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Romans 6: 15-23
15 So what? Should we sin because we aren’t under Law but under grace? Absolutely not! 16 Don’t you know that if you offer yourselves to someone as obedient slaves, that you are slaves of the one whom you obey? That’s true whether you serve as slaves of sin, which leads to death, or as slaves of the kind of obedience that leads to righteousness. 17 But thank God that although you used to be slaves of sin, you gave wholehearted obedience to the teaching that was handed down to you, which provides a pattern. 18 Now that you have been set free from sin, you have become slaves of righteousness. 19 (I’m speaking with ordinary metaphors because of your limitations.) Once, you offered the parts of your body to be used as slaves to impurity and to lawless behavior that leads to still more lawless behavior. Now, you should present the parts of your body as slaves to righteousness, which makes your lives holy. 20 When you were slaves of sin, you were free from the control of righteousness. 21 What consequences did you get from doing things that you are now ashamed of? The outcome of those things is death. 22 But now that you have been set free from sin and become slaves to God, you have the consequence of a holy life, and the outcome is eternal life. 23 The wages that sin pays are death, but God’s gift is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Paul used many analogies to convey salvation’s realities. In this passage, he used another image, even more startling today than in his time: slavery. He vividly contrasted “slaves to sin” and “slaves to God.” This spoke to people who thought God’s grace meant they could do whatever they pleased and to people who made fun of his teaching about grace. He did not mean that slavery to God is dismal, like being humanly enslaved. “The rules and guidelines for Christian living are not there because God happens to like squashing people into a particular shape whether or not it’s good for them…. The rules are there because… it matters which road you take. One road will ultimately lead you not just into a cul-de-sac but into disaster. The other road leads you to… life in all its fullness.”Choosing Jesus as Savior changes your life, but for the better. “Like wages, death—separation from God, now and forever—is deserved, but eternal life is God’s gracious gift in Christ (see also Romans 4:4-5).”
- We don’t usually think or talk much about slavery (though by some estimates there are as many as 27 million slaves today), so Paul’s image may bother us. But sin, he said, ultimately turns all who submit to it into slaves. What hurtful actions, feelings or thoughts have, at some point in your life, held you in slavery, or still do? N. T. Wright also wrote, “There is a sharp challenge there for Christians in every age and generation, not least those who have come to faith as adults. Think of the ways in which, in your former life, you employed a lot of energy in going after things which you now regard as wrong. Are you using that same energy, imagination and initiative in working for God’s kingdom, in extending his covenant purposes in the world?”How did (or will) Jesus’ love free you to answer that question in energetic, imaginative, kingdom-building ways?
God, I choose you to be the one I obey, the one who shapes my life. Free me from damaging thoughts and actions that have enslaved me, and set my life aglow as an outpost of your love. Amen.
Wright, N.T., Paul for Everyone, Romans Part One: Chapters 1-8 (p. 115). Westminster John Knox Press. Kindle Edition.
Michael J. Gorman, study note on Romans 6: 22-23 in The CEB Study Bible. Nashville: Abingdon Press, 2013, p. 286 NT.
Wright, N.T., Paul for Everyone, Romans Part One: Chapters 1-8 (p. 112). Westminster John Knox Press. Kindle Edition.
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