For an introduction to this series, click here.
July 9, 2007
The deeper we go into Romans, of course, the better it gets. Paul just got through saying that God's grace is more powerful than the power of sin, and actually overcomes it. And so now Paul answers the objection that if God's grace abounds where sin is, you are saying that we should sin to get more of God's grace. Paul could not be more vehement in his rebuttal of that idea: "We know that our old self was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin. For one who has died has been set free from sin. Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. We know that Christ being raised from the dead will never die again; death no longer has dominion over him. For the death he died he died to sin, once for all, but the life he lives he lives to God. So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus." (6:6-11)
I was going to comment on this, but I think the next passage says it lots better than I ever could: "Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal bodies, to make you obey their passions. Do not present your members to sin as instruments for unrighteousness, but present yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life, and your members to God as instruments for righteousness. For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace." (6:12-14)
Sin has a destructive power that I don't think we understand, or at least I am sure that I don't. Of course we all know at some level that sin destroys our lives and of course brings about physical death for everyone. But just a little bit of sin in a person's life is enough to bring about a small kind of death, both spiritually and physically. Now of course the Lord is able to forgive and restore, but it is better not to be entangled. And Paul says here that we are not to allow ourselves to become enslaved by sin since we have been set free by the grace of God.
But we have to serve somebody. And if we don't serve sin, who or what do we serve? Paul gives us that answer too: "But thanks be to God, that you who were once slaves of sin have become obedient from the heart to the standard of teaching to which you were committed, and, having been set free from sin, have become slaves of righteousness. I am speaking in human terms, because of your natural limitations. For just as you once presented your members as slaves to impurity and to lawlessness leading to more lawlessness, so now present your members as slaves to righteousness leading to sanctification." (6:17-19)
I really like what Paul has to say here about lawlessness leading to more lawlessness. That's the way sin works, and that is also the way God works. When we yield ourselves to Him, He brings about good fruit in our lives, and that good fruit also compounds itself in our lives. God doesn't shortchange us. When we do His will, He rewards us. We may not see the rewards in this life but usually we understand that He is bringing about good fruit in our life, even if we don't see it all right now.
This chapter finishes up (I hope you realize the chapter and verse divisions were added later for reference's sake) with Paul telling us exactly what I was trying to say: "But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God, the fruit you get leads to sanctification and its end, eternal life. For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord." (6:22-23, ESV)
We use that last verse in evangelism to try to pound home the idea that sin leads to death. But the emphasis in context is on the gift of God, the positive that the Lord brings about in our lives. I'm not saying that we should not use this verse in evangelism, but a lot of people have never heard that verse outside of a witnessing context. It's amazing the truth you can learn from very familiar scripture if you just read through the Bible and look at how a verse weaves in with the whole message of the book. That is very important in the epistles, which were meant to be read aloud from beginning to end all at once by the receiving church.