“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.”
(Romans 6:17-18 ESV)
As we approach the 4th of July, our thoughts revolve around the concept of freedom. This, after all, is what America stands for. And this, of course, is something we all long for. We want to be free to live our own life, without the authorities that be telling us what to do. We want to be free to make our own decisions, without the powers that be making them for us.
This is true also when it comes to our relationship with God. We tend to think of ourselves as free. And we tend to think that God has given us free will.
He has given us free will, in a sense. He doesn’t tell us if we should marry nor whom we should marry. He doesn’t tell us what to eat or what to wear (other than the fact that it should be modest). He doesn’t tell us whether we should own a dog, a cat, or no pet at all. Decisions like these are left to us.
However, in a very real sense, we are not free in the least. Before coming to faith in Christ, we are slaves to sin. Sin is our master. The only thing we can do is sin. No matter how hard we try, we cannot live for the Lord and we cannot obey him.
After coming to faith in Christ, we are free from sin. I don’t mean by this that we’re perfect or that we no longer struggle with sin. However, because of Jesus, it doesn’t have the hold on us that it once did.
But this doesn’t mean we’re free. We still aren’t free to live life as we choose. We still aren’t free to make any and every decision for ourselves. We aren’t free because, after coming to faith, we are slaves of righteousness.
After coming to faith in Christ, righteousness is our master. After coming to faith in Christ, it’s righteousness that controls us. After coming to faith in Christ, we desire to live for the Lord and we strive to do so in all things.
This is what Paul is revealing to us in the above passage. And even though we tend to think of slavery in a negative way, even though the very term puts us off, in this sense it is good. It’s good because, as slaves of righteousness, we receive the benefits of righteousness.
As he goes on to say, in verses 20-22: “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.”