Summary: Like Paul, we are all slaves to our sins. But Jesus bought us from the slave market to set us free. So why do we continue in bondage. This sermon attempts to answer that question.
Come with me in a time machine this morning. We will travel back to Rome circa 60 AD. We find ourselves at the Graecostadium, the slave market. As we wander around, we see men, women, and children standing on revolving blocks. Immediately we observe the fact that these people are nude, totally stripped of their clothing and being observed by the crowds walking around them. We realize they are captives being sold into slavery. Placards are hanging from their necks detailing every aspect of their lives.
After the slaves are observed, chosen, and paid for, they are placed in cages made of iron or wood until delivered.
Their life would be an existence stripped of rights. Disobedience could lead to starvation and beatings. They would live in shacks, stuffed together in deplorable conditions. They would have been branded at the time of sale, usually on the forehead, with their owner’s name. If they ran away the Fugitivarii (headhunters), were sent to capture and return them. Children born to slaves also became slaves.
A slave could gain his freedom through two options. One was to purchase his freedom, though this seldom happened since slaves were not paid a salary. The other was for the owner to declare the slave a “free man” and release him. Every five years, each male Roman citizen had to register in Rome for the census. In this, he had to declare his family, wife, children, slaves and riches. A master wishing to free his slave needed only to enter him in the censor's list as a citizen and he, or she, would be free. Once freed he or she enjoyed full citizenship, except for the right of holding public office. This also was a rarity.
This is the Rome that the apostle Paul observed. This sight is what leads Paul to write Romans 7:14. “So the trouble is not with the law, for it is spiritual and good. The trouble is with me, for I am all too human, a slave to sin.”
As Paul looks upon these slaves, he realizes his own sinful situation. He is all too human. To be human is to be in the flesh. Remember last week I made the point that everything we do we do in the flesh. We eat, sleep, and have fun, all in the flesh. And we sin in the flesh, making ourselves slaves to sin.
When we are slaves to sin, we are totally exposed in the spiritual realm. We may hide our sins in the fleshly realm. But we cannot hide them spiritually. Sin has stripped us and placed placards around our necks detailing all of our failures, strongholds, and weaknesses. We are caged in our sins, deprived of freedom from them. We don’t have the means to purchase our freedom from sin and our owner is much too cruel to release us. We are slaves, not by choice, but by birthright. We were born into sin.
Paul writes to the Ephesians in Ephesians 2:2,
“You used to live in sin, just like the rest of the world, obeying the devil—the commander of the powers in the unseen world. He is the spirit at work in the hearts of those who refuse to obey God.”
Here Paul begins to paint a portrait of the cruel taskmaster that purchased us through sin. Notice he says they used to “live in” sin. The word meant the way someone else would conduct his or her lives. It carried a sense of being dominated, manipulated, and controlled by it. Sin would dictate that they would conduct their lives “just like the rest of the world.”
The Greek word “just like” signified a time period. Sin keeps up with the times. The spirit of the 1920s was called the “Roaring Twenties” with strip bars and gangsters. In my generation we had the 1950s with rock-n-roll and rebellious teens. The 1960s was free love and drugs. The 1970s was an attitude of “if it feels good, do it.” It would seem this time period will be known as a time of uprising against authoritative figures. So sin is flexible and dominates, manipulates, and controls the world by the popular mindset of that generation.
The word for world was also used by the Greeks to depict society. So Paul is sending a message back to us through our imaginary time machine. “If you live in sin, you are being totally dominated, manipulated, and mastered by the society in which you live.”
Next Paul reveals the identity of the manipulator. He is “the devil - the commander of the powers in the unseen world.”
The word for commander also means a ruler and a prince. Not only is the devil the commander of his demonic armies, he is also a ruler and a prince. To be a ruler and a prince you must have a kingdom. The devil has a kingdom.