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“The Devotion of a Slave” (Romans 6:15-23)

First Baptist Church https://fbcbartow.org

“The Devotion of a Slave”

(Romans 6:15-23)

Series: Romans – United in the Gospel[on screen]

Rev. Matthew C. McCraw, EdD

First Baptist Church, Bartow, Florida

April 24, 2022

Introductory Comments:

Have you ever argued with someone who was really good at arguing? Perhaps you go through an entire argument, you think you bring resolution, and then all of a sudden they bring up another point of attack. It’s quite frustrating. A good detective, a good attorney, and a good arguer makes sure that they have all of their bases covered when they are presenting their case.

Well, in this passage, Paul is trying to make sure that he has all of his bases covered when it comes to understanding the relationship between living in God’s grace and fleeing a lifestyle of sin. 

Paul spent quite a lot of effort in the last passage, Romans 6:1-14, describing that we are dead to sin so we should no longer live in it. Now, Paul is going to shift his argument by talking about slavery. 

Today’s sermon is entitled, “The Devotion of a Slave.” [on screen]

Before we dive into this sermon, let’s go to the Lord in prayer and ask Him to speak to us through His Word. 


You may remember that Paul started off last’s week’s passage with this question, “What should we say then? Should we continue in sin so that grace may multiply?” [on screen] Of course, the answer last week was “Absolutely not!”

This week, Paul starts off the passage with another question. Look at verse 15, “What then? Should we sin because we are not under the law but under grace?” [on screen]

So, let’s see how Paul responds. First, let’s look at . . .

I. The response (15-16) [on screen]

So, the question is, Should we sin because we are not under the law but under grace?”

Paul concludes the previous passage, from the previous sermon, by saying this in verse 14, “ . . . sin will not rule over you, because you are not under the law but under grace.”

So, then, if we are not under the law but under grace, should we sin because we’re not under the law? Won’t God’s grace cover us even if we sin? Let’s see Paul’s response. Looks at verses 15 and 16:

15 What then? Should we sin because we are not under the law but under grace? Absolutely not! 16 Don’t you know that if you offer yourselves to someone as obedient slaves, you are slaves of that one you obey—either of sin leading to death or of obedience leading to righteousness? 

Of course, Paul has an emphatic response, as he did last time. He responds once again, “Absolutely not!” “Far from it!” “Of course not!” “God forbid.” “By no means.” Paul is super clear that we should not sin simply because we are not bound by the law any longer. 

Thankfully, when it comes to his response as to why we should not keep sinning, Paul is not like the frustrated parent who simply says, “Because I said so,” (which by the way is a valid reason for parents). Paul goes on to give an explanation as to why we should not sin even though we are not under the law. 

Paul helps explain his response by giving us a picture to understand the situation. He gives a picture of slavery. 

You see if you are committed to something so much that you give your obedience to that thing and you give your devotion to that thing then you are a slave to that thing. In a sense, you belong to that thing. Paul says, “ . . . if you offer yourselves to someone as obedient slaves, you are slaves of that one you obey.”

So, Paul presents us with two options for slavery in this passage. Well, what are our options? Look at verse 16. Paul says we are either slaves of sin or we are slaves of obedience (of course, meaning obedience to God). 

This is Paul’s response to the question of verse 15: we should not sin unless we want to be slaves to sin.

However, Paul goes on. He wants us to understand . . . 

II. The reality (17-20) [on screen]

You see, the reality of the situation is that there are tremendous implications about our relationship with Jesus if we are still willingly submitting ourselves as slaves to sin. 

Let’s see what Paul says. Look at verses 17-20:

17 But thank God that, although you used to be slaves of sin, you obeyed from the heart that pattern of teaching to which you were handed over, 18 and having been set free from sin, you became enslaved to righteousness. 19 I am using a human analogy because of the weakness of your flesh. For just as you offered the parts of yourselves as slaves to impurity, and to greater and greater lawlessness, so now offer them as slaves to righteousness, which results in sanctification. 20 For when you were slaves of sin, you were free with regard to righteousness.

Paul reminds us that we used to be slaves to sin—past tense. We used to be selfish, we used to be greedy, we used to be habitually negative, we used to not care about those in need, we used to make racist or crude jokes, we used to be addicted to harmful influences, we used to lack control over ourselves, we used to be hateful, we used to be divisive, we used to be foolish, we used to be gluttons, we used to be lazy, we used to be promiscuous, we used to be fearful, but thank God that we have been set free from slavery to sin. 

We have a new master now and His name is Jesus. Now (look at verse 17), now we obey from our hearts the pattern of teaching that was passed on to us. We obey from the heart because our hearts have been changed by Jesus!

We are set free from sin and we are enslaved to the righteousness of Jesus!

Paul said that he is using a human analogy so that we can understand this spiritual reality. 

Of course, an analogy is a comparison between two things to help in our understanding of a particular truth. 

Paul is using the analogy of slavery because the people of Rome knew about slavery. In fact, some experts estimate that at the time Paul wrote this nearly one-third of Rome would have been composed of slaves. 

Illustration: I’ll give you another analogy. I’ve never been involved in slavery. However, something I know a little about is food. I mentioned Fred’s Market buffet last week. You see, when I lived in Kentucky there was no Fred’s Market buffet. My heart belonged to a place called the Mandarin House Chinese Buffet. I loved Mandarin House. I was enslaved to it, in a sense. However, now my heart belongs to another. My heart beats and my stomach growls for Fred’s Market buffet. Mandarin House used to have my devotion but now Fred’s has it. 

Listen, church: Sin used to have our hearts but now our hearts belong to Jesus! How could we possibly willingly give any of our devotion back to sin?

So, as Paul says in verse 19, “For just as you offered the parts of yourselves as slaves to impurity, and to greater and greater lawlessness, so now offer them as slaves to righteousness, which results in sanctification.”

Now, we should be completely devoted to Jesus and His ways. We should offer ourselves as slaves to the righteousness of Jesus, which leads to sanctification. 

Don’t forget, sanctification is the process of us being made more and more holy; being made more and more like Jesus. So, let us be devoted to Jesus and devoted to obeying Him, which will result in righteousness and sanctification. 

We used to be slaves to sin and we had no devotion to righteousness. In fact, Paul says in verse 20 that righteousness had no hold on us, he says we were “free with regard to righteousness.” However, now we are devoted to righteousness; it should have a hold on us.

Speaking of what will happen when we are devoted to either sin or righteousness, let’s talk more about . . .

III. The results (21-23) [on screen]

In the last few verses, Paul speaks of fruit. What he means here is what results from something. When we plant sin the fruit is death. When we plant righteousness the fruit is eternal life. Don’t take my word for it. Listen to what Paul says in verses 21-23:

21 So what fruit was produced then from the things you are now ashamed of? The outcome of those things is death. 22 But now, since you have been set free from sin and have become enslaved to God, you have your fruit, which results in sanctification—and the outcome is eternal life! 23 For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.

See, I told you: the fruit of devotion to sin is death and the fruit of devotion to God is sanctification and eternal life!

Notice also that Paul said the fruit of, “ . . . the things you are now ashamed of.” Boy, I hope that you and I are ashamed of our past sins. 

We are not ashamed in the sense that we live with guilt over us because Jesus has already taken care of our guilt. 

However, we are ashamed in the sense that we never want to be like that again. We hate the way that we used to live when we lived in sin. 

Sin brought physical death into the world and it brought spiritual death to every single one of us. Sin destroys. Sin sickens. Sin darkens. However, that was our past! Jesus gives life! Jesus heals! Jesus brings light! 

Don’t be devoted to darkness, sickness, and death. Be devoted to light, healing, and life!

In verse 23, indeed one of the most famous verses in the Bible, Paul shifts from fruit to wages. Of course, wages are payment. 

Wages are what we deserve because of what we worked for. When we work for sin, when we are devoted to sin, it leads to death. When we work for God . . . oh wait, stop right there. Is that what it says in verse 23, “but the work of God is . . .?” Not at all. 

Paul says, “ . . . but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” You see, the beauty of the Gospel of Jesus Christ is that Jesus did the work for us. He paid the wages so that we could have the gift. He did all the hard work so that we could enjoy the fruit. 

Illustration: Just this week I was sitting out in the driveway enjoying some time with my neighbors while our kids played around in the yard. My wife, Jennifer, wasn’t out there. She was inside doing something. She was making brownies. You see, while I was relaxing in my chair outside, she was doing the work. However, although she did the work, our family got to enjoy the reward: fresh-baked brownies. [show picture on screen]

Church, Jesus did the work: enjoy the gift, relish in the results, enjoy the fruit, receive the reward. 

The results of devotion to sin are death; the results of devotion to God are enteral life. 

Concluding Thoughts:

So, we learn of the response, the reality, and the results. 

Let this bottom line summarize what Paul is teaching us in Romans 6. 

Bottom Line: From sin, turn away your face. You have a new place. Be devoted to God’s grace. [on screen]


I know that my poetry is a little amateur, perhaps a little cheesy, but this truth is beautifully wondrous. 

Church, don’t even look back at sin any longer. You have a new home with Jesus. Be devoted to Him and His ways. 

We are dead to sin and alive to Jesus. We should no longer be devoted to sin; we should be fully devoted to Jesus. 

Challenge yourself to live out this passage this week in the following ways:

Weekly Challenge: [on screen]

1. Determine where your devotion lies. [on screen]

One commentary I read on this passage said this, “So we have before us two slaveries. There is no middle ground.” [on screen] Are you devoted to sin or are you devoted to Jesus?

There is no middle ground, church. Where does your devotion lie: with sin or with Jesus? 

Take some time this week to wrestle with that question.

2. Live as a free slave. [on screen]

There are stories throughout history of slaves who have been set free but then still devoted their lives to someone. That’s quite fascinating really. The only reason they would ever do that is because they are devoted to that person from the heart. 

Here’s the reality: Jesus has set you free. You are no longer under any bondage. However, you can willingly choose to devote yourself to someone. You can willingly choose to become a slave of Jesus and devote yourself completely to Him. 

So, this week, challenge yourself to live as a free slave. 


This message is not only the message of Paul. Listen to what Jesus said in John 8:32-34 as He was speaking to the religious leaders:

32 You will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” 33 “We are descendants of Abraham,” they answered him, “and we have never been enslaved to anyone. How can you say, ‘You will become free’?” 34 Jesus responded, “Truly I tell you, everyone who commits sin is a slave of sin. [on screen]

So, are you a slave to sin or have you been set free? If you’ve been set free, live as a free person! If not, receive your freedom today!

(Gospel presentation)

(closing prayer)

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