In our study of Romans chapter six, we look at sanctification and the question of who is in control of your life. At the end of chapter five, Paul explained how we are made right with God through grace by faith. Now, he continues by explaining what it means to live like we are saved.
"What shall we say, then? Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase? By no means! We died to sin; how can we live in it any longer? NIV translation
Paul opens this section of the letter to the Romans with some questions that are based on the fact that we are saved by grace. The penalty for our sins (past, present, and future) was paid for so the question is why don't we just do anything that we want knowing that it was already paid for. He answers the question with an emphatic no and the reason is we died to sin. Notice, he said we died but did not say that we were dead to sin. We died to the old nature and sin no longer controls us but we still sin.
"Or don't you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death?" NIV translation
Baptism is talking about being identified with Christ. It was our sins that He took to the cross because He had none of His own. We are a part of His body and as such we died to sin just as He did.
"We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life." NIV translation
Because we are in Him, we were buried with Him and are raised a new creation. The old self was put to death and the new was raised in its place.
"If we have been united with him like this in his death, we will certainly also be united with him in his resurrection." NIV translation
If we are in Him, then we are in Him forever. Our old nature was put to death with Him and so we are sure that we will be raised with Him as well. There are those who believe that we can lose our salvation and this verse (as well as others) helps us to see that that is not true.
"For we know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin - because anyone who has died has been freed from sin." NIV translation
The penalty for sin was death and, since we were united with Christ in His death, that old self was made powerless. We are no longer controlled by the old nature of the flesh but are now freed to walk in the Spirit.
"Now if we died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him." NIV translation
This is the basis for the hope that we have in Christ. Because He was raised from the dead and so was declared to be the Son of God, we have confidence that we, too, will be raised to life.
"For we know that since Christ was raised from the dead, he cannot die again; death no longer has mastery over him." NIV translation
Death was the result of sin and man was never designed to die but was subject to the effects of wrong choices. Because Jesus was raised from the dead, sin and death were defeated and have no power anymore for those who are in Christ. That is a good reason for us to be fearless in our faith and our witnessing for Him. What can anyone or anything do to us? They cannot even kill us because we are guaranteed to live forever with God.
"The death he died, he died to sin once for all; but the life he lives, he lives to God." NIV translation
Christ died and rose again eliminating the penalty for sin for those that trust in Him. His new life is our hope and the purpose is to please God. It is the same for us when we accept His gift of mercy and grace. We are raised to a new life with a new purpose which is to glorify God.
"In the same way, count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus." NIV translation
We too are dead to the power of sin and its penalty. Sin does not have the power to control our lives anymore as we no longer live for self but for God.
"Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its evil desires." NIV translation
When we let Jesus control our lives, He reigns in our lives instead of the sin. Although we will still commit some sins, we do not continually follow our own evil desires but instead follow the prompting of the Holy Spirit.
"Do not offer the parts of your body to sin, as instruments of wickedness, but rather offer yourselves to God, as those who have been brought from death to life; and offer the parts of your body to him as instruments of righteousness." NIV translation
All of our efforts and actions are either for good or for evil. Since we have been bought by Jesus Christ, we should serve Him and do the things that are right and good. He has given us the power to do this through the Holy Spirit. In everything we do, we can ask the simple question of whether it is for wickedness or righteousness. If it is not for righteousness, then we should not be doing it because it does not glorify God.
"For sin shall not be your master, because you are not under law, but under grace." NIV translation
The Mosaic Law was given to control the old nature (flesh) but, when we come to faith in Jesus Christ, the old nature is done away with and we are a new creation. This new creation is not of the flesh but of the very Spirit of God and therefore the law is not needed to control something that is no more. Through the power of that Spirit, sin is not our master as we have the very Creator of the universe living and walking with us.
"What then? Shall we sin because we are not under the law but under grace? By no means!" NIV translation
Now that Paul has established that we are not under the law, he gets down to the question of why we don't just do anything that we want. You can almost feel the sarcasm as he asks these questions. To the early disciples, it was ridiculous to think that they would continue in sin after being saved by Jesus.
"Don't you know that when you offer yourselves to someone to obey him as slaves, you are slaves to the one whom you obey - whether you are slaves to sin, which leads to death, or to obedience, which leads to righteousness?" NIV translation
There are two forces at work in us which are the flesh (sinful nature) and Christ. If you want to know where you are at in your walk with the Lord, you can ask yourself which one is in control. If you are constantly disobeying God and doing the same sinful things, then sin may have you in its grasp. You can unlock those chains which have you bound through confession and repentance through the power of the Holy Spirit (see overcoming addiction for more on this). Listening to God through that Spirit and obeying Him leads to a closer walk with the Lord (righteousness).
"But thanks be to God that, though you used to be slaves to sin, you wholeheartedly obeyed the form of teaching to which you were entrusted. You have been set free from sin and have become slaves to righteousness." NIV translation
As Paul says here, we all used to be slaves to sin but, after hearing the gospel of Jesus Christ, we were saved and sin no longer has a hold on our lives. Paul thanks God that they not only heard and accepted Jesus as Savior but also as their Lord and Master. That means that we serve Him (do as He says) and therefore are slaves to righteousness instead of sin.
"I put this in human terms because you are weak in your natural selves. Just as you used to offer your body in slavery to impurity and to ever-increasing wickedness, so now offer them in slavery to righteousness leading to holiness." NIV translation
Paul reminds us that, when we were still slaves to sin, we gave it our all by chasing every kind of ungodliness. Just as we chased after the flesh, we are to chase after the things of holiness. In short, we should spend as much time and effort on things of God as we did on the things of the flesh before we came to Christ. This is also what Jesus was talking about when He spoke of the demons returning to the clean house (see Matthew 12:43 - 45).
"When you were slaves to sin, you were free from the control of righteousness. What benefit did you reap at that time from the things you are now ashamed of? Those things result in death!" NIV translation
Paul is reminding us here that, before we came to faith in Jesus Christ, we were not under the control of the Holy Spirit (righteousness). Therefore, we could wallow in sin just as a pig wallows in the mud. He asks a question and we might put it like this today: "How did that work for you?" Just like the pig, we just got more dirty and, if we had kept on, we would have died (been separated from God for everlasting punishment) because of the sin.
"But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves to God, the benefit you reap leads to holiness, and the result is eternal life." NIV translation
Now, Paul reminds us that we were set free from the power of sin by Jesus on the cross and now we serve God. We are in fact bondslaves which were slaves that had been set free but willingly submitted themselves to serving their masters. This leads to holiness which is being set apart for God and eternal life with Him.
"For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord." NIV translation
We are now reminded of why we subject ourselves to God and that is the fact that we all were on the way to physical and spiritual death because of sin. That is all that sin has the power to provide in the end but, through the blood of Jesus Christ, we are saved and will live forever in the presence of God.