Grace For The Journey
The year is 1849. The place is the state of Virginia. You are 24 years old. Your father was born in the country now called Angola. He was captured during a battle with another tribe and then subsequently sold to slavers and eventually ending up in Virginia. Your mother was born in the land called the Congo, but she was captured in a raid on her village and also subsequently sold to slavers and eventually also end up in Virginia. All you have ever known is slavery, but your parents have talked about what it was like to be free and you know it is something that you want for yourself.
Your master is an adventurer and upon hearing about the discovery of gold in California, he takes you along with the rest of his family. It does not work out like he had hoped, and lacking money, he sells you to another family. Your former master had been harsh and demanding. Your new master is kind and gentle. A month after being sold, while doing an errand for your new master, you meet your old master in the store, and he starts telling you what he wants you to do and that he expects it to be done promptly. He even threatens to whip you if you do not obey immediately. What will you do? That will depend on who you believe your master to be. Is it this fellow who has always told you what to do, or is it the man who sent you on the errand that morning?
Ten years later, your new master has proven to be a wonderful man. He has taught you to read and trained you in both trade and living skills. Out of his own generosity he has also set you free. You are no longer his slave, though you remain with him and his family as a servant because they have been so kind to you. When they travel back to the East Coast, you go with them with the hope that perhaps you will have opportunity to see your parents and siblings and free them from slavery. The opportunity finally comes make it back to Virginia. You see your family for the first time in over a decade, but you also see your former master, who immediately picks up where he left off and starts telling you what he wants you to do and that he expects to be obeyed immediately or he will have you whipped. What will you do? Again, it depends on who you believe is your master.
In Romans 6 we find that Paul uses this analogy of slave and master to describe the relationship of man and sin. The Christian has a new master, but the question remains of who the Christian will obey? The new master or the old master?
Today we will be looking at Romans 6:12-23. At this point in the book of Romans, Paul has presented the Gospel message and is dealing with the consequences of being justified by God’s grace through faith in the person and work of Jesus Christ. In the first three chapters Paul explained the relationship the natural man has with God. God and man are separated because God is holy and righteous, and man is ungodly and unrighteous. Man cannot bridge that gap by any means of his own. Man’s best effort not only falls short of God’s standard, but in reality no man actually even seeks God on his own (Romans3:11-12). Even man’s best religious efforts distort God’s image into one of man’s own creation. What the religion requires is not what God has said, but what men have decided for themselves would appease God. Religion exchanges the true God for one of man’s own making. Therefore, God’s wrath properly abides on man, and without divine intervention, man is condemned to God’s wrath being upon him throughout eternity.
Romans 1,2, and 3 prove that for anyone to talk about having a positive relationship with God apart from Jesus Christ is foolishness, for apart from being justified by Jesus Christ, man is eternally condemned by God the Father. In the last part of Romans 3 through chapter 7, Paul is dealing with being justified from our sin through faith in the person and work of Jesus Christ and its consequences. Paul presents Abraham in Romans 4 as the example this faith which can justify. It is through Jesus Christ and only Him that man is brought into a right relationship with God the Father. Justification comes as a gift of God’s grace through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus and apart from any work of man (Romans 3:24).
It is important that we understand justification. Justification is . . .
The judicial action of God who accepts
The death of Jesus Christ as
The substitute payment for your sin
So that you stand acquitted of
Your transgressions of God’s standards.
It then attributes to the sinner
The righteous standing of Christ.
These are the two sides of justification. As J.I. Packer explains, “On the one hand, justification] means the pardon, remission, and nonimputation of all sins, reconciliation to God, and the end of His enmity and wrath (Acts 13:39; Romans 4:6-7; 5:9; 2 Corinthians 5:19). On the other hand, it means the bestowal of a righteous man’s status and a title to all the blessings promised to the just.”
However, please note that this is not sanctification. Justification is your legal standing as righteous before God, not your actions of living a righteous life. Justification makes sanctification possible and should result in righteous living, but justification and sanctification are different things. Paul will deal with the Holy Spirit’s work of sanctification in our life in chapter 8.
There are consequences of being justified by faith in the person and work of Jesus Christ. Paul points out in chapter 5 that the first consequence is having peace with God. This is a peace that gives a hope that cannot be diminished, for it is based in the love of God which was proven for all time and eternity when Jesus Christ died for us while we were yet sinners. I have a confident assurance as I face the future because God’s promises are true and He will keep them. I can joyfully face any circumstance for I am assured that God is at work maturing me and making me more like Christ.
In chapter 6, Paul points out another great benefit of being justified by faith in Jesus Christ. I had inherited a sin nature from Adam that condemned me, but in Jesus Christ I have been changed. Paul uses the analogy of baptism to explain the nature of this great change. Before being justified by Christ I was controlled by sin. I lived in it, and all that I did manifested it, but the person I was then was crucified with Christ, so that I no longer live, but Christ lives in me, and the life I now live, I live by faith in Jesus (Galatians 2:20).
I detailed the meaning of baptism as an identification of the believer with Jesus Christ in His death, burial and resurrection. The believer identifies with Jesus death and burial as he goes under the water, and with His resurrection to newness of life as he comes up out of the water. Jesus commanded His followers to be baptized in the Great Commission (Matthew 29:19-20). It is a public identification with Him. Jesus said in Matthew 10:32-33, “Everyone therefore who shall confess Me before men, I will also confess him before My Father who is in heaven. But whoever shall deny Me before men, I will also deny him before My Father who is in heaven.” There is serious reason to question the salvation of someone who professes faith in Jesus Christ, yet refuses to identify with Him in water baptism.
Paul’s point in Romans 6 concerns how a Christian should live. Paul does not want anyone to think that it is proper for a Christian to continue in sinful living. Some had developed the misguided idea that their sin would cause God to be glorified because His grace would then have to increase to cover the sin. The Christian should not continue in sin because it is contrary to the new nature that a Christian receives upon faith in Jesus Christ. We are to consider ourselves to be dead to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus (Romans 6:11).
The problem of the Christian sinning is not a lack of power or ability. I know that each of us feels at times that we have no choice but to sin. We feel like we lack the power and ability to resist the temptations that come upon us. Admittedly, it is a tough battle at times. We will see the depth of this battle in chapter 7 in a couple of weeks. We face the cravings of not only our own flesh for what is sinful, but we also have the enticements of the world and the schemes of the devil to satisfy our pride and desire for pleasure in ways that are not pleasing to God. But regardless of what we may feel, we must come to grips with the fact that what we have become in Christ has given us new abilities that we did not posses before. We can resist the temptations of our flesh, the world, and the devil. As Paul states in 1 Corinthians 10:13, “No temptation has overtaken you but such as is common to man; and God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will provide the way of escape also, that you may be able to endure it.”
Please note that 1 John 1:8-10 points out the fact that as Christians we will still sin. It also points how to deal with that sin once it occurs through confession. Having the ability to resist does not mean that we always will resist. We must learn to deal with our tendency to sin and overcome it. How can the Christian overcome temptations? By going back to basic facts in remembering what we were saved from, what we were saved to, and then obeying our true master.
As Paul points out here in Romans6:12-14, we are no longer to let sin reign in our bodies to obey its desires. Why? Because we have come under God’s grace in Jesus Christ and have died to sin (verse 2). We were saved from sin and should quit living in its corpse. We must no longer give in to our sinful desires but instead consciously present ourselves to God as instruments of righteousness, for that is what we were saved to. We are saved from sin to righteousness. That takes forethought and action of the will. It is often, if not usually, a failure at this level that leads us to stumble into sin. We have not prepared ourselves to stand against it. Instead we set ourselves up to fall. In Romans13:14 Paul tells us to, “Put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh in regard to [its] lusts,” yet that is exactly what we often do. We make provision to fulfill the lusts of our flesh, to seek pleasure and feed our pride. We present ourselves to the world and the devil as instruments of unrighteousness.
For example, and this one comes to my mind because I gained a few pounds the last couple of weeks, if you struggle with glutony, then a buffet is not a wise place to go. Yet, as my kids would point out at times, every time we stopped at a buffet there were always people there that should not have been there. Their girth and the great piles of food on their plates made their temptation to gluttony obvious. They were feeding
Another example. If you struggle with pornography, and that is an increasing problem in our society, then you have to take steps to protect yourself. You cannot purchase pornography if you refuse to go to any place that sells it. Tragically, many pastors have been falling to pornography on the internet. You have to take the steps to protect yourself. Get a filter for your computer that will not allow access to those sites. Set up your e-mail to filter out the solicitations for it. Keep your computer in a place where other people can walk by at anytime and see what you are doing. Have others hold you accountable. You may even have to take even more drastic measure to avoid those temptations. I heard about one man that purposely drove out of his way to avoid shops and billboards he did not want to see. Others have moved away from areas in order to protect themselves and those they loved. Is that drastic? Perhaps, but remember what Jesus said in Matthew 18:8-9, “And if your hand or your foot causes you to stumble, cut it off and throw it from you; it is better for you to enter life crippled or lame, than having two hands or two feet, to be cast into the eternal fire. And if your eye causes you to stumble, pluck it out, and throw it from you. It is better for you to enter life with one eye, than having two eyes, to be cast into the fiery hell.” The temptation to sin should be taken seriously.
The idea of “instrument” here is “being a tool or a weapon.” It is not just that we let sin get an upper hand on us and we stumble into sin with the temptation, but we become tools of sin that affect the lives of others too. Some examples: A) We allow ourselves to get angry and then spread that anger to others who in turn spread it to still others. Consider how many people drive and then our own reactions; B) Some, having become numbed to the immorality of our society, go on their merry way watching and talking about movies and television shows that are anything but pleasing to God. They encourage others to join them in what is an affront to our holy God; C) In pursuit of the so called “American Dream,” we get others to join us in the rat race of coveting the materialism of our society. We spend more time talking about the stuff we want to get rather than in the things of the Lord – what we are learning about Him, how He is using us, and how we can reach the lost around us; D) Instead of talking to someone directly about something that bothers us, we talk to other people and involve them in our gossip. They in turn share the tidbits of poison with still others. The list can go on and on can’t it?
Instead of wallowing in sin ourselves and being tools used by Satan to cause others to stumble into sin, we should be those who are pursuing holiness ourselves and be tools in God’s hand to encourage others to do the same. The Christian should be an instrument of righteousness, not a tool of unrighteousness.
Starting in verse 15 Paul addresses a problem that is still common today. Paul has just stated that we are no longer under the Law, but under grace. There are those that take this to mean that the Christian has no relationship at all to God’s law because they are under His grace. They end up in an antinomian position that does not recognize sin. They believe they can do whatever they feel like doing because God’s grace will cover it all. Paul’s answer to this is as strong as it can be. May it never be!
The Christian is no longer under the law in several senses. Jesus Christ has paid the penalty of the Law on our behalf so the Christian is no longer under the Law’s condemnation and penalty. Jesus is the propitiation who has already satisfied God’s wrath, so the Christian does not have to keep the law in order to appease God. Christians have the Holy Spirit within them to teach and guide them in righteousness, so the Law is no longer the sole source of God’s standard of righteousness. And finally, the righteousness of Jesus Christ is imputed to the Christian as part of being justified by faith, so the Christian does not have to keep the law in order to be righteous before God. However, none of this means that the Christian is free to do whatever they want, nor does it mean that the Christian is not still subject to law.
Paul says in Galatians 6:3 that we are to, “Bear one another’s burdens, and thus fulfill the law of Christ.” James 2:8 tells us that we should be “fulfilling the royal law,” which he defines from Scripture as “You shall love your neighbor as yourself” which Paul says is a fulfillment of the whole Law (Galatians 5:14). Jesus has given us commandments which He not only expects us to keep, but also to teach others. That is part of the Great Commission – “teaching them to observe all that I command you” (Matthew 28:20). The Christian is not under the Law as the non-Christian is, but neither is the Christian antinomian (i.e. without law). The Christian is still subject to the commands of God for they still reveal God’s standards of righteous living that He expects His followers to keep.
Paul’s use of slavery as an analogy here brings out this point of our obligation to keep God’s commands to live in righteous. Prior to becoming a Christian we were enslaved to sin. It was our master. After becoming a Christian we have a new master. But as Paul points out in verse 16, saying you have a new master is of little value if you keep obeying the old one. For all practical purposes, the claim is not true. To go back to the story I began the story with, if you started obeying your former master then you have enslaved yourself to him and have lost your freedom. And as bad as slavery in America could be, it was good compared to slavery to sin.
Those who claim to be Christians, but remain enslaved to their sin only show that they have not yet switched masters. Obedience to sin results in death. Obedience to the Gospel results in righteousness. Paul commends the Romans in verse 17,18 that though they had been slaves of sin, they had become obedient to the teaching they had received. This teaching was the obedience of faith (cf. Romans 1:5; 16:26) of believing God and following Him. This was the faith that Abraham demonstrated and that the Romans were also now exhibiting. It is this obedience of faith that has freed them from sin and made them slaves of righteousness.
There are many today that do not like to have the words “obedience” and “faith” in the same sentence because they do not think the two can be used together, but Paul did not think so. True faith always takes action (cf. Romans 4: James 2:14ff). If it does not, then it is merely intellectual assent which leaves the person still enslaved to their sin.
Note that Paul says that they became slaves of righteousness. This is an aorist passive form of the verb “douloo.” They did not make themselves slaves, they were made slaves, and slave is the proper term. Slaves do not choose for themselves what they will or will not do. Their will becomes subservient to that of their master. They do whatever their master chooses for them to do. God’s grace frees the believer from sin, but that does not mean in any way they are now autonomous in the universe to do whatever they want. They are no longer under sin’s bondage and they can now obey God. That is the purpose of their redemption.
As Paul points out in verse 19, when a person is in bondage to sin, their practice is to present themselves as slaves to impurity and lawlessness resulting in further lawlessness. They do what they want when they want. They yield themselves to the lusts of the flesh, the lusts of the eyes and pride. When that bondage of sin is broken through faith in Jesus Christ, then the practice of life is also to change. The Christian is to now consciously present themselves (“your members” here refers to the different aspects of who you are) as slaves to righteousness. The result of this is sanctification which is a life which is increasingly set apart from the world to God.
Those who are slaves of sin are free from righteousness (verse 20). They have no ability to do anything righteous because even their attempts to do so are as filthy rags before our holy God. The contrast between the Christian and the non-Christian should be greatest at this point. One is a slave of righteousness and the other is the exact opposite, a slave to sin. Paul contrasts the results of these in verses 21 and 22 pointing out somewhat sarcastically that what they thought was beneficial when they were enslaved to sin, they now understand to be things for which they are now ashamed. Those who become Christians later in life usually understand this very well. They very things they once sought after as great things to do or achieve, then now find to be shameful. The final outcome of sin is death.
If you are freed from sin, then you are enslaved to God. There is no middle ground here. Paul equates being a slave of righteousness to being a slave of God for doing God’s will is to do righteousness. The result of this is sanctification. You become more righteous and less sinful. The final outcome of this is eternal life.
Paul concludes in verse 23, “The wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” The Christian should not continue in sin because it is the very opposite of why a Christian is saved and what he is supposed to be. Those who continue in sin earn for themselves death. This is not a reference to just physical death, but also spiritual death of being eternally separated from God. God has given to the Christian eternal life as a free gift. No one deserves it . . . No one earns it . . . It comes solely by God grace through Jesus Christ. And as I have pointed out before, eternal life is not about the length of existence, for the wicked will also exist eternally.
Eternal life is a reference to that existence being in the glorious presence of God forever.
If you profess to be a Christian, then take sin seriously. Too many think they have their fire insurance policy and so will escape hell even though they continue to live as slaves of sin. They have fooled themselves. Sin is still their master and the wages of sin is death. The true Christian will still stumble into sin, but he will also confess that sin for he knows it is wrong and it is against his desire to obey his true master, God, in righteousness.
Who is your master? Who do you obey?
If you have not yet placed your faith in the person and work of the Lord Jesus Christ, then you are a sinner who is still earning the wages of death. But you do not have to stay in that condition. You can switch masters. You can receive God’s gift of eternal life today. Talk to someone about this today and let them introduce you to Jesus Christ and His forgiveness of your sin.
This is Grace for your Journey …
Rest and Rejoice in this eternal truth!