Wednesday, October 28, 2015

From the Heart

But thanks be to God, that you who were once slaves of sin have become obedient from the heart to the standard of teaching to which you were committed, 18 and, having been set free from sin, have become slaves of righteousness. 19 I am speaking in human terms, because of your natural limitations. For just as you once presented your members as slaves to impurity and to lawlessness leading to more lawlessness, so now present your members as slaves to righteousness leading to sanctification. (Romans 6:17-19 (ESV)

“Have become obedient from the heart to the standard of teaching to which you were committed…” Generally, when we think of slavery no one cares about the heart. You do what you are told regardless of what your heart wants to do, out of fear. And to a large extent this is our reaction to the law. Jesus says of our hearts that out of it come all sorts of evil, adultery, murder and theft. Anyone carrying a pulse is fairly familiar with what Jesus is saying. Most of us have been tempted to do these things from one time or another. Many of us also know we have been restrained from doing it by the fear of consequences much more than we have by knowing what the right thing to do is. We know that if we disobey the law there will be adverse effects. We may lose friends. We may go to jail. We will lose trust with our spouse. But our hearts have other desires nonetheless.
But something has happened to us as a result of our baptism, something that Ezekiel prophesied long ago. “Iwill sprinkle clean water on you, and you shall be clean from all your uncleannesses, and from all your idols I will cleanse you. 26 And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. 27 And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules.” (Ezekiel 36:25-27 (ESV) In baptism we were given the Holy Spirit who cleans and sanctifies our hearts. He changes our hearts, gives us a heart of flesh as it were. Now it is not only from a fear of consequence that we follow God’s law, but out of love from a clean heart and a good conscience. So we present our members as slaves of righteouseness “leading to sanctification.”

Actually, the words leading to are added here. There is no word that can be translated “leading” in the text. Sanctification isn’t something we earn, or achieve. The real sense of this is that we present out members as slaves to obedience in sanctification, from within a state of sanctification, or as a result of our sanctification. What is motivating us is no longer the carrot and stick of the law, but the love of Christ who forgives our sins.  

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