We Are Slaves
“Don’t you realize that you become the slave of whatever you choose to obey? You can be a slave to sin, which leads to death, or you can choose to obey God, which leads to righteous living. Thank God! Once you were slaves of sin, but now you wholeheartedly obey this teaching we have given you. Now you are free from your slavery to sin, and you have become slaves to righteous living.” – Romans 6.16-18 (NLT)
Our world is filled with billions and billions of slaves. Sure, many are free in the sense that they can choose where to live, what to drive, where to eat, who to be friends with, what to watch on TV and so forth, but make no mistake they are still slaves. We are only free to choose that which we desire to enslave us. Isn’t this true? One says I am free yet they habitually follow the same sports team every season with fanatic dedication. Another says they are free yet chooses to continually move from relationship to relationship without satisfaction. And yet another claims freedom but needs to be liked by everyone all the time else their sanity will suffer. Is this freedom? Surely not. We are only free to choose that which we desire to enslave us. Paul in Romans 6.15-23 gives us only two options for enslavement, slavery to sin and slavey to righteousness.
Slave to Sin
Slavery to sin is the free willed response to desire anything apart from Christ. We should take this to mean two things:
- Apart from Christ, we are only free to choose sin and since we know not of God’s grace through Christ to remove the guilt/shame/burden and slavery to sin, we continually abide in sin and sinful desires, and
- We can become enslaved to a wide array of specific sins that further hinder a right-standing relationship with Christ.
Paul describes this second scenario to the those in the church at Corinth:
“Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. “All things are lawful for me,” but not all things are helpful. “All things are lawful for me,” but I will not be enslaved by anything. “Food is meant for the stomach and the stomach for food”-and God will destroy both one and the other. The body is not meant for sexual immorality, but for the Lord, and the Lord for the body. And God raised the Lord and will also raise us up by his power. Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ? Shall I then take the members of Christ and make them members of a prostitute? Never! Or do you not know that he who is joined to a prostitute becomes one body with her?”1
Such things as Paul described were tangible sins in which he could specifically name. Not because these were the general sin habits of everyone, but of a particular group. Of course, we shouldn’t isolate this group and say that it was them alone who struggled with such things. Nevertheless, these are specific sins to which one can become enslaved. Should we not be just as wary of such things as Paul warned the early church of? It is good to note here that these descriptions of sin are not rap-sheets for those outside the church to which Paul was wishing to draw attention, rather, it is a vivid description of those who are now inside the church yet previously participated in such things. They were saved by grace just like any other believer and now have become slaves to righteousness which is Paul’s second and only other option. Being enslaved to righteousness is a wholly different picture.
Slave to Righteousness
Righteous living is a life dedicated to God and honoring His name through such acts as worship, love, giving and wise living. However, such living is impossible to choose on your own. Let’s stop here as we will undoubtedly have some raised eyebrows. I cannot choose to live a righteous life pleasing to God on my own. It’s simply impossible and goes against everything in my natural-born human nature. How so? one might say. Jesus explains so by saying, “Truly, truly, I say to you, everyone who commits sin is a slave to sin. The slave does not remain in the house forever; the son remains forever. So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.“2 We are not truly free until the Son sets us free. Your faith, that the Incarnate Christ is alone the atonement for our sins and our basis for right-standing with God, is the proof that you have been set free. No one who is a slave to sin would have such a faith. This faith, in turn, makes us obedient to the Word and desiring of holiness. If not, then its possibly not any kind of saving faith at all. Now certainly there are different levels of conviction and holiness, i.e. a new believer who is still dealing with sin habits or a believer who needs to be confronted and convicted of sin. The point here to take away is this: if you have faith in Christ, you will be a slave to righteousness and desire to continue being so. Does this describe where you find yourself today?
We have looked at two brief yet important scenarios that describe life. This is so important to understand in our spiritual life. So important that we decided to take two weeks to focus on it! Being a slave is inevitable, but to what are you enslaved? Perhaps to an overall lifestyle of sin where your every choice and desire goes against God’s standard, or maybe you desire holiness and are as such a slave to righteousness. I invite you to take a long, hard look at your life. What are the fruits of your salvation? Do you desire the holy things of God or simply wish for more of your own tastes and desires? We are only free to choose that which we desire to enslave us. These are issues that must be wrestled with if you are to analyze which master you belong to. Take care and have a great week in the Lord.
1. 1 Corinthians 6:9-10, 12-16
2. John 8:34-36