But thank God, though you were once slaves of sin, you have become obedient with all your heart to the standard of teaching in which you were instructed and to which you were committed. And having been set free from sin, you have become the servants of righteousness (of conformity to the divine will in thought, purpose, and action).
In Romans 6:17-18, Paul describes the transformation from being a slave to sin to becoming a servant of righteousness. In the same way that there is a great difference between sin and righteousness, the words slave and servant are not synonymous. The process of conversion involves a genuine obedience, that is, obeying from the heart and not just from the lips. Through obedience we become liberated from sin.
What is the difference between a slave and a servant? Legally, the slave was considered a commodity that the owner could sell, buy, give away or exchange for a debt, without being able to exercise any right or personal objection. Servitude was a form of social and legal contract typical of feudalism through which one person, the servant, remained in the service and subject to the lordship of another, the feudal lord. During the Middle Ages, a servant was a person who served in conditions close to slavery.
The servitude was somewhat less oppressive. The servants were agricultural workers legally bound to a place of residence and labor, who were obliged to cultivate and harvest their master’s land. In exchange, they could work parcels for their own livelihood and that of their family, paying the lord a share of the profits in cash and in kind. Their field of action was limited, but they had legal rights, they could not be sold, they could inherit and bequeath property and buy their freedom.
The main difference with respect to a slave was that, in general, the servant could not be sold separately from the land he worked for and in which he was legally a “free man.” The feudal lord had the power to decide in numerous matters the lives of his servants and his possessions. The servant could not betray the feudal lord, since he provided housing, part of the crops and his garments.
When we were slaves to sin, our condition was similar to a commodity that could be sold, bought, given away, or exchanged for a debt, without our being able to exercise any right or objection. Although we were supposedly exercising our “right” to live as we pleased and do whatever we pleased, the truth was that sin increasingly brought us into a vicious circle of slavery from which it was impossible to go out on our own.
When the Word of God found fertile ground in our hearts and the Holy Spirit gave us the conviction of sin, we repented, we converted to Christ and accepted grace, then our bondage of sin was left behind. We went from being slaves to sin to being now servants of righteousness. As servants, we established a social and legal contract with our Lord Jesus Christ. We are now at His service and subject to His dominion.
You could ask me, and where is my freedom? You are free to choose to be a slave or a servant. If you have already decided to be a servant of Jesus Christ, why do you want the freedom to be a slave to sin again? The price Jesus paid for your freedom is much greater than what it costs you to serve Him. Egypt is left behind, before you is the Promised Land: eternal life. God bless you.