We become joyful “slaves to righteousness”
When we come to personal faith in Jesus Christ we become “slaves to righteousness.” That is what the Apostle Paul tells us in Romans 6:18. Paul makes it abundantly clear, however, that this kind of slavery is a great joy. Paul uses the whole book of Romans to help us see that living in sin was a dreadful kind of slavery that was destroying everything beautiful in our lives and holding us in the most repressive bondage. Being “slaves to righteousness” was the very opposite, it is a life full of the greatest joy. God had created us in the Garden for this kind of joy, and by bringing us to faith in the Savior, he brought us back into that joy.
It was the BODILY RESURRECTION of Jesus that opened the eyes of the Apostles to this great joy. Until they saw the risen Jesus, the apostles themselves still seemed to be under the bondage of sin. They had been arguing about which of them would be the greatest in the Kingdom of God right up to the time when Jesus was betrayed by Judas. Peter had denied that he even knew Jesus at the trial and we read that “then all the disciples left him and fled (Matt. 26:56).” Sin still had a firm grip on them. They were living for themselves and, let’s face it, that is simply “living in sin.”
Everything changed immediately and forever when they saw Him Risen, standing in front of them in that locked room. Can we ever really get a hold on this wonder? – their seeing him for the first time, showing them his hands and his feet, asking them for some fish to eat, and then conversing with them as he had done so often before his death. I am convinced that our preaching and teaching about this experience of the Apostles continues to fall far short.
CAPTIVATED is a word I want to use to describe the apostles and all the disciples who first saw him after he rose from the dead. Even that is too weak a word. The fact is that they had to be absolutely overcome with the wonder of His RESURRECTION and the wonder of what this would mean for them. This is what genuinely and decisively broke the grip that sin had on them. It is what enabled them to see their self-centered sinfulness as a dreadful offense against God and their Savior, enabled them to leave slavery to sin behind so that they could become “slaves to righteousness.”
Before they saw him risen from the dead, they had been no better than the Pharisees in one important sense. Their arguing about which of them would be the greatest grew out of their Pharisaic idea of “earning salvation” or “earning God’s favor”. They had the same legalistic mind-set as the Pharisees, thinking we are under obligation to earn our way into salvation by your good deeds; so they were competing with each other in this awful way. This dreadful idea died forever when they saw the risen Lord standing before them inviting them to rejoice in his great victory over the grave.
I am sure that one of the reasons that the church was not immediately launched on the day he rose is that they needed time to absorb the sheer grandeur of the Savior’s RESURRECTION. They needed those 50 days before Pentecost just to come to grips with their new situation, the RESURRECTION LIFE that God was giving them through the power of Holy Spirit.
The old LEGALISM of the Pharisees had always been wrong. The 10 commandments were never meant to be a ten step ladder to Heaven by which we earned salvation. Now the Apostles could see that the commandments had always been a guide for God’s children to see how they could best enjoy all the privileges that Jesus Christ EARNED for us by his death on the cross. He is the one who alone could earn salvation. He did it, and proved he had done it by rising from the dead. We simply believe him, trust him for his provision, rest in his finished work.
As I have already confessed, CAPTIVATED is too weak a word – but it moves in the right direction. We can understand it to mean that we are so overwhelmed with the wonder and joy of the RESURRECTION of Jesus that sin becomes a great ugliness to us and being “slaves to righteousness” is irresistibly attractive. We want to love and obey our Savior with all our hearts.