I’d like to…once again…begin today with the same quote from Charles Spurgeon that we began last week with, “This morning…we come again to the same noble theme. Christ Jesus is today to be set forth. You will not charge me as repeating myself, you will not look up to the pulpit and say, “Pulpits are places of repetition.” You will not reply that you have heard this story so often that you have grown weary with it, for well I know that with you…the person, the character, and the work of Christ are always fresh themes for wonder. We have seen the sea, some of us hundreds of times, and what an abiding sameness there is in its deep green surface, but whoever called the sea monotonous; traveling over it as the mariner does, sometimes by the year together, there is always a freshness in the undulation of the waves, the whiteness of the foam of the breaker, the curl of the crested billow, and the frolicsome pursuit of every wave by its long train of brothers.”
I begin with this quote again because as we’re following Paul through Romans 6:1-14, where one big theme is consistently and continually put before us, ‘Remember who you are!’ In v1-4 we saw how great our union with Christ in His death and resurrection truly is. In v5-11 we saw more about how great our union with Christ in His death and resurrection truly is. And now in v12-14 the same great theme of our union with Christ in His death and resurrection is in view, but now we come to find out how we actually live out of our union with Christ. Do you think this is all far too monotonous? That Paul is too repetitive? As Spurgeon asked his hearers back then, I ask you now. Do not call these themes of wonder, monotonous, no. Rather, it’s my hope you’d see and savor the deep freshness and vibrancy in this same theme so familiar to you.
If you’re not already there turn with me to Romans 6.
Last week I mentioned that in all of Romans so far, from 1:1 to 6:10 there isn’t one ounce or application. It’s all doctrinal explanation and illustration. When we come to 6:11 we come to the first moment of exhortation where Paul calls us to do something when he says, “So (in light of all I’ve taught you so far) you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus.” In our passage today, v12-14, this application continues. It’s as if Paul’s saying, “…given who we are in Christ, how then should we live?”
Three verses are before us, and I’ve taken them one at a time so three headings are before us. Each heading comes from the words of the verse themselves. See first…
Let Not (v12)
“Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, to make you obey its passions.”
We’ve just said that in v12-14 Paul is continuing on in his application of v11. But, as we draw near this passage I want us to make sure we begin by coming at v12 carefully and read it for what it is. You see, we might read v12, hear Paul continuing on in application and calling us to a certain action, and still go amiss here. How so? We’ll go amiss if we forget what we’ve just covered in v1-11. If we ask one simple question about v12 I think we’ll realize this: can sin really reign over us? Doesn’t v12 seem to say it can? If we’ve forgotten what we learned in v1-11 we might believe sin can reign over us. But Church, can sin reign over us? What’s the answer? NO! It’s been defeated and dethroned! Remember v1-11, we’ve died to sin, we’re no longer in Adam, we’re no longer in the kingdom of darkness, and under the authority and rule of the evil one. What are we? We’re in Christ, united to Him by faith, and as He died to sin and lives to God, so do we. What then does v12 mean? Hear it Church, because sin no longer reigns over us, we should not go back to it and allow it to reign over us! Because we’re no longer under sin’s rule, we should not willingly place ourselves back underneath it. The truth is: it’s only because sin no longer reigns that we can now say, don’t let it regain power over you once again. Implied in the command of v12 is to continually live under the reign of Christ.
It’s like having a trust fund. Let’s say someone wealthy and very kind set up a trust fund in your name. Well, let’s say you find yourself in financial trouble. Will simply having the trust fund in your name help you? No, you’ve got to draw on it and use it in order for your debts to be settled. What Christ did for us is like this. Yes, we’re now one with Him, and yes we’ve died with Him to sin, and yes we’ve risen with Him to walk in newness of life. But this union with Him and all the benefits that come with it aren’t just automatically realized in our experience. We don’t grow in Christ by simply existing as Christians. We grow in Christ when we draw from Christ, live in Christ and walk under His rule and in His ways. The language theologians use for this is that we must appropriate in our life what is already ours in Christ.
Now, all of this means we’re now called to resist sin, to fight sin, to flee from sin, to oppose sin’s influence and sin’s power. That’s our call, that must be our posture in the Christian life. Just as a student who doesn’t study for a test will likely fail that test, the Christian who is complacent in fighting sin, or the Christian who doesn’t appropriate what is already theirs in Christ, will in time find themselves going back to sin, making room for sin, and giving in to sin. It might seem simple, and maybe we don’t talk about it enough…but Church, the call to resist sin is actually a call. It’s something we must do. And resisting sin actually feels like resisting, like fighting, like swimming against the current of our sinful nature. We cannot be complacent in this or slow to action in this, as if it didn’t really matter. Is our enemy complacent? Is the devil sitting back reclining, content to be defeated? No, not at all. Why then are we?
We’re greatly helped in this call to not let sin reign over us again. It shows us so much about what the Christian life looks like. But Paul goes further and helps us out more by showing us how sin desires to win us back. The rest of v12 shows us this. The fight against sin has to do with our ‘mortal body’ and the result sin is aiming at is for us to “…obey it’s passions.” Isn’t this just what sin does? It turns our natural and good instincts into exaggerations and lusts, and seeks to press them down on us? We should note that Paul never says sin is dead, but that we’re dead to sin. And as long as our bodies are still mortal bodies we’ll continue to be influenced by and subject to sin and its consequences. One day when these bodies of ours will be glorified that will stop, but for now we wait for that day with an eager hope. v12 is teaching us that while we’re in these mortal bodies sin has a goal. A goal that we, who are free in Christ, become re-enslaved to sin by obeying the sinful desires and passions of the body rather than obeying Christ.
What does all of this look like? Paul helps us out by going further in v13.
Do Not & Do (v13)
“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.”
So, we know from v1-11 that we’ve been freed from sin’s slavery and that sin now no longer reigns over us because of being united to Jesus. From v12 we know that the only way sin can rule or reign over us now is if we let it do that, if we willingly return to it after being saved from it. So we must be those who are ever eager to resist and to starve our sinful nature while also being ever eager to feed our new nature in Christ. Flowing right out of v12, v13 continues instructing us on what we’re not to do and what we’re to do. v13 begins viewing all of this in the negative, what we’re to not do. “Do not present your members to sin as instruments for unrighteousness…” But thankfully, Paul doesn’t just tell us the negative and leave it at that, he continues in the rest of v13 by telling us the positive, or what to do, “…present yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life, and your members to God as instruments for righteousness.”
The word ‘instruments’ is key to understanding v13. In Greek this word refers to gifts, weapons even, items that are used to accomplish certain tasks or works. Paul uses this word in v13 to refer to the members of our bodies, both members we can see and members we cannot see. So everything from our head, shoulders, knees, and toes comes into view here. But it also goes deeper than that to include the mind with our thoughts and beliefs as well as the heart or soul with our emotions and affections. This word ‘instruments’ refers then to our whole person. And what Paul’s saying about our whole person is that all that we are is be employed, not in the service of unrighteousness, but in the service of God for righteousness. Think of the sculptor with his chisel, the painter with his brush, the baseball player with his bat, or the poet with his words. All of these things can be used well or poorly, in the service of something great or in the service of something wicked.
Having two young boys at home, Holly and I often find ourselves talking about these things. Both Jack and Luke are growing and as they grow their muscles grow too. And as their muscles grow so grows their strength. So we teach them at home that God made them strong to help people not to hurt people. This means when we use our strength to hurt people we’re using the gifts God has given us for sinful purposes. But when we use our strength to help people we’re using the gifts God has given us for righteous purposes. That’s just one example of many we could give here. Ask all the questions of yourself. What about your body? Do you use and train your body so that it will be a ready tool in the service of the King to meet the needs of others around you, or do you use your body as a kind of SUV or recreational vehicle to do whatever you desire to do with it? What about your mind? Do you employ your mind to think God’s thoughts after Him and grow in the knowledge of God renewing my mind, or do you fill your mind with rubbish, vegging out in front of a screen, or do you use your mind to manipulate others for your own ends, or while you avoid acting out sin in the body do you often enjoy doing particular sins in your imagination? What about the heart? Do you use your heart to love God and engage in deep communion with Him so that you love what God loves and hate what God hates, or do you allow your heart to run after all kinds of infatuated, out of bounds, passions and desires?
The call in v13 here is for us to use our members to serve righteous ends. By doing this, we present ourselves to God, and show ourselves to the watching world, to be those who’ve been raised from death to life. So Church, have you done v13? Perhaps many of you have done the no – refusing to yield your body and its members to the service of sin. That is good, great even, but we must go further because Paul urges us to go further. There must be the yes also. Where we employ all of us, mind-body-heart, for the purposes of God in this world. This is what’s called for in v13.
Well, we’ve been called in v12-13 to walk new because we’ve made new in Christ. This is a hefty call isn’t it? I’m so encouraged that our passage doesn’t end here and that v14 exists in Romans 6, because in it we find a great hope in how to actually live this out.
You Are Not (v14)
What hope do we have in actually doing v12, and not let sin reign over us anymore? What hope do we have in actually doing v13, and employing all of us to serve righteous gospel purposes in all of life? We have great hope because of the promise of v14, “For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace.”
Notice v14 is not a command saying, ‘Sin must not have dominion over you!’ Notice also it’s not a future tense saying, ‘Sin will one day no longer have dominion over you!’ What is it? v14 is a promise. It’s statement of fact, of what is already true of us because of Christ’s work! Because we’re now under grace and not under law and its searching eye and heavy penalty, sin shall never, not now, not next year, not thirty years from now, sin shall never have dominion over you! What is true of us now, will be true of us in the future! Rejoice over this Church, and view the commands of v12-13 through the great promise of v14. Do you see what that leads to? What God has done for us in Christ is the basis, the foundation, for what we do for God in all of life.
A few years ago we sent a small team from SonRise to Vietnam to spend some time with the missionaries we updated you about earlier. Near the end of our time with them we spent some time going around the city of Hanoi, and one of the sites we toured was the prison in Hanoi, where captured American soldiers were kept during the Vietnam War. The soldiers called it the ‘Hanoi Hilton’ not because of how luxurious it was but for how brutal and inhumane the conditions were. I’m sure many of you have heard of this prison, it’s where John McCain was kept and tortured when his plane went down. As we walked through the prison, we saw many things but we were all a bit taken back at how many torture devices we saw. These were devices once used by French Colonialists on the Vietnamese, that the Vietnamese then used on the Americans. I don’t want to go into the gory details, they’re plenty of documentaries you could watch about it. So I’ll just say many soldiers died in this prison, and those who didn’t die often wished for death due to how greatly they suffered. One soldier who made it through and was let out of the ‘Hanoi Hilton’ after the war wrote the following.
“We were whisked off to the large base hospital where we were greeted by an enthusiastic and caring staff. We were assigned rooms…given time to shower…and changed clothes. We then went down to the hospital cafeteria where we could order anything we wanted. I had steak and eggs with bacon and ham, with a side order of potatoes, and a waffle. I then tried to eat pie with ice cream, but had trouble eating it due to the chocolate sundae I had previously devoured. Needless to say, we all had stomach aches from too much rich food, but we were ready to do it again that evening.”
One can only imagine what these soldiers went through in their torture inside the prison. Ask a question Church, what would you think of this soldier who suffered so greatly and was freed from the Hanoi Hilton who then decided to return to it to live once again under such brutal conditions? That’s the call of Rom. 6:1-14. Yet this is our biggest problem in the Christian life. Just as Israel longed to return to slavery in Egypt during their wilderness wandering, so too when a Christian sins, what they’re doing is returning to the brutal slave master of sin they’ve been redeemed from.
Church, the call of the Christian life in obedience to God isn’t try harder or do better, it’s remember who you are. In Christ God has made us new, let’s walk new.
 Charles H. Spurgeon, Christ Set Forth as a Propitiation: Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit Sermons, vol. 7. (London, England: Passmore & Alabaster, 1861) 201.
 J. V. Fesko, Romans (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Reformation Heritage Books, 2018), 169.
 John Murray, Romans, NICNT (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Eerdmans, 1968), 226-227.
 Timothy Keller, Romans 1-7 For You, God’s Word For You (The Good Book Company, 2014), 143–144.
 Douglas Moo, Romans, NICNT (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Eerdmans, 2018), 414–415.
 Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Romans 6, The New Man (Carlisle, Pennsylvania: Banner of Truth, 1985), 153.
 R.C. Sproul, Romans, St. Andrew’s Expositional Commentary (Wheaton, Illinois: Crossway, 2009), 198.
 Lloyd-Jones, Romans, 168.
 Kent R. Hughes, Romans: Righteousness From Heaven, Preaching the Word Commentary (Wheaton, Illinois: Crossway, 1991), 120.
 Moo, Romans, 410–411.
 Lloyd-Jones, Romans, 180.
 Douglas Moo, Romans, NIV Application Commentary (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan, 2000), 199.
 Fesko, Romans, 168.
 Ibid., 167–169.