Originally scheduled for September 6
Romans 6:16-18, 23
Most Christians do not believe that slavery is much of a problem
today. After all, we fought the American Civil War over the subject,
and the abolitionists won. (This ignores the significant problem of
sexual slavery in the world today.) Our Scripture passage, however,
comes from a time in which slavery was very common.
Slave and Master
In Paul’s time the best way to tell to whom a slave belonged was
simply to observe who that slave served. While this can get a little
complicated it holds very well as a basic principle. You are the
slave to the one you serve. This is reinforced at that time by
having a slave where a particularly distinctive multicolored belt.
The combination of colors indicated which particular owner claimed
him. Please note that this enabled the public to reinforce the
slavery; such slavery was a very public proclamation. It’s not
something that happens in secret but is part of ordinary experience.
Perhaps most important is this: there is no end to slavery except
death. It is only by death that you could be released from slavery.
Okay, nice history lesson. But what has that to do with us today? I
submit that slavery is still quite common in our society.
You can be a slave to the flesh. Always on the lookout for the
better (or at least next) sexual partner, or just the next drink.
More commonly, you can be a slave to the world. This is rather
subtle; it may be keeping up with the Joneses, needing a bigger
fishing boat or more expensive car. It may just be simply whatever
you have to do to get the next promotion.
Worst of all, you can be a slave to your pride. It is the sin of
Remember that I said that slavery is public? Do any of these things
show in your life?
Ending Slavery: the Price
Paul tells us here that we are no longer slaves to the flesh, the
world or our pride. Our slavery was ended by the free gift of God.
But do you remember that I said that slavery only ends by death?
It’s true here too. The price of our release was paid by God in the
form of the atonement sacrifice on the Cross. His death, rather than
ours, has set us free from the enslavement to the world. The sinless
one was sacrificed so that we might not die in our sins. We are now
slaves to righteousness.
In communion we symbolically acknowledge that sacrifice. The bread
represents his body; the blood is represented by the cup. Taking
communion is an act of obedience to righteousness. You should
therefore do it in a righteous manner; with self-examination,
repentance and restoration. But your life also shows your obedience
to righteousness. It also is a public, observable thing. So as you
examine yourself this morning consider well whether or not your life
accurately reflects your proclamation in communion.