Holy Father we ask you to open the eyes of our hearts. We want to fully understand the gospel and to fully live the gospel by your sufficient grace, for your glory and for our good. In Jesus' mighty name, Amen!
Before we turn back to Romans chapter 6, I would like to ask you a question, a very important question. Are we supposed to fear God? Are we, God's people, supposed to fear Him? Many Christians say we are not supposed to fear God. Let's see what the Bible has to say on this topic. I'll read several verses from the Old Testament and then from the New Testament. The Bible makes it very clear that we are supposed to fear God. In what way are we supposed to fear Him? The dominant idea is that we are supposed to be afraid to sin against Him. God hates sin! God is a good God; He is a loving God and a merciful God, but He also is a Judge, and He has promised that He is going to judge sin.
I'll read some verses, starting with Ex. 20:20 (I'll read from the NASB, 1995 edition, as I always do unless I mention otherwise. I frequently make comments in the middle of quotations using brackets [ ] or [[ ]].), "Moses said to the people, 'Do not be afraid; for God has come in order to test you [This was at Mt. Sinai, and the people were afraid when God spoke audibly, and other awesome things were happening too. The words that follow in Ex. 20:20 is what we are after.], and in order that the fear of Him may remain with you, so that you may not sin.' " "That the fear of Him may remain with you, so that you may not sin." That's clear, isn't it? Deuteronomy 5:29, "O that they had such a heart in them, that they would fear Me and keep all my commandments always, that it may be well with them and with their sons forever!" Deuteronomy 6:2, "so that you and your son and your grandson might fear the LORD [Yahweh; the four capital letters show that the Hebrew has Yahweh.] your God, to keep all His statutes and His commandments which I command you, all the days of your life, and that your days may be prolonged." Proverbs 3:7b, "Fear the LORD and turn away from evil." Proverbs 8:13, "The fear of the LORD is to hate evil...." Proverbs 16:6b, "And by the fear of the LORD one keeps away from evil."
Now some verses from the New Testament. Jesus said in Matt. 10:28, "Do not fear those who kill the body but are unable to kill the soul; but rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell [in Gehenna]." Luke 12:5, "But I will warn you whom to fear; fear the One who, after He has killed, has authority to cast into hell [again, Gehenna]; yes, I tell you, fear Him!" In 2 Cor. 7:1, the apostle Paul said, "Therefore, having these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all defilement of flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God." And I'll quote one last verse, 1 Pet. 1:17, "If you address as Father the One who impartially judges according to each one's work, conduct yourselves in fear during the time of your stay on earth." We must be afraid to sin against God the Judge, the Righteous Judge. That is a good and healthy fear. The Bible talks a lot about God's love, but it talks just as much about His wrath against sin. Let's not try to see how far we can push His love by sinning against Him. Let's make it top priority, and then plus some, to learn His will and to do His will, by His grace, for His glory and for our good.
Let's go back to Romans chapter 6, which is a powerful chapter dealing with righteousness, holiness, and the victory over all sin. We stopped last time after commenting on verse 15. I'll read verse 15 and make a few comments; then we'll go on to verse 16. "What then? Shall we sin because we are not under law but under grace? May it never be." Anybody who would ask the apostle Paul a question like that, "shall we sin because we are not under law but under grace," doesn't understand the apostle Paul or his gospel at all. (Paul informs us that he got his gospel from the Lord Jesus Christ.) The bottom line of Paul's gospel was to get us righteous and holy and keeping God's moral law, by His saving grace in Christ. Shall we sin? God's grace is a sanctifying grace, and the more grace God has given us the more serious our sin is. "What then? Shall we sin because we are not under law but under grace? May it never be."
Now we'll go on to Romans 6:16. "Do you not know that when you present yourselves to someone as slaves for obedience, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin resulting in death, or of obedience resulting in righteousness?" In other words, what kind of a question is that ("shall we sin because we are not under law but under grace?"). If Christians present themselves to serve sin, they are turning from God and His righteousness and are turning back into sin and death. The apostle Paul included a strong warning here in verse 16, "when you present yourselves to someone as slaves for obedience, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin resulting in death [If Christians turn from God and His righteousness and give themselves back to sin, they become unbelievers, and the result will be death, back into spiritual death, and headed for the second death of Revelation chapter 20.], or of obedience resulting in righteousness." If we obey God and are faithful to Him by His grace, we can have a clear conscience (which is a very precious thing) and the end result is righteousness, and if we are living in righteousness we are always fully ready to stand before God.
Forgiveness and right standing are an important part of the gospel, but the idea here is that we are righteous because we are obeying God through His saving grace in Christ Jesus. We are living in accordance with His moral law, by His grace, and for His glory. We are truly loving Him and doing things His way from our hearts. This is so important I want to supplement what I just said by reading from my book on page 101. This will involve some repetition, but repetition is good if it helps us understand God's Word and helps establish His Word in our hearts and lives. I'm commenting on the words, "either of sin resulting in death." If Christians presented themselves as slaves to sin (to obey sin), the result would be death. They would be turning from God, righteousness, and life and turning to sin and death. The end result would be "eternal death," as Rom. 6:21, for example, shows. Here in Rom. 6:16 death probably includes spiritual death in its present form. In other words, those who turn from God and His life turn back into death. I don't mean to suggest that Christians immediately lose the life of God if they sin, but any sin is clearly a serious step in the wrong direction. Believers can become unbelievers. It's not worth anything to call ourselves believers. If we really have faith, we will make it a top priority to live it. Faith without works is dead. James said it and the apostle Paul would agree. Faith without works is not real faith. It is not saving faith. If we really believe the gospel; if we really have faith in the gospel, then we will make it top priority to live the gospel by God's grace.
Now we'll discuss the words "or of obedience resulting in righteousness" of verse 16. The obedience spoken of is obedience to God, or more specifically (based on Rom. 6:17), obedience to the Word of God, the gospel. When Christians obey God and the gospel (by His grace), the result is righteousness. Such persons are in the kingdom of life, and they are on the straight and narrow pathway that leads to the fullness of eternal life (see Rom. 5:21; 6:22, 23).
Now we'll discuss Rom. 6:17. "But thanks be to God that though you were slaves of sin [The apostle Paul teaches that we were all slaves of sin before we became Christians, Jews and Gentiles.], you became obedient from the heart [Faith includes obedience. Faith is of the heart. If we really have faith in the gospel, we will obey the gospel.] to that form of teaching to which you were committed." Now I'll turn to the book and read what I said on verse 17, starting on page 101. First we'll discuss the words "you became obedient from the heart." To walk in faith includes being obedient from the heart. Faith is of the heart (see, for example, Rom. 10:9, 10; Mark 11:23; 16:14; Acts 8:37; 16:14; and Heb. 10:22). The Scriptures speak of having faith in the gospel; they also speak of obeying, or not obeying, the gospel (see, for example, Rom. 10:16 KJV; Rom. 2:8; 15:18; 16:267; Acts 6:7; Gal. 5:7; 2 Thess. 1:8 with 2:10-12; and 1 Pet. 4:17). We must have faith in the gospel, and we must obey the gospel. To have faith in the gospel includes obeying the gospel. And if we are obeying the gospel it is by grace through faith.
The main point I want to make here is that faith in the gospel includes obedience to the gospel. I have found that many Christians don't know this. It is not enough to have correct doctrine (as important as that is) or to call ourselves believers and say that we have faith in the gospel; we must make it top priority to live the gospel. If we don't live the gospel, we don't really have faith in the gospel. And if we really have faith, we can live it by the power of the indwelling Holy Spirit. We receive the Holy Spirit through the atoning death of the Lord Jesus Christ. God gets all the glory for every aspect of our salvation. We don't get puffed up. If we really understand righteousness and holiness, we don't get puffed up because we know who is doing it. God paid an infinite price so we could live in His righteousness and holiness.
I'll quote a paragraph from what John MacArthur says under Rom. 6:17, 18 (I'm quoting from his commentary, "Romans 1-8," published by Moody Press in 1991). "Faith and obedience are inescapably related. There is no saving faith in God apart from obedience to God, and there can be no godly obedience without godly faith. As the beautiful and popular hymn admonishes, 'Trust and obey, there's no other way.' Our Lord 'gave Himself for us,' Paul says, not only to save us from hell and take us to heaven but to 'redeem us from every lawless deed and purify for Himself a people for His own possession, zealous for good deeds.' (Titus 2:14)."
Now we'll discuss the words "to that form of teaching" of Romans 6:17. That "form of teaching" at least includes the gospel truth that Christians are to be dead to sin and alive to God and righteousness, by the grace of God, through faith.
Now we'll discuss the last words of Rom. 6:17, "to which you were committed." I prefer the translation of the NKJV, "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." That form of doctrine to which you were delivered (Greek verb "paradidomi"). This translation, which fits the Greek verb "paradidomi" well, helps communicate the idea that Christians are, by definition, required to be faithful to their new Master. They have been delivered from the old master (sin) to the new Master (God and His righteousness); there is no neutral ground (see Rom. 6:17-23). To be a slave of God and His righteousness is, in reality, liberty. We really have only two options. We either stay slaves of sin, or accept the new covenant on God's terms and become faithful to it and become slaves of God and His righteousness. There really is no legitimate place in between. If we are going to do it God's way, we must go all the way. We can not take half the gospel or 80 percent or 90 percent of the gospel. God didn't give us that option. And if we go all the way with God, we will be faithful to that form of teaching to which we were delivered over, which puts all the emphasis on living in the righteousness and holiness of God by His saving, sanctifying grace.
Now we'll discuss Rom. 6:18, "and having been freed from sin." We were slaves of sin, but now we have been set free from sin, as we have seen in many verses of Romans chapter 6. We have been set free from sin through the saving grace of God in Christ. We are united with Him in His death, His burial, His resurrection, and His present life. The verse continues, "you became slaves of righteousness." Now that's a good exchange. We were slaves of sin, now we are slaves of righteousness. A slave of righteousness lives in righteousness, doing the will of God, from the heart, by God's grace.
Now verse 19. The apostle Paul said, "I am speaking in human terms [In other words, I am giving you this teaching and this exhortation about how you used to be slaves of sin, but now you have been set free, and now you are required and privileged to be slaves of God and His righteousness.] because of the weakness of your flesh. [[In your natural selves it is all too easy to sin, even though you are born-again Christians. That's why I am teaching and exhorting you, Paul says. Yes, you could sin, and it's easy to sin, but you must understand the gospel. Now the very Spirit of God dwells in you, and now you are called, enabled, and required to walk in the righteousness and holiness of God, being faithful to the terms of the new covenant.
"I am speaking in human terms because of the weakness of your flesh." If we walk by the flesh we will sin. That's why we must always walk by, in, and after the Holy Spirit. Remember Gal. 5:16 "But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you most certainly will not carry out the [sinful] desire of the flesh [of the old man]."]] For just as you presented your members as slaves to impurity and to lawlessness [back before you became born-again Christians, that is], resulting in further lawlessness. [The NASB has the word "further" in italics. I would skip that added word. If we are going to add words in italics, I would add words like the following, "resulting in (an abiding state of) lawlessness." Paul tells his readers that they were living in a abiding state of lawlessness in the years before they became born-again Christians.], so now present your members as slaves to righteousness." [You used to be slaves of sin, but now that you are born-again Christians, present yourselves, including your bodies, as slaves to righteousness. Once for all, and completely, present yourselves as slaves to God and His righteousness, by His saving grace in Christ, by faith, in accordance with the terms of the new covenant.], resulting in sanctification." The NASB translates "sanctification" here. I would translate "holiness," with the KJV, NKJV, and the NIV. And it would be reasonable to add a few words in italics here, "resulting in (an abiding state of) holiness." You used to be slaves of sin, Paul says, "resulting in an abiding state of lawlessness." So, now that you are born-again Christians, present yourselves, including your bodies, as slaves to righteousness, "resulting in (an abiding state of) holiness." Now you have the requirement, but also the extreme privilege, to live in an abiding state of holiness, set apart from sin for God and His righteousness and holiness.
Verse 20. "For when you were slaves of sin, you were free in regard to righteousness." The other side of that truth is that now that you are born-again Christians, you are to be free in regard to sin. That's not overstated; that's what the apostle is saying throughout Romans chapter 6. This is very good news! This is what all true Christians want. No true Christian wants to sin at all. If we should sin we will be forgiven when we sincerely repent, but that's not the heartbeat of Christianity, sin get forgiven, sin get forgiven, sin get forgiven. The heartbeat of Christianity, like Romans chapter 6 and many other passages show, is that we can, and should, always walk in the righteousness of God by His grace and stop sinning. We must at least aim at the target of not sinning at all. Sin is not OK.
Verse 21; I'm going to give a more literal translation here for a couple of words, in agreement with the notes in the margin of the NASB. "Therefore what fruit were you then having from the things of which (or, concerning which things) you are now ashamed? For the outcome of those things is death." The apostle Paul asks his readers to consider the fact that they, like evil trees, had formerly been producing sinful, evil fruit, fruit that would ultimately earn eternal death for them, complete, eternal separation from God and His divine order and goodness.
Verse 22, "But now having been freed from sin and enslaved to God [That's what new-covenant salvation is all about, being set free from slavery to sin and being enslaved to God and His righteousness. In that we have been set free from our former evil taskmaster of sin, we ought not serve sin anymore. We serve sin by sinning.], you have your fruit [But now the fruit being produced is righteous and good fruit, unlike the fruit spoken of in verse 21.], resulting in sanctification [As in verse 19, I would translate "resulting in holiness" (with the KJV, NKJV, and the NIV). As born-again Christians, we are called, enabled, and required to live in an abiding state of holiness. What a blessing! What a privilege!], and the outcome, eternal life." We will be ready to stand before God at the end of this age, and we will inherit the fullness of eternal life, which includes being glorified and reigning with the Lord Jesus Christ forever. You can't get any better than that! The eternal life here is contrasted with the death, the eternal death, spoken of at the end of verse 21.
Now verse 23, the last verse of Romans chapter 6. "For the wages of sin is death" [For the wages of sin is death (eternal death and separation from God). You serve sin instead of God and righteousness, and when payday comes you will receive death. Sin (and the devil) promises all kinds of good things, but when payday comes, the wages of sin is death. Jesus said the devil is a liar.], but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord." Salvation is a free gift; it comes 100 percent by the grace of God in Christ. We cannot earn the gift, but we are required to appropriate the gift in its fullness by faith. God doesn't give us the option of receiving the grace of His forgiveness and rejecting His sanctifying grace, the grace that will transform us and enable us to walk in His righteousness and holiness, in union with the Lord Jesus Christ.
We are called to walk by faith on a continuous basis (faith in God and faith in His Word, especially the Word of the gospel of new covenant salvation.), and we are called to walk by the Holy Spirit on a continuous basis. We are literally united with the Lord Jesus Christ, the Lamb of God, in His death, His burial, His resurrection, and His present life. We are called to work out our salvation with fear and trembling (Phil. 2:12). God paid an infinite price to provide this salvation to us.
Now we have the great privilege to turn to Romans chapter 8, verses 1-17, another super-important passage that is packed with righteousness, holiness, and victory over sin, by grace, through faith, in the power of the Holy Spirit. First I'll read Rom. 8:1, "There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus." Why? Now there is no condemnation, because, as the apostle Paul is going to go on to tell us (and he has already told us much about these things earlier in this epistle), we have been saved from sin, Satan, and spiritual death; we have been forgiven, AND SIN IS UNDER OUR FEET! Now there is nothing to condemn us. I'm going to turn to page 116 of my book and read much of what I said under Rom. 8:1. Sometimes I skip parts of what is written in the book for these articles and sometimes I add to what is written in the book. Formerly we were all under condemnation. As Rom. 5:12-7:25 (and many other passages) show, this condemnation included spiritual death and bondage to sin; "sin reigned in death" (Rom. 5:21). "Sin reigned in death." What an ugly picture! Ever since the rebellion and fall of Adam and Eve, mankind has been in spiritual death and in bondage to sin. But now there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. The sin problem has been solved for believers, and we will be ready to stand before God on the day of judgment (see, for example, Rom. 2:7, 10; 5:9-11, 21; 6:22, 23; and 8:12-17). There certainly is nothing to condemn us now, or in the future, if we are forgiven and living in the righteousness and holiness of God.
As Rom. 8:2-17 show, the emphasis of Rom. 8:1 is on the fact that Christians have been set free from spiritual death and made alive (by the Spirit of life), and they have been set free from sin (their former master) and walk in the righteousness of God (being enabled by the indwelling Spirit of God).
Romans 8:2. First I'll read the verse. "For the law [or, you could translate "the governing principle." It is clear that Paul isn't speaking of the Mosaic Law here.] of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law [or. governing principle] of sin and death." Before we became Christians, as Paul has made it quite clear, we were spiritually dead and we were slaves of sin. But now, in Christ, we have been set free from spiritual death and are born again, and we have been set free from slavery to sin and have been called, enabled, and required to walk in the righteousness and holiness of God. The Spirit of life, the Righteous, Holy Spirit, now dwells in us, which overthrows the law (or governing principle) of sin and death and enables us to partake of the very life of God as His born-again children, and enables us to walk in the very righteousness of God, with sin under our feet.
Now I'm going to read part of what I said under Rom. 8:2 in my book. We are speaking of the heart of God's new covenant plan of salvation. I trust you can see the extreme importance of understanding God's new covenant in our hearts. We must understand God's covenant to adequately walk in line with His covenant. We must understand what He has given us, and we must understand and be committed to live in line with what He requires of us. First I'll read part of what I said under words "the law [or, governing principle] of sin and of death." Apart from Christ, all men are under the law (or, governing principle) of sin and of death. The apostle has dealt extensively with this truth in Romans chapters 1-7, and he will deal with it further in Rom. 8:3-14.
Now I'll read part of what I said regarding the words, "the law (or, governing principle) of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law (or, governing principle) of sin and death." Every true Christian is indwelled by the Holy Spirit (see, for example, Rom. 8:9-11). He is the Spirit of life, and His presence cancels spiritual death. His presence overpowers sin and enables Christians to walk in the righteousness and holiness of God, with the victory over all sin (see, for example, Rom. 8:3-14).
I'll comment briefly on verses 3 and 4. We're just about finished with this article, but we will come back to these super-important verses in the next article. "For what the Law could not do, weak as it was through the flesh." What was it that the Law (the Mosaic Law, which was the foundation for the old covenant) could not do? It could not dethrone spiritual death or sin. It was not given for that purpose. God always planned to save believers through the new covenant. Man in the flesh, man in spiritual death, man without the indwelling Holy Spirit of life does not have the power to fully keep God's Law, so God not solve the sin problem that way. But Rom. 8:3 says, "For what the Law could not do, weak as it was through the flesh, God did, sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and as an offering for sin, He condemned sin in the flesh." Through the atoning death of the Lord Jesus Christ, God dethroned sin, Satan, and spiritual death.
Then in verse 4, the apostle shows that the bottom line of Christianity is that the sin problem really is solved and we are enabled to keep the requirement of God's moral law as we walk by the Holy Spirit. He says, "in order that the requirement of the Law might be fulfilled in us, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit [the Holy Spirit]." As we walk by the Spirit of God, which we are required to do by covenant, we keep God's moral law and manifest His righteousness in our daily lives. It's time to stop. God bless you!
If you like this teaching, I recommend getting a copy of my book, "Holiness and Victory Over Sin: Full Salvation Through the Atoning Death of the Lord Jesus Christ." It is availble on my website and at Amazon.com. I also recommend reading some of the articles on my internet site (Google to Karl Kemp Teaching), including "A Paper on Faith"; "Once Saved, Always Saved?": and "The Christian, the Law, and Legalism."
http://www.karlkempteachingministries.com Karl Kemp worked as an engineer in the space field throughout the 60s. He became a born-again Christian in 1964. He received an MA in Biblical Studies in 1972. He has been a Bible teacher for 45 years. See the website for more info on his books, papers, etc.
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