Romans 6:15-23

Wednesday Evening Bible Study

January 20, 1999


We have seen Paul present the case that man is not made right before God through his own deeds or the keeping of the law, but simply through faith. Our salvation is not a matter of something we’ve earned, it is a "grace", a free, undeserved, gift from God. All we do is trust Him to receive it.

We’ve been looking at the subject of our sin nature and how we are to learn to "reckon" ourselves to be dead to sin and alive to God.

Last week we read a quote from Warren Wiersbe:

"Paul didn’t tell his readers to feel as if they were dead to sin, or even to understand it fully, but to act on God’s Word and claim it for themselves. Reckoning is a matter of faith that issues in action. It is like endorsing a check: if we really believe that the money is in the checking account, we will sign our name and collect the money. Reckoning is not claiming a promise, but acting on a fact. God does not command us to become dead to sin. He tells us that we are dead to sin and alive unto God, and then commands us to act on it. Even if we do not act on it, the facts are still true."

We ended last week with:

(Rom 6:14 KJV) For sin shall not have dominion over you: for ye are not under the law, but under grace.

What Paul was doing was giving us another reason why sin should not have so much power over us. When a person lives their life by a list of rules and regulations, they are only more aware of the temptations around them. Tell a person not to think of a huge bowl of ice cream dripping with thick, hot, fudge, and it’s a pretty difficult thing to do. Because we are no longer judged by the Law, and because our relationship with God is based on His grace, based on what He has freely done for us, sin’s grasp over us is that much weaker.

:15 What then? shall we sin, because we are not under the law, but under grace?

This is the same question that Paul posed back in:

(Rom 6:1-2 KJV) What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound? {2} God forbid. How shall we, that are dead to sin, live any longer therein?

The idea was that if God’s grace is shown to be greater when our sin is greater, why not commit lots of sin so God gets lots more glory?

As we said earlier, there are two types of people that will ask this question.

1) The one who wants to sin, and looks for this to be a good excuse to sin.

For them, the idea is that "hey, my sin is making God look good!"

2) The legalist who is afraid of what "grace" might do to people, perhaps letting them go wild.

They are afraid that people who trust too much in God’s grace, and not enough in their own good works, end up saying stuff like #1 above.

The problem is that the person who thinks this way hasn’t looked at what grace is really all about, and what our relationship with God is supposed to really be about.

:15 God forbid

Same response as in 6:1. Literally, "may it never be".

:16 Know ye not, that to whom ye yield yourselves servants to obey, his servants ye are to whom ye obey

yieldparistemi – to place beside or near; to "stand alongside", the same word used in verse 13, that we are to "yield" or put ourselves alongside God.

servantsdoulos – a slave, bondman, man of servile condition

obeyhupakouo – to listen, to harken to a command

There’s no place for an "occasional" Christian, the person who talks about Jesus on Sundays and Wednesday nights, but the rest of the week is no different from the rest of the world.

I like the NIV translation here:

(Rom 6:16 NIV) Don't you know that when you offer yourselves to someone to obey him as slaves, you are slaves to the one whom you obey--whether you are slaves to sin, which leads to death, or to obedience, which leads to righteousness?

The point is that it’s not just who you offer yourself to, but who you actually end up obeying that counts! The proof of whose servant you are is in who you are actually obeying.

Jesus told this story to the priests and the leaders in the Temple:

(Mat 21:28-32 NLT) "But what do you think about this? A man with two sons told the older boy, 'Son, go out and work in the vineyard today.' {29} The son answered, 'No, I won't go,' but later he changed his mind and went anyway. {30} Then the father told the other son, 'You go,' and he said, 'Yes, sir, I will.' But he didn't go. {31} Which of the two was obeying his father?" They replied, "The first, of course." Then Jesus explained his meaning: "I assure you, corrupt tax collectors and prostitutes will get into the Kingdom of God before you do. {32} For John the Baptist came and showed you the way to life, and you didn't believe him, while tax collectors and prostitutes did. And even when you saw this happening, you refused to turn from your sins and believe him.

The proof of who obeyed is in who actually followed through, not who made the big promise.

The person who says, "Hey, leave me alone, I’m not under the Law, I’m under grace. Get out of my face!" and is using that for a cover for their sin is only deceiving themselves. They are not under grace, but are in fact a slave to sin.

The two are mutually exclusive. You can’t be claiming to belong to God and living His grace and still be an unrepentant slave to sin. The fact that your life is still caught up in sin, no matter what you say, is proof just who your master is.

WARNING: I’m not saying that you can’t be under grace and sin.

But if you are under grace, then you’re going to be experiencing an increasing distance in your life from sin. You’re going to be heading away from it.

:16 whether of sin unto death, or of obedience unto righteousness?

Two roads to follow.

This is not saying that your salvation is based on what you do. Your salvation is based on what Jesus did. Paul has already made that clear.

But if you’ve truly come to know Jesus, then His love for you is going to change you, and His Holy Spirit who lives inside of you is going to begin to change you more and more to be like Jesus. And that means that you’ll grow farther and farther away from sin.

Bob Dylan actually had it correct in his song, "Gotta Serve Somebody", 1979,

You may be an ambassador to England or to France;

You may like to gamble, you might like to dance;

You may be the heavy-weight champion of the world;

You may be a socialite with a long string of pearls;

But you're gonna have to serve somebody.

Yes indeed you're gonna have to serve somebody.

Well it may be the devil or it may be the Lord but you're gonna have to serve somebody.

In Paul’s idea here, you only have two choices. There is no middle ground. You are either serving sin or obedience.

Some people think that they can somehow choose a middle ground. There is no middle choice.

: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.

formtupos – the mark of a stroke or blow, print; form; an example

Is Paul talking about the example that he’s given to them? I wonder.

doctrinedidache – teaching; that which is taught


Be the example that others can follow.

It has been said that much about being a Christian isn’t "taught" but "caught". Others need to see a real live example of what a Christian looks like. They’re looking to us to show them.

It used to be that the thought of this would overwhelm me because I had a deep suspicion that it wasn’t possible to consistently live a Christian life. I think I’m able to say now, cautiously, that it IS possible!!!

(2 Th 3:6-13 NLT) And now, dear brothers and sisters, we give you this command with the authority of our Lord Jesus Christ: Stay away from any Christian who lives in idleness and doesn't follow the tradition of hard work we gave you. {7} For you know that you ought to follow our example. We were never lazy when we were with you. {8} We never accepted food from anyone without paying for it. We worked hard day and night so that we would not be a burden to any of you. {9} It wasn't that we didn't have the right to ask you to feed us, but we wanted to give you an example to follow. {10} Even while we were with you, we gave you this rule: "Whoever does not work should not eat." {11} Yet we hear that some of you are living idle lives, refusing to work and wasting time meddling in other people's business. {12} In the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, we appeal to such people--no, we command them: Settle down and get to work. Earn your own living. {13} And I say to the rest of you, dear brothers and sisters, never get tired of doing good.

Paul didn’t just tell the people what was right, he demonstrated it right in front of them.

from the heart

It’s when our obedience comes from inside our heart that we’re talking about real, true obedience.

Are you obeying because someone is threatening you? Or are you obeying because you hear the call of Jesus and you joyfully and willingly drop the luggage of your sin and go running to Him?

:18 Being then made free from sin, ye became the servants of righteousness.

made freeeleutheroo – to make free; set at liberty: from the dominion of sin

:19 I speak after the manner of men because of the infirmity of your flesh:

infirmityastheneia – want of strength, weakness, infirmity

Paul is saying that he’s trying to use common, human pictures to teach them because of simple human difficulty in understanding.


Teach with clarity.

The whole goal in teaching is to help someone understand. If you are trying to simply impress others with your knowledge and the amount of time that you studied, you’re aiming at the wrong thing.

The goal is to make the connection in the other person’s brain.

Jesus often amazed His listeners with the clarity and authority of His teaching. He didn’t just quote one scholar after another, but would teach by giving simple, clear principles, and by telling stories.

(Mat 7:28-29 NLT) After Jesus finished speaking, the crowds were amazed at his teaching, {29} for he taught as one who had real authority--quite unlike the teachers of religious law.

(Mark 4:33 NLT) He used many such stories and illustrations to teach the people as much as they were able to understand.

I know that every once in a while people think that I tell too many stories or too many jokes, but the whole point is to try to have your point understood.

For me, I go through several steps as I prepare to teach.

1) Make the statement

I ask myself, "just what is the principle that I’m trying to convey here?" And I try to boil it down into a simple statement. If someone were to stop and ask me, "Just what are you trying to tell me?", I could point to a simple statement that I’ve already worked out, like here … "teach for understanding".

2) Support with Scripture

Then I ask myself, "Are there other places in Scripture where this principle is taught?" Is it really Scriptural? Do I have other verses that back up the point? Sometimes people make the mistake of feeling that they have to give twenty verses to back up their point, but I think you end up loosing the listener and need to simply find the simplest, clearest example.

3) Illustrate

Illustrations have been called the "windows" in a sermon. They’re the part that give you a better view of what is trying to be said. They’re what bring light into a message.

Sometimes you can find a Bible story that will give a picture, sometimes you can find a simple story outside the Bible that will help teach. Keep in mind, Jesus made up a lot of His stories, His parables. He didn’t always tell the story of some Biblical character, but would tell stories using farming, fishing, and every day life.

Paul has been using the language of slavery to illustrate what it’s like to live the Christian life.

:19 for as ye have yielded your members servants to uncleanness and to iniquity unto iniquity

yield(ed)paristemi – to place beside or near; to "stand alongside", the same word used in verse 13, 16, that we are to "yield" or put ourselves alongside God.

your members – plural "your", meaning all the people. Paul isn’t talking to just one person, but the whole church.

members – the parts of your physical body.

uncleannessakatharsia – uncleanness, either physical or in a moral sense: the impurity of lustful living

iniquityanomia – the condition of without law; contempt and violation of law, iniquity, wickedness

Our lives shouldn’t be heading in a direction that shows contempt for the law or in the direction of sin.

We once used to stand alongside lustfulness and lawlessness …

:19 even so now yield your members servants to righteousness unto holiness.

righteousnessdikaiosune – in a broad sense: state of him who is as he ought to be, righteousness, the condition acceptable to God; integrity, virtue, purity of life, rightness, correctness of thinking feeling, and acting

holinesshagiasmos – consecration, purification; the effect of consecration. It’s the state of being "set apart", to be "set apart" for God’s special use.

As we yield ourselves to "righteousness", the result is that we become more and more "holy" or set apart for God’s special use.

Whereas we used to yield ourselves to lusts, we should now yield ourselves to righteousness. We should be "presenting" ourselves to righteousness.

Think of the guy who struggles with pornography. He starts thinking of the lustful thoughts and decides he’s going to feed those lustful thoughts. Whether he sneaks around and hides in the bathroom while he fills his mind with uncleanness, or whether he logs onto the Internet to search for pornography, or whether he goes to an adult bookstore, he is "yielding" his members to the lustful thoughts.

Now picture that same drive to fill those lusts, and take it and picture the guy going to the same lengths to feed the Spirit, the part that wants to obey God. Wild horses could keep him from Bible Study on Wednesday night! You might catch him late at night or early in the morning sneaking into a secret place, Bible in hand, to feed His soul on the Word of God. Instead of searching the Internet for pornography, he’s going over the church prayer list and praying for the saints or logging on to listen to Bible Studies.

:20 For when ye were the servants of sin, ye were free from righteousness.

You can only serve one master at a time.

Jesus said,

(Mat 6:24 KJV) No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon.

When you used to be the servant of sin, you didn’t have to worry about obeying righteousness, you weren’t obligated to obey the master of righteousness.


Be careful about getting your "freedom" from God.

This is what the prodigal son did, getting his "freedom" from his father. He ended up in the pig pen.

(Luke 15:11-24 KJV) And he said, A certain man had two sons: {12} And the younger of them said to his father, Father, give me the portion of goods that falleth to me. And he divided unto them his living. {13} And not many days after the younger son gathered all together, and took his journey into a far country, and there wasted his substance with riotous living. {14} And when he had spent all, there arose a mighty famine in that land; and he began to be in want. {15} And he went and joined himself to a citizen of that country; and he sent him into his fields to feed swine. {16} And he would fain have filled his belly with the husks that the swine did eat: and no man gave unto him. {17} And when he came to himself, he said, How many hired servants of my father's have bread enough and to spare, and I perish with hunger! {18} I will arise and go to my father, and will say unto him, Father, I have sinned against heaven, and before thee, {19} And am no more worthy to be called thy son: make me as one of thy hired servants. {20} And he arose, and came to his father. But when he was yet a great way off, his father saw him, and had compassion, and ran, and fell on his neck, and kissed him. {21} And the son said unto him, Father, I have sinned against heaven, and in thy sight, and am no more worthy to be called thy son. {22} But the father said to his servants, Bring forth the best robe, and put it on him; and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet: {23} And bring hither the fatted calf, and kill it; and let us eat, and be merry: {24} For this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found. And they began to be merry.

You can come home. He’s waiting.

:21 What fruit had ye then in those things whereof ye are now ashamed? for the end of those things is death.

had ye – imperfect tense, showing a continuance, "what fruit were you having in those things you are now ashamed of?"

ashamedepaischunomai – to be ashamed; an intensive form (not just aischunomai) perhaps better translated "thoroughly ashamed".

The old ways, which now cause us shame, used to only lead us to death.

There’s a temporary death, as in the idea of hangovers, STD’s, guilt, condemnation, etc.

There’s a permanent death as well, hell.


Don’t forget the results!

One of the horrible deceptions of the enemy is to keep us preoccupied so we don’t think about the consequence of our sin.

After we’ve yielded to the temptation, we usually end up sick of what we’ve done. But oh if we would think ahead before we commit the sin.

:22 But now being made free from sin, and become servants to God, ye have your fruit unto holiness, and the end everlasting life.

This almost sounds as if your good works are going to save you, producing holiness which produces everlasting life.

It looks that way, but the real question is how the life of holiness is produced. Is it produced by learning to live according to rules and regulations? Or is it produced by learning to trust in God’s work for me, and allow Him to mold me and shape me, as I yield to Him and learn to obey the inner promptings that He gives me?

:23 For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.

wagesopsonion – a soldier's pay, allowance; metaph. wages: hire or pay of sin

Sin gives a complete paycheck, you are paid completely what you are owed. When you work the job of "sin", you get a paycheck at the end of the day, written out for the full amount, no deductions, and the amount is "death".

giftcharisma – a favour with which one receives without any merit of his own; the gift of divine grace; literally a "work of grace (charis)".

Eternal life on the other hand isn’t something that’s earned like a "wage". It is a gift freely given to us, even when we don’t deserve us.