Romans 6:1-23; 7:1-4

We’re picking up in Romans chapter six, and this is where we left off. And we’re gonna zip right through the end of the chapter, because this is where Paul is in a series of repetitions. Then we’re going to get to chapter seven, where we’re going to encounter what may be the most unexpected metaphor about what Paul’s been talking about here–and that is the relationship of the believer to sin and how our newness of life in Christ is supposed to transform that entire equation. But we pick up in chapter six, verse 12, with the theme verse for this chapter: “Therefore do not go on presenting the members of your body to sin as instruments of unrighteousness, but present yourselves to God as those alive from the dead and your members as instruments of righteousness to God.” Now in chapter six, verse one, Paul asked this question, “What shall we say then are we to continue in sin so that grace may increase?”

Then he answers it in verse two, “may it never be!” How shall you, who died to sin, or we, who died to sin, still live in it?”  One of the accusations against the gospel is that it leads to antinomianism, which means no-law-ism. In other words, the idea that one can live however one wants to live. And you have to remember that our original context is very important. And even though it is the original context, 20 centuries ago, it’s pretty close to how we live today as well, in that the first audience for this letter is the Roman congregation, and we’ve talked about this so many times, were made up Christians. Some of whom had been Jews who came to know the Lord Jesus Christ, and some had been Gentiles. 

Now before Christ, what was the big difference between the Jew and the Gentile? The law. The Jews had the law. The law was the special revelation of God given to the children of Israel. Most preeminently in Mount Sinai, through Moses, God gave it to the people of Israel. First, these 10 words, the 10 Commandments, and then also the entire body of law. And that’s what made Israel distinctive. The law was a representation of the covenant, the special covenant that God had with his chosen people, Israel. So, in this church are those who had come out of the religion of the law. And then there were those who had come out of the lifestyles of lawlessness. They had come together and here they are in one church made up of believers in Jesus Christ. By definition new believers, because this is a young church, a first generation church. And Paul’s trying to help them see the realities of what the Christian life is supposed to be like.

But it’s interesting, isn’t it? Paul has to raise and answer this question, because obviously there are some people who are saying, “Hey, the more we sin, grace much more abounds, so let’s just sin, so we’ll see more grace.” And you can understand how a fallen human mind could think this way. Look, if God loves to forgive sin, let’s let Him have a lot of pleasure in forgiving sin. Let’s sin a lot so that He would be pleased and forgiving a lot. Paul shows that to be among the most perverse forms of logic. We could imagine when Paul says, “may it never be!” That’s one of his strongest statements and he uses it several times in the book of Romans, and at least twice in this chapter, “may it never be!” As you see, also in verse 15, he makes this very clear. This is not the answer.

Then he explains in the remainder of chapter six  why it’s not the answer; why we as Christians, can’t give ourselves to sin. We can’t use the excuse that since there’s grace abounding to the greatest of sinners, we should sin as much as possible. Paul says that shows that you just don’t understand the gospel. Frankly it calls into question whether or not you actually have had this saving encounter with Christ. Because if you have, you will begin to hate those things, which you had loved. The transformation of the gospel is not just in who we are and it’s not even just in what we do, it’s in what we want. That’s what Paul wants us to see. 

The transforming power of grace in the Christian’s life is not just demonstrated in the fact that there is an objective difference now that we are no longer under wrath and under grace.It’s no longer just that we do things we had never done before. And we do not do things we had done before. It’s that our very wants are realigned. And that’s a demonstration of what grace really does in the life of the believers. 

So Paul goes on in Romans chapter six, as we saw, by using a metaphor of baptism in verse four: “Therefore we have been buried with him through baptism into death. So just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life.” 

This newness of life. It’s not just like a new page. It’s a new dimension, a new experience living under the covenant of grace. We learn what it is to live, no longer by the law, but the law of Christ, which isn’t a lower law, it’s a higher law. Jesus recites the law for instance, on the Sermon of the Mount, he says, “You have heard it said”, and then he says, “But I say to you,” –he never minimizes the law.

When it comes to adultery, he never says, “You have heard it said, you shall not commit adultery. But I say to you, it’s no big deal.”  That’s not what Jesus does. He does the opposite. He says, “You have heard it said, you shall not commit adultery. But I say to you, if a man lusts in his heart, he has committed adultery.” And what is Jesus doing there? He is not just upping the ante, so to speak. He’s getting to the heart. Jesus is concerned with the heart. Christianity addresses itself to the heart. The heart is the metaphor for the being, who the person really is. And so when we talk about a transformed heart, we are talking about a difference in who we are–even in what we desire. We ended with verse 12 last time. We pick up on verse 13, as Paul says, “Do not go on presenting the members of your body to sin.”

Now, what are the members of our body? Well, the limbs, that’s what he was talking about. Actually the entirety of the human body and what he is saying here is that the body’s important. 

Now, why is this really important for us to recognize? Well it’s because Christianity is a holistic faith and there are some faiths that really have no concern for the body whatsoever. Then there are other religions that make the body the issue. There are those who think that the issue is to starve the body or to punish the body in terms of atonement for sin. We don’t believe that. You could beat yourself up. You could starve yourself. And that has nothing to do with your salvation. 

Then there are those who say that the body doesn’t matter at all. And these are dualistic fatihs, in which it’s just what you have on the inside that matters in terms of your own personality and your own consciousness and all the rest, and what you do with your body really isn’t all that important. Now these are ancient heresies, but I tell you, they are alive in our culture today. Because this dualism is how a lot of very sophisticated sin. I say very sophisticated sinners because they think “I can do this with my body without doing this with my heart”  And the Bible calls that a lie. You know, the Bible says the one who commits adultery is an adulterer. None of that works. Your heart betrays who you are because your body has betrayed your heart. And there are some who can rationalize this. They can say this, “Look, my, my body can do any number of things, but my internal soul was unblemished by all this.”  And Christianity would answer that with a thunderous, “nonsense.” 

So Paul says, “do not go on.” And the verb tense there is very interesting. It’s the progressive “do not go on presenting the members of your body to sin” How? “As instruments of unrighteousness.” So our body is an instrument of one thing or another. It’s either an instrument for righteousness or unrighteousness. And what we do with our body is a big and very important indicator of who we really are and whether or not we’ve transformed by the power of Christ.

The power of the resurrection comes in here, too. We are to present ourselves to God as those alive from the dead. We were dead. So we had a dead body. Now the body that is alive in Christ is owned by him. Our members are then to be instruments of righteousness for “sin shall not be master over you for you are not under the law, but under grace” What then, shall we sin? Because we are not under the law, but under grace? May it never be” There’s that second time he comes thunderously with this. Here’s that perverse logic again, “let’s sin because we’re not under the law. We’re under grace.” 

Now I am certain that any of you have been Christians for any number of years. You’ve heard this. It’s almost as if some people don’t even know this verse in the Bible, because they say exactly the opposite. We’re not under the law. We’re under grace. Okay. That’s true. What does that mean? So we can do this, or we can do that. Sorry. Grace is not a lower law. It’s a higher law. But it’s not a law that measures your own righteousness in terms of whether you measure up to this. But it’s a state which is achieved by Christ’s own righteousness, imputed to us. But that righteousness is to become evident in us. That’s the doctrine of sanctification. “Do you not know?” And, by the way, Paul uses legal language very commonly. When Paul in his letter says, “do you not know” that is his emphatic way of saying, “you’re supposed to know this.” “Do you not know that when you present yourselves to someone as slaves for obedience, you are slaves to the one whom you obey, either of sin resulting in death or obedience resulting in righteousness?” You’re going to be enslaved, to one thing or another. The apostle Paul uses these contrasts all the time. 

For instance, he makes it very clear we’re going to be a fool of one kind or another. I talked about this in a message at the Seminary just a few weeks ago, you’re either going to be a fool for Christ’s sake, or you’re going to be a fool for neglecting the revelation of God. Paul makes that very clear. You’re gonna be a slave of one kind or another. You’re going to have to choose what kind of fool you’re going to be: A fool in the face of the world who believes in Christ, or a fool in the face of Christ who rejects his revelation. You’re going to be a slave to one master or another. You’re going to be a slave either to the Lord, Jesus Christ, or you’re going to be a slave to your lust. That’s it. One leads to life, the other to death. Verse 17: “But thanks be to God that though you were slaves of sin, you became obedient from the heart to that form of teaching, to which you were committed.” 

This is another one of Paul’s very pastoral strategies: You-were-then versus you-are-now. He does this also in I Corinthians chapter six, where he gives an entire list of persons who will not inherit the kingdom of God. And then he turns to the church and he says, “such were some of you.” There’s a past tense and there’s a present tense. In fact, for the Apostle Paul, there’s the past tense, the present tense, and the future tense. And the past tense is we all came out of sin. We were sinners; that’s by definition who we were. The most important thing about us is that we were a sinner and we were slaves to sin. But by the power of God, we are no longer slaves to sin. And, therefore, as Paul says here, it’s true that we were slaves of sin, but it’s no longer true that we are slaves of sin. You became obedient from the heart to that form of teaching, to which you were committed. That’s the gospel. 

And this is an interesting little phrase here. Paul uses it at four or five different places in his, in his letters where he says this form of teaching. Now one can easily pass right over it, because remember Paul’s using some idioms, some of the phrases of his own time, and that “form of teaching” is a pretty technical phrase. That means a “philosophy of life.”

And in other words, this was the entire worldview we could say to which you have become committed by Christ. And then in verse 18, and having been freed from sin, you became slaves of righteousness. So there it is: Rather than slaves of unrighteousness. We are now slaves of righteousness. I’m speaking in human terms, Paul says, because of the weakness of your flesh for just as you presented your members as slaves to impurity and to lawlessness resulting in further lawlessness, so now present your members as slaves to righteousness resulting in what? That last word: Sanctification. 

Paul here continues his argument, and he’s contrasting again: You were once slaves to unrighteousness. Now, when you’re a slave, what do you do? Well, you do whatever your master says. And if you’re a slave to unrighteousness, then you are mastered by unrighteousness. 

How surprised should we be when sinners sin. Not surprised, right? Let’s talk about that for a moment. It’s one of the problems with secular psychology. You see, the default for secular psychology is that people are basically good. And we’re surprised when something goes wrong. We’re surprised by misbehavior. But the biblical worldview is the opposite. We are broken from the moment we are born; in sin in our mother’s womb we were conceived and we are born as sinners. And we should expect that sinners will sin. 

Now, why do sinners not sin? I mean, without a relationship to Christ, why do sinners not sin?

Well, Paul says in chapter two, as we saw, there is the function of conscience. Conscience is a limiting factor. Conscience is a limiting factor in that it is a restraining influence in the life for the individual who would otherwise give himself or herself completely to sin. So we should be thankful to conscience, but conscience is not a perfect guide, not by any means because Paul says it ultimately becomes a matter for either excusing us or condemning us because we rationalize. So it is a restraining factor, but it’s not ultimately able to restrain persons from sin. 

By the way, a new book out in the bookstores argues that one out of every 25 human beings has no conscience. Obviously they have the moral capacity God put in them. But in other words, they have so given themselves to immorality and so opposed themselves to the very concept of right and wrong that they really have no conscience. And what this book is talking about is the fact that what used to be called “psychopathology” or a “psychopath” is now becoming more and more common because there are persons who literally have no conscience in misbehavior. That’s a scary thought. We’ll leave that to the secular authors for a moment. 

But let’s go back to this. Paul says we should expect sinners to sin because sinners are slaves to sin. Why do sinners not sin? Well, the conscience is one factor. What is another factor? Paul will deal with this in Romans chapter 13. What is another factor why sinners don’t sin? Will choose in the moment not to do something they otherwise would do is the fear of punishment, right? In Romans chapter 13. Paul says, that’s why God has given the government this authority because sin must be restrained. So with the government, you enforce civil law and criminal law, and have the power to enforce that law, and to prosecute violations of that law, and to incarcerate or to punish the violators of that law. It does have an effect. There’s no doubt about it. As a matter of fact, any criminologist will tell you that the closer the tie between crime and punishment, the more evident the lesson is that should be very clear, and you don’t have to be a criminologist to figure this out. All you have to do is be a mom or dad. 

I mean, that’s the way it works. You know, “How do you keep Junior from doing this?” Well, can you get inside Junior’s heart and rearrange the furniture so that he no longer wants to desire to do this? No, you can’t do that. It’s not given to us to do that. So what do we do? “You do this, I will do this.” It’s a promise. You just make it very clear: cause and effect. That’s why parental discipline is so important. And that’s why understanding, from a Christian worldview, that we are dealing with a sinner is very important. Because those in the secular psychotherapeutic community treat children as if they’re just neutral, whatever they do is because of some environmental influence for all the rest. We know better than that. It’s what comes from the heart. So there are restraints upon evil doing. There’s the restraint of conscience. There’s the restraint of the government. There’s the restraint of authority.

And there are other things that come into play there. But none of that is enough to keep sinners from sin. That’s why we still have to build prisons. That’s why parents still have to discipline. So Paul says, we understand this is a slavery. We expect sinners to sin because they are slaves to sin, but the transforming grace of the Lord Jesus Christ means, as he says, in verse 14, that sin “cannot be master over us over believers.” Can’t be a master. Now, we’ve already talked about the fact that this doesn’t mean that believers don’t sin. That’s why we have Romans seven ahead of us. It does mean that we can’t give ourselves to sin. We cannot serve sin as a master. We are to be slaves for obedience, as he says, in verse 16 and 17, rather than slaves of disobedience. 

In verse 19 he says, “I am speaking in human terms because of the weakness of your flesh.” In other words, Paul says, I’m having to speak about this entire matter, and I’m having to speak in this elementary form of teaching because you’re weak. 

Now let’s think about that for a moment. Is the weakness of your flesh that Paul is talking just about the Roman church in a particular moment of weakness, or is he talking to believers about a constant state of weakness? Or is he talking about something here that we can’t understand? Those are the three options. And I’ll tell you why it’s important. It is because there are some who argue that sanctification can be perfectly achieved in this life and that we can learn to be perfect. That Christians can never sin. When we reach that state of sinlessness. And thus Paul here is speaking about a weakness of the full flesh that can be overcome. There are others who say no, the weakness of the flesh is an ongoing thing. That’s why we must look forward to the glorification that is yet to come,  because so long as we are human beings on planet earth, we’re going to be afflicted by this kind of weakness. And there are others who say, “we really can’t know what Paul means here.”  Well, I think number one, it’s ridiculous to insult the Scripture to say, “we can’t know what Paul means here.” Paul obviously intended for us to understand what he meant. 

And it can’t be perfectionism because we do have Roman seven coming. Paul’s gonna tell us that we do sin, but we can’t give ourselves to sin. So once this weakness is the incompleteness of the word that has been begun in us. The moment we come to faith in Christ, our eternal destiny is sealed. We are given the gift of eternal life. The righteousness of Christ is imputed to us. But we still sin. Not as the master over us, but nonetheless, as the problem that it sets us, and we understand that sanctification is an ongoing process in this life, whereby the Holy Spirit, through the word, conforms us to the likeness of Christ, and it will be completed only on that day.

That “day” is the day of judgment, the day of resurrection, the day of completion, the day when God does all things that bring his will to absolute completion. And that’s why in the book of Philippians, Paul will say to the Philippian Christians, “I am very confident, fully confident, absolutely confident that he who began a good work in you will complete it on the day of the Lord, Jesus Christ.” For when you were slaves of sin, we read in verse 20, you were free in regard to righteousness. “Therefore, what benefits were you deriving from the things which you are now ashamed of?”  For the things which you are now ashamed of, the outcome of those things is death. But now having been freed from sin and enslaved to God, you derive your benefit resulting in sanctification. 

There’s that word. And the outcome: eternal life. For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life and righteous in Jesus, our Lord. Fascinating. Isn’t it? Paul does the “if–then,” the “before and the now.” You were slaves of sin. And when you were slaves of sin, you were free in regard to righteousness. What does that mean? You didn’t care. You weren’t concerned about it.  The problem was that righteousness was not your kid, your goal, it was not your concern. And as evidence of that in verse 21, you were doing all kinds of things from which you thought you derived some benefit.

This is an interesting argument. Why does this sinner sin? He thinks this to his benefit. I mean, you know, a sinner generally does not sin in order to deny himself, but rather to, to receive some kind of gain. And so whether it’s the robber robbing, the thief, or the liar lying, or the disobedient in disobedience, whatever. The covetous person in the coveting, etc. Why does one sin? It is because one sees a benefit in this sinning. Paul says, you know, on the other side of salvation, what kind of benefit was there? What did, what did your, what did your fornication gain you? What did your lawlessness get for you? What did your rebellion reap? The outcome of those things is death, Paul says.  

Now that’s about the strongest word we can imagine. And it’s stronger than anything we have been prepared to encounter yet. Because we know the verse “For the of wages of sin are death.” We know that, but we’re not there yet. This is where we have to remember when we study a book like this, we need to do our very best to try to follow it in sequence as the original hearers would’ve heard it. And, and so all of a sudden, Paul just drops this. The outcome of those things is death.

The fornicator doesn’t say, “Hey, I’m gonna commit suicide.” But when he fornicates, he is. I mean, he’s giving himself over to death. The murderer, the thief, the liar, the rebellious. We know that catalog from Roman chapter one, we’re all there. Some were “inventors of evil things.” The outcome of those things is death. That is such strong language because that flies in the face of virtually every worldview you could imagine, other than the Christian gospel. 

Other worldviews, the worldviews of the East, say the way to get out of this is simply to deny desire. The outcome of this isn’t death. The outcome of this is a giant weight. One brings on oneself and one must free oneself of. That’s basically what Eastern philosophies are all about: Daoism, Buddhism. There are others who say the way out of this is by certain liturgy, certain practices, certain acts of devotion and all the rest. But Paul says all this, it just leads to death. There’s only one way to be out of it. And that’s in verse 22, but having been freed from sin and enslaved to God, you derive your benefit resulting in sanctification, in the outcome of eternal life, that’s where it benefits. 

interesting. Isn’t it? The sinner sins because she thinks she’s gonna benefit by this end. I mean, that’s why an individual would do this. There’s some benefit to it. There’s some benefit whether it’s pleasure or gain or, or esteem or power, whatever, no one sins against his best interest, as he understands it. Sin is the demonstration of self-interest, not the denial of self-interest. The sin is looking forward to a benefit. And Paul says, what kind of benefit do you get? Death. But on the other hand, for those who’ve been transformed by the power of God, there is a benefit and that results in sanctification. And the outcome is eternal life.

Paul helps us to see the contrast here. He’s not just doing some kind of cosmic, “let’s make a deal.” Behind curtain number one, sin that leads to death. Meanwhile, Jane points to behind door number two, which is sanctification, that leads to eternal life. You make your choice, 

Nothing as crass as that. But the contrast is as clear as that. Paul says, look, you’re Christians. You have come under faith in the Lord, Jesus Christ. We can have an honest discussion about sin. And in this honest discussion, we’re gonna say we want sin because we thought we were gonna get a benefit out of it. And what do we get? Death. But by the grace of God, there’s an entirely different benefit. That is our aim and our gift by God’s grace. That is sanctification that process whereby we are conformed to the image of Christ that results in eternal life. Paul uses the word that’s translated here: outcome. The outcome of those things is death verse 21, the outcome in verse 22 is eternal life. And then we have that great verse, Roman 6:23, “For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Double contrast there: Not only do you have sin that leads to death and grace that leads to life. You have sin with wages and salvation as a gift. 

Paul, inspired by the Holy spirit, just loads this verse, just a few words, with such meaning because of the contrast. It’s not only between life and death; sin, leading to death, faith, leading to life, grace, and  justification as God’s gift to us in salvation, leading to life. It’s also that sin comes by wages. What you earn is what you get. What you sow is what you reap. The use of  the word wages there is very clear. And, and by the way, the word wages is a class-specific word in the Roman empire. It’s not so class-specific to us, virtually everybody at every level of American society, every stratum, works for salary or works for wages. We understand that. But we have to realize in the Greco-Roman world, only people at the bottom got wages. Everybody else had property. And would have income from the property or from an estate or something even larger. But those who were at the lowest level of society had wages. And how did you get your wages? You worked for it. That’s why the parables of Jesus come into play here with, with his parables of employment. But the wages of sin is death. Everybody can understand this. You work for sin and sin pays you back with death. That’s the deal. 

But the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus, our Lord. The break that takes place here between chapter six and chapter seven is an artificial break. In other words, the argument just continues. But,  Robert Stefanos, the printer who put this in, wanted to break it up enough so that we could find texts easily. So I’m gonna continue through just verse three of chapter seven. 

We have time to get that far, through the first three verses, because it introduces something we’re going to pick up next time. Paul says, “Or do you not know, brothers]—for I am speaking to those who know the law—that the law is binding on a person only as long as he lives? For a married woman is bound by law to her husband while he lives, but if her husband dies she is released from the law of marriage. Accordingly, she will be called an adulteress if she lives with another man while her husband is alive. But if her husband dies, she is free from that law, and if she marries another man she is not an adulteress.”

Is that perfectly clear to you? Perhaps not? What is Paul saying here? He’s saying, look, not only are you one kind of fool or another, and one kind of slave or another, it is as if you’re married to one kind of master or another. And what’s very interesting here. Paul is using the metaphor of the bride of Christ, of Christians as the bride of Christ. And what he’s saying here is if Christ be dead, there’s no allegiance owed to him. 

You say, if a wife becomes a widow, she’s no longer obligated in marriage to her husband, he’s dead. A look at verse four. “Likewise, my brothers, you also have died to the law through the body of Christ, so that you may belong to another, to him who has been raised from the dead, in order that we may bear fruit for God.” That is one of the most amazing metaphors found anywhere in the book of Romans. And it’s pretty complex. But what he’s saying here is that you were, in verse four, once made to die to the law. You had to die to the law. That’s necessary for our salvation. To die to pretensions that we can achieve righteousness by the law. That’s what he’s talking about here. We die to the claim that we can make ourselves righteous. You have to die to that. But now we’ve been made alive in Christ. We’ve been joined to another. We had to die to the law as if the law was our first husband, speaking of, of the bride of Christ.

But now we are married to Christ and he was raised from the dead in order that we might bear fruit for God. In other words, we have a living spouse, as the church. Now this is an awkward metaphor for most of us, because it’s difficult for us to talk in these terms about what it means to be the bride of Christ.  Paul says, look, what makes the bride of Christ different is the bride of Christ, the church, is made up of people who are once married to the law, which means married to sin. But now we’re married to Christ and sin is now as good as dead to us. Like a first spouse who dies. We’re no longer obligated to sin, But now we’re obligated to Christ. He was raised from the dead and forever lives. The bride of Christ now owes her allegiance to the bride groom, the Lord Jesus Christ, who has saved us by his grace and will ever live, and whose claim upon his church will never cease.

Now, there are a lot of Christians who have been in churches all their lives and heard biblical preaching for years and have never encountered this because this is one of those texts that preachers tend to jump over when they’re doing highlights in the book of Romans, because this is pretty technical stuff. And you have to go through it just about the way we went through chapter six, in order to understand what Paul’s saying here: you’re going to be one kind of fool or another. He says elsewhere, earlier in Romans, you’re going be one kind of slave or another. And you’re also going to be one kind of bride or another. 

Now hang with me. This metaphor is a little awkward, but it’s intentional. So because we, as Christians, all together, are part of the bride of Chris. And the church is going to be married, either through the law, which leads to death (that’s what we came out of), the first spouse, or to Christ the risen Lord, the way that leads to life. That’s enough to make you think for a week 

As we ponder these metaphors that Paul uses, he wants us to see that we are to be dead to sin in terms of sin having a claim on us. That’s the big thing: Do we continue to sin? Yes. But we have something as believers that we did not have before. Not only the gift of eternal life, but we also have Christ in us, the hope of glory. So that Christ in us, as we give ourselves to him, as we are by the process of sanctification made like him, as Paul would say, we are now united with him, it is not necessary that we sin. And so what Paul will encourage is for Christians to learn to grow in grace. So that sin becomes something that we gain victory over day by day, and month by month, and year by year. Not because of our willpower, but because of the power of Christ within us. Not because of our strength, but because of the strength of Christ. You put all that together and you realize Paul’s about to set up an incredible argument. And next week we’re gonna encounter law and grace, and Dr. Jekel and Mr. Hyde, I look forward to seeing you then. Let’s pray together. Our Father, we are so thankful that you’ve given us this word of life. May it be unto life for us. And may we live for you. We pray this in the name of your Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen.