Summary: A genuine disciple of Jesus can’t go back to work for his or her old boss
This week I read about a teenager who was explaining to his father why he should be allowed to go see a movie at the theater. That particular movie had all of his favorite actors and it was “only” rated PG-13 because it merely suggested sex, but never really showed it. And the language wasn’t too bad – they only used the Lord’s name in vain three times. And there was only the usual violence – you know the kind where a building with a bunch of people in it gets blown up and a few people are killed with guns.
A little later that evening, the father asked his son if he would like some of the special brownies he had prepared. He explained that he had taken the favorite family recipe and added one new ingredient. When his son asked what that new ingredient was his father calmly responded “dog poop”. He went on to explain that there was only a little bit of dog poop in the brownies, but that all of the other ingredients were the same quality ingredients he always used.
Not surprisingly the son wanted nothing to do with those brownies and I think he got the message. So every time thereafter that his son asked to do something that he shouldn’t, the father merely asked him if he would like a special brownie.
For the last two weeks, we’ve explored the first 14 verses of Romans 6, where Paul answered the question “Since God is a God of grace, why don’t I just live a lifestyle of sin so that I can experience more of that grace?” Paul answered that question by pointing out that when we place our faith in Jesus, we are so closely united with Him that we die to sin in the same way Jesus did. So therefore, we have been freed from the power of sin and we have the ability to keep sin from reigning in our lives like that.
While that is absolutely a crucial passage of Scripture for us to understand and take to heart, I really doubt that most genuine Christians really take the position that one can be a disciple of Jesus and still live a lifestyle in which sin is allowed to reign consistently.
But the question that Paul poses in verse 15 is another matter altogether. It is much more likely we will conclude, like the teenager who wanted to go to that movie, that it might be possible to sin just a little bit and still be a “good Christian”. But as we’ll see this morning, Paul answers that question just as emphatically as he answered the question in verse 1.
So once again, take your Bibles and turn to Romans 6 and make sure you keep them handy and we study the next section of Paul’s letter. I’ll begin in verse 15:
What then? Are we to sin because we are not under law but under grace?
Normally I don’t try to bore you with a Greek grammar lesson any more than is absolutely necessary, but the verb tenses here in Romans 6 are so crucial to our understanding of what Paul is writing that I do need to call your attention to them. In particular, I want to compare the question Paul asks here in verse 15 to the one back in verse 1:
What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound?
(Romans 6:1 ESV)
The verb “continue” is a present tense verb, so as we talked about a couple weeks ago, the question Paul is asking is whether a Christian can engage in a lifestyle of sin and still be a genuine disciple of Jesus.
But here in verse 15, the verb “sin” is what is known as an aorist tense verb. Without going into detail that basically means that it refers to a single act of sin rather than a continuous lifestyle. Essentially here is the question that Paul poses to his readers:
I understand that as a Christian I can’t continue in a lifestyle of sin, but since we’re under grace and not under law, isn’t it OK if I dabble in just a little bit of sin from time to time?
Although they might not actually verbalize it, I often see Christians whose live based on this similar question:
How much sin can I get away with and still be a Christian?
Once again, Paul doesn’t beat around the bush with his answer, giving the same exact answer he gave to the question in verse 1:
By no means!
But as I’ve mentioned frequently Paul doesn’t just give us an answer and move on to the next one. He is now going to give us an explanation of why the answer to that question is an emphatic “No!”. Let’s continue reading in verse 16: