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Freedom from Slavery (Romans 6:15-23) May 27, 2007

Posted by roberttalley in Memorial Day, Romans, Sermons, Spiritual Warfare.
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We have memorized the first two verses of Romans 6. I would like us to read together the first three verses of this great chapter. As you are turning to Romans 6, I would like to illustrate visually what it means to be baptized into His death. As you can see, I have a glass of water here and I have a toothpick with a paper clip attached. My question for you to think about as we quote and/or read these verses is this. If I immerse the toothpick in water, will the paper clip get wet?

  1. What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin that grace may abound?

  2. Certainly not! How shall we who died to sin live any longer in it?

  3. Or do you not know that as many of us as were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death?  


The death of Christ is essential to our spiritual freedom. Jesus Christ as an example without His death for our sin is absolutely worthless. Why? Because we were slaves of sin. Verse 17-18 describes the process of being baptized into Christ Jesus’ death.

17 But God be thanked that though you were slaves of sin, yet you obeyed from the heart (that is, faith) that form of doctrine to which you were delivered.

18 And having been set free from sin, you became slaves of righteousness.

At the end of this chapter, Paul sums up his argument with these words:

23 For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.

How is it that the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus? Through faith in His death on the cross as being the only path to freedom from the slavery of sin.


This illustration is not meant just to paint us a pretty picture but to show us how we are to live as believers in Jesus Christ. Just as Paul used this figure of baptism to illustrate death to continued sin and resurrection to newness of life in Christ Jesus, he now uses in verses 15-23 a new illustration, the figure of…


There are two questions in this chapter. You should now be very familiar with the first. It is found in verse one. “Shall we continue in sin that grace may abound?“ This question asks about the possibility of the believer living in habitual sin. Verse fifteen, however, deals with a different question, the question of occasional sin. In verse 14 Paul points out that we are not under law but under grace. He anticipates the reaction to this statement. “Certainly God’s grace will excuse that. After all, it is not like it is a habit. It is one of those things that just happens. God will forgive me. It is not so bad as all that.” The answer is the same in verse 15 as in verse 2. Certainly not! (One can almost hear Paul say, “Duh-uh!). God is opposed to all sin. Those who feel that habitual adultery is somehow worse than the occasional wandering eye can clearly see that God’s answer to both is, “No! If you are a believer in Jesus Christ, you are free! Do not dare use God’s grace as an excuse for even the tiniest sin!”


This freedom from the slavery of sin is dependent on the obedience or loyalty of faith (verses 15-18). Loyalty to Christ will not permit occasional crossing over to the other side to Satan’s line. (A. T. Robertson)”

Tomorrow as we celebrate Memorial Day, we will be celebrating those who died because they were loyal to their country. We will be celebrating the memory of those who submitted themselves to armed service because they believed that it was essential to the continuing liberty of their country and of themselves as free men. Military service is in a very real way a type of slavery. A slavery that is dependent on obedience and loyalty. Spiritual service is also a type of slavery and it is also dependent on obedience and loyalty.


If you are a slave to sin, you feel freedom to sin. According to verse 20, we see that loyalty to sin will not permit crossing over to the side of Christ. One the other hand, if you are a slave to obedience, you have righteousness, the freedom to do right. It is true that in Romans 7 (which we will have to leave for some future period) there is a division of the will within the believer. This is actually where we get the picture of the two natures. The spiritual reality is this, that every person is either unsaved and enslaved in the sense that he is loyal to sin and not to righteousness or he is saved and enslaved in that he is loyal to righteousness and not to sin.

In this passage we find out to where these two freedoms lead. Let us begin with the negative.


Freedom from righteousness leads to a life of slavery to sin. This life is described in verses 19-23. Last week, I mentioned that being a believer and not using the righteousness of Christ to resist sin was like riding a bicycle without using the brakes. Afterwards I was asked, “To where does running our spiritual bicycle into a tree lead?” These verses not only describe the life of the sinner but the consequences in the life of the believer if he ignores the spiritual brakes with which God has provided him.

Uncleanness (verse 19). Jesus used this term once in Matthew 23:27 when He said that the Pharisee’s were like beautiful tombs and mausoleums filled with dead men’s bones and uncleanness. Ephesians 4:17,19 makes it clear that we choose this slavery to sin that leads to uncleanness. Paul writes, “…the Gentiles (speaking of unbelievers)… have given themselves over… to work all uncleanness…” Look in Romans 1:24-25. What Paul is saying here is that because they gave themselves up to uncleanness, God freely lets them go. In fact, he says that uncleanness is what God allows to take over the lives of those who do not acknowledge Him as God.

Lawlessness leading to more lawlessness (verse 19). Jesus will say to those who claimed to work in His name, “Depart from me you workers of lawlessness. I never knew you.” We think of lawlessness as being in the gutter and the ghetto. Jesus, however, sees the lawlessness of the heart. Lawlessness is any thought, word, or action that violates the law. I may or may not be aware of the law.


Notice where lawlessness leads – to more lawlessness. This may be a strong statement but it seems that individual sins never stand alone. They build on each other. I cannot think of one sin in my life that has been committed separately from all other sin. I have sinned in anger, in blowing my top. It is usually quite unexpected. Afterwards though I am able to look at what led up to that explosion and see a number of different thoughts and actions and attitudes that led up and built up to lawlessness. Sins do not occur in isolation.

Shameful behavior (verse 21). Sin is the type of behavior that leads to feelings of shame. Notice, Paul does not say that they felt ashamed of their behavior at the time they were doing evil but rather they felt ashamed of their past behavior because now they knew better. It is the believer who feels ashamed of his past behavior. The unbeliever often knows no better. That is the terrible thing about slavery to sin and to the fruit of uncleanness and to lawlessness built upon lawlessness and to the daily allotment of death. You might think you are having a good time, that you are doing the right thing, that this is the way to go but you are dying every second just a little bit more and a little bit more and you do not even know it. Think of those whitewashed tombs filled with dead men’s bones. Inside of them death reigns. Think of those to whom Jesus said depart from me you workers of iniquity. They were among those who performed miracles in God’s name but they were servants of sin plagued by death.


The wages of sin – death (verses 21 and 23). There are two things we need to understand about the picture described here.

First, Paul is not saying if you sin, your wages are death. He is saying, if you serve sin, if sin is your master, if your loyalty is to sin; then the fruit is uncleanness and lawlessness and the wages that sin will pay you for your uncleanness and lawlessness is death. Sin, your master, pays your wages and sin pays in only one currency – death!

Secondly, the payment is daily. The wages here are not the wages that one receives at the end of a work period. These wages are the daily allotment paid for a soldier’s rations. In other words, if you are not in Christ, you are surviving or subsisting on death. It is true that the end of sin is death but there is a daily payment of death handed out on the way down. That is what the unbeliever is surviving on.

There is an article taken from the Booneville Banner, Booneville, Mississippi, in the July 11, 1912 issue of their newspaper and written by a Rev. Robert J. Burdette, a Union Soldier. In it he writes about being on burying detail after the Battle of Corinth in Mississippi, “We found a dead Confederate soldier lying on his back… He was one of the Rogers’ Texans…I covered his face with a slouch hat and took off the haversack slung to his neck, that it might not swing as we carried him…

“Empty, isn’t it?” asked the soldier working with me.

I put my hand in it and drew forth a handful of roasted acorns; I showed them to my comrade. “That’s all,” I said.

“And he has been fighting like a tiger for two days on that forage,” he commented. We gazed at the face of the dead soldier with new feelings. By and by he said:

“I hate this war and the things that caused it. I was taught to hate slavery before I was taught to hate sin. I love the Union as I love my mother-better. I think that this is the wickedest war that was ever waged in modern times. But this, and he took some of the acorns from my hand-“this is what I call patriotism.”

“Comrade,” I said, “I am going to send these home to the Peoria Transcript. I want them to tell the editor this war won’t be ended until there is a total failure of the acorn crop. I want the folks at home to know what manner of men they and we are fighting.”…

“I was more and more devoted to the Union as the war went on. But I never questioned the sincerity of the men in the Confederacy again. I realized how dearly a man must love his own section who would fight for it on parched acorns…”

The acorns, the rations, the wages of sin causes the man who lives on them to fight with great loyalty against righteousness.


Just as freedom from sin leads to the fruit of uncleanness and of lawlessness upon lawlessness which leads to sins wages – death, freedom from sin leads to holiness and to the gift of God – eternal life (verses 19b-23).

The fruit is holiness or sanctification (verses 19 and 22). Often it is said that when we trust Christ we are freed from the penalty of sin and are now being freed from the power of sin and someday will be freed from the presence of sin. These verses teach that I am already freed from the power of sin and that is why I am holy and consecrated before God. 1Th 4:7 says, “…God did not call us to uncleanness, but in holiness.” Just like a tree is planted and bears fruit, that holiness, that sanctification is lived out as I continue to present the members of my body to my master, the God of righteousness. Although my holiness was established in the past and continues in the present, it will ultimately be perfectly completed when I am with Christ Jesus. That is holiness ending in eternal life.

The gift of God – eternal life (verses 22-23). Eternal life is not only dependent on God saving me from the lake of fire (justification, if I may use this term in a non-technical way) but also from sin’s power (sanctification). Eternal life comes not only from forgiveness but also through God’s holiness.

Notice the contrast with the wages of sin. If you serve sin, you receive subsistence wages. If you serve God, if you are his slave, you receive gifts. That is not normal slavery but that is perfect slavery. You receive blessings and gifts not because you work but because you are a slave.


Whose slave are you? You are either a slave of righteousness, of God, or a slave to sin. You may become a slave of righteousness, not by being righteous but by accepting the free gift of God – eternal life – through Jesus Christ. There is no other way. Look again at verses 17-18.

17 But God be thanked that though you were slaves of sin, yet you obeyed from the heart (that is, faith) that form of doctrine to which you were delivered.

18 And having been set free from sin, you became slaves of righteousness. You have heard the truth. Will you obey it in faith? When I was growing up, I used to hear camp meeting preachers ask people if they would junk their church membership and turn to Jesus, if they would junk their good works and turn to Jesus. As we have seen, you can be religious and be a slave to sin and until you junk that religion you will never turn to Christ alone in faith. Whatever it is, moral or immoral, religious or irreligious, junk it…and turn to Jesus!

If you are a slave of righteousness, why do you present your members to the enemy? You are free from sin, why do you submit to the enemy. Turn to Christ for help. Present your members to Christ. Do it now and continue to do it day after day until Jesus comes to take us unto Him.