by Steven Chan
The apostle Paul penned this comforting message in Rom 5:6-11:
“For when we were still without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly. 7 For scarcely for a righteous man will one die; yet perhaps for a good man someone would even dare to die. 8 But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. 9 Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from wrath through Him. 10 For if when we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life. 11 And not only that, but we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received the reconciliation.”
Our sins separated us from God so that He does not hear our prayers (Isa 59:1-2). If we continued in our sins, then we would die in our sins (John 8:24; Rom 6:23) But the Bible tells us that God showed His love for us when Jesus died to pay the penalty for our sins even while were yet “sinners” – and because we have been redeemed with His precious blood (1 Pet 1:18-19) we are now reconciled to God, and blessed with the hope of eternal life in heaven (1 Pet 1:3-5).
The way back to heaven has been made possible by the grace of God: “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, 9 not of works, lest anyone should boast.” (Eph 2:8-9)
The apostle Paul then addressed the issue of “continuing in sin” after having been saved by the grace of God. He asked: “What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin that grace may abound? 2 Certainly not! How shall we who died to sin live any longer in it?” (Rom 6:1-2)
Did we die – to sin? When did that happen?
Consider carefully Paul’s answer: “Or do you not know that as many of us as were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death? 4 Therefore we were buried with Him through baptism into death, that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.”(Rom 6:3-4)
We died to sin when we were “buried with Him through baptism into death (to sin)” – “knowing this, that our old man was crucified with Him, that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves of sin.” This is because in baptism “we have been united together in the likeness of His death” (Rom 6:5a) as one is immersed in the watery grave of baptism to be raised to walk in newness of life (Rom 6:4)
Paul continued: “Likewise you also, reckon yourselves to be dead indeed to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus our Lord. 12 Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body, that you should obey it in its lusts. 13 And do not present your members as instruments of unrighteousness to sin, but present yourselves to God as being alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness to God. 14 For sin shall not have dominion over you, for you are not under law but under grace.”
In other words, one who has been baptized for the forgiveness of his sins (Acts 2:38) should “reckon” or “count” oneself as being “dead to sin” and should no longer let sin “reign” or “dominate” one’s life. Paul gave the reason why sin ought not to have dominion or control over our lives: it is because we live under grace and not under the law.
Paul then anticipated yet another question that may arise in our mind: “What then? Shall we sin because we are not under law but under grace? Certainly not!” (Rom 6:15)
Paul explained: “Do you not know that to whom you present yourselves slaves to obey, you are that one’s slaves whom you obey, whether of sin leading to death, or of obedience leading to righteousness? 17 But God be thanked that though you were slaves of sin, yet you obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine to which you were delivered. 18 And having been set free from sin, you became slaves of righteousness.” (Rom 6:16-18)
The choice is between choosing to “continue in sin”, or to choose “obedience” from the heart to “that form of doctrine” which sets us free from sin? “Not under law” does not mean that there’s no law whatsoever that one needs to obey!
Paul had earlier explained that no one could be justified by the law: “Now we know that whatever the law says, it says to those who are under the law, that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God. 20 Therefore by the deeds of the law no flesh will be justified in His sight, for by the law is the knowledge of sin.” (Rom 3:19-20). What law was he referring to? “I would not have known sin except through the law. For I would not have known covetousness unless the law had said, “You shall not covet.”(Rom 7:7) What law said, “you shall not covet”? Is it not the law of Moses, the Ten Commandments given at Mount Sinai, also know as the Old Covenant – as per Exodus 34:27-28: “Then the Lord said to Moses, “Write these words, for according to the tenor of these words I have made a covenant with you and with Israel.” 28 So he was there with the Lord forty days and forty nights; he neither ate bread nor drank water. And He wrote on the tablets the words of the covenant, the Ten Commandments.”
No one could keep the Old Covenant perfectly and therefore no one could be saved by the Law. That’s why God replaced the Old Covenant with the New Covenant as prophesied in Jer 31:31-34 and fulfilled by Christ as declared in Heb 8:7-13 and stated by Paul in Col 2:14: “ having wiped out the handwriting of requirements that was against us, which was contrary to us. And He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross.”
Now that the Law has been taken away, does that mean that we need not obey any law now? Paul wrote thus: “Where is boasting then? It is excluded. By what law? Of works? No, but by the law of faith. Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith apart from the deeds of the law” (Rom 3:27-28). We now need to obey the “law of faith” as revealed in the New Covenant of Grace and Truth as given by Jesus Christ: “ For the law was given through Moses, but grace and truth came through Jesus Christ” (John 1:17)
Grace saves us when we obey the truth as revealed in the New Covenant: that is the “form or pattern” of doctrine that sets us free from sin and death (Rom 6:17). It is the same as the “truth” that sets us free from sin: “Then Jesus said to those Jews who believed Him, “If you abide in My word, you are My disciples indeed. 32 And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.”(John 8:31-32). It is important to note that Jesus said to those who “believed Him” – they had faith in Him. Jesus said to believers that they need to abide in His Word so that they can truly be His disciples and then they shall know the truth that will set them free from sin. What is that “truth”? Jesus prayed: “Sanctify them by Your truth. Your word is truth” (John 17:17). God’s word is the truth. Jesus said that it will judge us in the last day: “And if anyone hears My words and does not believe,[i] I do not judge him; for I did not come to judge the world but to save the world. 48 He who rejects Me, and does not receive My words, has that which judges him—the word that I have spoken will judge him in the last day. 49 For I have not spoken on My own authority; but the Father who sent Me gave Me a command, what I should say and what I should speak. 50 And I know that His command is everlasting life. Therefore, whatever I speak, just as the Father has told Me, so I speak.”(John 12:47-50)
So, shall we continue in sin – now that we are no longer under law but under grace? Firstly, if we have died to sin in baptism then we ought to determine not to let sin reign or have dominion over our life. Instead we are to yield ourselves as instruments of righteousness to serve the Lord. Secondly, although the Law of Moses has been “taken away” on the cross, we are still obligated to obey the law of faith as revealed through Jesus and His apostles: “For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men, 12 teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly in the present age, 13 looking for the blessed hope and glorious appearing of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ” (Titus 2:11-13). “For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments. And His commandments are not burdensome” (1 John 5:4)
If we stray from the truth, as some did in 2 Tim 2:18 (“who have strayed concerning the truth, saying that the resurrection is already past; and they overthrow the faith of some”) then we need to be corrected; otherwise we will be headed towards death: “Brethren, if anyone among you wanders from the truth, and someone turns him back, 20 let him know that he who turns a sinner from the error of his way will save a soul[f] from death and cover a multitude of sins.”
May we not be led astray into the erroneous notion that since we are under grace, we can be saved by his grace regardless of whether we continue to walk in the truth (3 John 3-4). We need to set our minds on the things above (Col 3:1-2): “For to be carnally minded is death, but to be spiritually minded is life and peace.” (Rom 8:6). Our lives need to be transformed: “I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service. 2 And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.” (Rom 12:1-2).
Sin should not have dominion in our lives. God’s grace is able to help us overcome sin: “For in that He Himself has suffered, being tempted, He is able to aid those who are tempted….Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need…No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it…My little children, these things I write to you, so that you may not sin. And if anyone sins, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous… But if we walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin. 8 If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. 9 If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” (Heb 2:18; 4:16; 1 Cor 10:13; 1 John 2:1; 1:7-9).