Text: Romans 6:15-23
Would you open your Bibles now to the book of Romans, chapter 6? I am going to begin reading with verse 15 and read through the end of the chapter, verse 23.
“What then? Shall we sin, because we are not under the law, but under grace? God forbid. 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 of obedience unto righteousness? But 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. Being then made free from sin, ye became the servants of righteousness. I 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. For when ye were the servants of sin, ye were free from righteousness. What fruit had ye then in those things whereof ye are now ashamed? For the end of those things is death. But now being made free of sin, and become servants to God, ye have your fruit unto holiness, and the end everlasting life. For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord. ”
Now, I want to read again verses 17 and 18 because these two verses form the heart of the message that I want to share with you this morning.
But 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. Being then made free from sin, ye became the servants of righteousness.
The greatest compliment the devil has ever paid to Christianity is the fact that he tries to counterfeit it, because no man would ever counterfeit anything that was of no value. The higher the value, the more likelihood it will be counterfeited. I dare say that no one here this morning has seen a counterfeit penny, or a counterfeit brown paper bag. I doubt even if anyone has ever counterfeited a dollar bill because it is not worth it. If you are going to the trouble that it takes to counterfeit something, you might as well counterfeit something like a ten or a twenty. One of the greatest compliments that the American twenty dollar bill has ever had paid it is the fact that it is counterfeited so much.
The devil is constantly counterfeiting Christianity. The Word of God teaches this. Jesus specifically taught it in Matthew, chapter 13, as he shared the parables of the kingdom. He said the kingdom of God is like a man that has a field, and he sows some wheat in that field. At night while he is asleep an enemy comes in and sows tares in that field. They wake up in the morning, and behold the tares have sprung up and the servants want to know what has happened. He said an enemy has done this. They said, “Master, would you have us go out right now and tear out all the tares so just the wheat will remain?” Jesus said no, leave it there. In trying to separate the wheat from the tares, you are liable to pull up some of the wheat because it is such a good imitation. It is such a good counterfeit. Just let it grow side by side, and when the end comes, the angels will come and they can tell the difference.
But he said in parable after parable that there were going to be counterfeits. I got to thinking about this the other day. The devil has been doing this for a lot of years. He started out as a counterfeiter in the history of man. The temptation he gave to Eve was “if you do as I tell you, you shall do what? You shall be as gods.” You shall become as gods. The devil started out at the top. He said I will make you just like God. He was very ambitious because he knew his own ability. The devil has had a great deal of practice in counterfeiting Christians, so much so that it is increasingly difficult to tell the real thing from the wrong thing.
I had an interesting conversation with a man a few weeks ago. His son works for the Treasury Department and is particularly concerned with counterfeit money. He said he asked his son how they learn to tell the counterfeit money. It is so difficult to tell the real from the false. How do you learn to tell the real from the false? The son said they study the real. We don’t study the counterfeits; we study the real thing, and we study the real thing, and we study the real thing. We become so familiar and know so well the real thing that we can easily spot the counterfeit.
What I want to do with you this morning is to study the real thing. In our day, the term Christian applies to practically anybody that is not a murderer, or was not born in Russia. If you stop the average man on the street and say, “Sir, are you a Christian?” it would be an insult if he were not a Christian. He may not know anything at all about what it means to be saved and know Jesus, but after all, he is an American—and all Americans are Christians because this is a Christian nation. By the way, there are people that still believe that. I’ve gone to church; I’m not against God; I’m not an atheist; so, if I’m not an atheist, I must be a Christian. The average person you meet on the street, if you ask if they are a Christian, they will believe that they are a Christian some way or another. It is extremely essential that we understand really what a Christian is because a great many people are deceived this morning about the fact of being a Christian. They feel because they have been baptized, confirmed, or have gone through the catechism, or were sprinkled as a child, or live a relatively good or moral life, and their life has been without any public scandal, and they give mental assent to a few spiritual truths, this somehow qualifies them to be a Christian. But, it is not so. We must remember, as God has prophesied, the real and the counterfeit are going to grow up together.
It is essential that you understand what the real thing is. The great thing about this passage of scripture, particularly verses 17 and 18, is that it gives to us one of the best definitions in the Bible of what a Christian is. For several weeks these verses have gotten hold of my heart, and I’ve been reading them over and over. The thing that has so captivated me about it is that it puts in such clear and intelligible terms the definition of what it means to be saved. It is a classic example of what happens when a man is saved. The great that it says is this: a Christian is a person in whom there has been a great transformation and a great change.
I want you to look at verse 17, the apostle Paul writing to these Roman Christians says, “But God be thanked that ye were.” Verse 18: Being then made free from sin, ye became. He says ye were but ye became. You were something; now there has been a change, a transformation—you have become something.
The basic starting point in understanding what it means to be a Christian is that a Christian is a person who has experienced a tremendous change in his life. I don’t know how many times lately, just lately, I have heard somebody say, “I have been a Christian all my life.” Nobody has been a Christian all their life because if you are this morning what you have always been, then you are not a Christian because a Christian is a person who has experienced a tremendous change in his life. He was something, and he has become something. So if there has not been a change in your life, if you are this morning as you have always been, you’ve never been saved.
Over and over again, the Bible makes it very clear concerning this change. For instance, in 2 Corinthians 5:17 the apostle Paul says if any man be in Christ, he is therefore a new creation. The change that takes place in a fellow’s conversion is so great that God says it is like a new creation—where there was nothing, now there is something. Where there was no form, void, and emptiness, now there is life and meaning. Old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.
Jesus said except a man be born again (that’s a tremendous change; once he was not but now he is; once he was unborn, but now he has been born). The moment of salvation, the experience of salvation is just as real and just as definite as a birth.
Another expression of salvation is that we have passed from death unto life. I can’t think of a change any greater than that. We have passed from death unto life. There has been a tremendous change. Another thing about this change—and this is all introduction before I get to what I want to talk about in the change—that is important for us to understand is that this is change that affects the whole man. Listen to me carefully. There are some people who have had a change of sorts and who have had an experience of sorts, but it has only been in one area of his life. Let’s say it has only been in the emotional area of life. Perhaps they come to a service like this, or a revival service, or something happens, a cataclysmic event happens in their life and they have an emotional experience. There’s nothing wrong with having an emotional experience, but that’s just one part of it. But there are those who have had nothing more than an emotional experience; they have been emotionally moved and stirred by a story by a preacher, by an incident, and they have looked upon this experience as salvation.
In Matthew 13, Jesus describes this. He says there are some that when they hear the word, they immediately receive it with joy. But he says that seed has fallen into shallow ground, and takes no root. By and by, when the sun comes up, and things get a little hot, and the going gets a little rough, they fall by the wayside and die away because they had no root within themselves. They are like seed that falls on shallow ground and immediately springs up but has no life, has no root because it goes not go deep enough. If all you have had is an emotional experience, it has not gone deep enough.
Some people have an intellectual experience—that’s all, just an intellectual experience. At one time they didn’t believe the Bible; they didn’t believe there was a God. Somebody sat down and began to reason with them, and they began to have an intellectual battle with them and convinced them that the Bible is true. They have intellectually accepted all the facts of the gospel, and they call this salvation. But that is not enough!
I want you to notice how the apostle Paul puts it. Salvation is a change that involves the totality of a man’s personality. It involves his emotions because he obeys it from the heart (verse 17). It is an obedience that springs from the seat and center of his emotions. It is an emotional experience, but it is also an intellectual experience. He says that you have obeyed that form of doctrine. In other words, a man hears the doctrine, the teaching of the Word of God, believes it, and obeys it. There is an intellectual change. But that is not all. There is a volitional change, a change in his will. This is what turns the key. You have obeyed from the heart that form of teaching which was delivered to you. Salvation is a change that affects a man’s will; it affects his intellect; and it affects his emotions. All of his life he is a person who with his will, and with his intellect, and with his emotions has had a change towards the Lord Jesus Christ. It is a change that affects every area of a man’s life.
I. A change of ownership
Let me share with you two or three things about this change. The change that comes in salvation is first of all a change of ownership. Notice what he says in verse 16:
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 of obedience unto righteousness?
And verse 18: Being then made free from sin, ye became the servants of righteousness.
Verse 20: For when ye were the servants of sin, ye were free from righteousness.
Verse 22: But now being made free of sin, and become servants to God, ye have your fruit unto holiness, and the end everlasting life.
So the first change that comes in a man’s life when he is saved is a change of ownership.
I want to say something that natural man hates. This is a truth that man literally hates. It is simply this: No man has ever been at any time in his life free. No man has ever been his own master. He has never been the captain of his soul. No man has ever been his own master. Every person is either a slave, a servant to sin, or he is a servant to righteousness, either of those two. This morning, as you sit here in this place, you are either a slave to the devil and sin, or you are a slave to God and righteousness. There are no other alternatives. The reason natural man hates this is because what he wants to believe about himself more than anything else is that he is his own master, and he does as he well pleases. But the Scriptures from cover to cover give this to be a lie. A man is never absolutely free; at any point in his life he is either under the mastery of sin, or he is under the mastery of righteousness. Every person without Jesus Christ this morning is a slave to sin.
Someone questioned that not long ago. He said, “Preacher, now I realize that there are a great many people who are slaves to sin. I see a drunkard lying in the gutter; he’s a slave to sin. I see a dope addict; he’s a slave to sin. I see a person who is possessed with hate and murder who is a thief; he is a slave to sin. But I know some people who aren’t Christians yet they live very clean, moral, upright lives. Actually, if you just look at the outward appearance of their lives, they hold a pretty good light to any Christian I know. It is hard for me to believe that person, being as religious and moral and clean as he is, is a slave to sin.”
Do you know what our problem is? We don’t understand what slavery to sin is. The common misconception is that the devil’s supreme object is to make man sinful, but that is not the devil’s object. The devil is not trying this morning to make you sinful—because that’s what you already are! You were that way when he found you. Some people have the idea that if the devil is going to condemn a man’s soul to hell that he must make him an open, wicked sinner; that he must make him an addict, or a drunkard, or a thief, or a liar, or must somehow possess him to an extent that he is a deeply wicked man. That is not the purpose of the devil. The slavery of sin is not to make a man sinful. It is to prevent a man from believing in Jesus Christ.
Listen to what the apostle Paul says in 2 Corinthians 4:3-4:
But if our gospel be hid, it is hid to them that are lost: in whom the god of this world hath blinded the minds of them which believe not, lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine unto them.
The apostle Paul is simply saying the gospel is hid, and it is hid to those who are lost. What’s happened? The god of this world has blinded their eyes so they cannot see and understand and believe the gospel of Jesus Christ. All the devil has to do to get a man to spend an eternity in hell is simply to keep him from seeing the gospel of Jesus Christ and believing in it. The man or woman this morning who does not believe in Jesus Christ is as much a slave to sin as any drunkard, any dope addict, any murderer. I don’t care how moral, upright, clean, respectable and religious they are. If they do not believe in Jesus Christ and have not committed their lives to him, it is because they are the absolute slave of sin and Satan. When a man is saved, it doesn’t eliminate slavery; it just changes his master. He is set free from the mastery of sin and Satan, and he becomes the obedient slave of the Lord Jesus Christ. He is free. He is free not to sin. He is free not to obey the devil. He is free to rise above the desires of his own nature. He is free to please God. He is free to serve God. It is a slavery which brings liberty a man will ever know is when he finds himself the glad slave of the Lord Jesus Christ. I can tell you this morning whether or not you are a Christian—if you have ever had a change of ownership. Who do you belong to this morning?
The Pharisees came to Jesus one day and said we are Abraham’s seed. Jesus said, “No, your father is not Abraham. Your father is the devil.” They didn’t like that very much. He said he could prove to them that their father is the devil because they always do the desires of the devil.
You are the complete slave of the devil. Whatever the devil desires of you, that’s what you do. To whom do you belong this morning? Who owns your life? Who dictates to you? What desires are you fulfilling? Are you free to fulfill the desires of God? Is the pattern, habit, characteristic of your life that you serve the Lord and serve righteousness and your life is set free from the slavery of sin? Or are you serving sin and self and the desires of the devil. Salvation is a change of ownership.
II. A change of obedience
In the second place, it is a change of obedience. This is really what brings about the change—when we obey. In verse 17, the scripture says: But 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. It is a change of obedience. It is a change that is wrought by obedience.
Listen! How is a man saved? He says you have obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine which was delivered to you. The King James says that this form of doctrine, or this teaching, which is the gospel, was delivered to you. But that is not a correct translation. All the other translations have translated it accurately. It does not say that the form of doctrine, the teaching, was delivered to you. See what I am delivering to you this morning is a form of doctrine. I am delivering to you a sermon, a truth. That is not what he is saying. Literally, this is the way it reads: that form of doctrine to which you were delivered. It is not that the form of doctrine was delivered to you, but that you were delivered to the form of doctrine. Literally, the word means you were handed over to the doctrine.
Now, this is the divine initiative and the divine revelation that comes. This is the beautiful way that God works in bringing a man to salvation. He takes a man and in that man he says I am going to give you a chance to be saved. The offer of salvation is to you. He takes that man and hands him over, delivers him to the truth of the Word of God, to that form of teaching. That is why you are here this morning. You may not be aware of it, but that is why you are here this morning. You say I came because my mother dragged me. I came because my wife insisted. I came because I had relatives who wanted to come to church. I just came out of coincidence. No, that’s what it looks like on the surface, but you have been delivered by God unto the doctrine this morning. You have to sit here and listen. You can shift into neutral and count how many choir members are wearing glasses, but you have been delivered to the gospel this morning. Long before the world was ever founded, God knew you would be here. Do you know what He has done? He has handed you over to the gospel, and this is where you are this morning. God has delivered you into this place to hear the Word of God.
Now, what are you going to do about it? You must respond! The Christian is that person who, once God delivered him and handed him over to the Word of God, the truth, he responded by obeying. That is an act of the will. It is not an emotional experience or intellectual assent; it is obeying.
Do you notice he doesn’t say a thing here about believing? It’s because obeying and believing are the same thing, but obeying puts it in a better way because sometimes we have the idea that to believe is passive and just sits down and does nothing. But belief is active. He says you obey the form of doctrine. You obeyed it. God delivered you to it. He put you in a situation where you had to hear it and respond to it, and you responded to it by obeying it, doing it, submitted to it. That is when a man is saved.
2 Thessalonians 1:8 says that when Jesus Christ comes back, He is coming back in flaming fire, taking vengeance upon them who know not God and obey not the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ. A man is saved when he obeys the Word of God, that form of teaching.
Let me say just a word about that word form. It is a tremendous word. It means a mold into which material is poured and shaped. It was used of a print that was left on an arm when somebody bit you. It was used of the mark of a branding iron, or the seal on a ring. It means a mold. I want you to see what the apostle Paul is saying. This is where the change comes in. There has to be a change.
God delivers a man to the Word of God, to the form of teaching, puts him in a way that he hears it. He obeys the form. What does that mean? It doesn’t necessarily say he obeys the doctrine. He obeys the form. He obeys the mold, submits to the mold. Let’s suppose you want to make something, and you have a mold. Let’s say you take plaster of Paris and pour that into the mold. That plaster of Paris is obeying the mold and submitting to the mold. As it obeys the mold, and submits to the mold, the mold shapes its life and determines its shape and appearance. When a person obeys the Word of God, that Word of God is going to shape and change and mold his life. There is going to be a change because he has obeyed it. He gives himself to it. He submits to the mold and says, Lord, here is the form of teaching. Here is the Word of God. I know that my life has been changed. I know you continually want to change it. I pour myself into the mold of the Word of God. I submit to it. I obey it. I will allow it to shape and mold my life.
That is a Christian. He obeys it from his heart. It is not burdensome. It is a joy, a delight. Psalm 1 says the man that knows God is the one who delights in the law. I’m glad he said law. Law isn’t something you would delight in. I don’t delight in 55 miles an hour. I don’t delight in the laws about income tax. Whoever heard of getting a kick out of the law? Who ever heard of enjoying and delighting in the law? But he chose that word purposely. He delights in the law of the Lord; it is his joy. As one hymn writer said, “My gracious Lord, I own thy right to every service that I can pay, and my supreme delight is to hear thy commands and obey.” You see John said His commandments were not grievous, not burdensome when you obey from the heart. A Christian is a person who delights in the law of the Lord. His greatest joy is finding out what God tells him to do and doing it.
Are you a Christian? Has there been a change of obedience. At one time, you obeyed self, your own desires, the devil, everybody else. Have you come to the Lord Jesus Christ and poured yourself into the mold and said, “Lord Jesus, today I hand over my life to you, and you do with it as you please. You shape my life.” Have you obeyed? Have you had a change of obedience?
III. A change that is obvious
One last thing and we are through. It is a change that is obvious. You notice what he says in verse 21: What fruit had ye then in those things whereof ye are now ashamed? Verse 22:
But now being made free of sin, and become servants to God, ye have your fruit unto holiness.
There are a lot of things I don’t know about fruit, but there is one thing I do know about fruit; it’s obvious. I couldn’t tell you what a tree is. You take me out and tell me to look at the bark on the tree, the leaves. What kind of tree is this? I wouldn’t know. It could be an oak tree, an elm tree, a spaghetti tree, a peanut tree. I wouldn’t have any idea what kind of tree it was.
But I will tell you something; if I went out there and saw an apple growing on a tree, it would just take a few minutes for my keen, analytical mind to get hold of that and say, “Aha, that is an apple tree!” Why? Because the fruit is obvious. You can say all you want to say, but a man identifies his master by the life he lives. You can go to church, sing loudly, profess loudly, and say all manner of things, but I can tell who your master is by the life that you live—by your obedience, by your conduct. The change is obvious. You won’t have to go around telling everybody you are saved. They will know it. The change is obvious. Why? He says because you are servants to righteousness and there’s fruit. Notice what the fruit is—fruit unto holiness. You thought it was fruit of service. I’ve been teaching a class. I don’t care. Are you holy? You say you witnessed to ten people last week, and three of them were saved. I don’t care. Are you holy? You say you are a deacon in the church, and you tithe. I don’t care. Are you holy? Are you living a life of holiness? Preacher, I’m a Sunday School teacher. I don’t care. You could be a false teacher and teach the truth, but your fruit? Are you holy?
I was reading Matthew 7 the other day where Jesus says by their fruit you shall know them. He was talking about false teachers. By their fruit you shall know them for a good tree brings forth good fruit, but a bad tree brings forth rotten fruit. I discovered two things. ???
(1) I discovered that a man in order to be a false teacher doesn’t have to do false teaching. Did you notice He didn’t say you will be able to discern false teaching; he said you will discern false teachers. There is a difference. A man can teach the truth and be false and lead you astray. Did you know that? It’s not the teaching that proves you are genuine. You can be false and still teach the truth but be a false teacher.
How do you tell the difference between false teaching and the false teacher and the real thing? By their fruit you shall know them—for a good tree brings forth good fruit, and a bad tree, an evil tree brings forth rotten fruit. Jesus did not say (and this is what I would have assumed He would have said) you will know a false teacher by his teaching. And when a fellow’s teaching is false, you will know he is false. He didn’t say that, did he? Do you know why? It’s because sometimes it is pretty hard to discern false teaching. Even I have been fooled. I know that comes as a shock to all of you.
There are so many people going around today, and they mix so much truth with their little bit of error, it is hard to discern false teaching. If a fellow got up here and denied the virgin birth and the deity of Christ, we would know in a minute. We wouldn’t need a magnifying glass to see he is a false teacher, but he can come up with silver tongue and eloquent voice and just suggest a little bit, a few little innuendos, just raise a little doubt. It’s hard to tell false teaching.
(2) The second thing I discovered is that a false teacher is recognized by his fruit—the life he lives. (My addition – Lynda)
I want to tell you something. Even a child can recognize a rotten apple. Jesus said if you want to know who is a false teacher, don’t look at their teaching—look at the life they live. Look at the fruit. If the fruit of their teaching, the fruit of their life is not one of holiness, they are false. I don’t care what they teach.
There has been a fellow around for a long time on the radio and here and there. Years ago when I was in college, I recognized him as a false teacher because his teaching was not so hard to discern. I’ve noticed in later years it has gotten harder and harder and harder to discern. Everywhere I go lately, church people, professing Christians have been sucked in to this religion this fellow has been propagating all these years. It is getting more difficult to discern that he is not true. But do you know what happened just a week or so ago? Well, it came out that he had been living an immoral life. Jesus said by their fruits you will know them.
I could take one of these boys or girls sitting on the front row this morning. I could sit them down in front of that radio or television and tell them to listen to this man and tell me if he is true or false. They couldn’t do it. But anybody could recognize that a man who lives an immoral life is false. Jesus said by their fruit you will know them. Anybody can recognize rotten apples. The change that comes in a man’s life when he is saved is obvious. It’s obvious. It is a fruit of holy living. The change is obvious.
Have you had a change like this? Has there ever been a change in your life? You say preacher, I’m this morning what I’ve always been. There’s not been any change. Oh, I’ve made a few vows, and had a few moments of reformation, but there has never been any real change that involved my total personality, my will, my emotions, my intellect. I have had a few emotional experiences. I intellectually agree with what you have said, but I have never with My will chosen to obey the Lord Jesus Christ and submit my life to Him. If you haven’t, God has delivered you into this place today, and handed you over to this form of doctrine so that you can respond. Will you respond this morning with obedience and say I will pour my life into the mold, let the Word of God, the will of God shape my life, obey the gospel and trust Christ as my Lord and Savior, there will be a change in your life that will be as obvious as from darkness to light, as from death to life—but you must obey.
Will you bow your heads?
© Ron Dunn, LifeStyle Ministries, 2005