As freedom-loving Americans, the thought of being owned by someone else gives us this basic gut feeling of repugnance and disgust. It’s not something we would want to happen to us personally. So, when we read about being a slave in Paul’s letter to the Romans chapters 6-7, it’s hard for us to hear what he’s saying. The word carries a lot of historical baggage for us in America because our national history is intertwined with slavery. But Paul was not talking about the treatment of black slaves or sex trafficking victims or gang members or drug lords or abusive husbands. Slaves and servants were very much a part of the culture in Paul’s day – a way of life. So, as we look at chapters 6-7, Paul intentionally uses the word “slave” and addresses being “owned” as an illustration so his readers could easily form a picture of what’s happening in a spiritual sense. The Greek word he uses is “doulos” or “douleo”. It could mean servant or slave, but in these chapters it refers to spiritual slavery. Paul considered himself a doulos – a slave to Jesus. In fact, he considered every believer, every follower, to be a slave to Jesus Christ. That sounds strange to our ears, doesn’t it? A slave to Jesus? It sounds discordant, dissonant. But we didn’t start out that way. We didn’t start out as slaves to Jesus. We started out with a much, much worse master. Paul says we were slaves to sin. Our first master was sin. “… I am unspiritual, sold as a slave to sin” (Romans 7:14) In short, we were owned by sin. We were originally spiritual slaves to our first master: sin.
However, when Jesus died on the cross and said “It is finished!” everything changed in the spiritual realm. There’s a new sheriff in town! That old sheriff (sin) who imposed his will and forced everybody to bow down to his evil, wicked ways has been disarmed, exposed, thrown out into the street, and ignominiously kicked out of town! Sin has been dethroned!
Paul even goes so far as to say in vv5-8 and specifically in v8 that we also died with Christ at the cross! I’m trying to wrap my head around these verses! V6 says that my old self (my sinful nature that was ruled by sin) my old self was crucified with Christ. I am no longer bound to my sin master! This doesn’t mean that sin isn’t still around. We all know that sin and evil are still very much alive in this world. We’re well aware of our sin. But what Paul means is that for anyone who puts their faith in Jesus, their trust in Jesus, their life into the hands of Jesus, the power of sin is broken in that person. Sin is no longer their master. You are no longer bound as a slave to sin. Do you and I still sin? Yes. Our free will can choose sin. But you are not a slave to sin! You have a new master! For sin shall no longer be your master, because you are not under the law, but under grace… you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God…” (Romans 6:14 & 22) So, my new owner is Jesus. I am a slave to Jesus, a slave for Jesus. A slave to righteousness. My allegiance has changed. By faith, I willingly choose Jesus to be my Master. I choose him to be my Master because he gives life! I’m excited for Jesus to be my new master and for me to be his slave because he… loves… me! My sinful nature didn’t love me, and still doesn’t. My sinful nature doesn’t give life to my soul. It doesn’t bring me abundant life. The sin master does not love you and does not lay down its life for you.
But Master Jesus loves you! He lays down his life for you… to set you free. He leads you to life – not death. He has delivered you! He shows you grace. He forgives you. He walks with you. He brings hope and blessing. He never leaves you or forsakes you. He separates you from the power of sin that is still in the world. He separates you for holiness, for himself. No longer are you a slave to your sinful nature. You can live for Jesus!