“And having been set free from sin, you became slaves of righteousness. I speak in human terms because of the weakness of your flesh. For just as you presented your members as slaves of uncleanness, and of lawlessness leading to more lawlessness, so now present your members as slaves of righteousness for holiness.”Romans 6:18-19
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 18.
“And having been set free from sin, you became slaves of righteousness.”
ελευθερωθεντες δε απο της αμαρτιας εδουλωθητε τη δικαιοσυνη
ελευθερωθεντες δε απο της αμαρτιας (eleutherōthentes de apo tēs hamartias) “having been set free now from sin” … eleutherōthentes means “to make free, exempt from liability, liberate, release from bondage” .. it’s an aorist participle passive .. it is something done to someone at a past time .. God liberates us, He exempts us from liability, He releases us from bondage, God sets us free .. it’s not something we can do for ourselves, it’s not something we can do to ourselves .. God does it for us because we are incapable of releasing ourselves from the bondage of sin ..
εδουλωθητε τη δικαιοσυνη (edoulōthēte tē dikaiosynē) “you have become slaves to righteousness” … edoulōthēte means “to bring under subjection, to become enslaved” .. the verb is aorist indicative passive .. it is something done to someone at a past time .. God brings those He saves under His subjection .. Christians are willing subjects of King Jesus because what happens to them is to free them from a terrible thing to a wonderful thing .. dikaiosynē means “justice, righteousness” .. subjection to King Jesus is not like subjection to the Roman Empire, it is a subjection that frees one from sin and death and to justice and righteousness ..
You will notice that verse 18 is similar to what Paul wrote in verse 16. Paul is restating this vital truth to help his readers understand how important this is for them as Christians. Paul used a rhetorical device in verse 16, then makes a strong truth claim in verse 18 to emphasize his point.
verse 16 – “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?
verse 18 – “And having been set free from sin, you became slaves of righteousness.”
Paul is looking deeply into supernatural power. Everyone is born into sin. They are subject to, slaves to, sin and death. How can they possibly obey righteousness when they are slaves to sin and death? They can’t! Only God can. He is the One who sets people free from sin and makes them slaves of righteousness.
Having been set free from the evil nature, the believer was constituted a slave of righteousness.Kenneth Wuest, Word Studies in the Greek New Testament, Romans, Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing, 1955
“I speak in human terms because of the weakness of your flesh. For just as you presented your members as slaves of uncleanness, and of lawlessness leading to more lawlessness, so now present your members as slaves of righteousness for holiness.”
ανθρωπινον λεγω δια την ασθενειαν της σαρκος υμων ωσπερ γαρ παρεστησατε τα μελη υμων δουλα τη ακαθαρσια και τη ανομια εις την ανομιαν ουτως νυν παραστησατε τα μελη υμων δουλα τη δικαιοσυνη εις αγιασμον
ανθρωπινον λεγω δια την ασθενειαν της σαρκος υμων (anthrōpinon legō dia tēn astheneian tēs sarkos humōn) “in human terms I speak on account of the weakness of the flesh of you” .. Paul used human terms (anthrōpinon) to explain spiritual realities .. those included the idea of a master and slave .. it’s a way of personifying our sinful condition before salvation and our freedom from sin after salvation .. astheneian means “frailty, without strength, weakness from handicaps” .. humans are handicapped spiritually, they are born with a spiritual handicap, sin leading to death ..
ωσπερ γαρ παρεστησατε τα μελη υμων δουλα τη ακαθαρσια και τη ανομια εις την ανομιαν (hōsper gar parestēsate ta melē humōn doula tē akatharsia kai tē anomia eis tēn anomia) “for as for you yielded the members of you in bondage to impurity and to lawlessness unto lawlessness” … parestēsate means “to place beside, stand close beside, come up to and stand by, to present, to show, to yield” .. the verb is aorist indicative active, 2nd person plural, “you” yielded the members of your body to bondage .. melē means “member or limb of the body, a part belonging to the whole” .. doula means “enslaved, in bondage, owned by another” .. akatharsia means “uncleanness, impurity” .. anomia means “without law, lawless, iniquity” .. Paul used the term twice, “lawlessness unto lawlessness,” to show that a life of lawlessness leads to continued and ever-growing lawlessness, sinners sin and continue to add to their sinfulness .. that is the natural progression of being in bondage to impurity ..
ουτως νυν παραστησατε τα μελη υμων δουλα τη δικαιοσυνη εις αγιασμον (houtōs nun parastēsate ta melē humōn doula tē dikaiosunē eis hagiasmon) “so now yield the members of you in bondage to righteousness unto sanctification” .. Paul called on Christians to yield the members of their body to become slaves to righteousness “unto sanctification” .. hagiasmon means “set apart for holy service, consecration, sanctification” .. this is the process of advancing in holiness before the Lord .. even as yielding members of your body in bondage to impurity leads from sin to more sin, yielding members of your body in bondage to righteousness leads to holiness, being set apart to serve God ..
This is powerful part of Paul’s teaching about why Christians should live differently than they did before they were saved. It makes no sense for a person who has been freed from sin to continue to live sinfully. We have a high calling in response to God’s gracious forgiveness of our sin.
Returning for a moment to the context of this portion of Romans 6, remember Paul’s questions – “What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin that grace may abound?” (verse 1) and “Shall we sin because we are not under law but under grace? Certainly not!” (verse 15). Paul addressed an issue in the Roman church which continues to be an issue in today’s churches around the world.
Every man is the servant of the master to whose commands he yields himself; whether it be the sinful dispositions of his heart, in actions which lead to death, or the new and spiritual obedience implanted by regeneration. The apostle rejoiced now they obeyed from the heart the gospel, into which they were delivered as into a mould. As the same metal becomes a new vessel, when melted and recast in another mould, so the believer has become a new creature. And there is great difference in the liberty of mind and spirit, so opposite to the state of slavery, which the true Christian has in the service of his rightful Lord, whom he is enabled to consider as his Father, and himself as his son and heir, by the adoption of grace. The dominion of sin consists in being willingly slaves thereto, not in being harassed by it as a hated power, struggling for victory. Those who now are the servants of God, once were the slaves of sin.Matthew Henry’s Concise Commentary
But, freed from sin, ye have become servants of righteousness.” This is not to be regarded as the conclusion from the two premisses, Romans 6:16-17 (Rückert, Reiche), because οὖν is not used, and because substantially the same thought was already contained in Romans 6:17. Paul rather expresses once more the happy change in his readers just described; and does so in a thoughtfully chosen antithetical form, no longer however dependent on ὁτι, but independent and thus more emphatic (hence a colon is, with Lachmann, to be inserted before ἐλευθ.). But he leaves the reader to draw for himself the conclusion, namely: this μὴ γένοιτοis therefore fully justified.Meyer’s NT Commentary
I speak after the manner of men — He seems to mean that his reasoning was taken from the customs of men, and was accommodated to their apprehension; and that he used metaphors and allegories which were well known; because of the infirmity of your flesh — Dulness of apprehension, and weakness of understanding, flow from the infirmity of the flesh; that is, of human nature. Or, as some understand the expression to mean, I recommend a duty to you, suited to human nature; yea, even to the infirmities thereof; that you should do as much for God as you have done for sin, and be as diligent in the service of Christ as you have been in the pursuit of your lusts. For as — In time past, while you were ignorant of the gospel, and many of you the slaves of heathen vice and idolatry; ye yielded your members servants to uncleanness — To various fleshly lusts which defiled you; and to iniquity — Or unrighteousness toward others; unto iniquity — Adding one iniquity to another; even so now — Being enlightened by the gospel to see the evil of such things, and the miserable consequences awaiting them; and being renewed by the influences of divine grace, it is but reasonable that you should be as ready to pursue a pious and virtuous line of conduct, and to do good now, as formerly you were to do evil; and become servants of righteousness unto holiness —Benson Commentary
Unto iniquity – For the purpose of committing iniquity. It implies that they had done it in an excessive degree. It is well for Christians to be reminded of their former lives, to awaken repentance, to excite gratitude, to produce humility and a firmer purpose to live to the honor of God. This is the use which the apostle here makes of it.
Unto holiness – In order to practice holiness. Let the surrender of your members to holiness be as sincere and as unqualified as the surrender was to sin. This is all that is required of Christians. Before conversion they were wholly given to sin; after conversion they should be wholly given to God. If all Christians would employ the same energies in advancing the kingdom of God that they have in promoting the kingdom, of Satan, the church would rise with dignity and grandeur, and every continent and island would soon feel the movement. No requirement is more reasonable than this; and it should be a source of lamentation and mourning with Christians that it is not so; that they have employed so mighty energies in the cause of Satan, and do so little in the service of God. This argument for energy in the divine life, the apostle proceeds further to illustrate by comparing the rewards obtained in the two kinds of servitude, that of the world, and of God.Barnes’ Notes on the Bible
This is a setting forth of what must follow in practice from the view that has been taken of the change in the Christian’s position resembling the transference of bondservants from one master to another. They must devote their members … to the service of the new master in the same way as they had done to that of the old one; the aims or results of the two services being also intimated. The old service was in giving themselves up to uncleanness (with reference to sins of sensuality), and generally to ἀνομίᾳ, i.e. lawlessness, or disregard of duty; and its result is expressed by a repetition of the latter word. For sin leads to nothing positive; lawless conduct only results in a habit or state of lawlessness; whereas the service of righteousness in itself leads to sanctification to the abiding result of participation in the holiness of God. “Qui justitiae serviunt, proficiunt; ἄνομοι, iniqui, sunt iniqui, nil amplius” (Bengel). Romans 6:19Pulpit Commentary
The result of the new ‘bondage’ was to be a steady course of purification; a process of self-denial, watchfulness, and diligent observance of the holy will of the God of Peace.Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges
Commentary on Romans “The Gospel of God” Chapter 1 Verses 1-15
Commentary on Romans “The Gospel of God” Chapter 1 Verses 16-17
Commentary on Romans “The Gospel of God” Chapter 1:18 – 25
Commentary on Romans “The Gospel of God” Chapter 1:25-32
Commentary on Romans “The Gospel of God” Chapter 2:1-29
Commentary on Romans “The Gospel of God” Chapter 3
Commentary on Romans “The Gospel of God”Chapter 4
Commentary on Romans “The Gospel of God” Chapter 5
We will look at Romans 6:20-23 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.