Saturday, April 18

Daily Devotions on Romans 6

Day 3: Romans 6:15-23

Today, we are on our third and final day of our three-day journey through Romans 6, where the Apostle Paul teaches about how we participate in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ through Baptism, and what it means for our lives. Today, our devotion will focus on verses 15-23.

15   What then? Shall we sin because we are not under the law but under grace? By no means! 16   Don’t you know that when you offer yourselves to someone as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one you obey—whether you are slaves to sin, which leads to death, or to obedience, which leads to righteousness? 17  But thanks be to God that, though you used to be slaves to sin, you have come to obey from your heart the pattern of teaching that has now claimed your allegiance. 18   You have been set free from sin and have become slaves to righteousness.

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. 21   What benefit did you reap at that time from the things you are now ashamed of? Those things result in death! 22   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. 23   For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Over the last two days we have reflected on our baptismal identity in Christ. We explored how even though we have received a new life in Baptism that has been set free from slavery to sin, we still live in the tension of the now and the not yet in which we are no longer slaves to sin, yet we continue to sin while we await Christ’s return.

In our reading today, Paul returns to the rhetorical question that he began the chapter with: Since we are covered by God’s grace, shouldn’t we just continue to sin? Of course, the answer is an emphatic, “No!” That kind of attitude is what we call “cheap grace.” But the real question is: Who will you serve?

Paul uses the metaphor of slavery, but in our 20th century American context, our history has rendered the concept of slavery with some pretty atrocious connotations. The Greek word that Paul uses is doulos, and it can also be translated as “devoted servant.” In the context of what Paul is saying, a doulos is a person who gives up their will for the will of another out of obedience. In verse 19, Paul lets us know that this analogy breaks down at some point—that he is relying on familiar concepts to communicate most effectively with his audience, and that’s why we need to read slave as “devoted servant.”

What Paul is saying here is that you are a devoted servant to the one that you obey. You can either be a devoted servant to sin, which leads to death, or you can be a devoted servant of God, which leads to holiness and eternal life. “ For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” (6:23).

So, the question is: Who will you serve? Are you going to let sin call the shots? Or, are you going to let God call the shots?

Paul tells us that we used to be devoted servants of sin, but in his mercy, God has set us free from sin through Christ when we were united with his death and resurrection in Baptism. So now, we are devoted servants who obey God’s will. However, we still live in the tension of the now and the not yet, where sin continues to invade our lives.

If you read Romans closely, Paul never says that sin is dead. Instead, he tells us to consider ourselves dead to sin (6:11). That’s a huge difference. God doesn’t promise that sin will never reign in us; He exhorts us not to allow sin to reign in us (6:12) because Christ has set us free.

The good news is that even though we still wrestle with sin, God has given us the free gift of grace through Christ Jesus. So let’s not look at God’s grace as a license to sin, but instead, as an opportunity to live out our Baptismal identity in Christ, living in the hope that because we were buried with Christ through Baptism into death so that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life (6:4).

Prayer: Lord, Jesus Christ, thank you setting me free from a life that is devoted to serving sin. Thank you for giving me your gift of eternal life. Help me not to treat your grace as a license to sin, but to live according to who you have made me to be in my Baptism, your devoted servant. Amen.