Monday, May 15, 2023

2023.05.15 Hopewell @Home ▫ Romans 6:15–19

Read Romans 6:15–19

Questions from the Scripture text: What question does Romans 6:15 ask? How had it previously been asked (cf. Romans 6:1)? What answer is given? How does the question in Romans 6:16 begin? What must we know about presenting ourselves to obey? What does this make us to be like? And if our primary pattern is presenting ourselves to sin, and therefore a slave to sin, what will that lead to? But if our primary pattern is presenting ourselves to obedience, and therefore a slave to obedience, what will that lead to? How does the apostle begin Romans 6:17? What pattern does this establish for how to walk in obedience? What had we been? From what did we obey the gospel—where did the change take place? What sort of transaction took place? From what were believers set free (Romans 6:18)? When believers were handed over to the gospel doctrine, of what did they become slaves? How does the apostle describe calling it “slavery” to righteousness (Romans 6:19)? Why would he use this kind of language? As slaves of what two things had they previously presented themselves? What does being a slave of lawlessness result in? But how must believers now use their freedom—of what are they to present their members as slaves? In what does this slavery to righteousness result?

Why must Christians walk in obedience?  Romans 6:15–19 looks forward to the sermon in the midweek meeting. In these five verses of Holy Scripture, the Holy Spirit teaches us that Christians must walk in obedience, because if they don’t, then it turns out that they aren’t Christians at all.

A pattern of fleshly responses. You can tell, from Romans 6:15, that Paul is accustomed to wrong responses to gospel truth. “Does grace superabound where sin abounds? Let’s continue in sin that grace may abound!” (Romans 6:1). “Are we not under law but under grace? Let’s sin because we’re not under law but under grace!” (Romans 6:15). The response is, of course, “certainly not!” We know where such thinking comes from: their weak flesh (Romans 6:19). If you ever respond to gospel truth by thinking that it makes sin more tolerable or acceptable, you can know exactly where that thinking comes from: your flesh. The only question is whether you are still in your flesh, or whether you are in Christ and such ideas are coming from your remaining flesh. 

Whose slave are you? The problem with the kind of thinking that makes sin acceptable or tolerable is that it is serving sin. Such thinking is not looking to employ the doctrine for holiness but employing the doctrine for sin. When we hear such a thought from someone (or from our own mind), we must wonder, “whose slave are you, anyway?” Whomever you are serving as a slave, you need to know that you are actually its slave (Romans 6:16a–b). 

Thus, if sin is not an enemy but a master whom you are seeking to serve, you can be sure that ends in the lake of fire, which is the second death (Romans 6:16c, cf. Revelation 20:13–14). But if you have begun to pursue obedience, to present yourself as a slave for obedience, then you can be sure that you will end up entirely conformed unto righteousness (Romans 6:16d). 

So, dear reader, which do you do with a doctrine? Do you try to figure out how it can make you feel better about your sin? Or do you look for how the Lord would use that doctrine to drive you to holiness? The way that you answer that question can tell you whose slave you are; it can tell you how you’re on the way to ending up.

God be thanked, if you are a believer. Now, there’s some very good news in Romans 6:17. The apostle believes that his Roman readers, generally speaking, are actual Christians. But the news that begins the verse is even better news: “God be thanked.” It was not the believers, but God, Who has transacted to hand them over from their former master to their new master. They have been delivered “handed over” to a particular type (more literal than NKJ’s “form”) of doctrine—doctrine that accords with godliness (cf. 1 Timothy 6:3, Titus 1:1). 

How do we know that it was God Who did this? Because their response to the gospel came “from the heart.” God alone can change the heart, and everyone who has listened to and responded to the gospel from the heart can know that it was God Who changed his heart. 

Romans 6:17 uses the word “obeyed” to describe what happened at their conversion, as if to hint that just as a right response to the gospel was given by God, so also right responses to the law will be given by God. He Who began the good work will bring it to completion (cf. Philippians 1:6). We will work out our own salvation with fear and trembling, because it is He Who works in us both to will and to work for His good pleasure (cf. Philippians 2:12–13). 

If I have responded to the gospel from the heart, thanks be to God, Who has given that change of heart. Surely, He is worthy of our obedience, and surely His grace will uphold us in obeying Him!

New slavery, but so much more. In Romans 6:18 the apostle summarizes what he’s been saying about this exchange of masters that has taken place. But why has he been speaking in terms of a new slavery? He answers that question in Romans 6:19: he’s been speaking as a man because of the weakness of their flesh. As we noted back in Romans 6:15, only from the flesh could the idea come that being under grace means that we should sin more. 

So, the apostle spoke as a man in order to be helpful to those who are still so weak in their flesh: you’ve been handed over from an evil master who’s trying to kill you to a new and good master who is saving you. Offer yourselves as slaves to your new master! What does uncleanness do to its slaves? Makes them filthy. What does lawlessness do to its slaves? Puts them in bondage to even more lawlessness. But what does righteousness do to its slaves? The end of Romans 6:19 answers that it sanctifies them, brings them to holiness. 

What a great master! And when we have such a master, if we hear that we are under grace, we will say, “let us now obey God’s law, since we are under grace!” And this is still the apostle speaking “as a man.” For, we have not been taken into the possession of Christ that we might be only slaves. But also enlisted soldiers in service of the grace kingdom. And even entitled subjects, with all the rights of citizens of the kingdom. And, even more, adopted and beloved sons! Already, in our passage, the deliverance is great, and the motive to obedience is glorious. But our new slavery is the lowest way of thinking about our conversion. Before long, we will come to the highest one.

What should we recognize about any response to grace that considers sin more ok as a result? What sort of heart refuses to think this way about sin? Do you have this kind of heart? If you do, how did you come to have a heart that obeys this type of doctrine? Where does sin take each of its slaves? Where does obedience take each of its slaves?

Sample prayer:  Lord, we thank You for the mercy in which You delivered us from our old slave master, sin. And we thank You for the power by which You handed us over to our new Master, Christ in the gospel. Grant that by Your Spirit, we would be thankful for this blessed transaction, and give us to present ourselves as slaves, soldiers, subjects, and beloved sons to obey You in Christ, we ask in His Name, AMEN!

Suggested songs: ARP32AB “What Blessedness” or TPH466 “My Faith Looks Up to Thee”

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