May 1, 2011
Romans 7:1, we should remember that Paul is writing to those who know the law, and had placed their trust in the law as they understood it. However, their view of the law was quite corrupt. They mixed traditions with it to make it conform more to their liking. In his Sermon on the Mount, Christ shows us how much the law had been corrupted.
Here in Romans, Paul is confronting the many false ideas concerning the law, as he presents the Christian gospel of grace from the law.
Shall we continue in sin...
The most common objection, as well as the most reasonable, against justification by faith and eternal security is that these doctrines permit the Christian to continue in sin. This argument comes from a lack of knowledge of Scripture. Paul clearly says such a belief is absurd, and he tares it down with logical arguments.
He points out that the believer has a new nature, so that for a Christian to continue in sin is totally inconsistent with Christianity. Not only is it inconsistent, it is like saying that there is such a thing as a living dead man.
Paul closed the preceding chapter with vv. 13-17 & 20, 21, which can be summed up in short order. The law reveals the width and depth of sin. The law shows the control of sin over us and the world. He ended his previous thought saying that though the results of Adam's sin abound, the grace of God through Christ's righteousness abounds much more.
The logical conclusion by those who want to continue in sin is, Since sin causes God's grace to abound, then let us continue in sin so grace will abound even more.
V. 1, What shall we say then?
Typical of Paul, he answers objections before they are presented. He is dealing with justification by faith vs. hope in the law. So the logical conclusion that would be drawn by those caught in the trap of any kind of a "works" salvation would be, "If what you are saying is true, then I can continue in sin, and the grace of God will be magnified even more."
V. 2. Dead to sin... Sin is not dead. Sin still works to control the believer. In the next chapter, Paul describes that warfare.
Paul speaks of sin as a law that indwells every person, and it demands obedience. Yet in Christ, the believer is dead to that law. That is, the law of sin has only the power as permitted by the believer.
He will later use the illustration of a husband and wife. The wife is under the laws of marriage, until the death of her husband. She is then free from that law.
In Christ, the believer is dead to sin's hold and control over him. Turning to Christ as our Savior involves death to the power of sin and separation from sin. Salvation not only delivers us from the eternal penalty of sin, but from its power over us. We turn from sin to God in Christ Jesus.
Paul argues that it is a contradiction in terms for those who claim to be holy in Christ to say they can continue in sin. Can light and darkness mix? Can death and life exist together.
There can be no such thing as the living dead.
When one comes to Christ, the power of sin is broken. Sin has lost its power.
Galatians 6:14 But God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world is crucified unto me, and I unto the world.
1 Peter 2:24 Who his own self bare our sins in his own body on the tree, that we, being dead to sins, should live unto righteousness: by whose stripes ye were healed.
He asks in amazement, "How can a Christian live any longer in sin?"
Many very good theologians, including Calvin, have admitted that baptism must mean total emersion. Yet they use many pages of convoluted and contradictory statements to avoid what this passage, and others, teaches. They force many scriptures into their mold.
Paul is speaking to those, us, who had already been baptized.
The wording here makes Paul say that we were brought into union with Christ through water baptism, which is the understanding given to this by the followers of Rome. But that is not at all what he is saying. Paul was not a "sacramentarian". That is, one who believes that a sacrament holds some kind of mystical power in bring God's grace to the individual.
Sacrament: The word originated in 11501200; It is a Latin term meaning mystery or rite.
1. an outward sign combined with a prescribed form of words and regarded as conferring some specific grace upon those who receive it. The Protestant sacraments are baptism and the Lord's Supper. In the Roman Catholic and Eastern Churches they are baptism, penance, confirmation, the Eucharist, holy orders, matrimony, and the anointing of the sick (formerly extreme unction)
Conclusion: Sacramentarians can be defined as those who believe that the "sacraments" have some kind of mystical power, an idea held over from Rome. This is not at all what Paul is saying.
Though the Reformation dismissed 5 of the sacraments, it retained two, baptisminfants especially, and communion.
A good example of how modern Sacramentarians hold to Rome is Charles Hodge (1797-1878). He was one of the greatest theologians of the 19th century, and had a major influence upon the Christian foundation of this nation. I use him a lot.
Here is his convoluted understanding of Romans 6:3-6,
The meaning therefore is, we were baptized in order that we should die with him,' i. e. that we should be united to him in his death, and be partakers of its benefits. Thus, "baptism unto repentance," #Mt 3:11, is baptism in order to repentance; "baptism unto the remission of sins," #Mr 1:4, that remission of sins may be obtained; "baptized unto one body," #1Co 12:13, i. e. that we might become one body, &c. Paul does not design to teach that the sacrament of baptism, from any inherent virtue in the rite, or from any supernatural power in him who administers it, or from any uniformly attending Divine influence, always secures the regeneration of the soul.
(C. Hodge Commentary on Romans 6:3, Online Bible.)
According to Hodge, the sacrament of baptism is:
1. in order that we should die with him, implying that the
time of our death with Christ is at baptism.
2. a means of repentance
3. a means of remission of sin
4. the means of becoming one body with other believers
5. A means of regeneration, but not every one is regenerated at baptism.
But in order to get these understandings out of baptism, one must completely ignore the first 5 chapters of Romans, as well as a multitude of other scriptures throughout the entire bible.
I am always amazed that men like Hodge who strongly hold to the 5 points of the reformation. Yet they can completely ignore the clear truth of Scripture in this area of baptism. The honest ones, including Hodge, will admit that scripture demands total immersion, and requires a profession of faith. A good example is Hodge. In his Systematic Theology, he admits the truths about baptism, yet then spends 14 pages justifying infant baptism and sprinkling.
Also, in his Theology, he certainly does not teach the 5 things above. But, like so many other theologians, when it comes to baptism, he loses all since of reality, and contradicts himself many times over.
Ordinances: The non-Romanist call baptism and the Lord's Supper ordinances, which generally means that which was ordered by God for his people to observe. This is also applied to human laws.
Let me give a very short Baptist history lesson here:
A man named Zwingli took the lead in the Swiss Reformation in 1523. Zwingli was debating Dr. Faber before 600 Catholic dignitaries. Zwingli, in his debate, continued to say, "show me the place in the Scripture where it is written..." He had been invited to go to the Catholic universities, but the invitation was withdrawn when Zwingli would not back down from Scripture.
Many who heard Zwingli had strong Baptist tendencies, and accepted his radical doctrine as he stood against Rome. Though Zwingli was the most advanced of all reformers biblically, the Baptist refused to go along with Zwingli's demand for infant baptism. Zwingli admitted he could not defend infant baptism from Scripture as he demanded of the Romanists to defend their doctrines, so he turned to the civil magistrates of Zurich, Switzerland to enforce infant baptism.
Sometimes he encouraged the practice, sometimes not, always denying the regenerating efficacy of baptism; but finally he concluded to continue infant baptism on the ground that if it ceased the people would clamor for circumcision, as they must have a bond of visible union.... Zwingli feared a division in the Reformed ranks and resorted to these expedients to prevent this, until Pedobaptist pressure forced him to turn over the question to the civil power. As Dr. Dorner says: He saw the setting aside of infant baptism was the same as setting aside the national Church, exchanging a hitherto national reformation of the Church for one more or less Donatist. For, if infant baptism were given up, because faith was not yet, there only remained as the right time for it the moment when living faith and regeneration were certain. And then baptism would become the sign of fellowship of the regenerate, the saints, who bind themselves together as atoms out of the world.' [Hist. of Prot. Theology, S. 294.] (A History of the Baptist, Thomas Armitage, in Two Volumes, published by Bryan, Taylor & Co., 1890. 1988 reprint Baptist Heritage Press, P.O. Box 366, Watertown, Wisconsin. I.330, 331.)
[The Donatists refused to accept the sacraments and spiritual authority of the priests and bishops who had fallen away from the faith during the persecution [under the Roman emperor Diocletian (3035)] During the persecution some Church leaders had gone so far as to turn Christians over to Roman authorities and had handed over religious texts to authorities to be publicly burned. These people were called traditores ("people who had handed over"). These traditors had returned to positions of authority under Constantine I, and the Donatists proclaimed that any sacraments celebrated by these priests and bishops were invalid.]
The Baptist of Zurich began to assail infant baptism in 1523 one of their pastors calling it a useless thing. One might as well baptize a cow or a calf,' he said. Then Grebel writes: Those who understand the teaching of the Scriptures in reference to baptism refuse to allow their children to be baptized.' Reublin rejected the practice and held a public discussion with the pastors of Zurich, the only result of which was, that the Council arrested two men of his congregation and three from the village of Zollikon near by for refusing to bring their children for baptism, fining them each one silver mark and thrusting them into prison. (I cover the complete history if the conflict between the Reformers and the Baptist in my book, Paedobaptism, The Word of God & Infant Baptism, chapter 3.)
The conflict between the followers of half-reformed and of full-reformed was bloody, as Zwingli and his followers used every means at their disposal, including physical torture, to force the Baptist and the Anti-Baptist to baptize their infants. They did not, however, use Scripture, because there were none to support their practice.
The history of the Baptist is a bloody history, with the persecution mainly from others who claimed to be Christians, and it was over infant-baptism.
The Presbyterians, and others who hold to Rome's sacrament of Baptism, give these three verses in Romans 6 a very lengthy and convoluted understanding in order to support their unbiblical practices, with many passages pulled out of their proper context.
According to Robertson's NT Word Pictures, the meaning is quite simple.
Baptism is the public proclamation of one's inward spiritual relation to Christ, and that relationship was obtained before baptism.
Galatians 3:27 For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ.
Baptism is compared to putting on an outward garment or uniform that identifies us as a follower of Christ.
Examples: Law enforcement uniforms identifies the person as a law enforcement officer. The same goes for a military uniform.
First, he put it on willingly.
Second, upon putting it on, he agreed to uphold all that uniform stands for.
Third, it should be a serious offence if he violates what that uniform stands for.
At our baptism, we put on the clothing of a follower of Christ.
First, we put it on willingly.
Second, upon putting it on, we agreed to uphold all Christ stands for.
Third, we are told that there are serious consequences if we fail in the responsibilities required of that uniform.
Fourth, unlike a law enforcement or military uniform, we cannot take off the uniform we put on at baptism. It is a 24/7 requirement.
(Many Christians are like undercover or plain clothes policemen.)
V. 4, Into his death, or in relation to his death. Paul goes on to explain that relationship.
Colossians 2:12 Buried with him in baptism, wherein also ye are risen with him through the faith of the operation of God, who hath raised him from the dead.
Baptism shows our identification with the death, burial and resurrection with Christ.
V. 4. Newness of life. Our resurrection, as pictured in water baptism, is to a new life in Christ. That new life took place at our conversion, not at our baptism. Our new life was imparted to us by the glory of the Father the same as was the resurrection of Christ. We discussed our new life compared with Christ's new life last week.
The picture in baptism points three ways:
First, v. 1, it points backwards to Christ's death and burial and to our death to sin.
Second, it points forwards to Christ's resurrection from the dead which empowers our new life. We publically pledged to that new life coming out of the watery grave to walk on the other side of the baptismal grave.
Third, it looks forward to our own resurrection from the grave.
Paul's explains the symbol with a picture we can easily understand. It is a picture of the reality that took place at our conversion by faith alone.
V. 5, Paul continues by presenting water-baptism as a picture of death and burial which symbolizes our likeness to Christ in his death.
We shall be also united in the likeness of his resurrection.
Baptism is a picture of the past and of the present and is a prophecy of the future. Water baptism is the unmatched preacher of the new life in Christ.
V. 6 is best explained by,
Colossians 3:9 Lie not one to another, seeing that ye have put off the old man with his deeds; 10 And have put on the new man, which is renewed in knowledge after the image of him that created him:
Ephesians 4:22 That ye put off concerning the former conversation the old man, which is corrupt according to the deceitful lusts; 23 And be renewed in the spirit of your mind; 24 And that ye put on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness.
Paul was clear in the first 5 chapters of Romans, as well as throughout all his letters. The putting off of old man and his manner of life, and the putting on of the new took place at conversion, not at baptism. The change from the old to the new is pictured by baptism. The change is not caused by baptism, regardless of what great theologians have said down through history.
I have heard it many times, "Remind them of their baptism", but that baptism took place before they knew anything, and outside of their own desire. There was clearly no profession of faith in Christ.
In addition, if that profession of faith did not bring a new life in Christ, then it was as useless as the water baptism is to that infant. As our godly Baptist forefathers said, "One might as well baptize a cow or a calf."
Paul is so clear that I fail to understand how those who have been trained in the scriptures can turn their backs on "by faith alone and scripture alone". They exhibit marvelous works of inconsistency.
Galatians 2:19 For I through the law am dead to the law, [that is, the law of Christ says I am dead to the law of sin and death] that I might live unto God. 20 I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me. 21 I do not frustrate the grace of God: for if righteousness come by the law, then Christ is dead in vain.
Romans 6:7. Baptism is a clear symbol that we are dead to the power of sin over us in Christ, and raised in the Father's new power to live a new, God-pleasing life.
As Paul said in vv. 1, 2, we are dead to the power of sin over us, and therefore we are free from that bondage to sin. He certainly does not teach freed from sin in the sense of sinless perfection.
Vv. 8-11, Paul sums up what he has been saying concerning the symbolism of water baptism. Those who hold to infant baptism and sprinkling must work to make Paul say things here that he simply does not say.
Dead with Christ, live with Christ took place at conversion. It is publically shown by a picture that is easily understood, water baptism.
Vv. 9, 10. Not once, but twice Paul tells us that Christ died only one time, and cannot die again.
Hebrews 9:26 For then must he often have suffered since the foundation of the world: but now once in the end of the world hath he appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself. 10:10 By the which will we are sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.
Through death, Christ destroyed the power of death, not only the power of death over him, but the power of death from over his people:
Revelation 20:6 Blessed and holy is he that hath part in the first resurrection: on such the second death hath no power, but they shall be priests of God and of Christ, and shall reign with him a thousand years.
V. 11. Reckon ye also yourselves... This is complete proof that Paul does not mean that baptism makes one dead to sin and alive to God. Dead to sin and alive to God is a spiritual operation that takes place "through Christ Jesus". It is only pictured by baptism.
Romans chapter 6 is Paul's plea for God's people to live up to the ideal of what they publically professed at their baptism.
May 15, 2011
In the first 5 chapters, Paul has dealt very throughly with salvation, conversion or regeneration, being a result of faith in Christ. He has pointed out that the natural man has no desire for God, and he must be drawn to Christ my God. He has made it abundantly clear that salvation brings with it a new creation; that is, new desires and a new life.
In Romans 6, he deals with water baptism. It is simply a picture of putting off the old man, and of putting on the new, as a law enforcement officer or military personal would put on a uniform. That uniform represents something, and should hold serious consequences if what the uniform stands for is violated.
We do have plain clothes law enforcement officers, and it seems we have many plain clothes Christians. They claim to be Christians on the inside, but their outside is the world's uniform.
Craig mentioned last time about Ephesians 6:
10 Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might. 11 Put on the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. 12 For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places. 13 Wherefore take unto you the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand. 14 Stand therefore, having your loins girt about with truth, and having on the breastplate of righteousness; 15 And your feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace; 16 Above all, taking the shield of faith, wherewith ye shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked. 17 And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God: 18 Praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, and watching thereunto with all perseverance and supplication for all saints;
He ask at what point is this new clothing put on. Is it at water baptism as implied by Paul in Romans 6, and as believed by many good people?
That is a good question, which requires an answer.
Romans 6 has been greatly abused. As we saw two weeks ago, many good men and otherwise sound theologians use Romans 6:3-5 to say that babies can be, but are not always, regenerated at their "baptism", or that adults can be regenerated at their water-baptism. They then go into a great discourse to justify both sprinkling and infant-baptism.
There are two baptisms connected with the new birth:
Mark 1:8 I indeed have baptized you with water: but he shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost.
When is that baptism with the Holy Ghost? Does it take place at conversion, or at water-baptism?
1 Corinthians 12:13 For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body, whether we be Jews or Gentiles, whether we be bond or free; and have been all made to drink into one Spirit.
Galatians 3:27 For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ.
Paul has made it clear that conversion is where the change takes place.
Conversion is when the individual willingly submits to the call of God, which is not to day that this submission cannot take place at the time of baptism.
Conversion is where the whole armor of God is to be put on.
Conversion is where the new uniform of Christ is put on.
Conversion is where the new life begins, and if there is no new life, there is no conversion.
2, Romans 6:3-5. Water baptism. Paul has spent his letter up to this point clearly presenting his case that water baptism only pictures what has ready taken place in the past at conversion.
Paul has made his case that water baptism is simply a public demonstration of death to the power of sin over the believer, and his new life in Christ.
Throughout the New Testament, the Spirit urges the Christians to live like followers of Christ. Paul's words here are especially strong in that urging.
V. 12. Paul develops the implication of conversion. That is, those in Christ have the power of the Spirit to break free of the former hold of sin over them.
"Do not let sin continue in your body as it once did before your conversion."
The believer has publically professed that he has a new master over him, Christ his Lord. The believer has publically professed that he now wares new clothing, Christian clothing. Now Paul urges him to live as befitting a follower of Christ. Paul also tells us that we can only live that life through the power of his grace.
V. 13. Paul compares our bodily members to the tools of one's occupation, or to weapons of warfare. (Marg arms or weapons) Included in these instruments is the faculties of the soul, such as the understanding, the mind, will, affections.
Stop presenting our members to follow the old habits of unrighteous actions.
Many times over, the Christian life is compared to warfare:
2 Corinthians 10:4 (For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strong holds;)
Galatians 5:16 This I say then, Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfil the lust of the flesh. 17 For the flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh: and these are contrary the one to the other: so that ye cannot do the things that ye would. 18 But if ye be led of the Spirit, ye are not under the law. 19 Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are these; Adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness, 20 Idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies, 21 Envyings, murders, drunkenness, revellings, and such like: of the which I tell you before, as I have also told you in time past, that they which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God. 22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, 23 Meekness, temperance: against such there is no law. 24 And they that are Christ's have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts.
Here we see two armies lined up against each other. One is aligned with the powers of darkness, the other with the Spirit of light. And the believer is held personally responsible as to how he uses his instruments of warfare. The tongue is only one of the visible instruments:
James 1:26 If any man among you seem to be religious, and bridleth not his tongue, but deceiveth his own heart, this man's religion is vain.
An invisible instrument is found in,
Leviticus 19:17 Thou shalt not hate thy brother in thine heart: thou shalt in any wise rebuke thy neighbour, and not suffer sin upon him.
1 John 3:14 ¶ We know that we have passed from death unto life, because we love the brethren. He that loveth not his brother abideth in death. 3:15 Whosoever hateth his brother is a murderer: and ye know that no murderer hath eternal life abiding in him.
Each instrument we possess now belongs to the Lord. By faith in Christ and by the power of his grace to desire and do his will, each has been freed from the law of sin that held him captive at one time. The command throughout scripture is that these instruments are to be used in a righteous manner.
New life means new desires and power for our instruments of warfare to prevail in service unto God.
Vv. 14, 15. Sin is not completely dead in us, and still demands control. But in Christ, it has lost its absolute and uncontrolled power. Its dominion has been broken.
Not under law, but under grace
Now for one of the most misused passages in Scripture. There are a great many understandings for this section, most of which say that God's law, because of Grace, is no longer binding upon believers.
As with every passage of Scripture, these two verses cannot stand on their own. Every passage must be understood in its context. As many folks before me have said, A text without a context is a pretext. That is especially true here.
1. Paul is writing to those who know the law, Romans 7:1(for I speak to them that know the law,). If Paul was saying here what many attribute to him, the people of Rome would have dismissed him immediately.
2. Considering the previous 5 ½ chapters, we know that Paul cannot mean that grace frees one from being responsible to obey God's law. We do not need to review the previous chapters, for vv. 12 & 13 make it abundantly clear that regeneration requires obedience to God. Anything less destroys the Christian message of not only Paul, but of every New Testament author, including Christ:
John 14:15 If ye love me, keep my commandments.
So, what does he mean, not under law, but under grace?
1 6:1, Shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound? 2 God forbid. How shall we, that are dead to sin, live longer therein
Sin is the transgression of God's lawalways has been, and always will be.
1 John 3:4 Whosoever committeth sin transgresseth also the law: for sin is the transgression of the law.
V. 14, So Paul cannot be saying here that God's law is no longer binding upon the individual.
2. V. 14, Paul defines the law in 8:2 as the law of sin and death that demands control over our members as instruments of unrighteousness as in v. 13.
Romans 8:2 For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death.
The law in 8:2 cannot refer to the moral law as given through Moses.
The theme of Paul's letter to this point has been this very thingdeath to the power of the law of sin and death that dwells in our mortal bodies, and new life in Christ; that is, his grace working to overcome the law of sin and death. All of this is pictured, but not accomplished, in water baptism, vv. 3-5.
V. 15, Paul returns to what he said in v. 1:
"Sins are forgiven, and we have eternal security by God's grace which was made manifest by forgiveness. So let us continue under the power the law of sin and death, so God's grace may about."
God forbid. How can a Christian even entertain such a foolish thought?
V. 16. Paul states the obvious. That is, we are servants, or slaves to the one we obey. Paul used baptism to illustrate death to sin and resurrection unto righteousness. He now uses slavery to illustrate which master we will serve.
Loyalty to Christ does not permit occasional crossing over to the other side, the side of darkness.
Note obedience unto righteousness, not obedience unto life. Continuance in sin shows a lack of life, or death. But continuance in obedience does not lead to eternal life. Rather, obedience shows the new life, but obedience does not lead to life.
V. 17. Paul thanks God not that they were servants of sin at one time, but that they obeyed the doctrine of the Grace of God, which delivered them from that servitude.
James 1:21 Wherefore lay apart all filthiness and superfluity of naughtiness, and receive with meekness the engrafted word, which is able to save your souls.
V. 18. He continues to use the illustration of servitude. The gospel freed them from the hard bondage to sin, and freed them to walk in newness of life.
"Ye were made slaves to righteousness." You have simply changed masters, no longer slaves of sin (set free from that tyrant), but ye are slaves of righteousness. There is no middle ground, no "no man's land" in this war. (RWP)
V. 19, repeats v. 18. He apologizes for using the word servant, slave, or bondslave, but the word is a good word that describes the situation to those to whom he writes.
From the time the Jews were carried off by Assyria and then by Babylon, the slave markets thrived, as they were bought and sold as simple items of property to be disposed with as the owner pleased.
Israel had been promised that if they ignored the law of God, they would become useless to the world, to where no one would even purchase them in the slave markets:
Deuteronomy 28:68 And the LORD shall bring thee into Egypt again with ships, by the way whereof I spake unto thee, Thou shalt see it no more again: and there ye shall be sold unto your enemies for bondmen and bondwomen, and no man shall buy you.
The Jews had been carried off from their land to be slaves and servants throughout the world. Greece inherited the Jewish servants or slaves from the Babylonian Empire. Greece fell to Rome, and they became servants to the Romans. Though some Jews rose to power, there were still a great many in servant-hood and slavery.
So those to whom Paul wrote in Rome understood very well what Paul meant with the term servant or bond-servants. Actually, when our scriptures were translated, the term servant and slave would have been understood much better than it is today, for many people sold themselves into bond-service in order to get to the Americas.
They understood very well what it meant to be a servant under control of a master.
Historical note: Josephus tells us that when Rome conquered Jerusalem in 70 AD, that the soldiers got sp tired of killing the Jews, that they sold the stronger ones in the slave market. (Hundreds of thousands were killed when Rome finally conquered Jerusalem.) The slave market collapsed with the over abundance of Jews being sold, so the ones healthy enough were sent to the Roman mines, or sent as gladiators to die in the various circuses around the Roman empire.
V. 19, Paul uses servant twice: servants to the desires of the flesh, and servants to the desires of the spirit.
Infirmity, or defective spiritual insight.
Servants to uncleanness. That is, servants to sins such as moral sins, drunkenness, narcotics.
Example: Sadly, both men and women are servants to uncleanness and iniquity. The eyes of both men and women are full of covetousness and adultery.
Job 31:1 I made a covenant with mine eyes; why then should I think upon a maid?
Our members, as our eyes, were servants of sin. Now, it is up to us to use them as servants of righteousness unto holiness. We know of those who enjoy reading ungodly romance novels as well as ungodly biographies. What we read influences us more than we realize.
Children's song: Be careful little eyes what you see, be careful little ears what you hear, be careful little hands what you do. For the father up above is looking down in love, so be careful little eyes what you see...
Unto holiness or sanctification. Sanctification is a life-long process, and is produced by committing our body's instruments as instruments of righteousness in the spiritual war fare.
The responsibility of sanctification is illustrated by death, slavery and by marriage in chapter 7.
V. 20. When we served sin, we had no responsibility to righteousness. We can say here, "How can we expect an unsaved person to act like a saved person, when the Lord has no such expectations?"
V. 21, evidently, these saved Romans were being greatly confused by false teachers, and were being told that Christianity meant very little in changing their life-style. He is reasoning with them from scripture that any though of laying aside Christian duties, being a plain cloths Christians, is pure foolishness as well as sin.
Paul puts three questions before them.
First, how much good fruit and satisfaction did you receive as you followed the desire of the old man, the flesh? What good has he done for you now?
Second, nothing but shame and sorrow has followed you into your new life in Christ. A Christian is ashamed of his former ungodly deeds, and wishes he could go back and change many things.
Third, without God's saving mercy and grace, eternal death and damnation was the certain conclusion of those things you might have enjoyed back then.
Those things are ashes now, they bring shame now, and the end of them was death.
Why the desire to go back to them?
Vv. 22, 23. Here is the word servant again.
The servant if sin earns a wage, death.
But Paul reminds them that Christ's payment freed them from their servitude to the ungodly master of sin and death. Christ's payment made them his servants, which they are to serve with a willing and free heart.
They have been made free from their servitude to sin, and now are servants to God, which brings permanent fruit unto righteousness, which ends in everlasting life.
The illustration of a warfare between the desire so the flesh and the desires of the Spirit has been used. Now Paul spells out the wages of the armies in this warfare. The wages for following the army of sin is death. Sin pays its armies in full, and that wage is death.
However, God's wage is a free gift of grace. The gift is eternal life, and it is not a payment for righteous living, but of faith, which has been Paul's message up to this point.