Romans 6:15-18 (NKJV) 15 What then? Shall we sin because we are not under law but under grace? Certainly not! 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? 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. 18 And having been set free from sin, you became slaves of righteousness.
As we continue to study what grace did for us we find ourselves in Romans chapter 6. Yesterday we laid out how Paul makes the case throughout Romans for a salvation that is neither based on law nor on works but on faith in the grace of in the sacrifice of Jesus Christ. The beginning of Romans 6 shows us that salvation did not simply cause us to have a change of doctrine or religion. Salvation changed us inwardly.
Paul says that because of what God did in Jesus we can walk in a new kind of life. We are “born again” and made “new creations.” When I received Jesus, that part of me that was created in the image of God was once again joined to him. I may look the same on the outside, but I am not the same on the inside. I now have access to something that gives me the power to walk in real victory. Paul calls that something newness of life.
This “newness of life” does not make sin less sinful. It makes me capable of eradicating it from my behavior from the inside out. Yesterday we read the method for applying this new inward life to our outward lifestyle. We must consider ourselves dead to sin and alive to God. When I begin to see myself in that light, I realize I do not have to sin. I can walk in the light and power of the commandments that reveal God’s nature to me.
By faith in God’s grace I choose not to yield my members as “instruments of unrighteousness” or sin. What are my members? Paul is talking about our bodies. There are all kinds of temptations in the world. To say they do not apply to me is foolishness. It is my choice what I will yield my mind and body to. When I experience the revelation of the grace of God, I have the power to resist that temptation by faith. I do not just try really hard not to sin. I do not sin because I have a power to overcome it.
The more I see the revelation that I am dead to sin and alive to God, the less sin has dominion over me. This is not a onetime thing. It is a process that every believer must go through. However, Paul is clear that it begins with the understanding of what God did and continues with our decision as to what we are going to “yield our members.”
In today’s scripture Paul begins to make a compelling case for me to walk in this process. Paul says again what he said in the first two verses of this chapter. “Shall we sin because we are not under law but under grace? Certainly not!” He says this because people thought that was what he was teaching. If I am not under law and grace has paid the price for my sin, then sin no longer matters. Paul saw the idea that he preached such a thing as an insult.
Paul’s letters were written to specific people, but God was really speaking through Paul to every believer. Paul makes some very strong statements to reveal how foolish it is to think that we do not need to worry about sin because of grace. Whomever you obey becomes your master and you become their slave. If you choose to obey sin you are a slave to sin. If you choose to obey righteousness you are a slave to righteousness.
We do not like the thought of being a slave. Satan loves to point out that if you obey righteousness by obeying God and His ways, you are a slave to God and his ways. That is true. He makes it seem that if you rebel against God and his ways you are free. He even tells us we are choosing to live our own lives and be our true selves. This is the same argument he has used since the garden of Eden.
Genesis 3:2-5 (NKJV) 2 And the woman said to the serpent, “We may eat the fruit of the trees of the garden; 3 but of the fruit of the tree which is in the midst of the garden, God has said, ‘You shall not eat it, nor shall you touch it, lest you die.’ ” 4 Then the serpent said to the woman, “You will not surely die. 5 For God knows that in the day you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”
“Come on Eve. God is just holding out on you. He knows that if you eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you will be free. As a matter of fact, he does not want you to know that if you eat that fruit you will be equal to him!”
That is exactly the same logic Paul is exposing in Romans 6. The result of Eve’s choice to be “free” from God’s requirements in the Garden was bondage for the human race. Paul says that when we choose to sin we make ourselves slaves to sin which opens our life to the bondage of death. Grace does not change that.
In verses 17 he makes a wonderful statement of faith about us. “Thank God that although you were slaves to sin you obeyed from the heart the Word of God that led to your deliverance.” Paul wants it clearly understood. You could not just “feel” the truth. You could not just understand the truth of salvation. You had to obey it. According to Romans 10 you had to believe in your heart that God raised Jesus from the dead and confess with your mouth Jesus as the lord of your life.
Salvation is twofold. You must believe in his sacrifice as the sacrifice for you past life. That is where it begins. If there is no faith in Jesus’ sacrifice, there can be no salvation. But Romans 10 also makes it clear that we must confess Jesus as Lord. This is not just saying some words religiously. We must yield to Jesus as the Lord and master of our lives.
1 Corinthians 6:19-20 (NKJV) 19 Or do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and you are not your own? 20 For you were bought at a price; therefore glorify God in your body and in your spirit, which are God’s.
What a wonderful promise I find in verse 17. I am no longer a slave to sin. I have been set free by grace. Hallelujah! I do not have to suffer the consequences of sin. I am not subject to the death that sin can bring into my life. Because I am not a slave to sin, I am not a slave to sickness, poverty, failure or discouragement. I am free from everything that sin brought upon humanity.
Galatians 3:13 (NKJV) 13 Christ has redeemed us from the curse of the law, having become a curse for us (for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who hangs on a tree”),
We must understand that the promise of verse 17 also includes the truth of verse 18. I am not longer a slave to sin. However, I am a slave to righteousness. I cannot have one without the other.
What Paul needs us to see is that we will be a slave to one or the other. Grace bought us the right to choose which one we will serve. When we choose to make Jesus the savior and Lord of our lives, we chose Jesus as our absolute ruler. We are not our own. We are bought with a price. That is the precious blood of Jesus. Does that not make us a slave to righteousness?
Once I make that choice by genuine faith, heaven becomes my eternal home. I no longer have to worry about a hell of separation from God. However, what of my life on earth. I must make a choice which master I will serve today. Will I serve unrighteousness, sin, and find that death is working in my life here? Or will I choose to be a slave to righteousness and reap the benefits of the life God has for me.
What determines my slavery? It is what I do with my members. My body, my emotions and my will are those members. When I choose slavery to God and his ways, life is the result. When I choose to serve sin and my flesh, I am going to find death working in me, my work, my body and my family. Grace gives us the choice, but it does not change the consequences we face in this life. What will you be a slave to?