Slave to sin or slave to righteousness?

Two brothers, in this first family on earth, chose their occupations and when the time came for harvest, they both turned to God with a gift, each in their own ways. They both brought an offering from the fruit of their labors. One brother, a tiller of the ground, brought a portion of his harvest. The other brother, a keeper of flocks, brought the first lambs of his flock.

Two offerings, yet Hebrews 11:4 tells us that Abel’s offering of a lamb was made by faith – making him righteous. Cain’s offering came from a place of works, trying to please God through man’s efforts. Because God had no regard for Cain’s offering, the older brother became angry – his pride was hurt, jealousy rising of his younger brother Abel.

God gave Cain a chance to repent and be restored in fellowship – if you do well, will not your countenance be lifted up?

And a warning – And if you do not do well, sin is crouching at the door, and its desire is for you, but you must master it.

You must master it, God said, but did Cain? No. Instead he killed his brother Abel, lied to God about the deed, and then did not repent of the evil, but cried out about the punishment.

Cain did not master the sin, but sin mastered Cain.

Faith was the key distinguishing feature between Abel and Cain’s offerings. Faith to obey God as the master.

We keep sin from ruling over us by allowing God to master us. Without God as our master, we will be slaves to sin, just like Cain.

So we begin our study today with Romans 6:14 – For sin shall not be master over you, for you are not under law but under grace.

It wasn’t the offering that God rejected, it was Cain’s heart, filled with works and pride. If Cain had repented and accepted God’s grace, things would have been different. Cain is not alone. Through the pages of the Bible, beginning with Adam, we see sin as a master over those who do not have a relationship of grace with God.

Sin mastered Lot – who preferred the fertile valley of foreigners over Abraham’s communion with God. And while he was declared righteous, the consequence of that choice to live near evil defined the rest of his life.

Sin mastered Joseph’s brothers – who were so jealous they would nearly murder their brother and sold him into slavery.

Sin mastered Sampson – who preferred Delilah’s allure over his Nazarite promise to God.

Sin mastered Saul – who disobeyed God’s commands and spared Agog and kept the spoils of the battle for himself.

And so it goes through the Bible, but we also see where grace trumps sin.

Sin overcame David – when he slept with Bathsheba and had her husband Uriah killed so he could marry her – but sin did not hold dominion over David. As David cried out in true repentance and sorrow, God forgave him and the “joy of his salvation was restored.”

And in nearly every faith filled example in the Bible from Abraham to Peter, we see the examples of repentance, forgiveness and grace overcoming their sins – so sin does not master them.

The Word of God is full of the causes, the problems, the consequences, the punishment and the universality of sin. As our Romans Road tells us in Romans 3:23 – all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.

But last week, we learned that we can be dead to sin because of our identification with the death and resurrection of Christ – who defeated sin on the cross and defeated death by rising from the dead. In verse 11, Paul tells us, “Even so consider yourselves (or reckon yourselves) dead to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus.”

This is such a liberating idea for the believer that Paul restates it in the second half of Romans 6, hoping that by presenting it in a different way, that this idea of being dead to sin and alive to God might move from our head to our hearts and really, truly set us free from the mastery of sin.

In verse 15, he says, “What then? Shall we sin because we are not under the law but under grace? It’s the same question as in Romans 6:1, and the answer is the same as well, May it never be!”

Now, Paul gives us an analogy of being a slave to sin or a slave to righteousness.

Do you not know that when you present yourselves to someone as slaves for obedience, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin resulting in death, or of obedience, resulting in righteousness?

He is using this picture of being a slave so his readers would better understand the power of sin to rule over you. His readers well understood what being a slave meant.

Slavery – the complete mastery or dominion of one individual over another was embedded in Roman culture. As many as 1 in 3 people in Italy and 1 in 5 people across the Roman Empire were slaves. Slavery was an economic pillar in Roman society. There was not much of a middle class – you were either a slave owner or a slave. Slavery was not based on race. Most of the slaves were captives taken from war. The children of slaves automatically became slaves. Piracy took people to the slave markets in Rome as well. Slaves had no rights, could not form families or own property.

Slavery was so common that many new believers in Christ were slaves and Paul had to address how they were to act in Christ. In 1 Cor. 7:21, he says, “Were you called while a slave? Do not worry about it; but if you are able also to become free, rather do that. For he who was called in the Lord while a slave, is the Lord’s freedman, likewise, he who was called while free is Christ’s slave.

While there is freedom in Christ, Paul still continues, “Brethren, each one is to remain with God in that condition in which he was called.”

In Colossians, Paul exhorts slaves – Slaves, in all things obey those who are your masters on earth, not with external service, as those who merely please men, but with sincerity of heart, fearing the Lord. Whatever you do, do your work heartily, as for the Lord rather than men.”

So Paul using slavery as an image of someone or something having mastery over them was well understood by his readers.

He gives us a choice: will be slaves to sin or slaves to righteousness?

And it’s an either or choice – It’s not like an ice cream cone where you can have a little chocolate and a little vanilla – you can’t have a little of both.

Jesus said in Matt. 6:24, “No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will be loyal to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon.

Because of Adam and sin entering the world, initially we are not given a choice. We are born into the slavery of sin. [Psa 51:5 NKJV] Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, And in sin my mother conceived me.

And then, the world with its lusts and evil entices people, even believers, into slavery to sin. They promise them freedom, but it is actually bondage.

2Pe 2:18 NKJV] For when they speak great swelling [words] of emptiness, they allure through the lusts of the flesh, through lewdness, the ones who have actually escaped from those who live in error. While they promise them liberty, they themselves are slaves of corruption; for by whom a person is overcome, by him also he is brought into bondage.

So often Christianity is portrayed by the world and unbelievers as a place of bondage, where there is no freedom to experience life and be tolerant of others. And the choice of slavery to sin and slavery to righteousness is muddled and confusing.

That’s why we desperately need Jesus to make the choice clear for us. How many of us were in the pit before we looked up? How many of us were desperate before we reached for the lifeline of Jesus? But God reached out to us through His Son Jesus.

This choice for us to be slaves to righteousness is his.

[Eph 1:4 NKJV] just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love, having predestined us to adoption as sons by Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will,

Let me explain: A slave cannot free himself.

In Roman times, slaves could be set free by their masters. Some slaves earned enough money to buy their price – but even that – the ability to make money and the price to be paid – was set by their masters, so in the end, freedom depended on their master setting them free

Romans 6:17 says, “But thanks be to God that though you were slaves to sin, you became obedient from the heart to that form of teaching to which you were committed, and having been freed from sin, you became slaves to righteousness.

So in the choice to be a slave to sin or a slave to righteousness, we thank God for Jesus Christ our Lord who rescued us from darkness and brought us into the kingdom of light.

Who made the choice for us by becoming our ransom.

Jesus paid the ransom for us: [Phl 2:7 NKJV] but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, [and] coming in the likeness of men. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to [the point of] death, even the death of the cross.

Our freedom comes at a cost – one that Jesus paid.

[1Co 6:20 NKJV] For you were bought at a price; therefore glorify God in your body and in your spirit, which are God’s.

We would not be able to free ourselves from sin without Christ. The Jews thought that as God’s chosen people, they were free, but they were wrong.

[Jhn 8:31 NKJV] Then Jesus said to those Jews who believed Him, “If you abide in My word, you are My disciples indeed. “And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.”

[Jhn 8:33 NKJV] They answered Him, “We are Abraham’s descendants, and have never been in bondage to anyone. How [can] You say, ‘You will be made free’?”

They had no idea that they were already slaves to sin.

[Jhn 8:34 NKJV] Jesus answered them, “Most assuredly, I say to you, whoever commits sin is a slave of sin.

But those who are set free by Christ are no longer slaves, but are children of God.

[Jhn 8:35 NKJV] “And a slave does not abide in the house forever, [but] a son abides forever. Therefore if the Son makes you free, you shall be free indeed.

Commentator David Guzik had such a wonderful explanation of being a slave, a slave to sin and a slave to righteousness that I want to share it with you.

He noted that a Greek scholar identified a slave this way:

  1. One born into a condition of slavery
  2. One who will is swallowed up in the will of another
  3. One who is bound to the master with bounds that only death can break
  4. One who serves his master to the disregard of his own interest

So taking those requirements of a slave, Guzik says that the following is true in regard to our slavery to sin:

We were born as slaves to sin

  1. Our will was swallowed up and captive to the will of sin within us
  2. Our bondage to sin was so strong that only death – spiritually dying with Jesus on the cross – could break our bondage,.
  3. We were so enslaved to sin that we served it to the disregard of our own interest, even when sin destroyed us.

And now the following is true in regard to our slavery to righteousness:

  1. We are born again, now as slaves to righteousness
  2. Our will is now swallowed up in the will of God. It is his will that matters to us, not our own.
  3. We are bound to Jesus with bonds that only death can break; but since He has triumphed over death and given us eternal life, those bonds will never be broken!
  4. We now willingly serve Jesus to the disregard of our own interests.

So as slaves of righteous, set free from the bondage of sin by Jesus who made us free indeed, how do we act?

Romans 6:19,20 – I am speaking in human terms because of the weakness of your flesh (the analogy of slavery is a little uncomfortable for Paul because of the freedom of Christ, but he continues in it for understanding).

For just as you present your members as slaves to impurity and to lawlessness, so now present your members as slaves to righteousness, resulting in sanctification. For when you were slaves of sin, you were free in regard to righteousness.

When we were unbelievers, slaves to sin, we sought after things that were impure, and evil, not knowing that the passing pleasures of sin lead to death. But as slaves to righteousness, we are now on the path to becoming more like Jesus – sanctification.

Verses 21-22 – What fruit did you have then 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, and having become slaves of God, you have your fruit to holiness, and the end, everlasting life.

Slaves of God. Paul called himself a bondservant of Christ – the slave that has been set free, but now chooses to serve His master. That is us as well – bondservants of Christ. Oswald Chambers says “The passion of Christianity comes from deliberately signing away my own rights and becoming a bondservant of Jesus Christ.”

Looking at the epistles, what does a bondservant of Jesus Christ do?

Gal. 1:10 – pleases God rather than men

Col 4:12 – labors for others in prayer

2 Cor. 4:5 – preach Christ the Lord

2 Tim 2:24-25 – not quarrel, but gentle to all, able to teach, patient, in humility correcting those in opposition, that they may know the truth

Eph 6:6 – does the will of God

And we end chapter 6 with another step on the Romans Road: For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.

I am so grateful for this free gift of eternal life in Jesus. I am so grateful that I am no longer a slave to sin. Paul emphasizes this so much in this chapter. He wants you to get this. Did you know that he writes that you are no longer in bondage to sin in one way or another 7 times in chapter 6.

In verse 2 – we who died to sin

In verse 6 – no longer slaves to sin

Verse 7 – freed from sin

Verse11 – consider yourself dead to sin

Verse 14 – sin shall not be master over you

Verse 18 – having been freed from sin

Verse 22 – freed from sin

And our response to this? We love God, serve Him, worship Him and give Him our all. Because we want to hear someday,

[Mat 25:23 NKJV] “His lord said to him, ‘Well [done], good and faithful servant; you have been faithful over a few things, I will make you ruler over many things. Enter into the joy of your lord.’

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