“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.
So, for example if you grew up like me, sex was a rather taboo subject. All my friends were told the same thing. Don’t do it! Guess what that does? It only adds to the intrigue and desire. I had one counselor tell me how so much of his counseling is men who grew up in strict fundamentalist-type circles who were off the rails about sex. They end up in a far worse place than if nothing had been said at all. Why? Because we can’t handle sin when the only solution is don’t do it.
The moralist and the legalist teach it this way, kill sin and then you will eventually die to it. Get pure. Be moral. Pull yourselves up by your own efforts. Do right and then you will live life free from sin and maybe be saved. That’s not the gospel and that’s not Christianity.
That’s earning your salvation, and equally bad, it’s placing the burden of victory over sin purely on willpower. Sinners can’t gain victory over sin by killing sin and then dying to it. Why? Sin is a king. Sin seeks the throne of our hearts. The only way we can gain victory over sin is to die to sin, which we also can’t do by ourselves. But Jesus did, and because I’m in union with him, I died to sin with him. Therefore, as a Christian, sin is no longer my necessary master. I’m no longer trying to earn my salvation by cleaning myself up from sin. To kill sin we must die to it. To die to sin we must be in union with Christ. We are united to Christ by faith in Christ as Savior.
I died to sin and now from a position of sin’s hold on me being broken, I can, with the help of the Holy Spirit, the Scriptures, encouragement of God’s people, godly examples in my life, and increased desire for God’s will in my life, kill sin’s domination of my life.
“There must be a constant and increasing appreciation that though sin still remains it does not have the mastery. There is a total difference between surviving sin and reigning sin, the regenerate in conflict with sin and the unregenerate complacent to sin. It is one thing for sin to live in us: it is another for us to live in sin.” -John Murray
This is why the man who comes to church or Celebrate Recovery or AA thinks, I’m tired of this destructive sin; I want to make some changes, will never do so in a lasting manner and certainly not in a sanctifying manner until he has died to sin first. He may think he has because he feels guilt or like he’s at the end of his rope. But sin’s power remains. You have to die to sin first to kill sin second. How do we die to sin? By repentance and faith in Jesus Christ which unites us to his victory over sin.
A simple illustration is the Cubs W flag (see below).
When the Cubs win, you fly the W. Declare the victory. Identify with the win. Talk to Cubs fans and they will say, we won! Did that fan win anything? No. They watched the game while consuming unhealthy snacks. They couldn’t throw the ball from the pitcher’s mound to the catcher. Most couldn’t run to first base. They did nothing. What are they doing? Identifying with the victory of another.
“For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace.” (Romans 6:14) The Christian is to live every day under the flag of grace. How? By refusing to allow sin to dominate any aspect of my life. But how do I do that? By presenting my body as a kind of offering to God. It’s not just NOT letting sin reign. It is actively allowing God to reign in my life. How?
By stoking godly desires and offering all that I am to God. Like a living sacrifice. Please see this as I think this is a huge missing piece in so many Christian’s lives. Don’t let sin dominate your lives, rather let God dominate. Give yourself fully to God! Pray it: Today, I’m all yours. I’m all in. I’m living under grace. God, dominate me today.
Yes, this is complicated, and I don’t understand it all myself. But I know the starting point. Identify with Jesus in his death to sin. Identify with Jesus in his new life. My beginning point is not my moral efforts or strength of will (self-salvation). My starting point is the cross and Christ. And now I offer everything right down to my toe nails as an offering to God to use all of me for his holy purposes. By doing this, I kill sin before sin kills me. I fight against sin in light of the already victory over sin accomplished at Calvary.
Christian, is this where you are? Let Romans take your heart and life there. Cry out to God urging his domination of everything in your life. Yield all you are to him.
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.
 John Murray, Redemption Accomplished and Applied, p. 154.
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