John Calvin's Commentary on the Bible

14 (Romans 6:14)

Verse 14

14.For sin shall not rule over you, etc. It is not necessary to continue long in repeating and confuting expositions, which have little or no appearance of truth. There is one which has more probability in its favor than the rest, and it is this — that bylaw we are to understand the letter of the law, which cannot renovate the soul, and by grace, the grace of the Spirit, by which we are freed from depraved lusts. But this I do not wholly approve of; for if we take this meaning, what is the object of the question which immediately follows, “Shall we sin because we are not under the law?” Certainly the Apostle would never have put this question, had he not understood, that we are freed from the strictness of the law, so that God no more deals with us according to the high demands of justice. There is then no doubt but that he meant here to indicate some freedom from the very law of God. But laying aside controversy, I will briefly explain my view.

It seems to me, that there is here especially a consolation offered, by which the faithful are to be strengthened, lest they should faint in their efforts after holiness, through a consciousness of their own weakness. He had exhorted them to devote all their faculties to the service of righteousness; but as they carry about them the relics of the flesh, they cannot do otherwise than walk somewhat lamely. Hence, lest being broken down by a consciousness of their infirmity they should despond, he seasonably comes to their aid, by interposing a consolation, derived from this circumstance — that their works are not now tested by the strict rule of the law, but that God, remitting their impurity, does kindly and mercifully accept them. The yoke of the law cannot do otherwise than tear and bruise those who carry it. It hence follows, that the faithful must flee to Christ, and implore him to be the defender of their freedom: and as such he exhibits himself; for he underwent the bondage of the law, to which he was himself no debtor, for this end — that he might, as the Apostle says, redeem those who were under the law.

Hence,not to be under the law means, not only that we are not under the letter which prescribes what involves us in guilt, as we are not able to perform it, but also that we are no longer subject to the law, as requiring perfect righteousness, and pronouncing death on all who deviate from it in any part. In like manner, by the word grace, we are to understand both parts of redemption — the remission of sins, by which God imputes righteousness to us, — and the sanctification of the Spirit, by whom he forms us anew unto good works. The adversative particle, [ ἀλλὰ, but, ] I take in the sense of alleging a reason, which is not unfrequently the case; as though it was said — “We who are under grace, are not therefore under the law.”

The sense now is clear; for the Apostle intended to comfort us, lest we should be wearied in our minds, while striving to do what is right, because we still find in ourselves many imperfections. For how much soever we may be harassed by the stings of sin, it cannot yet overcome us, for we are enabled to conquer it by the Spirit of God; and then, being under grace, we are freed from the rigorous requirements of the law. We must further understand, that the Apostle assumes it as granted, that all who are without the grace of God, being bound under the yoke of the law, are under condemnation. And so we may on the other hand conclude, that as long as they are under the law, they are subject to the dominion of sin. (194)

- John Calvin's Commentary on the Bible