Free From Sin (Part 1)
Romans 6:15
"A life that gives no evidence of moral and spiritual transformation gives no evidence of salvation." ~ John MacArthur
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Published October 31st, 2018; Updated November 5th, 2018
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Romans 6:15
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What did the text mean to the biblical audience?
What's the difference between us and the biblical audience?
What is 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
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Romans 6:15 NASB
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Romans 6:15
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15 What then? a Shall we sin because we are not under law but under grace? b May it never be!
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What did the text mean to the biblical audience?
Paul asks, and strongly answers, a question that he anticipates to hear from two different groups of people : 1. Those who believe that God's grace gives them license to sin and live any way they choose to. Obedience is nothing more than an option to them. They essentially would ask Paul, "So if we are under grace, can't we then sin as much as we want to?" 2. Those who accused Paul of saying God's grace is a license to sin. They essentially would ask Paul, "So are YOU saying that we can sin as much as we want to, because we are under grace?" Paul's strongly worded answer to both of them is "NO! UNDER NO CIRCUMSTANCES! NEVER, EVER!" The Greek statement used here (" μὴ γένοιτο ") is the strongest statement of repudiation in New Testament Greek. They would most likely have understood him to mean that the thought of this being true is totally absurd and ridiculous.
What's the difference between us and the biblical audience?
Not much difference at all. As Paul taught the doctrine of salvation by grace, through faith, apart from works or human achievement, accomplished by God's divine achievement alone, Paul undoubtedly had heard these questions and accusations before. Similarly, when this doctrine is taught today, the same questions and accusations arise. Conversely, when we teach this, with the addition of Paul's teaching here - that works should and WILL follow salvation - we are often accused of teaching a works-based-salvation. These accusations miss the point of Philippians 2:13, which makes it clear that it is God who is at work IN us both to WILL (the "want" to obey) and to WORK (to actual "doing" of obedience) for His good pleasure, and therefore we can't take any credit for our obedience whatsoever.
What is the theological principle(s)?
The theological principle is that the fact that Christians are under grace (and not under law) does NOT mean that they can live in continual, habitual, unconfessed, and unrepented sin. Never ever ever!
How does the theological principle(s) fit with the rest of Scripture?
1. Romans 6:17-22 - Paul makes it clear that we become "obedient from the heart " when we are saved. Sanctification will always follow justification. 2. 1 John 2:3-6 - The whole book of 1 John constantly and repeatedly reiterates one of the identifying factors by which we can "know that we have eternal life" (1 John 5:13) - obedience to God. This verse specifically says that we are liars if we claim to have come to know God but don't keep His commandments . 3. Titus 1:16 - Paul refers to those "who profess to know God, but by their deeds they deny Him ." 4. Luke 6:46 - Jesus sarcastically asks, "Why do you call me 'Lord, Lord,' and do not do what I say ?" Upon salvation, you recognize Christ as the Lord over every area of your life. 5. Ezekiel 36:25-27 - In this verse, salvation is beautifully described. Notice how it is God who puts a new heart in us; who puts His Spirit in us; who causes us to walk in His statutes ; who makes us be careful to observe His ordinances . 6. Jude 1:4 - Jude here speaks of "ungodly persons who turn the grace of our God into licentiousness [license to sin] and deny our only Master and Lord , Jesus Christ." God's grace is not to be perverted into licentiousness or freedom to sin and live any way we want. That is what the ungodly person does.
How should individual Christians today live out the theological principle(s)?
1. 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). 2. We should follow Paul's example in anticipating the questions, objections, accusations that those in opposition would raise, and answer them from a biblical perspective, remembering that we should be patient, able to teach, and be able to correct those in opposition while not being quarrelsome (2 Tim 2:24-26), and also that all Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for reproof and correction (2 Tim 3:16-17). 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
but under grace?
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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. 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
"The doctrine of salvation by God's grace, working only through man's faith and apart from any works, is the furthest thing from a license to sin... The mere suggestion... is self-contradictory, a logical as well as a moral and spiritual absurdity. The very purpose of God's grace is to free man from sin. How then, could grace possibly justify continuing in sin? Grace not only justifies (a person) but also transforms the life that is saved. A life that gives no evidence of moral and spiritual transformation gives no evidence of salvation ."
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