Blessed are those who have died, been buried, and risen with Christ because they are free. Christ has delivered the faithful from sin and death. Are you free from sin? Are you struggling with temptations? This post is the first of a series addressing freedom from addictive sin living in the flesh from the apostle Paul. This article will present how believers change so that they present every part of their bodies to God in holiness for the end is eternal life.
Saved by Grace Not to Go Back
Romans 6:1–11 teaches that the faithful are saved from sin by God’s grace so they must not go back to live in sin (6:1–2). Believers have been buried with Christ by baptism to rise and live a new life (6:3–4). They are united with Christ in a death like His and will be resurrected like Christ so the body of sin will come to nothing (6:5–6). Death to self with Christ through baptism sets believers free from enslavement to sin in the body (Romans 6:6–7). This dying with Christ is for the purpose of being resurrected like Him and released from death ruling over one’s life (6:8–9). For these reasons, the baptized believer must consider oneself dead to sin and alive to God (6:10–11).
Identity: Dead to Sin and Alive to God
Do you think of yourself as dead to sin and alive to God? Have you ever struggled with sin even while diligently pursuing life in God’s Word with constant prayer? You may be dead to most of the evil of the world, yet you gave into temptations to sin and that sin captivates you against your will (cf. Romans 7:14–20). What you are struggling with is sin in the flesh that wars and captivates the mind (7:21–25).
To Keep Sin from Living in the Body
When you consider yourself dead to sin and alive to God, the apostle commanded: “Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, to make you obey its passions” (Romans 6:12 ESV). What happens when you give in to temptation so that sin lives in the flesh of your body (Romans 8:3; cf. Mark 14:38)? Sinful addictions exist when sins live in the flesh, and such enslavement to sinful flesh is to do what you do not want to do. Various sins can dwell in the flesh including sexual sins, worship of false gods, hate, strife, wrath, envy, rivalry, drunkenness, wild parties, and the like (Galatians 5:19–21). Romans 6–8 exists to help the faithful to know the end of sin. Sin cannot rule over faithful Christians. God gives believers the way to escape and endure (1 Corinthians 10:13). Paul explained that one must live in the Spirit to put to death sin in the flesh (Romans 8:12–13).
To keep sin from living in the flesh, Paul instructed believers,
“Do not present your members [of your body] to sin as instruments for unrighteousness, but present yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life, and your members to God as instruments for righteousness. For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace” (Romans 6:12–14 ESV; cf. 12:1–2).
The apostle revealed that sin can reign in the mortal body to make one obey its passions. How does sin come to rule in the body and make someone obey it? Adam was the first man to sin and sin spread to all because all sin (5:12). However, Jesus came in the likeness of sinful flesh but without sin (Romans 8:3). Christ came in “the likeness of sinful flesh,” judged sin in the flesh, and so condemned sin for those who come to trust in Him. God counts the believer who trusts Him as righteous by His grace (Romans 3:21–31; 5:20–21).
Grace Makes the Faithful into Servants of God
Because believers are freed from sin by God’s grace, Christians should not want anymore to return to sin with its enslavement and death. For this, Paul declared, “What then? Are we to sin because we are not under law but under grace? By no means! Do you not know that if you present yourselves to anyone as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin, which leads to death, or of obedience, which leads to righteousness?” (Romans 6:15–16). The apostle thanked God for those who were slaves to sin and became obedient from the heart to the gospel and became servants of righteousness (6:17). Freedom from sin makes servants for doing what is right. By realizing God’s gracious favor of giving freedom from sin and death, faithful Christians are no longer bondservants to sexual impurity or to lawlessness that leads to more lawlessness (6:19). Because of God’s gift of freedom from sin, the apostle commanded that repentant believers present the members of their fleshly bodies to righteousness unto holiness. This is the transformation described as presenting oneself as a living sacrifice in Romans 12:1–2.
Remembering Enslavement without Grace
Have you ever felt enslaved to do what you did not want to do (cf. Romans 7:14–19)? Some Christians seem to have forgotten their struggles with temptations or ignored their sins as though holy on their own. Believers will be tempted like Jesus was tempted in the wilderness (Matthew 4:1–11; Luke 4:1–13). The Holy Spirit descended upon Christ at baptism, led Christ into the wilderness, and Christ left there full of the Spirit. Be encouraged by His example. If you are enslaved to sin, Paul has shown the way of the Spirit away from sin in Romans 6–8.
The apostle Paul reminded the believers of the church in Rome that they were once free from righteousness and the fruit of sin was shame and death (Romans 6:20–21). However, God has given freedom from sin for believers to become God’s servants and the fruit is to become holy and ultimately receive eternal life (6:22). The apostle reminded them, “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 6:23).
Why Sin Lives among Believers
With Christians having been freed from sin, why are so many still enslaved to sin among the churches? Some have forgotten God’s grace, some truly do not believe, and many are enslaved to sin dwelling in their flesh. Sin came to dwell within the flesh when they gave into temptation. The apostle Paul describes God’s power to be free from such sin and its addictions.
What can believers do to be free who have sin living in their flesh? Paul revealed,
“For while we were living in the flesh, our sinful passions, aroused by the law, were at work in our members to bear fruit for death. But now we are released from the law, having died to that which held us captive, so that we serve in the new way of the Spirit and not in the old way of the written code” (Romans 7:5–6).
God’s power is the strength of the Holy Spirit in the inner person (Ephesians 3:16). However, many if not most Christians no longer know this strength. In his letter to the churches in Galatia, Paul wrote, “But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do” (Galatians 5:16–17). Christians must live by the desires of the Spirit within themselves.
God has provided a way of escape and endurance for those struggling with temptations (1 Corinthians 10:13). Live according to the Spirit of God by thinking on the things of the Spirit (Romans 8:5–6). Think of oneself as dead to sin and alive to God (Romans 6:11–12). By God’s grace, He has given freedom from sin to those who trust in Him and raised from baptism as they journey through life toward holiness and finally eternal life. Thank God for He is good in all ways. God loves us, even while we were still sinners, Christ died for us (Romans 5:8). If you have not died with Christ and been buried with Christ in baptism, become obedient to that standard of doctrine and rise to the newness of life.