Forum Class #7


The Choices of a Slave
Romans 6

In Chapter 5 we were introduced to the theme of being "in Adam." Adam is the head of an old race and all of us were born into the family of Adam. Because of Adam's disobedience to God's commandment, sin came into the world infecting Adam and all his descendants. Today all humans born into the world are mortal and will die, and all men are sinful by birth and by choice. The text of Romans 5 makes clear that Adam was a real human being, not a mythological person. Furthermore there is no other explanation for death being universal in our race. The entire family is fallen because of Adam's disobedience. In order to save us, God takes us out of Adam and places us "into" Jesus Christ, who is the last Adam. Christ is the federal Head of a whole new sin-free race of human beings. In Chapter 6 we are introduced to true baptism, (a work of the Holy Spirit) of which water baptism is an outer symbol. Our voluntary water baptism (in obedience to the expressed wishes of the Lord), is our public testimony that we have indeed been identified with Christ in His death, burial and resurrection.

What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin that grace may abound? 2. Certainly not! [God forbid] How shall we who died [apothnesko, died, aorist: action completed in the past, ongoing consequences] to sin live any longer in it? 3. Or do you not know that as many of us as were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death? 4. Therefore we were buried with Him through baptism into death, that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life. 5. For if we have been united together in the likeness of His death, certainly we also shall be in the likeness of His resurrection, 6. knowing this, that our old man [old self, i.e., our old life] was crucified with Him, that the body of sin might be done away with [katargeo, lit., "to reduce to inactivity," "nullified," "released"], that we should no longer be slaves of sin. 7. For he who has died has been freed from sin. 8. Now if we died with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with Him, 9. knowing that Christ, having been raised from the dead, dies no more. Death no longer has dominion over Him. 10. For the death that He died, He died to sin [cp. v2. Christ died to sin, thus we also died to sin] once for all; but the life that He lives, He lives to God. 11. Likewise you also, reckon [logizomai, to log or count--as in bookkeeping]. yourselves to be dead indeed to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus our Lord. [v. 11 is the first exhortation in this epistle]. 12. Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body, that you should obey it in its lusts. 13. And do not present your members as instruments of unrighteousness to sin, but present yourselves to God as being alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness to God. 14. For sin shall not have dominion over you, for you are not under law but under grace. 15. What then? Shall we sin because we are not under law but under grace? Certainly not! 16. Do you not know that to whom you present yourselves slaves to obey, you are that one's slaves whom you obey, whether of sin leading to death, or of obedience leading to righteousness? 17. But God be thanked that though you were slaves of sin, yet you obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine to which you were delivered. 18. And having been set free from sin, you became slaves of righteousness. 19. I speak in human terms because of the weakness of your flesh. For just as you presented your members as slaves of uncleanness, and of lawlessness leading to more lawlessness, so now present your members as slaves of righteousness for holiness. 20. For when you were slaves of sin, you were free in regard to righteousness. 21. What fruit did you have then in the things of which you are now ashamed? For the end of those things is death. 22. But now having been set free from sin, and having become slaves of God, you have your fruit to holiness, and the end, everlasting life. 23. For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 6 NKJV)

True baptism is a work of the Spirit. Note the allusion to baptism in 1 Corinthians 10:1,2: "Moreover, brethren, I do not want you to be unaware that all our [Jewish] fathers were under the cloud, all passed through the [Red] sea, all were baptized into Moses in the [shekinah] cloud and in the sea, all ate the same spiritual food, and all drank the same spiritual drink. For they drank of that spiritual Rock that followed them, and that Rock was Christ." When the Jews left Egypt they were "taken out" of Egypt and "placed into" a new body of people, the nation Israel. There was no turning back.

We are saved by being immersed (baptized) into Christ. At what point in the life of Jesus are we put "into Him"? Was it after His resurrection? No, it was before the cross. We were baptized into His death, not into His resurrection. "The Son of Man must suffer many things, and be rejected by the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised the third day." Then Jesus said to them all, "If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me. For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will save it. For what profit is it to a man if he gains the whole world, and is himself destroyed or lost?"

That is, when Christ died on the cross, we died. There is nothing in the old life we had "in Adam" that can be saved. It all has to go. Notice what Galatians 2:20-21 says about us. "I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me. I do not set aside the grace of God; for if righteousness comes through the law, then Christ died in vain."

 "The secret of sanctification is not some neat set of experiences or emotions, however meaningful or intense they may be. It is knowing what has happened to you." (Boice)

Principles of Sanctification

Justification, sanctification, and glorification are three theological terms for the salvation package which happens when we have placed our faith in Jesus Christ as Lord.

"Since this is the first direct teaching about sanctification in Romans, it is important that we understand what is being said. To do that, we need to look at this passage as a whole to see what principles about sanctification are taught here. Then we need to apply those teachings in the most practical terms possible. We start with the principles. What are they?

(1) Sin is not dead in Christians, even in the most mature and pious Christians, but rather is something always to be struggled against. I have already said this in a variety of ways in our previous studies, but it needs to be repeated here for two reasons. First, this principle is clear from the passage. There is no point in telling us not to offer the parts of our bodies to sin, as "instruments of wickedness," but rather to offer them to God, "as instruments of righteousness," unless we have a tendency to do the former. The reason we have to fight against sin is that we are sinners. Second, there are some people who tend toward a kind of perfectionism in which they can claim either that sin is not in them or that the sin that is in them can in time somehow be eradicated. This doctrine is not only wrong (the whole of Scripture stands against it), but it is also a source of frustration for those who have come to believe in their own perfection but who nevertheless constantly find themselves fighting against sin.

(2) Sin's hold on us is in or through our bodies. This is something we have not explored earlier (except in reference to Rom. 6:6). But it is very important, and we need to examine it carefully. When I say that sin's hold on us is in or through our bodies, I do not mean that sin is in our bodies as opposed to being in us, as if by saying that it is in our bodies we are claiming that we are not sinners or that sin is only external to us. Of course, we are sinners, and sin is not merely external to us but rather is within. But here is the point: So far as that new man about whom Paul has been writing is concerned--that new creature I have become by being taken out of Adam by God and by being joined to Christ--that new man is dead to sin, so that sin's hold is no longer actually on me but on my body. Certainly we cannot miss noticing how directly, literally, and strongly Paul emphasizes our actual physical bodies in these verses. In verse 12 he refers to our "mortal body," that is, the body of our flesh that is dying. In verse 13 he twice refers to "the parts of" our bodies, that is, to our hands, feet, eyes, tongues and so forth. It is through these physical parts of our bodies that sin operates and through which it maintains its strong hold on us.

(3) Sin can reign in or dominate our bodies. It cannot dominate or destroy that new person that I have become in Christ. That new "me" will always abhor sin and yearn for righteousness--and it will have it, because God is determined to produce the holy character of Christ in his people. But sin can certainly dominate my body, I can become a slave to its cravings. If this were not so, it would be pointless for Paul to say "Do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its evil desires," as he does.

(4) Although sin can reign in or dominate our bodies, it does not need to. In other words, although it is possible for us to "offer the parts of [our] body to sin, as instruments of wickedness," we do not need to do this, On the contrary, being now joined to Jesus Christ, we have his new life within and his power available to us. Having been non posse non peccare ("not able not to sin"), to use Saint Augustine's phrase, we have now become posse non peccare ("able not to sin"), We often do sin; that is why Paul is urging us not to yield our bodies to it. But we no longer need to. We have an alternative.

(5) This leads to the last and positive truth: As Christians, we can now offer the parts of our bodies to God as instruments of righteousness. This is the thrust of the passage. It is what Paul is urging on us.

The Parts of Our Bodies

There are many ways one can approach the subject of sanctification. Paul himself does it in several ways, but I do not know a more practical, balanced, or down-to-earth way of speaking about how to live a holy life or grow in righteousness than the way in which Paul does it here. He has given us one easy-to-grasp principle in verse 11: "Count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus." Now he tells us how to give practical expression to that great principle. It is by what we do with our bodies, What does that mean? The answers come by considering the body's parts and their potential for doing both good and evil.

The Mind: We begin with the mind because, although we like to think that who we are is largely defined by our minds, and thus separate our minds from our bodies, our minds are actually parts of our bodies, so the victory we need to achieve must begin here, I take you to Romans 12:1-2, where Paul is writing much as he does in Romans 6. "Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God's mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God--this is your spiritual act of worship. Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is--his good, pleasing and perfect will" (emphasis added). That text begins in nearly the same way as Romans 6:12-14 ("Thereforeoffer the parts of your body to him"). But when Paul begins to spell this out, strikingly the very first body part he mentions is the mind. Have you ever carefully thought through that what you do with your mind will determine a great deal of what you will become as a Christian? If you fill your mind with the products of our secular culture, you will remain secular and sinful. If you fill your head with trashy "pop" novels, you will begin to live like the trashy heroes and heroines whose illicit romances you read about. If you do nothing but watch television, you will begin to think like the scoundrels on "Dallas" or "Falcon Crest" or the weekday soap operas, And you will act like them, too. On the other hand, if you feed your mind on the Bible and Christian publications, train it by godly conversation, and discipline it to critique what you see and hear elsewhere by applying biblical truths to those ideas, you will grow in godliness and become increasingly useful to God. Your mind will become an instrument for righteousness, Some years ago, John R. W, Stott wrote a book entitled Your Mind Matters! in which he bemoaned the growth of "mindless Christianity" and showed how a proper use of our minds is necessary for growth in all areas of our Christian experience, He related it to worship, faith, the quest for holiness, guidance, presenting the gospel to others, and exercising spiritual gifts.

He asks at one point, "Has God spoken to us, and shall we not listen to his words? Has God renewed our mind through Christ, and shall we not think with it? Is God going to judge us by his Word, and shall we not be wise and build our house upon this rock?'" And there is something else: If Christians would offer their minds to God to be renewed by him, they would begin to think and express themselves as Christians and would begin to recover something of what Harry Blamires calls "a Christian mind." Blamires writes:

There is no longer a Christian mind. There is still, of course, a Christian ethic, a Christian practice, and a Christian spirituality. As a moral being, the modern Christian subscribes to a code other than that of the non-Christian. As a member of the Church, he undertakes obligations and observances ignored by the non-Christian, As a spiritual being, in prayer and meditation, he strives to cultivate a dimension of life unexplored by the non-Christian. But as a thinking being, the modern Christian has succumbed to secularizationExcept over a very narrow field of thinking, chiefly touching questions of strictly personal conduct, we Christians in the modern world accept, for the purpose of mental activity, a frame of reference constructed by the secular mind and a set of criteria reflecting secular evaluations.

If the use of the mind is important in sanctification, as I maintain it is, and if we lack "a Christian mind" in our day, as Blamires claims, is it any wonder that so many Christians today are for the most part indistinguishable from the non-Christians around them? Obviously, if we are going to grow in holiness, either as individuals or as a church, we must start here. Here is a simple goal for you in this area. For every secular book you read, make it your goal also to read one good Christian book, a book that can stretch your mind spiritually.

Our Eyes and Ears: The mind is not the only part of our bodies through which we receive ideas and impressions and which must therefore be offered to God as an instrument of righteousness. We also receive impressions through our eyes and ears. These, too, must be surrendered to God. Do you remember Achan? He was the Israelite soldier who participated in the battle of Jericho under Joshua but who disobeyed God's command not to take any of the spoils but rather to dedicate them to God. As Achan afterward confessed, "When I saw in the plunder a beautiful robe from Babylonia, two hundred shekels of silver and a wedge of gold weighing fifty shekels, I coveted them and took them, They are hidden in the ground inside my tent with the silver underneath" (Josh. 7:21), Achan was stoned for his sin, But what caused it? The "lust of his eyes" (I John 2:16). Achan's eyes became instruments of wickedness instead of instruments for his growth in holiness. It is no different today. Sociologists tell us that by the age of twenty-one the average young person has been bombarded by 300,000 commercial messages, all arguing from the identical basic assumption: personal gratification is the dominant goal in life. Television and other modern means of communication put the acquisition of material things before godliness; in fact, they never mention godliness at all. How, then, are you going to grow in godliness if you are constantly watching television or reading printed ads or listening to secular radio? Do not get me wrong. I am not advocating an evangelical monasticism in which we retreat from the culture, though it is far better to retreat from it than perish in it, but somehow the secular input must be overbalanced by the spiritual, One simple goal might be for you to spend as many hours studying your Bible, praying, and going to church as watching television.

Our Tongues: The tongue is also part of the body, and what we do with it is important. James, the Lord's brother, must have thought about this a great deal, because he says more about the tongue and its power for either good or evil than any other writer of Scripture. He wrote, "the tongue is a small part of the body, but it makes great boasts, Consider what a great forest is set on fire by a small spark. The tongue also is a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body. It corrupts the whole person, sets the whole course of his life on fire, and is itself set on fire by hell" (James 3:5-6). If your tongue is not given to God as an instrument of righteousness in his hands, what James writes will be true of you. You do not need to be a Hitler and plunge the world into armed conflict to do evil with your tongue. A little bit of gossip will do. A casual lie or slander will suffice. What you need to do is use your tongue to praise and serve God. For one thing, you should learn how to recite Scripture with it. You probably can repeat many popular song lyrics, Can you not also use your tongue to speak God's words? How about worship? You should use your tongue to praise God by means of hymns and other Christian songs. Above all, you should use your tongue to witness to others about the person and work of Christ, That is the task Jesus gave you when he said, "You will be my witnesses" (Acts 1:8). Here is another goal for you if you want to grow in godliness: Use your tongue as much to tell others about Jesus as for idle conversation.

Our Hands and Feet: Our hands and feet determine what we do and where we go. So when we are considering how we might offer the parts of our body to God as instruments of righteousness, let us not forget them. I think of several important passages in this regard. In I Thessalonians 4:11-12, Paul writes of using our hands profitably so we might be self-supporting and not dependent on anybody: "Make it your ambition to lead a quiet life, to mind your own business and to work with your hands, just as we told you, so that your daily life may win the respect of outsiders and so that you will not be dependent on anybody," Similarly, in Ephesians 4:28, Paul writes of working so that we will have something to give to others who are needy: "He who has been stealing must steal no longer, but must work, doing something useful with his own hands, that he may have something to share with those in need," And what of our feet? A few chapters further on in Romans, Paul writes of the need that others have for the gospel: "How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them? And how can they preach unless they are sent? As it is written, 'How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!'" (Rom. 10:14-15), Where do your feet take you? Do you allow them to take you to where Christ is denied or blasphemed? Do they take you to places where sin is openly practiced? Are you spending most of your time soaking up the world's entertainment or loitering in bars or the "hot" singles clubs? You will not grow in godliness there, On the contrary, you will fall from righteous conduct. Instead, let your feet carry you into the company of those who love and serve the Lord. Or, when you go into the world, let it be for the purpose of serving the world and witnessing to its people in Christ's name. Here is another goal: For every special secular function you attend, determine to attend a Christian function also. And when you go to a secular function, do so as a witness by word and action for the Lord Jesus Christ. (Boice)

The Doctrine of the Two Ways

Romans 6:19-22:

"What Paul has been describing in these verses is the doctrine of the two ways, which is found throughout the Bible.

The best-known statement of it is in the words of Jesus recorded in the Sermon on the Mount. The last section of that sermon lists a series of contrasts among which choices must be made: two gates and two roads, two trees and their two types of fruit, two houses and two foundations. The part regarding the two ways says, "Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it" (Matt. 7:13-14). The point is that a person can be on only one of these two roads, because the roads are entirely different and lead in opposite directions.

The classic statement of the doctrine is in Psalm 1, which contains the very points Paul makes in Romans 6. It describes two different categories of people: "the wicked" and "the righteous."

The psalm shows the progression within each of these two categories. On the one hand, there is progression in wickedness. Those in the first category begin by "walking in the counsel of the wicked," then "stand in the way of sinners" and finally "sit in the seat of mockers" (v1). In other words, they become increasingly settled in ungodliness by their practice of it. Moreover, their lives bear no fruit, They are barren plants, "like chaff that the wind blows away" (v4). On the other hand, there is progression in godliness. The righteous man's "delight is in the law of the Lord," and he produces lasting fruit; he is like a "tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither, Whatever he does prospers" (vv2-3).

Finally, the psalm gives the ends of the two types of people: "Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment, nor sinners in the assembly of the righteous" (v5). that is, the company of the righteous in heaven. "For the Lord watches over the way of the righteous, but the way of the wicked will perish" (v6). The end of the righteous is eternal life. The end of the wicked is judgment.

It should be evident that this is exactly what Paul is saying in these verses, though his slavery analogy does not speak of scoundrels collecting by the gates of the city or the scattering of useless chaff at harvest time. Nor does he refer to the "slaves to God" as fruitful trees. But he does describe two different pathways.

The first path starts with slavery to sin. It is the condition into which each of us is born, for none of us is born righteous, Sin is our cruel master; it drives us along. By ourselves we are unable to escape this harsh tyranny.

This leads to "impurity and to ever-increasing wickedness" (v19). Impurity refers to sin as it affects the individual. It means personal defilement, particularly by sins that are opposed to chastity. Wickedness refers to violation of the divine or human laws, Robert Haldane says that the former "refers principally to the pollution, the other to the guilt of sin.'"

Moreover, this wickedness is progressive! The Greek text is particularly suggestive at this point, for it literally reads "you have yielded your members slavesto wickedness unto wickedness." In other words, sin is a downhill path, as Paul has already shown in Romans 1. Those who begin by walking in the counsel of the wicked soon find themselves standing in the way of sinners and eventually sitting in the seat of mockers.

The end of this destructive path is death, which Paul mentions three times in this section (vv16,21,23). This does not mean physical death, since the righteous as well as the wicked experience physical death, It means the full penalty of sin, which is eternal punishment. The second path starts with slavery to God, which God accomplishes in us and which is actually freedom, This path leads to "righteousness," and righteousness leads to "holiness" (v19). These words parallel the principle that "impurity" leads to "ever-increasing wickedness" and describe the contrary experience of one who has been claimed by God. "Righteousness" in this context means primarily righteous acts. "Holiness" is an inner state characterized by conformity to the will and character of God. The phrase "righteousness leading to holiness" teaches that the practice of outward godliness leads to inward godliness; that is, doing right things actually brings a person along the pathway of spiritual growth. The end of this healthy, developing path is eternal life (v22), In this context "eternal life" refers to the fruit, or end result, of a godly life, not the life itself or its reward, It refers to eternal fellowship with God, who is its source." (Boice Vol. II, pp 699-700)

Whose Slave are you?

The great question is: Who controls the choices that we have to make? Who controls that narrow band? What forces are at work to limit us to such a narrow range throughout our lives? The answer is: It is always something beyond us that controls these choices. God is at work; Satan is at work. We are given very limited ability to choose.

Paul then speaks of these two kinds of slavery: He says that we Christians have been set free from the slavery to sin. Once we had to sin. Before we came to Christ, there was no choice; no matter whether we chose what we thought was good or chose what we thought was wrong, we ended up making a choice that led to evil. There was no other way out. Even the right things we tried to do were tainted with evil, with selfishness. We have seen experiences that confirm this in our own hearts.

Well then, what happens when we sin as believers? Now we are free, and yet we go back and choose to do something that is wrong. We are confronted with this temptation to give way for the moment and indulge ourselves in some sin we want to do. Most of us try to kid ourselves into believing it is not very serious. "It won't hurt us anyway," we reason, so we make the choice.

Paul says, "Let's look at what happens." First of all, don't you know that you have set in operation a basic principle of life? The principle is this: If you yield yourself to sin, you become the slave of sin. Jesus stated this in John 8:34: "Verily, verily, I say unto you [that is a little formula that means he is stating basic, fundamental, absolutely foundational truth], he who commits sin is the slave of sin," (cf, John 8:34 KJV). Now, what does this mean in practice? A slave, of course, is someone who is not in ultimate control of his own actions, someone who is at the disposal of another person, someone who has to do what that other person says. When we choose to tell a lie, we give one of the clearest evidences of the operation of this principle in our lives. Have you ever noticed what happens when you tell a lie?

A man said to me the other day, "I told what I thought was a little white lie. I thought that would handle the matter. But, you know, I found out that I had to tell 42 other lies -- I counted them -- before I finally woke up to what I was doing and admitted the whole thing and got out from under." You can't tell one lie. You see, you are not in control of the events. You choose to tell one lie, and before you know it, you have to tell another.

The same thing is true with anger. Have you noticed that? You decide you are going to put a little sharpness in your voice when you answer someone. You want to cut him down just a little bit. You don't want it to go too far -- after all, you do like him -- you just want to hurt him a little bit. So you do. What happens? He answers back in kind. So you cut a little deeper, and before you know it, you are embroiled in an argument and a battle that you did not want. It happened because you were a slave to sin. Sin pushed you further than you wanted to go. There was no way you could escape. Secondly, sin not only takes you further than you desire to go, but it also infects others with the same attitude. Did you ever notice that? You wake up in the morning feeling surly and grouchy, and you snap at somebody. Then the other person snaps back, and soon the whole household is reflecting your attitude. You choose to do something a little shady in your business, and soon others begin to do the same thing. So sin begins to spread, like an infection. If you think the Legionnaires' Disease was a killer, you should watch what happens when sin begins to operateAnd part of the slavery is that when you yield yourself to something, and do it two or three times before you wake up to what is going on -- it is getting out of control and going beyond what you wanted -- it becomes difficult to begin to change. Something resists every opportunity you take to try to change. It is hard to go back. A habit has begun that is hard to change.

Just as an illustration, somebody said to me the other day, "It's easy to quit smoking; I've done it dozens of times!" What a testimony that is to the power these things have to grip us and to control us. Paul is right, for we become the slaves of that which we obey. Paul continues in Verses 20-21: When you were slaves to sin, you were free from the control of righteousness. What benefit [or what fruit] did you reap at that time from the things you are now ashamed of? (Rom 6:20-21 NIV)

Each of us can look back in our lives at something we are ashamed of. It leaves a stain in our minds when we think about it. Shame is the awareness of unworthy actions and irreparable damage that we do to others and our painful feeling about it. We have all experienced shame at times. Sin -- no matter what it is or how small it seems -- always leads to shame. The memories of the past are stained and blotted by this sense of shame that we experience. We all know what it is like -- those shameful deeds that we would like to forget, but can't; hurtful words that we wish we had never said; strained relationships that go on for years, so that whenever we meet certain people we feel uncomfortable in their presence.

This is the inevitable fruit of sin, something that Paul reminds us of many times. In Galatians 6:7-8 he says, "Do not be deceived [don't kid yourself]; God is not mocked," (Gal 6:7a RSV). "For he who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption;" (Gal 6:8a RSV). You can't drop the seed of evil into your heart without reaping from it the harvest, the fruit of corruption; "but he who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life," (Gal 6:8b RSV). That is exactly what we see here in Romans 6. The third reason why we should not give way to sin is found in Verses 21-23: Those things result in death! 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. For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord. (Rom 6:21-23 NIV)

Life and death -- the two results. What is death? When Paul talks about death here, he is not talking about a funeral which comes at the end of your life (though that certainly is what death is). He is talking about something that you experience right now while you are alive. Death is both physical and moral; the one is a picture of the other. Physical death always involves darkness, the end of light and life. It involves limitation, for a corpse is helpless -- what can it do for itself? And it involves, ultimately, corruption -- the corpse begins to stink and smell, it becomes foul and decayed, rottenness sets in.

That is what happens when we sin as believers. These same elements of death are present. There is, first of all, darkness. I can look back in my own life and see how, as a young Christian, there were times when I struggled and struggled to understand passages of Scripture. I couldn't seem to grasp them; they were closed to me. Others understood them and seemed to be rejoicing in them, but I couldn't -- until God, in his mercy, began to deal with me about things that I was doing that I knew were wrong. Finally, God led me to the place where I would be free. I would repent and turn from these things and come into the freedom that God had given me in Christ. Then I would discover that the Scriptures began to open up, and light came into my darkness.

I meet Christians all the time who do not seem to understand many of the truths of the Word of God. I don't know if this is always the explanation, but in many cases it is -- because they are deliberately allowing things in their lives that they know are wrong. They don't realize that these things spread death. Darkness sets in, and they cannot see the light. Paul reminds us in Second Corinthians, "The god of this world has blinded the minds of them that believe not, so that they cannot see the light of the glorious gospel of Jesus Christ," (cf, 2 Cor. 4:4).

Not only does darkness set in when we sin, but there are limitations too. Remember the account in the Old Testament about Moses in the wilderness. He became angry one day when the people tested him and frustrated him. God told him to speak to the rock and it would give water. Instead, in his anger, Moses struck the rock with the rod, (cf, Num 20:8-11). That was just a little thing, a momentary blowup. For a few seconds, he lost his temper. But God said, "Moses, because you have done this, you will not be able to enter the Promised Land. When the people enter the land, you must stay behind because you have done this thing," (cf, Num 20:12).

I am not suggesting that there are things that we do that forever limit the opportunities God gives us. But I know that as long as we cling to things that we know are wrong, justifying them in our lives and refusing to enter into the freedom that God gives us, there is a loss of opportunity. That is why many Christians never seem to have occasion to discover the adventure of serving God. They sit with folded arms, watching other people having fun and excitement, while nothing opens for them. Oftentimes it is because of this very thing -- the choices of sin that we make.

Death means a lessening of our experience of freedom and delight in the things of God and an increase in boredom and banality. Sometimes our lives become utterly nauseating to us. Have you ever felt that way? Sometimes your whole Christian experience almost stinks in your own nostrils. That is a sign of the death that sin brings with it. Now, throughout this account, Paul stresses over and over again the words set free. "You have been set free," he says. "You no longer are the slaves of sin. When you came to the Lord Jesus, a change occurred; you have been freed. You are no longer a slave to evil, but a slave to righteousness." Paul says, "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 and holiness."

Now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves to God, all this business of being limited, of experiencing death and shame, is totally unnecessary to a believer. That is the tragedy of sin in a believer's life. We don't have to experience death in our lives; we only have it because we choose to. Therefore, any experience of these things in our lives is something that has come because we have chosen to let it, although we were free to choose otherwise. ..

The question the apostle raises in this passage is: "What good is it to be set free from sin by Jesus Christ and have every opportunity and every possibility of walking in holiness (wholeness, a whole person, one who has got it all together) and in righteousness (a sense of worth, a sense of security, and assurance that you are loved by God and are valuable to him), if, at the moment of choice, we ignore these things and go right on as though we were slaves to sin?"

As I travel across America, I am often struck by the fact that the various cities into which I come are always cities filled with churches. In almost every corner you can find a church. And those churches are often filled with Christians. It seems as if this country has a fantastic opportunity to see a new quality of life demonstrated -- a quality of life so uniquely different from how the world lives that we ought to have people stopping us on the street to ask, "What goes with you? How come you have such peace in your eyes? How come you have such love in your heart? Why are you so different?" Instead, with our cities filled with churches and our churches filled with people, all the world sees is the same old, tired reactions that they themselves are so familiar with and so tired of.

The challenge of Romans 6 is this: Christ has made you free, free to be a king, free to have a sense of worth, free to be secure in your own personhood, knowing who you are before God. He set you free to be a whole person, so that you are not torn by a dozen different conflicting interests, but, with a single eye, you can live to the glory of God, free from the control or the blame or the censure or the praise of men. You are free at last to respond to the greatest calling that a man can have -- the call to know God, this amazing Being.

That is what this closing verse means. "The wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life." Jesus described eternal life in John 17:3: "Now this is eternal life: that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent," (John 17:3 NIV). Here we are, called to this kind of living, called to this quality of existence, and yet, because of the foolishness of our hearts and the weakness of our spirits, we choose to give way to these momentary indulgences that lock us into slavery and shame and death.

May God help us to set sin aside and to live as the free men and women God has made us to be. As Paul said in Galatians 5:1: "It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of bondage," (cf, Gal 5:1 NIV)You have been freed from the slave market; now walk as new men. This is Paul's exhortation to us. (Ray Stedman,

Losing One's Life in Order to Save it

Give up yourself, and you will find your real self. Lose your life, and you will save it. Submit to the death of your ambitions and your favorite wishes every day, and the death of your whole body in the end, submit with every fiber of your being, and you will find eternal life. Keep back nothing. Nothing that you have not given away will ever be really yours. Nothing in you that has not died will ever be raised from the dead. Look out for yourself and you will find, in the long run, only hatred, loneliness, despair, rage, ruin, and decay. But look for Christ, and you will find Him, and with Him, everything else thrown in. (C. S. Lewis)

Class Notes on Romans are on Lambert's Web Site:

Audio tapes in MP3 format:
Ray Stedman's Commentary on Romans: (also in audio and video versions)
William Barclay on Romans,
Christianese Lexicon web site,
The Meaning of Baptism, by Ray C. Stedman,


by James M. Boice

Sometimes people get into debates over who was responsible for Jesus' crucifixion. Was it the Jews, who hated him and asked Pilate to have him killed? Or was it the Romans, who actually carried out the execution? The [gospels] recognize the guilt of both parties, plus that of the masses of Jerusalem. But that is not what they are chiefly concerned about. Their emphasis is upon this being the work of God, who by it was accomplishing salvation for all who would believe on Christ. This is why, in another place, Jesus is referred to as "the Lamb that was slain from the creation of the world" (Rev. 13:8). It was God the Father who sent the Lord Jesus Christ to the cross. This tells us that the death of Jesus was no accident, but rather the accomplishment of God's plan of redemption, devised even before the universe was created. It is why Jesus came. It was for others. The death of Jesus, thus planned by God, was for others, which means that it was substitutionary or vicarious. Paul says that it was "for our sins." Death is God's punishment for sin, its consequence. But Jesus had not sinned and therefore did not deserve death. That he did die was because he was dying in our place as our sin-bearer.

"In his great commentary on Bible doctrine, which uses Romans as a "point of departure," Donald Grey Barnhouse illustrates the substitutionary nature of Christ's death by the story of Barabbas. We know that Barabbas was a robber and murderer who had been arrested by the Romans and was in prison awaiting execution at the time of the trial of Jesus Christ. Pilate had no concern for Barabbas--the world would be better off without him--but he wanted to save Jesus and so hit on the idea of offering the people a choice between the two. It was customary to free a prisoner at the time of the Feast of Passover. "Which of the two do you want me to release to you?" Pilate asked the crowd (Matt. 27:21).

"He was astonished when the people replied, "Barabbas!" Barnhouse pictures Barabbas sitting in the prison, staring at his hands, which were soon to be pierced by nails, and shuddering at any sound of hammering that might remind him with horror of his own impending crucifixion. Suddenly he hears a crowd roaring outside the prison. There are angry voices. "Crucify him! Crucify him!" He thinks he hears his own name. Then a jailer comes to unlock the door of his cell. Barabbas thinks that the time for his execution has come, but instead the jailer tells him that he is being set free. The crowd has called for his release. Jesus of Nazareth is to die instead. Stunned, Barabbas joins the processional that is making its way to Calvary and watches as Jesus is crucified. He hears the sound of the hammer and knows that the blows that are fastening Jesus to the rough wooden cross were meant for him. He sees the cross lifted high into place and knows that he is the one who should be dying on it. Jesus cries, "Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing" (Luke 23:34). The centurion who has commanded the execution party exclaims, "Surely this man was the Son of God! " (Mark 15:39). Barabbas must have been saying, "That man took my place. I am the one who should have died. I am the condemned murderer. That man did nothing wrong. He is dying for me." Barnhouse concludes, "Barabbas was the only man in the world who could say that Jesus Christ took his physical place. But [all who are Christians] can say that Jesus Christ took [their] spiritual place." The fact that we are sinners means that we deserve to die. We deserve the eternal punishment of the lake of fire. But Jesus was delivered up for our offenses. He was crucified for our sins. That is why we speak of substitutionary atonement and vicarious suffering, and it is why Jesus' death is so central to the gospel. Nothing that overlooks the death of Christ is the gospel. As Barnhouse says, "Christianity can be expressed in three phrases: I deserved Hell; Jesus took my Hell; there is nothing left for me but his heaven." (James Montgomery Boice, Romans, Baker Books 1991)

The Gospel According to Barabbas
Chuck Missler

The substitution of Barabbas over Jesus before Pilate on that fateful day has profound implications for each of us. (Barabbas in Hebrew means "son of the father"). It is illuminating to examine the contrast between the two accused more closely:

1) Barabbas stood under the righteous condemnation of the law.

2) Barabbas knew the One who was to take his cross and take his place was innocent.

3) Barabbas knew that Jesus Christ was for him a true substitute.

4) Barabbas knew that he had done nothing to merit going free while another took his place.

5) Barabbas knew Christ's death was for him perfectly efficacious.

Barabbas and Jesus changed places! "The murderer's bonds, curse, disgrace, and mortal agony were transferred to the righteous Jesus; while the liberty, innocence, safety, and well-being of the immaculate Nazarene became the lot of the murderer.

"Barabbas is installed in all the rights and privileges of Jesus Christ; while the latter enters upon all the infamy and horror of the rebel's position.

"Both mutually inherit each other's situation and what they possess: The delinquent's guilt and cross become the lot of the Just One, and all the civil rights and immunities of the latter are the property of the delinquent." (John W. Lawrence, The Six Trials of Jesus, Kregel Publishing Co., Grand Rapids MI 1996, p.181).

In the Gospels: Matthew 27:15-26, Mark 15:6-15, Luke 23:13-25, John 18:38-39

Romans Class Notes:   Index  |  1  | 2  |  3  |  4  | 5  |  6  |   |  8  |  9  | 10  |  11  | 12  | 13  |  14  |  15  |  16  |  17  |  18

MP3 files will be on Lambert's web site,

Lambert Dolphin | | | 10/13/03