Summary: 1) The Position (Romans 6:17–22), 2) Practice (Romans 6:19), and 3) Promise (Romans 6:20-22) to those who are either slave to sin or to God.
It has been distressing being in the United States this past week and seeing reports of various public skirmishes. Officials in several states are calling for the removal of public monuments that have become controversial symbols of the Confederacy, driven by the national outcry over the violence in Charlottesville, Virginia. that erupted during a protest organized by white nationalists. Systematic efforts are underway to remove vestiges of southern, civil war confederacy, specifically over the issue of slavery.
People come into the world confronted with a different kind of slavery. With the single exception of Jesus Christ, every human being born into this world has been born with a sinful nature. The natural, unredeemed person is under the tyranny of sin. It controls their thoughts, words, actions and total existence. Jesus declared that “everyone who commits sin is the slave of sin” (John 8:34), and because every unsaved person is unable to commit anything but sin, every unsaved person is a slave of sin. It has often been noted that some black slaves willingly fought with their masters during the American Civil War. Not unlike sinners who oppose and reject the One who offers to save them, those slaves fought against the Union forces who wanted to emancipate them.
When we consider our own condition as redeemed in Christ, to realize that we are no longer slaves to sin, it should both comfort and guide us. We should be comforted to realize that we no longer have to continue to sin and we are liberated from the tyranny. Since this is the case, we must live as free men and women who show this liberty in our holy lives. This is also help us to understand and appropriately respond to the unregenerate. As Paul notes in Romans 6, the natural person is a willing slave of sin. People prove that truth every day of their lives as they reject the light of God that they have. Although unregenerate persons often want desperately to escape the unpleasant and destructive consequences of their sins, they do not want to relinquish the cherished sins themselves.
In Romans 6:17-22, Paul here explains and applies the principle he has just stated (v. 16), namely, that a person is a slave either to sin and Satan or free though righteousness to God. In doing so, he contrasts the three aspects of each of those two domains of servanthood: 1) Their Position (Romans 6:17–22), 2) Their Practice (Romans 6:19), and 3) Their Promise (Romans 6:20-22).
A person is a slave either to sin and Satan or free though righteousness to God through:
1) Their Position (Romans 6:17–18)
Romans 6:17–18 17 But thanks be to God, that you who were once slaves of sin have become obedient from the heart to the standard of teaching to which you were committed, 18 and, having been set free from sin, have become slaves of righteousness. (ESV)
Paul now dispels any idea that Christians stand in a situation of neutrality with respect to the master they are to serve. This verse and the following one reveal Paul’s conviction that they have already made the decision to follow a new master. But Paul does not praise the Roman church for having turned to God; he gives “thanks to God” for having brought them where they are today (Hendriksen, W., & Kistemaker, S. J. (1953–2001). Exposition of Paul’s Epistle to the Romans (Vol. 12–13, p. 205). Grand Rapids: Baker Book House.)