Response of Grace
So far in our study of grace based on the book of Romans we have seen that:
- God originally expressed His grace in creating the world and placing man at the head of it.
- Man rejected this grace and became trapped in a cycle of sin and death from which he had no power to free himself.
- God offered a second expression of grace by doing several things:
- Paid man's moral debt through the sacrifice of Jesus.
- Offered man forgiveness and eternal life based on faith in Christ rather than perfect adherence to the Law.
- After explaining these things, Paul answers four questions that might arise based on his text thus far:
- What about the Law, do we abolish it when we accept salvation by faith? Answer: no, we see its true purpose which is to reveal sin and lead men to ask for mercy.
- What about Abraham, was he not justified by obedience to God? Answer: no, he was considered righteous because he believed. His obedience was never perfect, but it was motivated by what he believed. Because of that he was counted righteous.
- What does this system (righteousness based on faith in Christ) accomplish for me, does it give me what I had before? Answer: much more! Previously through the Law, the Jews only had the knowledge of sin and death, and through the prophets a promise of hope in the future. Now, Paul tells them that they have the fulfillment of the promises through Christ (peace with God, joy with God, love from God, reconciliation with God and eternal life with God).
In this section we will examine the answer to the final question posed.
A New Attitude — Romans 6:1-23
What is the relationship between sin and grace? Paul poses this question twice (verse 1 and 5) and answers it in two different ways (verses 2-14 and 16-23).
Historical Answer - Romans 6:1-14
1What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin so that grace may increase?
The subtext of this question is as follows: If grace is always greater than sin, why not continue to sin in order to generate more of God's grace? Why not just relax and enjoy sin, it will produce more grace anyway?
The answer that Paul gives to the Christian who might ask such a question is: something took place in your past that has changed not only the direction of your life but the attitude that you have toward sin. To think that one could take advantage of God's grace (as the question suggests) is the way you used to think about such things, but something happened. You do not think like that anymore. Why?
2May it never be! How shall we who died to sin still live in it? 3Or do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus have been baptized into His death?
Paul answers by stating that we, as Christians, cannot purposefully and easily enjoy sinning anymore after dying to sin. Dying to sin actually involves several deaths for the ones who believe in Christ. For example:
- The death of ignorance to the reality of sin. A Christian cannot enjoy sin anymore because he knows the Law.
- The death of enjoyment of sin because now the believer has the knowledge of the gospel (the price paid to redeem sins) and is conscious, through the Spirit, that God is present and aware of him. This is why some people are reluctant to hear the gospel or talk about the Bible, they suspect that it will ruin their appetite for sin.
- The death of the old life (sinful attitudes and habits) through the action of baptism. At baptism God puts Christ between the Christian and his old life. This is why Christians cannot enjoy sin like they used to, Christ is in the way.
4Therefore we have been buried with Him through baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life. 5For if we have become united with Him in the likeness of His death, certainly we shall also be in the likeness of His resurrection, 6knowing this, that our old self was crucified with Him, in order that our body of sin might be done away with, so that we would no longer be slaves to sin; 7for he who has died is freed from sin.
- The death of the rule of sin over believers.
- Before Christ, we were ruled by our passions and lusts for money, sex, power, enjoyment, control, fame, etc.
- Paul says that when death to sin occurred in baptism it signaled the death of the rule of sin over us and the beginning of a new life, a new rule, one where sin is not the ruler, but Christ is the ruler.
- In baptism the rule of sin is broken by Christ in four ways.
- We receive forgiveness and this unburdens our consciences (Acts 2:38; I Peter 3:21).
- We enter into a relationship with God where He considers us with mercy instead of judgment and this relieves our fear. We are now righteous (Galatians 3:26).
- We receive the presence of the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:38) who enables us to pray and resist the temptation that once overcame us (Romans 8:13); we now have the kind of power where we control the sin in us and not the other way around.
- We enter into a fellowship with other believers (church) which gives us comfort and courage when we are weak and when we fail (Acts 2:47).
- Sin cannot rule over a person who has a clean conscience, the forgiveness for sin continually available (I John 1), the ability to resist its drawing power and a relationship with others who also have these blessings. These things are received at baptism.
- The death of "death" itself. If sin no longer rules, then death is defeated because death is the result of sin.
- It is the punishment for those who are found guilty of sin.
- When one is pardoned for sin then the punishment is excused. Here we speak of the death or suffering of the soul for eternity.
8Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with Him, 9knowing that Christ, having been raised from the dead, is never to die again; death no longer is master over Him.
Our resurrection will resemble Christ's in that it will be to an eternal life where death will no longer be present. We will suffer physical death here on earth because our physical bodies have been weakened by sin. After the resurrection, however, our glorified bodies will have no sin and so death will no longer be possible.
10For the death that He died, He died to sin once for all; but the life that He lives, He lives to God. 11Even so consider yourselves to be dead to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus.
Paul summarizes the matter. The death Christ experienced was in relationship to sin. He took responsibility for our sins, and for this reason death had a claim on Him and thus He experienced it (the Law of sin and death was meted out to Him). Once He did so, however, His experience with death was over. His resurrection no longer related Him to our sins, they were left in the grave along with the death He paid for them. His existence now is in relationship to God in heaven where He has returned to reign (at the right hand of God, Mark 16:19).
In the same way, those who have ended their relationship with sin (in baptism) should leave sin and the desire for it in the grave and be totally focused on God. In other words, Jesus left our sins in the grave, we leave our sins in the water; Jesus rose from the grave, we too have risen from the waters of baptism as new creatures in Christ (II Corinthians 5:17); and as Jesus ascended into heaven, we also will rise from the dead and ascend to be with Him forever (I Thessalonians 4:17).
The original question was, "Why not continue to sin in order to generate more grace (since grace is always greater than sin)?"
The answer to this question is that we do not sin to provoke grace because our attitude and relationship towards sin has changed since our baptism. Before baptism, sin was master and it led us to all forms of disobedience and impurity. When we were baptized we died to sin, and with this death sin ceased its rule over us, but not its presence in us (Paul will deal with this situation in the next chapter). He will also explain how we can increase the influence of grace in our lives but it will not be by increasing our sin (this type of thinking was the result of a sinful and darkened mind in the first place).
12Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its lusts, 13and do not go on presenting the members of your body to sin as instruments of unrighteousness; but present yourselves to God as those alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness to God. 14For sin shall not be master over you, for you are not under law but under grace.
Paul finishes this section by encouraging them to be aggressive in dealing with their sins, but to do so they have to willingly submit to God and His will for their lives in the first place.