Indwelling Sin Weaponizes the Law

What then shall we say? That the law is sin? By no means! Yet if it had not been for the law, I would not have known sin. For I would not have known what it is to covet if the law had not said, “You shall not covet.” But sin, seizing an opportunity through the commandment, produced in me all kinds of covetousness. For apart from the law, sin lies dead. I was once alive apart from the law, but when the commandment came, sin came alive and I died. The very commandment that promised life proved to be death to me. For sin, seizing an opportunity through the commandment, deceived me and through it killed me. So the law is holy, and the commandment is holy and righteous and good.” (Romans 7:7–12, ESV)

How does our indwelling sin wage its war in us? What are his tactics? Paul explains. “But sin, seizing an opportunity through the commandment, produced in me all kinds of covetousness.” (Romans 7:8) Wait, I thought the Tenth Commandment was “Don’t covet,” yet Paul says the command produced all kinds of coveting. Just to be clear, coveting is a church word for wanting what isn’t yours. It is jealously desiring what someone else has from their wife to their donkey, or in our vernacular, their BMW. The command is to be content with what God has given you and believe in God’s goodness in what he has given and what he has not given. Don’t covet. Paul says, rather than stopping me from coveting, the command created all kinds of coveting. How?

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First Marriage Horror & Second Marriage Glory

“Or do you not know, brothers—for I am speaking to those who know the law—that the law is binding on a person only as long as he lives? For a married woman is bound by law to her husband while he lives, but if her husband dies she is released from the law of marriage. Accordingly, she will be called an adulteress if she lives with another man while her husband is alive. But if her husband dies, she is free from that law, and if she marries another man she is not an adulteress.” (Romans 7:1-3 ESV)

The title of this post is, First Marriage Horror and Second Marriage Glory. Before you see the title and think this is some kind of sick marriage post, the title comes from an illustration in Romans 7 that is not mine; it is the Apostle Paul’s, and through inspiration, the Holy Spirit’s. So, don’t be mad at me. I’d say be mad at Paul and the Holy Spirit, but then I don’t think that’s a good idea either. Do I have you all interested now?

Which Fruit? Which Finality?

For when you were slaves of sin, you were free in regard to righteousness. But what fruit were you getting at that time from the things of which you are now ashamed? For the end of those things is death. But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God, the fruit you get leads to sanctification and its end, eternal life. For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 6:20–23, ESV)

Slaves to Sin – They are “Free” to Sin (Romans 6:20-21)

“For when you were slaves of sin, you were free in regard to righteousness.” (Romans 6:20)

The natural person apart from God’s grace is free to sin. Understand what he means. The only nature an unbeliever has is a sin nature. They don’t have the Holy Spirit; they are not born again. Sin is their “freedom.” That is not to say they don’t do good things, many do, and do so for many reasons. Societal expectations. Fear of negative consequences. It feels good to an image bearer to be philanthropic, help in causes, look out for the little guy, etc.

They may make moral choices, but they are “free” to not do so. They are free from the internal struggle to obey God or his moral law. While they are free from righteousness, they are not free from sin’s consequences. “But what fruit were you getting at that time from the things of which you are now ashamed? For the end of those things is death.” (Romans 6:21)

Be Killing Sin or Sin will be Killing You

Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, to make you obey its passions. Do not present your members to sin as instruments for unrighteousness, but present yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life, and your members to God as instruments for righteousness. For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace.” (Romans 6:12–14 ESV)

Death to Sin Must Precede Killing Sin

“But present yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life, and your members to God as instruments for righteousness.” (Romans 6:13)

Where does Paul go? He goes back to everything he has been saying about justification by faith. Right back to our union and identity with Christ. Don’t present or use your body as an instrument for sin. You have been brought from death to life with Christ. Live like that. How? Present yourselves to God and present your “members” (code for body) to God as a tool for righteousness.

In six more chapters, Paul will say almost the same thing. “I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.” (Romans 12:1) Chapter 6 says, “present your body.” Chapter 12 adds, “as a living sacrifice.” An offering. A tool in the hand of our master. There is a don’t and there is a do. Do offer yourselves to God.

I want you to see that Paul doesn’t say what moralists and legalists say is the moral solution. Just say no! Don’t do it! Legalism creates rules and fences and corn mazes of reasons why they are good ideas to fight against sin. The problem is that saying no to sin by itself doesn’t work. It may work for a day or a week or a year. But the pig always finds the moral mud. Legalists try to solve this with add-on rules. Moralists try guilt. These only make further Pharisees out of us.

Dead to Sin, Alive to God

“We know that our old self was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin. For one who has died has been set free from sin. Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. We know that Christ, being raised from the dead, will never die again; death no longer has dominion over him. For the death he died he died to sin, once for all, but the life he lives he lives to God. So, you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus.” (Romans 6:6–11 ESV)

The Zombie – Alive to God, Alive to Sin?

Paul is addressing the question of whether a Christian can exploit grace as an excuse for sin. Is it possible to be alive to God and remain also alive to sin? Do Christians sin? Yes. Let me make that clear. This is no utopian perfectionism and any honest Christian will tell you in some ways our struggle with sin is worse as Christians because it’s actually a struggle. Before we are saved, there is no tug of war. There is no opponent. Sin always drags us across its line. But as a Christian, now I struggle with it.

Salvation is not the removal of sin from my life, but it is the removal of sin as the necessary master of my life. Why? When Jesus died for my sin, I died to my sin. I’m now alive to God.

What do we say to people who claim to be alive to God, but their lives shout that they are still alive to sin? These are the zombies. They are dead yet claiming somehow to be alive at the same time. We can say, they either are not actually alive to God, or if they are, they seriously misunderstand grace. Grace is not permission to sin, grace is permission and power not to sin. Grace teaches us to say no ungodliness and worldly passions. (Titus 2:12)

What I am saying is that if your life looks like zombie land, you are not experiencing freedom from sin and you are not experiencing new life to God. It’s the worst possible scenario. Perhaps somehow you have been confused as to what it means to be a Christian and to die to sin’s dominance and power. It’s called repentance. Perhaps you’ve never seen anyone living the new life in Christ. Perhaps you are not genuinely converted.

But here’s what Paul is making clear: kind of alive to God and kind of dead to sin is not authentic Christianity. This subtle antinomianism lurks in every church. The gospel is cover for ungodly living. Grace is excuse for sinful lifestyles and choices. I’m saved anyway so what is the big deal? You sometimes hear this in the way people talk about their past. Oh, the parties were insane. Insane! We were wild, like crazy wild. I remember times man I was so wasted…my bros were like, dude. I was like, dude. Crazy! Then I came to Jesus… it’s been boring. I miss the good old days.

Yeah, and Israel missed Egypt. Nobody says it that blatantly, but our posture toward our sinful selves is often a far cry from Jesus’ description of the tax collector who bowed in the temple praying, “God, be merciful to me, a sinner!” (Luke 18:13) When that is my posture toward my sin, now I am living out dead to sin, alive to God. That’s even for Christians. We’re often indecisive in our worldly pursuits. But Christians are dead to sin, and we keep dying to it.

Trusting in Jesus applies union with Christ to not only my status before God, but my life before him as well. I don’t want anyone here to be asked what today’s sermon was about and for you to say, Sin. What was the point? Don’t do it.

Christianity is not moral therapy; it is transformation. Do we consider ourselves dead to sin because I treasure being unified with Jesus on the cross? Do we consider ourselves alive to God because we can’t believe that we were with Jesus spiritually when he stepped out of that grave?

Which are we today? Unbeliever? Zombie? Christian?

“So, you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus.(Romans 6:11)

Scripture quotations are taken from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.

© 2018 by Steve DeWitt. You are permitted and encouraged to reproduce and distribute this material in any format provided that: (1) you credit the author, (2) any modifications are clearly marked, (3) you do not charge a fee beyond the cost of reproduction, (4) you include Bethel’s website address (www.bethelweb.org) on the copied resource.

To hear the message of this excerpt in its entirety, click here

Union with Christ Means New Life

“What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it? Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life. For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his.” (Romans 6:1–5, ESV)

Union with Christ – What was True of Jesus is True of Us

What is union with Christ? Here is David Needham’s definition, “What was true for Jesus is true of us.” [1] The first union is Jesus with us. The incarnation was Jesus unifying with humanity by becoming human. So, Jesus united with us in the incarnation. In salvation, we unite with him.

This is salvation glue in which God joins us spiritually to the works of Jesus. When he died to sin, so did we. When he was buried in complete death, we were completely dead with him. When he was resurrected, in the eyes of God, we were resurrected too. Everything that was true of Jesus is true of us.

Is Grace Permission to Sin?

Is Salvation by Grace from Sin Permission to Sin?

This is my summary of the question, “are we to continue in sin that grace may abound?” (Romans 6:1) Paul is not making this question up. It was either the active approach of Christians in the early church or the charge against Paul for preaching salvation by grace through faith. Probably both.

There is a word used to describe people who take the position that the Christian has no responsibility to obedience yet remains under the grace of God.

 Antinomian =  Anti (No) Nomos (Law)

Nobody thinks they are antinomian. There are no antinomian societies. Nobody introduces themselves as an antinomian: Hi, I’m Bob, I’m an antinomian. Everybody presents themselves as champions of grace. Their books have grace in the name. They sing Amazing Grace with gusto. The issue is whether obedience or sanctification are necessary byproducts of genuine saving faith. Does justification change anything in us? Antinomians dismiss any role God’s commands play in salvation by grace.