18 And having been set free from sin, you became slaves of righteousness.
18 And having been set free [liberated] from sin,
Jesus liberated believers from sin. It was possible for Roman slaves to be emancipated from their slavery by a purchase price, and it is also possible for believers to be liberated from sin by the payment Jesus made for their sins. Christians are free from sin in every regard. God will never condemn the believer for his sin. He will chastise the believer as a family matter but He will never cast the believer out of the family. In this sense sin does not have dominion over the believer. This is true biblical freedom.
you became [constituted by God at one point] slaves of righteousness.
The Greek for “you became” means that something happened to the believer at one point and that God is the one who did it (aorist passive indicative): “You became enslaved to righteousness.” Salvation is something God achieves. God gave us a new Master, not a license to sin. The idea is that God pronounces us legally righteous. This does not preclude human responsibility to believe God’s promises.
God’s system of liberty from sin does not mean license. God freed Christians from sin in order that they become “slaves of righteousness.” There is no ethical vacuum in the Christian life, because Christians have a new Master. There is a compulsion that comes from our constitution in the grace concept. This is a necessary effect of being in Christ’s family as over against Adam’s family. It is a matter of our status in Christ.
Christians were freed from sin by becoming slaves of righteousness! Our options boil down to two: (1) slavery to sin or (2) slavery to God. The idea than man can be independent of either of these is an illusion. The only true freedom for man is to give the rights of his person over to God, a life of dependence on God.
God did the work in transferring believers from Adam’s family to Christ’s family.
Something God did caused Christians to become “slaves of righteousness”—we have a new Master. Since we are free from the tyranny of sin, we are liberated from the shackles of living under Adam’s family. That is the basis for our choice to submit to God’s revelation about the gospel. Our former master no longer has control over us. A liberated slave no longer gives allegiance to his former master.
Christians no longer live as in the Roman times when slaves were sold to another master summarily. Often those slaves were ripped from their family and friends with no more concern than what might be expended when selling a cow to another owner. However, Christians have been purchased from Adam’s family of inherited sin to a new Master who declares us as righteous as He is righteous. We do indeed have a Master, but what a Master! That is why we are willing to obey this new Master from the heart (6:17). We thank Him with joy for all His provisions, His redemption, and liberation.
Ga 5:1, Stand fast therefore in the liberty by which Christ has made us free, and do not be entangled again with a yoke of bondage.
I agree with your commentary on Romans 6. But it’s still hard to get my mind around the functional application of this chapter in my own life as a believer in Christ. Because it seems to conflict with my own experience as a believer. I find myself getting worse not better in reguard to sin when the light of God’s word defines and exposes my own desperately wicked heart. It even makes you doubt your own salvation. Particularly
2 Cor 5:17 “Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; …”
How we understand this verse is huge. Because if we’re honest with ourselves we are not new creatures in reguard to sin. The common teaching on this passage goes like this. When you get saved God puts a new nature in your heart and the old nature is gone. Thus the struggle with sin is gone. But this is not true to reality and my own experience. I was a sinner before I got saved and am still a sinner after I was saved yet more aware of sin. Trying to make these verses about earthly experience only brings much doubt about our salvation instead of hope. It takes much faith to believe I’m the very righteousness of Christ especially in the thoughts and intents of my heart. That’s why it’s so important to understand these passages correctly. So we don’t live by sin conscienceness instead of righteous conscienceness. And that’s hard to do!
Jim, thank you for your insightful thoughts. It is important to note that 2 Cor 5:17 does not refer to our experience but to our status in Christ. We are “new” because of our status quo with Christ. Also, a major dimension neglected by those who struggle with sin is the factor of maturity. Here is a brief statement of this idea: https://versebyversecommentary.com/articles/christian-maturity/living-by-the-book/ and here is a more developed idea: https://versebyversecommentary.com/articles/christian-maturity/the-edification-construct-discussion-guide/