Our Marvellous Redemption


Romans 6 contains much teaching on redemption


Romans Chapter 6 contains much teaching on both our legal standing in Christ and our identification with Him. But this chapter has many verses in it related to the New Testament teaching of redemption.

The usage of the forms of “eleutheroo” meaning “set free” in Romans 6:18 and 6:22, “kurieuo” meaning “be lord or master, rule” in Romans 6:14, “hupakouo” meaning “you obey, follow, be subject to” in Romans 6:16 and the words related to slavery in Romans 6:6, 6:16 (twice), 6:17, 6:18, 6:19 (twice), 6:20 and 6:22, are very significant. They show Romans Chapter 6 relates also to being redeemed by God from slavery to sin and being enslaved to Himself and to the matter of who is our Master or Lord – sin or Jesus Christ.

Romans Chapter 6 also refers much to the experiences of believers in Jesus Christ. For example, there are mentions of living in sin (verse 2), walking in newness of life (verse 4), letting sin not reign in our bodies (verse 12), presenting the members of our body to God (verses 13 and 19) and the experience of conversion (verse 17).

Redemption is related to Jesus’ death, but it is also something believers experience from the point of conversion.


Believers and unbelievers compared


In Romans 6:16-20, when Paul compares true believers with unbelievers, he reveals unbelievers are slaves of sin and not of righteousness, whereas true believers are slaves of righteousness and not of sin. He was not speaking of permanent sinless perfection when referring to believers here, but to the general characteristics of their life, as redeemed by the price of Jesus’ death, compared to their previous unbelieving state.

Romans 6:16-20 states: “Do you not know that to whom you present yourselves slaves to obey, you are that one’s slaves whom you obey, whether of sin leading to death, or of obedience leading to righteousness? But God be thanked that though you were slaves of sin, yet you obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine to which you were delivered. And having been set free from your sin, you became slaves of righteousness. I speak in human terms because for the weakness of your flesh. For just as you presented your members as slaves of uncleanness, and unlawlessness leading to more lawlessness, so now present your members as slaves of righteousness for holiness. For when you were slaves of sin, you were free in regard to righteousness.”

In Romans 6:16-20, Paul shows believers were slaves of sin prior to conversion but are no longer this after conversion. Instead they are enslaved to righteousness. In the original Greek, the expression “you became slaves” in verse 18 is really “you were enslaved” and is in the passive voice and is plural. The passive voice signifies this enslaving to righteousness was done to believers by God Himself. Jesus Christ is perfectly righteous. Believers became slaves to Him living by His Spirit within them from conversion.

The use of the plural form of “you” in the expression “you became slaves” in Romans 6:18 means Paul is referring to all the believers at Rome. This means all the believers at the church at Rome were enslaved by God to righteousness at conversion.

Paul does not say only some of them were enslaved to righteousness. By this, Paul reveals the heretical nature of the modern easy believism “gospel” which suggests only some believers are enslaved to God and His righteousness at conversion.

By studying verse 18 in the broader context of Romans 6:15-23, we can understand better what verse 18 is saying. In verse 22, Paul shows that all the believers at Rome and not just the more spiritual ones were enslaved by God to Himself: “But now having been set free from sin, and having become slaves of God…”

God became the Master or Lord of every Roman believer at their conversions. In the original Greek, the expression “having become slaves” above is in the passive voice, signifying the action of being enslaved was done to believers by God.

So when Paul says in verse 18 that all believers at Rome had become slaves of righteousness, this is related to them becoming slaves of God. God in Christ is our righteousness (see 1 Corinthians 1:30).

In Romans 6:18 and 22, Paul uses the expression “having been set free from sin” when referring to all the believers at Rome and not just to the more committed believers. Also note in Romans 6:22 he uses the word “now” in relation to when believers are set free from sin as their master. In Greek, the expression “having been set free” in both Romans 6:18 and 6:22 is in the passive voice in Greek. The passive voice means believers were freed from sin by God.

Believers can choose to sin at any moment after conversion (see James 3:2) and will have to resist the temptations of the flesh, the world and Satan until they die. But the expression “having been set free from sin” in Romans 6:18 and 22 shows believers have been set free from the rule of sin – their previous master.

Romans 6:18 and 6:22 relate both to Jesus’ death and to when believers are converted. At the time of Jesus’ death, God freed all believers throughout history from their previous masters – sin and lawlessness – and enslaved them to Himself and His righteousness.

But note being redeemed from slavery to sin and lawlessness in order to be enslaved to God also relates to conversion. Romans 6:17 refers to the conversion when it says “you obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine to which you were delivered.” The phrase “that form of doctrine” refers to the Gospel of Christ.


Who is our master and king?


One of the major themes of Romans 5:21-6:22 is who is our master or ruler or lord – sin or God. Romans 5:21 refers to sin reigning, this being the normal characteristic of unbelievers. In Greek, the word “reigned” in this verse is a form of the word “basileuo” which means “be king, rule”. [1]

Romans 6:12 uses a form of “basileuo” when it instructs believers to not let sin reign or be the ruler or king in their mortal bodies in their daily living.


The later fruit of the initial submitting of a slave


Romans 6:16 states: “Do you not know that when you present yourselves to someone as slaves for obedience, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin resulting in death, or of obedience resulting in righteousness?” (N.A.S.B.) In the above, the expression “obedience resulting in righteousness” does not mean becoming righteous before God through obedience to the Law of Moses or to God’s New Testament moral commandments. Believers are justified purely by God’s grace and not by any human works of obedience (see Romans 3:20, 4:1-8, Galatians 2:15-16, 5:4 and Titus 3:5-7).

Romans 6:16 twice uses the word “slaves”. In Greek, the expressions “you present” and “you obey” in this same verse are both in the present or ongoing tense. Putting these facts together, Romans 6:16 teaches us that a key indicator of who is now our master is whom we are now obeying.

Commenting on Romans 6:16, Leon Morris states: “Obedience was an essential ingredient in slavery: it was the function of the slave to do what he was told. And, of course, a change of owner meant that the slave no longer obeyed his former master. He still obeyed, but his obedience was transferred to his new owner. The obedience he rendered showed whose slave he was. Here Paul insists that obedience is an important part of the life lived in grace (cf. 1:5; 15:18, 16:26). The essence of sin is disobedience to God, while contrariwise to be obedient to God is the hallmark of the slave of God. The quality of our living shows whose we are.” [2]

In ancient times, a slave could not earn or deserve ownership by a new master through obeying him. Instead a new master purchased him. At the point of change of ownership, the slave had to submit or surrender to the lordship of their new master. If the slave did not submit at this point but instead ran away, he became a runaway criminal according to the law and could be punished with death.

If the slave did submit or surrender to the lordship of their new master at the change of ownership, his obedience in following years would be a fruit of this initial surrender. He would not become a slave of his master by obeying.

For example, a slave of a master called Petronius would not become a slave of another man named Seneca by just doing the things the slave knew Seneca commands his slaves to do. When a slave obeyed his master, this was a result of his master having previously purchased him and the slave having previously submitted to this new lord. The slave may disobey his master at times and be disciplined accordingly, but he would still be living in a servant-lord relationship. These things reflect our relationship to our Lord and Master Jesus Christ.


Sin will not be our ruler


In Romans 6:14, Paul told all the Roman believers: “For sin shall not have dominion over you, for you are not under law but under grace.” In Greek, the expression “shall have dominion over” is a form of the word “kurieuo” which means “be lord or master, rule, lord it (over), control”. [3] A form of the word “kurieuo” is used in Romans 14:9 in relation to Jesus Christ being Lord.

In Romans 6:14, the expression “shall have dominion over” is in the future tense in Greek. This means Paul was saying to the Roman believers that in future times, sin would not be their lord or master. He does not qualify this by saying this would be true only after they died. He refers to their future in general. Note in the surrounding context of Romans 6:12-13 and 15, Paul is referring to this earthly life.


Not permanently sinless but not slaves to sin either


Romans Chapter 6 is not teaching that those who have received Christ as Master at conversion are now permanently unable to commit sin. People who receive Jesus as Lord or Master never become permanently sinless in this life.

In 1 John 1:8, John says if we as believers claim that we do not have the principle of sin within us, we deceive ourselves. In context, James 3:2 shows believers will stumble or commit individual sins with their tongues. But despite these facts, Romans 6:14 proves that sin will not be the lord or master of true believers. Jesus Christ is the Lord or Master of believers.

Also, those who receive Christ as Lord and Master can abandon Him and return permanently to their old master – sin.

2 Peter 2:18-22 refers to churchgoers who tragically turn from God and allow sin and the lust of the flesh to become their master permanently again. Such people will not inherit the Kingdom of God. Note 2 Peter 2:19 refers to being “slaves of corruption” and being “brought into bondage” or slavery. In this verse in Greek, the word “slaves” and the phrase “he is brought into bondage” are from the same family of words used in relation to slavery in Romans 6:6, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, and 22.


The kinsman redeemer


The Old Testament concept of a kinsman redeemer is a classic symbolic example of certain but not all aspects of what our redemption means. A kinsman is someone from the same family or a near relative. Refer to Leviticus 25:25 and Ruth 4:1-12.

Leviticus 25:25 states: “If one of your brethren become poor, and has sold some of his possession, and if his kinsman-redeemer comes to redeem it, then he may redeem what his brother sold.”

Here we see:


         the redeemer has to be of the same family. This is symbolic of the fact our Redeemer had to a member of the human family.

         the redeemer purchases family property that has changed ownership. He does not purchase new property. This is just as the human race originally belonged to God, but Adam and Eve wickedly sold themselves and their descendants as slaves to sin and therefore to Satan. Jesus – our kinsman-redeemer – purchased something which originally belonged to Him, but, against His will, had left His possession.


Leviticus 25:47-53 refers to a kinsman-redeemer purchasing a relative who had sold himself into slavery.


Bible Study Questions


1.         In Romans 6:16-20, what does Paul say are the differences between unbelievers and true believers?

2.         Does Romans 6:18 and 22 refer to:


a)        all believers or only to more committed believers?

b)        Jesus’ death or when believers are converted or both?


3.         What does the phrase “obedience resulting in righteousness” mean in Romans 6:16?

4.         What does the whole of Romans 6:16 teach?

5.         Discuss the meaning of Romans 6:14.

6.         Does Romans Chapter 6 teach that those who have received Christ as Master are now permanently sinless or unable to sin.

7.         How did the Old Testament teaching on a kinsman redeemer symbolise some aspects of our redemption through Jesus Christ?


[1] Bauer, page 136.

[2] Morris, “Epistle to the Romans”, I.V.P., Leicester, 1988, pages 261-262.

[3] Bauer, page 458.



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