Session 6 - Does Free Grace Mean Freedom to Sin? Romans 6:15-19

Lesson 6

Does Free Grace Mean Freedom to Sin?

Romans 6:15-19


Introduction


Our reminder: the primary focus of Romans 6/7 is -  how can we live our lives here on earth in a manner that approximates our righteous standing before God in heaven? So the real issue in these chapters is Change or how to move from where we are to where we ought to be. 

We have organized these two chapters around the four questions found in 6:1; 6:15; 7:7; 7:13.

The first question was,  Should we sin habitually so that God’s glorious grace is lavishly displayed (6:1-14)? The answer is absolutely not - sin is never a good thing even if it results in God’s glory.

Now, the second question is similar: Should we sin with impunity given that grace presently rules over us rather than Law (6:15-7:6)? The answer is absolutely not - we are now slaves to righteousness rather than sin.  

Illustration: A young man called a pastor late at night and asked if he would meet with him the next morning. They made arrangements to have breakfast at a nearby restaurant.

The next morning the young man told his pastor that on a recent business trip he had stayed too late at the hotel bar with a woman colleague. The alcohol, distance from home, and easy laughter the two shared had led to the obvious. They ended up in bed together. "Now what?" asked the man. 

The pastor took a deep breath. He thought of the young wife and small children whose lives could be so terribly affected by a night of indiscretion. To preserve the family, he briefly considered advising the young man to cover up the error, but then the eternal consequences of establishing such a spiritual pattern convinced him that honesty was the path to follow. To make the young man think biblically about what he must do, the minister asked him a series of questions:

a. Had he prayed to ask God's forgiveness and pardon?

b. Had he confessed his sin to the young woman involved and told her that the intimacy would never happen again? 

c. Had he confessed his wrong to his wife and asked her forgiveness? 

d. And, if he was not yet ready to do this, had he at least arranged to have an AIDS test? For until he had been tested, he could not approach the marriage bed without endangering his wife and the child she was expecting. 

The young man listened to each of the questions without expression or comment. When the pastor finished, the young man pushed his breakfast plate away from him, leaned back in his seat, and said, "I came for grace, not for discipline. You disappoint me, Pastor."

The words cut the pastor to the heart. He did not wonder if what he had said on this occasion was wrong. He wondered, rather, what he had said in the past that would lead an intelligent, capable man such as this to believe the promises of grace mean we will never have to face any consequences of wrongdoing.  Bryan Chapell, Holiness By Grace (Crossway Books, 2001), www.crosswaybooks.org


Previously: 

  1. Sin is never a good thing even if it results in God’s glory 6:1-14. 

Now: 

  1. Christians are now slaves to righteousness rather than slaves to sin 6:15-7-6


  1. Simply put, the issue is whether or not grace gives the Christian the license to sin  6:15

This first paragraph (v15-19) directly takes up the main question of the whole section (6:15-7:6). We learned in v 14 that that the Christian is under grace not law. And now v 15 directly states and answers the question, should we sin because we are under grace with the answer, absolutely not!

 

Question for class: Why does this question need to be addressed anyway? Or to put another way, why is grace subject to abuse? 


Perhaps because it is so vast! It wipes away our guilt before a holy wrathful God. It means that God will never again condemn us with our sin. The psalmist says it this way, NAS Psalm 103:12 As far as the east is from the west, So far has He removed our transgressions from us. The writer of Hebrews says it this way, Hebrews 10:17 "And their sins and their lawless deeds I will remember no more." It is an iron- clad guarantee of the future. 

And perhaps also because it is so free! It costs us absolutely nothing. It is a gift that cannot be earned; and is not deserved. It has nothing to do with religion. And then, there is our sin nature. It is easy for us to take advantage of such a deal. 

  1. In light of the Christian’s relationship to sin it makes no sense to use grace as an excuse to sin 6:16-19 



    1. We once were slaves to sin 16

The author now speaks of a phenomenon with which we should all understand and agree. “Don’t you all know…” – plural you. This should be obvious to us. Namely, that whenever we place ourselves at someone’s disposal with the goal (eij) of obeying him we have become his slave. 

We are again introduced to the idea of “presenting” first introduced in v 13. Remember, the word “present’ is quite graphic. It comes from a verb and a preposition that together mean to “place alongside of” pari,sthmi .  Wow! Consequently some lexicons define it as “to put at someone’s disposal” (Gingrich 4939).

Here, two other notions are introduced. When you place yourself at another’s disposal with the intention (eij) of obeying him this is tantamount to slavery to that person. Jesus taught this, John 8:34 ¶ Jesus answered them, "Truly, truly, I say to you, everyone who commits sin is the slave of sin.

The only question is to whom you will be a slave. Think twice about this, because slavery to sin leads to [“resulting in” NAS (eij)] death while slavery to God leads to [“resulting in” NAU (eij)] righteousness. This is key!

Here in this last phrase obedience is put in place of God because it is the antonym to sin and because the emphasis throughout is on obedience. Paul wants to bore in on the need for obedience. 

 Also, righteous as the result is put in place of life either in contrast to death or perhaps better, because obedience leads to conduct which pleases God – righteous living.

So, with these adjustments it looks like this… 

Either… you/present yourself to/sin/  = death

Or…….. you/present yourself to/God = life


Illustration: Ads for service in the Army several years ago focused on rugged individualism (“be all you can be”) then it was being part of a larger community (“the Army of One”) and then (Army strong). In none of the ad campaigns was killing or being killed mentioned. This is a fairly significant tidbit to leave out! So also, truth in advertising is missing in today’s moral marketplace. This was tragically evident when so called social experts and media gurus promote free sex, drugs, and alcohol in our high schools and colleges. The end game is never mentioned. It is akin to the absence of pictures of aborted babies; or the normalization of homosexual practice. Yes, sin and perversion may be sensually pleasurable in the short term; however the end game is death and eternal condemnation.

Well, Paul doesn’t hesitate to mention the end game. In fact, that becomes the focus of vs 20-23.  

 


    1. We are now freed from sin 17-18

Everything turns on the beginning phrase in v 18 “having been freed from sin”. This happened before everything else in these verses (aorist participle). God’s work is always first when it comes to eternal issues of the heart. Here are the great nuggets.

  • You were indeed a slave to sin. But this is in the past (imperfect = you were v 17). 
  • Your obedience to biblical teaching was genuine (from [ ek out of ] the heart v 17). This is in contrast to surface only obedience that can be easily mistaken for the real thing. 
  • Further evidence that your obedience was genuine is seen in that you demonstrate “commitment” to that teaching v 17. The term is the aorist passive indicative of paradidwmi literally meaning to “give alongside of”. It is widely used to mean to betray (give up or deliver). But here it undoubtedly means to give over in the sense of loyalty (as Acts 14:26; 15:49; 1Peter 2:23). You are going to be committed to something – why not truth! 
  • Law has requirements; but so also grace has its standards. The “form of teaching” (v 17) was well known wherever one went in the early church. There are ethical requirements of faith.
  • Now you are a slave to righteousness v18. The interesting facet about this statement is that it is passive – you have been “enslaved” to righteousness. Do you see how the concepts of divine sovereignty and human responsibility are entwined even in matters of sanctification! God accomplished it; you must do it.
  • Does “the sin” at the beginning of both v17 and 18 have implications? Is there a particular sin in mind? Can’t be sure and perhaps a moot point.
  • At the end of the day, all of this should evoke a great expression of gratefulness to God. 
  • In the opening of v 17  “”thanks” to God” is literally “grace” to God. When we fully realize the transaction of justification, thanksgiving, joy, and adoration should come easily and often. 


So, we can identify a fifth tool for our Toolkit for Lasting Change:


Tool #5 - Know this: Change is impossible apart from an all out commitment to the authority of Scripture, 6:17. Do this: Seize every opportunity to expose yourself to the Bible.  And, as incredible as it may seem we have already been handed over to obedience to the teaching of Christ (passive). Total commitment to Scripture is the norm for the genuine Christian. As noted, the word “committed” of 6:17 is powerful. Genuine commitment to truth of Scripture means that, as needed, we will change both our opinions and practices in favor of Scripture. Above all else we must be truth driven. Practically this means that we must be familiar with the Bible. There is no substitute for exposing yourself to what God says. Amazing things happen when you do. Hebrews 4:12 “For the word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart. 13 And there is no creature hidden from His sight, but all things are open and laid bare to the eyes of Him with whom we have to do.” NAU 2 Timothy 3:16 “All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; 17 so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work.” 


Question: So what practical actions should characterize your relationship to the Bible?


Or, Ask the class:  We need to apply this tool to specific issues that are common struggles for Christians. The specific area I would propose today Regular Church Attendance.  So, now what? How can we apply the tool, “Seize every opportunity to expose yourself to the Bible”, to this situation?” 

Reminder: the common “First Steps for Change” to be applied to all situations are:

  1. What have I done or not done? (Be specific)
  2. What does God say? (Bible)
  3. Is this sin? (If so, seek forgiveness and make restitution when possible.) 

4. What must I do? (Be specific)


Then list specific actions suggested by the tool(s) germane to the issue at hand. 


Points I would mention (along with appropriate Scripture) if not brought up by class members would be:


I believe it makes sense to turn the Bible loose in your life So, here are some exhortations you consider implementing if you want lasting change: 

  • Read Scripture privately and regularly according to some purposeful plan. 
  • Mark your Bible for future reference.
  • Study smaller portions of Scripture or topics. Adjust your study to suit specific needs that arise in your life. In this case you would profit from hearing what God says about the tongue!
  • Talk about your encounters with the Bible with other believers.
  • Ask questions of those you deem knowledgeable of the Scriptures. Questions are a great means of learning. 
  • Always read and study with an eye to personal application to life.
  • Become a member of a church where Bible teaching and preaching is the central focus. And then take advantage of every opportunity the church offers to be taught the Word. 
  • Consider the personal benefit of teaching the Bible yourself.


So indeed, change is impossible apart from an all out commitment to the authority of Scripture. One thing is certain – maturing in Christ flows from truth. Again note the way v 17 frames it, “obedient…to that form of teaching…” This refers to a well defined and articulated body of doctrine. Truth becomes the well spring of practice.

I believe we can add another tool to our Toolkit for Lasting Change:


Tool #6 - Know this: Obedience is a vibrant  soul affair, 6:17. Do this: Pray and then pray some more. Fuel your passion for God by nurturing your heart. Obedience is not cold and calculating or dispassionate. It is not an academic exercise. It is not merely knowing something. It is not the mind only. Note again 6:17 – “obedient from the heart”. All true, lasting obedience comes from an act of volition.  And It is not forced. Thus we need to fall in love with our Lord. I submit that we primarily do this through prayer and reflection on his grace to us. 

Illustration: My love for Judy increases as I spend time with her and thus get to know more of her beautiful character and her favors toward me.

In light of the clear indicatives – you have been made new; and in light of the difficult imperatives – you must become new; we would be foolish if we didn’t recognize the critical role of prayer. I am talking about a crying out to God to deliver us from the clutches of sin and a pleading for resolve to do right. John Bunyan is reported to have said, “Prayer will make a man cease from sin, or sin will entice a man to cease from prayer.” Robin Boisvert in (How Can I Change 66).


Ask the class:  We need to apply this tool to specific issues that are common struggles for Christians. The specific area I would propose today Worry.  So, now what? How can we apply the tool, “Pray and then pray some more”, to this situation?” 


Reminder: the common “First Steps for Change” to be applied to all situations are:

  1. What have I done or not done? (Be specific)
  2. What does God say? (Bible)
  3. Is this sin? (If so, seek forgiveness and make restitution when possible.) 

4. What must I do? (Be specific)


Then list specific actions suggested by the tool(s) germane to the issue at hand. 


Points I would mention (along with appropriate Scripture) if not brought up by class members would be:

TBD.

c. Now we can choose to slaves to God 19

We should note that  Paul states these concepts in human terms as a concession to the weakness of our flesh. In other words, Paul’s form of teaching is as simple as he can put it! That’s why he uses the slavery illustration. He almost apologizes for this tact. 

Note how the chapter has been building toward slavery. “Present” used 5x in vs 13-19 and then “slaves” used 6x. 

Even after the clear statement that we are slaves to righteousness and the clear teaching that genuine believers will serve righteousness; the appeal is again made for Christians to personally choose to become slaves to righteousness. In fact, this is an imperative – “present”! We must obey our new Master! This is the heart of the whole paragraph. 

The terminology is similar to what preceded. However, the added contrast in results is worth noting.  The result of being a slave to sin, here called impurity and lawlessness, is more lawlessness. The result of being a slave to righteousness is holiness. And that is exactly what we want. 


So, we add another tool to our Toolkit for Lasting Change:


Tool #7 - Know this: God’s invariably holds Christians personally responsible to execute his directives, 6:11-19. Do this: Stop rationalizing or blame-shifting.  The indicatives are indeed powerful. But we must come back to the imperatives we encountered in 6:11-19. You, you, you… (note v 11,12,13,19). At the end of the day, there is really no excuse not to change. 


Question: What reasons do Christians often give for not changing? What reason is your biggest snare

Ask the class:  We need to apply this tool to specific issues that are common struggles for Christians. The specific area I would propose today Anger.  So, now what? How can we apply the tool, “Stop rationalizing or blame-shifting”, to this situation?” 

Reminder: the common “First Steps for Change” to be applied to all situations are:

  1. What have I done or not done? (Be specific)
  2. What does God say? (Bible)
  3. Is this sin? (If so, seek forgiveness and make restitution when possible.) 

4. What must I do? (Be specific)


Then list specific actions suggested by the tool(s) germane to the issue at hand. 

Points I would mention (along with appropriate Scripture) if not brought up by class members would be: TBD.


Really, let’s be honest about it. At the end of the day, there is one and only one reason we don’t change – we don’t want to. So one of the first things we need to do is to take complete and personal responsibility for our failure to change. Blame shifting doesn’t work. We can all see through itHear the clear directive of Ephesians 6:11 “Put on the full armor of God, so that you will be able to stand firm against the schemes of the devil.” Now, either you put it on or you don’t! We can not blame God or God’s law for our failure to change. His Law and His ways are good, righteous and holy. We are the problem. Do we need to be reminded of the simple teaching of James? James 1:13 “Let no one say when he is tempted, "I am being tempted by God"; for God cannot be tempted by evil, and He Himself does not tempt anyone. 14 But each one is tempted when he is carried away and enticed by his own lust. 15 Then when lust has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and when sin is accomplished, it brings forth death.”


Conclusion


Here are six things we must take with us…


1. Obedience is matter of the heart. It  bubbles up from the heart rather than trickling down from rules. Note again v 17 – “obedient from the heart”. All true, lasting obedience comes from a spontaneous act of volition.  It is not forced.

2. Obedience is truth driven. Again note the way v 17 frames it, “obedient…to that form of teaching…” This refers to a well-defined and articulated body of doctrine; probably Christian truth as opposed to Judaism. Truth becomes the well- spring of practice. 

3. Total commitment to Scripture is the golden key to change. As suggested, the word “committed” of v 17 is powerful. Genuine commitment to truth of Scripture means that, as needed, we will change both our opinions and practices in favor of Scripture. But please note something else; the term is passive! We have been handed over to obedience to the teaching of Christ. We don’t choose it. Wow! This is an incredible thought. 

4. Christians are not free to set standards for themselves that are contrary to Scripture.  We are still bondservants. We have exchanged one form of slavery for another! But oh how liberating it is! We now have life in place of death; joy instead of gloom; freedom instead of relentless demands. Psalm 116:16 O LORD, surely I am Your servant, I am Your servant, the son of Your handmaid, You have loosed my bonds.

5. For the Christian, change begins as we act on the transfer from one master to another. So, Christian maturity begins at spiritual birth. 

6. Both a principled approach and a spectator approach must be rejected as the means to godliness. On the one hand it will not due to adopt self-help programs; just follow this simple check list. As one author puts it, “We must evaluate…programs of Christian living against this test: Are they effective channels of God’s grace? No program that does not pass this test will make any real or long-lasting change in the lives of believers”(Moo 216 Application Commentary).  

On the other hand, it won’t due to simple kick back and watch God at work. Perhaps you have heard of the unbiblical slogan, “Let go and let God”.


Illustration: Sally, a stay at home wife, was married to Bill for many years. Then one day, Bill had a heart attack and died. Several years later Sally married a man named Jack. Jack was, in many ways, different from Bill.

Bill, when he was alive, didn’t like eating breakfast. He would just come down the stairs in the morning and grab a cup of coffee on his way out. But Sally’s new husband, Jack, likes to start his day off with a big country breakfast.

There was another difference between Bill and Jack. Bill never really cared about the house and whether or not it was clean and straightened up. But Jack was different—he liked and expected a clean house. 

After Jack and Sally had been married for a year, Jack was beginning to get aggravated about these things. 

He came down the stairs one morning hoping to find things different—but the house was a mess. He went into the kitchen hoping to smell bacon and eggs cooking on the stove; but, he only found a cold cup of coffee. 

When Jack voiced his dissatisfaction with the situation, Sally replied, “Well, that’s the way Bill liked things.”

Then Jack said, “Sally, Bill is dead. You are my wife now. You have to stop living like you are still married to Bill.”


Assignment: 


Study 6:20-23. 


??? The ESV/NAS translates 6:23 “free gift” rather than the KJV/NIV “gift”. What’s the difference? Which do you prefer? Disclaimer - this is a minor point but you might enjoy the challenge.


And our ongoing assignment: Chose one personal specific issue/area that you want to change. Then work out how to use this week’s tool to help bring about change with the chosen issue. (This will be the issue/area that you will focus on for the duration of the class unless you arrive at the point of making satisfactory progress on the issue. If so, then tackle another issue.)


© Copyright. Joseph Flatt. 2017. All rights reserved. May be used for educational purposes without written permission but with a citation to this source.

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