Sometimes in the scriptures we find very practical advice, but it is practical advice that doesn’t lie neatly on the surface where it is obvious how to carry it out. Take Romans 6:12-14, for instance. It reads:
(12) Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body, that you should obey it in its lusts. (13) And do not present your 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. (14) For sin shall not have dominion over you, for you are not under law but under grace.
So there seems to be a practical way to obey the command given in verse 12—not to let sin reign in us—and enjoy the promise given to us in verse 14—that sin will not rule over us. I would say the practical advice is given to us in verse 13, where Paul gives us two alternatives:
- “presenting” your “members” to sin (as instruments of unrighteousness)
- “presenting” your “self” to God (as someone alive from the dead)
/your “members” to God as instruments of righteousness
So what exactly are our “members”? And how do we “present” them?
If we continue reading, we can gain a little more insight. Paul continues on with the theme for a few more sentences. You could chart them out like this:
v.16 – We should obey the directions given in v.12-13 because:
Whoever you present (same word as in v.13) yourself to as a slave, you are their slave!
- Sin (which leads to death) or,
- Obedience (which leads to righteousness)
(v.18 – But, in Christ, you’ve been set free from sin and have become slaves of righteousness.)
v.19 – So, even though it is true that:
- you once “presented” your “members” as slaves to impurity & lawlessness (leading to more lawlessness),
- now “present” your “members” as slaves of righteousness (leading to holiness)
So, let’s put all this together. We’re told that in Christ we’re set free from slavery to sin and released to slavery to righteousness (v.18). We’re promised that sin will not rule over us (v.14). We’re then commanded, simply, to experience what is already true—that is, to see that we actually live out our true nature. But it is clear from the fact that Paul is writing this that God knows that we may not always experience it like this.
So how do we turn this corner and experience this freedom?
The key, I think, is in watching closely how Paul describes what we are to do and not do. This issue is who (or what) we “present” our “members” to. Our “members” are the parts (another way to translate this word) of ourselves which we can use as “instruments” (v.13) to do things. This word for “instrument” can also be translated “weapon.” In other words, our “members” are those parts of us that actively do things. They can be used for work. They can be used to fight.
Now we can get concrete. It seems to me Paul has a list like this in mind:
- My mind, which I use to think
- My eyes, which I use to see
- My ears, which I use to hear
- My mouth, which I use to speak
- My hands, which I use to work
- My feet, which I use to move
These are the the “parts” that make up the whole of my being, so far as my actions are concerned. They are what I use to obey God or to obey my desires for sin. Paul says I may either give them to sin, impurity, and lawlessness to use, or to God. Whichever I present them to, they will slave for that master (v.16). This is where we see how powerful this little word “present” really is. Paul is giving us direction for a new habit—the habit of “presenting” ourselves, part by part, to God so that we serve Him with our whole being. We must begin to see our bodies as servants of God. This is a whole different mindset from the world we’re living in.
To gain an understand of this mindset, you might do something like this: In the morning, during your time of prayer, spend some time thinking through each of these members, praying through each one something like, “Lord, I am presenting this to You, for You to use for Your purposes…”
“My Mind—as a slave whose job is to think about You, comprehend and rehearse Your word, and think your thoughts. It is now a weapon and an instrument to work mental and intellectual righteousness”.
“My eyes—as two slaves to look for Your glory in all things, to see your work, to convey to my mind any visible sign of Your greatness and your working, and to alert me to any opportunity to do Your will. They are yours to show me what You want me to see.”
“My Ears—as two slaves to remain always open to Your voice as their first Master, and then to hear Your world for the sake of Knowing how You want to be served.”
“My Mouth—as a slave whose job is to speak to You and for You. It is for spreading the knowledge of Your goodness and mercy. It is the messenger of Your gospel, and to edify the saints.”
“My Hands—as two slaves who are to be used to work out any act of faith You ask. They are your instruments of mercy and love. They are to do things that show that, while You can’t be seen, You are alive and active, working out Your plan in the world. They are to lend power to the words of my mouth by proving my words to be true with real action. They are yours for ceaseless activity as long as I have breath.”
“My whole being! Ten servants working together to bear Your presence anywhere You want, and work out whatever You will!”
“Present your members as slaves of righteousness for holiness…” (6:19)
“Present yourselves to God as those who are alive from the dead…” (6:13)
“Present your bodies a living sacrifice…” (12:1)