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Slaves to God
by Neil Carter

When we were ruled by sin, we desired what was contrary to God's will, although occasionally influenced towards righteousness. But the temporary visits to righteousness did not change our sinful natureŚwe were still slaves to sin, because our actions do not constitute our nature. Righteousness was merely an outside influence upon us. But now God has changed our nature by freeing us from our former slavery to sin and binding us to righteousness. Now we are ruled by righteousness, and we desire what God desires. Sin still influences us from the outside, but these are temporary visits which do not change who we are. We simply go back to affirm what God has done for us and in us.

Our problem is that we did not know that we were slaves then, so we fail to see that we are slaves even now. When we were ruled by sin before, we "felt" free to do whatever we wished. But even our desires came from our indwelling master. And since we occasionally did good things too, we were convinced that we must be free. This deception continues to trip us up now, because if we are free, then we must be careful not to "fall into sin" and thereby become sinners again. If we are free, then we will have to work hard to keep in line with righteousness. What we are failing to see is that we are not our own (we never were) because humans do not determine their own natures (see Rom.9:21-23).

If you are not careful, you will read Romans 6:12-23 as saying that if you go back to sinning, you will become a slave to sin again. But in verses 17 and 18, Paul makes it clear that that is impossible! The rest of this chapter is not something you must do, it is telling you what you are. Do not be misled by all the "if's" in this passage. Paul uses rhetorical statements like these to illustrate the principle of slavery. Lest you conclude that you fall into the category of "slave to sin" (6:17-18), he clarifies the matter for you. "But now having been freed from sin and enslaved to God, you derive your benefit, resulting in sanctification, and the outcome is eternal life" (6:22).

You are not an independent self, and you derive your nature from the one who indwells you (1 John 4:4, John 8:44). We have trouble seeing ourselves as "dependents" in Christ because we were deceived for so long into thinking we were "independents" while we were in sin.