"Gotta Serve Somebody”

Younger readers may not know that Bob Dylan is an American singer-songwriter who many people consider to be one of the greatest songwriters in history. Whether or not you have heard of him, it is interesting to note that the opening track of his1979 studio album, Slow Train Coming, was a song called “Gotta Serve Somebody”.

"Gotta Serve Somebody”

The chorus of this song was:

“But you’re gonna have to serve somebody, yes indeed
You’re gonna have to serve somebody
Well, it may be the devil or it may be the Lord
But you’re gonna have to serve somebody.”

Although the grammar may not be of the highest quality the words echo those in the Bible, namely that we all serve someone.

In the book of Romans there is a magnificent explanation of the gospel – how God, in amazing grace, is working a great plan of salvation. The salvation that God provides brings deliverance from the penalty, power and presence of sin; those who were separated from Him are, by His grace, reconciled forever to Him.

The gospel is a message about Salvation from the penalty of sin, as the moment a person trusts Jesus Christ as their Saviour and confesses Him as their Lord they are justified by God and at peace with Him.

“Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ” (Romans 5:1).

 “Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (Romans 8:1).

The gospel is also a message about Salvation from the presence of sin. Those who have faith in Jesus Christ alone are assured that one day they will be in glory, with Him, where sin can no longer touch them.

“For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that is to be revealed to us” (Romans 8:18).

But the gospel is also a message about Salvation from the power of sin. In Romans chapter 6 there is a clear explanation of how a believer is saved from sin’s power.

Paul states a basic truth that if you present yourself to someone to obey them you are a slave to that person.

“Do you not know that to whom you present yourselves slaves to obey, you are that one's slaves whom you obey, whether of sin leading to death, or of obedience leading to righteousness?” (Romans 6:16).

We baulk at the word “slave”, as it brings up images from an evil practice centuries ago, but the original hearers would be very familiar with the term. Rome was full of slaves; indeed, many of the Christians to whom Paul was writing were slaves.

Bob Dylan repeated the truth that you and I are slaves. Yes, we are free in our choice of how we think and what we do, but the choice we make does mean we are obeying one of two masters. Our master is either sin leading to death, or obedience leading to righteousness. Sin and Obedience are personified, to help us in our understanding of this issue. Sin, in all its different forms, is what the devil desires, and obedience to His will is what the Lord God desires.

Presenting yourself to Sin, as your master, means death. That is a present and continued separation from God. Presenting yourself to Obedience, as your master, means righteousness. That is not about attaining a righteous standing before God, but about right, holy living that is pleasing to God.

That’s the principle, but then Paul declares that every believer in Christ has had a change of ownership.

“But God be thanked that though you were slaves of sin, yet you obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine to which you were delivered. And having been set free from sin, you became slaves of righteousness” (Romans 6:17-18).

Every believer once did whatever Sin, as master, wanted them to do. It might have been following a works-based religion, materialism, sexual immorality, or any other pursuit that was not for the glory of God.

However, a change occurred internally. There was repentance, trust in Jesus as Saviour, and confession of Him as Lord. As a result, there was a new relationship to God and a new relationship to sin. Because the Holy Spirit indwells and empowers them, negatively believers are able not to live sinfully, and positively they are able to live righteously,

They have been freed from having to obey Sin. It’s not that they will never sin again, but the truth is they need never sin again.

We all serve somebody, “whether [of] sin leading to death, or [of] obedience leading to righteousness”. In my next blogpost we will consider the change of service and benefits that occur when a person trusts in Jesus Christ for salvation.

We commenced with some lyrics by Bob Dylan, but we will conclude with some by Charles Wesley that encapsulate the truth that we have considered.

“Long my imprisoned spirit lay
Fast bound in sin and nature's night;
Thine eye diffused a quick'ning ray,
I woke, the dungeon flamed with light;
My chains fell off, my heart was free;
I rose, went forth and followed Thee.”