Romans 6:12-23 - Slaves to sin
Updated: Mar 23, 2022
Do not let sin exercise dominion in your mortal bodies, to make you obey their passions. No longer present your members to sin as instruments of wickedness, but present yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life, and present your members to God as instruments of righteousness. For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace.
What then? Should we sin because we are not under law but under grace? By no means! Do you not know that if you present yourselves to anyone as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin, which leads to death, or of obedience, which leads to righteousness? But thanks be to God that you, having once been slaves of sin, have become obedient from the heart to the form of teaching to which you were entrusted, and that you, having been set free from sin, have become slaves of righteousness. 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 greater and greater iniquity, so now present your members as slaves to righteousness for sanctification.
When you were slaves of sin, you were free in regard to righteousness. So what advantage did you then get from the things of which you now are ashamed? The end of those things is death. But now that you have been freed from sin and enslaved to God, the advantage you get is sanctification. The end is eternal life. For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. --------------------
I am reminded that a priest told his congregation, more than once, how Christians thrown into the arenas by Romans, because of their faith, were truly filled with the Holy Spirit. The priest said, “If faith was just following the crowd, then when the lions began mauling people to death, those who were just saying they believed would have recanted that faith, in order to save their lives.” He said that people do not allow themselves to be ripped to shreds without true conviction.
I remember this because it dawned on me that Paul wrote letters to those Jews of Rome who were those of true conviction, whose deaths would become entertainment for the Gentiles. The Jews of Rome were considered to be the lowest class in the society, who lived in the slums that Nero would set afire, in order to get the Senate to fund his new beautification projects. Still, among that rock-bottom class was a new budding subclass – Christians, both converted Jews and Gentiles. It was those to whom Paul wrote (prior to his arrival in Rome), and those who were “thrown to the lions.”
As the lowest of the low in Rome, the Jews and Gentiles of the slums knew the life of slavery. Certainly, none of them traveled to Rome willingly, as if going on a vacation sight-seeing tour, fell in love with Rome’s beauty, and decided to stay there. Most likely, they had become indebted in some way and were sold into slavery to pay their debts off. Many of those would have been given their freedom by their masters and let free to fend for themselves in a city-state that still saw them as lowlifes and worthless. No doubt, the drive to survive led to a slavery to sin, in order to make ends meet; and that slavery was what Paul wrote of in his letter.
The element of the “law” that Paul posed in this reading can be seen as a reference to the laws of Moses, which Jews were required to memorize. Gentiles had no such demand made upon them, which is probably the root reason why Christians today only think in terms of ten Commandments, rather than the 613 listed that Jews recognize: 365 negative, 248 positive. (Source: Wikipedia) Thus, Paul explained that the “law” was within, not externally written on scrolls, such that it made one “obedient from the heart to the form of teaching to which you were entrusted.” That matched what the prophets Ezekiel and Jeremiah said: “And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you.” (Ezekiel 36:26); “I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts.” (Jeremiah 31:33)
Of course, to have all the laws of God be written in one’s heart is the antithesis of memorization, where they are written in the brain. The heart is not so much the physical organ that pumps physical blood through one’s veins; but more like the Hindu chakras, where the heart is the central point of seven bodily regions. Thus, the emotional center controls the actions of the whole, whereas the brain (as an extremity) acts to influence the heart for the whole to follow its lead. In this scenario, the brain is what Paul is warning about, as it is more inclined to listen to sin; whereas the heart is more inclined to listen to obedience.
Notice how Awareness and Sexuality are centers that most frequently cause other “members” to be negatively influenced.
This brings to mind the story from Genesis 4, where Cain and Abel can be seen as reflecting the choices Paul wrote about: sin or obedience?
In Genesis 4, both Cain and Abel have offered sacrifices to the Lord. That was their duty as priests-in-training, taught to them by Adam. The offering of “fat portions from some of the firstborn of his flock” brought Abel God’s favor. However, because God did not look with favor on Cain’s offering of “some of the fruits of the soil,” Cain became angry.
God spoke to the angry Cain, as read in verses 6 and 7: “Then the Lord said to Cain, “Why are you angry? Why is your face downcast? If you do what is right, will you not be accepted? But if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you must rule over it.”
In times when God could speak to his priests (people who made offerings to the Lord) and they could readily hear God’s voice, God spoke to Cain in the same way Paul spoke to the Christians of Rome, when he wrote: “Do you not know that if you present yourselves to anyone as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin, which leads to death, or of obedience, which leads to righteousness?”
Cain was given a choice as to what master he would serve as a slave: God or Mother Earth (i.e.: Goddess).
The Earth is one of the many elohim created by God, and within the Earth are the angels who serve her … the angels of all things material. Because Paul began this reading with focus on “mortal bodies,” he placed focus on how all humanity is born of death, where mortality is the changing states of matter: particle formation, growth stability, growth instability, conversion into particles; beginning, middle, end; birth, life changes, death.
The question posed by God to Cain was this: If you choose God, God will accept you with eternal life; but if you choose sin, the Earth will accept you with eternal mortality: life, death, repeat. The question posed by Paul was this: If you choose God, you will be righteous; but if you choose sin, you will remain in mortal bodies. The question is the same; and the question is equally viable now: Who do you serve? God or sin?
One has to understand that Paul wrote his letters to Christians filled with the Holy Spirit because he knew human nature. Just as God spoke to Cain and warned, “Sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you must rule over it,” so too did Jesus warn, “No servant can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth.” (Luke 16:13 – NASB) The word translated as “wealth” (“mamōna“), equally means “possessions, property” or “the treasure a person puts trust in.” Paul knew the lures of a material world will always be tempting Christians to sin … to stop serving God and return to serving the bounty of the Earth.
Cain was on the path to righteousness, as the son of Adam. Judas Iscariot was on the path to righteousness, as the disciple of Jesus. All the Roman Christians were on the path of righteousness, as those who believed Jesus was their Messiah and had been transformed by the Holy Spirit. Still, Paul wrote as the voice of a Church, to all the “members of that body,” warning them to stay the course … remain on that holy path … because the tests of this world can distract those who seek to be righteous.
Because Paul said, “No longer present your members to sin as instruments of wickedness, but present yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life, and present your members to God as instruments of righteousness,” he knew a soul inside a physical body means the body is the weak link. Flesh is matter. The bones are made of the dust of the Earth. The members of a mortal body sense all that is available in the world.
The Greek word written by Paul, which has been translated as “members” is “melē.” The word (“mélos”) was typically used to refer to “a limb (of the body), but in reality it means a “part,” where instruments of war and “working parts” of ships were constructed of “melē.” Because human beings likewise have specialized “working parts,” the various “bodily organs” of specialty were called “melē.”
We see with eyes. We touch with hands. We smell with noses. We hear with ears. We speak with tongues. These are the sensual “parts” of our bodies. Still, we kick with legs, we stumble with feet, we strike with fists, we cramp with stomachs, and we strangle with hands and arms. Thus Jesus said, “Woe to the world because of its stumbling blocks! For it is inevitable that stumbling blocks come; but woe to that man through whom the stumbling block comes! If your hand or your foot causes you to stumble, cut it off and throw it from you; it is better for you to enter life crippled or lame, than to have two hands or two feet and be cast into the eternal fire. If your eye causes you to stumble, pluck it out and throw it from you. It is better for you to enter life with one eye, than [b]to have two eyes and be cast into the fiery hell.” (Matthew 18:7-9)
Because Paul began this reading by referring to the “passions” that lead our “mortal bodies” to sin (“Do not let sin exercise dominion in your mortal bodies, to make you obey their passions”), the Greek word “epithymiais” (meaning “desire, eagerness for, inordinate desire, lust”) can lead one to relate a “member” to a “sexual organ.” While sexual organs certainly are one of the “working parts” of a “mortal body’s lusts,” one cannot see that as the only intended focus.
When I wrote, “The members of a mortal body sense all that is available in the world,” that capability of “sensation” identifies the energy that activates “melē” to seek “desire, eagerness for, inordinate desire, or lust” for material things. This activation goes beyond a “basic needs” drive, such that once those needs are satiated, the lures of a sensual world call a mortal body to seek more of the things one needs. It is an excess of needs that causes one to forego all work towards benefiting others, to focus solely on self-gratification. Thus, a sensually activated body organ can do good works (God asked Cain, “If you do what is right, will you not be accepted?”), but it can so easily do the works of sin (God warned Cain, “If you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you.”
There is that “epithymiais” word again [Hebrew equivalent “teshuqah”] – “Sin desires.” Your desires and lusts lead you away from God and towards sin. For as long as a mortal body lives in this world of tempting pleasures, a world filled with fruit hanging ripe on a tree limb to pick … its grounds covered with manna from heaven freely given for one’s survival … the dividing line between being righteous and being sinful is moderation (Paul would address this in more detail, later in his letter to the Romans – 8:3-9). Still, the element of choosing to be righteous and choosing to be sinful goes beyond one’s mortal body’s abilities to sense desires and resist excessive pleasures.
Paul asked, “So what advantage did you then get from the things of which you now are ashamed?” He then surmised, “The end of those things is death.”
The answer is then to surrender all of one’s working parts to God, as Paul wrote: “For just as you once presented your members as slaves to impurity and to greater and greater iniquity, so now present your members as slaves to righteousness for sanctification.” Rather than be a slave to a self that cannot control one’s lusts, one must become a slave to God, so His Holy Spirit fills one’s heart, replacing the brain (a bodily organ that controls all other bodily working parts) with the Mind of Christ. As a slave to God, you never have to worry about wanting more than you need. All excess received is then motivation to help others in need.
In this transformation from slave to self into slave to God, Paul wrote, “ek nekrōn zōntas,” which has been translated as “from death to life.” The whole statement says, “Present yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life,” where “death” is the mortal reward of reincarnation back into another life of sensual distractions. “Life,” however, is the promise of a soul’s release from the bondage of a worldly prison, when an eternal soul can again find oneness with God, forevermore. Still, the literal translation of “ek nekrōn zōntas” is “from among the dead living.” This means that being a slave to God is not for you or your soul. It is for God to use you as a beacon of light, of the Living God, among the dead that walk the Earth.
The pleasures of a world created by God can then become all they were originally intended to be, before evil entered and crouched at human doors, desiring to lead their souls away from God. Therefore, Paul and the other Apostles saw the beauty of sharing light in a world cloaked by darkness. That was because they made a clear choice as to which master they would serve. The beauty of the world was clear to them, with no illusions of grandeur blocking their view. Apostles, like Jesus who was tempted by Satan, have all made their eyes working parts of righteous illumination, by telling Satan to get out of their way.
The view is much better when not obscured by lusts and desires.
Get out of the way. You’re clouding my view.
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