Through the Bible in One Year

Day 260

Romans 6:15-23

Once again the question is raised—is grace a license to sin (v. 15)?  And again the answer is, no.  The meaning of life of determined by the power which rules it (vv. 16-18).  Both sin and righteousness are personified as a power in this passage.  The Christian life is a yielding of our whole selves to righteousness, which is a yielding of our whole selves to God (vv. 19-20).  Submission to sin leads to death; whereas submission to God leads to eternal life (vv. 21-23).

What then? Shall we sin because we are not under the law but under grace? By no means! Don’t you know that when you offer yourselves to someone as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one you obey —whether you are slaves to sin, which leads to death, or to obedience, which leads to righteousness? But thanks be to God that, though you used to be slaves to sin, you have come to obey from your heart the pattern of teaching that has now claimed your allegiance. You have been set free from sin and have become slaves to righteousness.—6:15-18

Some within the church in Paul’s day thought that since God’s grace pardons and forgives sin, a Christian does not need to be as careful to resist sin.  In answer to this, Paul explains that every believer must continually reaffirm and show his or her decision to resist sin and follow Christ (v. 19).

After accepting Christ, we must continue to choose whom we will serve (v. 16).  If we return to sin and stop resisting its influences and control in our personal lives, we will once again become slaves to sin.  If we accept our freedom from sin (v. 17) and continue to present ourselves as willing servants of God and his purposes, we will grow and become more like Christ and experience the abundant life that he has promises us.

Based on vv. 15-23, those who are not submitted to Christ’s leadership and authority and not opposed to sin’s power in their personal lives have no right to claim Christ as their Savior because “No one can serve two masters” (Matthew 6:24).

That takes us back to the question that Paul is asking here: Does what he wrote in verse 14 mean that we can life life however we want?  And that answer to that is an emphatic no, because that would mean making sin our master again, which would be ridiculous and lead to life under an illusion.  Paul encourages us to think of sinning as completely illogical.  The shape of the Christian life is to follow the pattern of teaching that Christians have received in the Good News (v. 17).  The new reality for Christians is similar to the transfer of lordship the Israelites experienced coming out of Egypt: the Lord brought them out of slavery, so now they should serve only him (Deuteronomy 6:12-13).  Liberation from sin does not mean sheer freedom; it means a new master.  The new master is righteousness (Romans 6:18).

I am using an example from everyday life because of your human limitations. Just as you used to offer yourselves as slaves to impurity and to ever-increasing wickedness, so now offer yourselves as slaves to righteousness leading to holiness. When you were slaves to sin, you were free from the control of righteousness. What benefit did you reap at that time from the things you are now ashamed of? Those things result in death! But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God, the benefit you reap leads to holiness, and the result is eternal life. For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.—6:19-23

We cannot understand the pattern of teaching from verse 17 (obedience to Christ in the freedom of the Gospel) in all its depth, but everyday illustrations help us grasp it.  Paul’s first illustration is of a servant coming to a master’s door requesting instructions.  As we offer ourselves now in the service of righteousness, we grow in holiness.  Paul’s second illustration is from the harvest.  Paul appeals to our sense of shame: we should be embarrassed at our former life and shudder at the fact that we were doomed to death.  But now God has set us on a path of holiness, leading to everlasting life.  The third illustration is of sin as a paymaster: Sin pays terrible wages.  God does not pay wages at all but gives us the gift of everlasting life in Christ!

It is this third illustration that we are going to unpack in greater detail.  Death is the just compensation for sin; it is what we have earned and deserve for our offenses against God.  But eternal life is not something we can earn; it is a gracious and undeserved gift from God—a gift we must simply receive by faith in Jesus Christ.  If we accept the fact that Jesus gave his life to pay the penalty for our sin, then turn from that sin and surrender to his leadership, we will receive God’s gift of forgiveness and eternal life—the opportunity to know him now (John 17:3) and to be with him forever.  Paul here at the half point of the section of letter that is dealing with doctrine sums up the first six chapters in this way.  We have a choice: serve sin and die, or serve Christ and live forever.  Which one do you choose?

Tomorrow we are going to see Paul give us an another illustration from everyday in order to keep driving this point home.  And that is illustration is that natural death ends the obligation of the woman to her husband, so spiritual death abolishes the claim of law and and sin on us.  In other words Paul is going to show us that as followers of Christ we have a new position.

Tomorrow’s Bible Readings:

Isaiah 28:14-30:11, Galatinas 3:23-4:31, Psalm 62:1-12 and Proverbs 23:19-21

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