Arthur Pink, 1937
"But now that you have been set free from sin and have become servants to God, the benefit you reap leads to holiness, and the result is eternal life." (Romans 6:22)
In this verse the Holy Spirit presents to us an epitome of the exceeding great and precious privileges which are the birthright of the child of God, of every real believer in the Lord Jesus. The important truths presented in the previous verses, and indeed throughout the whole of this Epistle, are here summarized, for the clearer apprehension and assurance of faith, that the Christian might see at a glance, what is his true standing in the sight of God, and what are those wondrous blessings which Divine grace has bestowed upon him; and this, that his heart may be drawn more and more away from the world, that he may delight himself in and glorify his Lord and Master. Four grand facts are presented for faith to lay hold of.
First, the believer has been gloriously emancipated, "being made free from sin."
Second, he is now consecrated, "become servants to God."
Third, he is, in union with Christ, as a branch of the true Vine, fruitful unto holiness.
Fourth, the end before him, the sure outcome of all his conflicts and trials is "everlasting life."
In the verse before us the Apostle is not seeking to persuade Christians to separate from sin, he is not promising that upon the fulfillment of certain conditions they will enter into freedom from sin—but is stating a positive fact, which is true of every believer. He is not dealing with a contingency, or speaking of some future good—but affirms a present reality, "but now being made free from sin." This is not a matter of attainment—but a miracle of Divine grace, Christ has "made an end of sins," He has made "reconciliation for iniquity," He has brought in "everlasting righteousness" (Dan. 9:24); and because the believer is identified with Christ, because in the sight of the Judge of all the earth he is legally one with the Redeemer, he is now, judicially, "free from sin"—its penalty has been endured, its guilt has been blotted out, its condemnation has been removed. "But now being made free from sin" is in the passive voice, for it is an act of grace upon us, and not an act put forth by us; it is an act of which we are the subjects, and not a work of which we are the agents.
"And become servants to God" (Romans 6:22). Here, too, as in the preceding clause, the Apostle is dwelling upon the believer's standing before God. Divine grace has given him a new status—in his unregenerate days he was "the servant of sin" (v. 20)—sin was his master, he was its subject. But because of his legal oneness with Christ; and because of his vital union with Him (when the Spirit created him anew in Christ), he now has a new standing and a new Master. Being made free from sin (judicially), he has become "servant to God." Here again the passive is used; it is not by an act of theirs—but by God's omnipotent act of grace which grafted them into Christ, constituting them one with Jehovah's Servant, which made them "servants to God." This is the necessary and blessed sequel to our having been "made free from sin." Said David of old, "O Lord, truly I am Your servant; I am Your servant, and the son of Your handmaid—You have loosed my bonds" (Psalm 116:16).
What, then, is the believer's responsibility in connection with this blessed fact, what is to be his response thereto?
First, to believe it, to receive it by childlike and unquestioning faith, and that, on the sole but sufficient testimony of God's own Word.
Second, to conduct himself accordingly, to submit himself unto God, to be in complete subjection to the will of his new Master, to obey Him in all things. His bounden duty and his blessed privilege, is to now translate that grand fact into his own practical experience—to be God's intelligent, willing, dutiful servant—to endeavor to please Him at all times, to seek to honor and glorify Him on every occasion. The Christian is to recognize his new status, utterly deserting his old master, and loving and obeying his new One with all his heart and mind. This is the victory of faith. This is the return which is due from us—unto God's amazing grace toward us. This is to show forth our oneness with God's perfect Servant, to follow the example which He has left us.
Freedom from sin is the direct consequence of our union with the Lord Jesus, and the fact of our being the servants of God is also and equally the result of that union. We have no standing before God as His servants, no power for service, no spirit for service, no acceptance of our service—except in our union with Christ. Only as this is realized by faith, and only as we truly exercise faith therein, will there be any actual making good of it in our experience and daily walk. This is but another way of saying that, only as our hearts are truly conscious of the fact that we are not our own—but the purchased property of God, shall we conduct ourselves accordingly.
The same grand truth is expressed again in "For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works" (Eph. 2:10). If we are the servants of God, it is because we are created in Christ Jesus for that very service—just as our being made free from sin was owing to the work of Christ for us, so we are created in Him for this very privilege of service.
How frequently in Scripture, is Christ presented to us as God's Servant. Jehovah had but one perfect Servant here, One with whom He was altogether pleased, to whom He could with implicit confidence entrust the affairs of the covenant, namely, Jesus Christ. Of Him God says, "Behold My Servant, whom I uphold; My Elect, in whom My soul delights" (Isaiah 42:1); "Behold, My Servant shall deal prudently" (Isaiah 52:13); "By His knowledge shall My righteous Servant justify many" (Isaiah 53:11). In the New Testament we find the Apostle Paul calling attention to this, "Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus—who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God—but made Himself of no reputation, and took upon Him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men" (Phil. 2:5-7). And we have Him announcing Himself on the earth "Lo! I come, to do Your will, O God" (Heb. 10:7)—do it unreservedly, do it joyfully, do it unceasingly, no matter what it involved.
It is refreshing to the heart to read through the four Gospels with this thought in view, and observe how often Christ is there seen in this special character. "The Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many" (Matt. 20:28). See Him in John 4, sitting weary at the well. The disciples go to buy bread, and on returning they found Him full of love, life and power, speaking to the poor woman of Samaria. They said "Could someone have brought him food?" "My food," said Jesus, "is to do the will of him who sent me and to finish his work." (vv. 33, 34). Behold, God's perfect Servant! And again He said, "For I came down from heaven, not to do My own will—but the will of Him who sent Me" (John 6:38). So too in Gethsemane "Not as I will—but as You will" exemplified His changeless attitude of perfect submission to the Father.
Nor has Christ ceased to be God's Servant, no, not even though He is now exalted high above all angels, and sits at the right hand of the Majesty on High. As Hebrews 8:2 tells us, He is the "Servant of the Sanctuary, the true tabernacle set up by the Lord, not by man." He is there discharging His priestly office, ever living to make intercession for His people. He is there, active, as the Angel of the Covenant.
It was thus that John beheld Him in the apocalyptic visions, standing at the altar in Heaven, "having a golden censer, came and stood at the altar. He was given much incense to offer, with the prayers of all the saints, on the golden altar before the throne" (Rev. 8:3). He is there discharging His kingly office, "upholding all things by the word of His power (Heb. 1:3). He is there preparing a place for us (John l4:2). He is there, submissively, subjecting Himself to God's will, "waiting for His enemies to be made His footstool" (Heb. 10:13). Behold, Jehovah's perfect Servant, and our perfect Exemplar.
And you and I, dear Christian reader, are "servants to God." It is a great privilege and high honor to be the servants of an earthly monarch—but who can conceive the dignity and honor of being a servant of the Most High, the only Potentate! When Paul would glory in his calling, he made mention of the Lord, saying "whose I am and whom I serve." When Peter would magnify his office, he wrote "Simon Peter, a servant and an Apostle of Jesus Christ" (2 Peter 1:1). When James would present his credentials to his readers, he wrote "James, a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ" (1:1); so too with Jude (1:1). When the queen of Sheba came that long journey to hear and see the wisdom of Solomon, she said, "Happy are your men, happy are these your servants, which stand continually before you, and that hear your wisdom" (1 Kings 10:8). O, my reader, if the servants of Solomon were happy and privileged, how much more so are the servants of the living God!
The service of God is one of freedom, yes, it is the only one where perfect freedom is to be found; yet that is the very opposite of the natural man's idea, So thoroughly has sin perverted his judgment and blinded his mind, that he calls light darkness—and darkness light; bitters sweet—and sweets bitter. The unregenerate suppose that to be in subjection to God is the end of all freedom, and entering into the most irksome bondage; and, contrariwise, they imagine that the more they refuse Divine restraints, the greater their liberty.
Poor deluded souls—it is the service of sin which tyrannizes and enslaves! "For when you were the servants of sin, you were free from righteousness . . . . but now being made free from sin, and become servants to God" (Romans 6:20, 22). It is the servant of God, the one who willingly renders obedience to Him, who is "the Lord's freeman" (1 Cor. 7:22).
God does not force His people into His service—but sweetly constrains them by His love, and their language is, "I will walk at liberty—for I seek Your precepts" (Psalm 119:45).
"Become servants to God." A good master provides for his servants. Is not God a good Master? O how He thinks of and provides for His servants. He supplies their every need both spiritual and temporal, makes all things work together for their good, and protects them as they journey through the Enemy's land. The realization of this should comfort and stabilize our hearts, and it should encourage us to come boldly to the Throne of Grace, and seek from God fresh supplies of grace and temporal mercies, on the ground that we are His "servants." Turn to the Psalms and see how frequently David did so—you will find that again and again he asked of God and presented this as his plea, "Save Your servant"; "Cause Your face to shine upon Your servant"; "hear the prayer of Your servant." So in the New Testament we behold aged Simeon looking death in the face and saying, "Lord, now let Your servant depart in peace." It is indeed a wondrous blessing to be the servant of God—and have such a One to look after us.
But this great privilege and honor carries with it a definite responsibility, namely, to conduct ourselves as "servants."
A good servant is described in Scripture as one who has a watchful eye, "Behold, as the eyes of servants look unto the hand of their masters, and as the eyes of a maiden unto the hand of her mistress, so our eyes wait upon the Lord our God" (Psalm 123:2). In the Orient, instead of giving directions by word of mouth, they are often given by a gesture of the hand or glance of the eye. A good servant, then, will be attentive to his Master's will, that there may be no delay in pleasing Him. A good servant will have a listening ear, "speak, Lord, for Your servant hears" (1 Sam 3:9). A good servant will have ready feet, "I will run in the way of Your commandments" (Psalm 119:32). A good servant will have a submissive will; that is the primary and essential qualification—to have no will of my own—but to be completely yielded to the Lord.
"Christian service" is a vastly different thing from that which is so designated in modern Christendom. In many places doing what is termed "personal work" and "winning souls to Christ" is what now passes for "Christian service," and thousands are thus engaged who were never called nor qualified by God for it. Others suppose that only those whom God has called to occupy the pulpit or sent forth to evangelize the heathen, are His "servants." Such are His official servants, and none others have any title to occupy such a position. But all Christians are the servants of God—called to a life of obedience, whether they are shoeblacks, street-sweepers, or housewives. Having delivered him from the power of Darkness, the believer is now to live unto God and for Him in whatever position Divine providence has called him to occupy.
In conclusion let it be pointed out that a rich reward is promised the good and faithful servant. The Lord Jesus declared "Where I am, there shall also My servant be" (John 12:26). "Knowing that of the Lord you shall receive the reward of the inheritance—for you serve the Lord Christ" (Col. 3:24). "There shall be no more curse—but the throne of God and of the Lamb shall be in it; and His servants shall serve Him" (Rev. 22:3). Now serving Him in the office, the shop, or the kitchen; then serving Him in the courts of the Father's House above!