by Darrel Cline (darrelcline biblical-thinking.org)
Chapter # 6 Paragraph # 4 Study # 6 December 5, 2006 Lincolnton, N.C.
20 For when ye were the servants of sin, ye were free from righteousness.
21 What fruit had ye then in those things whereof ye are now ashamed? for the end of those things is death.
1901 ASV Translation:
20 For when ye were servants of sin, ye were free in regard of righteousness.
21 What fruit then had ye at that time in the things whereof ye are now ashamed? for the end of those things is death.
I. Our Former Freedom.
A. In the "exclusiveness" of "servitude" a person is the servant of one master.
1. Paul has argued that a transfer has been made in which a person who once was a servant of sin has become a servant of righteousness and that transfer has made him free from sin.
2. Now he argues that before the transfer the person was the servant of sin and was free from righteousness.
a. This means that there were no constraints to act righteously.
b. It also means that there was no production of righteous behavior.
c. There was no significant "inner struggle" between righteousness and unrighteousness.
d. And, according to 6:19, there was a definitive progression from one form of lawlessness to a greater form as a direct consequence of the servant's presentation of his members to "uncleanness".
1) The "presentation" was to "uncleanness".
a) This "uncleanness" has its roots in Jesus' use of it to describe what is inside of a "beautiful sepulchre".
i. The inner condition of a sepulchre relates to the disintegration of the human body and the agents of that disintegration. These are forces which have the capacity to destroy the organizational structure of the human body and they are sufficiently potent to initiate that destruction even before that body is dead. It is physically dangerous to be exposed to a rotting corpse.
ii. Apparently it is this power to deconstruct "life" that makes a thing "unclean". To be "unclean" means both to possess the forces of destruction and to be "communicable".
b) When Paul used this term in Romans 1:24 he said that God had turned men over to "uncleanness" through the lusts of their own hearts so that they dishonored their own bodies "between themselves".
i. This first use of the term by Paul in Romans indicates that he sees it as a major issue in that both God and men have turned men over to this "condition".
ii. In our text (6:19) Paul presents "uncleanness" as a means to another end: we presented our members as servant of uncleanness so that we moved from one level of lawlessness to a more potent form.
c) There is, in Paul's letter to the Corinthians (2 Corinthians 12:21), a tendency to follow up on Romans 1:24 and put "uncleanness" into the realm of physical evil -- fornication, lasciviousness, etc. Just as men "dishonored their bodies between themselves" (as sexually perverse) and created by that action certain physically destructive realities (STD's, HIV, etc.), so "uncleanness" tends to have a "physical" reality. This focus is maintained in Galatians 5:19; Ephesians 4:19; 5:3; and Colossians 3:5.
d) But in 1 Thessalonians 4:7 "uncleanness" is contrasted with "holiness" as its antithesis. Holiness is that condition wherein a person is separate from those forces and practices which set the attributes of righteousness in opposition to each other. Thus, "uncleanness" is more than the physical "illustration" where the forces of the physical realm aggressively attack each other to the destruction of the body; it is also the non-material reality of commitment to goals and ideals which, though having no physical state, nonetheless produce a vicious conflict that creates destruction. So, twice Paul uses "uncleanness" in the context of "covetousness" wherein various "lusts" are given free reign to run rough-shod over any inhibitions or restraints.
2) But the result was "lawlessness" that was producing "more lawlessness".
a) Law is, at root, "order" so that every aspect of reality is harmonized with every other aspect in the cooperative effort of life.
b) Lawlessness is, at root, "chaos" so that every aspect of reality is in such disorder that there can be no cooperative effort. The practical reality is that the aspects of reality are at intense odds with each other and are imbued with sufficient power to wage war to attempt to establish their own version of dominance without harmony. This is the essence of death.
3. The reason for Paul's argument is that the two "freedoms" are not "alike".
a. The "freedom from righteousness" was absolute and "automatic". There was no sense of struggle, nor was there any "failure".
b. The "freedom from sin" is neither absolute nor automatic. There is not only a sense of struggle and a reality of "regular" failure, there is also a reality of ignorant sinning that goes on regardless of how well a person practices a healthy relationship with God.
1) Paul would not have written Romans 6 if the freedoms were alike.
2) James would not have admitted that "we all stumble in many ways" if the freedoms were alike.
3) John would never have taught that we need the on-going cleansing provided by "the blood of Jesus Christ" if there was not an open sewer line from our flesh to our outside world.
4) There would be no focus in the New Testament upon "growing up" if the "freedom from sin" was as absolute and automatic as was the "freedom from righteousness." The only need for maturity in Christ is found in the need for a greater grasp of what sin is and how to shut it down.
c. The great marvels of the grace of God are two: 1) that God has totally eliminated all condemnation by Law so absolutely that He simply does not tolerate any accusation of sin by anyone against His children that has the motivation behind it to compel His application of "Justice" to the situation; and 2) that God has reduced the "fellowship" requirements of the relationship He is willing to have with His children to one basic issue -- the issue of "conscience". God is not unconcerned about the open sewer line, but He does not tie His own "fellowship" to its reality. Instead, He ties His own "fellowship" to the issue of whether His child is keeping a good conscience, or not.
B. This former freedom was not an experience of life, it was a participation in the wholesale slaughter of life so that every movement deeper into lawlessness was a step toward final death.
II. Our Former Fruit.
A. It is first described in terms of its ability to bring "shame".
1. This is a major "categorical" issue. 1 John 2:28 makes it a major issue of the Second Coming and presents it as something we definitely want to avoid.
2. The "problem" of shame is that it significantly erodes our participation in spiritual life. Many are the issues of our experience that are determined by one thing: whether we will be "shamed", or not.
B. Then it is described in terms of its final outcome: death.
1. The "telos" of the "fruit" of "uncleanness" is death.
2. Death is presented in the Scriptures as the ultimate "issue of avoidance". Do what you have to do to escape "death".
a. Death is never "annihilation"...that is "escape".
b. Death is the complete absence of any level of satisfaction and the presence of every level of frustration.