15 What then? Should we sin because we are not under law but under grace? Absolutely not! 16 Don’t you know that if you offer yourselves to someone as obedient slaves, you are slaves of that one you obey —either of sin leading to death or of obedience leading to righteousness? 17 But thank God that, although you used to be slaves of sin, you obeyed from the heart that pattern of teaching you were transferred to, 18 and having been liberated from sin, you became enslaved to righteousness. 19 I am using a human analogy because of the weakness of your flesh. For just as you offered the parts of yourselves as slaves to moral impurity, and to greater and greater lawlessness, so now offer them as slaves to righteousness, which results in sanctification. 20 For when you were slaves of sin, you were free from allegiance to righteousness. 21 So what fruit was produced then from the things you are now ashamed of? For the end of those things is death. 22 But now, since you have been liberated from sin and have become enslaved to God, you have your fruit, which results in sanctification —and the end is eternal life! 23 For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture quotations are taken from the Holman Christian Standard Bible®, Copyright © 1999, 2000, 2002, 2003, 2009 by Holman Bible Publishers. Used by permission. Holman Christian Standard Bible®, Holman CSB®, and HCSB® are federally registered trademarks of Holman Bible Publishers.
What do you think of when you hear the word “slavery”? As someone who grew up in the American South in the ‘70s and ‘80s, the first image that pops into my mind comes from the 1977 ABC mini-series, “Roots,” based on the 1976 novel by Alex Haley.
I can clearly picture the African slave Kunta Kinte after he is brought back from yet another escape attempt and tied up at the mercy of his captors. I remember the absolute horror I felt as they chopped off half of his right foot to keep him from attempting to run away again. In my young mind, slavery equaled torture and the suffocating loss of freedom. As a slave, you are property, completely at the mercy of the one who owns you. Your choices are not your own, but must be wholly submitted to your master.
With that thought in mind, reread what Paul says in these verses. He is telling us that we are all slaves, in one way or another. We can either be slaves to sin, like we were before we decided to follow Christ, or we can be slaves to God.
In his 2005 book on modern global slavery, Kevin Bales wrote, “For some slaves, the first step out of bondage is to learn to see their lives with new eyes. Their reality is a social world where they have their place and some assurance of a subsistence diet. Born into slavery, they cannot easily redefine their lives outside the frame of enslavement.”
The same is true for us spiritually. We were all born into slavery to sin. But when Christ took our sin to the cross, He set us free from that bondage. Now we are no longer bound to obey our sin nature, and we need to learn to see our lives with new eyes. Now we are free to live as slaves to righteousness. We put off the old habits, those things that led to shame and disgrace, and we embrace a new life of holiness, which leads to life.
Unfortunately, until Jesus comes back we will never be completely free from sin. We are still fallible humans living in an exceedingly broken world. We are going to mess up. But how do we avoid living as if sin is our master and we have no ability to control it?
First, recognize the lie and accept responsibility for your own actions. Sin is controllable. If you have been purchased by the blood of Christ, then you are no longer owned by the Enemy. Praise God for that! Your old master wanted nothing more than to destroy you; your new Master wants nothing more than for you to live in freedom and peace with Him.
Second, understand that life is a journey. Every time you face one of your sin issues head on, dig into it, and ask God for wisdom and the ability to overcome, it loses a little bit more of its hold on you. You learn to recognize it when it rears its ugly head, call it out for what it is, speak truth over it and gain victory. Sanctification is a lifelong process, but a beautiful one when we allow God to refine us more and more each day.
 Kevin Bales, Understanding Global Slavery: A Reader (Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 2005), 4.
- If an outside party was asked to examine the evidence of your life and then to place you under the heading “slave to sin” or “slave to God,” which one do you think they would choose? Why?
- If you are living as a slave to sin, have you surrendered your heart fully to Christ and made a decision to follow Him?
- If you have, begin praying daily for freedom from whatever bondage seems to be enslaving you. You have been bought with a high price, and Jesus Himself is interceding on your behalf. Go to Him with your burden, lay it at His feet. Determine to turn away from it once and for all. If it is a battle you can’t seem to win on your own, seek professional counseling to determine what is at the root of the issue.
- Begin each day surrendered to the will of your new Master, and ask what He has for you to do that day. Be on the lookout for divine opportunities to do kingdom work, for they will surely come. Be ready!