“What then? Shall we sin because we are not under law but under grace? Certainly not! Do you not know that to whom you present yourselves slaves to obey, you are that one’s slaves whom you obey, whether of sin leading to death, or of obedience leading to righteousness? But 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.”ROMANS 6:15-17
We hope you are enjoying your study of Paul’s Epistle to the Romans. You can read the last part of our study here. We will link you to free eBooks from previous studies at the end of this article.
We continue our study of Romans 6 beginning in verse 15.
“What then? Shall we sin because we are not under law but under grace? Certainly not! “
τι ουν αμαρτησομεν οτι ουκ εσμεν υπο νομον αλλ υπο χαριν μη γενοιτο
Paul asked his readers a second question in this section of his letter. His first question was 16:1 – “What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin that grace may abound?” The answer was – “Certainly not!” He spent several sentences expounding on the first point, then turned to the second question – “What then? Shall we sin because we are not under law but under grace?” His answer was the same as the first – “Certainly not!”
τι ουν (ti oun) “what then” .. the first part of Paul’s question pointed back to the logic of his answer to the first question.
αμαρτησομεν οτι ουκ εσμεν υπο νομον αλλ υπο χαριν (hamartēsōmen hoti ouk esmen huo nomon all hupo charin) “shall we sin because not we are under law but under grace” .. the sin nature in every person is powerful, always looking for a way to continue in sin, even when they know what God did for them through Christ’s sacrificial death on the Cross ..
Paul made strong arguments in his letter to the Romans about Christians no longer being under the Mosaic Law. They were under God’s grace. So, how does that work? First question: shall we continue in sin so that grace may abound? No! Second question: shall we sin because we are not under law but under grace? No!
There is no getting around what Paul was telling the Romans. We don’t continue in sin for any reason because there is no good reason to continue in sin!
μη γενοιτο (mē genoito) “never may it be” .. No way! Certainly not! Not on your life! .. we have many ways of exclaiming a similar thought and feeling in English ..
“What then? shall we sin … – The apostle proceeds to notice an objection which might be suggested. “If Christians are not under the law, which forbids all sin, but are under grace, which pardons sin, will it not follow that they will feel themselves released from obligation to be holy? Will they not commit sin freely, since the system of grace is one which contemplates pardon, and which will lead them to believe that they may be forgiven to any extent?” This Consequence has been drawn by many professing Christians; and it was well therefore, for the apostle to guard against it.”Barnes’ Notes on the Bible, 1834
“Just because the believer now is scot free from the law, does not mean that he can sin with impunity. There is a new propelling and compelling deterrent to sin, divine love, produced in the believer’s being which causes him to hate sin and obey the Word of God (Gal. 5:13, John 14:21-24).Kenneth Wuest, Word Studies From the Greek New Testament, Romans, 1955
“Grace does not free us to do anything we want. It does not provide the opportunity to live apart from all restrictions. Freedom is not the exercise of unlimited spontaneity. It means to be set free from the bondage of sin in order to live in a way that reflects the nature and character of God. The rhetorical question probably arose among Jews who felt that to be released from the jurisdiction of law would encourage the removal of all moral restraint. The answer to that fearful expectation is, By no means!”Robert H. Mounce, 2012, New American Commentary Vol 27: Romans, B&H Publishing Group
“Do you not know that to whom you present yourselves slaves to obey, you are that one’s slaves whom you obey, whether of sin leading to death, or of obedience leading to righteousness?”
ουκ οιδατε οτι ω παριστανετε εαυτους δουλους εις υπακοην δουλοι εστε ω υπακουετε ητοι αμαρτιας εις θανατον η υπακοης εις δικαιοσυνην
ουκ οιδατε οτι ω παριστανετε εαυτους δουλους εις υπακοην δουλοι εστε ω υπακουετε (ouk oidate hoti hō paristanete heautous doulous eis hupakone douloi este hō hupakoēn) “not know you that to whom you yield yourselves as slaves for obedience” .. paristanete means to place beside, to stand by, yield .. douloi means enslaved, without ownership rights, belonging to another .. hupakoēn means submissiveness to what is heard, compliance, obedience ..
The idea of yielding is important. We are constantly yielding spiritually because we are spiritual beings. That was the first test in the Garden of Eden. God said humans would die if they disobeyed Him. Satan said they would not die if they disobeyed God. Would humans yield to God or Satan? Adam and Eve became slaves to sin and death as soon as they yielded to Satan’s temptation and it has been that way through thousands of years of human history and misery. It is only because of the grace of God through faith in Jesus Christ that humans can now choose to whom they yield. Will it be sin to death or obedience to righteousness?
δουλοι εστε ω υπακουετε ητοι αμαρτιας εις θανατον η υπακοης εις δικαιοσυνην (douloi este ho hupakouete ētoi hamartias eis thenaton ē hupakoēs eis dikaiosunēn) “slaves you are to him whom you obey whether of sin to death or obedience to righteousness” .. people are slaves “owned” by whom they obey .. if obedience is given to sin it leads to death .. if obedience to righteousness ..
“An apparent tautology, but one which really teaches a deep ethical truth. Don’t you know that what you make yourselves that you become? The habit which you form ends by becoming your ‘second nature.”Ellicott’s Commentary for English Readers, 1878
“Paul answers the question of the man by showing that the believer has changed masters. The argument is based upon the meaning of the Greek word translated ‘servants’ … The word is doulous, the most abject, servile term for a slave in the Greek language. The believer was a slave of Satan before salvation, but since he has been saved, he is a slave of the Lord Jesus. He has changed masters because he has a new nature, the divine, and the evil nature which compelled him to serve the Devil has had it power over him broken.”Kenneth Wuest, Word Studies From the Greek New Testament, Romans, 1955
… servants to obey, his servants ye are to whom ye obey, whether of sin unto death, or obedience unto righteousness: such who obey sin, are the servants of sin; they are at the beck and command of sin; they give up themselves to the service of it with delight and diligence, and are perfect drudges to it: this is a very unhappy situation; their service is very unreasonable; and they are rendered incapable of serving God, for no man can serve two masters; they are hereby brought into the drudgery of the devil; into a state of bondage, out of which nothing but grace can extricate them; into a very mean and contemptible condition, and even a deplorable one; for if grace prevent not, they will have the wages of sin paid them, which is death, for their obedience is ‘of sin unto death’; which will lie in an eternal separation from Father, Son, and Spirit, in a sense of divine wrath, and in the company of devils and damned spirits: now this is added, to show the malignant nature and just demerit of sin, and to deter and dissuade persons from the service of it: on the other hand, such as obey the Lord, are the servants “of obedience unto righteousness”: but why is not this obedience, which is the obedience of faith to the Gospel, of Christ, and of the new man to God or Christ, said to be “unto life”, as the antithesis seems to require? because though death is the fruit of sin, yet life is not the fruit of obedience, but the fruit of obedience is righteousness; by which is meant, nor a justifying one before God, but righteousness before men; or a course of living soberly and righteously, which is the effect of being under grace; and hence it appears, that true believers can make no such ill use of their privilege, as is suggested in the objection.”Gill’s Exposition of the New Testament, 1748
“But 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.”
χαρις δε τω θεω οτι ητε δουλοι της αμαρτιας υπηκουσατε δε εκ καρδιας εις ον παρεδοθητε τυπον διδαχης
χαρις δε τω θεω οτι ητε δουλοι της αμαρτιας (charis de tō Theō hoti ēte douloi tēs hamartias) “thanks be however to God that you used to be slaves of sin” .. Paul is about to demonstrate the great spiritual benefit the Romans had from believing in Jesus Christ ..
υπηκουσατε δε εκ καρδιας εις ον παρεδοθητε τυπον διδαχης (hupēkousatee de ek kardias eis hon paredothēte tupon didachēs) “you have become obedient now from the heart to which you were handed over to the form of teaching” .. paredothēte means “hand over from, give over, deliver over” .. tupon means “pattern, figure, copy, image” .. didachēs means “doctrine, teaching, what is taught” ..
A true believer obeys “from the heart” the teachings of Christ. God saved us by His grace for a purpose – that purpose is to obey Christ and do His will. All of us at one time were slaves of sin, but God demonstrated His great mercy toward us by teaching us the truth. We are able to respond to God’s teachings concerning grace and faith and obedience and that response should be to obey.
“We were delivered into the teaching (doctrine, didache) in that we were constituted in salvation so that we would obey it. Paul thanks God that whereas before salvation we were slaves of the evil nature, we were in salvation delivered (handed over paradidomi) to the teachings of grace so that we become slaves of righteousness.”Kenneth Wuest, Word Studies From the Greek New Testament, Romans, 1955
“In the Gk. ‘form’ is a word for a mold such as a craftsman would use to cast molten metal. Paul’s point is that God pours His new children into the mold of divine truth (12:2; cf. Titus 2:1). New believers have an innate and compelling desire to know and obey God’s Word (1 Pet. 2:2).”The McArthur Study Bible, 2nd Edition, Thomas Nelson, 2019
“Christ is the type, the mould into which men are to be cast. The Gospel, as presented in Scripture, gives us three things. It gives us the perfect mould; it gives us the perfect motive; it gives us the perfect power. And in all three things appears its distinctive glory, apart from and above all other systems that have ever tried to affect the conduct or to mould the character of man.MacLaren’s Expositions, 19th century AD
In Jesus Christ we have in due combination, in perfect proportion, all the possible excellences of humanity. As in other cases of perfect symmetry, the very precision of the balanced proportions detracts from the apparent magnitude of the statue or of the fair building, so to a superficial eye there is but little beauty there that we should desire Him, but as we learn to know Him, and live nearer to Him, and get more familiar with all His sweetness, and with all His power, He towers before us in ever greater and yet never repellent or exaggerated magnitude, and never loses the reality of His brotherhood in the completeness of His perfection. We have in the Christ the one type, the one mould and pattern for all striving, the ‘glass of form,’ the perfect Man.
And that likeness is not reproduced in us by pressure or by a blow, but by the slow and blessed process of gazing until we become like, beholding the glory until we are changed into the glory.”
“To obey “whole-heartedly” requires a willing abandonment to the truth of the message. Christian obedience is never coercive; it is always voluntary. The teaching was not entrusted to the converts but the converts to the teaching. Barrett points out that unlike the rabbis, Christians are not masters of a tradition; “they are themselves created by the word of God, and remain in subjection to it.” 51 The gospel message with all its ethical implications represents an existing body of truth into which new believers are brought by faith. The message is not brought to the converts but vice versa.”Robert H. Mounce, 2012, New American Commentary Vol 27: Romans, B&H Publishing Group
We will look at Romans 6:18-19 as we continue our study of the Gospel of God.
Scripture taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved.