Saved from Servitude to Sin for Spiritual Service
Philippe R. Sterling
The Book of Romans addresses how Jewish and Gentile believers can live a righteous life free from the domination of sin and its consequences through faith in Christ alone apart from works which results in justification and through living in faith and reliance upon the Holy Spirit which makes possible sanctification and spiritual service.
Paul names himself as the author. Tertius wrote the text at the dictation of Paul (Rom 16:22). The recipients of the letter are believers living in Rome in various house and tenement churches (Rom 1:5; 16:3-16). Paul addresses Jewish and Gentile believers on the matter of how to live a righteous life free from the domination of sin and its consequences (Rom 1:16). From Rom 15:25-26 we can ascertain that Paul wrote the letter while in Corinth around 56-57 AD.
Literary Structure and Content
I. Opening Remarks: Paul commends the faith of the believers at Rome and expresses his desire to visit them
and preach good news (1:1-15).
II. Theme: The good news is that God’s power delivers the believer who lives by faith whether Jew or Greek from
the domination of sin and its consequences (1:16-17).
In Romans the word “gospel” or good news includes justification and sanctification. Through this good news a person can be declared righteous and live in righteousness. Faith secures righteousness and living in faith brings about sanctification and service.
III. Body of the Letter: God gives to faith the righteousness which makes possible spiritual deliverance from
servitude to sin and spiritual service by the aid of the Holy Spirit (1:18–15:13).
A. Problem: God continuously reveals from heaven His displeasure with unrighteousness and ungodliness
and will judge both Jews and Gentiles impartially (1:18–3:20).
1. God’s Present Wrath: God gives unrighteous humanity which comprises of both the immoralist and
the hypocritical moralist over to increasing levels of servitude to sin for suppressing the truth about God
in unrighteousness (1:18–2:5).
Romans 1:18 which states the present revelation of God’s wrath and 2:5 which tells of a coming day of wrath [perhaps the Great Tribulation cited in Matt 24:21] and a coming revelation of God’s righteous judgment [perhaps the final judgment of Rev 20:11-15] serve as bookends for this section. In between are details of the revelation of God’s wrath against immoralists (1:19-32) and hypocritical moralists (2:1-4).
a. Manifestation of God’s Wrath: God continuously reveals His displeasure against humanity’s
ungodliness and unrighteousness in the suppression of truth (1:18).
All people are under God’s wrath or God’s continuous displeasure with their sin which involves turning them over to reap the consequences of sin. God’s wrath is a present reality in regards to the consequences of sin for anyone who sins.
b. Wrath towards the Immoralist: God expresses His displeasure with humanity’s suppression of the truth
of what is known about Him in creation and replacing that truth with idolatry by giving humanity over
to increasing levels of servitude to sin (1:19-32).
People reap what they sow. Whoever sows to the flesh reaps corruption — increasing levels of servitude to sin and ultimately death (see Gal 6:8). This applies to both unbelievers and believers.
c. Wrath towards the Moralist: The manifestation of God’s displeasure also falls on the hypocritical
d. Revelation of God’s Righteous Judgment: Both the immoralist and hypocritical moralist are subject
to God’s righteous judgment (2:5).
2. God’s Future Impartial Judgment: All of humanity comprising of both Gentiles and Jews face God’s
impartial judgment for being under sin (2:6–3:20).
a. God will impartially judge Jews by the written Law and Gentiles by the Law written upon the
b. Jews are justly condemned by the Law which they were privileged to receive (2:17–3:8).
c. Both Jews and Greeks are all under sin (3:9-20).
God deals fairly with humanity. God would give eternal life to all who persist in good works (2:7). The fact is that there is no such person (3:9). At the great white throne judgment the books of works will be examined to see if anyone might qualify for eternal life by their works and no one will be found righteous (Rev 20:11-15).
Is there an escape from the problem of sin? God has a solution whereby a person can find righteousness and live in righteousness. This Paul will now address.
A. Solution: God grants righteousness through faith in Christ and the righteous through faith in dependence on
the Holy Spirit can live victoriously over sin (3:21–8:39).
1. Justification: Anyone can receive righteousness through faith alone in Christ alone (3:21–5:11).
a. Fact of Justification: God declares righteous the person who has faith in Jesus apart from the works
of the Law (3:21-31).
1) All receive righteousness on the basis of faith (21-23).
2) The redemption of Christ makes possible the gift of righteousness (24-26).
3) God grants righteousness by the law of faith (27-31).
b. Defense of Justification by Faith Alone: The Law and the Prophets bear witness to the fact of
justification by faith alone (4:1-25).
1) Abraham was accounted righteous by faith apart from works (1-5).
2) David was credited righteousness apart from works (6-8).
3) Faith was credited to Abraham as righteousness apart from circumcision (9-12).
4) God imputes righteousness apart from the Law (13-25).
c. Benefit of Justification: The justified person can experience spiritual victory in Christ (5:1-11).
1) The justified have peace with God, a standing in grace, and hope to face the trials of life through
the Holy Spirit (1-5).
2) The justified experience deliverance from the wrath of God [present servitude to sin] through
Now that justification has taken place, it is possible to deal with sin in daily life. The death of Christ secured justification. The resurrection life of Jesus delivers the believer from the reign of sin and saves him from its temporal consequences.
2. Sanctification: Those who are righteous through faith in Christ can live victoriously over sin in the power of
the Holy Spirit (5:12–8:39).
a. Solution to the Sin Problem: Those who receive the abundance of grace and the gift of righteousness
can reign in life through Christ (5:12-21).
Eternal life is something that the believer possesses forever that can never be lost. It is also a quality of life that the believer can enjoy in the present to a greater or lesser degree.
b. Freedom from Sin through Union with Christ: Those who are united with Christ in His death and
resurrection are freed from sin’s rule and can serve God in righteousness (6:1-23).
1) Union with Christ: Our Union with Christ in His death and resurrection frees us from sin’s rule (1-11).
2) Acting on that Union: Therefore we must not allow sin to rule in our mortal bodies but present
our bodies to God for righteousness (12-23).
c. Inadequacy of the Law for Spiritual Victory: Those who are righteous through faith in Christ are no
longer subject to the Law which can only reveal and stir up sin and not restrain it (7:1-25).
1) The Law’s Authority: Believers in Christ are released from the Law’s authority (7:1-6).
2) The Law’s Activity: The Law reveals sin and stirs up the sin nature (7:7-12).
3) The Law’s Inability: The Law cannot restrain the sin nature — only through Christ can the sin nature
be restrained (7:14-25).
d. Adequacy of the Spirit for Spiritual Victory: The Holy Spirit enables those who are righteous through faith
in Christ to overcome the power of sin as they set their minds on Him and allow Him to use every
life experience to transform them into the likeness of Christ (8:1-39).
1) Law of the Spirit of Life: The Holy Spirit enables believers who set their minds on Him to have
victory over the sinful nature and live the resurrection life — something the Law could not do (1-13).
2) Son-Life and Joint-Heirs: Spirit-led believers experience a son of God kind of life that enables them
to become joint-heirs with Christ as they identify with Him in His suffering and glory (14-17).
3) Victorious Life: Spirit-aided believers can triumph over every experience of life as they trust in
God’s love and wait in hope of the glorification of the body and the renewal of creation (18-39).
The word often translated “condemnation” in Rom 8:1 does not refer to the truth of justification as the removal of condemnation. In the context it refers to the truth of sanctification as ending the reign of sin in the body. The verse might best be translated as “Therefore there is now no servitude to sin for those who are in Christ Jesus.” This removal from the reign of sin is conditioned by being in Christ and living by the Spirit.
C. Excursus: God works with the Church made up of Jews and Gentiles in the present dispensation but will bring
a future deliverance to Israel in accordance with His promises (9:1–11:36).
Israel provides an example of the experience of God’s displeasure over sin and unbelief. God had chosen Israel to serve Him. Israel sinned and experienced God’s displeasure. Israel’s present hardened condition is an expression of God’s displeasure. There is deliverance available for any Jew who would call on God (Rom 10:12-13). God is presently working with believing Jews and Gentiles in the Church. God has not cast Israel away. There is a believing remnant and the nation will one day be restored.
1. Israel’s Past: Though chosen of God to serve Him, Israel pursued righteousness by works (9:1-33).
2. Israel’s Present: God grants righteousness to all who believe and has temporarily set Israel aside for
her unbelief while He works through the Church in this age (10:1-21).
3. Israel’s Future: God has preserved a remnant from Israel and will one day restore her (11:1-36).
Believing Jews and Gentiles should heed the dangers of disobedience and take note of God’s mercies towards them. This should lead to dedicated life and service. Paul will now take up that matter.
D. Spiritual Living and Service: Those who are righteous through faith in Christ who present their bodies to
God for holy living will experience His good and acceptable and perfect will in every sphere of life and
1. Call to Dedication: On the basis of God’s mercies, those who are righteous through faith in Christ
should present their bodies to God for holy living and be transformed by the renewing of the mind (12:1-2).
2. Conduct within the Church: Those who are righteous through faith in Christ should serve and love
each other (12:13-21).
3. Conduct within Society: Those who are righteous through faith in Christ should submit to governing
authority and fulfill the law of love (13:1-14).
4. Law of Liberty and Law of Love: Those who are righteous through faith in Christ should balance
spiritual liberty with spiritual responsibility by respecting personal conviction in gray areas and
limiting personal freedom in offensive matters thus glorifying God (14:1–15:13).
IV. Final Remarks: Paul writes of his ministry in the Gentile world and his plans to visit Rome, commends
Phoebe, extends his greetings to specified Roman believers, and warns about divisive people (15:14–16:20).
V. Greetings from Fellow Believers: Paul conveys the greetings of fellow believers with him in Corinth (16:21-24).
VI. Benediction: Paul ascribes glory to the only eternal wise God who is able to establish believers according to
the good news of Christ made known to all the nations (16:25-27).
Theological Reflection and Application
The question is: How can a person live a righteous life instead of a life dominated by sin and its consequences? The answer is: by faith in Christ which grants justification apart from works and makes possible sanctification and spiritual service by the aid of the Holy Spirit.