Monthly Archives: December 2015

The Incarnation and Paul’s Dominion Theology

Over the past weeks, we have seen how deeply immersed Romans is in Paul’s dominion theology.

  • Today, in light of Christmas, I want to explore how this theology helps us understand the incarnation.
  • We need to flesh out Paul’s dominion theology just a bit before we can see what it tells us about the Incarnation.



Under Sin:

In Romans 3:9, Paul first introduces the idea that all are “under sin”.

  • We saw that this phrase refers to the idea of a realm or dominion – a place – in which sin reigns.


In this place…

  • People are subject to the power of sin.
  • They serve its purposes.
  • Sin is their ruler.
  • And this place of sin’s dominion is their home address.


Sprinkled throughout Romans 3-6 are descriptions of both the people and address of “under sin”.

  • None is righteous” – 3:11
  • No one seeks God” – 3:11
  • No one does good” – 3:12
  • There is no fear of God” – 3:18
  • All…fall short of the glory of God” – 3:23
  • All our “sinners” – 5:8
  • Under “the wrath of God” – 5:9
  • In Adam – 5:12
  • Under condemnation – 5:16
  • Subject to the reign of death – 5:17
  • Subject to the reign of sin – 6:12
  • Under law” – 6:15
  • Slaves to sin – 6:16


Sadly and horribly, this is the default position of humanity.

  • Why?
  • Adam.


Adam was the “under sin” architect or reign-maker.

  • Because of his disobedience…
  • He was expelled from God’s garden presence and life and exiled into the wilderness.
  • We have called this Garden Exile – born “under sin”, estranged from God’s Garden life and presence.


As a result, all of humanity, since Adam, has been born “under sin” in Garden Exile – estranged from God’s life and presence.

  • So the dominion of “under sin” is the address of all those born after Adam.
  • And as a result of this new address – all sin, and all die (Romans 5:12).



Under Grace:

In Romans 5:2, Paul first introduces the idea that those in Christ have “obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand”.

  • And just as with “under sin”, this refers to the idea of a realm or dominion – a place.
  • Except in this place it is grace that reigns.


In this place…

  • People are subject to the saving and redeeming power of God’s grace.
  • Grace is the context of their life, not sin.
  • And this place of grace’s dominion is their home address.


Sprinkled throughout Romans 5-6 are descriptions of both the people and the address of “this grace”.

  • We are justified – made right with God – 5:1
  • We have the “hope of the glory of God” – 5:2
  • We rejoice in our sufferings – 5:3
  • We have God’s love “poured into our hearts” – 5:5
  • We have the Holy Spirit “given to us” – 5:5
  • Saved from “the wrath of God” – 5:9
  • Reconciled to God” – 5:10
  • Rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ” – 5:11
  • Free gift of righteousness” – 5:17
  • In Christ – 5:17
  • Made righteous” – 5:19
  • Eternal life through Jesus Christ” – 5:21
  • Baptized, dead, buried and risen with Christ – 6:1-11
  • No longer…enslaved to sin” – 6:6
  • Death no longer has dominion” – 6:9
  • Not under law but under grace” – 6:14


As Adam was the reign-maker of the dominion of sin…

  • Only Jesus is the reign-maker of the dominion of grace.


All are born into the dominion of sin because of Adam.

  • And only those born again, and connected to the work of Christ by faith can enter into the dominion of grace.
  • Romans 5:18 (ESV) — 18 Therefore, as one trespass led to condemnation for all men, so one act of righteousness leads to justification and life for all men.




So the picture painted by Paul’s dominion theology makes it clear…

  • Our problem, fundamentally, is NOT
  • Our behavior…
  • But our address.


This means the solution to our problem is NOT a change in behavior.

  • We need a change of address.
  • We need a transfer from the dominion of sin to grace.


Therefore, whoever is going to give us a change of address…

  • Has to accomplish some very specific things.


In fact, there are at minimum two things that need to be accomplished.

  • (1) We require someone who can create a new dominion – the dominion of grace.
  • (2) We require someone who can then bring us out of the dominion of sin and place us in the dominion of grace.
  • There are clearly more – cover our sin, turn away God’s wrath, etc. – but the first two will get us where we need to go today.



The Incarnation:

So this is where Paul’s dominion theology can inform our understanding of the incarnation.

  • Who could possibly accomplish all of this?
  • The answer to this question is found only in the incarnation.


F.F. Bruce frames this beautifully.

“If there is, among the distinctive articles of the Christian faith, one which is basic to all others, it is this: that our Lord Jesus Christ, the eternal Son of God, became man for our salvation” – F.F. Bruce.

  • Matthew 1:21 (ESV) — 21 She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.”


First, what is the Incarnation?

The second person of the Trinity, the Son of God, who John calls the eternal Logos, became fully man without ceasing to be divine.

  • This means that in the one person of the Son of God (Jesus) there exist two natures – one fully divine and one fully human.


It is important we get this right!

  • “The person involved in the incarnation is not derived by adding above and below, but comes down from above and takes to himself what is below” – Fred Sanders.

“His humanity is not a distinct person, but instead a set of properties that the Logos possesses after the incarnation, so that the Logos himself can personally live as a man. Thus one can say unequivocally that God the Logos was born, the Logos suffered, the Logos died on the cross and was raised” – Donald Fairbairn.


The Bible speaks of the incarnation in a number of passages:

  • John 1:14 (ESV) — 14 And the Word [Logos] became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.
  • Romans 8:3 (ESV) — 3 For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh,
  • 1 John 4:2 (ESV) — 2 By this you know the Spirit of God: every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God,
  • 1 Timothy 3:16 (ESV) — 16 Great indeed, we confess, is the mystery of godliness: He was manifested in the flesh, vindicated by the Spirit, seen by angels, proclaimed among the nations, believed on in the world, taken up in glory.


Christmas day, then, is the celebration of this incarnation.

  • Jesus Christ – the divine and eternal Son of God and Logos – “has come in the flesh” (1 John 4:2).


So when Paul says, “He was manifested in the flesh”…

  • He does not mean, “He [the second person of the Trinity] was manifested in the flesh [Jesus]”.
  • He means that, “He [the divine person of Jesus Christ, the second person of the Trinity] was manifested in the flesh [became a human being].


All this means that…

  • The Logos, the Son of God, didn’t become Jesus the person.
  • He has eternally been this person in the second person of the Trinity.
  • But with the incarnation, the eternal Son of God, Jesus, put on human flesh and a human nature.
    • A body the Father had prepared for Him.
  • Hebrews 10:5 (ESV) — 5 Consequently, when Christ came into the world, he said, “Sacrifices and offerings you have not desired, but a body have you prepared for me;



Need for Incarnation:

So now we are equipped to see why looking at the incarnation through Paul’s dominion theology can inform our understanding of the incarnation.


I love how Douglas Fairbairn sets it up:

  • “What does God have to be like in order to give us the kind of salvation that we Christians know we have?” – Douglas Fairbairn
  • A salvation that involves the establishment of a dominion of grace and the believer’s change of address into this grace.



(1) The first thing Paul’s dominion theology can show us about the incarnation is…

  • Jesus’ address – the dominion he was born into.


If all men are born “under sin” and in Garden Exile because of Adam…

  • Then all men are powerless to provide a way out.
  • This is the classic blind leading the blind scenario.


So, if Jesus were merely a man, He too would have been born “under sin” into Adam’s Garden Exile.

  • And so, like Moses, Joshua, David or Elijah, He could only point the way.
  • He could not establish or move us into the dominion of grace.


But, was Jesus born “under sin” into Garden Exile estranged from God’s life and presence?

  • No!


The incarnation shows us that though Jesus shared our human nature – He didn’t share our address.

  • Jesus as the second person of the Trinity IS God’s Garden life and presence.
  • So, He is not disqualified from being able to establish or move us into grace.
  • He didn’t live under the power and dominion of sin.



(2) The second thing Paul’s dominion theology can show us about the incarnation is…

  • Jesus’ ability to establish the dominion of grace – a new Garden.


The establishment of the dominion of grace is a work of the Trinity – God in three persons.

  • The Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit all work in concert to establish the dominion of grace.


The Father loved and sent His Son.

  • The Son became flesh and did all the Gospels say He did for us.
  • The Spirit regenerates the hearts of the elect to receive and apply the work of the Son.


What all this means then is this:

  • If Jesus were only a man and thus “under sin”, the work of the triune God to save us collapses.
  • Jesus would be working under and for the power of sin.


His work would therefore be unable to establish anything other than a moral example.

“If the one who suffered and died on the cross were not the second person of the Trinity, then Christ’s death would have had no power to accomplish our salvation. It had to be God’s own blood that was shed on the cross for us to be redeemed” – Donald Fairbairn.


But because Jesus is the second person of the Trinity…

  • His Gospel work actually did establish a dominion of grace!
  • “Trinity makes possible incarnation, which makes possible atonement” – Fred Sanders.
  • After all, it is “impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins” (Hebrews 10:4).
  • And as we have seen, impossible for just a man “under sin” to take them away as well.



(3) The third thing Paul’s dominion theology can show us about the incarnation is…

  • Jesus’ ability to change our address from “under sin” to “under grace”.


In His divinity, Jesus established the dominion of grace.

  • But by taking on flesh, he could provide a bridge to lead us into it.


The writer of Hebrews captures this well.

  • Hebrews 2:14–15 (ESV) — 14 Since therefore the children share in flesh and blood, he himself likewise partook of the same things, that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil, 15 and deliver all those who through fear of death were subject to lifelong slavery.


John Piper, says of this text:

“The incarnation was God’s locking Himself into death row” – John Piper.

  • And the death of the Son of God was the bridge to the dominion of grace.


Paul puts it this way:

  • Colossians 1:21–22 (ESV) — 21 And you, who once were alienated and hostile in mind, doing evil deeds, 22 he has now reconciled in his body of flesh by his death, in order to present you holy and blameless and above reproach before him,
  • See also Romans 6:3-5.


So because Jesus, the Son of God, put on flesh…

  • He could die that he might bring those connected to Him by faith into the dominion of grace.


I love how Mark Jones puts it:

“After all, if Jesus were in all things only a man, he would be at an infinite distance from God just as we are. In the same way, if Jesus were in all things only God, he would be at an infinite distance from us. As the Mediator, however, he bridges the gap between the infinite God and finite man” – Mark Jones.




So, Jesus didn’t just point to the way to a new dominion.

  • He didn’t just speak of it or hope for it.
  • Jesus in concert with the Father and Spirit, made it and brought us into it.


Going back to Paul’s dominion theology:

  • “The logic of the gospel compels us to say that to be the Savior, Jesus must be God and man” – Fred Sanders.
  • So, only the divine Son of God in the flesh could both establish and move us into the domain of grace.
  • The two things that Paul’s dominion theology tells us are necessary.


So Paul’s dominion theology makes clear…

  • The incarnation was necessary to save us.
  • So, Merry Christmas!


Romans 6:17 – A New Master – Scripture?

Last week, we saw Paul teach us that everyone has a master:

  • Sin or “Obedience”.
  • There is no other option!


We need to remember that these ideas of sin and obedience as masters are contain ideas that Paul has been referring to repeatedly throughout Romans…specifically:

  • The dominion of sin…
    • and the features of this domain.
  • The dominion of grace…
    • and the features of this domain.


Dominion of sin:

  • Romans 3:9–10 (ESV) — 9 What then? Are we Jews any better off? No, not at all. For we have already charged that all, both Jews and Greeks, are under sin, 10 as it is written: “None is righteous, no, not one;
  • Romans 5:12 (ESV) — 12 Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned
  • Romans 5:17a (ESV) — 17a …because of one man’s trespass, death reigned through that one man,


Dominion of grace:

  • Romans 5:2 (ESV) — 2 Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God.
  • Romans 5:15b (ESV) — 15b For if many died through one man’s trespass, much more have the grace of God and the free gift by the grace of that one man Jesus Christ abounded for many.
  • Romans 5:17b (ESV) — …those who receive the abundance of grace and the free gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man Jesus


Moving into Romans 6:17-18 we see:

  • (1) Paul gives thanks that those in the Roman church have been brought out of their slavery to sin…
  • (2) And in the remainder of just one sentence, he unveils two significant features of their new slavery.


The text:

  • Romans 6:17–18 (ESV) — 17 But thanks be to God, that you who were once slaves of sin have become obedient from the heart to the standard of teaching to which you were committed, 18 and, having been set free from sin, have become slaves of righteousness.



Paul’s Thanks:

As we have seen repeatedly throughout Romans…

  • The only way for anybody to be lifted out of slavery to sin and the dominion of sin…
  • Is to be rescued from it by God through the work of Jesus Christ.


For as Paul says in Romans 3:

  • Romans 3:23–25a (ESV) — 23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, 25 whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith.


So, is it any wonder that Paul says…

  • But thanks be to God” (vs. 17).
  • There is no one else to thank.
  • Romans 3:27 (ESV) — 27 Then what becomes of our boasting? It is excluded. By what kind of law? By a law of works? No, but by the law of faith.


Then Paul immediately describes for us two reasons he is thankful for what God has done.

  • Both reasons are, as we have said, features of the slavery of those in Christ and in His grace.
  • (1) “…that you who were once slaves of sin have become obedient from the heart to the standard of teaching to which you were committed” (vs. 17b).
  • (2) “and, having been set free from sin, have become slaves of righteousness” (vs. 18).


We will contend with the first one today.


Obedient From the Heart:

So Paul gives thanks that we “have become obedient from the heart”.

  • Both Schreiner and Moo suggest that Paul is referring here to:
  • Belief and trust in Christ from a new heart given by God – in other words, conversion.


This is regeneration and born again heart stuff – John 3, Jer. 31:33 and Ezekiel 36:26.

  • Jeremiah 31:33 (ESV) — 33 For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares the Lord: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts. And I will be their God, and they shall be my people.
  • Ezekiel 36:26 (ESV) — 26 And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh.



  • While “obedience” conveys the moment of belief and trust…when one becomes a Christian.
  • The heart” signifies the “depth of that experience” – Schreiner.


In other words, this isn’t a superficial and fading “obedience from the mind” or “obedience from will power”.

  • This is a “God enabled and powered” obedience from a regenerated heart!


So what we have here is Paul thanking God for His work that made “obedience from the heart” possible.

  • “Indeed, God must be the one who causes obedience to rise in human hearts because all human beings are ‘slaves of sin.’ To be a slave of sin means that one is under its lordship and dominion, and unable to extricate oneself from its tyranny. God in his grace broke the shackles of sin, so that glad-hearted obedience became a reality for the Roman Christians” – Tom Schreiner.


Remember, Christ is the “reign maker” not us!

  • You deserve no credit for being joined to Christ.


Paul then goes on to elaborate on one of the objects of our “obedience from the heart” (vs. 17).

  • Without question, Christ is the primary object of our faith and obedience.
  • But Paul tells us that Christ isn’t alone.
  • He says our obedience is “to the standard of teaching to which you were committed” (vs. 17).


What in the world does this mean?


Before we dive in, we need to remember we are “under grace” and not “under law”.

  • We don’t work to obtain or maintain our salvation.
  • The negative power of the law on our lives is over with respect to our salvation.
  • So this “…isn’t a matter of new commandments being hurled at us and of our somehow having to try to obey them” – N.T. Wright.


But, our new master wants us to bear fruit in line with our new hearts.

  • And to aid us in our loving pursuit of holiness in appreciation for what God has done for us…
  • Paul says there is a “standard of teaching to which you were committed” (vs. 17).



Standard of Teaching:

Standard of teaching” here is “Christian teaching [that] molds and forms” – Douglas Moo.

  • It is “the early Christian teaching or tradition” – Douglas Moo.


It is what Paul speaks of in texts like:

  • 1 Corinthians 11:2 (ESV) — 2 Now I commend you because you remember me in everything and maintain the traditions even as I delivered them to you.
  • 1 Corinthians 11:23 (ESV) — 23 For I received from the Lord what I also delivered to you, that the Lord Jesus on the night when he was betrayed took bread,
  • 1 Corinthians 15:3 (ESV) — 3 For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures,
  • 2 Timothy 1:13 (ESV) — 13 Follow the pattern of the sound words that you have heard from me, in the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus.
  • 2 Timothy 4:3 (ESV) — 3 For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions,
  • Titus 1:9 (ESV) — 9 He must hold firm to the trustworthy word as taught, so that he may be able to give instruction in sound doctrine and also to rebuke those who contradict it.
  • Titus 2:1 (ESV) — 1 But as for you, teach what accords with sound doctrine.


And what Paul says here about this teaching is jarring.

  • This is for two reasons.


(1) To begin with, the ESV’s “to which you were committed” doesn’t fully capture the spirit of Paul’s language.

  • The NKJV and HCSB come closer.
  • They say respectively, “to which you were delivered” and “you were transferred to”.


The idea here is transfer of ownership.

  • The EDNT describes it as “the act whereby something or someone is transferred into the possession of another”.
  • The BDAG describes it as forensic language (law court) that means to “hand over” or “turn over” a person into the custody of another – BDAG.


This is why Schreiner says – “It denotes being delivered over to another power, as a slave is handed over from one master to another”.

  • In effect, the “teaching” that Paul is speaking of is our “co-master”.


(2) The second thing that is jarring is this…

  • Who or what does Paul say is handed over to who or what?
  • It is we who are handed over to the teaching, not the other way around!


This means that as slaves in this context…

  • “The teaching ‘molds,’ ‘shapes,’ and ‘transforms’ [us] who are delivered over to it” – Schreiner.
  • It doesn’t serve us – we serve it!
  • It shapes us – we don’t shape it!
  • It transforms us – we don’t transform it!


The implications this has for our relationship to Scripture and thus God our massive.


We are to submit to God’s teaching – His sound doctrine – from our new God powered hearts.

  • And we are to do so as slaves.
  • For this to happen, we have to know God’s word, and put ourselves under its authority.


Our slavery to God’s teachings is not part time slavery.

  • So we have to consistently subordinate to it.


In fact, a fruit of our God given obedient and grateful hearts should be such a relationship with Scripture.


A neglect of the teaching to which we have been handed over makes for serious problems.

  • Isaiah 56:9–10 (ESV) — 9 All you beasts of the field, come to devour— all you beasts in the forest. 10 His watchmen are blind; they are all without knowledge; they are all silent dogs; they cannot bark, dreaming, lying down, loving to slumber.


Are you slumbering before the knowledge of God’s word?

  • Do you shirk off serving and submitting to God’s word – His teaching?


The “beasts of the field” and the “beasts in the forest” sure hope so.

  • Because aspects of your life are vulnerable to their attacks.


Let’s be more specific.

  • Are you giving yourself over to Romans as you should?
  • Do you really expect to understand and be transformed by Romans without submitting to it throughout the week?


We will deal with the second feature of our new slavery next week:

  • slaves to righteousness



Romans 6:15-16 – Everyone Has a Master

Romans 6:15–18 (ESV) — 15 What then? Are we to sin because we are not under law but under grace? By no means! 16 Do you not know that if you present yourselves to anyone as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin, which leads to death, or of obedience, which leads to righteousness? 17 But thanks be to God, that you who were once slaves of sin have become obedient from the heart to the standard of teaching to which you were committed, 18 and, having been set free from sin, have become slaves of righteousness.



So having established last week with Romans 6:14 that “under law” is:

  • Not a domain maker.
  • Is a power in at work in salvation history.
  • Is a positive power in the domain of grace.
  • Is a negative power in the domain of sin.


Paul, in Romans 6:15, raises yet another domain-based question that he knows is on people’s minds.

  • Are we to sin because we are not under law but under grace?
  • This is similar to the one he raised in 6:1 – “continue in sin that grace may abound?
  • But this time he frames it within the believer’s relationship to the law.


To paraphrase these two questions, might be helpful here.

  • The first question demonstrates the extravagant nature of God’s grace this way…
  • It is the domain in which the believer has been placed by Jesus’ Reign Making.
  • In this domain, one way that grace abounds is by redeeming our sin.
  • So, why not keep sinning?


The second question demonstrates the extravagant nature of God’s grace this way…

  • It provides freedom from the negative effects of the law – disobedience and death.
  • We are no longer killed by the law nor convicted as lawbreakers in God’s law court.
  • We are “under grace” and “in Christ”.
  • So, why not keep sinning?

Paul’s answer to both questions…

  • By no means!


The rest of our text is the reason why we are to “not keep sinning” even though we are not “under law”.

  • His answer consists of two realities.
  • The first is that all persons everywhere are metaphorically speaking, slaves.
  • The second reality is that those in the church at Rome are a particular kind of slave.



Universal Slavery:

Romans 6:16 – 16 Do you not know that if you present yourselves to anyone as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin, which leads to death, or of obedience, which leads to righteousness?


This is really pretty simple.

  • All people are “slaves of the one whom you obey”.
  • And there are two choices – “either of sin”…“or of obedience”.


And depending on your slavery…

  • It either “leads to death
  • Or it “leads to righteousness”.



Word on Freedom:

As we have seen elsewhere Paul’s theology is straightforward…

  • There is no place of autonomy where a person can reside.
  • You can act within the domain in which you reside…
  • But nobody stands outside of either domain and makes a choice.
  • One is never free from a “master” – Douglas Moo.


I love how Moo puts it here:

  • “Paul makes clear, there is no such thing as human ‘autonomy,’ a freedom from all outside powers and influences. Either people are under the power of sin, or they are under the power of God. The question is not, then, whether one will have a master, but which master one will serve” – Douglas Moo.


Because of Adam, we are all by default born into Garden Exile.

  • And our master is satan and sin.



Word on Obedience:

So we know what Paul means by slave to sin here.

  • We have been talking about the domain of sin and being under sin since Romans 3.
  • The question here is what is Paul doing with his slave to “obedience” language?


His choice of “obedience” essentially has Paul saying everybody is…

  • An “obedient slave” to sin as master…or
  • An “obedient slave” to obedience as master
    • This doesn’t seem right.


Wouldn’t “God” make more since here than “obedience”?

  • Obedience as master seems a bit odd.


How are we to understand this?


Some suggest that what we have here is an allusion to Paul’s “obedience of faith” language.

  • Romans 1:5 (ESV) — 5 through whom we have received grace and apostleship to bring about the obedience of faith for the sake of his name among all the nations,


The idea here about obedience is that:

  • It is a submission and trust.
  • And it comes through Jesus Christ (1:4).
    • In other words, it is God powered.


Moreover, obedience is a feature of our new domain.

  • received grace…to bring about the obedience of faith” (1:5).


So putting all this together, the concept of obedience here contains all of these features:

  • Sourced through Jesus Christ.
  • Submission (acts of obedience) and Trust.
  • A feature of the domain of grace.


If so, then what Paul might be doing with his “obedient slave to obedience” language is simply this:

  • Asking us to consider all of the above in opposition to sin.


We know, however, that Paul is not saying obedience is our master.

  • For Paul, God is our master!



Word on Righteousness:

One thing is certain…

  • Whatever Paul means by being an obedient slave to obedience…
  • It “leads to righteousness” (vs. 16).


And this is yet another reason we know Paul is not saying obedience is our master.

  • He does not teach that obedience makes you righteous.
  • Righteousness comes from being “righteoused” by Jesus – Romans 3:21 ff.
  • So whatever “obedience” is, it certainly involves Jesus – as we just saw.
    • Why? – because it leads to righteousness.


But what about righteousness here?

  • Remember the idea of covenant faithfulness and covenant justice and God putting things right?
  • “Its underlying stress is on the good purposes of the creator to bring the world back from chaos into proper order, and to bring human beings into the right shape and the right relation to himself” – N.T. Wright.


In other words, being a slave to obedience leads to two things:

  • Being put right.
  • Participation in the putting right.


So by our acts of obedience we participate in God’s “righteousing”.

  • Obedience is our positive contribution to God’s work of putting the world right.


And interestingly, this touches on the freedom discussion we just had:

“Paul’s concept of freedom is not that of autonomous self-direction but of deliverance from those enslaving powers that would prevent the human being from becoming what God intended” – Douglas Moo.


So as slaves to obedience (and all it entails) we can finally do what God intended!

  • This also relates to the “instruments” talk a few weeks ago and spiritual warfare.
  • So we aren’t talking to do lists – but obedience as contribution to kingdom building and spiritual warfare.


Romans 6:14 – Under Law as Power Not Domain

Romans 6:14 (ESV) — 14 For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace.


We saw last week that he situated the answer to his sin/grace question within two contexts:

  • A dominion context.
  • A spiritual warfare context.


Douglas Moo sums up last week’s text beautifully:

“To put a stop to the reign of sin—to stop engaging in those sins that have too often become so habitual that we cannot imagine not doing them—is a daunting responsibility. We feel that we must fail. But Paul then reminds us of just what we have become in Jesus Christ: ‘dead to sin, alive to God.’ There has already taken place in the life of the believer a ‘change of lordship’, and it is in the assurance of the continuance of this new state that the believer can go forth boldly and confidently to wage war against sin” – Douglas Moo.


Something we didn’t discuss last week was how Paul came back to the law in his Romans 6 sin/grace dominion discussion.

  • You are not under law but under grace” (vs. 14).
  • Today we are going to unpack this a bit.


Why would Paul do this?

  • Is “under law” a domain?
  • Is “under law” to be understood as a synonym for “under sin”?
  • If it is none of these things, why did he bring it up?
  • And wouldn’t any discussion about “under law” be irrelevant to the Gentiles in his audience?
    • We will deal with this in Romans 7



Under Law:

(1) The first thing we need to know is what Paul means by the law.

  • Most scholars think Paul is referring to the Mosaic Law (Moo, Schreiner).
  • This would be the whole of the Sinai covenant, not just the 10 commandments.


What this means of course, is that Paul is now adding in a new wrinkle into his domain discussion…

  • The wrinkle is the how the Sinai Covenant fits into the domain discussion.


Specifically, Douglas Moo says Paul is…

  • Contrasting “salvational-historical” powers in God’s redemptive history.
  • The law is one “salvational-historical power” contrasted with another “salvational-historical power” – grace.


We need to keep in mind here that there are other “powers” relevant to God’s redemptive history.

  • Paul has mentioned a few – sin, death and the flesh (mortal members).
  • And now, along with these three, and grace, he has brought in the law.
  • Not all powers are domains – some only operate within domains.


So the law is the Mosaic covenant and it is a power operating in God’s redemptive history.

  • 1 Corinthians 15:56 (ESV) — 56 The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law.



(2) The second thing we need to know is what Paul has said of the law thus far.

  • Primarily he has pointed out “the negative effects of the law in salvation history” – Douglas Moo.
  • “Negative” being the law’s inability to bring domain change.


We can see this in a few examples.

  • Romans 3:20 (ESV) — 20 For by works of the law no human being will be justified in his sight, since through the law comes knowledge of sin.
  • Romans 3:28 (ESV) — 28 For we hold that one is justified by faith apart from works of the law.
  • Romans 4:13–15 (ESV) — 13 For the promise to Abraham and his offspring that he would be heir of the world did not come through the law but through the righteousness of faith. 14 For if it is the adherents of the law who are to be the heirs, faith is null and the promise is void. 15 For the law brings wrath, but where there is no law there is no transgression.
  • Romans 5:20 (ESV) — 20 Now the law came in to increase the trespass, but where sin increased, grace abounded all the more


A quick glance at these verses bears out that Paul didn’t see the law as a reign changing power.

  • Works of the law” don’t justify (3:20).
  • The “law” brings knowledge of sin (3:20).
  • Justification comes “apart from works” (3:28).
  • The “promise to Abraham…did not come through the law” (4:13).
  • The law brings wrath” (4:15).
  • The law came in to increase trespass” (5:20).


So to sum up thus far:

  • Under law” is a power that Paul contrasted with the domain of “under grace”.
  • It is a power that doesn’t bring domain change.
  • More specifically, it is a power operating negatively as “the power of sin”.


As we will see in Romans 7, none of this means that Paul is throwing the law under the bus.


But, then, is “under law” the same as “under sin”?

  • In other words, when Paul contrasts law and grace, is he equating “under law” with “under sin”?



Under Law Does Not Equal Under Sin:

The answer to this question is, “no”.

  • “Under law” is not the same as being “under sin” – Moo.
  • As we have seen, the law, unlike grace, is not a domain.
  • It operates within domains.
  • The question is how do we know this?


We need to understand how sin and the law relate to each other.

  • As we have seen, to be “under sin” is to be in Garden Exile and all that entails.
  • It is the domain that contrasts directly with the domain of grace.
  • It is the domain give to us by Adam – unlike the law given to us by God.
  • And sin as a power and domain offers nothing positive.


But, as we will sin in Romans 7, the law as a power does make a positive contribution in redemptive history.

  • Romans 7:7 (ESV) — 7 What then shall we say? That the law is sin? By no means! Yet if it had not been for the law, I would not have known sin. For I would not have known what it is to covet if the law had not said, “You shall not covet.”


So this plays out as follows:

  • When we are “under sin” and in Garden Exile the law is a death sentence.
  • We saw earlier that Paul made this clear.
  • The law brings the wrath of God (4:15).
  • The law does not save.


But the law is not really the problem:

  • We just saw that Paul said that without it he would not have known sin (7:7).
  • Galatians 3:24 (ESV) — 24 So then, the law was our guardian until Christ came, in order that we might be justified by faith.
  • Romans 7:12 (ESV) — 12 So the law is holy, and the commandment is holy and righteous and good.


The real problem is the domain in which the law operates.

  • “The defect lies in sin, which uses the law for its own ends (7:7–13) and produces more sin under the law” – Tom Schreiner.
  • In other words, in the domain of sin – Garden Exile – the law produces more sin.
  • This is what Paul said in Romans 5:20 – “the law came to increase trespass”.
  • All this law bringing more sin, under the domain of sin, brings God’s judging righteousness.



Grace and Law:

But, here is some more great news of domain change – sin to grace.

  • It changes our relationship to the law.


Under grace, we are released from the penalty that the law heaps upon us as a power of sin.

  • Under grace, the domain of sin has lost its power to use the law for its own ends.
  • This is because we are united to the Christ who fulfilled it!
  • Romans 8:3–4 (ESV) — 3 For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, 4 in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.


So for Paul, “liberation from sin” is liberation from being under the penalty and negatives of the law – Tom Schreiner.

  • To be freed from Garden Exile is to be freed from the negatives of the law.


As a result, we actually are in a position to reap the benefits of the law that come with being in Christ.

  • “Now that believers are under the power of grace they are enabled to keep the moral norms of the law by the power of the Holy Spirit” – Tom Schreiner.



But Its Complicated:

But it is more complicated than this…

  • Something we will dig into more in the weeks and months to come.


As Tom Schreiner puts it:

  • Paul’s teaching about liberation from the negatives of the law through Christ…
  • “…does not mean that there was no grace in the Mosaic era, nor does it imply that all Israelites lived under the power of sin. Paul was well aware of the OT remnant that included prophets and godly people such as Abraham, Moses, Joseph, David, and Daniel” – Tom Schreiner.
  • As Paul said himself in Romans 4:16 about being an heir to Abraham’s promise, “it depends on faith, in order that the promise may rest on grace and be guaranteed to all his offspring”.


This means, as Douglas Moo points out, that…

  • “People before the coming of Christ, while still ‘bound’ to the law, could nevertheless escape its condemning power (e.g., Abraham, David—chap. 4)” – Douglas Moo.
  • They could experience reign change.


Likewise, “people after the coming of Christ can still be subject to [law’s] rule” – Douglas Moo.

  • So “a neat transfer into straightforward temporal categories is impossible” with Paul’s domain talk – Douglas Moo.

Romans 6:12-14 – Keep on Sinning? Paul’s Answer

For some time now, and especially in Romans 6, Paul has made it abundantly clear that we are no longer “under sin”.

  • We have been placed into the dominion of grace and life.
  • A dominion that Paul grounded in our union with the death, burial and resurrection of Christ.

“To judge that one is dead to sin and alive to God is not an example of mind over matter; instead, the judgment is based on what is true by virtue of being incorporated into Christ” – Tom Schreiner.


This is a powerful reality for the believer.

  • It should transform how we see ourselves and how we live.


But here is the problem:

  • Until the Kingdom of God is fully consummated, “the temptation to live in Adam always remains” – Douglas Moo.
  • Or to put another way, though believers are in a new dominion, it “does not mean that believers are unable to sin” – Tom Schreiner.


And this leads us to Paul’s admonition in our text today:

  • Where Paul moves “from thought to action” – Douglas Moo.
  • Romans 6:12–14 (ESV) — 12 Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, to make you obey its passions. 13 Do not present your members to sin as instruments for unrighteousness, but present yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life, and your members to God as instruments for righteousness. 14 For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace.


So the power and dominion of sin are over in the life of the believer.

  • But how is this to play out on a practical level?


Paul seems abandon his indicatives in favor of the imperative – of commands.

  • Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, to make you obey its passions” (vs. 12).


What exactly is Paul telling us here?

  • Is he throwing all his dominion talk under the bus?
  • Does it all just boil down to, “Hey you, stop sinning”?
  • There are good answers to these questions.



Still Dominion Language:

First, we have to see that Paul is still using dominion language here.

  • In fact, verse 12 is essentially what we should conclude after we have “considered” or “reckoned” the powerful reality of our new dominion.
  • As Paul told us to do in verse 11.


I love how Douglas Moo paraphrases Paul’s words in verse 12.

  • “Do not let sin’s reign—which leads to obedience to the body’s sinful passions [acts of sin]—occupy your lives” – Douglas Moo.


So this is still primarily dominion language.

  • We are no longer powerless to sin – we are in a new domain.
  • But to fail to “consider” and “reckon” our new domain makes us vulnerable.
  • Vulnerable to our old master – the power of sin.


And how are we, who have been led out of Garden Exile by Christ, vulnerable to the power of sin?

  • The short answer from Paul is our “passions” or desires.


So what are these passions?

  • Passions here, are “desires that are in conflict with the will of God” – Douglas Moo.
  • We still have these and the power of sin seeks to harness them for its purposes.


James speaks of our passions in this way:

  • James 4:1–3 (ESV) — 1 What causes quarrels and what causes fights among you? Is it not this, that your passions are at war within you? 2 You desire and do not have, so you murder. You covet and cannot obtain, so you fight and quarrel. You do not have, because you do not ask. 3 You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions.


Paul elsewhere says:

  • Colossians 3:5 (ESV) — 5 Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry.


So, Paul says our “mortal body”, the whole person (Douglas Moo), is vulnerable because of our passions.

  • Although our whole person, “has been severed from its servitude to sin…”
  • We “…still participate in the weakness, suffering, and dissolution of this age” – Douglas Moo.
  • Why? – Because we live in the “not yet” – we aren’t in our glorified resurrection bodies.


So at the point of this weak link…

  • Paul says our old master tries to make us “obey its passions” (vs. 12).


This is why it is so important that we “consider” as we discussed last week.

  • We need to think deeply on our new dominion and how Christ put us there.
  • We need to calculate what our participation in Christ does for us.


As usual, though, Paul takes it up a notch.



Spiritual Warfare Language:

Having properly considered our union with Christ and our domain transfer…

  • Paul, then, asks that we make a choice about how we “present” our “instruments”.


Paul fleshes this out as follows:

  • Do not present your members to sin as instruments for unrighteousness, but present yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life, and your members to God as instruments for righteousness” (vs. 13).


This is spiritual warfare language!

  • The gist here is that citizens of a new domain are to no longer fight for their old master.
  • How do we know this?
  • Two words: “present” and “instruments”.


What is “present”?

  • The idea with “present” is simply to put a thing at something or someone else’s disposal – BDAG.
  • In other words, how a thing is used in relationship to another – EDNT.


What is “instruments”?

  • The Greek word here literally means “weapons”.


It is the same word Paul uses in 2 Corinthians 6:7.

  • Paul spells out how we are to commend ourselves as servants of God.
  • 2 Corinthians 6:7 (ESV) — 7 by truthful speech, and the power of God; with the weapons of righteousness for the right hand and for the left;


It is the same word used by John of Judas:

  • John 18:3 (ESV) — 3 So Judas, having procured a band of soldiers and some officers from the chief priests and the Pharisees, went there with lanterns and torches and weapons.


The point with Paul in our text, then…

  • Is that our person, our life, our actions are weapons.
  • Of either sin or righteousness.


So when Paul says, “Do not present your members to sin as instruments for unrighteousness” (vs. 13):

  • This is his way of telling us what the outcome of our “consider” from verse 11 should be.


We are to not fight on the side of sin.

  • Our life is NOT to be a weapon in service of our old master.
  • As citizens of grace, we are NOT to let our works be put at the disposal of sin to be used as a weapon for its cause.


The dominion of sin is at work against God’s kingdom.

  • Paul says don’t be its henchman.


And we don’t have to be!


Paul says those who “have been brought form death to life” (vs. 13)…

  • Those who have been brought out of Garden Exile – out of the domain of sin and death…
  • Are to be about a different business.


Our weapons are to be at the disposal of God and His kingdom building.

  • But present yourselves to God…and your members to God as instruments for righteousness” (vs. 13).


We are in battle!

  • We who “were previously at the disposal of impurity” are to be about the business of righteousness – EDNT.

“The ‘members’ that were once used as ‘weapons’ in the service of sin and for unrighteous purposes are now to be used as weapons in God’s service, for righteous purposes” – Douglas Moo.


Paul puts it this way to Timothy:

  • 2 Timothy 2:22 (ESV) — 22 So flee youthful passions and pursue righteousness, faith, love, and peace, along with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart.


This is Paul’s imperative.

  • It is a dominion imperative first and foremost.
  • New dominion is new power.
  • We are to know and embrace this.


But, Paul’s “present” language also clearly entails our works – our actions.

  • “Paul stresses that we must actualize in daily experience the freedom from sin’s lordship that is ours ‘in Christ Jesus’” – Douglas Moo.


We are to fight sin!

  • But, not because to do so saves us, or makes our salvation more secure.
  • But, because to fight sin is to fight for our new master!
  • It is to acknowledge our new Lord!
  • And importantly, it is to fight against our old master – the dominion of sin.


Can we have success in our battle?

  • Yes!


Paul tells us why in our final verse:

  • Romans 6:14 (ESV) — 14 For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace.


Just in case we are tempted to get all “works” headed.

  • Paul brings everything right back to dominion talk and back to the indicatives of the Gospel.
  • The things that have already been done for us.
  • Namely, our transfer from being “under law” to “under grace”.
  • More on “under law” next week.


The implication of this reminder from Paul is significant.

  • Paul is not asking of us something we are powerless to do!
  • “The responsibility to obey is a serious one (vv. 12–13) and it cannot be shirked, but even this obedience is a gift of God’s grace and power” – Tom Schreiner.


Sin, he says, has “no dominion” over us (vs. 14).

  • We are “under grace” (vs. 14)!
  • In Christ, our fight is not only made possible but will ultimately be made perfect.