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Lesson 5: Grace That Sanctifies

Wealth is a tool of freedom, but the pursuit of wealth is the way to slavery.

– Frank Herbert

Devotion: Read Romans 6:1-23. The early church is born during a period when slavery is a cultural institution. Unlike the racially driven bondage in which the United States participated, first-century people became slaves as a result of losing a war or an inability to pay their financial debts. Paul uses slavery to teach the church a valuable lesson: unless we are slaves to righteousness (turning our lives over to our Creator who desires our best) then we will be enslaved to something/someone. We are created to worship God. If we turn away from the One deserving praise, we will worship another: fleeting happiness, sexual hunger, unquenchable greed, physical comfort, a person, family, job, lifestyle, or hundreds of other potential “gods.” The good news is that we can be set free by offering ourselves “as slaves to righteousness for sanctification” (6:19). If Christ is Sovereign, the power of all other masters is broken. Sanctification is the process of breaking all the chains (emotional, physical, spiritual) of those past “masters.” What are some of the “masters” you have been tempted to serve in your life? “What advantage did you then get from the things of which you now are ashamed?” (6:21)

Personal Worship Option: Read John 8:31-36. When have you felt enslaved by fear, habit, other people’s expectations, debt, unrealistic goals, addictions, etc.? What would freedom look like for you? What would you do if you were completely free from all “masters” except God? How might the answer to the last question inform whether or not you are ready for freedom?

Dig A Little Deeper:

6:1 Throughout Romans, Paul asks and answers a series of rhetorical questions in order to teach (3:1, 3, 5, 9, 31; 4:1, 9, 10, 6:1, etc.). Here he asks if God’s grace means we can sin without consequence. Anyone who has encountered the power of God in Jesus has experienced a fundamental change in their character. We are no longer the same person—that “old self” has died—and a new, resurrected life has come (2 Cor 5:17). Christ now lives within us (Gal 2:20).

6:3 We are baptized into both Jesus’ death and resurrection. This passage supplies a powerful image for those who choose to be immersed in baptism. They are symbolically placed in the grave by going under the water and raised to new life by rising from the water (Col 2:12).

As with yesterday’s readings from Ephesians 4, Paul sees a powerful connection between baptism and the ability to live a holy life. How do these passages challenge those who think of baptism as a ritual with little or no effect?

6:6 “Body” here means “personality” or “self.” Again, a call to not allow sin to rule over us.

6:11 Here is Paul’s answer to 6:1 and 6:15. Once we are united with/oriented toward Christ, it is not possible to purposively sin. How should the Church view people who knowingly sin?

6:12 However, we can give evil desires a foothold in our new life, which quickly leads to once again being enslaved to sin. How might it change your attitude toward your own sin if you thought of yourself as a slave and an “instrument of wickedness?”

6:15 Who or what do you obey? From a Christian perspective, what is the danger of saying “no one” or “myself?”

6:19 Sanctification is the opposite of being “slaves to impurity.”  

6:23 Paul introduces a variation on his slavery metaphor. The salary we receive when we work for sin is death. God does not pay a wage; eternal life is God’s gift made available for all who will receive it.

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