A Journey Through Romans (9) – Romans 6:15-23

Sanctification in our Christian experience is essential. Romans 6 is the critical chapter for the believer to appreciate and understand if this is to be a reality.

Sanctification of the issue of Life


We noted previously certain features of this magnificent chapter:

  1. It is divided in two by two leading questions, verses 1 and 15
  2. Living or not living under sin’s domination as a controlling force in my life is the underlying issue.
  3. Victory over this force is the heart of practical sanctification.
  4. How to gain this victory in four logical steps and the benefits resulting therefrom are painstakingly detailed in this chapter.
  5. The chapter inherently develops six reasons why we ought not to continue in sin. We have seen four and two are to follow.
  6. It begins and ends similar to the other three sections on sanctification: beginning with sin and death, ending with blessing in Christ Jesus our Lord.
  7. The apostle moves back and forth between positional and practical sanctification. The latter is dependent on and takes its character from the former. It is one thing to be in the inheritance and blessing. It is another thing to enjoy and possess the inheritance.

Reason 5 Obedience from the heart to a mold of teaching. vs 15-20.

vs 15. In Ch. 5:17, we note that “they which receive abundance of grace… shall reign in life…” Again, in Ch. 5:21, “grace reigns”. So grace has been victorious over sin; grace reigns, and those who receive it shall reign. We understand then, that to be “under grace” is to be the recipient of grace’s free gifts of righteousness and eternal life. What a blessed Leader! But in taking the throne, clearly grace has “put away sin” (Heb 9:26), has died to it once for all (Rom 6:10). How then can grace be a license for sinning as this question implies? “By no means,” says Paul. again, implied in this question is the dark suggestion that because I am under grace and not law, I can now sin without consequences. The apostle answers this question in the remainder of the chapter and addresses the subject of law and sanctification through Chapter 7.

vs 16. This verse gives us the fourth step along the pathway to sanctification. The path begins in faith at the cross #1, vs.6: knowing that our old man was co-crucified. #2, vs.11: reckonye also yourselves dead indeed unto sin, but living unto God. #3, vs. 13: yield (present) yourselves… and your members… unto God. If we have known, reckoned and yielded, there is only one thing left to do: #4: obey.

But the apostle here is answering vs 15 with statements of principle as a warning. To whom we yield or present ourselves as a slave, the issue becomes obedience. We yield ourselves for the purpose of obeying. The solemn consequence of yielding unto sin is that it becomes our master, and we must obey. This principle holds for believers as well as unbelievers. Believers can become enslaved to sin, unwittingly. However, our faithful Father will not leave us for long in this condition if we are truly His children (Heb 12:5-8). It is the very nature of sin to dominate us. And the more we yield to its impulses, the more we become enslaved to it. But this is not the characteristic behavior of a believer, for, in vs 17 we read, though we were “slaves of sin,” we obeyed from the heart a mold of teaching whereinto we were delivered. It is noteworthy that this great book opens and closes by teaching “the obedience of faith” (Rom l:5; 16:26). Repentance implies that I have renounced my own philosophies and have obeyed the Gospel its fullness of teaching – The metaphor here is beautiful. Every believer, in obeying the Gospel, has been put into a mold teaching – the faith – the Holy Scriptures. This brings us to the final step, the crucial one, for practical sanctification – daily obedience from the heart to God’s Word. “Sanctify them through Thy truth. Thy word is truth.” The hymn captures the truth:

“Have Thine own way, Lord!
Have Thine own way!
Thou art the Potter, I am the clay
Mold me and make me after Thy will
While I am waiting, yielded and still.”

In vs 18-20 the apostle applies the principle established in vs 16. He states emphatically that the believer has been “freed from (the domination of) sin” and has become a “slave of righteousness.” For further clarification, as if to leave no room for argument or doubt, he takes the Spirit given liberty of comparing their former lives of sin to their new life in Christ by using “as” and “even so,” vs 19. As they fully yielded their members like slaves to a life of uncleanness, progressing from one lawless act to another, even so now they were to yield their members as slaves to righteousness, bringing them to a condition of true sanctification – set apart to God from sin’s domination. The issues are presented in vs 20 most clearly:, “For when ye were slaves to sin, ye were free from righteousness.” What a tragic lifestyle! Free from righteousness!

Reason # 6 – The benefits of not living in sin. vs 21-23.

In vs 21 the word “fruit” here and in vs 22 may better be understood by the words “benefit – advantage or profit” (W.E.Vine). The apostle gives a summary of the emptiness of our former life under sin’s domination: 1) No benefit or profit, only death; 2) Believers are now ashamed of their former life. (We should keep this in mind when relating our conversion stories. If we are truly ashamed of our former selves, the old man, why verbalize the graphic, sordid details on public platforms, as if we were not ashamed?)

The contrast of “then”, vs 21, with “but now” in vs 22 is sharp. Having been freed from sin’s dominating, enslaving force, and having become slaves to God (what we are positionally, but what we should be in practice by “knowing”, “reckoning”, “yielding” and “obeying”), the benefits are: vs 16 – Obedience leads to righteousness; vs 19 – Righteousness leads to holiness (sanctification); vs 22 – Holiness leads to eternal life; Obeying God’s word results in doing what is right. Doing what is right sets us apart (sanctifies) from what is wrong (sin). But we are sanctified unto God to enjoy Him and to serve Him: this is eternal life!

“And the end everlasting life” puts a capstone on this progressive chapter. Like the mountain climber who begins with the necessary training and equipment, then after many purposeful steps, with numerous falls, reaches the summit, so the believer aims at one great life-long summit. “And this is life eternal, that they might know Thee, the only true God, and Jesus Christ Whom Thou hast sent” (John 17:3). We acknowledge how weakly we “lay hold on eternal life.” But we long for the day when “He appears” and we will reach the eternal summit.