consider yourselves to be dead to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus. (6:11b–12)
The second key word (consider) has more to do with what we would call the heart. In its literal sense, logizomai means simply to count or number something. Jesus used it of Himself during the Last Supper when He disclosed to the disciples that He was the One “numbered with transgressors” of whom Isaiah prophesied (Luke 22:37; cf. Isa. 53:12). But the word was commonly used metaphorically in the sense of fully affirming a truth, of having unreserved inner confidence in the reality of what the mind acknowledges. Though both aspects actually occur in the mind, we think of this matter in the sense of being “heart felt.”
In the next chapter of this epistle Paul will illustrate from his own life how difficult it is for a Christian to realize experientially that he is free from sin’s bondage. As we look honestly at our lives after salvation, it is more than obvious that sin’s contamination is still very much with us. No matter how radical our outer transformation at the time of salvation may have been for the better, it is difficult to comprehend that we no longer have the fallen sin nature and that our new nature is actually divine. It is hard to realize that we are actually indwelt by the Holy Spirit and that God now calls us His children and deems us fit to live eternally with Him in His heaven.
To help us consider, it is advantageous to note that there are a number of reasons believers often find it difficult to comprehend that they are now free from sin’s bondage. Many of them do not realize that marvelous truth simply because they have never heard of it. They assume, or perhaps have been wrongly taught, that salvation brings only transactional or forensic holiness—that because of their trust in Christ, God now regards them as holy but that their basic relationship to sin is the same as it always was and that it will not be changed until they go to be with Christ. That view of salvation often includes the idea that, although trust in Christ brings the believer a new nature, the old nature remains fully operative, and that the Christian life is essentially a battle between his two resident natures. This makes salvation “addition” rather than “transformation.”
A second reason Christians often find it hard to believe they are actually free from the tyranny of sin is that Satan does not want them to believe it. If the enemy of our souls and the accuser of the brethren can make us think he still dominates our earthly lives, he weakens our resolve to live righteously by making it appear hopeless.
A third reason Christians often find it difficult to believe they are free from sin’s compulsion is that the reality of the new birth in Christ is not experiential, it is not physically observable or verifiable. Redemption is a divine and spiritual transaction that may or may not be accompanied by physical or emotional experiences. A believer cannot perceive or experience in any humanly verifiable way the moment of his dying and resurrection with Christ.
A fourth and perhaps the most common reason why Christians find it hard to believe they are freed from sin’s tyranny while they are still on earth is that their continued battle with sin seems almost constantly to contradict that truth. If they have a new holy disposition and sin’s control has truly been broken, they wonder, why are they still so strongly tempted and why do they so often succumb?
Paul’s answer follows, Consider yourselves to be dead to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus. He was not speaking of a psychological mind game, by which we keep affirming something over and over until we are convinced against our better judgment or even against reality that it is true. We know we are dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus because God’s Word declares it is so. In other words, those are truths of faith and they must be affirmed in faith.
David C. Needham wrote, “What could be more frustrating than being a Christian who thinks himself primarily a self-centered sinner, yet whose purpose in life is to produce God-centered holiness?” (Birthright: Christian, Do You Know Who You Are? [Portland: Multnomah, 1979], p. 69). Until a believer accepts the truth that Christ has broken the power of sin over his life, he cannot live victoriously, because in his innermost being he does not think it is possible.
Commentator Donald Grey Barnhouse said,
Years ago, in the midst of a Latin-American revolution, an American citizen was captured and sentenced to death. But an American officer rushed before the firing squad and draped a large American flag entirely around the victim. “If you shoot this man,” he cried, “you will fire through the American flag and incur the wrath of a whole nation!” The revolutionary in charge released the prisoner at once. (Romans: God’s Freedom [Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1961], p. 118)
In a similar way, Christ’s righteousness is draped over every believer, protecting him from sin’s deadly attacks.
We believe we are in God’s eternal purpose, plan, presence, and power because His Word assures us we are. Paul assured the Ephesian believers that God “chose us in Him [Christ Jesus] before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before Him” (Eph. 1:4). And to the church at Philippi he wrote, “For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus.… So then, my beloved, just as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure” (Phil. 1:6; 2:12–13).
There are many important and practical results of our considering ourselves dead to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus. First, we can have confidence in the midst of temptation, knowing that with sin’s tyranny broken we can successfully resist it in God’s power. “No temptation has overtaken you but such as is common to man; and God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will provide the way of escape also, that you may be able to endure it” (1 Cor. 10:13).
Second, we have confidence that we cannot sin our way out of God’s grace. Just as we have been saved by God’s power alone, we are kept by His power alone. “My sheep hear My voice,” Jesus said, “and I know them, and they follow Me; and I give eternal life to them, and they shall never perish; and no one shall snatch them out of My hand. My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand” (John 10:27–29).
Third, when we truly consider ourselves dead to sin and alive to Christ, we have confidence in the face of death. “I am the resurrection and the life,” our Lord said; “he who believes in Me shall live even if he dies, and everyone who lives and believes in Me shall never die” (John 11:25–26; cf. Heb. 2:14).
Fourth, we know that, regardless of what happens to us in this life, no matter how disastrous it may be, God will use it not only for His glory but also for our blessing. “We know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose” (Rom. 8:28).
All of those things, and many more, are true because we are alive to God in Christ Jesus. No religion in the world can or does make such a claim. Even the most ardent Muslim does not claim to be in Mohammed or in Allah. Buddhists do not claim to be in Buddha or Hindus to be in any of their multitude of gods. As Christians, however, we know that God “has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ” (Eph. 1:3; emphasis added).
Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body that you should obey its lusts, and do not go on presenting the members of your body to sin as instruments of unrighteousness; but present yourselves to God as those alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness to God. For sin shall not be master over you, for you are not under law, but under grace. (6:12–14)
The third key word is yield, or present (v. 13), which obviously has to do with the will. Because of the incomprehensible truths about his relationship to God that the believer knows with his mind and feels deeply committed to in his heart, he is therefore able to exercise his will successfully against sin and, by God’s power, prevent its reign in his mortal body.
In this present life, sin will always be a powerful force for the Christian to reckon with. But it is no longer master, no longer lord, and it can and must be resisted. Sin is personified by Paul as a dethroned but still powerful monarch who is determined to reign in the believer’s life just as he did before salvation. The apostle’s admonition to believers, therefore, is for them to not let sin reign, because it now has no right to reign. It now has no power to control a believer unless the believer chooses to obey its lusts.
Peter makes a similar appeal. Because “you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for God’s own possession,” he says, “I urge you as aliens and strangers to abstain from fleshly lusts, which wage war against the soul” (1 Pet. 2:9, 11). The moment they are saved, Christians become citizens of God’s kingdom of righteousness, and thereby aliens and strangers to Satan’s realm of sin and death.
Because a believer is a new creature in Christ, his immortal soul is forever beyond sin’s reach. The only remaining beachhead where sin can attack a Christian is in his mortal body. One day that body will be glorified and forever be out of sin’s reach, but in the meanwhile it is still mortal, that is, subject to corruption and death. It still has sinful lusts—because the brain and the thinking processes are part of the mortal body—and Satan uses those lusts to lure God’s people back into sin in whatever ways he can.
Paul later declares in this letter, “For we know that the whole creation groans and suffers the pains of childbirth together until now. And not only this, but also we ourselves, having the first fruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our body” (Rom. 8:22–23). Teaching the same truth, he wrote the Philippian believers, “For our citizenship is in heaven, from which also we eagerly wait for a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ; who will transform the body of our humble state into conformity with the body of His glory” (Phil. 3:20–21). And to the Corinthians he wrote, “For this perishable must put on the imperishable, and this mortal must put on immortality” (1 Cor. 15:53).
It is because our mortal bodies are still subject to sin that Paul says, Do not go on presenting the members of your body to sin as instruments of unrighteousness. He does not warn about sin reigning in our souls or our spirits, but only about its reigning in our bodies, because that is the only place in a Christian where sin can operate. That is why later in this epistle he laments, “For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh; for the wishing is present in me, but the doing of the good is not. For I joyfully concur with the law of God in the inner man, but I see a different law in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind, and making me a prisoner of the law of sin which is in my members” (Rom. 7:18, 22–23). He then concludes, “Wretched man that I am! Who will set me free from the body of this death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, on the one hand I myself with my mind am serving the law of God, but on the other, with my flesh the law of sin” (Rom. 7:24–25; emphasis added).
It is because the Christian’s warfare with sin is waged in the body that the apostle also declared, “I urge you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship” (Rom. 12:1), and “I buffet my body and make it my slave, lest possibly, after I have preached to others, I myself should be disqualified” (1 Cor. 9:27; emphasis added).
It is obvious that sin can reign in our bodies, else Paul’s admonition would be pointless. But it is also obvious that sin does not have to reign there, or the warning would be equally pointless. He therefore commands: Do not go on presenting the members of your body to sin as instruments of unrighteousness; but present yourselves to God as those alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness to God.
By definition, a command presupposes a will in the one being commanded. The commands in God’s Word are no exceptions. It is therefore the Christian’s will that Paul is speaking about here. For a sin to have power over a child of God, that sin must first pass through his will. It is for that reason that Paul exhorts believers: “So then, my beloved, just as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure” (Phil. 2:12–13). God’s will can be active in our lives only as our wills are submissive to His.
When a believer yields the members of his body to sin, those members become instruments of unrighteousness. On the other hand, when in obedience to his heavenly Father he yields himself as one who is alive from the dead ways of sin and death, those same members become holy instruments of righteousness to God.
In verse 14, Paul changes from admonition to declaration, offering the assuring words: For sin shall not be master over you, for you are not under law, but under grace.
God’s law “is holy, and the commandment is holy and righteous and good” (Rom. 7:12). But the law cannot break either sin’s penalty or its power. It can only rebuke, restrain, and condemn. The Christian is no longer under the condemnation of God’s law but is now under the redeeming power of His grace. It is in the power of that grace that the Lord calls him to live.
Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its evil desires. Do not offer the parts of your body to sin, as instruments of wickedness, but rather offer yourselves to God, as those who have been brought from death to life; and offer the parts of your body to him as instruments of righteousness. For sin shall not be your master, because you are not under law, but under grace.
During my college years I majored in English literature, concentrating on the period from Edmund Spencer to William Wordsworth, and the instruction was so good that even now, in strange moments, parts of what I learned then come back to me. This happened as I began my study of Romans 6:12–14. The words that came to mind were from The Prelude. In the sixth book of that fourteen-book poem, William Wordsworth is telling of a walking tour he and a friend took from Switzerland up over the Simplon Pass into Italy. They did not know the route, got lost, descended into a ravine, and there inquired of a peasant where they could find the road to Italy. Wordsworth then wrote:
Every word that from the peasant’s lips
Came in reply, translated by our feelings,
Ended in this—that we had crossed the Alps.
Those words came to mind as I began this study because, in a sense, that is what has happened to us. For more than five and a half chapters we have been laboring up the majestic mountain of doctrine concerning what God has done for us in salvation. Now, for the very first time, we have passed over the highest ridge to verses that tell what we are to do in response to God’s action.
To put it in other words, after many detailed studies, our tour has at last enabled us to cross from the high doctrine of justification-by-grace-through-faith to the doctrine of sanctification.
We were already easing into it in our last study, for in Romans 6:11 we encountered Paul’s first exhortation to his readers in this epistle. He told them to “count” upon everything he had previously told them, to “reckon” those things so. Now he comes to four specific exhortations, prefaced by the important connecting word therefore. Because of what he has said, believers are to do the following: “Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its evil desires. Do not offer the parts of your body to sin, as instruments of wickedness, but rather offer yourselves to God, as those who have been brought from death to life; and offer the parts of your body to him as instruments of righteousness. For sin shall not be your master, because you are not under law, but under grace” (emphases added).
Principles of Sanctification
Since this is the first direct teaching about sanctification in Romans, it is important that we understand what is being said. To do that, we need to look at this passage as a whole to see what principles about sanctification are taught here. Then we need to apply those teachings in the most practical terms possible.
We start with the principles. What are they?
- Sin is not dead in Christians, even in the most mature and pious Christians, but rather is something always to be struggled against. I have already said this in a variety of ways in our previous studies, but it needs to be repeated here for two reasons. First, this principle is clear from the passage. There is no point in telling us not to offer the parts of our bodies to sin, as “instruments of wickedness,” but rather to offer them to God, “as instruments of righteousness,” unless we have a tendency to do the former. The reason we have to fight against sin is that we are sinners.
Second, there are some people who tend toward a kind of perfectionism in which they can claim either that sin is not in them or that the sin that is in them can in time somehow be eradicated. This doctrine is not only wrong (the whole of Scripture stands against it), but it is also a source of frustration for those who have come to believe in their own perfection but who nevertheless constantly find themselves fighting against sin.
- Sin’s hold on us is in or through our bodies. This is something we have not explored earlier (except in reference to Rom. 6:6). But it is very important, and we need to examine it carefully. When I say that sin’s hold on us is in or through our bodies, I do not mean that sin is in our bodies as opposed to being in us, as if by saying that it is in our bodies we are claiming that we are not sinners or that sin is only external to us. Of course, we are sinners, and sin is not merely external to us but rather is within. But here is the point: So far as that new man about whom Paul has been writing is concerned—that new creature I have become by being taken out of Adam by God and by being joined to Christ—that new man is dead to sin, so that sin’s hold is no longer actually on me but on my body.
Certainly we cannot miss noticing how directly, literally, and strongly Paul emphasizes our actual physical bodies in these verses. In verse 12 he refers to our “mortal body,” that is, the body of our flesh that is dying. In verse 13 he twice refers to “the parts of” our bodies, that is, to our hands, feet, eyes, tongues and so forth. It is through these physical parts of our bodies that sin operates and through which it maintains its strong hold on us.
- Sin can reign in or dominate our bodies. It cannot dominate or destroy that new person that I have become in Christ. That new “me” will always abhor sin and yearn for righteousness—and it will have it, because God is determined to produce the holy character of Christ in his people. But sin can certainly dominate my body. I can become a slave to its cravings. If this were not so, it would be pointless for Paul to say “Do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its evil desires,” as he does.
- Although sin can reign in or dominate our bodies, it does not need to. In other words, although it is possible for us to “offer the parts of [our] body to sin, as instruments of wickedness,” we do not need to do this. On the contrary, being now joined to Jesus Christ, we have his new life within and his power available to us. Having been non posse non peccare (“not able not to sin”), to use Saint Augustine’s phrase, we have now become posse non peccare (“able not to sin”). We often do sin; that is why Paul is urging us not to yield our bodies to it. But we no longer need to. We have an alternative.
- This leads to the last and positive truth: As Christians, we can now offer the parts of our bodies to God as instruments of righteousness. This is the thrust of the passage. It is what Paul is urging on us.
The Parts of Our Bodies
There are many ways one can approach the subject of sanctification. Paul himself does it in several ways. But I do not know a more practical, balanced, or down-to-earth way of speaking about how to live a holy life or grow in righteousness than the way in which Paul does it here. He has given us one easy-to-grasp principle in verse 11: “Count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus.” Now he tells us how to give practical expression to that great principle. It is by what we do with our bodies. What does that mean? The answers come by considering the body’s parts and their potential for doing both good and evil.
We begin with the mind because, although we like to think that who we are is largely defined by our minds, and thus separate our minds from our bodies, our minds are actually parts of our bodies, so the victory we need to achieve must begin here. I take you to Romans 12:1–2, where Paul is writing much as he does in Romans 6. “Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God—this is your spiritual act of worship. Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will” (emphasis added).
That text begins in nearly the same way as Romans 6:12–14 (“Therefore … offer the parts of your body to him …”). But when Paul begins to spell this out, strikingly the very first body part he mentions is the mind.
Have you ever carefully thought through that what you do with your mind will determine a great deal of what you will become as a Christian? If you fill your mind with the products of our secular culture, you will remain secular and sinful. If you fill your head with trashy “pop” novels, you will begin to live like the trashy heroes and heroines whose illicit romances you read about. If you do nothing but watch television, you will begin to think like the scoundrels on “Dallas” or “Falcon Crest” or the weekday soap operas. And you will act like them, too. On the other hand, if you feed your mind on the Bible and Christian publications, train it by godly conversation, and discipline it to critique what you see and hear elsewhere by applying biblical truths to those ideas, you will grow in godliness and become increasingly useful to God. Your mind will become an instrument for righteousness.
Some years ago, John R. W. Stott wrote a book entitled Your Mind Matters in which he bemoaned the growth of “mindless Christianity” and showed how a proper use of our minds is necessary for growth in all areas of our Christian experience. He related it to worship, faith, the quest for holiness, guidance, presenting the gospel to others, and exercising spiritual gifts.
He asks at one point, “Has God spoken to us, and shall we not listen to his words? Has God renewed our mind through Christ, and shall we not think with it? Is God going to judge us by his Word, and shall we not be wise and build our house upon this rock?”
And there is something else: If Christians would offer their minds to God to be renewed by him, they would begin to think and express themselves as Christians and would begin to recover something of what Harry Blamires calls “a Christian mind.”
There is no longer a Christian mind. There is still, of course, a Christian ethic, a Christian practice, and a Christian spirituality. As a moral being, the modern Christian subscribes to a code other than that of the non-Christian. As a member of the Church, he undertakes obligations and observances ignored by the non-Christian. As a spiritual being, in prayer and meditation, he strives to cultivate a dimension of life unexplored by the non-Christian. But as a thinking being, the modern Christian has succumbed to secularization. … Except over a very narrow field of thinking, chiefly touching questions of strictly personal conduct, we Christians in the modern world accept, for the purpose of mental activity, a frame of reference constructed by the secular mind and a set of criteria reflecting secular evaluations.
If the use of the mind is important in sanctification, as I maintain it is, and if we lack “a Christian mind” in our day, as Blamires claims, is it any wonder that so many Christians today are for the most part indistinguishable from the non-Christians around them? Obviously, if we are going to grow in holiness, either as individuals or as a church, we must start here.
Here is a simple goal for you in this area. For every secular book you read, make it your goal also to read one good Christian book, a book that can stretch your mind spiritually.
Our Eyes and Ears
The mind is not the only part of our bodies through which we receive ideas and impressions and which must therefore be offered to God as an instrument of righteousness. We also receive impressions through our eyes and ears. These, too, must be surrendered to God.
Do you remember Achan? He was the Israelite soldier who participated in the battle of Jericho under Joshua but who disobeyed God’s command not to take any of the spoils but rather to dedicate them to God. As Achan afterward confessed, “When I saw in the plunder a beautiful robe from Babylonia, two hundred shekels of silver and a wedge of gold weighing fifty shekels, I coveted them and took them. They are hidden in the ground inside my tent with the silver underneath” (Josh. 7:21). Achan was stoned for his sin. But what caused it? The “lust of his eyes” (1 John 2:16). Achan’s eyes became instruments of wickedness instead of instruments for his growth in holiness.
It is no different today. Sociologists tell us that by the age of twenty-one the average young person has been bombarded by 300,000 commercial messages, all arguing from the identical basic assumption: personal gratification is the dominant goal in life. Television and other modern means of communication put the acquisition of material things before godliness; in fact, they never mention godliness at all. How, then, are you going to grow in godliness if you are constantly watching television or reading printed ads or listening to secular radio?
Do not get me wrong. I am not advocating an evangelical monasticism in which we retreat from the culture, though it is far better to retreat from it than perish in it. But somehow the secular input must be overbalanced by the spiritual.
One simple goal might be for you to spend as many hours studying your Bible, praying, and going to church as watching television.
The tongue is also part of the body, and what we do with it is important. James, the Lord’s brother, must have thought about this a great deal, because he says more about the tongue and its power for either good or evil than any other writer of Scripture. He wrote, “… the tongue is a small part of the body, but it makes great boasts. Consider what a great forest is set on fire by a small spark. The tongue also is a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body. It corrupts the whole person, sets the whole course of his life on fire, and is itself set on fire by hell” (James 3:5–6).
If your tongue is not given to God as an instrument of righteousness in his hands, what James writes will be true of you. You do not need to be a Hitler and plunge the world into armed conflict to do evil with your tongue. A little bit of gossip will do. A casual lie or slander will suffice.
What you need to do is use your tongue to praise and serve God. For one thing, you should learn how to recite Scripture with it. You probably can repeat many popular song lyrics. Can you not also use your tongue to speak God’s words? How about worship? You should use your tongue to praise God by means of hymns and other Christian songs. Above all, you should use your tongue to witness to others about the person and work of Christ. That is the task Jesus gave you when he said, “You will be my witnesses” (Acts 1:8).
Here is another goal for you if you want to grow in godliness: Use your tongue as much to tell others about Jesus as for idle conversation.
Our Hands and Feet
Our hands and feet determine what we do and where we go. So when we are considering how we might offer the parts of our body to God as instruments of righteousness, let us not forget them.
I think of several important passages in this regard. In 1 Thessalonians 4:11–12, Paul writes of using our hands profitably so we might be selfsupporting and not dependent on anybody: “Make it your ambition to lead a quiet life, to mind your own business and to work with your hands, just as we told you, so that your daily life may win the respect of outsiders and so that you will not be dependent on anybody.” Similarly, in Ephesians 4:28, Paul writes of working so that we will have something to give to others who are needy: “He who has been stealing must steal no longer, but must work, doing something useful with his own hands, that he may have something to share with those in need.”
And what of our feet? A few chapters further on in Romans, Paul writes of the need that others have for the gospel: “How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them? And how can they preach unless they are sent? As it is written, ‘How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!’ ” (Rom. 10:14–15).
Where do your feet take you?
Do you allow them to take you to where Christ is denied or blasphemed? Do they take you to places where sin is openly practiced? Are you spending most of your time soaking up the world’s entertainment or loitering in bars or the “hot” singles clubs? You will not grow in godliness there. On the contrary, you will fall from righteous conduct. Instead, let your feet carry you into the company of those who love and serve the Lord. Or, when you go into the world, let it be for the purpose of serving the world and witnessing to its people in Christ’s name.
Here is another goal: For every special secular function you attend, determine to attend a Christian function also. And when you go to a secular function, do so as a witness by word and action for the Lord Jesus Christ.
A Warfare and a Race
What we are actually engaged in is spiritual warfare, an ongoing battle against sin, for our own growth in grace and for the good of others. And, like all soldiers who are facing some great conflict, we are to train ourselves physically and steel our wills for the enterprise.
Paul thought in these terms, sometimes speaking of a warfare in which the followers of Christ are to clothe themselves with God’s armor (cf. Eph. 6:10–18), sometimes speaking of a race. “Fight the good fight of the faith…” he says in 1 Timothy 6:12. “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith,” he says in 2 Timothy 4:7.
I like the way Paul puts it in 1 Corinthians: “Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last; but we do it to get a crown that will last forever. Therefore I do not run like a man running aimlessly; I do not fight like a man beating the air. No, I beat my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize” (1 Cor. 9:24–27).
Perhaps you have seen the recent television advertisement for a certain brand of athletic shoe in which six or seven very energetic young people are going through their workouts. The scenes shift quickly and the tempo increases rapidly throughout the commercial until it all suddenly comes to an abrupt halt and three words appear on the screen in bold black letters: “Just do it.”
That is what I recommend to you. You have been waiting through five and a half chapters of Romans for something to do. Now you have that something. You know what it is. So do it. Just do it. “Do not offer the parts of your body to sin, as instruments of righteousness, but rather offer yourselves to God, as those who have been brought from death to life; and offer the parts of your body to him as instruments of righteousness.”
Why should you do this? Why should you submit to such rigorous training? It is not because you are driven to do it. It is because you have been liberated from sin by the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and want to do it. You want to live for him. This is why Paul ends by saying, “For sin shall not be your master, because you are not under law, but under grace” (v. 14).
12 The element of willing cooperation receives emphasis in v. 12. The implication is that sin has been reigning. The believer must refuse obedience any longer to sin’s enticements. The word “obey” (hypakouō, GK 5634) has as its root idea “listening” or “heeding.” If the body is kept mortified, it will have no ear for the subtle suggestions of evil. Paul here describes the body as “mortal” (thnētos, GK 2570)—a reminder that, despite the glorious asset of being united to Christ, we are still living in a frail instrument affected by the fall and subject to death. The “evil desires” (epithymiai, GK 2123) of the mortal body continue to be a force that can still, but need not (v. 14), bring one into slavery again.
6:12–14 / We now encounter the first moral exhortation in Romans! The cross and resurrection of Jesus have broken the power of sin, and believers at last stand before a real choice. They now have a fighting chance, for they can choose not to sin. Verses 12–14 hum with energy and urgency as Paul drafts believers into action. He shifts from the indicative to the imperative mood, and also from first person plural to second person plural. What God has done for believers at baptism is the indicative of grace; what God wills from believers as a consequence of grace is the imperative of ethics. The two are inseparable and witness to the unity of justification and sanctification. When a minister unites a couple in Christian marriage he or she enjoins them to make their vows actual, to become what they are. This is Paul’s appeal to the Romans. Christians are dead to sin, so let them henceforth live to God!
Sin is viewed as an armed tyrant who exacts obedience. But Christ has stopped sin’s despotic drive in its tracks. Because of Christ’s resurrection and assurance that God is for them, believers are now free. They are not to return abjectly to their gangster lord. Paul calls them to arms! Christians must not allow sin to reign unopposed in their lives, but, in the words of Cranfield, “revolt in the name of their rightful ruler, God” (Romans, vol. 1, pp. 316–17). These are the marching orders of a militant faith as Paul summons believers not to offer their bodies as “weapons” (instruments) of wickedness, but rather—as inmates on death row whose sentences have been pardoned—“to offer their parts … to God as instruments of righteousness” (v. 13). The Greek tenses of the verb offer are themselves instructive and might be paraphrased, “Do not continue offering yourselves to sin, but offer yourselves up once and for all to God.” The reference to parts (of your body) in verse 13 need not be limited to the physical body, for it surely includes in a figurative sense all human talents and abilities. The Christian life pictured in verse 13 is not an idealized watercolor but a bold (albeit simple) sketch of the rigors facing the faithful. The essence of the new life is not a concept or feeling detached from reality, but a trumpet call to active combat in the cause of righteousness against evil (Gal. 5:16ff.).
For sin shall not be your master, because you are not under law, but under grace, concludes Paul (v. 14). Since believers stand in grace, sin has neither the right nor the power to enslave them. Sin can rule only when it is obeyed, and Christ has broken its power. Sin need no longer be obeyed. Jesus said that no one can serve two masters (Matt. 6:24). Believers are like soldiers who have deserted the ranks of a rebel unit to rejoin their rightful leader: the orders of the rebel captain have no further authority over them. Death can no longer be Christ’s lord, and sin will no longer be the lord of the believer. The Lord of the believer is Christ. This, as we noted earlier, does not mean that sin has no power over believers, but that believers are not helpless in the face of sin’s assaults. They are free to rebel against it. Indeed, they are commanded to do so, empowered by grace, and guaranteed the ultimate triumph (8:37).
To be under grace instead of law is to be led by the Spirit (Gal. 5:18). The law makes sin known (3:20), whets one’s appetite for the forbidden (5:20), and hence leads to condemnation. The law is not thereby the opponent of grace, but its prelude (Gal. 3:24). The law demands righteousness, but cannot produce it, and those who try to fulfill it on their own become oppressed by its demands. To be under grace is to be free from the guilt of knowing the right but falling short of doing it. Grace means “that there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (8:1). It means that despite ourselves God is for us (8:31), God is faithful (2 Cor. 1:18), and God frees us for himself (Gal. 5:1).
 MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (1991). Romans (Vol. 1, pp. 333–338). Chicago: Moody Press.
 Boice, J. M. (1991–). Romans: The Reign of Grace (Vol. 2, pp. 681–688). Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House.
 Harrison, E. F., & Hagner, D. A. (2008). Romans. In T. Longman III &. Garland, David E. (Ed.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Romans–Galatians (Revised Edition) (Vol. 11, p. 108). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.
 Edwards, J. R. (2011). Romans (pp. 164–165). Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books.