Lars Anderson |The Voice of Zion October 2022 --
Being then made free from sin ye became the servants of righteousness. – Romans 6:18
These words from the book of Romans are Paul’s instruction to newly converted believers. Not only is this loving instruction about their newfound faith, but Paul says there is an obligation regarding how they should live. Now that they have received the grace of God, and being free from sin, their hearts should turn to serving in righteousness.
When we look at this text, we can see there are two concepts to consider. First is being free from sin. The second is being servants of righteousness. Whether we are born and raised in living faith or we’ve received the grace of repentance, we understand the concept of being made free from sin. We understand the simple message that Jesus died for our sins and through His grace we are made free from sin.
As we look at the second concept of this verse there are two words that strike us: servants and righteousness. A servant is someone who serves another person and may be viewed as belonging to a lower class of society. In the English Standard Version (ESV) of the Bible the word “slave” is used. While interchangeable in some respects, the word “slave” is stronger; we get an image of someone who does the bidding of the master all day and night without end.
What is righteousness? Simply put, the word means just and right, or in other words, God. God has reserved true righteousness for Himself and His Son Jesus Christ only. Isaiah wrote in this way: “But we are all as an unclean thing and all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags” (Isa. 64:6). Since the fall of Adam and Eve, we cannot attain righteousness on our own. God promised the first human pair to send His Son to save them from sin. Through that perfect sacrifice we were able to be made righteous. Even when Jesus was among us the Pharisees didn’t believe on Him and continued to try to obtain righteousness through their strict interpretation and execution of the law. Jesus often rebuked these Pharisees and pointed out their hypocrisies. They were not able to believe. In this, we can see how faith is a grace gift of God.
Through the work of Jesus’ death and resurrection, we can believe sins forgiven. Therefore, we are sinful yet righteous. This is one of the mysteries of faith. We are partakers of Christ’s righteousness, yet we are sinful. Our human nature would want us to take the easy path and do what we please. I think Paul recognizes this, so he addresses this matter in this same chapter. He addresses this thought when he said, “What then? Shall we sin because we are not under the law but under grace? God forbid” (Rom. 6:15). Paul expounds on this thought in the verse that follows. “Do you not know that if you present yourselves to anyone as obedient slaves you are slaves of the one whom you obey either of sin which leads to death or of obedience which leads to righteousness? (Rom. 6:16 ESV). Paul knew that we cannot continue doing what is pleasing for our flesh and living in sin if we are servants of righteousness.
Paul was human just like all of us and he knew the battle that we fight daily. He lamented this in the seventh chapter to the Romans, when he said, “For I know that in me (that is in my flesh) dwelleth no good thing: for to will is present with me; but how to perform that which is good I find not. For the good that I would I do not: but the evil which I would not that I do” (Rom. 7:18,19). As children of God, we feel this same struggle that Paul felt. When we have the Holy Spirit our conscience convicts our wrongdoing. We want to put away the sins and offenses that come on our daily journey. If we ignore those convictions our conscience becomes hardened and we become servants to sin. We lose sight of that grace that God has given us, and we begin to only see the law. Thankfully we have the grace gift of the proclamation of absolution. By the work of the Holy Spirit this grace flows freely from heart to heart of each believer in that core message of the gospel. Sins can be believed forgiven in Jesus’ name and precious blood. Through this gospel we can make those new promises to God to remain servants of righteousness so that we can one day join Paul and all other saints in heaven.