This statement would have made very good sense to the people of Rome, to whom Paul was writing. It would have invoked in them a picture of the slave market. The slave market was a thriving sector of the Roman economy. When a person was a slave, of course, they were completely subject to their master. They had no choice. They had no opportunity for freedom.
So it was with us when we were in sin. We had no choice. We had no opportunity to be free from sin. At that point, we could use the excuse that the temptation to sin was just too much for us.
Believe it or not, in the days of the Roman Empire, there were some good people who didn’t believe in slavery. They knew what kind of life people would live in slavery, and they wanted to do anything possible to alleviate the problem.
Some of these people were rich, so they would go to the slave market and buy slaves for only one purpose: to set them free. Because the price of the slave had been paid, the slave could be set free. The Romans even had a word for this practice, the Greek word “apolutrosis.” That word is the same word that is used in Romans 3:24, and is translated, “redeemed.”