Having established that the Christian cannot take up the position that it is all fight to continue in sin with a view to making grace abound, Paul proceeds to his second rhetorical question in this section of his argument. This proceeds from the point the apostle had reached at the end of his answer to the first question, namely that the believer is not under law but under grace. Then does that mean that sin does not matter? His answer divides into two parts. First he establishes that Christians are not slaves to sin but rather to God; then he gives an illustration from marriage.
15What then? Shall we sin because we are not under law but under grace? By no means! 16Don't you know that when you offer yourselves to someone to obey him as slaves, you are slaves to the one whom you obey—whether you are slaves to sin, which leads to death, or to obedience, which leads to righteousness? 17But thanks be to God that, though you used to be slaves to sin, you wholeheartedly obeyed the form of teaching to which you were entrusted. 18You have been set free from sin and have become slaves to righteousness.
19I put this in human terms because you are weak in your natural selves. Just as you used to offer the parts of your body in slavery to impurity and to ever-increasing wickedness, so now offer them in slavery to righteousness leading to holiness. 20When you were slaves to sin, you were free from the control of righteousness. 21What benefit did you reap at that time from the things you are now ashamed of? Those things result in death! 22But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves to God, the benefit you reap leads to holiness, and the result is eternal life. 23For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life ina Jesus Christ our Lord.
a23 Or through
15. What then? is similar to the opening of verse 1. Except that there is nothing corresponding to shall we say. BDF, however, hold that there is an ellipsis of ἐρουῦμεν (299 ). Indeed, the whole verse is similar, and some scholars hold that Paul is simply repeating the objection he stated there. There are, however, some differences. In verse 1 the verb is in the present and points to a continuing attitude. The objector there was impressed with Paul's contention that the more sin there is the more grace there is (__Romans__5:20), and thought he could multiply grace by multiplying sin. This time the verb is in the aorist ἁμαρτήσωμεν is a late first aorist form of a kind found in LXX. Some MS(S)Shave the future, ἁμαρτήσομεν, but most critics accept the aorist. and points rather to a single act, a particular instance. And the objector is not suggesting that we sin "so that grace may abound" but "because grace abounds." The thought this time is something 261 like this: "It is grace that saves, not the way we live. Therefore the odd sin is neither here nor there. Once we have put our trust in Christ it does not matter whether we slip into sin or not." Paul repudiates this with decision. For μὴ γένοιτο see on __Romans__3:4. It is a vigorous rejection of the suggestion. The Christian can never say, "Sin does not matter. It will all be the same in the end." As Brunner puts it, "Freedom from the Law does not mean freedom from God but freedom for God."
16. A somewhat complicated rhetorical question drives the point home. Once again Paul appeals to knowledge in his readers. Paul often appeals to his correspondents' knowledge (see on __Romans__2:2), but the use of οὐκ οἴδατε ὅτι is frequent in 1 Corinthians and rare elsewhere (cf. οὐκ οἴδατε, __Romans__11:2).They were familiar with slavery, and Paul is reasoning from the well-known fact that a slave was completely at the disposal of his master. No man could serve two masters (Matt. 6:24), for by definition he belonged totally to one and had nothing over for the other. Legally, of course, ownership could be shared so that there were two owners. This could lead to anomalous situations, e.g., when one owner freed the slave while the other did not. He was then half slave, half free. Jesus is not denying the legal possibility of shared ownership of a slave; he is denying that a slave can give to more than one person the wholeheartedness a slave owed his master. If there are two owners, he will hate one and love the other. Paul is emphasizing the impossibility of compromise. For all of us in the last resort it is sin or God. It cannot be both. He talks about people offering themselves as slaves, a situation not unknown in the ancient world, when people sometimes became slaves voluntarily in order to secure at least a livelihood. For Paul the basic assumption is that all are slaves before they become believers in Christ; they are not free to do as they will, for they are subject to the bondage of sin. Notice that he is not saying that slaves are required to obey their master. He is looking at it the other way around. The master we obey shows whose slaves we are. Unbelievers areslaves to sin, and this leads inevitably to death. But believers are slaves to obedience. We might have expected Paul to say "slaves to God", and he does say this in due course (v. 22). We should not miss the point that the Christians had a very unusual attitude to slaves. The term "slave" was everywhere a term of abuse, even among the Jews (cf. K. H. Rengstorf, TDNT, II, pp. 270-71). Slaves were not accepted into societies as they were into the Christian church. Rengstorf sees "a decisive break with Jewish usage" in the fact that "The Rabbis and Pharisees did not think of themselves as the slaves of God" (p. 274 n. 101). They used the expression for the people as a whole or for outstanding servants of God, but not in the way the Christians used it. He also speaks of belonging to "the form of teaching" (v. 17) and of being slaves of righteousness (vv. 18, 19). The point is that this is a complex situation and Paul does not oversimplify. Nygren points out that Christians "live their life on the border between the two aeons. They live 'in Christ'; but have not thereby ceased to share the fate of the children of Adam." Paul is combating the view that Christians are freed from the pull implied in being children of Adam, but also that which says that they do not belong wholeheartedly to God. He is saying that they are God's and that, though they may slip, their lives show that they belong to God. Obedience was an essential ingredient in slavery: it was the function of the slave to do what he was told. And, 262 of course, a change of owner meant that the slave no longer obeyed his former master. He still obeyed, but his obedience was transferred to his new owner. The obedience he rendered showed whose slave he was. Here Paul insists that obedience is an important part of the life lived in grace (cf. __Romans__1:5; 15:18; 16:26). The essence of sin is disobedience to God, while contrariwise to be obedient to God is the hallmark of the slave of God. The quality of our living shows whose we are.
Paul proceeds to set out the alternatives. He sees only two possibilities, being slaves to sin with the end result death, and to obedience, which leads to righteousness. ἤτοι occurs here only in the New Testament. The construction seems to imply that these are the only alternatives. Death here is more than physical death. Its connection with sin shows it to be a horror, greatly to be feared. Sin leads finally to the loss of everything that can really be called life. Obedience is a general term, but in this context it probably refers especially to obedience to the gospel call, the obedience of faith. It is this that leads to righteousness, which in turn is probably complex. Since Paul has been stressing the importance of upright living, it is impossible to rule this out at this point. On the other hand, to confine it to morality is to overlook the fact that in this epistle righteousness is so often the righteousness that believers attain by faith, and the contrast with death shows that this is in mind here (cf. GNB, "of obedience, which results in being put right with God"). Paul is not distinguishing between the right living that characterizes the servants of God and "the consummated righteousness of the new heavens and the new earth" (Murray).
After the thought that slavery to sin leads to death we expect that obedience will lead to life, but Paul speaks instead of righteousness. A Jewish reader might indeed accept the view that obedience to God, and specifically his own obedience, would lead to life. But Paul is not saying that; he is giving no countenance to any view of salvation by works. So he saves up his references to life until verses 22 and 23.
17. This leads to an outburst of thanksgiving for what has happened to the Roman Christians. Notice that Paul does not praise them for what they have done, but thanks God for what he has done in them. He gives thanks for the past, not, of course, for the Romans' former slavery to sin, but for the fact that that slavery is over; they were then slaves to sin, but are no longer. BDF see this as an example of the use of the imperfect tense where the past is placed in sharp contrast to the present (BDF 327). Olshausen remarks that the former state "is understood as past; for even if sin is not thoroughly removed from the believer, yet it has no dominion". Paul has emphasized this in the earlier part of the chapter. Simeon points out that, while all were slaves to sin, all were not slaves to the same sin; but whatever the sin, it alienates from God. It is this last point that matters to Paul. All sin alienates from God, and he rejoices that as regards the Roman Christians this is all in the past. They have "obeyed from the heart", where the aorist tense points to the decisive act of obedience when they turned to God. Paul dots not elsewhere use the expression "from the 263 heart"; ἐκ καρδίαϛ. Cf. 1 Pet. 1:22. clearly it shows that he is referring to a deeply felt experience, one that is "voluntary and sincere" (Hodge).
He goes on to speak of the form of teaching, which means the accepted Christian teaching. Some see a reference to the essential Pauline position, over against, say, the Petrine or the Johannine teaching, but, as Denney points out, this is an anachronism. As far as he knew, Paul preached the same gospel as did the other apostles (1 Cor. 15:1-11). He is referring to the teaching commonly accepted among the Christians. Most commentators refer to the tradition, but F. W. Beare denies this. He holds that Paul is speaking of transfer from one owner to another (NTS, 5 [1958-59], p. 207). While it is true that this transfer is an important theme of the passage, it is not easy to remove completely the thought of the tradition from teaching. We would expect him to say that the teaching had been delivered to the Romans, but instead he says that they had been delivered to the teaching. The Greek is εἰϛ ὃν παρεδόθητε τύπον διδαχηῦϛ, which seems to be equivalent to τύπῳ διδαχηῦϛ εἰϛ ὃν παρεδόθητε, the antecedent having been attracted into the case of the relative. For τύποϛ see on __Romans__5:14. The rabbis might view themselves as the masters of their tradition (so Barrett), but the Christians are in subjection to the teaching God has given them. They do not have godliness, but godliness has them. There is no special concentration of the word "teaching" in the New Testament (Paul has it six times out of its 30 occurrences); it is spread widely. It points to the importance of authentic Christian teaching. This is not seen as a series of bright ideas some early believers thought up, but as God-given teaching which grips people.