Obedient to That Form of Teaching
"What then? Shall we sin because we are not under law but under grace? May it never be! Do you not know that when you present yourselves to someone as slaves for obedience, you are the slaves of the one whom you obey, either sin resulting in death, or of obedience resulting in righteousness? 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, and having been freed from sin, you became slaves of righteousness." (Romans 6:15-18).
Today there seems to be a very unscriptural notion going about that because we are under grace instead of the Law that we are somehow relieved of the necessity of obeying the teachings of the New Testament Scriptures; that as long as we hold to certain elements, such as the identity of Christ and His work on the cross, that we are fine whether we obey the doctrine or not. It is said that though the early disciples had a difficult time accepting this, that the apostle Paul finally drove the point home in his letters, especially the ones to Galatia and Rome. In the passage quoted above, and its surrounding context, Paul makes it very clear that he never, ever suggested such a thing.
Paul had much to say about Law and grace. But nothing he ever said suggested that we are free to disobey Christ because we are under grace. We are not free to leave undone the things He has commanded that we do, neither are we free to do those things He has commanded that we not do. If we disobey Christ, then we will have sinned. Sin results in death. Thank God, that by His grace, there is another option (Romans 6:23)!
Sin Results in Death
"For sin shall not be master over you, for you are not under law, but under grace...For what benefit were you then deriving from the things of which you are now ashamed? For the outcome of those things is death." (Romans 6:14; 21). Seldom do those who partake in evil, risky behavior carefully consider the consequences of their actions. The criminal does not think he will get caught. The promiscuous does not think he will contract the disease. The drunk driver will not get in an accident. And Satan has convinced many sinners that they will not suffer death. Even among the Christians of Paul's days, some had been convinced that because they were under grace that their sins would have no eternal consequence.
Paul explains that no one can have Jesus as their Master and serve sin. He tells Christians that "you are slaves of the one you obey, either of sin resulting in death, or of obedience resulting in righteousness." (vs. 16). Do not swallow the lie so prevalent today; that grace is a license to sin with impunity. Sin brings death; spiritual death, or estrangement from God, and ultimately the second death which is eternal in its nature, also described as "the lake of fire" (Revelation 20:14.15) .
Obedience Results in Righteousness
"...but present yourselves as those alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness to God...But now having been freed from sin and enslaved to God, you derive your benefit, resulting in sanctification, and the outcome, eternal life." (Romans 6:13b; 22). The benefit of the gospel is that it frees us from sin. No longer must we labor for the gruesome wages of sin.
When we believe God and dedicate ourselves to Him, putting our confidence in Him, we are freed from sin. We'll talk more about the precise time that this happens in a moment, but first notice that the result of our faith is "sanctification." In the context, we find that this "sanctification" has to do with our setting ourselves apart from sin and unto righteousness. In one sense, Christ sanctifies us from sin when His blood washes away our past sins. But in another sense, it is up to us to cleanse ourselves of sin, putting away the love for it and clinging to the Word of Christ. Of course, God performs His part in this perfectly. Paul is encouraging disciples to do their parts (II Corinthians 7:1; I Peter 1:14-16).
It is important to note that sanctification has two sides; the putting away of sin as well as the subscribing to a life of righteousness. Those who view discipleship only as keeping the prohibitions of Christ apart from the positive acts of righteousness have yet to understand the true meaning of sanctification. They will likely be lazy and indifferent to matters of the kingdom; the sort Jesus referred to as being "lukewarm" (Revelation 3:16).
The good news is that the outcome of this sanctification is "eternal life" (vs 22b). Or put another way, eternal life comes by way of sanctification. Without separation from sin and dedication to righteousness there is no eternal life!
Obedient From the Heart to That Form of Teaching
"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, and having been freed from sin you became slaves of righteousness." (Romans 6:17,18). Here we are told the moment at which we are set free from sins. It is when we "became obedient from the heart to that form of teaching to which (we) were committed." Now what "form of teaching" is being discussed here?
The word "form" (tupon) means "model" or "pattern"; as a pattern a seamstress would use for making clothing, or a wooden form a carpenter would build in which to pour cement for making a foundation. So, what is the "form" or "pattern" that we "obey from the heart"?
The answer is given earlier in the chapter. Paul had talked about the death, burial and resurrection of Christ. That is the form, or pattern which we must obey from the heart. But when, and how does one obey the form of Jesus' death. burial and resurrection?
Paul explained, "Or do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ have been baptized into His death? Therefore, we have been buried with Him through baptism into death, in order that as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life. For if we have been united with him in the likeness of His death, certainly we shall also be in the likeness of His resurrection..." (Romans 6:3-5).
Many say that baptism pictures our spiritual transition from sin to righteousness, but that is not so. Paul says that baptism pictures the death, burial and resurrection of Christ (vs. 4,5).
Many say that we are freed from sin before we are baptized, but that is not so. Paul says that we are freed from sin when we "obey from the heart that form of teaching" which he says is baptism into Christ (vs. 17, 3).
Many say that sin will not cause a child of God to be lost because we are under grace and not under law, but that is not so. Paul said that the outcome of sin is death for the child of God and that grace is not a permit to engage in such behavior
(vs. 16, 21).
It seems to me that maybe it is time to stop listening so much to "them" and more to God. May God bless us with both the will and the courage to do so in everything.
"What then? Shall we sin because we are not under law but under grace? May it never be! Do you not know that when you present yourselves to someone as slaves for obedience, you are the slaves of the one whom you obey, either sin resulting in death, or of obedience resulting in righteousness? 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, and having been freed from sin, you became slaves of righteousness." (Romans 6:17,18).
By Jon W. Quinn
From Expository Files 3.6; June 1996