Seventh Sunday After Pentecost-A Slavery That Enslaves And A Slavery That Sets Free
15 What then? Shall we sin, because we are not under the law, but under grace? God forbid.
16 Know you not, that to whom you yield yourselves servants to obey, his servants you are whom you obey, whether it be of sin unto death, or of obedience unto justice.
17 But thanks be to God, that you were the servants of sin, but have obeyed from the heart, unto that form of doctrine, into which you have been delivered.
18 Being then freed from sin, we have been made servants of justice.
19 I speak an human thing, because of the infirmity of your flesh. For as you have yielded your members servants to uncleanness and iniquity, unto iniquity; so now yield your members to serve justice, unto sanctification.
That last verse is the first verse in our Epistle readings for today.
19 I speak an human thing, because of the infirmity of your flesh. For as you have yielded your members servants to uncleanness and iniquity, unto iniquity; so now yield your members to serve justice, unto sanctification. (Romans 6:19)
Let me read it in today's language so that you can get a better grasp as to what Saint Paul is saying:
“I am speaking in human terms, because of your natural limitations. For just as you once presented your members as slaves to uncleanness and iniquity, leading to more iniquity, so now present your members as slaves to serve justice leading to Holiness.”
Every person in the world is a servant.
One may live in a free country with freedom of speech and liberty to pursue happiness. But the fact is, every person is a servant. This servitude is not a political or economic servitude. This servitude is a spiritual bondage, either to sin or to Jesus Christ. No one is free to live however they choose to live. All live in servitude to one of two masters, either to sin or to the Savior.
The word servant in the Douay Rheims bible comes from the Greek word doulos, which means ‘one who gives himself up completely to a master.’ This word for servant is different from the word for servant used in some passages of scripture. The word “slave” would be a better word to describe the meaning of this word doulos or servant. A slave is much lower than a servant. A servant was someone who still had some degree of freedom. He could choose to accept a job or not to accept it. He still could own property, receive wages, and go home at the end of the day.
The word for “servant” used in other passages of scripture is the Greek word (diakonia) from which we get “deacon.” It was used for a waiter at a wedding feast or an attendant who would care for the needs of someone else, but this person still had his own life and freedom. He could do his own thing, go his own way. He could return the next day, if he chose, or he could let someone else be hired to work in his place.
The word servant, as used in Romans 6, represented someone who had no personal freedom to do as he pleased. His entire life was to be given in servitude to his master, who had paid a price to purchase him from another owner. A servant is hired, a slave is owned. A slave had no independence, no self-autonomy, and no personal rights. In fact, a slave was a piece of property that was owned by someone else. When a person was owned as a slave, it meant that he was a possession of his master, bound to obey him. There was no negotiation by a slave with his master regarding what he could decide to do or not do. He was bought and owned by his master, and so there could be no hesitation or argument to obey him. To be a slave meant complete submission and total obedience to a master.
A slave has a master, who has the power of life and death over him. He is held in the hand of his master, who has the right to issue commands without any explanation. He expects obedience swiftly, immediately, and completely. The master has bought the slave at a price, and the slave now belongs to him.
Jesus taught this same truth. He said, "...whoever commits sin is the slave of sin" (John 8:34). Most of us don't like that. We think we can sin a little here and there without becoming slaves of sin. But experience teaches us otherwise. We often boast that we are in control of our lives when in reality we are in bondage. That is what Saint Paul means when he says in Romans 6:19 “you have yielded your members servants to uncleanness and iniquity, leading unto iniquity.” Like the guy who says, "I can quit smoking any time I please. I've done it dozens of times." He's saying with his mouth he can do what he wants, but he can't do what he wants. Or the one who says, "I can lose this weight if I want to. I've already lost 250 pounds--25 off, 25 on, 25 off 25 on." We claim to be free to sin or not to sin, but it's not true. Sin inevitably leads to bondage. “Iniquity leads to iniquity.”
So what happens when you tell that one little white lie? It makes it easier to tell another. In fact, it will probably require another to cover the first one. And that will demand another, and another. In other words, your yielding your member (your tongue) to uncleanliness and your iniquity leads to (more) iniquity.
And what happens when we let our anger get out of control? It stirs up anger in the people around us, and so we get even angrier to prove our point. And every time we do it, it gets a little easier, until hostility and anger have us in their grip. You yielded your members (your emotions) to uncleanness (anger) and your iniquity, (your anger) led to more iniquity, ( more anger). That's what sin does, according to God's word.
And what happens when we fornicate or have an adulterous relationship with that person to whom we are not married? We tell ourselves that we'll only do it this once--never again. But our guilt gets us depressed, and in order to find relief from our depression we run to the very person who represents the source of temptation to us, and before we know it, we're back to committing fornication or adultery with him or her again, and again, and again. We find our selves yielding our members, (our bodies), to uncleanness (adultery and fornication) and our iniquity has lead us to (more) iniquity. And soon we wake up to the fact that we're in slavery to our sinful passions.
If, in the words of Saint Peter, you've “Done penance, and have been baptized... in the name of Jesus Christ, for the remission of your sins,” you have already decided who your master should be. That's the subject of the of Romans 6:17-18.
"But thanks be to God, that you were the servants of sin, but have obeyed from the heart, unto that form of doctrine, which was delivered unto you. Being then freed from sin, we have been made servants of justice."
The Christians in Rome, had obeyed that form of doctrine to which was delivered unto them.
Did you notice what they obeyed? That form of doctrine which was delivered. A "form" was a mold into which hot, molten metal was poured so that it would take a particular shape. The Roman Christians were in the process of being molded into the image of Christ. They had changed masters. Just as all other Christians, they were identified with Christ in His death to sin and His resurrection to new life at baptism. They were freed from their slavery to sin and they became slaves of justice. We don't have to be slaves to our fleshly desires anymore. In our baptism the sin inherited from Adam (original sin), our old master, and any sins we personally committed before baptism, has been taken away. And now we serve a new master.
Let us give ourselves just as wholeheartedly and completely as slaves of justice and righteousness as we did as slaves of iniquity. And just as surely as serving sin led to more and more sin, so serving righteousness will lead to progressively greater holiness (or sanctification). We will be more fully set apart to God's glory and praise. That's what the Christian life is all about.
Saint Paul taught that we could live above sin.
What a far cry from the defeatist attitude of many who call themselves Christians who fully expect to sin and see themselves as helpless victims of their sinful urges. They are running scared of a master who no longer has any rights over them. They say things like: "I just can't help myself." "I'm just weak in that area." "I'm only human, you know."
They lie and cheat and steal and gossip and fornicate, and then try to excuse it by insisting that nobody's perfect. True enough. Nobody is perfect. But the Word of God assures us that we don't need to live as slaves of sin any longer. We've been emancipated! We can give ourselves to serve righteousness and grow in holiness. And that's the challenge before us. So whose slave are you anyway? That's the question we need to answer today.