OBEYING THAT FORM OF DOCTRNE
By Nana Yaw Aidoo
To the saints at Rome (Rom. 1:7) the apostle Paul wrote:
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 unto you. Being then made free from sin, ye became the servants of righteousness. (Rom. 6:16-18).
Analysis of the text
What do we learn when we analyze this text?
First, we learn that at some point in the past, the recipients of the epistle were the servants of sin.
Second, at the time of the writing of the epistle, these saints who were at one time servants of sin had been made free from sin and had become the servants of righteousness.
Third, the means by which this massive change of state was effected in their lives was by obeying from the heart that form of doctrine that was delivered unto them.
Fourth, it was at the point at which the Romans obeyed the doctrine that was delivered unto them that they were made free from sin and not a second before. Notice the use of then. “Being then made free from sin…”
Clearly, in order for one to become a Christian or a saint, that person must hear and believe a doctrine (the exact same kind of doctrine that was delivered to the Romans in their lost state) and then obey a form of that doctrine.
What was the doctrine that was delivered unto the Saints at Rome?
The doctrine that was delivered to the Romans was the good news of Christ’s death, burial and resurrection for the sins of all men. That is the teaching by which all men everywhere are saved. In 1 Corinthians 15:1-4 the apostle Paul wrote:
Moreover, brethren, I declare unto you the gospel which I preached unto you, which also ye have received, and wherein ye stand; by which also ye are saved, if ye keep in memory what I preached unto you, unless ye have believed in vain. For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures; And that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures.
This was the doctrine that was delivered to the Romans and when they obeyed a form of this doctrine, they were translated from being servants of sin to becoming servants of righteousness.
Facts cannot be obeyed
However, friends, it ought to be evident to all that the death, burial and resurrection of Christ, though eternally important, are mere facts. The nature of facts is that they can only be believed. Facts cannot be obeyed. Only commands can be obeyed. Therefore, it is evident that what the Romans obeyed in order to their change of state was a command that was a form of the death, burial and resurrection of Christ. Of this conclusion, there is no escape. Notice once again that the change of state was not effected until that form of the doctrine that was delivered unto them was obeyed from the heart.
What was that form of doctrine?
In order to know that form of doctrine that upon being obeyed led to the change of state in the Romans, let us hear again from the apostle:
Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into his death? Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like 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 planted together in the likeness of his death, we shall be also in the likeness of his resurrection. (Rom. 6:3-5).
The word form translates a Greek word that means a pattern, a resemblance or a likeness (cf. Rom. 6:5). Therefore, what the Romans obeyed in order to their change of state was a pattern, a resemblance or a likeness of the doctrine of the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ. According to the text above, the form, pattern, resemblance or likeness of the death, burial and resurrection that was obeyed by the Romans when they were servants of sin in order to become servants of righteousness was baptism. For in baptism, we have a form, a pattern, a resemblance or a likeness of the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ. The Romans, prior to their becoming saints, were buried by baptism whereby they were planted in the likeness of Christ’s death and then rose from the watery grave (cf. Acts 8:36) from which they were buried to walk in newness of life. Thus by being baptized, the Romans obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine which was delivered unto them.
As a conclusion to his premise on the burial with Christ in baptism in verses 3 and 4 of Romans 6, in verses 17 and 18 Paul declares that the process was an obedience “from the heart” to that “form of doctrine,” and “being then made free from sin,” the result was righteousness. The order is: death, burial, resurrection, freedom; and it is the death, burial and resurrection that takes place in baptism, which frees one from sin. Before baptism the subject is dead in sin; after baptism he is dead to sin. “He that is dead to sin is freed from it” --verse 7. So the sinner is baptized out of death in sin into death to sin –“being then made free from sin.” Paul said “then”—when do you say? So obedience to the form of doctrine in baptism stands between the sinner and freedom from sin. (Wallace Jr. 304).
Baptism is not the only thing necessary to be saved from sin. One also has to hear the gospel taught (John 6:44-45), believe it (Mark 16:16), repent of all his sins (Acts 2:38) and confess faith in Christ (Rom. 10:8-10). However, not until that person has obeyed the form or the likeness of the death, burial and resurrection of Christ in baptism would that person be freed from sin, and be made a servant of righteousness. Baptism therefore is the culminating act in gospel obedience. Little wonder after the “chief of sinners” (1 Tim. 1:15) had developed faith in the risen Christ, repented of his sins and spent three days in fasting and prayer (Acts 9:1-12), Ananias whom the Lord sent to him upon finding him asked; “And now why tarriest thou? Arise, and be baptized, and wash away thy sins, calling on the name of the Lord.” (Acts 22:16).
Dear reader. Have you from the heart obeyed the form of the death, burial and resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ in baptism? If not, why not?
Wallace Jr., Foy E. Bulwarks of the Faith. Foy E. Wallace, Jr. Publications Inc., 1997.