Sin and the believer

Chatswood Baptist Church https://www.chatswoodbaptist.com.au

Romans 6

1. Answering critics

1.1 Winston Churchill

While on holidays in the UK this year we visited the underground offices and living quarters from which Winston Churchill and his government ran things in WWII. For me, this pricked a bit of interest in Churchill and I bought a book of his finest speeches and quotes from the war years. What surprised me about quite a few of his speeches was that a good many were directed at his critics at home. As the war went on and as British fortunes ebbed, and flowed Churchill came under a lot of criticism for the way he was handling things. He was not only having to lead the fight against the enemy, rally the troops and forge an alliance, but he was also battling things at home with his critics which, at times, would become very vocal. Some of his best speeches managed to turn the tide of criticism that was mounting against him in parliament from a defeat and a no-confidence vote to an overwhelming vote of confidence in his leadership.

  1. The apostle Paul

At times all leaders need to answer their critics putting the facts straight and silencing their critics. In chapter 6 of Paul’s letter to the Romans the apostle Paul turns aside to answers his critics and their criticism of his gospel. These people were slandering the apostle arguing that he his gospel was encouraging people to go on sinning (see also 3:8). Their criticism is presented in chapter 6 in the form of two questions that you could imagine his critics (like two hecklers) yelling out as Paul preached and taught.

Romans 6:1

What shall we say, then? Shall we go on sinning so that grace might increase?

Here Paul imagines his critics objecting and crying out, “Hey Paul, shall we go just on sinning so that grace might increase?” The logic of this objection seems to be that if God’s grace is such a good thing, and if, as Paul said in chapter 5, that when sin increased grace increased all the more, then why not just keep on sinning and have more of a good thing. The more sin the more grace. If forgiveness is a gift why not just go on sinning?  The second objection is found in verse 15 of chapter 6 and it is very similar almost making the same point about sin but from a slightly different angle.

Romans 6:15

What then? Shall we sin because we are not under law but under grace?

Both these objections are based on the same premise that the gospel of grace in one way or another ends up promoting sin. His critics were arguing that believers would go on sinning (a) because they thought there was an abundance of grace to go around or else (b) because now they were under grace and not the law and they would not have the law to constrain their sinfulness. To both these objections Paul delivers the same emphatic answer, “By no means” (v2 and v15). There is no way that this is the case if we truly understand what has happened to us in Christ. Paul gives us his basic point in verse 2.

Romans 6:2

We died to sin; how can we live in it?

This is the heart of Paul’s answer. We can’t go living in sin because we died to sin. When Paul asks, “How can we live in it?” he wasn’t asking folk to come a with a few suggestions as to how it might be possible to do so. He was saying it was not possible. This is the main idea of this chapter and Paul will spend the rest of the chapter explaining this by telling us what we need to know and understand as believers.

One thing I was struck by as I read through this passage was the frequency Paul talks about knowing or not knowing things. In verse 3 he writes “Or don’t you know…” and verse 6 “for you know” and verse 9 “For we know” and in verse 16 “Don’t you know…” In these verse Paul tells us what we need to know about us as believers that make going on in sin inconceivable. However, he also does more than this. He also goes on to tell us how knowing these things ought to change the way that you and I live here and now in this world. He does this when he stops telling us what we need to know about what has happened to us (v3-10 and verses 16 to 18) and starts telling us what we ought to be doing as a result of what has happened to us (v11-14 and v19-23).

2. What we need to know

Today we are going to look at firstly at 4 things that we need to know about ourselves as believers and 3 things that we who know and remember these things ought to be doing.

2.1 We have died to sin so that we might live a new life (v1-5).

In answering the first of these objections Paul firstly argues that what we should know is that we died to sin so that we might live a new life (v1-5). This has come about because when we became a believer (were baptised into Christ) we were baptised into his death and resurrection. Baptism seems to be used as a metaphor for both the point of which we became a Christian and our union with Christ in his death.

Romans 6:2-5

“We died to sin; how can we live in it any longer”. Or don’t you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptised into his death? 4We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the death through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life. 5If we have been united with him in his death, we will certainly also be united with him in his resurrection.

Paul is arguing that we can’t live in sin any longer because Christ died and rose again so that we might live a new life. Paul argues that all of us who were baptised into Christ have been baptised into his death. In other words, when we became believers, we were united with Christ in his death and resurrection. His death became our death. Through his death and resurrection, the penalty of sin has not only been paid once and for all but in declaring us righteous we now have been raised to live a new life.

This new life in verse 4 isn’t just the promise of eternal life. This is the point of verse 5. In verse 4 Paul literally says, so that “we might walk in newness of life”. What Paul is talking about is the way that we live and conduct ourselves and live in this world. Christ died and was buried and rose again so that you might not just have eternal life but so that you might live a very different kind of life. You can’t go on living as you once did. Faith Christ is not like just picking up a hobby that we fit in around the other things we do. We must remember we are those who are called to walk in newness of life.

2.2 We are no longer slaves to sin (6-7)

The second thing we are to know we have freed and are no longer slaves to sin. Again, Paul talks about what we know…

Romans 6:6-7

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— because anyone who has died has been freed from sin.

Paul writes we know that that the old self or old man was crucified with him [ with Christ on that cross]. This old self is the person that we once were when we were slaves to sin. But we were crucified with Christ so that this person might be done away. We were united with Christ in his crucifixion so that we might no longer be slaves to sin. Sin is no longer is our master. We have been released from its power over us. We have been freed from the tyranny of sin and ultimately as well see, its buddy death.

Of course, this doesn’t mean that we don’t ever sin again, but sin doesn’t control us as it once did. It doesn’t rule us like it use to it. We can say ‘no’ to it and resist it for in Christ, we are no longer captives to sin in the way that we once were. Of course, we can still be tempted, and can fall under its influence, but it doesn’t have the absolute power over us it once had. As Paul will say in verse 14 “For sin shall not be your master”.

We have to remember this. I don’t know if you have every thought that something was inevitable. I sometimes get this way with food when I’m on a diet. If I think to myself that there is no hope and that it’s inevitable that I’m going to give in, guess what? I give in. It becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy and I decide after having one or two Tim Tams that I might as well finish off the whole packet because I’m going to end up doing it anyway. I think we can become this way when we forget that we have been freed from sin and that sin is no longer our master. I think of it’s a ploy of the evil one to make you think that it still wears the pants. As we will see a little later, we must think differently about ourselves. We need to remember that we are no longer slaves to sin. We need to remember the promise that is made in verse 14 sin won’t be our master.

2.3 We will also live with him and the life he lives he lives to God

The third thing we need to understand is that we will live with him and the life he lives he lives to God.

Romans 6:8-10

Now if we died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. 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.

Our lives are bound up with Christ now and he cannot die. Death no longer has mastery over him and because it hasn’t any mastery over him it doesn’t have mastery over those who belong to him. We will also live with him. As Paul wrote to the Colossians…

Colossians 3:3-4

3For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. 4When Christ, who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.

We need to remember that we don’t have to live now as though this life is all there is. We look forward to being with him forever and we are to live now as he lives. He lives to God. He lives for the glory of his Father and that is how we are to live now. We need to remember that this is the way that we are also to live out our lives while we wait for him to appear.

2.4 We have been set free from sin and become slaves to righteousness

The last thing that we need to understand and remember is that we have been set free from sin and have become slaves of righteousness. Paul brings this out in his answer to the second objection in verses 15 to 18. Here he argues that we are either slaves to sin or slaves to righteousness. We are slaves to whoever we offer ourselves up to obey.

Romans 6:15-18.

15 What then? Shall we sin because we are not under law but under grace? By no means! 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.[1]

Paul says that all people are slaves. We are either offering ourselves up to sin or to righteousness. Like the Romans, we all start out as slaves to sin. We think that we are free agents, doing our own bidding, but no one is really free. The reality is that if God isn’t our master then sin is, and we are the slaves of sin, even though we don’t think we are. But the good news is that we don’t have to remain slaves of sin. Paul thanks God that although the Romans used to be slaves to sin, they had been set free and had become slaves to righteousness. How this transfer happened is through wholeheartedly obeying the form of teaching to which they had been entrusted. I believe that Paul is talking about the gospel and the obedience he is talking about is the “obedience of faith”. Paul wrote in the first chapter that as an apostle he had been set apart to “call people from among all the Gentiles to the obedience that comes from faith” (1:6). Paul wants us to know who it is that we belong to. We have “been set free from sin and have become slaves to righteousness” (Romans 6:18).

These are things that we ought to understand and remember about ourselves:

1. We died to sin so that we might live a new life.

2. We are no longer slaves to sin

3. We will live with Christ, and he lives to God

4. We aren’t slaves to sin, but now slaves to righteousness

3. How we are to live considering what we know

These are four truths we need to understand and remember for they are to shape the way that we are to live here and now in this world. What this new way of living looks like is described in verses 11 to 14 and verses 19 to 23. Today I’m just going to look at verses 11 to 14 and three commands that are given in the verses. It’s here that Paul moves from describing what has happened to us to telling us what we ought to be doing considering who we are in Christ.

3.1 Count yourselves dead to sin, but alive to God (v11)

Firstly, you are to count yourselves dead to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus. This is a command to think differently about ourselves.

Romans 6:11

11 In the same way, count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus.

The verb “to count” or as it is sometimes translated “to reckon” is in the present imperative tense which would suggest that Paul is encouraging us to constantly regard ourselves in this way. We are to change the way that we view ourselves. We are to see ourselves differently. We are to continually to think of ourselves as dead to sin and alive to God.

By reckoning ourselves dead to sin Paul isn’t encouraging us to think that we can no longer be trouble or tempted to sin. He isn’t telling us to think that we are somehow now immune from its influence and dead to temptation. Rather, he is saying that we are to continually remember that sin is no longer our master and therefore we are not to do its bidding. We are to consider ourselves alive to God. Just as the Lord Jesus lives to God, we are to continually remember that we also are to live to God.

You and I live to serve the living God and we are to continually remember this – whether we are at work or at home or school or university or on the train or on the road. We are to remember that we are there to serve the living God. We are not there to just make some money or to get ahead or do well or to be admired and respected. We are there to serve the Lord. We need to take this seriously and perhaps one way that we ought to be doing this is by asking the Lord each day to help us to remember throughout the whole of the day that we are dead to sin alive to Him. We are to reckon ourselves dead to sin, but alive to God.

3.2 Don’t let sin reign in your bodies

But Paul calls us to do more than just change the way we think, he also calls us to act. His second command is to not let sin reign in our bodies.

Romans 6:12

 12 Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its evil desires.

Again, he uses the present imperative which suggests that it something that we are to be continually doing. We are to continually deny to sin a place in our lives that it has no right to have. The reason we can do this, of course, is because Christ has freed us from sin. He broke the chains that enslaved us, so that sin isn’t our master. But having been freed we are to “dethrone sin in our daily behavior”[2]. We are to no longer to live as though sin it is still our master. We aren’t to allow it to reign in our bodies.

Douglas Moo writes that the battle is a spiritual one, but “it is fought, and won or lost, in the daily decisions the believer makes about how to use” their body[3]. We don’t let sin reign when we make those daily decision to not follow the evil desires of the body. These desires are those that we know conflict with God’s will and purpose for us. These are not just the physical desires and the lusts of the body but are also those desires of the mind. It includes desire like always wanting to have our own way or to have others praise us or need us or to be the center of attention, or to always be regarded as the important one or to be successful for those desires will shape everything we do.

Evil desires are any desires that become more important than our desire to do God’s will and for him to be glorified in our lives. Paul writes to Titus and says that it is the grace of God that teaches us to say “No” to ungodliness and world passions” (see Titus 2:11-12). We have to learn to say ‘no’ to those desires that don’t spring from a real desire to see God glorified in what we are doing. Before we act, or before make that decision as to whether we will take the job or work those extra hours or buy that car or that house, or go on that holiday, we need to ask ourselves, whether we do this to serve and glorify God or is it about our glory?

3.3 Don’t offer yourself to sin, offer your whole self to God.

The third command is really two related commands. Firstly, Paul says that we aren’t to offer the parts of our body to sin, but rather to offer ourselves to God.

Romans 6:13

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.

The reference to the parts of our body I think is a reference to everything about us. It is everything that makes me, me. It is my hands and feet and my legs and my ears and mouth, but it is also my intellect and talents and the abilities and resources the Lord has given me. All these parts of me that make up the whole of me are to be used not as instruments of wickedness but instruments of righteousness for sake of the Lord. Again, I think Paul means us to be doing this continually[4]. We are to be use everything we have in his service for we are his. Paul says something similar a little later when in verse 19 he writes…

Romans 6:19

Just as you used to offer the parts of your body in slavery to impurity and to ever-increasing wickedness, so no offer them in slavery to righteousness and holiness.

It’s like the words of that old hymn, “Take my life and let it be consecrated Lord to thee”. The hymn goes on to talk about everything in our lives. As you sing through the verses everything is listed, my moments, my days, my hands, my feet, my voice and lips and my silver and gold, and my intellect and will and heart. It is all to be consecrated or given over to the Lord to serve and please him. We are to offer up all of ourselves to God.

4. Paul has answered his critics and taught all of us in the process

I think Paul has effectively answered his critics and at the same time he has taught all of us what we need to know about who we are in Christ. We died to sin and we cannot continue in it – not when we know that Christ suffered and died and was buried and rose again to free you from sin so that you might live a new life. You need to understand who you are now in Christ. You are no longer the same person. The old person has died. You need to constantly remember and commit yourself to be this new person. We are to count ourselves dead to sin and alive to God. Shall we go on sinning? “By no means” says Paul.


[1] Except where otherwise indicated, all Scripture citation are taken from The Holy Bible: New International Version—Anglicised. (1984). (electronic edition). London: Hodder & Stoughton.

[2] Douglas Moo, “Romans” New Bible Commentary, 1136.

[3] Douglas Moo, The Epistle to the Romans, TNICNT, page 383

[4] Although Paul uses the aorist imperative when he talks about offering ourselves to God, he begins the verse with the present imperative when he tells the Romans not to offer the parts of their body to sin.