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From Slaves of Sin to Slaves of God

Renewing Your Mind / R.C. Sproul
The Truth Network Radio
October 15, 2023 12:01 am

From Slaves of Sin to Slaves of God

Renewing Your Mind / R.C. Sproul

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October 15, 2023 12:01 am

By God's grace, Christians are no longer slaves to sin. We've been set free to serve a new and better Master. Preaching from Romans 6, today R.C. Sproul explains what motivates the people of God to joyfully obey the Lord.

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Present yourselves to God as being alive from the dead. Present yourselves to God as resurrected people and your members as instruments of righteousness to God.

That your person, your mind, your mouth, your ears, your eyes, your feet, all of these things are to be used as tools in your toolkit for offering your whole person to God. We cannot earn our salvation. We are justified by faith and faith alone. And it's this gospel that was defended and proclaimed during the Reformation.

But this truth can lead to other questions. How are we then to live? What should be our attitude towards sin?

And can we ever not sin this side of eternity? You're listening to Renewing Your Mind as we feature select sermons from Paul's letter to the Romans each Sunday in October. The Lord used Romans to help bring gospel clarity in the 16th century, and He's used it significantly in the lives of many Christians, myself included. Perhaps you have even memorized portions of Romans. Well, today R.C. Sproul is preaching from Romans 6 and what it means that the Christian is now a slave to righteousness.

Here's Dr. Sproul. Paul's letter to the church at Rome, and we're still in the sixth chapter, and tonight I'm going to begin reading at verse 12 and read through the end of the chapter, again with my heart filled with optimism for progress for the night. Again at verse 12. That you should obey it in its lusts, 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. For sin shall not have dominion over you, for you're not under law, but under grace.

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 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 of 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. The Word of God for you.

You may be seated. Let's pray. Again, our God, we ask for your help as we seek to understand this teaching that is so important to our growth as Christians, to our progress in sanctification. We pray that in the understanding of Thy Word that we may be convicted by the power of Thy Spirit to do what this Word enjoins, for we ask it in Jesus' name.

Amen. I'm going to go back and look briefly at verses 12 and following because Paul has already spoken, and we have already examined the idea that we ought to consider ourselves dead to sin, having been crucified with Christ, and we explored that idea in our last time together. But then Paul continues beyond that with a conclusion.

And once again, I remind you to be alert every time you see that word, therefore, in the text because that always links together a previous argument that is now being taken to its conclusion. And so listen to the conclusion that the Apostle wants us to hear. Therefore, do not let sin reign in your mortal body that you should obey it in its lusts.

Let me just pick up on that particular mandate. The conclusion of our reckoning of ourselves dead with Christ in His crucifixion is that we are called negatively here not to allow ourselves to be under the domination or the dominion of sin. We are called not to allow sin to rule over us in our mortal bodies.

Now again, let's backtrack a moment. We've already seen on more than one occasion what the Apostle sets forth here of the serious degree of our fallenness, of our condition by nature, of being in the state of original sin. I have labored the point with you that original sin is described by two basic metaphors in the New Testament. One is that of death, that in our original sin that by nature we are dead in our sins spiritually.

We are biologically alive, and though we are born in a hospital or at home and we let out our first cry and take our first breath in as vital as our signs may be in that first moment of life in this world, we still remember that we arrive on this planet DOA, that we are dead on arrival spiritually even though we're alive on arrival biologically. And so that very strong metaphor is used to describe our natural condition where we have no life with respect to the things of God, no vitality whatsoever. But the other metaphor is the one that Paul is really developing here in this sixth chapter, and that is the metaphor of slavery and of bondage. We are by nature in bondage to sin. As I've said before here, we have it again in this text that we have to be very careful when we read the New Testament that we try to read it with virgin ears, that we don't bring to the text all the baggage of the ideas that we've learned from the secular culture all around us. And as I've said, one of the most destructive ideas that we tend to bring to the text of Scripture is the humanist and pagan notion of freedom that says that our free will is such that we are not bent in one direction or the other, but every time we have an option before us of a moral issue that we have the moral power to say yes or to say no, and that the will is basically in a state of indifference by nature.

That, as I said, is an idea that is as American as apple pie and Chevrolet and baseball and as heretical as it can be. It is positively not just unbiblical, but it is anti-biblical because that notion of freedom can be found nowhere in sacred Scripture. You're free in the sense that you still have a will, and you have the power of volition that by nature you still have the capacity to make choices according to your desires.

In that sense, we're still free. But the problem is that the desires of our hearts by nature are only wicked continually, and by nature we have no disposition, no inclination towards the things of God. And therefore, as Augustine argued against Pelagius, we are in a state of moral inability, the inability to do the things of God. This was the essence of Luther's most important work when he responded to the diatribe of Erasmus of Rotterdam with his book entitled De servo arbitrium, that is on the bondage of the will, and it is a book that every Christian has the capacity to read and understand. You don't have to have a PhD in theology to understand Luther's text on that point. It is a Christian classic, and I would urge everybody in this congregation, if you haven't read The Bondage of the Will, that you read it. And then you can go to graduate school and read Jonathan Edwards' Freedom of the Will, which I have to warn you in advance may require a PhD in theology to wade through.

If you want a shortcut, you can read my Willing to Believe, and it will cover all of these things as kind of a primer for you. But in any case, we have to get this idea out of our head that by nature we have the moral power to incline ourselves to the things of God. Again, Jesus made it clear to Nicodemus that unless a man is born again, he can't even see the kingdom of God, let alone take steps to enter it. Rather, the metaphor is one of slavery, that by nature, prior to our rebirth by the work of the Holy Ghost, we're in prison through our sinful impulses.

You know what, folks? If the Bible didn't teach it, you'd have to invent that idea just by looking at your own heart and in your own life and seeing the universality of sin in this world. But now, you see, you've been made alive. Paul's addressing believers, people who have been set free from that prison, who have been made alive by the power of the Holy Ghost, who were not in their original state of original sin, who have been raised from the dead and set free from that bondage and slavery. That's your condition now, so that when you sin now, even though the freedom that we have from sin and from bondage is real and the power of the Holy Spirit is there, we still struggle, we still battle, we still have to go through this conflict until the day we die. In fact, Paul speaks in other places about this intense warfare that continues between the old man that was completely flesh, the new man who now has the power of the Holy Spirit indwelling him and enabling him to move through the things of God.

But you see, here's the difference. You may still sin if you're a Christian. No, not that you may still sin. You do still sin if you're a Christian, but you don't have to. You don't sin anymore because you've been enslaved by the power of sin.

Every time that you are presented with a temptation, God gives you a way out, and He promises us the present power of the Holy Spirit if we will simply cooperate. Now here is where the work of the Christian life is synergistic and not monergistic. I've labored those terms before with you that your regeneration, your rebirth was the work of one person, God.

It wasn't a joint venture. It wasn't part your effort and part the effort of God. It was purely monergistic, one individual working God. But the moment you took your first breath of spiritual life in your regeneration from there on the rest of the way, it's a joint effort. That's why the apostle elsewhere will say, work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for God is at work within you both to will and to do.

It's a joint venture. God is working, and you have to work. And so Paul is now speaking to people who are out of prison.

He said, you're free. God has regenerated you. Now you're still tempted. You're still enticed.

You still have weaknesses. You can't believe the baggage we bring into the Christian life, patterns of behavior that are sinful. And they don't disappear overnight.

What disappears is the bondage. And so now we have the responsibility to cooperate with the grace that God makes available to us, to make diligent use of the means of grace, to make sure that our souls are being fed regularly by the Word of God, to make sure that we are on our faces before God in prayer earnestly on a regular basis, to make it a matter of principle to never, ever, ever miss the corporate worship of the people of God unless you're absolutely indisposed. Because all of these means of grace God has given to you to help you in your pilgrimage, to help you in this conflict, to help you in this battle. And so you're to feed the new man, starve the old man. And so he says, don't let sin reign in your mortal body. If sin is reigning in your mortal body and you're a Christian, it's because you let it reign. And you don't have to let it reign. You can't go anymore with the excuse, the devil made me do it, unless indeed you're unregenerate.

And in that case, it's still no excuse. Therefore, do not let sin, don't allow it to have dominion that you should obey it in its lusts. Don't obey sin anymore. Notice that he's talking, he personifies sin as if sin itself had an individual existence.

He knows that it doesn't. As if it were a tyrant that could try to enslave you again. Don't let that happen. And don't present your members as instruments of unrighteousness to sin. That is not simply a sexual reference here.

It refers to every aspect of your human life. Don't let your mind be an instrument of sin. Don't let your legs be instruments of sin. Don't be swift to shed blood. Don't let your lips be instruments of sin.

Guard your tongue. Don't allow yourself to be enslaved once again to these sinful patterns. But present yourselves to God as being alive from the dead. Present yourselves to God as resurrected people and your members as instruments of righteousness to God. That your person, your mind, your mouth, your ears, your eyes, your feet, all of these things are to be used as tools in your toolkit for offering your whole person to God. Remember later Paul will say, therefore, at the very conclusion of this epistle, therefore, my beloved brethren, I entreat you by the mercies of God to present your bodies as a living sacrifice.

And he goes on to say, that's your reasonable service. Now, in the ancient world, instruments or tools, just as they are today, are means by which certain works are accomplished. The sculptor has his chisel by which he creates the statue. The painter has his brushes and the paint, and the brushes are the instruments that he uses.

The pool player has the cue stick. The baseball player, the bat, all of these are different tools or instruments that are used to bring about a desired effect. Now, you can use these tools for good or for evil. You can use your mind for sin or for righteousness.

You can use your speech to blaspheme or to praise. You can use your legs to walk in sin or to walk in righteousness. And so Paul says, the whole person has been raised from spiritual death and is now called to a new kind of slavery. He continues this metaphor, doesn't he, where he calls us to be slaves of righteousness.

Not servants of Satan, but servants of Christ. That's the difference between the old life and the new life. Verse 14, for sin shall not have dominion over you. That's a promise. It's in the indicative, not the imperative. Earlier it was imperative. Don't let sin have dominion over you. But now he's speaking in the indicative, and he's saying, this is your state of affairs now. Sin will not have dominion over you.

Its dominion is gone. It's history. You can't be brought back again into absolute bondage to sin as you once were. And then he gives this statement because, really, for you're not under law, you're under grace.

What does that mean? I think one of the hardest things to do in dealing with Paul, as I've told you already, is understand how he uses these references to the law. Because he doesn't always refer to the law in the same way.

And, I mean, this has vexed the best minds of Christendom for two thousand years. When Paul says you're not under the law, what does he mean? Some people look at that and said, as I mentioned before, this is a license to sin. We are no longer under any obligation to keep the law of God. We've passed from law to grace. Law was Moses. Grace is Jesus. And so we're free from the law, as I said, the great hymn of the antinomian, free from the law.

Oh blessed condition, I can sin all I want and still have remission. I don't think that's what Paul means here. What he's saying here is that we're no longer under the law in the sense of being underneath the awesome, weighty burden of the law. And I don't think that he's referring simply to the law of Moses because what he's done already earlier in chapter 5 was to point out that the law was in the world even before Sinai, that God reveals His law in nature and in the conscience of human beings.

And so we can't just restrict law to the laws of Moses or to the Ten Commandments. But from the beginning of our sinfulness, we've been under that dreadful burden of the law because the law condemns us. The law reveals our disobedience, and the law cannot possibly be the means by which you will be saved.

As debtors to the law, we're debtors who can never, ever pay our debt. And Paul says, but you're not in that condition anymore, being crushed under the weight of the law, being oppressed by the burden of guilt and of judgment from the law. You're now under grace. See, it's by grace you have been saved through faith, and that's not of yourself.

It's the gift of God. And Paul has to keep telling the Christians, he said, now that you've been freed from that burden of the law, are you going to go back? Are you going to go back to Egypt now that you know that you've been justified by faith and by faith alone? Are you going to try to return to justifying yourself through your works?

No. You move from grace to grace, from faith to faith. Grace doesn't end at your justification, but grace is ever-present in the process and progress of your sanctification.

You are as much sanctified by grace as you are justified by grace. I heard myself today on a tape, and my wife said, she's been telling me that I should teach a certain series on a certain venue next year, and I've been arguing with her, I don't want to teach that series. She says, you need to teach that series again, and I said, I don't think so. So then she comes, you know, and she has the CD, and she said, I want you to listen to this.

So I said, okay. So I had to listen to myself teaching about sanctification, and I'm thinking, whoops, that hurt. You know, you can be your own worst critic, but in that portion I was listening to today, I made mention of a moment that really took place in my life about twenty-five years ago.

I'll never forget it. I was walking down the hall of our lecture house back at the study center in western Pennsylvania, and I had one of those sudden, sovereign, existential moments of self-awareness, where just out of the blue I became acutely conscious of something. It's like I stood out of myself and looked at myself, and this idea came into my head, R.C. What if you're not really saved? What if your destiny is hell? And I mean instantly this chill went from the top of my head all the way down my spine to my feet, and I was frozen in that spot in absolute terror. I said, I realized that I can fool myself, that I can pass the exam in theology, and think that I'm in a state of grace when I'm not. And it's in moments like that that Satan comes to you and said, Well, you're a Christian. Well, then why did you do this, and why did you do that, and why did you fail on this resolve, and why did you not keep your promise here?

And I just felt more and more shame, more and more uncertainty. So I ran to my study, and I picked up my Bible. And all of a sudden I am reading the gospel again for all I am worth. And I'm on my face before God, and I say, God, maybe I'm not in a state of grace. Maybe I'm not regenerate.

Maybe I'm kidding myself. Oh, Lord, I don't have anything else to hold on to but the gospel. I have nothing to bring for you in my hands except Christ and His righteousness. The only way I can have any assurance of my salvation is not by looking at my performance or my achievement, but by looking again at grace. That's why I say I have to get justification by faith in my bloodstream every minute of the day, every year of my life. I have to keep coming back to what is the ground of my justification. It's His righteousness and His righteousness alone.

It's grace. It is sola gratia, by grace alone. The law slays me. The law kills me. The law is a mirror of my sin. It drives me to the cross. It drives me to grace. And that's what Paul was talking about here. You're not under law. You're under grace.

Again, he comes right at us with another rhetorical question. What then? Not shall we continue in sin that grace may abound. That's how chapter 6 began, but listen to it again. What then?

Shall we sin because we're not under law but under grace? It's the same question. He gives the same answer. It's emphatic. It's abhorrent.

Certainly not, by no means, God forbid. Do you not know that to whom you present yourselves slaves to obey? You are that one's slaves whom you obey.

Isn't that an interesting way of putting it? We have to understand something about indentured servitude. Usually, when we think of slaves, we think of slaves in the slave trade in the West in more recent centuries that involved man stealing, where people went to Africa and they kidnapped young men, brought them across the ocean, took them to the auction block, and there sold them into slavery It's not like these natives came over here on their own and then presented themselves at the slave auction and say, buy me.

I'm cheap. But you see, in the ancient world, the number one reason for slavery was indentured servitude, where a person had a debt that he couldn't pay, and he said, look, I can't pay you. I'll serve you. I present myself here as a slave. It's ironic, and as much of an oxymoron as it sounds, it's voluntary servitude, where people presented themselves into slavery.

Think about it. Don't you know that to whom you present yourselves as slaves to obey, you're that one's slaves whom you obey. And what he's saying here is if you present yourself again to sin as a slave to sin, it leads to death. If you obey sin as a slave, the only outcome is death. But if you present yourself as a slave of obedience, then the end is righteousness.

God be thanked. Here's doxology, that though you were slaves of sin, yet you obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine to which you were delivered to the gospel. And having been set free from sin, you became slaves of righteousness. I said a few moments ago, come to the text with virgin eyes and virgin ears. There's a word here that Paul uses that has almost disappeared from Christian vocabulary. Do you recognize it?

Do you see what an oddity it was? A word that has all but been banished from the life of the Christian community. It's the word righteousness. If I give a seminar on spiritual growth, people will flock to it.

If I give them five keys to spirituality, they'll sign up. But if I give a seminar on how to become a righteous person, nobody will come, because that's not the goal of the Christian. The Christian wants to be spiritual, or the Christian wants to be pious, or the Christian wants to be moral. But God forbid that anybody ever accuse us of righteousness. See, righteousness is so closely linked to the idea of self-righteousness that we want to distance ourselves as far as we can from the very idea. And we know we can't be saved by our own righteousness, so let's not think of righteousness as having any part in our quest for sanctification. Never mind that Jesus said, Seek ye first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and everything else will be added unto you. Did you realize, beloved, that the number one business of the Christian life is the quest for righteousness? Jesus said, Unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and the Pharisees, you will no wise enter the kingdom of God.

Remember? What did He mean? I'm not sure. He maybe was simply saying that the only righteousness that will get you into the kingdom of God is a righteousness that's greater than the Pharisees, namely mine, and He might have been giving a cryptic, thinly veiled lesson on justification by faith alone.

Maybe, but I don't think so. I think He really meant what He said, that unless your righteousness exceeds the righteousness of the Pharisees, you'll never make it. Now again, you're not going to make it on the basis of your righteousness, but only on the basis of faith. But if the faith is genuine, if it's the real article, the fruit of that faith will be real righteousness.

Remember that. And you say, well, it's no big deal to exceed the Pharisees. After all, they were the worst criminals of all time. They were the ones that killed Jesus. They were the ones, the hypocrites, the ones that provoked Jesus' wrath. Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites.

Oh, He did come down hard on them. Remember why they were called Pharisees. They were that group of people who were tired of the secularism of the Jews. They were the conservatives. They were the evangelicals. They were the ones that wanted to restore covenant purity to Israel.

And so they called themselves the set-apart ones, set themselves apart for the singular pursuit of righteousness. And though Jesus roundly and soundly condemned them, He would throw them a bone from time to time. He'd say, you tithe your mint in your cumin, you do well, but you omit the weight of your matters of the law, justice and mercy. You don't care about justice.

You don't care about mercy. But at least you tithe. How many of you tithe? The polls show that four percent of professing evangelical Christians tithe their goods and their services to the Lord. The other 96 percent systematically, routinely, day after day after day, rob God of what He calls us to give to Him for the building of His kingdom.

That's a very, very serious matter. And at least the Pharisees were tithers. And He said to them, you searched the Scriptures thinking that in them you have life. They did search the Scriptures, and they didn't have life. Do you search the Scriptures?

I would say the majority of people who have been Christians for ten years have never read the whole Bible. So the Pharisees beat us there. Oh, I know their prayers were motivated by pomp and outward displays of piety when they would pray in the marketplace to be seen by men and all of that. But at least they prayed. And Jesus said to them, oh, woe unto you scribes and Pharisees.

You go over land and sea to make one convert. Once you've made them, you make them twice the child of hell than you are yourselves. Now, that was not very complimentary to them that He called them children of hell, right? But how committed were they to evangelism? How committed were they to missions?

It was hard to travel in those days. They went over land and sea for one convert. Somebody wants me to come to California to speak. The first question is, how many people are going to be there? Oh, one. Come on out and we'll have an audience of one for you.

I'm glad at that time that I have a speaking committee that makes those decisions. They're not going to send me over land and sea to make one convert. Do you see how many points the scribes and Pharisees beat us like drums? Jesus says, unless our righteousness exceeds that, we'll never enter into the kingdom of God. 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, according to more lawlessness, so now present your members as slaves of righteousness for holiness.

Well, he really gets cute here. Listen to what he says in verse 20. When you were slaves of sin, you were free in one regard.

What? You were free with respect to righteousness. You didn't have any. When you were under slavery and under the dominion of sin, you were completely free from righteousness. What fruit did you have then in the things of which you are now ashamed? For the end of those things, the end of sin, is death. But now, you've had your exodus. You've been set free from sin, and having become slaves of God, you now have your fruit to holiness and the end everlasting life. Freedom from sin means freedom of righteousness, freedom for righteousness, freedom for eternal life.

And then Paul closes this section with his famous passage in verse 23. For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. The wages of sin. What's the pay scale? What's the payoff? What does sin earn?

What's its basic wage? The more you sin, the more you earn. And what you earn is death. The wages of sin is death.

There is a payoff. You remember what God said, Vengeance is mine, saith the Lord, I will repay. If you're a slave to sin, you earn demerits.

You earn my wrath. And if I didn't pay what you earn, I would be unjust. But the wages of sin is death. And in stark contract to that is the good news once again, but the gift of God.

See the contrast? Wages are something you earn. A gift is something you can't possibly earn. Wages are something you merit. The gift, on the other hand, is free.

It's gratuitous. The wages of sin is death. The gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. All the way through this section, Paul has been dealing with contrasts.

Slavery to sin, slavery to righteousness, wages of death, the gift of eternal life. We now have experienced grace. I've mentioned this before.

I'll mention it again. When I was in graduate school, Professor Berkhauer once made the observation when he said to us, Gentlemen, the essence of Christian theology is grace. And the essence of Christian ethics is gratitude.

Paul's going to develop that. It's love. It's gratitude. And once we've received this grace of eternal life in Jesus Christ, we should be willing to crawl over glass to honor and praise Him for that grace. Let's pray. Father, don't allow us to give ourselves again to sin that it might have dominion over us. By the power of Thy Spirit, help us to preserve our liberty, to walk in that liberty by which we have been freed by the Holy Spirit. And by Thy grace, help us to make the seeking of righteousness the main business of our lives, not to merit salvation, which we couldn't possibly do, but to show forth our praise and our gratitude to You.

Amen. Listening to these sermons from R.C. Sproul continues to help me grow in my gratitude for what God has done.

As Dr. Sproul clearly explains week after week the incredible good news and grace that has been shown to his people. You can study Romans further with Dr. Sproul as he walks through each verse of Romans in his expositional commentary. This hardcover book is based on his sermons and years of study, and it can be yours with your gift of any amount at renewingyourmind.org. What does Romans 828 mean when it says that all things work together for good for those who love God and are called according to His purpose?

Well, Romans 12 too, when we're told not to be conformed to this world, but to be transformed by the renewal of our minds. R.C. Sproul unpacks these verses and more in this single volume. This offer ends tonight, so I encourage you to visit renewingyourmind.org with your donation of any amount today. Next time, R.C. Sproul will consider the sovereignty, justice, and mercy of God as it relates to Romans 9, 13, when we read, Jacob I have loved, but Esau I have hated. That's Romans 9 next Sunday, here on Renewing Your Mind. Copyright © 2017 Mooji Media Ltd. All Rights Reserved. No part of this recording may be reproduced
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-10-19 05:58:55 / 2023-10-19 06:13:22 / 14

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