17 March 2012

Romans 6:12-23

"For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace." (v. 14)


Having established that Christians are under grace not law, Paul does two things in this passage; he challenges believers to live as if dead to sin, and he challenges the idea that living under grace gives licence to sin. He uses the illustration of someone reporting for duty, presenting themself for action. Although in Carlo Goldoni's play The Servant of Two Masters, the attempts of Truffaldino to fulfil the demands of two 'bosses' are seen as comic, for the Christian, trying to serve both 'impurity' and 'righteousness' can't work!

Paul talks of being "set free from sin" (v. 18), which some seem to have taken to mean "set free TO sin". He wants his readers to understand that the idea of a disciple being "free" in the sense of having no master at all does not arise; there are two alternatives, sin or God, and freedom from sin implies slavery to righteousness. We may find this language uncomfortable, and indeed, Paul himself seems to apologise for it in verse 19, but still pursues this powerful illustration. We may also be reminded of the words of Jesus, inMatthew 6:24, "No one can serve two masters, for a slave will either hate the one and love the other, or be devoted to the one and despise the other", or we may be taken further back and hear echoes of Joshua's words to the people of Israel just before entering the Promised Land, "Choose this day whom you will serve" (Joshua 24:15).

The oft quoted verse 23 demonstrates the rewards of the life we choose; the wage which is paid for slavery to sin is death; whereas slavery to God and to righteousness brings about something which is not earned, but is God's free gift - eternal life. Paul has led the way through some difficult waters this week, but his aim is that all his readers should discover this free gift for themselves and live in it.

To Ponder

Is it possible to serve two masters? Have you tried at times in your life? What happened? Or what do you think might happen?

Might it be a helpful thought each morning to "present yourself" to God for your orders for the day? You could try it.

Is God's free gift of eternal life something for now or something for when we die? Why?

Bible notes author

Jill Baker

Jill Baker lives in Glasgow and is glad to be part of the small but distinctive Methodist Church in Scotland. She is a local preacher and local preachers' tutor in the Strathclyde Circuit, where Andrew is superintendent minister.