Trinity VII - Romans 6:19-23 - July 19, 2015
Order of Service - Pg. 15Hymn 41 Wondrous King, All-Glorious
O God, Whose never-failing providence ordereth all things both in Heaven and Earth, we humbly beseech Thee to put away from us all hurtful things and give to us those things which be profitable for us; through Jesus Christ, Thy Son, our Lord, Who liveth and reigneth with Thee and the Holy Ghost, ever one God, world without end.
1) The text for today’s sermon is the Epistle lesson from Romans chapter six. The lesson picks up in the middle of an argument so it is best if we look back a few verses, beginning with verse fifteen. Paul is answering the accusation that Christians, having died to the demands of the Law in their baptism, can go on sinning because they are no longer under the law but under grace. He writes, What then? Shall we sin because we are not under law but under grace? Certainly not! Do you not know that to whom you present yourselves slaves to obey, you are that one's slaves whom you obey, whether of sin leading to death, or of obedience leading to righteousness? (Romans 6:15-16) Paul’s writing, inspired by God the Spirit, is always timely because there are always those who want to throw out the Law and any obligation we have to God or neighbor based on a false understanding of the Gospel. So many in Paul’s day, just as in our day, want to claim that the Gospel sets them free form the curse of the Law, which it does, and then go on to live however they see fit, usually according to the passions of their flesh and their sinful desires. Paul argues that this is impossible because you were not set free from the slavery of sin to be free. You were set free to be the slaves of someone else. Humanity cannot be a neutral party in between God and the Devil, sin and righteousness, or the desires of the flesh and the desires of the Spirit. We slaves of either one or the other. The one to whom we present ourselves to obey, that one is our master.
2) Paul goes on to remind the Romans, and every Christian, that we were once all slaves to sin. All humanity is born that way because we, like David, are all born and conceived in sin. From birth we belong to the Devil because we are born from sinful man and woman. All our desires are sinful, that is self-serving and self-centered, which is why you never have to teach a child to be bad but you do have to teach them how to behave properly. Being a slave of sin means that you serve sin. When a sinful desire is aroused it demands to be listened to and followed. Being a slave of sin means that sin is your master, leading you around by your desires, your ambitions, your lusts, your self-centeredness, your desire to avoid suffering and protect your own skin at all costs. If you serve sin with your body, your members, your mind, then you are a slave of sin. And everyone is, by nature, a slave of sin, born into iron furnace of Egypt and the bondage of Pharaoh’s chain. Now the works of the flesh are evident, which are: adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lewdness, idolatry, sorcery, hatred, contentions, jealousies, outbursts of wrath, selfish ambitions, dissensions, heresies, envy, murders, drunkenness, revelries, and the like. (Galatians 5:19-21) Some of those are socially acceptable. Lewdness? Hatred? Jealousies? Selfish ambitions? Envy? They’re just as bad as adultery, murder, and idolatry because they are all works of the flesh, which drives us like a taskmaster to sin.
3) But Paul says in the next verses of Romans six, But God be thanked that though you were slaves of sin, yet you obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine to which you were delivered. And having been set free from sin, you became slaves of righteousness. (Romans 6:17-18) A slave cannot free itself. Slaves of sin cannot run away from their master because their master is their own sinful nature. You can change locations but you’re still bringing your taskmaster with you. The only way a slave can be set free is by someone else. Faith in the Gospel is what sets sinners free from their bondage to sin, the devil, and our own sinful nature. You obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine to which you were delivered. It was not be works. That word “obeyed,” u`phkou,sate in Greek, ought to be translated “listened to.” “Obey” is not only inaccurate but it lends itself to the thinking that sinners can obey their way out of their sin, that with enough works of the Law they can make themselves into freedmen. Besides, what is to be obeyed? The form of doctrine to which you were delivered. The doctrine Paul preached was not a doctrine of works-righteousness but of the righteousness of faith which we spoke of last week. The form of doctrine is the Gospel that Christ acquires for us a perfect righteousness and that faith alone receives that righteousness as our own, without works of the law. The Gospel is not to be obeyed. It is to be heard and believed, all of which is gift from God. Faith in Christ, hearing the Gospel with a believing heart and placing your confidence in Christ’s righteousness as your own before God’s throne of grace, that is what sets your free.
4) But this freedom your given is not a freedom to go back to your old master, the desires of your flesh. Your freedom, in fact, isn’t freedom in the way we think of freedom. It is still a form of slavery, but no longer to sin, but to righteousness. So we pick at the beginning of today’s Epistle. I speak in human terms because of the weakness of your flesh. For just as you presented your members as slaves of uncleanness, and of lawlessness leading to more lawlessness, so now present your members as slaves of righteousness for holiness. (Romans 6:19) The unbeliever runs to and fro to fulfill his sinful desires in obedience to them. But you who have been baptized into Christ, you have been baptized into His death and resurrection. You have been made slaves of righteousness. You are to offer your members as slaves of righteousness for the goal of holiness. Your members are every part of your body, your hands, your feet, even your mind, your will, and your imagination. All your members are to be used in servitude not to the flesh’s desires but for righteousness and holiness. You are not your own, you were bought with a price. Christ has purchased you from the Devil at great cost. You were not redeemed with corruptible things, like silver or gold . . . but with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot. (1 Peter 1:18-19) That was the cost at which He purchased you to be a Son in His Father’s house and a brother to Him so that you can be an heir of all the heavenly blessings along with Him.
5) You are not your own. Honor God with your body, he says. Present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service. (Romans 12:1) Paul exhorts you to do all these things because you have been rescued from the power of sin, death, and the devil. The fruit of your righteousness, which is by faith, is everlasting life. This is now yours instead of the wages of serving sin with your mind, imagination, and body, which is death. How do you present your members as slaves of righteousness to holiness? For the outward act we look to the second table of the Ten Commandments. Murderous thoughts are to be replaced with loving and protecting intentions toward your neighbor. Lustful thoughts are to be expelled with the aid of the Holy Ghost so that chastity and selflessness can rule the heart and mind. Covetousness and theft are to be put aside so that we can instead help our neighbor to preserve what he owns and protect his possessions. Malicious talk and gossip is to subdued so that the tongue can instead put the best construction on everything and conceal our neighbors faults from others to protect his reputation. The commandments show us the outward act is to be motivated by the movements of the heart, which are no longer bent on ambition and self-promotion, but love that stems from the great love that Christ has shown us in the Holy Gospel.
6) Inwardly, without our hearts weighed down with servitude to sinful desires, the Holy Spirit will bear much fruit in us. Everyone these days wants the spiritual gifts, but we are to be first and foremost concerned with Spiritual fruits taking root in our heart. Love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. (Galatians 5:22-23) Each of these fruits the Spirit bears in our hearts are in direct opposition to the desires of the flesh. While the commandments show us the outward action we ought to be doing within our vocations, these are the fruits that the Spirit is cultivating in the vineyard of our hearts, for these fruits of the Spirit will produce good works toward our neighbor according to the commandments. These are our service to our new master, righteousness and holiness. Our service is not bound in external, man-made works of dietary restrictions, pilgrimages to holy places, or even the observance of holy days. Man-made works, even works that God commanded the Hebrews in the Old Testament, are much easier because the heart doesn’t have to be involved. But that is now the way we serve Christ. Just as we once served sin with our hearts, imaginations, and wills, so the Holy Spirit wants to use those things in our service to neighbor. Our true master, our Lord Jesus, desires that we serve our neighbor in true love because we believe His Gospel in true faith.
7) So you are free from the bondage of sin because you have died with Christ in Holy Baptism. That’s how Paul begins his argument in Romans chapter six. You are free from the wages you had earned because of your sin, death in all of its forms. You are free from spiritual death by being raised to new life by faith. You are free from eternal death because you are heirs of everlasting life. You are free from physical death because as Christ as raised from the dead, so will all who believe in Him be raised from the dead to the glory of new life on the Last Day, for you Lord has promised, He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live. (John 11:25) In the meantime, remember whose you are. You are slaves, not to sin, lawlessness and selfishness. You have been bought with the price of the blood of God Himself. Fight sin in your mortal body. Wage war against your flesh for it wages war against your soul. Do all of this in true faith, knowing that you are no longer bound to sin, but now you are slave of righteousness. Amen.