Summary: This sermon explores how we can live obediently in light of God’s grace.
Let us read Romans 6:1-14:
"1 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? 3 Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? 4 We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.
"5 For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his. 6 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. 7 For one who has died has been set free from sin. 8 Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. 9 We know that Christ, being raised from the dead, will never die again; death no longer has dominion over him. 10 For the death he died he died to sin, once for all, but the life he lives he lives to God. 11 So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus.
"12 Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, to make you obey its passions. 13 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. 14 For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace." (Romans 6:1-14)
One of the dangers of preaching salvation by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone is that it can be interpreted (or rather, misinterpreted!) as license to do whatever one wishes.
The apostle Paul was well aware of this tendency, since he mentioned in Romans 3:8 that some were slanderously reporting that he was saying, “And why not do evil that good may come?” Because of this type of misrepresentation, Paul was always on guard when he made a strong statement about the grace of God.
So when he said in Romans 5:20b, “but where sin increased, grace abounded all the more,” he knew that the worst would be made of it by some. He knew that a perverted logic would be applied: “Well, if sin brings more grace, let’s sin!”
He also knew such thinking was not only logical to some minds, it was also natural because sin is enjoyable “for a short time” (Hebrews 11:25, NIV). He knew, too, that sinning could even be twisted into a religious duty, because it provides an opportunity for God to give his grace and love, and thus glorify himself. Even people who have claimed to be Christians have thought this!
The Corinthian Church had this problem, for when Paul insisted that an incestuous couple be excommunicated, there were some who saw nothing wrong with the incest, thinking it was an excellent display of Christian liberty (cf. 1 Corinthians 5).
A famous historical instance of such thought comes from the Russian monk Rasputin, who dominated the Romanov family in their final years. Rasputin taught that salvation came through repeated experiences of sin and repentance. He argued that because those who sin more require more forgiveness, those who sin greatly will experience greater joy as they repent. Therefore, he said, it is the Christian’s duty to sin.
Today this thinking is very common among those who wish to justify their sexual lifestyles. Some have actually seriously presented such rationalizations as if they were biblical.
So when Paul said in Romans 5:20, “but where sin increased, grace abounded all the more,” he could sense the inevitable question coming, and so he went ahead and voiced it himself in Romans 6:1, “What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound?”
His answer was an emphatic, “By no means!”(6:2).
Paul had no use for even the slightest hint that grace encourages sin. In fact, he finishes verse 2 with a question to the contrary: “How can we who died to sin still live in it?”
The remainder of Romans 6 goes on to support his position.
In today’s lesson, Romans 6:3-14 answers the question, “How do those of us who have been saved by the grace of God live without being characterized by sin? How are we to live obediently in light of God’s grace?”
Paul answers logically:
1. By understanding the nature of our union with Christ (6:3-10),