Freed to be Enslaved Part 2 – Romans 6:19-23
Pastor Mark Hardy August 19, 2012
Alexander III of Macedon, commonly known as Alexander the Great, was a king of Macedon, a state in northern ancient Greece. By the age of thirty, he had conquered almost the entire known world with his military strength, cleverness, and diplomacy. He was undefeated in battle and is considered one of history’s most successful commanders.
An example of his soldier’s allegiance to him is seen in that one day Alexander and a small company of soldiers approached a strongly defended walled city. Alexander, standing outside the walls, raised his voice and demanded to see the king. The king appeared on the top of the wall that overlooked the invading army, and agreed to hear Alexander’s demands.
“Surrender to me immediately,” commanded Alexander. The king just laughed. “Why should I surrender to you?” he called down. “We have you far outnumbered. You are no threat to us!”
Alexander then said, “Allow me to demonstrate why you should surrender.” He then ordered his men to line up single file and start marching. He marched them straight toward a sheer cliff that dropped hundreds of feet to the rocks below.
The king and his soldiers watched in shocked disbelief as, one by one, Alexander’s soldiers marched without hesitation right off the cliff to their deaths. After ten soldiers had died, Alexander ordered the rest of his men to stop and to return to his side. Realizing that nothing would stop the eventual victory of men who were willing to do anything their commander said, the king surrendered on the spot to Alexander the Great.
The soldiers’ unquestioned obedience to Alexander is a good illustration of the kind of obedience to our Lord and Master, Jesus Christ, that we as Christians are called to have in the passage that we will be looking at this morning. Turn in your Bible to Romans 6.
In Romans 6:15-23 we are looking at six aspects of Paul’s concern that we as believers should live in total submission to Jesus Christ and His righteousness and not fall back into our former sins. Thus far we have seen the first three aspects:
1) The Introduction: Abhorring another appalling question (v. 15)
2) The Principle: Obedience leads to slavery (v. 16)
3) The Application: Salvation involves changing masters (vv. 17-18)
This morning we’ll be looking at the remaining three aspects. The fourth aspect of Paul’s concern is this:
IV. The Analogy: Comparison of two Slaveries (v. 19)
A. Look at v. 19 where Paul says: I am speaking in human terms because of the weakness of your flesh… (Stop there)
1. Having already used the metaphor of slavery five times in chapter 6 (vv. 6, 16 twice, 17, 18), and another four times after this statement (vv. 19 twice, 20, 22), by saying, “I am speaking in human terms…” Paul is pausing to give a parenthetical explanation of the metaphor of slavery.
2. Why? He says, “…because of the weakness of your flesh.”
3. Whereas some view this as the Roman believers moral weakness or sinful fallenness, it is best to see Paul as simply referring to the weakness or frailty of his readers finite minds to grasp and comprehend the difficult spiritual truths of this chapter. Therefore, he uses a familiar human analogy to make what he was saying understandable.
4. Some also see Paul as apologizing for using this metaphor of slavery. But Leon Morris says, “He is not so much apologizing for using an illustration from slavery as explaining why he did it. Slavery was regarded as such a degrading state and it was so firmly repudiated in the contemporary world that it would not normally be regarded as an acceptable metaphor. But it makes things very clear to his readers, and they needed such clarity.” (pg. 264)
5. The image of slavery is quite appropriate in driving home the point that we as believers are required to have absolute and unquestioned obedience to Jesus Christ. This total submission is to characterize our Christian lives under grace.
6. Jesus said in John 14:15, “If you love Me, you will keep My commandments.” And yet, how often do we forget that we belong to Him, we are not our own but have been bought with the price of His blood (1 Cor. 6:19-20).
B. Paul then goes on to compare two kinds of slaveries. Look again at v. 19, “…For just as you presented your members as slaves to impurity and to lawlessness, resulting in further lawlessness, so now present your members as slaves to righteousness, resulting in sanctification.”
1. The word “For” (gar) demonstrates that the imperative or command in the second part of this verse is based on the indicative or historical fact in v. 18, whereby believers have already been “freed from sin” and become “slaves of righteousness” by God. Since that is who you are, do this!
2. Verse 19 is very similar to v. 13. But whereas v. 13 used a double command “do not go on presenting . . .but present,” here Paul employs a comparison: “just as you presented . . . so now present.”
3. Now in comparing these two slaveries, notice that Paul first focuses on: Our life before Christ by saying “just as.” Look again at v. 19, “For just as you presented your members as slaves to impurity and to lawlessness, resulting in further lawlessness…”
4. Before we became Christians we had already “presented” (parestesate—aorist active indicative)—we had offered or placed at the disposal the various “members” of our body—such as: our tongue, eyes, ears, hands, feet, etc., “as slaves to impurity and to lawlessness.”
5. Some say that “impurity” (akatharsia) refers to inward uncleanness, whereas “lawlessness” (anomia) refers to outward wickedness. However, in this case Douglas Moo is more accurate in saying, “Both words are general terms for sinful behavior, and Paul probably intends no strict difference in their meaning here.” (pg. 404)
6. Notice that when we as unbelievers presented the physical members of our bodies as slaves to impurity and lawless, it was “…resulting in further lawlessness (anomian).” In other words, our sin only produced more sin.
7. That’s how sin works! Our lives were characterized by sin and the transgression of God’s moral norms.
8. Now this doesn’t mean that we were the worst that we could possibly be, not at all. But since even our good deeds, morality, and benevolence fell far short of the glory of God, we continually and willingly sinned against God.
9. That was our life before Christ!
C. But things radically changed when we became Christians. Paul now focuses on: Our life after Christ by saying “so now.” Look at the end of v. 19, “…so now present your members as slaves to righteousness, resulting in sanctification.”
1. Now that God has already “freed (us) from sin” and made us His “slaves of righteousness” (v. 18) at the moment of our salvation, here we are commanded to make the decisive and wholehearted commitment to “present” (parastesate—aorist active imperative) the various “members” of our body “as slaves to righteousness.”
2. As we saw last time, the word “righteousness” (dikaiosune) refers to our declared righteousness by God as we are clothed in the righteousness of Christ and our final righteousness when we are one day made perfect in heaven when the very presence of sin is removed. But in this context it is best taken to refer to our moral and ethical righteousness in transformed behavior that is pleasing to God.
3. It is living to glorify God in our body (1 Cor. 6:20). And as we do what is right before God, notice that it is “…resulting in sanctification.” The word “sanctification” (hagiasmon) here does not refer to a state of holiness but to the process of continually being made more and more holy and loving in the likeness of Jesus Christ.
4. So here we see in comparing these two slaveries the drastic contrast between them: Slavery to sin, which begins at birth, brings the grim reality of moral deterioration; while slavery to righteousness, which began at new birth, brings the glorious reality of moral transformation.
5. Therefore, we as believers are commanded to continually choose to present ourselves in total submission and unquestioned obedience to Him, so that we will live in a way that is increasingly Christ-centered and world-renouncing.
6. Douglas Moo said it best, “(Paul) makes clear that Christians should serve righteousness with all the single-minded dedication that characterized their pre-Christian service of such ‘idols’ as self, money, lust, pleasure, and power. Would that we would pursue holiness with the zeal that so many of us pursued these other, incomparably less worthy goals!” (pg. 404)
7. How serious are we in obeying Jesus Christ? Since the downward pull of sin is ever-present, we can never drift into spiritual maturity in our lives.
8. John MacArthur correctly observes, “No one stands still morally and spiritually. Just as unbeliever’s progress from sinfulness to greater sinfulness, a believer who is not growing in righteousness, though never falling back altogether out of righteousness, will slip further and further back into sin.” (pg. 350)
9. Where are you at this morning in your allegiance to your Lord and Master, Jesus Christ? Are you really presenting your members as slaves of righteousness?
10. The fifth aspect of Paul’s concern is this:
V. The Paradox: Freedom in our Slavery
A. Look at v. 20: For when you were slaves of sin, you were free in regard to righteousness.
1. Reinforcing the urgency of the command just given (v. 19c), the word “For” (gar) here introduces vv. 20-22 as the ground or basis of this command. In other words, in vv. 20-22 Paul gives three reasons why we should present our members as slaves of righteousness instead of as slaves of impurity and lawlessness:
2. The first reason is because: Who we once were. Once again Paul focuses on our life before Christ in saying, “…when you were slaves of sin, you were free in regard to righteousness.”
3. During the entire time that we were unbelievers we were persistently “slaves of sin.” And as sin’s slave, we were also persistently “free in regard to righteousness.”
4. In other words, we had absolutely nothing to do with it. This means that even though unsaved people can be very moral, honest, law-abiding, and religious, in God’s sight their freedom is not true freedom.
5. As unbelievers we were free from the power and influence of God’s moral and ethical righteousness in our lives. We were free from doing right in a way that pleased God.
6. That’s who we once were. What a terrible freedom to have!
B. The second reason why we should present our members as slaves of righteousness is because: The consequences of sin. Look at v. 21: Therefore what benefit were you then deriving from the things of which you are now ashamed? For the outcome of those things is death.
1. It is possible to construct the first part of this verse like this: “Therefore what benefit were you then deriving? Paul then answers: “Things of which you are now ashamed.”
2. Both constructions are possible. But regardless of which one you choose, two things are true about the consequences of sin that follow in the wake of being slaves of sin and free in regard to righteousness: First, believers are ashamed of their past life.
3. The word “benefit” (karpon) here literally means “fruit.” Paul is asking, “What good fruit did you gain from the sinful things you did in your life before Christ.” The implied answer is, “Absolutely none!”
4. The fruit of our sinful lives in the past was all bad or rotten fruit in the sight of God. It included such things as sinful desires and thoughts that led to sinful words and deeds, that only led to sinful habits.
5. Although an unbeliever may boast about his sin, when he becomes a Christian all of those past sinful things are now a cause of shame. Notice that Paul says, “…the things of which you are now ashamed.”
6. This shame over past sins is one of the marks of true salvation. John Calvin rightly states, “As soon as the godly begin to be enlightened by the Spirit of Christ and the preaching of the gospel, they freely acknowledge that the whole of their past life, which they lived without Christ, is worthy of condemnation. So far from trying to excuse it, they are in fact ashamed of themselves. Indeed, they go farther, and continually bear their disgrace in mind, so that the shame of it may make them more truly and willingly humble before God.” (Mac. 351)
7. The second thing that is true about the consequences of sin is: Sin always brings about death. Look at what Paul says at the end of v. 21, “For the outcome of those things is death.”
8. The “outcome” (telos)—end, goal, or target of sin in all of its manifestations is “death” (thanatos). Sin is a deceiver.
9. It promises life, happiness, and fulfillment, but it only delivers disharmony, destruction, and death. Although sin can be pleasurable for a season and may taste like cherry Kool-Aid, it is laced with cyanide.
10. It tells us that the grass is greener on the other side of God’s moral fence, but when we hop the fence we find out that it’s a lie. I hear the heartbreaking stories of this every week from many of those that I counsel.
11. Sin always brings about death. This is death in all of its aspects: Spiritual death or separation from God, relational death to those who sin against each other in their relationships, physical death or separation of the soul from the body, and ultimately eternal death or separation from God forever in the “lake of fire,” which is called the “second death” (Rev. 20:14; 21:8).
12. Those who have rejected Jesus Christ as their Savior and Lord in this life will experience eternal death in the next. This may be Paul’s emphasis here since it stands in contrast to eternal life in v. 22.
C. However, receiving Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord reverses everything. The third reason why we should present our members as slaves of righteousness is because of: Who we are now. Look at v. 22: But now having been freed from sin and enslaved to God, you derive your benefit, resulting in sanctification, and the outcome, eternal life.
1. Paul says that as born-again Christians we were “freed from sin and enslaved to God. The words “freed” and “enslaved” are aorist passive indicatives in the Greek, indicating that these are already accomplished facts that we have received by God at the moment of our salvation.
2. It is a done deal that we are “freed from sin.” This doesn’t mean that we never sin; it means that we don’t have to!
3. As believers, the power of sin is broken in our lives. This is true freedom!
4. It is also a done deal that we are “enslaved to God.” We have been transferred from the tyrant master, sin, to the merciful Master, Jesus Christ.
5. What a paradox: As believers we have freedom in our slavery! We are freed to be enslaved to God.
6. Therefore, true freedom being “under grace” doesn’t mean that we are free to whatever we want. John MacArthur correctly states, “God’s purpose in redeeming men from sin is not to give them freedom to do as they please but freedom to do as He pleases, which is to live righteously….God delivers men from enslavement to sin for the sole purpose of their becoming enslaved to Him and to His righteousness.” (pg. 350)
7. Now because we are freed from sin and enslaved to God, notice that Paul goes on to say, “…you derive your benefit (or fruit).” In other words, you’ve got fruit in your life!
8. Although Paul does not say exactly what this “good spiritual fruit” is, every true believer bears some fruit in his life by the Holy Spirit, even if it is a shriveled up raisin (Matt. 13:8; Jn. 15:1-5, 16; Gal. 5:22-23).
9. You cannot be a Christian without bearing some fruit. Since we are now freed from sin and enslaved to God for the first time in our lives we as believers can do what is morally and ethically right before God and please Him by the power of the indwelling Spirit of God.
10. And notice that this good spiritual fruit of our slavery to God is “…resulting in sanctification.” As we saw in v. 19, again this refers to the process of being changed more and more into the holy and loving likeness of Jesus Christ.
11. And Paul goes on to say about this sanctification process at the end of v. 22, “…and the outcome, eternal life.” The end, goal, or target of a righteous life is eternal life because it is evidence that proves that one is truly saved.
12. Now “eternal life” is not just a quantity of unceasing life in the future; it is also a quality of life in the present. It is both a present possession and a future consummation.
13. It is a supernatural kind of life that belongs to God and is that which we receive the moment we are saved. It is God’s life in us, which is abundant life.
14. In His high priestly prayer to the Father in John 17:3, Jesus declared, “This is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent.”
15. It is this eternal life that is “life for our soul.” And in having this life of Christ we already have all that we need!
16. The sixth aspect of Paul’s concern is this:
VI. The Conclusion: Summary of three Contrasts
A. Look at v. 23: For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.
1. The word “For” (gar) here restates the outcome of vv. 21 and 22 and brings vv. 15-23 to both a solemn and triumphant conclusion. In this verse we see a summary of three contrasts:
• The contrast between two slave-masters: “sin” and “God.”
• The contrast between two outcomes: “death” and “eternal life.”
• And the contrast between two means by which each outcome is attained: a “wage” earned and a “free gift” received.
2. Look again at the first part of v. 23, “For the wages of sin is death.” Now the word “wages” (opsonia) can refer to an allowance or pocket money given to a slave by his master, but here it is probably better taken to refer to the money paid to a soldier by his commanding general.
3. Paul pictures sin here as a general who pays wages to his soldiers. In other words, sinners get what they deserve; they receive what they have earned.
4. And the wages that sin pays is “death.” That’s not what anyone wants when they sin, but that’s what they get.
5. And once again death here is death in all aspects: spiritual, relation, physical, and eternal death or separation from God. This is no arbitrary sentence, but is simply the inevitable consequence of sin.
B. But in stark contrast to sin’s wages of death, Paul says, “…but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
1. Whereas death is the deserved wage paid by sin, eternal life is the underserved “free gift” (charisma) or grace gift bestowed by God. Ephesians 2:8-9 says, “For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast.” (Jn. 3:16, 36; 17:3; Tit. 3:5)
2. And as we saw in v. 22, eternal life is not just a quantity of unceasing life in the future; it is also a quality of life in the present. It is both a present possession and a future consummation.
3. And Paul closes by saying that this eternal life that God gives as a free gift is only “…in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Once again we see Christ’s full title.
4. “Jesus” means Savior; “Christ” means Messiah, Anointed One; and “Lord” means Yahweh or Jehovah. As our Lord and Master He alone is worthy of our total submission and unquestioned obedience.
5. Only the Lord Jesus Christ can change anyone from being a slave of sin who deserves death to being a slave of God who receives eternal life as an undeserved free gift of grace. Is Jesus Christ your Savior and Lord? (Jn. 14:6; Acts 4:12).
In closing, as believers who are “under grace,” God calls us to a life of total submission and unquestioned obedience to Him. Are you living out who you really are this morning? If you are, thank God for all He had done for you in Christ. If not, ask His forgiveness for obeying your old master of sin who no longer has any claim on you. And rededicate yourself to obey your new Lord and Master.
And if you are not a Christian, I encourage you to receive Jesus Christ as your Savior and Lord, so that you too can experience true freedom from sin and the free gift of eternal life that only He can give. Do today what one day you will be glad you did when you stand before Almighty God.