From Slavery to Slavery
What then? Shall we sin because we are not under law but under grace? Certainly not! Do you not know that to whom you present yourselves slaves to obey, you are the one’s slaves whom you obey, whether of sin leading to death, or of obedience leading to righteousness? 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. And having been set free from sin, you became slaves of righteousness. 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.
For when you were slaves of sin, you were free in regard to righteousness. What fruit did you have in the things of which you are now ashamed? For the end of those things is death. But now having been set free from sin, having become slaves of God, you have your fruit to holiness, and the end, everlasting life. For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Father, we do thank You for this great declaration here; that we have been set free from sin. Lord Jesus, You came to save people from their sins; and so God, we want to know, we want to know at an experiential level, to where we fully comprehend what it means to be set free in regard to our slavery from sin. So God, work in us, that we would know what it means to be servants of righteousness, to be Your servants. Work into us that we would be a reflection of Your grace, of Your glory in the world in which we live; that people would see in us Your goodness; they would see in us Your righteousness being worked out in us. Transform us by the renewing of our minds, Lord, that we would glorify You in this world in which we live. We ask this in Jesus’ name. And all God’s people agreed saying, “Amen.”
You can be seated.
In the opening section of Romans, chapter 6, we examined the glorious reality of our death to sin, which came in and through our immersion in Christ, or our baptism in Christ. And how that, in the new birth experience, that experience that Jesus spoke of when He was approached by a very religious man, a holy man, a teacher in Israel and Jerusalem, who came to Him by night, in the gospel of John, John, chapter 3. Nicodemus comes, and he begins in a way of really esteeming Jesus; he recognized that Jesus was a Man sent from God, he said, because we know “no one could do these works that You do unless God was with Him.”
And Jesus didn’t necessarily interrupt him, but He responds in a way that Nicodemus didn’t anticipate. He says, “Nicodemus, you must be born again.” And this blew Nicodemus’ mind, this concept of being born again. And over the next several verses there in that passage, John, chapter 3, Jesus explains that God works by His Spirit to raise us to a newness of life. And this is illustrated, this is symbolized in the baptism experience, the sacrament of baptism, that we do, as a Christian church, every orthodox Christian church has a form of baptism. And so we had a baptism last week. And in that going down into the water experience, and coming out, we’re symbolizing what took place at the new birth. We’ve been buried with Him in baptism; we’ve risen to walk in newness of life. Baptism, the sacrament – going into the water – it is a beautiful illustration of our death to sin, and our resurrection to righteousness. We have been raised to walk in righteousness in Christ.
Now that great portion of scripture that we looked at last week, it concluded with the powerful declaration that you are not under the law but under grace. I am so thankful that we are under grace, that we walk in the grace of Christ. In Romans, chapter 5, we saw in the opening verses of Romans, chapter 5, that we now stand in the grace of God, and we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God. So, we are planted in this grace of God that we cannot exhaust. We can’t even imagine or fathom the depths of the grace of God, and how good His grace is towards us. I don’t know about you, but this last week there were many, many times that I can look back over the last week and just be thankful for the grace of God; that God doesn’t deal with us according to our sin. And how wonderful that is. David, the king of Israel, the great king of Israel, he spoke of that blessedness in psalm 32 – “Blessed is the man whose sin is forgiven.” It’s not been accounted to him; and that’s what the grace of God has wrought for us, worked in us. So we’re no longer under the law but we are under grace.
Well, just as the bold declaration of Romans, chapter 5, verse 20, which was what led into Romans, chapter 6 – “where sin abounded, grace did much more abound” – that induced, or that produces a question, an inevitable question. And the question was given there in Romans, chapter 6, verse 1: If grace abounds where sin abounds, then why not continue to walk in sin to see more grace? That’s the inevitable question that just is birthed from this concept of grace abounding where sin abounds. And so Paul opened Romans, chapter 6, verse 1: “What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin that grace may abound? Certainly not!” And so in the same way that he anticipated the inevitable question there from Romans 5:20 into Romans, chapter 6; now, as he closes that last section with this concept that we are not under law, but under grace (Romans 6, verse 14), he anticipates the next inevitable question.
Chapter 6, verse 15, “What then? Shall we sin because we are not under the law but under grace?” If grace abounds where sin abounds, the inevitable question or conclusion is – “Well, then we should continue in sin to see grace abound.” But Paul explained in the last section that that’s not the case; that we have died indeed to sin, we’re no longer to walk in sin, because we’re dead to that. But then he says, “now you’re not under the law, you’re under grace.”
“Okay, well if we’re not under the law, then why can’t we just continue to walk in sin? Why not continue to walk in that way?” So, the question comes, “Shall we sin because we’re not under the law?” We have been released from the law. Now, the reality is it’s quite difficult for us to fully grasp what it means to be released from the law. We can’t really, in our minds, imagine or envision a life that is not governed by a moral or a legal standard. Just as it is as difficult for us to comprehend with our finite minds the concept of infinity. Have you ever sat around and tried to imagine infinity? I mean, we just, we always have a starting point and an ending point. So to sit down and actually try, with our finite minds, to think of or imagine, what is infinity like? We just can’t comprehend it. We try to illustrate it in certain things; and it just never seems to work. And our minds start to run into kind of like the blue screen of death, it you will. It overloads the RAM; and you go, “Okay, I’m just going to have to think about something else, because I can’t fully grasp this.” So the same is true when we talk about being released from the law. Everything in our life is in someway governed by a standard. We live in a society that has legal standards, that has legal, you know, things that have been put into place to govern society. And it’s a good thing, because, I know I’ve mentioned this before, but it still blows my mind, as I was driving back, this last week, I had a meeting up in north L.A., and as I was driving back from north L.A., and I’m sitting in L.A. traffic, which, thank God I don’t have to sit in that very much; but as I was sitting there in traffic, it just boggles my mind that this actually works; this whole thing of all these cars, independently operated, all moving in the same direction, and you know, most of the time it’s pretty good, without too many car accidents. But, the reason that that happens is because there’s some laws that are governing what’s happening. And if there were no laws governing what’s happening, then it would be absolute chaos. But not just in the society in which we live, that is governed by rules and laws, which we’re going to talk about quite a bit when we get into Romans, chapter 14, that that governing situation, under which we live, is actually instituted by God. Not only do we live in a society that’s governed by rules and laws, but we, individually, are governed, as we saw in Romans, chapter 1, by a conscience. God has hardwired into every single one of us a moral law. He is the moral lawgiver, and He has given us this conscience which governs us. Now that doesn’t mean that we don’t, at times, transgress our conscience, or trespass our conscience. We all see that to be the case. But when we do, your conscience alerts you to the fact that you’ve done something you ought not to do. Paul says in Romans, chapter 2, our conscience, it accuses or excuses us. It bears witness to us whether or not we’re walking in a way that is in line with that moral law that God has given to us. So we can hardly fathom or grasp the idea of being released from a codified ethic or that internal conscience. We just can’t put our minds around that. We are constantly judging our thoughts, our words, our deeds, and we are constantly judging the actions of others. Aren’t we? I mean there’s not an hour that goes by that we do not judge someone else’s actions or their words; that we don’t see something that someone does, and we go, “They shouldn’t do that. They shouldn’t say that.” And if you’re driving in traffic, you know that you’re judging a lot of people’s actions. “What in the world are you doing?!” You know? Anybody? Come on. [laughter] I’m not the only one. So we all experience that; we all experience that.
Now, when we read here that we are not under the law, this does not mean that there is no longer a governing standard for right and wrong. There still is a governing standard for right and wrong. In that we are not under God’s law does not mean that God’s law is done away with. And we’re going to talk about that quite a bit when we get to Romans, chapter 7. The law of God, Romans 7:12, is holy, just, and good. And in that the law of God, as I have said many times, it reveals righteousness; it shows us what is holy, just, and good; it reveals to us our unrighteousness. It shows us that we do not meet that standard of God’s law. But we are no longer under the law, Paul says. So what we have here is the recognition that as Christians, as a person who has put their faith in Christ for salvation, their confidence in Him for salvation; we are no longer under the judgment of God’s law. We’re no longer under the judgment of God’s law; meaning we will not stand judged by His law. Instead, we’re told here that we are under grace. The standard by which the Christian is judged is the grace of God in the finished work of Jesus Christ. So the common wording that Paul uses to describe our experience as Christians, and it’s used quite a bit in the book of Ephesians, but in many of his letters, is the idea of us being in Christ. So Jesus, on the cross, He bore all of our sin in fulfillment of the prophecy of Isaiah, in Isaiah, chapter 53. And He, in bearing our sin, also took the just punishment of God’s law upon sin, and He bore it in Himself. And so we, as Christians, we are in Christ, and we are sheltered from the judgment of God’s law because He has borne it for us. So it’s not that God’s law is done away with; it’s that He has borne, graciously, the punishment of God’s law upon Himself, and we obtain grace in Christ. We stand in that grace. We rejoice in that grace. And so now we’re not under the judgment of God’s law, we are under grace.
Now, do we still do wrong things? Yes. Do we still fall short of God’s glory? Do we still do things that are not in accordance with His character, His standard of righteousness, presented in the law? Yes we do. But we are no longer under the judgment of God’s law because Jesus has graciously borne that punishment for us. He took the judgment upon Himself, and we are sheltered in Christ. And He has made a way, in Him, by grace, and through our confidence, our trust, our faith in Him, to be freed from the condemnation of the law. We’ve been freed from it. It’s a phenomenal thing. And it’s one of those things, that it takes us a while to really fully comprehend it. In fact, God is going to be showing, Paul says in Ephesians, chapter 2, He’s going to be showing the manifold riches of His grace towards us for all eternity. It’s going to take our finite minds all of eternity to truly comprehend what is the greatness of God’s grace towards us. Because we don’t fully grasp it right now. We try to illustrate it; we try to preach on it. But our words, you know the grace of God and the power of God’s grace, it breaks the backs of our words. Our words just can’t adequately describe the greatness of God’s grace. And so all of our illustrations always fall short. They never fully are able to speak of God’s grace in a way that is sufficient.
So then, the question, after we’ve been released from this law, we’re no longer under the judgment of God’s law, we now stand in grace; the question is – if we no longer abide under the judgment of God’s law, then why not actively practice sin in the future? His law is not there to judge us, and we have been set free. And the freedom that we have in Christ is phenomenal. We’re going to be talking about this quite a bit as we continue through Romans. The liberty that we have in Christ; the freedom that we have in Christ is awesome. “For whoever the Son sets free is free indeed.” The completely set free. We cannot be judged by the law. So the question is – well then why not just sin it up? “If the law cannot judge me, why not just sin it up? Just continue in sin.” That’s the question.
Now, in thinking about this, I don’t know about you, but when I ponder this, as I have over the last several weeks, I cannot help but think of the immunity that is afforded foreign diplomats, under what is called the Vienna Convention of Diplomatic Relations. Have you ever heard of Diplomatic Immunity? Diplomatic Immunity. Under Diplomatic Immunity, foreign dignitaries, diplomats, they are sheltered from lawsuit or prosecution of the laws of their host country; the country in which they are there as a diplomat, as an ambassador, they are sheltered from prosecution or lawsuit under those laws. And so, theoretically, under Diplomatic Immunity, that diplomat, they could drive as fast as they want to on the interstate; they could go through red lights; they could park in the red zone; they could do whatever they want. So, they’re not under, they’re not governed by that host country’s laws. So theoretically they could do whatever they want. And no one can do anything to them. Now, sure, it’s not very smart, intelligent to drive at 150 miles per hour on our freeways, our interstates here; probably not a good idea to run red lights, it doesn’t really work for a lot of people, causes some problems. But they still have the ability to do it, because they’re not under the judgment of their host country’s law.
Well, Christians, we are essentially foreign diplomats. The Bible describes us as being citizens of heaven, in Philippians, chapter 3, verse 20. In the book of 2 Corinthians, chapter 5, Paul says there that you and I, “we are ambassadors of Christ.” So we, quite literally, we’re foreign diplomats. And we have been released from the law. We’re not under the law of God here, the judgment of God’s law here upon the earth any longer. Because we are set free. We no longer have that judgment. So theoretically, we could, it would seem, do as we please. So Paul says, “Shall we sin?” And the idea is, actively and in the future, shall we sin actively in the future because we’re not under the law any longer. We’ve been released from the judgment of the law, and now we’re under grace.
What’s his answer? It’s the same exact answer that he gave at the open of chapter 6 – “Certainly not!” King James Version – “God forbid!” Another translation – “What a ghastly thought!” And then of course the New American Standard – “May it never be!” Which is probably the most accurate translation of that wording there. May it never come into our lives that we would walk in that kind of lifestyle; that we would continue in sin, even though we were released from the law. You see, we are the subjects of a righteous King; and we are the citizens of a righteous kingdom. Therefore, our conduct, it ought to be consistent with the King that we serve, and the kingdom we represent. Our conduct ought to be consistent with the King of kings, who is holy and righteous; and since we are His representatives here upon the earth, our conduct ought to be a good representation of His kingdom. So we stand as His ambassadors. So the idea is this: If people in your workplace, on your school campus, in your neighborhood, on the ball field, or the basketball court; if people are going to know what the King of kings is like, and what the kingdom of God is like, they are supposed to be able to look at the ambassadors of that kingdom, you and me, and they’re supposed to be able to say, “That’s what He’s like.” I don’t know about you, but that’s a little convicting. Just take a moment and think, this last week, how have we represented Him? If people are going to get a picture in their minds about what the character of Jesus Christ is, has my life, has your life, have our lives represented Him in a way that they would walk away with an accurate picture of what Jesus and the kingdom of God is like? That’s a heavy reality. I’ll just leave that for you to think about. Maybe we just pray and dismiss now. Nah, I’ve got too much to say.
So Paul says, verse 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?” Now this is the second time that Paul has spoken in this way. The first time was earlier in chapter 6, in verse 3, “Or do you now know that as many of us that were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death?” Don’t you know this? Now we come to this next inevitable question, “Well, shall we continue in sin because we’re not under the law but under grace? Certainly not! Don’t you know? The implication is, you ought to know this; you ought to know this. “…that to whom you submit yourselves, or present yourselves, slaves to obey, you are that one’s slaves whom you obey.” We ought to know this. New Living Translation says, “Don’t you realize that you become the slave of whatever you choose to obey?” Now, as I mentioned previously, the concept of slavery is foreign to us. Even though we have some frame of reference, because we can look back into our own nation’s history and recognize that there was a time where slavery was a part of our culture. But we live many, many years after that. And even though the movie, Spielberg’s movie, Lincoln, came out and brings it back to our minds again, it’s just not necessarily on our radar. Because, as I look through this room today, I’m assuming none of you are slaves. Now you may feel like a slave to your employer, but, practically speaking, you’re not a slave. It doesn’t mean that slavery’s gone in the world, sadly, it’s very real, in many places in the world. Even in our own nation. And there is still human trafficking and slavery happening. Which is terrible; it’s abominable. But we recognize that we don’t fully grasp the weight of the idea of slavery. But Paul’s readers, there in Rome, 2,000 years ago, they would have, because slavery was a normal way of life in the Roman Empire. More than 60% of the population of the Roman Empire were slaves. Remember, Rome, the empire of Rome, grew to greatness for nearly 1,000 years, and the way that it did was by conquering nations and peoples. And those peoples and nations that they conquered, they made them slaves. So much of the culture was slaves. Now, it is rare, although God’s law does speak to this, it is rare that someone would choose to be a slave. There would be some who would choose, they’d make a volitional choice that they would be a slave of their master; they would then be called a bondservant. They were a servant by choice, and there were certain things that came with that. But for the most part, we don’t submit ourselves to be slaves of anybody, or we wouldn’t choose to do that, probably. But he says here, the reality is, in our lives, whoever you present or submit yourself to, as a servant, you are that one’s servant whom you obey. You have made yourself their servant. But Jesus said, and the apostle John records for us in John, chapter 8, verse 34, “whoever commits sin is a slave of sin.” And that word, commit, there means to perpetually practice sin. Whoever perpetually practices sin, you have made that sin, whatever it is, your lord, your master. It rules you; it has dominion over you.
And so Paul, picking up on those words of Jesus here, he now speaks in those same terms, if you present yourself as a servant, as a slave of anything, you are that one’s, that master’s slave. You’ve put yourself under the rule, under the dominion of that thing. And you can choose to make yourself a slave of sin. You can choose to make yourself a slave of sin. Now it is incredibly easy to determine what is the master passion of a person’s life. It’s very easy to determine what is the master passion of a person’s life. You show me your check register and you show me your calendar, and I will tell you what rules your life. Whatever you submit yourself, your time to, whatever you invest in, your money to, that is the thing that is ruling your life. And so we can sometimes, and probably should take a step back and evaluate, just by looking at: how am I using my time; how am I using the things that I have, my resource, and say, “What is ruling my life?” The sad reality is that for many of us here in our nation, and there’s other people in other nations that speak about us, Americans, in this way; the master passion of most people’s lives is their job. And so they have made themselves a slave of their work. We call them workaholics. The reality is a lot of us live in that sort of way; and we become slaves of that. And we fail to recognize that that actually is sin. By not taking Sabbath, taking time to rest from our labor, we’re actually committing lawlessness, we’re committing sin. We become slave of those things. So what is dominating your time? I challenge you to think about it this week. What is taking your resources, your energy, the money that you have, the RAM? What is consuming the RAM of your brain on a constant daily basis? And the question ought not to be, “Well, is it a Christian endeavor?” The question ought to be, “Is it something in which you’re glorifying God?” Because you can glorify God in your work. So it shouldn’t be, “Well, if I’m doing a job, and it’s not a Christian endeavor, then I need to stop doing that job and find some Christian…” No, no, no, no, no, no, no. God has called us to be in the world. He prayed in John, chapter 17, “Father, I don’t pray that You take them out of the world but You’d be with them in the world.” And so He has placed you in your job as a police officer, as a schoolteacher, as a CPA, as an engineer, whatever that may be, and in that job or in that opportunity you can glorify Him. The question is, “Are you truly doing that in the way that you’re doing it?”
Well Paul says here that we can make ourselves slaves of sin. That’s a phenomenal reality, that as a Christian, set free from sin, set free from the judgment of God’s law, we can choose to make ourselves once again slaves to sin. And Paul says, “it’s sin leading to death.” Now again, remember the context here is speaking to Christians. Romans, chapters 4 and 5 were speaking about justification; that we have been saved by grace through faith. Romans, chapter 6 through the middle of chapter 8 is speaking about sanctification; it’s speaking to people who are Christians, and God is trying to transform us more and more into His image, that we would adequately represent Him in the world. And so this is speaking to Christians. It says, “Don’t you know that you can, in fact, make yourself a slave of sin? And if you do, it leads to death.” Now clearly, the death that’s spoken of here is not eternal death, the judgment of hell, because in Christ we have been rescued from that judgment, from that punishment. But he’s speaking about some form of death that takes place in the life of the Christian when they submit themselves to perpetually practicing sin. Now, we should recognize that even the most righteous of us, there are some people who are walking in a way that, let’s just say, maybe there’s someone who’s walking 99% of their life in righteousness. We will all fall short of God’s glory; even those who appear to be walking in righteousness. I mean, take Billy Graham; I mean if I think of a righteous individual, the first person that comes to my mind is Billy Graham; dignitaries, world leaders come to see this man of God who has faithfully served God for decades, and is going to finish well. And we say, “This is a man who, from our perspective, has much righteousness in his life.” But if Billy were to come here today, he would confess to us that he falls short of God’s glory. We will all sin. But the concept of slavery to sin here is life-dominating sin. It is sin that “so easily ensnares us,” as Hebrews, chapter 12 says. That which seems to perpetually trip us up, and we can’t let go of. There are some people in this room, at this moment, who are bound up in the cares of this world, and they are constricted from a life of godliness by some sin that so easily ensnares them. And what Paul is revealing here is that, whether or not you recognize it, at some level you have allowed yourself to be a slave of sin. The Christian has the opportunity, because of the awesome liberty that we have in Christ, to choose to obey sin.
Well, what does it mean to obey sin? Look back four verses at verse 12 of Romans, chapter 6. “Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body, that you should obey its…” What? “…its lusts,” or its desires. The word obey, that is used in verse 16, is the same word that is used in verse 12. That you should obey the lusts, the desires, of sin. In verse 12 we find that we can choose to allow sin to control us; and we do so by submitting ourselves to whatever sin desires. You see, because of Adam’s Bomb, that we looked at back in Romans, chapter 5 – “through one man sin entered the world, and death through sin, and sin spread to all humanity” – so, because of sin resident in us, we have this fallen, 1 Corinthians 15 says, “this corrupt flesh;” we have this corrupted flesh, and it has sinful passions. It desires to do things that are not congruent, they’re incongruent with the nature of God. It has desires, sometimes, to covet after things, to lust after things; it has desires, sometimes, to rage on people. Whatever it may be, there are sinful passions, desires, resident within us, and when we submit ourselves to those things, when we make good on those desires, we are obeying sin. We’re submitting ourselves to sin.
What does it look like? Well, if you have a desire to overeat, if you have a desire to overeat, and you give in to that desire, you are obeying sin and you are opening yourself up to being mastered by, slave to the sin of gluttony. And our nation has lots of opportunities for that. All You Can Eat – Hometown Buffet. Might as well call it Hometown Gluttony. Well, if you have the desire to worry and to fret, and you give in to that desire – to worry and to fret over some potential “what if,” there’s millions of “what ifs” – if you give in to that desire to worry and fret, you are obeying sin and you are opening yourself up to the sin of unbelief, of unbelief – not trusting, not having confidence in God, who created you and who directs us. If you have a desire to lust after someone of the same or opposite sex, whatever it may be; if you have the desire to lust after someone, and you give in to that desire to lust after someone, you are obeying sin and you are opening yourself up to adultery of the heart. Jesus speaks to this in Matthew, chapter 5. If you have the desire to lust after some object – a new car, a new gadget, a new house, some better job position, whatever it is – and you are lusting after that, and you give in to that desire, then you have given in to, and become the slave of, the sin called covetousness. If you have a desire to be angry with someone, and in that you want to harbor malice and hatred towards them in your heart, and you give in to that desire, you have opened yourself up to be the slave of murder in the heart. Again, Jesus speaks about this in the Sermon on the Mount. Now, we could go on all day; but we can allow ourselves to be mastered, ruled by sin. I think you get the picture. And we all know people, because we love to point at other people, we don’t point at ourselves; we all know people that, as they get to the end of their lives, they’re just bitter, wretched, mean individuals. Have you ever met someone like that? They’ve given in to be the slave of this anger, this hatred, this bitterness, to the point where they’re just bitter to even be around. And we see that they’re mastered by that, to the point where they don’t even feel that they can get rid of it; they can’t stop it. They are now dominated by sin. And there are Christians, there are people who’ve been saved, they’ve been in church, they’ve been serving in church for 20 or 30 years, and they’re dominated by sin. And God is gracious, and wants to set us free!! “There is therefore now no condemnation,” as we’ll see in Romans, chapter 8. And thank God for the removal of that condemnation; because we’re not under the law of God, which brought condemnation; we’re under grace. But we can walk in the Spirit, not fulfilling the desires of our sinful passions, our flesh, and be free from that. This is what Paul is talking about here. Victory in Christ!!
Now I know some of you who’ve read this passage, you know we’re going to get to Romans, chapter 7, and it seems like it totally throws all this out the window. It doesn’t. It doesn’t. You see, what happens when we obey sin? Ultimately three things, we will see, come into being when we submit ourselves to sin. Number one: the robbing of our joy. A little over a decade ago, I was talking with an individual who had been a Christian for a long time, and he looked across the table at me and he said, “Well, I don’t have any joy. God’s called me to a certain ministry, and He’s told me that I’m not going to allow joy in your life.”
I said, “That’s just not biblical. That’s just not biblical.” It’s an indication that there’s something wrong in your life. You see sin will rob you of your joy. If you’re a joyless Christian today, it may be an indication, it’s a good indication that you might be living a flesh oriented or dominated life. You’re experiencing what Paul speaks of in 1 Corinthians as the carnal Christian experience. A Christian who is oriented towards this world, towards this earth; and that will rob your joy. Remember, the fruit of the Spirit is love, and then the second one is… What? Joy. The evidence of God’s Spirit being in me is joy. And if that’s not there, it’s a good indication that something wrong is there. The second thing that sin does is it brings bondage and captivity to our will. You see if you feel like you cannot get a handle over that sin that so easily ensnares us, your will is in bondage because of sin. Sin will always bind you. It will bind you. Thirdly, sin will bring death of effectiveness and witness. Sin will bring death of effectiveness and witness. If you are an ineffective witness for Christ Jesus, then it’s an indication that you may be in bondage to life dominating sin. It’s a pitiful existence; it’s a terrible place; it’s a miserable thing to walk knowing, theoretically or theologically, the reality of being set free from sin, but constantly being dominated by sin, and saying, “I have no joy. It would be better if I had never known Christ, because then at least I had the passing pleasures of sin.” You see, the worst existence is to be a Christian who’s walking in sin, because you have no joy and victory in Christ, and you have no pleasure in sin. Because every time you sin you go, “I can’t stand it! I don’t want to be doing that! The good things that I want to do, I don’t do; the bad things that I don’t want to do, that’s what I practice. O wretched man that I am. Who will deliver me from this body of death?” – Romans, chapter 7. Now I’m going to ask you to be incredibly honest; maybe you don’t want to raise your hand. Have you ever experienced that as a Christian? I have. It’s terrible!! God does not want His people walking in bondage to sin. Matthew 1:21, “Joseph, she’s going to bear a son; you’re going to call Him Jesus,” which means Jehovah has saved, “because He’s going to save His people from their sins!” He’s going to rescue them from their sin.
Well what can be done; what can be done for the person who has been robbed of joy, their will is captive, there’s been a death of effectiveness and witness? Verse 17, Romans, chapter 6: “But God be thanked.” “But God be thanked that though you were,” past tense, “you were slaves of sin, yet you obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine to which you were delivered. And having been set free from sin, you became slaves of righteousness.” First and foremost, thank God. See if you’re a Christian today and you have no pleasure from sin because of the convicting work of the Holy Spirit, and you have no joy because you’re stumbling in perpetual practice of sin – Thank God. Why should you thank God? Because you were, operative word, you were slaves to sin. You’re no longer under the dominion, the power of sin. If you are a Christian, then you have been set free. The prison door is open. You’ve been set free from being a captive slave to sin. You are no longer under the rule and dominion of sin. In the last section we saw that we have died to sin. Now here in this section we see that we’ve been released from sin’s power by the mighty power of God; both by the power of His death, burial, and resurrection; by His grace, which we have apprehended by putting our confidence, our trust in Him, our faith in Him, we lay hold of that. He has come to save His people from their sins. So what can be done? Well for the Christian that is robbed of joy, that is in bondage because of sin, they’re ineffective because of sin, here’s the first thing: go back to the beginning. “You obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine.” You obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine. We are set free from sin by a heart-centered obedience to the doctrine. What doctrine? The gospel. Jesus, in John, chapter 6, He said, “This is the work of God, that you believe.” You put your trust, your confidence in the gospel; when you did that, when you put your faith in Christ Jesus for salvation, you obeyed the gospel. And in obeying the gospel, which is measured by our belief, our trust, our confidence in Him; you have put your trust in Jesus for salvation, you have been saved from your sin.
So what then ought you to do? Well, notice secondly: walk in what you’ve been delivered unto. Look there again at that verse. It reads very interestingly, verse 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.” Now you might expect that it would read, “by which you are delivered.” But it says, “to which you are delivered.” You obeyed the gospel to which you are delivered,” not just by which you were delivered. Now both can be true, and there’s a lot of controversy over those words there, because in different versions of the Bible, some read, “by which you were saved,” or “by which you were delivered.” But many translations read, “unto which you were delivered.” Now you may say, “What exactly is the difference? Why is it…? It seems so insignificant – “by which” or “unto which.” Well we were rescued out of sin, out of death, and delivered unto the gospel, unto the good news of salvation from sin’s power. We are delivered into that; we no longer walk in or under the power of sin, because we’ve been delivered from that into the gospel; placed in the good news, the gospel of righteousness. We’re now clothed in His righteousness, and called to walk in righteousness. Therefore we must actively walk in that which we have been delivered unto. We must, by the power of God’s Spirit, choose to walk in that righteousness in which we have been clothed. We have been set free. And now that we are set free, we’ve become the slaves of another master. You see we have been set free from slavery to slavery. You see that, here in this passage. It’s not that we’re just set free from slavery, now we’re free. No. We’re set free from being mastered by sin to now being mastered by another Master. Jesus came to save sinners; He came to redeem us, to buy us from the slave of sin, the slavery of sin; to now buy us, to redeem us, to make us His servants, servants of righteousness. He’s rescued us. So it’s from slavery to slavery.
Verse 19 he says, “I speak in human terms because of the weakness of your flesh.” So Paul here admits that he’s speaking very heavenly and deeply spiritual things, and he’s trying to speak it in a way that we’ll comprehend. He’s saying things that are awesomely good things in eternity, that God has set us free from slavery to death and sin, and now to be slaves of righteousness. And he’s saying, the only way that I can seem to describe this is to illustrate it in a way that you would understand. Same thing that Jesus did when He spoke to Nicodemus in John, chapter 3; He says, if I speak to you of heavenly things, you’re not going to understand it, so I have to speak in human terms, “You must be born again.”
What a minute, even that is boggling his mind. “I don’t even comprehend that.”
So Paul says, “I’m going to speak to you in a way that hopefully you will be able to understand and grasp these heavenly things in a way that you’ll comprehend, using earthly illustrations. So that’s why I’m talking about slavery. Because it’s something you know.”
“For just as you presented your members as slaves of uncleanness, and of lawlessness leading to more lawlessness, so now,” because of the power of the cross, “so now present your members as slaves of righteousness for holiness.” In times past we submitted our members, Paul says. What does he mean by that? Well any faculty that is under your control is your member. So, your body, your mind; however you use your body or your mind, those are your members. You have the ability to move those things, or think on certain things. So, there are many exhortations in the scriptures that we would use our bodies and our minds in a way that produces righteousness. This is why Paul, in Philippians, chapter 4, says, “Don’t worry about anything.” Then he says, “Whatever things are lovely and of good report and honorable and true, think on those things. Set your mind on those things above where Christ is.” So the Bible repeatedly exhorts us to use our faculties, our minds, to engage them in things that are right and true and honorable, unto holiness. Then it tells us also to use our bodies in a way that brings glory to God. So he says here, you, in times past, you presented your members, your mind, your body, to think on and do things that were contrary to God’s law. Every single one of us did that in some way, shape, or form. We all presented these members that we have control over unto uncleanness, unto wicked things. And what did it produce? It produced lawlessness, and in 1 John, chapter 3 we find that all sin is lawlessness. It just increased with abounding lawlessness. That was our former life.
So now that you’re a Christian, you’ve been set free from that. Present your members, your faculties, your mind, your body to be servants of righteousness. Now the scriptures say in 2 Timothy 3, verse 16, “that all scripture is given by inspiration of God; it’s useful. It’s useful for doctrine, and reproof, and for correction, and for instruction in righteousness.” So this that we read and study when we get together, or which you read in your devotional time during the week, this is God-breathed, this is inspired from God. God is not into trickery. He doesn’t tell you to do something you cannot do. Why? Because He’s a good and loving Father. If you, dads, are good and loving fathers, you don’t tell your kids to do things that would be impossible for them to do. God tells us to give “your members as instruments of righteousness,” and He is telling us to do something that He has given us the ability in Christ to do.
Why? Well, “For when you were,” verse 20, “slaves of sin, you were free in regard to righteousness.” Listen, when you were not a Christian, when you were slaves of sin, were slaves of sin; well at that time, the influence of righteousness had no affect of you. Think back to that moment. I mean, we don’t often like to think back to our B.C. days – Before Christ. How many of you have some B.C. days? How many of you are thankful for A.D? B.C. – Look at verse 21 with me. “What fruit did you have then?” What was produced then? “What fruit did you have then in those things of which you are now ashamed?” Any of you still bear some shame for things that you said, thought, or did in your B.C. days? What fruit do you have of those things? What do you have to show for it? What do you hold on to now? Is there any lasting fruit? Sure, there may have been some passing pleasure of sin; Hebrews, chapter 11 speaks of that. There may have been some form of momentary pleasure there in that B.C. time. But do you have any lasting fruit to show from it, other than shame? “For the end of those things is death. But now,” verse 22, “but now, having been set free from sin, and having become slaves of God, you have your fruit to holiness.” Another way to say holiness would be saintliness. And the end of that is everlasting life. Paul, in Galatians, chapter 6, he says in verse 7, “God is not mocked; whatsoever a man sows, that he shall also reap. For if you sow to the flesh, you shall of the flesh reap destruction, corruption. But if you sow to the Spirit, you shall of the Spirit reap everlasting life.” What fruit, what lasting good fruit do you have from those things that you’re now ashamed of that you thought, said, did in your life before Christ? Is there any lasting fruit? No. Because those things just produce death. But now you’re free from that. If you’re a Christian today, you’ve been set free from that; you have become a servant of God, and you have fruit that results in holiness, being set apart unto Him. And the end is everlasting life.
Why is this? Verse 23, “For the wages of sin is death.” All you reap, all you gather from sinful living is death. But having been set free, by Christ, through the gospel of Jesus Christ, the death that we might experience is not an eternal death of punishment. But we will, if we choose to walk in continued, perpetual practice of sin, we will experience death of some sort – the death of joy, the death of effectiveness. The wages of sin, the only thing you will reap from sin is death. “But the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Notice again; we made a point about this in our study of chapter 5; three times in chapter 5 Paul uses these words: “in Christ Jesus our Lord.” The gift of eternal life is only found in Jesus Christ our Lord. But in Christ Jesus our Lord, when you receive Him as Savior and as Lord, you are set free from sin and death. Yes, the liberty afforded you is something like Diplomatic Immunity. You’re no longer under the law. You could choose to use that liberty in a way that will bring you again into bondage, resulting in the robbing of joy, the binding of your will, and the death of your effectiveness in witness. But you see, in Christ, you also have been set free unto a life that represents well the King of kings and His kingdom. Would to God that we would walk in that. And as we get into chapter 7 over the next several weeks, we’re going to get some good intel into how to do that.
Let’s stand and pray.
Father, I thank You for this powerful passage of scripture. We ask, God, that You would enable us, by Your grace and by the work of Your Spirit, to walk in those things that are both pleasing to You and satisfying to us. Lord, that You enable us to walk in a way that reflects Your grace and Your glory in the world in which we live; and to not allow sin to reign, to rule, to have dominion over our members; those things that You have given us the ability to control. Lord, help us to walk today and this week in total reliance upon You; to walk in a way that glorifies Your name. We ask this in Your precious name. Amen.