We are saved by grace alone, through faith alone! We have been blessed in so many ways, not least in peace with God, a hope which will never disappoint us and a joy which overflows even in the midst of suffering. So how then should we live as Christians? Some people in the church in Rome seemed to think that it really doesn’t matter how we live, or the kind of people we are, because the more we sin, the more God will forgive us so the more grace we would then receive. So Paul writes in Romans 6:1,
6:1 What shall we say, then? Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase?
That is the foolish question that people still ask today when we talk about salvation as a free gift from God, not earned or deserved. If grace means that our salvation does not depend in the slightest upon us repenting, or stopping sinning, or changing our lives, then we may as well accept that grace as an insurance policy for after we die, but then go on living as we always have. You can meet some so-called Christians who actually do that very thing – claim to be born again but then carry on life just as before. Paul explains that God’s grace works very differently.
6:1 What shall we say, then? Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase? 2 By no means! We died to sin; how can we live in it any longer?
God doesn’t expect us to change so that he will then forgive us. Instead we need to realise just how wonderful God’s amazing grace is. Christ died for us while we were still sinners. We are forgiven and accepted as God’s children and have eternal life and the hope of sharing God’s glory. When we take all these wonderful truths on board, then we will not want to continue sinning, we will WANT to change. J.B.Phillips translates it this way.
“Shall we sin to our heart’s content and see how far we can exploit the grace of God? What a ghastly thought!”
Of course we will want to live new and different lives now God has saved us. So how do we do that? In verses 11-14 Paul gives us three things to remember.
11 In the same way, count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus. 12 Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its evil desires. 13 Do not offer the parts of your body to sin, as instruments of wickedness, but rather offer yourselves to God, as those who have been brought from death to life; and offer the parts of your body to him as instruments of righteousness. 14 For sin shall not be your master, because you are not under law, but under grace.
The first thing is to realise is this:
YOU ARE DEAD TO SIN
In verse 11 Count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Jesus Christ
This is the starting point for Christian living – to realise our true position and status before God. We are dead to sin. If we are dead to sin and alive to God then we won’t want to keep on sinning. We will want to be different people! The challenge is simply to live lives consistent with our new nature and our destiny as Christians.
Preparing his son to become the Monarch, King George V would often remind Prince Edward VII, “My Dear Child, always remember who you are.” And as Christians, we need always to remember who we are!
3 Or don’t you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? 4 We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life.
We need to remember how our lives as Christians are indissolubly linked to the life and death and resurrection of Christ. So we shouldn’t carry on living as we did before we were Christians, rebelling against God, ignoring God and rejecting God. Christ has come so that we COULD and we SHOULD live a new life, because we share in Christ’s death and Christ’s resurrection.
5 If we have been united with him like this in his death, we will certainly also be united with him in his resurrection.
God has united us with Christ in his death, so that we can we set free from sin.
6 For we know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin— 7 because anyone who has died has been freed from sin.
Christ died in our place on the cross, paying the penalty for our sins, and in some amazing mystical spiritual way we share in that death. My old self, the person I was before I became a Christian, has died on the cross with Christ. So we are no longer prisoners of selfishness and disobedience and pride. That side of my character has been put to death with Christ on the cross.
And we are also united with Christ in his resurrection.
8 Now if we died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. 9 For we know that since Christ was raised from the dead, he cannot die again; death no longer has mastery over him. 10 The death he died, he died to sin once for all; but the life he lives, he lives to God.
Because I share in Christ’s resurrection, I have a new life!
2 Corinthians 5:17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!
Galatians 2:20 I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.
But what does Paul mean when he says , “we have died to sin?” The penalty of sin has gone – Jesus has paid the penalty. The power of sin has gone – God gives us a new power to live new lives. But the pull of sin is very much still there – we are now living life on a battleground! But Paul says, we are to reckon ourselves dead to sin, to consider or count ourselves as sharing in Christ’s death and resurrection, and this is the secret of living a new life.
A young man went to an old preacher and asked, “How can I get victory over pride and criticism?”
The preacher said to him, “Go to the grave of Brother Jones and as you stand by the grave say all the nice things you can about him. Flatter him greatly.”
He did as the old preacher advised, When he returned the old preacher asked, “What did he say?”
The answer, “Nothing. He is dead.”
The old preacher then told the young man to go out to the grave and criticize Brother Jones. “Say mean things to him.”
When he came back the old preacher asked, “How did Brother Jones feel about what you said to him?”
The young preacher said, “He didn’t feel anything. He’s dead!”
When we are dead we won’t care about other people’s opinions of us. Success. Popularity. Fame. Reputation. So many things which matter so much to us in this life won’t affect us in the least once we are dead! The temptations of pride and greed and envy and lust and anger won’t have any pull on us once we are dead. Now we much consider ourselves dead to sin.
“All of you”, says Paul, “who were baptised into Christ,” “baptised into his death” and “buried with him through baptism”. A brief aside: is Paul saying here that baptism is essential for salvation? We will have to talk about that another time, but I don’t believe the Bible teaches that baptism is essential for a Christian, but I do believe that baptism as a believer is NORMAL for a Christian, as God’s ordained way of showing that we are indeed united with Christ and sharing His death and resurrection.
So step one is to realise we are dead to sin. The second stage to living a new life obviously follows.
DON’T GIVE IN TO SIN
12 Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its evil desires.
We share in the benefits of Christ’s death and resurrection which have broken the hold sin had over us. So now we have to say no to sin, to resist temptation. All our sinful words and actions begin as temptations. But sin isn’t our master any more, God is! Sin shouldn’t reign in us – it isn’t King over our lives any more, God is! So we should revolt against sin and stand up for God and His kingdom.
All our sinful actions start out as thoughts, as temptations, as we give in to evil desires. A single glance or a sound can start our mind down a road towards sin. That first thought is a temptation and we are all tempted as even Jesus was tempted. But that first thought is not sin. It becomes sin when we pursue the train of thought and turn the idea into reality. When we allow the thought to dwell within us and distract us from God – that is the sin. So if sin is not going to reign in our lives then we have to stop that first thought from ever turning into sin.
Paul points to two tricks the devil likes to use to encourage us to give in to temptation. The devil tries to fool us into thinking that sin is a good idea, or that sin is inescapable, so that we won’t fight against it.
20 When you were slaves to sin, you were free from the control of righteousness. 21 What benefit did you reap at that time from the things you are now ashamed of? Those things result in death! 22 But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves to God, the benefit you reap leads to holiness, and the result is eternal life.
The devil’s first con trick is to suggest to us that sinning brings better rewards than righteousness. It’s crazy really that anybody would ever choose eternity in hell with the devil over eternity in heaven with God – but people fall for that con trick all the time. We think just this one sin won’t matter – but of course it does! Sow a thought and reap an action, sow and action reap a habit, sow a habit reap a character, sow a character reap a destiny.
The devil’s second con trick is to convince us that we don’t have any choice about whether we sin or not. But we DO have a choice. We CAN say no to sin and yes to God!
22 But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves to God, the benefit you reap leads to holiness, and the result is eternal life.
So God calls us to reject these deceptions of the devil and live a new life.
13 Do not offer the parts of your body to sin, as instruments of wickedness,
Three practical suggestions of how to do this. We need to fill our minds with good things, with the word of God not the rubbish the media pumps out all the time. When temptation comes we need to call out to God in prayer for help. And we need to make a deliberate effort to avoid temptation. We cannot say, “lead us not into temptation,” if we deliberately put ourselves in places where we know we will be tempted!
So don’t give in to sin. And thirdly
OFFER YOURSELF TO GOD
13 Do not offer the parts of your body to sin, as instruments of wickedness, but rather offer yourselves to God, as those who have been brought from death to life; and offer the parts of your body to him as instruments of righteousness.
God has rescued us from death and given us new life. So we should offer ourselves to God. Alongside the negative aspect of avoiding sin, we should very positively give ourselves to God. We should make every effort to seek out God’s blessing, and “put ourselves in the way of blessing.” Like Jacob who wrestled with God and would not let go of God until he had blessed him. Somebody once put it this way. “Throw yourself entirely into the will of God. Seek God’s very best.
16 Don’t you know that when you offer yourselves to someone to obey him as slaves, you are slaves to the one whom you obey—whether you are slaves to sin, which leads to death, or to obedience, which leads to righteousness? 17 But thanks be to God that, though you used to be slaves to sin, you wholeheartedly obeyed the form of teaching to which you were entrusted. 18 You have been set free from sin and have become slaves to righteousness.
We used to be slaves to sin. We were trapped by original sin and had this inward bias which meant we couldn’t help doing wrong. Theologians have called this the state of “total depravity” – for ALL have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. But now we have the choice. Now we have the freedom to do what pleases God. So we should choose to serve God.
19 I put this in human terms because you are weak in your natural selves. Just as you used to offer the parts of your body in slavery to impurity and to ever-increasing wickedness, so now offer them in slavery to righteousness leading to holiness.
Offer yourselves in slavery to righteousness. Look for opportunities to show God’s love. Look for opportunities for Christian service, and for witnessing. Look for ways to grow in grace and in holiness. Offer yourself to God.
There will be times when we fail, when we let God down and let other people down and let ourselves down. That’s the time to remember God’s grace.
23 For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Remember that all God ever expects from us is failure. We go back to God in confession and say, “Lord I’ve done it again,” and God says back to us, “Done what again?” Because we have been justified – God has made it “just as if I’d never sinned.” Don’t give up – live out the new life God has given you.
11 In the same way, count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus. 12 Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its evil desires. 13 Do not offer the parts of your body to sin, as instruments of wickedness, but rather offer yourselves to God, as those who have been brought from death to life; and offer the parts of your body to him as instruments of righteousness.
You are dead to sin – so don’t give in to sin. Instead, offer yourself to God!