Session 5 - Serving God Romans 6:12-14

Lesson 5

Serving God

Romans 6:12-14


Our reminder: the primary focus of Romans 6/7 is -  how can we live our lives here on earth in a manner that approximates our righteous standing before God in heaven? So the real issue in these chapters is Change or how to move from where we are to where we ought to be. 

Before we look at the imperatives in v 12-14 let’s think about the significance of the “in Christ” concept that concludes v 11. The phrase appears 141x in the NT; all but 8 by Paul. When it refers to the believer’s relationship to Christ it describes our legal bond with him rather than a physical association. Only in this sense is it mystical. It is the product of justification. For instance, Romans 8:1 ¶ Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. Paul also employs our being “with” Christ in a similar way - as we have encountered 6:4,5,6,8. 

So, Paul builds the case for our intimate union with Christ and then propels us into implications thereof. The genuine believer’s relationship with Christ is not just                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      a casual or remote acquaintance! And consequently, his life can never be the same! 

So here is what it means to carefully think about the fact that we are “dead to sin and alive to God.” 

At verse 12, Paul is flipping over the coin. That is he presents two sides of one coin - what Christ has done for us (vs 11) and what we must do (v 12-13). Both are true. 

A. Sin must not rule us 12

This is the first of three commands (imperatives). Two negative, one positive. We must do this. 

How would sin actually rule us? The word “reign” (basileu,w) itself helps us understand what is at stake. It is very common verb in OT (LXX) but only used 21x in NT.  The term really means “to be a king” and thus to sovereignly reign or royally govern. In other words, the implication is complete authority. For instance, it describes the mere fact that Herod’s son was the king in Judea as compelling Joseph and Mary to return to  Galilee instead (Mat 2:22). Perhaps the best text to show this absolute dominion is 1 Timothy 6:15 …He who is the blessed and only Sovereign, the King of kings and Lord of lords, 16 who alone possesses immortality and dwells in unapproachable light, whom no man has seen or can see. To Him be honor and eternal dominion! Amen. So the same idea is applied figuratively to sin and death and grace ruling in Rom 5:14, 21. 

{Was is  it the situation that the Romans were indeed letting sin rule over them and thus the command should be “stop letting” sin reign as some suggest (thus explaining the present tense imperative)? Can’t be sure and it is ultimately a moot point.} 

But again, how does sin rule? The last part of the verse gives us a hint. The “mortal body” language images our contact with the world. It is with the body that we live and die in the world. And the body is indeed subject to being influenced by the spirit of this age. In this sense it is “mortal” (θνητός  from the “death” family of words thus meaning subject to death - Louw-Nida 23.1214) In this sense we struggle against controlling our body. So, it is often the case that the battle with the world is, as one author says, “won or lost in the daily decisions the believer makes about how to use his body.” (Moo 383).

The result of sin ruling in our body is that the body expresses “lusts” that are contrary to God’s design for us.  This is obvious to us, isn’t it? None of us would deny that we are sometimes captured by impure desires or thoughts. Or that self-centeredness or covetousness overcomes us on occasion.    

So, we must not permit sin to be the master of our lives. How can we do this? We don’t have a choice – we must do it (imperative). But it seems like an impossible task. Well, fortunately v 14 does give us a promise - for sin shall not be master over you (the word here is “lord” rather than “king”)So, genuine believers are on the winning team. The outcome is assured. However, we still must compete!

Ask, so, isn’t this expectation to disallow sin to master us an impossible task? If not, what is the key to doing it? 

I would submit to you that we can only block sin from ruling over us by the power of the Holy Spirit. Indeed, Paul introduces this thought in chapter 8 (note v 8-10). This is even more explicit in Galatians 5:16-17¶ But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not carry out the desire of the flesh. For the flesh sets its desire against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; for these are in opposition to one another, so that you may not do the things that you please.

We want change to come the quick and easy way. Illustration: A three year girl sat through a the baptismal service which was a new experience for her. She exclaimed in surprise, "Why did the pastor push that guy in the water? Why, Dad, why?" 

Dad tried to provide an answer that a child's mind could comprehend. So he told his daughter that when people decide to live for Jesus and "do good" they want everyone to know and that the water symbolizes Jesus' washing people from sin and when they come out "clean," they are going to try to be "good." 

As you might agree this was a lame explanation. The little girl immediately responded, "Why didn't the pastor just spank him?" Bob Beasley, pastor of Gregory Drive Alliance Church, West Chatham, Ontario, Canad

But what should we do we might ask? Well the Scriptures make it clear that the Holy Spirit intersects in our lives in at least four ways – prayer, the Word, providence, and unexplained promptings. If that is the case, in our struggle to block sin from having dominance over us we can at least say that we should pray, we should know the Word, we should expect the unexpected, and we should be sensitive to life’s circumstances

But there is more to be found in the second prohibition v 13a

 B. On the one hand, we must not serve sin 13a

We move from a general command to more specific ones in this verse. If sin is not to be king, and it is not, then, for our part, we must not be sin’s servant. Again this is a command – do not present yourself to sin (this is better than “do not go on presenting” of the NAS). 

So, what is involved in this? The word “present’ is quite graphic. It comes from a verb and a preposition that together mean to “place alongside of” pari,sthmi . Consequently some lexicons define it as “to put at someone’s disposal” (Gingrich). Wow! See Jesus statement Matthew 26:53 "Or do you think that I cannot appeal to My Father, and He will at once put at My disposal more than twelve legions of angels? 

The use of the body terms in the last half of this phrase gives us insight on how we do this (present the members of your body to sin as instruments of unrighteousness). Again, it is not that we give an arm to sin, though it is still true that we serve sin with our body. In the same way that v 12 refers to the whole person’s relationship to the world so here it is more that just an arm or a leg. The suggestion that the reference is to our natural abilities and resources is probably not far off (Moo and others). 

If we use what we have to serve sin, then they can be fairly called “tools o[plon of unrighteousness.” 

C. On the other hand, we must serve God 13b

But present yourselves to God as those alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness to GodThis is in stark contrast (alla) to presenting ourselves to sin of 13a. 

It is the same language – place at God’s disposal; except there are now two stated objects – place yourself and place your members. 

The first focus is on us generally. Again, this is not limited to the physical body – our whole person. We are described as those living out of the dead. This really is our condition - “as” (w`sei.).This is a remarkable summary of our relationship to Christ as well as a summary of salvation itself. 

The second focus picks up the first phrase. Instead of using our natural abilities and resources to serve sin we should use them to serve God. As such they could be called tools of righteousness as opposed to tools of unrighteousness. 

I see an underlying stream of command authority here. Who is the authority in your life – sin or God? Better put might be “self” or “God”? What tools do you employ to effectively serve your leader? 

The same language is employed in  Romans 12:1 ¶ Therefore I urge you, 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.

{I am unable to sort out the significance of the changes in tense between the negative prohibitions (present) and the positive command (aorist)}

So, here it is – you either serve sin or you serve God. There is no in-between! 

I suggested that in order to block sin we should pray, know the Word, expect the unexpected, and be sensitive to sin.  Now I should add that we should serve God tangibly. You may say you don’t know where. Why not start with the church in which you are a member. You may say you don’t know how. Why not ask for help. 

Ask for pop suggestions of ways a believer can tangibly serve God. 

D. Genuine believers will not be ruled by sin 14

For sin shall not be master over you.” As I mentioned previously, this is a promise or statement of fact. If anything it is stronger in that “master” is “lord” instead of “king”. There are no exceptions to this. I know this is not in line with the typical evangelical theology. None-the-less, this is true for every genuine believer. 

And why do we know this is true?  Answer, “for you are not under law but under grace”.  Because we are under grace, not the Mosaic Law! We couldn’t say this if we were under the law. If we were to depend on keeping the law to gain salvation, we would never be able to escape the clutches of sin. We must be liberated from the Law before we can be liberated from sin! And God does this by the death of Christ on the cross. And we call this Grace!

Groups Project: Based on the uses of “grace” in Romans 5-7 (5:2, 15 (2x), 17, 20; 6:1, 14, 15, 17; 7:25) draft a working understanding of grace that  your friends might understand. 

So, we now add a fourth tool to our Toolkit for Lasting Change:

Tool #4 - Know this: Though change is ultimately a product of the sovereign operation of God in our lives, it is accomplished by old fashioned personal choices and hard labor, 6:12-14. Do this: Do the hard thing. Note the imperatives in these verses. It is up to us. We do have a choice. We can serve God or serve self. The imperatives flow out of the indicatives. And the imperatives are monsters (for instance, “don’t let sin rule”). So, roll up your sleeves and go to work. If you are afraid of hard work you are doomed. Sweat, man; sweat! This won’t happen by osmosis.

Ask the class:  We need to apply this tool to specific issues that are common struggles for Christians. The specific area I would propose today Pornography.  So, now what? How can we apply the tool, “Do the hard thing”, to this situation?” 

Reminder: the common “First Steps for Change” to be applied to all situations are:

  1. What have I done or not done? (Be specific)
  2. What does God say? (Bible)
  3. Is this sin? (If so, seek forgiveness and make restitution when possible.) 

4. What must I do? (Be specific)


Then list specific actions suggested by the tool(s) germane to the issue at hand. 

Points to mention (along with appropriate Scripture) if not brought up by class members would be:

Hard things we should do if struggle with pornography..

1. Admit that it is not just an isolated sin but that it leads to other sins - example of David/Bathsheba

2. Be brutally honest about your succumbing to pornographic temptations. It is usually worse than you think. 

2..Guard your eyes:  Job 31:1 = “I have made a covenant with my eyes.”

3. Solicit help from an accountability partner you can trust and who knows Scripture.

4. Identify the when, where, what of your pornographic view take drastic steps to blow them up.  Change home page if that doesn’t work….No more online if that doesn’t work…. observant reporting or blocking software if that doesn’t work… get rid of computer. Get rid of cable…TV…etc.

5. Re-energise spiritual disciplines. Fill your mind and heart with Scripture. Start with Phil 4:6-8 especially v 8. 


So we have a both-are-true proposition. On the one hand it is true that God has settled the issue of our living the Christian life. Sanctification is his work. 

On the other hand, we must act as if it all depends on us. Both are true.

As one author put it –we must “become what you are becoming” (Moo 391).

Illust: I heard of an Italian peasant woman who happened to bump into a monk who lived in a monastery high on a hill above her village. She said "Father, I've always wanted to ask somebody what you men of God do up there on the top of the mountain that looks to me to be so close to heaven. I've always wondered how you live a holy life up there."

The old man replied "What do we men of God do up there on the holy mountain? My dear, we fall down; we get up. We fall down; we get up. We fall down; we get up."

That is the way of all Christian growth. It doesn't happen all at once. It doesn’t come by a cosmic zap from God. It comes a day at time as we deal with life biblically. 

So,  Give yourself fully to becoming who you are. Remember, our goal is to bring our life here into conformity with our standing in heaven. What should be our work ethic in this endeavor?

This would be the right place to introduce the put off/put on model of change. Read Colossians 3:5-17. In other words, sinful practices must not simply be removed; they must be replaced with biblical practices.

Let’s be honest, this model of change is hard work. It doesn’t happen overnight. But it can and must be done if change is to be lasting. In fact, God expects that we will work hard at godliness, 2 Peter 3:14 ¶ So then, dear friends, since you are looking forward to this, make every effort to be found spotless, blameless and at peace with him.

 Other models only bring temporary change.

Thought:“How glorious it will be to live in complete abandonment to your will. To be totally devoted you, right down to my deepest impulse, to be incapable of betraying you…this is what I was made for and what I long for.” Ray Ortlund, Jr 92


Study 6:15-19.

And our ongoing assignment: Chose one personal specific issue/area that you want to change. Then work out how to use this week’s tool to help bring about change with the chosen issue. (This will be the issue/area that you will focus on for the duration of the class unless you arrive at the point of making satisfactory progress on the issue. If so, then tackle another issue.)”

© Copyright. Joseph Flatt. 2017. All rights reserved. May be used for educational purposes without written permission but with a citation to this source.

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