Free From Sin (Part 5)
Romans 6:20-22
"Without exception, every person who trusts in Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord is freed from sin and enslaved to God." ~ John MacArthur
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Published November 17th, 2018; Updated November 17th, 2018
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The Argument - Explaining the Two Slaveries - Their Promise (6:20-22)
Romans 6:20-22
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What did the text mean to the biblical audience?
What's the difference between us and the biblical audience?
What's the theological principle(s)?
How does the theological principle(s) fit with the rest of Scripture?
How should individual Christians today live out the theological principle(s)?
Free From Sin (6:15-23)
What is revealed about God in this passage?
Questions for Clarification
Quotes
notes
The Argument - Explaining the Two Slaveries - Their Promise (6:20-22)
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Romans 6:20-22 NASB
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Romans 6:20-22
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20 For a when you were slaves of sin, you were free in regard to righteousness. 21 Therefore what 1 a benefit were you then 2 deriving 3 from the things of which you are now ashamed? For the outcome of those things is b death. 22 But now having been a freed from sin and b enslaved to God, you 1 derive your 2 c benefit, 3 resulting in sanctification, and d the outcome, eternal life.
What did the text mean to the biblical audience?
Paul explains two facts to his Roman audience in making his point : 1. that they did not receive any benefit from being slaves of sin and free from righteousness. Instead, the only possible outcome of that slavery is physical and spiritual death and eternity in hell; and 2. that they do receive a benefit from being slaves of righteousness - sanctification and eternal life. In doing so, Paul is showing them why they should present themselves as slaves to God, and why they should be concerned about the sanctification that results from it (see 6:19) - because unlike before, they now have a real benefit - the promise of the present benefit of sanctification, and the promise of the present and eventual benefit of eternal life.
What's the difference between us and the biblical audience?
In terms of this passage, there is no significant difference, except with regard to the issue of slavery, as previously noted.
What's the theological principle(s)?
1. All people who are slaves to sin derive no benefit from that type of slavery. It only leads to physical and spiritual death, and eternity in hell. 2. All people who are slaves to righteousness do receive a benefit from that type of slavery - righteousness, which leads to eternal life. 3. Slaves of righteousness should know the reason why they should present themselves as slaves of righteousness, thereby letting their actions conform to the reality of their position - because of the benefit of being in that type of slavery, contrasted by the benefit they will receive as a result of slavery to sin.
How does the theological principle(s) fit with the rest of Scripture?
1. As Paul will go on to say in the next verse, the wages (that which is earned) of sin is death, as opposed to the free gift (NOT the wage - NOT earned) of God is eternal life ( Rom 6:23). 2. Peter also refers to them "obtaining as the outcome of your faith the salvation of your souls" ( 1 Peter 1:9). 3. Paul goes over God's wrath and abandonment (the "benefit") on people who are willing slaves of sin ( Rom 1:18-32). 4. Scripture refers to the crown that believers will receive as their reward (1 Cor 9:25; 1 Thess 2:19; 2 Tim 4:8 ; James 1:12 ; 1 Peter 5:4).
How should individual Christians today live out the theological principle(s)?
1. We should keep in mind, as one of the motivations for our obedience, the benefit which we now have, having been freed from sin and enslaved to God - the sanctification which God is working in us, and which eventually leads to glorification. This motivation should drive us to let our conduct correspond to our position. 2. We should keep in mind that our previous slavery to sin had no benefit at all, and would only have resulted in death and eternal torment. This should also drive us to willing obedience.
Free From Sin (6:15-23)
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Romans 6:15-23
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What then? a Shall we sin because we are not under law but under grace?
The Antagonist (6:15a)
Τί οὖν; ⸀ ἁμαρτήσωμεν ὅτι οὐκ ἐσμὲν ὑπὸ νόμον ἀλλὰ ὑπὸ χάριν; μὴ γένοιτο·
b May it never be!
The Answer (6:15b)
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Do you not a know that when you present yourselves to someone as b slaves for obedience, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of c sin 1 resulting in death, or of obedience 2 resulting in righteousness?
The Axiom (6:16)
οὐκ οἴδατε ὅτι ᾧ παριστάνετε ἑαυτοὺς δούλους εἰς ὑπακοήν, δοῦλοί ἐστε ᾧ ὑπακούετε, ἤτοι ἁμαρτίας εἰς θάνατον ἢ ὑπακοῆς εἰς δικαιοσύνην;
But a thanks be to God that 1 though you were slaves of sin, you became obedient from the heart to that b form of teaching to which you were committed, and having been a freed from sin, you became slaves of righteousness.
The Argument - Explaining the Two Slaveries (6:17-22)
But o thanks be to God, that you who were once slaves of sin have become obedient from the heart to the p standard of teaching to which you were committed, and, q having been set free from sin, r have become slaves of righteousness.
χάρις δὲ τῷ θεῷ ὅτι ἦτε δοῦλοι τῆς ἁμαρτίας ὑπηκούσατε δὲ ἐκ καρδίας εἰς ὃν παρεδόθητε τύπον διδαχῆς, ἐλευθερωθέντες δὲ ἀπὸ τῆς ἁμαρτίας ἐδουλώθητε τῇ δικαιοσύνῃ·
a I am speaking in human terms because of the weakness of your flesh. For just b as you presented your members as slaves to impurity and to lawlessness, 1 resulting in further lawlessness, so now present your members as slaves to righteousness, 2 resulting in sanctification.
s I am speaking in human terms, because of your natural limitations. For t just as you once presented your members as slaves to impurity and to lawlessness leading to more lawlessness, so now present your members u as slaves to righteousness leading to sanctification.
ἀνθρώπινον λέγω διὰ τὴν ἀσθένειαν τῆς σαρκὸς ὑμῶν· ὥσπερ γὰρ παρεστήσατε τὰ μέλη ὑμῶν δοῦλα τῇ ἀκαθαρσίᾳ καὶ τῇ ἀνομίᾳ εἰς τὴν ἀνομίαν, οὕτως νῦν παραστήσατε τὰ μέλη ὑμῶν δοῦλα τῇ δικαιοσύνῃ εἰς ἁγιασμόν.
For a when you were slaves of sin,
v For when you were slaves of sin, you were free in regard to righteousness.
Ὅτε γὰρ δοῦλοι ἦτε τῆς ἁμαρτίας, ἐλεύθεροι ἦτε τῇ δικαιοσύνῃ.
you were free in regard to righteousness.
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Therefore what 1 a benefit were you then 2 deriving 3 from the things of which you are now ashamed?
w But what fruit were you getting at that time from the things x of which you are now ashamed? y For the end of those things is death.
τίνα οὖν καρπὸν εἴχετε τότε ἐφ’ οἷς νῦν ἐπαισχύνεσθε; τὸ γὰρ τέλος ἐκείνων θάνατος·
For the outcome of those things is b death.
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But now having been a freed from sin
But now that you z have been set free from sin and a have become slaves of God, b the fruit you get leads to sanctification and c its end, eternal life.
νυνὶ δέ, ἐλευθερωθέντες ἀπὸ τῆς ἁμαρτίας δουλωθέντες δὲ τῷ θεῷ, ἔχετε τὸν καρπὸν ὑμῶν εἰς ἁγιασμόν, τὸ δὲ τέλος ζωὴν αἰώνιον.
and b enslaved to God,
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you 1 derive your 2 c benefit,
3 resulting in sanctification,
and d the outcome, eternal life.
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For the wages of a sin is death, but the free gift of God is b eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.
The Absolute (6:23)
d For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.
τὰ γὰρ ὀψώνια τῆς ἁμαρτίας θάνατος, τὸ δὲ χάρισμα τοῦ θεοῦ ζωὴ αἰώνιος ἐν Χριστῷ Ἰησοῦ τῷ κυρίῳ ἡμῶν.
Their Position Paul thanks God, because they (his Roman audience) have become slaves of righteousness, obedient from the heart.
Their Practice Following Paul's argument about their position - even though they were slaves of sin, they have become obedient from the heart and slaves of righteousness (6:17-18) - he now urges his Roman audience to let their practice correspond to their position, by presenting themselves to God as slaves to righteousness, which results in sanctification.
discourse
What is revealed about God in this passage?
God's grace is revealed in how He, by His grace alone, takes the initiative to free us from our slavery to sin, to give us new hearts and His Spirit in us, so that we would become obedient from the heart, and willing slaves to Him, to righteousness and to obedience. We receive, by His grace and love alone, justification, then sanctification, and finally, glorification.
Questions for Clarification
Q. What is meant by "the things" (6:21a)? A. This refers to everything they did before salvation. It includes not only blatantly evil and unrighteous acts, but also everything they did right, or "good." Apart from Christ, our most righteous deeds are like filthy rags (Isa 64:6). Q. What is meant by them being free in regard to righteousness when they were slaves of sin (6:20b)? A. "Unsaved persons, who are slaves of sin, are free in regard to righteousness. That is, they have no connection to righteousness; it can make no demands on them, since they possess neither the desire nor the ability to meet its requirements. They are controlled and ruled by sin, the master whom they are bound to serve. In that sense, they have no responsibility to righteousness, because they are powerless to meet its standards and demands. That is why it is foolish to preach reformation to sinners. They cannot reform their living until God transforms their lives." ~ MacArthur's New Testament Commentary on Romans While people are unsaved, God is NOT at work in them both to will and to work (Phi 2:13). The "willing" in them then comes from a selfish desire to fulfil their own fleshly lusts. The "working" in them is then the expression of those desires. Even when their "working" seems good, it is nothing more than "filthy garments" (Isa 64:6), and the motivation to do them is probably some desire to be recognised, to be praised by others, to ease their own sense of guilt before God, etc. When the motivation behind our good deeds isn't to bring glory to God, to love Him and seek Him with all our hearts, those good deeds, even the best of them, mean little more than our vilest of deeds. Q. Why are they now ashamed of these things (6:21a)? A. "In God's sight, there is absolutely no benefit that men can derive from the things they do apart from salvation, things of which after salvation they become ashamed. The only possible outcome of those things is death, the second death, which is spiritual death and eternal torment in hell." ~ MacArthur's New Testament Commentary on Romans Their eyes having been opened by God to see, they now recognise the futility of all their deeds, good or bad, prior to salvation. They recognise the filthiness of their evil deeds. They recognise the filthiness even of their good deeds. And they recognise the inability of their good deeds to do anything about their spiritual problem - having been dead in their sins and trespasses, enslaved to sin, enemies of God, children of the devil, seeking to do the desires of their father. There is no boasting in themselves, there is only shame. Like Paul, they now can only say, "may it never be that I would boast, except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ" (Gal 6:14). Q, What is the answer to the rhetorical question asked in 6:21a? A. Paul's implied answer seems to be "nothing good at all." He continues to give the reason for his implied answer, saying that the outcome of the "benefits" of being a slave to sin, is nothing but death. Not just physical death, but spiritual death and eternity in hell. Q. Why is the outcome of those things death (6:21b)? A. Since we cannot serve two masters at the same time, we are either slaves of sin, or slaves of righteousness. We are either in Christ, or apart from Christ. And as Paul goes on to say, the wages of sin is death (6:23). In Christ, we are judged according to Christ's righteous life, and found innocent and free because of His substitutionary death. Apart from Christ, we are judged according to our own sinful existence apart from Him, and because we are slaves of sin if we aren't in Christ, we can do nothing but sin, and consequently are found guilty. Eternity awaits us there, where Christ "treads the wine press of the fierce wrath of God, the Almighty" (Rev 19:15), and it's not referring to a glass of Merlot. Q. What is meant by believers being "freed from sin?" A. "Freed from sin does not mean that a believer is no longer capable of sinning, but that he is no longer enslaved to sin, no longer its helpless subject. The freedom from sin about which Paul is speaking here is not a long-range objective or an ultimate ideal, but an already accomplished fact. Without exception, every person who trusts in Jesus Christ as Saviour and Lord is freed from sin and enslaved to God. Obviously some believers are more faithful and obedient than others, but Christians are equally freed from bondage to sin, and equally enslaved to God, equally granted sanctification and equally granted eternal life." ~ MacArthur's New Testament Commentary on Romans Q. In what way, or from what, do they now derive their benefit? What is the benefit that they derive (6:22c)? A. Their benefit is sanctification, and the outcome of that, eternal life. We do not receive eternal life because of our ability to live obediently, but sanctification, as a work of God and the responsibility of a Christian, is a necessary part of salvation. Salvation contains three essential elements : 1. Justification, which is the gift of God by which our sins are forgiven. 2. Sanctification, which is the gift of the process of us becoming more conformed unto the image of Christ. This is also a work of God, for it is God who is at work in us both to will and to work (Phi 2:13), but it involves an element of human responsibility. 3. Glorification, which is the gift by which we enter into the everlasting joy of heaven. Q. What is meant by the outcome being eternal life (6:22e)? Does this mean that obedience earns eternal life? A. Obedience can never earn eternal life. We are able to obey purely by God's grace and strength. Therefore, when we obey, He gets the glory. If and when we disobey, it is as a result of not submitting to His will, unbelief in His truth, rebellion against His commandments, the desires of the flesh, the desires of the eyes, and the boastful pride of life, etc. The blame then lies fully on us. If we have ever committed even a single sin, even only in our minds ("I say to you that whoever looks at a woman with lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart"), we have "become guilty of all" (James 2:10). And that describes us all, because "if we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar and His word is not in us" (1 John 1:10). Q. What does the "For" conjunction connect to (6:20a) A. In the previous passage (6:19), Paul exhorted his audience to let their practice correspond to their position, by presenting themselves to God as slaves to righteousness, which results in sanctification. Here, he is telling them why they should be concerned about the result of that sanctification - because it is part of salvation and leads to eternal life. Stated another way, without sanctification, the outcome can never be eternal life.
Quotes
"As soon as the godly begin to be enlightened by the Spirit of Christ and the preaching of the gospel, they freely acknowledge that the whole of their past life, which they lived without Christ, is worthy of condemnation. So far from trying to excuse it, they are in fact ashamed of themselves. Indeed, they go farther, and continually bear their disgrace in mind, so that the shame of it may make them more and truly and willingly humble before God." ~ The Epistles of Paul the Apostle to the Romans and to the Thessalonians, John Calvin "Freed from sin does not mean that a believer is no longer capable of sinning, but that he is no longer enslaved to sin, no longer its helpless subject. The freedom from sin about which Paul is speaking here is not a long-range objective or an ultimate ideal, but an already accomplished fact. Without exception, every person who trusts in Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord is freed from sin and enslaved to God. Obviously some believers are more faithful and obedient than others, but Christians are equally freed from bondage to sin, and equally enslaved to God, equally granted sanctification and equally granted eternal life." ~ MacArthur's New Testament Commentary on Romans
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