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Sin Is Not Your Master - Part 2

Tom Pennington • Romans 6:1-14

  • 2017-05-07 AM
  • Romans
  • Sermons


Turn with me, if you would, to Romans 6, Romans 6.

When I was growing up, my father and I didn't watch a lot of television together, but there was a series that we found that we really enjoyed. It was produced out of the Royal War Museum in Great Britain and I think in conjunction with BBC, if I remember correctly. It was called The World at War. It was a video sort of history of World War II. It was serialized, and so we would watch, you know, an hour each week as we'd watch the war unfold. I still remember that vividly. And one of the most graphic memories from that series was after D-Day, to watch the Allies then began to march across Europe. And as they went from village to village, from town to town, from city to city, to watch the people flood the streets, cheering and welcoming the Allied soldiers, and to realize that in one day's time, they were lifted out from under the reign of Nazi Germany and experienced a total revolution in their lives in a good way, a revolution of freedom, a revolution of a new king and a new kingdom, new leaders.

Well, the apostle Paul, in Romans 6, wants us to know that that is exactly what has happened in the life of every true Christian. On the day of your salvation, a radical change unfolded, and that radical change brought about a total revolution in the king you served and the kingdom to which you belonged. And that changes everything, and that's Paul's message in Romans 6.

Now let me give you context. At the end of Romans 5, I noted for you last time that in verses 20 and 21, Paul mentions two issues. He mentions the law. He mentions grace. And out of those two issues came two crucial questions that Paul felt he needed to address.

The first question was this: Does the grace that comes to us in justification, does that encourage Christians to sin? After all, if grace abounds where there's sin, then why not sin some more? Does grace encourage sin? Paul answers that question in chapter 6.

The second question that his comments at the end of chapter 5 raise has to do with the law. The second question is this: What purpose does God's law serve? He says in verse 20 of chapter 5 that the law didn't save us. It didn't contribute to our salvation so what then was the purpose of the law? Well, that's a key question. What purpose did it have for unbelievers, and does it still have any continuing purpose in the life of believers? So, Paul endeavors to answer that question in Chapter 7.

In the process of answering those two questions, chapters 6 and 7 profoundly deepen our understanding of our security, our confidence in justification that we have received through Christ. That's the larger theme in the section in which these two chapters appear. It begins in 5:1, runs to the end of chapter 8. The theme of that section is our security and confidence in justification that we have received in Christ, and these two chapters add to that understanding.

Now, chapter 6 divides neatly into two major sections as I noted for you. In 6:1-14, Paul answers the question: Can the believer continue to sin? He asks a question in verse 1, and then in verses 2 - 14, he answers that question. Can the believer continue in sin? And his answer is absolutely not! Why? Because we died to sin; that's his answer that he explains in detail.

The second major section of chapter 6 is from verse 15 - 23. And in verse 15 Paul asks a second question, not, can we continue to live in sin? He's already answered that, but can we sin? In other words, does it really matter? Can the believer take sin lightly? And Paul answers that in verses 16 - 23, and his answer is, absolutely not, again because we have become slaves of God and of righteousness. So, chapter 6 then, in its entirety, deals with the Christian's new relationship to sin. We've had a radical change in our relationship to sin.

Now, I noted for you last time, we can outline the chapter then in light of that, like this: In verses 1 - 14 Paul teaches us we are no longer slaves of sin. And in verses 15 - 23 he teaches us we are now slaves of God and of righteousness.

Now last week, we began to look at the first major section, verses 1 – 14. We are no longer slaves of sin. That's the theme of it, and I outlined Paul's development of that theme like this: in verses 1 and 2 he presents us with a flawed conclusion that some had about the believer's sin. In verse 1 he raises the question; and then in verse 2 he gives us his answer in brief. And his answer in brief is, you "died to sin." We believers "died to sin." That's his complete answer in a general overarching way.

But then in verses 3 - 11, Paul works out a detailed explanation of the believer's death to sin. He tells us that's the reality in verse 2, and then he really unpacks it and unfolds it in its fullness of meaning in verses 3 - 11. And in the third section of this paragraph in verses 12 - 14; it is the practical application of the believer's death to sin, the practical application. Here's what to do with the theology Paul has been teaching us.

Now, again, let me remind you that the theme of this paragraph is crystal clear. Notice verse 1, "Are we to continue in sin?" Verse 2, "shall we … still live in … [sin]?" Verse 6, Paul says Christ has done what he's done "so that we … [would] no longer be slaves to sin…." Verse 12, "do not let sin reign in your mortal body…." Verse 13, "do not go on presenting the members of your body to sin…." Verse 14, "… sin shall not be master over you…."

You can see clearly the theme of the passage. Paul is not denying here that Christians sin or that sin is a serious trouble for us all. What Paul is denying is that true Christians are still enslaved to sin and continue to live in it as an unbroken pattern of life. Because we are in Christ, because of what Christ, as our representative has accomplished in our place, Paul says we have experienced a radical change in our relationship to sin.

Now, Paul begins this paragraph by introducing us to a flawed conclusion about the believer's sin. This conclusion was one that was often put forward by Paul's opponents, and it was even a question some true believers had about the relationship believers have to sin. And so, he deals with this in verses 1 and 2. Notice verse 1, "What shall we say then?" That is, in light of what he had just said in 5:20 and 21, the end of chapter 5. What shall we say since where sin abounds, grace super abounds, and since we're in Christ, grace reigns?

Verse 1, does that mean we are "to continue in sin so that grace may increase?" The key word in that sentence is the word "continue." The Greek word means, "to continue in an activity, to persist, to persevere, so Paul says, "Is it okay for true believers to persist in, to continue in, to persevere in, a continuing pattern and habit of sin?" And what's Paul's answer? Look at verse 2, "May it never be!" May it never happen, Paul says. He says that is absolutely abhorrent; that is unthinkable. In the King James, trying to capture the idea in King James English, translated this expression, "God forbid."

Now, what comes next in verse 2 of Romans 6 is one of those defining moments in Scripture. You see, there are times in our study of the Scripture when we come across a statement that simply stands head and shoulders above the rest. It's all Scripture. It's all inspired, but we come to these statements that are huge, and the one we come to today is one of those. It stands as a great sequoia in the forest of biblical truth, a Mount Everest in the Himalayan range of Scripture. In Romans 6:2 we have one of those singular statements, one of the most foundational and fundamental statements in the entire Scripture. In fact, James Montgomery Boice, in his commentary writes this, "To understand this statement is to understand how to live a holy life." Let me say that again, "To understand this statement [that we're going to study today] is to understand how to live a holy life."

Boice goes on to say, "I would go so far as to say that Romans 6:2 is the most important verse in the Bible for believers and evangelical churches to understand today." And while he's with the Lord, what he wrote just a couple of decades ago is absolutely still true today. This is absolutely crucial. Understanding what Paul says in verse 2 and in the rest of the paragraph as he unpacks that is foundational to dealing with sin in your life. And more than that, it's foundational to enjoying an increasing sense of your security and confidence in your justification.

So, let's look at it together. Verse 2, "How shall we who died to sin still live in it?" Now, this is a great translation of what the Greek text says here, but I think it's important for you to understand something. In English, sentence word order is important. You have to track with a certain word order because our language is not an inflected language. It doesn't have endings on the words that tell you how the words function. The way we know how the word is functioning in the sentence is the order in which it falls. Your subject has to be in a certain place, and your verb, and then your direct object, and where those nouns lie tell you what the meaning of the sentence is.

That's not how it works in Greek. Greek is an inflected language; it has endings on the word, and those endings allow you to know how that word is functioning regardless of where it's placed in the sentence. So, you can move the words around and still understand what role that word plays in the sentence. And Greek authors do that. In Greek, word order is primarily about emphasis. New Testament authors will often put the most important idea either first in the sentence [that's the way it normally works], or on occasion, at the end of sentence to really punctuate it, out of order as we would think about it, but to make a point.

So, let me read to you verse 2, that seminal sentence in verse 2 as it literally reads in the Greek text. Here's what Paul says, "Those who died to sin how still shall we continue to live in it?" Those who died to sin how still shall we continue to live in it? In other words, he puts first this quality that is true of all Christians. He's emphasizing: we share this reality; we share this by nature; and so, it's incongruent with that for us to continue to live in sin. Now, one way to say it is this: we, being what we are, those who have died to sin, how shall we continue to live in it? How shall we continue to live in it?

Now, Paul is not here asking the means by which we might live in sin. "How" is normally a word we use that way. As Wallace says, "Paul is asking the rightness or the "oughtness" to phrase a word, even the possibility of such a lifestyle for one who has died to sin." In other words, Paul is pointing out in this sentence the illogical nature of arguing that a Christian (think about this for a moment), think about the illogic of this, of arguing that a Christian who died to sin would continue to live in it. That doesn't even make sense. I died to sin, but I live in it. It's illogical. That's Paul's point. We who, by our nature as believers, died to sin, how could it ever be that we would continue to live in it?

Now, if you're tracking with me (and I hope you are), the real question comes down to a question you may be asking in your mind and that is, "Okay, I get it, I see what Paul's doing there, but what does he mean?" What does Paul mean by, "We died to sin?" That is the key to understanding this entire passage. What does he mean? Well, as we often do, I don't begin with what Paul means. I want to begin with what "we died to sin" does not mean. And the reason I want to start here is because there's a lot of misunderstanding out there, and I suspect by the time I'm done, many of us here will have embraced one of these bad ideas about what this means. So, I want to sort of clear the landscape a bit, clear the foundation of the rubble, so we can build appropriately.

So, let's start then with what "we died to sin" does not mean. Now, if you want to study this in more detail, both Lloyd Jones and James Montgomery Boice have really helpful explanations of a number of wrong ways to interpret this passage. But I just want to summarize the primary wrong interpretations of this passage.

There are primarily five common misinterpretations of this seminal statement by the apostle Paul. Let's look at these wrong interpretations.

Number one, Paul does not mean when he says we died to sin. He does not mean that we died to the influence of sin or to a sensitivity to sin. This is what Wesleyan perfectionism teaches out of the Methodist tradition. This is what they teach. Now, this argument normally is presented by analogy, always beware of theology by analogy. But here's how it's normally presented, it goes something like this, they'll say, "Okay Paul says, 'We died to sin; so you tell me what is the chief characteristic of a dead body.'" And the answer you're supposed to give is, "It's senses cannot respond to external stimuli." And of course, that's true of a dead body.

So, they'll say, "Here's an illustration of it. Let's say you're walking down the street, and you come to a dog lying there in the street, and you're not sure whether that dog is living or dead. What do you do to discern that?" Well, the illustration says, "You go over to the dog, and you gently nudge it with your foot." Now, I think that's probably contra-indicated. I wouldn't suggest that, but that's how the illustration goes. And they say, "If you nudge the dog with your foot, and it jumps up and runs away, or it starts barking and snarling at you, then you can conclude it's alive." How do you conclude that? Because it responded to the external stimuli of your foot. On the other hand, the illustration says, "If the dog just lies there, and if you kind of continue to nudge it, and eventually you kick it, and it never moves, then it's safe to conclude that it's dead." And so those who teach this position say that since Paul says we have died to sin, it means you are no longer responsive to sin like a dead body isn't responsive to that nudge from your foot.

Here's how C. J. Vaughan, one who takes this position, describes it, "A dead man cannot sin, and you are dead. Be in relation to all sin as impassive, as insensible, as immovable as he who has already died." In other words, this view teaches that we are dead to the attraction to sin, the inherent appeal of sin, and even insensitive to responding to it. In fact, perfectionism, Wesleyan perfectionism, teaches that the perfected Christian no longer has an inward disposition to sin, and he commits no willful outward acts of sin. That kind of redefines what sin is. Of course, it's pretty obvious that all of us sin. So, it kind of reclassifies some things. But that's what they teach.

Now, there are huge problems with this view. First of all, it ignores the context. In the second half of chapter 7 we're going to encounter the apostle Paul who is more than thirty years a Christian and an apostle, and he's talking about his struggle with sin.

Secondly, this view makes Paul's commands in this very paragraph nonsensical. If this is what Paul meant, why would he say, "If I am completely insensitive to sin…." Why would he say in verse 11 that I'm to consider myself as dead to sin? Verse 12, that I'm not to let sin reign in my mortal body, to go on obeying its lusts, and I'm not to go on presenting the members of my body to sin as instruments of unrighteousness. Why would he even need to say that? And so, it's nonsensical. And let me just say, if you're here this morning, and you're breathing (and I hope most of you are), you know this isn't true. If you're a Christian, you just know this isn't the right explanation because it's never true. In fact, it delivers something that is disillusioning.

One commentator put it this way, he said, "The mirage (I love that word), the mirage of absolute deliverance from sin has been reflected in the eyes of so many souls thirsting for holiness, but it soon vanishes before the touch of sin's experience." That's exactly right. People are taught this, and they are like, "Wonderful! I can be free from my sin. I can live in Christ-likeness perfectly in this life. That's a wonderful thing. That's what I want." And then they begin to try to put it into practice, and it becomes terribly disillusioning because it's not long before the reality, the bite of sin, is back, and then it didn't work, or worse, God didn't work. God hasn't kept His Word, and it all stems from a misunderstanding of what Paul is teaching here.

A second misinterpretation of "we died to sin" is that we should, that's the keyword. "We should die to sin as the secret to Christian victory," That's the word you'll hear. This is Keswick teaching or "Deeper Life" teaching ("Higher Life" it's sometimes called). This view teaches the secret to the Christian life, and they use that word a lot (the secret, kind of a Gnostic knowledge that only some have), the secret to the Christian life is that you must crucify your old man, and that's again a phrase they use.

When I was a new believer, I was fed a lot of books that taught this view of holiness, a very mystical approach, and the writings of Watchman Nee and Witness Lee. These were books that were given to me and their followers. This view says, "Essentially you need to stop living. Stop trying to live your Christian life. Just stop and let Christ live His life through you, and you sort of fade into the background, and Christ lives for you." One of the favorite expressions of this view is, "Let go and let God. You're trying too hard. You just need to depend on God. Let Him live His life through you."

Beloved, can I say frankly to you? When you hear words like the "deeper life" or "victory over sin" or any other kind of spiritual secret that promises to catapult you to a new and higher level of spirituality, here's my advice to you, run; don't walk. Get away from it. It's deadly to your spiritual life. I can tell you that by experience.

In fact, interestingly, at this last week's board meetings, John MacArthur was talking about how he also, early in his Christian life, was exposed to this and just how debilitating and deadly it was. If you have some books by Watchman Nee and Witness Lee, don't give them to somebody else. Just burn them. Throw them away. They are deadly. There is no secret. There is no shortcut. Here's the biblical reality. You will fight with sin every moment you breathe in this life, and you will only overcome it inch by bloody inch! That's what the Scriptures teach. That's why the most common New Testament metaphor for spiritual growth is physical growth. Think about that for a moment. It is a slow painful process. There is no secret that allows you to go to bed one night a spiritual child and wake up the next day a spiritual adult, just as it doesn't work in the physical realm either.

But here's the good news. If you will use the means of grace that the Spirit has given us consistently, if you will regularly be in the Word of God, if you will regularly be in prayer, if you will absorb yourself in the life of the church, those are the resources the Spirit has given us. If you will do that, I promise you this, on the authority of the Word of God, you will grow spiritually. And over time, as you look at sections of your life, you will be able to look back and see that there is a decreasing pattern of habits of sin and an increasing pattern of habits of righteousness. That's what spiritual growth looks like. So, forget the idea of some secret to spiritual victory.

Now this view has two (has a lot of problems), but it has two primary problems.

Number one, it ignores the verb tense. Remember, Paul says we "died," past tense singular event, happened at a moment in the past. This view makes it future whenever you catch this idea, and you start doing it. So, it just doesn't fit with what Paul says.

In addition, the image itself doesn't work because, guess what, you can't crucify yourself physically or spiritually. Now those first two misinterpretations are clearly not what Paul means here, but let me add, they're not what Paul means anywhere else either. Those are bad ideas that are patently unbiblical.

The next three misinterpretations of this passage are taught elsewhere in Scripture and are therefore true and biblical. They're just not what Paul intended to teach here in Romans 6. So, these still are wrong interpretations of this passage, but they're biblical ideas.

Number three, we ought to be dying to sin daily. Now, the primary point of this view is to reinforce the biblical concept that genuine Christians will be putting sin to death daily in their lives and that is true; but here's the key. It's never expressed in this language. We are never told to increasingly die to sin. What are we told biblically? We're told to put sin to death in our lives. Those are two different things. We're not told to increasingly die to sin. We're told to put sin to death. We already died to sin, and now we're to put sin to death in our lives. That's what the Scriptures teach.

Now, advocates of this position will cite passages like 1 Corinthians 15:31 where Paul says, "I die daily." But look at that passage in its context. Paul is not saying there that he was daily dying to sin. In that context, he was talking about daily facing the threat of physical death, and he was saying, "Every day, I've got to yield my physical life, and that may be my last," and so, in a sense, he died daily. That's the point of that passage. And again, this view has to change Paul's verb tense. If you take this view that we ought to be dying to sin daily, it's not "we died to sin," its "we are dying to sin." That's not what Paul says.

Number four, a fourth misinterpretation of this verse means we died with Christ to the guilt and penalty of sin. This is what one of the great commentators the book of Romans teaches, and it's a great commentary, a man by the name of Robert Haldane. Haldane writes this, "This expression, 'We died to sin,' exclusively indicates the justification of believers and their freedom from the guilt of sin.'" In other words, Haldane and all those who take this would say, "This statement in verse 2 and all of chapter 6 have nothing to do with the power of sin in the believer's life but only with the guilt and penalty of sin being dealt with in Christ."

Now what this point is making is a true point. In Christ, we did die to the guilt and penalty of sin; the problem with this view is in saying that that's what Paul means here. How do we know that's not what Paul is teaching here? Context! Context always directs us. What is Paul's question that he's answering? Remember he's giving an answer in verse 2. What's his question? Look back at verse 1, "Are we [that is we who were already justified believers who have already seen the guilt and penalty of sin addressed] are we to continue in sin that grace may increase?" So, if all Paul says in verse 2 is that we died to the guilt of sin, then he doesn't even answer his own question. It doesn't follow. It's a non sequitur. So, this view doesn't fit either.

And the fifth misinterpretation comes from none-the-less than the great Princeton theologian Charles Hodge. Rarely do I disagree with Charles Hodge. He's a great commentator on the book of Romans. But Hodge says that when Paul says here, "We died to sin," he means this, "We renounced sin when we first repented, when we first came to Christ." Now, the good thing about this view is it agrees that we died in the past as a decisive event, but it defines that decisive event as our repentance at the time of our salvation. In repentance we renounced our sin, and that's true. When you turned away from your sin in repentance, you were renouncing that sin, you were saying, "I don't want to have anything else to with it." That's true, and what Hodge says is, "That's what Paul meant here when he said, 'We died to sin.'" Hodge, "No man can apply to Christ to be delivered from sin in order that he may live in it." In other words he's saying, "Look, when you came to Christ, you repented; you renounced your sin, and it's a total contradiction for you to continue to live in sin."

Now, this view is commendable and certainly what it teaches is biblically true; but it's not what Paul is teaching here. How do we know? Again, in context, this view says that dying to sin is something we do; we repented; we renounced our sin, but clearly what Paul is talking about here is something God does. It's not something we did, but something that was done to us by God. We died to sin. So, none of those five common misinterpretations work. They don't fit the flow and context. And the first two of them don't even the theology of Scripture at all.

So, let's consider then, what it does mean. Let's look at what "we died to sin" does, in fact, mean. Now, let me remind you what we've already discovered. We've already discovered that it's a one-time event, died. It's a one-time event. It happened in the past. In context, it happened because of our relationship, our union with Christ as our representative. We're in Christ in chapter 5 instead of in Adam, and it happened at the moment we were transferred from being in Adam to in Christ. In other words, at the moment of regeneration when we were born again, when we were made a new creation in Christ, it happened at the moment of your salvation. You died to sin.

But what exactly does it mean that every believer died to sin? Well, again the answer is found in the context. Let me show you. Go to 5:21, Paul says, "as sin reigned in death." What's he talking about? He's talking about your life before Christ. Before you came to Christ (BC, before Christ), sin reigned in your life, and it produced death. And then he says, "even so (because) grace" came, now grace "… reign(s) through righteousness to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord." This is your life AD, anno Domini, in the year of our Lord, after you came to Christ. So, before Christ, sin reigned. You come to Christ, and a radical change happens. You're now where grace reigns. Sin no longer reigns. Grace reigns.

Now, keep that in mind and go down to 6:6. Paul repeats this in a different way, "knowing this, that our old self was crucified with Him…." By the way, we'll talk about that next week, but notice it doesn't say you need to crucify yourself. It says your "old self was crucified with Him, in order that our body of sin might be done away with, so that [watch this, the end of verse 6] so that we would no longer be slaves to sin…." We would no longer be under the reign of sin.

Verse 7, "for he who has died is freed from sin." no longer a slave to sin, the reign of sin is over. Go down to verse 14; this is how Paul summarizes all that he has taught in the first 14 verses, "For sin shall not be master over you…." That's not a "sometime in the future that might happen." No, this is an axiom. He's saying, "If you're a Christian, there's no way sin is going to be your master."

So, what is he saying then? In context, Paul is talking about the reign of sin, the rule of sin. So when he says, "… we … died to sin …" he means that we died to its reign, to its dominion, to its domination, to its slavery.

For the Christian, his or her slavery to sin was shattered at the moment of salvation. The reign of sin ended in your life the very moment you were converted. Again, if you're thinking with me, I can anticipate what perhaps your initial response to that might be. You might say, "Tom, how can that possibly be true? Look at the struggle I continue to have with sin; look at the power of temptation that I still face daily."

Listen, Paul is not denying here the presence or practice of sin. He's going to get to that in chapter 7. That's a reality. What he is denying is that the Christian still lives under the slavery of sin, under the reign of sin. Now, if you're having trouble getting your arms around this, that's okay. Paul's going to further explain it in detail in verses 3 - 11, but in addition to that, Scripture gives us a couple of illustrations. And as we work our way through this passage, we're going to see a number of illustrations. But my personal favorite, for me the most helpful illustration Scripture uses to get this idea across to us is this: at the moment of salvation, we experience a change of realms or kingdoms, change of realms or kingdoms.

That's right here in the text. Look back at 5:21, before Christ, BC, sin reigned in your life. That was the kingdom to which you belonged. That was the monarch whom you served, sin, you were a slave to sin. But when you went from being "in Adam" at the moment of salvation to being "in Christ," something radically changed. You no longer were in the kingdom where sin reigns (look at verse 21). You were transferred to the kingdom where grace reigns. So, BC, sin reigns; you're converted, the moment you repent and believe, now grace reigns. You're in a different kingdom. You're serving a different master. When Christ became your representative, you were moved from the realm or the kingdom where sin reigns, and you were transferred to the realm where grace reigns. This is radical!

And by the way, Scripture teaches this in other places. For example, Colossians 1:13 says that God rescued us from the domain, the kingdom of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of His beloved Son. That's what happened to you at the very moment of salvation. You changed realms. You changed kingdoms. Just like those people in Europe who, a few minutes before were in the reign of Nazi Germany, and a few minutes later, they were in the reign of the West. That happened to you. That happened to you at the very moment of salvation.

Acts 26:18, Paul is giving his testimony, and he says, "Here's what Christ called me to do and what the gospel was to accomplish." Acts 26:18, "to open their eyes so that they may turn from darkness to light and from the dominion of Satan [from the kingdom and domination of Satan] to God…." [to the kingdom and domination of God.] You changed kingdoms. That's what happened to you on the day you were saved.

Lloyd-Jones puts it this way, "In what sense have I, as a Christian, died to sin? I answer, "I have died to the reign of sin. Not only to the guilt of sin, I have died to the reign and rule of sin." If you are a believer on the Lord Jesus Christ, if you are justified by faith, if you are in Christ, you are dead to the reign of sin; you are under the reign of grace. And then he ends this way, "We are out of sin's territory altogether." You changed territories; you changed kingdoms; you changed kings.

You see, everyone in this room this morning, everyone on this planet, everyone who ever has lived or ever will live, lives either in the realm of and under the reign of sin, or in the realm of and under the reign of grace. Paul's point is: at the moment of your salvation, when you became united to Jesus Christ, you experienced a radical fundamental change. You died to sin, that is to the reign of sin in your life. You changed realms to which you belong; you went from the reign of sin to the reign of grace; from the kingdom of darkness into the kingdom of light; from the domain of Satan into the domain of God himself. And it was such a radical change that Paul is going to unpack it here, and he's going to say the only way to describe what happened to you, believer, at the moment of your salvation is, "It's like you died." The person you used to be died, and you were raised to a completely new person. And you changed kingdoms. You went from a kingdom where sin reigned to a kingdom where grace reigns; a radical, radical change.

Now, Paul is, if you're still catching up don't worry, Paul's going to unpack this more. But let's apply what we've learned so far. Let me give you three quick application points.

Number one, if you're not a Christian here this morning, and you know you're not a Christian, I say this very graciously to you, but you need to know that this is God's diagnosis of your current condition. He says, "You are a slave to your sin. You're still a slave." You may think you're free; you may think you're enjoying what you're doing; you're not free. If you doubt that, just try to stop those patterns of sin that characterize your life, and you will see just how much a slave you are, as we all were. Your only hope is the hope we've found and that is in Jesus Christ. He Himself said it this way in John 8, He said, "Truly, truly, I say to you, everyone (that's everyone) who commits sin (who is committing sin as a pattern) is the slave of sin." That's Jesus; you're a slave of sin. But if "the son makes you free, you will be free indeed." Jesus Christ can free you from the guilt and penalty of your sin through His life, His perfect life, lived in the place of those who believe in Him through His substitutionary death, died to pay the justice of God for the sins that His people had committed and then raised from the dead on the third day. He can free you from the guilt and penalty of sin, but He'll go beyond that. He'll do what this passage is teaching. He will free you on the day you believe in Him from the slavery to sin that you have today. He has the power to do that and He alone. I plead with you; don't put it off. Why would you live in slavery anymore? Why? Make today the day you cry out to the one who can make you free.

A second point of application is this: if you're here this morning and you profess to be a Christian, and if you want to know if your faith is real, here is a test of the reality of your faith. If you're a genuine Christian, this radical change in your relationship to sin happened. It happened at the moment you were saved, and it's evident in your life. You see, continuing to live under the reign of sin is completely incompatible with being a Christian because Christians live under the reign of grace and sin is no longer their master.

Now, don't misunderstand me, Paul isn't saying Christians don't sin. Christians do sin. The Bible doesn't teach perfectionism in this life. Christians continue to sin. They sin less as they grow, but they continue to sin. What Paul is talking about is we're no longer slaves to sin; it's not the dominating force in our lives that it was before Christ.

Morris puts it this way in his commentary, "The Christian may sin, but sinning is out of character. It is a declension from his norm, not his habitual practice." So just ask yourself, "Is sin in your life? Is it the habitual practice that describes who you are? Or is it the anomaly, and the pursuit of holiness and likeness to Christ is what really characterizes you?" Your answer to that question will tell you the reality of your faith. Sin remains in a Christian, but sin does not reign in the Christian.

A third applicational point is this, if you are a Christian, if you pass the test, if there is a pattern of holiness and righteousness in your life, and sin is far more of an anomaly then it is a characterizing attribute, how does the fact that you died to the reign of sin give you hope and security and confidence? Remember, that's the theme of this section. How does it do that? Because Paul doesn't just say that you're no longer under sin's reign, he goes on, back in 5:21, to say you're under grace's reign now.

Think about what Paul is saying, "Christian, you are not just forgiven; you are forgiven, but you're not just forgiven. You're not merely justified. If you're in Christ, you are justified, but you are not merely justified. You now live in a new kingdom." This isn't about how you feel or whether you feel like that's true; this is reality; this is fact. And in the kingdom you now live in grace reigns, and it reigns with a greater power than sin reigned before. Think about that. Did sin enslave you to wickedness? Of course! Grace reigns in a Christian's life, and what does it produce? Look at 5:21; it produces righteousness; where sin abounded, grace abounded more. The reign of sin produced slavery to sin. The reign of grace produces righteousness.

Here's the encouragement for you, Christian. On the day you became a Christian, your slavery to sin was forever ended. And here's the good news; the grace that now reigns in your life will keep on producing more righteousness. You will never, you will never be enslaved to sin again. It ended by the work of Christ on the day that you were saved. The reality of sin is still there, but you're no longer captive to it; it no longer reigns in your life. Your ultimate and complete salvation is guaranteed because grace reigns, and it will keep doing what grace does. It will produce righteousness in your life until the day God presents you faultless before His presence with exceeding joy.

Let's pray together.

Father, we are overwhelmed by the truths that we've studied together today, and we fear that we fail yet to fully comprehend them. But I pray over the coming couple of weeks as Paul explains this further, that You would increase our understanding and that it would have the impact on our lives that You intend it to have. Father, we see already that this is absolutely foundational to understand in order to live a holy life. Father, make it clearer in our minds in the weeks to come, and may we live in light of it, and may it provide confidence and security.

Thank you, Father, that grace now reigns in our lives, and it is as certain to produce righteousness, as the reign of sin was to produce wickedness. Father, we bless You for your grace in Christ.

I pray for those here this morning who came in knowing that they're not in Christ. Lord, help them to see the reality of their condition as You have outlined it and as our Lord outlined it. Help them to see that while they think they're free, they're slaves, slaves to sin, and that Christ is the only one who can set them free, and may they run to Him today and find Him more than able to end their slavery.

Father, I pray for those who came in professing Christ but who deny that profession by their lives, who continue to live in a pattern of unbroken sin. Father, I pray that You would remove their spiritual blindness; help them to see their true condition that that is completely incongruous with someone for whom the reign of sin has ended and the reign of grace has begun, and may today be the day that they genuinely come in repentance and faith and find freedom in Christ.

We pray this in Jesus's name, Amen.