Brethren, having been set free from sin, you have become slaves of righteousness. I am speaking in human terms, because of your natural limitations. For just as you once yielded your members to impurity and to greater and greater iniquity, so now yield your members to righteousness for sanctification. When you were slaves of sin, you were free in regard to righteousness. But then what return did you get from the things of which you are now ashamed? The end of those things is death. But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God, the return you get is sanctification and its end, eternal life. For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.
One of the strengths of Paul is his ability to frame his arguments logically, clearly, and colourfully. Paul wanted salvation of everyone, provided they were prepared to be saved. Salvation of course, required an understanding of what it was that you believed in. You cannot be saved unless you know what you are being saved to, by whom and by how. Hence, it is imperative to have a clear understanding of what it means to be in Christ.
True, salvation comes through grace. To Paul, salvation under the law was not possible. One sin is enough to make you a lawbreaker, a sinner and trespasser, so all the law did was put hurdles in place for humankind to be disobedient and hence condemned. However, where there is disobedience through which sin is increased then grace will abound all the more to fill the space that the sin has vanquished. Think about it: if through sin we create failure then more of what overcomes failure will be needed. Does that mean that we should fail deliberately so that grace may abound within? That proposition is reprehensible. How can one choose to live in sin when as Christians we have imitated Christ and as a result we, shared with Christ his death to sin and resurrection to glory. No one should test God. No one should say I will sin and my sin will be the catalyst for my salvation. Sin to be saved has never been the Christian understanding of following Christ.
Indeed, Paul says quite clearly that we were slaves to sin before the redeeming action of Christ. Through Christ, our old self has been crucified, the sinful body destroyed and as a result we are no longer enslaved to sin. Why? Because Christ died for us once and for all. Through his resurrection he has destroyed death and by destroying death Christ has robbed the devil of his greatest weapon which is the imprisonment and ultimately the destruction of human souls. Now, we know that if we believe in Christ and do not yield to weakness and sin we cannot be torn out of the hand of Christ that holds us close to his heart. We are his and he will save us.
Paul uses the motif of a slave to give better understanding of what he means. A slave, in Roman times was part of, and pillar of, Roman life. It is estimated that one fifth of the entire population of the Roman Empire were slaves. In Italy, there was a greater concentration of slaves with almost one third of the populace owned by the other two thirds. A slave was property and, as property, the owner could do whatever he willed. Their lives and how they lived them depended upon the whim of others. Laws surrounding slaves were strictly enforced for, if the slaves thought that they could overthrow their tormentors and owners they would do so. It is for that reason that when Paul writes to Philemon in relation to his runaway slave Onesimus he appeals to Philemon a Christian not to deal severely with his property Onesimus for this slave is also a beloved brother. Indeed, Paul declares if there is any debt owed to Philemon by his slave he, Paul, will repay it on his behalf. Paul makes this appeal so that this runaway slave is not put to death.
So, a slave is property. A slave can be the property to sin. In other words sin owns the slave. When you think about it if sin owns you it will not only overwhelm you but insist upon driving you to eternal death. Sin is the master and you are the slave and the master has only one goal and that is to dash you to oblivion. Now, through Christ, you are made free but freedom does not exist in a vacuum. Either, you are made alive by evil which lead you to death or you are made alive by Christ that leads you to life. There is no fence sitting with Christ. Certainly there is no fence sitting in respect of evil. You cannot be at peace with evil. It will dominate you and then subsume you and finally make you his. Do not for a moment think that you can avoid this struggle. Either it is light and life or it is darkness and death. So, the choice is clear either you are a slave to life or a slave to death.
So, choose life. In order to choose life you must use all your senses and all your power and all your might for righteousness, for it is only through righteousness that you could be sanctified.
Note that being a slave to sin is mutually exclusive to being a slave to righteousness. You cannot have a foot in both camps. So therefore what should you choose? Paul reminds us that when you were a slave to sin to recall what was the fruit of such sin? What did you achieve through sin? To such questions Paul gives the answer: nothing but death. Now, we are all obliged to follow someone or something. That must be so. We who follow Christ understand very clearly who it is we follow and what we follow. Anyone else that does not follow Christ – and it does not matter what they follow – needs to understand that what they are doing is being against Christ. Christ himself said whoever does not gather with me scatters. Unless you understand this very simple proposition: whoever does not gather with me, scatters; you will never understand the stark boundary between a life in Christ and the life outside of Christ.
If you have your life in Christ then you are a slave to God. The return you receive through being his property is sanctification and ultimately eternal life. The proposition is very clear the wages of sin is death and the wages of a life in Christ is life everlasting. Remember, we are all judged in what we do and how we do it. We are called to give account by Christ and like good slaves we will be judged upon how we have discharged our servitude. If we have been lax then we will suffer the consequences. If we have been good and faithful servants we will receive our reward. Make no mistake the end of this life brings judgement. If we are agents the devil then we will be welcomed by him. If we are the agents of Christ then we will be welcomed by Christ. The question is who you wish to spend the rest of eternity with?ST Paul