Live Like You Were Dead (Phil Johnson)

Romans 6:11-14   |   Sunday, June 29, 2014   |   Code: 2014-06-29-PJ

We've frequently considered the doctrine of sanctification

here in GraceLife. We have at various times talked about

mortifying sin, putting to death sinful passions, saying no to

sinful desires, putting off the old man, putting on the new

man, keeping a pure mind, feeding your appetite for

righteousness, and living a resurrected life in the power of

the Holy Spirit. All of those things go together. They are all

different aspects of the same thing. And they are all summed

up beautifully in Romans 6, where sanctification is the


And this morning I want to look at four verses at the heart

of that chapterCRomans 6:11-14. Here is a summary

statement of everything Scripture teaches about how

Christians become holy. Paul has just mentioned the

resurrection of Christ in verses 9-10. Now he says (verses

11-14) "So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and

alive to God in Christ Jesus. 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

Romans 6:11-14 2

righteousness. For sin will have no dominion over you, since

you are not under law but under grace."

Now let's look at the context. The whole book of Romans

is an extended, systematic presentation of gospel truth. The

outline of Romans makes a perfect outline of the doctrine of


So let's quickly trace how Paul got to this point in

Romans 6.

The gospel presentation starts immediately after 15 verses

of greeting in Romans 1. The greeting culminates in verse

15, where Paul says, "I am eager to preach the gospel to you

also who are in Rome." He is so eager to proclaim the gospel

to Rome that he decides to devote this whole epistle to

itCand everything from that point on is a systematic

exposition of the gospel. It starts with that famous statement

in verse 16: "For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the

power of God for salvation to everyone who believes." Notice

how Paul says very clearly there that the result of the gospel,

faithfully proclaimed, is the salvation of individual souls.

You hear a lot of people today claiming the gospel message

really isn't about individual salvation at allCit's about the

kingdom of God; or it's about justice here on earth, or

whatever. Sometimes you'll hear people suggest that if we

really understood the gospel we would be less concerned

about who is going to heaven and who is going to hell and

Live Like You Were Dead 3

more concerned about God's will in the here and now.

Whenever you hear anyone talking that way, watch out. It's

fine to be concerned with God's will being done here on

earth; that's even part of the Lord's prayer. But Colossians

3:2 says, "Set your minds on things that are above, not on

things that are on earth." And anyone who thinks a heavenly

mind-set is somehow contradictory to God's will on earth

probably doesn't understand the first thing about the gospel.

And unfortunately, the church is full of people like that

today. Steer clear of them.

Now follow this: Paul first mentions the gospel in

Romans 1:15-16. Then he immediately launches into his

exposition of it in verse 17. Verse 16 says the effect of the

gospel is salvation. Verse 17 says the subject matter of the

gospel is "the righteousness of God."

But then he begins with a long discourse on the

UNrighteousness of all humanity. The first three chapters are

all about sin and guilt, and Paul meticulously demonstrates

that all the world is guilty of sin. Not one person escapes

God's guilty verdict. Chapter 3, verse 10: "None is righteous,

no, not one." Verse 23: "for all have sinned and fall short of the

glory of God."

Then he introduces the doctrine of justification by faith,

which is the very heart and soul of Paul's soteriology. The

doctrine of justification by faith is also the central focus of

Romans 6:11-14 4

the entire epistle to the Romans. The section on justification

starts in chapter 3, verse 21 and continues through the end of

chapter 5. To sum up that section: Paul is teaching that

sinners can have a righteous standing and full acceptance

before God because of a righteousness that is imputed to

them, or reckoned to their account. No one earns favor with

God by their own works, he says, but (in the words of

Romans 3:24) we "are justified by his grace as a gift, through

the redemption that is in Christ Jesus." He also says in chapter

4, verse 6 that "God imputes righteousness [to sinners] apart

from [their] works." In other words our standing before God is

a free gift of divine grace, based on a perfect righteousness

that exists outside of us, which is imputed to us. And we lay

hold of it by faith alone. That is the very lesson of chapter 4.

And then chapter 5 rehearses the benefits of our justification.

Verses 1-2 of chapter 5 say, "Therefore, since we have been

justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord

Jesus Christ. Through him we have also obtained access by

faith into this grace in which we stand." We have peace with

God, the assurance of eternal blessing (that's what Paul

means when he speaks of "hope" in verses 4-5Cit's a firm

assurance). We also have (verses 2-3) an unassailable reason

for joy and rejoicing, and an abundance of grace. Chapter 5

unpacks all of that.

Live Like You Were Dead 5

So that brings us to chapter 6, where Paul begins to

explore the practical ramifications of this doctrine of

justification. He begins with a question: "What shall we say

then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound?" If we

obtain a right standing with God on the basis of Christ's

work and not because of what we doCif salvation is a free

giftCdoes this mean we can continue in sin? Does the

doctrine of justification by faith give us license to sin? And

he immediately answers that question in clear and

unambiguous terms. Verse 2: "By no means! How can we who

died to sin still live in it?"

Now: the remainder of chapters 6-7 is an explanation of

what that one statement means. In what sense are we "dead to

sin"? What does it mean to be "dead to sin"? And if we are

truly "dead to sin," why is it such a struggle for us to

overcome sin in our daily lives?

That issue introduces a significant change in subject for

the apostle Paul. He moves from the doctrine of justification

to the doctrine of sanctification. The focus shifts temporarily,

in chapters 6-7, from the issue of our standing before God to

the question of our daily walk. And it is absolutely vital to

keep these two doctrines of justification and sanctification

distinct. Although they go hand in hand in a way that makes

them practically inseparable, they are not the same thing.

Romans 6:11-14 6

They can never be completely divorced from one another,

but they must also never be confused.

Now, I hope you haven't tuned me out. If it sounds like

I'm about to go into a theoretical discussion of some

doctrinal fine point here, some of you are going to be

tempted to think, This is not for me. I'm not a theologian.

Give me the practical stuff, and leave the doctrinal details to

the seminary students. But this is not a fine point. It's not

theological hair-splitting. And it's not just academic. Right

here at this very point is where New Testament doctrine

becomes most practical. In fact, I'd say that if you understand

nothing else about the theology of the gospel, you need to

understand what justification is and what sanctification is,

and how the two are different, because this has huge

ramifications for how you live as a Christian.

In fact, if you want to see how important and how

practical this doctrine is, look at the confusion and

corruption that exists in the Roman Catholic ChurchCfrom

the sale of indulgences and other abuses that led to the

Protestant Reformation, to the widespread sexual misconduct

among Roman Catholic priests today. I'm not exaggerating

when I say that all of it is ultimately rooted in Roman

Catholicism's failure to understand the proper biblical

distinction between justification and sanctification.

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The most fundamental error of Roman Catholic doctrine

is this very thing: they mingle justification and sanctification.

They combine and confuse what needs to be kept distinct,

and from that one mistake all their other errors flow. Let me

try to explain what I mean:

Justification is what occurs at the moment you first

believe. Your sins are forgiven, and your record is wiped

clean of all guiltCpast, present, and future. Christ purchased

that forgiveness by taking the full weight of sin's guilt on

Himself and paying the penalty for it in full. In the words of

2 Corinthians 5:21, God the Father "made him to be sin for us,

who knew no sin." Christ "bore our sins in his own body on the

tree," According to 1 Peter 2:24. Isaiah 53:5: "he was

wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our

iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and

with his stripes we are healed." That is what the cross was all

about. Christ paid in full the guilt of all the sins of all the

people who would ever believe.

But there's something more in justification than just

forgiveness. Christ did not merely take our sins and erase our

guilt; He also provided for us a perfect righteousness. There's

an exchange here. He took the guilt of our sins; we get credit

for His righteousness. "He hath made him to be sin for us, who

knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in

him." His righteousness is imputed to us, and that becomes

Romans 6:11-14 8

the basis of our standing before God. God accepts us as if we

were perfectly righteous, because He has clothed us in the

perfect righteousness of Christ. So now we stand before God

"not having [our] own righteousness, which is from the law, but

that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which is

from God by faith"Cas Paul says in Philippians 3:9.

Justification occurs in an instant, and it is complete for all

eternity. It is not a process. It is a legal decree from the

divine Judge, who declares us once and for all not guilty, but

fully and perfectly righteousness, solely on the basis of what

Christ has done for usCnot because of anything we do to

earn it. That is what Scripture means when it says we are

saved by grace through faith and not by works of

righteousness which we have done.

The proof that justification is a one-time event and not a

process is that Paul always speaks of it as an accomplished

fact and a past-tense reality in the life of every believer.

Romans 5:1: "Therefore, since we have been justified by faith,

we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ."

Romans 8:1: "There is therefore now no condemnation for

those who are in Christ Jesus." This is Paul's whole point in

Romans and Galatians: Justification is free and final on the

basis of Christ's work alone. For those who trust Christ, our

standing before God is a settled issue. Romans 5:2: "we have

also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand,

Live Like You Were Dead 9

and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God." (Again, this is not

just a vague, wishful hope, but an absolute certainty.)

Now think with me: If that were not trueCif our

justification were an incomplete process that is not going to

be settled until the final judgment, Paul would have no

reason whatsoever to raise the question he deals with at the

beginning of Romans 6. "What shall we say then? Are we to

continue in sin that grace may abound?"? If our justification

depended on our own righteousness, no one would ever ask

that question. But the whole point of Paul's teaching up to

this point has been to say that justification is free, and final,

and we are secure in Christ, because of what Christ has done;

not because of anything we do. And Paul will have even

more to say about our eternal security when he gets to

chapter 8.

But here he interrupts the discussion of justification to

deal with the obvious question. If our standing before God is

so secure, why not just continue in sin? And that question

brings up the issue of sanctification.

Sanctification is the ongoing work of God in us whereby

he conforms us to the image of His Son. Unlike justification,

sanctification is a process.

Having given us a secure standing before God in

ChristChaving imputed Christ's righteousness to our

Romans 6:11-14 10

accountCGod is now bringing us into practical conformity

with that righteousness.

In other words, when God justifies us, He imputes

righteousness to us; when He sanctifies us, He imparts

righteousness to us. Both things happen in the life of every

believer, but our standing before God is established by

justification, not by sanctification.

The reason for this is obvious. In order to have a righteous

standing before God, we need a perfect righteousness,

according to Matthew 5:20. But the righteousness of

sanctification is imperfect and incompleteCand it will remain

imperfect and incomplete until we are glorified. So we need

a better righteousness than any righteousness we could ever

attain on our own, and Christ supplies that for us.

Justification forever settles our eternal standing before


As I said, virtually all the errors of Roman Catholic

doctrine stem from their confusion on this point. They

mingle justification and sanctification. According to Catholic

teaching, until we are truly and fully perfected by

sanctification, our justification is not complete. In other

words, they teach that justification is a process dependent on

sanctification. That is why they sell indulgences; because

their theology doesn't permit Christians to enjoy the full and

free forgiveness of justification.

Live Like You Were Dead 11

That is also why they invented the doctrine of

purgatoryCto explain how people who die in a state of

imperfection can gain entrance to heaven. Purgatory is the

place they invented to explain how the sinner's own practical

righteousnessCthe righteousness of sanctificationCcan be

perfected enough to please God. It's an unnecessary doctrine,

if you understand that we are justified solely on the basis of

Christ's already-perfect righteousness.

The Catholic confusion on justification also explains why

authentic holinessCpersonal sanctificationCis so elusive,

even among their clergy. Because true holiness is the fruit of

a right standing with God. Sanctification is a fruit of

justifying faith. And therefore you cannot even begin to

understand or participate in authentic sanctification unless

you have laid hold of justification by faith. If you put the cart

before the horse, you'll get nowhere. And if you think

justification is a reward for sanctification rather than a fruit

of it, you'll get nowhere spiritually.

Here in Romans 6, Paul is dealing with those very issues.

He is explaining why people who are already justified and

fully accepted by God in spite of their sin cannot continue to

sin in their daily walk. He is showing us the relationship

between justification and sanctification.

Now remember, this is the issue Paul raises at the

beginning of chapter 6: If we are justified by faith and fully

Romans 6:11-14 12

accepted by God for the sake of what Christ has already done

on our behalf, what would keep us from continuing in sin?

Paul has one answer to that question, and everything else

in Romans 6 flows from it. And here's the answer he gives to

that question: We cannot continue in sin, because those who

are justified are spiritually united with Christ.

After all, this is the whole point of justification: Christ's

life counts for our life. His righteousness counts as our

righteousness. His death counts as our death. And we even

participate in His resurrection. We are spiritually united with

Him in the most intimate and inseparable way, so it is fitting

to say, as Paul does in Ephesians 5:30: "we are members of

his body." The closest earthly comparison is marriage, where

two become one flesh. We are united with Christ in a

spiritual union that is even more intimate than that.

This idea of union with Christ is a constant theme in

Paul's theology. His favorite way of describing believers is

by saying they are "in Christ." Second Corinthians 5:17:

"Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation." He

repeatedly addresses Christians as those who are "in Christ."

In Romans 16:7, he sends greetings to: "Andronicus and

Junia, my kinsmen and my fellow prisoners. They are well known

to the apostles, and they were in Christ before me." And the

verse I quoted earlier, Romans 8:1, ties our union with Christ

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to the doctrine of justification: "There is therefore now no

condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus."

Now, follow his line of thought here. If we are in union

with Christ, so that His righteousness counts as our

righteousness and He life counts as our lifeCthen His death

and resurrection count as ours also. That's the argument he

makes in the verses that lead up to our passage, starting in

verse 2:

How can we who died to sin still live in it?

3 Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized

into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death?

4 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.

5 For if we have been united with him in a death like his,

we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like


6 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.

7 For one who has died has been set free from sin.

8 Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we will

also live with him.

Romans 6:11-14 14

9 We know that Christ, being raised from the dead, will

never die again; death no longer has dominion over him.

10 For the death he died he died to sin, once for all, but

the life he lives he lives to God.

Now, we can't really go verse by verse through that whole

passage, but I hope the sense of it is clear to you. The gist of

it is this: if we're united with Christ, then in a spiritual sense,

we are already dead and resurrected. And it doesn't make

sense to continue sinning if you are dead to sin and raised to

walk in newness of life. Sin is a contradiction in the

Christian's experience. It is utterly out of place and

inconsistent with who we are.

There's been a lot of discussion about whether Paul is

referring to water baptism in verse 3. One thing is clear: he is

not suggesting that the ritual of water baptism in and of itself

unites us with Christ. According to Ephesians 3:17, Christ

dwells in our hearts "by faith." But water baptism symbolizes

and signifies that union, and especially our union with Him

in His death, burial, and resurrection, which is graphically

pictured by immersion.

And Paul's argument is this: Since we are spiritually

participants in Christ's death and resurrection, we have in

effect died to sin. Verse 6: "our old self [the person I was

before salvation] was crucified with him in order that the body

of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer

Live Like You Were Dead 15

be enslaved to sin." So I'm a different person than I was

before I was saved, and I should live like it. Again,

"Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old

has passed away; behold, the new has come."

And here in Romans 6, Paul uses a series of verbs (some

stated and some implied) that outline the steps of our

sanctification: Know, reckon, resist, yield, obey, and serve.

There's a progression there. Follow it:

Know. There's some doctrinal truth underlying our

sanctification that we need to lay hold of with the intellect.

Verse 6: "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."

Reckon. We have a moral responsibility to embrace the

truth and take it into account in all our thinking. Verse 11:

"So you also must [reckon] yourselves dead to sin and alive to

God in Christ Jesus."

Resist. We also have a duty to act on the spiritual truth we

know, by resisting the power of sin in our everyday lives.

Verses 12-13: "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."

Yield. There's also a duty to surrender all our faculties to

God. Verse 13: "but [yield] yourselves to God as those who

Romans 6:11-14 16

have been brought from death to life, and your members to God

as instruments for righteousness."

Obey. True submission involves an active, deliberate

obedience. Verse 16: "Do you not know that if you present

yourselves to anyone as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the

one whom you obey, either of sin, which leads to death, or of

obedience, which leads to righteousness?"

And then serve. The bottom line in sanctification is that

we exchange the slavery of sin for a different kind of slavery.

It's not a question of whether we are slaves, but whose slaves

we are. Verse 19: "just as you once presented your members

as slaves to impurity and to lawlessness leading to more

lawlessness, so now present your members as slaves to

righteousness leading to sanctification."

And that's the whole matter in a nutshell. Know, reckon,

resist, yield, obey, and serve. Sanctification is the process of

perfecting a new kind of slavery. If we want real

freedomCfreedom from sinCwe must become slaves of

righteousness. The yoke is easy and the burden is light, but

it's still a yoke. The truest kind of freedom is itself a kind of


That's the essence of Romans 6, and it is summed up

perfectly in our passage. This passage is an exhortation to

exchange one kind of slavery for another. In the same way

we once served sin, we must now serve righteousness. In the

Live Like You Were Dead 17

same way we once yielded our bodies to our own lusts, we

must now yield ourselves to God, as those who are alive

from the dead.

So let's look closely now at these four versesCverses

11-14. Notice that verse 11 lays a doctrinal foundation,

verses 12-13 practically apply that doctrine, and then verse

14 suggests a motive for taking all of this very seriously.

So we'll let that be our outline. First, we'll look at the

doctrinal foundationCverse 11. Then verses 12-13 are pure

practical application. And then we'll see in verse 14 the

spiritual motivation Paul gives for the command in verses

12-13. So that's our outline if you want to write it down: A

Doctrinal Foundation; A Practical Application; and A

Spiritual Motivation.

First, notice in verse 11:

Romans 6:11-14 18


Verse 11 sums up in one simple statement everything Paul

has said in verses 1-10 about our spiritual participation in

Christ's death and resurrection. This doctrine, he says, ought

to frame the way we view our relationship to sin and to God:

"Likewise reckon ye also yourselves to be dead indeed unto sin,

but alive unto God through Jesus Christ our Lord." Dead to sin;

alive unto God. That's the implication of our union with

Christ. That's why we cannot continue living the way we did

before our justification.

Now, I hinted at something earlier that I want to elaborate

on just a little bit here. The minute you speak of doctrine,

there are always some people who think you're dealing with

something that is inherently impractical, theoretical, abstract,

hypothetical, academicCirrelevant to life in the real world.

Here, I hope, you can see clearly why that is not a very

helpful perspective. It is doctrine that has brought Paul to

this point. For five and a half chapters he has been

systematically expounding profound doctrinal themes. And

all the doctrines he has dealt with now converge and

culminate in this truth that we are united with Christ in His

death and resurrection.

Here's a doctrine that has obvious and immediate practical

ramifications. There's a reason Paul took five and a half

chapters to get to this point. You don't just skip to practical

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matters. Objective doctrinal truth is not incidental; it is

foundational. If you remove the doctrinal foundations from

the Christian faith, as many have tried to do, you end up with

sheer moralismCan empty, worthless,

works-based,man-centered religion. One of the reasons I'm

so opposed to the popular trends in modern evangelicalism is

that most of those trends have undermined and sabotaged the

doctrinal foundations of the Christian faith.

Visit the typical evangelical megachurch today and you'll

hear practical messages with precious little doctrine.

Doctrine is considered too controversial, too confusing for

the unchurched. So they simply skip most of it completely

and cater to people's itching ears. The apostle Paul warned

Timothy that "the time will come when [people] will not endure

sound doctrine" (2 Timothy 4:3). We live in such a time, and

apparently there are plenty of church leaders who are

perfectly willing to give people whatever they want. The

problem with that, Paul said, is that when people are

deprived of sound teaching, they "turn away their ears from

the truth, and [are] turned unto fables" (v. 4).

Without a proper foundation of sound doctrine, all the

practical exhortation in the world is just pious moralism.

That's why Paul spent several chapters here laying the

doctrinal foundation of justification by faithCso that when he

gets to chapter 6 and begins to exhort his readers to yield

Romans 6:11-14 20

their members as instruments of righteousness unto God, no

one could possibly imagine that he is teaching that we can

save ourselves by reforming ourselves. Everything he has to

say here about obedience hinges on the truth of our union

with Christ and our spiritual participation in His death and


By the way, I also want to say that along with those who

aren't interested in doctrine because they think it's not

practical enoughCthere's an equal and opposite error. There

are other people who are obsessed with academic doctrine

and aren't interested in obedience. Doctrine is just an

intellectual hobby with them. They love to engage in

philosophical debates over controversial points of doctrine,

but their interest is academic only. They are hearers of the

Word but not doers. That's just as bad asCmaybe even worse

thanCignoring doctrine altogether.

Jesus said in John 13:17, "If you know these things, blessed

are you if you do them." And Paul said in 1 Corinthians 13:2,

"And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries

and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove

mountains, but have not love, I am nothing." Doctrine is always

to be applied. Truth is not something merely for our

intellectual consideration. There is always an application,

and we are commanded to "be doers of the word, and not

hearers only, deceiving [our]selves." (James 1:22).

Live Like You Were Dead 21

Here in Romans 6, doctrine and practice come together in

perfect harmony. Our union with Christ means we are "dead

indeed unto sin, but alive unto God." And as we are about to

see, the practical implications of this doctrine are enormous.

You cannot make progress in sanctification unless you know

this truth and reckon it to be true in your experience. Let it

frame your whole worldview, Paul says. Reckon it true.

"Consider yourselves dead to sin."

The Greek word translated "consider" in verse 11 is

logizomai, the same word the translators of the Authorized

Version translated as "impute" throughout Romans 4: God

imputes righteousness apart from works (4:6); "Blessed is the

man to whom the Lord will not impute sin" (4:8). And wherever

Paul speaks about the imputation of righteousness in Romans

4 and elsewhere, this is the word he uses. God reckons

believers to be righteous. He imputes righteousness to them.

He accounts them righteous. He doesn't count their sins

against them. It's all the same concept.

And here, Paul is saying that in a similar way, we should

consider ourselves dead to sin. Reckon it to be so. Suppose it

to be so. Operate on that assumption. That is the proper

perspective of our relationship to sin and to God: we are

"dead indeed unto sin, but alive unto God through Jesus Christ

our Lord."

Romans 6:11-14 22

Notice: "Dead indeed." It's not a fiction; it's a fact. It is a

spiritual reality. Consider it real. Reckon it to be a fact. It is a

fact. Think like that, and you'll live like that. That is the

whole key to sanctification and victory over sin.

Now, notice: he's not saying that sin is dead. Sin is very

much alive and still seeking to have dominion over us. Not

only is sin alive and trying to rule us, it is in our mortal

bodies (v. 12).

But, he says, we are dead to sin. We are beyond the reach

of its dominion. Colossians 3:3: "For ye are dead, and your life

is hid with Christ in God." That is a liberating truth. We were

once dead to God and hopelessly enslaved to sin. Now,

because of our spiritual union with Christ, we are dead to sin

and alive unto God. If you genuinely embrace that truth and

let it frame your perspective on everything, it will change the

way you live. Romans 6:7: "because anyone who has died has

been freed from sin."

That is the doctrinal foundation of our text for this

morning. Now let's move on to a second point. This isC


Verses 12-13 give us a practical application in three

simple admonitions. The first is verse 12: "Therefore do not

let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its evil


Live Like You Were Dead 23

Now, one thing leaps out clearly first of all: there's

nothing passive about how we should respond to sin. This

calls for an aggressive, active, assertive resistance against the

dominance of sin in our lives. This is something we have to

do. It is an imperative. An exhortation. A command to be

obeyed. It doesn't present sanctification the way so many

teachers today doCas a gift to be received passively, by faith,

through an act of surrender or a resignation from all effort.

Paul doesn't tell us to let go and let God. He doesn't suggest

that all we have to do is abandon our own efforts and allow

Christ to live His life in us.

On the contrary, this calls for effort, resistance, and active

opposition to the tyranny of sin.

There are many people today who claim that

sanctification is an instantaneous deliverance from the power

of sin's temptation. And there are many Christians who are

seeking that kind of experience. That's what the charismatic

movement is all about. It's what deeper-life theology is all

about. It's what every kind of perfectionist teaching claims.

All of them promise a quick and easy deliverance from

sinCusually by a single, passive, one-time act of faith. After

that, victory is supposed to be easy.

It would be nice if it were so simple to be rid of the

problem of sin, but that is not how the Bible portrays the

Christian warfare. Christians who think sanctification works

Romans 6:11-14 24

like that are usually frustrated and miserable, because what

they are seeking doesn't exist. So they grow discouraged, and

they question their own salvation. I have personally known

many who pursued the promise of once-and-for-all victory

over sin until they finally gave up in defeat or made

shipwreck of their faith.

But if that is what you are looking for, you are seeking

something the Bible doesn't promise. Sanctification is not

(like justification) a gift to be received by faith. Unlike

justification, sanctification is a process. It is a lifelong

process, whereby God gradually conforms us to the image of

His Son. Yes, it is a work of God in us, and it's not ultimately

the fruit of our independent efforts. But don't imagine that

your sanctification is a work God will accomplish without

your efforts. There is work we must do in the process of our

sanctification, and our part begins with a determined effort to

resist the power and dominion of sin. Don't let it reign, Paul


"Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that

you obey its evil desires." What does he mean by "your mortal

body"? He seems to be talking about the physical body there.

That's the part of you that is mortal. Mortality and corruption

always go hand in hand.

But as I have said before, we're not to interpret language

like this to mean that the material part of us is inherently evil,

Live Like You Were Dead 25

or that our physical body is the seat of the evil in us and the

source of all our sin. Remember, Jesus said in Matthew

15:19-20, "Out of the heart [the immaterial part of

man]proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications,

thefts, false witness, blasphemies: These are the things which

defile a man."

But the physical body is a fitting symbol of that

corruption, because the body itself is subject to death and

decay. And the body is also where our sin is so often

manifest. Most sinful lusts are bodily instincts which in and

of themselves are not evil. But sin turns them into inordinate

affections, and those lusts of the flesh get out of control and

try to dominate us. Don't yield to them, Paul says.

When we are finally liberated from this fallen flesh by

death or by the second coming of Christ, we will also at last

be free from the presence of sin. But as long as we are in the

body, sin will pose a problem for us. That's why Paul often

uses the mortal bodyCthe fleshCas a shorthand expression to

speak of the principle of sin that remains in us even after we

are redeemed. And it will remain in us until the corruptible

puts on incorruption and that which is mortal puts on


So don't get too hung up on the fact that he refers to the

mortal body. It's another way of saying "Don't let sin reign in

Romans 6:11-14 26

you while you are still in this fallen flesh." Don't yield to sin.

Don't acquiesce to its demands. Don't give in to your lusts.

There are two more practical admonitions in verse 13.

One is negative and the other is positive. The negative one

says, "Do not offer the parts of your body to sin, as instruments

of wickedness." That obviously includes your physical body

partsClimbs, digits, organs, and other members. But it also

includes all the powers and faculties of your mind, emotions,

and will. Don't yield any part of your self as an instrument of

unrighteousness. You're dead to sin. Live like it.

But there's another side to this, tooCand it's the positive

admonition: "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." If your members

are employed in service to God, they cannot be servants of

sin. And that is only fitting for people who are dead to sin

but alive unto God.

Again, this calls for an active, deliberate effort on our

part. There's nothing passive about this. It uses the word

"offer," as in "yield," but what it describes is not a passive

surrender. It calls for an active employment of all our

faculties in the service of God, as "slaves of righteousness"

(to borrow language from verse 18).

That is the path to sanctification. It starts with a doctrinal

foundation, grounded in the fact of our union with Christ and

Live Like You Were Dead 27

our spiritual participation in His death and resurrection. It

goes from there to the realm of practical application, with

these three simple exhortations that set forth our whole duty

with respect to sanctification.

I wish we had time this morning to outline all the various

practical ways of resisting sin and yielding our members to

righteousness. A few years ago we did a study on Colossians

3:5 and the command to mortify the deeds of the body. You

can still get that tape or listen to it on the Internet. That

message outlined a number of practical suggestions for

yielding our members to God, so there's no need to rehash all

that this morning.

But now I want to move on to point three. We've seen the

doctrinal foundation and the practical application. Now look


Romans 6:11-14 28


Verse 14: "For sin shall not be your master, because you are

not under law, but under grace." We barely have time to

summarize what this verse means. If we had time to do a

proper exegesis of this verse, there is a lot I would want to

deal with: the contrast between law and grace; the question

of what law this refers to (Is it the law of Moses, divine law

in general, moral law in particular, or what?); and the

question of what Paul means when he says we are not under


But we'll have to save most of that for another time. This

morning, I just want you to see Paul's main point in this


Notice, by the way, that when he makes this contrast

between law and grace, he immediately raises a second

question similar to the one he began the chapter with. And

the rest of the chapter is devoted to answering that question.

But Paul does not make this statement in verse 14 in order

to introduce a new subject. Verse 14 is actually Paul's

conclusion to the discussion of verses 1-13. The conjunction

"For" clearly ties it to what he has been saying up to this

point. It's the culmination and the conclusion to the

admonitions of verses 12-13.

Now, at first glance, it may be hard to see how verse 14

fits into the logic of Paul's argument. But here's why he says

Live Like You Were Dead 29

this: He is giving us a motive and an incentive for obeying

the commands of verses 12-13. Why should we resist sin's

efforts to dominate us? And why should we yield our

members as instruments of righteousness? Because "sin shall

not have dominion over you." This is not a hopeless or endless

struggle, but a battle in which the ultimate victory is

guaranteed for all who are truly in Christ. "Sin shall not have

dominion over you: for ye are not under the law, but under


I wish time permitted us to go into detail about what Paul

means when he says we are "not under law." But we'll have

to save that for another time. For now, let me just say that he

clearly doesn't mean the law's moral principles no longer

apply to us. After all, the law defines what sin is. "Sin is the

transgression of the law" (1 John 3:4). And he's saying we

shouldn't let sin reign in our bodies, so he certainly doesn't

mean we are free to ignore the moral demands of the law.

But he means we are not under the law's curse. We don't

have to be motivated by fear. We aren't condemned to death

and damnation for every failure. And failure is never the end

of the matter, because divine grace covers us with God's

forgiveness and empowers us to will and to work for God's

good pleasure.

God's graceCa positive and powerful forceCis now the

governing power in our lives. Ultimate triumph is therefore

Romans 6:11-14 30

assured, because whom God justifies, He also glorifies. Sin

shall not gain dominion over us. And that is a powerful

incentive to obey. That is the point Paul is making here.

It's a powerful point, and he elaborates on it again in

Romans 8. "What shall we then say to these things? If God be

for us, who can be against us? He that spared not his own Son,

but delivered him up for us all, how shall he not with him also

freely give us all things?"

"Neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor

powers, nor things present, nor things to come, Nor height, nor

depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from

the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord." And if that

is not a powerful motive to pursue sanctification, then you

haven't really laid hold of the truth at all yet, and you need to

pray that God will open your eyes to it.