Friday, June 13, 2014

WHY NOT SIN? (Romans Chapter 6)

Romans 6:1, “What shall we say then?  Are we to continue in sin that grace might abound?”

A transition takes place from Romans chapter 5 to Romans chapter 6.  The first 5 chapters focused on issues related to the doctrine of justification, chapter 6 and following have more to do with the doctrine of sanctification.  Romans 6:1 includes one of the many rhetorical questions found in the epistle.  Paul, anticipating that some might object to what he had previously taught, raised the very questions they might have proposed.

Kenneth Wuest explains, “So Paul proposes the question, “What shall we say then?”  Say then to what?  We go back to Romans 5:20 for our answer which we find in the apostle’s statement, “Where sin abounded, there grace was in superabundance, and then some on top of that.”  (Paul’s teaching is that no matter how much sin committed, there are always unlimited resources of grace in the great heart of God by which to extend mercy to the sinning individual).  The objector’s thought was as follows; “Paul, do you mean to tell me that God is willing to forgive a person’s sins as often as he commits them?”  In response to Paul’s affirmative answer, this legalist says in effect, “Well then, if that is the case, shall we Christians keep on habitually sinning in order that God may have an opportunity to forgive us and thus display His grace?”  That is the background of this man’s reasoning."  (Wuest, K. S. Wuest's Word Studies from the Greek New Testament: Studies in the Vocabulary of the Greek New Testament: Grand Rapids: Eerdmans).

Paul’s immediate response to the questions is “By no means” (Romans 6:2).  The supposition that continuation in sin would be an appropriate response to grace was anathema to Paul (i.e. KJV, “God forbid”).  The Greek phrase used by Paul, “me genoito,” represents the strongest Greek idiom to indicate repudiation.

It is important to note what Paul did not say in response to the question.  He did not say that it is important for the believer in Christ to not continue in sin because in so-doing he would risk the possibility of forfeiting his salvation.  That would, of course, contradict what Paul elsewhere clearly affirmed regarding the security of the believer (Cf. Romans 5:1; 8:31-29).  The fear of loss of one’s salvation is not the answer to the question.

The reason why the believer in Christ is not inclined to continue in sin (in a habitual manner; Cf. 1 John 1:8 and 3:9) is that he has experienced a radical transformation as a result of his intimate identification with Christ in HIs death and resurrection (Cf. Romans 6:3-4).  The term baptism is used to describe the work of the Spirit which transpired when the believer trusted in Christ (Cf. 1 Corinthians 12:13).  The term speaks to the intimate “identification with Him in death, burial, and resurrection” (Vine’s Expository Dictionary).  By means of this identification the “old self was crucified with him” (Romans 6:6) and the believer was raised then with him to “walk in newness of life” (Romans 6:4).  Put simply, he has been made to be “a new creation” in Christ (Cf. 2 Corinthians 5:17; Galatians 2:20).  It is his relationship with Christ (his new identity) that instructs and motivates him, by the Spirit, to put off sin (Cf. Colossians 3:3-5).

When asked what God had taught him most deeply about life, George Mueller (1805-1898), pastor and philanthropist, explained: “There was a day when I died, utterly died, died to George Mueller, his opinions, preferences, tastes and will, died to the world, its approval or censure, died to the approval or blame even of my brethren and friends, and since then I have studied only to show myself approved unto God.”  The Apostle Paul said much the same thing 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.”

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