It is God's will that we be a holy people and to that purpose he has called us. So how can we live a holy life and win the battle against impurity?

The answer is found in the sixth chapter of the Roman epistle. The background to the chapter is important. Paul concluded his teaching on God's grace toward sinners with these words: "where sin increased, grace increased all the more." (Romans 5:20) In other words, God's grace is superabundant; where sin exists, grace is not in short supply. Paul anticipated an unwarranted conclusion some might draw from his teaching on God's grace: that if God delights in forgiving sin, we should give God every opportunity to be gracious. Paul refutes this by taking us back to our baptism.

Understand Your Baptism

"What shall we say, then? Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase? By no means! We died to sin; how can we live in it any longer? Or don't you know that all of us who were baptised into Christ Jesus were baptised into his death? We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life. If we have been united with him like this in his death, we will certainly also be united with him in his resurrection." (Romans 6:1-5)

Paul is saying it is totally unacceptable to continue living the way we used to live before our conversion to Christ. He reminds us that it was by faith that we participated in the death, burial and resurrection of the Lord, therefore "we should no longer be slaves to sin" (vs 7) and "count [ourselves] dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus." (vs 11) And in verse 19 he says, "Just as you used to offer the parts of your body in slavery to impurity … so now offer them in slavery to righteousness leading to holiness." What we once did and what we now do are opposites. Once we lived for impurity, but now we live a life of holiness.

When we were baptised, trusting the death of Jesus for the remission of our sins, we died and buried our old sinful life. We were then raised with Jesus to walk a new life. And because Christ now lives in us through the Holy Spirit, we are empowered and strengthened in the inner man to overcome the devil's temptations, for "the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world." (1 John 4:4) No longer are we slaves to sin obeying the dictates of our former master, the devil. We now have a new master, the Lord Jesus Christ who bought us with his precious blood, setting us free from our former master.

Live Like Free Men and Women

How is this to work itself out in our daily life? Here is an example. Satan tempts us to sin; he puts impure thoughts before us, he tempts us with lust, he entices us with the pleasures of sexual sin, he suggests that we surf the Internet for pornography. Our response to such temptations is to insist that we are no longer his slaves, we no longer belong to him. We have been set free from his rule over our lives. We now belong to a new master, the Lord Jesus Christ and to him alone we owe our allegiance. Simply put, we need to stand up to Satan and not obey what he is telling us to do. And we do that because we now belong to a new master.

The late Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones explained it this way. When the American slaves were freed by President Lincoln, many continued to live as slaves. They continued to obey their masters even though they were legally free. What they should have done was refuse to obey the orders of their masters, telling them that they once belonged to them but now they are free men and women.

The same happens every time we submit to Satan's temptation to be impure; we behave like free men and women returning to our old slave master. When Satan tempts us to be impure, let us do what James says: "Resist the devil and he will flee from you." (James 4:7) Satan has no right to tell us what to do! Furthermore, we are not under obligation to obey him. We now belong to our Lord Jesus Christ and to him alone must we be obedient. As we already mentioned, the Holy Spirit who dwells in us empowers us to win the battle against impurity. This point will be developed in the next section.