The good news there in verse 18 and there in verse 22 is that we've been made free from sin.
Now when you understand sin and its sinfulness, then you have an appreciation for what it means to be free from sin. What a glorious deliverance that is. Welcome to Grace To You with John MacArthur.
I'm your host, Phil Johnson. It's where the enemy is met, where good strategy sustains you or bad planning breaks you, a place of victory or defeat. And in this case, the enemy is sin and the field of battle is you, your person. As far as intensity goes, there's never been a more brutal war.
And where achieving victory is concerned, well, you may already have the keys to victory at your disposal. We trust today's lesson on Grace To You will help you find out for sure. Stay with us as John MacArthur continues a compelling study that is all about helping you find freedom from sin.
And with that, here's John. Now we're looking at Romans chapter 6 verses 15 through 23. 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 has ended. 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, 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. 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 sins, so we just can go out and sin all we want. And this is always the antagonist criticism of the message of grace, that grace leads to lawlessness. Grace leads to anonomianism. 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 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 freewheeling sinner.
Quite the contrary. And that leads us to the axiom of verse 16. And here is a self-evident principle.
It's just a very basic principle. No, 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 an 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's sin. Our new master is obedience. And we are subject to the Lord who produces in us obedience unto righteousness.
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 a 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 from 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, you 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. The 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, 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, get constricted to all that. You weren't free. 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 the 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, 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 it. 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 the 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 would 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 are 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 free 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. 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, as that was their lifestyle. 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 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. That doing evil continually, continually.
Now notice the progression. You yield your bodily parts, servants to sin, to uncleanness and iniquity. 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 house top. 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. 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.
I'm 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 begets sin, begets sin, begets sin, begets sin, begets 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% yielded to sin before Christ, so they should now be 100% 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 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 soul. Your soul is a new creation. It 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. 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. 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. 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. See 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 member 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. Martin Lloyd-Jones, who so often captures thoughts in such a graphic way, says this, as you go on living a 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 conform 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 stands 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. 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. That's John MacArthur, Chancellor of the Master's University and Seminary, showing you how to break the bonds of sin. Freedom from sin. That's the title of John's current study here on Grace to You. John, here's a question that keeps coming up.
We hear it from a lot of listeners, so I'm going to ask it to you again. Can a Christian expect the fight against sin to wind down as life goes on? I mean, it would be nice to think that as we naturally slow down a bit with age, that the battle against sin would also ease up or slow down. But is that the case? Yeah, I think in one sense it is. Otherwise, there wouldn't be any such thing as sanctification. If sanctification is progressively being conformed to the image of Christ, then yes, sin has to decrease and righteousness has to increase.
And that is what happens. I'm looking at life from this end of life. I'm in my 80s. I'm looking back over my life and I'm saying, I rejoice that I'm not where I was when I was 25 as a Christian struggling with sin. I'm not where I was when I was 45.
I'm not where I was when I was 65. There's no question that I have seen the hand of the Lord in my life breaking the power of sin and increasing the power of holiness in my life. Yes, sanctification is progressive. It is the leaving of sin to embrace righteousness. That is happening all the time as the means of grace are applied to a Christian's life.
But having said that, it doesn't necessarily mean you're going to be more content with yourself. My experience has been that I am less content with myself because I now see sin for what it is. And sin is a bigger issue to me now than it was when I didn't understand how horrible it was.
I've explained it through the years this way. You sin less and feel worse. That's why you come to Romans 7 as we're doing in this series.
We'll get there pretty soon. And you hear Paul say, oh, wretched man that I am. You say this is a guy who's a model believer who is gaining victory over sin and temptation, and yet he calls himself a wretched man. It isn't because he's more wretched or even as wretched as he used to be.
It's because sin is more wretched than it used to be now that he's coming closer and closer to Christ. So you're in it for the fight lifelong. And we want to help you with that. Here's a tool, the MacArthur Study Bible. I hope most of you have one.
If you don't, you need to get one. 25,000 footnotes detailing and explaining every verse essentially in the Bible. We have hard-bound editions, leather editions available in New American Standard, English Standard, New King James. And now through this Friday, by the way, the MacArthur Study Bible, nearly all of our resources are discounted 25% off the regular price. So get a copy of the MacArthur Study Bible today.
I pick one up even now as a Christmas gift for a loved one. Take advantage of our discount pricing. Yes, the MacArthur Study Bible has the tools you need to dig deep into every part of Scripture from Genesis to Revelation. To purchase a copy at 25% off the normal price, contact us today. Call 800-55-GRACE or go to our website, gty.org. The Study Bible comes in the New King James, New American Standard, and English Standard versions of Scripture with soft cover, hard cover, and leather binding options. And again, to order a copy at 25% off, call 800-55-GRACE or go to gty.org.
Also keep in mind that nearly everything we sell is available at 25% off the regular price for a limited time. Now is a great time to pick up one of John's 34 New Testament commentaries or books like The Gospel According to Jesus, Anxious for Nothing, The Glory of Heaven. To place your order, call 800-55-GRACE or shop online at gty.org. That's our website, one more time, gty.org. Now for John MacArthur and the entire Grace to You staff, I'm Phil Johnson, encouraging you to get together with your family and watch Grace to You television this Sunday. Check our website to see when it airs and join us tomorrow when John continues his step-by-step study for experiencing freedom from sin. It's another half hour of unleashing God's truth, one verse at a time, on Grace to You.
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