow. Earthly fame has ever been—

"Like a snow-flake on the river,

A moment seen, then lost for ever."

Such are some of the services to which men devote their thoughts, their time, their energies. How vain and profitless are they all! When the hour of death draws nigh, let any one who has spent his life in the service of any of these masters ask them to help him in the death-struggle, to give him hope for the future: will they be able to give him any assistance? They cannot even keep his poor mortal body from the dust; much less can they give life to the soul. They have already helped to produce death in the soul. They have dragged him downwards to the earth. And so it is that, when the soul must go from this world into the unseen, it is earthly still. There is no fitness for heaven in it at all. The pleasures and possessions of the world, innocent in themselves, become positively harmful to many. They become sinful to them, because they keep the soul away from God.

II. THE SERVICE OF SIN AND ITS RESULTS . Even what we call the more innocent service of the world results in death at last. The death of the body is accompanied by the death of the soul. Much more is this true of all kinds of positive sin. The apostle seeks to point out here the result of being the servant of sin. "His servants ye are to whom ye obey, wether of sin unto death, or of obedience unto righteousness" ( Romans 6:16 ); "The end of those things is death" ( Romans 6:21 ); The wages of sin is death ( Romans 6:23 ). Even in this life there is a clear connection between sin and death. The service of sin is a fatal service. Take, for instance, those who are the servants of the craving for intoxicating drink. A special committee of the British Medical Association brought in a report at the meeting of 1887 on the relation of alcohol to disease, which stated that, after careful and prolonged examination of the subject from a scientific point of view, they came to the conclusion that every man who indulged in alcohol beyond the most moderate amounts shortened his life by at least ten years. The President of the United States, General Harrison, has testified that of a class of sixteen young men who graduated with him, almost all had gone to early graves through intemperate habits. Even in this world the sin of intemperance leads to death. But it brings a more lasting and more terrible death than this. The besotted mind, the darkened intellect, is but a beginning of blackness of darkness in the future. "No drunkard shall enter into the kingdom of heaven." When drink becomes the master, how terrible are the results for time and for eternity! In like manner it is true of all other sinful services, that they lead to death. "He that soweth to the flesh, shall of the flesh reap corruption;" "The wages of sin is death."

III. THE SERVICE OF CHRIST . "Being then made free from sin, ye became the servants of righteousness" ( Romans 6:18 ); "But now, being made free from sin, and become servants to God, ye have your fruit unto holiness, and the end everlasting life" ( Romans 6:22 ). This is the only service that leads to everlasting life. It is the only service which is not slavery. It is the only service which men never regret entering into. It is the only service which can be called an unmixed good, the only service that brings perfect peace to heart and mind and conscience. It is an easy service, for it is a service of love. Instead of growing weaker by our efforts in the service of Christ, as we do by our efforts to serve sin, we grow stronger; for the true Christian is a better man, a stronger man spiritually, every day he lives. It is the only service that has a hope beyond the grave. It was because Christ saw us perishing in the service of sin, guilty, lost, and helpless, that he came to save us. He calls us now to believe on him, to follow him, and he promises to all who do so the gift of everlasting life. "The gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord."

"How long to Streams of false delight

Will ye in crowds repair?

How long your strength and substance waste

On trifles light as air?"

Over the triple doorways of the Cathedral of Milan there are three inscriptions spanning the beautiful arches. Over one is carved a beautiful wreath of roses, and underneath is the legend, "All that which pleases is but for a moment." Over the other is sculptured a cross, and there are the words, "All that which troubles us is but for a moment." But underneath the great central entrance to the main aisle is the inscription, "That only is important which is eternal." If we would only realize these three truths, we should not let the world or its pleasures keep us from Christ, we should not let trifles trouble us, we should not hesitate long about making our choice. " Choose ye this day whom ye will serve. " C.H.I.

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