Works of St. John Chrysostom: Homilies on Romans
(Ver. 6:18) “Being then made free from sin, ye became the servants of righteousness.”
There are two gifts of God which he here points out. The “freeing from sin,” and also the “making them servants to righteousness,” which is better than any freedom. For God hath done the same as if a person were to take an orphan, who had been carried away by savages into their own country, and were not only to free him from captivity, but were to set a kind father ever him, and bring him to very great dignity. And this has been done in our case. For it was not our old evils alone that He freed us from, since He even led us to the life of angels, and paved the way for us to the best conversation, handing us over to the safe keeping of righteousness, and killing our former evils, and deadening the old man, and leading us to an immortal life.
Let us then continue living this life; for many of those who seem to breathe and to walk about are in a more wretched plight than the dead. For there are different kinds of deadness; and one there is of the body, according to which Abraham was dead, and still was not dead. For “God,” He says, “is not a God of the dead, but of the living.” (Matt. xxii. 32.) Another is of the soul, which Christ alludes to when He says, “Let the dead bury their dead.” (ib. viii. 22.) Another, which is even the subject of praise, which is brought about by religion, of which Paul saith, “Mortify your members which are upon the earth.” (Col. iii. 5.) Another, which is the cause even of this, the one which takes place in baptism. “For our old man,” he says, “has been crucified” (ver. 6), that is, has been deadened. Since then we know this, let us flee from the deadness by which, even though alive, we die. And let us not be afraid of that with which common death comes on. But the other two, whereof one is blissful, having been given by God, the other praiseworthy (cf. Ar. Eth. i. 12), which is accomplished by ourselves together with God, let us both choose and be emulous of. And of those two, one doth David pronounce blessed, when he says, “Blessed are they whose iniquities are forgiven” (Ps. xxxii. 1); and the other, Paul holds in admiration, saying, and writing to the Galatians, “They that be Christ’s have crucified the flesh.” (Gal. v. 24.) But of the other couple, one Christ declares to be easy to hold in contempt, when He says, “Fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul:” and the other fearful, for, “Fear” (He says) “Him that is able to destroy both body and soul in hell.” (Matt. x. 28.) And therefore let us flee from this and choose that deadness which is held blessed and admirable; that of the other two, we may escape the one and not fear the other: for it is not the least good to us to see the sun, and to eat and drink, unless the life of good words be with us. For what would be the advantage, pray, of a king dressed in a purple robe and possessed of arms, but without a single subject, and exposed to all that had a mind to attack and insult him? In like manner it will be no advantage to a Christian to have faith, and the gift of baptism, and yet be open to all the passions. In that way the disgrace will be greater, and the shame more. For as such an one having the diadem and purple is so far from gaining by this dress any honor to himself, that he even does disgrace to that by his own shame: so the believer also, who leadeth a corrupt life, is so far from becoming, as such, an object of respect, that he is only the more one of scorn. “For as many,” it says, “as sinned without law, shall also perish without law; and as many as have sinned in the law, shall be judged by the law.” (Rom. ii. 12).