Romans, Lesson 12: We All Answer to Someone or Something

Christians don’t choose to live in their sin.  Why?  That is not who we are.  We are Christians because God brings us into Jesus’ death and resurrection through baptism.  Paul organized the first half of Romans 6 with three parts: objection, response, and encouragement.  Paul ended his short treatise on baptism, stating “you [the Christian] are not under law but under grace” (Romans 6:14). 

He now follows the same pattern of objection, response, and encouragement for the second half of Romans 6.  Paul started the chapter answering a possible objection or conclusion one may draw from being saved by grace.  He does so here again, now focusing on the Gentile Christians at Rome. 

Paul used the practice of slavery to make his point.  About two-thirds of the Christian community consisted either of slaves or “freedmen,” former slaves who were now freed.


Everyone Serves a Master

Read Romans 6:15

  • What should a Christian not do when he realizes he is no longer under the Law?


  • That Paul continues to deal with so many possible, errant conclusions we can come to when we understand God’s grace says what about us?


  • Because some will always understand grace as a license to sin, pastors are tempted to put people back under the Law. What was Jesus’ solution to this for the pastor? (Luke 24:27)


Sin is not simply a matter of breaking the Law—it is an incurable condition infecting every human, which is why the sinful flesh must die in Jesus’ death, be created anew without sin, and rise to new life (Romans 6:3-5).  Sin can rule over someone even with no law spelling out right and wrong (Romans 5:13-14).  Sin is a rebellion against God, a turning away from God in disobedience, a reliving of Adam’s first sin under different circumstances in our daily lives.

God does not grant to us His grace (charis = gift) by the Law.  If He did, then it wouldn’t be a gift (Romans 3:21-24, 5:15).  God gives us His grace in the ways He chooses to do so, such a baptism (Romans 6:3-5).  The Law then is not the primary player in the fundamental drama between the human and God but secondary, showing us that we need God and what He gives us.

Read Romans 6:16

  • What worldview does Paul reveal when he talks about being a slave?


If everyone is a slave, the question then becomes, “Which master does someone serve?”

Read Romans 6:17

Excursus: “The standard of teaching to which you were committed” 

  • “Standard,” Greek, tupos. This was the pattern created by a master pattern, so the secondary pattern is an exact match to the master pattern.
  • “Committed,” Greek, parodidomi. This is the word “tradition” as a verb, that which is handed down, here as a passive.  The ESV’s “to which you were committed” retains the passive voice but carries with it the implication the people had committed themselves to the tradition.  They did (for they did “obey”), but that’s not Paul’s point.

Instead of writing that this “pattern of teaching” was handed over to them, Paul writes that they were handed over to it!  The pattern of teaching “traditioned” them—as it should be, for it’s God’s “tradition” and Christians aren’t authorized to change it.  The tradition that was handed down to them even handed them back to God.  God’s grace enables someone to respond back to God with grace.

Pastor’s translation:

But thanks [charis] be to God.  For you were slaves of sin but have become obedient from the heart to the pattern of teaching into which you were “traditioned.”






Read Romans 6:18

  • Using Paul’s analogy, everyone is a “slave” to someone or something. To whom is the Christian a slave?


  • Following the flow of Romans 6, when did this transfer of belonging to God take place, of being “set free from sin”?


“set free from sin”: This does not mean the person will stop sinning but that sin no longer has the power to condemn the Christian, to the one who is in Christ.

Read Romans 6:19a

“natural limitations”: Literally, “weakness of the flesh.”  The metaphor of slavery is adequate to describe our status with God.  Paul, however, needs language and imagery the Roman Christians can understand to realize what has taken place.

Employing three parallel descriptions (Romans 6:19b, 20-22, and 23), Paul now unfolds the same basic image of a someone being transfer from one master (or military commander) to another, contrasting how the outcome is different.


Christians Have a Different Master

Read Romans 6:19b

Sin as the Master For just as you presented the members of your body as slaves to impurity and lawlessness for lawlessness,
God as the Master so now present the members of your body as slaves to righteousness for holiness


“righteousness”: Greek, dikaiosuna.  This is also the word for “justification.”

“holiness”: hagiosmos, a state of being set apart, of being in a state of “otherness.”  Holiness is a defining characteristic of God and so becomes a requirement for someone to be in His presence.  Leviticus 19:1: The Lord to Moses, “Speak to all the congregation of Israel and tell them: ‘Be holy because I, Yahweh, your God, am holy.’”  The point?  God commands holiness but also makes someone other than who he is: holy.  God sets someone apart by “righteousing,” justifying, him.  Righteousness (justification) both precedes and brings about holiness, just as impurity and lawlessness precede and bring about more lawlessness.

  • How is someone a “slave of righteousness” (or why is someone in a state of justification)?


  • If one is “enslaved” to righteousness (being justified), what is the result?


Read Romans 6:20-22

Who Immediate Result Further Result Eternal Result
Slave of sin Free from righteousness (being justified) Death
Slave of God Free from sin Holiness Life


  • What is the “fruit” when Sin owns you?


  • Who sets someone free from sin? How?  (Remember the flow of Romans 6)


  • What are the “fruits” when God, instead of Sin, owns you?


Paul now switches language from that of “fruits” (a byproduct, just as apples are a byproduct of being an apple tree) to wages.

Read Romans 6:23

“wages”: Greek, opsonion.  Originally meant “provision” but also referred to the money paid for some service rendered.  The Septuagint (the Greek-language Old Testament) uses opsonion twice, both times referring to the pay given to soldiers (see 1 Maccabees 3:28, 14:32).

Earlier, Paul used weapon imagery (Romans 6:13, hoplon, a soldier’s weapon, lost in the ESV’s generic translation, “instrument”) to describing our body parts.  They can be weapons of evil or weapons of righteousness (justification).  Reconnecting with his earlier military imagery, the imagery of this verse now becomes, “Who is your commanding officer?  Who he is makes an eternal difference?”


Commanding Officer What he hands (“traditions”) to his soldiers Eternal result
Sin Wages Death
God A gift (grace, charisma) Life


  • The way Paul runs the verbs, who does not cause eternal death? Who or what then does?


  • Who is responsible for eternal life?


How Baptism, and Living in and from It, Changes Everything


Romans 6 Leading thought Conclusion
Vs. 3-5, 12 You are baptized into Jesus’ death and resurrection So, don’t continue to let sin rule over you
Vs. 13 Don’t present your body parts as weapons of evil Instead, present them as weapons of righteousness (justification)
Vs. 14 Sin is not your master.  Why? You are not under the Law but God’s grace
Vs. 15 Do we serve sin?  No.  Why? You are not under the Law but God’s grace
Vs. 16 You are either a slave to sin, following it


or a slave to God, following Him

resulting in death



resulting in life

Vs. 17 You were a slave of sin You now follow the pattern of teaching into which you were “traditioned”
Vs. 18 You are free from sin and now slaves of righteousness (justification)
Vs. 19 Earlier, you presented your body parts as slaves to impurity and lawlessness for lawlessness Now, present your body parts as slaves to righteousness for holiness (for being set apart)
Vs. 20 When you were slaves of sin you were free from righteousness (justification)
Vs. 21-22 The fruits of being sin’s slave results in eternal death The fruit of being God’s slave results in holiness (being set apart) and eternal life
Vs. 23 Sin gives wages, resulting in eternal death God gives a gift (grace), resulting in eternal life


When Sin is your commanding officer, he pays wages.  Even so, no matter how well or poorly you serve Sin, the payment is always the same: eternal death!  Why?  What you earn from sin, even if only one sin, is death.

When God is your commanding officer, you don’t receive a wage but a gift.  As with Sin, no matter how well or poorly you serve God, the result is the same: eternal life!  Why this is so, however, is different.  Eternal life is a gift.  So, how poorly you serve God doesn’t take away from the gift.  As long as God is your commanding officer, the gift you receive from Him remains with you.

If God is not your commanding officer, Sin is.  Those are the only two realities.  If someone chooses to live under Sin, he is choosing Sin to be his master and commanding officer.  So, don’t choose Sin.  Instead, live as the person whom God made you in baptism: righteous, justified.  How well you live in the righteousness (justification) God gives you won’t change your status with God.  It’s a gift.  It’s only living outside of the righteousness He gives, which puts you again under the thrall of Sin.


Click here to go to the next Lesson.