"Know ye not, that to whom ye yield yourselves servants to obey, his servants ye are to whom ye obey; whether of sin unto death, or of obedience unto righteousness? But God be thanked, that ye were the servants of sin, but ye have obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine which was delivered you. Being then made free from sin, ye became the servants of righteousness." (Rom. 6: 16-18)
"But now being made free from sin, and become servants to God, ye have your fruit unto holiness, and the end (telos) everlasting life." (Rom. 6: 22)
This section of Scripture gives the Hardshells great difficulty as they try to apply their presuppositions to it (see here for a listing of these false premises - and see "Demolishing Hardshell Reasoning" here). It gave to me difficulties when I studied this passage as a young Hardshell elder. Those Hardshell propositions seemed clearly to be overthrown by the words of the Apostle in this passage (and in other passages also). What are those false propositions that the Hardshells bring to this passage and which lead them to deny its plain teachings and to twist, distort, and pervert its clear teaching?
Presupposition #1 - No Means in Regeneration/Eternal Salvation
Obviously the experience of being "made free from sin" and "becoming servants of righteousness" are works of God, works wherein he used Gospel truth, which is what is denoted by "that form of doctrine," as his instrument.
When did the Roman Christians stop being "servants to sin"? Likewise, when did they become "servants to righteousness"? There can be no disagreement about this as Paul is very clear, using the words "then," "now," and "became" to point to that line of demarcation. "You obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine which was delivered unto you, being THEN made free from sin, you BECAME the servants of righteousness." The order is clear. First, "the teaching" was brought to their attention. Second, they believed and obeyed that instruction. Third, they were made free from sin and became servants of righteousness. Obviously the "form of doctrine" was a means used by God to produce that faith and obedience which brought liberation from bondage to sin and a new state and condition as "servants of righteousness."
Every Hardshell knows the difficulty that I am talking about in regard to this verse. He knows that he must either 1) see that his "no means" proposition is wrong, being demolished by this passage, or 2) say that this experience is not regeneration, and is not necessary to being eternally saved.
Presupposition #2 - Evangelical Faith Unessential
Hardshells have their man made proposition that says "propositional truth is not a means God uses in saving sinners from eternal damnation." Such a proposition necessitates another of its kind, one which says "evangelical or cognitive faith is not essential to being regenerated nor for any aspect of eternal salvation." But, if this is true, then (thinks the Hardshell) "being made free from sin" and "becoming servants of righteousness," cannot possibly be necessary for being eternally saved. So, the Hardshell reasons that being "made free from sin" and "becoming servants of righteousness" must be talking about a mere time salvation.
Presupposition #3 - No Divine Cause of Obedience
It is a generally received belief of neo Hardshells that God does not cause either the choices or activities of people. Thus, all the acts of obedience that a regenerated person does, he does by his own free will. None are the result of any effectual working of God's power. It is argued that a compelled obedience is not real obedience (a false notion I have dealt with elsewhere in my writings). This was argued by men like Elder J. H. Oliphant. Under this section, we might add the like proposition that says - "eternal salvation is in no way conditioned upon people believing, repenting, or obeying the Gospel."
If, however, the experience that Paul is describing (being freed from sin, becoming servants of God) is indeed included in the regeneration experience, then the Hardshell premises thus far described are demolished.
And, as far as the proposition being true that God does not cause people to obey, it is positively denied in Scripture. For example:
"And I will put my spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes, and ye shall keep my judgments, and do them." (Eze. 36: 27)
Problem #1 - Regeneration or Conversion?
Because of the faith that the Hardshells place in their unscriptural propositions, they will not accept the fact that Paul is describing an experience that is essential for being regenerated, or for being finally and eternally saved.
It is a fact that today's Hardshells do not interpret the passage as did the Old Baptists who existed before the birth of the Hardshell denomination nor as did the founding fathers of their own denomination. The oldest Baptists, first of all, did not separate regeneration and conversion, as do today's Hardshell. Secondly, the Old Baptist forefathers believed that the experience described in this passage was a necessary one for all who would be saved.
#1 - Regenerated Sin Slaves?
Just as it is impossible for a person to be an obedient servant of righteousness in an unregenerate state, so it is impossible for a person to be an obedient servant of sin in a regenerate state. Whoever is a servant of sin is dead in sin and whoever is a servant of righteousness is alive in righteousness. The Scriptures know nothing of a "regenerated unbeliever"? Likewise, it knows no such characters as a regenerated servant of sin. There is no such thing as regenerated heathen, or regenerated Antichrists. But, this is what is denied by today's Hardshells. Since they say that this experience of being made free from sin and becoming servants of righteousness is evangelical conversion, they do not see it as something that all the regenerated will experience. Ergo, there are far more "regenerated" people who have never obeyed "that form of doctrine" and who are therefore still slaves to sin, in bondage, and still "bringing forth fruit unto death." It is a laughingstock of a doctrine. It is preposterous, ludicrous. The Bible simply knows nothing about calling people regenerated who are yet in slavery to sin.
#2 - Temporal Death for Slaves of Sin?
Hardshells must deny that the death threatened in the passage is eternal death. He does this in order to save his precious and beloved presuppositions. He must deny that being a slave of sin will necessarily bring eternal death. So, not only does he deny that one must have been freed from sin by obeying the Gospel in order to be regenerated (saved initially), but denies that it is necessary for final salvation. Such a position brings absurd consequences, some of which I have already mentioned. For instance, the Hardshell must deny what the text says, that is, that "death," eternal death, is the destiny of all who are not liberated from the bondage of sin and who do not become the servants of righteousness, or the servants of Christ.
Obeying Sin Brings Death
One who is a slave to sin has sin for a master will be "unto death." (The "sin unto death" is mentioned in other places by Paul. The Apostle John also spoke of sin that is unto death and contrasted it with sin that was not unto death) Is this a mere temporal death? A death to mere present enjoyment of blessings? The context simply will not allow such a view. If a Hardshell apologist argues that the death promised to the servants of sin is mere temporal death, then he must also affirm that the life promised to the servants of righteousness is likewise mere temporal life. This is because the terms life and death are contrasted in the passage.
Obeying the Gospel Brings Life
"But now being made free from sin, and become servants to God, ye have your fruit unto holiness, and the end (telos) everlasting life."
We have already seen how being made free from sin and becoming servants to God results from the Gospel being heard and obeyed. In these words Paul tells us what follows being liberated from sin. He says "you have your fruit unto holiness." No Hardshell would have any problem with the words "but now being regenerated you have your fruit unto holiness." But, Paul equates, don't you see, regeneration with conversion, with the experience of hearing the Gospel, believing it, converting to Christ, and beginning life as a professed servant of Christ.
Next, after having a life characterized by "fruit unto holiness," what comes next as a result? "ye have...the end (telos) everlasting life." So, this helps us to know that the death due to the servants of sin is not a mere temporal death for it is set in opposition to "everlasting life." The contrast is between everlasting death and everlasting life. Those in bondage to sin "bring forth fruit UNTO DEATH." Those liberated from that bondage, and who become servants of God, however, have their fruit "UNTO holiness" and unto "the end" which is "everlasting life."
General Overview of the Text
In this passage Paul used the figure of slavery to illustrate death to sin and resurrection to new life in Christ. Several figures are used in Scripture to describe the initial saving experience, what is called regeneration and conversion. In the next chapter, for instance, Paul will use the marriage relationship to illustrate the union between Christ and the believer in Jesus. As I have pointed out in my book on the Hardshell cult, many of these figures are favorites of the Hardshells, but many also are avoided by them.
They love to think of regeneration as being a resurrection from the dead, for they can (in their minds) more easily defend their no means doctrinal paradigm. They love to think of regeneration as being a creation from nothing, for they think again that they can defend their no means proposition more easily by such a figure.
But, other figures used in Scripture to describe the initial saving experience of believers are avoided. Using the figure of slaves changing masters, or people being married, do not fit with the general neo Hardshell concept of what it means to be regenerated or born again. Getting married involves people making a decision, and thus the Hardshells are reluctant to use the marital union to describe regeneration.
Dr. John MacArthur, well known Calvinist pastor and Bible teacher, in commenting on this section of Romans 6, wrote (see here):
"We're talking now about the issue of spiritual transformation. Spiritual transformation began for us with the great doctrine of regeneration when in our deadness we were given life. It included conversion, when we were transformed into a new kind of person. That launched us into a lifelong experience of sanctification."
Bingo! Spot on! Spiritual transformation is indeed the general idea behind what Paul writes in this section of the Roman epistle. MacArthur is also correct to say that spiritual transformation begins with regeneration, though it does not end there. He is also correct to say that our regeneration includes our conversion. These teachings, though clear from this section of Scripture, are denied by the Hardshells.
"I think it's so critical for us to understand the marvelous spiritual transformation that's going on all the time in the life of a believer."
Here he clearly affirms what I have affirmed in the last few postings in this series, that the Bible teaches that spiritual transformation is what takes place "all the time in the life of a believer." As I have shown in the previous postings in this series, these are teachings denied by today's Hardshells.
MacArthur continued (emphasis mine):
"What he means, that form of teaching, what he means by...that's the word tupos. It is the word basically that means mold. It's a mold. And what he really is saying here is you were poured into a mold of saving truth, like molten metal is poured into a mold...gospel truth is a mold into which a person is poured like hot metal and when the metal is cooled, it can be lifted out in solid form exactly in the shape of that mold. You were molded in the shape of the gospel. Just a great thought, rich thought. You have been poured into biblical truth and you have come out in the very image of that truth. You're like living patterns of what you believe. You are like models of holiness and models of righteousness. Another way to say it would be that the teaching to which you have submitted has reshaped you, has stamped you with its image. God saves you, He pours you into this mold of gospel truth, of regeneration, conversion and sanctification."
Well said! Again, the first Hardshells would give a hearty "amen" to these words of MacArthus, but today's Hardshells would reject it, for they would not want to believe that the Gospel is God's instrument for molding sinners into the image of Christ.
"A true understanding of sound doctrine related to the gospel is foundational, it is into that mold that we are poured and genuinely transformed. And once you come out, you come out totally different...This is the new casting of the Christian."
Again, amen! Would to God today's Hardshells would accept the clear teachings of this section of Romans! I hope I can help some see the truth.
Below are some notes that the reader might want to read. Many concern what is meant by the word "form" in "that form (Greek 'tupos') of doctrine."
Jamieson commenting on form writes that...
"The idea is, that the teaching to which they had heartily yielded themselves had stamped its own impress upon them." (Jamieson, R., Fausset, A. R., Fausset, A. R., Brown, D., & Brown, D. A Commentary, Critical and Explanatory, on the Old and New Testaments)
Barnes, in his commentary, wrote:
"The form or type of doctrine means that shape or model of instruction which was communicated. It does not differ materially from the doctrine itself, "you have obeyed that doctrine," etc. You have yielded obedience to the instructions, the rules, the tenor of the Christian revelation. The word "doctrine" does not refer to an abstract dogma, but means instruction, that which is taught. And the meaning of the whole expression is simply, that they had yielded a cheerful and hearty obedience to what had been communicated to them by the teachers of the Christian religion."
"Which was delivered you - Margin, "Whereto ye were delivered." This is a literal translation of the Greek; and the sense is simply in which you have been instructed."
Wrote Dr. Adam Clark:
"That form of doctrine - Τυπον διδαχης; here Christianity is represented under the notion of a mould, or die, into which they were cast, and from which they took the impression of its excellence. The figure upon this die is the image of God, righteousness and true holiness, which was stamped on their souls in believing the Gospel and receiving the Holy Ghost. The words εις ὁν παρεδοθητε τυπον refer to the melting of metal; which, when it is liquefied, is cast into the mould, that it may receive the impression that is sunk or cut in the mould; and therefore the words may be literally translated, into which mould of doctrine ye have been cast. They were melted down under the preaching of the word, and then were capable of receiving the stamp of its purity."
Wrote Dr. John Gill:
"By "the form of doctrine", is meant the Gospel, which is the "doctrine" of the Scriptures, of Christ and his apostles, and is sound and according to godliness; and is a "form", or contains a summary and compendium of truths, and is a pattern or exemplar, according to which ministers are to preach, and people to hear and receive."
The Pulpit commentary has these comments:
"Usually elsewhere, where St. Paul uses the word τύπος, it is of persons being examples or patterns to others (1 Corinthians 10:6; Philippians 3:17; 1 Thessalonians 1:7; 2 Thessalonians 3:9; 1 Timothy 4:12; Titus 2:7)...Here, therefore, it may be best to understand it (so as to retain the idea of pattern) as the general Christian code into which converts had been indoctrinated."
Does "form of teaching" point to a special and precisely defined type of christian instruction?
"yield" is often translated as "present" in other English versions and is from the Greek word "paristemi" which literally means "to place or set beside or near" and hence "to place at someone's disposal" or to "present oneself for service." It is present tense linear and therefore looks at what is taking place over time rather than to what takes place in an instant.
"Note that the KJV translation "doctrine was delivered you" is not accurate to the original Greek. J B Phillips more accurately conveys the meaning of the Greek writing that the readers had "honestly responded to the impact of Christ's teaching when you came under its influence."
"This form of doctrine was "obeyed" by them; by which is meant, not a mere obedience to the ordinances of the Gospel; nor a bare hearing of the doctrines of it, and giving an assent unto them; but an embracing of them by faith for themselves, so as to lay hold on Christ in them, submit to his righteousness therein revealed, and be willing to be saved by him, and him alone, in his own way; and this is the obedience of faith..." (Commentary)