“What then? shall we sin, because we are not under the law, but under grace? God forbid. Know ye not, that to whom ye yield yourselves servants to obey, his servants ye are to whom ye obey; whether of sin unto death, or of obedience unto righteousness?” (Romans 6:15-16)
The remaining verses deal with the revoking of the slave's contract. Everyone serves a master; however, not everyone is aware of it. A person serves either Satan, directly or indirectly, or he serves God. No one is completely free as he may imagine, because “...of whom a man is overcome, of the same is he brought in bondage (II Peter 2:19).” This principle applies to the believer. A carnal Christian is not simply rebelling against God's commandments; he is allowing his flesh to enslave him. He indirectly serves the devil. Such choices never yield profitable results. Misery, discontent, broken relationships, and unfruitfullness are just a few examples of the death that sin breeds. How much better is it to acknowledge one's place in the service of God and enjoy the fruits of spiritual life, fruits such as peace, contentment, joy, love, and the fear of God? This is the second time in this chapter that Paul rebukes the concept that grace gives license. The believer is never without law. He is free from the law's condemnation, yet he is “...not without law to God, but under the law to Christ (I Corinthians 9:21).”
“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. Being then made free from sin, ye became the servants of righteousness. I speak after the manner of men because of the infirmity of your flesh: for as ye have yielded your members servants to uncleanness and to iniquity unto iniquity; even so now yield your members servants to righteousness unto
holiness.” (Romans 6:17-19)
Obedience not born from the heart is not a lasting obedience. Some people joyfully receive truth in a superficial sense; the seed falls on “stony ground.” But the true convert receives the word of God from the heart; the seed falls on “good ground,” and the person's salvation experience is manifested by his fruit. The verb delivered is actually a second person plural passive. The action is being performed on the subject, which in this case is the audience to whom the book is written. With this in mind, the understanding would be, “...that form of doctrine to which you were delivered.” The Christian has been handed over to God's doctrine upon the moment of salvation. This is his irrevocable position in Christ. God is a jealous Master, and He will not allow the slave to return permanently to his old ways. This is a comforting thought. A believer does choose to sin (...the infirmity of your flesh...), yet God has delivered him unto heavenly doctrine; therefore, he is not free to remain in the pathway of sin. Repentance must come or severe chastening will ensue (I Corinthians 11:30).
The word for servant is the same word for slave. The Christian is not set free to make his own way in this life; he is set free to serve the Lord Jesus Christ. The desire to be freed from the superintending hand of God reveals one of two problems: the problem of rebellion and carnality, or the problem of an unregenerate heart. Before the believer's salvation, the Bible says that he serves uncleanness and lawlessness (iniquity). This truth is directly contrary to the world's belief of good works and morality. After salvation, the believer is told to yield (present or standby) his members to righteousness. The ultimate goal is a life of holiness that brings glory and honor to God. The most basic idea of holiness is that which is set apart. The believer has been forever set apart from the world in position. This is why so much conflict exists when he attempts to return to his old ways. With God's primary attribute being that of holiness, He expects His people to pursue this same attribute. The believer's life is to be consumed with the Spirit's work of “...perfecting holiness in the fear of God (II Corinthians 7:1).”
“For when ye were the servants of sin, ye were free from righteousness. What fruit had ye then in those things whereof ye are now ashamed? for the end of those things is death. But now being made free from sin, and become servants to God, ye have your fruit unto holiness, and the end everlasting life. For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.” (Romans 6:20-23)
What a hopeless condition to be in! Before a man finds Christ, he is freed from the very concept of hope and is the slave of that which brings death- sin. This is why the question is then asked, “What fruit had ye then in those things whereof ye are now ashamed? for the end of those things is death.” Why would a man want to return to attitudes and actions that breed death? The last verse is often quoted to the lost; yet, it must be acknowledged that this passage is first written to saved people. All too often, people think of this death as being solely separation from God in hell; this is only a surface understanding of sin's ways. Sin's wages are always wages that smell of death. Quarreling, lust, covetousness, anger, rebellion are all sinful actions born from a sinful heart. These actions and attitudes breed death in the sense that they destroy relationships, tear people down, and cast a stumblingblock before those who may otherwise seek God. Paul is not telling a Christian that he can lose his salvation, but rather he is reinforcing the truth of sin's destructive nature. The zenith of that destruction being a lost man's separation from God in hell. On the other hand, a Christian can choose to live in the fruits of eternal life offered by Jesus Christ. A home in heaven is simply one aspect of this. The gift of eternal life offered through Jesus Christ will produce fruits of righteousness here in this life if applied daily. Attitudes and actions of holiness, mercy, contentment, peace, submission all produce results which characterize the eternal life offered in Christ Jesus. Through these types of behaviors, people are helped, relationships are healed, the wicked are admonished, the seeker is pointed to God, and the Christian edifies and encourages others with the eternal life that he enjoys in “...Christ Jesus our Lord.” If a believer serves sin, he will reap the wages of that sin which is death. This death will greatly hinder the ongoing work of sanctification that God wants to perform in his life. It will also wreak havoc in the lives of others. However, if a believer serves righteousness, he will enjoy the gift of eternal life. This eternal life will permeate his lifestyle and aid in the sanctifying work that God wants to perform in his soul. It will also serve to bring spiritual healing into the lives of others.
In summary, the power of sin in the flesh has been completely overcome by the regenerating work of the Holy Spirit. In position and in practice, the believer has been given the power to say No to sin. The old inner man has been identified with Christ's death, and the new inner man has been identified with Christ's resurrection. This same truth is taught in Colossians 2:11-13 when it says, “In whom also ye are circumcised with the circumcision made without hands, in putting off the body of the sins of the flesh by the circumcision of Christ: Buried with him in baptism, wherein also ye are risen with him through the faith of the operation of God, who hath raised him from the dead. And you, being dead in your sins and the uncircumcision of your flesh, hath he quickened together with him, having forgiven you all trespasses.” Praise God for spiritual baptism!