Given Eternal Life

Explore the Bible Series

October 30, 2005


Lesson Passage: Romans 6:15-23


Introduction: As stated in the previous lesson, the sixth chapter of the Epistle to the Romans turns on two hypothetical questions that the Apostle Paul raised.  The first, found in Romans 6:1, asks, “Shall we continue in sin that grace may abound?”  The apostle devoted the next paragraph to answering this concern.  He concluded that the believer’s union with Christ makes it impossible for a Christian to continue to live under the dominion of sin.  The justified man has been united with Christ in the Lord’s death and resurrection, and, in doing so, the believer has died to the dominion of sin and been raised to new life. Therefore, sin can no longer have authority over the justified man because of this saving union with Christ.


Then Paul, in Romans 6:15, turned his attention to a second question, “ Shall we sin because we are not under law but under grace?”  This question is, of course, similar to the previous issue raised in Romans 6:1, but the emphasis has shifted.  Paul continued to contrast two types of human beings (before, Paul contrasted the old man who lives under the dominion of sin and the new man who is united with Christ).  This time, however, the apostle contrasts those who are servants of sin and others who serve righteousness. He reasons that the entire human race falls into one of two categories: servants of sin and slaves of righteousness. 


Outline of the Text:


I.                    Paul’s Surprise that the Romans Might Not Know these Principles (v. 16): The apostle seemed startled that his readers might not understand this principle, “Do you not know…”

A.    Whatever power governs a man’s life, that man is a slave to that power (v. 16a). “Present” translates a word that means to give over to one’s service; to yield one’s autonomy to another.  Everyman gives himself to the service of another.

B.     There are only two masters a man may serve: sin and obedience (v. 16b)

C.    The service of these masters will lead to one of two destinies: death and righteousness (v. 16c).

Application: These two masters completely oppose one another. One produces death and the other life. These masters oppose one another so severely that a servant cannot serve them both; rather, the masters demand complete loyalty and obedience.  A man cannot serve two masters (See Matthew 6:24). The service of each master produces practical consequences.  The servant of sin will evidence disobedience to God, and the slave of righteousness will produce practical obedience to the Lord.  The godly man’s actions do not produce his salvation, but they do evidence his salvation. Likewise, the lost man’s condition as a slave to sin will issue in practical acts of disobedience to the commands of God. 


II.                 Paul’s Thanksgiving for the Transformation of Grace (6:17-18)

A.    Once, the Roman believers lived as slaves of sin (v. 17a). Paul emphasized the remarkable change that the Roman believers had experienced.  The whole course of their lives had undergone a tremendous transformation that produced a genuine obedience from the heart.

B.     Now, they obeyed God “… from the heart that form of doctrine to which you were delivered” (v 17b). This expression seems unusual.  One would expect Paul to write “… the form of doctrine delivered to you.”  The “form of doctrine” refers, no doubt, to the pattern of apostolic teaching.  Murray asserted that Paul’s doctrine did not differ from the pattern of the other apostles. The nature of their transformation became apparent in two ways.

1.      “…having been freed from sin” (v. 18a):  The gospel had a liberating effect on the Romans.  They no longer served their old master.

2.      “…you became slaves of righteousness” (v. 18b): Again, note the theme of transformation.  Once they served sin, but now grace has released them from this unseemly bondage. However, this newfound liberty did not give them license to do as they pleased; rather, they now served a new master.


III.               The Contrasts Between the Former and Latter Lives (vv. 19-23)

A.    Slaves to sin

1.      “…you presented your members as slaves to impurity and lawlessness” (v. 19): The unbeliever willingly enslaves himself to sin.  He presents himself to impure passions and lawlessness. 

2.      “…resulting in further lawlessness” (v. 19b)

3.      “... you were free in regard to righteousness” (v. 20): Righteousness held no claim on the lost man’s life.  He did not live under the constraint and persuasion of righteousness.

4.      “…the outcome of those things is death” (v. 21 and 23): Slavery to sin bring tragic consequence, death. 

B.     Slaves to righteousness

1.      “…now present your members as slaves to righteousness” (v 19): Paul used an imperative in this phrase.  The servants of God must present their members as instruments of righteousness.

2.      “…resulting in sanctification” (v. 19b): Murray argues that, in this context, “sanctification” does not refer to the process of growth in grace; rather, it describes the state of consecration and practical holiness.

3.      “… resulting in sanctification and …eternal life” (vv. 22-23).  This gift of life comes freely from God’s grace and therefore is not caused by sanctification.


Conclusion: Paul ended this chapter with a wonderful, succinct statement of the principle theme of Romans Six.  “The wages of sin is death…”  Those who receive the sentence of death fully deserve their fate.  They have served the interests of sin, and that service brings tragic consequences.  Those, however, who receive eternal life do not get what they deserve; rather, they receive eternal life as a free gift in Christ Jesus the Lord. 



Questions for Discussion:

  1. According to this text, how many different kinds of people, spiritually speaking, exist in the world?  Describe these types of people.  What distinguishes one group from another?
  2. Why did Paul use such strident language in this text?  In particular, why did he use the term slave?
  3. In Matthew 6:24, Jesus claimed that no man can serve two masters.  Examine the words of Jesus and discuss the why no one can serve more than one master.