Pastor’s Class Notes
Prepared by Dr. John E. Marshall

ROMANS 6:17a

Romans 6:17a “But God be thanked, that ye were the
servants of sin,”

Paul is grateful that his Christian readers have left their lostness behind. It is a thing of the past. He then presses on to emphasize some changes in their lives that have occurred as a result of their conversion.

Romans 6:17b “. . .but ye have obeyed from the heart. . . .”

Paul recognized that the Roman Christians were obeying the words of God. Also, he notes that it was an obedience “from the heart.” It was rendered freely, not grudgingly or with reluctance.
The Christian should not feel that the life he is expected to live is a restricting one. We should not see ourselves as cruelly bound and chained, but should rather rejoice in the opportunity to serve a living God.

Philip Doddridge has captured the true spirit of Christian living:
My gracious Lord, I own Thy right
To every service I can pay;
And call it my supreme delight
To hear Thy dictates and obey.
A part of the new birth is the receiving of a desire to serve God. Previous attitudes are altered, and new desires are accepted. The inner workings of grace make us weary of sin. We come more and more to hate it and its temporary pleasures.
Love within becomes a constraining power that impels us upward. It makes us desire the attainment of ever higher virtues. Things which could not be compelled by law previously, suddenly are cheerfully done because of love.
The saved sinner realizes that Jesus is his dearest friend, and that sin crucified Him. Therefore, the believer shrinks from sin. It is a convulsive thought to think of living in the very thing that slew Jesus.
There is hardly anything worse than affronting and offending a friend’s kindnesses. The new birth will result in our not wanting to abuse such love as Jesus has shown.
“From the heart” we want to obey Him. “Love so amazing, so divine, Demands my soul, my life, my all” (Isaac Watts).

Romans 6:17c “. . .that form of doctrine which was delivered you.”

Believers express their obedience to God by adhering to a body of teachings (doctrine). The doctrines of Christ are meant to be a rule of faith and practice.
Christian living implies compliance with certain teachings. All that a man is–understanding, will, plans, principles, deeds, etc.–must be conformed to the teachings of Christ. For us, this means absolute submission to live by the Bible and its precepts.
The word “form” was commonly used for a die in which coins were minted. Paul is drawing a graphic picture by using this metaphor. He is saying that Christian teachings are a mold in which our lives are to be shaped.
We are to allow ourselves to be placed in a mold, and take our shape from it. The mold is the teachings of God, and Christ is the image which the mold seeks to reproduce.
Gospel teachings are a mold into which our lives should be cast. Only by conforming to the mold can we adopt a shape that resembles Christ.
The life of every individual is controlled by the teaching or philosophy of life that person has embraced. Our thoughts, desires, and actions are determined by the “teaching mold” we adopt. We are fashioned, directed, and molded by the teachings we obey.
And whenever one comes to Christ, there must be a desire to accept His teachings as one’s own mold. You cannot believe on Christ without expressing a willingness to be molded by Him. Any man who claims to be a believer, and yet his life is not conforming to the Biblical mold, is deceiving himself.
The Gospel is not only an interpersonal relationship or an intellectual exercise, but also a transforming influence. Its objective is to change your life.
With regard to one’s life-style, never equate grace with leniency. Grace requires much more than law can. Law commands, but cannot compel.
However, Grace constrains from within and motivates to holiness. The Holy Spirit is always softening us and humbling us under a sense of sinfulness. The Holy Spirit meets us and makes us comfortable to the Biblical mold. Law is impotent to do these things. For instance, a thousand signs commanding a 55-mile-per-hour speed limit are not nearly as effective as the presence of one policeman in a car with flashing lights.
In much the same way, the Holy Spirit “polices” us. He indwells the believer, takes notice of sin, and severely convicts of it.
It is this cleansing “fire” which motivates us. A mold and metal are useless without a fire. The metal must be melted down, for this alone will allow it to take the shape of the mold into which it is cast.
May God moment by moment burn within us and conform us more and more into the image of His Son.

Romans 6:18 “Being then made free from sin, ye became the
servants of righteousness.”

Christ has the right to mold believers because they belong to Him. Salvation does not bring us a license to commit sin, but rather brings us a new Master. At conversion, one renounces sin as ruler, and accepts a new Sovereign. Allegiance is transferred from sin to Christ.
If a man loves to live in sin, he will never renounce his old master. By definition, conversion and repentance imply that the sinner sees himself in a condition from which he seeks release.
It is unreasonable to think that one would want to wallow in a bondage from which he had desperately sought release. No, anyone who loves sin, and can dabble in it repeatedly without remorse, has never been “made free from sin>” It is still his ruling philosophy.
It is contradictory to remain constantly in sin after we are freed from sin. In the believer, sin does not rule; it only rebels. It flares up occasionally, but each time it does, the Christian is filled with godly sorrow.
How do you yourself respond to sins that occur in your life? Is there true sorrow for it, or does it not matter very much? Do you serve sin or righteousness: Way down in your heart, which one do you desire to serve?
There is no intermediate condition. You cannot be in the process of going from one to the other. At any given moment, each individual is subject to one master or the other.
You can be liberated from the tyranny of sin only by giving up yourself to be a slave to Christ. You must renounce your old life in order to receive the new life. You cannot halt half-way between the two. You must choose one or the other.