Session 7 - Slavery and Freedom Romans 6:20-23

Lesson 7

Slavery and Freedom

Romans 6:20-23


Our reminder: the primary focus of Romans 6/7 is -  how can we live our lives here on earth in a manner that approximates our righteous standing before God in heaven? So the real issue in these chapters is Change or how to move from where we are to where we ought to be..

Vs 19 commanded us to present ourselves “…as slaves to righteousness…” that is, slaves to ethical conduct or obedience.  Do it now he says. Consequently beginning in v 20 we are told why this makes sense. 

Illustration: In 2002, a new investment vehicle quietly surfaced on the stock market: the Vice Fund. The prospectus of the Vice Fund claims that it favors "products or services often considered socially irresponsible." Investments have been made by various managers in companies linked to alcohol, tobacco, gambling, and military contracts.

This fund and another, the Gaming and Casino fund, both rest on a certain approach: Stocks that exploit the dark side of human nature are a natural for Wall Street, particularly during economic downturns.

Dan Ahrens, former manager of the Vice Fund, who started the Gaming and Casino fund, expands on this philosophy in his book “Investing in Vice”. He believes that bad habits don't change, even during bad economic times. People still indulge in vices regardless of what happens in the stock market; smoking, drinking, gambling. 

And, so far, those philosophies have produced results. The Vice Fund has returned positive gains.… "Would You Invest in Human Vices?" Omaha Sunday World-Herald (7-16-06) p. D 1-2; submitted by Ted De Haas, Bedford, Iowa

Contrary to the Vice Fund’s great monetary results…

A. Sin has no advantage; obedience has every advantage 20-23 

This concluding paragraph contains much restatement of Paul’s argument. So, I’ll summarize only. 

1. A simple summary: Sin leads to eternal death; righteousness leads to eternal life 20-22. Slavery to sin means freedom from righteousnessIts fruit is shame and it produces eternal death of which there is no benefit.  But, slavery to righteousness means freedom from sin. Its fruit is sanctification and it produces eternal life of which there is great benefit.  

Here is what I mean. The slavery imagery of vs 16-19 is still paramount. A slave is not a freedman; a freedman is not a slave. And by extension, because sin and obedience are mutually exclusive and because both dominate, a person can not be a slave to both sin and obedience or free from both at the same time.  

But the focus is on the bottom line. This is expressed by two concepts - the benefit or fruit karpo,j and the outcome or end te,loj)

There is no benefit to sinful living. But it is not merely a neutral matter – it is not merely that I get no benefit from sinful living. It is much worse. The final end is eternal misery, namely, death, which is  another way to speak of eternal judgment in hell. 

Illust: Marlboro man

On the other hand, there is great benefit to righteous living – initially it is having a life that is pleasing to God (“sanctification” or holiness). And ultimately, the final end is everlasting joy, here called eternal life which is another way to speak of eternal bliss in heaven. Mark 10:29-30 Jesus said, "Truly I say to you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or farms, for My sake and for the gospel's sake, 30 but that he will receive a hundred times as much now in the present age, houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and farms, along with persecutions; and in the age to come, eternal life. So, I should look art both the here and the there. If I do in 5 yrs what I do today what will life look like?

Note ESV/NAU v 21. An alternate may be helpful. Put the question mark after “deriving.” Therefore what benefit were you then deriving? (the answer)The things of which you are now ashamed. For the outcome of those things is death. This sets up a parallel. Vs 21 = slavery to sin results in shame and ends in eternal death. Vs 22 = slavery to God results in sanctification and ends in eternal life. (see Moo) 

Thus, another tool for our Toolkit for Lasting Change:

Tool #8 - Know this: What you once were you are now not, 6:20-22. Do this: Stop living in the past. Failure to change means we are living in the past. Slavery to sin is a pre-Christian notion. You are now freed from the mastery of sin. You are now slaves of God. The past and present language is unmistakably set in contrast.  We must act on the change in our master. 

Here is the deal - there are no grey areas in this discussion. Straddling the fence not permitted.  You can’t have it both ways. Either sin or God will be your master. This too goes against our basic inclination. We all have a bit of the heart of Lot in us – Genesis 19:20 now behold, this town is near enough to flee to, and it is small. Please, let me escape there (is it not small?) that my life may be saved."

Ask the class:  We need to apply this tool to specific issues that are common struggles for Christians. The specific area I would propose today is Mishandling your money.  So, now what? How can we apply the tool, “Stop living in the past”, to this situation?” 

Reminder: the common “First Steps for Change” to be applied to all situations are:

  1. What have I done or not done? (Be specific)
  2. What does God say? (Bible)
  3. Is this sin? (If so, seek forgiveness and make restitution when possible.) 

4. What must I do? (Be specific)


Then list specific actions suggested by the tool(s) germane to the issue at hand. 

Points I would mention regarding this tool (with Scripture) if not brought up by class members would be:

1. Memorize 1 Corinthians 6:9 “Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived; neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor homosexuals, 10 nor thieves, nor the covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers, will inherit the kingdom of God. 11 Such were some of you; but you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of our God.” (So, here is how I handled and viewed money before I was saved. Now I am different so…)

2Ask whether these declarations are true: Your values and perspective have changed. Your money isn’t yours. You are a steward. You are not a materialist.

3. Find an accountability partner.  Being accountable to someone else can be of great help as you seek to make your change lasting. I strongly recommend it.  When you give someone permission to ask you pointed questions the pressure is on! This can be an important element in your responsibility to …train yourself to be godly1 Timothy 4:7.

2. A very simple summary: Eternal death comes to us as a compensation for sin; but eternal life comes to us as a favor from God. 23. 

Here is what I mean. This verse is a conclusion to the discussion. It highlights the differing outcomes. On the one hand, wages are earnings. On the other hand, a gift is a bonus…. Wages are paid regularly. But a gift is given whenever the giver determines. Wages are earned. But a gift can not be earned. Sin promises life but gives death! Grace unexpectedly brings life. Sin consistently casts a shadow of death even while we live. Grace always brightens the darkness of life. The rightful payment for sin is death. But a gift could be anything. If we get what we deserve, then we get death as the fair wage of sin. If we get what we do not deserve, we get life as a free gift.

 The difference maker is Christ! He is the only reason we can talk of life and a gift rather than death and wages. The whole package is connected to Christ. Everything in salvation is dependent on him. Without him there is nothing. Jesus himself declared, I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father, but through me John 14:6. Peter proclaimed to the Sanhedrin, there is salvation in no one else Acts 4:12. So, eternal life is possible only through Jesus. We must come to God on His terms; and his terms are the cross of Christ. 

Discussion: The ESV/NAS translates 6:23 “free gift” rather than the KJV/NIV “gift”. What’s the difference? Which do you prefer?

“Free gift” (χάρισμα) is probably the translation because it means the result of grace (ma ending)  or hence grace gifts.  This is opposite of wages (ὀψώνιον) that means the compensation for or result of service (especially in the military). (Friberg 20248). So, “Free gift” seems to emphasize this notion better than simply “gift”. However, of the 17 NT uses of charisma only 3 are translated “free gift”. And they are in salvation contexts (Romans 5:15,16;6:23). The other occurrences are is translated “gift” and are in conjunction with  special or spiritual gifts. Thus it may be arguing over nothing. {Note:χάρισμα used instead of another word for “gift” (δωρεά)}

3. An extremely simple summary: Sinning is stupid. This is a Flatt overstatement. 

Here is what I mean. Sinning is stupid. 

Handout “35 Reasons Not to Sin” by Jim Elliff

Illustration: When I heard about Alice Pike's arrest, two questions came to mind. Alice is the woman who tried to pay for her Wal-Mart purchases with a $1 million bill. My two questions: "There isn't really a $1 million bill, is there?" and, "What was she thinking?"

The answer to the first question is no, silly. The U.S. Treasury doesn't make a bank note with that many zeros. (The largest denomination of currency ever printed by the Bureau of Engraving and Printing was the $100,000 Series 1934 Gold Certificate featuring the portrait of President Wilson.)

Alice went to the register with $1,675 worth of stuff. What is amazing is that she expected change. Math is not my strong suit, but by my calculation, that's a lot of change. Was Alice really expecting that the cashier not only would, but actually could, hand over $998,325.00? Did she envision the cashier on the loudspeaker saying, "We need 10's and 20's at register 5?" Did she even bring a vehicle big enough to handle her purchases and the mountain of change?

Alice helps remind us of the irrationality of sin. Most sin doesn't make sense. We lie and expect good results. We overindulge in food or alcohol or entertainment and expect to feel better. We take what isn't ours and expect satisfaction. We refuse to resist temptation and expect peace. We act selfishly and expect stronger relationships. We ignore repentance and expect forgiveness. We hand over a fake and expect change. John Beukema, Western Springs, Illin

This is especially brought home by the contrast between our past pre-Christian life and our present Christian life. This is the foundational assumption. The “when” of v 20 and “then” of v 21 as opposed to the “now” of v 22 convey this idea. So why would we want to live in the past?

So, the next for our Toolkit for Lasting Change is: 

Tool # 9 -  Know this: Tomorrow is not guaranteed, 6:23. Do this: Live with an eye on today and the last day. Repeat after me - “Today may be the my final day on earth.” What do you want; eternal death or eternal life? It is that simple. There are no grey areas. In many respects v 23 is all about the last day when we stand before God– eternal death or eternal life. 

Ask the class:  We need to apply this tool to specific issues that are common struggles for Christians. The specific area I would propose today is Procrastination.  So, now what? How can we apply the tool, “live with an eye on today and the last day”, to this situation?” 

Reminder: the common “First Steps for Change” to be applied to all situations are:

  1. What have I done or not done? (Be specific)
  2. What does God say? (Bible)
  3. Is this sin? (If so, seek forgiveness and make restitution when possible.) 

4. What must I do? (Be specific)


Then list specific actions suggested by the tool(s) germane to the issue at hand. 

Points I would mention (along with appropriate Scripture) if not brought up by class members would be: 

1. Evaluate whether the thing you keep putting off is something you really want or ought to do before you die. If not, no big deal, move on and keep it on your to do list. But if so, stop now and do it. You may not live past today.

Buzz Groups: How might you use Romans 6:23 in your personal evangelism efforts?


Quote: The thought of facing God on the last day caused Jonathan Edwards to resolve to “never to do anything which I would be afraid to do if it were the last hour of my life” (various sources). 

So somehow we must keep our eye on the last day as well as today. Hebrews 10:22 “let us draw near with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. 23 Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful; 24 and let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds, 25 not forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another; and all the more as you see the day drawing near”


Study 7:1-6

And our ongoing assignment: Chose one personal specific issue/area that you want to change. Then work out how to use this week’s tool to help bring about change with the chosen issue. (This will be the issue/area that you will focus on for the duration of the class unless you arrive at the point of making satisfactory progress on the issue. If so, then tackle another issue.)

© Copyright. Joseph Flatt. 2017. All rights reserved. May be used for educational purposes without written permission but with a citation to this source.

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