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Romans 6:15-23

Wednesday Evening Home Bible Study
January 28, 2003

In the previous section (vv. 1-14), Paul has shown that we who are "in Christ" now share in His death, burial and resurrection. We were, at one time, unwittingly helpless slaves to sin. But we are now to live our lives in a radically new and different way - because we now walk on this earth as those who, in God's eyes, have died and have been raised up to newness of life. Sin can no longer hold dominion over us, because we have died to its authority. We are to "know" that this is our new condition (vv. 1-7), "reckon" it to be so (vv. 8-10), and "believe" it in such a way as to put it into practice (vv. 11-14).

And now, you would naturally think that Paul would tell us that we are no longer slaves. But instead, he shows that we must continue faithfully in a state of slavery - but as slaves to a better Master. We have, in Christ, been transferred from the position of serving sin to the position of serving righteousness. Having died in Christ to sin, and having now been raised with Him, we now serve a better Master (vv. 15-18), under a better service (v. 19), for a better benefit (vv. 20-23).

A. Paul anticipates the question his reader might ask: "Shall we sin because we are not under law but under grace?" (v. 15a).
1. Formerly, sin was able to hold power over us because of the law. God's law said "Do not . . ."; but sin gave the order, "Do . . ."; and thus sin brought condemnation upon me through God's good law.

2. But now, as Paul has said, sin shall not have dominion over us because we are no longer under the principle of law as a means of obtaining favor with God, but under the principle of grace (6:14; see also 3:19-31).

3. And thus, the question comes up; "If I'm no longer under law but under grace, then why can't I freely sin if I wish? Maybe I no longer live under as its slave, but doesn't that mean I'm set free to sin if I so choose?"

B. Paul answers this question with an emphatic "No!" (mã genoito); explaining that we cannot escape the condition of slavery, but are always the slave of the one we obey. As Bob Dylan sang, "You gotta serve somebody" (v. 15b-16).

1. We are not actually "set at liberty" from slavery in order to now be our own masters - choosing to sin freely if we wish. This is because of a simple principle: you are the slave of the one you present yourself to obey.

2. To serve the demands of one's own lusts, passions and sinful desires in disobedience to God's commands is the very essence of what it means to be the 'slave of sin'. After all, what practical difference is there between being a slave to sin, doing whatever it commands you to do; and no longer being a slave to sin, but still doing whatever it commands you to do? You are still enslaved to sin; because, in practice, you still obey it whenever it commands you. (See John 8:34).

C. Paul does not, therefore, tell us that we are no longer slaves; but rather tells us that we now serve a better Master (vv. 17-18).

1. Look at who gets the credit for this! Paul does not say to his readers, "Good job! You are to be congratulated for having made a wise choice in switching masters!" Rather, he says, "God be thanked . . ." It's by God's grace that we are set free to become the slaves of a better Master.

2. Look also at the new dynamic of our service. The message of the Gospel came to us - calling us to a new Master; and we obeyed "from the heart that form of doctrine" to which we had been "delivered" or "entrusted" (Col. 1:12-13).

3. Look further at "that form of doctrine" to which we have been delivered. It is the Good News of justification by faith that Paul has spent so much of his letter writing about. It is a doctrine of grace that teaches us to live a transformed life - one characterized by repentance from sin, and to progressive pursuit of godly, Christ-like living (Titus 2:11-14).

4. And finally, look at our new condition - not set free from sin to now sin freely, but set free from sin to now become the slaves of righteousness.


A. Paul knew that the word "slave" has a negative ring to it. "Slavery" implies that we are not our own but now belong to another. Paul wanted to stress that, in Christ, we are now totally obligated to the purpose and cause of Jesus Christ for us. We are now to be the slaves of righteousness.

B. Paul speaks of these spiritual realities in "human terms" (i.e., of willingly submitting ourselves to 'slavery') . . .

1. Because of the weakness of our flesh. One of the great struggles we face is the fact that we must live as those who have been raised to newness of life, but who still operate in a body habituated to sin. The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak (Matthew 26:41); and we must buffet our bodies and make it submit to its new condition of slavery (1 Corinthians 9:24-27).

2. In order to illustrate to us what we are to do in practice. Just as we formerly presented our body parts over as slaves to sin, we're now to present our body parts over as slaves to righteousness - our eyes, our mouths, our hands, our feet, etc. Every day we make countless decisions regarding what we will give ourselves over to do; and Paul here breaks those decisions down to who we will present our body parts over to for service.

3. To communicate the result of our choice. When we give ourselves to sin, it results in more sin. When we give ourselves to righteousness, it results in holiness. This describes the process of progressive sanctification - becoming more and more like Christ in the way we live through faithfully presenting ourselves to righteousness as its slave.


A. Imagine that you were a slave - except that you received a wage for your slavery. Then, imagine that the wage you received was heroin. It was a wage for your service that kept you enslaved. You'd have no choice but to work - just so that you could receive what you were hopelessly addicted to. Your wage really didn't benefit you at all. It in fact stole from you. It would be as if your reward for your hard labor was death. The work's lousy - and the benefits are worse!

B. That's how Paul describes our service as slaves to sin. We did what it commanded because we were "free" in regard to righteousness (v. 20). But we now look back with shame at our wages; because the end of those things was death (v. 21).

C. Do you notice that God is not then described as giving a wage? You are owed a wage from those you serve as an employee; but God freed you from one slavery in order to make you a slave for righteousness. And now, you receive not a wage but a gift (v. 23) - eternal life. And you now enjoy, as the fruit of our labors "holiness". What a better situation we are in through Christ!

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