Romans 6:12-14 “Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its evil desires. 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. For sin shall not be your master, because you are not under law, but under grace.”
Paul was writing to disciples of Jesus Christ in Rome who were very, very similar to us. They had to buy food, cook and eat it each day and wash up afterwards. They had to pay taxes. They had to repair the roof whenever it leaked. They had to clean the toilet, and have a bath, and entertain family and friends on their visits to Rome. They had to go to sleep and then they went off to work for a living. They had moral dilemmas and family tensions and as they grew old they had to handle frailty and illness.
Paul here is filling their minds with great truths about God’s salvation in Jesus Christ, and living the Christian life. This is something we can identify with and receive. We must fill our minds with things that endure. The passing challenges of this present world are not worth comparing to the glory which shall be revealed in us in a new heavens and a new earth. We have to constantly set our minds on things above, and that is the purpose of Romans chapter 6. I was touched to read this observation of John Piper that illustrates what I am trying to say, very clearly. His wife had been away for three weeks caring for her sister’s children and now she was on her way home and John was going to the airport to meet her, and this is what happened.
“So I drove to the airport and when I switched on the engine the radio was already on – that’s the way most of us default. But I thought to myself, ‘God has been so good to me. He met me this morning in Ezekiel and Job and 2 Peter. And he has kept the family safe and healthy in these three weeks and now I am about to be reunited with my wife and daughter. Why not set my mind on things that are above and enjoy God in his Word?’ So I turned off the radio and said out loud from memory, slowly and moved with wonder, these words from Revelation 21:
“‘Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband; and I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling of God is with men. He will dwell with them, and they shall be his people, and God himself will be with them; he will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning nor crying nor pain any more, for the former things have passed away.” And he who sat upon the throne said, ‘Behold, I make all things new.’”(Revelation 21:1-5)
And I let everything I saw – the grass by the road, the grain elevators, the construction equipment, the McDonalds and Burger King – I let it all be caught up into that great coming reality. ‘Behold I make all things new.’ It’s all going to be new. And sin and pain will be gone. And God will be the centre. And I arrived at the airport and parked and walked in. And everything I saw was connected with this great coming reality. I wasn’t in a stupour. I could still see the casino ad, but there was no desire to get rich with this brief world; the short skirts and provocative dress (I still saw it), but there was no slavery to fantasizing or lust; the confectioner’s smells and the frozen yogurt shop, but there was no bondage to appetite. Everything had its place in this world (some good, some bad), but this world was overshadowed by something far greater. And I thought, Most of these people live in a dream, thinking that this world is the main reality. Of course, it is real. And we must live here. It’s our calling. God put us here. But compared to what is coming, it is not great. And it only gets its true significance in relation to the great things of God.”
So that was John Piper’s response to that morning visit to pick up his wife, and looking around at the sort of things we see day by day. So we’ve heard these words of our text from Romans 6. They are staggering realities. They are elevating and mind-transforming truths. Could greater facts be concentrated in a few verses than these that are gathered here in this chapter? Now some of you don’t see this. You are not in the least interested in this passage. You get no emotional resonance from what I’m saying. What are you interested in? The rugby match Wales is going to pay on Saturday against Ireland? Some new CDc? Plans for a summer vacation? Losing 10 pounds? Getting a new car or an Apple ipad? Will you remember any of that in a year’s time, or even in three months? I am pleading with you about truth and reality and the living God.
You could be like a person who goes to North Wales and on a clear day he climbs Snowdon, the highest and busiest mountain in England and Wales, and yet he soon turns his back on that majesty. He takes a garden trowel out of his bag and he builds a molehill and shouts out, “Hey guys, look at my mountain! Isn’t that great!” Now I know that some of the concerns that have been pressing in on you this week have seemed very important, but just a little clear-headedness will show you they’re not all that great. Turn around! Turn your back on the molehill that you’ve built and look at Snowdon. Don’t live you life walking down Great Darkgate Street looking at the cake shop and the boutiques and milk-shake shop and the pubs and the banks and the betting shops and the short skirts and the fish’n’chips thinking that this is really what it’s all about. What it’s all about is that God sent his Son into the world to Golgotha wherein by his death he de-sinned us, laying our guilt on his Son and condemning our sin in him. God took the lovely life of fragrant righteousness which was the Lord Jesus’ and he imputed that life to us. It is all about us seeing that eternal reality with relief and gratitude each morning, and reckoning on its everlasting relevance and saying, “I haven’t lived for money! I don’t live for sex! I live to serve God and to glorify Jesus Christ in every way every day.” God didn’t give you your life and bless you with a brain and loving parents and a peaceful land in order for you to spend it building molehills! It is to be spent in reckoning on the total relevance and reality of the words of our text, to which we will now turn. What is the first thing we learn in verse twelve?
- SIN REIGNS OVER EVERYONE WHO REJECTS GOD
Paul says to these Christians (who first read this letter in Rome) – men and women who have to go back to work and fix the roof and cook a meal and nurse a sick child – “Do not let sin reign” over you (v.12). And we are to obey these words just as they did. Don’t let sin be your master and boss you about. The people of our town live under the control of Lord Sin and yet all the time they are boasting about how free they are. Free?! They’re not believers because sin is constantly telling them, “Don’t believe the Bible and don’t believe in Jesus,” and they obey him as they are his subjects. Every single person who’s not in Christ is in the kingdom of darkness and is under the reign of sin.
- EVERY CHRISTIAN HAS BEEN DELIVERED FROM SERVING SIN.
We new people in Jesus Christ reply to sin and we say, “Not on my life am I going to obey you! I won’t let you,” and you can say that because you have the resurrection power of Jesus Christ in you. The might that raised our Lord from the dead is now at work in you. Through that might you are strong. Not physically strong, not intellectually strong so that you get straight A’s, not emotionally strong so that you can control your weeping, but you are strong to say No to sin and Yes to righteousness. That is a strength that nobody in Aberystwyth has except the disciples of Jesus Christ – all the rest are weaklings, the mere slaves to sin – and even Christians are not strong because they are religious but because they can say, “I live, yet not I, but Christ lives in me.” They are out of the kingdom of darkness. Now you have a new King, a new Master, a new citizenship, a new way of looking at things, new excitements and values and enthusiasms. Even your sense of humour has changed. How you spend your money and your time and your gifts has all changed. You have drawn new lines for how you live and you won’t cross them. You’ve been changed by grace. You’ve been given a brand new life. Your life story is written in two volumes. The first volume is called “What I was like before I knew Jesus Christ the Saviour.” The second volume is called, “What my life is like since Jesus Christ became my Lord and Master.” It is like those ads for Weight Watchers. “I used to be 300 pounds but when I joined Weight Watchers I slimmed down to 110. I have bought a completely new wardrobe.” There was a ‘before’ and an ‘after’ in that person’s life. So it is with the Christian. He was in Adam and now he is in Christ. He was in the kingdom of darkness and now he is in the kingdom of light. Once sin reigned over him and now Christ is his Master. So no Christian will allow sin to reign over them. They have a new King and live in a new kingdom.
People emigrate to the United Kingdom and then they apply for citizenship. Many of them are accepted and they pass through a new ceremony to enhance their sense of now being British. Most of them are very proud of their new citizenship. They might say, “I was born in Iran, but now I am a British citizen. Here is my passport. See, it says, ‘British Citizen,’ and there is my name. I am a citizen of the U.K. though I was born in Iran. I was asked if I renounce the government and the flag of Iran, and I said I certainly did. I go back to Iran and I see my family but I am not a citizen of that country any longer. I am a citizen of the United Kingdom. Should there be a war I would fight for my nation. I would even fight against Iran, though it would break my heart to do so, and I pray that that will never happen.” So it is that we have been given a new citizenship in the kingdom of God and we serve our King Jesus. God has given every Christian a new passport, and there is a stamp on it, ‘the Kingdom of God.’ That is a great defining spiritual truth. You can’t go back on it. You’ve got to reckon yourself, you’ve got to count yourself, you’ve got to consider yourself a new citizen of a new kingdom. You cannot live the way you used to live serving the laws of the king of darkness. You have changed. Your whole status has been transformed.
- CHRISTIANS WILL NOT LET SIN REIGN IN THEIR MORTAL BODIES.
This is what Paul says in verse 12. Think of the difference between King Saul in his palace, and Joseph in Potipher’s house. Saul’s envy of David’s popularity was allowed by the king to grow and grow. It became a horrid obsession turning to hatred and murder. One day he picked up a javelin to throw at David to end his life. He used his bodily strength, and skill, and knowledge of how to launch a spear to try to pin the young man to the wall. Saul let sin reign in his mortal body. Men did the same when they nailed Jesus of Galilee to the cross and when a Roman soldier thrust a spear into his side. That is how the rule of sin over them showed itself. But it was very different when Potipher’s wife sought to seduce Joseph. He turned his body from her, and repulsed her with a hand-off, and his legs ran and his heart beat faster, and his lungs were bursting and he put a distance between himself and her. He refused to let sin reign in his mortal body. He refused to obey the evil desires of sin (v.12). Paul lingers on this theme exhorting us thus, “Do not offer the parts of your body to sin, as instruments of wickedness” (v.13).
Joseph didn’t yield what? “The parts of his body.” Yield what? Paul says, “the parts of your body to sin.” What are the parts of your body? Your hands, fingers, eyes, ears, lips, legs, feet, toes, loins, and all the rest. He’s very specific about it. “Do not offer the parts of your body to sin as instruments of wickedness.” The word “instruments” is the word used for “weapons.” Don’t offer the parts of your body to sin as weapons of wickedness – like Saul hurling the javelin with his hand and arm and eye co-ordination, but rather yield yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life and offer the parts of your body to God as weapons to righteousness.
There are two facts about this offering we’re to make to God. Number one, it must be decisive.You know that I have no qualms about appealing to your wills as disciples to make a decision and take action. I like good decisions. I am saying that God brings us to a place in your life where you decide that you’re going to be God’s man or woman . . . wherever you go, and 24/7. As for me and my house I will serve the Lord. Too many professing Christians are living partly in this world and partly in the kingdom of heaven. Elijah called it ‘limping between two opinions’ – think of a school boy who walks with one foot in the gutter and the other on the pavement, up and down, so inelegantly, all for a laugh. You cannot live as being in Adam and in Christ. You are only in Christ. Live as someone who is now a new creature in Jesus Christ. New life shows itself in your living for the Saviour, body and soul for ever. You must commit yourself to that. The choice must be decisive.
Number two, this yielding must be definite. The great conclusion of the theological and doctrinal chapters in Romans ends with the congregation in Rome facing a moral exhortation oat the beginning of chapter 12: “I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices.” What are you to offer to God? Your physical body. Why does God want your body? Because if God’s got your body, he has you. Because everywhere your body goes, you soon must follow. God had Joseph’s body, and so he had him. Be what you are! You are a servant of God not a servant of sin, and so you behave like those whose Master is the Lord Jesus.
Spiritual victory will be more real for you when you make it particular and definite focusing on the parts of your body. Once and for all you start the life of discipleship by presenting your body to the Lord. You say to God, “Lord, what will you have me do?” Then you repeat that each day for the rest of your life. Remember how John Stott would get up in the morning, and sit on the edge of his bed, and appropriate the Saviour. He would present to his Master once again in an act of faith his mind, and his thinking, and his affections, and his heart, and his voice, and his arms, and his legs, and fingers, and every part of himself.
Let’s talk about your eyes. Have you been looking at things this week that you shouldn’t be looking at? Some of you have problems with masturbation. I think it is common enough temptation in a sexually charged society like ours. You’ll grow out of it; it is not the unforgivable sin, and a Christian marriage will help. But you will help yourself by giving your hands to the Lord so that they do not click on your keyboard on the pornography sites. “Take my hands and fingers and loins,” you say to the Lord. Or then there are your ears. Have you been listening to gossip, slander, boastfulness, filthy talk and coarse humour? Let’s talk about your lips. Have you used your lips this week for swearing, for anger, for bitterness? Are your lips yielded to God? What about your arms? Are your arms yielded to God or do you use your arms to grasp more of this world’s goods? What about your feet? Are your feet yielded to God or are they constantly taking you where you shouldn’t go?
Spiritual victory isn’t going to happen until you make it very personal. How personal? Yield your body to God. I challenge you to check off those areas that need to be yielded to God. Paul says, “Do not offer the parts of your body to sin, as instruments of wickedness, but rather offer yourselves to God” (v.13). So say to yourself, “What of my lips . . . my eyes . . . my ears . . . my mind . . . my hands . . . my feet . . . my heart . . . my loins. The real Christians wants to offer all that he is and all that he has to his heavenly Father.
- HERE IS A SUMMARY OF CHRISTIAN LIVING.
The apostle Paul has been pointing out to us three indispensable lessons . . ..
A] There has to be knowledge, or understanding, of what God wants and what he has provided for us through union with Christ and what is our status now as those joined to Christ. Come and hear the Bible preached each week! The Scripture tells us how we are to live; we are to present our bodies as living sacrifices to God. We’re not to overcome evil with evil but over come evil with good. Know the Sermon on the Mount. Know the great ethical conclusions to the letters to the Romans and Ephesians and Colossians. And then never forget that you’re not free from the presence of sin or the attacks of sin but you are certainly free from the dominion and lordship of sin over you. You have to know those things.
B] Then you have to bring these truths into your reckoning and count on their reality day by day. You diligently apply what you’ve been taught to your own life. Freedom from slavery to sin is already achieved, and I want you to consider that freedom as the daily reality by which you live your life. I’m not saying, “Live in a state of denial.” I am saying that God has annihilated the reign of sin over you. You are no longer a helpless slave to sin, and then you’ve got to get seriously aware of this and never forget it for a moment.
C] Then you have to yield the particular parts of your body for the service of our Lord Jesus Christ, once, in the first definitive way, as the new birth kicks in, and then that dedication is renewed on each day of your life until you see the Lord. Your lips increasingly become his, your eyes become his, your ears, your hands, your feet, all become his, more and more, in progressive sanctification.
Let me illustrate that vision of the Christian life. It’s like a man who’s been single a long time, and then he marries a wonderful bride, but he’s taken into that marriage a lot of baggage from being a bachelor. He’s having a hard time remembering that he isn’t single any longer. He was untidy; he added to the clutter of the home day by day. There were unpleasant habits that needed to be cleaned up, and he was doing things like going out and making major purchases without consulting his wife. He was making social plans without talking it over with her. She was increasing upset at the way he was marginalizing here. He wasn’t reckoning on the fact that he was married and that he needed to count on that and act in the light of his reckoning on that. So then an older and godlier man somehow learned that the marriage was not as happy as it could be and he drew him aside and said to him, “My friend I think, you need to consider that now you are married. You cannot go on acting as if you were in a bachelor pad and your wife has to fit in with your habits and plans.” You understand? It’s not that the fellow has to sit there and say, “Now if I think . . . and concentrate . . . and reckon hard enough, then I’ll be married.” He already is married; he just needs to live like a Christian husband lives. I am at this moment taking on that role of the older man, and I am telling you your living should reflect what you are. Be what God has made you.
It’s very similar for a woman who has grown up in some setting where she really hasn’t been loved with a devoted, caring, nurturing love. Then suddenly she is a bride, in a relationship with a man who’s her husband, and he loves her passionately, and she finds it smothering! She really has a hard time taking in his all embracive love. It’s tough maybe because she hasn’t experienced such love focused on her as she was growing up. Then a wise and godly woman takes her aside and says to her, “You know, he really is crazy about you. And that is a nice problem to have. Many women would be envious of you. You need to think about that, and thank God for it, and take that in.” I am now taking on that role of the wise woman and telling you to reckon on God’s love for you in putting you in the state of spiritual marriage – you and Christ – that God has created.
So in Romans chapter 6 Paul is telling us about a reality that God in his grace has already established for us, and we need to pause and reflect on what that is. Consider yourself dead to sin and alive in Christ. Know who you are. Realize what God’s grace has already actually made you to be, in the here and now. You know I think some Christians believe that God saved them back then, and that he’s going to save them in the future when he comes again in the great bodily coming of Jesus Christ, but in-between times it’s kind of ‘we’re on our own.’ And Paul is emphasizing that many of you never stop to think about what he’s doing now for us. You’ve got this glorious gift, immense privileges, a high status and illimitable resources. Do you think about this and thank God for it?
- OFFER YOURSELVES TO GOD AS THOSE UNDER GRACE, NOT LAW.
This is what Paul says (v.13). We’re not to allow any part of our bodies to be used for sin. We ought to give all of ourselves, inside out, every single member and organ of our body, not excluding a single cell, outwardly and inwardly to God. We affirm, “It’s God’s, and it is to be an instrument of righteousness.” In other words, Paul is exhorting us, “In the light of who you are, a person who is dead to sin, and alive to Christ, go on giving yourself to God. Present your whole being to God, as someone who is alive to God, dead to sin. Give your body to the Lord as a weapon of righteousness, because “sin shall not be master, because you’re not under law, you’re under grace” (v.14).
Paul knows that people will use that phrase, “you’re not under law, you’re under grace,” as an excuse for not being meticulous in honesty and truthfulness and keeping your promises and following after the way of righteousness. So he puts it the other way around. Paul is asking us, “Why is it that we’re to present the whole of ourselves to God as tools of righteousness?” He answers, “Well, the reason that we’re to do it is because we’re not under law, we’re under grace.” What in the world does he mean? He means this. The law of Moses doesn’t have the power to enable you to do present yourselves to God as tools of righteousness. It says, quite barely, “Live like this . . . do this . . . don’t do that.” But grace is omnipotence working to make you like Christ. The law tells you what you should do, but it doesn’t have the power to help you to do what you should do. Grace gives you the power to do what the law tells you to do. And because you’re not under law, and you’re not under the condemnation of the law, therefore you’re not under the opposition of the law and the conviction of the law because you’re under grace. You’ve been redeemed, you’ve been forgiven, you’ve been empowered. Do what the law tells you to do, not because you’re solely under the provision of the righteous law, but because you’re under sovereign, free, redeeming grace. So in the light of who you are, and the provision God has given you in grace, give yourself to God. Live life in the conscious gaze of the God of grace. God knows our needs; God supplies our needs. We cry to him and he answers us. He is witnessing everything that we do. We live before his face.
- WITHOUT THIS LIVING THERE IS NO WITNESS AND NO ASSURANCE.
Think about that for a second. You profess to be a believer. You say you’ve been forgiven by God and you serve the Lord Jesus Christ, but there’s a luke-warmness. There is a sleepiness. You are living in such a way that you’re not pursuing this new walk of faith, this new life in Christ. You are not hungering and thirsting for righteousness. I promise you that you will face a struggle with assurance. When David was in the midst of that nine-month old adulterous relationship with regard to Bathsheba, he tells us in Psalm 51, “My sin is ever before me.” He was under a conviction. Did he have assurance? No. God didn’t want him to have assurance. He loved him too much to let him have comfort with his sins unconfessed. If you’re not pursuing this new life, I promise you you’ll struggle with Christian certainty.
But again, let me say this. This is so important for witness, because this new, this transformed life, is crucial to our witness of the truth of the gospel. It is the means of us being the salt of the earth and the light of the world. Without this new life the salt will lose its saltiness and our lights will be under a bushel. Have you ever heard how Eric Alexander became a Christian? He is an elderly Scottish preacher of great power and compassion. There was no one in his family who were Christians. Neither his parents nor his grandparents had any profession that they trusted in the Lord. So did he come under the influence of some faithful, evangelical preacher? Actually no. Initially the influence was three friends in school who were Christians, and Eric could see in their lives that there was something totally different about them. They had the life of heaven, he later could say. God had done a work in them, and they were not like the other boys in school. They were boys who in a boyish way – but utterly sincerely – were presenting their bodies to God. And then on top of his friends being converted his brother got saved. And when he met him after he became a Christian, Eric realized that he was now different. Those four young men are what God used in his life. Transformed lives of Christians are the witness to Jesus Christ.
Then when Eric was twelve years old, a minister named William Still came to be minister at the local church, Gilcomston Church of Scotland, where Eric was attending the Sunday School. Eric was twelve years old, and already by that time he had decided he wanted to become a doctor and he actually studied for some time at medical school at the University of Glasgow. Then there was a lady in the Gilcomston church who had a crush on Mr. Still; she would find any excuse she could to get into a conversation with him. So one day at Sunday School, she was talking to Eric, and she saw Mr. Still walking by, and she said, “Oh Mr. Still, I want to introduce you to Eric Alexander.” And so she drew him over to speak to the small boy. “Mr. Still, this is Eric Alexander, and when he grows up he’s going to be a doctor.” And Mr. Still leaned over, and he put his hand on Eric’s head, and he said, ‘Eric Alexander, whatever you grow up to become, I hope you grow up to be like Jesus.’ Just a sentence, but never forgotten.
Isn’t that interesting, that that’s precisely what happened. It was exactly what occurred because these friends in school were like Jesus, and his brother was like the Lord Jesus, and Christians in Gilcomston were like our Saviour, and Mr. Still was like Jesus Christ, and all that was used by God. He took those people and he used them to bring Eric Alexander into a saving relationship with the Lord Jesus. You see, being transformed by the grace of God is a crucial part of our witness, but if we don’t have the desire to walk in that newness of life, then what evidence do we have that God has done and is doing some work of grace in us? We need to seek that grace; to cry mightily to God that he will save us. May God grant that you have knowledge of what God has done to save sinners, that you may reckon on its truth and reality in your life, and may you yield your body to serve the living God.
8th March 2015 GEOFF THOMAS