Summary: In Romans 6 Paul gives us wisdom concerning being dead to sin and alive to God. A much needed message in a world of compromise by christians
I CAN DO WHAT I LIKE BECAUSE GOD FORGIVES ALL SIN
The story is told of a man who had heard of a church where they believed in sinless perfection after you had come to Christ and were baptised. He joined the church, professed faith and was baptised in a freezing cold river in the middle of January. When he left the water he told the elders he was so delighted he did not even feel the cold. Whereupon one elder said to another “He is lying, it didn’t work. We need to do it again.” That is not a true story but it illustrates that perennial problem for all Christians: How are we forgiven for sin and yet keep on sinning? There have been those in the history of the church who taught that Christians could live as they pleased because Christ had forgiven all sin. It was called Antinomianism. In fact it is still around today within the church. You don’t have to go far to meet Christians who think it is acceptable to live as the world lives and still claim to follow Christ. So you have bishops teaching all sorts of immoral behaviours are acceptable for Christians. You have churches accepting lottery money as if Scripture says nothing about gambling. Antinomianism is alive and well in the 21st century church. Yet it is not such overt sinfulness that I wish to address this morning. It is the daily struggle you and I have in our lives to live free from sin. It is a daily struggle, isn’t it? This is probably one of the most important sermons that I will preach this year in Holy Trinity.
Turn with me to Romans 6. I am only going to deal with verses 1-14 this morning and not the whole chapter.
CONTEXT – Paul’s letter to the Romans. Paul had never been to Rome before he wrote this letter. He had not planted or established this church. Paul most likely wrote this letter whilst in Corinth around 56-57AD. The book of Romans is the great theological work of the NT on the doctrine and application of salvation. Many believe it to be Paul’s finest letter to the early churches.
Look at chapter 5 verse 20 – this is the background to what Paul seeks to answer in chapter 6. It is just possible that some in Rome were starting to teach that since the grace of God covered all sin then Christians could continue in sin to show the power of God’s grace at work in forgiving sin. I know to you and I it seems illogical but actually how often do we justify our sinful choices and behaviour by just such a reason?
Paul is presenting a balance in chapter 6 – on one side is that we are saved by grace and by grace alone. On the other side of the balance is the working out of our salvation, of living out a life of holiness unto God. This balance is hard for us to grasp and maintain in our lives.
Chapter 6 verses 1-14 Shall we continue to sin so that Grace may abound?
Verses 1- 2 – read – it seems like a foolish question and yet it would appear that some in the church had begun to argue that we should go on sinning to allow grace to increase. The NIV translation does not do justice to what Paul says in the Greek. Literally he asks: “shall we remain in sin?” Paul is thinking of sinners staying where they are after they have come to saving faith in Christ. Shall we just drift along in our sin because it covered by God’s grace? Paul speaks of Christians who decline to move from habitual sin. We have his immediate answer in verse 2: “By no means!” Paul will have none of it. He refutes the very idea that as a Christian you can continue to walk in the way of sin and remain wedded to sin after knowing the grace of Christ. He then asks them to reflect on the fact that they have died to sin. Once they were dead in their sins (Ephesians 2.1) but now they are dead to sin. This is an action rrather than a state – ‘we who died to sin’ and not ‘we who are dead in sin.’ Becoming a Christian is a decisive step. It means the beginning of faith and the end of sin. Here Paul is referring to the dying to sin which is the characteristic mark of the beginning of the Christian life. It is the end of the reign of sin and the beginning of the reign of grace (5.21) in our lives when we come to Christ. Since we have died to sin it is a reasonable question to ask how we can continue to live a life of sin? John Knox, the Scottish reformer, translated this as “We have died, once for all, to sin; can we breathe its air again?”