Slaves to Righteousness, Rom. 6:15-23
“What then? Shall we sin because we are not under law but under grace? By no means!” Paul repeats the words that launched this discussion (6:1-2). The fact that Christians are not under the Law of Moses does not mean that we are not under law at all. The unmerited favor of grace does not preclude the necessity of godly living. Being without the Law of the Old Testament does not mean that we are antinomian, or lawless. James the brother of Jesus refers to the New Testament code for living as “the perfect law that gives freedom” (James 1:25). A few decades ago, it became popular to refer to the New Testament as a “love letter.” It is that, but so much more. It is our spiritual law, our guide to a right relationship with God.
Being made righteous by grace through faith does not leave the Christian without moral instruction and restraint. We have not been freed to do as we please. Rather, we have been made free to do as God pleases! Obedience to the gospel frees us from the dominion of Satan and servitude to sin. It frees us from the burden of guilt and the outlook of eternal punishment. Grace sets us free to serve God. Paul says we all serve one principle or the other, sin or righteousness. Sin leads to eternal death and obedience leads to eternal life.
We are slaves to righteousness (6:18). While the term “slavery” is generally troubling, it is used by Paul to indicate willing service to our benevolent God. Paul states that he is speaking in human terms—describing spiritual relationships in terms of everyday life. Slavery in general is a repulsive thing. The idea of one person owning another is against the high ideals of God. Throughout history the strong and ruthless have compelled others to serve them. Many a society has been built on the back of slavery. The many have unwillingly served the few. Surely we saddened that our own country operated by this principle many decades ago. Freedom is a precious concept. Yet, Paul says we are slaves to righteousness, slaves to God. Our service to God is offered willingly and gratefully. Even Jesus described the guiding principle of his life as service to others (Matt. 20:28). We owe God everything and we gladly offer him everything!
Paul says that Christians have “wholeheartedly obeyed the form of teaching to which you were committed” (6:17). This is obedience to the gospel (2 Thess. 1:7-9). No one is compelled to obey Christ. But why would we not do so? The soul that is convicted of sin and desires forgiveness gladly turns to the Lord. “What shall we do?” asked the crowd at Pentecost (Acts 2:37). Three thousand obeyed Christ and escaped the clutches of Satan that day, and gladly became servants of righteousness. And so it is with all of us who obey the gospel of Christ.
Payday someday. Life is headed to a natural conclusion called death. At the end of the world, God will call us all to account for our lives (Heb. 9:27). “The wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” (6:23). If we live and die in sin, we will get what we deserve—eternal punishment. If we live faithfully for the Lord, we will receive the free gift of God, eternal life! The choice is ours. There are only two courses of life. Sin and righteousness. What will it be, my friends? What shall we do?
My comments are not an inspired commentary, but rather a few words to draw attention to the background, context, and dynamic situation of the book of Acts. May God bless your reading of His Word. T.C.