Harbor Lights Sermon  Feb 2012

Romans - Christian Life - Part 1: Sin

As we continue our series through the New Testament book of Romans, I hope to cover the concepts in Romans chapters 6 and 7 today. For the first 5 chapters the apostle Paul elaborates upon the gospel, the good news whereby Christ died for our sins such that by simply putting our faith in Him we are saved from the wrath of God and guaranteed eternal life, having been reconciled to God through the cross.

Now starting in Romans chapter 6 Paul talks about the Christian life. And the first thing he brings up is an implication of the gospel which even skeptics may bring up. Namely that if salvation is by faith and not by works, then can the grace to be taken as a license to sin? Romans 6:1 he brings up this question asking, "What shall we say, then? Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase?" For if your salvation status is not contingent upon your behavior, this is the obvious question that comes up.

In Romans 6 Paul answers this by giving the Christian a new perspective on life. For as those who have been saved and are destined for eternal glory it is not appropriate for us to ask ourselves as to whether we are allowed to sin, but rather what good purpose God has for us. For as Paul says in Eph 2:8-10 "For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith— and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast." But follows that by saying, "For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do." Or as he says in Titus 2:11-14 "For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men. It teaches us to say "No" to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age, while we wait for the blessed hope— the glorious appearing of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for himself a people that are his very own, eager to do what is good."

In other words, one of the reasons why salvation was made a free gift rather than something you had to qualify for by being good, was in order for us to do what is good freely rather than begrudgingly in order to obtain salvation. Consider for example generosity. If a person is obligated to be generous, it's not generosity. Paying taxes is not an act of generosity. Generosity can only be practiced if a person is not legally obligated to do so. And this the case with regards to the Christian doing what is good. We do what is good not in order to earn salvation, but rather we do what is good because we are saved, and doing what is right is the purpose and destiny God has assigned us.

The first 14 verses of Romans 6 say this, "What shall we say, then? Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase? By no means! We died to sin; how can we live in it any longer?  Or don’t you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life. If we have been united with him like this in his death, we will certainly also be united with him in his resurrection. For we know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin— because anyone who has died has been freed from sin. Now if we died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. For we know that since Christ was raised from the dead, he cannot die again; death no longer has mastery over him. The death he died, he died to sin once for all; but the life he lives, he lives to God. In the same way, reckon yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus. Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its evil desires  Do not offer the parts of your body to sin, as instruments of wickedness, but rather offer yourselves to God, as those who have been brought from death to life; and offer the parts of your body to him as instruments of righteousness.  For sin shall not be your master, because you are not under law, but under grace."

So before we were saved sin controlled our destiny. But now being under grace sin no longer controls our destiny. Now we have a new life and a new destiny. And it is our anticipation of that destiny that we do what is right.

In the second part of Romans 6 Paul gives another perspective on this same kind of question where in Romans 6:15 he says, "What then? Shall we sin because we are not under law but under grace? Certainly not!" For there were those in the Christian community who viewed the grace of God as a license to sin. Jude writes in Jude 1:4 "Certain men whose condemnation was written about long ago have secretly slipped in among you. They are godless men, who change the grace of our God into a license for immorality and deny Jesus Christ our only Sovereign and Lord."  Genuine believers don't think in terms of how much we can get away with. We don't think about how can we get away with sinning. Rather we think about how we can get away from sinning. Before we were married to sin. We took on its name and identity. We lived with it. But now having been born again, essentially married to Christ and taking on his identity, sin is more like the annoying neighbor who comes knocking on our door periodically. Reckon yourselves to be dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus.

The reason Paul gives in Romans 6 as to why God's grace should not be taken as a license to sin is because of the worthlessness of sinful living and because of the fruitfulness of righteous living. It's just not worth it. He says, "When you were slaves to sin, you were free from the control of righteousness. What benefit did you reap at that time from the things you are now ashamed of? Those things result in death!" Rom 6:20,21 And he goes on to say, "But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves to God, the benefit you reap leads to holiness, and the result is eternal life. For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord." Rom 6:22,23

He goes on in first part of chapter 7 to give the analogy of marriage. Previously we were married to the law of sin and death. It used to be if you sinned you were condemned. But now, through Christ, we've died to that principle, freeing us up to be bound to Christ under the Law of the Spirit in order that we might bear fruit to God. For "through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death." Rom 8:2 The law of the Spirit of life is this - God gives you the Holy Spirit who imparts to you life. It provokes you inside to righteous living. Remember Paul talked about being transformed from being slaves to sin to being slaves to God. This is the experience of those born of God. In fact the apostle John, speaking in a lifestyle sense, goes so far to say, "No one who is born of God will continue to sin, because God’s seed remains in him; he cannot go on sinning, because he has been born of God." 1John 3:9

Yet this is not to say that we are completely free from the sinful nature associated with our flesh. For in the second part of Romans chapter 7 Paul goes on to express his own internal struggle against sin. He says, for example, "I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out." Rom 7:18 and he says, "I find this law at work: When I want to do good, evil is right there with me." Rom 7:21 Now some have said that this was not Paul's Christian experience, but his experience prior to coming faith. But in fact Paul clearly applies these ideas to Christians in Gal 5:16,17 where he says, "So I say, live by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the sinful nature. For the sinful nature desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the sinful nature. They are in conflict with each other, so that you do not do what you want." Which is the same phrase he used in Romans 7 describing his own experience. Those who have the Spirit nonetheless retain their sinful nature and as such there is this common experience of an internal struggle between the Spirit and the sinful nature.

Yet we are no longer viewed as bound in slavery to the sinful nature, even though our flesh is bound to that principle. Paul says, "in my inner being I delight in God’s law" Rom 7:22 and he says, "I myself in my mind am a slave to God’s law" Rom 7:25b What defines us in God's sight is our inner being. Our intentions. But this is not our final state. Of his present state Paul says, "What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death? Thanks be to God— through Jesus Christ our Lord!" Rom 7:24-25a And despite the fact that whatever we do sin is not absent, yet it is not the controlling principle of the Christian's life. Paul will elaborate upon this fact in Romans chapter 8 which we'll cover next time.

But to summarize, Paul says in 2Cor 5:17 "If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!" Though for now we still retain our sinful nature and struggle against it, yet our inner person has been made new. And as we walk in the Spirit we will live a productive life and not carry out the desires of our sinful nature. Of the New Covenant the Lord says in Jer 32:39-40, "I will give them singleness of heart and action, so that they will always fear me for their own good and the good of their children after them. I will make an everlasting covenant with them: I will never stop doing good to them, and I will inspire them to fear me, so that they will never turn away from me." This is the Christian experience.


Jul 29,2015