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Free at Last: Through Voluntary Slavery
Scripture: Romans 6:1-23
Track 6 of 14 in the Study of Romans series
Running time: 23 minutes, 04 seconds.

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Chuck Sackett Speaker: Chuck Sackett
Dr. G. Charles Sackett is minister of Madison Park Christian Church.

View all sermons by this speaker.

Sermon for Sunday, July 6, 2003
"Free at Last: Through Voluntary Slavery"
(Romans 6:1-23)
C. Sackett

D. A. Carson is one of the Professor's at Trinity in Chicago. He was privileged to study with a young man from West Africa, actually was not a Divinity school student at all. It was a young man wanting to improve his German so he could go on to a PhD program in Engineering. Young man was living in the United States while his wife was in London studying.

As they would study together, trying to improve their German, they became fairly good friends and it wasn't too long before Carson learned that this young man was going off to the "Red Light District" a couple of times a week, hiring a prostitute. As the friendship grew, Carson felt like he came to the place that he could ask this young man about that. He asked him what he thought of that; what would happen if his wife, who was living in London, was doing the same thing? And his response was "I'd kill her".

Carson confronted him over that double standard and he said, well you have to understand that in West Africa that's not a double standard. Men are allowed to have as many women as they want, but if their wife is ever unfaithful, she's to be killed. Carson's response was, "you grew up in a mission school. You know that the God of the Bible does not have double standards." To which this man replied, "ah, but God is good. It's his job to forgive us."

That's something of what Paul is driving at in Roman's Chapter 6. All of this talk up through the first five chapters is about sin and grace and this heavy emphasis on grace in Chapters 4, 5, 6, 7, 8 brings us to the place that people are asking this very serious question. Can I just always assume that God is just going to be the gracious, forgiving God that he appears to be. What's the Christian response to that kind of Grace? What I'd like to do is just simply walk through Romans 6 with you. If you have your Bibles, we're just going to spend our time here in Romans Chapter 6 and begin to look at this text and ask ourselves some questions.

In fact, the text starts with two very nearly identical questions. It begins in Chapter 6, Verse 1 with this question. What shall we say, then? Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase? If sin brings grace, then the more sin, the more grace, so why not just go on sinning?

He says in Verse 15, this second half of the Chapter, same question. What then? Shall we sin because we are not under law but under grace? Two very similar questions which get two identical answers. The strongest language that Paul uses in the New Testament. Absolutely not! May it never be! is the way most translations word it there in Verse 2 and again in Verse 15. By no means! We ought not to continue to sin. And Paul follow those two answers up with two very clear comments. He says in Verse 2, We died to sin; how can we live in it any longer? It's a pretty good question. How can you live in sin any longer? It's not a question of ability. You understand that - right? This isn't about whether you have the capability of doing it or not.

I had the chance to go out off the Washington coast a few years ago to go salmon fishing with family and friends. It just turned out to be one of those really bad days on the water, when the sea got really rough and everybody started getting ill. If you can imagine two grandparent-ly, great grandparent-ly people trying to stand very politely at the edge of the boat and not lose their teeth with everything else that they're losing - that's the kind of day that it was.

There was a young lady, a little girl probably 13/14 years old down in the bottom of the ship, doing her very best to, you know, keep it together, and I was, unfortunately, watching when - this is what happened. You could see it come up. There was no place for it to go so the next thing you saw was - - and she swallowed it! And you're saying, "HOW COULD SHE DO THAT?" Well, if you contract the muscles just right in your throat ----- well you see, that's not the question is it? It's not an ability question. It's a moral repugnance question. It's not HOW COULD SHE DO THAT? It's HOW COULD SHE DO THAT ? That's Paul's question. If you have died to sin, HOW CAN YOU KEEP ON SINNING?

Over a bit later, in the second half of the Chapter, you get a similar kind of response. Verse 2 says, We died to sin. Verse 18 says that we were set free from sin. He says, Verse 18. You have been set free from sin and have become slaves to righteousness. No longer are you bound to sin because you have been turned loose. You have been given your freedom.

Two questions, two answers, two comments, two natural responses. The natural response is, When did we die? I look in the mirror. I know that I'm still alive. I still struggle with the sin in my life. I find myself saying, well, if I'm really dead to sin, how come I'm still sinning? Why am I still alive? On the other hand, I may find myself asking in the second half of the Chapter, well, when was I a slave? I don't ever remember being enslaved. And if you do have some sense of that slavery, that grip of sin, then you find yourself saying, well, when was I ever set free? I don't really feel free.

Then there are two theological explanations. Paul really becomes quite theologically oriented here in Chapter 6, so if you'll allow me, let's look at the first part of 6. He asks this question, What shall we say, then? Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase? No! We died to sin; how can we live in it any longer? Or don't you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life.

If we have been united with him like this in his death, we will certainly also be united with him in his resurrection. For we know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin--because anyone who has died has been freed from sin.

Now if we died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. For we know that since Christ was raised from the dead, he cannot die again; death no longer has mastery over him. The death he died, he died to sin once for all; but the life he lives, he lives to God.

The theological explanation is Verse number 10. You should recognize the language. The death he died, he died once for all. It's atonement language. It's Paul's explanation that when Christ died, all of us potentially died with him because he died on our behalf.

The one other verse that I would ask you to look at, if you just hold Romans 6, is go over to 2Corinthians, Chapter 5 where Paul makes this more clear. It's a more straight forward statement - 2Corinthians, Chapter 5, Verse 14. For Christ's love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all, and therefore all died.

In the death of Christ for sin, once for all, he died and we died with him. That's the nature of atonement. There was sin. There had to be a sacrifice. Christ became the perfect sacrifice and on behalf of all sinners, everywhere, he died and our life was changed because of it. But for that to become applicable to you, you have to somehow participate in that death. That death has to somehow become your death. The potential for that exists because he died for all of us as a sinless person. We're going to die but it's going to be because of our sin. So when does his death become my death? Well you saw all that "with him" language - right?

If you look back at Verses 3 through 7, 3 through 8, you're going to see repeatedly the "with him" language.

He says in Verse 4, We were therefore buried with him. He says over in Verse 5, If we have been united with him like this in his death, we will certainly also be united with him in his resurrection. Verse 6, that our old self was crucified with him Verse 8, if we died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. Where does that occur. He says, at our baptism. We participate in the death of Christ when we identify ourselves in his death. He died, he was buried, he was raised and in that same way he says that in our baptism we die, we are buried, we are raised, we participate in the death of Jesus and when that happens, his death becomes ours and we are no longer under the penalty of sin. Because he has chosen to die for us.

The second half of the Chapter also has a theological explanation. Verses 16 and following. It's the slavery issue. We've got both things going here in parallel columns in the text. He says again - Verse 15. Are we going to continue to sin - No. Don't you know that when you offer yourselves to someone to obey him as slaves, you are slaves to the one whom you obey--whether you are slaves to sin, which leads to death, or to obedience, which leads to righteousness? But thanks be to God that, though you used to be slaves to sin, you wholeheartedly obeyed the form of teaching to which you were entrusted. You have been set free from sin and have become slaves to righteousness.

I put this in human terms because you are weak in your natural selves. Just as you used to offer the parts of your body in slavery to impurity and to ever-increasing wickedness, so now offer them in slavery to righteousness leading to holiness. When you were slaves to sin, you were free from the control of righteousness. What benefit did you reap at that time from the things you are now ashamed of? Those things result in death! But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves to God, the benefit you reap leads to holiness, and the result is eternal life. For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Did you notice in Verse 16 when you offer yourselves to someone, you've got worship language going on here? It's when you give yourself to someone as Brian quoted Bob Dillon (?) - "you've got to serve someone". And that essentially is what happened. The theological explanation is we tend to give ourselves to someone. Now we can give ourselves to sin and that sin will, in fact, produce slavery. Or, we can give ourselves to the Lord and it produces freedom.

In fact, there was an Old Testament habit that when a slave was set free, he had the privilege of turning around and giving himself back to the master in voluntary slavery, at which point they would take them to the door post of the house. They would take an awl and pierce their ear to the door. And that pierced ear was a statement that this person voluntarily enslaves themselves to this master.

I'm not sure that's what body piercing means today, but I don't think it means we're enslaved to something. I wonder if we could voluntarily recognize that slavery, as slavery to righteousness, because it is a worship statement. We either worship self or we worship Him.

Theological explanation that results in two big theological words. The first word is justification. And--frankly the Sunday school lesson that has helped me most is just as if I'd never sinned. That's what happens when Christ dies for you. He treats you as if you had never sinned. When he looks at you, he looks at you as innocent. He doesn't look at you and wade through the sin. When he looks at you, if you have become him, if you have given yourself to him, he sees you as if you were absolutely free from any sin in your life--ever!--PAST--PRESENT--FUTURE. It's the marvel of grace. Justified, just as if I'd never sinned at all.

The second big word is in the second half of the Chapter. The first half is about justification. The second half is about sanctification. It's that sense of becoming more holy. It's growing into the likeness of Christ. And you'll hear those two big terms thrown around once in awhile. You probably ought to just know what they mean. Justify means to have been made innocent. To have been made as if you had never sinned. Sanctified is when you increasingly grow to look, act, think, will, feel like Christ.

It results in two major imperatives. If you go over to Verse 11, he says--In the same way, now having died with Christ, having experienced the death of Christ in Verse 10, his death for us. In that same way, count yourselves--ya hear the imperative here?--the command--count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ. Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its evil desires. Do you hear the personal responsibility here? It's a command to you. You do not give yourself to sin. You do not let sin reign in your mortal body. It's not about temptation. It's about sin! You can't stop temptation. Okay? It's gonna happen--it just comes. But as Martin Luther said "You can't stop a bird from flying over your head but you can stop him from building a nest in your hair."

Our responsibility. He says in Verse 13. Do not offer the parts of your body to sin, as instruments of wickedness, but rather offer yourselves to God, as those who have been brought from death to life; and offer the parts of your body to him as instruments of righteousness. For sin shall not be your master, because you are not under law, but under grace.

We're supposed to live like we're alive. We're supposed to stop sinning! We're to give ourselves to God. It is that personal responsibility that we inherit. It's our choice to do something about sin. He has made us as if we had never sinned. That's the theological side. That's God's part. He has sent his Son to die so that we don't have to inherit the penalty of sin. It's our responsibility to stop sinning.

Over on the slavery side he says in Verse 19-- Just as you used to offer the parts of your body in slavery to impurity and to ever-increasing wickedness, so now offer them in slavery to righteousness leading to holiness. We're supposed to give ourselves to Him, it's a choice, it's an act of enslaving ourselves to the right master, choosing the right one. He asked this question. What benefit, Verse 21, What benefit did you reap from the things that you were doing when you were enslaved to sin? And the answer is only shame and death. Some of you know that feeling. That when you walk away from a situation where you have sinned, that sense of shame. Ultimately, that's how we feel.

There are two final consequences here he says, Verse 14. One of the consequences is sin shall not be your master. When you choose Christ and you identify and participate in His death. And His once for all death becomes your once for all death, you are no longer enslaved to sin. It's no longer your master. You no longer have to serve it and holiness begins to characterize your life.

Verse 22--now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves to God, the benefit you reap leads to holiness, and the result is eternal life. We stop sinning and we become more holy. Does grace lead to sin? It's not supposed to. It isn't that we want to presume on God's grace and assume that just because He is a gracious God that He should always forgive us. Grace ought to lead us to the place that we choose to stop sinning and start living more like Christ

Bottom line--here's what it sounds like--our status, the fact that we have been justified produces a new life. The fact that we are sanctified, or said better probably, freedom is the right to choose your master. Freedom is the right to choose your master. Because whether you, like a 60'ties rock star, turned theologian or not, everybody's going to serve someone.

Freedom that Christ gives us through his death for us is the freedom to choose your master and that's really the question--who you gonna choose?

It is, not just every Sunday, a choice that we make. It is an every day choice that we make, isn't it? Sometimes it's a multiple-time of day choice that we make. When we decide in this given circumstance, who are we going to serve? To whom are we going to give our self at this moment? Are we going to obey Christ or are we going to obey our self? That old self sometimes is hard to get rid of--that old life. The call is to choose Him. You can choose sin and sin will produce shame and sin will ultimately produce death or you can choose Christ who gives you life, and who in His grace will take you from who you are to where He wants you to be, and in the process, treat you as if you had never sinned in your life.

Have you ever identified yourself with His death? There may be a number of you who have identified yourself with Christ. You have acknowledged that you want to follow him. You have given yourself to him in an act of faith which is so strongly emphasized in Chapters 4 and 5. But the apostle Paul, in writing Romans Chapter 6, makes this assumption. That all those who have by faith, acknowledged Jesus, will just automatically say how I can identify with his death. They would automatically say I need to participate in that death and baptism. He wouldn't know of an un-baptized believer in the New Testament. There just weren't any because it was the natural response of a believer to come to Christ and identify with him in his death so that his death becomes valuable to all of us.

Maybe that's where you are. You've been a believer for a long time but you've never committed yourself in that act of baptism so that you can identify with his death. If that is something you need to do, we want to help you with that. If you have questions about it, we want to know and try to answer them for you. If you find yourself enslaved to sin--you just don't know how to get rid of that master, we want to help you with that as well.

If we can talk with you, if we can pray with you, if we can guide you, please let us know how. But more than anything else, we just want to offer you Jesus, the ONE who came and died once for all, so you don't have to. And we invite you into faith in Him. To trust Him with your life which will lead to holiness and eternal life.

Let's stand. Let's sing. If you have a decision that you need to make this morning that's public, please feel free to come. If not, we encourage you to let the words of this song really reflect what you want to become in your own life.