How to Live Out the Union with Christ (Rm 6:12-14)
The fact that we have died to sin in Christ doesn’t mean that we don’t have to fight against sin anymore. We must still fight.
Paul said,“Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its evil desires. Do not offer any part of yourself to sin as an instrument of wickedness, but rather offer yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life; and offer every part of yourself to him as an instrument of righteousness. For sin shall no longer be your master, because you are not under the law, but under grace.” (Rm 6:12-14)
That’s how we live out our union with Jesus. As Jesus died to sin, we should die to sin and not allow it to rule over us again. As Jesus offered His life to God, we should also offer every part of ourselves to Him.
Paul’s teaching is that, since we can now choose between obeying sin or obeying God, we must decide to obey God. In this passage, Paul urges us not to do two things.
First, “Do not let sin reign in your mortal body” (Rom 6:12). And second, “Do not offer any part of yourself to sin as an instrument of wickedness” (v 13).
These teachings are important because even though sin cannot rule over us anymore, it is still waging war within us. So, we are not to let the remaining force of sin seize control of us in any way by obeying our sinful desires.
These are the things we shouldn’t do. However, that’s not all. Paul also discusses the things that we should do to fight against sin.
Paul encourages believers to do two things that are the opposite of the things we are not to do. First, “offer yourselves to God,” to live with and for and like him. And second, “offer every part of yourself to him as an instrument of righteousness.”
That’s how we join in the death of Jesus. It’s to crucify our sinful nature. And, that’s also how we join in the resurrection of Jesus. It’s to completely offer ourselves to God and use our bodies for God’s righteousness and His glory. It means that in every aspect of our lives—our thoughts, words, and actions—we follow God’s will, not our own ways. That’s how we live as true Christians, united with Jesus.
It’s impossible for us not to sin because of our weaknesses and sinful nature. Sin still has a powerful influence on our lives.
Nevertheless, we shouldn’t leave room for sin. We shouldn’t think, ‘it’s okay to sin because God will forgive me again.’ We shouldn’t use God’s forgiveness and grace to make up for our sins. That makes God’s grace cheap. God doesn’t freely give us His grace to give us comfort for our sins.
Rather, He paid an enormous price to give us His grace and free us from sin. If we really know how enormous a sacrifice Jesus made to save us from our sin, we won’t think to go back to our former lives or to use God’s grace for our own comfort. God’s grace is not something that makes up for our sin, but is the strongest weapon we use to fight against sin.
The only attitude we should take against sin as Christians is to fight against it. The more we continue to fight this good fight of faith against sin, the more we’ll become like Jesus.
Slaves to sin OR Slaves to God (Rom 6:15-23)
In this passage, Paul developed the meaning of our union with Christ—it’s to become a slave of God.
Paul starts this section by asking,
“Shall we sin because we are under grace? By no means!” (Rm 6:15)
That’s a warning to those who insist that Paul’s doctrine of justification by faith produces more sin by making Christians insensitive to sin and leading them to use God’s grace to make up for their sins.
In reply to this absurd assertion, Paul addressed the concept of being a slave to something. Paul already said in verse 14, “sin shall no longer be your master” (Rom 6:14). For sin to rule over us means that we serve it as our masters and we’re slaves to it.
When we were united with Christ through faith in Him, our masters changed from disobedience to obedience and from sin to God.
“Don’t you know that when you offer yourselves to someone as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one you obey - whether you are slaves to sin, which leads to death, or to obedience, which leads to righteousness? But thanks be to God that, though you used to be slaves to sin, you have come to obey from your heart the pattern of teaching that has now claimed your allegiance. You have been set free from sin and have become slaves to righteousness.” (Rm 6:16-18)
Being saved from sin doesn’t really mean that we’re free from having a master. We always serve a master. The Bible says that we can’t live independently—we are always slaves to something or someone.
The essential element of Paul’s teaching in this passage is that there are only two masters which all humanity serves—sin or God. We can be either a slave to sin or a slave to God, but we cannot be neither. We must choose one.
V 16: slaves to sin or slaves of obedience
V 17-18: slaves to sin or slaves to righteousness
V 20-22: slaves to sin or slaves to God
So, the issue is not about being independent, because that’s impossible. The real issue is what and whom we serve—sin, which leads to death, or righteousness and God, which leads to eternal life.
So, it’s important to whom we offer ourselves. We offer ourselves to whatever we seek as our highest good in life. And, we become slaves of the thing we seek. Thus, the Bible tells us that no one is in control of his or her own life because we are controlled by that to which we offer ourselves.
This teaching may sound hard to accept because we all want to live freely. Freedom is one of the most important values that the history of humanity has sought.
However, I think many Christians misunderstand the biblical meaning of freedom. There are even some Christians who want to be free from God. They want to be free from the restriction of God’s word and live their lives as they please. They are thankful for the redemption and forgiveness Jesus offers, but they don’t allow Him to be the master of their lives.
However, what they don’t know is that that kind of freedom—freedom from God and from His word—actually makes them slaves to the world and sin and that the end result of that is death.
The desire to be free from God and obedience is identical to the desire to live as slaves to sin. Disobeying God is identical to obeying sin and Satan.
Even though we prefer to say, ‘we disobeyed God,’ we should know that that means we obeyed sin. And, when we obey sin to be free from God, we become its slaves. It may sound quite radical, but that’s what the Bible says.
So, we have to choose what we will be free from and what we become slaves to. If we live free from sin, we will be slaves to God. However, if we decide to live free from God, we will be slaves to sin. And, the results will be opposite.
“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! But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God, the benefit you reap leads to holiness, and the result is eternal life. For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Rm 6:20-23)
The meaning of the gospel, justification by faith, is that we’re free from the reign of sin. It’s to be freed from slavery to sin. For that, Jesus paid an enormous ransom for our lives. When we talked about Romans 3, I said that the word redemption was originally used in a slave market. In the market, redemption referred to the price customers paid to buy a slave.
And, to redeem us from the slavery of sin, Jesus shed His precious blood on the cross. That’s the price He paid. That’s why the Bible says, “You were slain, and with your blood you purchased for God persons from every tribe and language and people and nation.” (Rev 5:9)
This tells us not only that He paid for our redemption, but also the fact that we were actually bought by His blood and that He is our new master. Therefore, Jesus is not only our Savior, but also our Lord. He is our new master whom we should serve. If we turn away from Him and live apart from Him, we’ll go back to our former lives when we lived as slaves to sin.
If we really believe this, we should try to be united with Jesus in His death to sin and in His life to God. We shouldn’t let sin rule over us again. We shouldn’t offer ourselves to sin again.
Just as Jesus always sought God’s will and His kingdom on earth, we should also seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness. We should continue to live out this truth by counting ourselves dead to sin, alive in God, free from sin, and slaves to God. Then, we’ll be able to bear good fruits of holiness and eternal life.
Even though it’s hard to follow God’s will in the world, we can keep walking this path of faith with the hope of the glory of God and eternal life in Him.
I hope that all of us become slaves to God, living as His holy people in this world, and that we will enjoy eternal life in Him together in the end.