Book of Romans, Sermon Starters—Week 5
Lectionary Readings for July 2, 2017
Scripture Notes for Romans 6:12-23
In Romans 6:1-11, Paul established that identification with Christ's death and resurrection is the foundation for new life in Christ. This week, Paul's argument for righteous living builds to a passionate climax in verses 12-23. He makes the following points:
- Christians must make "holy choices."
- Do not let sin have dominion over your mortal bodies.
- Do not present your members to be used as instruments of wickedness.
- Present your members to God as instruments of righteousness.
- Do not sin because you are under not under the law, but under grace.
- Freed to become servants of righteousness.
You have been set free from sin and have become servants of righteousness.
- Following God yields eternal benefits.
The end of following God is sanctification and eternal life.
- Sin pays death wages. Salvation is free.
Sin's wages produce death, but salvation is a free gift through Jesus Christ.
Keep in mind the basic framework of identifying with the death and resurrection of Christ in Christian baptism. Because the Christian identifies with Christ's death and resurrection, a death occurs so that a new life and a new allegiance may emerge.
Key Preaching/Teaching Points:
1. The great "if-then" clause. If Christ truly broke sin's reign and if a Christian is truly following Christ, then sin should not continue to rule over the life of a Christian.
2. Spiritual relocation. Through salvation in Jesus Christ, Christians have been relocated from the place where sin reigns to the place where God reigns.
3. The weakness of mortal bodies. Our mortal bodies pose a challenge to our spirituality. We still live in mortal bodies that are attracted by sin's temptations.
4. Obedience is a two-part choice. In the context of Romans, obedience meant being ruled by a sovereign. Christians play an active role in holy living. First, they must choose not to offer various parts of themselves (personality, mind, or body) to sin. Christians must participate in the death of those ungodly desires. Second, Christians are to offer themselves as available instruments to God.
5. Without the law, are we sinners? Paul addresses the Jews' concern that apart from the sphere of the law, one becomes a sinner. Paul notes that the Christian is under grace. The background understanding is that like a light revealing what was hiding in darkness, the purpose of the law was to reveal sin. But following the law was not sufficient to bring about salvation. The Christian is under grace through faith in Jesus Christ.
6. Freedom is not enough! Paul offers a dual emphasis: freedom from sin AND willing obedience to righteousness. To embrace the liberty afforded by faith in Christ to the neglect of obedience to God's righteousness is to consider only half the story.
To examine the larger context of Paul's argument concerning sin, the law, and grace, see Romans 5:12-21 and Galatians 2:19; 3:23; 5:18-20.
Key Terms and Concepts
Does your congregation know the following terms and concepts found or alluded to in Romans 6:12-23?
1. "No longer present your members" — Paul uses imperatives to say, STOP presenting your members to sin, i.e., STOP the habit of offering your personality, mind, and body as weapons of unrighteousness.
2. "But present yourselves to God" — Paul again uses an imperative to say, "DO present yourselves to God for use as instruments of righteousness."
3. "What then? Should we sin…" — This is another Pauline argument against abusing God’s grace. Sin refers to occasional sin, not a life of sin. There is no day off to allow for occasional sin. Loyalty to Christ fights against even occasional allegiance to Satan.
4. "Slaves to righteousness" — Once we were enslaved to the tyranny of sin, but now we are loyal, willing, followers of our Sovereign God of grace. We have changed masters. There is no middle ground.
5. "Because of your natural limitations…" — Paul refers to the defective spiritual insight humans have that renders them dull to spiritual revelation. Accordingly, Paul teaches his audience with a simple paradox: Once enslaved by sin's tyranny, now your heart is freed to be obedient to God.
6. "So what advantage did you then get…" — What does one gain from sin? Only shame and guilt that leads to death.
7. Wages — Referred to the wages of a soldier. Sin pays its wages in full; it never shortchanges.
Evangelistic Preaching Tips
Reading: Romans 6:12-23 [An Evangelistic Approach — To lead people to Christ]
Moving Day — We live in a transient society. Moving involves conscious choices of what to take and what to leave behind. Moving also provides opportunities for fresh new beginnings. Salvation in Christ is a spiritual "moving day" in which our whole person moves from the place where sin reigns to the place where God reigns. Continued life in Christ requires choices. Explore the necessity of choice involved with salvation. One must make conscious choices to renounce sin in order to embrace Christ and salvation.
Aim: Help pre-Christians understand that salvation in Jesus Christ involves key choices.
Reading: Romans 6:12-23 [A Renewal Approach — To strengthen the faith of Christians]
My, You've Changed — Paul does not flinch in this passage. He uses a string of imperatives to indicate that there is no debate. We are no longer "other." We are now Christians, and Christians are new holy creations.
The tone of Paul's message is relentless. He assaults vacillating thought and behavior. Paul grabs us and shakes us into spiritual sensibility. You are Christians! Sin no longer reigns as it once did in you. You are Christians! Intentional self-indulgence contradicts trust in Christ. You are Christians! Stop bowing to sin as if it were still your master. You are Christians! Stop excusing lapses in holiness "since we are under grace." You are Christians! You now belong to Jesus Christ, so act like it! Paul delivers an "in-your-face" message that leaves no doubt about Christian behavior. When Christians embrace Christ with this level of fervor, people will remark, "My, you've changed."
Aim: Compel Christians to embrace holy living and never justify ungodly behavior.
Reading: Romans 6:12-23 [A Reclamation Approach — To restore "de-churched" individuals to vital faith in Jesus Christ]
And Now, the Rest of the Story — Freedom is deeply embedded in democratic cultures. Much is done in the name of freedom. But is the promotion of freedom enough? Paul reminded his audience that Christians are freed from sin's reign. But this freedom comes in exchange for becoming servants of righteousness in Christ. To simply emphasize freedom to the neglect of obedience to God's righteousness is to consider only half the story. Consider emphasizing the concept of servant leadership.
Aim: Invite de-churched people to willingly embrace "the rest of the story" of righteous living in Christ.
Provide Opportunities for a Faith Response
1. Moving Day. Consider decorating the sanctuary with moving boxes and other visuals to indicate "Moving Day." Hand out slips of paper with the words "Throw Away" written on them. Invite people in response to the message to move completely into the sphere of God's reign. Explain that moving requires that some things are left behind or thrown out. Invite people to take an inventory of their lives. Then invite them to write down anything that they will throw out of their lives so that they can walk unencumbered with God.
2. My, You've Changed. Consider placing stop signs in strategic places in the church. In the bulletin, include a two-sided insert with a stop sign on one side and the words "Stop Doing List" on the back. Invite people, as a response to the message, to write down anything that they believe God is asking them to stop doing. The inserts could be turned in to your intercessory prayer group; or individuals could keep the list and pray for strength to carry out their "Stop Doing List."
3. And Now, the Rest of the Story. Consider including a two-sided insert in the bulletin. On one side, place a large question mark. On the other side, write three questions:
1. What has God freed me to be?
2. What has God freed me to do?
3. What action must I take to be and do what God expects of me? Individuals could keep the list and pray over it during the week.
Provide Opportunities for Follow Up
1. Invite your intercessory prayer group to pray over any responses turned in.
2. Invite people into covenant discipleship groups. For more on covenant discipleship groups, see the online resources below.
Resources for Romans 6:12-23
- Bill Loader's Page
- The Text This Week
Follow Up Resource
General Evangelism Resources
- Ancient Future Evangelism by Robert Webber
Webber explains Pentecost as the traditional time to declare one's Christian vocation.
- The Faith-Sharing Congregation by Roger Swanson and Shirley Clement
- Faith-Sharing: Dynamic Christian Witnessing by Invitation by H. Eddie Fox and George Morris
- The Faith-Sharing initiative Participants' Manual (Spanish Version) — El compromiso de compartir nuestra fe: Manual del Participante (pdf)
- The Faith Sharing New Testament
- That the World May Know Jesus Christ! by Brazilian Methodist Bishop Paulo Lockmann
- Transforming Evangelism: The Wesleyan Way of Sharing Faith by Henry H. Knight III and Douglas Powe Jr.
- Witness: Learning to Share Your Christian Faith