A slave to righteousness – have you ever wondered what that really means? In Romans 6-8, the Bible talks about two types of slaves: the slave to sin, and the slave to righteousness, but until a recent conversation with my husband, I don’t think I had ever put a whole lot of thought into the later.
We were driving home from some errand one day, talking about this and that, and Steve started talking about what God had been teaching him in his personal Bible study time. He talked about being in Romans, and how he had been mulling over some things from Romans 6-8 that had really landed hard on his heart. As he began to elaborate, God used his words to pierce my own heart as well.
In the months that have followed that conversation, we both have spent quite a bit of time meditating on some of the verses we’re going to look at today, digging into the Bible to look deeper into this concept. We’ve also spent time in prayer, asking God to change our hearts and bind us to His ways.
So let’s dig into Romans 6-8 and see if God has something special in this for you too!
A Slave to Sin
We all know what it’s like to be a slave to sin. We have no trouble understanding what Paul is talking about at the close of Romans 7 as he describes the battle against his sinful nature:
Romans 7:14-24 – So the trouble is not with the law, for it is spiritual and good. The trouble is with me, for I am all too human, a slave to sin. I don’t really understand myself, for I want to do what is right, but I don’t do it. Instead, I do what I hate. But if I know that what I am doing is wrong, this shows that I agree that the law is good. So I am not the one doing wrong; it is sin living in me that does it.
And I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature. I want to do what is right, but I can’t. I want to do what is good, but I don’t. I don’t want to do what is wrong, but I do it anyway. But if I do what I don’t want to do, I am not really the one doing wrong; it is sin living in me that does it.
I have discovered this principle in life – that when I want to do what is right, I inevitably do what is wrong. I love God’s law with all my heart. But there is another power within me that is at war with my mind. This power makes me a slave to the sin that is still within me. Oh, what a miserable person I am! Who will free me from this life that is dominated by sin and death?
Now, I’m sure there are some of us wives (or probably any loved ones) of sex addicts (or probably any other kind of addict) who bristle at some of the wording in that passage. So let’s go ahead and address it right off the top. Two times it says, “I am not the one doing wrong; it is sin living in me that does it.” Friends, this is the inspired and inerrant Word of God. So even though this may sound like a hundred other excuses we’ve heard to shift the blame for the sinful choices that have been made, that’s not what this is.
Rather, this is a perfect description of what it’s like to be bound to something – to be a slave to it. Addiction is a great example. Addicts, probably more than any of us, know exactly what it’s like to want desperately to do what is right, but to find themselves compelled, beyond their ability to resist, to instead do what is wrong.
But if we’re honest with ourselves, even those of us who have never been addicted to something specific can understand what it’s like to be so enslaved to sin that no matter how hard we try, we continue to find ourselves involuntarily driven to make wrong choices. Whether it’s losing our temper to the point that we are not in control of our actions, or suddenly finding that we’ve mindlessly polished off the whole bag of chips, or gabbing away with our best friend only to realize that most of what we said was shameful gossip; we all know what it is to be a slave to sin.
But here is why it’s not blame shifting or an excuse to say that it’s not really us, but sin living in us that is at fault:
Romans 6:23 – For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life through Christ Jesus our Lord.
Romans 7:5 – When we were controlled by our old nature, sinful desires were at work within us, and the law aroused these evil desires that produced a harvest of sinful deeds, resulting in death.
You see, even though the Bible helps us understand that it is sin living in us that is to blame for the way we act, it doesn’t release us from the consequences of following that sinful nature. We may be slaves to sin, but it is still going to lead us to eternal death. Sin won’t be held accountable for the things we do, we will; even if it seemed we had no choice in the matter. Being controlled by sin results in death.
The Most Victorious Verses in Romans 6-8
It’s a pretty heavy weight to carry around isn’t it? To be a slave to sin is depressing. It’s desperate. It is damning. And if that is where we were left, well… I can’t imagine how I would even be able to get out of bed in the morning and face the world. My heart would cry out in desperation with Romans 7:24, “Oh what a miserable person I am! Who will free me from this life that is dominated by sin and death?”
But praise God, that is NOT where we are left. If we keep reading we find three of the most victorious verses in the entire Bible, and certainly in Romans 6-8:
Romans 7:25-8:2 – THANK GOD! The answer is in Jesus Christ our Lord. So you see how it is: In my mind I really want to obey God’s law, but because of my sinful nature I am a slave to sin.
So now there is no condemnation for those who belong to Christ Jesus.
And because you belong to Him, the power of the life-giving Spirit has freed you from the power of sin that leads to death.
The answer is in Jesus Christ our Lord!
Sin’s wage was death, but because of what Jesus did for us, the price has been paid. He died in our place.
If we accept His free gift of salvation and eternal life, we can be set free from the yoke of slavery to sin that so heavily hangs around our necks. We no longer have to be compelled to sin. We really can be free of it! Through Christ, we can die to that way of living and instead become a slave to righteousness.
Romans 6:6-11 – We know that our old sinful selves were crucified with Christ so that sin might lose its power in our lives. We are no longer slaves to sin. For when we died with Christ we were set free from the power of sin.
And since we died with Christ, we know we will also live with Him. We are sure of this because Christ was raised from the dead, and He will never die again. Death no longer has any power over Him. When He died, He died once to break the power of sin. But now that He lives, He lives for the glory of God. So you also should consider yourselves to be dead to the power of sin and alive to God through Christ Jesus.
A Slave to Righteousness
But this is where I’ve been stuck for the last few weeks. What does it really look like to be a slave to righteousness, and how many of us can honestly say that’s what has happened in our lives? I, for one, tend to get so focused on the being set free from sin part, that I glaze over the becoming a slave to righteousness part. Let’s look again at Romans 6-8 and see what it says.
Romans6:1-4 – Well then, should we go on sinning so that God can show us more and more of His wonderful grace? Of course not! Since we have died to sin, how can we continue to live in it? Or have you forgotten that when we were joined with Christ Jesus in baptism, we joined Him in His death? For we died and buried with Christ by baptism. And just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glorious power of the Father, now we also may live new lives.
You see? There is more to it than dying to sin. I may get stuck there, but it’s just the first part. Yes, we are no longer a slave to sin, but Jesus didn’t just die. He was also raised to new life! Which means we too have access to something new.
Romans 6:12-13 – Do not let sin control the way you live, do not give in to sinful desires. Do not let any part of your body become an instrument of evil to serve sin. INSTEAD, give yourself completely to God, for you were dead, but now you have new life. So use your whole body as an instrument to do what is right for the glory of God.
Romans 6:16-18 & 22- Don’t you realize that you become a slave to whatever you choose to obey? You can be a slave to sin, which leads to death, or you can choose to obey God, which leads to righteous living. Thank God! Once you were slaves to sin, but now you wholeheartedly obey this teaching we have given you. Now you are free from your slavery to sin, and you have become a slave to righteousness.
… now you are free from the power of sin and have become slaves of God. Now you do those things that lead to holiness and result in eternal life.
This is the part that Steve really zeroed in on in the car that day. The slave to righteousness part. What he said helped me understand that it’s not enough to simply be satisfied with the fact that I am dead to sin’s power in my life. I must go further. If I truly belong to God, then He will hold my heart and I will become compelled to obey Him. Doing what pleases Him will become as irresistible as sin once was!
So I have to stop and ask, can I honestly say that’s true in my life? The answer is both humbling and convicting.
The truth is, yeah and also no. In some areas I do see that the Holy Spirit has taken ahold of me and His work is evident all over my life, binding me to His ways so that I instinctively obey Him. And that is humbling! But unfortunately, in other areas, I am still holding onto control. Which means I have not fully given myself to God so that the Holy Spirit has complete control of my whole self. And that is convicting.
Steve told me that day about how the truths found in Romans 6-8 have inspired a new prayer, which he is making a part of his regular time with God. It inspired me to do the same. We are both asking God to help us. We each want to be a slave to righteousness. We want Him to take those parts we’re still holding onto and bring them into submission to Him! We want the Holy Spirit to take over every area of our lives so that we are as compelled to obedience as we once were to sin!
Romans 8:5-6 & 9-11 – Those who are dominated by the sinful nature think about sinful things, but those who are controlled by the Holy Spirit think about things that please the Spirit. So letting your sinful nature control your mind leads to death. But letting the Spirit control your mind leads to life and peace…
But you are not controlled by the sinful nature. You are controlled by the Spirit if you have the Spirit of God living in you. (And remember that those who do not have the Spirit of Christ living in them do not belong to Him at all.) And Christ lives within you, so even though your body will die because of sin, the Spirit gives you life because you have been made right with God. The Spirit of God, who raised Jesus from the dead, lives in you. And just as God raised Christ Jesus from the dead, He will give life to your mortal bodies by this same Spirit living within you.
A Prayer Binding us to God as a Slave to Righteousness
What about you? Are you living as a slave to sin or a slave to righteousness? Does the Holy Spirit control you? Do you want Him to? If, like us, you find that you’re still holding onto some parts of yourself, won’t you join us in this prayer, asking God to make each of us a slave to righteousness?
Dear Heavenly Father,
Thank-you for setting me free from my slavery to sin! Thank-you for dying in my place and paying the price demanded by my transgressions. I don’t deserve your perfect love, and yet you have given it freely to me. Lord, please take every piece of me. Take every weakness of my personality, every fault of my will, every secret thought or action hidden away in my heart that does not please You and put it all to death.
Then Lord, raise me again to new life in this mortal body as a slave to righteousness. Make me obedient to You and Your will. May I be compelled to please You with every word that escapes my mouth and with every thought hidden in my mind. Bind my heart to Yours, Father! Overwhelm me with Your Holy Spirit! Consume me with Your presence in my life. I love you Lord!
In Jesus’s holy name, amen.
And never forget, my friend, that if you belong to God, none of this is going to happen within your power. You only have to surrender to God and allow Him to do the rest.
Romans 8:29-34 – For God knew His people in advance, and He chose them to become like His Son, so that His Son would be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters. And having chosen them, He called them to come to Him. And having called them, He gave them right standing with Himself. And having given them right standing, He gave them His glory.
What shall we say about such wonderful things as these? If God is for us, who can ever be against us? Since He did not spare even His own Son but gave Him up for us all, won’t He also give us everything else? Who dares accuse us whom God has chosen for His own? No one – for God Himself has given us right standing with Himself. Who then will condemn us? No one – for Christ Jesus died for us and was raised to life for us, and He is sitting in the place of honor at God’s right hand, pleading for us.