About Jesus    Steve Sweetman

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Slaves To Righteousness (ch. 6:15-23)

 

In chapter 6 verse 1 Paul asked, "Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase?"  Here in verse 15 he asks a similar question to that in verse 1.  The question is, 'Shall we sin because we are not under the Law but under grace?"  He is asking this question because of what he as just said in verse 14.  It is another natural question that someone would ask him because of what he had just said.  Paul, as in verse 1, answers by saying, "By no means."  He has just stated the reason why we should not sin in verse 14, which says,  "Sin shall not be your master because you are not under the Law, but under grace."

 

In verse 16 Paul introduces the idea here that we are no longer slaves to sin, but we have become slaves to God and to His righteousness.  This is one way of viewing our lives as Christians that isn't very popular these days.  When one becomes a Christian, one is in fact giving his life to Jesus, and if you give your life to Jesus, that means you belong to Him.  You belong to Jesus as a slave belongs to his master.  

 

Paul is also saying that all men are slaves.  We are all slaves to sin or slaves to Jesus.  It's one or the other.  No man is really free.  

 

In verse 16 Paul reminds the Romans that if you give yourself to someone, and I add, either by choice or constraint, you become that person's slave.  It should be noted that the majority of people living in the cit of Rome at the time of this letter were in fact slaves.  Some slaves were actually professional people like lawyers.  They weren't all slaves like you would have seen in the deep south of the United States prior to 1865.

 

What is called patronage was the social norm of the day back in the first century Roman Empire .  Patronage means that one of wealth or prestige would provide the necessities for someone who was poorer and of lower esteem in the community.  In return, the benefactor would serve the one who helped him out.

 

In verse 16 Paul affirms that one is either a slave to sin that leads to death or one is a slave to obedience that leads to righteousness.  The life of righteousness that Paul speaks of here is first and foremost the life of being declared righteous by God as seen in the process of justification as we've already talked about.  Paul might have had in mind also the righteous life that with the help of the Holy Spirit would be lived by the believer.               

 

In verse 17 Paul gives thanks to God that these Roman Christians are no longer slaves to sin.  They aren't slaves to sin because they gave themselves to the teaching Paul entrusted them with.  This shows us the importance of good teaching.  Teaching is something that we are actually entrusted with.  It is our responsibility to act accordingly to that which has been taught to us.  These Roman Christians did act accordingly, and so should we.   It is very important in this day in age when Bible teaching is taking a back seat to other things to know that God has given us certain teachings and truths.  Beyond that, He has trusted this teaching with us.  I would dare say that over the centuries the church has done a poor job in holding the teachings of God in their pure form.  More often than not, we've abused God's truths by turning them into falsehoods, otherwise known as false doctrine.       

 

In verse 18 Paul makes it clear.  His readers, and us too, are no longer slaves to sin but slaves to righteousness.  To date Paul has told us that we are declared righteous by simply trusting Jesus.  He mentioned one time that we have eternal life.  He has hinted to us about receiving Godís Spirit.  Now he tells us that we are slaves to God.  Is this something we want to hear?  I thought salvation was free?  Salvation is indeed free because we do not have the ability to pay for it.  That being said, that is where freedom ends.  Jesus is our Lord and that means we serve Him.  In one sense of the word we are free from sin in order to freely serve Jesus.  Paul did consider himself a slave, but, it was a bond slave, which is a slave by free choice.   

 

Being slaves is another thing the modern church has left behind.  We like to soften this concept by using less offensive words.  The fact of the matter is that Jesus is Lord.  He is the final authority over all there is. So, if He is Lord, then in one real sense of the word, we who have given our lives to Him are slaves to Him.  That being said, Scripture also says that we are His brother and friend.  As in many things found in the Bible, there is a dichotomy to the things of God.  On one hand we're slaves and on the other hand we're friends.  Just remember, we're thinking of Biblical slavery here, not the slavery that many black people experienced in America prior to 1865. 

 

In verse 19 Paul says that because the Roman Christians, and I'd say any Christian as far as that goes, are weak in their natural selves, they, and we, who once offered our body parts to sin, now should offer them to God.   As these people were passionate in their sin, they should be just as passionate towards being righteous.  You might well imagine that one of the body parts used for sin were the sex organs of both men and women.  As a man is passionate about sex, and in this case all sorts of sexual perversion, he should be just as passionate for living right before God.

 

We should understand that in the culture in which Paul was writing this letter, sexual sins according to the Bible, were commonplace.  It was simply a part of their culture.  Men were homosexual, even though they were married to women.  Women for the most part were considered baby machines, Men preferred homosexual sex.  At each temple of worship throughout the northern Mediterranean hundreds of male and female prostitutes were available because temple prostitution was just a part of their pagan worship.     

 

In verse 20 Paul says that when the Roman Christians, and us too, were slaves to sin, they and we were free from the control of righteousness.  That tells me that righteousness, and really, that's Jesus, should have control over us as Christians.  So one again, salvation may be a free gift, but living the Christian life is a matter of submitting to the rule of the Lord Jesus Christ in one's life.    

 

In verse 21 Paul asks the Roman believers how they benefited from their past life of sin.  That's a good question to ask anyone.  One can just list a number of sins.  Then they can list the results of those sins.  It is obvious that sin leads to problems, and as Paul says, the biggest problem is death, death in every aspect of life.  One example of this would be the sin of adultery that leads to death of a marriage.            

 

In verses 22 and 23 Paul tells his readers that when they were slaves to sin, the natural result was death.  At that point righteousness had no benefit to them.  Now they are slaves to righteousness and there are lots of results, including holiness and eternal life.   This is the first mention of the word holiness and the second mention of eternal life in the book of Romans.  We can, therefore, conclude that holiness is a part of the Christian life.  We need to understand that holiness is not simply obeying rules.  It is obeying God.  It is living out the righteousness that God has pronounced on us, from a loving and thankful heart.  Holiness is a state of being just as righteousness is a state of being.  Holiness is more than doing holy things.  It's being holy.

 

Paul closes this chapter in verse 23 with the famous verse we all learned in Sunday school.  "For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord."  This is a Biblical truth. Christians cannot compromise this truth away.  Sin leads to death in many ways, and the most important way is the death of the relationship we have with our God.    

 

You must remember that Paul is speaking to Christians, people who have been declared righteous by God.  Even though they died with Jesus on the cross, Christians still struggle with sin.  If this were not the case, this chapter would not be found in Paul's letter to the Romans.  Paul would not have had to tell these believers not to sin, if indeed we had no capability to sin after being declared righteous. Chapter 7 will continue with this topic of Christians struggling with sin.                   

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