Romansby David Cook
Paul is still talking about holiness. Today, he takes us to the slave market. A person can claim to be anyone’s slave, but the reality is that the master he obeys enslaves him. Paul pursues the question of those who are justified and their attitude to sin. There are only two possible masters (v. 16)—sin (“Master Sin”) or obedience and righteousness (“Master Righteousness”). The essence of sin, therefore, is disobedience.
Paul further identifies and describes these two “Masters” in verse 19. “Master Sin” pays a wage: it is earned; it is deserved; it is death (vv. 21, 23). Death is separation from God. However, slavery to obedience (“Master Righteousness”) brings about a benefit or gift. That benefit is eternal life—life in relationship with God.
Since we were born into slavery to “Master Sin”, how did we come to obedience? The answer comes in verse 17. Paul gives thanks to God that “you have come to obey from your heart the pattern of teaching that has now claimed your allegiance”. In other words, they placed their confidence in the gospel. Notice that the gospel was not entrusted to them; they were entrusted to it.
Through the obedience of the gospel that comes from faith (1:5), we come under the shelter and security of the gospel, which now keeps us safe. So why go back to the former master, Sin? We owe him nothing. He pays us death and we are ashamed of what we did with him (v. 21).
This is the second image regarding holiness: first, union with Christ in death and resurrection; second, being set free from “Master Sin” and being enslaved to “Master Righteousness” (v. 18).
Verse 23 provides the summary: Sin pays a wage (death); God gives a gift (eternal life). The gift comes to us because of the work of Christ Jesus our Lord. We cannot have life apart from Him.
Sinless perfection is not a reality for life on earth (see 1 John 1:5–10). But do you take your responsibility to resist temptation seriously enough?