But thanks be to God that though you were slaves of sin, you became obedient from the heart to that form of teaching to which you were committed, and having been freed from sin, you became slaves of righteousness. Romans 6:17-18
True belief that lives by faith obeys as a result of grace.
Paul has just finished explaining how grace abounds over sin. No matter how many sins are committed, grace will cover them all. With this benefit of grace, one might think they now have the freedom to sin as much as they want because grace will always cover their sin.
But not so fast!
In Romans Chapter 6, Paul is about to make it very clear that this attitude and type of living won’t fly with someone who has chosen to leave their old life behind to live a new life in Christ.
With so much discussion about faith in the previous chapters, I find it interesting that Paul doesn’t directly use faith as proof of why we need to live a different life under grace. His proof is baptism.
And why is that? Because baptism is the actual moment that we die with Christ and are raised to a new life. This is where we crucify our old self — that body of sin — and are resurrected to a new body freed from sin. It wouldn’t make any sense for someone who had chosen to free themselves from sin to go back and live as a slave of sin. If that were the case, what was their baptism for?
What we see in baptism is that aspect of faith that is obedient from the heart. Faith is not just some mental recognition that believes in Jesus. It is believing in the power of the gospel (Rom. 1:16) and choosing to submit to do whatever is required to receive what has been promised.
True belief obeys as a result of grace by being baptized to be freed from sin, and continuing in this newfound freedom from sin by being a slave of righteousness. Another words, it starts with obeying whatever it takes to get into Christ and then continues as a lifelong devotion to following the commands and will of God instead of turning back to lawlessness and disobedience. This results in sanctification and the ultimate outcome, eternal life.
Though we must do some things in obedience to God to obtain this promise of eternal life, this chapter still ends calling it a free gift. It is God, and God alone who has the right to give eternal life, and it is by His grace that He gave us the means to obtain it on whatever terms He sets. The wage our sin earned was death. He could have left us with that wage with no way out, but He didn’t. God gave us the free gift of eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord to take away the death we earned. Just because He asks us to do something to obtain it doesn’t make it any less of a gift. It just means we have to be willing to be obedient from the heart to receive His gift.
And when I see the extent He went to to provide me with this gift through His grace, and how simple the things He has asked me to do are in comparison to what He sacrificed, how could I ever deny doing anything He has asked me to do?