19/7/15 – Romans 6:12-23 “The fruit of the flesh vs the fruit of the Spirit”


Romans 6:12Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, that ye should obey it in the lusts thereof.


Therefore – that is, because of Romans 6:11 where we are to reckon ourselves “to be dead indeed unto sin”. If we are truly born again then our “old man”, our sin nature, has been crucified on the cross with Jesus (Romans 6:6). “For he who has died has been freed from sin.” (Romans 6:7) Therefore, we should not let sin reign in our bodies (the flesh – mortal).

reign – have dominion, rule as king. It doesn’t mean we’ll have sinless perfection as some would believe, but sin should not dominate our lives.

Some teach that a Christian has no old nature and therefore cannot sin. Augustine believed that we could sin the sins of the flesh but not serious spiritual sin which was ‘real’ sin!


MacArthur teaches that we have only the one nature as Christians, the new man, and sin has gone out with the old nature on the cross; thus the elect will persevere because their ‘old man’ of sin no longer exists! “Christians sin because of the vestiges of sinful flesh, not because they have the same old active sinful nature. Certainly we sin, but when we sin it is contrary to our nature, not because we have two dispositions—one sinful and one not" (Faith Works, p. 116). But what is the difference between vestiges of sinful flesh and just plain sinful flesh?


John says that those in Jesus do not sin, and those born of God cannot sin.

1 John 3:6a, 96Whosoever abideth in him sinneth not …..

9Whosoever is born of God doth not commit sin; for his seed remaineth in him: and he cannot sin, because he is born of God.

And yet the day I don’t sin is yet in the future. John, though, is talking about the same thing as Paul in Romans: that Christians still sin, but sin cannot and will not dominate their lives, will not reign. We might obey the lusts of the flesh temporarily, but to continue in it or to return to it over and over again is in the past now (or should be!).


Romans 6:13Neither yield ye your members [as] instruments of unrighteousness unto sin: but yield yourselves unto God, as those that are alive from the dead, and your members [as] instruments of righteousness unto God.


members – body parts. instruments – arms of war, weapons, tools, instruments.

Do not allow any part of your body to be used as a weapon, tool or instrument of unrighteousness for the purpose of sinning. You should not allow your bodily desires to enslave you to sin. Instead you are alive now, the old man sin nature has been crucified on the cross (our perfect position); you are a new creation in Christ now.

2 Corinthians 5:17Therefore if any man [be] in Christ, [he is] a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.

(Our positional status with God is of a perfect new man in Christ.) Your body parts should instead be used as instruments of righteousness in ministry for God.


Later on in Romans Paul says that we should give our complete lives, everything as a living sacrifice to God.

Romans 12:1-21I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, [which is] your reasonable service. 2 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.

It is only the complete giving of our all that can make us truly acceptable to God.


Romans 6:14For sin shall not have dominion over you: for ye are not under the law, but under grace.


dominion – different to the previous word ‘reign’ which focuses on kingly attributes.

Here it means to be lord of, to rule, have dominion over, to exercise influence upon, to have power over, more authority than majesty, if such a difference exists.

Sin is defined by the penalties of the law. Sin should no longer have the power or authority to condemn Christians because they are no longer under the law that condemns. The law demands a penalty for sin, and Paul has established that Christians are not under the law (= of works to be found in debt – Romans 4:4) but under grace (= by which their faith is accounted for righteousness – Romans 4:5).

Romans 5:20-2120Moreover the law entered, that the offence might abound. But where sin abounded, grace did much more abound: 21That as sin hath reigned unto death, even so might grace reign through righteousness unto eternal life by Jesus Christ our Lord.


So the law cannot condemn us anymore because we have been set free from the law. We see this more clearly when we get to Romans 8.

Romans 8:2For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death.

So sin should have no authority over the Christian simply because there is no longer a penalty to pay and the Christian has believed in Him who justifies the ungodly (Romans 4:5).


Romans 6:15What then? shall we sin, because we are not under the law, but under grace? God forbid.


So, if we are no longer condemned by the law, then why can’t we just do what we want to? After all, we are forgiven! See Romans 6:1What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound? And Paul repeats his answer to Romans 6:1 – God forbid!” “Certainly not!” Imagine you have been given a licence to drive without any rules applying. Does that give you the right to do anything dangerous? Certainly not! We are still bound by a requirement to obey because we love God, and not because He wields a big stick ready to thump us every time we do something wrong.

John 14:15If ye love me, keep my commandments.

If we truly loved God, we wouldn’t want to disobey or do something wrong. Just because you are under grace is no excuse to take advantage of it!


Romans 6:16Know 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 of obedience unto righteousness?


Whoever you serve is your master and you are the servant. There are consequences for each choice you make.

If you serve sin, you serve satan, and along with satan, you get death.

If you serve obedience, you serve God, and from God receive righteousness.

Matthew 6:24No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon.

You can’t serve both, though – it’s one or the other. I’m not talking about occasional acts of sin or obedience though; it’s the habitual behaviour that defines you. And Christians should be serving God, not satan.


Romans 6:17-1817But God be thanked, that ye were the servants of sin, but ye have obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine which was delivered you. 18Being then made free from sin, ye became the servants of righteousness.


But, Paul says, though you were once slaves of sin (and thus inviting death), you have now sincerely (from the heart, not just lip-service) obeyed according to the teachings (that which has been taught, doctrine) in which you have been instructed (has been delivered to you). As John Newton said, “Once I was blind but now I see.” Slaves to sin have now been set free from sin and become slaves of righteousness.

(This word ‘slave’ is the one MacArthur has a fixation on – doulos =  a slave, one who gives himself up to another’s will, those whose service is used by Christ in extending and advancing his cause among men, devoted to another to the disregard of one’s own interests, a servant, attendant.) We might be tempted by sin and sometimes do it, but we should not be enslaved by it. Sin should not control our lives! Instead we should be enslaved by righteousness; righteousness should control our lives.


Romans 6:19I 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.


I speak as a human would be expected to speak, so that you might better understand the weakness of your flesh nature. That is, I speak your language. My meaning should therefore be abundantly clear to you.

infirmity – frailty, weakness, sometimes of the flesh perhaps after illness, and sometimes intellectual weakness as the case may be here.


servants to uncleanness – in bondage to impure living. In bondage to lawlessness which is a vicious circle, just getting deeper and deeper into sin. Sometimes when we sin we just can’t seem to break the cycle of sin; one sin seems to lead into the next and we don’t seem to be able to stop the slide downward into sin. But now let your striving for holiness be likewise, only upward out of sin this time. We should have the same desire and drive to get out of sin as we used to have in getting into sin. (But somehow we seem to drive faster into sin than we do backing off out of sin!) We should serve righteousness leading to holiness with the same drive and enthusiasm that we once served lawlessness leading into further lawlessness.


Romans 6:20For when ye were the servants of sin, ye were free from righteousness.


When you were enslaved by sin, you were wholly devoted to sin, your life was consumed with a desire to sin further. As such, you were free from any control that righteousness might have had on your life. Righteousness had no say in your life, no control over your behaviour, when you were slaves to sin.


Romans 6:21What fruit had ye then in those things whereof ye are now ashamed? for the end of those things [is] death.


fruit – results or consequences of your actions

What advantage did you gain from doing things that now make you ashamed? What consequences did you gain from such shameful actions? What good did it do you? Because the real consequence of such things is death! See Vs 23 below – “the wages of sin is death.” Is it really worth it to do such shameful things that lead to death?

Paul notes that when it comes to the gospel we should not be ashamed.

Romans 1:16aFor I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ …..

1 John 2:28And now, little children, abide in him; that, when he shall appear, we may have confidence, and not be ashamed before him at his coming.


Note also Ephesians 4:17-1917This I say therefore, and testify in the Lord, that ye henceforth walk not as other Gentiles walk, in the vanity of their mind, 18Having the understanding darkened, being alienated from the life of God through the ignorance that is in them, because of the blindness of their heart: 19Who being past feeling have given themselves over unto lasciviousness, to work all uncleanness with greediness. where “vanity” is the illusion of pleasure in sin.


Romans 6:22But now being made free from sin, and become servants to God, ye have your fruit unto holiness, and the end everlasting life.


But you don’t have to do those sinful things you used to do. You have been given another chance to do something right with your life. You have been set free from the bondage of sin. You are now in bondage to God. (doulos – slave, servant, but can mean to be in bondage to) Before this you didn’t really have a choice but now you have been given the freedom to make the choice against sin, to serve God instead.


And here is that same word ‘fruit’ (karpos) that we saw in Vs 21, only now it is the fruit of which we should not be ashamed! This fruit is the consequence of living holy lives, and in turn the consequences of this fruit will result in everlasting life. The word translated as ‘everlasting’ here (aionios) is the same word that is translated as ‘eternal’ in Vs 23. (And as ‘everlasting’ in John 3:16 yet ‘eternal’ in John 3:15) This leads straight into our key verse for this passage, Vs 23.


Note the fruit of the flesh and the corresponding fruit of the Spirit in Galatians 5.

Galatians 5:16-2516[This] I say then, Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfil the lust of the flesh.17For the flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh: and these are contrary the one to the other: so that ye cannot do the things that ye would. 18But if ye be led of the Spirit, ye are not under the law. 19Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are [these]; Adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness, 20Idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies, 21Envyings, murders, drunkenness, revellings, and such like: of the which I tell you before, as I have also told [you] in time past, that they which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God. 22But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, 23Meekness, temperance: against such there is no law. 24And they that are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts. 25If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit.


Romans 6:23For the wages of sin [is] death; but the gift of God [is] eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.


The two outcomes (fruits) of the two life-style choices are presented in summary: the fruit (wages) of sin is death but the fruit of the gift of God is eternal life. Here the ‘fruit unto holiness’ (Vs 22 above) is the consequence of the gift of God that is added to the packaged gift that the sacrifice on the cross gave all mankind – redemption, justification, propitiation, atonement, and righteousness (all activated by faith in God’s promises).


This passage presents two alternatives: the fruit of sinful behaviour being death, and the fruit of obedience to God being righteousness and holiness. Two types of persons are demonstrated here: those who are dominated by sin because they are slaves of sin, and those who are dominated by righteousness because they have become slaves of God. Paul makes it clear that if we by faith have been accounted as righteous, then we should live like such people. We should act like the people we have been redeemed to be. We have put our faith in Jesus Christ and His sacrifice and tasted of His righteousness, and we should continue on in obedience to God. It would be better to have been always lost, than to be righteous for just a season.


2 Peter 2:18-2218For when they speak great swelling [words] of vanity, they allure through the lusts of the flesh, [through much] wantonness, those that were clean escaped from them who live in error. 19While they promise them liberty, they themselves are the servants of corruption: for of whom a man is overcome, of the same is he brought in bondage. 20For if after they have escaped the pollutions of the world through the knowledge of the Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, they are again entangled therein, and overcome, the latter end is worse with them than the beginning. 21For it had been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than, after they have known [it], to turn from the holy commandment delivered unto them. 22But it is happened unto them according to the true proverb, The dog [is] turned to his own vomit again; and the sow that was washed to her wallowing in the mire.


allure – entice, beguile. This talks about those who have escaped from the error of sin, from the pollutions of the world through the knowledge of the Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. But those who continue to be the slaves of corruption entice them back into the pollutions of the world, by promising them freedom (liberty). It would have been better for them to have not known the way of righteousness than to know it and then turn away from it again. Thus their end is worse than their beginning. They are even worse off than they were in the first place. Of course, those who cause one of the righteous to fall back into sin again will one day wish that they had died first!

Matthew 18:6But whoso shall offend one of these little ones which believe in me, it were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and [that] he were drowned in the depth of the sea.


While genuine Christians can be assured of the security of their eternal life in heaven, there appear to be a few passages like the above that teach that under some circumstances people may commence upon the pathway of righteousness, only to back off again, to fall away. While we may be assured that no being can take us out of God’s hand, there is no passage that actually denies us the right of free will to take ourselves out of God’s hand. And if we haven’t put God in control of our lives, but instead have chosen to retain our right to choose for ourselves how we live (it’s called self-determination), then while God will not lose us ever, we can lose ourselves by denying God the right to keep us in His hand forever, by denying Him the right to rule us. In Hebrews we are told of those who never get past the first stages of being a Christian, people who sin and then repent over and over again. Instead, if God should permit (Hebrews 6:3) they should be taught to go on from these first stages, or else they may fall away from their faith, not having a second chance to repent and be saved.


Hebrews 5:12-14; 6:1-612For when for the time ye ought to be teachers, ye have need that one teach you again which [be] the first principles of the oracles of God; and are become such as have need of milk, and not of strong meat. 13For every one that useth milk [is] unskilful in the word of righteousness: for he is a babe. 14But strong meat belongeth to them that are of full age, [even] those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil.

1Therefore leaving the principles of the doctrine of Christ, let us go on unto perfection; not laying again the foundation of repentance from dead works, and of faith toward God, 2Of the doctrine of baptisms, and of laying on of hands, and of resurrection of the dead, and of eternal judgment. 3And this will we do, if God permit. 4For [it is] impossible for those who were once enlightened, and have tasted of the heavenly gift, and were made partakers of the Holy Ghost, 5And have tasted the good word of God, and the powers of the world to come, 6If they shall fall away, to renew them again unto repentance; seeing they crucify to themselves the Son of God afresh, and put [him] to an open shame.


Also note the following:- Matthew 12:43-4543When the unclean spirit is gone out of a man, he walketh through dry places, seeking rest, and findeth none. 44Then he saith, I will return into my house from whence I came out; and when he is come, he findeth [it] empty, swept, and garnished. 45Then goeth he, and taketh with himself seven other spirits more wicked than himself, and they enter in and dwell there: and the last [state] of that man is worse than the first. Even so shall it be also unto this wicked generation.

So if we are truly Christians, then we should act as such. True Christians have the fruit of the Spirit, not the fruit of the flesh. People who continually show just the fruits of the flesh are probably revealing the true nature of their faith (or its lack thereof!).


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