Slaves Of God In Christ
Admonishment
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 26b of 83


17 But God be thanked, that ye were the servants of sin, but ye have obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine which was delivered you. 18 Being then made free from sin, ye became the servants of righteousness. 19 I speak after the manner of men because of the infirmity of your flesh: for as ye have yielded your members servants to uncleanness and to iniquity unto iniquity; even so now yield your members servants to righteousness unto holiness.…” (Romans 6:15-23).

[The apostle Paul has been expounding the doctrine of justification by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone. As he does so, he deals at length with a couple of objections to the doctrine that seek to overthrow it by charging that it leads to immorality or antinomianism. In the first 14 verses Paul deals with the suggestion that if Justification is true, then we should continue to sin that grace may abound. But from verse 15 onwards, he seeks to deal with the suggestion that since we are under grace and not under the law, we may sin with impunity. 

His answer may roughly be divided into three parts:

I.     v. 16               Axiom

II.    v. 17-19         Admonishment

III.   v. 20-23         Arguments

In our previous instalment of this study, we considered Paul’s Axiom that those who continue to sin are really slaves to sin and Satan rather than slaves of Christ.

But now, Paul continues with an admonishment.  —JJL]



2.  Admonishment

a.   He begins his admonishment with a word of acknowledgement.

17 But God be thanked, that ye were the servants of sin, but ye have obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine which was delivered you. 18 Being then made free from sin, ye became the servants of righteousness.

Paul was, no doubt, aware that there would be among his readers those who would confess to be believers but who will continue to be servants of sin. There will be in the church wheat and tare, good and bad fishes, sheep and goats. But Paul speaks to the church as believers. A wheat field with some tares growing is still a wheat field. A flock of sheep with a few goats is still a flock of sheep.

Paul is writing to the church. So he speaks of the church according to what a church should be. There is much to thank God for the transformation that has occurred in the church. This is why Paul can say: “But God be thanked, that ye were the servants of sin, but ye have obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine which was delivered you.”

We were, like all men, slaves of sin. But we have been made free from sin. By an inner transformation, we have become slaves of righteousness. By God’s grace, that is what we are. At least that is what we should be. This is what we are acknowledging when we profess Christ.

b.  Paul is speaking to us according to our profession. We profess to be the disciples of Christ, the Son of God. Therefore, we should really be slaves of God and His righteousness.

Of course, we are not yet made perfect, and so naturally we will still sin. Paul acknowledges this fact even as he explains why he is using lowly and earthly illustrations to explain these important doctrines, v. 19—

I speak after the manner of men because of the infirmity of your flesh:

I speak after the manner of men.” Paul has spoken about slavery to sin and to righteousness. Of course, in reality, we are not owned by sin or by righteousness. Paul is only using slavery as an illustration to bring a point across. He is personifying sin and righteousness. They are like slave owners. The natural man is enslaved to sin because he loves sin and finds it impossible to resist the demands of sin. A lot more could be said to describe our relationship with sin and righteousness. But Paul is simplifying the relationship for the sake of his readers.  Why does he simplify it? So that we can understand his admonishment to yield unto righteousness!

… for as ye have yielded your members servants to uncleanness and to iniquity unto iniquity; even so now yield your members servants to righteousness unto holiness.

Put simply: You used to be a slave of lawlessness. Sin or iniquity is literally lawlessness. You belonged to lawlessness. You sold yourself to lawlessness. Your deeds were lawless. Your speech was lawless. Your thoughts were lawless. You were serving sin and uncleanness in all that you did, said and thought. You were promoting lawlessness with your entire being. You were heading the way of lawlessness. You were growing in lawlessness. You were heading the way that lawlessness would lead to.

But your old man is dead. Do not continue to do what your old man did. Do not love what your old man loved. Cease to be lawless. Cease to serve sin. Yield now your members to serve as slaves to righteousness unto holiness. Walk now in the way of holiness. Do righteousness. Use your tongue righteously. Think righteous thoughts. Walk towards the destination that the way of holiness leads to.

c.   Beloved reader, what is this admonishment to you? Are you already obeying it? Are you already serving God and righteousness? Or are you still serving sin? Is there a difference between your life now and your life before?

Many professing believers today live no differently from before they profess Christ. Is that the case with you? Yes, if you grew up in a covenant family, there might not be a drastic change as you grow up. But if you grew up as an unbeliever as with many of us, the question you must ask is: Has there been a difference? Is my life and attitude today different from before I professed Christ?  What are the differences? Can you list them?

Is the difference only that you say you are a Christian when asked what is your religion? Is the difference only that you attend church once a week? Beloved, if that is the only difference, you can be sure you are still serving sin.

If you are a believer, you must no more serve sin. You must serve righteousness. You must be a slave of righteousness and no more a slave of sin.

But why? Why should you do so? The answer is obvious isn’t it? But once again, what may be obvious to some of us may not be obvious to others. Paul therefore tells us why.

…to be Continued Next Issue

—JJ Lim