Slaves Of God Christ
In a Brief Survey of the Epistle of Paul to the Romans
Based on sermons preached in PCC Worship Services, July 2003 to Sep 2005
Part 26a of 83

15 What then? shall we sin, because we are not under the law, but under grace? God forbid. 16 Know ye not, that to whom ye yield yourselves servants to obey, his servants ye are to whom ye obey; whether of sin unto death, or of obedience unto righteousness? ” (Romans 6:15-23).

We have been studying the book of Romans. The theme of this book is “Justification by grace through faith in Christ alone.” This doctrine teaches us that the ground of a man’s acceptance before God is not in himself, but in Christ alone.

In chapter 6, Paul is resuming his exposition on the benefits of justification. He is speaking about how justification gives rise to sanctification in the lives of believers. Christ lived and died not only to give us a new status, but to give us a new life. Because of what Christ our Lord has done and is doing for us, we not only legally holy in the sight of God. We are also growing in actual holiness in our lives. This is sanctification.      

Now, as you can appreciate, the doctrine of justification and sanctification can be difficult to understand. Justification teaches us that we are righteous in God sight and will not be punished for our sin because of what Christ has already done. But sanctification teaches us that we are still sinners. We are righteous and unrighteous at the same time. We are just and unjust at the same time. Until we reach heavenly glory, it will be so. Now, this may seem very contradictory and confusing for many especially if you are hearing it for the first time.

Therefore, as Paul develops the doctrine, we see him taking pains to address some objections that may arise in the mind of his readers. Our text in the current study is an answer to another objection.

Earlier on he said: “Where sin abounded, grace did much more abound” (Rom 5:20).

This led him to anticipate the objection: “Then we should continue in sin that grace may abound.” We saw his explanation as to why it is wrong to do so previously (v. 1-14).

But he ends his explanation with an assurance that we shall be victorious in our fight against sin. He says (v. 14):

“For sin shall not have dominion over you: for ye are not under the law, but under grace” (Rom 6:14).

This leads him to anticipate another objection (v. 15)—

15 What then? shall we sin, because we are not under the law, but under grace?

Sin is lawlessness. It is a transgression of the Law or any want of conformity thereto. But since we are not under the law, we will neither transgress the law nor need to meet up to the demands of the law. What’s wrong then, with acts which may be regarded as sin? Sin is harmless for us isn’t it?

This argument obviously arises out of a misunderstanding of what it means to be “not under the law.” We are not under the law in that we cannot obtain salvation by the law. But this does not mean that the law is no longer relevant for the believer. God’s law is eternal! It is unthinkable for one who loves the Lord to live lawlessly!

Therefore, Paul responds emphatically: “God forbid!” Not at all! By no mean! Do not even think about it!

But why? Why not? In the rest of the verses, Paul essentially explains why. His answer may roughly be divided into three parts:

I.    v. 16         Axiom

II.  v. 17-19  Admonishment

III. v. 20-23  Arguments

1.  Axiom

a.   An axiom is a truism. It is a general truth that needs no proof. When Paul asks “know ye not?” (v. 16). He is not expecting to hear: “No, I don’t know!” He is not even expecting an answer. He telling us that what he is about to say is an obvious truth.

16 Know ye not, that to whom ye yield yourselves servants to obey, his servants ye are to whom ye obey; whether of sin unto death, or of obedience unto righteousness?

The word “servants” here is the word doulos, which means “slave.” It is obvious that whosoever you yield yourself to obey as a slave, you are a slave to whom you obey.  Paul is stating the obvious: If you submit yourself to someone to serve as a slave you are a slave to that person, and not to another.

b.  Why does Paul need to state the obvious? Because the obvious is often not so obvious to us due to our biases. You know what I mean. We are blinded to our own faults. We would yield ourselves to serve sin, but we would not admit that when we do so, we become slaves of sin.

By nature, we think that we are free. We hate the idea that we are slaves to anyone or anything. We think that we are the masters of own destinies. We think that we are in absolute control over our own lives. But that is a lie. It is an ancient lie, which Satan the father of lies, fed to our first parents.

Remember how the Serpent said to Eve:

“Ye shall not surely die: For God doth know that in the day ye eat thereof, then your eyes shall be opened, and ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil” (Gen 3:4-5).

What was Satan promising Eve? It was essentially freedom. It was freedom from God. Adam and Eve needed not to submit to God. They could be free as God is free. They can choose their own destiny.

But it was a lie. When Adam and Eve fell for it, they came under the bondage of sin and Satan.

The fact is: Man is a creature. He has a responsibility towards God. He was created to love God and to serve God. He is duty bound to serve God their Creator. When man fell into sin, he did not become free. He became a slave of sin and Satan. He who ceases to be a servant of God becomes a servant of sin!

It is like: We are either in the light or in the darkness. If we are in the light we are not in darkness. If we are in darkness, we are not in the light. Or to put it even more simply: We are either in the building or out of the building. We cannot be in the building and out of the building at the same time.

c.   Man is either a servant of God or a servant of sin. Man is either a grateful slave of God or a captive slave of sin.

You cannot be a slave of two masters. The Lord Jesus himself teaches us:

“No servant can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other” (Lk 16:13).

This is especially the so when the two masters are radically and fundamentally antithetical. Sin is unrighteousness. Obedience or righteousness is sinlessness. To sin is to hate God. And God hates sin. How can you be a slave to righteousness while being a slave to sin?

If you serve sin, you will be serving Satan and disobedience. You will serve sin “unto death” says Paul. You will be heading the direction of death. You will be rewarded with death.

If you serve obedience, you will be serving God and His righteousness. You will be serving “unto righteousness” says Paul. You will be heading the way of righteousness. The way of righteousness leads to everlasting life with God.

You cannot serve sin and righteousness at the same time. This is an axiomatic truth. It does not admit any exception. You are either a slave to sin; or you are a slave to righteousness. You are either a slave to Satan; or a slave to God. If you are a slave to Satan, you hate God. If you are a slave to God, you hate sin.

Now, I am fully aware of what some of us are asking in our hearts. You are asking: But what about the remnant of corruption? Isn’t it a fact that we will still sin? Isn’t it a fact that we will still sin wilfully? Yes, it is a fact. But does that change the fact that we cannot be a slave to Satan and to God at the same time? Does it change the fact that we can only yield ourselves to be slaves either to God and His righteousness or to Satan and sin?

The question, therefore, that we ought to be asking ourselves should rather be: Whose slave am I? Am I a slave of God and His righteousness? Or am I a slave of Satan and of unrighteousness? If I am a slave of God, do I serve Him by obedience? Or do I serve Satan by disobedience?

…to be Continued Next Issue

—JJ Lim