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.

 

Importantly…

  • 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