In Chapter Six, Paul poses the dilemma of sin and its effects, and living righteously and its effects. Right before this chapter, Paul says that grace abounds all the more when sin is present. He knows some people might want to take the easy way out and say, “then it is ok to sin, because grace just keeps coming and makes my bad actions null and void. I can do anything I want.” Not. Paul refutes this thought by stating, “What then shall we say? Shall we persist in sin that grace may bound all the more? Of course not!” (v1). When we follow Jesus, sin itself should be dead in our hearts and, therefore, should not even be a desire. This happens when we consider sin as dead. It has no life and brings no life. It takes a certain dying to self, because some of our sins we like too much. We all have our attachments to things or actions we take.
When we die to ourselves, we gain Jesus and become closer to Him. The union we gain in Jesus strengthens us and we become the people we want to be in virtue. These are the kinds of benefits we gain in becoming a slave for righteousness, as opposed to being a slave to sin and death. When we die to ourselves, we are united with Jesus’ death on the cross so that we can take on the resurrection of Jesus through His grace. We do not go through a physical death, but a spiritual death, so that we can benefit from a spiritual life in Jesus while we are alive. Moreover, when we do die physically we gain eternal life in heaven (v3-11). Everything hinges on if we have God and His will in our hearts. If we still have one foot in the world, God’s grace is greatly reduced, if not altogether. We have to have both feet in.
That is why verse 12 says, “Therefore, sin must not reign over your mortal bodies so that you obey their desires.” If we desire sin, then sin has not died to us; it is still alive in our thoughts and hearts. Our bodies are meant for virtue, not vice (v13-14). What is dead is useless; if sin is dead, then we render it useless and have no desire for it. It even becomes repugnant.
Then Paul takes up another argument. Paul says, “Do you not know that if you present yourselves as obedient slaves, you are slaves to the one you obey…” (v16). This is actually very logical. It is not something we like to admit, but it is true. If I make myself obedient to grandma, I make myself into a slave for grandma. Do most grandmas want a slave? No. They love us. But isn’t that the reason why we want to be obedient to grandma? All the more does Jesus love us. All the more we should want to be obedient to Jesus. This obedience is not from the law though. It is an obedience from the heart (v17). We realize that Jesus loves us and so respond to that love by obedience with faith in Him as the motivating force.
The faith that underlies our (Ja 2:18) obedience makes our bodies into slaves of righteousness for sanctification (v19) – that is, if both faith and obedience are present. Obedience implies works of obedience. If works are present, then the body is involved. Therefore, the body is being used for the reign of righteousness. Either way, we become a slave to something and free from something (v22-23). What do you want to be free from? Sin and death, or righteousness and eternal life? What would you rather be a slave to? Sin and death, or righteousness and eternal life?