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Should we sin more so that grace may abound? - Pastor Will
6:1 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. (ESV)
Last week we studied Romans 5 and took a look at Adam and Christ. There Paul explains that Adam brought sin and death into the world and Jesus brought righteousness and life. For us that means you are either stuck in your sins and death rules you life or you are freed from them by Christ and given life. It is the biggest transition you can make in life. We are born into a life ruled by death and stuck in this place where we are God's enemies. But through the free gift Jesus gives we can have life and have every grievance removed. Through Christ we are made friends of God.
Today we are looking at Romans 6:1-4 where Paul raises a question about why we live the Christian life and answers with Jesus death and resurrection.
If you have a Bible turn with me to Romans 6:1-4.
It begins with the question, "What shall we say then?" keep in mind that we just talked about the free gift of life and righteousness through Christ, "Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound?"
I am not sure how many times I have heard people ask this question. Usually, they don't say it exactly like this but many people want to know what the point of our actions is. If we don't earn our salvation, if we don't contribute to our own worth, it seems like what we do doesn't matter.
Think about it this way, what's the point of being a Christian if you are only going to hear that your not doing enough? I know people who suffer a tremendous amount of guilt because they feel responsible to pay God back or they feel responsible to do whatever it takes to make Him happy with themselves.
If you are feeling this way camp out and reread Romans 5 through 6 while we are spending some time on it today and next Sunday. Because it is right here that Scripture instructs us how to think. Scripture orders you life so that you can be confident that your God saves you and that you cannot fail to please him - forever. (one more time)
When I say order, I don't mean like when you go to a restaurant, order steak, and the chief makes it. I am not talking about Scripture simply telling you what to do and when you do it, God gets the steak he ordered.
When I say order, I mean like when you put the parts to you car engine in in the proper order. Your engine has an order to it so that it can run. When things are in their right place you car can get you from here to there and your car is happy to do it. But when you put your oil in the radiator. Your car becomes very unhappy, the engine burns up, and it cannot take you anywhere.
We are broken engines; not chiefs. We need things put back in order so that we can run.
Our minds are repaired through the work of the Holy Spirit. When read God's Word, the truth sinks in, the Spirit changes us and our eyes open to a better understanding of God's grace. You see that God saves you and you cannot fail to please him because of what Christ has done.
All right, let's look at our question again, "Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound?"
So if God saves me and I cannot fail to please him then it seems like I could do whatever I want with my life and it will all work out - right?
Some of you are thinking, no I have read Scripture and that doesn't sound right. You have a good instinct and we have to dig deeper in order to make full sense of this gift Christ offers.
But before we begin answering this question, I want to go back into Romans 5 to follow Paul through his answer.
Paul addresses this question in order to clear up confusion about the Christian life. Two things might cause confusion for us in Romans 5 are: 1. Grace abounds when there is sin; and 2. It appears that the law of God was added to increase sin, or stated this way it seems like seems like God wanted there to be more sin for grace to abound from.
In verse 13 it says, "for sin indeed was in the world before the law was given, but sin is not counted where there is not law." Indicating that the law tells you what is right and wrong and how things should be judged. And in verse 14 is says, "Yet death reigned from Adam to Moses..." this point is made because death didn't enter the world once the law of God was introduced. The first sin was passed down and replicated without the law being present.
Why does that matter?
It brings up the question why did God give a law in the first place. What did it do?
In verse 20 it says, "Now the law came in to increase the trespass, but where sin increased, grace abounded all the more..."
To everyone who is unfamiliar with God's law, it might sounds like it functions completely opposite saving grace.
But that is not what the Law does. If we look through Israel's history we see that the law does something really important - it describes who God is, namely that he is holy and good - but that means that he is dangerous for us who are sinful and corrupt. It also explains God's act of calling out a people and bringing about salvation through sacrifice and petition. There are blessings and curses attached. And most importantly there is a promise attached.
So when we read here in Romans 5:20 that the law came in to increase the trespass. The law does so by revealing something about us and telling us something more about our God.
The law does not help us sin. It is not as if we are body builders taking steroids to bulk up. We don't hit the gym to build muscle and turn to steroids to help us out. The law shows us who God is and in turn we see our transgression more clearly because of it.
Looking at Israel's history we see the law enter in, and while Moses was still on the mountain speaking with the Lord, God's people turned to Aaron, Moses' brother, and said make us a god to go before us. And their history doesn't get better, throughout the period of judges God's people cried out of help and then once the Lord interceded they turn away. Later when Israel asked for a king, we see God shake his head and say this won't work out. Even king David, who was described as a man after God's own heart abused the power of his position and brought a serious punishment on Israel. No one was measuring up to God's standard.
There is a huge longing throughout Israel's history because while the law condemned the sins of the people and their leaders it also promised God's blessing.
The longing was for someone to come succeed where everyone had failed. The longing was for a priest who could plead for the people, a prophet who could transform the people with God's truth, and for a king who could execute justice perfectly.
As the story continues the kingdom is overthrown and the prophets begin to tell of something important that was about to happen.
And then there was a baby lying in the manger.
There was a child who blew the minds of the teachers.
There was a man who entered the Jordan and when he came out of the water God said, "this is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased" (Matt 3:17).
In Matthew 5, Jesus says, "Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them" (Matt 5:17).
The longing was for Jesus.
So let's return to the verse in Romans 5. It says, "Now the law came in to increase the trespass, but where sin increased, grace abounded all the more," and it continues, "so that, as sin reigned in death, grace also might reign through righteousness leading to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord" (Rom 5:20-21).
Jesus wasn't just a sacrifice he was the perfect sacrifice. Sin reigned through death, which the law showed clearly but grace reigns through righteousness, which the law shows us that Christ was blameless in the sight of God. He was perfect.
Now you see what I mean when I said that the law is not like steroids. The law does not increase the severity of sin by making more of it. The law shows us who God is; it contrasts sin with God's righteousness. But as we see sin clearly we also see our God who saves. We see that he does not yield his justice, or his integrity, or his love for us. And grace abounds because Jesus is willing to be the things we need. He is our sacrifice, and our priest who pleads for us (Heb 7:26 and 8). He sends his Spirit to transform our minds and open our eyes to the truth. He removes injustice through his sacrifice; he took our judgment. God is removing sin entirely.
So as we look at our question here in Romans 6 we are ready to hear what Paul will say to answer it. He says, "By no means!" That is not what God is doing at all. We are not trying to sin more. The plan is to get rid of sin and the power it has over out lives. He continues, "How can we who died to sin still live in it?"
"Died," "Died." When break a bad habit, like picking you teeth with the mail you simply stop doing it. Paul is saying here that we died to sin. And Paul is not just overstating the conclusion of sin in our lives. He is pointing to the transformation God's grace has on our lives.
C. S. Lewis explains transformation like this,
For mere improvement is not redemption, though redemption always improves people even here and now and will, in the end, improve them to a degree we cannot yet imagine. God became man to turn creatures into sons: not simply to produce better men of the old kind but to produce a new kind of man. It is not like teaching a horse to jump better and better but like turning a horse into a winged creature. Of course, once it has got its wings, it will soar over fences which could never have been jumped and thus beat the natural horse at its own game. (Mere Christianity, 183)
We are no longer the same. We do not approach this life with our old weak self. We have the Spirit of Christ living in us and leading us in a new kind of life.
Paul continues in Romans 6, "Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? 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."
John Calvin summarizes, "Baptism is a sign of our forgiveness, of our participation in Christ's death and resurrection and also in his blessings." This sign of our identification with Christ's death and resurrection is the answer Paul give to why we live the Christian life.
Baptism is a symbol of a radical life transformation. Paul points to it in order to explain that we live a life pleasing to God because we are living a new life.
Paul says, "We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death,"
In baptism we are submerged under water. Our eyes are shut, and we don't breath. It is like death, we are buried with Christ.
And, "just as Christ was raised from the dead," you come up out of the water. You open you eyes, take a breath, and are alive!
This is a sign of the reality happening within you. When God forgives your sins he eliminates them. They are nailed to the cross and you bear them no more. When God looks at you he sees the perfection of his son, with whom he is well pleased. In Jesus' death your sins are forgiven.
What's more, God does not leave you dead. Paul writes here that, "just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life." When Christ died he was in the tomb, but when he was raised he was not merely resuscitated. God did not go into the tomb with a defibrillator to jump start Jesus' heart. In 1 Corinthians 15 we see that Christ was raised imperishable. He was raised in glory.
And because Christ was raised we too will be raised with him. But when does this new life happen? It begins now. The Spirit of God is poured out to transform our lives so that we can walk in the "newness of life." We are no longer ruled by sin. Paul says in Galatians 2:20, "I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me."
We are becoming more like Christ and less like the passions of this world. But this is not simply happening by practicing good behavior. The Christian life is lived because of the work of the Spirit. God Spirit produces love, joy, peace, patients, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, self-control (Gal 5:22-23).
We live a life pleasing to God because we have been given new life!
Take pornography for example, the reason that people can engage in such a destructive practice is that our hearts want it. This weak sinful self is drawn to the false promise of pleasure. But when you look at pornography you are objectifying people. It turns people into a commodity, which can be used and thrown away. People were not made for that reason. People were not made to be dirty pictures.
Should we look at pornography more so that grace can abound?
God's grace is transformative. You are not the same person. And the only way to end the power lust has over you life is to get a new life without it. God completely removes sin he also gives you a new life, with new desires and new perspectives. Imagine if we found women attractive for their inner beauty. Imagine if we wanted purity more than looking at pornography. That change comes God.
But not all sin is simply an action like looking at pornography.
Sin happens in our hearts at work and at home. A friend of my wife and mine worked for a Missions agency a short time ago with a lady who vexed her daily. My friend was responsible for compiling data, while this other lady was responsible for organizing meetings and conferences. Most days this other lady was unable to arrange all the details for the meetings and conferences and so she would ask my friend for assistance. At first it was no trouble, but after awhile whenever my friend went into work it meant that she needed to do two jobs. Over a number of days my friend began to hate going in to work because the lady was there. She no longer wanted to help her.
Should she stop talking to the lady - possibly tell her boss to try to get her fired?
How do you go from hating being around someone because she stresses you out to loving her?
You are not going to be able to pep talk yourself into being nicer. You are not going to be able to escape the problem by working out or watching TV when you get home. You are not going to be able change the person you are inside without God.
Pray. Lord I am living with hatred in my heart. The pressure from my job is bringing out a person in me that I don't want to be. Forgive me for my attitude toward my coworker. Help me love her in times I have not be able to in the past and give me a vision for how to serve you at work.
For my friend it wasn't just one prayer or one thing that changed in her that changed the situation. God was at work in her life helping her to encourage this other lady to grow in her position at the Missions agency. This took time and prayer.
When we hear the question, "should we sin more so that grace may abound?" We should already be thinking, "no way." Our God saved us and is pleased with us because it is Christ who lives in me. We have a different sort of life that is no longer ruled by sin.
Your sin is dead, go walk in the newness of life!