Neither yield you your members as instruments of unrighteousness to sin: but yield yourselves to God…
Yielding is an image carried over from the world of matter into the world of mind. In every case of yielding you have pressure meeting with resistance and overcoming it. Note then —
I. THE PRESSURE. There are many kinds of pressure. When your shoe pinches you it presses upon one small point only, but the kindly pressure of the air is upon every part of your body. And such is Heaven's gentle pressure upon your soul. God presses us through —
1. The experiences of life. These Romans before their yielding were great pleasure seekers, and Paul asks what they had gained by it all. The answer is, nothing but shame and death (vers. 21, 23). They were like their own Caesar, who, when at the height of his glory, asked, "And is this all?" tells us that the pressure of disgust at heathen pleasures brought him to the yielding point, and that many young men in his day had the same experience. And life is the same in every age. At a Jewish wedding the priest places an empty wineglass on the floor, and the bridegroom, setting his heel open it, splinters it into fragments. The strange custom is meant to remind the newly married pair that their earthly happiness is just as fragile. If so, we must ask whether there is no cup for mortals that call never be broken. Thus life puts upon us a strong pressure which should make us yield unto God.
2. His law. This Epistle is full of this pressure. It says, You are under God's law and you ought to obey it. But you are ever breaking it. What, then, are you to do? Escape from its terrors there is none but by yielding. The law drives the law breaker into the open arms of the Law fulfiller.
3. His love. Paul has very great faith in the power of this pressure. He states all the facts of Christ's life and death, and shows how they all reveal God's kindness to sinners. He does everything to win attention to Christ's redeeming love, for he knows how it can bring the soul up to the bending temperature. Often the quietest and gentlest influences conquer resistance that defies all other pressure. Arctic explorers frozen in amid blocks of ice would fain set themselves free by main force, but in vain. But the sun at length smiles upon the stubborn snow mountain, and grim winter lets go his hold and quietly yields. Thus the resistance of our frozen hearts is melted away by Divine love.
4. In pressing a man towards Christ the Holy Spirit often unites these three and other kinds of pressure.
II. MAN'S RESISTANCE.
1. There is a resistance called vis inertia, i.e., the power of doing nothing. That rock which came thundering down the hill, and now blocks the highway by its dead weight, overcomes all the pressure one hundred men can bring to bear upon it. And some offer a rock-like resistance to God. Their habits are all against God, and they won't consider whether their habits should be changed. Habit is the Latin word habet; it has them. They are slaves with a wish to be free.
2. But others resist of set purpose. The murderers of Stephen were of this class. Some do this who are outwardly respectable; theirs is resistance without violence. Others do not care to hide their resistance. "I hated the gospel," one confessed, "and my soul hissed against it as cold water hisses when it meets fire." The resisting, defying power of man's will is awful. Milton in "Paradise Lost" makes this the explanation of Satan's character. I have read that the physician who attended a dying nobleman, famed for his genius and godlessness, one day overheard him saying, "Shall I yield? Shall I pray?" The physician held in his breath for the answer, as the dying man was not aware that anyone was within earshot. After a pause, the dying poet said, firmly, "No, no weakness!" Ah! there it is; yielding seems weakness to the unhumbled heart. Think of it — a weakness to yield to God and Christ, to eternal truth and mercy!
III. THE YIELDING POINT. That point is reached when man's resistance gives way under God's pressure.
1. The Christian life begins with an act of yielding. The Christian does not yield as the defeated soldier yields to his foe who slays him, but with the consent of all that is within him, as one "alive from the dead." Often a small thing, as it seems to us, makes the happy day that fixes the choice on the Saviour. The turning points of life are like the water partings of great rivers, where a raindrop's destiny is often decided by a breath of wind. While the gentlest touch may make the pressure greater than the resistance, there must be a yielding in every case, and it must be a yielding of the whole man for the whole life. A rich Australian in his youth was a poor plough boy. A free passage was offered to him. By faith in that offer he left his native land, crossed the deep, began life anew, and so became a rich landowner. That offer was to him "a faithful saying and worthy of acceptation," but his belief of it did him no good till he had yielded himself to it in every possible way.
2. The Christian life from beginning to end is a yielding. The Roman Christians had yielded in conversion, and Paul wishes them to rise to the highest life, and his message to them is still, "Yield." They are the best Christians who are best at yielding and who are always, in the yielding mood.
3. The passage (vers. 12-23) is full of military images. The last verse means, "The soldier's wages — the rations — of sin is death," it is not merely a punishment in the future. And the exact meaning of our text is, offer yourselves as volunteers unto God, and all your faculties of mind and body as soldiers' weapons in the cause of holiness. When war breaks out many an officer who might enjoy every luxury at home, who is even an heir to a peerage, offers to serve his country on the battlefield. He offers himself by an act of the will, and the spirit of that act is carried into his whole service. His heart is stirred to its depths by soldierly ambition. Rome was a city of soldiers, and every Roman would thoroughly understand the apostle when he urged them to be the courageous and devoted soldiers of Christ. You see, then, that this yielding is not an abject, spiritless, lazy thing. It is the beginning of a life of great energy. "Yield yourselves unto God, as those that are alive from the dead." Have you ever spent an hour with the convalescent, "alive from the dead"? Did you ever see such zest in the work and enjoyments of life? Well, that should be the spirit of those who have devoted themselves to the service of their God. Almost every verse in this chapter testifies to the apostle's anxiety that they would be whole-hearted in the service of Christ. When Moshesh, the chief of the Basutos, received the missionaries, he advised his chiefs to have one foot in the Church and the other out. But one chief became an earnest Christian, and said to Moshesh, "I put only one foot in the Church at first, as you advised me, but the love of Christ soon drew in my whole body." The apostle counsels each Roman convert to give his whole soul and body. For he who does not yield everything really yields nothing. The true yielder moves together when he moves at all. Calvin chose for his seal and motto a hand holding a heart on fire, with the words, "I give thee all. I keep back nothing." The apostle (ver. 19) pleads with them to serve Christ now as they used to serve Satan.
(J. Wells, M. A.)
Parallel VersesKJV: Neither 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.