Text: Romans 6:15-19 12/4/2016
Main Point: We present ourselves to God for righteousness.
I want us to think for a moment about the magnificent obedience of Jesus Christ. Took the form of a man, only said what he heard his Father say, only did what he saw his Father do. Jesus offered his body, his soul, mind, and strength to the Father that he loved. He was obedient even to death, death on a cross. This Jesus is our salvation, our wisdom, our righteousness, and our sanctification. Because of the Son, we are empowered to obey the Father.
I. Christian obedience must be taught (Matt 28:18-20)
When I say, “Christian obedience must be taught,” I do not mean that obedience is simply a matter of information. It is a hellish lie to think you can obey if only you are told what to do. It is hazardous to look at your children and think they can obey if only you tell them what to do. No, “Christian obedience must be taught” means we must be taught what to obey and how to obey it. We must constantly grow deeper in the gospel of Jesus Christ. We must teach the truth of Jesus Christ: his righteous life, his atoning death, and his victorious resurrection for obedience. Obedience comes out of the gospel and discipleship.
I want to teach you two things before we unpack Romans 6. First, the new birth makes obedience possible and second, discipleship makes obedience possible.
- The new birth makes obedience possible
The new birth includes regeneration, justification, and the gift of the Holy Spirit. In regeneration, a dead sinner is given a new heart with the capacity for righteous affections. Because of the new birth, the Christian is made willing and able to love God and listen to God. In justification, a dead sinner is given a new righteous status which makes communion with God possible. Now, because of Christ’s righteousness, the Christian is able to do life with God. The evidence and seal of the new birth is the gift of the Holy Spirit. The Spirit of God indwells the Christian. The Holy Spirit gives understanding and empowers righteousness according to God’s Word. Because of the new birth, obedience is possible. Apart from being born again, joyful God-ward obedience is impossible. You must teach people how to obey because of regeneration, justification, and the indwelling Spirit. The new birth makes obedience possible and
- Discipleship makes obedience possible
The common approach to Christianity involves telling people to do the right thing. We tell people, “honor your parents, love your wife, submit to your husband, join a church, work hard. share the gospel, don’t gossip, or complain, or be greedy.” This isn’t wrong. It’s just insufficient. Jesus’ final instruction in Matthew 28 is to make disciples. You disciples need to make disciples. A disciple is someone who has been baptized and is learning how to obey all that Jesus commanded. A disciple is someone who is being taught how to live the Christian life. And the key to discipleship is helping someone make the connection between the command and the God-given strength to obey the command. We need to learn what to do and we need to learn how to do it. We need to be taught what to do and we need to be taught how to do it. We need to be discipled and we need to disciple others. So what do we need to learn from Romans 6:15-19? It’s teaching time. Let’s make disciples.
Read Romans 6:15-19
II. The reign of grace does not make sin a non-issue (Rom 6:15)
A right understanding of free and sovereign grace leads to a couple of questions. We have already seen how some might claim if God forgiving me makes God look good, then I should sin a great deal in order to make God look really good. But sinning for the glory of God is impossible because receiving grace runs on a parallel track with dying to sin. Receiving grace and rejecting sin go hand in hand. How can the one who received grace and died to sin continue in sin? You can’t! It is absurd to think a Christian can make God look good by sinning. Now, in Romans 6:15, the question is a bit more subtle and sinister. Seeing how I am not under the law (so obedience doesn’t matter) and I am under grace (so all my sins are gone) then sin is a non-issue. Christ took all my sins and gave me his righteousness therefore it’s okay to do whatever I want. Is this what should be taught? Is this right? Is the idea that sin doesn’t matter in friendly agreement with the new birth?
Verse 16 makes it clear that answering this questions involves a right understanding of the two ways to live.
III. The two ways to live (Rom 6:16-19)
The two choices in front of everyone are to either be a slave of sin or a slave of righteousness. Some people will buck against these two categories but those are the people who are slaves to the idea of not being a slave. They are slaves of the idea of autonomy. This also is slavery to sin.
Let’s unpack this section of Romans 6 verse by verse. Look at verse 16, “Do you not know that if you present yourselves to anyone as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin which leads to death, or of obedience which leads to righteousness?”
Notice there is something to know which effects the way you view life. Do you not know this? Here it is
- We are all obedient slaves
In verse 19, Paul reminds us that speaking of Christians as slaves of God is actually speaking in a human way. He does not mean for us to think Christianity is identical to slavery. There is only one parallel for us to consider here; absolute obedience.
To be obedient means to pay attention to someone. The King James uses the word “yield” it means to give way to someone else. Every human “gives way to”, pays attention to, or is obedient to someone or something. Some pay attention to and yield to sinful pleasures. Others pay attention to and yield to God. The point is, we all report for duty to something. Some report for duty to bitterness, others take their commands from depression.
It is crucial for you to identify who, or what, you are paying attention to. What calls the shots in your life? Are you an obedient slave to the development and advancement of your children? Are you an obedient slave to the approval of your parents or your peers? Speaking in human terms, are you a slave of God?
We are all slaves of someone or something. What you must do is work to identify the particular sinful desires that lure you into slavery. One of the best ways to do this is to grant a mature Christian, who knows you, the right to identity possible areas of slavery. Sit down and ask him/her where you are tempted to obey sin. You are an obedient slave and you are constantly tempted to obey sin. Have you identified exactly where your war fronts are? Are you sending your resources to the fight?
Romans 6:16-19 is a helpful explanation of slavery to sin and slavery to righteousness. Let’s take each form of slavery in turn.
- Slavery to sin leads to death
In humility, we remember that all Christians were once slaves of sin. Look at verse 17, “thanks be to God, that you who were once slaves of sin have become obedient from the heart.” Verse 18, “we have been set free.” This obviously means everyone, before the new birth, is a slave of sin. Everyone presents the members of their bodies as obedient slaves to the desires of the flesh. Verse 19 reminds us that we all once presented our members as slaves to impurity and to lawlessness leading to more lawlessness.” And why did we present our members as slaves to sin? We did it because it felt good, at least it felt good for a little while.
Look over at Ephesians 4:17-19. These verses help us identify impurity, “Now this I say and testify in the Lord, that you must no longer walk as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their minds. They are darkened in their understanding, alienated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, due to their hardness of heart. They have become callous and have given themselves up to sensuality, greedy to practice every kind of impurity.”
Giving oneself up to sensuality is the same as presenting oneself as an obedient slave of sensuality. We simply want to feel good and so we try any and every slave master which offers a way to joy. Do this and you’ll be happy. Quit that and you’ll be happy. Buy this, win this, ditch this, and earn this and you’ll be happy. Desperately we present our members as obedient slaves of impurity and lawlessness which produces only more lawlessness as we try to be happy.
The old adage is true: Sin always takes you further than you wanted to go and costs you more than you wanted to pay. Right now, in a sane moment when you are not at work trying to prove your worth or drown your sorrows, discern the end of your way of life. The end of these things is death (6:21). The wage you are earning is death (6:23). Polished in our Sunday best, we are still addicts willing to sacrifice everything but gaining only death. Be sober minded. Slavery to sin leads to death but
- Slavery to righteousness leads to sanctification
Compare Romans 6:16 to Romans 6:19. Romans 6:16 reminds us that presenting ourselves as slaves to obedience leads to righteousness. Romans 6:19 tells us that presenting ourselves as slaves to righteousness leads to sanctification. We need to bear in mind that there is a righteous status which is given to us in justification and there are righteous deeds which we do in life. Romans 3-5 deals mainly with our God-given status of righteousness, the very righteousness of God, which is ours by faith in Jesus Christ. Now, in Romans 6, we are dealing with the product of that righteous status, living righteous lives. To say it another way, because you are united to Christ in his death, burial, and resurrection you are empowered to live life Him. United to Jesus we live like Jesus. But righteous living doesn’t just happen. We need to be discipled. We need to be taught what is true and we need to be taught how to live out of that truth.
Presenting yourself to God as an obedient slave will lead to righteous living. If you present yourself as an obedient slave of sin this will lead to more impurity, lawlessness, and death. Look at verse 17 with me, “But thanks be to God, that you who were once slaves of sin have become obedient from the heart to the standard of teaching to which you were committed.” In the new birth, in regeneration, when you were born again, you were given a new heart. With the new heart came new desires, namely the new desire to do life with God. Here, I want to be dangerously clear, if you never desire to do life with God you are not a Christian. The evidence of one being brought from death to life is a heartfelt commitment to obey the Lord. You want to obey and you are convicted when you disobey. You worry when you don’t want to obey. While struggling with your old sinful desires you have a desire to live a righteous life. Is that you? Have you been set free from sin? Have you become a slave of righteousness? A more basic question is this: Do you want Jesus to set you free from sin? A good place to start is prayerfully asking God to show you your slavery to sin. Read God’s Word, join in our daily bible reading plan, and before you read each day, ask God to show you the ways you are tempted to be a slave of sin.
Now we see there are two ways to live: either live as a slave of sin leading to death or live as a slave of God leading to righteousness. Let’s get practical with
IV. How to cultivate an obedient heart
Romans 6:13 is the key to cultivating an obedient heart. Look back at 6:13 with me, “Do not present your members to sin as instruments for unrighteousness, but present yourself to God as those who have been brought from death to life.
- Cultivate an obedient heart by growing in your appreciation of the new birth
6:13 tells us to present ourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life. One of the biggest hindrances to growing in godliness, the monkey wrench in sanctification, is entitlement. I deserve heaven so it doesn’t matter what I do on earth. I deserve health so when God doesn’t heal I am right to be angry. I deserve to make the team, be first chair, have an easy marriage and a well-adjusted family. The standard of teaching, the Word of God, tells us otherwise. What you and I deserve because of our selfish hearts is death, separation, and hell. The wages of sin is death. But be amazed. God, in His sovereign grace, caused you to be born again. God raised you with Christ! God gave you understanding, faith, and repentance such that you repented and believed. Against what you deserve, and according to His great mercy, God changed your path by changing your heart. Now, you possess the righteousness of God. Now you have been reconciled to God. Now you are loved. Now you are empowered for a life of peace, joy, and fruitfulness. You and I would do well to think often about who we were and where we were headed before God intervened with sovereign grace. God saved you because of his great mercy. An appreciation of salvation stirs up heart-felt obedience. Pray to the One who brought you from death to life.
- Cultivate an obedient heart by seeking to understand why God’s commands are good
Why should you honor your father and your mother? Why should you give offerings gladly and generously? Why should you store up treasures in heaven? Why should you not covet? Why should you respect your husband? Why is work good and why is laziness evil? Why do we rejoice in persecution and why do we endure hardship?
One reason we are witnessing a great falling away from the church and an increase in lawlessness among professing Christians is, for several generations, we have simply told people what to do. We told people to pray a prayer and we told people to not commit sexual immorality. We told people to go to church, give, and serve but we did not teach the why. We must teach the why.
If you only obey because God says so, please stop it. Instead, go further. Seek to understand the good of God’s command and obey because what God commands is good. If you tell your children to obey because you say so, please stop it. Teach them the good behind the command and teach them to depend on the Holy Spirit to obtain the good. To put it plainly, it is right and good for Christians to study ethics and the sufficiency of Christ as fuel for obedience. This leads us to the Holy Spirit.
- Cultivate an obedient heart by learning how to live life in the Spirit
Romans 8 is devoted to helping us understand how to live life according to the Holy Spirit. I look forward to our time together in that chapter. For today, I can only whet your appetite. It is absolute misery to try every day to obey good commands in your own strength. Will power alone is dangerous because simple will power can produce a respectable form of godliness. But godliness by will power without the Holy Spirit’s power is pointless. You know you are depending on yourself for godliness when you lack love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. You know you are depending on yourself when your life is characterized by good works surrounded by strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, and envy (Gal 5:16-24).
Church, this portion of God’s Word invites us to repent. Repent of our attitude of entitlement. Repent of our refusal to be personally discipled. Repent of our refusal to disciple others. Repent of our slavery to sin. Repent of lawlessness and evil desires and lust. Repent and believe the gospel. On the cross, Christ has made the full and perfect payment required by God for our sin. While on this earth, Christ achieved a perfect heart felt obedience to the Father for us. By joining in his resurrection, we are empowered, we are given the Holy Spirit, to live new lives of godliness. Repent, believe the gospel, and be discipled. God’s desire is not for us to simply attend a church service. God’s good and joyful plan is for you and I to become disciples who make disciples. Talk to pastor Aaron or me about being equipped to make disciples. Come talk to us about being discipled. We want to help you present your members as slaves to righteousness leading to sanctification.