12 Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body, that you should obey it in its lusts.
With verse 12 the discussion moves from our union with Christ to how to live daily under our position in Christ.
The “therefore” here is the conclusion from verse 11, not further reflection. After we “reckon” ourselves by faith positionally dead with Christ, we have the responsibility to deal with sin controlling our lives.
Christians can exercise their volition against sin and not let it dominate their lives. There is a close connection between our status with God and what we do with that status.
do not let [present tense—ongoing] sin reign [as king]
God commands us (imperative mood) to not let “sin reign” in our mortal bodies. We can translate the Greek as: “Stop letting sin reign in your mortal body.” The words “stop letting” is an issue of volition. The assumption is that sin reigns already in the believer and he needs to stop letting it happen.
The word “let” assumes sin is still in the life of the believer. Sin is still a force in the Christian life but it is not absolute. There is no need to live as a slave to sin. The idea that “let” is a command challenges us to become what we are. We live our daily lives on the truth that we died to sin and are alive to God (v. 11).
Sin is personified as a dethroned King who seeks his throne, his former place of reigning. Sin lost its reign when the believer became identified with Christ. We saw the idea of “reign” in 5:21:
Ro 5:21, so that as sin reigned in death, even so grace might reign through righteousness to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.
The contrast is between sin reigning and grace reigning. The theme running through chapters five and six is living out the grace of God. Grace always precedes its application to life. Christians live under the giving grace of God, which does not allow sin to become our master.
in your mortal [dying] body [life],
“Mortal body” here is not simply the physical body but the man as a whole, including the body itself. Sin is a temporary dynamic; we need to keep eternal values in view. It is a dynamic that will pass away with time. The Christian has an immortal soul but not an immortal body. Our body is not yet redeemed.
Note the plural “your” and the singular “body.” “Body” here refers to the believer’s current life in time walking with the Lord.
All Christians struggle against sin all their lives.
There is no such thing as perfectionism in the Christian life; however, there is such a thing as victory over sin. It is possible for sin to reign or dominate a Christian. Some give themselves to cravings and lusts. There is a defeatism in some believers because they cannot measure up to their own false assumption of perfectionistic standards.
It is not necessary for sin to dominate the Christian life. We now have new life in Christ and the power that comes with that. The argument of Romans six is about dealing with sin biblically. As we will see in coming studies, we can offer ourselves as instruments of righteousness to God (v. 13).
I wanted to write to you in response to your commentary on Romans 6:12. In my Christian walk (and I do believe that I’m a Christian), I’ve had great and profound struggles over the years, including recently, with the issue of assurance. A large part of that stems from my history. I believe I was saved sometime as a child, though I’m not positive when. My interest in girls awakened at age 14 and from then on, I succumbed regularly to self-pleasure. I was exposed to porn after college and from then on, there were many seasons of repeated and extended failure in that area. This lasted until just a few years ago (I’m now 42). I knew what I was doing was sinful and I wanted to stop, yet it had a grip on me that seemed unbreakable. I would ask God to forgive me, but I know that I very often made provision for the flesh. I see now that, at least during those times, I was not truly repentant. I see Romans 6:12-13 as proof that sin can reign in a believer, although obviously it should not. How do you reconcile this passage with 1 John, where it so clearly states that a Christian cannot walk in sin? I have struggled to understand what the walking is-it seems so subjective. But it’s in the Bible, so I want to understand it clearly and accurately.
I’ve heard people say definitively that they don’t see any way that a true Christian could be hooked on porn, since it takes so much forethought and effort to partake in the sin and avoid detection. I know that David sinned greatly and his unrepentant state lasted for about a year. My succumbing to this sin regularly lasted for many years, so that makes it all the harder to reconcile that with the thought that maybe I was just a disobedient believer. I can relate to his feeling weak and powerless because of his sin. I did see other areas in my life where I thought God was working, and I would say I wasn’t living in constant sin, as far as I can remember. I remember many times praying for God to take the sin and the urge away from me and there were times when I threw magazines away, put a block on the computer, or got pastoral counseling.
Unfortunately, I still have a shadow of guilty feelings and shame because of my past, despite the fact that God has given me victory of this sin. Although the temptation is always there, I see that God is causing/helping me to rely on Him so I can have victory in this area. Although I don’t have any unrepentant sin in my life that I know of, I still lack assurance, in part because of what I think is weak faith and my constant introspection to examine myself. I want to look to Jesus in faith and love, but I find myself constantly wondering if I really am following Him, if I really do wish to obey Him in everything, if I really do see Christian love in my life. I really have difficulty discerning growth or fruit of the Spirit in myself because I often second-guess if what I think I see is actually what I see or if I’m just talking myself into believing I’m ok with God.
I believe I’m undergoing great spiritual warfare and Satan is doing his best to keep me discouraged and fearful. I so badly want to follow God in everything I do, to show Christian love to everyone (although as an introvert, I am prone to selfishness and laziness, and I don’t make friends easily), and to see the fruit of the Spirit flowing out of my life. Please pray as you see fit and I would love to hear any biblical feedback you might be willing to offer.
You are right that Satan is attempting to discourage you with your past. He wants you to ignore that Christ already paid for your sin both at the point you became a Christian and for every sin you have committed as a Christian. This is a major strategy of his. God is faithful and just in forgiving you of your sins (1 Jn 1:9). The idea of “forgive” is not to punish us for our sins. Go to my study of 1 John 1:9 for further development of this idea.
Also, I would suggest that you go to passages that you are concerned about in First John to see my studies of those passages.
Here is a study on eternal security: http://versebyversecommentary.com/articles/eternal-security/
Assurance relates primarily to accepting God’s promises as true for you. Even the apostle Paul had to “forget” about his past sins: http://versebyversecommentary.com/philippians/philippians-313/ Advance through each study of this verse.
I have lived an almost identical life as Matt. Saved at 9. yet, parallel to my walk with Christ has been time after time giving in to porn to deal with stress. Years and years of asking God for help. I am 46 and still struggling with this. My desire is to be the person God desires me to be. Yet, the grip of this sin seems unbreakable. I have often become so frustrated when I hear pastors say “by the power of the Spirit” when I feel no power in the moment when I am weak and the tempatation is real. Yet, I am trying to pray and read daily. The feeling of defeat, the feeling of “I must not really be a believer”, the feeling of hopelessness, the feeling of disgust for who I am…all of these describe what I wrestle with on a daily basis. I pray that someday I can be delivered from this and can walk in peace with God.
To Brad and Matt, addiction to sexual sin is nothing something overcome with one fell swoop. May I suggest that you go to this site and work through each step? https://versebyversecommentary.com/articles/christian-maturity/the-edification-construct-discussion-guide/
I was addicted to porn and self pleasure gor 14 years after being saved. I was finally set free when i cryed out to god and he showed me that im dead to sin. I was dead to sin the whole time i was saved but i had to believe it.
Kevin, thanks for sharing your testimony. Many people will take courage from your words.