Why in the world would a Christian, justified by grace through faith, brought to Jesus Christ and given the choice to do right, ever choose to sin when sin only begets sin and death and shame from which he was delivered? Thanks for taking time out of your day to join us on Grace To You. As John MacArthur continues a discussion of, frankly, some pretty difficult issues from the book of Romans. It's all part of a series of lessons on how to experience freedom from sin. And John, before we continue our look at freedom from sin, you have in your hands there an interesting story to pass along. It comes from a man, a brother named Benjamin, who has experienced freedom of a different sort, freedom from misunderstanding what it means to be a Christian. So share this letter with our listeners. That's a wonderful letter.
Benjamin writes, I live in Alabama. I grew up in church and believed in Christ at a very young age, accepting that he is my Savior and the Son of God, the traditional way that the salvation was taught in my church. I discovered you on YouTube about five years ago. I do not know the sermon title, but you talked about how we can be assured of our salvation. That one sermon changed my life.
I was always taught to say the sinner's prayer, and that's it. What the Holy Spirit revealed through you that evening challenged everything I was ever taught. I shared your teaching of Christ with my family and friends. My wife and daughters have grown so much in Christ listening to you. I witness to my coworkers and anyone else that will stand still about what it truly means to know Him. I want you to know that your love for Christ and ministry for Him reaches people across this nation.
The lessons taught are affecting people you may never hear from. The encouragement and direction that people like myself receive from your ministry changes lives for eternity. So thank you very much for having the willingness to preach Christ, for teaching scripture in depth, and for having the boldness to condemn unrighteousness. This is your brother in Christ, Benjamin. What a wonderful, wonderful letter. There are so many people like this who have made some kind of, quote-unquote, decision about Christ, but when they're confronted with the truth of the gospel, it's a life-transforming reality. And I read a letter like that, not just for the sake of the letter, but to help you that support this ministry to understand what that support is doing.
Look, I'm the talking voice, but there's not going to be anybody hearing this voice unless we can provide access all across the world. And your support of this ministry, your giving to this ministry, is why people like Benjamin and his wife and his family are being reached along with millions of others on a daily basis all across the world. You're truly partners with us. It's your ministry as much as it is ours. So thank you for uniting with us in gospel ministry, and may the Lord bless you abundantly for your partnership.
That's right, friend. If you're thankful for verse-by-verse Bible teaching, and you want to help us reach more and more people like Benjamin with biblical truth, go to GTY.org to learn about the number of ways that you can express your support. But right now, follow along with John MacArthur as he continues his series, Freedom from Sin. 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 is 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. 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. 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. Now, in order to help us understand this, we move from the axiom of verse 16 to the argument of verses 17 to 22. It is an extended contrast between the two slaveries. You're either a slave to sin or a slave to God. 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. Now, let's look from the position to the practice, 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. Now, finally, Paul's contrast goes one more step. And he talks about the promise. Where do these two slaveries end up?
Because they definitely end up in two different places. Look at verse 20. First of all, where does sin end up? For when ye were the servants of sin, ye were free from righteousness. What fruit had ye then in those things of which you're now ashamed? For the end of those things is what? Death. Notice these two verses.
They're very simple, and yet they're very profound. He says, when you were the servants or slaves of sin in your former life, in that position, yielded to that life, you were free from righteousness. You were totally cut loose from righteousness. You had no cause to respond to righteousness. You had no need. Righteousness may don't demands on you because you had no capacity.
Well, what an incredible statement. You can't respond to the demands of righteousness. They're not bound on you.
We're not to go up and down the street and say, now all of you people, you need to abide by God's laws. They have no cause for that. They have no need for that.
One or something else won't do them any good either. They're free from righteousness. They have no responsibility to righteousness. They're controlled by rule, by sin, and all they can do is sin.
They have one master. Righteousness has no pressure to apply to them because they have nothing in their nature that can cause them to respond to it. Do you understand that? That is a tremendous statement because there are people who don't know Christ who think they're good people. The truth is they're slaves to sin and they're totally free from righteousness. Righteousness has no cause to which they must respond.
Boy, what a statement. Because the world is full of people who think they're good people. They think they do right things and good things and honorable things.
And on a human level, they do. But when God starts talking about the standards that are His standards, they are totally free from righteousness. They're not bound to obey righteousness. They're not bound to keep the righteous law.
There's no need for that because they have no capacity for that. In fact, you know, Paul has a good word for self-righteousness, for man doing his best apart from God. You know what he called it?
Dung. Interesting, isn't it? If you wonder where that is, it's Philippians 3, 7, and 8. And so that, to me, that verse 20 is just a shocking, shocking statement. People without Jesus Christ have no obligation to righteousness at all because they couldn't fulfill it. So when I say you're either a slave of sin or a slave of righteousness, boy, that is exactly what Paul's saying here.
And nobody's in the middle. And look what he says in verse 21. And when you were a slave to sin and totally free from righteousness, what fruit did you have of the things of which you are now ashamed? What fruit did you have?
Well, the answer to that is none. The only fruit you had when you were unregenerate was fruit that you're now what? Ashamed of. Oh, you know, you see the guy who's without Christ, and boy, he's talking of a big game, boy, you should have heard what I did, man.
I did this deal. He talks about all of his sin and boasts about all the things, boy, icon, so and so. I got this little deal here, and I did this to this person. And he boasts in his sin. And boy, when he comes to Jesus Christ, all of the results and the product of his sin is cause for what?
For shame. So Paul says, look, don't ask such a stupid question as now that we're under grace, do we continue in sin? We look back to that period of time and we look at all the fruit of our sin and the only thing it brings to us is what?
Shame. I always appreciate when somebody's going to give their testimony and they've come to Jesus Christ and they may have come out of some sinful, horrible, sordid background. And when someone really comes to Jesus Christ, that's the last thing in the world they want to talk about. Oh, they may want to tell you how the Lord delivered them from drugs or from crime or from some evil sin and so forth, but they don't relish in that sin anymore.
It's a shame to them. So if that's true, why would we want to come to Christ and then go on sinning? When the only fruit of that is something we were utterly ashamed of. John Calvin said, as soon as the godly begin to be enlightened by the Spirit of Christ and the preaching of the gospel, they freely acknowledge that their whole past life, which they live without Christ, is worthy of condemnation. So far from trying to excuse themselves, they are in fact ashamed of themselves. Indeed, they go farther and continually bear their disgrace in mind so that the shame of it may make them more truly and willingly humble before God. Well, that's a beautiful statement. The fruit of sin does nothing but fill them with shame.
You've had that reaction in your life. You can look back on your life before Jesus Christ and you can see a lot to be ashamed of. You wouldn't want to talk about that. You don't glory in that. But the people who don't know Christ, you see, they glory in the thing you're ashamed of.
And where does it all lead? Verse 21, the end of those things is death. Why in the world would a Christian, justified by grace through faith, brought to Jesus Christ and given the choice to do right, ever choose to sin, when sin only begets sin and death and shame from which he was delivered?
Now, Paul is really making a case here, folks. If we sin, we are really stupid. And so the way the devil tries to get us to sin is to get us not to be, what?
Thinking. It leads to death. What death is this? Second death, spiritual death, and hell, the death of the soul. That's where sin leads.
That's its fruit. Now, if all you can produce with sin is fruit that brings shame and spiritual and eternal death, if sin is a shameful killer of the soul, then what reason to ever offer your body to sin? No reason.
No reason. But what about the second master? We get to verse 22. But now, being made free from sin.
Oh, that just brings joy to my heart. And I was thinking back, look with me at chapter four, verse six. And Paul says, even as David also describeth the blessedness of the man unto whom God imputeth righteousness apart from work, saying, blessed are they whose iniquities are forgiven and whose sins are covered. Blessed is the man to whom the Lord will not impute sin. That's the first part. Oh, how blessed that God doesn't hold our sin against us.
That's one thing. But here in chapter six, how doubly blessed that not only does God not hold our sin against us, but He frees us from its tyranny just to know that I don't have to sin. I'm no longer a subject, so great. So verse 22, but now being made free from sin doesn't mean you're free from ever sinning. It just means you're free from its tyranny.
You don't have to. And you've become slaves to God. There's that bond slave word again. Ye have your fruit, whole different fruit. Fruit means product. Fruit means result. And what is our fruit?
What is it? Holiness. Now, again, that is not only an ought.
That is, this is what you ought to do. It is a fact. I believe if you're truly saved and the divine life is in you and you're a new creation, holiness is manifest.
I believe that. I believe you cannot have a Christian with no fruit at all. Oh, you might have to look a long time and find a shriveled grape here and there, but there got to be some.
Got to be some. You have fruit under holiness. I don't know how you feel about the word holiness. It's a beautiful word. I guess I love it because it's God's most glorious attribute. In Isaiah 6, God is said to be holy, holy, holy, and to think that we could be like God.
Marvelous. We can't be God, but we can be like Him when we walk in holiness. So we have been made free from sin.
There's no claim on us. And we have become bond slaves to God and we have a new product, a new end, and that's holiness. And to what does that lead? The end everlasting life. The end in verse 21, what? The end of these things is what? Death, verse 21. The end in verse 22, everlasting life. This I call the promises.
Start with a position. You're either in slavery to sin or slavery to God. The practice, your life is either progressing viler and viler and viler or holier and holier and holier. And then the promise, the end over here is death. The end over here is everlasting life. Now may I just point out here that everlasting life is not so much a quantity of life as a quality of life. It isn't so much that it means you're just going to live forever because it wouldn't mean anything to live forever unless the quality of life was worth living forever, right? And so it's a quality of life. We enter into an everlasting kind of life.
What it means is a supernatural kind of life, an eternal kind of life that belongs to God, God's life in us, abundant life. So that's how Paul draws the contrast. So he moves through the antagonist, the answer, then establishes the axiom in verse 16, then comes the argument in verses 17 to 22. And finally, the absolute.
The absolute. And you know this verse, perhaps from a child. Verse 23.
Now listen. This is to say there's a reason why sin as a principle in a person's life mastering him leads him to be viler and viler and viler and ultimately eternal death. And there's a reason why righteousness in a life leads one to be holier and holier and holier and entering into the fullness of everlasting life. And the reason is because there is an absolute law and that law inexorably works. And here it is for the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life. And then the coup de gras, the whole chapter through Jesus Christ our Lord. That is the inexorable divine absolute. There is no possibility of a violation.
That is how the thing works and nobody gets around the absolute law. The reason sin adds to sin, adds to sin, ends in death is because the wages of sin is death. Now what does that mean? The word wages is a very interesting word.
It is just what it appears. It means something you've earned. In fact, the word is used commonly of the rations that were given to soldiers for their military service in exchange for their duty. It was just compensation for service rendered.
Wages, just like you pick up your check. The idea is this, you earn death. That's right, you earn it. When God brings to bear on a life eternal death, hell forever, it's because the person earned that.
It is just, it is fair, it is proper compensation for their sin because there is an inexorable law in the universe that says the pay for sin is death. It's like any other law, the law of gravity. The law of gravity says you jump off something, you go down. That's a law.
That's the way the universe is made. And if God made laws in the physical dimension, there can be laws as well in the spiritual. And here's one of them, the wages of sin is death. The payoff for sin is death, eternal death, spiritual death. It's what you earn. In fact, let me say it another way. Justice is obligated to pay it or it would be defrauding the worker of his wages. When God gives eternal death to a soul, he is giving him what he's worked for, what he's earned, what he deserves, what is the defined compensation for his life.
Let me put it another way. If God didn't give him eternal hell, it would be unjust and God can't be unjust. You earn death by your sin, you get it. And those who hope for pardon and those who hope for deliverance without Christ are hoping that God would be unjust and God would not be unjust.
There's another side to the absolute, bless God. It says this, but the gift of God is eternal life. Eternal life is not a wage.
Did you notice the change? It is a what? A gift.
Can you earn eternal life? No, it's a gift. In fact, literally it's a free gift.
You could write that there. It says the free gift of God, just so that nobody gets confused. It is a free gift. You can't earn it by your works. You can't earn it by your religiosity. You can't earn it, period.
And that's right back to Ephesians 2, 8, 9, 4, by grace are you saved through faith, that not of yourselves. It is a what? Gift of God, not of works lest any man should boast.
No merit, no earning, no worthiness. It's a gift. So if you want what you deserve, God will give it to you. But if you want what you don't deserve, God will give that to you as well.
Say, how do I get that? Boy, what a chapter. I don't want to be a slave to sin. I don't want to be free from ever being able to do what's right. I don't want to go from sin to sin to sin, from being vile to being vialer and vialer, ultimately ending an eternal death. I don't want to do that. I want the gift of eternal life. How do I get it? Well, how does the chapter end?
What does it say? Through Jesus Christ our Lord. It's the great climax to the chapter.
I mean, the chapter is so powerful. You know that at the end, you just need a reminder of how you get this through Jesus Christ our Lord. Any other place?
No other place. Neither is there salvation in any other, for there's none other name under heaven given among men whereby we must be saved. Acts 4, 12, no other name, no other name. Jesus said, I am the door.
The only way to enter is through me. Jesus said, no man comes under the father, but by me. Most narrow-minded statement ever made. Also happens to be true.
You can be narrow-minded if you're right. Jesus said, I'm the way. I'm the only way through Jesus Christ our Lord. I can't, I just, I wouldn't know what else to say to the world to offer them the gift of salvation than to just tell them what's in this chapter. It's astounding to me to be made free from sin, to inherit eternal life, to be delivered from the bondage of sin and guilt and all those things and free to do what's right and to glorify God.
And instead of looking at a life of things to be ashamed, you look at a life filled with things to be thankful for. Instead of anticipating death, eternal death, you anticipate life, eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord. So the six chapters taught us in the first 14 verses that we are one with Christ because we died with him, we rose with him, and as new creations with resurrection life, we walk in newness of life. Therefore, we should yield to that new life principle, yielding our fallenness, our humanness, our mortal bodies to that new life power.
And then in the second half, he uses a different analogy to say the same thing. We were slaves to sin, and now we have become slaves to righteousness. So in one sense, we have died to walk in newness of life.
In another sense, we have a new master, both saying the same thing. Salvation doesn't free you to sin, it frees you from sin for the first time in your life to do what's right. Salvation takes unholy men and makes them holy. Salvation is a call from sin to holiness. And no evangelism can stand without this kind of affirmation. Anything other than this kind of presentation of evangelism, I believe, is cheap grace.
I believe we have to say to people, look, count the cost. When you come to Jesus Christ, he's calling you from sin to holiness. And if you're not willing to come on those terms, there are no other terms available. Jesus is not looking for people who want to add him to their sin. He's not looking for people who want to add him to their lifestyle. He is calling men who want to die and rise again. He's calling men and women who want to say no to the present master and yes to a new master. Grace covers sin.
That's right. But it never condones it, and further it transforms the sinner. Let's pray together. Father, we ask that you'll do your work in every heart, that we might come truly to understand what it means to be free, to rejoice in that freedom. That some might even be set free is our prayer.
For Christ's sake. Amen. This is Grace to You with John MacArthur.
Thanks for being with us. John is chancellor of the master's university and seminary. His current study is showing you the path to freedom from sin. Well, before the lesson, John read a letter from a man named Benjamin who told us that the gospel teaching that he heard on Grace to You transformed his life.
And now he witnesses to whoever will listen. Friend, know that our goal is to strengthen God's people with biblical truth and equip them to tell others about God's grace. If you'd like to support that work in people's lives, consider making a donation today. You can mail your tax deductible gift to Grace to You, Box 4000, Panorama City, California, 91412. You can also make a single donation or set up a convenient recurring donation through our website, GTY.org, or when you speak to a customer service member at 800-55-GRACE. And special thanks for your prayers. That's really the most important way you can minister to us. Now, don't forget that nearly all of our resources are currently available at 25% off the normal price. That includes popular books like The Gospel According to Jesus, Twelve Extraordinary Women, The Vanishing Conscience, and many more, including John's 34 Volume New Testament Commentary Series and our flagship resource, the MacArthur Study Bible.
This sale ends Friday, so order soon. Our phone number one more time, 800-55-GRACE and our website, GTY.org. Now for John MacArthur and the entire Grace to You staff, I'm Phil Johnson with a question for you. What does it mean when the Bible says you're dead to the law? Consider that tomorrow when John continues his series on freedom from sin with another 30 minutes of unleashing God's truth, one verse at a time, on Grace to You.
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