ii. This is exactly the place many Christians are.
They are, and have been, legally set free from their slavery to sin, yet they
are unsure of that truth. The following verses give practical help in living
out the freedom Jesus has granted us.
(13-14) How to walk in the freedom Jesus has given us.
And do not present your
members as instruments of
unrighteousness to sin, but present yourselves to God as being alive from the
dead, and your members as instruments
of righteousness to God. For sin shall not have dominion over you, for you are
not under law but under grace.
Do not present your members as instruments of
unrighteousness to sin, but present yourselves to God: A person can
be "officially” set free, yet still imprisoned. If a person lives in prison for
years, and then is set free, they often still think and act like a prisoner.
The habits of freedom aren’t ingrained in their life yet. Here, Paul shows how
to build the habits of freedom in the Christian life.
In the fourteenth century two brothers fought for the right to rule over a
dukedom in what is now Belgium. The elder brother’s name was Raynald, but he
was commonly called "Crassus,” a Latin nickname meaning "fat,” for he was
horribly obese. After a heated battle, Raynald’s younger brother Edward led a
successful revolt against him and assumed the title of Duke over his lands. But
instead of killing Raynald, Edward devised a curious imprisonment. He had a
room in the castle built around "Crassus,” a room with only one door. The door
was not locked, the windows were not barred, and Edward promised Raynald that
he could regain his land and his title any time that he wanted to. All he would
have to do is leave the room of his imprisonment. The obstacle to freedom was
not in the doors or the windows, but with Raynald himself. Being grossly
overweight, he could not fit through the door, even though it was of
near-normal size. All Raynald needed to do was diet down to a smaller size,
then walk out a free man, with all he had before his fall. However, his younger
brother kept sending him an assortment of tasty foods, and Raynald’s desire to
be free never won out over his desire to eat. Some would accuse Duke Edward of
being cruel to his older brother, but he would simply reply, "My brother is not
a prisoner. He may leave when he so wills.” But Raynald stayed in that room for
ten years, until Edward himself was killed in battle.
ii. What an accurate picture showing the experience
of many Christians! Jesus has set them forever free legally, and they may walk
in that freedom from sin whenever they choose. But since they keep yielding
their bodily appetites to the service of sin, they live a life of defeat,
discouragement and imprisonment.
present your members as instruments of unrighteousness to sin: This
is the first key to walking in the freedom Jesus Christ has won for us is. We
are told to not present the parts of our body to the service of sin. The New
Living Translation communicates the idea well: Do not let any part of your body
become a tool of wickedness, to be used for sinning.
are the parts of your body - your ears, lips, eyes, hands, mind, and so forth.
The idea is very practical: "You have eyes. Do not put them in the service of
sin. You have ears. Do not put in the in the service of sin.”
could be better-translated weapons.
The parts of our body are weapons in the battle for right living. When the
parts of our body are given over to righteousness, they are weapons for good. When they are given
over to sin, they are weapons for
An example of this is how God used David’s hands in the slaying of Goliath for
righteousness. Later, sin used David’s eyes for unrighteousness when he looked
yourselves to God: This is the second key to walking in the freedom
Jesus has won for us is. It isn’t enough to take the weapons away from the
service of sin. They must then be enlisted in the service of righteousness -
and, as in any warfare, the side with superior weapons usually wins.
The idea is similar to the manner in which the priests in the Old Testament
consecrated their bodies to God. Sacrificial blood was applied to the ear, to
the thumb, and on the big toe, showing that those parts of their body (and all
other parts) belonged to God and were to be used for His glory. (Exodus 29:20)
We present ourselves to God as being alive from the dead. This first has
the idea that all connection with the previous life - the old man - must be
done away with. That life is dead and gone. Secondly, it has the idea of
obligation, because we owe everything to the One who has given us new life!
For sin shall not have
dominion over you: Spurgeon
said that these words give us a test, a promise, and an encouragement.
It is a test of our claim to be Christians. Does anger have dominion
over you? Does murmuring and complaining? Does covetousness have dominion over
you? Does pride? Does laziness have dominion over you? If sin has dominion over
us, we should serious ask if we are really converted.
It is promise of victory. It doesn’t say that "sin will not be present
in you,” because that will only be fulfilled when we are resurrected in glory.
But it does promise that sin will not have dominion over us because of
the great work Jesus did in us when we were born again.
It is an encouragement for hope and strength in the battle against sin.
God hasn’t condemned you under the dominion of sin - He has set you free in
Jesus. This is encouragement for the Christian struggling against sin, for the
new Christian, for the backslider.
For you are
not under law but under grace: This is the path, the means, by which
we can live in this freedom. It will never happen in a legalistic, performance
oriented Christian life. It will happen as we live not under law but under grace.
clearly defined God’s standard, and shows us where we fall short of it. But it
cannot give the freedom from sin that grace provides. Remember that grace reigns through righteousness
(Romans 5:21). Grace, not law provides the freedom and the power to live over
This shows again that a life lived truly under grace will be a righteous life.
Grace is never a license to sin. "To treat being under grace as an excuse for sinning is a sign that one is not
really under grace at all.” (Bruce)
Not under law
but under grace is another way to describe the radical change in the
life of someone who is born again. For the Jewish person of Paul’s day, living
law was everything. The law was the way to God’s approval and eternal
life. Now, Paul shows that in light of the New Covenant, we are not under law
but under grace. His work in our life has changed everything.
i. Paul has answered his question from Romans 6:1.
Why don’t we just continue in habitual sin so that grace may abound? Because
when we are saved, when our sins are forgiven and God’s grace is extended to
us, we are radically changed. The old man is dead, and the new man lives.
ii. In light of these remarkable changes, it is
utterly incompatible for a new creation in Jesus to be comfortable in habitual
sin. A state of sin can only be temporary for the Christian. As Spurgeon is
credited with saying: "The grace that does not change my life will not save my
John states the same idea in another way: Whoever
abides in Him does not (habitually) sin.
Whoever (habitually) sins has neither
seen Him nor known Him . . . Whoever has been born of God does not
(habitually) sin, for his seed remains in
him; and he cannot (habitually) sin,
because he has been born of God. (1 John 3:6 and 9)
The changes may not come all at one time, and they may not come to each area of
the life at the same time, but they will be there and they will be real and
they will be increasing and time goes on.
God has made us "safe” for grace by changing
us as we receive God’s grace; He sets us free and equips us to live righteously
before Him. Since we have died to sin, it is unthinkable that we could continue
our former practice of sin. Once the caterpillar has been made a butterfly, the
butterfly has no business crawling around on trees and leaves like a
i. "God has so changed your nature by his
grace that when you sin you shall be like a fish on dry land, you shall be out
of your element, and long to get into a right state again. You cannot sin, for
you love God. The sinner may drink sin down as the ox drinketh down water, but
to you it shall be as the brine of the sea. You may become so foolish as to try
the pleasures of the world, but they shall be no pleasures to you.” (Spurgeon)
believer under grace and the problem of occasional sin.
(15) A new question is asked: shall we sin (occasionally) because we are not
under law but under grace?
What then? Shall we sin
because we are not under law but under grace? Certainly not!
Shall we sin
because we are not under law but under grace? Paul has convinced us
that a lifestyle of habitual sin is not compatible with one whose life is
changed by grace. But what about an occasional sin here and there? If we are
under grace, not law, must we be so concerned about a little sin here and
Shall we sin:
Again, the verb tense of the ancient Greek word sin is important (the aorist active tense). It indicates
dabbling in sin, not a continual habitual sin described in the question of
"The verb in verse one is in the present subjunctive, speaking of habitual,
continuous action. The verb in verse fifteen is in the aorist subjunctive,
referring to a single act.” (Wuest)
(16-17) Spiritual principles we need to understand in order to answer the
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? 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.
To whom you
present yourselves slaves to obey, you are that one’s slaves:
Whatever you present yourself to obey, you become its slave. For example, if I
"obey” my appetite constantly, I am a slave to it. So we have a choice in our
leading to death or obedience leading to righteousness.
One way or another, we will serve somebody. The option to live our life without
serving either sin
isn’t open to us.
were slaves of sin: Paul puts it in the past tense because we have been freed from our slavery to sin.
He also says that we have been set free by faith,
which he describes as obedience from the heart. The faith is put in God’s Word, which he describes as that form of
doctrine. All in all, the point is clear: "You put your faith in God
and His Word, and now you are set free. Now live every day consistent with that
As was seen earlier in Romans 6, we can be legally free and still choose
to live like a prisoner. Paul has a simple command and encouragement for the
Christian: be what you are.
Obedience from the heart is a
wonderful description of faith. It shows that faith comes from the heart, not only the mind. It shows that faith
results in obedience because if we
really believe something we will act according to that belief.
The phrase that form of doctrine is
part of a beautiful picture. The word form
describes a mold used to shape molten metal. The idea is that God wants to shape
us - first He melts us by the work of the Holy Spirit and the Word of
God. Then He pours us into His mold of truth - that form of doctrine and shapes us into His image.
Adam Clarke on that form of doctrine:
"Here Christianity is represented under the notion of a mould, or die,
into which they were cast, and from which they took the impression
of its excellence. The figure upon this die is the image of God, righteousness
and true holiness, which was stamped on their souls in believe the
Gospel and receiving the Holy Ghost. The words . . . refer to the melting of
metal, which, when it is liquefied, is cast into the mould, that it may
receive the impression that is sunk or cut in the mould; and
therefore the words may be literally translated, into which mould of
doctrine ye have been cast. They were melted down under the
preaching of the word, and then were capable of receiving the stamp of its
(18) Why not then, occasionally sin? Because sin is not our master, and we no
longer serve it.
And having been set free
from sin, you became slaves of righteousness.
a. Having been set free from sin: What does it
mean to be free
from sin and to become a slave of righteousness? It means that sin is no
longer your boss or your master. Now righteousness is your boss, so serve righteousness
instead of sin. It isn’t right to think about pleasing your old boss when you
righteousness: What does it mean to be a slave? A slave was more
than an employee. Greek scholar Kenneth Wuest defines the ancient Greek word
for a slave here
by these terms:
One born into a condition of slavery
One whose will is swallowed up in the will of another
One who is bound to the master with bounds that only
death can break
One who serves his master to the disregard of his own
following was once true in
regard to our slavery to sin:
We were born as slaves to sin
Our will was swallowed up and captive to the will of
sin within us
Our bondage to sin was so strong that only death -
spiritually dying with Jesus on the cross - could break the bondage
We were so enslaved to sin that we served it to the
disregard of our own interest, even when sin destroyed us
Now the following is true in regard to our
slavery to righteousness:
We are born again, now as slaves to righteousness
Our will is now swallowed up in the will of God. It is
His will that matters to us, not our own
We are bound to Jesus with bonds that only death can
break; but since He has triumphed over death and given us eternal life, those
bonds will never be broken!
We now willingly serve Jesus to the disregard of our
Because we have been set free from sin, we never have to sin again. Though sin is
inevitable until our flesh is resurrected in glory, it isn’t because God has
designed a system by which we must
Sinless perfection in this body is an illusion. The Apostle John made this
clear in 1 John 1:8: If we say we have no
sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. Yet we know that in
the power of Jesus Christ, we can resist the next temptation - and that’s all Jesus wants us to be concerned
"Because of the frailty of man, the Christian at infrequent intervals does
yield to the evil nature and sin. But the
point is, God has so constituted him, that he need not do so.” (Wuest)
It is mockery to tell a slave, "Don’t behave as a slave” - but you can say that
to someone who is set free. Jesus Christ tells us to no longer behave as if we
were slaves to sin. We have been set free; now we are to think and live as free
(19-23) How to keep from enslaving ourselves.
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. For
when you were slaves of sin, you were free in regard to righteousness.
fruit did you have then in the things of which you are now ashamed? For
of those things is death. But now
having been set free from sin, and having become slaves of God, you have
fruit to holiness, and the end, everlasting life. For the wages of sin
is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our
I speak in
human terms because of the weakness of your flesh: Paul apologizes
for using slavery as an illustration, because it was so degrading and
pervasive, and especially because many of his Roman readers were slaves. Yet he
knows that this is an illustration that works well with his readers.
You presented your members . . . so now present: Paul repeats a point made earlier.
your members as slaves to righteousness. This means that we don’t
show up for work to our old boss.
Can you imagine? A new job, and the first day on the new job you leave work at
lunch time and go to your old job and ask your old boss what he wants you to
do. It just isn’t right!
leading to more lawlessness:
Paul describes a principle ingrained in human nature. Lawlessness leads to more
lawlessness. Righteousness leads to holiness - which is more
righteousness. This describes the dynamic power of our habits and how we move
along in the direction we are pointed.
Think of four trees in a row: one at one year of growth, the second at five
years, the third at ten years, and the last at 15 years. Which tree will be the
most difficult to pull up out of the ground? Obviously, the longer we are rooted
in a behavior the harder it is to uproot it - a principle that works both for
good and evil.
For when you were slaves of sin, you were free in regard to righteousness: Paul’s point is almost humorous. When we were slaves of sin,
we were free all right - free in regard to righteousness. Some freedom!
What fruit did you have then: To walk in victory over sin, we must think rightly about the fruit
of sin. The
end of those things is death: The end product of sin is death - not
fun. But the end product of righteousness is everlasting life.
In a time of temptation, these truths can seem unreal - so we must rely on our
faith in these things, not on our feelings while being tempted.
"Consider these three things: 1. How little fruit and satisfaction your former
sins have afforded you in the very time of committing them. 2. How nothing but
shame and sorrow doth follow upon the remembrance of them. 3. How death, yea,
eternal death and damnation (unless pardoning grace and mercy prevent it,) will
be the certain conclusion of them.” (Poole)
For the wages
of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord: When you work for sin, your wages are death.
When we serve God we get no pay - but He freely gives us the best benefit
Wages of sin: "Every sinner earns
this by long, sore, and painful service. O! What pains do men take to get to
hell! Early and late they toil at sin; and would not Divine justice be in their
debt, if it did not pay them their due wages?” (Clarke)
g. Answering his question from Romans 6:15, Paul
has made it clear: As believers, we have a change of ownership. The Christian
is to fight against even occasional sin because we need to work for and under
our new Master. It isn’t appropriate for us to work for our old master.
© 2002 David Guzik - No distribution beyond personal
use without permission