Summary: Since everyone is a slave—either to sin or to God—it’s best to choose the slavery that gives the best results.
The Issue: “What then? Shall we sin because we are not under law but under grace? By no means!” (v. 15; see v. 14). If God loves us whether we sin or not, then why not continue to sin just as much as we please?
God saves people not by law (through works) but by grace (through faith).
To live “under grace” means freedom to do not what we want but what we ought! It means freedom for obedience, not an excuse for disobedience. Sin does matter.
ILLUSTRATION: Freedom does not mean the absence of rules. We live in a free country, but I am not free to go into your house and take your television. There are laws in a free country. People come to live in Canada because it offers an opportunity for a better way of life (not a lack of laws). The same is true about living for God.
The Clarification: “I put this in human terms because you are weak in your natural selves” (v. 19a). Paul admits that slavery is an imperfect illustration of the Christian life (God is not like the master’s of Paul’s day), but he uses it because it helps us (who have “weak” minds) understand a basic principle: God is our master to whom we owe total commitment.
As a Puritan Confession of Faith puts it, “The liberty which Christ hath purchased for believers under the gospel consists in their yielding obedience unto him, not out of slavish fear, but a child-like love, and willing mind.”
The Challenge: Let God—not sin—rule your life. “Just as you used to offer the parts of your body in slavery to impurity and to ever-increasing wickedness, so now offer them in slavery to righteousness leading to holiness” (v. 19b).
Christians, who are no longer slaves of sin, must no longer live as slaves of sin.
The Big Idea: Since everyone is a SLAVE—either to SIN or to GOD—it’s best to choose the slavery that gives the best results.
It’s an either-or situation. Either you’re a slave to sin or a slave to God. There is no middle ground. The question was not if we bow before a master, but before which master will we bow! There is no such thing as an uncommitted life.
I. The Truth About Freedom
A. Misconception #1: Many people think that serving ONESELF is freedom.
B. The truth is that “freedom” from God is SLAVERY to the power of sin.
“Don’t you know that when you offer yourselves to someone to obey him as slaves, you are slaves to the one whom you obey—whether you are slaves to sin, which leads to death, or to obedience, which leads to righteousness?” (v. 16).
“I tell you the truth, everyone who sins in a slave to sin” (John 8:34).
C. Misconception #2: Many people think that serving GOD is a loss of freedom.
D. The truth is that “slavery” to God is FREEDOM from the power of sin.
“But thanks be to God that, though you used to be slaves to sin, you wholeheartedly obeyed the form of teaching to which you were entrusted. You have been set free from sin and have become slaves to righteousness” (vv. 17-18).
The second word of Romans is doulos: “Paul, a servant [slave] of Jesus Christ” (1:1). But Paul was happy to be a slave of Jesus Christ.
“Righteousness” is conduct pleasing to God.
“The form of teaching to which you were entrusted” – We are “entrusted” (handed over) to the teaching of Christ like a slave is handed over to his master. The teaching does not belong to us; we belong to it.
“The form of teaching” – The teaching forms (molds) us. We do not change the gospel to fit our culture; we must be changed by it.
II. The Consequences of Our Freedom
A. Slavery to sin leads to SHAME.
“When you were slaves to sin, you were free from the control of righteousness. What benefit did you reap at that time from the things you are now ashamed of?” (vv. 20-21a).
B. Slavery to sin leads to ETERNAL DEATH.
“Those things result in death” (v. 21b).
“For the wages of sin is death” (v. 23a).
Eternal death – the eternal separation from God in hell that begins after death.
C. Slavery to God leads to HOLINESS.
“But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves to God, the benefit you reap leads to holiness” (v. 22a).
“Holiness” can mean either the state of holiness or the process of sanctification (living that is increasingly God-centered and world-renouncing).
D. Slavery to God leads to ETERNAL LIFE.
“And the result is eternal life” (v. 22b).
“But the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” (v. 23b).