Instruments for Good

And do not present yew members as instruments of unrighteousness to sin, but present yourselves to God as being alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness to God” (v. 13).

- Romans 6:12-14

Having at last given his first exhortation in the book of Romans in the verse we examined yesterday, 6:11, Paul no longer “holds back”—today’s passage contains no less than four exhortations. In his first direct teaching on sanctification, he tells the Romans (and us) that, because they are dead to sin and alive to God in Christ, they must resist actual sin in their lives.

Right away we see that Paul’s assertion that we are dead to sin cannot mean that sin no longer is a force. Though its power over us has been broken and we are able to resist it, the warfare can be taxing. Indeed, while we no longer are under the reign of sin (5:21), it is possible for sin to reign in our unredeemed bodies. In other words, we can become slaves to sinful cravings. However, we must not allow this to happen, Paul says. His challenge to us is to stand guard over every part of our bodies, every “member,” so that they do not become “instruments of unrighteousness.” Our minds, our eyes, our ears, our tongues, our stomachs, our hands, our feet, our sexual organs—all of these can be channels by which sinful cravings get out of hand. As Dr. James M. Boice notes, “It is through these physical parts of our bodies that sin operates and through which it maintains its strong hold on us.” For this reason, every part of our body must be kept under control and must not be used for sinful purposes. But what is more, they should be put to a new, holy use—“as instruments of righteousness to God.” We are, after all, alive to God. Therefore, we should give ourselves to Him fully, with all our hearts, minds, and souls, determined to use the parts of the bodies He has given to us for truly good ends. It must be our goal not only not to do evil but to do good.

Verse 14 is not an exhortation, but as a powerful reminder, it should motivate us to action. “Sin shall not have dominion over you, for you are not under law but under grace,” Paul writes. Again, the apostle is teaching us that we have been transferred from the reign of sin and death to the reign of grace and life. Sin’s power has been broken; it cannot have dominion over us. But moreover, because it is God who has done all this for us, it is simply not fitting for sin to gain any mastery over any parts of our bodies. Sin is rebellion against God, and He deserves the most complete obedience we can render.

Coram Deo

Does your eye stray to sinful images? Does your tongue use unedifying language? Does your stomach drive you to consume too much? Think about the sins to which you are most prone and then identify the body parts that are responsible. How can those parts be used for righteousness? Ask God to help you use your members for Him.

Passages for Further Study

Psalm 101:3
Romans 12:1–2
1 Thessalonians 4:11
James 1:26

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