Calvary Road Baptist Church


Romans 6.15-23 

Shortly after I assumed the pastorate of this Church, I was approached by a young man as I left the Church office one afternoon. He met me coming down the steps right out there. Introducing himself and explaining that he was a member of another Monrovia Church, a Church that I had assumed was a Bible-believing Church, he asked me if I would give him some counsel. I responded by telling him that it was inappropriate for me to counsel him since he needed to seek his pastor’s counsel. My charge is the flock the Lord has set me over, not another congregation.

He then told me, in effect, that he’d already sought his pastor’s counsel, but that it seemed the advice his pastor gave him was so different from his perception of God’s will as revealed in the Bible that, as a new Christian, he was very confused. He went on to tell me that he and his live-in girlfriend had been committing fornication for several years and that he had two children by her. The new development was that while he had recently trusted Christ as his savior, his girlfriend was still an unbeliever.

Explaining his situation to his pastor, he told me that although he thought Scripture clearly directed him to abstain even from the appearance of evil, and since he could not properly marry an unsaved woman, he felt it appropriate to move out of the house and stop his sinful practice of committing fornication with her. Stunning the young professing Christian, his pastor told him that, indeed, he could not marry a lost woman, even if she was the mother of his children. But the young man told me his pastor went on to insist that the young believer remain with his girlfriend so he could be a good father to the children and faithfully witness to the mother of his children.

My friends, this incident is a tragic illustration of the sad state of 20th century and now 21st century Christianity; a hopefully converted new Christian who properly appreciated that God’s grace does not give license to commit sexual sin, but a pastor, no less, who incorrectly thought, in essence, that God’s grace does give license to commit sexual sin. Had that pastor, who still presides over that Church in the Monrovia area last I heard, turned to our text for today he would have, or he should have, seen that this young hopeful Christian man was in agreement with not only the Christians at Rome but also with the Apostle Paul and with the Holy Spirit Who inspired Paul’s pen.

And how do we know that the grace of God cannot give license to sin? There are three ways: First, the experience of Christians shows this to be true. When Paul wrote to the believers in Rome, it had already been their experience that God’s grace had miraculously delivered them from what had been slavery to sin, to what was now slavery to righteousness. Then there is a second way in which we see that God’s grace cannot give license to commit sins. Lord willing, a subsequent message on our text will take note of the third way this can be seen.

And what is this second way in which we see that God’s grace cannot give license to commit sins? It’s their exhortation. Although my broader context is Romans 6.15-23, I’m going to ask you to focus at present only on Romans 6.19. I invite you to stand with me for the reading of God’s Word: 

“I speak after the manner of men because of the infirmity of your flesh: for as ye have yielded your members servants to uncleanness and to iniquity unto iniquity; even so now yield your members servants to righteousness unto holiness.” 

In this verse which we have just read Paul makes three statements that show us, as previously the experiences of the Roman Christians showed us, that the grace of God cannot give license to commit sins: 


Paul writes,

“I speak after the manner of men because of the infirmity of your flesh.” 

I want you to notice two phrases here that are quite thought-provoking:

First, there is the explanation of his slavery comparison: 

“I speak after the manner of men....” 

I made previous mention of Paul’s use of the concept of slavery to illustrate and make a comment about our relationship to sin as lost men and our relationship to righteousness now that we are saved, we who have trusted Christ. You may remember, also, my statement that many of the Roman Christians were slaves or former slaves, and that they might have resisted or felt uncomfortable with Paul’s use of the institution of slavery in describing various features of the Christian life. For example: From Romans 6.15 through Romans 6.23 the Apostle Paul uses the Greek word for “slave” seven times. It’s translated “servant” in our Bible. The word “sin” is used seven times, as well. And the words “obey,” “death” and “freedom” are used four times, three times, and three times, respectively. So Paul presses pretty hard with this slavery imagery. When he writes “I speak after the manner of men” then, he is pointing out that he has taken something about which most human beings of that time would be familiar, slavery, and used it to teach and make a powerful spiritual point. Paul used the principle of instruction that recognizes that to teach someone something you have to proceed from what they already know to what you want them to learn.[1] Paul’s readers already knew about the human institution of slavery. Paul wanted them to learn some spiritual truths that were similar to what they had already experienced in everyday life.

Then there is the exposure to his slavery comparison: 

He writes,

“because of the infirmity of your flesh.” 

Why did Paul make use of the obviously painful memories some of his readers would have of slavery to make his point? It had to do with the “infirmity” of our flesh. This word “infirmity” is a very significant one. It’s a word that Paul has used before. And it gives us a real clue about the successful living of the Christian’s life. For you see, the word is also used in Romans 5.6 and is there translated “without strength.” Romans 5.6, understand, describes us before we trusted Christ. This same word in Romans 6.19, on the other hand, describes us after we have trusted Christ. Do you see it? We are as spiritually impotent now as we were before we came to know Christ. Salvation and the forgiveness of sins do not make any believer stronger in any way. Thankfully, however, God’s power is available to those of us who know Christ. That’s the reason, I think, Paul is using this slavery comparison. Though we now know Jesus Christ as our Savior (those of us who are saved), we still have the memory of our bondage and service to our former master. And don’t think for one moment that a slave who had served a hard taskmaster for thirty years, but who has only recently been delivered to a new master, won’t jump when the old master barks, and won’t tremble when he hears the snap of the whip. Does PTSD apply only to combat trauma or human bondage trauma?[2] There is no reason to suggest it is not also something with which every Christian must come to grips with, the lingering after-effects of our former life. Paul’s illustration, then, does not fully describe our new relationship to righteousness. But he could hardly have found a more powerful way to drive home a point to his reading audience, especially given their painful knowledge of slavery. A great many slaves were slaves from infancy. And in slave cultures the power and authority of the master over every aspect of the slave’s life and existence is unquestioned. Do you think Harvey Weinstein’s treatment of young women was bad?[3] The worst experiences any woman had with Harvey Weinstein was a pink tea party in comparison to the horrors of being a slave subject to the round the clock abuse of a merciless master. You have a new master, Christian. But just like in the harsh and cruel days of slavery, when the old master barks at you or cracks the whip, there is that ingrained tendency to follow his orders . . . even though he is no longer your master and you don’t have to do anything he says. You still jump when you hear the sound of his voice. And you still tremble when you hear the crack of his whip. 


“for as ye have yielded your members servants to uncleanness and to iniquity unto iniquity.” 

First, we see our presentation as unbelievers to sin. This word “yielded,” which is also found back in Romans 6.13, is erroneously thought by many Christians as being a rather passive thing to do, as though yielding is what you end up doing when you don’t do anything. But that is not what Paul is getting at in Romans chapter 6. Our chief problem before our conversion to Jesus Christ was not laying back and being casual about sin. No. Our real problem was our steadfast determination to sin as vigorously and as energetically and as creatively as we thought we could get away with in our own personally chosen areas of debauchery. Lost people may not realize their commitment to active involvement in sins, and Christians may even have forgotten their pursuit of unrighteousness, but the Bible is quite clear on this issue. People who are lost actively pursue sin, in one way or another, and deliver their members, their bodies, their resources, over to the doing of that which is wrong. That was the previous experience of Roman Christians, and that is the previous experience of San Gabriel Valley Christians. And if you are not a Christian, that is not your previous experience; it is your present experience. That’s what you’re doing now.

If you doubt the accuracy of what I’ve just said, look at the parallels Paul states: 

“for as ye have yielded your members servants to uncleanness and to iniquity to iniquity.” 

Paul is saying the same thing here in two different ways, so there will be no confusion with his reading audience. He wants to make sure they understand this. Either you were a slave to moral filth, or you were lawless to the point of being lawless. That’s a paraphrase. Paul isn’t necessarily talking about socially unacceptable sins such as child molesting, rape, mayhem, failing to stop for dogs in the street, or wearing clothes that don’t have popular designer labels on them. It’s just as wicked and ungodly to be involved in iniquity, which is just another word for lawlessness. That means, you just do what you want to do. You consider yourself answerable to no one. And your pursuits are in the direction of being even less answerable all the time. When it’s put that way, weren’t we all involved in iniquity to iniquity, and weren’t we each in our way servants to uncleanness? Sure we were. But that’s formerly. That’s when we were slaves to sin. What about now? That is the question. What about now? Are you accountable to no one now? And it is not like I want to tell you what to do. I just point out something mentioned last week, that you and I were given to the Bible, God’s Word. 


“even so now yield your members servants to righteousness unto holiness.” 

Again, we have a presentation, only now we have Christians presenting themselves to righteousness. Though you may not have realized how much of yourself you were putting into sinfulness and debauchery and pride and mischief before you were brought to Christ, you need to realize now in retrospect what the Bible says you did by actively presenting yourself as a slave to sin. What Paul is doing now is issuing a directive. And the vigor and the energy that you put into responding to Paul’s directive he wants to be greater than your pursuit of sin before you were saved. After all, should you not try harder to do right than you tried to do wrong? How late did you stay up at night doing wrong when you were lost? How much of your income did you spend to put yourself in sin’s way when you were lost? What would you not spare to do that which was selfish and destructive before coming to Christ? “Even so now....” Paul is urging us to have the same dedication to doing right as believers that we had to do wrong when we were lost. Some people who were Hell on wheels when they were lost seem to have four flat tires and faulty spark plugs as Christians. It ought not so to be. Just as you used to present your faculties for the doing of wrong, now you should present those same faculties for the doing of righteousness, for service to God, for exalting the Savior. But let’s not lose sight of the liberty we have. Whenever such a command as this is issued to the believer it must be assumed; it must be taken for granted, it must be acknowledged, that we can by God’s grace do what we have been commanded to do. That means, since I can do right, sin is no longer my master. Which means that grace has not given me the license to do wrong. Rather, grace has set me free to do right for the first time in my life.

This ongoing presentation of the Christian to righteousness, this obedience to Paul’s command to yield in this way, is the very essence of a crucial process. The process referred to here is labeled by Bible teachers as sanctification. We see the important goal of this process right at the end of our verse . . . “holiness.” Understand that holiness is not a Christian’s state. It is not something that anyone this side of heaven ever is in essence, so much as something which God’s grace is accomplishing in an ongoing way. That’s what is going on. This word “holiness” translates a word that refers to being set aside for special use or purpose. But even the Apostle Paul said about himself that he had not yet attained, did he not?[4] He correctly taught us that thing we refer to as sanctification is a process of continually presenting your members as servants to righteousness, which carries us toward this thing called holiness. “So pastor, when is this struggle to become a spiritual Christian going to ease up?” When you die and not before. You are a redeemed soul living in an unredeemed body, and there exists a lifelong struggle that will end only when you pass over into eternity. Because every time you say “Yes” to righteousness and “No” to sin you are strengthening the hold your new master has on you, and you are weakening your perception of the hold your old master has on you. Heed what the Lord Jesus taught in John 10.27-30: 

27  My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me:

28  And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand.

29  My Father, which gave them me, is greater than all; and no man is able to pluck them out of my Father’s hand.

30  I and my Father are one. 

Paul’s emphasis in Romans 6.19 has to do with your responsiveness to your old master and your new master. Be less responsive to the old master over time, cause he’s got not rights, no authority. And more responsive to your new master over time. It may not feel like your new Master is the boss, but the Book shows that He is, declares that He is. 

Reflect on what Paul has told us in this single verse. A statement about his slavery illustration. A statement about the licentious past of those who are now believers. A statement about the liberty to do right that believers in Christ presently have. We have the liberty to do right.

When you consider what the Roman Christians were and what they then became, and when you consider what you were and what you’ve become, genuine Christians, we see that God’s grace, rightly understood, cannot license us to sin. It can only give us the liberty to do what we could not before do . . . righteousness.

That means the Christian who is not serving righteousness, the believer who is not progressing in personal holiness, and strengthening and deepening in his walk with the Lord, is a really sad anomaly. That’s not the way it usually is. We think it is because so many lost people profess and pretend to be Christians. That is just not normal Christianity. Look at normal Christianity in the New Testament. Not in the neighborhood, but in the Bible.

What we think we see in the lives of so many so-called Christians in 2018 is certainly not what Paul took for granted in the first century. When those people claimed to be Christians, brother, their lives showed it. They lived lives of repentance, of rejoicing over sins forgiven, of service and ministry, as men and women who were products of the Great Commission; disciples, being discipled and making disciples.

By the way, the same is true today. Nothing is different. Those who are show it. Those who are genuine grow and mature and separate from sinful lifestyle practices and people and serve God. Oh, there is one difference nowadays. In modern times, because there is no real persecution, at least not in our country, we have a great many people who claim to be and who even may think they are Christians, but who are not. The question is, are you a believer in Jesus Christ? Are you? Then let’s see it. The Roman Christian’s lives showed it. Ours should show it as well. As the psalmist wrote 3,000 years ago, “Let the redeemed of the LORD say so.”[5]

And what about the young man I referred to at the outset of my message, the one with two kids by the woman he was not married to? I’m afraid that after I did everything I could to show him that he was initially correct in his understanding of the Bible; he decided to continue with the sexual sinning. And what does that tell us about the young man’s genuine relationship with Christ? Perhaps it tells us as much about his pastor’s relationship with Christ as it does about the young man’s relationship with Christ. Sadly, neither the young hopeful convert nor his longtime pastor submitted to the authority of God’s Word, obeying from the heart that form of doctrine to which they professed to have been delivered.

I hope your life will cause no one to question your salvation.

I hope you have been delivered to God’s Word.

I hope you truly are born again.

If not you need to trust Christ right this moment.


[1] As stated by John Milton Gregory, The 7 Law Of Teaching, (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Book House, revised, 1954), page 20, “Begin with what is already well known to the pupil on the subject and with what he has himself experienced -- and proceed to the new material by single, easy, and natural steps, letting the known explain the unknown.”

[2] PTSD is an acronym for post traumatic stress disorder.


[4] Philippians 3.12

[5] Psalm 107.2

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