What Shall We Say Then?
As I was sitting on a plane coming back from Asia and our work among the people afflicted with leprosy, the guy next to me started up a conversation. We talked about what we had been doing in Asia. He said, “Oh, you must be very religious.” I answered, “I sure hope not.” That took him by surprise. Religions create a system of gaining favor with God. It focuses on what mankind must do in order to be at peace with the gods. Jesus doesn’t call us to a new religion but a relationship with Him. Though even in Christianity you will see the horrible error of putting conditions on God’s grace. People add certain works to grace because they fear the result of pure grace. They use rules, regulations and standards to control. We don’t minister to the sick and the poor in order to gain favor with God but because of His favor, because of His grace. Religion fears the unconditional grace of God. When grace reigns in our lives it takes all the pressure off and allows to be free from performing and simply allow Him to uniquely express His life through us. Grace does what the Law could never do, it empowers us to a life of obedience.
Romans 6:1–2 “What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? 2 By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it?”
What shall we say then? Paul was anticipating questions. Let’s look at some foundational principles. Romans 5 teaches us that God’s grace triumphs over sin. Where does the doctrine of God’s triumphant grace lead us? The Law came not to bring us righteousness but to show us our sinfulness. Sin ruled over all of mankind but Grace overthrew the reign of sin so Christ could be Lord of our lives. The triumph of grace must lead us to a different life than sin. In legalism we were a very sin-centered people. We worried if someone really embraced the grace of God that it would lead to more sinning. Legalism, however, didn’t lead to less sinning it just led to a different kind of sinning which was more acceptable to we modern day Pharisees. Self-righteousness is the enemy of grace. Those who are attempting to gain some righteousness through their own efforts are always going to be concerned with too much emphasis on grace. The Jews of Paul’s day were concerned with being righteous but they wanted it to be a reflection of their own efforts. The self-righteous use shame to control. The gospel of grace is a stumbling block to all who hold to their own righteousness.
Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? There is something about the grace of God and the glory of the good news that immediately raises this issue. We saw that God’s grace more than keeps up with sin so it is really a good question. If my teaching or preaching of the gospel does not arouse this question in someone’s mind, there is probably something wrong with my teaching. Sin can’t be the believer’s residence. Paul laid it out for all; sin reigned in our lives but Jesus gave His life so Grace would reign over us. Grace exceeds all of our failures and sin. So, the question – because grace ever increases with our sin should we accelerate sin to magnify grace? Continue is “epimeno” in the Greek and carries the idea of habitual persistence or a lifestyle. It was used to describe a person’s permanent residence. Before salvation, sin was the way of life, because we were sinners. Salvation changes everything. Sin is destructive to all who live under it. Sin does have its temporary pleasures but it always produces bondage and death. You are servant to whatever you yield to. Sin destroys all who serve it. For all who are in Christ, the old relationship to sin is broken. Sin is never the believers’ focus because of the overflowing grace of God. We are free! Anyone who says sin is the good life and the place for the believer is deceived.
By no means! May it never be! The inference that Christians should go on sinning is unthinkable, inconceivable. The notion that sin brings glory to God is preposterous. Jesus came to free us from sin, not to allow us to continue in it. Sin is not freedom but bondage. Jesus came to give us abundant life. He came to free us from not only the penalty of sin but the power of sin. We have to remember who God made us to be, and that’s saints. Sin no longer suits us. It is unthinkable for us to remain under the reign of sin. Sin is contrary to our new nature. We were born sinners so sin was the only behavior that came truly naturally to us. We have a new nature in Christ. It isn’t the old nature improved upon but a completely new nature. Our spirit, once dead because of sin, is now alive with the life of Jesus. For the believer to live in sin is to live contrary to their nature. It is as strange as a dog meowing or a cat barking.
How can we who died to sin still live in it? This is a verse of fundamental importance. The idea behind the question is “how can it be?” The thought of one who is in Christ continuing to live in sin is unthinkable. We who died to sin have a new life. Notice the emphatic use of “we.” The purpose here is to contrast “we” who are now in Christ with those still in Adam. The emphasis is on our uniqueness, our special position as those in Christ. Just as we were born in Adam we are now in Christ through faith. To be born-again is to have life in Him. All in Christ have died to sin. To be alive in Christ is to be dead to sin. It is inconceivable to propose that a believer can live in the sin from which he was delivered by death. God’s grace is given for the very purpose of saving us from sin. A person does not continually die. If his death is real, it is permanent. Spiritual life can’t coexist with spiritual death. Christians obviously are able to commit many of the sins they committed before salvation, but they are not able to live perpetually in those sins as they did before. Death means a change in relationship. If we are going to understand this passage we need to have a biblical understanding of death. Death doesn’t mean we cease to exist but it does mean we have a changed relationship. When the physical body dies we continue to live in our soul and spirit. We continue to live but with a completely different relationship to our physical body. Jesus died to sin once. How did we die to sin? How did Christ die to it? He died to sin – once for all. Though Jesus was without sin He came to take sin on Himself so we could be free from sin and enter into His life. He came to die for sin, to put an end to its claims on us. It reigned over us because of Adam so its reign had to be broken. We have a completely new relationship to sin because when Jesus died we died too. We died to sin in Christ. The tense of the verb died is an aorist, which means that it refers to a single action that has taken place and was completed in the past. Dying to sin is not something we do or have done but is something that has been done to us. It is because of what has happened to us that we are now no longer to continue in sin. It is because of God’s work that our continuing in sin is unthinkable. Our former master, cruel and destructive, is to no longer be given place in our lives. We are free!
My hope is that you’re having an awesome week as one who is free in Christ. Free from all that held you in bondage. Proclaim your freedom from sin. Thank you for all of your generous support to our ministry here at Faith Bible and around the world.
You are loved!