This is now our ninth look at this first half of Romans 6, and we have done so in order that we might fully comprehend and grasp the enormous realities the apostle Paul brings forth to the true Christian here.
Hosea and Isaiah both, in chapters 4 and 5, respectively, record the condemned His people for their lack of knowledge, and indeed it has been with that thought in mind that we have been studying these past few years the critical knowledge for we who are in Christ.
And few things are more critical than this doctrine presented here in Romans 5-8, regarding the fullness and finality of our salvation.
It is this doctrine, that of our great assurance, which ought most to drive our thinking, which in turn must out of necessity control our behavior.
Now the man or woman outside of Christ, though they may call themselves “christian”, knows nothing of this reality.
That’s what Paul has been outlining for us as he has endeavoured to give understanding to our hearts and minds regarding who and what we are.
By giving depth and color and revelation regarding what God says is true of us, he is by way of exclusion revealing to us why the world, those not in Christ Jesus, get things so very wrong.
They start by trying to control the behavior, it is all external, where their true problem lies within the heart, it’s what comes out of the man that is important, our Lord said in Matthew 15.
The external things, even the customs of men, aren’t what defile a person, and cause him to be wicked, but rather his heart is wicked (Jer 17:9)!
Every single person is condemned in Adam, Romans 5 says; through his one act of transgression, each and every person is condemned; and not only that, but are appointed a sinner, set down in the realm of sin and constituted as a sinner.
We are fully and completely unable to save ourselves out of that condemnation.
God must do something in order to make your heart alive, and that is just what He has been describing to us in these verses we have been studying in Romans 6.
But before we move on, it’s important that we realize just how a person is justified by faith like that of Abraham.
Paul won’t arrive at that explanation until he has fully revealed the entirety of the gospel – which of necessity must begin with the bad news, and only then can the good news of the gospel be truly revealed in a manner we can comprehend.
It is only after this that the plan of salvation may be presented; just as the crowd’s demand of Peter in Acts 2, interrupting him by crying out, “brethren, what shall we do!?”
And here in Romans, Paul finally arrives at the answer in Romans 10:5-10
Romans 10:5–10 (LSB)
For Moses writes about the righteousness which is of law: “THE MAN WHO DOES THESE THINGS SHALL LIVE BY THEM.”
But the righteousness of faith speaks in this way: “DO NOT SAY IN YOUR HEART, ‘WHO WILL GO UP INTO HEAVEN?’ (that is, to bring Christ down), or ‘WHO WILL GO DOWN INTO THE ABYSS?’ (that is, to bring Christ up from the dead).”
But what does it say?
“THE WORD IS NEAR YOU, IN YOUR MOUTH AND IN YOUR HEART”—that is, the word of faith which we are preaching, that if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved; for with the heart a person believes, leading to righteousness, and with the mouth he confesses, leading to salvation.
We who are saved, are truly saved – rescued from the authority of darkness, transferred to the kingdom of the Son of God’s love (Col 1:13).
We are not left in the state of Adam, under the reign and rule of sin!
We are not even left in the Adam’s original state, in a neutral state, able to sin on the one hand, or to not sin on the other.
For in the 20th verse of chapter 5, he says “where sin increased, grace abounded all the more!”
And in answering the the objection that such a thing would lead to people sinning even more, Paul has laid before us this great doctrine of our union with Christ showing such a thing to be unthinkable, saying in Romans 6:11,
That the only logical conclusion anyone can come to after “Even so consider yourselves...”, the only logical conclusion anyone can come to on account of this union in His crucifixion and death and burial and resurrection, is to “…consider yourselves to be dead to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus.”
And its important that we notice exactly what it says here, we are to consider our selves, as opposed to our bodies, dead to sin; sin no longer has the domination over me it once had, for I am no longer in Adam.
Because I was united with Christ!
I was united with Him in none less than His death!
My old man, the me that was, in verse 6, was crucified with Jesus on the cross.
When He died, the me that was died.
When He was buried, certified as being truly dead, the me that was was buried.
His death conquered sin, He will never die again, He never can die again, for he has been legally and truly separated from sin, He has no ongoing relationship with it!
And through my union with Him, the me that is is also separated from sin.
And yet, I still have a body.
This flesh does not yet have that redemption!
Romans 8:23 puts it this way, “...we ourselves, having the first fruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, eagerly waiting for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our body.”
We long for that redemption of our bodies, for in Christ we have become so very aware of sin’s hold upon it!
For due to sin’s hold upon my body, like the unreasoning animals my body desires and lusts, but lives essentially for the moment.
In fact, Paul explained that it’s not just my body, but it’s my body of sin, sin’s body, the body that remains in a relationship to sin!
And it was for doing away with sin’s control over my body, in verse 6, that my old man was crucified!
Because my mortal body must be restrained.
It must be controlled.
I could not do so in Adam, I was under the reign and rule of sin, I was constituted a sinner.
I could only sin.
But I wasn’t simply brought back up to the point where Adam had been before the fall, able to decide whether to sin or not to sin.
Adam and Eve had proven, beyond doubt, that in such a state man was bound to sin.
No, the glory is, that “grace abounded all the more”.
It reigns through Jesus Christ our Lord!
The me that is has been fully removed from subservience to sin, it is no longer sovereign over me!
Sin’s power over my self is broken, once and for all; this is the essence of the me that is! Now that I am a new creation, Sin can never again force itself on me!
It can never again require that I act out that sin!
We aren’t brought back to a point of equilibrium between sin and righteousness, we have been, in Romans 5 terminology, been appointed righteous!
It is imperative for us to understand this as the basis for our thinking, because how we think drives how we act; telling a person only how they should act is only able to produce rebellion, because the thinking of the heart is not changed.
It is for this reason that Paul has worked out this doctrine, to make it so painstakingly clear to us who and what we are in Christ Jesus!
And having brought us this far, Paul can now bring us the exhortation we so desperately need in Romans 6:12-14,
Until the moment of salvation, every part of me could only sin, all of my righteousness – or, more clearly, what I called righteousness, what I thought was righteousness – amounted to nothing more than filthy rags.
Before a truly holy God, perfect in all His ways, even my best was fit only for burning in the scrap-heap.
It wasn’t just me in a general sense, but each part of me was corrupted; each of my members worked as instruments of unrighteousness.
Just as a shovel serves as an instrument or tool for digging a hole by a workman, or a scalpel serves as an instrument or tool for cutting into flesh by a surgeon, or a rifle serves as an instrument or tool for making war by a soldier, every use of every one of my members resulted in unrighteousness!
My flesh was used in unholy, ungodly ways!
My intellect was used in unholy, ungodly ways!
My emotions were used in unholy, ungodly ways!
Every part and faculty and imagination of my heart was used as a tool to create ever greater unrighteousness, being selfish and disobedient to the truth (Rom 2:8).
Because I was appointed a sinner!
Ah, but now!
Now, I am in Christ Jesus, I am in Adam no longer!
Sin is no longer my sovereign.
Sin is no longer my ruler.
The only avenue, the only foothold sin has, is in my mortal body!
Sin no longer has control of me myself!
I no longer have to let sin reign in my body, I can control it and its lusts.
I no longer have to present my members to sin as instruments of unrighteousness, I no longer must use my mortal body – my flesh, and intellect, and emotions, and so on in a manner contrary to God’s purposes!
Through my union with Christ Jesus, I can present myself as one alive to God, I can present myself to God as one who is not just neutral, but as one who is holy!
God doesn’t just want a part of you, He wants all of you!
He desires that you present each facet of yourself to Him, for His use, rather to continue misusing what He has given you!
This sacrifice of yourself is pleasing to God, it is acceptable to Him.
He has your soul, your self.
But He desires that you actively control and restrain your many members – not just in a general sense, but that you intentionally consider each and every part, and intentionally use that part for Him.
Not just your hands and feet and legs, but your will and your intellect and your emotions and your time and your personality.
These many parts, your members, are in and of themselves created good, very good is what God Himself called them in Genesis 1!
This is a very important distinction to make – God is not saying that the body is bad.
We may sometimes get that idea, and so subject our bodies to a most unwholesome manner, denying our bodies that which they need, denying sufficient food, sufficient care, sufficient exercise, sufficient rest.
It is imperative that we understand that our bodies themselves are neither holy on the one hand nor evil on the other, they are instruments, and it is how they are used which results in either righteousness or unrighteousness!
You see, my goal in restraining sin in myself and acting in a righteous manner is not so much about myself, as it is about God.
He is the one who has done this great thing in me, this great thing to me, not I myself!
So I don’t hold myself to my own standard, but to His standard, revealed in His word, which is meant to sanctify us.
For my goal, my purpose, is to give glory to God!
So, I look to God’s holy word to know how to restrain sin by strengthening my mind and my will, that they would be strengthened and supported in truth that I may present my body and its members to God!
For if I fail to present a member as an instrument of righteousness to God, I very quickly find that very instrument being used as a weapon against me by sin, trying to draw me further into unrighteousness.
And Paul isn’t talking about half-way measures here!
We humans are really good at thinking of this in a very superficial sense.
We consider how well we’re following Christ that we don’t use curse words, but still give voice to gossip and slander at each opportunity.
We spend the few hours on Sunday and maybe an hour on Wednesday at the church, but fill our work-days on Facebook rather than the job we’re paid to do.
We are all too good at making a show of doing something, but not really meaning it, not really putting our heart into doing it.