Steps to Holiness, Part Two
P. G. Mathew | Sunday, May 10, 2009
Copyright © 2009, P. G. Mathew
From Romans 6:13-14, we will consider the third and fourth steps to holiness. These divine imperatives are based on the indicative of our vital union with Christ in our faith baptism (Rom. 6:3-4).
The Believer's Union with Christ
We are in Christ Jesus, a phrase that appears first in this epistle in Romans 6:11. Having died to King Sin, we now live forever to serve only the living and true God. In the death and resurrection of Jesus, we died and rose again. Paul writes, "The death he died, he died to sin once for all; but the life he lives, he lives to God" (Rom. 6:10).
What is true of Jesus is true of every true believer. Jesus will not die again. Instead, he declares, "I am the living One; I was dead, and behold I am alive for ever and ever! And I hold the keys of death and Hades" (Rev. 1:18). He also assured his disciples, "Because I live, you also will live" (John 14:19).
We live by the resurrection power of Jesus Christ, walking in the newness of life, which is the life of Christ, serving God in the newness of the Spirit (Rom. 7:6). As soldiers of the King of kings and Lord of lords, the One who defeated sin and Satan on the cross, we are triumphant in Christ. Jesus declared, "I have overcome the world" (John 16:33). John writes, "This is the victory that overcomes the world, even our faith" (1 John 5:4). Jesus said, "To him who overcomes and does my will to the end, I will give authority over the nations. . . . He who overcomes will inherit all this, and I will be his God and he will be my son" (Rev. 2:26; 21:7).
We are more than conquerors (Rom. 8:37). We are not lying down as doormats, asking the world to step on us. We are people of God and soldiers of Christ, living holy lives in this world. We are not monks in a monastery or patients lying in a hospital. We are soldiers engaged in a good fight for truth, wrestling in the power of the Holy Spirit against all evil. We kill the sin that still dwells in us and refuse to obey King Sin. Though we experience hardship, we obey and please our commanding officer, who has received all authority in heaven and on earth.
Do Not Present Your Members
The third step to holiness is a negative command: "Do not offer the parts of your body to sin, as instruments of wickedness" (v. 13a). This is the third imperative in this epistle by way of the application of the doctrine of our union with Christ.
"Present" (parestemi) means to offer, yield, put at the disposal of another's use, sacrifice, or devote. Jesus used this word in Matthew 26:53: "Do you think I cannot call on my Father, and he will at once put at my disposal more than twelve legions of angels?" We find it also in Luke 2:22: "When the time of their purification had been completed, Joseph and Mary took Jesus to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord." We must not put at the disposal of our old slave master Sin our faculties, our abilities, and the members of our body. We died in our relation to sin (Rom. 6:2); now the triune God is our master, not sin. "Jesus paid it all; all to him we owe." We owe nothing to sin, the devil, the world, or the flesh.
Paul exhorts, "Do not present the parts of your body. . . ." The members of our bodies include all our powers, faculties, propensities, and desires, as well as our eyes, ears, hands, feet, sex organs, tongues, minds, emotions, and money. In other words, all that we are and all that we have is to be put at God's disposal. Therefore, we must not look at a woman lustfully or view pornography. We should not listen to evil music or read books that corrupt us. We must not watch corrupting television shows nad movies, or abuse alcohol, drugs, or food. We must not gossip, lie, or slander. We should not fold our hands in laziness, but work with our hands. We should use money, not for evil purposes but for God. We must not emulate Eve, Esau, Achan, David, and Judas, who put the members of their bodies at the disposal of sin. They saw, they coveted, and they took, thus committing evil with their bodies.
As believers, we are not helpless in our fight against sin. Rather, we have been raised from the dead and given a divine nature. Having repented of our sins and trusted in Jesus Christ, we have been justified, adopted, and inseparably united with Christ. Now the Holy Spirit dwells in us to teach and empower us. As soldiers in the army of God, we are fully equipped to fight against evil and win.
It would be sheer cruelty to ask a slave in chains to behave as a free man. But it is love to tell one who has been set free by King Jesus to behave as a free man because he is a free man. Therefore, when sin and the devil try to reassert their authority over us, we must resist, fight, and wrestle him down. Peter says, "Dear friends, I urge you, as aliens and strangers in the world, to abstain from sinful desires, which war against your soul" (1 Pet. 2:11). Paul writes, "[The grace of God] teaches us to say 'No' to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age" (Tit. 2:12). Grace disciplines, commands, and instructs.
So Paul says, "Do not yield your members as weapons of wickedness" (author's translation). The word hopla is best translated as "weapons," not "instruments," "implements," or "tools." Everywhere else in the New Testament it is translated as "weapons" (e.g., 2 Cor. 6:7; 10:4; John 18:13). The idea is that every man and woman is a soldier either in the army of Satan and sin or in the army of Jesus Christ. We have been empowered and enlisted in the army of God to fight and kill sin.
All of our resources are utilized in the extension either of the kingdom of God or the kingdom of the devil. May we use our abilities to expand the kingdom of God! May we join with all other soldiers who are serving in the kingdom of God and oppose the expansion of Satan's kingdom.
We have now been freed from sin's slavery. May we not promote evil and wickedness in the world as we did formerly. In Romans 1 Paul writes: "The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of men who suppress the truth by their wickedness. . . . They have become filled with every kind of wickedness" (vv. 18, 29). Then he explains in Romans 6:19: "Just as you used to offer the parts of your body in slavery to uncleanness and ever increasing lawlessness, so now offer them in slavery to righteousness leading to holiness" (author's translation). Before we trusted in Christ, we served the interests of the kingdom of the evil one. We were slaves to filth and lawlessness. In fact, one way to know we are Christians is whether we look back with shame on what we did in the past. If there is no shame, we are not Christians.
To those who served in the kingdom of the evil one, Jesus will say, "I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!" (Matt. 7:23). Such people work hard for the expansion of the kingdom of Satan, using all their resources-their money, time, energy, mind, will, affections, influence, and brilliance. They serve wickedness, uncleanness, and lawlessness.
Non-Christians can only sin because they are not set free. But if we died to sin and been set free, even if sin might command, we do not have to obey. We must know our doctrine: sin is not our lord. We have been delivered out of the iron-smelting furnace of Egypt to be the holy people of God.
Present Your Members
The second step of holiness is a positive command: "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" (v. 13b). The "but" that begins this verse is a strong adversative, denoting a sharp contrast. Before we served sin, but now as believers in Jesus Christ we serve the interests of the kingdom of God in our whole personality and through all we possess.
"But rather offer yourselves." Paul uses parestemi again, this time as an aorist imperative, which means we are to present ourselves to God wholly once for all. This is total dedication in the service of Christ our king. We are putting our entire being at the disposal of God once for all, and doing so voluntarily. In Romans 12:1 Paul says, "Offer yourselves as living sacrifices" (Rom. 12:1).
Throughout the Old Testament we read about animal sacrifices. These animals did not offer themselves freely. Yet now, as God's people, we freely put ourselves at the disposal of God. We find the same idea in Romans 6:19: "Just as you used to offer the parts of your body in slavery to impurity and to ever-increasing wickedness, so now offer them in slavery to righteousness leading to holiness."
As slaves of Christ, we delight in worshiping and serving him with the whole of our being-with our minds, wills, and affections, with all our abilities, and with every part of our body. Exodus 10 tells us that the Lord delivered his people from Egypt so that they could serve God. God rescued us from Satan's dominion so that we can serve him exclusively.
How do we serve God with our minds? Before, we used our minds to think and imagine evil. But now Paul states that we are to let the word of Christ dwell in us richly as we use our minds to teach and admonish one another (Col. 3:16). Elsewhere he exhorts, "Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable-if anything is excellent or praiseworthy-think about such things" (Phil. 4:8). "For as [a man] thinketh in his heart, so is he" (Prov. 23:7, KJV). In Luke 6 Jesus teaches, "The good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart" (Luke 6:45). Let us use our minds to think God's thoughts after him. Blessed is the man whose "delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law he meditates day and night" (Ps. 1:2).
We are not our own; we have been redeemed by the precious blood of Christ. Paul explains, "Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought with a price. Therefore honor God with your body" (1 Cor. 6:19-20; see also 1 Cor. 7:23 and 9:27). (PGM) Paul also states, "For Christ's love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all, and therefore all died. And he died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again" (2 Cor. 5:14-15). There is no such thing as independence. Our only choice is between serving Satan or Christ.
Praise God, we belong to Jesus Christ! Paul writes, "So, my brothers, you also died to the law through the body of Christ, that you might belong to another, to him who was raised from the dead, in order that we might bear fruit to God" (Rom. 7:4). No longer are we under the power and authority of sin. The triune God is now our Lord, and we are under his rule. "Those who are led by the Spirit of God are the sons of God" (Rom. 8:14).
John Frame speaks about three aspects of the absolute demands of our Lord Jesus Christ. First, he says, his commands "cannot be questioned." When the Lord told Abraham to sacrifice his son, his only son, the son whom he loved, by name Isaac, Abraham did so without wavering. "To waver," Frame says, "would have been sin." To disobey is sin. Nobody can question Christ's demands. They are absolute.
Second, Frame says that God's demand "transcends all other loyalties." The Lord declares, "You shall have no other gods before me" (Ex. 20:3). When a potential disciple requested permission to go bury his father, Jesus told him, "Follow me and let the dead bury their own dead" (Matt. 8:21-22). In other words, he was saying, "Do you know who is calling you? I am the Lord. So do not tell me about your father and mother or spouse or boss. When I call, you must follow." To the rich young man Jesus said, "If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me" (Matt. 19:21).
Third, Frame says that God's demand for obedience is comprehensive and unlimited: "It governs all areas of life." This includes our worship as well as "diet, political life, sex life, economic life, family life, travel, and calendar."1 I would add recreational life and thought life to Frame's list. This is what the confession "Jesus is Lord" means. Jesus affirmed, "Anyone who loves his father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; and anyone who loves his son and daughter more than me is not worthy of me" (Matt. 10:37). Anyone who loves anything in this world more than Christ is not worthy of him.
Romans 6:17 illustrates the comprehensiveness of the lordship of Christ in the life of every believer: "But thanks be to God that, though you used to be slaves to sin, you wholehearted obeyed the form of teaching to which you were entrusted." "Teaching" means mind; "obeyed" means will; "wholeheartedly" means emotions. That is what happens to us when God saves us.
Paul insists, "So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God" (1 Cor. 10:31). This is absolute, yet delightful, slavery. He also states, "Whatever you do, whether in word or in deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him" (Col. 3:17).
God gives us both the responsibility and the ability to "demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God." We are to "take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ" (2 Cor. 10:5). We are to demolish arguments that arise from our own desires and thoughts that Satan puts into our mind. We can do so because the weapons of our warfare are empowered by the Holy Spirit. We can order every thought to obey Christ, just as Jesus did in the desert when he resisted Satan by stating, "It is written."
We are to offer ourselves to God "as from the dead living" (v. 13, author's translation). Unbelievers are spiritually dead, going and coming like dead men walking. But God came and said, "Live," and we lived by the power of the Spirit of God. He made us alive with Christ, raised us together with Christ and seated us with him in heavenly places. We are regenerated, justified, adopted, and indwelt by the Holy Spirit. Now we have freedom to rebel against Satan and freedom to obey God. Therefore, let us offer the parts of our bodies as weapons, not for wickedness, but for righteousness. Use them all for the extension of God's kingdom-the kingdom of righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit.
Jesus commissions us to go into all the world and preach the gospel. We are to make disciples and teach them to obey all of God's commands. Our life goal should be the extension of God's kingdom, for that is what we have been set apart to do. In Leviticus 14:14-18 we read that blood was put on the right ear lobe and the right thumb and the right big toe of the person to be cleansed. In the same way, we have been sprinkled with the blood of Christ. Then oil was put in the same places, symbolizing the Spirit's work in our lives. We are totally cleansed and consecrated to serve God with our whole heart, mind, soul, and strength.
If we belong to the family of Jesus, we will do the will of his Father. When his mother and siblings came to Jesus, he asked, "Who is my mother, and who are my brothers?" What was the answer? "Whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother" (Matt. 12:48-50).
As regenerate people, we live for God's glory, not for our own. The Lord speaks of "everyone who is called by my name, whom I created for my glory" (Isa. 43:7). The purpose of our existence in this world is God's glory, for which he formed, regenerated, justified, and adopted us. Peter declares, "You are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light" (1 Pet. 2:9). May we understand God's purpose for our lives: "We are God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do" (Eph. 2:10).
A Word of Encouragement
Paul concludes this section with a word of encouragement: "For sin shall not be your master, because you are not under law, but under grace" (v. 14). Because we are now under grace, we will not present the members of our bodies to wickedness; we will present ourselves and the members of our bodies as those raised from the dead to righteousness.
This word of encouragement is founded upon three indicatives. First, we can say "No" to sin and "Yes" to Jesus because sin is not our master. That is a true guarantee. We died to sin; it has no power over us. God the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit is our master. Formerly we fought in the army of Satan; now we fight against sin and Satan in the army of God.
Second, we can present our members to do righteousness because we are not under law. That is an indicative. "But when the time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those under law that we might receive the full rights of sons" (Gal. 4:4-5). We have been taken out from being under the law.
The law condemns and demands. It only brings the wrath of God; it cannot impart life. Yet all Pharisees and other self-righteous people depend on their own self-righteousness. All unbelievers are under the law and its condemnation. If we speak to them about their sin, they get upset and declare, "I am not a sinner. I have always done what was right." Such people are hypocrites. Otherwise, they would bow down before Jesus Christ and confess, "Lord, have mercy upon me, a sinner." Christ has redeemed us from being under law by his perfect lawkeeping.
Third, we can walk in holiness because we are under grace. We have received God's unmerited favor. We merited wrath and death, but God in Christ gave us love and life eternal. The love of God has been shed abroad in our hearts, a love that enables us to keep God's commandments. Grace reigns in us and we reign in life. Our reign is evidenced by our doing God's will gladly because his will is now written in our hearts. It is now our nature to keep God's law.
By grace we delight in knowing and doing God's law, and grace is mighty to help us: "And God is able to make all grace abound to you so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work" (2 Cor 9:8). Praise God for grace! When people speak evil of us, or when our spouse dies, or when we find ourselves staring at death itself, God's grace will come to us. Paul declared, "But by the grace of God, I am what I am, and his grace to me was not without effect" (1 Cor. 15:10). Let us live under grace, knowing that God's grace has great effect in our lives.
James says that God gives more grace to the humble (James 4:6). The Hebrews writer tells us, "Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence to receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need" (Heb. 4:16). We need grace every moment of every day. We need grace for everything. I can do all things through Jesus Christ who gives me strength (Phil. 4:13).
Thank God, we are under grace-under God the Father, under his Christ, under the Holy Spirit, under the word, and under God's delegated authorities. We hate sin and delight in righteousness. Justified by Christ's righteousness, we demonstrate our justification by our holiness. Being under grace, we make use of all means of grace to grow in grace: the word of God, prayer, breaking of bread, and fellowship. By grace we live and by grace we die. By grace we are more than conquerors and shine as stars in this fallen universe. Let us, therefore, march to Zion as soldiers of Christ and happy slaves of Jesus.
1 Dr. Frame's treatment of these points is found in the article, "Scripture Speaks for Itself" in God's Inerrant Word, edited by John Warwick Montgomery (Minneapolis, MN: Bethany Fellowship, 1973), 183.
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Copyright © 2009, P. G. Mathew
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