Gordon E. Johnson


What the Abundant Life in Christ Looks like in Daily Walk

Romans 6:15-23 (NKJV)

Gordon E. Johnson
Rio Grande Bible Institute


After beginning with the penetrating question: “Shall we continue in sin that grace may abound?” (Rom. 6:1), Paul answers it categorically. By no means, because we died to sin, “ how shall we who died to sin live any longer in it” (Rom.6:2)? This seems such a radical treatment for our age old sin problem. But in my favorite verse, Romans 6:6, Paul says: knowing this that our old man was crucified with Him . . . in fact and process it is before us as our new perspective and point of departure. Paul then lays out for us the steps of knowing, the very essence of how we must daily walk in the light of these basic truths.

Paul sets forth those truths in Romans 6: 11-14. Let me reiterate them:

Be counting yourself dead to sin and alive to God (6:11) a heart FAITH, a positive action and attitude. Don’t be letting sin reign in your mortal body (6:12) a resolute negative response of the renewed will to and continued sinning. Don’t be presenting your members as ammunition to the sin principle (6:13a) a further negative response of the renewed will. Present yourself decisively now (6:13b) – a heart OBEDIENCE of availability to the risen life of Christ. Sin shall not have dominion over you (6:14) the ongoing result of the walk of FAITH and OBEDIENCE. We are now under grace, no longer under the law that condemns us.

The True Marks of Holiness—Character and Conduct Romans 6: 15-18

Theory and practice may be two very different things; Paul faces our dilemma head on with an echo of the same question (cf.6:1):“What then? Shall we sin because we are not under law but under grace?” (6:15). He gives the same resounding answer: “Certainly not”.

However we may attempt to answer the question of sinning, there is one indisputable indicator of the answer—it is: what we are, how we live, how we speak and how we act. There can be only one master: “No on can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will be loyal to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon” [margin-riches] (Matt.6:24). To that master whom you obey, you are a slave, however free you may claim to be. It has been well said: “he who drags his chain is not free.” What a picture of many of us in areas of our inner life, the hidden areas of pride, fear, bitterness and doubt!

But Paul’s resounding response is “But God be thanked that though we were slaves of sin,. yet you obeyed from the heart that form (mold) of doctrine to which you were delivered” (6:17). Notice how wisely he phrases it. It is not «belief», so often defined as head knowledge, but doctrine and truth obeyed, “obedience from the heart to which you were delivered”. Here is the fundamental transaction that does not allow for mere imitation of Christ but rather participation in the risen life of Christ. We have transferred our slavery from sin to become willing slaves to righteousness in our Savior. What a blessed transfer!

A Past Parallel that Operates as a Guide in the New Sphere of Life Romans 6: 19-22

Paul draws a remarkably clear parallel between what we used to be as slaves of sin prior to knowing Christ and our new living relationship in Christ. We just presented our members as slaves to uncleanness and lawlessness leading to more lawlessness. But now comes a paradigmatic change, a change not of degree but of kind. “So now present your members as slaves of righteousness for holiness” (6:19). You hear the echo of Rom. 6:13: “Present yourselves to God as being alive from the dead and your members as instruments of righteousness to God” (Rom. 6:13).

That word «present» is key to the process. Its essential meaning is to make available, put at the orders of another, a military term. It is not our doing, nor our action but our openness to God’s Holy Spirit by obeying the truth. Paul will deal with this divine personage shortly. But truth obeyed inevitably brings the active dynamic of the Holy Spirit. Holiness is not our doing; it is His doing at the Cross and our embracing it by faith and obedience. If holiness were our doing, it would be the most reprehensive thing with which we could insult our God!

Paul reminds us of the fruitlessness and deception of our former life. But by an amazing contrast just the opposite is now ours. “But now having been set free from sin, and having become slaves of God, you have your fruit unto holiness, and the end, everlasting life” (Rom. 6:22). As you well know everlasting life is not only quantity and duration, but foremost it is the quality of the divine life of God himself to be embraced here and now.

God’s Final Summation Romans 6:23

“For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord”. How often this verse is quoted out of its proper context! Whenever quoted it is a divine reality. That is granted, but the context determines its application. God is stating to his children as a categorical reality. There are only two roads, two destinies, totally incompatible one to the other. It is either a life of sin under its domination or a life of holiness in Christ Jesus.

God states his opposition to any compromise or concession to sin as a principle. He has saved us from it. He has made provision for our life of victory. But much more is involved. That life of victory is a gift of God, not a reward to be gained or maintained by our doing. True life is Christ, a gracious gift to be received and embraced. “Christ in you, the hope of glory” (Col. 1:27).

Paul still has further practical truths to face as in Romans 7, a time of personal failure in his own life as an apostle. Then follow the joys of the Spirit filled life Rom. 8. But we must never lose sight of the reality of God’s salvation being always and only a gift of God. “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast for we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them” (Eph. 2:8-10).

Practical Points to Ponder

1. God chose to put the «old life» to death, a fatal blow to the sin principle (Rom 6:2; Col.3:3). There is now a new master, a new Lord.
2. The believer realizes this truth through the process of «knowing» (Rom. 6:6), a God illuminating act and attitude of faith and obedience.
3. The risen life in the believer is God’s gracious gift and will always be his work of grace through faith, not our efforts and struggle to be seen soon in Romans 7.

Yours in the Message of the Cross,
Dr. Gordon E. Johnson
Rio Grande Bible Institute
Edinburg, Texas 78539