Kincardine Baptist Church

Romans 6:15-23


     When modern Christians read Paul speaking about ‘slavery’ in relation to sin, there is generally a modest reaction. Most classical Christians accept the metaphor as an accurate description about the power of sin. When the metaphor is continued, and Paul speaks of our relationship with God in terms of "slavery" the reaction is much less enthusiastic. Coupling slavery with a negative thing like sin is fine, but coupling slavery and God seems unthinkable.
     First we must acknowledge that North America’s recent history of slavery is quite unlike slavery in the Hebrew world. A quick study of the Old Testament shows staggering differences (max. 6 years servitude, manumission at jubilee, punishment to masters for physical abuse, etc.). Nevertheless, the metaphor is still distasteful for many.
     It seems, upon, close study, that Paul felt this same kind of tension. He apologizes for using such a crass example in v.19; but then continues on its use. Cranfield notes that while the image of slavery is crude, to Paul and to us, no other image truly captures the "total belongingness" that is experienced by a believer in Jesus Christ. Everything is owed to God, because he has set us free from our old Master — Sin.

v. 15 The question may seem ludicrous to some; but this was the tension in the early church. If one is no longer under the law but under grace; why should one work hard to live a righteous life.

Think about it!

People tend to see things passively these days. Sin is the absence of Good. Cursing is the absence of Blessing etc. To Paul, the passive acceptance of sin is to be a slave to sin and to be completely ensnared in its power. Sin is seen as active not passive. To reject God as Master is to accept Sin as Master — there is no middle ground.

v. 16 Paul could have used a different word for ‘slave’ (doulos) if he wanted to soften the image. There are at least three Greek alternatives for the weaker term ‘servant’. Paul uses this stronger term to describe his own relationship to Christ in v.1. It would seem that for Paul, only the Master-Slave metaphor aptly describes the totality of this new relationship with God in Christ.

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