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Romans 6:20-23 - Exposition

For when ye were the servants of sin, ye were free from righteousness (more literally, to righteousness; i.e. ye were not in any bondage to righteousness). What fruit had ye then ( i.e. when you were formerly slaves of sin) in those things whereof ye are now ashamed?, for the end of those things is death. But now being made free from sin, and made servants to God, ye have your fruit unto sanctification; and the end life eternal. For the wages of sin is death; but the free gift of god is life eternal in Christ Jesus our Lord . The logical connection with the previous context of the above series of verses, beginning with Romans 6:20 , as well as the sequence of thought running through them (intimated by the particles γὰρ σῦν , and δὲ ), is not at once obvious. It seems to be as follows: the γὰρ in Romans 6:20 introduces a reason for the exhortation of Romans 6:19 , παραστήσατε , etc. But Romans 6:20 is not in itself the reason, being only an introduction to the statement of it in the verses that follow. The drift of the whole passage seems to be this: Yield ye your members to the sole service of righteousness; for ( Romans 6:20 ) ye were once in the sole service of sin, owning no allegiance to righteousness at all; and ( Romans 6:21 ) what fruit had ye from that service? None at all; for ye know that the only end of the things ye did then, and of which ye are now ashamed, is death. But ( Romans 6:22 ) your new service has its fruit: it leads to your sanctification now, and in the end eternal life. Authorities, however, both ancient and modern, are divided as to the punctuation, and consequent construction, of Romans 6:21 . In the Vulgate and the Authorized Version (as in the interpretation given above) the stop of interrogation is placed after "ashamed;" the answer, none, being understood, and "for the end," etc., being the reason why there is no fruit The other way is to take the question as ending at "had ye then," and "those things whereof," etc., as the answer to it, and for the end, etc., as the reason why they are ashamed. Thus: "What fruit had ye then (when you were free from righteousness)? The works (or pleasures) of which you are now ashamed were the only fruit; you are ashamed of them now; for their end is death." The latter interpretation is defended by Alford on the ground that it is more consistent "with the New Testament meaning of καρπός , which is 'actions,' the ' fruit of the man' considered as the tree, not 'wages' or 'reward,' the 'fruit of his actions.'" This is true. But, on the other hand, it may be argued that such use of the word καρπός by St. Paul is always in a good sense; he usually regards sin as having no fruits at all; to the fruit of the Spirit is opposed, not any fruit of a different character, but the works ( ἔργα ) of the flesh ( Galatians 5:19 , Galatians 5:22 ); and in Ephesians 5:11 (again in opposition to the fruit of the Spirit ) he speaks of the unfruitful works ( ἔργοις τοῖς ἀκάρποις ) of darkness. Thus the idea of Ephesians 5:21 , understood as in the Authorized Version, seems closely to correspond with that of the passage last cited. "The things of which ye are now ashamed," in Ephesians 5:21 , are "the works of darkness" of Ephesians 5:11 ; and in both places they are declared to have no fruit. Sin is a barren tree, and only ends in death. Cf. what was said above with respect to εἰς τὴν ἀνομίαν and εἰς ἁγιασμόν in Ephesians 5:19 . It is true, however, that the expression in the next chapter, καρποφορῆσαι τῷ θανάτῳ ( Romans 7:5 ), in opposition to καρποφορήσωμεν τῷ θεῷ , in some degree weakens the force of the above argument. We observe, lastly, on Ephesians 5:23 , that to the "wages'' of sin ( ὀψώνια , used usually to denote a soldier's pay) is opposed "free gift" ( χάρισμα for sin earns death as its due reward; but eternal life is not earned by us, but granted us by the grace of God. As to the phrase, δουλωθέντες τῷ θεῷ , in Ephesians 5:22 , it can be used without the need of any such apology as seems to be implied in Ephesians 5:19 (according to the meaning of the verse that has been preferred) for speaking of our becoming slaves to righteousness. For we do belong to God as his δοῦλοι , and to Christ, having been "bought with a price" (cf. 1 Corinthians 7:23 ); and St. Paul at the beginning of his Epistles often calls himself δοῦλος χριστοῦ (cf. also Luke 17:10 ). But it does not follow that our service should be the service of slaves; it may be a free, willing, enthusiastic obedience notwithstanding; we obey, not because we are under bondage to obey, but because love inspires us (cf. Galatians 4:6 , etc., "Because ye are sons, God sent the Spirit of his Son into your hearts, crying, Abba, Father. Wherefore thou art no longer a servant, but a son").

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