15 What then? Are we to sin because we are not under law but under grace? By no means! 16 Do you not know that if you present yourselves to anyone as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin, which leads to death, or of obedience, which leads to righteousness? 17 But thanks be to God, that you who were once slaves of sin have become obedient from the heart to the standard of teaching to which you were committed, 18 and, having been set free from sin, have become slaves of righteousness. 19 I am speaking in human terms, because of your natural limitations. For just as you once presented your members as slaves to impurity and to lawlessness leading to more lawlessness, so now present your members as slaves to righteousness leading to sanctification.
- Romans 6:15-19
Romans 6:1 asks, “Should we sin to gain more grace?” Romans 6:15 asks, “Should we sin because of grace?” The answer to both is an emphatic “No!” We have come to Christ with all our need and placed it at his feet. We have pleaded with him to forgive our sins, and he has shown on the cross that he paid the penalty. More than that, he has granted new life with him. The grace he gives comes at the cost of his finished work. How could we treat it as a poker chip to be gambled?
Tom Schreiner says, “One is either God’s slave or sin’s slave. Those who think that freedom is attained by jettisoning obedience to God opt for sin as their lord.” Real freedom is not the absence of all rule. It is the presence of right rule. We cannot be free by throwing off all lordship. To do so is to be under the lordship of sin. You find the escape hatch by becoming a slave to God. True freedom is found living under the lordship of Christ.
We are slaves to the one whom we obey, and we all obey someone or something. Our lives are thousands of little decisions to obey either sin or God. One leads to death, the other to righteousness. Before coming to Christ, our master, Sin, led us to death. Every act of sin brought us closer to the grave and further from the Father. But after coming to Christ, our Master, Jesus, has so thoroughly cleansed and changed our heart that we no longer desire to obey sin. We desire to obey Jesus.
Paul says we have become “obedient from the heart” (v. 17). Heart obedience is different from behavioral obedience. To obey from the heart is to obey out of your deepest self. We have not done this on our own, finding our way to God like a pilgrim stumbling upon the New World. We have come to these blissful shores by the blood-stained path of Jesus. God brought us here. He emancipated our soul. He purchased our life. He became our Lord. Our former master beat us daily, slowly killing us. Our new master heals us moment by moment until we look like him.
We have the ability now to love God because of the great love with which he loved us. Dietrich Bonhoeffer said, “The man who loves because he has been made free by God is the most revolutionary man on earth. He changes all values. He is the most explosive material of human society.” In an age where sin still enslaves, the man saved by God and following God in righteous is the most revolutionary man in town. If we will be open to God and follow him, letting him change us moment by moment, he will use us to spread this gospel of grace.