Saturday, January 5, 2008

Reading notes: Morison's book on Sanctification

Hello brothers and sisters!

I am not giving up the teaching ministry yet, and I'm sharing my reading notes on this wonderful book. It has a bit of a Protestant bias that one must ignore for a few pages, but its overall very instructive on the nature of our new birth in Christ. I was able to better understand the freedom that Jesus bought on the Cross for me and it gives me great encouragement and renewed strength in the spiritual battle.

The book is now in the public domain, and you can get it at the Internet Archive:

Title: St. Paul's teaching on sanctification : a practical exposition of Romans VI
Author: Morison, James
Year: 1886
Publisher: London : Hodder and Stoughton

(Verse 1)
p.2 Sanctification is part of the big picture of Christian salvation.
p.3 Context is the following of the discussion that says that God's grace is over-abounding compared to sin.
(Verse 2)
We died to sin, and are united to Christ Jesus in His death. We have been absorbed, to a degree, in His being. By death, we are free from penal claims of sin.
p.5 Our understanding of the liberation from sin results in us choosing to to sin anymore
(Verse 3)
p.6 Rephrasing of the previous idea in other words.
(Reader's note: False doctrine of inward baptism)
(Verse 4)
p.11 Imaged, use of transition death -> burial, preparing us to the idea of Christ's resurection.
p.13 The point of all this is that we walk in newness of life.
p.14 Defines glorification as life of infinite bliss after resurrection.
The newness of life is not of ethical nature, but a matter of a new heritage.
The resurrection of Christ was an act of glory of the Father, with participation of the Son.
(Verse 5)
p.16 Complicated Greek. The idea is that we have grown together with Christ, meaning intimately united. We are united in His death as well as His resurrection. This crowns the development of the last verses.
p.18 However, this is not just an association or union. We are united in the likeness of His death.
Likeness is not the same as identification, which means that our death is similar, but is not the exact same.
p.19 Union in Christ's resurrection is a logical consequence of our union in His death.
(Verse 6)
p.20- talks about the old man as the old self, antithesis to the new self expressed at other places in Scripture. The old self is crucified with Christ. Faith comes first, and union with Christ second.
Immunity and inheritance comes after this union. The objective of this union is not for Christians to indulge themselves, but to disable the tyranny of the body of sin.
The author describes Paul's view that sin is tyrant ruling fully a body. But this body is not our litteral physical body, but an illustrative tool. The old man is not precisely the body of sin.
The verse promises a grand divine reality.
The author presents his thesis:
"The aim is this, that by the might of matchless generosity and loving-kindness on the part of God, the delusive and seductive power of sin may, on the part of men, be broken in their hearts. Men's 'sanctification' is God's aim ; and His principal ethical leverage within the heart is the noble principle of gratitude for grace received."
(Reader's note: This is at first glance a reductive view of sanctification, where God's grace convicts us towards a greater godliness. This is certainly true, but is it the full picture?)
The power of sin is crucified, and its authority is gone, yet still is still there. But that was the objective, to disable sin so that we can have freedom.
(Verse 7)
p.26 Reaffirms the previous verse.
p.27 Context is critical here. By he who died, it means the believer who died in Christ through baptism. Liberation is subsumed in the idea of justification from sin. Same is expressed in Acts 13:39. (Reader's note: the idea is not so clearly expressed in Acts)
p.28 The terminology is legal. The Greek speaks clearly that the freedom is a freedom of justification, not the freedom of sanctification. Here, justification leading to sanctification.
(Verse 8)
p.28 Transition to another point of view.
p.29 Death in Christ happens at moment of conversion.
p.30 Is on Christ life after resurrection. The future tense indicates that this life continues forever and thus forces us to look onwards. Weak reference to Rom 8:24, 1 Pet 1:4.
p.31,32 Forgiveness of sins only one half of the blessing. The greatness of heaven is the other.
(Verse 9)
P.33 continues the previous point.
(Verse 10)
p. 34 Splits the idea in two. The death he died was towards sin. The life he lives is towards God.
p.36 The freedom obtained is obtained for perpetuity. This idea is echoed in Hebrew 9:12. The death was momentary, but the life is of continuity.
p. 37 Builds on previous ideas. Freedom from sin and judicial exactions on account of sin. Life is liven to God. This life is about the fruition of rewards of righteousness
p. 38 This life is described. Ps 16:11 talks about the fullness of joy. Phil 2:6,8 talks about his glorification following His humilitation.
(Verse 11)
p.39 There is a parallelism of thought introduced here. This is a parallel between the life of Christ and the one of those who are united in Him. Paul wants believers to realize the privileged nature of our position in Christ.
p.40 In which way we are dead to Sin in Christ Jesus? Not in respect of character or ethical demeanor, but in freedom from the wages of Sin. This state helps build the proper character, but is not the fruit. The essential part of the Gospel is Jesus' death for our sins and rose again.
p.41 In which way are we alive to God? Not an antithesis with the preceding, as both relationships are complementing each other. They are full of morally motivating potential that can be steered to a godlier life.
(note: this ties in to grace very very much)
By life, we can understand Christ's life before death, full of ethical glory, or His life after death, of great exhalation and honour. It is the latter that fits here.
p.43 God is life and has plenty of life to give. See John 26?. This is the everlasting life that Jesus talked about in John 3:16. This verse tells us to really look at this spiritual reality instead of just storing it behind the back of our minds, since it is full of power enabling godliness.
(verse 12)
p. 44 The 'then' bring things back to previous discussions, and is the introduction to sanctification. Sin is personified. It cannot reign in us without us choosing to give him the throne.
p.45 The power of Sin is limited to the mortal body. It is mortal. We are reminded that it will pass away and that there is thus no point in doing so. 2 Co 7:1 also talks about the body, but both body and spirit. 1 Co 6:20 also states that we are to glorify God in our spirit and body, both belonging to Him. The deepest transformations of ethical nature are those that happen in relation to our body, which is also synergic with Ro 12:1-2. We are to prevent sin to reign in the body, so that it may have no hold in the spirit.
*** p.47 The lusts referred to are lusts of the body, which can penetrate the mind. They are not sinful in essence, but are natural desires. "Sin begins when they are no longer controlled, restrained, denied." Those lusts turned sinful must be reined using reason and conscience.
(Verse 13)
Continues on the previous idea. It presents sin as reigning, and engaged in a war. Our body can serve as weapons for either God or sin.
*** p. 50 The Greek is elaborated for the second half. We must present ourselves at once to God. We have to show ourselves for services dressed in our true colours, as paretakers of the life in Christ.
p.51 We must realize that, as redeemed souls, we are alive in a sea of dead people.
"To His all-seeing eye, as well as to their own self-conscious faith, they were alive from among the vast masses of the dead. In their every-day experience they had earnests of the grandeur of their destiny. It well became them, therefore, to be lifted up into a lofty mood of gratitude, and thus to consecrate ungrudgingly their most devoted and loyal service to their infinite benefactor."
In other words, our gratitude for our new life brings us to consecrate ourselves to a full service to God.
p. 51-52 dismisses an alternative reading. This reading suggests that we are not really in a new life. The union would be there in terms of privilege and promise, but it would not be a litteral new life, but was in ideal new life. This is to be dimissed because many authorities are on the side of the traditional reading, and that the likelihood of transcription is not favorable to it. Further, it is more Paulinian.
p. 53 return to the spiritual warfare
(*** Soldier of God is an inherent element of our new selves in Christ Jesus)
(Verse 14)
p. 54 Sin must not be able to lord over you does not mean that you stop sinning altogether (although this is an ideal supported elsewhere)
p.55 It concludes the previous point. We are enticed in the service of God by two points a) immunity to the deadly consequence of sin, b) glorification to come (?)
The reason why sin cannot lord over us is that we are not under law, but under grace. Although all men are, to a degree, under both law and grace (see Tit 2:11, grace is brought to all men, but they have to take it).
p.56 Christians have some privilege under this law+grace pair. We are not under law as we do not die if we disobey, and we have forgiveness of our sins.
Our sanctification would be great if we understood this, understanding that sin is effectively disabled by this.
p. 57-58 Attacks the interpretation that this refers to a dispensation of law that is superseded by a dispensation of grace. This does not fit the context, as Paul is focusing on the immediately practical, and we see that sin lords over unbelievers in all ages.
(Verse 15)
p. 60 Should we go multiplying our sins? No, we are under the authority of grace. All things are ours: forgiveness, eternal life, all of this world we will inherit one day. Of course we shouldn't!
(Verse 16)
p. 62 This verse has no rhetorical finesse and no linguistic fanciness. But great ideas.
"Do you not know" addresses the audience directly. It is about to introduce an obvious and unchallengeable idea.
"The drift of what he emphasises is this, - When any ethical course of conduct is deliberately
chosen and pursued, then the naturally retributive consequences necessarily stereotype themselves in
the experience of the individual. If the course chosen be righteous, then the consequences within
the sphere of consciousness are pleasant and tend to bliss."
The analogy is used to bring the idea,and then used in the rest of the verse to drive the point home. All men are servants and under authority. The choice of man is which ethical precepts he will follow. They are masters in the sense that they give a clear consequence for following them (there is thus no contradiction with the earlier point that Sin has no power over us: here it is us who follow sin and get punished by it). So, we must present ourselves before a master in view of habitual obedience. The reciprocal is not guaranteed, and our treatment will depend on our master, not on our obedience to it.
p. 65 * obedience to goodnes and will of God -> righteousness. Sin = disobedience.
The verse has an antithesis: sin to death, obey to righteouness. The antithesis is indirect and double:
sin -> death, obey -> life eternal + sanctification
(Verse 17)
p. 67 Servants of Sin is a thing of the past. God emancipates us from this bondage and we are to be thankful for that.
p. 68 That is the reason to be glad: revolution in the mode of life and ethical aims.
The teaching received was the Gospel, and it was impressed on the recipient's mind. This impression expresses itself in the believers by conversion and holiness.
p. 70 This teaching was not full-fledged apostolic teaching. It is by giving ourselves most heartily to the Gospel (and you don't need to have a perfect understanding) we are no longer in service to sin. There is another view derived from metallurgy: Christians are poured in the mould at baptism. This would be unlikely, since the idea of freedom is embedded in ethical obedience, but is lost in a mould. This means that no disobedience is possible if we are cast in a metal mould.
*(Verse 18)
p.72 Happy result to obey the message: freedom from sin. The service to righteousness is an ethical necessity from this.
(Verse 19)
p.74 He concedes that this discourse is not of the highest order of thought. Humans are limited to human thoughts, hardly able to go beyond that sphere. But God is a revealer, and thus allows flashes to come accross. In paul's experience, he received these via the Holy Spirit (1 co 2:10,12 2 co 2:6). But many were not having a developped mind to understand (1 Co 3:1-2).
His images of sin as a master and a tyrant are quite improper without considering free choice and responsibility, but that is how he portrayed it to the Romans.
p. 76 The infirmity of the flesh is an infirmity emanating from the flesh. And the infirmity is not of any specific flesh.
p.77 what kind of service? The minimum measure of devotedness: present your members as servants to righteousness unto holiness. Parenthesis on the degress of wickeness that are all, in fact, impurity.
The Apostle has made here a strong contrast, before the dark past life that yield iniquity into the glorious light-filled life, with a focus on a grand ethical imperative.
(Verse 20)
p.81 The "for" it starts with is a link with the previous verse.
'It is as if he had said, "I do well to urge upon you the service of righteousness unto holiness, for assuredly the very fact that formerly ye did nothing of the kind is a reason why you should improve your present opportunity."'
It refers here to evil freedom.
An example is given: In society, we must give away some of our freedoms in order to fit into this society. We could enjoy a freedom by parting with society, or ignoring its rules, but that wouldn't be a blessed freedom.
p. 83 the summary of the argument: not all freedom is good. Only freedom consistent with the social, moral and spiritual principles is.
The verse says: when you were sinners, you were unengaged in reference to righteousness. This freedom for righteousness comes at a price though: slavery to sin.
p. 84 In our case, it is the other way around... we are servants of rightousness, and free from sin.
The word "free" here denotes disengagement, not freedom. This is jargon related to servants.
The Roman's problem was disengagement towards righteousness.
(Verse 21)
p. 85 The 'then' connects with the preceding text. The term fruit here represents what is positively delicious (so many bad results would still be unfruitful).
p. 86 There are two views to translate the text: Question + answer, or a long question. The author sides with the second, which could be read "What good fruits came out of what you are now ashamed of?" Implicitly, it almost says "you had no sweet fruit of happiness at all".
The end of those things is death, but death here means more than just the end of natural life.
p.87 this death is the destruction of well-being, the natural consequence of shameful and shameless doings.
(Verse 22)
Another contrast: when you believe in Christ, you are a new creature. You are no longer slave to Sin, but a willing servant of God. This service is free of constraint and compulsion. The outcome: fruit, in its richest form: fruit issuing into holiness.
(Verse 23)
p. 88 Starts with a "For", as this sentence confirms the preceding affirmation. The future is a pure consequence of the present. The imagery of the master is persisted here too, as masters give wages to their servants. In the case of sin, the wage is the destruction of the soul. However, God is contrasted as that it is not wages He offers, but the grace of everlasting life. This reward was procured by Jesus' death and resurrection. He is enjoying it right now, and we have the same reward the moment we are united in Christ.
'Let any man be so closely united to Christ, that "to him to live is Christ" day after day of his probationary existence, and then there is no evil influence in all the Universe that can separate him from the love of God.'
Appendix 1: The law is dead?
p. 91 Discussion on what "The Law" means...
a) Whole OT
b) Pentateuch
c) Pentateuch + Psalms + Prophets
d) All of duties of Jewish man, in a general sense
e) Authoritative revelation of the will of God
p. 92 Paul shifts the perspective frequently. We must keep this in mind, otherwise, we will have a problem understanding him.
Romans 6:14 and 7:1,6 refers to the moral law (often summarized in the 10 commandments or the two most important commandments told by Jesus). Romans 7:7, 8:8-9 refers to this.
p. 93 the law has dominion over man, as it has the power to give man what he deserves. The law is not dead, as some suggested. The same law is alluded to in 1 Co 15:56. No law, no sin.
What does Ro 6:6 mean then? The KJV did not translate the Greek well, and it looks like the law is dead. But it is believers in Jesus who are.
p. 94 believers now occupy the same situation as Jesus by being in Jesus.
p. 95 History of the error:
The manuscript was not authoritative. Beza misunderstood Erasmus who refered to Chrysostom. He also assumed that Chrysostom's was the universally accepted reading of his age. Many scholars protested, but some further falsely claimed that Origen supported this reading too. Some inferred that not the law, but sin was dead, since the death of the law is foreign to Paul's theology.
Appendix 2: Some other references dealing with Romans 6

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