believer under grace and the problem of habitual sin.
(1) Should we live a life of sin so we can receive more grace?
What shall we say then?
Shall we continue in sin that grace may abound?
continue in sin that grace may abound? Paul introduced the idea that
where sin abounded, grace abounded much
more (Romans 5:20). He now wonders if someone might take this truth to
imply that it doesn’t matter if a Christian lives a life of sin, because God
will always overcome greater sin with greater grace.
i. After all, if God loves sinners, then why worry
about sin? If God gives grace to sinners, then why not sin more and receive
more grace? Some people think that their job is to sin and God’s job is to
forgive, so they will do their job and God will do His job!
In the early part of the century, the Russian monk Gregory Rasputin taught and
lived the idea of salvation through repeated experiences of sin and repentance.
He believed that because those who sin the most require the most forgiveness, a
sinner who continues to sin with abandon enjoys more of God’s grace (when he
repents for the moment) than the ordinary sinner. Therefore, Rasputin lived in
notorious sin, and taught that this was the way to salvation. This is an
extreme example of the idea behind Paul’s question "Shall we continue in sin that grace may
But in a less extreme way, the question still confronts us. Is the plan of
grace "safe”? Won’t people abuse grace? If God’s salvation and approval are
given on the basis of faith instead of works, won’t we just say "I believe” and then live any way we
From a purely natural or secular viewpoint, grace
is dangerous. This is why many people don’t really teach or believe in
grace and instead emphasize living by law. They believe that if you tell people
that God saves and accepts them apart from what they deserve, then they will have
no motivation to be obedient. In their opinion, you simply can’t keep people on
the straight and narrow without a threat from God hanging over their head. If
they believe their position in Jesus is settled because of what Jesus did, then
the motivation of holy living is gone.
continue in sin: The verb tense of the phrase continue in sin (the present active tense) makes it clear
that Paul describes the practice of
habitual sin. In this first part of Romans 6, Paul writes about someone who
remains in a lifestyle of sin, thinking that it is acceptable so that grace may
2. (2) A life of sin is unacceptable, because our
death to sin changes our relationship to sin.
Certainly not! How shall
we who died to sin live any longer in it?
not! For Paul, the idea that anyone might continue in sin that grace may abound is unthinkable. Certainly not is a strong phrase. It might also be translated,
Perish the thought! Or, Away with the notion!
How shall we
who died to sin live any longer in it? Paul establishes an important
principle. When we are born again, when we have believed on Jesus for our
salvation, our relationship with sin is permanently changed. We have died to sin.
Therefore, if we have died to sin, then we should not live any longer
in it. It simply isn’t fitting to live any longer in something you
have died to.
At this point, Paul has much to explain about what exactly he means by died to sin,
but the general point is clear - Christians have died to sin, and they should
no longer live in it. Before, we were dead in
sin (Ephesians 2:1); now we are dead to sin.
(3-4) The illustration of the believer’s death to sin: baptism.
Or do you not know that
as many of us as were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death?
Therefore we were buried with Him through baptism into death, that just as
Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also
should walk in newness of life.
Or do you not
know: The implication is that Paul is dealing with fundamental
concepts that every Christians should know.
As many of us
as were baptized in Christ Jesus: The idea behind the ancient Greek
word for baptized
is "to immerse or overwhelm something.” The Bible uses this idea of being baptized
into something in several different ways. When a person is baptized in water, they are
immersed or covered over with water. When they are baptized with the Holy Spirit (Matthew 3:11, Acts 1:5) they are "immersed”
or "covered over” with the Holy Spirit. When they are baptized with suffering (Mark
10:39), they are "immersed” or "covered over” with suffering. Here, Paul refers
to being baptized
- "immersed” or "covered over” in Christ Jesus.
Therefore we were buried with Him through baptism into death, that just
as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father: The believer’s water baptism (or, being baptized into
Christ) is a dramatization or "acting out” of the believer’s
"immersion” or identification with Jesus in His death and resurrection.
"From this and other references to baptism in Paul’s writings, it is plain that
he did not regard baptism as an ‘optional extra’ in the Christian life.”
buried with Him . . . as Christ was raised
from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in
newness of life: Paul
also builds on the idea of going under the water as a picture of being buried,
and coming up from the water as a picture of rising from the dead.
Of course, baptism also has the association of cleansing, but that isn’t particularly relevant to Paul’s point
In this regard, baptism is important as an illustration of spiritual reality,
but it does not make that reality come to pass. If someone has not spiritually
died and risen with Jesus, all the baptisms in the world will not accomplish it
But Paul’s point is clear: something dramatic and life changing happened in the
life of the believer. You can’t die and rise again without it changing your
life. The believer has a real (although spiritual) death and resurrection with
4. (5-10) Paul considers the implications of our
death and resurrection with Jesus.
if we have been
united together in the likeness of His death, certainly we also shall be
in the likeness of His resurrection, knowing this, that our old man was
Him, that the body of sin might be
done away with, that we should no longer be slaves of sin. For he who
has been freed from sin. Now if we died with Christ, we believe that we
also live with Him, knowing that Christ, having been raised from the
no more. Death no longer has dominion over Him. For the death that He
died, He died to sin once for all; but the life that He lives, He lives
together expresses a close union. The phrase "exactly expresses the
process by which a graft becomes united with the life of a tree . . . The union
is of the closest sort, and life from Christ flows through to him.” (Morris) It
fits in well with Jesus’ picture of abiding in Him from John 15.
This close union is both in His death
and in His
resurrection. God has both experiences for us. Paul expressed a
similar idea for his own life in Philippians 3:10-11: that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection, and the
fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death, if, by any means, I
may attain to the resurrection from the dead. Some are all too ready to be united together
in the glory of resurrection, but are unwilling to be united together in His death.
also shall be in the likeness of His resurrection: Our participation in the death of Jesus
makes our participation in His resurrection certain.
It is far too easy for many Christians to focus solely on the "crucified life,”
failing to see that it is a part (and an essential part) of a bigger picture:
preparation for resurrection life.
that our old man was crucified with Him: The death of the old man is an established fact. It happened
spiritually when we were identified with Jesus’ death at our salvation.
The old man
is the self patterned after Adam, that part of us deeply ingrained with a
desire to rebel against God and His commands. The system of law is unable to
deal with the old
man, because it can only tell the old man what the righteous
standard of God is. The law tries to reform the old man, to get him to "turn over
a new leaf.” But the system of grace understands that the old man can never be reformed. He
must be put to death, and for the believer the old man dies with Jesus on the
The crucifixion of the old man is something that God did in us. None
of us nailed the old man to the cross. Jesus did it, and we are told to
account it as being done. "In us there was nothing even to sicken and to weaken
our old man, much less to murder him by crucifixion; God had to do this.”
iii. In place of the old man, God gives the believer a new man - a self that is instinctively
obedient and pleasing to God; this aspect of our person is that which was raised
with Christ in His resurrection. The New Testament describes the new man for us.
man, which was created according to God, in righteousness and true holiness.
The new man who
is renewed in knowledge according to the image of Him who created him.
God uses our death to the old man, the sin nature, to liberate us from
sin. A dead man can no longer have authority over us, so we are to remember and
account the old
man as crucified with Him.
The two other places in the New Testament which mention the old man
remind us to consider him done away with, telling us to put off the old man as something dead and gone (Ephesians 4:22 and
Colossians 3:9). Strictly speaking, we don’t battle the old man. We simply reckon him as dead.
"Evil enters us now as an interloper
and a stranger, and works sad havoc, but it does not abide in us upon the
throne; it is an alien, and despised, and no more honored and delighted in. We
are dead to the reigning power of sin.” (Spurgeon)
If the old
man is dead, why do I feel a pull to sin inside? It comes from the flesh, which is distinct from the old man.
It’s hard to precisely describe the flesh; some have called it "the screen on
which the inner man is displayed.” Our inner being has desires and impulses and
passions; these are played out in our mind,
in our will, and in our emotions. The flesh is what acts out the inner man.
The flesh is a problem in the battle against sin because it has been expertly
trained in sinful habits by three sources. First, the old man, before he was crucified
with Christ, trained and "imprinted” himself on the flesh. Second, the world system, in its spirit of rebellion
against God, can have an continuing influence on the flesh. Finally, the devil seeks to tempt and influence the
flesh towards sin.
With the old
man dead, what do we do with the flesh? God calls us, in
participation with Him, to do actively day by day with the flesh just what He
has already done with the old man - crucify it, make it dead to sin. (Galatians
5:24) But when we allow the flesh to be continually influenced by the old man’s
habits of the past, the world, and the devil, the flesh will exert a powerful
pull towards sin. If we let the new man
within us influence the mind, the will, and the emotions, then we will find the
battle less intense.
f. That we should no longer be slaves of sin. For he who has died has been freed from sin:
Our slavery to sin can only be broken by death. In the 1960 film Spartacus, Kirk Douglas played the
escaped slave Spartacus, who led a brief but widespread slave rebellion in
ancient Rome. At one point in the movie Spartacus says: "Death is the only
freedom a slave knows. That’s why he is not afraid of it.” We are set free from
sin because the old man has died with Jesus on the cross. Now a new man, a free
g. Having been raised from the dead,
dies no more. Death no longer has dominion over Him: Since we have already died to sin with Jesus, death no longer
has dominion over us. The new man not only has life; he has eternal life.
The life that
he lives, he lives to God: The new life we are granted isn’t given
so we can live unto ourselves. With the new life, he lives to God. We aren’t dead
to sin, free from sin, and given eternal life to live as we please, but to live
to please God.
i. "If God has given to you and to me an
entirely new life in Christ, how can that new life spend itself after the
fashion of the old life? Shall the spiritual live as the carnal? How can you
that were the servants of sin, but have been made free by precious blood, go
back to your old slavery?” (Spurgeon)
This change in the life of the one who is born again was understood and
predicted as a feature of God’s New Covenant, where because of new hearts our
innermost being wants to do God’s
will and be slaves to righteousness. (Ezekiel 36:26-27)
i. The eleventh of the original 42 articles of
Church of England states this truth with a beauty that only Sixteenth Century
English can express: "The grace of Christ, or the holie Ghost by him geven,
dothe take awaie the stonie harte, and geveth an harte of flesh.” God takes
away our rock-like heart and gives us a soft heart of flesh.
(11-12) Practical application of the principle of our death and resurrection with
Likewise you also,
reckon yourselves to be dead indeed to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus
our Lord. Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body, that you should
obey it in its lusts.
yourselves to be dead indeed to sin: Reckon is an accounting word. Paul tells us to account or to reckon the old man as forever dead. God never
calls us "crucify” the old man, but instead to account him as already dead
because of our identification with Jesus’ death on the cross.
to be . . . alive to God in Christ Jesus our Lord: The death to sin
is only one side of the equation. The old man is gone, but the new man lives on
(as described in Romans 6:4-5).
not let sin reign in your mortal body: This is something that can
only be said to the Christian, to the one who has had the old man crucified
with Christ and has been given a new man in Jesus. Only the person set free
from sin can be told, "do not let sin reign.”
The Christian is the one truly set free. The person who isn’t converted yet is
free to sin, but not free to stop sinning and live righteously, because of the
tyranny of the old man.
In Jesus, we are truly set free and are offered the opportunity to obey the
natural inclination of the new man - which wants to please God and honor Him.
not let sin reign: The old man is dead, and there is new life - free from sin - in Jesus. Yet, many
Christians never experience this
freedom. Because of unbelief, self-reliance or ignorance, many Christians never
live in the freedom Jesus paid for on the cross.
D. L. Moody used to speak of an old black woman in the South following the
Civil War. Being a former slave, she was confused about her status and asked:
"Now is I free, or been I not? When I go to my old master he says I ain’t free,
and when I go to my own people they say I is, and I don’t know whether I’m free
or not. Some people told me that Abraham Lincoln signed a proclamation, but
master says he didn’t; he didn’t have any right to.”
© 2002 David Guzik - No distribution beyond personal
use without permission