Romans 6:19. I am speaking in human terms, because of your natural limitations. For just as you once presented your members as slaves to impurity and to lawlessness leading to more lawlessness, so now present your members as slaves to righteousness leading to sanctification.
Each and every person is either a slave to sin or a slave to God. This slavery is a state of being, but it is not static. It is transformational. The slave to sin presents himself to lawlessness leading to more lawlessness. The slave to God presents himself to righteousness leading to sanctification.
The thing that you choose to be a slave to will take over your life. If you choose lawlessness it will grow and grow into greater depths of lawlessness. If you choose righteousness it will grow and grow into sanctification – Christ-likeness.
Of course there is a final end to each of these paths: death or life.
Romans 6:21-22. But what fruit were you getting at that time from the things of which you are now ashamed? For the end of those things is death. 22 But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God, the fruit you get leads to sanctification and its end, eternal life.
Before Christ we were slaves to sin. The end was death. The result was the fruit of shame.
In Christ we are slaves to God. The end is life. The result is the fruit of sanctification, holiness, honor.
These are the two states. They are summed up in chapter 6’s final verse…
Romans 6:23. For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Yes, Paul is describing two different states of being. But he is also warning the Christians of Rome (those in a sate of slavery to God unto eternal life) that they too can present themselves to sin or to righteousness. A point he already made earlier in the letter.
Romans 6:12-13. Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, to make you obey its passions. 13 Do not present your members to sin as instruments for unrighteousness, but present yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life, and your members to God as instruments for righteousness.
You see, even within our new state of being we have a choice because we are actually free. And that choice has a progression. We can choose to present ourselves to sin or to righteousness. You have died to sin. You have not died to sinning. You are alive to God. You are not alive to perfection. As Christians we are still very much capable of sinning, of resisting grace, of letting law dominate us.
But the beauty of being in Christ, or “to live is Christ” is that no matter what we choose daily, we are by the New Creation, by the Spirit, alive to God, this is our state. And what this means, which is also beautiful, is that even when we choose to sin, it still works for our sanctification – “all things work for the good…to transform us into the image of God’s son” (Romans 8:28-29). The progression of lawlessness in a believer’s life can never overcome the power of the resurrected Christ that lives inside the believer. Death is no longer the destination for us. Christ has won us life. His own life. An undefeatable life.
And so Paul’s logic for the Christian is NOT “stop sinning or it could lead you to death.” This is not how we should interpret the last part of Romans 6. Rather his logic is “you are alive in Christ, you are dead to sin, so why would you do the things that are part of the natural progression of sin unto death?” “You are not a slave to sin, so why would you act like a slave to sin?” “You will live forever, so why do things that cause eternal death?” “You are honored in Christ, so why do the shameful things that dishonor Christ?”
Do you see it?
It’s not a threat of losing what you are. It’s “be what you are.”
Are you a slave to sin or a slave to God? Have you presented your self to impurity and lawlessness today, or to righteousness? How does your union with Christ allow you to “be what you are” today?