by Darrel Cline (darrelcline biblical-thinking.org)
Chapter # 6 Paragraph # 4 Study # 2 October 31, 2006 Lincolnton, N.C.
15 What then? shall we sin, because we are not under the law, but under grace? God forbid.
16 Know ye not, that to whom ye yield yourselves servants to obey, his servants ye are to whom ye obey; whether of sin unto death, or of obedience unto righteousness?
1901 ASV Translation:
15 What then? shall we sin, because we are not under law, but under grace? God forbid.
16 Know ye not, that to whom ye present yourselves as servants unto obedience, his servants ye are whom ye obey; whether of sin unto death, or of obedience unto righteousness?
I. The "Process" of "Bondage".
A. The first step is "false thinking": grace is not intended to make sin "OK".
B. The second step is "presenting": "persons" are given the authority to make their own choices and, apparently, no one can override that. Demons cannot possess those who refuse to permit it; even the Spirit of God does not act apart from "willingness" [Why, for example, would Paul claim that God works in us both to "will" and to "do" His good pleasure if the "willing" is not required? On the other hand, why would Paul say that if we were sufficiently "free" to "will" on our own? The truth is that God, as Creator, is free [He is more "free" than any of His creatures] to alter the nature of the creature so that the will can follow His will though He does not override the actual choice-making process itself.]
1. This is not a "doctrine" of "free will". "Free" will is a doctrine that man's will is "free" from his own self so that he, it says, can "will" things that are contrary to his own nature.
2. This is a doctrine of "inviolable-will". "Inviolable" will is a doctrine that man's will is "self-determinative" in that he makes his choices, not someone else. This remains a fact even in slavery because even a slave decides to obey his master, or not. The issue here is that slavery gives the master certain "coercive" means to compel the will that make it rare for a slave to be willing to pay the price of disobedience.
3. The "presentation" is "unto under-hearing" -- i.e., one "presents" himself/herself to some one/thing by "submitting to hearing". This means that what one "hears" will lead to "submission" as long as what is "heard" somehow "fits" the love/belief system that is already in place. And it means that once a person "submits", there is an automatic reinforcement of the love/belief system in order to "justify" the "submission".
C. The third step is "Under-Hearing" (translated "obedience"): what people submit their ears to is what they "obey". This is the significance of Jesus' exhortation to His disciples in Luke 9:44 that they "let these sayings sink down into your ears...".
D. The fourth step is "servanthood": this tends to be "irrevocable": masters are not masters if they are constantly subject to the "whims" of their "servants". About the only thing that can "unseat" this reality is a transformation of the "heart" -- i.e., the "heart-acceptance" of the fact that the "master's" blessing in obedience is worth the "trouble" or that the master's retaliation for disobedience is not as bad as once thought. In the final analysis the only thing that can keep a person in bondage is the values/beliefs system that dominates. Only "fear" and "love" provide the levels of motivation required of "service". And of the two, fear is the least effective because it has an essential self-interest built into it and if there arises an occasion that looks like it can mitigate the feared thing, "obedience" will go out the window. Only "love" remains constant; and even it is not "constant" if it is "double-minded" -- i.e., it is not really "love", but a blend of lust and fear.
E. The fifth step is "living with what arises out of the bondage": no one acts/reacts without setting "stuff" into motion that is beyond their control. This is one of the arenas of the "bondage" because no one can force the cause/effect law to cease.
1. Paul's language here is odd. He writes of being a "servant" of either Sin unto death or of obedience unto righteousness. In the "Sin unto death" phrase the issue is "master unto consequence", but in the "obedience unto righteousness" phrase he does not set it up as the "master" and the "consequence". Instead he sets it up as the "mechanism" unto the "master". A "parallel" sentence would have read "...Sin unto death or Righteousness unto life..." or something very similar. He does this "parallelism" in both 6:18 and 6:19. So, we must make something of this oddity.
a. So, what do we make of it?
1) First, by setting up the "you are servants to what you 'under-hear'" thesis, Paul is emphasizing the fact that "under-hearing" leads to bondage.
2) Then, having established that fact, he moves to the first alternative. If we "under-hear" Sin, we will experience Death.
3) Then he shifts his categories. In the Sin unto Death phrase we find the categories of "master/consequence". But, in his next "alternative" ["or"], he presents the category of "mechanism" in two forms or "steps". "Under-hearing" is the initial "step" and the production of "righteousness" is the second. What Paul omits is the "third" -- the Life that righteousness brings. In other words, Paul had a double set of "initial step, intermediate step, final result" in which he omitted one of the sets in each of the "doubles". In the first of the doubles, he has three parts: "under-hearing, the production of sin, the consequence of death"; but he omits the first part because it is an integral element of his previous phrase ["you are servants to whom/what you under-hear"]. In the second of the doubles, he also has three parts: "under-hearing, the production of righteousness, the consequence of Life"; but he omits the last of the three. By this means, Paul emphasizes both the Death that comes from Sin and the Righteousness that comes from proper "under-hearing". This signals a probable reality -- that Death is the thing to be feared and Righteousness is the thing to be loved (Hebrews 1:9). That we should love Life and fear Death is a given, but we cannot lose the reality that it is righteousness that produces Life -- which is the point of 6:15-23. Because Paul is addressing the "attitude" that "we can go ahead and sin", he must emphasize "righteousness".