No Longer Slaves

     Slavery has a long and varied history. There have been many kinds of slavery, most of it initiated by one group of people conquering another. Some slaves were highly valued for intelligence and ample skill sets. Others were viewed merely as a source of labor. The one thing most people agree about is that it is better to be a free person than a slave.

     We have learned some things about the slavery experienced by people of African heritage in colonial times as well as the early period of this country’s existence. It was not good. But there is still slavery in parts of the world. Some of it is outright and some of it subtle. But it is still not good. We thank the Lord for the happy circumstance that we do not have slavery in our immediate environment.

     The practice of one group enslaving another presents itself so regularly that as a result of that people have a decent idea of what it means to be a slave. When Paul explained the benefit of being a Christian instead of living under the Law of Moses he did so using the idea of being a free Christian as opposed to a slave to that Law. This he did in Galatians, Romans, and if he is the source of it, Hebrews.

     This set of ideas is helpful in understanding the struggle the early church had with folks who wanted to say that in order to be a Christian one had to become a Jew first. The matter seemed to be settled fairly early at the Jerusalem council we read of in Acts 15. Peter summed it up by saying, “But we believe that through the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ we shall be saved, even as they.” The “we” here was the Jews; the “they” was the Gentiles. Even with this clear declaration of truth the early church still struggled with this issue. But as Peter said, we are all saved the same way.

     We don’t live in the context of the problem of being free from keeping the Law of Moses. But we do live in the immediate context of being free from sin. Paul uses the slavery image to discuss this matter in Romans 6. Evidently the Christians in Rome had the idea that since grace saved and saves them (it did and does) that it did not matter if they “continued in sin.” Paul tells them that this cannot be. Now, he makes it plain that Christians falter and sin (Romans 7) but a Christian has changed the category of the way he or she lives life. We do sin (1 John 1:5-10) but we must not continue in sin.

     If we continue in sin we do two things: First, we become slaves to sin. So Paul says, “Let not sin reign in your mortal body, that you should obey it in the lusts thereof” (6:12). Listen to him in 6:16-17: “Do you not know that to whom you present yourselves slaves to obey, you are that one’s slaves whom you obey, whether of sin leading to death, or of obedience leading to righteousness? But God be thanked that though you were slaves to sin, you obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine to which you were delivered” (NKJV).

     The second thing that happens when a Christian continues in sin is that we reject the blessing of our obedience to the gospel. “Obeying that form of doctrine” is what Paul referred to in Romans 6:1-6. These people had been baptized into Christ and thus been saved by God’s grace and mercy. The death, burial and resurrection of Christ is outlined in baptism. They were raised to walk in newness of life. Therefore they should not continue in sin! We cannot live any longer in sin. Yes, we sin and we had better repent of our sins. We must not live in sin any longer!

If we do ever find ourselves continuing in sin we need to think and do better in a hurry. Sin is tricky and will enslave us if we give in. Don’t be a slave to sin.