Amazing enslaving grace
amazing enslaving grace (Rom 6:12-23)
A survey done by Stats SA in 2015 revealed that 86% of South Africa’s population claims to be Christian. Over 50% of our nation attend a church of some kind on a weekly basis. Most of our politicians and political leaders self identify as Christians yet we live in a country that has legalized abortion and homosexual marriage, which has one of the highest divorce rates and murder rates in the world and which is overrun with corruption, violence against women, and lawlessness of every kind.
Clearly, most people in our country think that faith in Jesus has nothing to do with how we live. In fact, it would seem that for many, faith in Jesus gives one immunity to divine prosecution. Our churches are full of Christians who look more like the world than Jesus Christ and they think nothing of it.
Rom 6 addresses just this kind of false gospel. Rom 6:1 “Are we to continue to sin that grace may abound? By no means.” Rom 6:15 “Are we to sin because we are not under law but under grace? By no means.”
God has made it unequivocally clear that this kind of gospel is no gospel at all. This whole chapter revolves around one central theme:
· “dead to sin, alive in Christ.”
· The old life which was characterized by sin and death is gone, and new life in Christ has begun, a life characterized by righteousness and obedience and growth in Christ-likeness.
· The gospel not only frees us from the penalty of sin and death, it frees us from the power, the controlling influence of sin and death. It not only gains eternal life for us in the future, but that life breaks into and transforms our present as well.
· Last week we focused on union with Christ as the main paradigm for understanding this reality. We were united with Christ in His death burial and resurrection, this effectively abolishes, destroys, does away with the old life and ushers us into a new life in and with Christ.
Let’s read Rom 6:1-11 to refresh our memories.
Now Paul is going to explain this same reality using a different illustration, a different metaphor, the metaphor of slavery. We once were enslaved to sin, now we are enslaved to righteousness. Paul is not teaching something new, he’s reinforcing the same truth with a new illustration – the old life of being controlled and dominated by sin is decisively over and the new life being directed and controlled by God toward righteousness has begun.
Read Rom 6:12-23
There are three sections or paragraphs with a central idea in each
1. The reality of slavery (6:15-19)
2. The result of slavery (6:20-23)
3. The response to slavery (6:12-14)
I’m not going to take the paragraphs in their normal order because vs 11-14 is really a transition between the first half and the second half of the chapter. Like a sandwich, the start and the end are the two slices of bread with the jam in the middle which tells us how we must respond. So I want to end with the jam, the central point, the focus of the chapter.
The reality of slavery (6:15-19)
the dominion of sin
Paul is responding in vs 15 to something he has just said in vs 14. Sin will have no dominion over us because we are not under law but under grace.
· This has been the central theme of the chapter – the death of sin, the reign and rule of sin is forever broken.
· Vs 6 we were united with Christ in his death in order that this body as an instrument of sin might be brought to nothing, abolished, destroyed.
· Vs 7 one who has died has been set free from the controlling power and influence of sin.
· So vs 14 confidently affirms – sin will have no dominion, control, authority or power over us anymore.
· So sin here is viewed as a power. As we began to see in chapter 5, sin is not only a personal choice, it’s a very powerful corrupting influence in our lives. A relentless, inescapable irresistible influence which always leads us away from God to unrighteousness and rebellion.
Slavery to sin
As Paul thinks of sin in those terms, the analogy to slavery is obvious.
· Slavery was a common phenomenon in first century Rome. Some have estimated that as much as 40% of Roman population were slaves. So slavery was well understood.
· A slave had no rights or authority. A slave was viewed as the property of his master and was bound to obey his every instruction.
· Personal wishes, or desires or choices were irrelevant. A slave existed for his master, to carry out his masters wishes, to fulfil his master’s desires, to further his master’s goals and plans. He was on call 24/7 and duty bound to respond to every summons.
· The key terms that define slave/master relationship is “authority” and “submission.” The master has all authority and dominion, and the slave must surrender and render total service.
· That’s why Paul can speak of “obedient slaves” in (vs 16.) We once were slaves of sin (vs 17). Completely under sins authority and control and obligated to obey its every summons. We were in the service of sin, always furthering sins purposes.
· Vs 19 We presented ourselves, our bodies, our minds, our speech to sin, to be used by sin to promote impurity and lawlessness, to carry out sins evil purposes and sins appetite is insatiable, it only wants more and more and more. Sin has never had its fill.
Illustration: sin doesn’t free us
It’s ironic that the world values freedom, freedom of choice, freedom from moral constraints and accountability.
· Teenagers often want to leave the home so that they can be free to do whatever they want.
· That’s how the world views freedom – free to do whatever I like, whatever I desire, do go wherever I want, have whatever I want, enjoy whatever I want – that’s freedom.
· I want to enjoy sex with whoever I want, whenever I want, I want to drink as much alcohol as I want, accumulate as much wealth as I want, watch whatever movies I want, eat whatever I want whenever I want.
· Yet the Bible describes this as slavery.
· The world thinks that they are the master of their sin, but the Bible says they are slaves to it, helpless to resist its dominion.
· The drunkard will lose his health and his wealth, the adulterer will lose his wife and family, the corrupt politician will lose his job and land up in jail (well maybe not in this country…), the angry man will lose his temper and beat up the very ones he loves, the gossip will lose her friends – sin will ultimately rob people of everything they truly value and yet they don’t stop, they can’t stop, they won’t stop.
· Because no man is master of his own sin!
· Sometimes sin will dress you in fine clothing and house you luxury accommodation and summon you to serve at very exclusive social gatherings – but don’t be fooled into thinking those things actually belong to you and that you get to say no to sin when you feel like it.
Slaves to righteousness
Notice carefully in these verses that absolute freedom, total autonomy is not presented as an option….
That’s what Adam and Eve wanted in the garden, to be like God, to live by their own rules, to be their own judge of what is good and bad and right and wrong.
But there is only one God in the universe and you and I don’t qualify.
We are either slaves to sin (16,17), slaves to impurity and lawlessness (vs 19) or slaves to obedience (vs 16), slaves to righteousness (vs 18, 19) or slaves of God (22). Different ways of describing the same reality.
It’s an either/ or choice – we are either serving sin or serving God. We are either following sin or following God. We either belong to sin or we belong to God – its one or the other…..there is no middle ground, no other options.
The idea that the gospel frees us from the penalty of sin so that we can live the rest of our lives in the service of it – is absolutely unbliblical. The notion that we can serve God and serve sin -is a biblical contradiction.
I’m going to come back to vs 19 because he offers the same exhortation here as he does in vs 13, which we will deal with under the final point. Do not present your members to sin but to God.
Vs 20ff continues the same theme, but brings in a new perspective – consider what was the outcome, the fruit, the result of these two kinds of slavery….
The result of slavery (6:20-23)
When you were a slave of sin, you were not a slave of righteousness, you were not a slave to God. You might have done some good things, but the pattern and trajectory of your life was not to serve God but to serve self and sin.
But what was the fruit of those things? What was the ultimate outcome?
The package deal
I like to think of this as God’s call for us to consider the package deal.
· You see sin does offer us some pleasure, some reward, some benefits, for a while…..
· There are some perks to serving sin.
o That angry temper tantrum makes us feel better for a few minutes,
o That ugly, hurtful remark which was designed to hurt that person who hurt me -gives us some sense of satisfaction
o Those drugs, or that adrenaline rush, really does feel good and that alcohol really does relax us and take some of the anxiety away.
o That other married man’s attention really does give me a thrill and make me feel better about myself. Those raunchy pictures really are nice to look at.
o From the smallest things to the largest things, sin offers an immediate benefit but hides the ultimate consequence. Skipping that stop street gets you home 30 seconds sooner, until one day you don’t get home at all.
o There is a pleasure and a profit in sin which is very real, but very short-lived.
VS 21 what is the ultimate fruit, the ultimate result, the end destination of giving in to those things? Give it some thought….. Consider the whole package.
Don’t give in to the sales talk of sin which makes the deal seem so sweet, but hides the death clause in the fine print, which you are never given time to read.
That’s Paul’s summary in vs 21 of the end destination of all sin, the ultimate result of the package – death. This death clause is written into every deal that sin offers from the very first temptation offered in the garden. “You will not surely die” What a lie…..We’re still paying the price for believing that lie!
Sin = death
The death envisaged here is not only physical death, but spiritual death – separation from God, eternal death, eternal destruction away from God’s presence. Have a look at the world around us and you can see the evidence of it. Look at the state of our country and our families and marriages and the brokenness in relationships between parents and children – and don’t blame the government. The blame is to be put squarly at the feet of sin. Read or listen to just about any news broadcast and you have ample evidence that sin does not ultimately pay or benefit any person or any society. Or just stop for a moment and consider – your own life, your own experience, your own choices – when did sin every deliver on its promises, when did it ever leave you satisfied and happy and fulfilled? When has sin ever given you true life? Ultimately, sin leaves us empty and miserable and always wanted more and never getting it. You don’t need to look around to verify it, just look at your own life.
Grace = life
The opposite is also true. Righteousness can seem so difficult at times, doing the right thing can seem such an uphill battle, serving God can seem to pay no dividends for years. But consider the package deal. What is the outcome of living a life in the service of God, living a life characterized by righteousness, directed toward obedience and holiness and love and service of others?
Vs 22 – the fruit on this tree is sanctification and the ultimate reward is eternal life.
· Every time I say no to sin, I get purer, I get shiner, I get brighter and ultimately I get to be with God forever.
· Every time I say no to sin and yes to righteousness – Christ’s character is formed in me, God’s goodness is made manifest in me and His excellence becomes more a part of my experience.
Maybe that doesn’t sound so exciting to you – but you must understand that everything the world ultimately wants to attain to and enjoy – is only found as the outcome of being a slave to righteousness
· Peace – the absence of fear and anxiety is a fruit of righteousness
· Joy – exuberant happiness that is not dependent upon circumstances and that cannot be taken away by tomorrows bad news.
· Love: Deep relationships, intimate fulfilling marriages, loving parents, lasting friendships – are the fruit of living for God rather than sin.
· Fortitude, strength in the midst of trials and difficulties.
· These are all things that are the fruit of the Spirit, the result and reward of righteous living. They are Christ’s own character being formed in us, Christ’s life growing in us.
· Eternal life is ultimately the abundant life and its God’s gift to us in Jesus Christ.
Notice carefully the contrast in vs 23 – what we earn and deserve as a result of sin is eternal, comprehensive death. But eternal life is a….gift.
We don’t gain, or earn eternal life as a reward of our diligent efforts and service to God. We gain it as a gift – God’s free gift at Christ’s expense.
Death is the rightful punishment that we all deserve because of our diligent service to sin as our master. But eternal life is an underserved, unmerited gift from God. It’s a gift which makes us a slave of a glorious and good master – our Lord Jesus Christ.
Which is why I called this message “amazing enslaving grace.” God’s gift to us, is to free us from the Lordship of sin and bring us under the Lordship of Jesus Christ. To free us from the worst master possible and give us to the best master possible. The gospel gives us new life – here and now. In the midst of a broken and shattered world – you can live in Christ’s strength, Christ’s victory over sin and death – that’s God’s gift to you for today!
The response to slavery (6:12-14)
What should be our response to such undeserved, unmerited favour, such lavish grace? Having become God’s slaves, what are we to do?
· 11 consider yourselves dead to sin
· 12 let not sin reign in your bodies
· 13 do not present your members to sin.
There is a believing, a considering, a reckoning which is our responsibility.
· This is true, this is the reality, we are dead to sin and alive to God. This is the true account of our status and condition and standing and relationship to sin and to God. We must believe it.
· As the gospel called for a response of faith which was essential to our justification as we saw in Rom 4 – so the gospel calls for a response of faith which is essential to our sanctification.
· The Christian is not sanctified or made holy by our works, or our diligent effort, or by our discipline and accountability – but first and foremost by our faith.
· We are able to become like Christ only because God has freed us from sin and united us with Christ by grace. What God has done for us in Christ is the foundation of our salvation and our sanctification and our first response and responsibility is to believe what God has done, to appropriate it for ourselves, to make it our own by faith.
· All Christian change is rooted in grace, is an outflow of Grace. It’s the product of what God has done for us and in us. So the first responsibility of a Christian in all of life is to believe, to lay hold of what God has given us by faith.
The second command here in vs 12, could be called repentance. Just like the call to respond to the gospel for salvation is a call to repent and believe, a call to turn from sin to Christ. So this is a call to turn from sin and believe in what God has done for us in Christ. Let not sin reign = say no to sin’s reign, turn from sin. You don’t need to obey its orders any more. Stop listening to the sales pitch of sin.
Illustration: Bob Newhart
I love this clip from the Bob Newhart show where he is posing as a counselor and this lady comes to see him with all these complex problems and this long story of all that she’s struggling with. He listens for a while and then says – I’m going to give you 2 words and only 2 words to solve all this. “Stop it.” She is shocked and says, pardon, I don’t think I heard you right. He says, its simple – just stop it. She’s tries to object, he says, “no,no” don’t go there. Just stop it.
There is so much truth to that. We sometimes make our problems and issues so complicated and seem so overwhelming – but we simply need to “stop it.”
Stop whining and complaining, stop getting being bitter and angry, stop feeling sorry for yourself, stop eating to comfort yourself, stop lying to yourself and others, stop looking at that stuff, just stop it.
For the non-Christians – this instruction is impossible because they are slaves to sin. But God’s gift to us in Christ is the freedom and the responsibility and the ability to say a simple and definitive “no” to sin.
Think about your new identity, your new life in Christ and stop thinking about and listening to sin.
Enlist your weapons
The final metaphor in vs 13, which is picked up again in vs 19 has a military background. We are like soldiers enlisted to wage war against sin and to advance God’s kingdom purposes. We can’t surrender our weapons to the enemy, but must use them to serve our king. We must think about how we can use our talents and time, our hands and feet and mouths – to serve God’s purposes.
So we have the put off and the put on here – put off the old way of life and put on the new. There is something of a progression here. Renew your thinking vs 11, renew your passions and desires vs 12, renew your actions and reactions vs 13. Our minds, will, emotions, desires and actions are now to be directed away from the service of sin and toward the service of God.
Enlist your mind, emotions, words and actions in the service of God. We are not going to be effective at saying no to sin if we are not busy serving God, doing God’s will, pursuing God’s priorities and doing it God’s way.
Get busy with the right things and you’ll find it a whole lot easier to say no to sin. If you feel depressed, get out of bed, get hold of another member and find out how you can serve them and then get busy doing that and you’ll find your bad feelings are not as overwhelming. Lie in bed and think about how bad you feel all day, and you’re setting yourself up to do the same thing tomorrow. Get busy serving God. Put on righteousness.
Grace not law (14)
Again Paul reminds us that victory in this battle is certain, not because of our diligent effort, but because of what God has done for us by grace.
In sanctification the indicates precede the imperatives. The indicatives of what God has done form the basis for our work and the fruit that results is not from our effort alone, but from what God has done for us – so He gets the glory.
The whole of chapter 7 will build on this statement in vs 14, so I’ll say more about it next time – but sufficient to say that Paul is describing to realms or spheres of powers at work – the realm of law and the realm of grace.
· The realm of law revolves around my works, my efforts, my performance. It’s all about earning God’s favour.
· The realm of grace revolves around God’s works, God’s performance, God’s unearned, unmerited favour for me and toward me – none of which I deserve.
· We’ve been taken out from the realm and sphere in which law is the order of the day – and been placed into the realm and sphere in which grace is the order of the day.
· Amazing, enslaving grace!
The Christian life is not all about what I can and must do for God, its all about what God has done for me in Jesus Christ. That’s what we are to be focusing on. We don’t become more like Jesus Christ by thinking more about ourselves and all we can and must do, or all we are failing to do – we become more like Jesus Christ by thinking more about who He is and what He has done.
Turn you eyes upon Jesus, look full in His wonderful face – and the things of the earth will grow strangely dim, in the light of His glory and grace.