Romans 6:15-16 ESV
“What then? Are we to sin because we are not under law but under grace? By no means! 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?”
So, you call yourself a Christian, a follower of Jesus Christ, because one day you made a decision to believe in Jesus as your Savior, and so you assume you are good to go regardless of your willful, habitual, and premeditated sin against God and your total lack of respect for Almighty God.
You think because you prayed a prayer, or you confessed your sins at an altar once, or because you made a public declaration of Jesus as Lord that you are now guaranteed heaven as your eternal destiny, even though you spit at him in the face every time you sneak behind closed doors to engage in your secret sin, and then you lie about it, hoping no one will know.
God is not fooled! You may be able to fool some people, but you can’t fool God. He sees all and he knows all. Nothing is hidden from his sight!
So, does that describe you? Let’s examine that further.
What is a slave? He is one who is in bondage to another. Someone else has control over his life and can dictate what he can or cannot do. He is not free to do whatever he wants. Someone else rules his life.
As human beings outside of genuine faith in Jesus Christ, we are slaves to sin. Sin and Satan have dominion over us. We are not free from their control, although we are not excused on that account, because we do choose to remain or to be free (See Romans 1). We do choose who we want to be slaves to.
So, how do we know if we are a slave to sin or a slave to God? It all comes down to who we obey. Do we walk in obedience to our Lord, making it our practice (our habit) to do what he says, and to follow him in his ways? Or, do we walk in obedience to sin, the flesh, and the devil, doing what they dictate?
Do you not know that if you walk (in practice) in obedience to sin and the flesh that it will result in death, not eternal life with God? And, do you not realize that walks of obedience to our Lord are what lead to righteousness and result in eternal life with God? (Rom. 6:1-23; Rom. 8:1-17).
Romans 6:17-19 ESV
“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, and, having been set free from sin, have become slaves of righteousness. 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.”
Oh, I would welcome the news that all who profess faith in Jesus Christ truly are no longer slaves to sin, but that they are now slaves to God and to his righteousness! But, sadly so, that is not the condition of most professers of faith in Jesus Christ, at least not here in America.
Too many people who profess faith in Jesus Christ are not walking according to the Spirit, but they are still walking according to the flesh, living to satisfy the sinful cravings of the flesh. The flesh, thus, is their god whom they worship, and to whom they give their undivided loyalties and devotion.
So, how does this relate to the gospel of our salvation?
Many people these days are saying that we are not required to turn away from our sins (to repent), or to obey our Lord and his commandments, and that we are not required to submit our lives to the Lordship of Jesus Christ. But, does that fit with this passage of Scripture?
The whole point of Jesus’ death on a cross was to free us from our slavery to sin and that we might now become bond-slaves of God and of his righteousness. For, the righteous requirement of the law is fulfilled in us who walk, not according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit (Rom. 8:1-17).
So, when we believe in Jesus Christ, and we die with him to sin, that we might walk in newness of life in him, we are delivered from our slavery to sin. And we now become slaves of our Lord’s righteousness, which is evidenced by our walks of obedience to the standards of conduct he set out for us to obey, and to which we are now committed.
Before we believed in Jesus, we were slaves to impurity and to lawlessness leading to more lawlessness. But now that we have become slaves of Christ and of his righteousness, it should result in us living pure, upright, godly, moral, honest, and faithful lives in the power of God’s Spirit now living within us, who is moving us to walks of obedience and away from sin. And, this leads to our sanctification, our holiness, which is of God.
Romans 6:20-23 ESV
“For when you were slaves of sin, you were free in regard to righteousness. 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. 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. For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
I remember still the first time, as I read this, that I realized what this was saying. If we are slaves of sin, i.e. if sin is what we practice, if we are still under the control of sin and addiction to sin, then we are free in regard to righteousness. We are not slaves of righteousness. We are not righteous in God’s sight, for we are not under the influence of righteousness at all.
And, again, if we are still in bondage to sin, with sin ruling our hearts, so that we consistently and habitually obey sin instead of God, the end of these things is death, not life everlasting with Jesus Christ (Rom. 8:1-17; Lu. 9:23-26; 1 Jn. 1:5-9; 1 Jn. 2:3-6; Gal. 5:16-21; Gal. 6:7-8; Rom. 2:6-8).
But if we have been set free from sin, by God’s grace, through faith in Jesus Christ, and we are now slaves of God and of his righteousness, the fruit (result) we get leads to sanctification (holiness), and its end is eternal life.
So, the last verse here (v. 23) is one of those famous and often misquoted verses in the Bible. It is often misquoted and misinterpreted because it is usually taken out of its context.
So, when it says, “For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord,” we must interpret what this means in its context.
This is not saying that the free gift of eternal life with God means we do nothing, or that nothing is required of us. It is free because Jesus shed his blood on a cross to pay the price for us to be able to receive that gift. We do nothing to earn or to deserve it. We only have eternal life with God because of what Jesus did for us on that cross.
But… the gift is not freedom to continue to live in sin while claiming heaven as your eternal destiny. This passage in Romans 6 alone makes that abundantly clear! The gift is freedom from our slavery to sin and it is empowerment of the Spirit of God to now walk in holiness and in righteousness for the glory and praise of God (Eph. 4:17-24).
Footprints of Jesus
Lyrics by Mary B. Slade, pub. 1871
Music by Asa B. Everett
Sweetly, Lord, have we heard Thee calling,
Come, follow Me!
And we see where Thy footprints falling
Lead us to Thee.
Though they lead o’er the cold, dark mountains,
Seeking His sheep;
Or along by Siloam’s fountains,
Helping the weak.
If they lead through the temple holy,
Preaching the Word;
Or in homes of the poor and lowly,
Serving the Lord.
If Thy way and its sorrows bearing,
We go again,
Up the slope of the hillside, bearing
Our cross of pain.
Then, at last, when on high He sees us,
Our journey done,
We will rest where the steps of Jesus
End at His throne.
Footprints of Jesus,
That make the pathway glow;
We will follow the steps of Jesus
Where’er they go.
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