One of the imageries that Jesus uses to describe Teachers of the Law and Pharisees is ‘whitewashed tombs’ (Matthew 23:27) which ‘look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of dead men’s bones and everything unclean’ (v27). Jesus continues to explain that, ‘In the same way, on the outside you appear to people as righteous but on the inside you are full of hypocrisy and wickedness’ (v28). In ancient days, a tomb marked status and distinguished those who were highly esteemed. For instance, when Abraham’s wife, Sarah, died while they lived among the Hittites, he asked the locals to ‘Sell me some property for a burial site here so that I can bury my dead’ (Genesis 23:3).
Instead of selling to Abraham the property, the Hittites replied, ‘Hear us, my lord. You are a mighty prince among us. Bury your dead in the choicest of our tombs. None of us will refuse you his tomb for burying your dead’ (v6). Since Abraham was esteemed, he was given a choice tomb to bury his wife. When Jesus lay dead on the cross, Joseph of Arimathea ‘a rich man’ (Matthew 27:57), a ‘prominent member of the Council’ (Mark 15:43), and a secret ‘disciple of Jesus’ (John 19:38) asked ‘Pilate for the body of Jesus’ (v38). He then laid Jesus’s body, ‘At the place where Jesus was crucified, there was a garden, and in the garden a new tomb, in which no one has ever been laid’ (v41). Joseph highly esteemed Jesus and so gave Him a befitting burial, and in a new tomb.
Likewise, kings, royal households, prophets, and righteous men were highly esteemed, and so were given befitting burials. This meant a lot for the Jewish community because burials not only showed status, but also signified legacy. When King Ahab and his wife, Jezebel, greatly displeased God, Nathan the Prophet tells Ahab that, ‘dogs will lick your blood – yes yours!’ (1 Kings 21:19) and to his wife, ‘Dogs will devour Jezebel by the wall of Jezreel’ (v23). As punishment for their wickedness, they would not die a natural death, or get a befitting burial, even though they served as Israel’s royalty. Same goes for King Saul who continually displeased God, and eventually took his own life and was buried ‘under a tamarisk tree’ (1 Samuel 31:13). It is in this context whereby death and burial signified much to the Jews that Jesus spoke. In fact, Jesus tells the Teachers of the Law, ‘You build tombs for the prophets and decorate the graves of the righteous’ (Matthew 23:29). One of the ways that they probably decorated the tombs was by applying whitewash to make them look beautiful on the outside, even though decay was occurring to the dead body laid inside.
By using a reality that the Pharisees and Teachers of the Law knew well, Jesus did so to ensure that the metaphor He used on them hit home. He tells them that they not only whitewash tombs of significant deceased people, but that they also whitewash their dead self. Jesus says, ‘You clean the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence. Blind Pharisee!First clean the inside of the cup and dish, and then the outside also will be clean’ (Matthew 23:25-26). The religious leaders saw that grooming their exterior made them appear attractive and worthy, but to Jesus, that act only made them blind because it redirected their focus from the rot happening inside to its lovely exterior, just like a whitewashed tomb housing a corpse.
Jesus passes across the message that exterior grooming, acts of righteousness, and all other good deeds done by the flesh without the Spirit is a sure way to blindness. Although many may look and see that such a person indeed does good, speaks well, and looks the part, a decay is actually happening in their inside. They are merely whitewashed; it is a mere cover-up. And so Jesus admonishes us to, ‘Stop judging by mere appearances, and make a right judgement’ (John 7:24).
God also uses the whitewash imagery not just for the religious, but also for false prophets. God puts false prophets in the same category because ‘when a flimsy wall is built, they cover it with whitewash, therefore tell those who cover it with whitewash that it is going to fall’ (Ezekiel 13:10). In other words, they apply whitewash on the error of others instead of strengthening their foundation, faith in Jesus. So God says that when He sends torrents of rain, hailstorm and wind, and the wall collapses, ‘Will people not ask you, ‘Where is the whitewash you covered it with?’’ (v12).
This shows that God is zealous of scattering and exposing false doctrines. When He eventually exposes them, the first thing people will notice is the missing whitewash, so that the false prophets will be exposed for who they truly are. God says, ‘I will tear down the wall you have covered with whitewash and will level it to the ground so that its foundation will be laid bare’ (v14). The deceived and the deceiver will both also bear the consequences, for God says, ‘So I will spend my wrath against the wall and against those who covered it with whitewash. I will say to you, ‘The wall is gone and so are those who whitewashed it’ (v15).
Gone. That is the fate of the religious who ‘have a form of godliness but deny its power’ (2 Timothy 3:5); the fate of those who cover-up with whitewash and deceive themselves that they do not need the power of the Holy Spirit to work from within; the fate of those who use God’s Word as a means to cover up their deceit; the fate of those who wear masks of religion, piety, and offer lip service but harbour unbelief inwardly. They do not consider that God says, ‘Faithless Israel is more righteous than unfaithful Judah’ (Jeremiah 3:11) because ‘unfaithful sister Judah did not return to me with all her heart, but only in pretence’ (v10).
Those who apply whitewash on themselves and on others by urging them on in their wrong ways and wicked doctrines, only operate in pretence. Such are said to build their house on the sand, and when the wind blew and beat against that house, ‘it fell with a great crash’ (Matthew 7:27). It was gone! Meanwhile, God watches them as they apply whitewash and build their façade, ‘like a high wall, cracked and bulging, that collapses suddenly,in an instant’ (Isaiah 30:13). Gone! Both the cover-up and the one being covered.
Sometimes we get in a rut in marriage where we actually hurt our spouses because we enable sin. Sometimes we need to learn how to stop being a doormat. Let me begin with a story.
I know of a woman whose husband had been involved with porn heavily for years. They had gone to counselors and he had said he would stop but he hadn’t. They had talked about it for years but nothing changed.
Finally, she decided to stop being a doormat and told a few select people in her small group and the elders at her church, and the elders confronted her husband about this and told him that they were supporting the separation. The small group helped the wife to pack her things and helped her to get into another place to live. They are not divorced; they are separated. But she has tried everything else and it hasn’t worked, and now her church is backing her as she puts her husband in a situation where he has to choose: will I do the right thing and follow God? Or will I turn away?
This, I believe, is the biblical model. I have had other women on this site comment, saying something like:
MY HUSBAND USES PORN BUT HE SAYS THERE’S NOTHING WRONG WITH IT. I WANT TO SPEAK TO SOMEONE AT CHURCH, BUT I DON’T KNOW WHO TO GO TO, AND MY HUSBAND SAYS THAT HE IS THE HEAD OF THE HOUSE AND I MUST SUBMIT. I’M LOST.
Headship should never be used as an excuse to continue in sin, or to give you a cover so that you can lead a “second life.”
There are times, I believe, when a spouse is so endangering his or her relationship with the family and with God that something must be done. And if nothing is done, then that spouse is giving cover to the sin. In my book 9 Thoughts That Can Change Your Marriage I talked about this at length. God wants marriages where both spouses chase after Him, not marriages where one spouse uses the relationship as a cover for sin. And sometimes we need some intervention, it’s part of what it means to stop being a doormat.
3 Areas Where You Should Stop Being a Doormat
I am not going to talk about affairs or abuse or substance issues because we all already talk about those widely in our culture and in our churches, and I hope there’s agreement that in these cases steps must be taken. But too many people think, “because my problem doesn’t fit into those categories I have to live with it and there’s nothing I can do.” Here they are:
1. Porn Use
A man (or woman) who uses porn is not only participating in a sin; he is wandering down a road that will destroy intimacy both with his wife and with God, and will ruin him as a father. It cannot be tolerated. It’s one place to stop being a doormat.
2. Withdrawal from Sex Altogether
In too many marriages sex has become almost non-existent. Usually when it’s the man who withholds sex sex porn is involved. Sometimes, though, it’s simply major pscyhological and emotional damage. Maybe there are homosexual tendencies, or maybe the man has so pushed down his sexuality because it’s threatening to him in some way that he becomes passive and asexual. Maybe she has so much psychological woundedness or anger that she withdraws.
Churches have sympathy for the wife who comes in and says “my husband uses porn”. They often don’t know what to do with a spouse who comes in and says, “my husband (or my wife) never has sex.” It doesn’t seem like as valid a complaint. In fact, if it’s the man who is going in to ask for help, often the problem will be turned against him: “what did you do to chase your wife away?” Yet in my experience when a spouse completely withdraws from sex it is often not primarily that other spouse’s fault. It is often something psychological or spiritual going on inside the spouse who has withdrawn.
We were created for intimacy with another person. We are not meant to be lone rangers. If a spouse rejects sex, they are specifically rejecting community. And they are rejecting a huge part of themselves. Do you realize how huge this is? How big a deal this is spiritually and emotionally as well? This can’t be ignored, and a person who has become asexual must be confronted and told, “you need to get counseling”.
There is absolutely nothing wrong with having psychological trauma; there is something wrong with refusing to deal with it. You can stop being a doormat by insisting on counseling.
3. Financially Endangering the Family
I received an email from a wife recently who said this:
FOR THE LAST FOUR YEARS MY HUSBAND HAS REFUSED TO WORK. WHEN HE DID WORK HE OFTEN CALLED IN SICK, AND WAS ALWAYS SEARCHING OUT WAYS TO APPLY FOR DISABILITY. NOW HE JUST SITS AT HOME AND WATCHES TV AND PLAYS VIDEO GAMES ALL DAY. HE’S JUST A BIG SLOB. WE LOST OUR HOUSE AND I’M WORKING TWO PART-TIME JOBS TO TRY TO PAY THE BILLS, PLUS KEEPING THE HOUSE CLEAN AND DOING HIS LAUNDRY. HE WON’T WORK! WHAT DO I DO?
A man who refuses to provide for his family, and who has become this lazy, also needs Christians to come alongside him and say, “put up or shut up”. This isn’t acceptable. I would say that the same would be true for a spouse who is consistently getting the family deep into debt with spending.
If your spouse is acting in such a way that they are denying a vital part of themselves and a vital part of the Christian life–like responsibility or intimacy or community–then doing nothing about it enables that spouse to avoid any impetus for spiritual growth.
And yet all too often that is what we’ve done–we hate divorce so much that we ignore the other side: God does not want an army of wounded, damaged people. He wants wholeness. And so we must deal with people who are refusing to confront huge issues.
Note that I’m not talking about a difference in sex drives, or problems when one spouse won’t do any housework. I’m not talking about disagreements over child rearing or over the role of TV in the house. I’m talking about things that go to the very heart of who we are as people and what is our relationship before God. And these are issues which, if not dealt with, will continue to drive someone further away from God and further into darkness.
In the old days, brothers would come to support their sister and would give the husband a pounding. That doesn’t happen anymore. But now churches need to fulfill that role.
In my book I use an example of a church intervention. A woman was married to a man who was consistently driving his family into deeper and deeper debt. She was working hard to try to keep the family afloat but she couldn’t manage it anymore because of his spending.
The elders came to the guy and sat him down and said, “we are going to help you make a budget. Then you are going to stick to it. You’ll report to one of us every week until this is all sorted out. And if you continue to overspend, we all will show up at the house with a moving van and we will help your wife get established with the kids in a house of her own until you come to your senses.”
They weren’t talking about a divorce; they were saying, “what you are doing is so unacceptable that you must stop. And if you won’t, you alone will bear the consequences because we will help your wife through this.”
Churches Can Help Us Stop Being a Doormat
Now, elders should never do anything this drastic until they hear both sides of the story; but once that story is clear, if one spouse is consistently damaging the family and damaging his or her own spiritual life, then action simply must be taken. And just because they’re married is no reason to avoid taking that action.
I know most of my readers are women, and so let me talk to the women for a moment. Many of you leave heartbreaking messages on this blog about men who have turned their backs on the marriage, but won’t move out. They like someone taking care of the housework and taking care of the kids, and they like the benefits that marriage brings, even though they have rejected the intimacy and responsibility. Ladies, if you put up with this, you are enabling him to move farther and farther away from God. God did not create marriage so that we would have an excuse to not work on our issues.
If your husband is addicted to porn, deal with the internet and get him accountability. If he has substance abuse issues, get him into rehab, luxurybeachrehab.com, is an addiction treatment center website with a lot of useful information on a variety of treatment programs. If he’s cheating on you, tell someone. If he’s not working, do something.
Go to your church and find someone who will help you; who will sit down and talk to your husband, whether he likes it or not, to hear his side of the story. Someone who will walk you through an intervention process, if it is necessary (and in some cases it definitely is). And someone who will stand alongside your husband and give him the tools and help he needs to rediscover who he was made to be.
I know this is scary. Those times are rare, and please, don’t take these words as an excuse to leave your husband because he plays video games too much or won’t put stuff in the dishwasher. I’m not talking about normal marital disagreements. I’m talking about things where men (or women) have completely forsaken key elements of who they were designed to be. And in that case, your children need to witness health and wholeness and healing. So don’t stop until you find someone to help you!
You don’t need to grow up in church to know that murder is a wicked offense. Murder is treated nearly universally as a heinous crime. And it ought to be. God makes plain his hatred of murder the moment it appears in Cain’s slaying of his brother Abel (Genesis 4:8). God legislates death as the appropriate punishment for those who unlawfully put others to death (Genesis 9:6).
Yet for all of our hatred of the murder out there, we can fail to hate the murder in here. But Scripture, and the words of Jesus in particular, will not allow us to hate murder at a safe distance. The sixth commandment, “You shall not murder,” exposes a universal problem and a universal need for forgiveness.
Different Kinds of Killing
The word used for “murder” in Exodus 20:13, Hebrew rasah, denotes the unlawful, premeditated, or immoral killing of another human, while also covering the unintentional causing of human death through carelessness or negligence. Of its forty-seven uses in the Old Testament, this verb is never used to describe killing in war, nor is it thought to apply to slaughtering animals or defending one’s home from invasion.
God’s law differentiated between willful and involuntary killing. Exodus 21:12–14 clearly states that the premeditated murder of another person was deemed worthy of capital punishment (see also Numbers 35:17–21).
“Seek to reconcile quickly with others. Replace hate and anger with words that give life and bless others.”
The accidental or involuntary causing of another person’s death, however, carried a slightly lighter penalty. Though it was not grounds for the sentence of death, the guilty party was banished to an appointed place (which later God would reveal as cities of refuge, Deuteronomy 19:1–13). This place offered sanctuary from the vengeful relatives of the deceased, but it was also away from home. The banishment often lasted for life because the guilty party would not be released until the death of the high priest (Numbers 35:25, 28).
So while discerning between consequences for different killings can be difficult, we all know it is a great evil to unlawfully take another’s life.
Why God Hates Murder
God shows his hatred for murder the moment it appears in Cain (Genesis 4:8). But why does God hate the act of murder so much? Two reasons stand out in Scripture.
1. The act of murder is an assault on God himself.
After God made a covenant with Noah never to destroy mankind by a flood, he set up a system to protect human life. Any man who unlawfully took the life of another would have his own life taken, “for God made man in his own image” (Genesis 9:6). Here we see how precious and valuable human life is to God. To murder another human being is to murder what is most like God in creation. It is tantamount to an attack on the Creator of all life. This is why abortion is so grievous to God and Christians.
The Bible is clear that human life begins in the womb and not at birth. David declares that we were fearfully and wonderfully made in our mother’s womb (Psalm 139:13). God says to Jeremiah, “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you” (Jeremiah 1:5). All human life is precious in the sight of God, and it is evil to think of any human life as disposable — whether the unborn, the elderly, the disabled, or the sick.
2. Murder assumes the authority and right reserved for God alone.
Only God has the right to give life and to take away life (Deuteronomy 32:39; 1 Samuel 2:6). Job declared that life belongs to the Lord to give and to take away (Job 1:21). Consequently, the one who murders another human being is guilty of assuming the right and privilege that is God’s alone. He is guilty of rebellion against God and attempting to put himself in the place of God. In this way, murder is the offspring of the very first sin and breaks the first commandment by having a god (self) before the Lord.
A Sin Not So Easily Escaped
Now, one may say, “Well, I have never — nor will I ever — commit murder!” But two considerations give strong reason to take heed to this command and see it as relevant to all of us.
Carelessness or Neglect
As stated earlier, the Hebrew word employed in the sixth commandment would include causing someone’s death from carelessness or neglect. This command would have instigated a holy fear in the community to strive for caution and prudence in the affairs of life so that no one would be guilty of unintentionally taking someone’s life through recklessness.
There is a reason harsh penalties are given to people who drive under the influence of alcohol. Or consider a carelessness closer to home: texting while driving. We may put others’ lives in danger more often than we assume.
And then there is the issue of negligence. The principle of the watchman of Ezekiel 33 comes to mind. The Lord painted a picture through the prophet Ezekiel of a watchman who was put in position to warn the city of the coming sword against it. If the watchman failed to blow the trumpet and was negligent in his duty, then the blood of the people would be on his hands (Ezekiel 33:7–9).
We can be negligent in failing to warn others of danger or to speak up on behalf of those who are vulnerable and powerless. It is easy to condemn the silence of so many in Germany who did not speak out against the murderous atrocities of the Nazi regime during the Holocaust. But are we equally vocal against the murdering of so many unborn here in our own country? Are we willing to speak up for the marginalized and the oppressed in our own culture?
Anger as Murder
In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus challenges his disciples to live according to the standards of the kingdom of God and not the standards of the world or even of the religious establishment around them. He tells them that their righteousness must exceed that of the scribes and Pharisees (Matthew 5:20), who sought merely outward conformity to the law instead of inward transformation of the heart.
Jesus displays this exceeding righteousness by using the refrain, “You have heard that it was said, but I say to you . . .” He is not saying that what was written in the Old Testament is not true. Rather, he is correcting what they heard the Old Testament saying and giving them the correct interpretation of the Scriptures, especially in the light of his coming.
You have heard that it was said to those of old, “You shall not murder; and whoever murders will be liable to judgment.” But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment; whoever insults his brother will be liable to the council; and whoever says, “You fool!” will be liable to the hell of fire. (Matthew 5:21–22)
The world understands that murder is a crime. The religious establishment focused on this outward nature of not murdering anyone. But the standard of the kingdom of God is not merely to avoid the shedding of blood. To be focused on the mere act of murder is to miss the heart of the command.
“It is not enough to not murder; you must eradicate hatred from your heart.”
Jesus insists that it is not enough to not murder someone; we must eradicate hatred from our hearts. Murder is not merely an action without any reference to the character of the murderer. Something more fundamental is at stake here. The sinful anger and wrath that lurked behind the deed itself is blameworthy and will be subject to judgment. John writes, “Everyone who hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him” (1 John 3:15). The stakes could not be higher.
Repenting of Heart Murder
Do you feel the weight of this? Jesus is saying you are not safe from punishment just because you have not shed blood. If you have harbored anger, contempt, or malice toward someone else, you are guilty. Have you ever wished someone harm or, even worse, wished they were dead? Have you ever rejoiced over someone’s misfortune? Have you ever put someone down in your heart? Then your heart has known murder.
Again, the radical righteousness that Jesus demands is not merely a refraining from outward sin but a transformation of the heart by his love and grace. Our only hope is Christ, who fulfilled all righteousness and offers it to us as a free gift to be received by faith. So what must we do?
Turn to God and confess the sin of anger. Make no excuses for it. The story of Jonah is instructive.
In Jonah 4, Jonah is angry with God because God didn’t destroy Nineveh. The Lord asks him, “Do you do well to be angry?” (Jonah 4:4). In other words, God is calling Jonah to look at his own life and his own heart. Is his anger justified? Does he not depend on the same mercy from God that God has given to the Ninevites? Does he have the right to decide who receives mercy and who doesn’t?
We too rarely look at our own hearts to see the root of the problem. But it starts here with a confession: I am sinfully angry.
2. Receive the gift of God’s grace in Jesus.
Abel’s blood cried out to God for justice. But Hebrews 12:24 tells us that Jesus’s blood speaks a better word. The blood of Abel speaks a word of condemnation: the murderer deserves death. And we are guilty as charged. We break the sixth commandment with the anger in our heart.
This is why Jesus came. He lived a sinless life, died on the cross for our sins, and rose so that we could have life in him, now and after death. For those who believe in him, the blood of Christ speaks a word of forgiveness and acceptance. By faith, receive this gift of grace!
3. Reconcile specifically.
So if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar and go. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift. (Matthew 5:23–24)
Jesus calls for a specific action here toward a specific brother. And notice that it isn’t someone that you are angry with. No, this is someone who is offended by you. You have done something to offend him, and God brings it to your mind. The first act of worship is for you to make it right with him.
God calls us to sensitivity in our relationships with others — not a vague sensitivity to imagined offenses, but rather dealing with real offenses that the Holy Spirit brings to mind against specific people. Seek to reconcile quickly with others. Replace hate and anger with words that give life and bless others.
And when we reconcile, we can go forth and resolve, God helping us, to “let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you” (Ephesians 4:31–32).
Afshin Ziafat (@afshinziafat) is lead pastor of Providence Church in Frisco, Texas. His passion is to teach the word of God as the authority and guide for life, to preach Jesus Christ as the only Savior and Redeemer of mankind, and to proclaim the love of Christ as the greatest treasure and hope in life. He and his wife, Meredith, currently reside in Frisco with their three children.
Romans chapter 6, and let’s turn in our Bibles back to that chapter and see if we can’t finish our study of this great chapter, at least for this series. And, hopefully, we’ll pursue a personal study for many years yet to come. Now, we’re looking at Romans 6:15-23. Let me read it to you.
“What then? Shall we sin, because we are not under the law, but under grace? God forbid! Know ye not, that to whom ye yield yourselves servants to obey, his servants ye are to whom ye obey; whether of sin unto death, or of obedience unto righteousness? But God be thanked, that whereas ye were the servants of sin, ye have obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine to which you were delivered. Being then made free from sin, ye became the servants of righteousness.
“I speak after the manner of men because of the infirmity of your flesh: for as ye have yielded your members servants to uncleanness and to iniquity unto iniquity; even so now yield your members servants to righteousness unto holiness. For when ye were the servants of sin, ye were free from righteousness. What fruit had ye then in those things of which ye are now ashamed? for the end of those things is death. But now being made free from sin, and become servants to God, ye have your fruit unto holiness, and the end everlasting life. For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.”
In the first three chapters of Paul’s epistle to the Romans, he presented the utter sinfulness of sin. He painted a picture that’s horrifying, to put it mildly. And men must understand their sin. They must understand the sinfulness of sin, else they will never be able to understand God’s forgiving grace. Now, when one becomes a Christian, the power of sin is broken. Sin’s tyranny is ended. And we’ve been seeing that here in the sixth chapter of Romans. When Paul presents the great doctrine of justification by faith in chapters 3 and 4, he then launches into an explanation of its results in chapters 5, 6, 7 and 8.
One of those results is the breaking of the power of sin, the breaking of the tyranny of sin, the breaking of the bondage of sin. When you become a Christian, sin’s bondage is broken. And that’s why we see twice in this passage the statement “free from sin.” Free from sin. The good news there in verse 18 and there in verse 22 is that we’ve been made free from sin. Now, the only way that has any meaning to us is to know what it was to be a slave to sin, which he spoke of in verse 17 and again in verse 20.
Let me just remind you. Sin, of course, is the most devastating, the most debilitating, the most degenerating power that ever entered into the human stream. It kills everyone and, ultimately, except by the intervening grace of God, would send everyone to an eternal hell. The Bible calls it “the accursed thing,” Joshua 7:13. It is compared in Scripture to the venom of snakes and the stench of death. It is defined for us in 1 John 3:4 as “transgression of God’s law.” Now, the Scripture characterizes sin in many ways. And I don’t want to go back over some of the ground we’ve covered. But just as a reminder, let me state a few of the ways in which the Bible describes sin.
First of all, it says sin is defiling. It is a pollution of the soul. You might see it as this. It is to the soul what rust is to gold. It is to the soul what scars are to a beautiful face. It is to the soul what a stain is to silk, what smog is to an azure sky. It is a pollution. It makes the soul black with guilt. It is a bloody cloth in Isaiah 30. It is sores from a deadly plague in 1 Kings chapter 8. It is filthy garments in Zechariah chapter 3. And even God, according to Zechariah 11:8, loathes the sinner. Paul calls it, in 2 Corinthians 7:1, “filthiness of the flesh and spirit.” So, sin is defiling.
Secondly, the Bible tells us that sin is rebellion. It tramples God’s Word. It rebels against God’s law. Sin is, as one man said, “God’s would-be murderer.” If sin had its way, it would eliminate God. God would cease to be if the sinner had his choice.
Thirdly, sin is ingratitude. Romans 1 says, “Neither were they thankful.” Like Absalom, who as the son of David, his father the king had kissed him and taken him to his heart, then went out and plotted treason against his own father. Having been the recipient of all of his father’s treasures, he then turned to be a traitor. So the sinner indulges in God’s goodness, indulges in God’s treasures, indulges in God’s blessings in the world around him, and then betrays God by serving Satan, God’s archenemy. The sinner then lives in abuse of all God’s gifts.
Fourthly, the Bible says that sin is incurable. Jeremiah 13:23 says, “Can the Ethiopian change his skin? Can the leopard change his spots? Then may ye also do good that are accustomed to evil.” In other words, you have more – no more chance of changing your nature than a leopard does his spots or an Ethiopian his skin.
Paul wrote to Titus in chapter 1 verse 15 and says, “Their conscience” – that is the inward part of them, even that which triggers their right behavior – “is defiled.” John Flavel said years ago, “All the tears of a penitent sinner, should he shed as many as there have fallen drops of rain since the creation, cannot wash away sin. The everlasting burnings in hell cannot purify the flaming conscience from the least sin.” Sin is so utterly devastating, it is so utterly destroying, it is so incurable that even the eternity in hell cannot take it away.
The Bible also says that sin is hated by God. In Jeremiah 44, God says, “O do not this abominable thing which I hate.” Sin is also overpowering. It hangs like blackness hangs to night. It dominates the mind, it says in Romans 1:21. It dominates the will, it says in Jeremiah 44:15 to 17. It dominates the affection it says in John 3:19 to 21. And then sin brings Satanic control. Ephesians 2 says that one who is a sinner walks “according to the prince of the power of the air.” He is a child of disobedience. Jesus said in John 8:44, a child of the devil himself.
And then sin brings misery to life. In Job 5:7 it says, “Man is born unto trouble, as the sparks fly upward.” In Romans 8, it says the creature is subject to emptiness, uselessness. It takes away man’s honor, it takes away his peace, it takes away the meaning of his life. Then finally, sin damns the soul to hell. Revelation 20 talks about all those who know not God and Christ being cast into the lake of fire.
Now all of that is just to remind you of what it means to be a slave to sin, a horrible existence. And yet, true of every creature that comes into the world because of the curse, as we saw in the fourth chapter – or rather in the third chapter – in Adam. Now when you understand sin and its sinfulness, then you have an appreciation for what it means to be free from sin. And what a glorious deliverance that is. And that’s Paul’s message in verses 15 to 23. And I don’t want to go back and review all that we’ve seen in chapter 6, but you need to know the whole chapter. So, if you haven’t been here, get those tapes and study the Word of God through this marvelous chapter.
Just remember this. That Paul’s discussion is triggered by an antagonistic question in verse 15 and we said that this was the question of the antagonist. Paul has heard this question before. He’s preaching grace so somebody inevitably comes along and says, “Oh, grace. In other words, we should sin because we’re not under the law but under grace. Is that right? We’re free now. We’re under grace. God forgives our sin so we can just go out and sin all we want.”
And this is always the antagonist’s criticism of the message of grace, that grace leads to lawlessness, grace leads to antinomianism, grace leads to unbounded liberty, grace leads to abuse. And so people say, “You can’t just preach grace. You can’t turn people loose. You’ve got to preach the law and the rules,” and so forth. And so, the question comes shall we sin because we’re not under the law, but under grace? Do people who are under grace just go wild on their sin? The answer is, “God forbid. No, no, no.”
And that’s the second point, the answer. And Paul’s answer is no, absolutely not. Grace is not an excuse for sin. Grace never transforms someone into a free-wheeling sinner. Quite the contrary. And that leads us to the axiom of verse 16. And here is a – a self-evident principle. It’s just a very basic principle. “Know ye not, that to whom ye yield yourselves servants to obey, his servants ye are whom ye obey.” And you can stop there for a moment. All he’s saying is that look, if you’ve yielded yourself as a servant to God in Christ, then the very definition of that servitude is that you have come to obey Him, not disobey Him. You didn’t willingly yield yourself to Christ to disobedience, you willingly yielded yourself to Him to obedience.
So, we have a new master and it is self-evident in that axiom, in that obvious principle, that when you yielded yourself to Christ, you became obedient unto righteousness, verse 16 says. Now, whether you yielded yourself to sin as in your former life, which resulted in death, or whether you yield yourself to obedience which results in righteousness, it is a self-evident fact when you yield yourself as a slave to someone, you commit yourself to obey.
So, when you become a Christian, you’re not committing yourself to a life of disobedience, you’re committing yourself to a life of obedience. That’s basic to the very definition of terms. And no longer then, according to verse 16, is our master sin. Our new master is obedience. And we are subject to the Lord who produces in us obedience unto righteousness.
Now, listen again. There was something I said last week and I want to reemphasize it. Not only is this an ethical bond, it is a creative miracle. In other words, when you become a Christian, you are not only ethically bound to obedience, you are creatively made into an obedient person. So it is not only an ought that is an imperative, it is a fact. A Christian is characterized by obedience. Jesus said it, “If you love Me, you will” – What? – “keep My commandments.”
And the question comes up in the New Testament, if you don’t do that then, no matter what you say, you don’t know Him, because when you come to Christ you are affirming your identification with the new master and you are creatively transformed into one who obeys. So it is not only an ethical bond, it is a creative miracle. You not only are supposed to obey, you will obey. It is a state.
Now if we were under the bondage to sin before we came to Christ, we are now under the bondage to obedience. Grace, then, gives us a new master. Now, in order to help us understand this, we move to the axiom of verse 16 to the argument of verses 17 to 22. We got into this a little last time, let’s see if we can’t run through it. Here’s his argument. Here’s how he explains the thing that he said in verse 16. It is an extended contrast between the two slaveries. You’re either a slave to sin or a slave to God. You’re either disobedient to God, or obedient. You either do what sin tells you, or you do what God tells you. And we’ll expand on that as we go.
But let’s look at all – look first of all at the position. The contrast flows from position, to practice, to promise. Look at the position of the two people, that is their state. Verse 17, “But God be thanked, that whereas you were the slaves of sin, ye have obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine to which you were delivered, being then made free from sin, you became the slaves of righteousness.” Now, what he’s saying here is there are basically two positions. You can either be a slave to sin or a slave to righteousness. That’s the position. There are only two families. Every person is in one of these two families. It is either the mark of your life that you obey sin or it is the mark of your life that you obey righteousness. This is identity.
Now notice again, verse 17, what we saw last time. You have been poured into a mold, that form of teaching, form being the idea of a mold. When you became a Christian, you – your old self was melted down and you were re-poured into a new mold, the mold that is constituted by the doctrines of the gospel. And so you were poured into a gospel mold and you were popped out as a new creation. And your lifestyle now will manifest that created miracle and you will then respond no longer as one who is under the lordship of Satan but you will respond as one who is under the lordship of God.
That’s what it means in Ephesians 2:10 when it says you were created unto good works. You’ve been poured into a new mold. The old thing is melted down. It’s gone. And you’ve been redone. Now it doesn’t mean that we admire righteousness. It doesn’t mean that we desire righteousness. It doesn’t mean that we’re attempting to be righteous. It doesn’t mean that we’re trying to practice righteousness in our daily life. It means that we’ve come under the power, and control, and influence of righteousness. We’ve been transformed.
And you have to understand this. People get very confused in this passage if they don’t. Once you were tyrannized by, you were ruled by, you were governed by sin. And now you are tyrannized by, and governed by, and ruled by righteousness. God plants in us the incorruptible seed of righteousness. It becomes our master. And 1 John 3:9-10 says we can’t go on any longer sinning the way we did, so that the question is silly. Shall we continue in sin because we’re under grace? Of course not.
The fact that we’re under grace precludes that as even a possibility. There’s going to have to be a break in our sin. Bless God for our family, because when we came into the family of obedience and righteousness, the family of the Lord, we were made free from sin’s tyranny. That’s very important because what it means, practically, is that you don’t have to sin. That’s what it means. Sin no longer is your master. Did you get that? You don’t have to sin anymore. And that’s what makes it so stupid when we do. We don’t have to do that.
Now before you were a Christian you had to sin because sin was your master and you had no other option. And so, all you did, even your best, was filthy rags. You just sin, sin, sin, sin. And even when you did a good deed, you had a bad motive because it wasn’t to glorify God, it was probably to feel better about yourself or to conform to some ethical standard. And anything short of the glory of God is a sin. So it was sin, sin, sin, sin. When you became a Christian, no longer did sin have the tyranny over you, as we’ve been seeing. Great thought. Now we are slaves of God. Now we are servants of righteousness. Now we are called to obedience.
Are we going to continue in sin and lawlessness? Ridiculous. Listen to this. Before you were a Christian you weren’t free. People say, “Oh, I don’t want to give up my freedom. Boy, I’m not going to become a Christian and get constricted and all that.” You weren’t free. You know what your – you are an absolute bond slave to sin. It’s all you ever do. People think they’re free. They’re not free. That isn’t freedom. When you became a Christian you became free. You’re free for the first time in your life.
Not free to do wrong. But free to do what? Right, for the first time. Get that? Write that one down somewhere. That’s very important, very basic. When you become a Christian you say, “Oh, I have liberty in Christ. Now I can do whatever I want.” No, no. No, you’re not free to sin now, you’re just free for the first time in your life to do what’s right. And that’s a nice freedom. What it means is that before you were saved you had no choice, now you have a choice. And because sin is not your master, you can choose what is right. Isn’t that great?
So, Christians aren’t people who are free to do wrong, they’re people who are free for the first time to do right. Now that – does that give you a different perspective on Christian liberty? People say, “Boy, you know, now you’re a Christian, you’re under grace. We don’t have to worry about this, and we don’t have to worry about that, we can do whatever.” That isn’t the point. In fact, if you live like that, I question whether you’re under grace at all. The great freedom of being a Christian is the freedom to do right for the first time.
So, two slaveries. And we saw their position. One begins at birth and one begins at new birth and you’re either under the bondage to sin or under the bondage to righteousness. And if you’re a Christian, you’ve been freed from sin, you no longer belong to that old master. Righteousness is your master, obedience is your master, the Lord is your master and you’ve been creatively made to obey, and are also ethically bound to obey. You can obey and you should.
Now, let’s look from the position to the practice, verse 19. And this is kind of an interesting beginning. He says, “I speak after the manner of men because of the infirmity of your flesh.” That’s a most interesting statement. He says I want you to realize that I’m using an analogy here about masters and slaves as an accommodation to your humanness. In other words, folks, it’s hard to put supernatural, eternal, incomprehensible miraculous data into these little puny heads. And Paul says, “I’m trying to accommodate you the best I can. So I’m speaking after the manner of men.”
In other words, “I’m bringing it down to a human analogy of a slave and a master so that I can accommodate the infirmity of your humanness.” And I think it’s important that Paul says that, because in any analogy that you ever find, there always is a breakdown in a human analogy, isn’t there? And some people will be listening to this slave/master deal and they’d be trying to follow that analogy all the way out and they’d get kind of confused. And so he says, “Look, this is an accommodation made necessary by our fallenness. We’re just trying to understand it the best way we can.”
Just as a note, he says, “I speak in this manner because of the infirmity of your flesh.” Now that is a very important word. We’re going to see it again as we go through Romans, very key word. It means “our mortality.” It is a parallel term to the term we saw over in verse 12, “your mortal body,” your mortal body. And that’s where sin finds its bridgehead. And so, he says it’s because of your mortality, your body of sin, your humanness, where sin resides.
Not the new you, the sanctified you that we talked about, not the new resurrected you walking in newness of life, not the new creation fit for eternity, but sin that’s in your mortal body, that’s in your humanness, that’s in your flesh. The flesh is the faculty of man influenced by sin. And even though we’re Christians, as long as we possess humanness, as long as we are wrapped in these bodies that are fallen, we are going to have a struggle with sin. Not sin in the new creation, but sin in the flesh, which encases the new creation until we are glorified. And we saw that earlier in our study. And we’re weak in our understanding. We are weak because of our fallenness. And so Paul is accommodating us with a human analogy.
Now, he moves on in verse 19. “for as ye have yielded your members servants to uncleanness and to iniquity unto iniquity; even so now yield your members servants to righteousness unto holiness.” This is a great, great truth. Now he’s not talking about our position anymore, he’s talking about our practice. He has stated already that we have a new master, verse 18, we’ve been freed from sin and become the servants of righteousness. That’s our position. We are the servants of righteousness, we do respond to righteousness, we do respond to obedience, we do respond to God.
And now, most interestingly, he says in verse 19, “As you yielded your members servants to uncleanness in the past, even so now yield your members servants to righteousness.” In other words, he says, “This is who you are,” in verse 18, and now in verse 19 he says, “Now act like it.” Now act like it. Get your practice lined up with your position. He’s not talking about nature, the nature of an individual in verse 19. He was talking about that in verses 17 and 18. You’re either by nature a servant of sin or by the new nature a servant of God.
But he’s now talking about your lifestyle and he is saying your lifestyle must accommodate your nature. Now that you don’t have to be a slave to sin, now that you are a servant of righteousness, act like it. And, of course, the flesh wants to get in the way and we’ll find out when we get to chapter 8 how you deal with the flesh. Paul basically says “kill it.” And we’ll find out how to kill the flesh when we get to chapter 8. But he is saying here since you don’t have to sin, don’t sin. And the picture is very clear.
First of all, “as you yielded your members servants to uncleanness and to iniquity unto iniquity;” In the past, that describes the first family, the family of those who are in sin positionally. Their practice is to continually yield their members – again, having to do with your physical faculties, your humanness – to sin. That was their life style. That’s all they can do. They yield their members slaves to uncleanness. That’s basic. That’s life for them.
The word “members” again, remember it means “bodily parts, the flesh, the mortal body.” You see, the person in the state of sin has no choice. He has to yield, and that word means “to present” or “offer.” He gives his body to sin. It even uses the word “uncleanness.” That’s the word of inward pollution. And then, he uses the word “iniquity.” That’s the word of outward lawlessness. So, he says that before you became a Christian, when you were in the family of sin, you were polluted on the inside and you were evil on the outside.
You just continually yielded yourself to that, internally and externally. There’s no choice involved, absolutely no choice. The body of sin in an unregenerate person – listen now – is in complete harmony with the nature of man. The nature of man is sin. And the body of man is sinful. So his nature and his body are in total harmony. His soul and his body are in agreement on sin as his master, and so he just sins, doing evil continually, continually. Now, notice the progression. You yield your bodily parts servants to sin, to uncleanness and iniquity. And then it says, “unto iniquity,” most interesting. Guess what sin leads to? What? Sin. More sin. Sin begets sin. It is cancer, folks, it is cancer. It reproduces itself. It is a cruel master.
Oscar Wilde, great writer, brilliant mind, very esteemed man, secretly was involved in homosexual relationships and other deviant behavior, and he was discovered. And he wrote, “I forgot that what a man is in secret, he will someday shout aloud from the housetop.” Sin begets sin. It’s discovered. There’s no way to stop it.
I always think about Sinclair Lewis, who was the toast of the literary world. And he wanted to mock Christianity so he wrote Elmer Gantry. And Elmer Gantry was a blast at Christian preachers and evangelism, making the featured character a Bible-pounding, Jesus-preaching, alcoholic, fornicator and thief, everything bad. The literary world toasted Sinclair Lewis and few people know that he died an alcoholic in a third-rate clinic somewhere outside the city of Rome, totally devastated. You don’t get away with sin, it just begets itself.
And that’s what he’s saying. You used to be under sin, and as your position was under the bondage of sin, your practice was there as well and sin begat sin, begat sin, begat sin, begat sin, begat sin. And as we’ll see in a moment, there’s an ultimate end to all of that. But he says this, “Now you’ve been translated to a new master.” As you did that in the past – look back at verse 19 – even so now, present, offer, yield your bodily parts servants to righteousness which produces what? Holiness. As your members were 100 percent yielded to sin before Christ, so they should now be 100 percent yielded to righteousness since Christ.
Now remember, the new creation soul is sinless. It’s not I, it’s sin that’s in me, in my humanness. The bodily parts, our mortality, our fallenness, our corruptible humanness must be yielded. And as I said earlier, for the first time we have a choice. That’s our freedom. And so, we come to chapter 12 of Romans as a preview and we hear these familiar words, “I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God that ye present your” – what? – “bodies.” Where is the problem? It’s the body, isn’t it?
And that’s why he doesn’t say “present your – your soul.” Your soul is a new creation. He doesn’t say “present your inner man.” That’s been transformed. Present your what? Your body. Because that’s where the battleground lies, in your fallenness, in your humanness. And that’s why Paul says also to the Corinthians, “I beat my body to bring it into subjection.” You have to really control it. Read 1 Thessalonians chapter 4 and see how the body tends to drag us into evil.
And so, he says you did yield yourselves that way, “Oh now yield your bodily parts as slaves to righteousness.” You will do this because you’re new, but do it always because you can. You understand that? You will do it, but do it all the time. You will do it sometime. You will do it because you’re new, but do it all the time. In other words – listen now carefully – when you came into salvation in Jesus Christ, God’s grace was not given to you to allow you to do sin and get away with it, but to make it so you would never have to sin. You understand that? Big difference. I don’t think very many people understand that. So, the whole idea of being a Christian isn’t impunity from sin, the whole idea of being a Christian is that you just don’t sin.
You say, “Now wait a minute. Can we do that?” Technically, yes. Practically, no. Because our fallenness gets in the way. But we want to do it more and more. And look at the progression here. “Yield your members servants to righteousness unto” – what? – “holiness.” “Righteousness” means “do right.” Righteousness is doing right. Holiness is a state of perfection. As iniquity leads to iniquity, doing right leads to spiritual perfection, spiritual completion, to being utterly separated from sin. That’s what holiness means.
Martyn Lloyd Jones, who so often captures thoughts in such a graphic way, says this, “As you go on living the righteous life and practicing it with all your might and energy and all your time and everything else, you will find that the process that went on before in which you went from bad to worse and became viler and viler is entirely reversed. You will become cleaner and cleaner and purer and purer and holier and holier, and more and more conformed to the image of the Son of God.” End quote.
Now, see, that’s the difference, isn’t it? That’s the difference of the outworking of that new nature as over against the outworking of the old nature. That’s the difference in the second half of Romans 6 in being under the Master, the Lord, under the master, sin. So we progress to greater and greater purity, greater and greater holiness as sinners go down, down, down, down. Let me add a footnote. Nobody stands still. And Christians who allow themselves sin under the wrong understanding of grace or because they give into the flesh, will find at work in them the same principle that’s at work in an unbeliever. Sin will lead to sin, to sin, to sin, to sin. So each slavery is a developing slavery. Neither stand still.
When Israel was in Egypt – to borrow an analogy if I might – God gave Pharaoh a command. Most people know the command, “Let My people” – what? – “go.” Do you know the rest of it? That wasn’t the whole thing. Listen to what God said. “Let My people go that they may serve Me.” You don’t understand the command if you don’t understand that part. “Let My people go that they may serve Me.” Nobody was ever delivered from bondage to do what they wanted. When we were delivered from bondage, we were to do what God wants. He didn’t say, “Let My people go so they can roam around the rest of their life.”
It was not to let them go to wander at their own whim and do as they please. God’s plan for them was that they might be delivered from the bondage of their cruel masters in Egypt in order to become committed to a new master and serve Him. By the way, it took a whole generation to learn that. So, we haven’t been freed from sin to do what we want, we’ve been freed from sin to do what He wants. So, the question asked in verse 15 is a ridiculous question.
Now, finally, Paul’s contrast goes one more step, and he talks about the promise. Where do these two slaveries end up because they definitely end up in two different places? Look at verse 20. First of all, where does sin end up? “For when ye were the servants of sin, ye were free from righteousness. What fruit had ye then in those things of which you’re now ashamed? For the end of those things is” – what? – “death.”
Notice these two verses. They’re very simple and yet they’re very profound. He says, “When you were the servants or slaves of sin” – in your former life, in that position, yielded to that life – “you were free from righteousness.” You were totally cut loose from righteousness. You had no cause to respond to righteousness. You had no need. Righteousness made no demands on you because you had no capacity. Well, what an incredible statement. You can’t respond to the demands of righteousness. They’re not bound on you.
We’re not to go up and down the street and say, “Now all of you people, you need to abide by God’s laws.” They have no cause for that. They have no need for that. You want to know something else? It won’t do them any good either. They’re free from righteousness. They have no responsibility to righteousness. They’re controlled by, ruled by sin and all they can do is sin. They have one master. Righteousness has no pressure to apply to them, because they have nothing in their nature that can cause them to respond to it. Do you understand that?
That is a tremendous statement. Because there are people who don’t know Christ who think they’re good people. The truth is they’re slaves to sin and they’re totally free from righteousness. Righteousness has no cause to which they must respond. Boy, what a statement. The world is full of people who think they’re good people. They think they do right things and good things and honorable things. And on a human level, they do. But when God starts talking about the standards that are His standards, they are totally free from righteousness. They’re not bound to obey righteousness, they’re not bound to keep the righteous law. There’s no need for that because they have no capacity for that.
In fact, you know, Paul has a good word for self- righteousness, for man doing his best apart from God. Do you know what he called it? Dung. Interesting, isn’t it? If you wonder where that is, it’s Philippians 3:7-8. And so, that – to me, that verse 20 is just a shocking, shocking statement. People without Jesus Christ have no obligation to righteousness at all because they couldn’t – they couldn’t fulfill it. Whoa! So when I say you’re either a slave of sin or a slave of righteousness, boy, that is exactly what Paul is saying here. And nobody’s in the middle.
And look what he says in verse 21. “And when you were a slave to sin and totally free from righteousness, what fruit did you have of the things of which you are now ashamed?” What fruit did you have? Well, the answer to that is none. The only fruit you had when you were unregenerate was fruit that you’re now what? Ashamed of. Oh, you know, you see a guy who is without Christ and, boy, he’s talking up a big game. “Boy, you should have heard what I did, man, I did this deal.”
He talks about all of his sin and boasts about all the things. “Boy, I conned so-and-so. I got this little deal here. And I did this to this person.” And he boasts in his sin and, boy, when he comes to Jesus Christ, all of the results and the product of his sin is cause for what? For shame. So, Paul says, “Look, don’t ask such a stupid question as, ‘Now that we’re under grace, do we continue in sin?’” We look back to that period of time and we look at all the fruit of our sin and the only thing it brings to us is what? Shame.”
I always appreciate when somebody’s going to give their testimony and they’ve come to Jesus Christ, and they may have come out of some sinful, horrible, sordid background. And when someone really comes to Jesus Christ, that’s the last thing in the world they want to talk about. Oh, they may want to tell you how the Lord delivered them from drugs, or from crime, or from some evil sin and so forth. But they don’t relish in that sin anymore. It’s a shame to them. So, if that’s true, why would we want to come to Christ and then go on sinning when the only fruit of that is something we were utterly ashamed of?
John Calvin said, “As soon as the godly begin to be enlightened by the Spirit of Christ and the preaching of the gospel, they freely acknowledge that their whole past life, which they lived without Christ, is worthy of condemnation. So far from trying to excuse themselves, they are, in fact, ashamed of themselves. Indeed, they go farther and continually bear their disgrace in mind so that the shame of it may make them more truly and willingly humble before God.” Well, that’s a beautiful statement. The fruit of sin does nothing but fill them with shame.
You’ve had that reaction in your life. You can look back on your life before Jesus Christ and you can see a lot to be ashamed of. You wouldn’t want to talk about that. You don’t glory in that. But the people who don’t know Christ, you see, they glory in the thing you’re ashamed of. And where does it all lead? Verse 21, “The end of those things is death.” Why in the world would a Christian, justified by grace through faith, brought to Jesus Christ and given the choice to do right, ever choose to sin when sin only begets sin and death and shame, from which he was delivered?
You know, Paul was really making a case here, folks. If we sin, we are really stupid. And so, the way the devil tries to get us to sin is to get us not to be what? Thinking. It leads to death. What death is this? Second death, spiritual death and hell, the death of the soul. That’s where sin leads. That’s its fruit. Now if all you can produce with sin is fruit that brings shame and spiritual and eternal death, if sin is a shameful killer of the soul, then what reason to ever offer your body to sin? No reason. No reason.
But what about the second master? Look at verse 22. “But now being made free from sin.” I can’t tell you how I’ve grown to love that statement. I’ve read it many times. I taught Romans – some of you may remember – in 1969 here. We whisked through it at a chapter a whack. Those were in the days when I was young and foolish. I exhausted all my knowledge at that speed. But as I’ve gone over this and over this, “being made free from sin,” oh, that just brings joy to my heart.
And I was thinking back – look with me at chapter 4 verse 6. And Paul says, “Even as David also describeth the blessedness of the man, unto whom God imputeth righteousness apart from works, saying, ‘Blessed are they whose iniquities are forgiven, and whose sins are covered. Blessed is the man to whom the Lord will not impute sin.’” That’s the first part. Oh how blessed that God doesn’t hold our sin against us. That’s one thing. But here in chapter 6, how doubly blessed that not only does God not hold our sin against us, but He frees us from its tyranny. Just to know that I don’t have to sin, I’m no longer a subject, it’s so great.
So, verse 22, “But now being made free from sin” – doesn’t mean you’re free from ever sinning; It just means you’re free from its tyranny; you don’t have to – “and you’ve “become slaves to God.” – there’s that bond slave word again – “Ye have your fruit” – a whole different fruit; fruit means product, fruit means result, and what is our fruit? What is it? – “Holiness.” Now again, that is not only an ought – that is, this is what you ought to do – it is a fact. I believe if you’re truly saved and the divine life is in you and you’re a new creation, holiness is manifest. I believe that, all that. I believe you cannot have a Christian with no fruit at all. Well, you might have to look a long time and find a shriveled grape here and there, but there’s got to be some. Got to be some. Your fruit unto holiness.
I don’t know how you feel about the word “holiness.” It’s a beautiful word. I guess I love it because it’s God’s most glorious attribute. In Isaiah 6 God is said to be holy, holy, holy, and to think that we could be like God, marvelous. We can’t be God, but we can be like Him when we walk in holiness. So we have been made free from sin. It has no claim on us. And we have become bond slaves to God and we have a new product, a new end, and that’s holiness. And to what does that lead? The end, everlasting life. The end in verse 21, what? The end of these things is what? Death, verse 21. The end in verse 22, everlasting life.
This I call the promises. Start with the position, you’re either in slavery to sin or slavery to God. The practice, your life is either progressing viler and viler and viler, or holier and holier and holier. And then the promise, the end over here is death, the end over here is everlasting life. Now, may I just point out here that everlasting life is not so much a quantity of life as a quality of life? It isn’t so much that it means you’re just going to live forever, because it wouldn’t mean anything to live forever unless the quality of life was worth living forever, right? And so it’s a quality of life. We enter into an everlasting kind of life. What it means is a supernatural kind of life, an eternal kind of life that belongs to God. God’s life in us, abundant life. And so, that’s how Paul draws the contrast.
So, he moves through the antagonist, the answer. Then he establishes the axiom in verse 16, then comes the argument in verses 17 to 22. And finally, the absolute. The absolute. And you know this verse, perhaps from a child. Verse 23. Now listen. This is to say there’s a reason why sin as a principle in a person’s life mastering him, leads him to be viler and viler and viler, and ultimately eternal death. And there’s a reason why righteousness in a life leads one to be holier and holier and holier, and entering into the fullness of everlasting life.
And the reason is because there is an absolute law and that law inexorably works. And here it is. “For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life” – and then the coup de grace of the whole chapter – “through Jesus Christ our Lord.” That is the inexorable, divine absolute. There is no possibility of a violation. That is how the thing works. And nobody gets around the absolute law. The reason sin adds to sin, adds to sin, ends in death is because the wages of sin is death.
Now what does that mean? The word “wages” is a very interesting word. It is just what it appears. It means something you’ve earned. In fact, the word is used, commonly, of the rations that were given to soldiers for their military service in exchange for their duty. It was just compensation for service rendered. Wages, just like you pick up your check. The idea is this. You earn death. That’s right, you earn it. When God brings to bear on a life eternal death, hell forever, it’s because the person earned that.
It is just, it is fair, it is proper compensation for their sin because there is an inexorable law in the universe that says the pay for sin is death. It’s like any other law. The law of gravity. The law of gravity says you jump off something, you go down. That’s a law. That’s the way the universe is made. And if God made laws in a physical dimension, there can be laws as well in the spiritual. And here’s one of them. The wages of sin is death. The payoff for sin is death, eternal death, spiritual death. It’s what you earned.
In fact, let me say it another way. Justice is obligated to pay it or it would be defrauding the worker of his wages. When God gives eternal death to a soul, He is giving him what he’s worked for, what he’s earned, what he deserves, what is the defined compensation for his life. Let me put it another way. If God didn’t give him eternal hell, it would be unjust. And God can’t be unjust. You earn death by your sin, you’ll get it. And those who hope for pardon and those who hope for deliverance without Christ are hoping that God would be unjust. And God would not be unjust.
There’s another side to the absolute, bless God. It says this, “But the gift of God is eternal life.” Eternal life is not a wage. Did you notice the change? It is a what? A gift. Can you earn eternal life? No, it’s a gift. In fact, literally, it’s a free gift. You could write that there. It says, “The free gift of God.” Just so that nobody gets confused, it is a free gift.
You can’t earn it by your works. You can’t earn it by your religiosity. You can’t earn it, period. And that’s right back to Ephesians 2:8 and 9. “For by grace are you saved through faith, that not of yourselves, it is a” – what? – “gift of God, not of works lest any man should boast.” No merit, no earning, no worthiness. It’s a gift. So if you want what you deserve, God will give it to you. But if you want what you don’t deserve, God will give that to you as well.
You say, “How do I get that? Boy, what a chapter. I don’t want to be a slave to sin. I don’t want to be free from ever being able to do what’s right. I don’t want to go from sin, to sin, to sin, from being vile to being viler and viler, ultimately ending in eternal death. I don’t want to do that. I want the gift of eternal life. How do I get it? Well, how does the chapter end? What does it say? “Through Jesus Christ our Lord.” It’s the great climax to the chapter. I mean, the chapter is so powerful, you know that at the end you just need a reminder of how you get this. “Through Jesus Christ our Lord.”
Any other place? No other place. “Neither is there salvation in any other, for there is none other name under heaven given among men whereby we must be saved,” Acts 4:12. No other name. No other name. Jesus said, “I am the door, the only way to enter is through Me.” Jesus said, “No man comes unto the Father but by Me.” The most narrow-minded statement ever made. It also happens to be true. You can be narrow minded if you’re right. Jesus said, “I am the way. I’m the only way.” Through Jesus Christ our Lord.
I can’t – I just – I wouldn’t know what else to say to the world to offer them the gift of salvation than to just tell them what’s in this chapter. It’s astounding to me, to be made free from sin, to inherit eternal life, to be delivered from the bondage of sin and guilt and all those things, and free to do what’s right and to glorify God. And instead of looking at a life with things to be ashamed, you look at a life filled with things to be thankful for. Instead of anticipating death, eternal death, you anticipate life, eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.
So the sixth chapter has taught us in the first 14 verses that we are one with Christ because we died with Him, we rose with Him, and as new creations with resurrection life, we walk in newness of life. Therefore, we should yield to that new life principle, yielding our fallenness, our humanness, our mortal bodies to that new life power.
And then in the second half, he uses a different analogy to say the same thing. We were slaves to sin, now we have become slaves to righteousness. So, in one sense we’ve died to walk in newness of life. In another sense, we have a new master. Both saying the same thing; salvation doesn’t free you to sin, it frees you from sin for the first time in your life to do what’s right. Salvation takes unholy men and makes them holy. Salvation is a call from sin to holiness.
And no evangelism can stand without this kind of affirmation. Anything other than this kind of presentation of evangelism, I believe, is cheap grace. I believe we have to say to people, “Look, count the cost. When you come to Jesus Christ, He’s calling you from sin to holiness. And if you’re not willing to come on those terms, there are no other terms available.” Jesus is not looking for people who want to add Him to their sin. He’s not looking for people who want to add Him to their lifestyle. He is calling men who want to die and rise again. He’s calling men and women who want to say no to the present master and yes to a new master. Grace covers sin. That’s right. But it never condones it. And further, it transforms the sinner.
Let me close with this. Dietrich Bonhoeffer, German theologian, thinker, sometimes was a little far afield, sometimes right on target, wrote this. “Cheap grace means the justification of sin without the justification of the sinner who departs from sin and from whom sin departs. Cheap grace is not the kind of forgiveness of sin which frees us from the toils of sin. Cheap grace is grace without discipleship, grace without the cross, grace without Jesus Christ. Costly grace is the grace of Christ Himself now prevailing upon the disciple to leave all and follow Him.”
When he spoke of grace, Luther always implied as a corollary that it cost him his own life, the life which was for the first time subjected to the absolute obedience of Christ. Happy are they who knowing that grace can live in the world without being of it, who by following Jesus Christ are so assured of their heavenly citizenship that they are truly free to live their lives in this world. That’s the kind of grace God calls us to in Christ. What does it mean to be a Christian? Chapter 5 said it meant to be secure. Chapter 6 says it means to be free from sin. Chapter 7 will tell us there’s still a battle. And chapter 8 will tell us how to win it. Let’s pray together.
Lord, we’re so thankful tonight for Your Word. How rich. We are thankful that we’ve been made free from sin. And if we’re indifferent to that tonight, forgive us. Oh, what a glorious gift. And how tritely do we treat priceless treasure, how easily do we allow the flesh its own way and mock our liberty.
Thank You for reminding us, Lord, that we are slaves of obedience, as Paul says in one verse, slaves of righteousness, as he says in another, slaves of God, as he says in another. One and the same, and free from the tyranny of sin. Bless You for that. And may we live out in practice what we are in position and never return to the things that produced shame and death but always those things that produce righteousness, holiness and life.
With your head bowed for just a moment, if you have never come to Jesus Christ, received Him as your Savior and Lord, you are not free from sin and it will kill you. But Jesus offers His freedom to you if you will give Him your life, if you will believe that He, God in human flesh, died and rose again for you. Open your heart right now to Him. Say “I want to be free from sin, and I want to be a slave to righteousness, possessor of eternal life.”
Christian, reaffirm to God your thanks for the freedom He’s given you. Tell Him you’re thankful that you do not have to sin, that you’ve been delivered from the bondage and the tyranny of that old master. And then ask His forgiveness for the times that you obeyed a master who has no claim on you, and in your humanness, you sinned. And then ask Him to lead you in the way of holiness that you might fulfill in your life all that He desires of purity and obedience.
Father, we ask that You’ll do Your work in every heart, that we might come truly to understand what it means to be free, to rejoice in that freedom, that some might even be set free tonight is our prayer. For Christ’s sake. Amen.
Heaven is full of rejoicing, joy and laughter. There is always a great rejoicing, singing and praise and glory. It is the presence of God; glorious and wonderful, more than we can ever imagine. Our feeble minds can never express the exceeding abundance of heaven.
Yet, God gives us little experiences of His presence. There’s nothing more refreshing and invigorating than being filled with the Holy Spirit.
Sin draws a person to enjoy the world and its pleasures. God’s love draws us to enjoy Him and the pleasures of heaven.
What makes you rejoice? Is heaven in your heart? Do you have His assurance of an everlasting life ahead? Does thinking about the glorious appearing of Jesus fill you with lively hope? Everything of God is full of life and strength.
Rejoicing in persecution
Rejoice, and be exceeding glad: for great is your reward in heaven: for so persecuted they the prophets which were before you. (Matthew 5:12)
The godly will suffer persecution. No one who enters heaven can escape persecution. Nevertheless, the light affliction is nothing compared to the eternal glory that awaits believers. Believers do not live worrying about what persecution may befall, rather they are focused on when we will meet Jesus in the air.
Rescued from backsliding
And if so be that he find it, verily I say unto you, he rejoiceth more of that sheep, than of the ninety and nine which went not astray. (Matthew 18:13)
Rejoice because you are alive again, turning away form backsliding. God rejoices in our company <– think about this for a moment. Isn’t it unbelievable, though we know it’s true? When we learn to live believing then God’s presence will be a continuous source of delight.
Name on Heaven’s list
Notwithstanding in this rejoice not, that the spirits are subject unto you; but rather rejoice, because your names are written in heaven. (Luke 10:20)
Rejoice because your name is written in heaven. We rejoice in works which manifest in our lives through the power of God. Big mistake! We need to rejoice because God has called us into His presence, to be with Him for eternity.
There are so many reasons to be happy and joyful in Jesus. What a day it will be when we meet Him in the air! Maranatha, Praise God and Amen!
Well, tonight we’re going to be looking back at Romans chapter six, and before I formally get into the message, let me just say how deeply appreciative I am of your faithfulness in coming. I have just been thrilled with the full church because this is difficult. It strains us to comprehend it in many ways. We have to think along with the thoughts of the apostle Paul. We have to have our mind in gear. I’m reminded of what Peter said about Paul in 2 Peter 3:16, that in all his epistles he speaks of things which are hard to be understood, which they that are unlearned and unstable wrest as they do also the other Scriptures. Paul did say things that were hard to be understood. Peter even confessed to that, and I confess to it, and I know you do as well.
So, it’s been very gratifying to have such faithfulness as we’ve gone through these very, very closely-knit theological discussions of the apostle Paul in the Roman epistle. Chapters 4, 5 and 6 have been very, very intricate, very profound. Theological education in brief, believe me, occurs when one studies these great portions of Scripture.
Now, tonight we come to the second half of Romans 6, and as we look at Romans 6:15 to 23, I want to title this section, “Free from sin. Free from sin.” Let me read you verses 15 to 23 so you’ll have it in mind as we approach it.
“What then? Shall we sin because we’re not under the law but under grace? God forbid. Know ye not that to whom ye yield yourselves servants to obey, His servants ye are whom ye obey, whether to sin unto death or of obedience unto righteousness. But God be thanked that whereas ye were the servants of sin, ye have obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine to which you were delivered. Being then made free from sin, ye became the servants of righteousness. I speak after the manner of men because of the infirmity of your flesh: for as ye have yielded your members servants to uncleanness and to iniquity unto iniquity; even so now yield your members servants to righteousness unto holiness. For when ye were the servants of sin, ye were free from righteousness. What fruit had ye then in those things of which ye are now ashamed? For the end of those things is death. But now being made free from sin and become servants to God, ye have your fruit unto holiness and the end everlasting life. For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.”
Jesus said in John 8:34, “Whosoever commits sin is the slave of sin.” All men who live a life of committing sin are slaves to that sin. In fact, every person who comes into this world is under the tyranny of sin. It controls their thoughts. It controls their words. It controls their actions. To put in the terminology of Romans 6, verse 17, “Ye were the slaves of sin.” Verse 20, “Ye were – ” again “ – the slaves of sin.” Twice in that passage. He says you used to be slaves, doulos, bondslaves to sin. And the ultimate end of being a slave to sin we found in verse 21 at the end, “For the end of those things is death.” And verse 23, the beginning of the verse, “For the wages of sin is death.” To be a slave of sin is to die. Sin ultimately kills.
And when you think about what it means to be a slave to sin, it’s a horrifying thought. Years ago, Dr. Guthrie’s great words, prosaic words about sin were written. They have become very insightful, even in this society and perhaps will give you a feeling for what it means to be a slave to sin. He wrote this; “Sin is a debt, a burden, a thief, a sickness, a leprosy, a plague, a poison, a serpent, a sting. Everything that man hates, sin is. A load of curses and calamities beneath whose crushing intolerable pressure, the whole creation groans. Who is the undertaker that digs man a grave? Who is the painted temptress that steals his virtue? Who is the murderess that destroys his life? Who is the sorceress that first deceives and then damns his soul? Sin. Who with icy breath blights the fair blossoms of youth? Who breaks the hearts of parents? Who brings old men gray hairs with sorrow to the grave? Sin. Who changes gentle children into vipers, tender mothers into monsters, and their fathers into worse than Herods, the murderers of their own innocence? Sin. Who casts the apple of discord on household hearts? Who lights the torch of war and bears it blazing over trembling lands? Who by division in the church rends Christ’s seamless robe? Sin. Who is this Delilah that sings the Nazarite asleep and delivers up the strength of God into the hands of the uncircumcised? Who, winning smile on her face, honeyed flattery on her tongue, stands in the door to offer the sacred rites of hospitality, and when suspicion sleeps, treacherously pierces our temples with a nail? What fair siren is this who seated on a rock by the deadly pool smiles to deceive, sings to lure, kisses to betray and flings her arms around our neck to leap with us into perdition? Sin. Who turns the soft and gentlest heart to stone? Who hurls reason from her lofty throne and impels sinners mad as Gadarene swine to run down the precipice into a lake of fire? Sin.”
Sin, that terrible life-wrecking, soul-damning reality which clings like incurable cancer to the human breast and ultimately devastates, sin to which men are enslaved. And men cry to be free from sin, but they cannot. They run to flee its guilt, but they cannot find relief. And because men are the slaves of sin, this passage is so marvelous because it says in verse 20, verse 18 and 22, “Being then made free from sin,” and verse 22, “But now being made free from sin.” That this passage becomes to all those haunted by their sin, a promise of deliverance, free from sin. What a great thought. Sin which devastates, sin which destroys, sin which kills.
The greatest gift that God could ever give a human being, bar none, would be to be free from sin, free from sin; to be restored to the place of righteousness, to be able to fulfill all that we were intended to be when God made us before sin invaded our human stream. Free from sin. What a thought! From its penalty, from its power and from its debilitating and killing presence, free! I can’t think of a more wonderful thought than that, can you? So, this masterful passage is all about being free from sin, and you ought to really find a tremendous amount of comfort here and a great cause for rejoicing.
Now, remember that Paul is discussing the great doctrine of sanctification, which is connected to the doctrine of justification. And now having discussed that in chapters 3, 4 and 5, he is showing the result of that, and the result of that we saw in the first half of chapter 6 is to be made holy. And the result of that in the second half of chapter 6 is to be made free from sin. And to be honest with you, folk, they’re one and the same. And Paul is just looking at the same great reality from two angles. And so in this chapter we learn the great reality of what sanctification is, and we also learn the great reality of how it is connected to justification. When we were saved, when we were redeemed and made right with God, it was to make us holy and free from sin. That was the intention.
Now, we learned in the first fourteen verses of the chapter that we’re united with Jesus Christ in His death and resurrection, and thus we have died to sin and risen to walk in newness of life. The penalty for sin has been paid in that death. The power for sin has been broken, and we walk now in newness of life, alive to God. And now in verses 15 to 23, Paul demonstrates that we are made holy in another analogy. Not only have we died in Christ and risen in Christ and now are walking in a new life, having died to the old one, but we also have become slaves to God and in so doing the slavery to sin which was characteristic of our former life has been broken. So, he really is coming at the same thing from two different perspectives. He shows the believer has a totally new relationship to sin after salvation, different than before because he died in Christ and rose in Christ and because he has a new master which obviates the old master. That’s the thrust of the second half of the chapter. And in both cases, his point is to show that a truly regenerated person cannot go on in the same pattern of sinning that was characteristic of his life before he was saved. Why? Because we are no longer in the same relation to sin. We have died in Christ and risen. We have now, in the second half of the chapter, a new master which means we no longer are under the old master.
So, whether you look at it from the first half or the second half of the chapter, you’re going to see the same thing. A truly justified, redeemed, saved individual is going to have a different relationship to sin than he ever had before. It cannot continue as it was.
Now, I want you to look at this passage, it’s a very simple passage, although on the surface it appears to be perhaps difficult. We’re going to break it down and take a few elements tonight and a few elements next time, but let’s start with the antagonist. We used that same kind of little outline for the first half of the chapter and the second follows the same thought. It begins with a proposed question. We’ll call this the antagonist. And by that, I mean the one who’s antagonistic toward Paul’s doctrine of salvation by grace. The legalist can’t tolerate that, that grace kind of thing. And this is what, typically, they would say, verse 15, “What then?” I mean, if we’re saved by grace, and if as you’ve just said in verse 14 we’re no longer under the law, “Shall we sin then because we’re not under the law but under grace?”
In other words, to some people who are legalistic, grace appears like a license, grace appears like lawlessness. I mean, when you come to a group of people like the Jewish people who all their lifelong have been trying to earn their way into heaven by good works and you say to them, “All your good works are nothing but filthy rags, they don’t mean a single thing. You can be saved by the free gift of God given to unworthy sinners.” That’s very hard for them to handle. It sounds like lawlessness. It sounds like liberty to sin. It sounds like it doesn’t matter how you live, and that’s where the antagonist comes in. He is saying, “Look, if you preach this message of salvation by grace, in other words, that I don’t do anything to get saved, and I can’t do anything to get saved, and none of my goodness matters in my salvation, and it’s all grace and God is going to forgive me, and I’m not under the law and I’m under grace, then, boy, you’ve just turned me loose.”
Well, Paul’s answer in the first half of the chapter is simply this. No, we haven’t turned you loose because God’s put in you a new nature and your new nature, your new creation, your new self, your new identity isn’t going to do that. You understand that? And if you do do that, you indicate that you’re not under grace and you’re not a recreation at all.
So, the first antagonist question came in verse 1 and it was, “Shall we continue in sin that grace may abound?” And now the question is much like it, “Shall we sin because we’re not under the law but under grace?” The idea is the same. Does the doctrine of salvation by grace give freedom to sin in an unrestrained way? And that is the accusation that is made against this doctrine. And you can imagine that in the context of the Jewish society in which Paul ministered that they would be just saying, “Wait a minute, you can’t go around doing that.” And that’s why, for example, when he preached in Galatia in the cities of that territory known as Galatia, and he preached salvation by grace through faith, the Jewish people followed him along, and they came into all those churches and said, “No, no, no, no, no. You’ve got to be circumcised. You’ve got to keep all the law of Moses, and if you do that, then you can come to Christ.”
And Paul had to write Galatians and say, “Don’t you let anybody bewitch you. Don’t let anybody add works to your gracious salvation. If anybody comes along and preaches that, I don’t care who it is, even an angel, let him be accursed.” The doctrine of grace stands, folks. With all the accusation, it still stands. And there have always been those critics who said the doctrine of grace leads to lawlessness. This is the criticism of the antagonist, and may I say to you what I said earlier in our study? Grace preaching and grace teaching always is liable to this charge. It always is. It always exposes itself to this criticism, but we aren’t going to change it because I’m not afraid of that. I’m not afraid of saying to someone, “You come to Jesus Christ by grace, that is by God’s free gift of salvation independent of anything you’ve ever done and disregarding everything you’ve ever done; you come by grace and I believe if you do, God will create you anew, as the Bible says, and you’re not going to go out and abuse the reality of that grace.” Now, you may abuse it now and then but it isn’t going to be an utter life style.
So, the antagonist asks the question, back at verse 15 again, “Shall we sin?” Deliberately, is the idea, persistently, continuously, habitually. Shall we now who have been delivered from being under the law, and by that he does not mean that we are no longer responsible to obey God’s Word. What he means is under a system of law, righteousness; under a system of law, salvation; under a system of works; righteousness. Since we’ve been delivered from trying to earn our salvation, since it’s a free gift of grace, that’s what under grace means, shall we just go on and sin? Does grace free us to do that?
Well, the answer again, first point is the antagonist, here’s the second point, the answer. M genoito, verse 15, the Greek says. The Authorized translates it “God forbid.” And it could be translated “No, no, no, not on your life. No way. Impossible, ridiculous, absolutely not.” It is an utterly unacceptable thought. To even ask the question is to prove you’re not a Christian. And believe me, there have been people who have done this.
I can remember that there was a lot of this activity going on about 12 or 13 years ago out here. And I was having conversations with some college students who were saying, “Man, I’ve just gotten into what they were calling `super grace’ and I don’t have to confess my sin, and God doesn’t care what I do and, boy, I’m free in grace and I can live anyway I want to live. And just sow my oats and just I’m under grace.” And the very continued life style which they exhibited was seemingly evidence enough to me that they never did know what it was to be under grace because grace not only grants an undeserved salvation, it transforms a life. And the pattern is changed, the pattern of sin.
So, the antagonist is in verse 15 and the answer is in verse 15. No, no, no, no. But Paul doesn’t just give you short answers like that, he explains them. So, come to verse 16 with me and let’s look at the axiom, the axiom. What is an axiom? It’s a general truth. An axiom is something you don’t prove; it’s self-evident. It doesn’t need proof because it’s obvious, and that is exactly what you have here. You have a very simple axiom stated. And it starts out by saying, “Know ye not?” The assumption is that you know this. “Don’t you know this, that to whom you yield yourselves servants to obey, his servants ye are whom ye obey?” A very simple axiom. If you sign up to serve a certain master, you’re bound to serve that master. I mean, it doesn’t take a brilliant person to figure that axiom out. It is obvious. It is self-evident. It’s simply saying this, a slave is bound to obey his master by the very nature of his slavery. I mean, that’s what slavery is. If you sign up to be a slave to somebody, you sign up to obey them. That’s just axiomatic, and that is the essence of what Paul wants to get across, a very important point. If you give yourself to any master, you become the slave of the master.
Look at it again in verse 16. “To whom you yield yourselves – ” doulos to obey, servants or slaves, “ – his servants ye are whom ye obey.” I mean, you do it because you yielded yourself. Now particularly is that not true when you willingly yielded yourself to that individual. You give yourself to a master, and you become the slave of that master. That’s obvious.
Then he goes on in verse 16 and makes an application. “Whether of sin unto death or of obedience unto righteousness.” Now he personifies these two masters. One is sin and one is obedience. Sin, by the way, is disobedience, right? So one could said to be disobedience and the other obedience, and to what standard do we either obey or disobey? God, right? So, the whole issue then is some people yield themselves servants of disobedience to God, and some people yield themselves servants of obedience to God.
To put it in the terms of chapter 5, men are either in Adam or in Christ. To put it in the terms, that’s 5:17, of chapter 5:21, men are either under the reign of sin or the reign of grace. So, in this sense, you’re either serving sin or you’re serving obedience. Now let me just say it as clear as I can. There are only two options, people. That’s all, just two. There’s no middle ground. Two to choose from. You choose to serve sin or you choose to serve obedience. You choose to obey God or you choose not to obey God. And if you don’t obey God, you become the subject or you are naturally the subject of the prince of the power of the air, Satan himself. It is a universal law then that a man becomes a slave of whatever master he commits himself to, just a simple axiomatic principle.
It is also axiomatic in that same principle that you never can serve two masters. You are committed to one or the other. Jesus said in Matthew 6:24, “No man can serve – ” what? “ – two masters; for either you love one and hate the other, or you hold to the one and despise the other.” And in that case, he said, you can’t serve God and money. You can’t serve two masters. It is the nature of slavery that you can’t have two people giving you orders if you’re a slave. Once you’ve chosen your master, by the very definition of that act, you become bound in obedience to that master.
Now that’s the basic substantive axiom that the rest of the text flows from. Just as we saw in the first 14 verses, the idea that we were buried with Christ and we’ve risen with Christ. Here, the idea is the slavery analogy. When you became a Christian, what did you say, in effect? I submit myself to whom? To God through Christ.
Now let me put it as simply as I can. There is no salvation apart from such a conscious submission. That would destroy Paul’s whole point here. When you come to Christ, you come as a slave to a master, as a servant to the Lord. No other terms. And when you say, “I come as a slave or a servant to the Lord and Master,” you are affirming your commitment to be subject to Him.
Now if you are – back to verse 16 – if you are the slave of sin, what does it lead to? Death. And we’re going to hear that a few times before we get to verse 23. And if you are the slave of obedience, what does it lead to? Righteousness. Sin leads to sin, leads to sin, leads to sin, leads to death. Sin begets sin, begets sin, begets sin, begets death. “Men,” says Charles Hodge, “hurry on from one degrading service to another until it wreaks their ruin.”
But, on the other hand, if you serve obedience and obedience is personified at this point as if it were a master, if you serve obedience, it leads to righteousness, to righteousness, to righteousness. And as we shall find in verse 23, ultimately to what? Eternal life. So, you have your choice. That’s your choice. You can be a slave to sin which you are by nature, or you can be a slave to God, which you are by new creation.
Now let me say something very important at this juncture. One who comes to God through Christ and says, “I take you as my Savior, Master and Lord,” is not, listen to me, and this is Paul’s whole point here, he is not only ethically bound, he is not only ethically bound to obey, he is creatively made to obey. And that is a very important truth. When you become a Christian, it is not simply that you are ethically bound to obedience; it is that you are creatively made unto obedience.
And if you have any question about that, then you don’t understand Ephesians 2, which says that we are created in Christ Jesus unto good works which God has before not wished or not hoped or not wanted but ordained that we should what? Walk in them. Salvation is unto good works, without equivocation. So note that because many people have fouled up in Romans 6 because they don’t understand that concept. Paul here is not talking about an ethical binding, that is a binding of moral conscience. He’s talking about a remaking of the nature of an individual so that the obedience factor is a reality. There is an ethical reality there as well, but it begins with a creative fact and moves to an ethical responsibility.
So, Paul is dealing, now mark this, with a state of being, with a fact; not an ought, not a command. You say, “Well, what you’re trying to say then is that everybody who is saved is transformed.” You got it. In the first 14 verses we saw the transformation through the figure of death and resurrection, right? Here we see the transformation through the analogy of having, in a sense, died to the old slavery to live to the new slavery. In the next chapter, chapter 7, we’re going to see the same analogy, only that time it will be in a marriage situation where you’ve got a former husband and a new husband. And Paul is banging the same thing, that there is a new creation. And even though we are in the presence of our bodies, even though we still possess the flesh, even though we can only experience imperfect holiness, we will obey. We must obey. It is an essential in our new creation.
Now, if you want to see a comparative text on this, Colossians 1:21 would be helpful. “And you – ” that’s us, “ – that were once alienated and enemies in your mind by wicked works, yet now hath He reconciled in the body of His flesh through death.” Now when God reconciled us at the cross, something happened. You say, “Yes, He brought us to God.” That’s right, but something else happened, look at this. He reconciled us to present us holy and unblamable and unreprovable – ” where? “ – in His sight.”
Now you can go back to Romans. W hen God redeemed us, that new creation became holy and it will issue in a consequential behavior change. Obedience – listen, I’ll say it another way –obedience is a certainty in the life of a truly justified person. Now that is not to say that there won’t be sin there, and that is not to say that there won’t be times when that sin appears to dominate. But obedience will be there if obscured even at some points.
And so, we can say if a person continues in unmitigated and continued habitual, persistent, willing sin as he did before he supposedly came to Christ that no matter what he thinks, he’s not a Christian. So the very fact of the question asked in verse 15 is ludicrous for someone to say, “Well, then, if we’ve come under grace and we’re not under law, let’s just sin like mad.” You show by asking such a question that you’re not even a Christian. If you continue as a slave to sin, 1 John says you could not belong to God. You couldn’t. First John 1:6, “If we say we have fellowship with Him and continue to walk in darkness, we – ” what? “ – we lie. We do not the truth.” First John 2:4, “He that says, ‘I know Him,’ and keeps not His commandments, he is a liar, the truth isn’t in him.” 3:9, “Whosoever is born of God does not commit sin. His seed remains in him and he cannot sin because he’s born of God. And this the children of God are manifest and the children of the devil. Whosoever does not righteousness is not of God. Neither he that loveth not his brother.”
In other words, if you’re a Christian, you’re going to manifest righteousness; you’re going to manifest obedience. Doesn’t Peter say the same thing in 2 Peter 2:19? “While they promise them liberty, they themselves are the servants of corruption for of whom a man is overcome, of the same is he brought into bondage.” Great principle. Whatever dominates you is indicative of who your master is. And that’s why we say, “You show us a person who lives in an unmitigated life of sin, and it really doesn’t matter what they claim.”
Matthew Henry put it this way, “If we would know to which of these two families we belong, we must inquire to which of these two masters we yield our obedience.” Now, let’s go back to what we said last week, just so you understand it. If you’re a real Christian you may sin, but the real you is going to hate that sin. And you’re going to be where Paul was in Romans 7, you’re going to be saying, “The things I want to do, I don’t do. The things I don’t want to do, I do, O wretched man that I am!”
And so, there are two reasons in this chapter why a believer will not continue in sin under grace. Number one, he’s united to Christ. He’s died to sin; sin has no power over him. Number two, he is a slave of a new master, and he will obey the new master by a very definition of his slavery.
Now, having looked at the antagonist and the answer and the axiom in verse 16, verses 17 to 22 become the argument in which he unfolds all of his thinking based on the axiom there. And then in verse 23, he finally closes with what I’ll call an absolute. We’re not going to get through this, but let me just introduce you to the argument in verse 17 to 22, just a marvelous, marvelous thing.
Paul is now explaining the principle of verse 16, explaining the axiom, applying it to the situation, and he does so by drawing an extended contrast between these two slaveries: the slavery to sin, the slavery to righteousness. He just runs them out. He starts with their position and then their practice and then their promise. He moves through the three phases: when they started, where they’re going, and when they end up.
Let’s look at the position, first of all, of these two slaveries. Verse 17, “But God be thanked that whereas you were the slaves of sin, ye have obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine to which you were delivered, being then made free from sin, you became the slaves of righteousness.” Now you see both of them there, don’t you? On the one hand, in verse 17, you were the servants of sin. In verse 18, you have become the servants of righteousness. Now those are the initiating points that we want to look at. This is positional talk, and I’ll explain that as we go.
Look at verse 17, “But God be thanked,” and this is an important footnote. Whenever you’re talking about someone’s salvation, who do you have to thank? Who do you have? God. You didn’t come to Christ because you were so intelligent. You didn’t come to Christ because you surveyed the field and you said this is the thing I want to do. You didn’t come to Christ because somebody convinced you intellectually because of a whole bunch of data that this is true. You didn’t come to Christ for any other reason really than that God brought you. That’s right, “No man comes unto Me except the Father does – ” what? “ – draws him.” And you always thank God for salvation because He is the author and finisher of our faith. It is God alone who can break the slavery to sin. Salvation is of God and no other. There is no salvation apart from that which God has given.
In Romans 1:8 at the very beginning of the epistle, Paul says, “I thank my God through Jesus Christ for you all, that your faith is spoken of through all the world.” I thank God for what has happened in your life. Well, that’s basic. And by the way, you will find that same concept all throughout the whole of the New Testament. The transformation that takes us from death to life, from sin to God, is one that God works Himself.
Having said that, then, let’s look at the rest of the contrast here. He then says, “You were the servants of sin.” That’s an imperfect tense verb which means it’s a past time of continuous reality. In other words, in past times, you were continually in the past, continually a slave of sin. Now that is the natural condition of every man. People don’t want to admit that. They don’t like to hear that. To put it in a very consistent way with the way we’ve been speaking in the last couple of weeks, what he’s saying is, “From the start, you by nature have been sinners, continually. That’s your nature. That’s your natural condition, involuntary forced and harsh dominance has been opposed on you by being born in the world. You know where you got all this sin? Where did you get it? From your mother and your father, and they go back to Adam and Eve.”
And so, men and women born into this world are born into this tremendous condition of slavery to sin. In Romans 3, in fact, it sort of helps us to see what it means. In verse 10, “There is none righteous, no not one, none understands, none seeks after God. They’re all gone out of the way. They’re all together gone sour,” is what that verb means. “There is none that does good, no not one. Their throats an open sepulcher, their tongues have used deceit. The poison of asps is under their lips. Their mouth is full of cursing. Their feet are swift to shed blood, destruction and misery in their way. The way of peace have they not known and there’s no fear of God in their eyes.”
So, this is a description of human kind, slaves of sin. Men don’t realize it. You know, they think they’re free. And you inevitably come to somebody with the gospel, and you tell them about coming to Jesus Christ, and they’re afraid to come to Christ because they’re afraid it’s some kind of bondage, and they think they have such liberty. They don’t have any liberty. There’s no such thing as freedom to an unregenerate person, none at all. They’re slaves. But he says this, “You were slaves of sin, but you have obeyed from the heart.” Oh, I love that.
What does that say? Well, it wasn’t external, was it? When they came to Christ, it wasn’t something they did on the outside. It wasn’t some water baptism or some church membership or signing some card or putting their hand up or walking down an aisle or doing some religious rite or saying their beads or lighting a candle or whatever, taking a pilgrimage. It wasn’t something outside; it was something inside from the heart. And what was it that happened in their heart? They obeyed. They obeyed.
In other words, listen, even though it is the work of God, you’re not passively transported from one master to another. You’re not just involuntarily picked up and slapped over somewhere else. And people who get into the doctrine of the sovereignty of God, very often, see people being saved without even knowing it. You can read theologians who say you can be a redeemed person and not even know it because it’s happened. God already did it, He just hasn’t announced it to you yet. I find that very difficult. Because you never see salvation occurring apart from the act of commitment to Christ. In this particular context, it’s spoken of as obedience, obedience. Gladly and eagerly, with a sense of the slavery to sin, you rushed to make God your new master.
And what did you obey? Some nebulous vague spiritual thing? No. This is marvelous, and a lot of people think, “Oh, I believe, I believe in believing, I believe.” And they, you know, you hear that all the time from people. “Oh yes, I’m a believer.” What do you believe? “Oh, I believe God. I believe.” Well, there’s more than that. It says this, verse 17, “You obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine.” Isn’t that good? It isn’t a question. “Well, I believe if you just believe, you’ll be all right.” No. You believe that form of doctrine, the body of saving truth. Form is tupos. It has a lot of uses. The way it’s framed in this verse is marvelous and the Authorized has missed the nuance. It should read that you have obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine into which, get that, into which you were delivered. Not which was delivered to you, into which you were delivered. Boy, that’s a tremendous thought.
Let me give you the idea. The word tupos here means “mold, a mold, a casting mold.” And let’s assume that the mold is in the shape of a servant. When you came into this world, you were poured into a mold, and you came out after the molten metal cooled, and you were lifted from that mold and plunked down in the world. You were a slave of sin. You were a slave statue and your slavery was to sin.
But God be thanked that you responded to the true gospel by obeying the form into which you were poured. And it’s as if, in Paul’s analogy, when God saw you as a slave to sin, by His great grace, He melted you down and reduced you to the basic elements. And while you were hot and molten, He re-poured you into a new mold. This mold is the form of doctrine into which you were delivered. You can see it, 2 Timothy 1:13, the form of sound doctrine. That word “form” is used 16 times in the New Testament. There is form to this.
So, here you are. You’ve been melted down by conviction, by the beginning work of the redeeming Spirit and now you are re-poured into a new mold. And when the metal is cooled and you have hardened and you are lifted out, you’re in a new shape. What is your shape? You have conformed to the mold into which you were poured, and what is that mold? It is the form of doctrine. What does that mean? You have conformed to the pattern of truth that is the gospel. You now are a living statue of the reality of the gospel. Great thought. You’re new, all new. The teaching, and think of it this way, the teaching to which you submit yourself when you become a Christian stamps you with its image. You ought to know that’s a great thought.
Have you ever noticed – this is true of everything in life? People live the way they learn to live. It’s true. People live the way they learn to live. You come to Grace Church long enough, and we’ll pour you into our mold. We really will. And you’ll go bouncing out like a little “Gracite.” That’s it, it happens! And that’s all right because it says Jesus said, “And when a man is fully discipled, he’ll be like his teacher.” That’s okay, that’s okay. I mean, after all, you come out of a certain family, and you bear the image of that family. It’s put you in its mold, hasn’t it? That’s precisely what it says in Romans 12:2 when it says, “Don’t let the world put you in its mold.” You’ve been poured into a mold of the form of sound teaching regarding the gospel, and you’ve been cooled there, and you’ve been plopped out, and you are a living reality. You now are a slave statue all over again, but you’re a slave to God. And only God could melt down that old person and pour that ingredients back into a new mold and shape that new person. The one who once was stamped with false teaching is now stamped with the image of the true doctrine of God. So good.
And let me just take it a step further. You have to fit the form, folks. You don’t become a Christian by just floating all over the place and believing whatever you want. I had a luncheon the other day when I spoke to The Full Gospel Business Men International Luncheon. Afterwards, a man came up to me and he said, “I’ve been in this group for a long time,” and he said, “I’ll tell you how I think you get to God.” And I said, “All right, you tell me.” He said, “Well, you see, there’s just a lot of steps.” And this is what he said exactly, “And up there at the top there’s this door, and behind it is this guy name Jesus.” And he says, “What you really want to do is try like `blank’ to make it up the stairs and to get through the door, have a guy like the guy Jesus let you in.” And he says, “When you’re on the way up the stairs, you’ve got all these preachers and movements hollering at you but you just keep going up the stairs, and I call it the stairway of hope. That’s how I think it is.”
I said to him, “Sir, bless your heart, you are not a Christian, and your stairway is hopeless. You need to depend on Jesus Christ. You don’t even know what it means to be saved.” You see, you can’t invent your own mold. You understand that? There’s a sound form of doctrine, the teaching of the gospel, believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, confess your sins, affirm His Lordship, His death, His resurrection. There is a gospel content. There is a form, and if you are to come out in the image of the servant of God and to bear His stamp, you will have been poured into His mold. You understand that?
So, this is the statement of our position. When you came to Christ, you were melted down and poured into a new mold, and you have come out a new statue, a new image and you bear the mark of a servant of God. Isn’t that marvelous? Because you obeyed when the gospel call an reached your heart. Foolish to try to fight doctrine.
By the way, the word “obeyed” there, I just can’t resist this, and I think we’ll stop at this point, but I can’t resist. Don’t tune out yet. I shouldn’t say that. But the word “obeyed,” it just seems to hit me so strongly. Just in case you haven’t noticed, that’s the fourth time we’ve read it in three verses. That’s right; obey, obey, obey, obey, obey. You see, that is the key concept; the obedience of the faith. That is obeying the gospel. The obedience of life; that is a Christian responding to the Word of God. Believing Jesus Christ is the initial act of obedience, and then it becomes a life of obedience, obedience, obedience, obedience. We never get our independence, folks. You hear me? We never do. We never get to the point like kids do when they burst out of the house and call their own shots. We’re always under the Master. We’re always under the Lord, and we’re always to obey.
And may I suggest to you that there is inherent in that concept, the very heart of the meaning of the doctrine of salvation that a Christian is marked as one who does what? Obeys. And if you don’t, you can’t be one no matter what you say. Obedience is the expression of faith. Obedience says I believe God, I believe His Word, I’ll act on it. And all true justification produces obedience. And the longer we live with Christ, the more obedient we ought to become.
Titus 2, have you read this recently? Verse 11, “For the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men.” And what did it do when it came to us? “Well, it taught us to deny ungodliness and worldly lusts and to live soberly, righteously and godly in this present age.” That’s what it did. Verse 14, it says, “Jesus Christ gave Himself for us that He might redeem us from iniquity and purify unto Himself a people of His own zealous of good works.” Isn’t that good? We were saved to good works. We’re saved to purification. It’s very simple.
Peter says this. He says in 1 Peter 1:22, “Seeing that you have purified your souls in obeying the truth.” Oh, that’s so good. See, when you came to Jesus Christ it purified your soul. You became a new creation and a life of obedience is the result. This new casting means a whole new master, and he says it in verse 18, “We became free from sin.” Great thought. Oh, not free from sinning. We do that now and then. Not free from temptation, but free from the mastery and the tyranny of sin where we couldn’t do anything but sin.
You say, “You mean, before you’re a Christian all you do is sin?” That’s right. All you do is sin. Even your good deeds fall into the sin category because they’re not for the glory of God, and when men do good deeds just so they can be good men, that’s pride, and that’s a sin. What amazes me is how much men love their slavery. Have you noticed that? They don’t even know they’re slaves to sin. They love it. Men love darkness rather than light.
But you’ve been made free from that and became the servants of righteousness. And that’s a creative alteration, not only an ethical responsibility. We are now free. Now, listen to me very carefully, I’m going to close with this thought. We are free for the first time in our life. A sinner is not free. All he can do is what? Sin. Who’s the only person who has a choice? A Christian. So for the first time in your life, you’re free. Not free to do wrong. Oh, no, no, you’ve done that a long time. For the first time in your life, you’re free to do what? Right. That’s Christian freedom. And the people who go around saying Christian liberty gives me the freedom to do wrong, do not understand Christian liberty. Christian liberty, the liberation of the soul, is for the first time in my life I can do right! Marvelous thought.
Well, there we see the initiation, the position, the difference between the servant of sin, the servant of righteousness. One has no freedom. One has freedom to do right. Now, we’ll go from there next time to see the progress of these lives and the promise. One ends in death and one in life. Let’s pray.
Lord, thank You for our teaching time tonight and thank You so much, Father, for Your grace to these dear people in saving them. Thank You for the hunger in their hearts for the Word. We know this is not entertainment, and we know it’s taxing and the body is weary and the mind as well, sometimes. And, Father, I just thank You for their loving support, for their hunger for Your Word that makes them set aside the time and prepare the heart and the mind to receive the deep things of God. And, O Father, bless them, fill their cup with the water for which they thirst. Fill their spiritual stomach with the food for which they hunger. Thank You that we’re free from sin, for the first time free to do right, free to do Your will because there’s a new life principle in us that does righteousness. Thank You, Father, that You didn’t just save us and write it in a book but You changed us that we may enjoy the reality of that salvation in the glorious liberty of the sons of God. And all of this causes us to thank You for Christ, our Redeemer. We pray in His name. Amen.
In a video called “Dear Closed Churches” uploaded to his YouTube account, Mark Driscoll made a comment that he is concerned that so many churches are still closed. Driscoll is the former senior pastor of Seattle’s Mars Hill Church and current founding and senior pastor of The Trinity Church in Scottsdale, Arizona.
Taken from his sermon this past Sunday where he preached out of Romans 10 on predestination, Driscoll made the point that people will use the sovereignty of God as an excuse not to be on mission for God. Observing that type of thinking leads to a lazy, indifferent, unmotivated Christian, he said, “I don’t like to go super negative, but I do have a real concern…so many churches are still closed. Where is the sense of urgency?”
“Churches that even could be open…they’re still not open,” Driscoll said and explained the reasoning for his concern and plea for urgency was, “People don’t know Jesus and the church is a place where we have this great opportunity to love people and to serve people and to tell people about Jesus.”
The typical response to that statement is, “Well we don’t want anybody to get sick,” the “Doctrine: What Christians Should Believe” author shared.
In vintage Mark Driscoll fashion, the pastor told his congregation his view on the true sickness of the world, saying, “100 percent of people are infected with sin and will die because of sin, and the only remedy for them is Jesus Christ. So sin is still a bigger problem than COVID.”
Mark Driscoll explained that he isn’t against people taking preventative measures not to spread the COVID-19 virus. “If we want to wear a mask, wear hand sanitizer, get a vaccine, get a tape measure [to] stay six feet apart,” Driscoll said, people would not see judgement from him.
“You’re still gonna die because of sin and Jesus is your only hope,” he said, making sure the people listening understood the larger problem in the world isn’t the virus but their need for Christ:
God’s people can’t overlook the one message that is our unique contribution to the world. There’s a lot of places you can go to get a sandwich or a vaccination or an after-school program, but there’s only one place that can tell you about Jesus Christ, and it needs to be open!
Driscoll tied his concern that some churches are still closed to his warning of misinterpreting God’s sovereignty, the combination of which he feels can lead to a lazy, indifferent, unmotivated Christian. He explained, “When we think God is in charge, we think that we don’t matter, and we do because God has chosen to work through us to love and to serve others.”
Mark Driscoll serves with his family at The Trinity Church in Scottsdale, Ariz., which they planted in 2016 after leaving Mars Hill Church amid controversial circumstances. While he serves as the senior pastor at The Trinity Church, his wife Grace leads the women’s ministry. His oldest daughter Ashley serves as the executive director of Real Faith, his son Zac serves as the director of interns, and his son-in-law Landon Chase (married to Ashley) serves as Trinity’s Next Generation leader.
Forgive others without fail. It is the best way to live.
Forgiveness is not possible for those who haven’t realised they have been forgiven by God. Those who truly believe in the forgiveness they received from God alone can forgive others.
It’s a supernatural trait, heavens character. Jesus’ journey from birth to the cross is God forgiving us, on behalf of us. When He did no sin, He took on all our sins so we could once again enjoy Him through the power of His resurrection.
This first requires an understanding of the damage of sin in our lives. Which comes to us when we are born again, drawn into a marvellous light in Christ. The selfless God, in Jesus, forgave us so we could be with Him for eternity.
Who can forgive others without fail?
The standard of forgiveness is revealed in Stephen, when he forgave those who stoned him and attacked him violently.
Paul was stoned and left for dead, yet he forgave all those who went against him. (Acts 14:19)
All the apostles went through great persecution for the sake of Christ. They were fruitful in their ministry because of living out the lifestyle of Jesus. Loving and forgiving one and all. The Thessalonian church amidst much persecution lived out their faith, in humility and lowliness of heart.
To be faithful and to minister, we need to forgive others. The Heavenly Father forgave us and so should we forgive all. The Father’s dwelling place has no room for bitterness, anger or hatred. It is a home full of love everlasting.
When our hearts are full of love for God, we will be quick to forgive and serve people for the Glory of God. Obedience to God’s word and being led by the Holy Spirit is the answer to staying focused, doing the will of God. God gives us the ability to forgive and move on in love.
Jesus is coming to take us home. Maranatha, Praise God and Amen.
2 Corinthians 2:11: “lest Satan should take advantage of us; for we are not ignorant of his devices.”
I’ve been getting plenty of these pushy telephone solicitors who don’t want to take “NO” for an answer. – In fact, one just now called me while I was working on this sermon.
Wow, was he a smooth talker!
“Mr. Woods, this is a courtesy call on behalf of Blah, Blah, Blah Credit Card Company and we’d like to tell you about a limited time offer…” – “Medicare supplements,” or a “free vacation”…….
Sometimes when they’re extra persistent I tell them, “I’m going to hang up now, but you can keep talking to my phone line if you like.” Or maybe, “I’m busy and not really interested, but my dog’s right here and he may be interested in what you’re selling, let me put him on.”
“I’m not interested.” Click. The receiver went quickly back into its position. You see, I wasn’t about to listen to this guy’s “offer.”
Why? Because I’ve learned one thing about telemarketers… – …if you don’t hang up on them quickly, you might buy something you don’t really want. Telemarketers are clever. They try to convince you that they’re doing you a favor, thus the “courtesy” call.
They want you to believe what they’re about to share is really in your best interest and they’re trying to be a help… – …yeah, they want to help you right into making a decision that you don’t really want to make!
I’ve got to credit telemarketers with one thing, though. When you quickly hang up on them, they usually don’t call you back again that day.
The guy that called me didn’t. Oh, he may call me again tomorrow or some other day, but for now he’s leaving me alone. When we lived in Seattle, I had a couple of unique experiences.
We needed a car because the one we had was nickeling and dimeing us something terrible. – Everything that could go wrong was going wrong!
I went to one car dealership and the salesman said, “Let me take the keys to your car so our appraiser can see what we can offer you for a trade-in.” – I handed him the keys and he would not give them back until I bought one of their cars. – I literally had to steal my car keys back when I saw them laying in his cubical.
I went to another dealership and told the salesman I liked the car he offered me, but would have to pray about our decision whether to buy it or not. – The car dealer said, “I’ll help you pray about it.” I asked, “Pray, or Prey?”
I especially love the presentations for time-shares…………………
The last one Marty and I suckered into was trying to sell us vacations. – I told the lady that we didn’t take many vacations and really were just curious. – She asked me if we were there just to receive the gift they were giving out for listening to their spiel admitted that we wanted something to do that afternoon and we really weren’t that interested in buying into their program.
She said, “Please follow me.”
We had no idea where she was taking us. She led us to a door, opened it, and we stepped through to find ourselves in the alley. She slammed the door shut and we had to walk clear around the building to find our car.
I DIDN’T EVEN GET ONE OF THE DOUGHNUTS THEY WERE SERVING! You know, Satan’s a master telemarketer. His skills are razor sharp. His technique is flawless, precise and well rehearsed. He knows his stuff. And, wow, is HE a smooth talker.
“Brother Christian, this is a courtesy call on behalf of SSI” (Satan’s Systems International…but he doesn’t tell you what it stands for!)
“We’d like to inform you about a limited-time offer. If you act fast you can avoid giving your tithe by…(use your money to get something you want) We’ve got a really great deal on unforgiveness and ill will, you can develop a lifelong grudge in just seconds, it’s so easy. Oh, let me tell you about the special of the day…little white lies, why you can get a whole case of them for all kinds of occasions.
What about these handy little devices…excuses. Why we’ve got plenty of them for you to choose from. There’s one to keep you from reading your Bible each day, here’s one to help you avoid prayer time, this one will allow you to sleep in on Sunday mornings, there’s one for…”
You see what I’m saying? Satan’s a master telemarketer.
He’s smooth and silky. Let him keep talking and you’re asking for trouble! If you don’t hang up on him quickly, you might just buy something you don’t really want!
There’s good news, though. There’s a way to get him to shut up, at least for a little while…
The Bible says in James 4:7, “resist the devil, and he will flee from you.”In other words, hang up!
Oh, he most definitely will call again, but at least for now he’ll leave you alone.
Make no mistake about it, Christian. Sometime this week that spiritual telephone is going to ring. Satan will call, you can count on it. When He does……tell him you’re not interested and hang up the phone!
1 Corinthians 10:13 – No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it.
PAY ATTENTION TO THIS WARNING: The strength of a temptation lies in how long you play with the thoughts of yielding to it. The longer you play with the temptation the stronger it gets and the more apt you are to yield to it.
As a small boy, my Grandma used to read to me every evening. One of the selections she read to me was Laura Wilder’s, “LITTLE HOUSE” series which I enjoyed thoroughly! – One incident from the books that I remember was when Laura and Mary’s Pa and Ma had to go to town for supplies. Pa had just harvested the hay for the animals for the winter and piled it into a haystack.
– He specifically told the girls not to jump on the hay because they would knock down and scatter the hay. – It looked like it would be so much fun that Laura decided just one jump wouldn’t hurt the haystack. – That was fun! One jump led to another and etc.
When Pa got home the stack was scattered all over and Laura and Mary were in trouble!
The problem came when the girls didn’t walk away, but stayed there thinking about how much fun jumping in the hay would be.
Satan knows if he can get you thinking about the temptation long enough that he can defeat you and cause you to yield. THE POWER IN THE TEMPTATION IS IN HOW LONG YOU WILL THINK ABOUT IT!
The way to defeat Satan’s enticements is to get away and quit thinking about it.
There are radio towers all over our country. Each is putting out a signal on a certain frequency. If you don’t like what they’re offering you can switch the station and find something more suitable to your taste.
When Satan is bombarding you with a temptation you can switch the station!
Mark Twain said, ‘YOU CAN’T STOP BIRDS FROM FLYING OVER YOUR HEAD, BUT YOU DON’T NEED TO LET THEM NEST IN YOUR HAIR!”
How do I change the station when the Devil is tempting me?
Memorize scripture: Psalm 119:11 “Thy Word have I hid in my heart that I might not sin against thee.”
Learn hymns and choruses to remind yourself how good God is to you. By the way, Satan doesn’t enjoy you singing them to him.
Testify to Satan. Tell him what Christ has blest your life. Ask what he has done for you.
When he knocks at the door send Christ to answer.
You don’t have to fall if you don’t give him a foothold. – The comedian, Flip Wilson used to get a laugh every time he said, “The Devil made me do it.”
Listen, as funny as that line seemed to be it was totally inaccurate. The Devil can’t make you do anything. He can present the temptation, but you are the one who makes the decision.
James 4:7-8: “Therefore submit to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you. Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts, you double-minded.”
There is something I need to clarify. Some people think if they are tempted that they have sinned. TEMPTATION IS NOT SIN!
TEMPTATION IS WHEN THE DEVIL SAYS, “WILL YOU?”
SIN COMES WHEN YOU SAY, “I WILL!”
Every Christian faces temptation, but every one of us has the ability to say “NO!”
Remember: 1 Corinthians 10:13 – “No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it.”
Put God first in your life and He will show you the way to be victorious!
Remember: When Satan solicits you it is not a Courteous call! You don’t have to be courteous to Satan. What he’s trying to sell you will destroy you if you buy into it!
Keep in mind that the pleasures of sin are only temporary. The guilt and consequences of sin are long lasting and far outweigh the pleasure sin brought for you.
If sin persists it will lead you to an Eternity in Hell! YOU DON’T WANT THAT!
There is a courtesy call that you ought to take.
The best courtesy call you will ever get comes from God. There are no hidden clauses, no small print that you will regret later. – He is just offering you straight forward the opportunity to find forgiveness from sin and guilt, He wants to make you part of His Family, a joint heir with His Son, Jesus, and He wants to provide to you Eternal Life in His home in Heaven!
John 14:1-3 “Let not your heart be troubled; you believe in God, believe also in Me.In My Father’s house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you.And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also.
The benefits and joy of obeying God last forever. GOD’S WAYS ARE BEST!
In these dire times, many are looking to the church to offer hope, but true hope and peace only come through conviction of sin and deep repentance. This is how we will truly change our nation. We can’t make bad people good; only God can do that.
The term “Achilles’ heel” refers to an area of weakness and vulnerability. The American church today has an Achilles’ heel—a lack of prayer and powerful preaching. Both are vitally important to spiritual health. Sadly, many Christian leaders focus on image rather than intimacy with Christ, being woke instead of waking up from their spiritual slumber, not wanting to offend the world instead of not wanting to offend God.
Pastors, it’s time to stop tip-toeing through the tulips of political correctness and repair the Achilles’ heel of cowardliness. A. W. Tozer said, “When we become so tolerant that we lead people into mental fog and spiritual darkness, we are not acting like Christians, we are acting like cowards.”
God honors a stance for truth and boldness with a mighty empowerment of His Spirit. I’d rather have the power of God upon my preaching than the accolades of men.
Seek Him More Than Cinemark
Unfortunately, although we are blessed to have biblically sound leaders in many churches, we see far too many powerless sermons in prayerless churches. Most churches have a few opening songs, followed by a quick sermon, followed by a closing song. “Get them in and out” may work for a car wash but not for those who genuinely want to encounter God.
We have no problem spending hours watching a movie, but in church, many appear bored to death … spiritual death. Shouldn’t we seek God more than Cinemark? When He is our all-consuming passion, we don’t run to the exit; we run to the altar.
Pastors or Prodigals?
When asked why they don’t speak about sin in their sermons, many pastors admit, “I don’t want to say anything negative.” This is why their sermons are powerless. They are painstakingly careful not to offend the secular while crushing the sacred. They avoid words and phrases like “absolutes” and “doctrinally sound” and exchange them with smooth words designed to appease the unconverted, who say, “Don’t tell us what is right. Tell us nice things. Tell us lies” (Isaiah 30:10). These leaders are either false prophets or have become prodigal pastors because they’ve chosen the world over the Word of God.
God’s Definition of Success
Over the years, there’s been a slow shift away from intimacy, prayer, and worship. Today’s leaders are considered successful if they are busy, big, and busting at the seams, but in God’s eyes, the leader who waits on Him is successful: “But we will give ourselves continually to prayer, and to the ministry of the word” (Acts 6:4). Waiting on God can result in an influential and successful ministry, but that’s not the focus, He is.
We are also guilty of measuring success by social media standards via “views,” “likes,” and “followers.” As a result, the realities of judgment, the desperate need for repentance, and the shed blood of Christ are starkly missing in most sermons. Those topics aren’t very “user-friendly.” The very thing we need is the very thing we are avoiding. Charles Spurgeon reminds us, “If you have no wish to bring others to heaven, you are not going there yourself.”
Powerful sermons and praying churches usher in spiritual awakenings and “bring both incredible conviction of sin and marvelous release from the bondage of corruption” (Richard Owen Roberts). God’s Word is elevated, truth is proclaimed, and many are set free. This is why I recently wrote that revival is our only hope.
Let Cinderella Come to the Ball
Leonard Ravenhill noted that the Cinderella of the church today is the prayer meeting. The prayer meeting is relegated to a dark corner somewhere in the church on an off night so that there is little expectation that anyone will pay her any attention. She goes about unnoticed, unloved, and uncelebrated, yet she is the one who keeps the house clean.
It’s time for Cinderella to go to the ball—to get dressed for our King and seek His face for grace and mercy, to intercede on behalf of our nation. We must respond with humility and repent of our sins.
Repairing the Achilles’ Heel
When you lose intimacy with God, you lose your bearing. Return to Him, and He will return to you (Zechariah 1:3). The strength of the church is in its purity and spiritual power, not in its numbers. God doesn’t need a majority—He is the Majority. Prayer can no longer be a footnote at the end of a sermon; instead, prayer and spiritual power must guide the church in these critical times.
Although the weakness of many pastors and congregations today is causing the American church to stumble spiritually, a return to powerful sermons and praying people can help the church repair its Achilles’ heel and stand strong again.
You may listen to the audio of this article click here.
Special Note:I recently became so broken over what we are leaving the next generation that I began a lengthy water fast, not knowing that it would be one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. I’m planning to post my experience in May 2021. You can hear about the outcome by subscribing to my YouTube channel here.
The desperate need for another awakening has been on my heart for some time, thus prompting me to release a series of articles on my website. And please watch the sermon, “When the Weak Are Destroyed by the Powerful” here.