Romans 6:15-23


We like to think that we are in charge of our lives.  There is a certain helplessness that we experience when we think things have gotten beyond our power to control.  We would rather think that we are invincible.  The English author, editor, and poet, W. E. Henley, in his poem, Invictus, sums up the desire of the human soul.


Out of the night that covers me

Black as the pit from pole to pole

I thank whatever gods may be

For my unconquerable soul


In the fell clutch of circumstance

I have not winced nor cried aloud

Under the bludgeonings of chance

My head is bloody but unbowed


Beyond this place of wrath and tears

Looms but a horror of the shade

And yet the menace of the years

Finds and shall find me, unafraid


It matters not how strait the gate

How charged with punishment the scroll

I am the master of my fate

I am the captain of my soul.


The truth that we see when we view the world through a right perspective is that we are not the captains of our souls.  Prior to our coming to Christ, we were enslaved to sin.  It is only in salvation that we find a freedom from sin.


            For sin shall not be master over you, for you are not under law but under grace. (Romans 6:14).


The believer has been delivered from sin.  This is the basis for Christian victory. 


Although the word “redemption” does not appear in this chapter, this concept is at the heart of everything Paul says.  We who were once enslaved by sin have been purchased by God to serve a new master.

Why doesn’t sin have mastery over you?  Not because of the law.  Not merely because of duty.  But because of God’s wonderful gift.


This brings us to a question.

If we are not under the law but under grace, then why not continue in sin?


            What then? Shall we sin because we are not under law but under grace?  May it never be! (Romans 5:15).


The question here is very much like the one that was asked in verse 1.






Question: Are we to continue in sin that grace might increase?

Answer: No, because you have died to sin and now live to Christ.

Question: Shall we sin because we are not under law but under grace?

Answer: No, because you have been set free from sin to serve righteousness.

Christians are free from sin

Christians are free from sinning





            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? (Romans 6:16).


Paul presents an axiom.  An axiom is a general truth which is self-evident.  The question, “Do you not know?” introduces this axiom.  This was a truth that Paul expected everyone to already know.


Here is the principle:  Obedience results in slavery.  The concept of slavery was commonly held and understood.  It is estimated that as much as 80% of the population of Rome were slaves.


A slave is one who is owned by another.  He is in bondage.  And because of that bondage, he has no ability to exercise his free will.  He might have free will, but having it and using it are two entirely two different things.  A slave’s will is subservient to that of his master.


You are a slave.  Your slavery moves in either one of two directions.  Either you are a slave to sin or else you are a slave to obedience.


When you present your body to serve another...

You are slaves to


Resulting in 





Some years ago Bob Dylan came out with a song in which were lines that said, “You gotta serve somebody. You gotta serve somebody. It may be the Devil or it may be the Lord, but you gotta serve somebody.”  He was right.


There is no “in-between” state.  You are always a slave to something.  You cannot NOT be a slave.  The only question is whose slave you will be.


When you spoke of being enslaved to a Jew, it held for him a special significance.  It is similar to speaking of slavery to an Afro-American.  The Jews had once been an enslaved people.


            They had been HELPLESS in their slavery.

They had not been able to redeem themselves.  It was totally the work of God on their behalf that delivered them.


            They were under the reign of Pharaoh.

As such, they had to obey his commands.


Here is the principle.  God doesn’t redeem people and let them stay in Egypt.  That was Pharaoh’s initial offer.

           “You go ahead and worship God on the Sabbath, but don’t be fanatical about it.”

           “Go with God to worship and pray for a time, but don’t let it affect your possessions.  Leave them here in Egypt.”

           “Go and worship God, but don’t impose your religion upon your children.”


In each case, Moses refused to compromise.  And we should, too.  That is not to say that every sort of compromise is bad, but when it comes to compromise over the issue of salvation versus slavery, there is no place for compromise.





            But thanks be to God that though you were slaves of sin, you became obedient from the heart to that form of teaching to which you were committed, 18 and having been freed from sin, you became slaves of righteousness. (Romans 6:17-18).


There was a time when you were enslaved to sin.  The phrase “you were slaves of sin” is in the imperfect tense.  It describes continuing action in the past.  There were two ways in which you formerly were a slave of sin:


1.         Involuntarily a Slave to Sin.


You were born with an innate propensity to sin.  You did not choose to be born this way.  You were conceived in this sinful state, inheriting this natural bent to sin from your forefather, Adam (Psalm 51:5).  And this natural bent made it natural for you to rebel against God.


2.         Voluntarily a Slave to Sin.


The actual evil acts which you have performed of your own volition combined to further enslave you to sin.  Sin became a habit of life.


The good news is that you did not stay there.  If you are a believer, then the time came when sin was surpassed by obedience.  This obedience began internally.  It stemmed “from the heart.”  God is in the process of changing you from the inside out.  That is why legalism doesn’t work.  Legalism is the attempt to bring about change from the outside in.  It is the attempt to achieve spirituality through the keeping of rules.


Don’t get me wrong.  There is nothing wrong with having rules.  Some rules are important.  The issue is not whether I should or should not obey certain rules, but rather whether that obedience brings about a true conversion.


Real conversion starts with God.  He brings about a change of heart - a heart transplant.  Such a conversion results in a changed life.





            I am speaking in human terms because of the weakness of your flesh. For just as you presented your members as slaves to impurity and to lawlessness, resulting in further lawlessness, so now present your members as slaves to righteousness, resulting in sanctification.

            For when you were slaves of sin, you were free in regard to righteousness. (Romans 6:19-20).


Paul speaks in human terms with a very human illustration.  The illustration is of a body.  It is a body which is enslaved to sin.  It is a slave to impurity and to lawlessness.  When it commits such impurity and such lawlessness, the result is still greater impurity and greater lawlessness.


You can never stand still.  You are either growing more and more like Christ or else you are growing more and more sinful.


Romans 6:19

You presented your members as slaves to impurity and to lawlessness

Present your members as slaves to righteousness

Resulting in further lawlessness

Resulting in sanctification

Past Tense

Present Tense

Indicative Mood

Imperative Mood


Paul turns from describing how you USED to be to dictating how you are NOW to become.  Just as there was in the past a continuing progression toward sinfulness, now there is to be a continuing progression toward sanctification.


What is sanctification?  It is the act of being “set apart.”  The words “sanctify” and “saint” and “holy” all come from the same root word.  They all describe that which has been set apart for a special purpose.  There are three tenses to your sanctification:


1.         You were set apart by God when you came to Christ in faith.


2.         You are continuing to be set apart and Christ continues to build up His character in your life.


3.         You will one day be completely and totally set apart to God at His Second Coming.


It is the second tense which is in view in this passage.  As you present yourself to God, you will find that He continues to work out His holiness in your life.  This is different than justification.




A once-and-for-all event.

A continuing event.

You are declared by God to be righteous on the basis of Christ’s righteousness which is credited to you.

You are being continually set apart to God’s righteousness in your life as the Holy Spirit works within you.

Deliverance from the GUILT of sin.

Deliverance from the POWER of sin.

An imputation of righteousness.

An impartation of righteousness.



Concern’s God’s justice.

Concerns your character.

Deals with your standing.

Deals with the state of your being.



It is done FOR you

It is done IN you


Your position and your condition cannot be compared - they can only be contrasted.  Both justification AND sanctification are a work of God’s free grace.  Both are unearned and undeserved.


On the basis of God’s having JUSTIFIED you, Paul now calls for you to live in a righteous manner.  He goes on to explain that your salvation from sin has given you the freedom and the motivation to live righteously, but it does not force you to do so.  You have a choice.  And that is why Paul exhorts you to “present your members as slaves to righteousness.”





            Therefore what benefit were you then deriving from the things of which you are now ashamed? For the outcome of those things is death.

            But now having been freed from sin and enslaved to God, you derive your benefit, resulting in sanctification, and the outcome, eternal life. (Romans 6:21-22).


Paul’s question is rhetorical.  The answer is obviously in the negative.  Paul continues to contrast the past life in sin with the present life in Christ.


Romans 6:21-22

You were

Slaves to sin

Resulting in 


Free of righteousness

You have now been

Freed from sin

Sanctification which leads to life

Enslaved to God


Notice the repetition of the word “benefit.”  There is a cost-benefit study which is given to us here.  There was no benefit in being a slave to sin.  There is great benefit in being enslaved to God.


The Greek word translated “benefit” is karpon.   It is the normal word for “fruit.”  Here is the principle.  What you do bears fruit.  If you sin, there will be a resulting fruit of sin.  If you follow the Lord, there will be a resulting fruit of the Spirit.





            For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 6:23).


Paul now summarizes the end result of the life of unbelief as opposed to the life of belief.  The world system like to mix this up.  It says that there is no sin.  It says that sin brings no consequences.


Sin produces a wage.  A wage is something that you earn.  It is something for which you work.  People work at sin.  And they earn and deserve the wages of that sin.


In contrast to the wages of sin is the free gift of God.  Because it is a gift, you cannot earn it or deserve it.




A wage which is earned

A free gift which is given

Work for

No work can earn it

Result:  Death

Result:  Eternal life.



Sin provides the wages

God provides the gift

Both are in the present tense


The world system denies the consequences of sin.  On the other hand, the world system teaches that eternal life comes through self-effort.


Eternal life is a GIFT.  It cannot be bought, for the price is far beyond the fortune of the richest man in the world.  It cannot be earned, for we have all earned death.  It can only be accepted through faith.


It is possible to be free, yet still live like you are enslaved.  It is also possible to be enslaved and yet still think that you are free.  Have you come to Christ in repentance, seeking His free gift through faith alone?  There is an invitation here for you.  A gift is offered.  It must be accepted.


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