July 30: Romans 6:14

Romans 6:14

Today’s note on Rom 6:14 is supplemental to the series on “Paul’s View of the Law” (cf. the article on Rom 6:1-7:25). Verse 14 is the concluding declaration of the sub-section Rom 6:1-14, which defines the believer’s freedom from sin in terms of death to sin. It will be useful to illustrate again how these three sections relate:

    • 6:1-14—believers die to sin through participation in the death (and resurrection) of Christ
    • 6:15-23—believers are freed from slavery, from bondage to sin (as a ruling power)
    • 7:1-6—believers are freed from the binding force of the Law, through death (as in 6:1-14)

The final verses of the first section (vv. 12-14) function as an exhortation to believers:

“Do not let sin rule as king in your dying [i.e. mortal] body (so as) to hear under [i.e. obey] its impulses…” (v. 12)

Verse 14a contains a parallel exhortation—

“For sin shall not rule as your lord…”

after which comes the concluding declaration in 14b:

“…for you are not under (the) Law but under (the) Favor (of God)”
ou) ga\r e)ste u(po\ no/mon a)lla\ u(po\ xa/rin

It will be helpful to look at each word and element of this statement in more detail.

ou) (“not”)—the negative particle ou) governs the statement. This is significant, since, throughout Galatians and Romans, Paul has been discussing the Old Testament/Jewish Law (Torah) in negative terms. Believers are made/declared just or right before God not by observing the Law (“works of the Law”), but by trust/faith in Christ (Gal 2:16; Rom 3:20-22, et al). Believers have also died to the Law (Gal 2:19; Rom 7:4, etc), and no longer are in bondage to it (Rom 7:6), and so forth.

ga/r (“for”)—the particle ga/r is conjunctive and coordinative, i.e. joining with what was just stated (“sin shall not rule…”), and serving to explain it further. In other words, this is the reason why sin shall not (and should not) rule over you any more.

e)ste (“you are”)—the verb is in the present indicative, which means that it reflects a situation for believers that is presently (currently) real and true. It need not wait for some future time, it may (and should) be realized now. The “you” implied in the verbal form represents all believers, Jews and Gentiles alike.

u(po\ no/mon (“under [the] Law”)—Paul uses this expression numerous times, in Gal 3:23; 4:4-5, 21; 5:19; 1 Cor 9:20; Rom 6:15, along with the parallel (and largely synonymous) phrases u(po\ [th\n] a(marti/an (“under sin”, Gal 3:22; Rom 3:9; 7:14), u(po\ kata/ran (“under the curse”, Gal 3:10), u(po\ ta\ stoixei=a tou= ko/smou (“under the elements of the world”, Gal 4:3), and the illustrative expressions in Gal 3:25; 4:2. The preposition u(po/ (“under”) here has the meaning “under the power/authority of”, “under the rule/domain of”, etc. The word no/mo$ (“law, custom”) for Paul usually has the specific sense of the Old Testament Law (Torah); however, through the arguments in Galatians, and especially in Romans, the word does seem to take on a somewhat wider meaning. It is clear that Gentiles, in their own way, are “under the Law”, and will be judged equally before God (cf. Gal 4:1-11; Rom 2:12-29). Note also his use of the qualified expression “the Law of God” in 1 Cor 9:21; 7:22, 25; Rom 8:7—in these verses he means something more than the Torah.

a)lla/ (“but”)—the conjunctive particle a)lla/ is adversative (“but, rather/instead…”), creating a clear contrast with the prior expression (“under the Law”).

u(po\ xa/rin (“under [the] Favor”)—this is a precise, but contrastive, parallel with u(po\ no/mon (“under the Law”), reflecting a completely opposite or separate situation (note Paul’s use of xwri\$ no/mou, “separate/apart from the Law” in Rom 3:21; 7:9, also 3:28; 4:6). The preposition u(po/ (“under”) has the same meaning here as in the prior expression. i.e., “under the power/authority/rule of”. Recall in Rom 5:12-21, how the Favor (of God) functions as a personified and active, ruling power, just like Sin—they both are lords over a particular domain, to which human beings become enslaved. The word xa/ri$ is typically translated “grace”, but “favor” better captures its essential meaning. One who takes pleasure/delight/joy in another person, shows favor to the person, often by bestowing benefits or gifts; the person, in turn, finds and experiences favor from the one bestowing the gifts, etc. God demonstrates His favor through the person and work of Christ—especially in his sacrificial, atoning death on behalf of sinful, enslaved humanity (Rom 3:24-25; 5:6-11, 15-17, 20-21; 7:25a, etc).

This powerful statement declares, in no uncertain terms, that believers in Christ are no longer under the ruling authority of the Law. He has already made this point numerous times throughout Galatians and Romans, but this is one of the most explicit statements. Some commentators would like to limit all such declarations regarding the Law to its role as a means of salvation; according to such an interpretive view, the Torah would continue to be in force (at least for Jewish believers) in other respects. However, Paul makes no such qualification, and certainly not here in Rom 6:14—believers in Christ are, simply, “not under the Law”.

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