Slaves to Sin

Don’t you realize that you become the slave of whatever you choose to obey? You can be a slave to sin, which leads to death, or you can choose to obey God, which leads to righteous living. Thank God! Once you were slaves of sin, but now you wholeheartedly obey this teaching we have given you. Now you are free from your slavery to sin, and you have become slaves to righteous living.      Romans 6:16-18 NLT

So the trouble is not with the law, for it is spiritual and good. The trouble is with me, for I am all too human, a slave to sin.                                                                                              Romans 7:14 NLT

Thank God! The answer is in Jesus Christ our Lord. So you see how it is: In my mind I really want to obey God’s law, but because of my sinful nature I am a slave to sin.                              Romans 7:25 NLT

I confess that I am frankly astonished when I hear persons referring to Romans chapter 7 as a description of “the normal Christian life.” What? Have they not read chapter 6 (or for that matter, chapter 8)? As quoted above, no Christian can be a slave to sin. Paul says we have died to sin when we died with Christ in baptism. He says that we dare not continue in sin because it will infect every part of our lives. He says with joy that we have been delivered from that old slavery and have become slaves to righteousness.

So how can someone say that slavery to sin, which is what chapter 7 describes, is “normal Christianity?” Well, Paul bears a lot of the blame for this with his use of the present tense and of first person pronouns. But what is he doing? He is answering a question that readers might well ask at the end of chapter six. It would go something like this: So Paul, how do I live this life in which sin is defeated? Do I do it by rigorous discipline and devoted effort? To this Paul says a resounding “No!” “That won’t work,” he says. “I know. As a good Jew, I loved the Torah, but all it did was condemn me because it could not defeat my self-centered will. I know this as an immediate and personal reality. I can’t defeat sin.” “So, Paul,” the reader says,” what am I supposed to do?” Paul answers (chapter 8), “Do what I do. Walk by the Spirit.”

Try to live the Christian life in your own strength and your own effort and you will be a slave to sin. Surrender control of your life to the Holy Spirit, and you will no longer be a slave to sin.

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