Romans 6:15-23

Shall we sin? You are slaves of the one you obey. Present your members. Those things. Freedom from sin. The wages of sin.

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"15What then? Shall we sin because we are not under law but under grace? Absolutely not! (Romans 6:15)
The idea of not being bound by the law is almost unfathomable to the majority of Christians. While most of them agree that they should be under grace, their teachings almost always come with a qualifier: yes, we are under grace, but. This weakens God's grace to the point where they claim teaching it gives people license to sin.

This could be the reason Paul felt compelled to write this verse in order to address people’s concerns. But we can easily find examples where the absence of a specific law does not cause people to sin. For example, the absence of a law prohibiting people from jumping from tall buildings does not result in people freely jumping to their deaths. The absence of a law prohibiting high carbohydrate content foods does not cause diabetics to consume more sweets.

As a result, the argument that grace encourages sin can be put to rest. God, on the other hand, has a different purpose in mind when he gave mankind commandments. They are intended to demonstrate sinners’ need for the Savior. So the law is important in leading someone to faith in Christ, but it is not beneficial for helping Christians live godly lives. Once sinners are led to Christ, the law’s work as a guardian is completed (Galatians 3:24). The following verse shows that you are a sinner not because of your transgressions, but because you do not believe in the One God has sent.

8And when he [the Holy Spirit] comes, he will prove the world wrong concerning sin and righteousness and judgment - 9concerning sin, because they do not believe in me; (John 16:8-9)

Much of Christianity is still mistaken about sin. They continue to try to cure the world of sin through law obedience, when what they truly need is simple faith in Christ.


16Do you not know that if you present yourselves as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one you obey, either of sin resulting in death, or obedience resulting in righteousness? 17But thanks be to God that though you were slaves to sin, you obeyed from the heart that pattern of teaching you were entrusted to, 18and having been freed from sin, you became enslaved to righteousness. (Romans 6:16-17)

Paul gives us the universal law of our relationship to sin, through the law, or righteousness, through Christ, in these verses. We were slaves to sin before becoming slaves to righteousness. The key concept to understand here is “slavery.”

The question we must ask is whether a slave can defy his master’s will. The simple answer is “No.” That is why Christ had to come to free us from our old master’s grip and become our new master in righteousness. So, just as we couldn’t do the good things we wanted to do when we were slaves to sin (Romans 7:19), we can’t resist doing the good things we want to do now that we’re slaves to righteousness.

In this sense, living a godly life is motivated by an internal impetus rather than an external exhortation: “For it is God who worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure” (Philippians 2:13). It is also no longer a quest to discover what God’s will is to do it, but rather a branch that bears fruit as a result of its attachment to the vine, which is Christ.

Instead of reading books or attending seminars on how to bear fruit or produce something from yourself, learn the breadth, depth, and height of what Christ has already done for you. You can be confident of that. Do you recall that you are a slave to righteousness? If you can grasp it, this analogy of slavery presents to us an approach to Christianity that is truly harmonious with the concept of “the just shall live by faith”. And remember that it is faith in Christ, not faith in yourself.


19For just as you once yielded your members as slaves to impurity and lawlessness leading to more lawlessness, so now yield your members as slaves to righteousness leading to sanctification. (Romans 6:19)

Slaves must yield their members whether they like it or not. You must obey your master without question. In this sense, the sanctification that you enjoy is also a gift from God, your gracious master. So telling a slave to “be sanctified” is pointless because it is God who sanctifies him. He alone “justifies the ungodly” (Romans 4:5). When a dead man is raised, he does not come to life of his own accord; rather, he is raised by the same God who raised Jesus Christ. So your sanctification is a gift from God in Christ, not the result of your own efforts.


20For when you were slaves of sin, you were free with regard to righteousness. 21So what benefit did you then reap from those things that you are now ashamed of? For the end of those things is death. (Romans 6:20-21)

The phrase “those things” gives us the false notion that the apostle Paul is confronting us with the specific sins that we commit. However, we should be aware that our true problems are not “those things,” but rather our sin nature.

Yet death reigned from Adam until Moses even over those who did not sin in the same way that Adam (who is a type of the coming one) transgressed. (Romans 5:14)

As a result, we must understand that as long as a sinner is not cleansed by the blood of God’s Lamb, his end is death. Beware of the flawed attempt to gain eternal life by dealing with “those things,” because even if you manage to never commit a single sin, death has already reigned over you.

I’m willing to give Paul the benefit of the doubt and believe that when he said “those things,” he really meant our sinful nature.


22But now, freed from sin and enslaved to God, you have your benefit leading to sanctification, and the end is eternal life. (Romans 6:22)

We can only be free from sin if we consider ourselves to be buried with Christ (Romans 6:4) and to have died to the law (Romans 7:6). Furthermore, “sin is dead apart from the law” (Romans 7:8). So, instead of wrestling with your flesh and blood in relation to your countless sins endlessly, deal with your sin nature once and for all by resting on Christ’s finished work on the cross to present you wholly sanctified before God. To become a Christian is to have already arrived at your destination, not to be on a journey to get there. It’s finished.


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

Finally, consider the word “sin” in the preceding verse to refer to your sin nature rather than the sins that result from it. Because if your ability to avoid sin determines your eternal life, you will never know if you are saved.

Nghi Nguyen

- Scripture quoted by permission. All scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the NET Bible® copyright ©1996-2006 by Biblical Studies Press, L.L.C. All rights reserved.

Disclaimer: This is my own opinion on the topic, which does not necessarily reflect the church's theology, or beliefs of the individuals in it — Nghi Nguyen

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