HOLINESS AND FREEDOM FROM SIN, PART TWO

HOLINESS AND FREEDOM FROM SIN, PART 2

Romans 6

Paul continues his line of thought, relating the believer’s present position in Christ to how that believer should live his life.

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. The death he died, he died to sin once for all; but the life he lives, he lives to God. (Romans 6:8—10)

After giving his readers a lot of information about the believer’s identification with Christ as illustrated by water baptism, Paul begins this new section with the assumption that “we died with Christ.” His readers are true believers, not just Christians in name only, but Christians who have experienced Jesus Christ in a real, personal way. All of us who have named Christ as Savior are related to Him and we share in His death to sin and His resurrection. But what “died to sin” mean?

1. Christ’s experience with sin: Our experience with sin

When the Son of God entered the sphere of humanity, He left the glories of Heaven. He left a place of sinless perfection; a place of purity, uncorrupted by sin, and completely separated from sin in every sense of the word. He left that place and entered a world dominated by sin and evil. Jesus was immediately confronted by sin’s presence and power. Think about it; for some 33 years our Lord walked among the evil of sin; it’s tentacles always reaching out to Him, seeking to get Him in their grip. Jesus, like all men, lived a life surrounded by the darkness of sin.

When He went to the Cross, He assumed our sin, for He had none of His own. He bore the wrath of God against our sin; He was punished for all the sinful, rebellious acts every single human being had ever and will ever commit.

When we consider the awful, horrendous hours our Lord spent on the Cross, preceded by over 30 years of having to deal with sin after leaving an environment of complete sinlessness, no wonder He cried out “It is finished” when He died! What a relief it must have been for Him to bow His head and release His Spirit. At that moment, it was over for Jesus. His time on Earth was finally over. His nightmare with sin and the effects of sin were over forever.

In much the same way, Christians who are united—glued—to Christ, can throw up their hands and rejoice in the fact that just like their Lord, they may cry out, “It is finished” and breathe a sigh of relief because they are dead to sin and no longer under any obligation to look for or yield to sin. The tyranny of sin, as far as the redeemed is concerned, is over!

But, not only did Jesus die to sin, He rose to a new life, and we did too! What a marvelous thought! You see, when Jesus was alive, in the flesh, He had an obligation to deal with sin. Though He never sinned, He had to deal with sin and the effects of sin. But after His death, Christ arose, completely done with sin, able to give full attention to God the Father and the glories of Heaven. In same way, believers who are continually besieged by sin day and night; having to deal with it over and over and over again; strangled in its relentless grip, are finally released and are finally able to devote more of themselves to serving Christ and pleasing God the Father. Like Christ, believers have a new life.

2. How to live that new life

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

Here is how Paul helps his readers to experience what Jesus experienced: “In the same way…” We have to acknowledge that this is not the easiest thing to do. We do, after all, live in a world of sin. Unlike Christ who got to return to sinless paradise, we’re stuck here on Mother Earth. So how in the world to we live a “new life” while we are still here, in the same old place? Paul gives us the answer in verses 12—14 with a series of exhortations. The interesting thing about Paul’s exhortations is that without them, we have a very unbalanced view of the Christian life. Without the exhortations, we get the impression that “God does it all.” All the Christian has to do is coast along until he dies then goes to Heaven. Talk about unbalanced! With these exhortations, though, we see that while our salvation is a work of God alone, our Christian life is ours to live; God won’t live it for us. For the whole of our existence on Earth, we must consciously fight against and rebel against sin’s rule. The decisions to sin or not sin are ours to make; God won’t make them for us.

This is the great paradox for the believer. We are dead to sin, yet sin is all around us. We are alive to Christ, yet still living in the flesh. We have been declared fully righteous by God, yet still sinners who need forgiveness. We are called to live NOW like we are already living in the Kingdom, yet the Kingdom is nowhere in sight. How can we do that? Paul gives us the key in three points:

a. Counting, verse 11.

This is a real challenge to believers: to become in reality what we are in Christ potentially. Hodge comments:

If in point of fact believes are partakers of the death and life of Christ; if they die with Him and live with Him, then they should so regard themselves. They should receive this truth, with all its consoling and sanctifying power, into their hearts, and manifest it in their lives.

b. No reign, verse 12.

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

The implication here is that sin has been reigning, but it should not any longer. The believer must do his part and refuse to obey the calling to sin. The word “obey” means “to listen” or “to heed.” If a believer wants to live a holy life, then he himself must STOP listening to the wooing of sin. This we must do for ourselves; God won’t do it for us. He can help up; this is one of the ministries of the Holy Spirit in fact, but in the end, we must decide to obey God instead of listening to lies of Satan.

c. Offering, verse 13.

Do not offer any part of yourself to sin as an instrument of wickedness, but rather offer yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life; and offer every part of yourself to him as an instrument of righteousness.

To “offer” comes from the Greek parastesate, written in the aorist imperative meaning, “present yourselves by one decisive act”. Christians are to refuse to offer themselves to sin and encouraged to offer themselves to another: God. We are to stop offering parts of our bodies to sin (eyes, hands, free will, mind, etc.) as instruments against God. Instead, we are to offer those parts to God, for the sake of righteousness.

So, it’s not enough to simply will ourselves to stop sinning. If we do that, a vacuum is created and, lo and behold, what will get sucked into the vacuum? Different kinds of sins, that’s what. In order to avoid creating a vacuum, when we stop offering ourselves to sin, we must start offering ourselves to God.

3. A new kind of bondage, 6:15—23

Now, Paul has claimed that believers are not under the Law. However, this does not mean that they are free from the demands of righteousness. Just because one has been set free from the Mosaic Law as a covenant system does not mean they are now indifferent to God’s moral will. In other words, freedom from the the legalism of the Law is not freedom to sin. All believers, not just Jewish converts, need God’s moral law to help them see the seriousness of sin. Even though it sounds like Christians are free from God’s law, in a sense they aren’t:

To those not having the law I became like one not having the law (though I am not free from God’s law but am under Christ’s law), so as to win those not having the law. (1 Corinthians 9:21)

It’s vitally important for believers, in this day of moral relativism and pluralism, to remember that while we are no longer in bondage to sin, we are in bondage to the will of God. It sounds funny, so Paul adds this:

I am using an example from everyday life because of your human limitations. (vs. 19)

The “example” he is speaking about is the “slave-master” illustration, which helps us understand the simple fact that, as Jesus Himself taught, nobody can serve two masters. Serving God is an all or nothing proposition. The fact that Paul had to use an “example from everyday life” shows us how difficult a concept this is. Once we were completely sold out to sin, now we need to be completely sold out to Christ. Once we were forced to sin, now we able to walk away from it.

This is a result of our acceptance of the Gospel; we are not only set free from captivity to sin, but enslaved us to a new master: righteousness. In this context, “righteousness” refers to ethical goodness.

This is also what holiness is. Instead of letting sin use our bodies, leading us to a sense of moral indifference, we are to offer our bodies in the service of God, leading us to perform acts of righteousness.

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 leading to holiness. (vs. 19b)

The word “holiness” comes from the Greek hagiasmos, which itself is part of a word group that includes such words as “holy,” “saint,” “purify,” “hallowed,” and “holiness.” Primarily, the sense of hagiasmos is to be set apart completely for the use of God. This is hagiasmos as far as God is concerned. But it has a secondary meaning as far as man is concerned. Because he has been set apart for God’s use, man now has an obligation to fulfill God’s will for him, which includes performing acts of righteousness. This is something a believer needs to do for himself; God will not force him to perform holy acts, but He often places the believer in the position of having to make the choice of performing them or not. In this way, man’s free will is protected and at the same time, the believer is developing a character like his heavenly Father’s.

F.F. Bruce paraphrases the last part of Paul’s thought like this:

A slave’s former owner has no more authority over him if he becomes someone else’s property. This is what happened to you. You have passed from the service of sin into the service of God: your business is now to do what God desires and not what sin dictates.

Finally, verse 23 is really a contrast to help drive home Paul’s point of the nature of our new life in Christ (it’s God’s gift to us) with it’s benefits and our old life with it consequences:

For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.

To help the believer make the right choice, we see on the one hand that sin produces death as a just reward for living in a way that displeases God. But on the other hand, God is full of grace, which results in the calling of many people to Himself.

Most commentators see the word “wages” being used here in the military sense of a soldier’s rations or pay. Sin, then, is viewed as a General who pays out these wages to those under his command. What a depressing way to view life without Jesus Christ! What a contrast to God’s free gift of grace! Instead of being ordered around by an overbearing General, not having any say in the matter, we instead have been placed into a relationship with a loving Heavenly Father who loves us, respects us, and gives us far more than mere wages.

(c)  2011 WitzEnd

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