A sermon preached by Mr. D. G. Crowter at Gower Street Memorial Chapel. Oct. 15th 1991
‘But now being made free from sin, and become servants to God, ye have your fruit unto holiness, and the end everlasting life.’ Romans 6.22.
This chapter is about sin, which is mentioned some seventeen times. In the passage sin is personified: it is described as a king, which once reigned supreme, but has now been deposed; as a tyrant, which once oppressed with fearful power, but is no longer able to do so; as a slave owner, whose serfs have now escaped for ever from his service; as an employer, who expected to pay grim wages but is now unable to do so. It is personified because of its particular influence and power.
But then sin is spoken of in this chapter as a conquered foe, one that has been completely overcome by the Saviour in His death. It has been, so to speak, buried in His grave; it is crushed under the feet of the risen Lord, and therefore is no ultimate threat whatsoever to the people of God. And so the apostle is saying to believers, “You are ‘dead to sin’; you are ‘free from sin’.” Perhaps you say in your heart, “Well, I just can’t believe that!” Not believe what the Word of God so plainly says? Would you rather believe your own reason on this matter? Or your own feelings with regard to it? is that what you believe? Or do you believe that God means exactly what He says when He declares that every believer (not just apostles) every believer, however weak his faith is, however great his sinfulness, is dead to sin, in Christ. The apostle is really saying that this is the fact with believers. And he is saying in effect, ‘Now believe this, rejoice in it, remember it; and reckon that it is so and then many of your problems will just disappear.’
Are you in Christ?
Now, a lot depends on the way in which we see ourselves -whether we see ourselves in the right, Scriptural way; or whether we see ourselves in the way that we feel ourselves to be. Now do you sometimes see yourself as being a lonely, sad, hopeless kind of person, a miserable failure, friendless and helpless? Now that is the way that the devil would love you to see yourself- alone, isolated from other Christians, separate from the Lord Himself. And he will
do his utmost to separate the saved sinner from his Saviour. Of course he cannot do that actually and ultimately, but he may well do it in a practical, experimental way. If he can get you to see yourself in that way, as being such a miserable failure in everything, he will have opened the door for a fiery dart to come in, like this: “Can you really be a Christian after all? Haven’t you made a mistake? Surely a true believer would not feel like this and be so full of sin and failure!” You see, once we do open the door a little way, we are vulnerable to all these suggestions of the adversary. He is very ready to make these insinuations and accusations. And if he can get you to see yourself in that kind of light, then he will have you on the way down, becoming miserable and wretched, feeling guilty and condemned, and perhaps almost hopeless. How different is the apostle Paul’s view of the Christian! We may be sure that his view is the right one. He sees the believer in Christ; as inseparably linked to Him; not as detached and alone and hopeless and friendless but as spiritually and for ever united to his crucified and risen Lord. How often he speaks of the believer as being ‘in Christ Jesus’! In the previous chapter we find it, in the first verse, in the eleventh verse, in the twenty-first verse; four times particularly in this chapter, we see this explicitly stated; and it is implied elsewhere – all the way through really – that the believer is to be seen ‘in Christ Jesus.’
Now this same apostle could go on straightaway to write chapter seven. Yes, he knew all about this intense conflict with indwelling sin. He knew it very deeply in his own experience. He knew what it was to feel that: “The good that I would I do not: but the evil which I would not, that I do.” “O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death? I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord.” In all this long account of the believer’s struggle against indwelling sin Paul has not forgotten that he is still one with Christ, and that the Lord Jesus Christ will finally give him the complete triumph over sin. So that he can go on to say: “There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus” – no condemnation at all, not now or ever in the future, not from actual sin or indwelling sin or any kind of sin. There is no condemnation to those who are united to Jesus Christ.
So what an important truth this is! And how important it is for us to know that we are in Christ! Because that is the answer to all these other problems. If you see yourself as being one with Christ, then you have really the answer, the great answer, to this matter of the struggle in our lives with sin in us and outside us. It is a conquered foe. The Saviour Himself has completely overthrown the evil one, He has brought in an everlasting remedy for sin in every aspect of it, so Paul can say in that rousing way: “Sin shall not have dominion over you: for ye are not under the law but under grace.” Now do you
see yourself as being in Christ? Perhaps you see others like that and it is very important that we should be able to recognise those who are united to Him, as far as that is possible, but then this is also so important in a personal way.
Do you know you are in Christ?
Now, dear friends, it really is possible to know that you are in Christ. The apostle Paul himself could say so very definitely and distinctly and we have other testimonies in Scripture. It is very possible and most desirable to be able to say that. “My Beloved is mine, and I am His” and that forever. Paul says: “I am crucified with Christ” and “Christ liveth in me.” And he says: “I am persuaded that 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,” that love which has so united us to Him. And he said: “I know whom I have believed, and am persuaded that he is able to keep that which I have committed unto him against that day.” The apostle John says coldly: “We know that we are of God, and the whole world lieth in wickedness.” Job, in the midst of his trouble, could say: “I know that my Redeemer liveth.” Now if this is a matter which is left undecided and uncertain, then we are so vulnerable to the attacks of the evil one; we have no real answer to the strategy of the devil, and to the subtle power of sin. But this assurance gives us the victory in prospect, and indeed in some real measure the victory over sin now.
First we have a foundation truth that the believer is eternally one with Christ. So that the Father sees believers as complete and perfect in His dear Son; and the Lord Jesus Christ, as the covenant head of the Church sitting on the right hand of God, is seen in union with all His people. The apostle says: “We are members of his body, of his flesh and of his bones.” And the Father sees the whole Church of God with eyes of infinite, unchanging love. He sees them as perfect and complete in Christ Jesus. Paul says to the Ephesians, “Ye are complete in him.” Whatever you are in yourself, however miserable a failure you may feel yourself to be, however beset with sin, however often you may fall, if you are a true believer, you are for ever in Christ, and the Father sees you in Him as perfect, and loves you in Him with such an unchanging and such an immeasurable love. Now do you see yourself like that?
“In thy Surety thou art free;
His dear hands were pierced for thee;
With his spotless vesture on,
Holy as the Holy One.”
So perfectly accepted and approved in Christ! You see how important it is to see ourselves in that union with the Saviour. And it may be seen; there are the evidences of it in the Word of God, the promises of the Gospel and the testimonies concerning the marks of true believers. Do you not know whether you are still a slave of Satan or a servant of Jesus Christ? You must be one or the other. Do you know which it is?
Now as the believer is truly one with Christ, he is dead to sin and alive unto God in Christ. Two things are especially mentioned in this chapter. First, he is united to Jesus Christ in His death. That is why the believer is said to be “dead to sin”; not otherwise. Paul doesn’t say that sin is dead in you. But that you are dead to sin, for this reason: “If we be dead with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with him: knowing that Christ being raised from the dead dieth no more; death hath no more dominion over him. For in that he died, he died unto sin once: but in that he liveth, he liveth unto God. Likewise reckon ye also yourselves to be dead indeed unto sin, but alive unto God through Jesus Christ our Lord.” The apostle is saying that because Jesus Christ is certainly “dead to sin”, altogether delivered from all imputed guilt, and all the dominion of sin, then the believer in Him is the same, he is united to his covenant Head. This is not a matter of feeling, it is a matter of fact! The believer truly is united to his covenant Head, spiritually and inseparably joined to Him. And therefore he is dead to sin and free from sin through the death of his Saviour. What good news that really is! Wonderful news! What a blessed truth to be received and to rest our very hearts upon!
But then secondly, the believer is united to Jesus in His resurrection. And first this is just a matter of plain, spiritual truth. It is truth to be believed, truth revealed to us in the Word of God. The apostle says in Colossians 3, “For ye are dead, and your life is hid with Christ in God.” It is really first of all in Him, it is His life in glory. The Saviour lives in the presence of His Father for His people. All the members of His body are united to Him in His resurrection life. As the apostle says to the Ephesians, He has ‘raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ.” He is saying that the believer is already in glory in a sense, because he is united to his Head who is there in heaven.
Another aspect of this is that the believer is fully justified by believing in Jesus Christ, and therefore he is united to Him also by precious, living faith, and therefore the Saviour’s life is in him. And that is the only life that we ever have. Our only spiritual life is the life of the Saviour communicated by the Holy Spirit; it is His life in our
very souls. And those who are thus delivered from sin’s bondage are certainly alive unto God in this experiential way; they are truly alive. They are permitted to say, as Paul does, “Christ liveth in me.” This is the believer’s hope; “Christ in you, the hope of glory.”
And so the believer is truly one with his Lord, he was there in his covenant Head when Jesus died, and he is united to Him now He is
“One in the tomb; one when He rose;
One when He triumphed o’er his foes;
One when in heaven He took His seat,
While seraphs sang all hell’s defeat.”
Now do you see yourself in the proper way? Are you truly united to Jesus Christ? And will you never look on yourself again as being Isolated, friendless and helpless? Well, what a wonderful thing it is to be spiritually one with the Lord Jesus Christ! And there is the certainty of everlasting life and glory implied in this union.
The personal application
If you should have a painful sore on your body and there was a suitable healing plaster available for it, the plaster would never do my good or provide any relief until it was actually put on the place. Only by contact, only by the actual personal application, does it do any good, And it really is the same with the truth of God. When it is really applied to the case, when it is actually put upon the heart, then it has its effect.
Now in this personal application of this glorious truth, there are three imperatives which the apostle uses. The first is ‘know’. He repeatedly uses this word in different ways, “Know ye not” – is it possible that the Christian does not know that he is truly united to Jesus Christ? It is something we so need to know. “Knowing that Christ being raised from the dead dieth no more”; “Knowing this, that our old man is crucified with Him, that the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin.” Now the apostle says believers are to know these things. Again, “Know ye not, that to whom ye yield yourselves servants to obey, his servants ye are to whom ye obey, whether of sin unto death or obedience unto righteousness?” We must be going one way or the other; we either are following the paths of sin or those of righteousness. And how important it is to know that we are in this union. This is the first imperative that the apostle uses – know.
And it really is possible for us to know these things. Not to judge by our feelings and our present experience, but to judge, to understand this, to know it by the testimony of the Word of God. For this precious Word does declare these things very simply and plainly. It sets before us a free and full Gospel, an all-sufficient and a
free remedy for our sinful condition. The fountain for sin is ever open. We may constantly go and be cleansed from our guilt and filth. And the promises of God in the Gospel are so sure and positive and definite. We need to know, by the testimony of the Word of God, so that we can go back to the Word if we are tempted, and know that it does speak definitely. It makes those statements which show that one is truly united to Jesus Christ. So that is the first word that the apostle uses; ‘know.’
And then he says ‘reckon’. The word that he uses is the one from which our words like ‘logic’ are taken. This is an exact process. You know how it is with reckoning. When the chapel accounts are done, and other similar accounts, then the income has to balance the outgoings exactly. It is no good unless you get the calculations really correct; they have to agree exactly. And the apostle is using this sort of word. It means ‘to count upon’, ‘to compute’, ‘to calculate’; and thus to reckon upon it being exactly true because it is so true. The believer is perfectly cleansed from sin in the Saviour’s blood, his standing in Jesus Christ is for ever altogether complete. His hope of everlasting life is absolutely certain. There is really no room for mistake with regard to these things; they are so very definite and distinct and true. Now the apostle is saying that believers are to reckon this. All right; it may seem to you that you are not dead to sin. The inspired apostle says in the Word of God, “Reckon yourselves to be that” – because you really are. Every believer is dead to sin, that is, he is altogether exonerated from its guilt, and he is altogether free from sin as to its dominion. He is no longer a slave to sin in any respect. In Christ he has those infinite resources available, the immeasurable supplies of divine grace to subdue his sin. So, the apostle says, “Reckon” – continue to count on this. If you are a believer you may truly count on this – that you are “dead indeed unto sin, but alive unto God through Jesus Christ our Lord.” It is all in Him. We so need to keep looking at our covenant Head. As the hymn says: “Through corruption … guilt and sin” – all these things which trouble us and confuse us, through them all, “still to Jesus turn thine eyes, Israel’s hope and sacrifice.” There is no hope, no comfort, in looking anywhere else!
“Why should a pilgrim grope within,
And judge by what he feels’?”
Is that going to bring any comfort and consolation? And then the hymnwriter could go on to say:
“In this dear Christ I all things have;
Why should I yield to fear?
All that a living soul can crave,
Is richly treasured here.
In him I stand completely just;
His heart is my abode;
Though in myself, at best, but dust,
In him I’ve power with God.”
You see it all depends on being in Him, and realising what you are through the grace of God, what it means to be in Christ.
And the third imperative the apostle uses is ‘yield’. He says “know … reckon … yield.” “Yield your members. “That means to render them up, to give them over; if you like, to surrender them to the service of Christ. And he repeatedly uses this expression: “Yield yourselves unto God,” your whole selves: Present “yourselves to God as those that are alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness unto God.” And again he says: “Even so now yield your members servants to righteousness unto holiness.” It is much the same as he says in the beginning of the twelfth chapter when he has come to the end of those other matters, and says “I beseech you brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service.” How very reasonable it is that those who have been bought by the precious blood of Christ, at such an immense cost in suffering, should yield to Him, should render to Him that service, “your reasonable service. And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.” He says, ‘Present your bodies to, God, your whole beings to Him, for His reasonable service, that you may know and do that holy and acceptable and perfect will of God.’ Dear friends, have you done this? Do you ever really present your members to God? Do you yield them up to Him? Do you truly desire and pray that He would control and direct and use the members of your body and soul for His service? Like this:
“In full and glad surrender,
I give myself to thee,
Thine utterly and only
And evermore to be.
O Son of God, who lov’st me,
I will be Thine alone;
And all I have, and all I am,
Shall henceforth be Thine own.”
The apostle says “Yield yourselves to God”. “O be His servants”. There is grace enough, there is altogether grace sufficient in the Lord Jesus Christ to do His will, to do what is pleasing in His sight. But you so need to know and realise and reckon upon this union that
you do have, through the merits of the Lord Jesus Christ. Such a good claim, such a plea to make, as members of His body, as united to Him as a bride is to her husband, as living branches are united to the vine, as being so truly one with the Saviour.
If we could but see this more clearly and hold fast to it, it would surely make a great difference to our comfort, to our strength, to the way that we live. Never to consider ourselves as being isolated, as being all alone, as having no help, no strength available; but as being united to the Head, as receiving from Him those supplies of spiritual life and vigour and strength.
What you are and what you have
Now we come at last to this verse particularly. “But now being made free from sin, and become servants to God, ye have your fruit unto holiness, and the end everlasting life.” Now this is the Christian! Every Christian is here.
Two things the apostle says that you are. First you are “free from sin”: fully justified: “free from sin”, and more than free; liberated from its dominion, no longer slaves of Satan. And then he says you are “become servants to God.” You are His servants now, Satan has no right, no authority to lord it over you any more. He is not your master, the Lord Jesus Christ is your Master. And so we read those descriptions in the Word of God; “Moses, the servant of the Lord.” What a fine description that was of Moses! He was indeed a wonderful man of God, but I’m sure he would have been so pleased to know it was written of him; “Moses, the servant of God.” And at the very beginning, in the first words of this epistle, we read: “Paul, a servant of Jesus Christ.” This was what he was, and he knew he was that; his whole life was a service to the Lord Jesus Christ. Could you call yourself that; “a servant of Jesus Christ”? What an honour, what a great privilege it is! No doubt those who are the immediate servants of the Queen think that they are given a great privilege to be there in the palace and to be able to serve the Queen. But how little that is in comparison with being a servant of the King of kings! Of being under His authority and at His command, and doing, in our little way, His service. There may be a great deal of unemployment, sadly, in the world, for various reasons. But there is no reason for any unemployment in the service of Jesus Christ. All those who are truly willing to serve Him He will graciously employ.
Then there are two things in the Christian’s heritage which the apostle mentions. He says “Ye have”: you have these two things. “Ye have your fruit unto holiness.” What fruit did you once have? O it was only death! It wasn’t fruit at all, it was utterly rotten, it was all the effect of sin. But has there been this great change? Are you still thinking of yourself as being so full of sin and corruption that you
are all alone? That was so once, but the apostle says, “But now being made free from sin, and become servants to God, ye have your fruit unto holiness.” Every servant of God has some fruit. It may seem very very little to you, but then of course, one of the chief fruits is humility and that will make you see your service as being very little and poor. Inevitably that will be so. But every believer has his fruit unto holiness. How I love that word – ‘holiness’! And that is the fruit which the believer is bringing forth in measure. It must be so, if the life of Christ is in us, we shall bring forth fruit. Oh to bring forth more fruit unto holiness!
And then, “the end.” He says “You have this” you have this end, it’s absolutely certain. All who are in Christ are on the way to everlasting life; this is the end; the destination of every believer is everlasting life, in all its fulness, in nearness to Jesus Christ, in the fulness of bliss and peace, to explore the heights and depths of everlasting love, to be constantly engaged in the purest and sweetest worship. What a wonderful thing it is to have some foretaste of this! Now Jesus said, “Verily, verily, I say unto you, he that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life”: he has it already in him. There is that everlasting life, in all the wonderful, satisfying, blissful fulness of it. As the Psalmist says, “In thy presence is fulness of joy; at thy right hand there are pleasures for evermore” (Psalm 16.11).
Now this, believer, is your heritage, it is yours. If you belong to Christ, then all things belong to you. “All things are yours,” whether Paul or Apollos or Cephas, the ministers of Christ, the world – yes, the world is yours – “things present, things to come, all are yours, for ye are Christ’s, and Christ is God’s.” If we are Christ’s then all things are ours. May we enjoy the richness and the wonder and the comfort of it!