Chapter 6 Overview
Paul now declares the glorious result of being justified from our sin; we are free from sin’s power. He then explains the mechanics of how we become free from sin’s domination in our lives. It is important to note that Paul is not discussing being forgiven of our sins, plural, but being made free from sin, singular. When sin is discussed in the singular, it is describing the nature of sin within. In addition, the word “sin” is used as a noun in this chapter. The noun usage describes the nature of sin, and the verb form denotes sinful acts. We are freed from the nature of sin that resides within us. In Chapter 7, he will describe the problem we encounter when becoming free from sin, the monkey-wrench in the gears (self-effort under the Law) that keeps us bound to our sin nature and its power. In Chapter 8, Paul will describe the power of the Spirit who sets us free from sin. These three chapters go together.
In our last chapter we left off in Chapter 5 with verse 20. In the middle of that verse Paul declares “but where sin abounded, grace abounded much more.” Naturally when some consider the abounding grace of God to overcome all their sin, someone might possibly come up with the idea that if God has so much grace, why not just continue to sin and let God give them more grace? In this chapter Paul answers this question forcefully.
What should God’s abundant grace encourage you to do? (vs. 1)
Chapter 6 begins, “What shall we say then, shall we continue in sin?” The word continue is in the present tense which refers to a continual willful practice of sinful behavior. Shall we continue sinning that grace may abound? He answers, Certainly not! Or, God forbid that this should ever be considered. Some have translated it “Perish the thought.” In other words, this is twisted thinking! God’s grace should encourage you to stop practicing sin. Then Paul explains why we should never think that to continue in sin is even an option.
You have died to sin (vs. 2)
What does it mean that you have died to sin? To understand this phrase you must think about what happens to someone who physically dies. Death brings a separation from all past obligations and relationships. However, death in this context is used figuratively describing a separation from your sin nature because you have come into Christ. Therefore, the two relationships cannot co-exist. If you have really died to sin, then you can’t continue practicing sin. It is impossible.
In 1 John 3:9, you see this same truth taught. John said, “Whoever has been born of God does not sin, for His seed remains in him; and he cannot sin, because he has been born of God.” Therefore, if you have the seed of God (The nature of Christ) planted within you, you cannot continually practice sin (the words used in this verse for sin are in the present tense referring to a willful continuous act). Therefore, if you have been born of God, it is impossible for you to walk with Christ and practice sin. Perhaps you respond, “What about those people who call themselves Christians, yet they continually practice sin?” If someone behaves in this manner, God’s Word declares that they are not born again. That is the only conclusion you can come to, because a real Christian does not continue practicing sin. Either you have died to sin and have been freed from its controlling power, or you are still bound by sin. The only other option is that a person who has professed Christ and yet continues to practice sin is completely backslidden (Prov. 14:14). In either situation the person who continues to practice sin is not walking with Christ.
Now, I'm not talking about individual acts of sin. In 1 John 2:1, the apostle declares, “My little children, these things I write to you, so that you may not sin. And if anyone sins, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous.” John is thus acknowledging the fact that Christians do sin. He even included himself by using the word “we.” However, the word “sin,” in this verse is in the singular, referring to a singular act of sin. By definition, a single act of sin would have to be followed by repentance and the forsaking of that sin, or that sin would not be repented of and, therefore, continued. Consequently, if there is repentance, “we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous.”
How did you die to sin? (vs. 3-5)
You died to sin by believing in Christ and being baptized into His death. “Or do you not know that as many of us as were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death? Therefore we were buried with Him through baptism into death, that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life. For if we have been united together in the likeness of His death, certainly we also shall be in the likeness of His resurrection” (Romans 6:3-5). You can walk today in newness of life as a Christian, not practicing sin, because you are in Christ.
Why is this truth important? Just as you were identified with Adam and received his sinful nature when you entered this world, likewise when you entered into a relationship with Christ your were forgiven and received a new nature (Rom. 5:18-19). You are united together with Christ. His death was your death. His resurrection became your resurrection.
Another way you can be sure that you have died to sin is that you aren’t practicing sin today. You can only do that because you have died to sin. The fruit of your life is proof that you have been given a new nature that enables you to follow the Lord and to walk after Him. You’re living a totally different way than you used to live, which only proves that you have escaped the corruption of this world (2 Peter 1:3-4).
Therefore, we know that we died to sin because His Word declares it, and because the fruit is obvious in our lives. That’s the basis of our freedom from sin. We are in Him. And that’s the only basis of our freedom. It’s not anything that we have done, it’s something He did. It’s finished. It’s accomplished!
What do you have in Christ?
Consider for a moment all of what you have received in Christ. You were chosen in Him before the foundations of the world (Eph. 1:4). You have forgiveness from all your sins in Him (Eph. 1:7). You have been declared righteous in Him (2 Cor. 5:21). You have been sealed by the Holy Spirit in Him (Eph. 1:13). You have been given boldness and access into the Father’s presence because you are in Him (Eph. 3:12). You are complete in Him (Col. 2:10). In Him your fleshly nature has been circumcised from you in order to free you from the bondage of sin (Col. 2:11). All these blessings are yours because you are in Christ. The greatest blessing is the fact that you are free from the power of sin. But, you may be thinking, If I am so free from the power of sin, why do I struggle so often with the desires of my flesh?
How can you experience freedom from the power of your sin nature?
How can you begin to experience this freedom from sin’s power in your life? If you can’t take what Scripture teaches and put it into practice, then it’s of no use. Therefore, Paul explains three simple steps to freedom. These steps are the mechanics of how to be set free and experience that freedom from your sin. If you don’t understand and apply these steps in your personal life, then you won’t experience this freedom.
“Knowing” (vs. 6-10)
In verse 6, Paul declares, “knowing this.” Paul would not tell us to know this unless it was something that was absolutely essential for us to know. But, what must you know? He continues, “knowing this, that our old man was crucified with Him, that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves of sin. For he who has died has been freed from sin. Now if we died with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with Him, knowing that Christ, having been raised from the dead, dies no more. Death no longer has dominion over Him. For the death that He died, He died to sin once for all; but the life that He lives, He lives to God” (Rom. 6:6-10). Therefore, you must know that your old man was crucified with Christ and that you are freed from the power of sin. This is a fact just as real as Christ’s death and resurrection. Just as He died, you died. Just as death has no more dominion over Him, you also are free. Death and sin has no more dominion over Him or you!
Many of you do not know this truth. You may know it intellectually, but you do not really know it. If you truly did grasp this truth you would not be struggling and losing the battle with your sin nature. You would be experiencing the freedom that is promised here. Therefore, ask God right now to open your spiritual eyes to understand and know these truths.
First, are you absolutely convinced that your old sinful nature was crucified with Jesus Christ? This means that this act is a past and completed work. Your sin nature was crucified. God doesn’t have to do anything more for you to be free from the power of sin that once dominated you. Are you assured of that? Your sinful nature was destroyed with Jesus Christ. This word destroyed means to “render inoperative.” It’s like pulling the plug out of the wall on an electric light. You have rendered that light inoperative. How? Because you have removed it from its power source. That is the key. Jesus Christ pulled the plug on your old nature.
The Lord knows exactly how to deal with sin. He didn’t just die for your sins (plural), the fruit of your sinful nature, but He went and destroyed the source of what generated those sins in the first place. He nailed it to the tree along with Himself. Your old nature was crucified there with Jesus Christ when He was crucified on that tree. He died to sin once, and you died also. He rose once and you rose right along with Him.
Perhaps you are thinking, That sounds great, but why do I still struggle with my sin nature? There are several possible reasons.
(1) You really don’t know this truth. If you are losing the battle with your sin nature, face it, you don’t really know what is described in verse 6. You can’t know it. You can’t be convinced of this truth and still surrender to the power of sin in your own life. It’s impossible. This word know in verse 6, describes an experiential knowledge concerning this truth. It’s the difference between knowing intellectually that fire is hot and will burn you, and sticking your finger in the fire and knowing this truth by the pain. How can you get this knowledge? Ask the Holy Spirit to convince you that the Word is true by whatever means He chooses. Remember, Jesus told Peter that “flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but My Father who is in heaven” (Matt. 16:17). This is how it occurs. Your Father in heaven will break this truth upon your heart. Ask Him right now to open the eyes of your understanding so that you might be absolutely convinced that this is true.
(2) You don’t understand the promise (Being free from the dominion of sin versus, freedom from the presence of sin). There is a wonderful promise in Hebrews 2:14 that gives you a great parallel to help you understand this truth of your sin nature being destroyed. In this text in Hebrews, it uses the same Greek word for destroy that Paul uses in reference to the old man. Scripture declares that Jesus came and died to destroy [render inoperative] the works and power of Satan. However, Satan is still very much around today, isn't he? He still tries to lie, to tempt, and condemn us. But God’s Word teaches that his power has been rendered inoperative in your life. It doesn't mean that he is gone and you’ll never have any temptation, but you have been freed from his power and his dominion by the work of Christ. In the same way God doesn't promise you that you will be free from sin’s presence, just as I’m not free from Satan’s presence. But you are free from Satan’s dominion and control of your life just as you are free from sin’s dominion and mastery over your life. Do you see the parallel here?
(3) You don’t understand that your old man was crucified and is dead only in Christ. The text declares that “our old man was crucified with Him” (Rom. 6:6). The work of crucifying your old man occurred with Christ, and only with Christ. Scripture does not teach that God crucified the old man in you. In fact, the old man is very much alive in you right now, and that’s why you battle with sin every day. Scripture declares that there are two natures fighting inside every believer in Christ. These two natures are described several ways in the Bible. They are called the old man and the new man, or the flesh and the Spirit. Describing this battle Paul declares, “For the flesh lusts against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; and these are contrary to one another, so that you do not do the things that you wish” (Gal. 5:17). Does not this describe the battle you experience inside you every day? What most Christians don’t understand is that this battle is normal and is the proof that they are truly a child of God. However, many believers think that because they fight and sometimes lose this struggle with sin that they are somehow not Christians. This is not the case! Yet, the most important truth believers fail to realize is that all that Christ accomplished is in Jesus positionally and each Christian must appropriate it personally for himself.
Therefore, when Scripture declares that the old man is dead it is referring to the fact that your sin nature is dead positionally in Him. Only in Christ is this a fact. But, you may be wondering, How can I get what I have positionally in Christ, into my life practically so I can experience the benefits of His work? This only occurs as you take the next step taught in this text, reckoning.
“Reckon” (vs. 11-12)
The second step to finding freedom from the power of sin in your life is found in verses 11-13. He declares, “Likewise you also reckon yourselves to be dead indeed to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus our Lord. Therefore, do not let sin reign in your mortal body, that you should obey it in its lusts. And do not present your members as instruments of unrighteousness to sin, but present yourself to God as being alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness to God.”
Paul’s command is to “Reckon yourself to be dead to sin.” What does this mean? The word reckon is the same word we looked at earlier in chapter four which is translated there as impute. This is an accounting word meaning to credit or account something to your ledger or inventory. God has stamped and credited my spiritual ledger with His righteousness. However, in this context Paul is asking Christians to account what God has done to be true. In other words, Paul is saying, “I want you to account or credit that your old man was crucified with Christ.” You do that by faith, by believing what God has said.
If you attempt to account this fact by your feelings, it won’t happen. Why? Because it doesn't feel like your old nature is dead. Only when you account that God’s Word is true by faith will you experience the reality of this fact. You've actually got to believe in spite of your feelings. When the power of sin rages inside you with the fire of sexual passion or the feelings of anger or resentment dominate you, your feelings rule. At that point you have to obey the Word in spite of your feelings. You have to believe the facts instead of your feelings. You have to believe and reckon what God’s Word declares – you’re dead to sin. If you believe your feelings, your feelings will tell you, you’re not dead.
Therefore, to believe and reckon as true that you are dead to sin is simply a choice you make to not obey sin or to allow it to dominate you anymore. Here is where your real freedom begins. You must recognize this fundamental choice, you will either obey the lusts of your flesh or you will obey God. Don’t let sin reign in your mortal body. Reckoning yourself dead to sin is what it means to put off the old man.
Paul explains these same truths when he exhorted the Colossian church. “For you died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God… Therefore put to death your members which are on the earth: fornication, uncleanness, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry. Because of these things the wrath of God is coming upon the sons of disobedience, in which you yourselves once walked when you lived in them. But now you yourselves are to put off all these: anger, wrath, malice, blasphemy, filthy language out of your mouth. Do not lie to one another, since you have put off the old man with his deeds” (Col. 3:3-9). Therefore, be assured, as Paul taught, you died with Christ and your old sinful nature has been rendered inoperative. Put your evil desires and behavior to death. Don’t let these desires reign in you anymore!
“Present yourselves to God” (vs. 13)
The last step to finding the freedom that Christ has given entails presenting yourself to God. Paul declared, “And do not present your members as instruments of unrighteousness to sin, but present yourselves to God as being alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness to God” (Rom. 6:13). This word present means to yield or to give yourself. This word describes a simple surrender of yourself, that’s all. Just present yourself, yield to Him, instead of yielding to sin. That’s the choice you need to make.
Notice that three times you are encouraged to make a choice. He declares, do not let sin reign in your mortal body, don’t obey its lust, and do not present or yield your members. This fact reveals that your choice is very important. In addition, all three of these exhortations are in the present tense, which also tells you that your choice must be a continuous decision. Let not, obey not, present not – that’s your choice. Instead, your response should be, present yourself to God. In other words, yield to Him instead of yielding to sin. Here is where your freedom becomes complete. As you yield to God, the Holy Spirit sets you free from the power of sin and transforms your life. Paul explains how this takes place in Galatians 5:16. He declares, “Walk in the Spirit, and you shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh.” If you choose to surrender and present yourself to God, the Holy Spirit will naturally fill you and keep you from being controlled by your flesh. This is how you stop allowing sin to reign in your mortal body and obey His Word. You can only obey the truth by the Spirit’s power. Notice how Peter teaches the same thing. “Since you have purified your souls in obeying the truth through the Spirit in sincere love of the brethren, love one another fervently with a pure heart” (1 Peter 1:22). Remember, you can only obey the truth through the power of the Spirit. He gives you the power to obey and the power to put to death the deeds and desires of your flesh. In Romans 8:13, Paul also taught, “If you live according to the flesh you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live.” If you want the life of Christ empowering your life, this is how to do it.
Paul’s conclusion (vs. 14)
Verse 14 is Paul’s simple conclusion to this matter: sin shall not have dominion over you. Why? Because you are not under Law – but under grace. The word dominion in this verse means to rule, control, or to have lordship. Remember, Paul is not speaking about the presence of sin in your life, only sin’s dominion or control of your life. However, the question is why should sin not have dominion over you? The answer is that you are under grace.
What’s the difference between being under grace versus a law principle? It’s the difference between depending on God to enable you as opposed to depending on yourself to live the Christian life. It’s the difference between His power in your life versus your effort. Grace is bestowed as you surrender instead of struggling to be good enough. Which principle would you rather have at work in your life?
Understanding this difference between grace and Law is one of the fundamental reasons why so many Christians continue to lose the battle with their sin nature. They have simply not sought the grace of God to set them free. Did you know that the Bible teaches that the harder you try in your own strength to fight your sin nature, the stronger the power of sin becomes? Paul taught, “The sting of death is sin, and the strength of sin is the law” (1 Cor. 15:56). The more you labor to defeat sin from a Law principle of self effort, the stronger sin becomes. There is only one person stronger than your sin nature and that one is the Holy Spirit. He will empower you by the grace that is sufficient for all your weaknesses (2 Cor. 12:9). If you will simply humble yourself and ask God for His grace He will give it (James 4:6). You have not, because you don’t ask (James 4:2).
Now some ask the question, Why shouldn't I just continue in sin so that God can bestow more of His grace upon me? Because grace is precisely what enables a person not to continue in sin. Grace doesn't give a person a license to sin. That’s a total misunderstanding and perversion of the truth (Jude 4).
Three good reasons (vs. 15-23)
Finally, Paul gives us three good reasons why we shouldn't continue to sin. “What then? Shall we sin because we are not under law but under grace? Certainly not! Do you not know that to whom you present yourselves slaves to obey, you are that one's slaves whom you obey, whether of sin leading to death, or of obedience leading to righteousness? But God be thanked that though you were slaves of sin, yet you obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine to which you were delivered. And having been set free from sin, you became slaves of righteousness. I speak in human terms because of the weakness of your flesh. For just as you presented your members as slaves of uncleanness, and of lawlessness leading to more lawlessness, so now present your members as slaves of righteousness for holiness. For when you were slaves of sin, you were free in regard to righteousness. What fruit did you have then in the things of which you are now ashamed? For the end of those things is death. But now having been set free from sin, and having become slaves of God, you have your fruit to holiness, and the end, everlasting life. For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Rom. 6:15-23).
You’re a slave (vs. 16-18)
The first reason you should not continue in sin is that if you yield to sin, you become a slave of sin. In other words, you really are not free. Jesus told the Pharisees, “Whoever commits sin is a slave of sin” (John 8:34). When anyone commits sin (present tense, meaning this is a willful and continual practice of sin) they are in reality a slave of sin. If somebody you talk to doesn't think they are a slave of sin, just ask them to stop doing whatever sin it is. Stop using drugs, stop committing immorality, stop getting angry. They won’t be able to do it. No one can quit except by the power of God. People simply don’t realize that they are a slave of sin.
However, neither do Christians realize that when they yield to sin, they lose their freedom and become a slave to the very thing that God has set them free from. God has set you free if you will receive it. If you are not experiencing this freedom in any area of your life, let me encourage you, yield to Him. Become slaves of Jesus Christ and you will truly be free, because, whom the Son sets free is free indeed (John 8:36)!
This freedom came as you chose to obey Christ in the beginning and it can be yours now if you will simply choose to obey Him again. Notice verses 17-18. When you “obeyed from the heart” you were set free from sin. Obedience is not a feeling, it’s a decision of the heart. Choose to obey from the heart and you will be free again.
Sin is progressive (vs. 19-20)
Paul now gives the second reason why we should not continue to practice sin. He explains that sinful actions only lead to more sin because sin is progressive and possessive by nature. Paul reminds the people of when they presented their lives as slaves to sin that it only led to more lawlessness. Remember, the sinful desires of your heart are never satisfied with what it has experienced. Sin always wants more. When you begin to yield, this will only cause you to yield more. Perhaps you think, Oh, I can stop here. I won’t compromise anywhere else. You are just deceiving yourself. You are underestimating sin’s power.
In Isaiah 9:18, the Prophet declares that sin and wickedness are like a raging fire that consumes everything in its path. Sin is revealed in this passage to be progressive, consuming all that it touches. Paul affirms the same thing in Ephesians 4:22. Why does he command us to put off the old man? Because, “The old man…grows corrupt according to the deceitful lusts.” The word grows in this verse is in the present tense. In other words, if left unchecked, your sinful nature will cause you to continually grow more and more corrupt. This is a very good reason to put off the old man and surrender to Jesus. Wherever you are losing the battle with your deceitful lusts, why not put them off right now and be free?
Sin’s fruit is death (vs. 21-23)
Paul’s third reason deals with the fruit of sin. If you continue to sin you must eat the fruit! He asks his readers to consider and remember the death they experienced when they gave themselves over to practice unrighteousness. What kind of death is he referring to? When people sin they experience the death of emptiness and frustration resulting from a person’s separation from a personal fellowship with God. This is the result of sin. Isn't this what you've always experienced? Is this what you want?
However, when you yield to God you experience another fruit – holiness. The word holiness means that God sets you apart and transforms your life to be like His. Jesus said that He came to give you life (John 10:10). Then when this life is over you get to experience everlasting life. It’s all a gift of God. You get the blessings of life now and that which is to come (1 Tim. 4:8). It’s a gift of God.
Which do you want, the wages of sin or the gift of God? Sin’s wages are terrible! You don’t want these wages. You don’t want the fruit of death. However, the fruit of His life inside you will produce holiness and lasting change in your life. You get to become like Him. That’s what holiness is. I pray that right now the Holy Spirit will reveal these truths to your heart. In Christ, you’re free, whether you feel like it or not. Will you apply these truths to your life and enjoy the freedom Christ has made possible? Begin today!