“What should we say then? Should we continue in sin so that grace may multiply? Absolutely not! How can we who died to sin still live in it? Or are you unaware that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death?” (Romans 6:1-3 HCSB)
So far in our study of Romans, we have seen that all of us, all mankind – me, you, us, them, everyone – are guilty of sin before a holy, righteous and the all-powerful God who created us, created the universe and everything in it. We have no excuses for our sin and we face the prospect of God’s wrath and death because of our lifestyles, choices, attitudes and rebellion against Him and His expectations upon our lives. But, there’s hope for us through faith in God’s redemption plan and Abraham is our prime example of that life of faith. He was not perfect, but he clung to the promises God made and God’s ability to carry them to His promised and intended completion and his faith calls us to a life of faith in Christ – God’s fulfilled promise to Abraham.
We then saw the contrast between Adam – mankind’s federal head or representative in sin and unrighteousness – and Christ – God’s promised one, the Son who would act as our federal head or representative in obedience and righteousness. While many may struggle with this idea of original sin and Adam’s actions resulting in our sinfulness, there’s no question that we all stand guilty before God. We may want to “stand on our own merit” when it comes to sin and obedience but we still find ourselves falling short of God’s standard. To stand on our own in relation to sin is to choose to stand on our own in relation to righteousness. Simply put, we can’t stand on our own. We fall short of God’s glory (Rom. 3:23). Fortunately, we don’t have to because in God’s grace He has provided a means by which we may not merit redemption, but He gives it to us as gift of His grace through faith in Jesus as our righteous redeemer and representative. The more sin increased, the more God’s grace overflowed in abundance upon us.
Well, if sin can cause grace to abound and overflow then why don’t we just remain in sin so that God’s grace can overflow in even greater quantity? Indeed! If God stands ready and willing to pour out grace and forgive us for every trespass and failure, then let’s get this party started! I mentioned last week that my math skills, especially higher math, are not where I really excel mentally but even I can understand this argument. If my sin is 1X and God’s response with Grace is 10X, 100X or even 10,000X that of my sin, then perhaps the math does work. Let’s sin more so that God’s grace will multiple even more! A sin rain shower in exchange for a grace downpour or flood.
Paul’s response: ABSOLUTELY NOT! But why not?
First, let me start by clarifying the distinction between “continuing in sin” and “keep on sinning.” They simply don’t mean the same thing and it might be easier to explain by using an illustration. I am an American citizen because I was born here and inherited that citizenship by virtue of my birth. However, I have visited other countries and have enjoyed traveling several times in Asia. I enjoyed the food, marveled at the sights, sounds, smells and tastes of another culture but I was, unmistakably, American. I tried to learn a few words, but I didn’t speak the language. I became capable of finding my way around but I also became easily lost on several occasions. I enjoyed learning about the people and the culture but I was often confused by some of the cultural traditions and values. In the end, I always came back home to America. That’s who I am and, ultimately, where I belonged. Back home in rural Oklahoma. I didn’t really fit in because that’s not really who I am or where I belonged. I enjoyed my visits to these other places and cultures, but it wasn’t home. It wasn’t me.
But Paul says that a person who has faith in Jesus as the fulfillment of God’s promises has a life transformation take place – He dies to sin and is made alive in Jesus Christ. Paul ended our focal passage last week by stating, “just as sin reigned in death, so also grace will reign through righteousness, resulting in eternal LIFE through Jesus Christ our Lord. (Rom. 5:21). Jesus put it this way, “I assure you: Unless someone is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God… Whatever is born of the flesh is flesh, and whatever is born of the Spirit is spirit… For God loved the world in this way: He gave His One and Only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him will not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:3,6,16 HCSB) Sin brings death, grace brings eternal life.
What does all of that mean? As a human, a son of Adam, we are sinners because we are “born” here, born of man or flesh. We aren’t sinners because we sin, we sin because we are sinners. It is a part of our nature, a part of who we are and the only way to change that is to be “born again” or born anew in Jesus, the Son of God. When that happens, our core natures is changed, sin no longer reigns, grace now reigns in us through righteousness. This change in citizenship and allegiance changes our perspective, our loyalties and our responsibilities. We are no longer slaves to our humanity and sin nature but are now alive spiritually.
Several years ago, I had the privilege of visiting China and teaching a group of house church leaders. As we traveled to the location for the training, our host received a call that the police had just arrived to check out the meeting. Our host immediately changed our meeting location and informed the attendees to stay away from the original location and join us at the new location. This made our group a bit nervous. He assured us, if the police discovered our intent and location then we would simply be put on a plane and sent home a few days early but our new friends would face persecution and possible prison time. I think he intended to alleviate our concerns, but my concerns simply shifted from myself to my new friends. As we gathered for two days of discipleship and leadership training and prayer, my fears became tears of joy and wonder. These rural house church leaders, deep inside communist China, had no fear of the local magistrates or the threat of prison but a holy hunger, fear and love for God. One of them even traveled three hours each morning and evening on a scooter to attend the training. They were no longer slaves to sin but servants of Christ.
What does this mean to you and me? How can we who died to sin still live in it? When Jesus said that believers would know the truth and the truth would set them free, He wasn’t referencing political or even personal freedom (John 8:32). How can I be so sure? Because He was asked about that and responded: “I assure you: Everyone who commits sin is a slave of sin… if the Son sets you free, you really will be free.” (John 8:34-36) The slavery He was referencing was spiritual and not political or personal. What does it mean to be a slave to sin? Exactly what it implies. Sin is our master, we are bound to it and obligated to obey its demands upon our lives.
Paul’s rhetorical question poses two HUGE issues that we need to address. One, to imply that we should just “continue in sin” to receive more grace is to completely misunderstand God’s grace and our sin. If we truly understand God’s gift of grace, the freedom He gives, the cost of its freedom and the real impact of sin then we would be appalled by the idea of continuing in sin. Just for a second, I want to you to consider these statements: Then He said to Thomas, “Put your finger here and observe My hands. Reach out your hand and put it into My side. Don’t be an unbeliever, but a believer.” Thomas responded to Him, “My Lord and my God!” (John 20:27-28 HCSB) Or this one: And I cried and cried because no one was found worthy to open the scroll or even to look in it… Then I saw One like a slaughtered lamb standing between the throne and the four living creatures and among the elders. He had seven horns and seven eyes, which are the seven spirits of God sent into all the earth. (Revelation 5:4-6 HCSB)
We readily recognize the cost of our political freedom and I have often said, the price of freedom is never free. Americans recently celebrated Veterans Day and earlier this week we remembered the price of freedom on Pearl Harbor Day. We recognize the cost of our political freedom, but we often neglect or fail to really comprehend the cost of our spiritual freedom – Our Creator was beaten to the point of death and then humiliated by being crucified like a criminal by the very creatures He loved and created. As if that wasn’t enough, He still bears the marks of our cruelty and sin. Let that sink in, a bit. He will always bear those marks… marks of His unfathomable love and amazing grace. Marks that should make and keep us forever humble and grateful.
Second, to imply that the overflow of grace from sin would prompt us to “continue in sin” is to underestimate and completely misunderstand the power and impact of sin. I don’t mean the impact of individual acts of sin – though that is certainly bad enough – I mean to continue to embrace the root rebellion, rejection of God’s authority and the destructive nature of sin. Sin steals, kills and destroys. If you hold the view that God’s commandments and desires for you are just intended to keep you from having fun, then you misunderstand sin and what God came to do. Jesus said sin is slavery and a master that only seeks to destroy you and He came to destroy sin’s power over you and its hold on you. He came to set you free to for all that God made you to be and intended that you become.
I want to end this week by considering what it means by “all of us who were baptized into Christ were baptized into His death.” Let me start by stating that this word “baptism” is a word that means to be completely immersed in something – generally water – but here Paul says when we were baptized in water we were really baptized into Christ’s death. The baptism water was representative of Christ’s death and our confession of faith in Christ as the Son of God and our “federal head” or representative acted on our behalf. When we submitted to the act of baptism, we were acknowledging our change of citizenship in the kingdom of man to the Kingdom of God and His subsequent authority upon our lives. By faith, our baptism signifies the death of the old man and the spiritual change or birth as a new man. Baptism is to be completely immersed in the reality of Christ’s atoning death and its effects. It means, like Thomas, to fall before Him and try cry out – “My Lord and My God!”
If your baptism didn’t mean that, then you only got wet. Let me be very clear here, baptism doesn’t effect or cause this change but it fully represents, demonstrates and ANNOUNCES this change in you. The New Testament never separates salvation by grace through faith and baptism. They always go together and redemption is always demonstrated by baptism. Inevitably, someone will want to point out the circumstances of the thief who died next to Christ and I will simply remind you of what I said, baptism doesn’t effect or cause this change but it represents, demonstrates and announces this change. I have no doubt that given the opportunity, this thief would have demonstrated this change through baptism had the circumstances been different.
While I have no desire to produce doubt or fear in your heart, I would be remiss if I didn’t ask whether this change has occurred in your life. I’m not asking if you’ve been baptized, I’m asking if Christ’s love and death have produced a response of faith and trust in your heart? Like Thomas, have your or are you willing to fall before the crucified but now resurrected and fully alive Christ and cry out, My Lord and My God! Do you recognize the impact and slavery of sin upon your own life and are you willing to let Christ set you free? If so, just tell Him. The prayer of faith isn’t verbose or theologically complex. It is simple, humble and direct: “God, have mercy upon me, a sinner in need of your grace and forgiveness. I trust in what Jesus has done for me and all mankind, make me a new person. Give me a new heart, one dedicated to serving you and not sin. Amen.”
If you pray that prayer, I’d love to hear from you. Comment on this post or click here to send a prayer request to me.