7 Sept 2018

7 September 2018 |

A Commentary by John Stott

Romans 6:19. (iii). The analogy: both slaveries develop.

Verse 19 begins with a kind of apology by Paul for the *human terms* in which he had been describing conversion. For slavery is not an altogether accurate or appropriate metaphor of the Christian life. It indicates well the exclusivity of our allegiance to the Lord Christ, but neither the easy fit of his yoke, nor the gentleness of the hand that lays it on us. (Mt. 11:29f.), nor indeed the liberating nature of his service. Why then did the apostle use it? He gives his reason: *because you are weak in your natural selves* (sarx, ‘flesh’), or ‘because of your natural limitations’ (19a, RSV). Their natural ‘weakness’ or ‘limitations’ must be a reference to their fallenness, either in their minds, so that they are dull of perception, or in their characters, so that they are vulnerable to temptation and need to be reminded of the obedience to which they have committed themselves.

In spite of his apologetic explanation, Paul continues to compare and contrast the two slaveries. But this time he draws an analogy between them (*just as… so now*) in the way they both develop. Neither slavery is static. Both are dynamic, the one steadily deteriorating, the other steadily progressing. *Just as you used to offer the parts of your body in slavery to impurity and to ever increasing wickedness* (literally ‘and of lawlessness unto lawlessness’, or ‘making for moral anarchy’, NEB, REB), *so now offer them* (which you have done already, but will be wise to do again) *in slavery to righteousness leading to holiness* (19b; *hagiasmos*, the process of sanctification, that is, of being changed into the likeness of Christ). Thus despite the antithesis between them, an analogy is drawn between the grim process of moral deterioration and the glorious process of moral transformation.

Tomorrow: Romans 6:20-22. (iv) The paradox: slavery is freedom and freedom is slavery.

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The John Stott Bible Study is taken from The Message of Romans. The Bible Speaks Today John Stott. Used by permission of Inter-Varsity Press UK, Nottingham. All rights reserved.