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Dying to Live, Part 1

Grace To You / John MacArthur
The Truth Network Radio
October 17, 2022 4:00 am

Dying to Live, Part 1

Grace To You / John MacArthur

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October 17, 2022 4:00 am

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As he moves into chapter 6, he necessarily and permanently links a holy life with true salvation. In other words, you don't need externally to control people who are redeemed, because there is planted within them a control principle by virtue of the new nature, which is under the control of the Holy Spirit of God. Welcome to Grace to You with John MacArthur. I'm your host, Phil Johnson. Today, John's beginning the first of several broadcasts from the book of Romans on what it means to have freedom from sin.

That's the title of our series. And John, throughout all of your years of teaching through the New Testament, I think your messages from Romans really do stand out. You began your verse-by-verse study of Romans in the early 1980s, and you spent five years taking your congregation through the riches of that book. And in fact, you were in the middle of Romans, I think Romans chapter 5, when I first came to Grace Community Church. And so for me and your congregation, the first go-around in Romans really was significant, wasn't it? John MacArthur Yeah, and I think it was a significant time in my own life as well, and particularly the part of Romans that we're going to be featuring in this new series, Romans 6 and 7.

And the series is going to be titled Freedom from Sin. And the reason I say it was significant for me was coming into Grace Church. In fact, even before I became the pastor, I think it was the summer before I actually became pastor of Grace Church, I was deeply burdened by my inability to get a grasp on Romans 6 and 7. So I remember spending that entire summer reading everything I could find that would explain to me the significance of Romans 6 and 7, which is the whole issue of sanctification, the believers' battle with sin, and where the victory lies, and all of that.

That's where we live and move and have our being, obviously. And I remember coming out of that summer with such an overwhelming understanding of Romans 6 and 7 that the first sermon I ever preached at Grace Church, when I was just candidating, was on Romans 6 and 7. Dr. Darrell Bock Yeah, I wish we had a tape of that. John MacArthur Yeah, no, no. Dr. Darrell Bock That's the one where you went for like three hours or something?

John MacArthur No, but I went an hour and fifteen or twenty minutes because I was just basically unloading everything that I had been absorbing for about three months. So Romans 6 and 7 has a special place in my life, and even to this day, for the life of the believer, it's the heart of the book of Romans. The wonderful reality of sovereign salvation lies in the hands of God, and obviously we have to hear and believe, but it is God who moves on the heart to transform it.

But when you get to sanctification, between our justification, which is completely an act of God by which he perfects us spiritually, and our glorification, which is the next act of God by which he perfects us totally, in the middle is where we live in the struggle for sanctification. So this is really the heart of the book of Romans as far as the believer goes, and so I'm excited about this. The series is titled Freedom from Sin, and you're going to hear the sermons from that five-year stretch that Phil mentioned way, way back in the early years of ministry. What does it mean to break free from sin, and how do you do that, and how do you enjoy the victory? Stay with us for the series on Freedom from Sin. Don't miss a day.

That's right, friend. You might be discouraged and think you're too weak to overcome certain sins, but God not only can empower you to overcome those sins, he wants you to overcome them. So to start looking at the freedom from sin our Lord graciously offers, here's John. Let's open our Bibles together to the sixth chapter of Romans. Paul has been stressing the dire situation of man, the inevitable doom that man faces because of his sin. He has been describing for us the rebellion of man against holy God, man's love of his own sinfulness, man's willful refusal to understand the God who has been clearly revealed to him inwardly and outwardly. And then in response to that, Paul has presented to us the wonderful forgiving mercy and grace of God which reaches down to this unworthy man and offers to him full pardon, full acquittal through the perfect and finished work of Jesus Christ. And the work of Christ in regard to man is so full and so thorough and so complete and so merciful and so gracious, so comprehensive, so abundant, so magnanimous that it can best be summed up in chapter 5 verses 20 and 21. Moreover, the law entered that the offense might abound, but where sin abounded, grace did super abound. That as sin hath reigned unto death, even so might grace reign through righteousness unto eternal life by Jesus Christ our Lord. Now the magnanimity of God's grace is shown there in verse 20 in that the greater the sin was, the greater the grace was to cover that sin.

And that's how he sums up that first five chapters really. Great is man's sinfulness and infinitely greater is God's forgiving grace. Now at this point we come to a new development in Paul's thinking. We've talked about man's sin. We've talked about God's salvation. And now we move into a third major discussion in the epistle to the Romans, and it has to do with the believer's holiness.

Now that you have been taken out of sin into salvation, what is the inevitable result of that? We're going to see that in chapters 6, 7, and 8. Now the way Paul introduces it is by dealing with a question that would inevitably come up at this point if he were presenting this to a group which included those who might object.

And the inevitable question appears in verse 1 of chapter 6. Now Paul was very good at anticipating the argument of his adversary. He had preached the gospel enough times to know what responses it generated. He had presented it in hostile groups well enough and long enough to know how they reacted to it. He knew the inevitable antagonist's viewpoint. He knew what he needed to counter.

He knew the gaps that he needed to fill to continue his argument effectively. And so he anticipates this statement in verse 1. What shall we say then? In other words, if sin is abounding but the greater the sin the greater the grace, shall we continue in sin that grace may abound? I mean if more sin generates more grace, then should we just continue on now that we're redeemed and sin more so God can be more gracious?

If he gets such a thrill out of grace then let him have a lot of it. In other words, somebody would say to Paul, Paul your doctrine is antinomian. Your doctrine is that which gives tremendous liberty. This idea that salvation is simply and only by grace through faith without works and that the greater the sin the greater the grace leads to an antinomian viewpoint, that is an against law viewpoint, a freedom gone maniacal, a freedom gone berserk. It leads to a person saying, well if the more sin the more grace, then man I'm going to sin like mad so God can just get all kinds of glory by dispensing grace. The antagonistic Jew would have a very difficult time handling Paul's argument about salvation by grace without works because he would assume that it led to this kind of thing. One writer put it this way, it is at this point that the apostle moves perilously close to the edge of an abyss, one step to the side and all he has gained by what has preceded could be lost.

End quote. I mean if salvation is all of God and all of grace and God is glorified in the dispensing of grace, then man in his desire for sin might reason the more sin the more grace. And that's basically how he moves into the section on sanctification or the believer's holiness.

By the way, this has been taught through the years. The evil genius of the Romanov family by the name of Rasputin taught and exemplified the doctrine of salvation through repeated experience of sin and repentance. He said the more you sin the more God gives you grace and so the more you sin and sin with abandon and the more you allow God to exercise His grace, the more you allow God to exercise His grace, the more you give God glory. In fact, he went on to say that if you're just an ordinary sinner you don't give God an opportunity to show His glory. So be an extraordinary sinner.

Now that is antinomianism. That is complete abandonment in the name of grace and I suppose that some of Paul's critics may have accused him of that not only in his own imagination here in chapter 6, but in reality back in chapter 3 verse 8 it says, and not rather, he's talking about this idea of sin, as we are slanderously reported and as some affirm that we say let us do evil that good may come. And there he alludes to some slander that had been thrown at him that again it's very likely that he had been accused of preaching the kind of a doctrine of grace that condoned evil so that God could be glorified in His forgiveness. It may be also that not only were critics attacking Paul on this angle in a negative sense, in other words they wanted to deny him the doctrine of grace because it led to antinomianism, it may also be that there were some people who wanted to sin so that grace could abound just to justify their own evil lifestyle.

I mean they aren't criticizing it they're happy to accept it. They're not the legalists saying we can't accept what you say Paul it leads to antinomianism they're the libertines who are saying well Paul we do accept what you say we push it to its logical conclusion. If you wanted to meet a group of them you might find them in the city of Corinth in the church. It seems to me if there was any libertine group of people in the name of Jesus Christ it was that group. They lived without any of the normal restraints of holiness that should bind the children of God. They were characterized by incest by incessant suing of one another that is an indication of selfish greed stepping on each other's necks. They were characterized by sexual immorality, by prostitution, by paganism, by demonic activity.

They even stood up in their assemblies and in the name of a gift of the Holy Spirit cursed Jesus. And maybe it was those kinds of things that sort of accommodated the libertine who wanted to push the doctrine of grace to in his own mind what was its logical conclusion. But Paul would would allow neither of these. He would not abandon grace to accommodate the legalist and he would not abandon grace to restrict the libertine. He wouldn't do it in either case.

Legalism is never a remedy for anything, not even license. God has a better way, a more excellent way and we find Paul unfolds that way in Romans 6, 7 and 8. And basically if I can give you a preview the way that is the most excellent way is the way of the work of God in the heart, the regenerating work and then the concomitant ministry of the Holy Spirit.

And we'll see that as we go. Now as we move then into chapter 6, what Paul is going to show us is that the true gospel of grace does not lead to libertinism, to just sinning like mad because you're going to be all right anyway. In other words, it's what you've heard people say who wanted to criticize the doctrine of eternal security. They say well if you believe in eternal security then what you really mean is that once you're a Christian you can just sin all you want and you're going to be okay. You heard people say that?

Sure. It's the same kind of thing and so for them they want to restrict the gospel of pure saving grace and its eternal reality because they're afraid that that's the only way they can control people. And so they violate the purity of saving grace as an entity in order to control people who might abuse grace.

But Paul will have none of that. In fact as he moves into chapter 6 he necessarily, inextricably, and permanently links a holy life with true salvation. In other words you don't need externally to control people who are redeemed because there is planted within them a control principle by virtue of the new nature, the new life, which is under the control of the Holy Spirit of God so that the thing functions internally not externally. And we're going to see that as we unfold these chapters together. Now chapters 3, 4, and 5 basically deal with justification. Chapters 6, 7, and 8 deal with sanctification for you that like theological labels.

If you want it another way chapters 3, 4, and 5 deal with how you get saved and chapters 6, 7, and 8 deal with how you live after you've been saved. And there is an absolute connection, an absolute connection. The two are linked. And I dare say, beloved, that nothing is more important for us to understand in the utter ananomianism of the contemporary Christian scene than to understand the link between sanctification and justification, to understand the connection between a holy life and true salvation. That's why I've said to you on other occasions that I'm convinced that the church in America is in many, many cases an unregenerate, unredeemed, lost, godless, Christless, hellbound church because I don't see any holiness there. And I think there must be that reality. Well, let's look at Paul's argument.

I mean, I could just go on ranting and raving about this subject for a long time. I want to get into the text. The foundation for Paul's teaching on holiness is laid down in the opening of this marvelous chapter. Let me just give you three elements to open up the first 14 verses, the antagonist, the answer, and the argument.

Just a little three-point thing. We'll look at the beginning of those significant points. First of all, the antagonist appears in verse 1. This is an imaginary antagonist in a sense.

It's probably imaginary in this case, but not in terms of Paul's experience. Many times he's been accused of preaching a gospel of grace and grace, that is antinomian. When he went back, you remember, to the city of Jerusalem after collecting the offering from the Gentile churches and went back with all of the Gentile representatives to conciliate the Jewish and Gentile segments of the church, to demonstrate love, not only to meet their need in a physical way but to meet it in a spiritual way. He thought that he would even further identify and so he went into the temple with some of those Jews and went to offer a vow. He wanted to show his kinship to Judaism and he had not abandoned it. And you remember there was a riot that broke out and they accused him of speaking against the law and against the temple and against them and against God and everything else they counted to be sacred?

Why? Because the doctrine of grace seemed to them to be a libertine teaching. And he wants to show that you don't need to impose law on people. The Judaizers wanted to do the same thing. They wanted to go into Galatia and when they found these people who believed you could enter to God's kingdom by grace alone, they couldn't handle that.

And so they said, no, you must be circumcised and you must keep all the law of Moses and then you get through the vestibule of that, you can get into the kingdom. And their fear was that if they ever got just pure grace that everybody would run amok. And we still have that today, people who think you've got to have a zillion rules in order to conform people to spirituality.

It goes on in many places, churches, Christian schools, where you think you can force spirituality down the throats of people by externalizing the rules are going to force them into a certain mold. And so Paul says, I know some are going to accuse me of this. They're going to say, well, on that basis, Paul, we just ought to sin like men so we can have a lot of grace.

That's the antagonist. Jude, I think, just as a footnote, has this in mind in verse 4 of that very important epistle. He says, there are certain men crept in unawares who were before of old, pre-written is what it means, to this condemnation. Ungodly men who do what? Turning the grace of our God into lasciviousness and denying the only Lord God and our Lord Jesus Christ. Now these were the ones who wanted to accept grace and say, oh boy, grace is great. They turned it into lasciviousness. That is sinful activity. And therefore, they denied the Lord. So keep it in mind, you have two factors here. On the one hand, you have the legalists who want to say, you can't teach that, Paul.

People will run wild. You're teaching antinomianism. On the other hand, you have the libertines who are saying, teach it, Paul.

We love every minute of it and we're going to use that grace to its extreme. And both are wrong. In fact, both give evidence of never having truly been redeemed at all. Now, you might look at it another way, just to help you frame the question. It might come that could be put this way. If God justifies the ungodly and does he do that?

Sure he does. Romans 4, 5. If God justifies the ungodly and if he delights to justify the ungodly, then there is no point in being what? Godly. So some would say the doctrine of grace puts a premium on sin.

Does it? I've been accused of that. I've been accused of preaching grace and not having rules. Sometimes pastors say to me, what are the rules in your church for membership? That's true.

Many ask me that. Do they have to sign a long list of rules? My answer to that is, well, if the Lord lets them in the kingdom on the basis of faith, I think we can let them in our church. We really don't want to set a standard higher than God.

And we never have believed for a minute that we can put up a list of external rules and make people spiritual. God has a better plan. Shall we continue in sin that grace may abound? The word continue is interesting in the Greek, it's an intensified word with a prefix, preposition. It means to abide, remain, or stay.

It's used of staying in a house, making a residence there. Shall we then who have been saved by grace habitually sustain the same relationship to sin that we have had before? Shall we go on with that same relationship where sin had full control and we yielded fully to it?

It was an unbroken habit. Are we going to continue that same abiding within the house of sin? In other words, to put it theologically, does justification not necessarily connect to sanctification? Can a person be saved and go on in the same life pattern? Can there be a divine transaction that has no impact on the life? Some in our Christian culture would say yes.

Yes. If you've ever asked Jesus in your heart, no matter what your life is like, you can be sure you're going to go to heaven. In other words, justification can exist apart from sanctification. One writer, current writer says, you can be saved and have absolutely no fruit. You can be saved and have no evidence, no practical righteousness. It isn't desirable, it isn't God's will, it isn't best, but it is possible. Let me put the question this way. Does the gospel allow men to be unholy? Can you be really saved and unholy and continue to remain in, abide in, stay in, live in the same relationship to sin you had before?

That's the question. Let's look at the answer in verse 2. Me genota. You don't see that in your Bible. It says, God forbid.

But me genota does not translate God forbid. It is an idiom, the strongest reaction possible. It is outraged indignation. To put it in the words of my grandmother, perish the thought.

You remember that one? To put it in a contemporary vernacular, no way. May it never be. It is denial with an abhorrence of such a thought. The very suggestion is thoroughly obnoxious to Paul so that he doesn't spew out some great argument. He just says no, no, no.

It is a blunt formula by no means. Absolutely not. A Christian continuing to remain in, abide in, live in sin is not only impermissible, it is impossible. The thought only creates disgust. How shall we that have died to sin live any longer in it? He says it's impossible. You can't sustain the same relationship to sin you had before because you've died to it. Now some, I think the authorized version has dead to sin. That's not the best translation. It's not talking about a state. It's talking about a past act. He isn't saying that you are presently dead to sin. He is saying you have died. Aris tends at one point in time you died to sin. You died to it. How can you remain in it when you died to it? Now I want you to just draw a little circle around that phrase, died to sin in your Bible because it is the key or the fundamental premise of the whole argument of the chapter.

Now what is he saying? Hang on to this because it's foundational to the rest of the chapter. Death and life are not compatible. I mean you can't be dead and alive at the same time.

Would you agree to that? I mean that's a logical impossibility. You cannot be dead and alive. Some of you can be alive and look dead and then sometimes you go to a funeral, somebody is dead but they look alive. But you can't really be dead and really be alive at the same time.

They're not compatible. So it is a fundamental logical contradiction for a Christian to be living in sin when he has died to it. You see? In a definite act in the past time, a once for all definite break with sin was made. That is a part of the believer's identity. And a believer cannot therefore live in sin. If a man lives in sin, if he abides in sin, if he continues in sin, he is not a believer.

It is no different than what John says in 1 John. The one who is born of God cannot continue to commit sin. The one who does that, who remains in it, gives evidence of the fact that he's never been taken out of that domain.

He's never died to that. He is still alive to that dimension. Now if you were to view sin as a realm or you were to view sin as a sphere, you could say the believer no longer lives in that realm. The believer no longer lives in that sphere. And you know, it says in Psalm 37 that a certain person passed away and lo, he was not.

Yea, I sought him, but he couldn't be found. And in a real sense, that's the same way with a matter of sin. The believer is no longer there. He has died to sin.

Now some of your wheels are turning here already and you're saying, now wait a minute, MacArthur. What do you mean by that? Are you saying Christians never sin?

Did I say that? I'm just saying what Paul said. Now be patient enough to wait until the argument unfolds and we'll get to the question. But the point we want to note here is that whatever you want to do to explain it, we have died to sin and we no longer live in that sphere. We no longer live in that dimension. We have been translated out of the kingdom of darkness into another realm. Now people have choked on these kinds of concepts in passage because they're afraid it means eradication of the sin nature. And I've been asked that question. People say, do you believe in the eradication of the sin nature?

I mean, do you believe that when you become a Christian, you're instantly perfect? My answer to that is, are you kidding? I'm a pastor. I know better. I know better for my own life and everybody else's. All I'm doing is telling you what Paul is saying here.

We'll see how it all fits together as we move along. But a Christian cannot remain, abide in, stay in, reside in sin the way he did before his conversion. He died to sin. That's John MacArthur, chancellor of the Masters University and Seminary, pointing you to biblical truths that you need to understand if you're going to experience freedom from sin. That's our study this week on Grace to You, Freedom from Sin.

And now, friend, our current subject is practical, practical stuff. What is more central to Christian living than fighting and forsaking sin? So let me encourage you to pick up our new Freedom from Sin study guide.

It takes you deep into each lesson in our current series, enriching your personal study. Order the new Freedom from Sin study guide today. Call our toll-free number, 800-55-GRACE, or go to our website, The Freedom from Sin study guide is a great resource to use in your family devotions. To pick up one copy or several, call us at 800-55-GRACE, or go online to And if you'd like to download the audio messages in John's series titled Freedom from Sin, go to There you will also find dozens of other topical studies as well as hundreds of sermons that you've never heard on the radio. In fact, all of John's sermons, more than 53 years' worth, are free to download in audio or transcript format at That website is also where to go to purchase John's New Testament commentaries or the MacArthur Study Bible or the systematic theology book called Biblical Doctrine and much more. Our website again, Now for John MacArthur, I'm Phil Johnson, encouraging you to be here tomorrow when John looks at the truths the apostle Paul knew and the truths you need to know if you want to experience freedom from sin. It's another half hour of unleashing God's truth one verse at a time on Grace to You.
Whisper: medium.en / 2022-12-03 15:55:08 / 2022-12-03 16:05:47 / 11

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