15”What then? Shall we sin because we are not under law but under grace? Certainly not! 16 Do you not know that to whom you present yourselves slaves to obey, you are that one’s slaves whom you obey, whether of sin leading to death, or of obedience leading to righteousness? 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. 18 And having been set free from sin, you became slaves of righteousness.
Paul had just mentioned that sin shall not have dominion over us since we are not under law but under grace. He goes on to ask whether this means that since we are no longer under the law, but under grace, that can we can continue to sin. And he answers his question with an emphatic, “Certainly not!” In case one is wondering, “Why not?” he responds with his typical rhetorical question. He asks whether we’re not aware that we become slaves of sin if we choose to live in it. He explains further; if we choose to become slaves to sin again, it will once again result in death, and if we choose to become slaves to obedience, that will lead to righteousness.
Now in case you’re wondering whether he’s teaching an obedience to the law that leads to righteousness he goes on to explain otherwise. He thanks God that though we were slaves to sin, yet we wholeheartedly obeyed the doctrine regarding justification by faith. As a result we were set free from sin, and have now become ‘slaves’ as it were, to righteousness. By the word, ‘slaves,’ he’s referring to a voluntary life of service to Jesus, much like he used the word, ‘bondservant’ to refer to himself in the first chapter, while introducing himself.
19 I speak in human terms because of the weakness of your flesh. For just as you presented your members as slaves of uncleanness, and of lawlessness leading to more lawlessness, so now present your members as slaves of righteousness for holiness. 20 For when you were slaves of sin, you were free in regard to righteousness. 21 What fruit did you have then in the things of which you are now ashamed? For the end of those things is death. 22 But now having been set free from sin, and having become slaves of God, you have your fruit to holiness, and the end, everlasting life. 23 For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.
In case you’re wondering why Paul used the term ‘slave,’ to describe our obedience to God, he goes on to explain that he was using this human term that his readers were familiar with, and also because they were not at a spiritually mature level to understand what he was saying. He continues his reasoning as to why we cannot continue to sin, even though we are now under grace, and not under law. He reasons that just as we presented the parts of our body as ‘slaves’ as it were, to uncleanness and lawlessness, both of which led to more lawlessness, so also now, we are called to present the parts of our bodies as ‘slaves’ to righteousness – and this then leads to holiness (sanctification).
He goes on to say that when we were ‘slaves’ to sin, we were in no way connected with righteousness. He then asks us what we gained from that sinful lifestyle – one that we are now so ashamed of. The obvious answer to that question is, “Nothing.” We gained nothing from that way of life. We only lost a lot in the process, and we also hurt both ourselves, and others as well. He goes on to say that the end result from that way of life was death (the opposite of what we were created for, which is eternal life).
He then reminds us that since we have now been set free from the bondage (slavery) to sin, and have become ‘slaves’ as it were, of God, we now can expect to gain holiness, and in the end, everlasting life. He then adds that when we put our energy and time into sinning, the only wages we can be sure of reaping is death. But on the contrary, God offers us the gift of eternal life, which we can never earn or pay for. He then concludes, by adding a very important point we should never forget - this eternal life is available to anyone, but it’s only through faith in the finished work of Jesus Christ our Lord, on our behalf.