I am not a slave to fashion. The other day our daughter Linda stopped by to drop something off at our house. She looked at the shirt I was wearing and said, “How old is that shirt?” I said, “It’s not that old; I’ve had it since we moved here from Iowa 23 years ago!” I have to rely on my children to tell me that what I’m wearing now is really about 15 years past the date of being even remotely fashionable. Yet I resist someone telling me what I should or should not wear, especially when I’m in my own home. In fact, we don’t like anyone telling us what we should be or should be doing. Most of us don’t really consider ourselves to be slaves to anyone. This morning we continue our study of the names of Jesus by looking at Jesus Christ, who is our Lord. To understand that Jesus is Lord, we must understand the relationship between a master and a slave. When we say that “Jesus is Lord” we mean that Jesus is our Master, our ruler, our Lord. Let’s read Romans 6:15-23. We will focus on verses 19-23.
I. First, let’s look at the owner/slave relationship in the ancient world.
The setting that Paul draws on comes from slavery in the Roman world. There were many different kinds of slaves in those days, but there was one type of slavery that Paul seems to have in mind here. This person would sell himself into slavery to someone else for a specific price. The slave would often keep this money hoping that at some point he could buy his freedom back later on. The slave Paul has in mind here is not a victim of someone else’s oppression. This is a slave who has sold himself because that is what he wanted to do. However, even this kind of slave had to do what their owner said they must do. They were not free to do whatever they wanted to do with their lives. They were bound to obey their masters or their lords. He now is in the possession of someone else and as such he is bound to do whatever that owner says. However, in this case, this slave is not able to buy himself back. He is trapped in his slavery to this master.
II. First, we need to understand what it means to be slaves to sin before.
Verse 20 says, “When you were slaves to sin, you were free from the control of righteousness.” This simply means that sin was their master, not God. Righteousness describes the relationship a person has with God through Christ. Before they were righteous they were free to follow their master, sin. In fact, they were only doing what their master, sin, was telling them to do. However, like the person who sells himself into slavery, they gave control over to sin willingly. Now sin is a not a word that many Christians like to talk about. Sure, we like to think that we have a few weak areas in our lives, but over all we like to think that we are pretty good people. But the simple fact of the matter is that before Christ, we were slaves to sin. We did what sin demanded and we did so willingly.
In these verses, Paul looks at the lifestyle and the final results of being slaves to sin. Verse 21 says, “What benefit did you reap at that time from the things you are now ashamed of?” Life then was characterized by doing things that we are ashamed of now. Think back for a moment on your life. As we reflect on our youth or before we believed in Jesus, we may have done things that looking back we are very ashamed of now. What shameful things we did then was the result of being a slave to sin. There may still be things in your life that you are enslaved to and ashamed of. These verses give hope to those who still feel enslaved to their sinful actions. Verse 19 says that when we were enslaved to sin we offered the parts of our bodies to impurity and ever-increasing wickedness. We did what our master, sin, told us and moved us to do. And as a result, we increased in our wickedness and our law-breaking. We were caught in a vicious cycle of sin as our shameful things grew ever longer.
And the tragic result was that this master/slave relationship ended in death. And this death is eternal death as the condemnation of God for our sinfulness. This death is continual and eternal existence of being separated from God. And so there is no hope whatsoever for one who remains a slave to sin. A visitor at a fishing dock asked an old fisherman who was sitting there, "If I were to fall into this water, would I drown?" It was a strange way of asking how deep the water was, but the fisherman had a good answer. "Naw," he said. "Falling into the water doesn't drown anybody. It's staying under it that does." Staying under ongoing slavery to sin will lead to death. But that is what we earned for verse 23 says that “the wages of sin is death.” A wage is the money a person would earn for his work. The wage that a person devoted to sin as master can rightfully expect is death.
III. But now there has been a drastic change; now we are slaves to God.
Verse 22 says, “But now... you have been set free from sin and have become slaves to God.” What happened? God bought us from the ownership of sin and we have been set free! Jesus paid the price for redeeming us out of slavery to sin by his sacrificial death on the cross. It was a terribly high price to pay, but Jesus gladly paid it. And now as a result, we are under “new management;” we are now slaves to God. And that new ownership makes a great deal of difference in our lives. It makes a difference in the kind of lives we live right now as well as the kind of eternal future we can look forward to.
The benefit that we can enjoy by being a slave to God is what verse 22 calls “holiness.” We, who have declared righteous by the death of Christ, are now being made holy. That means that now we should be living pure lives more and more. We should no longer be doing the evil things that seemed normal while we were slaves to sin. Even more, a holy life means that we are consciously dedicating our life to Christ. Instead of willingly following sin, we willingly and gladly follow Christ. A young woman once accepted Christ as her Savior and wanted to become a member in a local church. An old elder asked her, “Were you a sinner before you received the Lord Jesus into your life?” “Yes, sir,” she replied. He asked, “Well, are you still a sinner?” She said, “To tell you the truth, I feel I’m a greater sinner than ever.” He asked, “Then what real change have you experienced?” She replied, “I don’t quite know how to explain it except I used to be a sinner running AFTER sin, but now that I am saved I’m a sinner running FROM sin!” Being a slave to God means being slowly, but surely transformed into a person who is more and more like Christ Himself. And so for the present, we now have a life in which our goal, our main goal is to please our new Lord, our new master Jesus Christ.
And for the future, verse 22 says that the ultimate result is eternal life. We have the confidence that even though we will die some day, it is not really the end. There will be life, eternal life, spent in heaven with God himself. However, notice that this is something that is given, not earned. There is a crucial difference here between being slaves to sin and slaves to God. Being slaves to sin, we earned death; we deserved it. Being slaves to God, we earn nothing; we deserve nothing but receive our salvation as a gift earned for us by Jesus our Savior.
IV. Let’s look more concretely at our lives that we should be living with our Lord.
Since Jesus is our Lord, he not only owns us, but he owns everything we have as well. Question and Answer 34 of the Heidelberg Catechism says it beautifully. Question: Why do you call him "our Lord"? Answer: Because-- not with gold or silver, but with his precious blood-- he has set us free from sin and from the tyranny of the devil, and has bought us, body and soul, to be his very own.” We, and every part of our lives, belong to Jesus. That means that Jesus my Lord owns my time and we must answer to our Lord in how we use our time at work, at home and any moments of leisure. Jesus as my Lord means that he owns our cars, our houses, our material things and we must give an account to him of how we use it. Jesus as my Lord means he owns my relationships and we must answer to him for those as well.
That illustrates how we can overcome the temptations to do what we want in our lives. We must keep our eyes fixed firmly on Jesus by reading God’s word. And we must be listening to his voice as we talk with our Lord in prayer. That doesn’t mean that our lives become purely a rigid set of rules. Life with our Lord is a life of joyful and meaningful service. Our master has us do things that are good and give us joy. We serve a new Master, Jesus Christ, our Lord. The question for us is which lord are we serving in our daily lives?