by Darrel Cline (darrelcline biblical-thinking.org)
Chapter # 6 Paragraph # 4 Study # 3 November 7, 2006 Lincolnton, N.C.
17 But God be thanked, that ye were the servants of sin, but ye have obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine which was delivered you.
18 Being then made free from sin, ye became the servants of righteousness.
1901 ASV Translation:
17 But thanks be to God, that, whereas ye were servants of sin, ye became obedient from the heart to that form of teaching whereunto ye were delivered;
18 and being made free from sin, ye became servants of righteousness.
I. But God Be Thanked...
A. There is a serious issue involved here: no "thanksgiving" should be given where no "favor" was extended.
B. That Paul's first words were, "But God be thanked...", indicates his deeply held conviction that this does not happen apart from God's deliberate involvement.
1. This conviction is deeply held because Paul is absolutely convinced of his own words regarding man in his bondage to Sin. There is no escape for man in man. No one gets free by virture of his own abilities. Man is caught by a hardened heart, a blinded mind, a poverty of spirit, a fearfulness of soul, and an enslaved will. Paul has already set before us the reality that submission to Sin leads to bondage to Sin and there is no reality to that bondage if, in fact, we can break the bonds ourselves. The record of Genesis 3 is a record of one sin resulting in death for all of humanity forevermore afterwards. Surely, if man can recover himself, Adam would have.
2. Man's hope is God's grace, but God's grace is free from man's manipulation. However, man is not free from God's manipulation. Paul clearly declared to the Philippians that God works "in us" both the "willingness to do" and the actual "doing" of His will (2:13). This is a mindless declaration if, in fact, God sits on the sidelines and roots for us to produce the willingness and the working.
3. How does this grace work?
a. Jesus said that "seeing", and "hearing" could lead to "understanding" (Matthew 13:15).
b. John actually said, "...they couldnot believe, for that Isaiah said again, He hath blinded their eyes, and He hardened their heart; lest they should see with their eyes, and perceive with their heart, and should turn, and I should heal them" (John 12:39-40).
c. Jesus declared to the Nazarenes that He had been sent to open the eyes of the blind (Luke 4:18), but He did not open their eyes. Herein is the vast mystery of the plan of God as it relates to the population of the Eternal Kingdom. God chooses His own children. And, we, who, for the most part have no problem whatsoever declaring that we have the right to decide if we will have children and when, fault Him for doing the same thing??
d. The fact is that Sin is far more real in its ability to enslave and destroy than most of us ever realize and God alone has a solution. But, it is His solution and He is free to apply it according to His own wise love. That people perish in their sins is a terrifying reality -- but most people have no real problem with that until it gets too close to them. How many people who honestly feel sorry for their family and friends also feel sorry for the devil? People who get incensed with God being God are only proving the reality of Sin's dominion over them and justifying His condemnation of them.
4. Thus, God is, indeed, to be thanked if, in fact, anyone has escaped the dominion of Sin.
II. You Were Slaves of the Sin.
A. "The" Sin -- what is it?
1. It is, fundamentally, an "attitude" in which man sits in antagonistic judgment upon God.
a. Man brings his ignorance, flawed values, and heart-felt antagonism into the divine court to attempt to take his seat upon the Throne of God so that he may call God to account.
b. Man is driven by Death while he boasts of being "alive".
2. It is, fundamentally, a determined intent to refuse to learn from God. "We will not have this [God] over us."
B. The Bondage -- what is it?
1. It is, fundamentally, an inability to "see" things from God's perspective.
2. It is, fundamentally, an embrace of the above "attitude" that makes it impossible to love God.
III. But You Submitted, At the Heart Level, to the Form of Doctrine.
A. Such submission is absolutely required, but it is beyond human capacity to do.
1. There simply cannot be any kingdom without submission.
2. But man's largest struggle is submission. He simply will not submit if he does not find himself compelled to do so. And what "compels" him? His love/faith system. And who has the final say over that?
3. Moses, in his anticipation of Israel's on-going rebellion against God in spite of all He had done for her, said that Yahweh had not yet given them a heart to understand (Deuteronomy 29:1-4).
4. Jeremiah, in his anticipation of Israel's ultimate conversion to God said that the essence of the New Covenant would be an inward writing of the Law upon their hearts (Jeremiah 31:33).
B. The "Form" of the Doctrine is, most likely, the Book of Romans.
C. Man's greatest danger is his knee-jerk willingness to blame God for his own condition. It typically runs something like this: God could be gracious if He would be, so He is at fault if He is not. And what drives this? Man's attempt to force grace to be his experience while he is antagonistic toward the grace-Giver.