15 What then? Are we to sin because we are not under law but under grace? By no means! 16 Do you not know that if you present yourselves to anyone as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin, which leads to death, or of obedience, which leads to righteousness? 17 But thanks be to God, that you who were once slaves of sin have become obedient from the heart to the standard of teaching to which you were committed, 18 and, having been set free from sin, have become slaves of righteousness. 19 I am speaking in human terms, because of your natural limitations. For just as you once presented your members as slaves to impurity and to lawlessness leading to more lawlessness, so now present your members as slaves to righteousness leading to sanctification.
20 For when you were slaves of sin, you were free in regard to righteousness. 21 But what fruit were you getting at that time from the things of which you are now ashamed? For the end of those things is death. 22 But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God, the fruit you get leads to sanctification and its end, eternal life. 23 For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. – Romans 6:15-23 ESV
The question Paul opened the chapter with is now revisited. Paul has made it clear that if we are true believers and followers, our old self is dead and it is Christ in us that gives us life. We are no longer slaves to sin, but bond servants to Christ. To continue in sin is a terrible and stupid idea. This section is even titled in some versions, such as ESV, as Slaves to Righteousness. Opening with this type of sentence has taught us to look at the previous idea, and this time it is verses 12-14:
12 Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, to make you obey its passions. 13 Do not present your members to sin as instruments for unrighteousness, but present yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life, and your members to God as instruments for righteousness. 14 For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace. – Romans 6:12-14 ESV
Now Paul begins to clarify, just because you are not bound or controlled by sin does not mean it is okay to sin with no ramifications or consequences. Just because a law is removed or not established does not mean that we can just do whatever we want.
Example: if the government removed the law about open containers in cars, would that mean it is okay to drive around with a beer between your legs? As Paul would say, “by no means!” What about speed limits? I know there was a time when I lived out west when Montana abolished speed limits outside of city limits and major highways. The speed limit was “safe and proper”. It was a judgement call by officers that witnessed your driving to determine if it was a safe and prudent speed. In 1998, the court said the law was unconstitutionally vague and did not give drivers fair notice of what speed was fast enough to be illegal. Hence, they went back to speed limits.
Yielding your Life
The word yield is found five times in this section (Rom. 6:13, 16, 19) and means “to place at one’s disposal, to present, to offer as a sacrifice.” According to Romans 12:1, the believer’s body should be presented to the Lord as “a living sacrifice” for His glory. The Old Testament sacrifices were dead sacrifices. The Lord may ask some of us to die for Him, but He asks all of us to live for Him.
It is important to notice the tenses of the verbs in these verses. A literal translation is “Do not constantly allow sin to reign in your mortal body so that you are constantly obeying its lusts. Neither constantly yield your members of your body as weapons [or tools] of unrighteousness to sin; but once and for all yield yourselves to God.” That once-and-for-all surrender is described in Romans 12:1
There must be in the believer’s life that final and complete surrender of the body to Jesus Christ. This does not mean there will be no further steps of surrender, because there will be. The longer we walk with Christ, the deeper the fellowship must become. But there can be no subsequent steps without that first step. The tense of the verb in Romans 12:1 corresponds with that in Romans 6:13—a once-and-for-all yielding to the Lord. To be sure, we daily surrender afresh to Him, but even that is based on a final and complete surrender.
Last month we posted a message about the Order of Salvation and it might be wise to inject some of that truth right here. I never thought much about the whole idea personally, I just thought it was like Acts 16:31 and Romans 10:1; just believe. But I want to tell you, the process is much bigger than that. We have to be clear and honest. The following list defines salvation.
The Order of Salvation
- Election (God’s choice of people to be saved)
- The gospel call (proclaiming the message of the gospel)
- Regeneration (being born again)
- Conversion (faith and repentance)
- Justification (right legal standing)
- Adoption (membership in God’s family)
- Sanctification (right conduct of life)
- Perseverance (remaining a Christian)
- Death (going to be with the Lord)
- Glorification (receiving a resurrection body)
Why do I bring this up? Because for years, many years, I was talking the talk. Believing the idea that I was a Christian. I had confessed that Jesus was lord (note the lower case “l”) and began going to church and hanging out with different people (most of the time). But I was still controlling my life. I let God in where I seemed fit. Where it was beneficial to me. I was still Lord over my life. I was controlling when I would listen or follow the direction of the Holy Spirit. In the list, I was merely at #3. I had been reborn, but just like an infant, I was in need of some parental guidance. I had not fully surrendered. I want to encourage you, if you are stuck there in the lower numbers, it is possible, and it is glorious to advance into the higher layers of your salvation.
Too many times we jump from #3 to #7 and #8. We immediately attempt to have the right conduct of life and want to prove to everyone that we are alright. We apply all kinds of rules and boundaries (many unhealthy and unstable) in attempts to have right conduct. But we don’t surrender and let God manage our life, so we end up just playing God to a higher degree. We don’t surrender at all. We actually proclaim Jesus as King, but then take on more responsibility and believe that it is our works that make us righteous. (which is discrediting #5 Justification).
If you are stuck in this ascension, reach out to someone in the group. Many of the men in the group have had challenges in many of these areas. You are not alone. We must remember that Jesus came to give us life to the full, not to just get by.
Why does the Lord want your body?
To begin with, the believer’s body is God’s temple, and He wants to use it for His glory.
19 Haven’t you yet learned that your body is the home of the Holy Spirit God gave you, and that he lives within you? Your own body does not belong to you. 20 For God has bought you with a great price. So use every part of your body to give glory back to God because he owns it. – 1 Corinthians 6:19-20 TLB
20 It is my eager expectation and hope that I will not be put to shame in any way, but that by my speaking with all boldness, Christ will be exalted now as always in my body, whether by life or by death. 21 For to me, living is Christ and dying is gain. – Philippians 1:20-21 NRSV
But Paul wrote that the body is also God’s tool and God’s weapon (Rom. 6:13). God wants to use the members of the body as tools for building His kingdom and weapons for fighting His enemies.
The fact that we are saved by grace does not give us an excuse to sin, but it does give us a reason to obey. Whatever you yield to becomes your master. Before you were saved, you were the slave of sin. Now that you belong to Christ, you are freed from that old slavery and made the servant of Christ.
Who benefits from sin?
We may think of the pleasing, rewarding “break in the action” that we so deserve. Whether it is an ice cream, a chocolate bar, a beer, or pornography. We have heard and we have personally experienced in some way or another, a taste is never enough. We want another bite. We want to go there one more time. We get in a trap were the idea of engaging in the sin is more rewarding than the act itself.
What in your past were you a slave to? What do you get challenged in today?
Sample of slave to sin: Prodigal Son
The unsaved person is free—free from righteousness (Rom. 6:20). But his bondage to sin only leads him deeper into slavery so that it becomes harder and harder to do what is right. The Prodigal Son is an example of this (Luke 15:11–24).
11-12 Then he said, “There was once a man who had two sons. The younger said to his father, ‘Father, I want right now what’s coming to me.’
12-16 “So the father divided the property between them. It wasn’t long before the younger son packed his bags and left for a distant country. There, undisciplined and dissipated, he wasted everything he had. After he had gone through all his money, there was a bad famine all through that country and he began to hurt. He signed on with a citizen there who assigned him to his fields to slop the pigs. He was so hungry he would have eaten the corncobs in the pig slop, but no one would give him any.
17-20 “That brought him to his senses. He said, ‘All those farmhands working for my father sit down to three meals a day, and here I am starving to death. I’m going back to my father. I’ll say to him, Father, I’ve sinned against God, I’ve sinned before you; I don’t deserve to be called your son. Take me on as a hired hand.’ He got right up and went home to his father.
20-21 “When he was still a long way off, his father saw him. His heart pounding, he ran out, embraced him, and kissed him. The son started his speech: ‘Father, I’ve sinned against God, I’ve sinned before you; I don’t deserve to be called your son ever again.’
22-24 “But the father wasn’t listening. He was calling to the servants, ‘Quick. Bring a clean set of clothes and dress him. Put the family ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. Then get a grain-fed heifer and roast it. We’re going to feast! We’re going to have a wonderful time! My son is here—given up for dead and now alive! Given up for lost and now found!’ And they began to have a wonderful time. – Luke 15:11-24 MSG
As many times as I have heard the story and read books about the story, I don’t think verse 16 ever jumped off the page like today:
16 He longed to fill his stomach with the pods that the pigs were eating, but no one gave him anything. – Luke 15:16 NIV
In the amplified version it embellishes a bit more:
16 And he would gladly have fed on and filled his belly with the carob pods that the hogs were eating, but [they could not satisfy his hunger and] nobody gave him anything [better]. – Luke 15:16 AMP
Have you ever be caught in your evil desires and hit that spot when you even get abandoned right in the mess? Where the end of the rope is frazzled? In that amplified version it hits the painful nerve: “they could not satisfy his hunger”. That desire for more runs into emptiness.
When he was at home, he decided he wanted his freedom, so he left home to find himself and enjoy himself. But his rebellion only led him deeper into slavery. He was the slave of wrong desires, then the slave of wrong deeds, and finally he became a literal slave when he took care of the pigs. He wanted to find himself, but he lost himself! What he thought was freedom turned out to be the worst kind of slavery. It was only when he returned home and yielded to his father that he found true freedom
Take back the ground
Whether you are the son that has come back home, whether your struggling in the midst of your own desires. There are times when we all pause and question, how is this working out? Is this all what it is cracked up to be? There is a redeeming option that is open. Stop the commitment to the enemy of sin. Whether it is a television show, a radio station, people in your life. Eating habits, lustful desires and thoughts. Your ambitions are fueled by your inner desire and you are in control of that. Sin has been broken. You are no longer a victim and slave to sin. You can drop what your doing, you can return to Him.
Even if you are the victim of circumstances. Someone else hurt you. Someone is not cooperating. Someone in your life is disrupting the joy God intends. Do not let that fuel your life. Anger, revenge, malice and slander will not lead you to joy. Focus on what has truly been done “for you” and cast out what has been done “to you”.