Free From Sin (Part 2)
Romans 6:16
"The unsaved person is not free to do good or evil as he chooses. He is bound and enslaved to sin, and the only thing he can do is sin."
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Published November 1st, 2018; Updated November 5th, 2018
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Romans 6:16
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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)
MacArthur's New Testament Commentary on Romans
Questions for Clarification
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Romans 6:16 NASB
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Romans 6:16
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16 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?
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What did the text mean to the biblical audience?
Paul asks a seemingly sarcastic question to his readers, and the rhetoric nature of the question indicates that his readers would know the answer to it as obvious. He is in effect telling them that they are by definition slaves of the master who's will they carry out by choice, and that master can only be a) sin - loving and doing the will of their flesh, and by implication, Satan; or b) obedience - loving and doing the will of God. The result of willing slavery to sin is continued spiritual death on earth, and eventually physical death followed by eternal spiritual death. The result of willing slavery to obedience is righteousness, resulting in eternal life.
What's the difference between us and the biblical audience?
A few differences exist in terms of the concepts used. In South Africa today, we would not understand the implications of slavery as well as the biblical audience. We generally tend to think about slavery as only a negative thing, even though slavery in biblical times was often voluntary, and a good relationship between slave and master often existed. Slaves often had the opportunity to gain their freedom, but then chose to stay with their masters. The slave was well treated and cared for - fed, clothed, and given a place to live. This historical context is important to consider while reading passages like this one.
What's the theological principle(s)?
The theological principle is that 1) all people 2) present themselves willingly - thus making themselves slaves - 3) to one of two masters, sin or obedience. 4) Slavery to sin leads to physical and spiritual death, 5) while slavery to obedience leads to righteousness and eternal life.
How does the theological principle(s) fit with the rest of Scripture?
2 Pet 2:18-19 - Peter says that you are enslaved by whatever overcomes you. If you are constantly overcome by sin, this is what enslaves you. Matt 6:24 - Jesus teaches here that you cannot serve two masters at the same time. You might profess to serve God while living in habitual sin, but according to Jesus you are pretending to serve Him, and are serving Satan, at the same time. You hate Christ, and love Satan if you are doing this. He says in John 14:15 "If you love Me, you will keep My commandments."
How should individual Christians today live out the theological principle(s)?
1. As Matthew Henry said in his commentary, "If we would know to which of these two families we belong, we must inquire to which of these two masters we yield our obedience." 2. We should not claim that God's grace gives us license to sin. The purpose of God's grace is to free us from sin, and at the same time it enslaves us to righteousness (Rom 6:17-22). 3. If our lives do not reflect the transformation Paul describes here, we should rightfully question our profession of saving faith, testing ourselves to see if we are in the faith (2 Cor 13:5). Knowing that you fail the test can be a good thing (if it leads you to genuine belief and repentance). Not knowing that you fail the test can never be a good thing.
Free From Sin (6:15-23)
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Romans 6:15-23
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What then? a Shall we sin
The Antagonist (6:15a)
Τί οὖν; ⸀ ἁμαρτήσωμεν ὅτι οὐκ ἐσμὲν ὑπὸ νόμον ἀλλὰ ὑπὸ χάριν; μὴ γένοιτο·
because we are not under law
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b May it never be!
The Answer (6:15b)
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Do you not a know
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;
that when you present yourselves to someone
as b slaves for obedience,
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you are slaves of the one whom you obey,
either of c sin
1 resulting in death,
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or of obedience
2 resulting in righteousness?
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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. 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. For a when you were slaves of sin, you were free in regard to righteousness. 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. 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.
The Argument - Explaining the Two Slaveries (6:17-22)
Their Position Their Practice Their Promise
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· 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. Ὅτε γὰρ δοῦλοι ἦτε τῆς ἁμαρτίας, ἐλεύθεροι ἦτε τῇ δικαιοσύνῃ. τίνα οὖν καρπὸν εἴχετε τότε ἐφ’ οἷς νῦν ἐπαισχύνεσθε; τὸ γὰρ τέλος ἐκείνων θάνατος· νυνὶ δέ, ἐλευθερωθέντες ἀπὸ τῆς ἁμαρτίας δουλωθέντες δὲ τῷ θεῷ, ἔχετε τὸν καρπὸν ὑμῶν εἰς ἁγιασμόν, τὸ δὲ τέλος ζωὴν αἰώνιον.
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)
τὰ γὰρ ὀψώνια τῆς ἁμαρτίας θάνατος, τὸ δὲ χάρισμα τοῦ θεοῦ ζωὴ αἰώνιος ἐν Χριστῷ Ἰησοῦ τῷ κυρίῳ ἡμῶν.
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MacArthur's New Testament Commentary on Romans
"Many people resist the claims of Christ because they are afraid of having to give up their cherished freedoms. Actually, of course, they have no freedoms to lose. The unsaved person is not free to do good or evil as he chooses. He is bound and enslaved to sin, and the only thing he can do is sin. His only choices have to do with when, how, why, and to what degree he will sin ." ~ John MacArthur
Questions for Clarification
Q. What does it mean that slavery to sin results in death? Does it speak about physical death, or spiritual death? A. The natural consequences of sin in a person's life is often seen to result in physical death. God has also caused the physical deaths of many people in the Bible as a result of their sin and unwillingness to repent of it. In Acts 5 this can be seen with Ananias an Sapphira. But spiritual death is also our spiritual condition from birth as a result of sin and the fall. Ps 51:5 teaches that we are born in the same condition that Eph 2:5 tells us is true of all of us before salvation. Q. What is meant by "present yourself"? A. To "presenting yourself" in this context is to give willing obedience to a master. Slaves are required to be obedient to their masters. Q. To whom can you become a slave in this context? What are the options? A. Only two options - sin, or obedience. There is no middle ground, neutrality, or third option.
Keywords
Slaves Obedience Sin Death Righteousness
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