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Bible Commentaries

Peter Pett's Commentary on the Bible
Romans 6

 

 

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Verse 1

‘What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound?’

The question is put in Paul’s terms but probably had in mind charges that had been made against his teachings, or arguments that had actually been put forward by people who made it an excuse for sin. Either way it is a distortion of Paul’s teaching. As he will now stress, it is far removed from what he actually taught.


Verses 1-14

Reigning In Life Through Christ By Dying With Christ, And Rising With Him (6:1-14).

The question is asked in Romans 6:1, ‘What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound?’. This brings home the fact that what is now to follow does not just deal with the question of how men and women can be accounted righteous through Christ, but also with the question of how they can become actively righteous. It was necessary to make a reply to the calumny that Paul could be seen as teaching that being ‘accounted righteous through faith alone, freely and without cost’ encouraged sin. Indeed, there were claims that he actually taught that it was good to sin because it brought out the grace of God (compare Romans 3:8). But that is not the main reason for Paul’s argument. Rather his purpose is to call on Christians to realise their potential, and to reign in life through Christ (Romans 5:17). He therefore answers the calumny by pointing out that his very doctrine, of dying with Christ and rising with Him, is in fact the greatest argument against sin and in favour of living righteously, that it is possible to have. For as he says in Romans 6:2,‘we who died to sin, how shall we any longer live in it?’And the remainder of the passage expands on that question.


Verses 1-23

Christians Have Been Freed From The Tyranny Of Sin By Dying With Christ And Rising With Him And Are Therefore To Triumphantly Seize The Opportunity Of Being So Freed From Sin (6:1-23).

Having ended the previous chapter with the thought of sin ‘reigning in death’, this whole chapter now deals with the question of this tyranny of sin, and how the Christian can be delivered from it so that he can reign in life (Romans 5:17). The implication of to such a deliverance is that the whole world lies under such tyranny. Thus the world continues in sin (Romans 6:1), and sin reigns in men’s mortal bodies (Romans 6:12). This is because sin has dominion over them (Romans 6:14). They are servants of sin (Romans 6:17). And sin pays poor wages for it results in death (Romans 6:23). But it is not to be so with Christians, for they have been delivered through the power of Christ’s death and resurrection. In consequence they are to rise above sin. They are to yield their members as instruments of righteousness to God. This will result in the process of their being made holy (Romans 6:22), and finally in their enjoyment of eternal life ‘in Christ Jesus our LORD’ (Romans 6:23).


Verse 2

‘Certainly not. We who died to sin, how shall we any longer live in it?’

His reply is firm and strong. ‘Certainly not!’ Literally, ‘let it not be’. Nothing was further from his thoughts. His teaching was rather that we have died to sin. That being so how can we possibly continue to live in it? And that we have died to sin is what he now demonstrates. By becoming Christians and responding to the crucified One Who ‘died for our sins’ (1 Corinthians 15:3) and ‘bore our sins in His own body on the tree’ (1 Peter 2:24), we have recognised and acknowledged the heinousness of sin. And by being united with Christ by faith we have committed ourselves to ‘having died with Him’, thus turning our backs on sin and all that it involves. We have become sin-repudiators. How then can we continue to live ‘in the realm of sin’, the sin that crucified Christ? It would be a repudiation of all that we have claimed.


Verse 3

‘Or are you ignorant that all we who were baptised into Christ Jesus were baptised into his death?’

For the truth is that when as believing Christians we are baptised, we are baptised into Christ’s death. Baptism is intended to be not only a symbol of dying with Christ, but also a deliberate commitment to participation in Christ’s death in union with Him (just as the partaking of the bread at Communion (the Eucharist, the Lord’s Supper) is seen as making us participants in Christ’s own heavenly body - 1 Corinthians 10:16-17; 1 Corinthians 12:12). Here, of course, he has the baptism of adult men and women who were baptised as soon as they became believers in mind, those who have ‘believed and immediately been baptised’ (Mark 16:16; Acts 2:38). It thus in our terms indicates the moment of commitment to Christ as our Saviour. By being baptised they were openly indicating, through their responsive faith, their desire to participate in the death of Christ by being ‘crucified with Him’ (Galatians 2:20). And this was because they were becoming united with Him in His death by being united with Him in His glorified body (1 Corinthians 12:10 onwards). They were thereby passing their verdict on sin as something to which they were dying. They were indicating the end of their old lives (see Romans 6:6), and the commencement of a new (2 Corinthians 5:17; Ephesians 4:22-23). They were indicating their union with Christ in His spiritual body (1 Corinthians 12:10-11), to live as He lived and lives.

(We must beware of seeing ‘the body of Christ’ as signifying the church on earth. That is a misrepresentation of Scriptural teaching. It is doubtful if in the New testament it ever has that meaning. In Scripture ‘the body of Christ’ is the glorified body of Christ into which all true believers both on earth and in Heaven are incorporated as they are united with Him, in spirit, in His glorified body. Thus in 1 Corinthians 12:10 onwards the ‘body’ includes the head, parts of which represent believers. Where mention is made elsewhere of Christ as ‘the Head’ it is not as in contrast with the body, but as Lord over His people. As 1 Corinthians 12:12 makes clear ‘the body (including the head) IS Christ’).

Some, however, see baptizo here as signifying ‘drenching, inundation, full involvement’ and as not involving baptism. They see ‘baptised into Christ Jesus’ as indicating involvement in a genuine union with Him through the Spirit’s working (the ‘baptism in the Spirit’ - 1 Corinthians 12:13; Matthew 3:11). Thus they see it as saying that by their commitment of themselves to Christ as their Saviour they were ‘fully involved in (inundated into) Him and in (into) His death’ through the work of the Spirit. Compare here 1 Corinthians 12:13 where a similar reference is primarily to ‘baptism in Spirit’ into the glorified body of Christ, resulting in drinking of one Spirit. Certainly whether water baptism is seen as in mind or not, this ‘drenching in Spirit’ must be seen as an essential part of what is being described. Indeed no one who was baptised in water in the early days would have seen it as any other than confirmation of such a work of the Spirit taking place, or having taken place, within them. Baptism was closely associated with the Spirit coming in power and uniting believers with Christ.


Verse 4

‘We were buried therefore with him through baptism into death, that like as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we also might walk in newness of life.’

Thus Spiritually as those who are ‘in Christ’ they were ‘buried with Him through baptism unto death’, dying and being buried with Him in Spiritual union with Him that they might also rise with Him. They have been united with Him in His burial so that they might experience His true death. That Christ ‘died and was buried’ was fundamental to the early church (1 Corinthians 15:3) so that His burial is the final seal on His death. Being buried with Him was proof that they had died with Him. Burial is death intensified. Thus they have ‘put on Christ’ (Galatians 3:27) in His death.

In the same way our recognition of our burial ‘with Him’ is the final seal on the fact that we recognise that we have died with Him. And this so that ‘like as Christ was raised from the dead for the glory of the Father, we also might walk in newness of life’. This newness of life can only signify life in the Spirit ‘in Christ’ (compare Romans 8:3-4; 2 Corinthians 5:17; Galatians 5:16; Galatians 5:24-25). It is the new life by which we were ‘made alive’ when all our trespasses were forgiven (Colossians 2:13), when we were ‘raised with Him through faith in the working of God Who raised Him from the dead ’ (Colossians 2:12). It is indicative of the new man who has been created in righteousness and true holiness (Ephesians 4:24; contrast the ‘old man’ in Romans 6:6 below), of the fact that in Christ we are a new creation (2 Corinthians 5:17).

‘Through the glory of the Father’ indicates the glory of the Father as revealed in what He accomplished. We might paraphrase as ‘through the Father’s glorious act whereby He revealed His glory’. It indicates the Father’s glorious power as revealed in resurrection (see Ephesians 1:17 onwards where it is the Father of glory Who raises Christ from the dead and exalts Him above all), something which brings glory to Him in His omnipotence. It indicates the demonstration of His life-giving power and righteousness (righteousness because Christ’s resurrection demonstrated both the Father’s righteousness and His own righteousness. It was because He was wholly righteous that He could be righteously raised). Compare John 17:5 where Jesus was to be raised again in order to be restored to His former glory, the glory which He had with the Father before the world was. And even to see Lazarus raised from the dead would to some extent be to see the glory of the Father (John 11:40; John 11:23). The raising of Lazarus was possible because Jesus is the resurrection and the life (John 11:25). It thus revealed the glory of the Father. Note here also the implied connection of sinlessness with the glory of the Father. Compare Romans 3:23. To sin is to come short of the glory of the Father. So to be involved in the glory of the Father is to be sinless, and to repudiate sin.


Verse 5

‘For if we have been conjoined with him in the likeness of his death, we shall be also (in the likeness) of his resurrection,’

In Romans 6:4 our entering into Christ’s death resulted in the fact that ‘like as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we also might walk in newness of life.’ This verse continues that thought and associates ‘walking in newness of life’ with being partakers in Christ’s resurrection. The use of the particular verb, which means being ‘conjoined with in the same way that one plant grows together with another’, is particularly apposite. What is ‘foreign’ is conjoined with the base plant so as to make it one with the base plant. (Compare Romans 11:16-24 where the Christian is conjoined with the Olive Tree of the Messiah). In this way are we, who are ‘foreign’ to Him because of our sinfulness and imperfect humanity, made one with and conjoined with the One Who is sinless and perfect.

We are first conjoined with Him in the likeness of His death, something that is said to have been already demonstrated (‘if we have been’). The ‘likenessof His death’ (and not just ‘in His death’) may be intended to be an indication that our death and His are not quite the same. He died physically. We in contrast have died with Him by being spiritually conjoined to Him. Or it may be indicating the close association of our death with His (‘in the image of His death’). Or it may be stressing the reality of our death through His (‘in the form of His death’). The point in the end, however, is that we died as He died. Thus we have died to sin.

And in the same way we will be raised as He was raised. This may refer to our ‘walking in newness of life’ with our spiritual resurrection being in mind (Romans 6:11; John 5:24; Ephesians 2:6; Colossians 2:12-13). Or, while including that, it may be adding to that the idea of the physical final resurrection. Compare the similar combination of the two in Romans 8:10-11 (compare John 5:24; John 5:28-29). But if so it is because the physical resurrection is the final evidence of the spiritual resurrection, bringing it to its perfection (Colossians 1:22; Ephesians 5:25-27), for it is the spiritual resurrection that is overall prominent in this passage, undergirding the arguments that follow.


Verse 6

‘Knowing this, that our old man was crucified with him, that the body of sin might be done away, that so we should no longer be in bondage to sin,’

He now reverts back to stress that we are no longer under bondage to sin. And this is because we know that our ‘old man’ was crucified with Him. Our ‘old man’ is ‘what we were in ourselves before we came to Christ’. This has died with Jesus on the cross. That is what our commitment to Christ as our Saviour has involved. And the purpose was that the old body (our old self) which was controlled by sin (our body which was then ‘the body of sin’) might be done away/rendered powerless, so that we might no longer be under bondage to the tyrant sin. For while we still live in the same body it is a renewed body, and is no longer a body of sin. Sin no longer controls it. Rather sin fights a rearguard action within it (Romans 7:14-25). Our body is now one which is submitted to Christ and empowered by the Holy Spirit.


Verse 7

‘For he who has died is justified from sin.’

And this is because, having positionally died with Christ (read in on the basis of the previous verses), we are ‘accounted as righteous’ from sin. Sin has lost its power over us. Its penalty has been fully paid by Christ. As those who have died with Christ we are accounted as righteous through the gift of His righteousness (Romans 5:16-18). In consequence sin has lost its hold on us. It has to recognise that we are dead, and therefore freed from the penalty of sin. We are counted as righteous as far as the tyrant sin is concerned and as far as God is concerned.

Some, however, see these words as referring to Jesus Christ Himself (note the change from ‘we’ to ‘he’) Who, having died, was vindicated (seen as in the right) by His resurrection. On the other hand the change to ‘he’ could just as well be indicating a kind of ‘off the cuff’ comment by the writer.


Verse 8

‘But if we died with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with him,’

For as we have already seen (Romans 6:3-5) Christ did not just die. He rose again from the dead. And therefore if we have died with Christ, we know and believe that we will also ‘live with Him’, we will share in His resurrection life both now, enjoying newness of life (Romans 6:4), and in eternity. Having been conjoined with Him in His death, we are, and also will be, conjoined with Him in His resurrection (Romans 6:5), both now (Romans 8:10; John 5:24; Galatians 2:20) and in eternity (Romans 8:11; John 5:28-29).

Note On ‘We Shall Also Live With Him.’

For a fuller outworking of the idea of ‘living with Him’ as the Risen One in the present age see Ephesians 2:1-10 where Paul reveals to us something of life in the spiritual realm. There we learn that God, having raised Jesus up with an act of mighty power (Ephesians 1:19 onwards), has in the riches of His grace also made us alive in Him and has raised us up and seated us with Him in the spiritual realm (Ephesians 2:4-6). There we share His throne (as He also shares His Father’s throne - Revelation 3:21). Thus we learn from this that in our spirits we are already seated with Christ in heavenly places, operating there with Him, simply awaiting our resurrection body (Ephesians 2:6). This description is, of course, using physical ideas in order to convey spiritual reality.

It brings home to us that as Christians we live in two realms. We live in our bodies in this material world, but we also live in our spirits, as transformed by the Holy Spirit because we are ‘in Christ’ (2 Corinthians 5:17; John 3:1-6), as those who are thrust out into a spiritual world. Whilst our spirits do not operate beyond our physical bodies in the material world, they do reach out ‘outside’ our physical bodies into the spiritual realm as we pray (2 Corinthians 10:4-5; Ephesians 6:18), and stand fast against the assaults of the Evil One by using the armour of God (Ephesians 6:10-18).

‘Living with Him’ we are therefore to live as citizens of Heaven (Philippians 3:20) in partnership with Him (Romans 6:4; Romans 6:11; John 14:23; Galatians 2:20; Ephesians 3:17; Hebrews 2:10-11) as we await His coming (Philippians 3:20), because we have been transferred under the Kingly Rule of God’s beloved Son (Colossians 1:13). We are to recognise that we are partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light (Colossians 1:12). For whilst what has been described with regard to dying with Christ in Romans 6:3-7 has been largely ‘positional’, although including within it the conception of the ‘death’ of our old life, it has been reinforced as regards our rising with Christ by the life of the Spirit. It has in mind not only future resurrection, but our present life in the Spirit.

End of note.

Our having died with Him means that we need no longer live in the bondage of sin. Through His death and resurrection He has delivered us from ‘the house of bondage’, and from the slavery of sin, as we are accounted righteous and then share His resurrection life. He has by the latter lifted us up into the spiritual realm. And thus, having been freed from the condemnation of sin by our being ‘accounted as righteous’, sin has lost its hold on us. In consequence, by positively reckoning on the fact that we have died with Him, we can now be free from sin’s grip and power. It need no longer have dominion over us (Romans 6:14). And we can live in newness of life (Romans 6:4; Romans 6:11).

But from where can we obtain the power to have this victory over sin? It is by recognising that we can rise over sin by His risen power, by us ‘living with Him’. The life which we now live in the flesh we can live by faith in the Son of God Who loved us and gave Himself for us (Galatians 2:20). With Christ dwelling within us (Ephesians 3:17; John 14:23; Colossians 1:27), we must allow Him in His risen power to live out His life through us in this earth, whilst we also enjoy our experiences in the spiritual realm. That is the glory of our new life in Christ. That is what ‘living with Him’ means while on earth.


Verse 9

‘Knowing that Christ being raised from the dead dies no more, death no more has dominion over him.’

And what is more, we can live in this way knowing that death has been defeated. Knowing that Christ has been raised from the dead, we know that He will die no more. Death has been vanquished. We recognise that death no longer has dominion over Him because He is the victor over death. Consequently, having been raised with Him we recognise that for us also sin and death have been defeated once and for all. For once we have died in Christ, death has lost its sting for us too (1 Corinthians 15:55-56). The price of sin has been paid (1 Corinthians 6:20; 1 Peter 1:18-19). We are freed from the chains of sin and the fear of death (Hebrews 2:15) in order to serve Christ.


Verse 10

‘For the death that he died, he died to sin once, but the life that he lives, he lives unto God.’

For Christ’s death was once for all. It was a once for all event in order that, being made sin for us (2 Corinthians 5:21) He might die to sin on our behalf. ‘He died’ on our behalf once for all. In contrast His living is a continual event. He now lives continually unto God. And He will do so for evermore, calling on us to live similarly with Him (Romans 6:8).


Verse 11

‘Even so reckon you also yourselves to be dead to sin, but alive unto God in Christ Jesus.’

In the same way we as Christians are to reckon ourselves as dead to sin, but alive to God, ‘in Christ Jesus’. This is what our response to what has been described must be. It must be a recognition of the fact that we are truly dead to sin. Compare Galatians 5:24, ‘but those who are of Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its affections and desires’, and that in a passage where practical living is very much in mind. This is because we, as the man we were, have died with Christ. And it must be an acceptance of, and response to, the fact that we as the man we now are (the new man) share in His resurrection and life (John 11:25) because we are ‘in Christ Jesus’. Through Him we are ‘alive to God’. And we are therefore to live to God as He does.

That this is to be a practical experience, and not just positional, comes out in the fact that we are made ‘alive to God’ and in its description as a ‘newness of life’ in which we have to walk (Romans 6:4). This is confirmed by the references to yielding our bodies as instruments of righteousness (Romans 6:12-14), and is further confirmed in Romans 8:1-17 where it is seen as due to the work of the Spirit. We have experienced a new birth of the Spirit (John 3:1-6). We have been begotten again unto a living hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead (1 Peter 1:3). Christ lives in us (Galatians 2:20; Colossians 1:27). How can it not be experiential?


Verse 12

‘Do not therefore let sin reign in your mortal body, that you should obey its strong desires,’

In consequence of the fact that we are dead to sin through our association with Christ’s death we are not to let sin reign in our mortal bodies, in other words in ourselves. Sin has been ejected from its throne. It no longer has a right to reign in a Christian. Now grace reigns through Christ’s gift of righteousness (compare Romans 5:21). Sin, along with its strong desires, must therefore now be repudiated. It must not be obeyed. For we have died to it. It no longer has any rights in our lives.

Paul recognises that there are within himself, and within all men, ‘strong desires’ (compare Romans 7:14). And these were what led men into sin. But they are to be repudiated. In so far as they are desires to sin they have been crucified with Christ, and by becoming Christians we have denied their right to control over us. Thus by the Spirit we are to overcome them and refuse them any part in our lives. We are to put ourselves under the control of the Spirit. This is an essential part of our spiritual battle (Galatians 5:16 onwards).

‘In your mortal body.’ There is in this a reminder that as we now are our bodies are subject to death, this in contrast with being ‘alive from the dead’ (Romans 6:13). Thus to succumb to sin is to encourage death. But we are not to see the body here as distinguished from what we call ‘the soul’. It represents the whole person. Sin must not reign in us.


Verse 13

‘Nor go on presenting your members to sin as instruments of unrighteousness; but present yourselves to God, as alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness unto God.’

So we are no longer to ‘go on presenting’ our ‘members’ (the parts of our body) to sin as instruments of unrighteousness. That was part of the old life. We must control the eye, the ear, the mouth, the hand, the foot, the mind, the will. If they cause us to offend we must metaphorically ‘cut them off and cast them from us’ (Mark 9:43-47). Rather we are to present ourselves to God, as alive from the dead, and to present our members as instruments of righteousness to God. We must recognise new ownership. In contrast with sin, which took us over as a tyrant, God waits for our personal response. God is not a tyrant. There is thus to be a positive presenting of ourselves to God as those who are now alive in Christ.

And along with this will go the presentation of our members to Him as instruments, no longer of unrighteousness, but of righteousness. There is an encouragement here to present each part of ourselves to God part by part. First ourselves, and then each part of us specifically (eyes, ears, mouth, hand and foot). Note how ‘lived out righteousness’ has now become the practical outworking of our having been ‘reckoned as righteous’. The righteousness of God, having made us acceptable to God, is to produce righteousness within us, although it should be noted that Paul nowhere directly makes this application when speaking of ‘the righteousness of God’, for from his point of view ‘the righteousness of God’ is a righteousness which can be accounted to us. But because He has accounted us as righteous through His righteousness, righteousness in God’s eyes is to be our business.


Verse 14

‘For sin shall not have dominion over you, for you are not under law, but under grace.’

And all this because we have now come under a new regime. We have been transferred out from under the tyranny of darkness so that we may come under the Kingship of His beloved Son (Colossians 1:13). Sin therefore no longer has dominion over us. Its power has been defeated, and its main weapon, the accusatory Law, has had its fangs drawn. For whilst the Law could make its demands, it could not draw alongside to help us. It was thus rendered powerless by sin, and could only leave sin in control. But now Christians are ‘under grace.’ What that means has been described in Romans 5:15-21. It means that we are under a new regime. It means that God has stepped alongside to help. It means that we are reckoned as righteous through Christ’s righteousness (Romans 5:15; Romans 5:17). It means that we have experienced resurrection life through the Spirit (Romans 5:5; Romans 6:4; Romans 6:11). It is the unmerited, freely given love of God acting on our behalf which is abounding towards us (Romans 5:20) and is acting to deliver us (Romans 7:24-25). This unmerited, freely given, gracious activity of God thus frees us from sin’s dominion, and reigns in us to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord (Romans 5:21).


Verse 15

‘What then? Shall we sin, because we are not under law, but under grace? Certainly not!’

Once again Paul poses a question. He had once been under the Law and he had discovered that it was a parlous situation to be in. The Law had in practise been his be all and end all. But as he had struggled to obey it, it had put him under a huge burden, and had only resulted in his sinning more. It had not freed him from sin, but had rather involved him in it. It had made him more and more deeply aware of his sinfulness. And it had made him despair. He thus knew that being ‘under the Law’, seeing it as the main determinant which controlled his life, did not stop men from sinning. Rather it contributed to sin.

In contrast, when he had come ‘under grace’ and had discovered that he could become acceptable to God through the righteousness of Christ, he had been full of gratitude. This had become the main determinant which controlled his life. He had wholeheartedly devoted himself to God. From that moment he had only wanted to be pleasing to God. Far from making him feel free to sin, it had delivered him from sin’s power and control. And then the Law had become what it had always been intended to be, an indication of what was pleasing to God (James 1:23-25). No wonder then that he cries out, ‘Certainly not!’


Verses 15-23

We Are Therefore No Longer To Be Servants Of Sin, But Servants Of Righteousness And Of God, No Longer Earning Death As Our Wages, But Receiving The Free Gift Of Eternal Life In Christ Jesus Our Lord (6:15-23).

The question now is, ‘If we are not under the Law but under grace, does that mean that we can sin freely?’ To those who understand what it means to be ‘under grace’ the question answers itself. As has already been emphasised to be ‘under grace’ is to be within the sphere of the loving activity of God which is at work to deliver us from sin (Romans 5:2). It is to be accepted as righteous before God through the righteousness of the One Who died for us (Romans 5:15). It is to be enjoying the new life that He has given us (Romans 5:17). It is to be under His formative care (Romans 5:20). It is to have died with Christ and be living with Him in newness of life (Romans 6:1-11). It is to acknowledge His rights over us. How can someone who is in that position easily sin? To sin easily would simply indicate that we are not God’s servants at all. For what we are ‘under’ is demonstrated by whom we obey.

So Paul answers the question in terms of servitude. The test of what you are under is determined by ‘who’ you obey, whether sin (which results in death) or obedience (which results in righteousness); whether uncleanness and deep iniquity, or righteousness; whether sin or God. And the end of the one is death, whilst the end of the other is righteousness and life.


Verse 16

‘Do you not know that to whom you present yourselves as servants unto obedience, his servants you are whom you obey, whether of sin unto death, or of obedience unto righteousness?’

For the test of whom we are under is the test of whom we obey. All of us present ourselves to obey either sin or obedience. And if we choose to be servants of sin we should recognise that its end is death. Whereas if we choose to be servants of obedience, with our desire being only to please God, it will result in out-lived righteousness, both now and in the world to come. Notice how ‘death’ is contrasted, not with life, but with righteousness. To have life is to be lifted into the sphere of righteousness, and thus results in behaving righteously. And if we see ourselves as dead to sin we clearly have no option but to do the latter. Note how closely Paul follows the teaching of his Master. Jesus had said, ‘He who commits sin is the bondservant of sin’ (John 8:34). Here Paul is declaring the same thing.


Verse 17-18

‘But thanks be to God, that, whereas you were servants of sin, you became obedient from the heart to that form of teaching to which you were delivered, and being made free from sin, you became servants of righteousness.’

But Paul now thanks God that while his hearers had been the servants of sin, they had responded from their hearts to the ‘form of teaching’ that they had received. There is possibly an indication here that even by this stage there was a ‘form of teaching’ delivered to new Christians, possibly prior to or immediately following baptism. Or it may have reference to the body of tradition about Jesus Christ that had been put together by the Apostles (possibly called ‘The Testimony of Jesus’ compare Revelation 1:2; Revelation 1:9; Revelation 12:17; Revelation 19:10; and see 2 Timothy 1:8). And they had become ‘obedient from the heart’ to it. Thus they had been freed from sin’s servitude, and had become servants of righteousness. Experiencing the righteousness of God when they had been ‘accounted as righteous’, they had then become servants of righteousness, living it out in their lives.

Paul clearly considered that it was important that they recognised what obedience to God meant. It did not mean following their own inclinations and ideas about God. Rather it meant responsive obedience to His revealed truth. Today that ‘form of teaching’ is found substantially in the New Testament. We do well to ensure that we live according to it.


Verse 19

‘I speak after the manner of men because of the infirmity of your flesh. For as you presented your members as servants to uncleanness and to iniquity unto iniquity, even so now present your members as servants to righteousness unto sanctification.’

Paul then points out that they must not take his illustrations too literally, always a danger with certain types of people. He was using illustrations from life to depict spiritual situations, and depicting sin as though it were a slave-master. And he was doing it because they might not be able to understand anything put more deeply. The development of a spiritual mind could take time. Thus he was speaking in terms of life as they knew it (most of them were slaves or servants, and a few were masters) so that they would understand.

He therefore clarifies exactly what he has meant. They had previously presented their members as servants to uncleanness, and to continuing iniquity. Now therefore they are to present their members as servants to righteousness, to cleanness and continuing goodness, resulting in their being made holy and set apart to God as God works within them. ‘Sanctification’ means ‘making holy, setting a man apart as separate to God and His ways’ and so in the end ‘making Godlike’. Just as the reception of the free gift of righteousness results in justification (Romans 5:16), so does the submission of our members as servants of righteousness result in sanctification, as God responds to our submission with the sanctifying work of the Holy Spirit (Romans 5:1-5; 2 Corinthians 3:18).


Verse 20-21

‘For when you were servants of sin, you were free in regard of righteousness. What fruit had you then at that time in the things of which you are now ashamed? For the end of those things is death.’

They had once been servants of sin. And in those days they had had little regard to the claims of righteousness. True righteousness had not been their concern. But what fruit had they had then in the way that they had behaved, doing and partaking in things of which they were now ashamed? The answer expected is ‘none’. And what was more they were things that resulted in death.


Verse 22

‘But now being made free from sin and become servants to God, you have your fruit unto sanctification, and the end eternal life.’

But now that they had been made free from sin and had become servants of God, their lives were producing a different kind of fruit, fruit that resulted in their being separated to God and made holy to Him, in them becoming ‘sanctified’. It was the fruit of obedience to God. And the final consequence of such fruit was eternal life.

We note here what ‘freedom’ means for the Christian. It involves becoming ‘servants of God’. It involves ‘knowing the truth’ through abiding in Christ and responding to His words (John 8:32). It involves looking into the perfect law of liberty and obeying it (James 1:25). It involves obedience to the word of God. It involves being sons in the Father’s household, and therefore submissive to the requirements of the Father (John 8:35). It involves walking after the Spirit rather than the flesh (Romans 8:4). This is what provides true freedom. If the Son makes us free, we are free indeed (John 8:36).


Verse 23

‘ For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.’

For the only wages that sin paid was death, and what lay beyond. That was the consequence of serving sin. But in contrast God’s free gift to His own was eternal life, a life which was found in Christ Jesus our LORD. Note the contrast between ‘wages’ and ‘free gift’. The one was earned, but the other was freely received without merit. It could not be earned whatever men did. It was abundantly given as a free gift under the reign of God’s unmerited love and favour (Romans 5:21). And it was wholly based on what Christ Jesus our LORD has done for us, and in the provision of His righteousness. Thus the life that he is now describing is a life based on the fact of being ‘accounted as righteous by faith’.

 


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Bibliography Information
Pett, Peter. "Commentary on Romans 6:4". "Peter Pett's Commentary on the Bible ". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/pet/romans-6.html. 2013.

Lectionary Calendar
Saturday, November 16th, 2019
the Week of Proper 27 / Ordinary 32
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