You’re a slave.
There’s no escaping that fact.
The question is—whose slave are you?
If you sin, then you’re a slave to it. That’s what Jesus taught:
Jesus answered them, “Most assuredly, I say to you, whoever commits sin is a slave of sin” (John 8:34).
The addict knows this. But I think that, at some level, we all do because while we like to divide people into respectable and disreputable sinners, the truth is, we all struggle with sin. Some just do it more publicly than others.
But God does not want you to be a slave to sin! He wants to release you from that slavery. So He did something about it—He crucified you with Jesus. As Paul wrote to the Romans:
knowing this, that our old man was crucified with Him, that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves of sin. For he who has died has been freed from sin (Rom 6:6-7).
Do you know that? Do you know that you were a slave to sin, but you don’t need to continue to be any longer? Yes, slavery to sin is still a possibility for you, but it’s no longer a necessity because your “old man”—i.e., your old life in sin—was crucified with Christ. And that was done so that your body of sin could be rendered powerless. As a dead man, you’ve been freed from sin! (v 7). As Weymouth puts it, “he who has paid the penalty of death stands absolved from his sin.” And Eaton translates it as, “For he that is died is legally released from sin” (Eaton, Living Under Grace, p. 50).
You get the idea.
Since you died, you’re free. Sin no longer has a hold on you.
Remember that this section of Romans addresses the objection that grace promotes sin. Paul is not only answering the question, “Shall we continue in sin that grace may abound?” (Rom 6:1) but is rejecting the theological mindset that would make such a question possible.
You see, for Paul, that question is impossible. It makes no sense. His mindset towards sin is totally different, as yours should be.
The objector thinks the relationship between the believer and sin is one of continuity. He thinks it makes sense that, after justification, the old life would just go on as it did before. “Shouldn’t we continue in sin?” He doesn’t understand that the believer’s relationship to sin has been radically changed. As Newell said, “It is the consciousness of being sinful that keeps back saints from that glorious life Paul lived” (Newell, Romans, p. 215).
Paul had a different consciousness altogether. Paul knew he was crucified with Christ (Gal 2:20)—his old man was crucified. He knew he was justified, absolved, and set free from sin. His relationship to sin had been severed. And that is true of you, too.
So you might think that you need to continue serving that old master sin, but you’ve been legally released! In the ancient world, slaves would save up during their lives to buy their own freedom. For many it was an unattainable goal. But once freed, do you think the slave would keep on serving a cruel master? Of course not! So why should a Christian, who was once a slave to sin, keep on serving that old master after being set free? It makes no sense.
Is sin still a problem for the believer? Yes. But it’s not the problem you may think of.
Sin does not dwell in you, so much as in your body. And even there, it has been rendered powerless. Temptations and desires still come through the body. But sin need not have dominion over you as a believer. Instead, you can have dominion over it.
As Eaton says, “Sin will not rule over me. I just have a few little challenges from an enemy that has been decisively cast out of my life and can only harass me through the body. The greatest victory has already been won” (Eaton, Living Under Grace, p. 51).
Continue in sin? That makes no sense. You’ve been freed. So live free.