Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Gotta Serve Somebody - Romans 6 part 4

"For sin shall not be master over you, for you are not under law, but under grace. What then? Shall we sin because we are not under law but under grace? May it never be! Do you not know that when you present yourselves to someone as slaves for obedience, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin resulting in death, or of obedience resulting in righteousness? But thanks be to God that though you were slaves of sin, you became obedient from the heart to that form of teaching to which you were committed, and having been freed from sin, you became slaves of righteousness. I am speaking in human terms because of the weakness of your flesh. For just as you presented your members as slaves to impurity and to lawlessness, so now present your members as slaves to righteousness, resulting in sanctification. For when you were slaves of sin, you were free in regard to righteousness.
Therefore what benefit were you then deriving from the things of which you are now ashamed? For the outcome of those things is death." (Romans 6:14-21)

Here in Romans 6 Paul “argues from the precious promises of the new covenant.” The new covenant of Christ's blood has made a change for us - an awesome change! “For sin shall not be master over you, for you are not under law; but under grace.”

Matthew Henry writes, “It might be objected that we cannot subdue sin, it is unavoidably too hard for us: ‘No,’ says he, ‘you wrestle with an enemy that may be dealt with and subdued; it is an enemy that is already foiled and baffled. Sin shall not have dominion.’

"Sin may struggle in a believer, and may create him a great deal of trouble, it may vex him, but it shall not rule over him. For we are not under law, but under grace. We are not under the law of sin and death, but under the law of the spirit of life, which is in Christ Jesus. New lords, new laws.

"We are not under the covenant of works, which requires brick, and gives no straw, but we are under the covenant of grace, which accepts sincerity as our gospel perfection, which requires nothing but what it promises strength to perform. It does not leave our salvation in our own keeping, but lays it up in the hands of the Mediator, who undertakes for us that sin shall not have dominion over us, who hath Himself condemned it, and will destroy it. Christ rules by the golden scepter of grace. We are under grace, grace which accepts the willing man, which leaves room for repentance, which promises pardon upon repentance. Shall we sin against so much goodness, abuse such love?”

Oh wretched folk that we are, how often we do sin against so much goodness and abuse such love? God forbid! God have mercy!

We are by nature slaves - slaves to sin. Honestly, as created beings we will always be slaves to something. As Bob Dylan put it “It may be the devil or it may be the Lord but everybody’s gotta serve somebody.” Gold star for Dylan! He hit the theological nail on the head there!

Henry states: “All the children of men are either the servants of God, or the servants of sin. We must inquire to which of these masters we yield obedience. Our obeying the laws of sin will be evidence against us that we belong to that family on which death is entailed. Our obeying the laws of Christ will evidence our relation to Christ’s family.” So - who am I serving? What verdict does the evidence point to?

After Paul declares that we are all servants of one of these two masters – sin or righteousness – he calls us to reflect on the past as part of our persevering in the present. Remember who you were and what you were and what its wages were. Verses 17-21 contains an argument for living to righteousness because of our former state of dying in sinfulness. In otherwords, we should live to righteousness because we realize what we were like and what we had done prior to righteousness being imputed to us. "You were the servants of sin. Those that are now the servants of God would do well to remember the time when they were the servants of sin, to keep them humble, and to quicken them in the service of God.” (Matthew Henry)

Over this past month I’ve had occaision to look back a bit at who I was and at what I did formerly - in my days before Christ. No one who knew me then could argue with the fact that I am not now who I once was. Yes, I'm a sinner still. I often slip and fall. “I am prone to halt and stumble.” Yet, I’m still not who I was. I am often sickened by my sin – even the initial crossings of it into my thoughts. I suppose there is a comfort in that. I am a "new creature in Christ." I'm reminded of Paul's words to the Corinthian church “And such WERE some of you’ but you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of our God.” It's good to know that I'm a "has been" - it's good that Christ has made me a "were"!

Verse 18 reminds us that we have been "freed from sin" and have become "slaves of righteousness." Contained in this verse are two aspects of freedom. First, it is a "freedom from teh service of sin." Second, it is "a resignation of ourselves to the service of God." Here again, is a put off/put on. We must reckon ourselves as those who are freed from sin's service and we must resign ourselves to God's service. To live is Christ, to die is gain. May God help us to walk in the freedom that His Lordship has granted us.

In verse 19 Paul speaks to us plainly. “For just as you presented your members as slaves to impurity and to lawlessness, resulting in further lawlessness, so now present your members as slaves to righteousness, resulting in sanctification.” By God's grace we need to be as serious about walking in the newness of life as we once were about rotting in the deadness of sin! Set your mind, set your heart, set you will towards obedience. "I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me!"

Think about what sin brings. "Therefore what benefit were you then deriving from the things of which you are now ashamed? For the outcome of those things is death" (vs 21). Compare it to what righteousness brings. "But now havingn been freed from sin and enslaved to God, you derive your benefit, resulting in sanctification, and the outcome, eternal life" (vs 22). Sin results in further lawlessness. I am reminded of James 1 – “When lust has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and when sin is accomplished, it brings forth death. Do not be deceived, my beloved brethren.”

Henry asks: “Did you ever get anything by it? Besides future losses which are infinitely great, the very present gains of sin are not worth mentioning.” It is an “unfruitful service”. Its only outcome is death. It is also an “unbecoming service”. It is that of which we are now ashamed. “Shame came into the world with sin, and it is still the certain product of it. Who would willfully do that which sooner or later he is sure to be ashamed of?”

Think folks!! Death and shame are the only benefits that the profession of sin provides – some deal, eh?! By grace, through faith flee from being dead to sin. Instead, be alive to God in Christ Jesus. "Do not let sin reign in your mortal body that you should obey its lusts, and do not go on presenting the members of your mortal body (including our hearts and our minds) as instruments of unrighteousness; BUT present yourselves to God as those alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness to God.”

At the end of Romans 6, Paul lays the cards clearly on the table. In effect he declares “here’s the real deal.” In order to urge us to keep our distance from sin he holds forth eye opening truth that we might not be tricked by the devil’s schemes and by our own heart’s lusts. “The wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

“Here are good and evil, life and death, set before us; and we are put to our choice. The end of sin is death. Though the way may seem pleasant and inviting, yet it will be bitterness in the latter end. The wages of sin is death. Death is as due to a sinner as wages are to a servant. All that are sin’s servants and do sin’s work must expect thus to be paid.”

Look at the contrast. Sin’s wages = death. God’s free gift = eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. I am due death. Christ freely gives me life – life eternal -everlasting life! “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life!” (John 3:16)

Mr. Henry reminds us that “the way may be uphill, yet everlasting life at the end of it is sure. Heaven is life, and it is eternal life, no infirmities attending it, no death to put a period to it. This is the gift of God.”

I have earned hell. I can never earn heaven. But, in Christ it has been freely given to me!!! I have no one to thank but my God, my Christ for this gift. I am heavenbound by His doing. I am hellbound by my own. Yet He has called me from death unto life. He has promised to preserve me through this life. He has promised to bring me safely to heaven. I am safe, I am secure, I am His, He is mine. Lord – thank you for this gift. Make me to know that it is mine and make me to cherish it above anything this world could ever offer. “It is Christ that purchased it, prepares us for it, preserves us to it” (Henry). Thank you for Christ. Will I ever love Him as I ought?!

By grace alone,

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