What does Paul mean when he says that we have been freed from sin; that we become slaves to righteousness?
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“But thanks be to God that though you were slaves of sin, you became obedient from the heart to that form of teaching to which you were committed, and having been freed from sin, you became slaves of righteousness.” (Romans 6:17-18)

What does Paul mean when he says that we have been freed from sin; that we become slaves to righteousness?

He is speaking to Christians and so it means that all of us who are Christians have been freed from sin and made slaves to righteousness. We understand the words but is he talking about something we really have experienced?

At first glance one could think that we are no longer surrounded by sinfulness but just looking around at the world we inhabit with its crime and trouble would tell us that this is not so.

We could hope that this means that we personally are no longer going to sin as Christians but which on of us can say that we do not sin in some way all the time… so what does this freedom from sin mean?

Freedom from sin means 2 things:

A. We have freedom from the dominance that sin has over us.

We still sin, yes, but we do so less and less because we now have the Holy Spirit dwelling within us to help us overcome temptation.

“…if by the Spirit you are putting to death the deeds of the flesh” (Romans 8:13)

B. We have freedom from the consequences of sin:

“For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 6:23)

Sin = death; free gift= eternal life; liberated from the judgment against us: pardon.

So through Jesus we are freed from the power that sin has over us and the punishment that awaits us because of it.

Slaves to righteousness

There is some misunderstanding about this passage. Slaves to righteousness does not mean that, as Christians we become slaves to perfectionism.

Slave to perfection is one who is never satisfied unless one’s behavior is without fault; one’s work is without mistake; one’s accomplishments are always better than everyone else.

Unfortunately this is what many think Christianity is all about.

Slave to righteousness is not a perfectionist, it is a person who is committed to pursuing what is right, who loves what is right, who rejoices in what is right.

“ …does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth;” ( I Corinthians 13:6)

Jesus refers to these slaves of righteousness when He says,

“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness for they shall be satisfied.” (Matthew 5:6)

They are slaves in the sense that whatever is right and good and pure and holy and worthy of praise, they are automatically for it, regardless of the cost or suffering or the opposition, they will side with what is right, even if they are not perfectly accomplishing what right demands.

This thirst for righteousness will be satisfied to a degree now in the sense that the present imperfection is covered by God’s grace but one day, when there will be no sin, no dealth, that thirst for what is right will be completely satisfied; they will be themselves perfect, not through accomplishment but through resurrection to perfection.

Summary

When you put these ideas together, Paul is saying that when you are freed from sin you begin to be a slave of righteousness.

We need to ask ourselves the question, “Have we experienced this freedom and do we feel this thirst for righteousness?”

We cannot overcome sinfulness, overcome condemnation, overcome death and we cannot know the joy and blessedness of thirsting continuously for what is right, unless we are freed from sin. Freedom from sin leads us to slavery for righteousness.

This freedom only comes when we are forgiven for our sins through repentance and baptism in the name of Christ.

  • Paul refers to this teaching in Romans 6:17.
  • Obedience to the teaching frees us from sin.

Are you free, are you thirsty?