Romans 6:15-18 — Slaves of Righteousness (Bible study notes)

For the video teaching to these notes, click here: Romans Bible Study — week 15 — Slaves of Righteousness

Rom 6:15-18:  What then? shall we sin, because we are not under the law, but under grace? God forbid. (16) Know ye not, that to whom ye yield yourselves servants to obey, his servants ye are to whom ye obey; whether of sin unto death, or of obedience unto righteousness? (17) But God be thanked, that ye were the servants of sin, but ye have obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine which was delivered you. (18) Being then made free from sin, ye became the servants of righteousness.
I. Grace = freedom from sin!
  • We ended our last Bible study with Paul telling these Romans that sin (used as a noun — referring to that whole Adamic way of living) had no dominion over them because they are now under grace
    • That Adamic sin “nature” – the old man who lived under the Mosaic Law and was subject to its system of cursing and blessing based on their obedience was crucified at the Cross
    • That old man no longer exists in humanity, but ALL have been justified – declared innocent and made righteous by the finished work of Christ
    • ALL are now under grace.
    • Mirror Bible says verse 14 so well — Sin was your master while the law was your measure; now grace rules.
  • Here in verse 15, Paul uses sin not as a noun but as a verb — referring to the actions/behaviors that result from that Adamic way of thinking
Rom 6:15:  What then? shall we sin, because we are not under the law, but under grace? God forbid.
  • the law is referring to the legal system of do’s and don’ts, cursing and blessing
    • do to become
    • and God’s actions towards us, either cursing or blessing, are a result of our obedience or disobedience to His commands;
  • But in this verse, Paul’s not dealing with their sinful behavior
    • this verb “sin” is an aorist subjunctive meaning it’s a hypothetical
    • It isn’t a present tense indicating ongoing or repeated action.
    • He’s dealing with their thinking — with their default being to trust the law to keep them free of sin.
  • He uses the strongest Greek idiom (may it never be!) to show that the very idea of grace producing wrong behavior was repulsive to him!
    • It can be paraphrased “perish the thought!”
    • Paul is telling them to stop thinking like that!
  • He’s hypothetically dealing with a question that may naturally arise from them based on what he has said in chapter 6
    • I’m not sure Paul posed the question because they would want to keep sinning now that they were no longer controlled by the law
    • Their whole lives revolved around a system of “shall nots” – 613 laws to obey
    • But Paul is telling them that they have died to that system and were now free from sin
  • If it were me, my question wouldn’t be “Great! Does that mean I can sin all I want since the law won’t condemn me?”
    • My question would be “Now what? What will keep me from sinning if I don’t have the law to hedge me in, to monitor my behavior?”
  • Sin means to miss the mark, to err, or wander from the right way; to swerve from the Truth;
    • In short, it means to miss the mark of God’s perfect standard.
  • They were used to the law, and all of it’s do’s and don’ts as a protection to keep them from sinning — to keep them living according to God’s standards
    • But it never could! All it did was strengthen sin in their lives
    • Grace had the power to teach them to say no to ungodliness — to say no to sin — and teache them to live righteously.
  • It’s the same today — we have a fear of grace alone because we think the law keeps us from sinning
    • Doesn’t grace alone give us a license to sin?
    • Doesn’t it encourage sin?
  • But Paul was for grace alone!
    • In fact, he was what we would call a “hyper-grace” preacher!
    • He believed in the power of this Gospel of Grace
  • Law doesn’t balance grace so that we won’t sin
    • the law is a ministry of death — 2 Cor 3:7
    • And law and grace cannot coexist — Rom 11:6 And if by grace, it is no longer from works; otherwise grace no longer would be grace.
    • the law has no power to help us live a sin free life
    • only grace has the power to do that!
  • Paul has been telling them that the Law and all of its penalties and demands was nailed to the cross and they were no longer subject to it.
    • Grace alone now reigns!!
  • He is telling them in strong, emphatic language (May it never be!) that they don’t have to be afraid that without the boundaries of the Law they won’t know how to behave and live righteously — Grace is all they need!
    • The law revealed their slavery to sin
    • Grace reveals their freedom from it!
  • Remember he is talking to a transitional generation – those who were alive on both sides of the Cross
    • How they now think is crucial to living this abundant life IN CHRIST
    • They are a new creation IN CHRIST
  • The finished work of Jesus produced a new humanity — one that never existed before!
    • The old man – the Adamic nature – was crucified at the Cross
    • And a new man – with a Christ nature – came forth
      • One who now has the mind of Christ
  • They need to think like that new man — to think like Christ
    • They had been used to thinking like the old man
  • For us – we have always been IN CHRIST and have always had the mind of Christ
    • but because of religious, legalistic teaching — teaching afraid to embrace ALL grace and no law
    • because of that our thinking has been wrong — but as He is so are we in this world
    • We need to align our thinking (repent) with what God says — We need to think like God!
    • that after the Cross we are ALL dead to sin and alive in Him
  • The next verse he begins with “Don’t you know…” — still dealing with our thinking
Rom 6:16:  Know ye not, that to whom ye yield yourselves servants to obey, his servants ye are to whom ye obey; whether of sin unto death, or of obedience unto righteousness? Youngs Literal Translation: Don't you realize that whatever you choose to obey becomes your master? You can choose sin, which leads to death, or you can choose to obey God and receive his approval.
  • Know ye not!
    • Know is eido in Greek meaning to see as a result of revelation; an intuitive knowing; a perception, a being aware of, that can only come by the work of the Spirit of Grace
      • It is knowing beyond a shadow of a doubt;
      • It is not a knowing that comes from personal experience, which is progressive (ginosko) but rather a full, absolute knowledge.
    • It is a perfect indicative verb
      • perfect tense presents action as having reached its conclusion and existing in its finished results.
      • In other words, something happened in the past, and the results of that are continuing.
      • Indicative is a mood of certainty and reality; the writer has no doubt this is true;
    • They know as a result of the work of the Spirit of Grace in them
  • What is Paul saying they should know?
    • To whom yourselves yield your slaves for obedience, you are slaves to that which you obey
  • I always thought that meant that my being righteous hinged on my obedience!
    • But over the last few years, I’ve had a much better understanding of obedience
    • It was never about my obedience or your obedience — but rather the obedience and disobedience of two men — Adam and Jesus
II. Obedience
Romans 5:19 The disobedience of the one exhibits humanity as sinners; the obedience of another exhibits humanity as righteous.
  • Obedience is not about doing but about hearing. In Greek it is hupakoe meaning to hear from above; It is hearing and responding to what is heard.
    • it literally means to listen under with attentiveness and to respond positively to what is heard, or to hearken
    • In Hebrew, it is “shema.”
      • The first time shema is in the Bible is Gen 3:8 – they “heard” the Spirit in the Garden coming to walk with them…come to enjoy fellowship with them…. to enjoy oneness with them.
      • shema is to hear with the heart, to hear with understanding, attention, and with a response.
      • A response to what?
        • A response of oneness, of intimacy with Him.
  • Disobedience is parakoe from para meaning close beside; an intimate connection and akouo meaning to hear
    • Adam didn’t hear from an intimate connection — he wasn’t hearing and responding out of his oneness with the Father.
    • He instead heard and responded to the serpent’s accusation/lie of Adam’s not being like God
    • He listened and responded in the flesh instead of out of his oneness with the Father.
  • Jesus heard and responded to His Father
    • His obedience wasn’t one of Yes Sir, No Sir
    • But instead He walked in awareness of His oneness with the Father, and He lived life from that intimate place of fellowship.
  • God has never been after our “obedience” — He was always just after us!
    • And at the Cross, He reconciled us back to Himself, and Christ’s obedience became our obedience!
  • Slaves is doulos in Greek is deo meaning to bind
    • in Paul’s day there duolos were those who were bound to their master in servitude.
    • It conveys the picture of a slave’s close, binding tie with their master, of belonging solely to him and of being obligated to and desiring to do his will.
    • the will of the doulos is completely consumed in the will of the master – whatever the master desired, the doulos desired
You are either a slave to sin which results in death or a slave to obedience which leads to righteousness
  • But if I don’t understand the meaning of obey, and if I don’t read this in context… remembering what Paul said earlier; and if I don’t link this verse to the next and hear Paul’s heart, I will misunderstand and become sin focused instead of son focused.
    • Since we ALL have been declared righteous by the blood of Jesus and not by our own works or our own faith, then we are no longer a slave to sin
    • Slaves to sin is who mankind was before the Cross
  • Back in verse 6, Paul told us that the old mankind (anthropos) was crucified with Christ that the body of sin might be done away with so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin!
    • verse 7 says that all who have died have been set free from sin
    • 2 Cor 5:14 says if One died for ALL, then ALL died – we were ALL co-crucified with Him
    • And of course, verse 14 says For sin shall not be your master, because you are not under the law, but under grace.
  • You may slip up, and sin but sin no longer has the power to enslave you!
    • You are free, and at any time you can walk in that freedom — before the Cross they were enslaved to sin and couldn’t walk in freedom – freedom wasn’t available yet
  • That’s a jump and shout message — no wonder Paul broke out in praise and thanksgiving in the next verse!
III. No longer slaves to sin
Rom 6:17 (KJV):  But God be thanked, that ye were the servants of sin, but ye have obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine which was delivered you.
Thanks be to God….
  • The Greek doesn’t say But God be thanked — it says But or Moreover grace (the) God!
  • The word charis in Greek means grace — it also means thanks, but that is a smaller meaning given way down the list of definitions — grace, goodwill, loving-kindness, favor, due to grace, thanks (recompense, reward)
  • All through Romans Paul uses charis as grace, not thanks — except in Romans 7:25 where he uses the same phrase that he does here in 6:17
  • I do believe Paul’s attitude, his emotion in this portion of the letter was one of thanks…. thanks for God’s grace!
  • The word charis (grace) comes from the root chairo which means to rejoice and be glad; it means to delight in God’s grace; to be conscious (aware) of God’s grace
  • Paul’s heart was definitely thankful for grace, rejoicing in it, aware of God’s grace toward us and in us!!
    • Rejoicing and aware of His loving-kindness, His favor toward us, His goodness that sent Jesus to redeem and deliver ALL humanity from slavery to the sin of Adam and declare us righteous!
    • Not a thankfulness that once I was a slave and then I obeyed from the heart the doctrine of salvation
    • No… an overwhelming gratitude for God’s grace… the Spirit of Grace that set ALL mankind free from being slaves to sin!!
  • Though you (all mankind) were once slaves of sin…..
  • Remember he’s talking to a transitional generation…those born before the cross and alive after the cross.
    • they were slaves of sin — Original Greek says “the” sin (noun) – referring to the sin of Adam which condemned all mankind until the Cross
      • Romans 5:18: Therefore as by the offense of one judgment came upon all men to condemnation; even so by the righteousness of one the free gift came upon all men unto justification of life.
  • were – is an imperfect verb tense which means repeated or continual action in the past — that’s who they were before the Cross
  • You obeyed from the heart…..
  • He goes on to say “but you have become obedient from the heart” — remember obedient means to hear from above
  • It’s a heart that hears from above
  • Solomon asked for a hearing heart (leb shama) in 1 Kings 3:9 – as a result of asking for that God gave Him wisdom
    • a hearing heart is a heart that listens, that discerns; it can also mean mind as well… a hearing, listening, discerning mind;
      • a mind like that will think like God and respond accordingly
    • Solomon had to ask for that because that was before the Cross… we have been given that IN CHRIST — we have the mind of Christ; we have a hearing heart
      • Heb 5:8-9 in the Mirror: Acquainted with sonship he was in the habit of hearing from above; what he heard distanced him from the effect of what he had suffered. (9) By his perfect hearing, he forever freed mankind to hear what he had heard.
      • All mankind has His hearing heart… we have ALL been freed to hear what He heard.
      • What are we free to hear? What do our hearing hearts respond to?
        • This Gospel of Grace
  • Hupakouo in this verse is in the past tense (aorist indicative)
    • They hupakouo’d — they heard from above – they heard this Gospel of Grace
    • and in hearing what Christ had done for ALL mankind, they responded to what they heard (they believed), and they were able to experience the freedom that was always theirs
    • Paul is not telling them they need to have obedient hearts that obey God’s commands
  • Again, God has never been after our obedience!
    • He was not and is not looking for those who will serve Him out of fear of rejection or fear of His displeasure.
    • He is not desiring our obedience and adherence to His commands and laws
  • We have been given hearing hearts IN CHRIST, and God’s desire is that we learn how to hear
    • Not desiring that I would learn to hear better so that we would fully obey Him and do His will!
    • But instead that we would learn to hear better so that we can hear His declaration of love for us, His eternal pleasure in us, His intimate knowledge of us – of who we are and always have been in His eyes!
  • It’s never been about following rules — but about intimacy and oneness with Him!
  • To that form of doctrine which was delivered (entrusted; given) you…..
  • The teaching they were given was the Gospel of Grace
  • Tupos means an example to be imitated — this teaching of grace was to be emulated in their lives
  • “To” is eis in Greek meaning movement toward or extending toward a goal; a marker of purpose or result;
  • their hearing heart heard and responded to grace, and then that doctrine (that teaching of grace) that was given to them became their goal or purpose to imitate in their lives.
    • I think the Mirror says it well: The content of teaching that your heart embraced has set a new standard to become the pattern of your life; the grace of God ended sin’s dominance.
Rom 6:18:  And having been set free from sin, you became slaves of righteousness.
  • Paul says the reason they are no longer slaves of sin is that they’ve been set free from the sin nature of Adam (the wrong identity) and they have become (past tense fact) slaves of “the” righteousness – the righteousness of God!
  • We have a new nature!
  • This is who we are — slaves of righteousness!
  • Begin thinking like God and seeing yourself and ALL of mankind free from the dominion of sin (the Adamic way of thinking – as slaves, not sons; in bondage to a system of performance; focused on behavior or sin management of my self and others;
  • You’re free — You’re a son
  • Grace ended sin’s authority and now reigns!

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