Slaves Who Do What
15What does all this mean? Does it mean we are free to sin, because we are ruled by God's gift of undeserved grace and not by the Law? Certainly not! 16Don't you know that you are slaves of anyone you obey? You can be slaves of sin and die, or you can be obedient slaves of God and be acceptable to him. 17You used to be slaves of sin. But I thank God that with all your heart you followed the example set forth in the teaching you received. 18Now you are set free from sin and are slaves who please God.
19I am using these everyday examples, because in some ways you are still weak. You used to let the different parts of your body be slaves of your evil thoughts. But now you must make every part of your body serve God, so that you will belong completely to him.
20When you were slaves of sin, you didn't have to please God. 21But what good did you receive from the things you did? All you have to show for them is your shame, and they lead to death. 22Now you have been set free from sin, and you are God's slaves. This will make you holy and will lead you to eternal life. 23Sin pays off with death. But God's gift is eternal life given by Jesus Christ our Lord.
People often assume that “freedom” simply means being free to do whatever you choose, without any kind of restraint: “I can do whatever I want!” We know, however, that reality at every turn is framed by restrictions. A man cannot shoplift an iPhone just because he wants one but can’t afford it. A child cannot jump from the third floor of a building hoping to soar like an eagle without experiencing disastrous consequences. The reality in which we live remains subject to all kinds of limitations that have been imposed upon us by nature or by society.
In today’s reading Paul seeks to rebut a deadly misapplication of his gospel. Earlier in his letter Paul had told the Roman believers that they have been saved from the penalty of their sins and they now stand justified before God solely because of their faith in Christ. In 6:14b he declares, “You are ruled by God’s kindness and not by the Law.”
Then comes the misappropriation of this truth: “Does it mean we are free to sin, because we are ruled by God’s wonderful kindness and not by the Law?” (v 15a). “Certainly not!” Paul replies (v 15b). Human beings live morally enslaved lives (v 16) – whether they know it or not. The issue, then, is not living life without a master, but rather, which master will you choose?
When God sets a person free in Christ, s/he does not become master-less; instead, their master changes: from sin and death to Christ and acceptance by God (vv 16-17). Therefore, we do not live our lives trying to cast off any restraint that curbs hidden passions or desires. On the contrary, we devote the use of our freedom to serving Christ, growing in the ways of his righteousness and holiness (v 19 NIV).
Heavenly Father, Thank you for setting me free from the realm and the power of sin, as well as from its penalty: eternal separation from God – freedom that I did not deserve. I unreservedly offer all of myself to your holy service. Help me by the power of your Holy Spirit to serve you with my freedom as a faithful servant, to the glory and praise of God. Amen.