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
Freed – Sha’ul echoes Yeshua. How is a man set free? By becoming a slave to righteousness. Sha’ul contrasts freedom from sin with slavery to righteousness. He writes to Gentiles who have embraced the faith of Israel. They were once embroiled in the inner battle for personal liberty, deluded into thinking that their license was freedom. Sha’ul splashes them with the cold, hard facts. They were slaves. But something happened. They became obedient to the teaching they had been given. Their obedience was a process of adopting rules and regulations about life. They submitted themselves to an external authority. What was the result? Exactly the same as the promise Yeshua made to His followers. They were free – to be slaves to righteousness. The yetzer ha’ra was domesticated to the will of God. They discovered the joy of no longer being held captive but rather being held in the arms of the Father. Yeshua and Paul agree. Freedom comes through obedience.
It seems so simple. It seems so obvious. But trying to overcome life-long habits of personal liberty is far from easy. That’s why it’s important to notice that the verb eleutheroo is passive in this verse. We have been set free. Someone else did something that affected us. We couldn’t do it ourselves because we were our own enemy. Someone else had to lay the sword against the neck of our rebellion and rescue us from our own destruction. We had to be the beneficiaries of another’s action. Now that this has been accomplished, we are empowered and enabled to submit. That’s all that’s left to do. Submit. Not calculate. Not query. Not investigate. Just submit. Submit to the teaching already delivered. Just say to ourselves, “I might not really understand why it has to be this way and I might feel powerless and afraid, but God says this is how I should live and so I am just going to do it, no matter what.” Abandon yourself to Him. Oh, you probably won’t feel like doing that. After all, we have trained ourselves to consume the liberty diet for a long time. That’s why our self-centered egos are so fat. We have been eating the “I deserve it” sweets for decades. The first step is a new meal (every Semitic covenant is sealed with a meal). God has set the table. He has done the cooking. The plates are filled with His word. All we need to do is eat. But the meals at God’s table are an acquired taste. We have to learn to love them.
When I was a child, I ate like a child. Candy and cookies tasted much better than spinach and oatmeal. I wanted Trick or Treat everyday. But then I grew to be a man. I put away childish things. I ate in order to live effectively. I avoided those things that harmed me. And over time, I discovered that I liked feeling healthy – and spinach wasn’t so bad after all. God’s table works the same way. Over time, it becomes our bread of life until one day we realize that we can’t live without it. We learn what it means to be free – one bite at a time.
Topical Index: freed, eleutheroo, eat, slave, Romans 6:18