You Have Been Set Free
But what does it mean? One of the interesting parts about speaking english is that you can say and use perfectly legitimate words in english, and yet, if you asked the question, “what does that mean,” you can’t really get an answer to that question. For example, if I say, “that was a redoubtable speech in every way,” you can be impressed with my words, but yet still end up asking yourself, “what does redoubtable mean?” What we love about the Holy Spirit is that he doesn’t just move the biblical authors to say a statement. No, instead, he also urges them to carefully explain what they say. So, in these words we learn that God has set us set us free. And then, Paul so carefully and eloquently explains that statement. In Romans 6, we read: “You have been set free from sin and have become slaves to righteousness.” (Romans 6:18 NIV11-GKE)
You have been set free from sin. You have been set free for righteousness. But look at the time and care that Paul takes in explaining those facts to us: “19 I am using an example from everyday life because of your human limitations. Just as you used to offer yourselves as slaves to impurity and to ever-increasing wickedness, so now offer yourselves as slaves to righteousness leading to holiness. 20 When you were slaves to sin, you were free from the control of righteousness.” (Romans 6:19–20 NIV11-GKE)
There was a time in your life when you were not a Christian. And in that time you were completely enslaved to sin. But even now as Christians, each of us has a sinful nature. And that sinful nature wants us to enslave ourselves to sin. And Paul wants us then to look at the kind and sort of slavery this is. He wants us to see the willingness of that slavery. He uses the picture of a free person who goes to another person and says, “Here I am; I want to be your slave and continually do what you want.” That’s what your sinful nature does to sin. Because of our sinful nature we go to sin and we say, “Here I am, I am willing to do what you want.” And in the words that follow Paul shows us what our lives look like when we go down that road of willingly, gladly following the urging and voice of our sinful nature: “What benefit did you reap at that time from the things you are now ashamed of? Those things result in death!” (Romans 6:21 NIV11-GKE)
Our willingness to enslave ourselves to sin leads to the results of that slavery. The first result is shame. Our sinful nature leads, urges, drives, and entices us to sin. And it so quickly leads to shame. And it’s the sort of shame we remember years later. Each of us can look back in our lives at times we lied, gossiped, and broke confidence. And it makes us ashamed even still to this day. That’s the first result. But the second result of this slavery is death. If we do not see this slavery for the sin it is then it leads and drags us to death—and not just physical death. If we do not repent of our sin and instead rejoice in it, it will lead to the eternal death of hell.
And that’s why it’s so important for us to remember that we have been freed from the slavery of sin. Our sin does not own us and we do not want it. Jesus freed us from the slavery of sin by enduring the consequences of our sins in our place. We gossip. We lie. We break confidence. But Jesus is the one who had all these sins committed against him. Jesus is the one who paid for them with his own death. And because of this we are free—really, truly free from sin. But Paul shows us another way in which we are free: “But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God, the benefit you reap leads to holiness, and the result is eternal life.” (Romans 6:22 NIV11-GKE)
We have been set free from sin. But notice what Paul teaches us here. We have been set free for righteousness. When God created faith in our hearts he gave to us a new nature alongside the old nature to wage war with it and to cling to God. And just as willingly, gladly, and joyfully as our old nature enslaved itself to sin, so also, our new nature willingly, gladly, joyfully serves God above.
And that leads us to ponder a profound truth: How can serving others be fulfilling? As Christians, we lead a life of service—or to use Paul’s words here, a willing slavery.1 For us, as Christians, we gladly give up our freedom to follow ourselves solely and exclusively, because, to us, it’s actually fun. When I think of this I think of the guy who had a little girl. And he wanted to spend time with his daughter. But he didn’t have enough in common with her. So what did he do? When he realized that she needed someone to braid her hair, he went “all in” and went to cosmetology school. And before he had a daughter he would have never thought of doing this. But after he has his daughter he gives up his time. He gives up his life. He gives up his freedom, for one reason: He loves his daughter. And the same is true with us. When the Holy Spirit creates faith in our hearts; When we see what Jesus has done to pay for our sin and what our Father has done to care for us, his great love for us moves us to serve him willingly, gladly, and joyfully. And that service—that slavery becomes fulfilling and even fun.
And so, my dear friends in Christ, it is so easy to throw those words around, “you have been set free.” But look at what they mean. Paul summarizes all these thoughts with these familiar words in verse 23: “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 6:23 NIV11-GKE)
What you get from sin is death. But what you get as a gracious, undeserved gift from God is eternal life. With all this in mind, continue to run away from sin because you have been set free from its slavery. And continue to serve God by serving others. For you know the God who has set you free. Amen.
1 “ⲇⲟⲩⲗⲱⲑⲉⲛⲧⲉⲥⲇⲉⲧⲱⲑ̅ⲱ̅” (Romans 6:22 GNT-ALEX)