17 But God be thanked that though you were slaves of sin, yet you obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine to which you were delivered.
Verses 17 and 18 continue to place emphasis on God’s transference of people from the sphere of Adam’s sin to the sphere of new life in Christ. God has freed the believer from the tyranny of sin positionally.
17 But God be thanked
Thanks needs to go to God because it was His work that led to salvation. It was His grace that did the doing in salvation. Paul attributed the obedience of the heart in this verse to God; it is a divine work.
that though you were [constantly in the past] slaves of sin,
“Were slaves of sin” indicates that the previous master of a believer, before conversion, was sin. That was his state before he became a Christian.
yet you obeyed [decisive at one point] from the heart
Once a person becomes a Christian, that event affects the “heart.” There is a deep inward change of orientation at conversion. This is no superficial obedience.
that form [standard or stamp] of doctrine [teaching—the gospel]
Hearing commonly accepted or authentic gospel truth changes masters for the one who becomes a Christian. Upon hearing the standard of biblical teaching or doctrine about the gospel, believers embrace it as the truth with their whole hearts.
to which you [plural] were delivered [by gospel truth].
The commitment to become a Christian makes followers loyal to the truth of Christianity. Teachers “delivered” (handed over) the truth that changed their status with God. The Bible is a body of truth from God to us. It was handed over to us by God through His apostles. God gave His infinite viewpoint on the matters of men’s relation to Himself.
Roman Christians were slaves of sin but now they became slaves of God and His body of truth, a system of doctrine by gospel truth.
Gospel truth stamps its imprint on the believer.
We were saved not by just any “gospel” that we accepted but by the gospel that was delivered to us. The gospel is no amorphous body of ideas but clear communication from God. Either we accept that message from God or we do not. There is no third alternative. Decision for the gospel is not a tepid function; it must be whole hearted.
From a biblical viewpoint, human beings do not judge the truth but the truth judges them. God’s truth can never be delivered into the subjective hands of man so that man is the ultimate arbiter of truth. If truth is truth, truth is the arbiter of man’s opinions. God’s truth is unchangeable as God is immutable. God is transcendent and infinite; man is finite. How can a finite man ever judge an infinite God and His eternal truth? The Word of God is not the imperious or arrogant opinion of man.
Some pseudo-Christians today assail Christian doctrine, yet the three books written to pastors (1, 2 Timothy, Titus) emphasize that they are to teach “doctrine.” Doctrine gives form to the entire Christian faith. God gives these truths to believers whether they apprehend them or not. Apprehension depends on (1) finding the facts of God’s truth and (2) applying those facts to experience with a whole heart.