Read Romans 6:14-23
In our last article we saw that, as a result of Adam’s transgression, we are all the slaves of sin from birth. But when we trust Christ as our Saviour we die to sin as our master. Because Christ died for us, God has linked us to Christ in His death, burial and resurrection. That is, in the reckoning of God, because Christ died for us, we died in Him, we were buried in Him, and we rose from the dead in Him. However, sin is still resident in us. Consequently, we are still able to sin. So, we must yield ourselves to God, and not to sin. Romans 6:13 states, “Yield yourselves unto God, as those that are alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness unto God.”1 Verse 14 goes on to state, “For sin shall not have dominion [rule] over you: for ye are not under the law, but under grace.” For those who are depending upon obedience to the Law of Moses for favour with God, sin reigns as a monarch. But, as those who have trusted Christ for salvation, we have died to sin. We have come under another form of rule, namely “grace.”
Grace is the unmerited favour of God. Paul tells us that we were saved by grace through faith (Eph 2:8). That means that, as believers, we will never suffer the consequences of our sins. Christ paid the price on the cross. This introduces our second great question, “Shall we sin, because we are not under the law, but under grace?” (Rom 6:15). The first question was, “Shall we continue in sin?” (v1), that is, “Shall we still allow sin to reign in our bodies?” The meaning of our present question is, “Shall we continue to commit sinful acts, since we are saved from the penalty of our sin?” Paul replies with another question, “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?” (v16). In simple terms, Paul is stating that the one whom you slavishly serve is your master. Your theology may be absolutely correct, but your behaviour may be a denial of your claims. The life that we live must justify our claim to have been saved. Living a righteous life doesn’t save us, but it does justify our claims to having trusted Christ.
In verse 17 Paul says to his readers, “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” (NKJV). The idea of “form” in this verse is that of a mould into which molten metal is poured, which, when it is cooled, takes the shape of the mould. When we trusted Christ, He poured us into His mould, so that God now sees us as being like Christ in our standing before Him. That likeness should be evident in our lives. Having been set free from sin, we became slaves of righteousness (v18). Then, verse 19 states that just as we yielded the members of our bodies to sin, with the result that we lived sinful lives, now that we are saved we must yield our members to righteousness, the result being that we live holy lives. The word translated “yield” in this verse literally means “to stand beside,” that is, to make yourself available (to your master). Just as when we were the slaves of sin we made ourselves available to our master, so now that righteousness is our master we must make ourselves available to our new master. The result is that we are led into holy living.
Verse 20 says, “For when ye were the servants of sin, ye were free from righteousness.” You cannot be the slave of two masters at the same time. When they were the slaves of sin, righteousness had no control over them; it had no restraining influence in their lives. Then he reminds them of their past life, stating, “What fruit had ye then in those things whereof ye are now ashamed? for the end of those things is death” (v21). First of all, as you look at the life you lived before you were saved and the things you did, what positive and permanent results did you derive from them? On the other hand, sometimes when people speak of things that they did before Christ saved them, you get the impression that they are enjoying the memory of them once again. But Paul says that they are “things whereof ye are now ashamed.” Not only so, but “the end of those things is death.” This is not referring to physical death, for that is something which even Christians will experience (apart from the possibility of the Lord’s return in our lifetime). For the unbeliever, physical death leads ultimately to “the second death” (Rev 20:14,15).
In verse 22 we have a complete contrast: “But now being made free from sin, and become servants to God, ye have your fruit unto holiness [sanctification], and the end everlasting life.” The moment we trusted Christ we were permanently released from slavery to sin and became the (willing) slaves of God. The result of this transfer of authority is that now we reap the benefits (fruit) of this new relationship, that is, we have been set apart (sanctified) by God, for God. This sanctification has a practical result in that we now live our lives for God in sanctification.
Paul then states that “the end [is] everlasting life.” Everlasting life is the present portion of all who trust Christ. But, as we will see in chapter 8, we will enjoy it much more fully in a coming day. Now note the final statement in verse 23: “For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.” Sin pays wages – death. God, however, gives a gift to those who trust Christ – everlasting life. Those who receive that gift should express their appreciation by lives of devotion to the One who gave it.
1 Bible quotations in this article are from the KJV unless otherwise noted.