The DEEP

Free in Fact

but slaves in practice.

Romans 6:12–19 (NKJV)

Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body, that you should obey it in its lusts. And do not present your members as instruments of unrighteousness to sin, but present yourselves to God as being alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness to God. For sin shall not have dominion over you, for you are not under law but under grace.

What then? Shall we sin because we are not under law but under grace? Certainly not! Do you not know that to whom you present yourselves slaves to obey, you are that one’s slaves whom you obey, whether of sin leading to death, or of obedience leading to righteousness? But God be thanked that though you were slaves of sin, yet you obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine to which you were delivered. And having been set free from sin, you became slaves of righteousness. I speak in human terms because of the weakness of your flesh. For just as you presented your members as slaves of uncleanness, and of lawlessness leading to more lawlessness, so now present your members as slaves of righteousness for holiness.

Many apocryphal quips are attributed to Yogi Berra. One of my favorites is, “In theory, there is no difference between theory and practice. In practice, there is.” Today’s passage is about the challenges of putting our liberation from slavery to sin into practice. Let’s start by asking, “What is slavery to sin?”

It means that we can’t break the chains. We can push back, but that push-back always fails. Sin owns us.

But now we’re free. For sin shall not have dominion over you, for you are not under law but under grace.

Paul is telling us to practice our freedom from sin. We have to push back for the push-back to succeed. While sin no longer has dominion over us, we can still act like it does. Old habits die hard.

That would be like an emancipated slave who stays on the plantation and works for free.1

Do you not know that to whom you present yourselves slaves to obey, you are that one’s slaves whom you obey?

Even though we’re free in theory (and fact), we can be slaves in practice.


This passage gets a “may genoitaw” to squash the idea that we don’t need to fight against the remnants of our old sinful nature. Paul was adamant about this throughout his epistles.

This is the flip side of the connection between faith and works. In addition to doing good works, Christians should stop doing bad works—the dumb stuff we did when we were stuck in that mode.

You’re free. Act like it.


1 Hat tip to John Murray for his explanation of this in the 1968 NICNT.


All the weekly study guides, which include all five devotionals plus related questions for discussion or meditation, are available for download here:

https://www.ailbe.org/resources/itemlist/category/91-deep-studies

Mike Slay

As a mathematician, inventor, and ruling elder in the Presbyterian Church in America, Mike Slay brings an analytical, conversational, and even whimsical approach to the daily study of God's Word.