Sermon on Romans 6:15-23
20th Sunday after Pentecost
Thanks Be to God!
1. You’re free!
2. You’re a slave!
Text: Romans 6:15-23
The year: 1861. The setting: The deep South. The location: a cotton plantation in rural Georgia. Your job: a slave. Freedom is a foreign concept. The shackles on your hands and your feet prove it. The deep gashes on your back prove it. All day long you are forced into rigorous labor—picking cotton in the field, churning butter by hand, obeying every beck and call of your master. All night long you are chained up so that you cannot escape.
If you should slow down in your work during the day, the whip slashing your back or the rod smashing your head quickly would remind you that you are a slave. You aren’t free. If you should try to escape during the night, the knife blade or the gunshot would teach you a lesson you will never forget. You are a slave. You aren’t free.
There is no regard for humanity. You are slave. There is no freedom. You are a slave. There is no escaping. Ever. You are a slave. Whether you make a run for it or you stay and do your duty, you are doomed and destined to death. Slavery results in death.
But then that very special day came about—January 1, 1863. An executive order was issued by the president of the United States of America. Abraham Lincoln signed a document known as the Emancipation Proclamation. This document declared the freedom for slaves. Not just any slave, not just some slaves, but all slaves. This means you, too. You have been freed from your slavery. No more forced labor. No more torture. No more immanent death. You are free.
How foolish it would be, then, if you continued in your slavery! Why would you submit yourself to such abuse? Why would you submit yourself to such affliction? Why would you want to lose your freedom? Why would you want to be a part of something that only resulted in death? You’re no longer a slave. Give Thanks to God! You’re Free!
Fast forward in time. The year: 2010. The setting: Further south. The location: Northeast Florida. Your job: Father, mother, husband, wife, child, employee, retiree, neighbor, citizen. Freedom is again a foreign concept. You are a slave. Not to a plantation owner. Not to your master. You are a slave to sin.
And oh how tight your bonds and your shackles are! You try to escape, but you can’t. You try to stop cursing, but somehow that bad word always slips out. You try to be patient, but some things just really aggravate you. You don’t know why. But sometimes you just blow your top. You try so hard to break your bad habits. But no matter how hard you try, it seems like you keep doing the same things over and over again. You wish you could be more trusting. You wish your faith were stronger. But there are always questions. There are always doubts. And no matter how hard you try, you just can’t keep your thoughts pure and clean. As verse 19 says, “You offer the parts of your body in slavery to impurity and to ever-increasing wickedness.” As verse 20 says, you are “free from the control of righteousness.” (And when you are free from the control of righteousness and holiness, that means you are under the control of sin and Satan.)
The good you want to do, you fail to do. The bad things you don’t want to do, that you keep on doing. You can’t stop. You can’t break free. You are a slave to sin. There is no escaping. Shackled by the bonds of your own sinful filth, you are doomed and destined to death. Verse 23: “For the wages of sin is death.” Slavery results in death.
But then that very special day came about. It was a day that had the feel of slavery. The whip cracked as it slashed across the back. The rod smashed atop the head. There was mockery. There were beatings. There was deep humiliation. Blood gushed from gaping wounds leaving trails and pools everywhere it fell. This was a day that had the feel of slavery, for there was great punishment inflicted.
But then it all stopped. The beatings stopped. The suffering stopped. The punishment stopped. It all ended with the signing of one decree. Rather, it all ended with the shouting of one decree: “It is finished.” An Emancipation Proclamation. This proclamation declared the freedom for slaves. Not just any slave, not just some slaves, but all slaves. This means you, too. You have been freed from your slavery. No more torture. No more immanent death. You are free. “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
How foolish it would be, then, if you continued in your slavery! Why would you submit yourself to such abuse? Why would you submit yourself to such affliction? Why would you want to lose your freedom? Why would you want to be a part of something that only resulted in death? Verse 15: “What then? Shall we sin because we are not under law but under grace? By no means!” No! Instead, verse 17: “But thanks be to God that, though you used to be slaves to sin, you wholeheartedly obeyed the form of teaching to which you were entrusted. You have been set free from sin!” Friends, Give Thanks to God! You’re Free!
Believe it or not, there were some slaves who did not leave their place of work after January 1, 1863. Sure, they had a status change. They were now free. They were no longer slaves. But they didn’t want to leave. They wanted to continue being slaves.
You see, these few people had different masters than the rest. These owners treated their slaves like family. They loved and cared for their slaves. They never hurt them, never abused them, never mistreated them. Instead, they prepared rooms for the slaves in their own home. They gave great gifts to their slaves. They always acted in love toward them.
It’s no wonder these slaves stayed! Though what they were doing was technically called “slavery,” this slavery was better than anything else they could have. They were fed. They were provided for. They were protected. It wasn’t a burden. It was a joy to serve these masters. Who wouldn’t want to serve such a loving and caring master? Who wouldn’t want to be a slave when in fact you aren’t treated like a slave, but rather like royalty? For these, they Gave Thanks to God because They’re Slaves!
You are also free. The gift of Christ’s blood, poured out for you, has purchased your forgiveness and redemption. As Jesus burst forth from tomb on Easter morning, so also have your bonds of slavery to sin been shattered. You no longer have the status of “slave.” You are free.
But yet, though we are free, we prefer to be slaves! For we have a Master now that is different than all the rest. This Master doesn’t treat us, his servants, like slaves. He treats us as family. In fact, he even officially and formally adopts us into his own family. You witnessed it this morning. You saw the bonds and shackles of slavery to sin removed as water splashed a head and God’s Word and promise were proclaimed. You saw a little baby girl adopted into the family and service of our Master.
This Master would never hurt us, never abuse us, never mistreat us. Instead, he prepares many rooms for us in his own Father’s house. He has even gone there to prepare a place for us now. If it were not so, he would have told us. This Master always gives good and perfect gifts. He always acts in love. Whether we know and understand or not, he always acts in love.
It’s no wonder that we want to remain slaves! Though what we are doing is technically called, “slavery,” this slavery is better than anything else we could ever have. We are fed. We are provided for. We are protected. It’s not a burden. It’s a joy to serve this Master! Who wouldn’t want to serve such a loving and caring Master? Who wouldn’t want to be a slave when in fact we aren’t treated like a slave, but rather like royalty!
Verse 17: “But thanks be to God that, though you used to be slaves to sin, you wholeheartedly obeyed the form of teaching to which you were entrusted. You have been set free from sin and have become slaves to righteousness.” Friends, Give Thanks to God! You’re Slaves!
The burden, the horror, the atrocity of slavery in the 18th and 19th centuries in the United States of America are beyond what any current American could possibly fathom. Yet at the same time, we all understand slavery. We do know the burden of being enslaved by sin. We’ve felt the horror of sin as we live with the guilt of our own actions. We know the atrocity of what our sins result in—an eternity of fire and pain in hell.
Thus, we also understand freedom. We know the freedom from a guilty conscience. We know the peace of having the shackles of sin removed. We know the joy of looking forward to eternal life and not death. All of this is because of our great Master, our Master who did not lord his power and authority over us, but rather himself became our servant as he gave his life to be the ransom price for our eternal freedom.
So now we serve. Not by threat. Not by compulsion. Not by force. No! We serve as slaves in freedom. We serve in joy. We serve in thanks. We serve in love. For, “Now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves to God, the benefit you reap leads to holiness, and the result is eternal life. For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” You are Free and You are a Slave! Give Thanks to God!
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