Sin Is Not Your Master - Part 4

Romans 6:1-14

Tom Pennington  •  June 4, 2017
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This morning I invite you to turn with me again to Romans 6 as we continue our journey through this rich passage and rich epistle of the Apostle Paul. As I was preparing this week, I was thinking about the fact that as we sit here this morning there are people gathering in churches all across Dallas. In some cases, they'll be liberal churches. In other cases, they'll be seriously compromised churches that water down the truth, water down the gospel in order to attract a crowd. There'll be others that will be faithful churches that are committed to the Scripture, committed to the true gospel.

But in all of those churches, regardless of the kind of church that it may be, sadly, there will be many who will attend those churches who have reduced the Christian faith to something that is almost entirely human. In the thinking of these people, their Christian life began with their human decision to believe in Jesus. That decision that was entirely theirs was then followed by a twenty-or-thirty-second prayer that we often call the sinners' prayer. And essentially, from that point on, they set out to live what amounts to a life of self-reliant moralism, although it's really just skin deep. It never goes to the heart. Understand, that this view of salvation (which is pervasive in the Christian church) is tragically flawed. It makes salvation an almost entirely human endeavor, and nothing could be further from the truth that Scripture teaches.

Think about this for a moment. How can a person who according to Scripture is dead in trespasses and sin, whose mind is at enmity with God, who is completely unable to do anything that pleases God—how can that person respond positively by his own initiative to the gospel invitation? The biblical answer is that he simply cannot. Jesus Himself in John 6:44, said, "No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him…." Later in that same chapter in verse 65, He says, "… no one can come to Me unless it has been granted him from the Father." What I want you to understand this morning is that before a sinner can respond to the gospel in faith and repentance, there must first be a miraculous act of God in the human soul. God must affect a change in the soul that is radical and pervasive. It is nothing less than a divine act of recreation. This is what we call regeneration.

And both Testaments are permeated by the reality of regeneration, that this is man's need. For example, if you go back to the Old Testament, in Ezekiel 36, the prophet Ezekiel lays out the New Covenant. (Of which we participate, although it's not reached its full and complete status yet as it will in the future.) But he describes it this way. Ezekiel 36:25. This is God speaking:

Then I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean; I will cleanse you from all your filthiness and from all your idols. Moreover, I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you ... I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes, and you will be careful to observe My ordinances.

Here the prophet Ezekiel describes regeneration as something akin to a heart transplant. It is a spiritual heart transplant. It is a radical change.

The same thing is true when you come to the New Testament. Turn to John 3, into the passage we just read in our Scripture reading a moment ago. Jesus says to Nicodemus in John 3:3, "… Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again…." You'll see the marginal reading has, I think, what is the preferred reading; that is, "from above." "Unless one is born [supernaturally, from above] he cannot see the kingdom of God." Verse 5, Jesus again says, "Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit…." Now, Nicodemus was a scholar in the Old Testament. Jesus is referring back here to the very passage I cited a moment ago in Ezekiel 36. "Born of water" has to do with the cleansing: "I will sprinkle clean water [upon] you." And then "… the Spirit …" has to do with the giving of God's Spirit and a new spirit to the person. It's talking about regeneration. Jesus says unless someone is regenerated, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.

So, Jesus says listen, Nicodemus, you may be very religious, you may have attached yourself to the true God, you may claim a relationship with the true God, you may read the Bible, you may attend regular worship, you may do all of those things, but let Me tell you something, Jesus says, unless God changes your heart, you'll never get into the spiritual kingdom of Jesus now or the literal kingdom of Jesus in the future. Regeneration is absolutely necessary. A.W. Pink, writing about that passage in John 3, says this,

Precisely what is it that differentiates a man who is dead in sins from one who is passed into life? On this point there is much confusion and ignorance. Tell the average person that he must be born again, and he thinks you mean that he must reform, mend his manner of life, turn over a new leaf. But reformation concerns only the outer life, and the trouble with man is within.

And then he gives this really helpful illustration. Listen to this. He says, "Suppose the mainspring of my watch were broken." If you wear a watch, as I do (there is, if it's not digital, if it's a more traditional watch), it'll have within it a mainspring. That's the spring that causes the watch in its totality to operate. He says,

Suppose the mainspring of my watch were broken. What good would it do if I put it in a new crystal and polished the case until I could see my face in it? Not at all. For the seed of the trouble is inside the watch. So, it is with the sinner. Suppose that his deportment [that is, how he behaves himself outwardly] was irreproachable, that his moral character was stainless, that he had such control of his tongue that he never sinned with is lips. What would all this avail while he still has, as God says he has, a heart that is deceitful above all things and desperately wicked? The new birth, then, is something more than reformation.

Listen, man, you, I, we need something much more profound than simply a few changes to our behavior. That's as helpful as rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic. Regeneration is such a radical change in a person that Scripture compares it (listen to this) Scripture compares regeneration to these things. First of all, a heart transplant. We saw that in Exodus, or excuse me, Ezekiel 36, a heart transplant. He takes out that hard, stubborn heart, and He gives you a pliable, responsive heart, gives you a new spirit within you, the power to understand and obey His law.

It's likened in Ephesians 2:1 - 5, to a resurrection. You're dead, and God raises you to life.

In John 3:3, in the passage we just looked at, Jesus compares it to a new birth. It's like you have a second birth, a supernatural birth. It gives you spiritual life.

And in 2 Corinthians 5:17, it's compared to a recreation. "If anyone is in Christ, he is a new [creation]." That's what regeneration is. It is a radical change. And regeneration produces a radical change in our relationship to sin. It removes us from slavery to sin. If you're a Christian, that's happened to you. And this is what Paul is teaching us in Romans 6.

Now let me remind you (since it's been a few weeks since we studied it together) of sort of the flow of Paul's thought. Paul structures this chapter around two questions. Romans 6:1, "Are we to continue in sin so that grace may increase?" That's question number 1.

Second question is in verse 15, "What then? Shall we sin because we are not under law but under grace?" Those are the two questions. So, we've outlined the chapter like this. Verses 1 - 14 is Paul's answer to the first question: and it is we are no longer slaves of sin. Verses 15 - 23 constitute Paul's answer to the second question: we are now slaves of God and righteousness.

Now we are studying at this point just the first half of this chapter in which Paul explains that because we are in Christ (you remember the end of chapter 5?) He says when you were born, you were born in Adam, that is, Adam was your official representative. But when you were saved, you were placed into Christ. You are now in Christ, and He is your representative. And because of that, we have experienced a radical change in our relationship to sin. We still sin. Believers still sin, and we still seriously struggle with sin. But Paul says we do not continue to live in sin as an unbroken, unrepentant pattern. We are no longer enslaved to sin. Christian, do you understand this? Sin is not your master anymore. You are no longer its slave.

Now, Paul begins this paragraph by introducing us, in verses 1 and 2, to a flawed conclusion about the believer's sin. He takes in his own mouth an objection that he undoubtedly had heard many times to the doctrine of justification by faith alone by grace alone. Verse 1, "What shall we say then?" In light of what he's just said back in the end of chapter 5, in light of the fact that we now live where grace reigns, in light of the fact that where sin increases grace increases all the more, "What shall we say? [verse 1] Are we to continue in sin so that grace may increase?" In other words, is it OK for Christians to continue living in an ongoing, unrepentant pattern of sin?

Paul's response comes in verse 2. "May it never be! How shall we who died to sin still live in it?" He says listen, we being what we are, those who died to sin, how can we continue to live in it? That doesn't even make sense. That's illogical. But notice the point he makes in verse 2. It is a foundational point for your spiritual understanding. If you're a Christian, you died to sin. You died to sin.

Now, I'm not going to spend a lot of time here. Just to remind you, we looked at what that does not mean. It does not mean that we died to the influence of and sensitivity to sin. Sin's still very much present with us. Nor does it mean that we should die to sin as some kind of a secret to Christian victory, as some teach. Neither of those ideas are taught anywhere in Scripture. The final three possible interpretations that are wrong, I believe, are taught in other in other places in Scripture. They're just not taught here. Ah, we ought to be dying to sin daily. That's true, but that's not what Paul's saying here. We died with Christ to the guilt and penalty of sin. Yeah, that's true as well. Again, not what Paul is talking about here. And it is true that when we repented at first, we renounced sin. All of those things are true, but they're not what Paul is teaching here.

So, what is he teaching? What does we died to sin mean? Well, we looked at this. In context it's very clear. Paul is talking about the reign of sin. Look at 5:21. When we were in Adam, "sin reigned." Sin ruled us. Go down to 6:6. God has so worked, "… that we would no longer be slaves to sin…." But what does that imply? "No longer" means we were what, we were once what? We were slaves to sin. Go down to verse 14. "For sin shall not be master over you." So here in context Paul is talking about the reign of sin, the rule of sin, slavery to sin. So, when he says we died to sin, he means we died to its reign, to its dominion, to its domination, to its slavery. For the Christian, our slavery to sin was broken at salvation.

Now having made that basic statement in verse 2, we died to sin, Paul goes on in verses 3 - 11 to provide us a detailed explanation of the believer's death to sin. He wants to fill that out. And, as we noted last time, he begins by describing for us the specific means by which our death to sin was accomplished, and that was our union with Jesus Christ. He explains this in verses 3 - 5. Notice verse 3. "Or do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus have been baptized into His death?" There's no water in this verse.

Paul is not talking about believer's baptism at all, and last time I gave you several arguments to show that. Instead, he's talking about a spiritual reality that occurs at the moment of salvation in the life of every believer. It is our union with Christ. It's described, I think, best in 1 Corinthians 12:13, where Paul writes, "By one Spirit [listen to this] we were all baptized into one body." It's happened to every true believer. When did it happen? At the moment of regeneration the Spirit immersed you into Christ, united you to Jesus Christ.

Verse 3 then says if that's happened to you, if you've been baptized into Christ, then don't you know that means you've been baptized—what? "… into His death." All who were immersed into Christ, through the baptism of the Spirit that happened at the moment of salvation, all of us, have been as a result baptized into or identified with Him in His death. You see, Christ died, Christ was buried, Christ was raised to new life. In the same way, you, Christian, died to the person you used to be. And that old person was buried with Christ. And your old self is gone for good.

But God also intended that you would be raised with Christ to walk in new life. And in verse 5, Paul stresses the certainty that this new life will be a reality in every true Christian. Look at verse 5. "For if we have become united with Him in the likeness of His death, certainly [there's the key word] certainly we shall also be in the likeness of His resurrection." This verse isn't talking about your future bodily resurrection. No, he's talking about what's already happened. You have already been raised with Christ to a new spiritual life right here right now. You are no longer under the reign of sin as was true before Christ. Your slavery to sin has been permanently broken. That's Paul's explanation of the specific means of our death to sin. It happened through our union with Christ, with His death, His burial, His resurrection.

Now today, we come to the next section. And as Paul continues to give us a detailed explanation of the believer's death to sin, he explains in this second part the spiritual ramifications of this, the spiritual ramifications. We see this in verses 6 - 10. There's a kind of minor break between verses 5 and 6, but Paul is still explaining what he means by we died to sin. He picks up the theme of our death with Christ that he's already mentioned. In fact, look at the first part of verse 4. "We have been buried with Him [by] baptism into death." Look at the first part of verse 5. "… we have become united with Him in the likeness of His death…." So there's our death with Christ. Paul is going to pick up that theme and develop it in verses 6 and 7. Then he's going to go back to verses 4 and 5 and pick up the theme of our new life with Christ. Notice the second half of verse 4 and the second half of verse 5. Both speak of our new life with Christ. And he's going to develop that idea in verses 8 - 10.

So, let's look then at verses 6 - 7, because in verses 6 and 7, Paul further explains the spiritual ramifications of our death with Christ. Let's read it together. Romans 6:6 and 7,

… knowing this, that our old self was crucified with Him, in order that our body of sin might be done away with, so that we would no longer be slaves to sin; for he who has died is freed from sin.

Now that is a profoundly theologically rich passage. Let me just give you the structure, first of all. I think you could see it even as I read it. He starts out by making a simple statement. "Our old self was crucified with Him." And then he gives the purpose our old self was crucified. Look in the middle of verse 6. "… in order that our body of sin might be done away with…." And then he ends verse 6 by giving us the purpose that our body of sin needed to be done away with. "… so that we would no longer be slaves to sin…." So, you could see how it builds. And then in verse 7, he gives us the reason all of this works and that we're no longer slaves to sin. "… for he who has died is freed from sin." OK? So, now let's go back and look at it more carefully.

Notice verse 6 begins, "… knowing this." Knowing this. Paul intends to underscore again that these are truths he expects all believers everywhere to know. But just in case we don't know them, he rehearses them again. You know, this is so important for you to get, because most people want to shortcut the knowing part. It's like, "Tom, look, stop spending so much time on the doctrine. Let's just get to the practical stuff. Can't you just tell me how to deal with the sin in my life?"

That's not how Paul works. That's not how the truth works. Paul says no-no, forget your individual sin struggle until you understand what has happened to you, till you understand what God has done for you in Christ; and understanding that, OK, now we're ready to address the specific sin struggles in your life.

But that's not what we do. We want to shortcut the process. "Just give me the steps." No, Paul says, "Knowing this." Let me as you a question. Do you know these things? Paul assumed Christians would. Do you live (really?) do you live in the light of these truths? Do these truths enable you to make progress in your battle with the sin in your life? That's exactly what the Holy Spirit intended. It's exactly what the Apostle Paul intended. So, let's look at it together.

Verse 6, "… knowing this, that our old self was crucified with Him…." Now, that expression simply explains in more detail what Paul said back in verse 2 when he said we died to sin. Here's a fuller expression of it. "Our old self was crucified with Him." Now please don't misunderstand Paul. He is not asking you to do anything in this verse. He's telling you what's already been done. He's helping you understand what's already happened. He uses this term "crucified," because that's the way Jesus died, and we died with Him. It's an interesting verb though, "crucified with." Let me tell you a little bit about that verb. It occurs only a handful of times in the New Testament. It occurs once each in Matthew, Mark, and John. You know the context? Speaking of the thieves who were crucified with Jesus, one on one side and one on the other. Paul uses it here, and he only uses it in one other place.

Turn there with me to Galatians 2, Galatians 2:20. He says, "I have been crucified with Christ [there's our verb]; and it is no longer I who live…." Here Paul is saying exactly the same thing that he said in Romans 6. He's saying my old self died, and now I live. But it's not the old self that lives anymore. Now it's a new self in which Christ lives in me. His life energizes me. Just as the vine gives life to the branches, Christ, His life is in me now. "And the life which I now live in the flesh [I love this. This is a perfect description of the Christian life.] I live by faith in the Son of God [that is, in the words of the Son of God], who loved me and gave Himself up for me." That's a beautiful expression. But notice how Paul puts it. "I have been crucified with Christ."

Now go back to Romans 6. I want you to see the difference. In Romans 6:6, Paul gets even more specific. Notice he does not say we have been crucified with Christ, like he did in Galatians of himself. Instead he says, "… our old self was crucified…." Literally, the Greek text reads this way. And I think it just makes it very clear. The Greek text says, "the old man of us was crucified." The old man of us was crucified. Now that expression "the old man" (and its antonym, its opposite, "the new man") is used in two other New Testament texts: Ephesians 4:22 - 24; and Colossians 3:9 - 11. I'm not going to take you there today, because I hope to touch on those passages in a couple of weeks. But together these three passages have provided a great deal of confusion when it comes to the doctrine of regeneration.

Let me ask you this question. And I really want you to think about this in your own mind. What happened to you internally at the moment of salvation? What happened inside of you at the moment of salvation? What happened to your old self, or as Paul calls it, literally, your old man? What happened to that?

Well, let me give you one very popular and very wrong answer. And it's very common, because I think there are people here who have been taught this view. It's called the trichotomist position. That means that man redeemed is a three-part being. This view says this. Before salvation you consisted of two parts, body and soul. Not much different than animals, just slightly more, but sort of an animal soul of sorts. At salvation God added a third part, your spirit. This is what this view teaches. Now, the practical result of that is it says this. And this is where it gets very unhelpful. After salvation, this view says, there are two equal parts of your immaterial being constantly at war with each other. Your soul is the immaterial part of you that remains unchanged after salvation. Your spirit is the new part of you that was added. And so, as a believer, you have the old man (it's still a part of you after salvation), and you have the new man which has been added. And the war between your old man and your new man is often described as a black dog versus a white dog, and the one you feed wins. My suspicion is almost everyone in this room has heard that view.

That's not what the Scriptures teach. There are a couple of proof texts of those who hold this view. For example, 1 Thessalonians 5:23, Hebrews 4:12. But as we have discovered before, (and I'm not going to take you back through it) the biblical data that supports the view that before and after your conversion you are a two-part being: body and soul. Body, soul. Body, soul. Sometimes the soul, the immaterial part of you, is described with different labels, but you are still essentially a two-part being.

So then, what does the Scripture teach about the change that happens to us as a two-part being at regeneration? What is this spiritual change called regeneration? Listen very carefully. This is so important for you to understand. When Christ died, we died with Him. That means the person you used to be, your "old man" as Paul calls him here, was crucified with Christ. You died with Him. You died with Christ to the curse of the Law. You died with Christ to the wrath of God. You died with Christ, here we're told, to the power, the enslaving power of sin. When Christ died, you were in Him dying with Him. But that wasn't applied to you until the moment of regeneration. The reality of what happened when Christ died was applied to you at the moment that the Spirit gave you life. And that new spiritual life He gave you was connected to the life of Christ Himself. You have, as Paul said, "the life ... I now live" is the life of Christ in me and my faith in Him. This is regeneration. To regenerate simply means "to impart life."

What are we talking about? What is regeneration? Robert Reymond, in his Systematic Theology, says this, "It is the subconscious." That means you're not immediately aware of it. "It is the subconscious implanting of the principle of new spiritual life in the soul effecting an instantaneous change in the whole man intellectually, emotionally and morally, and enabling the elect sinner to respond to the gospel in repentance and faith."

The Westminster Confession of Faith (as well as the Baptist Confession of Faith) puts it this way. It describes regeneration as when "God enlightens our minds spiritually and savingly to understand the things of God, taking away our heart of stone, giving us a heart of flesh, renewing our wills [want we want and desire], and by His almighty power determining them [that is, directing them] to that which is good." This is what God does in regeneration. Regeneration is a divine, miraculous act of God through His Spirit.

In John 1:13, John writes, we "… were born, not of blood…." [In other words, it wasn't physical descent.] "Nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man." It wasn't your decision that caused you to be born again. "But [the will] of God." The sovereign grace of the Spirit who, like the wind, blows where He chooses. It was instantaneous. Think of the images of regeneration in the Bible: birth, creation, resurrection. Those are all events. One moment you were spiritually dead; the next moment you were alive.

And how did God do it? He accomplished it through His Word. James 1:18, "In the exercise of [God's] … will He brought us forth … [He birthed us] by the word of truth…." First Peter 1:23, "… you have been born again ... through the living and enduring word of God." Here's how it worked.

Maybe you were reading the Bible, maybe you were talking to a friend, maybe you were reading a gospel tract, maybe you were listening to something on the radio, maybe you were in a service like this one and you heard maybe the gospel you had heard many times before, but in that moment the Holy Spirit of God blew into your life. He gave life to your dead soul. You understood the truth. You found the truth beautiful and attractive. He gave you faith and repentance, and you responded to the gospel. That's regeneration. And you were changed at every level. You were given a new mind to understand the things of God, a new heart that loves God, a new will that longs to obey God. I don't think regeneration can be described any better than it is in Charles Wesley's hymn that we sing, "And Can It Be?" You remember the verse?

Long my imprisoned spirit lay,
Fast bound in sin and nature's night;
Thine eye diffused a quick'ning ray—
I woke, the dungeon flamed with light;

My Chains fell off, [There's the end of enslaving sin.]
My chains fell off, my heart was free,
I rose, went forth, and followed Thee.

That's regeneration.

Now look back at Romans 6:6, with that background. "Knowing this, that our old self was crucified with Him." The old man, who is who you were in Adam, when Adam was your representative, when you lived under the reign of sin and death, the old you, the person you were before Christ, was crucified and died with Christ at the moment of regeneration. And you are now an entirely new person in Jesus Christ. I think John Stott's illustration is really helpful. You know, I quote John Stott, he's a great commentator. I need to say, as I say from time to time, that at the end of his life, unfortunately, he strayed from the truth and embraced annihilationism, so beware of that. But much of what he wrote during most of his life was very helpful. Listen to what he says about this. He says,

Suppose there is a man called John Jones, an elderly Christian believer who is looking back on his long life. His career is divided by his conversion into two parts: the old self, John Jones before his conversion, and the new self, John Jones after his conversion. The old self and the new self or the old man and the new man, [listen to this] are not John Jones' two natures. They are the two halves of his life separated by new birth. At conversion, John Jones the old self died through union with Christ, the penalty of his sin having been borne. At the same time, John Jones rose again from death a new man to live a new life to God.

[And then he says] Now John Jones is every believer. We are John Jones if we are in Christ.

Our biography [Now he's going to apply it. Listen to this.], our biography is written in two volumes. Volume one is the story of the old man, the old self, of me before my conversion. Volume two is the story of the new man, the new self, of me after I was made a new creation in Christ. Volume one of my biography ended with the judicial death of the old self. I was a sinner. I deserved to die. I did die. I received my desserts in my substitute with whom I have become one. Volume two of my biography opened with my resurrection, my old life having finished and new life to God having begun.

Believer, do you understand what this means? Think about this. At salvation, you didn't add a new self to your old self, and now your old self, and your new self, live in constant war. Instead, at the moment of regeneration your old self was crucified with Christ, died, buried, gone forever, and you have become a new person in Jesus Christ.

Now, if you're thinking with me (and I hope you are), then you should be saying something like this. "OK, Tom, I get that. I see that biblically, but what about my continuing struggle with sin? Where does that come from if my old self died?" Well, the Bible says that although your old man died, and you're a new creation in Christ, you still retain what the Bible calls the "flesh." It's that part of you that's not yet redeemed. It's your unredeemed humanness, and its beachhead is your physical body which has not yet been redeemed. We'll learn more about this in chapter 7. But I don't want you to miss the main point Paul is making here about you. Christian, your old self died, and you are a new person in Jesus Christ.

Now, why did God decide it had to happen that way? Well, Paul explains. He gives us the key reason in verse 6. "Knowing this, that our old self was crucified with Him, in order that [here's the reason] our body of sin might be done away with." Now there has been a lot of disagreement about the meaning of that expression "our body of sin". Let me just say that, obviously, we reject any view of this passage that teaches that the physical body itself is inherently sinful. That is platonic dualism. That is not Christianity. During His earthy life our Lord had a physical body. He still does, and He always will. So, it's not that the body itself is inherently sinful. So, what does he mean "our body of sin"? Well, conservative scholars present a number of views. Let me just briefly give you the three most common ones and tell you why I believe it's the third one.

Some say our body of sin is just a synonymous expression with our old man. They mean the same thing. OK. I mean, I guess that's possible. But then the sentence is a tautology, because essentially it would read like this: our old self died so that our old self could be done away with. Our old self died so that our old self could be done away with. OK.

A second view is that the body of sin is a figure of speech to refer to the whole mass of sin that's a part of our lives. In other words, the problem isn't particular sins. Our problem is this huge mass of sins in our lives, the body of sin. OK, that's maybe getting closer.

But that doesn't fit the context as well as the third view, and it's the one I would encourage to consider. And that is that it refers to your physical body. But not to your physical body as in and of itself inherently sinful. It's not. But rather, the fallen physical body as dominated by sin. Our bodies are that which sin has taken complete possession of and control of. And this third view, I think, best fits the context. Let me show you.

Look at 6:12. The very next use of this word "body" comes in "Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its lusts…." Verse 13, "[Don't] … go on presenting the [physical] members of your [physical] body to sin…." Verse 19, he says, "… just as you presented your members [that is, the members of your body] … as slaves to impurity ... now present [the] members [of your body] as slaves to righteousness." Go over to 7:22. He says,

… I joyfully concur with the law of God in the inner man, but I see a different law in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind ... making me a prisoner of the law of sin which is in my members. Wretched man that I am! Who will set me free from the body of this death?

Go to 8:10. "If Christ is in you, though the body is dead because of sin, yet the spirit is alive because of righteousness." Verse 11, "… [Christ] will ... give life to your mortal bodies."

Verse 13, "[You're] putting to death the deeds of the body."

Verse 23, We're "… waiting eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our … [bodies]." So, I think in context this is what makes the most sense. Paul is saying that our fallen, physical bodies respond to and are enslaved by sinful desires. So, the body of sin, then, is really equivalent to what Paul will later call the "flesh," that part of us that remains unredeemed and is the beachhead of sin in our lives. And its beachhead is the physical body.

Now go back to chapter 6 with that understanding and look at what he says. He says as a result of our death with Christ, the body, which is dominated by sin, is "done away with." You'll notice the marginal reading. You see the little number in the marginal reading out there to the side? That's the way the verb is more often translated, and I think it's best to translate it that way here. "Rendered powerless." Robbed of its power. In what sense is the flesh or our body of sin robbed of its power? Well, its power to rule us, its power to enslave us. This is why we died with Christ, so that our body, our fallen, physical bodies' sin and slavery would not enslave us any longer. And that's where he goes next.

He explains (notice) why our body of sin had to be rendered powerless. Notice verse 6. "So that we." Here's where he's going. "So that we would no longer be slaves to sin." This was God's goal: He would end your slavery to sin. God saved you in such a way as to put an end to the slavery of sin in your life. How did He do this? Verse 7, "For he who has died [that is, died with Christ in the way he's described here] is freed from sin." Christian, here's the point. Sin is not your master anymore. You are no longer a slave of sin. You don't have to obey it.

Let me recommend to you a wonderful book. It's written by John Murray. It's called Redemption Accomplished and Applied. If you haven't read it, read it. It's a short book, easy read, one of the most helpful books on the Christian life and experience you will ever read. Here's what he says,

There must be a constant and increasing appreciation that though sin still remains, it does not have the mastery. [I love this, he says] There is a total difference between surviving sin and reigning sin, a total difference between the regenerate in conflict with sin and the unregenerate complacent to sin. It is one thing for sin to live in us. It is another thing for us to live in sin. It is one thing for the enemy to occupy the capitol. It is another for his defeated armies to harass the garrisons of the kingdom.

I love that illustration. You know what he says? He says listen, there's a big difference between someone owning the capitol of a country and an army that's been defeated still in pockets around the country that need to be cleaned up, big difference. And that's what's true of you. Do you understand that? Do you understand that in your case King Jesus has freed the capitol of your soul, and that your current battle with sin is cleaning up the pockets of resistance that remain?

Now why is it important for us to understand all of this? You say, "Tom, really? I mean, couldn't you do something a little more practical? Why can't you just give me the steps like, how do I deal with the sin in my life?" Listen, nothing could be more practical than what we've talked about this morning. Paul is going to apply this truth, but first he needs us to understand it. Let me give you two reasons (there're others) but at least two reasons these truths are important for us, crucial for us to understand.

Number one. This radical change in our relationship to sin is the best evidence of regeneration and true salvation. You want to know if you're a Christian? Then look at the fruit of regeneration in your life. Look at the reality. That's Paul's whole point here in this paragraph. Remember how he started back in verse 1? Is it OK to be a Christian and to continue living in sin? And his answer is no, of course not. Why? Because you're not the person you used to be. If you're a true Christian, your old self died, and you're a new person in Christ. You're no longer a slave to sin, and so you're not going to live like that. You're going to live as a slave of grace, 5:21 says. Grace reigns. And so, it can't be. True Christians can't continue in an unbroken, unrepentant pattern year after year to live in sin.

First John 3:9, John the apostle says, "No one [that's pretty all-inclusive], no one who is born of God [that is, who's regenerate, who has experienced regeneration] [continually] practices sin." [Again, he's not talking about our sinning. We all sin. He's talking about a pattern, living in sin, being under the rule and reign of sin. No one who's born of God does that,] "because [God's] … seed abides in him." [In other words, that new life God implanted in you is there, and you can't get rid of it. "… he cannot [habitually] sin, because he is born of God."

You want to know whether or not you're in Christ? Just ask yourself about your relationship to sin. Do you hate your sin? Is the thing you want more than anything else to be like Jesus Christ? And can you see (as you look back over the last number of years, however long you've been in Christ) can you see a decreasing pattern sin of sin and an increasing pattern of righteousness? If not, then it's very possible you are not regenerate.

Secondly, this radical change in our relationship to sin is foundational to our Christian growth and holiness. You say why is that? Because how we think about ourselves and our circumstances affects how we live. There's a big difference if you think that inside of you there are these two, equal, competing natures, and, frankly, it's almost impossible to win. That's one issue. There's a big difference between that and seeing that King Jesus has taken the capitol of your soul, that you are a new creature in Christ, that the old you is dead, and that now you are in a long, mop-up operation. The enemy's been defeated, and you're just like the Israelites of old who took the Promised Land. It belongs to you. Your soul, King Jesus has taken it, and now you're just cleaning up the pockets of resistance, big difference in those two approaches to your Christian life.

In fact, Paul is going to apply this doctrine to us in verses 11 - 14 to our battle with sin. He's going to say let me show you how what I've just taught you ought to affect your daily decisions and your battle with sin. John MacArthur, in his book Biblical Doctrines, writes, "The Christian's freedom from the dominion of sin through union with Christ is the necessary foundation for all progress in progressive sanctification." Understanding this becomes the foundation for all progress. You miss this, you just don't get it. You don't even know what you're battling. As Charles Wesley wrote, "He breaks the power of canceled sin. He sets the prisoner free."

It was on September 22, in the year 1862, that Abraham Lincoln issued the preliminary Emancipation Proclamation. He stipulated in that that if the southern states did not end their rebellion a few months later on January 1, 1863, then the Proclamation would go into effect. When the Confederacy did not yield, Lincoln issued the final Emancipation Proclamation on January 1, 1863. You know that. But you've also read, as I'm sure as I have, that history records that many of those slaves in the southern states (when they heard about the Emancipation Proclamation), they simply did not believe it. And so even though they were free, free from their slavery, they continued to live and act like slaves.

Paul doesn't want us to do that at a spiritual level. He doesn't want us to be like that. Romans 6 is our emancipation proclamation. Christian, you need to understand you have been freed. And only as you understand the emancipation proclamation that describes your spiritual freedom that you will begin to live like it. You've been set free from slavery to sin. Sin is no longer your master. Understand it, and begin living in light of it. And in the rest of this passage, Paul is going to show us exactly how to do that.

Let's pray together.

Father, thank you for these profoundly rich truths. Lord, we confess that it's made our brain sweat. But I pray that You would use the sweat of our brains to encourage the progress of our souls. Father, thank you for telling us what happened to us, what's true of each of us who are in Christ. Help us to think about it, to meditate on these things, to grasp it, and to live in light of it.

Father, I pray for those who are here this morning who are not in Christ, perhaps some who came in having some sort of profession of Christ, but have never experienced this radical change in their lives. Lord, I pray that today You would, by Your Spirit, blow into their souls. Help them to see the reality of their condition, their lostness. Help them to see the beauty of Jesus Christ, the freeness of the gospel, the glory of Christ. And Father, may they cry out to You to change them, to give them a heart transplant, to raise them from spiritual death to life. And Father, we know that if they do that, it'll be because Your Spirit is at work in them.

We pray to that end in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.