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Sin Is Not Your Master - Part 3

Tom Pennington • Romans 6:1-14

  • 2017-05-14 AM
  • Romans
  • Sermons


We've been studying together Romans 6, and I invite you to take your Bibles and turn there again this morning. As I've noted to you, if we follow the apostle Paul's own structure, he builds this chapter around two questions. The first question is in verse 1 of chapter 6; the second question is in verse 15. So, in light of that, we can outline the chapter of Romans, the sixth chapter of Romans this way: verses 1 - 14, Paul teaches us that we are no longer slaves of sin; and then in verses 15 - 23, he teaches us that we are now slaves of God and of righteousness.

Now we're in the middle of the first half of this great chapter. Last week I outlined the first section, verses 1 - 14, for you. And we outlined it like this.

In verses 1 and 2, there's a flawed conclusion about the believer's sin.

Secondly, in verses 3 - 11, there's a detailed explanation by Paul of the believer's debt to sin.

And then in verses 12 - 14, the practical application of the believer's death to sin.

Now, it's important that I begin where I have each week, and that is to remind you that Paul is not here denying that believers sin. Nor is he denying that sin is a serious struggle for us all. What Paul is denying is that true Christians are still enslaved to sin as they were before Christ. He's arguing that they cannot continue to live in sin in an unbroken pattern. We are in Christ. Because of the radical change that has happened, because we are now connected to Him, there has been a radical change in our relationship to sin as well.

Now, Paul begins the paragraph by introducing us to a flawed conclusion about the believer's sin in verses 1 and 2. He quotes perhaps some of his opponents, or maybe the misunderstanding that some Christians had had of the gospel he preached, and so he begins in verse 1 like this. "What shall we say then?" He's going back to the end of chapter 5 where he's just said that where sin increases, grace abounds all the more. "What shall we say...? Are we to continue in sin so that grace may increase?" Is it acceptable for Christians to continue living in a pattern of sin? Paul's response comes in verse 2. "May it never be!" God forbid! May it never happen! It's unthinkable!

And then in the second half of verse 2 (as I noted for you last week) we have one of the most foundational statements about who we are in Christ that's found anywhere in the Scripture. Notice verse 2. "How shall we who died to sin still live in it?" Notice what Paul says about us who are Christians. "… we ... died to sin." And we could rephrase the question like this. It's sort of the implication from the Greek language which would be this: we being what we are, we being those who died to sin, how shall we continue to live in it? Obviously, the key to unlocking this passage is understanding what it means when Paul says we died to sin.

Last week, we considered what that does not mean. And I'm not going to re-explain these. I'll just note them. If you weren't here last week, I'd encourage you to go online and listen, because this is foundational.

But Paul does not mean, when he says we died to sin, that we died to the influence of or sensitivity to sin. In other words, you didn't die to sin's attractiveness. It still is very attractive to you, even if you're a Christian.

Number two, he doesn't mean that we should die to sin as some sort of secret to Christian victory. This is taught in the Deeper Life or Higher Life movement.

Thirdly, he doesn't mean that we ought to be dying to sin daily. Now, the concept of that—not in those words—but that idea is taught elsewhere in Scripture. But that's not what Paul is teaching here.

Fourthly, he doesn't mean that we died with Christ to the guilt and penalty of sin. Again, that is a biblical concept. You did die with Christ to the guilt and penalty of sin, but that's not what Paul is teaching here. And we discovered as well last week that what Hodge teaches, and that is that we renounced sin when we first repented—that is true. But again, that's not what Paul is teaching in this text.

So, what does he mean? What does it mean that we died to sin? Well, we noted that in the context Paul is talking about the reign of sin. If you go back to 5:21, he says when you were an unbeliever, before Christ, sin reigned in your life. He comes back to that same idea in 6:6 and 7. You were a slave, and I was a slave of sin. Verse 14, sin was a master over us. That's the context. So therefore, when Paul says we died to sin, He means here that we died to its reign, to its dominition, to its dominion, to its slavery. For the Christian, his or her slavery to sin was broken at the moment of salvation. Paul's point is that at the very moment you were converted, at that time when God made you alive, when He gave you faith and repentance, and you believed the gospel. When you became united to Jesus Christ, you experienced a radical, fundamental change. You, believer, died to sin; that is, you died to the reign of sin. It was a change in the realm to which you belong. Before Christ, you lived under the reign of sin. After Christ, grace reigns. Now that's where we left off last time.

Today we move on with Paul to a detailed explanation of the believer's death to sin. We see this in verses 3 - 11. In verse 2, he just makes that foundational statement "… we ... died to sin." Now he's going to give us a detailed explanation of what he meant. But the way he begins his explanation in verse 3 is, frankly, shocking. Notice what he says. "We ... died to sin ... "Or do you not know...?" Do you not know? Paul assumes that the believers in Rome should know and would know about their union with Christ. Now, what makes that remarkable is remember that Paul didn't start the churches in Rome. In fact, he had never been to Rome. He had never visited the churches at Rome. This was his first letter to the Roman churches. And so, Paul expected them to know about their union with Christ simply because they were Christians. He assumed that whoever had taught them the Christian faith would have explained this vital truth to them.

You know, even as I say that—and I was thinking about that this week—you just realize the poverty of modern Christianity, because most of us grew up in churches where we never heard these truths preached. And yet Paul, writing to churches he'd never visited in the first century, says of course you know this. Understanding our union with Christ is crucial to our spiritual lives, so Paul just assumes that it is common knowledge among all Christians. But at the same time, he also knew that there were undoubtedly some who should have known this but who didn't. And so, he goes on to explain it in detail.

He begins by explaining the specific means of our death to sin. How did we die to sin? And his answer is through our union with Jesus Christ. You see this in verses 3 - 5. Let's read them together. Paul writes:

Or do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus have been baptized into His death? Therefore we have been buried with Him through baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life. For if we have become united with Him in the likeness of His death, certainly we shall also be in the likeness of His resurrection.

Now before we can exegete that passage together, we first have to make sure that we understand the nature of baptism in this passage. I think many Christians fail to really understand Romans 6 because of a confusion over the word "baptized." So, let's make sure that we, again, sort of clear the rubble from our thinking. Let me tell you what Paul is not saying here.

Number one, Paul is not teaching that water baptism saves us. This is the view of Sacramentalism. Sadly, there are denominations attached to Christianity like the Roman Catholic Church, the Greek Orthodox Church, the Anglican Church, and the Churches of Christ, that have used Romans 6 to teach that water baptism accomplishes our regeneration. They claim that it is the very act of baptism that unites a person with the Lord Jesus Christ and accomplishes our salvation. Now I could cite examples from any one of those denominations.

In the interest of time, let me just give you one. Here's what the Roman Catholic Church's official catechism (from their church website) teaches about baptism.

By baptism all sins are forgiven: original sin and all personal sins, as well as all punishment for sin. [The catechism goes on to say,] Baptism is a bath that purifies, justifies, and sanctifies. Baptism makes us members of the body of Christ. Baptism is birth into the new life in Christ. It is necessary for salvation.

It couldn't be any clearer. That's called baptismal regeneration: that we are actually saved in the act of baptism itself by accomplishing, by completing baptism. That is not what Paul is teaching here. That is a false gospel.

Now, Paul can't be teaching that for several reasons. Actually, there are many reasons. Let me just give you a few in the interest of time.

First of all, the consistent message of the New Testament is that only those who have already given evidence of regeneration are to be baptized. Take Acts 10:47. Peter, speaking of Cornelius, says, "Surely no one can refuse the water for these to be baptized who have received the Holy Spirit just as we did…." The receipt of the Holy Spirit, the new birth, precedes the work of baptism or the act of baptism. Baptism pictures the reality. It isn't the reality. Nor does it accomplish the reality. If you trace your way through the book of Acts, again and again you'll see expressions like having believed they were baptized or having repented they were baptized. Baptism follows regeneration, the new birth. It follows repentance and faith. It is not what accomplishes our salvation.

A second reason we know that's not what Paul is teaching here (give Paul a little credit for doctrinal consistency). He's not teaching in chapter 6 what is completely contrary to all that he's taught in the first 4 chapters. As we've seen it unfold in the first 4 chapters, Paul couldn't be clearer. We are justified, we're declared right with God, by faith in the work of Christ alone, and only by faith in the work of Christ alone. Paul can't be teaching something else now. Give him credit for being doctrinally consistent. He's not contradicting himself a few verses later.

Thirdly, if baptism is in fact so important, if it's essential to salvation, if it's what accomplishes salvation, then what in the world was Paul thinking in 1 Corinthians 1:14 when he said, "I thank God that I baptized none of you except Crispus and Gaius"? That doesn't even make sense if baptism is in fact at the heart of salvation.

But I think the crown jewel of my arguments that I have time to present this morning against this view is the whole book of Galatians. Read Galatians. And Paul says in the book of Galatians that adding even a divinely commanded practice, circumcision, to the gospel makes it a false gospel. So, we could substitute baptism. Add baptism to the true gospel, add something even that God has commanded to the true gospel, and it becomes a false gospel, a damning gospel. So, Paul is not teaching that water baptism saves us for those reasons and many more.

Secondly, Paul is not teaching here—and here is the key word in Romans 6. Paul is not teaching here that water baptism is a sign of the spiritual reality of our union with Christ. Paul does teach that in other places. And many commentators (in fact, I think it's fair to say most commentators) take this view of Romans 6. They agree, obviously, that Paul is not teaching baptism saves. They also agree that water baptism in and itself is not the spiritual reality, but Paul is using it as a picture here of the spiritual reality. That's what they would say. So, they would say he's still talking about water baptism, but not the act itself but the spiritual reality it represents.

I don't think that's true either. In fact, I think there're at least three reasons that Paul cannot be talking about water baptism at all in Romans 6. Let me give them to you.

Reason number one. There is no mention of water anywhere in the context. Read Romans 6 again and again, and you will never get wet. There's no water.

Number two. Water baptism is in fact a picture of spiritual realities, but those spiritual realities, almost all Evangelicals would agree, in fact all of them would—those realities don't occur at baptism. But Paul is talking here about a baptism that actually unites us to Christ. Notice verse 4. He says, "through baptism" we have been buried with Christ "into death." Whatever this baptism is, it actually unites us to Christ.

There's a third reason I would say there's no water baptism here in Romans 6, and that is all who have experienced this baptism have been baptized into Jesus' death. Look at verse 3. "All of us" who have experienced the baptism Paul is talking about "have been baptized into [Jesus'] death." In other words, all who've experienced this baptism are actually united to Christ. They're truly Christians. Now let me ask you a question. Are all of those who experience water baptism truly united to Jesus Christ? Obviously not. I mean we have biblical examples. Think of Acts 8, for example, where Simon is baptized and then proves to not be a true follower of Christ.

So, here's the key question. What baptism in the New Testament always unites a person to Jesus Christ? Because that's what Paul is teaching here. Paul is teaching here the baptism of the Holy Spirit. Go over to 1 Corinthians 12, 1 Corinthians 12. Now the context, Paul is laying a foundation about spiritual gifts. He's ultimately going to deal with the problem of the abuse of the gift of languages in Corinth, but he lays a foundation here about gifts generally. And he talks about Christ as the head, and the church (all of us) as His body, and that there is uniqueness in the body. Just as there are a lot of different members in your body, there are a lot of different members with a lot of different functions in Christ's body.

Notice verse 12. First Corinthians 12:12. "For"—now he's talking here about your physical body. OK? Think that. "For even as [your physical] body is one and yet has many members, and all the members of the body, though they are many, are one body." He says listen, the same thing is true about Christ and His body.

And notice verse 13. "For by one Spirit [that is, the Holy Spirit] we were all [no exceptions, all believers] baptized [past tense, we, all of us who are believers, were baptized in the past] into one body, whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free, and we were all made to drink of one Spirit."

He's not saying this is something you should seek. He's saying if you're a Christian, this is something that has already happened. We were all baptized into Christ. Christ is the head; we are His body. We are united to Him. We are joined to Him. How? What verse 13 is saying is that the Holy Spirit baptized (remember what the word "baptized" means? It means "to immerse."), the Holy Spirit immersed us all into the body of Christ at the moment of our salvation. This is the baptism of the Spirit. This isn't something that, as the Charismatic church teaches, that you should seek. This happened. "We were all baptized into one body." It's a reality. You see, Paul is not talking in Romans 6 about believer's baptism in water at all. Instead, he is talking about this spiritual reality that occurs at the moment of salvation: our union with Jesus Christ.

Now we've studied this as we've studied the last half of Romans 5, but let me just remind you of what it means. If you're a Christian, you are united to Jesus Christ. There is a union. What's the nature of that union? Well, two primary realities describe the nature of your union to Jesus Christ.

Number one. He has become your legal representative, and you receive all the benefits of His actions on your behalf. Remember the second half of Romans 5. You were in Adam; now you're in Christ. So that is the reality. He has become your legal representative.

But there's a second reality with this union with Christ. Not only that He's become our legal representative, but secondly, that He has become the source of our spiritual life. He sustains our lives. He gives us, supplies everything we need spiritually to live and exist.

You remember John 15, Jesus says, "Apart from Me you can do nothing." And in that context, what's the image that He draws? A vine with its branches. And we get the life we need to exist spiritually from Christ in the same way the branches get life from the vine. The Lord and His people share a common spiritual life. Colossians 3:4, "Christ ... is our life." We sang that this morning. Christ is our life. Or Galatians 2:20: "Christ lives in [us]." Christ lives in us. We are united to Christ. We get our spiritual life from Him. One theologian has described this aspect of our union with Christ as if there were a huge umbilical cord running from Christ to the life of every Christian. He sustains our lives spiritually as well as physically.

Now, with that understanding, go back to Romans 6. Paul's point in these verses is that our union with Christ is what has freed us from our slavery to sin. That union, that took place at the moment of our salvation, is what ended the reign of sin in our lives. 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?" Again, he's talking about that baptism by the Spirit, the immersion by the Spirit into Christ. That word "baptized" simply means "immersed, immersed into," or even "identified with." It's used that way, for example, in 1 Corinthians 10:1 and 2, where Paul says, "I … [don't] want you to be unaware, brethren, that our fathers" [back in the wilderness wanderings] "all were baptized into Moses." What does that mean? There's no water in that event. In fact, you remember that they walked through the sea on perfectly dry ground. So, what's the point? In what sense were they baptized into Moses? They were permanently identified with Moses.

That's the same idea here in Romans 6:3. Paul is saying that all who were immersed into Jesus Christ (who were identified with Him through the baptism of the Spirit that happened at the moment of salvation), all of us (notice verse 3) "have been baptized into [or identified with] His death." This is a reality for every Christian. Notice verse 6. "Our old self was crucified with Him."

Folks, this isn't something that just happens to the super spiritual Christians. This is a reality for every Christian. And it doesn't matter whether you feel like this happened to you or not. If you're a Christian, Paul's saying this happened to you. Nor does it matter whether or not you have yet come to fully understand that this happened to you and what it means. It still is a reality if you're in Christ. And if you're in Christ, then everything that Christ accomplished as your representative is true of you as well. He died; you died with Him. In what sense? You died to the reign of sin in your life.

Now when did that happen? Well, you have to be careful here, because you have been united with Christ from eternity past. Ephesians 1:4 says, the Father "chose us in Christ … before the foundation of the world." When Jesus died on the cross 2,000 years ago, when He was raised on Easter morning, we were in Christ. He was accomplishing that on the behalf of all of those who would ever believe. But we only actually were united to Christ at the moment of our conversion. Prior to that, remember, Paul says we were without Christ in the world; we were children of wrath. So, we were actually united with Christ at the moment that we believed, at the moment of our salvation.

Now with that in mind, look at verse 4. "Therefore." We died with Christ when He died—therefore. Paul's going to draw a conclusion from what he's just said. "… through baptism." Again, not through water baptism, but through the baptism of the Spirit that united us to Christ, placed us into His body at the moment of salvation. Through that baptism, Paul says in verse 4, "… we have been buried with Him ... into [His] death." Buried. Not only did we die with Christ, you were buried with Christ. Now why would he mention burial? Well, burial is proof, final proof that a person is dead. It emphasizes the finality of death. This was true of Jesus. When Jesus was buried, what was that a testament to? He was truly dead.

What Paul is saying is at salvation the Spirit united you to Christ, and at that moment (think about this), at that very moment, the person you used to be (before Christ) died. Your BC person died. That's what he's saying. And the death of your old self was as final as the death of Jesus. You died, and you were buried. That old self is gone and gone forever, never to live again. Listen to James Montgomery Boice:

Burial puts the deceased person out of this world permanently. A corpse is dead to life, but there's a sense in which it can still be said to be in life as long as it's around. But when it's buried, when it's placed in the ground and covered with earth, it is removed from the sphere of this life permanently. It is gone. Paul says, you have been buried to sin. To go back to sin once you've been joined to Christ is like digging up a dead body.

The person you used to be, Christian, the person you were before Christ, died with Christ. And when you were saved, at that moment, that old person you were ceased to exist, was buried with Christ. And that old person is gone forever. You will never be that person again. Your old life where sin reigned is dead and buried.

But Paul isn't done. Notice in verse 4 he adds, "We have been buried with Him through baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father…." Stop there for a moment. He's coming back to his analogy. He says OK, Christ died, and Christ was buried, but that was not the end of His story. Christ was also "raised from the dead through the glory of the Father." That is, through His glorious power. You can read about that in Ephesians 1:19 and 20. Just as we were united with Christ in His death, we are also united with Christ in His resurrection. Verse 4, "… so that as Christ was raised from the death through the glory of Father, so we too might walk in newness of life."

Folks, the death of your old self is no more the final part of your story than the death of Christ was the final part of His story. Your death to sin had a greater purpose. Paul says, "… we have been buried with Him ... into death, [notice] so that." There was a purpose for our death to sin. "So that ... we too might walk in newness of life." Christ was raised to new life. In the same way, you died to the person you used to be, and that old person was buried with Christ. Your old self is gone for good, never to be resurrected again. But God also intended that you would be raised with Christ to walk in a new life. You're a new person. You're not the person you used to be. At the very moment of salvation you were radically altered. Your BC person died, and now you have been made a new person in Jesus Christ.

Second Corinthians 5:17, says, "Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new … [creation]." It's like God made you new from scratch. You're a new person. You're not the person you once were. "… the old things passed away; behold, new things have come." Ephesians 2 describes it as a resurrection. You were dead in your trespasses and sins, but God made you alive. He gave you spiritual life.

Now, notice in Romans 6:5, Paul stresses the certainly that this new life will be a reality in the life of every true Christian. Notice verse 5. "For if…." And this isn't like calling it into question. We could translate it "since." "For [since] 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."

Now there are a couple of key words there in verse 5. First of all, notice the word "united." It's a really interesting word. It's a word that literally means "to graft one plant into another so that they grow together." This describes the intimacy of our relationship to Jesus Christ. It brings you back to that vine-branch image in John 15. You have been grafted into Christ, and now you that once were dead branch have life, the life of Christ.

And he goes on to say, notice, "We have become united [or we're growing together] with Him in the likeness of His death." Or we have grown together with Him in the likeness of His death. Why does he say "likeness"? Well, because our death and resurrection are not exactly like Jesus'. Jesus' death and resurrection were what? Literal. Physical. Our death and resurrection that he's talking about here is what? Spiritual. It's spiritual. But Paul's primary point in verse 5 is that word "certainly". It's the certainty of our being raised to new life with Christ. If we died with Him, we will be raised to new life as He was.

By the way, this isn't talking about the future resurrection of our bodies. Remember the context. The word "for" that begins verse 5 connects it back to verse 4. And what kind of life is Paul talking about in verse 4? He's talking about our being raised to new life here and now. Now we have been raised with Christ to a new spiritual life. We're no longer under the reign of sin as we were before Christ. The slavery to sin has been permanently shattered.

Do you understand, Christian, this is true of you? The old self, the person you were before Christ died at the moment of salvation, was buried. It's done. You'll never be that person again, and you have become a new creation in Jesus Christ.

Now Paul goes on to develop this. But I want to stop there, and I want to ask this question. What are the lessons that we have learned so far from this rich doctrinal section of Romans 6? Very briefly, there are three lessons.

Number one. The most important factor in dealing with the sin in your life is not primarily what you do. It's what you know. The most important factor in dealing with the sin in your life is not primarily what you do. It is what you know. Do you struggle with sin in your life as a believer? Of course you do. If you're still breathing, you're struggling with sin in your life.

But are you tempted to think that doctrine is unhelpful? I mean, are you sitting there thinking, you know what Tom, it would've been a lot more useful if you had skipped Romans 6, and you'd just given me some practical tips from your own experience about how to deal with sin. Let me suggest to you that that is probably the approach to your sin you've taken so far in your Christian life, and how well has that worked for you? Not very well, because the key to a holy life is knowing and understanding what has happened to you in Christ. That's why Paul is spending this time. Notice how he stresses it: verse 3, "do you not know"; verse 6, "knowing this"; verse 9, "knowing that Christ"; so forth.

In fact, in the first 14 verses of this chapter, Paul spends 11 of those 14 verses teaching us what we need to know: 1-10 and 14. He only spends three of those 14 verses focusing on what we need to do: 11 - 13. And when he finally gets to application in verse 11, notice what he tells us to do. Look at verse 11. "Even so consider yourselves to be dead to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus." The very first application of Paul isn't something you need to do. It's a way you need to think in light of what you've come to know.

Beloved, don't think that the rich theology of Romans 6 is impractical and unhelpful in your struggle with sin. The truth is the more you understand these truths, the better armed you are in your fight with indwelling sin and (I can promise you this) the more successful you will be.

There's a second major lesson in this section, and it's really Paul's chief point in this chapter. And that is: you cannot be a true Christian and continue to live in slavery to and under the reign of sin. Remember where he starts back in verse 1?

"Are we to continue [living] in sin that grace [may abound] may increase? May it never be!"

In fact, let me just speak very bluntly to you. If you are a true Christian, and you try to live in an ongoing pattern, an unbroken pattern of sin in your life, I can promise you this. God won't let you. God won't let you. If you're a true Christian, one of two things will happen.

The first thing that will happen is God will discipline you as He promised in Hebrews 12:6. He disciplines every son He loves. Just like we love our children, and we don't let them stray into things that are destructive, God is a good Father as well. He's not going to let that happen. And so, God will discipline you if you try to live in an ongoing pattern of unrepentant sin.

And if you don't respond to His discipline, then there's a second thing God will do. He will take your life. That's what Paul says in 1 Corinthians 11:30. He says there were believers in Corinth who hadn't responded to God's discipline, and as a result God had taken their lives prematurely. But God is not going to let you (if you're a true believer) continue to walk in a pattern of sin year after year, decade after decade. He's not that kind of father. He will discipline, or He will take your life.

But, if you have returned to the old life that was yours before you professed Christ; and you have continued living in that lifestyle and pattern of sin uninterrupted, year after year, decade after decade; and you have never seen the discipline of God; He hasn't taken your life, then that only leads you to one conclusion. You have never been a true Christian at all, because He disciplines every son He loves.

And my plea with you this morning it to realize that. You know, we live in north Texas where nearly everyone's a Christian. And you may have walked in this morning professing that. But understand what Paul is saying here. If you have lived year after year, decade after decade, in a pattern of unrepentant sin, and God has not brought His discipline into your life, He hasn't taken your life, then you're not His. Because God doesn't discipline other people's children. And what you need to do today is to find yourself alone and cry out for God to change you like this passage describes, to make you new, a new creation. Come in repentance and faith to Christ.

What we've studied this morning also fits into the larger message of this entire section, chapters 5 - 8. And it's this: if you are in Christ, you are secure. Lloyd Jones writes,

There is nothing in the whole range and realm of doctrine, which if properly grasped and understood, gives greater assurance, greater comfort, and greater hope than this doctrine of our union with Christ.

Do you understand that when Jesus died and was buried and rose again, that neither sin nor death could ever get a hold on Him again? It was done once and forever. And if you were united to Jesus Christ, if you have been by the Spirit united to Christ, then the same thing is true for you. Your old self is dead and buried never to raise its head again. You have become a new creation in Jesus Christ. You can never go back. And if you're in Christ you don't want to go back. You want to go forward. And what it means practically is that the Spirit will continue His work in your life because you're now under the reign of grace. Grace will have as much rule in your life as sin once did, and it will produce righteousness, according to 5:21. And so, if you're really a believer, then I can assure you of this. There will be (over the period of your life there will be) an increasing pattern of righteousness and a decreasing pattern of sin, because sin no longer reigns. Grace reigns. You are in Christ.

Let's pray together.

Father, seal these magnificent truths to our hearts. Lord, help us to think about them, meditate on them, seek to apply them. As we continue to work our way through this passage, Father, let these truths grip our souls. Help us to grow in what we know and then apply what we know.

Father, I pray for those here this morning who came in professing Christ but who are living a lie, who are living in a life of unrepentant, ongoing patterns of sin for years, for decades. Lord, help them to see that if they haven't experienced Your disciplining hand, if You have let them live in that pattern this long, that they don't know You at all. And may this be the day when they cry out to You to save them, to change them, to make them new. And Father, thank You that in Christ You hear that prayer. I pray that they would commit themselves today to follow Christ.

In whose name we pray, amen.