PRINCIPLES OF CHRISTIAN LIVING
Paul began his letter to the Romans by setting forth the theme of the letter: “the righteousness of God” (see Romans 1:1-17). Paul then wrote about man’s need of salvation by building a case against the heathen, the hypocrite, the Hebrew, and all humanity (see Romans 1:18-3:20). After establishing the fact that all men need the righteousness of God, Paul wrote about God’s provision for man’s justification (see Romans 3:21-5:21). Romans 1-5 deals with the matter of justification, that is, why and how a man can enter into a right relationship with God through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. Justification addresses the matter of our salvation from the penalty of sin. In chapters 6-8 of Romans, Paul deals with the matter of sanctification. Sanctification addresses the matter of our salvation from the power of sin. Sanctification concerns how God progressively conforms the believer more and more into the image of Christ. In Romans 6 Paul deals with the principles of Christian living and how we can live lives of victory. In Romans 7 he deals with the practice of Christian living and how we can live lives of liberty. In Romans 8 he deals with the matter of power for Christian living and how we can live lives of security. In our lesson today we will examine the principles of Christian living.
What Every Christian Should Know: Romans 6:1-10
Paul begins Romans 6 by asking two questions: “What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace might increase?” (Romans 6:1). The thought of this verse is captured in the following paraphrase: “Paul, do you mean to tell me that God is willing to forgive a person’s sins as often as he commits them? Well then, if that is the case, shall we Christians keep on habitually sinning in order that God may have an opportunity to forgive us and thus display His grace?” Paul answers the question with an emphatic “May it never be! How shall we who died to sin still live in it?” (Romans 6:2). When a person comes to faith in Jesus Christ, his relationship to sin is changed. He is no longer “dead in sin” but now “dead to sin.” The believer can no longer have the same cordial relationship he had with sin before his conversion. He is to be “dead to sin,” that is, as unresponsive to sin as a dead person.
According to Romans 6:3-4, believers’ baptism is a symbolic representation of the believer’s death to sin. It symbolizes the believer’s participation in the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. It beautifully illustrates the believer’s identification with Christ. The lowering into the water represents death and burial and the rising from the water represents resurrection to “walk in newness of life.” A believer cannot continue in sin because he has died to sin and that death is to be reflected in a new way of living. Paul expands on this thought in Romans 6:6-7 where he explains that the believer has been crucified with Christ (see also Galatians 2:20) and is under no obligation to present himself as a slave to sin.
What Every Christian Should Consider: Romans 6:11
In Romans 6:11 we come across the first exhortation in the book of Romans. Paul writes, “Even so [continually] consider yourselves to be dead to sin [as an enslaving power], but alive to God in Christ Jesus.” Paul exhorts the believer to consider (to take into account, to count) himself to be dead to sin. When he is faced with temptation, he is to be as unresponsive to it as a dead person. But when God asks the believer to do something, he should consider himself as very much alive and responsive to God, giving absolute obedience to Him. Notice that God does not command the believer to be dead to sin. That is because the believer is already dead to sin. He must act upon that fact.
What Every Christian Should Present: Romans 6:12-23
In Romans 6:12-23, Paul writes that our conduct should reflect that we are what we consider ourselves to be, that is, dead to sin but alive to God. In Romans 6:12-13, Paul exhorts the believer to stop allowing the old sinful nature to reign as king in his mortal body and to stop presenting the members of his body as instruments of unrighteousness. The believer must not put the members of his body at the disposal of his sinful nature to be used as instruments or weapons of unrighteousness. The believer should place his entire being at God’s disposal. Chuck Swindoll paraphrases the thought of these verses, “Start living in a manner that manifests your right standing before God. Be Christlike in what you think, say, and do.”
Paul asks another question in Romans 6:15, “What then? Shall we sin because we are not under law but under grace?” The thought of this verse can be paraphrased: “Surely we may take a night off now and then and sin a little bit since we are under grace.” Paul answers this question in the same manner he answered the question of verse 1, “May it never be!” Paul stresses in verse 16 that when an individual presents himself to sin, he becomes sin’s slave (see also John 8:34). In Romans 6:17-20, Paul declares that the believer was once a slave and servant of sin, but since he has been set free by the Lord Jesus Christ, he is now to have a new loyalty. No longer is he to be loyal to his old master by presenting his members as slaves to sin. He is to be loyal to his new Master and present his members as instruments of righteousness. Paul concludes in Romans 6:21-23 by pointing out that service to sin and service to God each have their own reward. Service or obedience to sin is rewarded by shame and death. Service and obedience to God is rewarded by a life that is continually being conformed into the image of Christ and will one day culminate in eternal life.
The believer should have a new attitude toward sin.
According to Romans 6, the believer is to have a new attitude toward sin. He must not think that he can have the same cordial relationship with sin that he had in pre-conversion days. He must be as unresponsive as a dead man to sin.
The believer should have a new attitude toward God.
According to Romans 6, the believer is to have a new attitude toward God. He is to be alive to God. He is to live his life in loyal obedience to God. Because the believer has a new relationship with God, he is no longer “dead in sin” but rather “dead to sin” and alive to God.
The believer should commit his members to God.
The believer should be careful to commit his entire being to God. There is a children’s rhyme that cautions, “Be careful little hands what you do…Be careful little eyes what you see…Be careful little ears what you hear.” The believer has a responsibility to yield himself to God and God alone. His entire being should be reserved for God’s use. He should not allow any of his members to become instruments of unrighteousness that keep him from being a proper witness and living a holy life.
The believer should live in a godly manner.
The believer’s life should reflect his attitude toward sin and his relationship with God. The watching world will never be convinced of the difference that God is able to make in the life of a believer unless the believer’s life reflects the difference. The watching world will have little incentive to enter into a right relationship with God if there is not a significant line of demarcation between the life of the believer and the life that they are living.