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. 19 I speak in human terms because of the weakness of your flesh. For just as you presented your membersas slaves of uncleanness, and of lawlessness leading to more lawlessness, so now present your members as slaves ofrighteousness for holiness.
20 For when you were slaves of sin, you were free in regard to righteousness. 21 What fruit did you have then in the things of which you are now ashamed? For the end of those things is death. 22 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. 23 For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.
A pastor was teaching a Bible Information Class to a young couple who were brand new Christians. The first lesson was on law and gospel – the two basic messages in Scripture. The pastor explained the law: God desires us to be perfect, but we are sinful and can never reach perfection, and so we deserve God’s punishment for sin now and forever. The pastor explained the gospel: Jesus Christ, the Son of God, came into this world, took our place under God’s law, lived a perfect life for us, suffered the punishment for our sin on the cross, died and rose again from the dead to open heaven for us. There’s nothing we can do to get right with God; Jesus did it all for us. After the pastor explained the gospel to this young couple, the woman said, “Then why does it matter how we live? This sounds much like a ‘License to have a sinful lifestyle’ and ‘Get out of hell free’ card!”
That’s a great question. Scripture is clear that Christ has done everything to make us right with God, and that gift of forgiveness is something we receive only by faith in Jesus and not by the things we do. If that’s true, does it matter how we live our lives? Does it matter if we fight our sinful nature, or give up and give in? If faith is all that matters, why should we bother to live a godly life and listen to God’s commands? Paul’s question is one we also ought to ask ourselves: Who is your master? Are you controlled by sin, or are you controlled by righteousness?
Let us turn to Romans 6 in God’s Word and check out the Paul’s exhortation to the Christians in Rome on how their choice of the master would matter in the manifestation of their fruit and consequences.
Billy Graham said, “The strongest principle of life and blessings lies in our choice. Our life is the sum result of all the choices we make, both consciously and unconsciously. If we can control the process of choosing, we can take control of all aspects of our life. We can find the freedom that comes from being in charge of our life. So start with what is right rather than what is acceptable. “If you don’t make a decision, then time will make it for you, and time will always side against you.” Paul responds to the supposition that grace encourages or permits sin. He uses the analogy of slavery to combat a casual attitude toward sin and issues a stern warning on the dire consequences of yielding to sin. We are freed from sin not free to sin.
How to choose or possibly change your master?
1. Choose Sin OR Righteousness (vs. 15-18)
In the 1970s Bob Dylan sang a song entitled, “You Gotta’ Serve Somebody!” Dylan took this song straight out of Scripture. The apostle Paul states that every person serves somebody or something. He writes, “What then? Shall we sin because we are not under law but under grace? May it never be!” (6:15) Paul returns to his original question in 6:1: Does grace encourage sin? Once again his response is, “May it never be!” or “What in the world are you thinking?!” (My translation) Perhaps you’re thinking, “This sounds just like 6:1. Is this a case of déjà vu?” No, not exactly. In 6:1-14 Paul explained that Christ has broken the bonds of sin that enslave us; in 6:15-23 he warns that even though we are free we can become enslaved to sin by yielding to temptation. It is not enough to be a new person and have a new position. We must cooperate daily with the Holy Spirit and give ourselves away as “slaves” to who we are. True freedom is slavery to Christ.
We are slaves and we have no choice as to which master we serve. Your master is either sin, or it is righteousness. You do have a choice as to how you will serve that master, but not which one you serve. Consider any type of slavery you can think of, 19th American, 1st century Roman, 13th century Arabic, etc, and imagine the following scenario. A slave comes up to his master and says, “You know, you’ve been quite mean to me recently, so I have decided to leave your service and go be a slave to a nicer man.” What would happen to that slave? Well, if he lived through the beating, he would continue to serve his hard master until his master decided to sell him, or was forced to release him by some power greater than himself. You might think you can “Pick your Master” as if you have any choice. There is no choice in this matter because you have no power or desire to leave your master of sin. But thanks be to God, that’s what the cross did for you and me. At the cross sin was relieved of those chosen by God. Not a one was lost or hidden by Satan to prevent God’s purpose from being accomplished. Every one of you washed by faith in the water and blood of baptism have been set free from sin and enslaved to righteousness. Sin leads to death and obedience to God and His Word leads to righteousness.
Paul is saying, “I have some good news and some bad news for you. The bad news is that we are all slaves. None of us is free. We are in bondage to whatever controls our lives.” The person who can’t say no to sugar is a slave to sugar. The Christian who cannot turn off the television to read the Bible or spend time with his or her children is a slave to the tube. The person who cannot break an addiction to pornography is a slave to immorality. The person who checks his or her stock portfolio on CNBC every hour is a slave to money. We are slaves to whatever controls our lives. That’s the bad news. Here’s the good news: As believers, we get to choose our master! An unbeliever has no choice of masters. He is a slave to his old self, and therefore, a slave to Satan. As hard as he may try to break free, the chains of sin keep yanking him back. He can never break free. He is Satan’s indentured servant. But a Christian has been liberated to serve a new Master. We can opt for “obedience resulting in righteousness.” It is impossible to be neutral. Every person has a master – either God or sin. A Christian is not someone who cannot sin, but who is no longer a slave to sin and is sensitive to it. He/she belongs to God.
I remember reading about a man who carried one of those double placards with messages on the front and the back. The front said, “I am a fool for Christ’s sake.” The back asked, “Whose fool are you?” When you are someone’s fool, you are his or her servant or slave. You do what that person wants you to do. In Romans 6:15-23 we discover that whoever leadership we follow is, or yield to, we are their servant. There are two choices. You will either be the servant of sin or you will be the servant of righteousness. If you are the servant of sin, you are Satan’s fool. If you are the servant of righteousness, you are God’s fool. When we are God’s fools we are in good company. Paul was a fool for Christ’s sake (1 Cor. 4:10).
So, whose fool are you? You might respond, “I’m a Christian, I guess that makes me God’s fool. If you are really a Christian, you are partially right. But if you are really God’s fool as a Christian, you should be living a life that serves God and not yourself, somebody else, and not something else.
Illustration: A pilot was flying over the Arabian Desert and landed at an oasis to refuel his plane. After taking to the air again, he was soon over a mountainous area when he heard a scratching noise behind him. It sounded as if some animal had gotten into the fuselage of the plane. He became quite alarmed, for he knew if an animal gnawed away at the electrical wiring it could cause a serious malfunction. But there was no place to land in that rugged territory.
Then the pilot had an idea. He accelerated the plane and nosed it upward. Higher and higher into the sky he took it until the gnawing and scratching ceased. Later, when he landed at an airport, he found a huge desert rat that had crawled in unnoticed when he had refueled at the oasis. But the unwanted stowaway was dead! Accustomed as it was to the desert, it could not live when the plane climbed to the higher altitude.
So it is in our spiritual life. As we “draw near to God” (James 4:8), we put to death our mean, selfish, and sinful ways (Colossians 3:5). The old patterns of living cannot survive. “Seek those things which are above” (Colossians 3:1). The closer you draw in your relationship to the Lord, the more you will leave the world behind! [Henry G. Bosch, ODB]
2. Manifested by the Fruit (vs. 19-22)
We are to first dedicate ourselves daily to the Lordship of Jesus Christ, Paul said in Romans 12:1 that we are to “present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God”; so now let us present (give willingly and obediently) our bodies (or like it says here in verse 19) presents the members of your body in obedience of God’s word to His work and will. It simply means to daily give yourself and your life over to the righteousness of God, to live out practical righteousness. Don’t allow yourself to give place to sin (don’t … give place to the devil – Ephesians 4:27) but keep your heart and mind on Christ and His Word then by the power of the Holy Spirit you can live righteously.
When we were sinners, we could not help but to sin (when you were slaves of sin, you were free in regard to righteousness), that means we were nowhere near righteousness. We were on that slippery slope of destruction but thanks to God, He chose to reveal His love to us through Jesus Christ. Through the enabling power of Christ, it is now possible for us live righteously and we should present our members as slaves of righteousness. When we were sinners, our sinful lives lead to more sin, but when we became saints, our lives as slaves to righteousness should lead to even further righteousness.
The practice (lifestyle) of righteousness (that’s a good way to say it), will lead us into deeper walks of righteousness and holiness. A child of God, if he is growing in this grace walk, will be maturing more and more into righteousness. But if a believer is not growing or progressing, although they will fall back altogether out of righteousness, will slip back further into sin. We need to keep the eyes of our heart fixed on Christ so that we will not lessen in our commitment to our Lord and Master. Let’s commit to being His slave, obedient to His will which is His Word.
Illustration: Two girlfriends went to Mexico for a holiday and smuggled in a giant mouse to the US assuming it to be a puppy. It wheezes throughout the night and they just pet and snuggle him to bring relief to his pain. In the morning they took him to the Vet who disclosed to them that it was a rat with rabies not a small lovable puppy. Unassumingly that is exactly how sin can creep into one’s life and then bring utter destruction. Are you harboring a puppy look-like substance in your life?
3. Determined by the Consequences (v. 23)
I want to pause here for just a moment. We often use this text evangelistically, applying it to the unbeliever. This is well and good, for the principle is true and surely applies to the unbeliever. But, let us not overlook the fact that here Paul is applying the principle to the saint, not the sinner. He is applying the principle to the Christian, who may be toying with sin, not the unbeliever who is already living in sin.
The very first word of 6:23, “for” (gar) is often overlooked, yet it serves to connect Paul’s thoughts from 6:20-22 (and the whole of his argument beginning at 6:15). Furthermore, in 6:23 Paul uses an interesting word for “wages” (opsonion). The word he uses refers to the daily food payment a Roman soldier would receive. So what are the death wages of sin? The Word of God says that the paycheck of sin is death.
You are free to choose between two masters but you are not free to manipulate the consequences of your choice. Each of the two masters pay with his own kind of currency. The currency of sin is death. Fortunately, God offers us “eternal life” which is not something we earn or buy. While the initial possession of eternal life comes at the moment of justification through faith in Christ (3:24; 5:18), the enjoyment or ongoing experience of that life is the fruit of godly living. In other words, “eternal life” begins as “a free gift,” and with proper use, can produce more of the same. Though our salvation is a free gift from God, we have to be working it out every day with fear and trembling (Philippians 2:12). What choice have you made?
Illustration: According to tradition, this is how an Eskimo hunter kills a wolf. First, the Eskimo coats his knife blade with animal blood and allows it to freeze. He then adds layer after layer of blood until the blade is completely concealed by the frozen blood.
Next, the hunter fixes his knife in the ground with the blade up. When a wolf follows his sensitive nose to the source of the scent and discovers the bait, he licks it, tasting the fresh frozen blood. He begins to lick faster, more and more vigorously, lapping the blade until the keen edge is bare. Feverishly now, harder and harder, the wolf licks the blade in the cold Arctic night. His craving for blood becomes so great that the wolf does not notice the razor-sharp sting of the naked blade on his own tongue. Nor does he recognize the instant when his insatiable thirst is being satisfied by his own warm blood. His carnivorous appetite continues to crave more until in the morning light, the wolf is found dead in the snow!
Many begin using drugs, drinking alcohol, smoking cigarettes, or engaging in promiscuity behavior for the same reasons that the wolf begins licking the knife blade. It seems safe and delicious at first, but it doesn’t satisfy. More and more is desired, leading to a crisis or death. Don’t be fooled by the temptations of sin. Like the wolf, we can get away with it for a while. Eventually, however, its true character is revealed. Sin leads to death and destruction. “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord”. (Acknowledgements to www.dailywisdom.gospelcom.net)
Application: So, who is your master? Is it sin? If so, the wages of your service to him are death and Hell. But, I am glad that I can tell you that you have the opportunity to change masters this morning! You cannot be a servant of two masters for you will love one and hate the other …
Is your master Jesus? If so, then rejoice! For in Him, you have found life and liberty. You have found peace and purpose. You have found all you need. You have received eternal life! The difference is plain to see! And, it all lies in those last few words of verse 23: “through Jesus Christ our Lord.” He is the Door! He is the only way into eternal life. He is the only way out of bondage into freedom. Are you a slave? Yes you are! But, who is your master?