Romans 6:15-23

Thursday Evening Bible Study

August 14, 2008


Paul has made his case that we are not saved by the keeping of the Law, but we are saved by coming to trust in what God has done for us.  We have been saved by grace.  We have been saved because God has made a way for us to be forgiven, completely free of charge.

The problem with grace is that some people think this means that we can get away with anything.  They can even get to the point of thinking that the worse they sin, the more God will be seen as loving and gracious.

Paul’s point at the beginning of the chapter was that real grace doesn’t work that way.

Real grace changes a person.  Real grace connects you to the death of Christ for you – so that in a sense when Jesus died, your sin nature also died.  Real grace helps you to learn to act towards sin like a dead person does.
(Rom 6:7 NKJV)  For he who has died has been freed from sin.
The principle is that if a person is dead, they are no longer affected by sin.  Dead men don’t sin.

In our last study, we also talked about how our relationship with Christ gives us life as well as death.  We are dead to sin, but alive to God.  The resurrection of Jesus means that we can have a new life.

One of the key words we looked at was “reckon”:

(Rom 6:11 NKJV)  Likewise you also, reckon yourselves to be dead indeed to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Reckoning ourselves to be dead to sin and alive to God involves an act of the will – we make choices in life that will either “starve” the sin nature or “feed” it.  Remember the Eskimo dogs?  The dog you feed is the one that wins – do you feed your sin nature or the spirit?

We ended last week with:

(Rom 6:14 NKJV)  For sin shall not have dominion over you, for you are not under 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 law but under grace? Certainly not!

This might sound a little like the verse that started off the chapter:

(Rom 6:1 NKJV)  What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin that grace may abound?

We mentioned back then that there tend to be two types of people who ask questions like this:
1)  The one who wants to sin, and looks for this to be a good excuse to sin.
2)  The legalist who is afraid of what “grace” might do to people, perhaps letting them go wild.

They are afraid that if we do away with the “law”, that people might go wild.

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.

There is a little different in the wording between our verse and Romans 6:1

In verse 1, the idea is that of “continuing or remaining in sin” so that God’s grace would be stronger in our lives.  “Should we continue to keep on sinning…?”
Here, the idea (aorist, Robertson) is that of committing occasional acts of sin because we are no longer living under the law, but living under grace.  “Shall we occasionally go back and sin from time to time since we aren’t under law but grace?”

A.T.Roberston writes,

Surely, the objector says, we may take a night off now and then and sin a little bit “since we are under grace.”

Isn’t okay to cheat a little every now and then?  Aren’t we under grace?

Paul is going to answer this issue of slipping back every once in a while for a “little sin”…

:16 Do you not know that to whom you present yourselves slaves to obey, you are that one's slaves whom you obey, whether of sin leading to death, or of obedience leading to righteousness?

presentparistemi – to place beside or near; to set at hand; to present; to place a person or thing at one’s disposal; to bring to, bring near; KJV says “yield”

The tense of the word is a “present” tense, meaning a continuous action.

obeyhupakoe – obedience, compliance, submission; fromhupakouo – to listen, to harken

If you keep presenting yourself to sinful things to do them, even to just “listen” to them, then you are a slave of that thing.

There’s no “occasionally” about it.

Who do you listen to?  What do you put in front of your face?

I walk into the kitchen, walk up to the refrigerator and open the freezer door.
I’m hungry.  I’m looking for a snack, what am I looking for?  And then I spot it.

I’m going for the ice-cream.  Maybe it won’t hurt just to look at the ice-cream???

That’s “presenting yourself”.  That’s putting it right in your face.

There is a fork in the road.  Not a real fork, but a choice you have to make.

It looks like a simple choice of which road you’re going to take, but you have to ask yourself, where does each road lead you?

The story goes that two of the pastors in town were standing out by the street waving signs that said, “Repent, the end is near”.  After a couple dozen cars drove by, one of them said to the other, “Do you think we should have changed the wording of our signs to simply have read, “Turn around, the bridge is out”?

Which road are you going to take?

One road leads to death, the other road leads to “righteousness”.

Have you seen the YouTube video about Christian, the lion?  It’s a heart touching story (show the clip).

When you look at this story as a metaphor, with the lion being our “sin”, you see how we get ourselves into trouble.

We think that we can hunt down our sin and have a fond, loving reunion.  We ignore the realities of life. 
Have you heard of the Las Vegas magic duo of “Siegfried and Roy”?  Apparently some of their acts included the use of exotic white tigers.  Back in 2003 there was a terrible accident when one of the tigers tried to rip out Roy’s throat.
We think we can handle our sin.  We think we have it “tamed”.  Can’t be done.
You might say, “I only shoplift occasionally”, or “I only look at pornography from time to time”, or “I only lie a little”.
Your pet sin, my pet sin, will eventually turn on us.  It will bring death.

Whose slave?

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 in 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.

:17 But God be thanked that though you were slaves of sin, yet you obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine to which you were delivered.

thankedcharis – grace; that which affords joy, pleasure, delight, sweetness, charm, loveliness: grace of speech; thanks, (for benefits, services, favors), recompense, reward

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?

formtupos (“type”) – the mark of a stroke or blow, print; a figure formed by a blow or impression; form; an example

Remember the end of the “Dragnet” TV show?  The hand holds the “tupos” while a hammer pounds the stamp into the granite.

you were deliveredparadidomi – to give into the hands (of another); to give over into (one’s) power or use; to commit, to commend


Leave a mark

Paul had not yet been to Rome.  He was not the one who had led his readers to the Lord.  Others had gone ahead of him, perhaps Priscilla and Aquila (Rom. 16:3).
But when they had come to the Lord, they did it because someone had left a “mark”.  Perhaps Paul is talking simply about the doctrines, but I think he’s also talking about the kind of life that people lived before the Romans.
You see Paul mentioning this subject in his letters (all using “tupos”)

Phil 3:17  Brethren, join in following my example, and note those who so walk, as you have us for a pattern.

1Ti 4:12 Let no one despise your youth, but be an example to the believers in word, in conduct, in love, in spirit, in faith, in purity.

Titus 2:7 in all things showing yourself [to be] a pattern of good works; in doctrine [showing] integrity, reverence, incorruptibility,

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.
Leave a mark.  Leave an impression.

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

:18 And having been set free from sin, you became slaves of righteousness.

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

The verb is an “aorist” tense, a one time action.  There was a time in the past that you were set free from sin.

The question is, once you’ve been set free, where do you go from there?

you became slavesdouloo – to make a slave of, reduce to bondage; metaph. give myself wholly to one’s needs and service, make myself a bondman to him

Again, an “aorist” tense, a one time action.  At a point in the past they had become slaves of righteousness.

Every man is a slave of something.  There is a sense in which no person is free.

You can choose to be a slave to sin or you can choose to be a slave to God.

There is no middle ground.

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.

:19 I speak in human terms because of the weakness of your flesh. For just as you presented your members as slaves of uncleanness, and of lawlessness leading to more lawlessness, so now present your members as slaves of righteousness for holiness.

weaknessastheneia – want of strength, weakness, infirmity

members – the parts of your body

uncleannessakatharsia – the impurity of lustful, luxurious, profligate living (utterly and shamelessly immoral)

Paul apologizes for bringing the concept of “slavery” into a discussion about following after God.  But slavery is the perfect picture.

In American, we are big on the concept of personal “freedom”.

Have you seen the latest commercial on TV about “freedom”?  Its purpose is to promote gay marriage.  It aims at tugging on your heart strings because it’s all about love, marriage, and the right to marry the person you love. (show video)
But if you follow what Paul is teaching us, the real issue behind the commercial is not about freedom, but about what you are enslaving yourself to?
Are we moving toward a society where there are no bounds as to what you can enslave yourself to?

First we complain about our Pepsi being taken away.  Then we complain about our beer being taken away.  Then we complain about our pot being taken away… and on it goes.

Our society has become so anesthetized to “uncleanness” and “lawlessness” that we don’t see the lines anymore.  The things we complain about “losing” aren’t freedoms but things that enslave people.

present your members as slaves of righteousness …

slavesdoulos – a slave, bondman, man of servile condition

We might think that a slave doesn’t have any choice as to who he obeys.

The Jewish concept of a slave involved a choice.
A person usually became a slave because of financial circumstances.  If you were a Hebrew slave owner, you had to set your servant free after he served you for six years.
But not everyone wanted to go after six years.
(Exo 21:5-6 NKJV)  "But if the servant plainly says, 'I love my master, my wife, and my children; I will not go out free,' {6} "then his master shall bring him to the judges. He shall also bring him to the door, or to the doorpost, and his master shall pierce his ear with an awl; and he shall serve him forever.

God wants us to make a choice, to choose to serve Him.  He longs for us to offer our ear to Him.

for holinesshagiasmos – consecration; sanctification: it’s the process of becoming more and more set apart for God’s use.  It’s not an instantaneous event, it’s a process.

The outcome of presenting your bodily parts as slaves to righteousness is holiness.


Serve God like you used to serve sin

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 couldn’t 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 you were slaves of sin, you were free in regard to righteousness.

No man serves two masters.

If you are a slave to sin, then you are not a slave to righteousness.

:21 What fruit did you have then in the things of which you are now ashamed? For the end of those things is death.

ashamedepaischunomai – to be ashamed; a more intense form of aischuno – to disfigure; to dishonor; to suffuse with shame, make ashamed, be ashamed

the endtelos – end; the end to which all things relate, the aim, purpose

What was the result you got from doing the kinds of things that you are now so ashamed of?

You got death.

Do you remember the “shame” of your sin?  Have you forgotten why you turned to Christ in the first place?


Don’t forget the end!

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.
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 having been set free from sin, and having become slaves of God, you have your fruit to holiness, and the end, everlasting life.

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

When you are enslaved to God, you get a different result than you did when you were enslaved to sin.

You get the fruit of holiness.

You get the ultimate “end” – not death, but eternal life.

(John 10:10 NKJV)  "The thief does not come except to steal, and to kill, and to destroy. I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly.

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

wagesopsonion – a soldier’s pay, allowance; that part of the soldier’s support given in place of pay [i.e. rations] and the money in which he is paid;

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”.

the giftcharisma – a favor with which one receives without any merit of his own; the gift of divine grace; literally “a work of grace”

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.

We often use this verse as a great principle for those who don’t know Jesus.

But keep in mind that Paul is writing to believers.

It works just as well for us.

If we get caught up in sin – we will find a paycheck at the end of the week.  Not one you want to cash.
If we will trust our lives to Jesus, we end up with the greatest gift of all.
Have you opened your heart to Jesus yet?