A Rejection of Lawlessness (Part Two)

(Rom. 6:15-23)
A Rejection of Lawlessness

Todayís lesson falls in the overall outline of Romans in the following way:

Theme: The Faithfulness and Righteousness of God (1:16-17)

I. The Need for God's Righteousness (1:18-3:20)

    General Statement Explaining Why Man Needs Godís Righteous Activity (1:18a)
    The Gentile Need for Godís Righteous Activity (1:18-32)
    The Jewish Need for Godís Righteous Activity (2:1-3:20)
II. Godís Gracious Provision of Righteousness (3:21-8:39)
    The Method of God Making Us Right with Himself (3:21-31)
    Abraham: OT Proof that God Makes Us Right With Him By Faith (4:1-25)
    Results of Being Made Right with God (5:1-6:23)
        (1) A Proper Relationship of Peace with God (5:1-2)
        (2) A Proper Understanding of Suffering (5:3-5)
        (3) Assurance in Judgment (5:6-11)
        (4) A New Race of Mankind (5:12-21)
        A Rejection of Lawlessness (6:1-23)
    Experiencing Godís Righteousness Daily (7:1-8:39)
        (1) The Way Not to Experience Godís Righteousness (7:1-25)
        (2) The Way to Experience Godís Righteousness (8:1-39)

(15) What then? Shall we sin because we are not under law but under grace? May it never be! (16) Do you not know that when you present yourselves to someone as slaves for obedience, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin resulting in death or of obedience resulting in righteousness? (17) But thanks be to God, that though you were slaves of sin you became obedient from the heart to that form of teaching to which you were committed, (18) and having been freed from sin, you became slaves of righteousness. (19) I am speaking in human terms because of the weakness of your flesh. For just as you presented your members as slaves to impurity and to lawlessness, resulting in further lawlessness, so now present your members as slaves to righteousness, resulting in sanctification. (20) For when you were slaves of sin, you were free in regard to righteousness. (21) Therefore, what benefit were you then deriving from the things of which you are now ashamed for the outcome of those things is death. (22) But now having been freed from sin and enslaved to God, you derive your benefit, resulting in sanctification and the outcome, eternal life. (23) For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Paul began a new topic in chapter 6. For the first part of Romans Paul dealt with the legalistic approach to life. In chapter 6 he deals with a second way, the one the Jews feared the most, lawless behavior, anarchy, that is doing one's own thing, the major characteristic of todayís American society. Unfortunately some corrupted Paul's doctrine of grace to justify this behavior. They claimed that since we now lived under grace, it did not matter what we did. In Rom. 6:1-14 Paul said that it was illogical for a Christian to adopt this attitude since the Christian has died to sin (he has died because Christ died). In this passage (Rom. 6:15-23) Paul cites another reason why it is illogical for the Christian to adopt a sinful lifestyle.

When Paul is presented with the prospect of promoting a sinful lifestyle, he once more recoils in horror at this suggestion: "May it never be!" (Rom. 6:15). He has still not yet introduced the way to experience the righteous life; however, he categorically rejects this second approach as much as he rejects the legalistic approach. The grace he writes of produces righteousness, not lawlessness and anarchy.

Paul in verse 16 another reason it is illogical to live an immoral lifestyle. According to Paul we are all slaves. That principle is a fact of life; you can't change it. According to Paul another fact of life is that there are only 2 masters you can obey: sin or righteousness (that is, Jesus Christ). You can't change that either. There are only 2 masters in life, either sin or Jesus Christ. There is no third option. When a person becomes a Christian, he chooses Jesus (righteousness) to be his master. In light of this, why is it illogical and inconsistent for the Christian to engage in a sinful lifestyle?

    Before going any further, we need to make sure that we are not heaping tons of guilt upon people. Revelation teaches us that Jesus is "the bright, morning star" (22:16). The morning star appears at dawn, that part of the day during which light is mixed with darkness. Unlike the sunset though when light once more is mixed with darkness, at dawn the light is overcoming the darkness, whereas at sunset the darkness is overcoming the light. The NT means for us to understand that we are now living at the dawn of time. We are both light and darkness, darkness because we still have our old Adamic nature and yet light because we have the new divine nature living in us. Because we have a new divine nature in us, there is absolutely no excuse for sinning. Because we have the old Adamic nature within us, we are going to sin. Hopefully, the light though is growing within us and the darkness is diminishing. Full noon though (that part of the day in which there is no darkness) will not arrive until Christ returns.

We can all claim to be followers of Jesus Christ, but is that true? Talk is cheap; anybody can do that. How then can I know who my Master in life really isóJesus, myself (sin), or the Law? According to verse 16 how can I determine who is my Master (or whose slave I am)?

In order to encourage them not to lapse into anarchy and lawlessness, Paul reminds the Romans of what happened to them at the point of their conversion: "though you were slaves of ____________ you became obedient from the heart to that __________ ____ _______________ to which you were committed, (18) and having been freed from sin, you became slaves of __________________."

According to verses 17 and 18 what is the exact opposite of sin?

    In verse 17 Paul writes that the Romans committed themselves to that form of teaching. "That form of teaching" Paul is referring to is the messages of the apostles about Jesus (see Acts 2:42): the life produced by following Jesus, and the Christian interpretation of the OT (an example of which is seen in Acts 2 in Peter's sermon and which Catholics call ďtraditionĒ).

At the beginning of v. 19 Paul makes a rather strange statement which raises the eyebrows of many conservative Christians: "I am speaking in ___________ __________ because of the weakness of your flesh." We will return to this after we finish discussing verses 19-20.

Paul continues to contrast the path of lawlessness and anarchy with God's path of righteousness. According to Paul in v. 19 being a slave to impurity and lawlessness led to what?

Paul is stating a very important principle here. You are either growing in righteousness or else you are growing in lawlessness, impurity. There is no such thing as stagnation in the Christian life. C. S. Lewis contrasts 2 men who are on the exact same spot on the road of life; it's just that one man is facing God and the other sin. According to Lewis the 2 men could not be further apart.

According to v. 20 when you were slaves of sin, you were free in regard to what?

Note the exclusive nature of both sin and righteousness. You are either sinning or you're living a life of righteousness. Either the old nature from Adam is controlling you or the new nature from Christ is. It's not both-and; it's either-or.

    At the beginning of v. 19 Paul made a rather startling statement: "I am speaking in human terms because of the weakness of your flesh." What Paul is asserting here is the limitation of human speech to convey God's Word to you and me. Although the Bible is God's infallible, inerrant Word, it is nevertheless still His Word being communicated through human language, and no matter what else you may say about human language, it is still human and not divine. Does that mean we can't trust the Bible? May it never be! The analogies God uses in the Bible are the ones He has selected to communicate His Word to us. In the present passage the divinely-appointed analogy is that of slavery and freedom; in Rom. 3:21-31 Paul mentions others, such as, redemption, justification, and propitiation. According to 1 Cor. 13:12 at the present time we know only in part. When Christ returns, we shall know fully because we will be able to understand completely the divine truths because Jesus is going to make us like Him completely. All this is to say that our limited human language is conveying to us God's message, and as wonderful as it is, how much more wonderful is it going to be when Christ returns!

    A side issue of this is that since God has chosen certain human analogies to communicate His Word to us, we first need to restrict ourselves to these analogies when we speak of God and we second need to learn what those analogies mean. Many times we want to be "modern" or "contemporary" in order to be "relevant." Well, we can so modernize ourselves to the degree that we have changed the message. There is a radical difference between the concepts of Jesus being our Noble Shepherd and His being our co-pilot. Sure this does not make for easy/lazy Christianity; however, it does draw us closer to Him.

In order to encourage us to abandon a life of lawlessness/anarchy and live the life of God, Paul contrasts the benefits/outcomes of living a life of anarchy with the benefits/outcomes of living the life of God. First the life of anarchy. Fill in the blanks; this will help you know what are the benefits/outcomes of living a life of anarchy:

(21) Therefore, what benefit were you then deriving from the things of which you are now ______________ for the outcome of those things is ______________.

First, that lifestyle led to shame. The root idea behind the word "shame" is "nakedness." Now whereas there are times when we feel quite alright being naked, most of the time we feel ashamed if we are naked, as in public. That is the feeling we should have about the lifestyle we lived apart from Christ.

Second, that lifestyle led to death. Whereas it is true that all people will die physically because of sin (unless Christ returns first), the truth is that those apart from Christ will also die in other ways: emotionally, psychologically, and spiritually. Many people are dead emotionally, incapable of experiencing a wonderful life emotionally and relationally. When people claim that they are tired of living, they really mean that they are tired of dying. No one tires of real life (so George MacDonald). Furthermore, people die psychologically. They don't feel right about themselves and either put themselves down, fail to live up to their potential, or else they overcompensate and act as if they are God's gift to the world. Both actions come from people who are dead psychologically. Finally, they die spiritually. They do not have a relationship with God through Christ, and if things don't change before they die or Christ returns, they will remain eternally in that state (2 Thess. 1:9).

Now the life of God's life, righteousness. Fill in the blanks; this will help you know what are the benefits/outcomes of living God's life of righteousness:

(22) But now having been freed from sin and enslaved to God, you derive your benefit, resulting in ________________ and the outcome, ______________ __________.

The first benefit mentioned is sanctification. This word literally means "the process of being set apart." At the point of salvation God sets us apart from the way the world acts and sets apart unto Himself so that we might become like Him. From that point on we are to grow in this process, becoming less and less like the world and becoming more and more like Jesus. The Catholic Church gives us advice and help in the sanctification process: prayers to guide us, disciplines to help us grow into the image of Christ. When Protestants confront Catholics and asked them if they are saved, they are referring to justification. But what about sanctification, the growth part of salvation? Our response should be, "Yes, we are saved and are growing in salvation." P.S. one day the process (glorification, deification) will be finished. So we can also say, "And we will be saved!"

The second benefit is eternal life. This does not primarily mean life that never ends. According to Christianity all people will live eternally, even those in hell. Paul and the rest of the NT writers are speaking of God's life, a quality-kind of life which God enjoys and which Christ offers you and me. Jesus said, "I came that they might have life and might have it abundantly." That is the kind of life Christ offers us.

Paul concludes this passage with one last contrast between anarchy/lawlessness and God's righteous life: "(23) For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord."

Below is a list of the contrasts between being a slave to sin and a slave to righteousness:







further lawlessness





eternal life

Now all that is left is for you to analyze yourself properly now and admit whether you are living God's righteous life or a life of anarchy or even a life of legalism. The last 2 (anarchy and legalism) lead to death; the first (God's righteous life) leads to righteousness. Which is operating in your life? Such an analysis will tell you whom you are really serving: Christ/righteousness or Satan/sin.