Set Free from Bondage


Set Free from Bondage

Studies In Paul’s Letter to the Romans
by Bob Burridge ©2011

Lesson 21: Romans 6:1-14

Sometimes it seems impossible for us to overcome our weaknesses. Just when we think we have dodged an old recurring fault and avoided another collision with disaster, — WHAM! It seems to come out from some blind spot and hits us head on!

We all know what it’s like to keep falling into the same temptation over and over again. We make a firm resolution, only to go back on it after a few days. Sometimes it seems we have made some serious progress, only to slide back again and undo it all. We know the Bible speaks of overcoming sin, and of being sanctified in Christ. Yet we often wonder, “What’s wrong with me?” It’s obvious that we are not free from the influence of sin.

No one is fully sanctified in this life. Before our glorification someday in heaven, sin is always going to be present in some form. But the Bible assures us that we don not have to become despondent and just accept moral failure. We do not have to resign ourselves to the idea that sin is just too powerful to fight. There is no sin, no habit, no force so powerful, that we cannot be progressing out of it through the power of Christ in us.

There is hope for the Christian. It is not something so profound that only the wise can find it. It is not something so hidden that you need to search deep into your soul or trek to remote places to discover it.

Today, bewildered and gullible masses of people seek hidden truths and mystical experiences. They go from special conference to special conference, they listen to all the slick promises and promotions of one religious salesman after another. They get their hopes up with some new secret or insight, only to be dashed to despair once more when it doesn’t meet their expectations. Then they run off to find another guru to follow, another secret to deliver them.

God has told us that it should not be this way. The promise is a simple one, made clear in the gospel itself. As my wise seminary professor said, “The secret to a victorious and holy Christian life is — there is no secret!”

Paul had explained as he began Romans chapter 6, that the victory lies in our being dead to sin. He started by raising a question in verse 1, “What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin that grace may abound?” Then in verse 2 he summarized his answer in a very direct statement, “Certainly not! How shall we who died to sin live any longer in it?”

He had just made the point in chapter 5 verse 20 that grace shows itself by overcoming our sin, “… where sin increased, grace abounded all the more”

To help us better understand about this grace and its benefits, he imagined someone asking this question, “So then, shouldn’t we just keep on sinning, so that God’s grace can be seen all the more at work in delivering us?”

In his answer to this question Paul is showing that someone redeemed by Christ is not going to be looking for ways to continue living in sin. A true believer should not raise a question like that, because God not only forgives him, he also makes a real change in him. He is dead to sin!

As we summarized in our last study, we are born not just to be born. We are born so that we might live in Christ, and be growing in holiness. Those who claim to be in Christ, but do not grow in holiness, and who have little interest in holiness, have cause to be alarmed and to wonder if they are redeemed at all. They ought to come to Christ in humble repentance, trusting in his suffering and death in their place. They must make certain that they hope wholly in that gospel promise of grace.

Just as certainly as grace regenerates and produces faith in the work of Christ, it also begins the process of sanctification and renews the conscience to want to do what is right.


Paul continued by showing that we are dead
to the mastery of sin by our union with Christ.

Romans 6:3-5, “Or do you not know that as many of us as were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death? Therefore we were buried with Him through baptism into death, that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life. For if we have been united together in the likeness of His death, certainly we also shall be in the likeness of His resurrection,”

In God’s word “death” is not about something ceasing to exist. It is most fundamentally a separation. Physical death is when our bodies stop working and become separated from our souls. Spiritual death is when a person fallen in Adam is separated from God.

When we are dead to sin, we are in some way separated from it. We are not separated from the power of sin. It is still present and evident in our lives. We are not separated merely from the penalty of sin. There is more here than that. We are separated from sin in its role as master over our lives.

Romans 6:6 “… that we should no longer be slaves to sin.”
Romans 6:9 “… Death no longer has dominion over Him.”
Romans 6:12 “… do not let sin reign in your mortal body …”
Romans 6:14 “For sin shall not have dominion over you, …”

As believers, we are identified with Jesus Christ in his death and resurrection. Baptism as it is mentioned here is not only a symbol of how God purifies us by removing the guilt of our sin. It also represents how we are united with that which is holy by having the pollution and offense removed that separated us from God.

The penalty of sin is death, both physical and spiritual. Jesus died as a substitute for his people. He endured the penalty in the place of those he loved eternally. When we are united with him in his death, the guilt of sin is removed because it is paid for. Notice how Paul says “we are buried with Him through baptism into death” in verses 3 and 4, then he says we are “united together in the likeness of His death” in verse 5. He is not talking about water baptism here, but the union represented by it.

When separation from God is ended, the believer is adopted as a child of God. So by our union with Christ our separation from God is ended. We are separated from the lordship of sin. It is in this way that we are dead to sin. We are separated from its mastery in our lives.

We are also united with Christ by his resurrection. Now, clothed in his righteousness and transformed, there is a living relationship with Christ. We are made able to walk in newness of life.


Paul goes on to explain this freedom from our old master.

Romans 6:6-10, “knowing this, that our old man was crucified with Him, that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves of sin. For he who has died has been freed from sin. Now if we died with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with Him, knowing that Christ, having been raised from the dead, dies no more. Death no longer has dominion over Him. For the death that He died, He died to sin once for all; but the life that He lives, He lives to God.

The old self is crucified with Christ. That does not mean we become a different person than we were before. It does mean that we have a whole new foundation for our lives. Instead of serving sin, and foolishly believing we can find happiness and contentment in things that offend our Creator, we are united with the One from whom our sin had separated us.


This means we are bound to a new master, and that implies a duty.

Romans 6:11-14, “Likewise you also, reckon yourselves to be dead indeed to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus our Lord. Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body, that you should obey it in its lusts. And do not present your members as instruments of unrighteousness to sin, but present yourselves to God as being alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness to God. For sin shall not have dominion over you, for you are not under law but under grace.”

Our duty is to consider ourselves to be dead to sin, and alive to God. We ought to be living in recognition of this truth. This is the real promise of this passage. It is not just an attitude that imagines this to be true. It is the recognition of a reality implanted in us by the Holy Spirit.

We put this into practice by directing the members of our body to serve our new master, righteousness. Disobedience will not be completely gone in this life. We must be constantly vigilant. God’s promise is that the sinful remains of that former mastery can now be successfully combated.


Paul expanded more on this in his letter to the Galatians.

In Galatians 5:19 he described our old bondage, “Now the works of the flesh are evident, which are:” Then he lists 4 categories of sin in verses 19-21, “… adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lewdness, idolatry, sorcery, hatred, contentions, jealousies, outbursts of wrath, selfish ambitions, dissensions, heresies, envy, murders, drunkenness, revelries, and the like; of which I tell you beforehand, just as I also told you in time past, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.”

1. Sensual sins – Galatians 5:19 “… adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lewdness, …”
The Greek text used by the King James Version includes the word “adultery” here. It is left out in those translations based upon editions of the text where more surviving manuscripts were used. The sin of adultery would be included in the more general word translate as “fornication”. That word (porneia, πορνεία) is a very broad term for sexual sins.

Another way people sin sensually is by taking illegal drugs. They try to get a momentary sensation of feeling at peace in ways God has not prescribed. The believer needs to trust God by staying with what is right in order to find satisfaction sexually and in other areas of life. We must obey his revealed ways and not give our members over to unrighteousness.

2. Worship sins – Galatians 5:20a “… idolatry, sorcery …”
The fallen heart is drawn to innovations in worship. To him, worship is judged by how it makes the worshiper feel, instead of what God asks for from his children. The true believer wants to worship God in ways he knows please his Savior, not ways that just please himself, or advance his own cause. The Bible should be our guide so that we know what God tells us is to be included in worship, both what we do and our attitude while doing those things.

3. Relationship sins – Galatians 5:20b-21a, “… hatred, contentions, jealousies, outbursts of wrath, selfish ambitions, dissensions, heresies, envy, murders,”
These sins have to do with how we treat God and others. They are attitudes we need to openly combat as Christians. They are the remains of the old bondage to sin and have no place in our redeemed lives.

Again there are some minor textual differences in the Greek manuscripts available when the King James Version was translated. Aside from using some singular nouns instead of plural ones, the early Greek editions add “murders” to the list. Certainly that is consistent with what the Scriptures teach.

4. Sins of Immoderation – Galatians 5:21b, “… drunkenness, revelries …”
The tendency to overstep wise boundaries is part of our old ways. Abandonment of good judgment only destroys us, and offends God.

Paul then reminds the Galatians, “… and the like; of which I tell you beforehand, just as I also told you in time past, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.”

The point is that those set free from bondage to sin should be working to overcome these types of behaviors and attitudes. If we are practicing them, if we keep engaging in them, if we are making excuses for them, it should alarm us. It may be an indication that we are not set free from the dominance of sin at all, and are in need of that new birth in Christ. Even the believer will fall into these sins at times, but he will become concerned about it,
and want to overcome the temptations. That is when he must remember the victory Christ has earned for him, and has implanted in him.

Instead of these offensive things, we must be making the members of our body into servants of righteousness. The new ways which we need to strengthen, are those of a soul alive and in union with God. Paul in Galatians 5:22-23 then lists the fruit that comes from the Holy Spirit implanted in us, “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law.”

Galatians 5:24-25 goes on to make the same application and challenge as Romans 6. It says, “And those who are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit.”

Since we are now made spiritually alive, we have the power of Christ in us to overcome the remains of sin and its habits which we battle daily.


We are to be active in engaging the
living power of Christ at work in us.

In the language Paul used in telling the Colossians this same truth, we are to put on these new attitudes and behaviors. Notice how similar Colossians 3:5-10 is to the way Paul explains it in both Roman 6 and Galatians 5.

“Therefore put to death your members which are on the earth: fornication, uncleanness, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry. Because of these things the wrath of God is coming upon the sons of disobedience, in which you yourselves once walked when you lived in them. But now you yourselves are to put off all these: anger, wrath, malice, blasphemy, filthy language out of your mouth. Do not lie to one another, since you have put off the old man with his deeds, and have put on the new man who is renewed in knowledge according to the image of Him who created him”

These are “ought” statements. God enables us in Christ, and calls us, commands us, to obey. This means we need to mobilize our whole lives to make them honoring to God.

In Romans 6:14 Paul gives us a further way to see the reason why sin should not be our master, “For sin shall not have dominion over you, for you are not under law but under grace.”

We need to understand how we are “under grace” and not “under law”. Paul has been talking about being “under the dominion” of either sin or righteousness. So while “under law” may mean other things in other places, here it seems to have to do with sin as our master. There is a reason why Paul changed “being under sin or righteousness” into “being under law or grace.” Paul is bringing his whole argument together and unites his themes.

He made a reference to law in the previous chapter. There in Romans 5:13 he said, “For until the law sin was in the world, but sin is not imputed when there is no law.” Paul’s argument there is that since sin was imputed before the giving of the Law of Moses, therefore law itself must have been in the world from the beginning. The moral principles are a reflection of the Creator’s eternal, perfect, and unchangeable nature.

Since he calls us to stop sinning and do what God’s law tells us to do, he cannot mean that we are now set free from what the law requires. The law is presented not as a way to be saved, but as that which defines sin and determines its penalty. So to be alive to sin, is to be condemned by the law.

Since God’s grace through the death of Christ is what makes us righteous, to be under the mastery of righteousness, means to come under the power of grace.

Paul is not saying that at one time humans were obligated to obey God’s law, and now they are not. That could never be. We are always commanded to do what is right in God’s eyes. Rather he is saying that once we were under the condemnation of law, and sin was our master, but now we are forgiven by grace so that righteousness becomes our master.


This is a message of great promise and hope.

If we are united with Christ by grace, then we have spiritual life and the ability to be conquering sin. There ought to be progress in our lives. There must be obedience in our lives, evidence of Christ at work.

We need to keep Galatians 5 and Colossians 3 in mind. They give us a list of things to be working on. By the power of the risen Christ in us, we can advance victoriously.

When we sin, instead of looking at our failures as if we were still in bondage to them, we need to remind ourselves of this promise. We need to reckon, consider, ourselves to be dead to sin, and separated from its mastery. We ought to consider ourselves to be alive to God as slaves to the mastery of righteousness. We need to remove every opportunity for sinning, and press on to improve holiness. We need to come to Christ in humble prayer expecting our living Savior to deliver us.

We are not irretrievably bound to keep falling into sin as if it was our master. We are to recognize righteousness as our caring master.

(The Bible quotations in this article are from the New King James Version of the Bible unless otherwise noted.)

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About Bob Burridge

I've taught Science, Bible, Math, Computer Programming and served 25 years as Pastor of Grace Presbyterian Church (PCA) in Pinellas Park, Florida. I'm now Executive Director of the ministry of the Genevan Institute for Reformed Studies
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5 Responses to Set Free from Bondage

  1. bill says:

    A little clarification please. We sin because the flesh has not been eradicated or cleaned up or re-directed in its manifestation. The old man is dead. He has been crucifed with Christ. So what is the flesh? What part of us is the flesh as believers? It has to be something less than the old man. Walter Marshall wrote a little book called The Gospel Mystery of
    Sanctification. An eye opening read for this subject.

    • Bob Burridge says:

      Our human nature has two parts: body and soul. The body is made of flesh and has physical desires which ought to be satisfied only in ways that honor our Creator. The fallen human nature tries to satisfy those desires in ways that offend the Creator. The “Old Man” is not a different person or specific parts of our body or soul. It is our relationship with sin before we are regenerated in Christ. When we are justified by Christ the old relationship is destroyed. We are dead to the dominance of sin. Instead of everything being based upon sinful desires, we are made able to truly do things for God’s glory. That new relationship is the “New Man”.

      Prior to resurrection we are still in the flesh and still have those fleshly desires. Since we are not made morally perfect, we still can satisfy the flesh’s desires in wrong ways. The old habits of our former ways are in our minds and surface to tempt us again. This is why we are told to fill our minds with godly things (Philippians 4:8) to crowd out the former sinful ways, and the influences of the lost world around us.

      We grow in our ability to satisfy our desires in godly ways as we mature in Christ. The “means of grace” are activities God has promised to use for our growth. He has covenanted to strengthen us as we learn and apply his word, pray faithfully, partake of the sacraments rightly, and submit humbly to church discipline (the encouragement and admonitions of other believers and the officers of the church if we persist in doing wrong things).

      • bill says:

        Thanks for the prompt reply. I hope I am not being a pest, but your answer raises some ?’s. If we are new men in Christ and our fallen human nature has been done away with (we are new men in Christ Jesus) then it would seem that the desires of the flesh would be channeled to be satisfied in a Godly way. We know that is not true from experience and the exhortations of scripture. Also, the ressurected body (flesh) will still have the flesh I assume but, at that time it will be satisfied by sight and gloriffication with the wonder of Jesus in His full manifestation of Deity. So the ? is what is this crummy thing I have to deal with as a believer that causes me to want to sin. The major point that Marshall makes is that sanctification is to be attained by faith and not by our own self efforts, which is the american pull yourself up by your bootstraps way. There is this thing in me that in spite of the new man that I am that wants to direct me in ungodly directions. The best that I can make of it is that it is an appendage that is left over that will be renovated in the gflorification process. ?

        • Bob Burridge says:

          The “new man” and “old man” are terms used in Paul’s letters to describe the changed relationship we have with sin and righteousness.

          In our old relationship (prior to our regeneration) we are unable to do anything good. All our desires are centered upon self. Even the good we seem to do is really done for our own benefit and reputation. In that old relationship we believe that our attitudes and deeds are good and can earn certain blessings for us.

          When we are regenerated by Christ that old relationship (the old man) is put to death. We are no longer unable to do anything good. Though the good we do is always the work of God’s grace in us, the Bible speaks of it as us really doing it as empowered by the work of our risen Savior. The good we do now is always imperfect, but we are no longer unable to do things desiring to bring glory to God. We are made able to be progressing in Christ-likeness as we die more and more to the sinful desires which are part of this fleshly life, the physical life we have prior to our physical death.

          In the resurrection, our bodies are “glorified” and reunited with our souls in a still newer relationship. The desires we have then will be very different than what we know and experience now. All we do and think will be purified from the remains of sin which even the “new man” in Christ battles.

          You mentioned “faith”as opposed to “self efforts” in our sanctification. Biblically, faith always has an object. It is our trust in the promises of God. It is not just the presence of the quality of faith. We are continually told to do certain things to be growing in Sanctification. They are never self efforts. They are an obedience based upon God’s commands and promises in which we trust fully as those renewed by grace. That is the faith that James speaks of when he says that faith without works is dead being alone. We fill our minds with honorable things (Philippians 4:8), and make use of the “means of grace” which God commands us to use (see my previous response). All the while we are trusting (having faith) in the power of the risen Savior in us to both enable us, and to stir us to obedience out of gratitude. We no longer should be doing good for personal benefits, but now we do these things because it pleases our Heavenly Father.

          • bill says:

            The Christian life is a dynamic that can be a real challange to understand from a psycological perspective. Of course that subject from a secular perspective has had “experts” reeling for centuries. I appreciate your insights and look forward to further conversations around church.