A Commentary by John Stott
Romans 6:20-22. (iv). The paradox: slavery is freedom and freedom is slavery.
Still the comparison and contrast between the two slaveries continue. This time the apostle points out that each slavery is also a kind of freedom, although the one is authentic and the other spurious. Similarly, each freedom is a kind of slavery, although the one is degrading and the other ennobling. On the one hand, he writes, *When you were slaves to sin, you were free from the control of righteousness* (20), although that sort of freedom is better called licence. On the other hand, he writes: *But now…you have been set free from sin and have become slaves to God* ( 22a), although that sort of slavery is better called liberty. Moreover, the way to assess the rival claims of these two slaveries or freedoms is by evaluating their *benefit*, literally their ‘fruit’. The negative benefits of slavery to sin and freedom from righteousness are remorse in the present (a sense of guilt over *the things you are now ashamed of*, or ‘blush to remember’, JBP), and in the end *death* (21), here surely meaning the eternal death of separation from God in hell, which is called in the final chapters of the book of Revelation ‘the second death’ (e.g. Rev. 20:14; 21:8). *But now*, Paul goes on, the positive benefits of freedom from sin and slavery to God are *holiness* in the present and in the end *eternal life* (22b), surely here meaning fellowship with God in heaven. Thus there is a freedom which spells death, and a bondage which spells life.
Tomorrow: Romans 6:23. (v). The conclusion: the ultimate antithesis.