"When you were slaves to sin, you were free from the control of righteousness. What benefit did you reap at that time from the things you are now ashamed of? Those things result in death!" (Romans 6:20-21)
I remember carrying around guilt for a long time. I would constantly remind myself of things I had done. The events would play over and over in my mind and I was ashamed. Whenever, I read this verse I would bring further condemnation upon myself. That is because I did not understand what Paul was really saying. Instead Paul wrote this to encourage us. He is using this as a comparison to help us understand our new nature fashioned after Jesus Christ.
The subject and the good news of this passage is that we are now under the control of righteousness as born again believers. No longer subjected to our old nature. The things of the old nature were obvious, those things brought death, shame and denunciation. Paul is simply reminding us of how it used to be so that we could understand on how it is now.
Galatians 5 paints a pretty good picture of what Paul is talking about here, "The acts of the sinful nature are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God. But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the sinful nature with its passions and desires. Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit." ( Galatians 5:19-25 ) Paul's conclusion is that the difference between the two natures are so obvious. We are able to see the fruits of each nature operating in people. Those who live according to the sin nature exhibit that natures characteristics. Those who live according to the Spirit demonstrate the fruits of the Spirit. We are those who live by the Spirit.
So this verse in Romans 6, is not a verse of condemnation Paul wanted to make sure we understood the difference between the two natures so that we would know how to live according to our new nature. If you are struggling with thoughts of condemnation, than know that it is not the Lord who is accusing you. He has already forgiven you and freed you from sin's grasp. Paul confirmed this in I Corinthians 6, "And that is what some of you were. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God." ( I Corinthians 6:11 ) and if we were washed clean by God... if we were sanctified, which means set apart, by God...and if we were justified, which means, just as if I'd never sinned, by God...then you are free of accusation by God as well.
When I understood this, the all feelings of condemnation disappeared. Since then, the Lord has worked a miracle in my life, because memories of those things are so distant that now when I read this verse, my heart soars knowing what Paul was saying. Those things have passed. Everything that brought shame is gone. Those things resulted in death and benefited you not. "But thanks be to God that, though you used to be slaves to sin, you wholeheartedly obeyed the form of teaching to which you were entrusted. You have been set free from sin and have become slaves to righteousness." ( Romans 6:17-18 ) Amen!
Today may you free your mind from any guilt and condemnation that continues to hold you in chains. It is not on account of God. He loves you. He has forgiven you. He wants you to be free. Today, may you experience this freedom in Christ Jesus. Amen!
For further information about becoming born again, please visit these article:
The Gospel: How To Know Without a Shadow of a Doubt that You Have Eternal Life
Born of Water and of Spirit
Previous: Romans 6:19 Next: Romans 6:22
Original article published October 24, 2009.