In my last few posts I have looked at the prime focus of the death of Jesus and the purpose of His shed blood. That purpose was to set man free from sin and to release man from the power of sin, which is bondage to the law. It is by baptism into Jesus’ death that we receive the free gifts of freedom from sin, freedom from law and righteousness by faith. And these are given by the grace of God to those who have faith.
But this is not the end of the process. It is only the beginning and only the start of the power of the death of Jesus and what He did for us in this act of obedience to His Father.
What we see in this section of scripture is an appeal to go beyond these first steps. Paul is appealing to those who come to Jesus in faith to move forward and not remain captive slaves of sin but obedient to God.
The interesting thing about the Greek word from which the word “slaves” is translated in this section is that it is broader than what we come to consider slavery to be. The Greek word “doulos” can mean that the slave is either a literal or figurative slave and they may be enslaved voluntarily or involuntarily.
Now most people would not consider slavery in such a broad sense, but when we think of the things that man is often enslaved to we can see all of these aspects in the world and people around us.
Some people are enslaved figuratively because they are concerned about what another person may think of them. There are people who are “fashion victims” and would not dram of going out of doors unless they were perfectly made up and dressed to a certain standard. In that sense they are “figurative” slaves.
There are those who are “voluntary” slaves to things such as alcohol, tobacco, drugs, gambling and the other many vices of mankind. They initially choose to do such things until they become so addicted they are unable to escape their bondages.
And this is similar to what Paul is writing of in this section of scripture.
When it comes to sin, all of mankind is an involuntary slave to sin. All of mankind is born with the sin factor within them that causes them to sin and in this earth there is no escape from it except by the grace of God and faith in Jesus salvation.
For some people they choose to do the wrong thing. They choose to sin and so remain in this slavery because in doing so they reject God. As far as sin is concerned their choices make them the “obedient slaves” to sin.
Escape From Slavery
But this is not what The Lord wants for His people. His desire is that His people are saved from sin and are able to reject sin in their lives. That is why He first set us free from sin and freed us from the law so that we could begin on a foundation not based upon sin, but based upon the grace of God.
Paul is encouraging people to move past there old lives in these verses. He is urging them to seek the better path. The pathway to righteousness.
He is saying in verses 15-16,
15 What then? Are we to sin because we are not under law but under grace? By no means! 16 Do you not know that if you present yourselves to anyone as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin, which leads to death, or of obedience, which leads to righteousness?
He tells us that we become the slaves of the things or the one whom we obey.
Now remember Paul is speaking to those who have been set free from sin and set free from the law. He is not talking to the world at large but to those who know and have accepted the ministry of the new covenant in Jesus Christ and have received the grace of God.
So he says that if we are obeying the passions of our human nature and turning to sin, after we have been freed from it, then we are the voluntary and obedient slaves of sin. And conversely, if we turn from our human passions and desires and choose to do what is good, right and true in the sight of God we are the voluntary slaves of righteousness. It is our choice whether we choose to be enslaved by sin or voluntarily seek the path of life.
And Paul then strengthens his argument about these two pathways in the next verses 17-22 which say,
17 But thanks be to God, that you who were once slaves of sin have become obedient from the heart to the standard of teaching to which you were committed, 18 and, having been set free from sin, have become slaves of righteousness. 19 I am speaking in human terms, because of your natural limitations. For just as you once presented your members as slaves to impurity and to lawlessness leading to more lawlessness, so now present your members as slaves to righteousness leading to sanctification. 20 For when you were slaves of sin, you were free in regard to righteousness. 21 But what fruit were you getting at that time from the things of which you are now ashamed? For the end of those things is death. 22 But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God, the fruit you get leads to sanctification and its end, eternal life.
Verse 21 asks us what fruit did we get from being a slave to sin? That is, what benefits did a life of sin give us? What were the results that we got from carrying out sin?
Let me put it simply…nothing good! There was and is no good thing that ever came from sinning and in the end there is the fearful prospect of judgement and missing out on eternity with The Lord. Think about anyone who commits sin. Think of the outcomes and the fruits of their sins; the murderers, liars, cheats, thieves, robbers, rapists and the many other sins and sinners. Do they ever gain anything other than the immediate gratification of the flesh? Never! All who sin are caught, judged and condemned, whether by the courts, their peers, their friends and acquaintances or by The Lord Himself. They suffer for the wrong they have done…twice. They suffer now and they will suffer in The Lord’s judgement.
But the person who seeks what is good, right and true and turns away from sin is rewarded. One who does what is right is rewarded at least twice or maybe more than twice also. They receive the thanks, respect, gratitude and so on from those around them and they receive the commendation of The Lord. They learn and grow stronger as well and they grow in character which then strengthens those blessings. So it is a vastly greater thing and of infinitely greater benefit to do what is right in the sight of God.
So we see that these two slave, whether voluntarily enslaved to sin or to righteousness are based on the same premise. To what or whom will you be obedient. Who will you give allegiance to, God or the devil. That is what it boils down to.
And there is a strong difference between these two forms of obedience. Most of the time it comes down to one thing…time.
The sinner seeks instant, immediate or early gratification. They want it and they want it NOW! That is the nature of sin and the seeking of the things of the flesh. Consider Esau who sold his birthright for a single meal. Why? He came in from the fields and was hungry and he wanted food NOW! He did not stop to consider the consequences of what he was doing. He just had a human passion and desire, hunger, and wanted it satisfied immediately and chose to ignor the consequences.
But the person who seeks to do right learns patience. Many times the process of waiting may take years before they receive the reward. And especially those in Christ who will be rewarded with a place in God’s kingdom, but not until The Lord returns and everything that must happen has happened. Look also at Abraham who was told he would have a son to be his heir. It took about ten years of waiting before that occurred. But his patience and continued faith in The Lord paid off and so Isaac was born.
And so Paul encourages the Roman church and us today to consider what they choose to do going forward in Christ. He exhorts them to seek the pathway of righteousness for it has greater blessings and benefits both here and now, and into eternity.
Make the same choice. Seek the ways of God as you move forward and we will see in coming scriptures how God aids and assists us to choose the right things and to make the right choices as we continue our walk with Jesus.
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