Romans 6:15-18 Slaves to Righteousness

15 What then? Shall we sin because we are not under the law but under grace?By no means! 16 Don’t you know that when you offer yourselves to someone as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one you obey—whether you are slaves to sin, which leads to death, or to obedience, which leads to righteousness? 17 But thanks be to God that, though you used to be slaves to sin, you have come to obey from your heart the pattern of teaching that has now claimed your allegiance. 18 You have been set free from sin and have become slaves to righteousness.

Slaves to Righteousness

The idea of anyone offering themselves up as a slave is abhorrent to our twenty-first century, Western sensibilities.  Through cultural history and media portrayals, our views of slavery are never voluntary.  Slavery in the South of the USA involved people rounded up in Africa, treated as less than cattle as they were shipped in squalid conditions, and then sold to the highest bidder.  Biblical slavery is not like that.  In biblical slavery the person might have run out of money and then chosen to give themselves to the person to whom they owed the debt.  It was not ideal, but they knew what they were getting into.

In the illustration above, Paul tells you that you have to be a slave but you choose to whom you will commit.  You were a slave to sin by default.  However, by being enslaved to Christ you get to choose to live from the heart in a way that pleases God.  We are slaves to righteousness.


I give up my rights which lead me to sin whenever I exercise them.  I choose you and wish to walk the path of righteousness.


  1. Shall we sin because we are not under law but under grace?
  2. What are the options of whose slave you can become?
  3. How would you describe slavery in the ancient world?
  4. Why do people today fail to take sin seriously?
  5. How do people today respond to the idea of being a slave?

About Plymothian

I teach at Moody Bible Institute in Chicago. My interests include education, biblical studies, and spiritual formation. I have been married to Kelli since 1998 and we have two children, Daryl and Amelia. For recreation I like to run, play soccer, play board games, read and travel.
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11 Responses to Romans 6:15-18 Slaves to Righteousness

  1. Michael McCardle says:

    Sin cannot be Justified. We must never ask our kids to justify their sin or explain it. I cannot justify my sin because my sin can only be judged by God. Therefore, I must confess my sin precisely because I cannot explain it away. God doesn’t ask for an explanation, rather, he call us to repentance and to confess so that we may be healed and receive grace. When I repent I feel the Joy of the Lord in all of my being. I am encouraged by Psalm 32. Psalm 51 is also an excellent example of confession and repentance.

  2. Christa says:

    1. Shall we sin because we are not under law but under grace? Paul answers this question: By no means!
    2. What are the options of whose slave you can become? You are either a slave to sin or a slave to obedience, there is no in between
    3. How would you describe slavery in the ancient world? It could be an alternative if you became in debt and needed to repay someone. It is not the same as our modern concepts of slavery. People actually gave themselves over to slavery in those days.
    4. Why do people today fail to take sin seriously? They do not understand what a serious offense it is to God or how much it deeply affects them. People just want to live their lives the way that they want to, without much thought given to sin.
    5. How do people today respond to the idea of being a slave? Often people cannot believe that a person would offer up themselves to slavery, but on the other hand, people daily claim (or are without claiming) that they are addicted to things which I think is definitely a form of slavery. So giving one’s self over to slavery is not as foreign an idea as we think.

  3. Maelynn says:

    I’m a prisoner of hope, bound by my faith
    Chained to Your love, locked up in grace
    I’m free to leave but I’ll never go
    I’m wonderfully, willingly, freely a prisoner of hope ~ Prisoner of Hope by the Gaither Vocal Band

  4. Kimberly W. says:

    Slavery today is completely abhorrent. The idea of someone owning you and being in control of you is horrible. But, when it comes to slavery to righteousness, to God, what better Master could we have? Yes, He is in control of our lives, but we can trust Him completely. He knows what we need and He knows what is best for us. Surrendering to Him as Lord and Master is the best decision we can make.

  5. Jung Kim says:

    Lord, thank you for allowing us to make choices. Although we often find it hard, we even surrender our choices to you. Thank you for the righteousness that you continually show us. Help us to worship YOU only. People are prone to manipulate one another and take control over one another. Lord, I humbly ask you to take control over me since I do not know anything. I pray, because I do not know. I praise you because you know me. Thank you, God!

  6. Andrew Moore says:

    This passage can seem hard for modern day readers for two reasons. The first is the one mentioned above, that we have a different view of slavery than Biblical slavery. Secondly, we have a false view of freedom. In the end, we are either slaves to ourselves or slaves to Christ. There is really no getting around this concept, but ultimately it is infinitely superior to be a slave to Christ than a slave to yourself and your sinful desires.

  7. 1. By no means!
    2. You may either have sin or righteousness as your master.
    3. Slavery was conducted usually by submission on the part of the person choosing their master in payment of a debt.
    4. Well it’s everywhere and it often, especially today, seems to offer lots of opportunities which falsely claim not to hurt anyone or at least not anyone else other than yourself. It’s something that you are told is not all that bad and if you feel bad about it you’re just supposed to brush it off.
    5. The idea of slavery, even slavery which was not ideal but notes horrid as it could be in Israel, is abhorrent because our individual rights are so highly valued and submission is seen as weakness.

  8. Maria T. says:

    It’s funny in a sense that people in America tend to have such intense reactions to the idea of slavery and such passive reactions to sin. Don’t people understand that sin is slavery in the worst sense? Don’t they understand that they must be freed from slavery? It seems that they are blinded. Their passion is against anything that would hold them back, so they say, and then they take the chains of their lust, pride, swearing, anger, rage, bitterness, and slothfulness lightly.
    Lord Jesus, the captives don’t know that they are taken captive. Would you use your imagery that invokes such strong reactions to make people recognize that sin requires a strong reaction!

  9. Emmy R says:

    I am so thankful that I am no longer a slave to sin. Slavery is such a powerful image, and it is truly amazing that we have been set free from such a horrible bondage.

  10. Christina W. says:

    1. We shall not continue to sin because we are under grace.
    2. Slaves to sin and death or slaves to obedience and righteousness.
    3. Slavery in the ancient world would typically occur when one was indebted to another. They would willingly submit to the person that they owed in order to pay a debt.
    4. People today fail to take sin seriously because they do not understand the serious nature of the offense against God. They also do not understand the cost of their sin.
    5. People today see the idea of being a slave as a horrible thing. They see submitting to the rule of another as a form of weakness.

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