EXHORTATION AND MOTIVATION TO USE GOD’S GRACE TO RESIST FULFILLING THE DESIRES OF SIN AND TO OFFER OURSELVES TO GOD IN THE PURSUIT OF RIGHTEOUSNESS
Douglas Moo: The victory over sin that God has won for us in Christ is a victory that must be appropriated. Putting away those sins that plague us will be no automatic process, something that will happen without our cooperation. No, Paul insists, a determination of our own will is called for to turn what has happened in principle into actuality.
Michael Gorman: Paul’s call for righteousness, then, is not an exhortation to a narrow form of personal holiness. It is an appeal for a radical identification with God’s purposes in the world over against powers and forces that oppose God’s purposes and God’s ways, revealed in the Messiah, at every turn. In other words, both the ends (the goal) and the means of Christian mission must be Godlike, which means Christlike, which means cross-shaped: cruciform. Being a weapon in God’s hands is essentially the same as putting on the armor of God (Eph 6:10–18), which Paul says later in Romans means putting on Jesus (13:12, 14).
John Toews: Verses 12-14 exhort Christians to resistance, to fight the rule of Sin in their moral lives. The structure is an ABBA chiasm:
- A do not let Sin reign, v. 12
- B do not present your members, v. 13a
- B present yourselves and your members, v. 13b
- A Sin will not reign over you, v. 14a.
I. (:12-13) THE EXHORTATION TO LIVE FOR GOD IN THE PURSUIT OF RIGHTEOUSNESS
A. (:12-13a) Negative Commands – Resist Sin
- (:12) Don’t Let Sin Be Your Master
“Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body
that you should obey its lusts,”
Frank Thielman: Paul’s “therefore” (οὖν) introduces a strong admonition on the basis of all that he has said in 6:1–11.
Resist fulfilling the desires of sin:
1) The Dynamic of Sin — it is the same for everyone (like a powerful magnetic attraction)
2) When are we vulnerable and likely to yield?
3) What is involved in Resisting?
4) The problem comes not in having inward sinful longings, but in failing to resist that we end up obeying sin
Thomas Schreiner: Sin is again conceived of as a power that threatens believers. Nor is the threat to sin only external. “Desires” (ἐπιθυμίαις, epithymiais) for sin arise in believers, and one must deliberately resist and conquer these passions. “Against sin’s dominion, then, Paul calls for active struggle” (Keck 2005: 167). Death to sin should not be conceived in such a way that any desire for sin is no longer felt or combated.
John Murray: The force of the imperative can be understood only in the light of the relation of the indicative to the imperative. Sin does not have the dominion—this is the indicative. This indicative is not only expressly asserted in verse 14, it is implicit in all that the apostle has argued in the verses that precede verse 12. Let not sin reign—this is the imperative. And it flows from the indicative. It is only because sin does not reign that it can be said, “Therefore let not sin reign”. In other words, the presupposition of the exhortation is not that sin reigns but the opposite, that it does not reign, and it is for that reason that the exhortation can have validity and appeal. To say to the slave who has not been emancipated, “Do not behave as a slave” is to mock his enslavement. But to say the same to the slave who has been set free is the necessary appeal to put into effect the privileges and rights of his liberation. So in this case the sequence is: sin does not have the dominion; therefore do not allow it to reign. Deliverance from the dominion of sin is both the basis of and the incentive to the fulfilment of the exhortation, “Let not sin reign”.
- (:13a) Don’t Allow Your Body to Engage in Sin
“and do not go on presenting the members of your body to sin
as instruments of unrighteousness;”
B. (:13b) Positive Commands – Pursue Righteousness
- Dedicate Yourselves as Regenerated Servants of God
“but present yourselves to God as those alive from the dead,”
We have been brought to life and are now able to live for God;
regenerated; new creation; breath of new life
- Dedicate Your Body to the Pursuit of Righteousness
“and your members as instruments of righteousness to God.”
Offer ourselves to God as an instrument for doing good:
1) Parallel passages (James 4:7; Rom. 12:1)
2) Meaning of “offer” — put yourself at God’s disposal; make yourself available to be used for God’s purpose
3) Nature of the offering
- OT background
- our entire being
- all the specific parts of your body (arms, feet, mouth)
- other NT offerings that we are exhorted to make
4) Instruments of righteousness — God’s will for your life
Frank Thielman: Paul continues to explain in negative terms how his readers should act on the truth that they are dead to sin and alive to Christ, now shifting to a military metaphor. Despite a long English tradition of translating the term rendered here as “weapons” (ὅπλα) with the less specific “instruments” (Tyndale, KJV, RSV, NIV, ESV), “weapons” is almost certainly correct (Luther, NAB, HCSB, CEB). Not only does the verb translated “offer” here (παρίστημι or παριστάνω) often appear in military contexts (Matt 26:53; Polybius, Hist. 3.109.9), sometimes with “weapons” as its object (Demosthenes, On the Crown 175), but when Paul uses the term elsewhere he uses it in military metaphors where it clearly means “weapons” (2 Cor 6:7; 10:4, and probably Rom 13:12).
Paul, then, continues to view sin as a power, much like a king, that now commands an army, and he urges his readers not to place their “members” at the disposal of this powerful commander to use as his “weapons of unrighteousness.” “Members” (μέλη) stands parallel both to “mortal body” in the previous clause (in 6:12) and to “yourselves” in the following clause. One’s “mortal body,” then, is one’s self, and the members of that body are its various abilities, whether physical, emotional, or volitional (cf. 12:4–5; 1 Cor 12:12–27; Col 3:5). . .
The emphasis on vigilance against sin’s tendency to dominate the believer is especially appropriate after Paul has just said that believers still live in a mortal body with a tendency toward illicit cravings (6:12).
Transition: not saying in a simplistic sense that this is easy to do
II. (:14) THE MOTIVATION TO LIVE FOR GOD IN THE PURSUIT OF RIGHTEOUSNESS = GOD’S GRACE AS THE GOVERNING POWER OF OUR LIFE
A. Live Out Your Regenerated Reality of Freedom from Sin
“For sin shall not be master over you,”
We are no longer held in bondage to sin (1 Cor. 10:13)
B. Live Out the Freedom and Power of the Governing Power of Grace
“for you are not under law, but under grace.”
We are not left just to the “mercy of the law” —
God’s Law — What it does and doesn’t do:
1) It only demands/commands but gives no power to obey (Rom. 2:14-16)
2) It only condemns us — showing us how badly we’ve failed but never making us any better (Rom. 3:19-20)
3) It doesn’t restrict/restrain our fallen nature; it provokes it to sin (Rom. 5:20)’
4) It can never relieve us from our bondage to sin (and death and condemnation) and free us to obey
We are now under the enabling power of God’s grace:
1) Provides guidance and gives power to obey
2) No possibility of condemnation since our merit or performance is not the issue
3) Motivates obedience out of love and gratitude rather than stimulating rebellion and sin
4) Relieves us from the dominion of sin and frees us to obey
Douglas Moo: Paul is not saying that Christians have no commandments for which they are responsible. This view depends on taking “law” in a broad sense to mean any law, or “law” in general. But, as is usually the case in Paul, “law” (nomos) refers to the Mosaic law. Other interpreters think that “under law” means under the condemnation pronounced by the law, and “under grace” means the freedom from condemnation experienced by those who enjoy God’s grace. But there seems to be no good reason for adding the nuance “condemnation” here.
Most likely Paul refers generally to the fact that believers no longer live under the domination of the Mosaic law. Because we stand under the new covenant, the law of the old covenant no longer has direct control over us. The contrast between “law” and “grace,” then, is a salvation-historical contrast: The Mosaic law dominates the old regime from which we have been set free in Christ; grace dominates the new regime inaugurated by Jesus.
We find the same basic contrast in the famous John 1:17 passage: “For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.” Paul has presented the Mosaic law as a power that leads to sinning (recall Rom. 5:20: “The law was added so that the trespass might increase”). In other words, for believers to be set free from the dominion of sin (6:14a), they need also to be set free from the dominion of the law.
Michael Bird: What Paul is getting at is that believers do not exist under the dominion of sin-death-law but live instead under the dominion of the life-righteousness-grace of God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. . .
If we have died and risen with Christ, certain attitudes and actions are simply incompatible with what God has done for us and in us. To use the language of Galatians, if we have been crucified with Christ, we’ve been crucified to the world (Gal 2:19; 6:14). We have changed jurisdictions, we have changed allegiances, and we have changed what we desire and what we fear. Believers are living out a story of paradise lost and regained, prodigals run away and prodigals returned, shifted from the dominion of darkness to the kingdom of light, and swapped the horror of hell for the hope of a new heavens and a new earth. What fundamentally shapes our ethics and ethos is not old law but new life. We find ourselves moved to obey the commandments of God, not by the old law with the threat of curses, but by new life and its power to conform us to Christ.
Grant Osborne: What does it mean that we are not under the law?
- We are not under the law’s demands, as were the people of the Old Testament.
- We are not under the curse implied by the impossible standard of the law (see Galatians 3:10-14).
- We are not under its system of requirements, the ceremonial laws that had to be meticulously kept.
- We are not under the fear of failing the just standard of the law.