ROMANS 5 - 8

Romans 6:14-23:
Freed from sin to live unto righteousness and holiness

by Thomas W. Finley

● “For sin shall not be master over you, for you are not under law but under grace.” (Rom. 6:14) This is a key transitional verse. Sin has lost its position as a master over us through our union with Christ in His death and resurrection (6:1-13).

● “Under law” means that law, a set of commandments or rules, governs one’s relationship with God. When “under law” a person focuses upon and lives to certain rules. He feels responsible to obey those rules in order to establish his righteousness before God. This general legal principle was the principle of the Old Testament Law. The law demands, but gives no enablement to obey (Gal. 3:21; Rom. 8:3). The keeping of the law, the "works of the law," is linked in Scripture with the effort of man's flesh, his natural ability in Adam. (Gal. 3:2-3; Rom. 3:27; Eph. 2:8-9).

● “Under grace” means that my relationship with God is governed by receiving and responding to grace, the working of God’s Spirit towards us. A person living “under grace” is living in union with Christ by means of the Holy Spirit. Our union with Christ in His death and resurrection was just detailed by Paul in Rom. 6:3-13, and this spiritual union reflects the principle of grace. A person under grace is experiencing Christ as his life and his spiritual supply through the Spirit (1 Cor. 15:10; Gal. 2:20-21, 3:5; 5:4). Sin’s mastery over men is linked to the law principle, and Paul picks up this theme again in Rom. 7. Paul declares in Rom. 6:14 that sin has lost its place as our master because we are not under the principle of law, but under the principle of grace. The grace principle is now the principle by which we should live our Christian life, not the law principle. Now Paul transitions his discussion in 6:15-22 to show the contrast between living with sin as a master and living to righteousness and holiness because we are now servants to God, living directly to Him under grace.

● Because we are no longer under the constraint of law and its rules, but under grace, do we then have freedom to sin? “May it never be!” replies Paul in Rom. 6:15. Paul then goes on to show that after we have left sin as a master we now present ourselves to a new master, who is God Himself. This new relationship and its results are then portrayed by Paul in the verses that follow.

● 6:17. We were slaves of sin when our life was wholly in Adam. But now we have been handed over to a new form of teaching – a teaching all about Christ. This teaching begins with His salvation through the blood of His cross, and is now progressing with His way of daily living righteously before God. Righteous living is not achieved though the law, but through living according to the Spirit (Rom. 8:4). The believers obeyed the gospel and were now growing in that new form of teaching, being obedient from the heart.

● In Rom. 6:18 Paul boldly declares that God has freed us from the slave-master of sin, and we have become slaves of righteousness. This is another great spiritual fact which we must receive and live out by faith.

● Based upon the truth of what God for us in union with Christ, we are now to present the members of our body as slaves of righteousness, and this obedience results in the practical sanctification of our living (Rom. 6:19). As we cooperate with God's purpose in our lives and present our members as slaves to righteousness, HOLINESS results. Increasingly, we are set apart to God. Thus, we serve Him more and we become more like Him. This is progressive sanctification.

●When we were slaves of sin, we were unable to produce righteousness, and the result was a living out of shameful, sinful things, which led to spiritual death (separation from the living God).

● 6:22. “But now having been freed from sin and enslaved to God” – this is the spiritual reality of our relationship to God as a believer. It is a statement of our new “position” in Christ. As we actually live out a life of being a slave to God, progressive sanctification results, and the final outcome is “eternal life.” What does “eternal life” mean here? Firstly, our experiential sanctification results in greater experience of eternal life in this age – a more intimate knowing of Christ (Jn. 10:10; 17:3). Yet, the “eternal life” mentioned here refers especially to a reward for the obedient believer. It consists of the fullness of eternal life that may be realized in the coming age of Christ’s 1,000 year Kingdom (Jn. 4:36; 12:24-25; Mk. 10:29,30; Rom. 5:21; Gal. 6:8; 1 Tim. 6:18-19). We possess eternal life now as a gift from God (Jn. 3:16; 4:1, 13-14; 5:24), received when we believe. But, through our obedience in this age we can gain a reward - the blessing of a magnified experience of eternal life in the age to come.

● Rom. 6:23. “For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” This verse touches not only the immediate context of vs. 21-22, but seems to also reach back over chapters 5 and 6 as a summary statement. In 6:21 Paul is describing our former life in Adam with its outcome. In 6:22 Paul describes firstly the position of the believer (freed from sin/enslaved to God) and then the potential benefit of the believer as he lives as a slave to God. The summary statement of 6:23a (“the wages of sin is death”) covers the result of living in sin. Yet, God has made an alternative possible. He has given us eternal life as a gift, and this life may be developed into further experience of eternal life by our cooperation with Him (Rom. 6). Verse 23 could also be viewed as the contrast of two lives – the old life in Adam contrasted with the new life (eternal life) granted to us as a gift in Christ.

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And you will seek Me and find Me, when you search for Me with all your heart" (Jer. 29:13, NASB)