Romans 5:1–2 (ESV) — 1 Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. 2 Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God.
There is an enormous amount of joy, hope and freedom to be found “in this grace in which we stand”.
- “This grace” has huge ramifications for all parts of the Christian life – from personal suffering and sin, to our identity in Christ, to relationships and our corporate life in the church, to our future in Christ’s now and not yet Kingdom.
However, we have obscured much of this joy, hope and freedom.
- The obscuring has come from a number of things – bad “legalistic-too-much-law” teaching, and personal or cultural baggage – like performance equals approval.
- A particular area where this baggage obscures “this grace in which we stand” relates to our sin and struggles to defeat it.
Barbara Duguid frames the problem well:
“Everywhere I go I meet Christians who are depressed, anxious, and discouraged because they still sin…Every now and then they attend a retreat or hear a sermon, and with renewed energy and determination, they make a plan to beat this sin once and for all. They pray and fast, they memorize Scripture and attend accountability groups, they write in journals [will-power sin fighting]. For a while, it seems to work and things get better. But before long, their old sin creeps back in and once again wins the day. Only now it is even worse than before. Now discouragement wells up like a tsunami of shame as hope of real change is shattered once again” – Barbara Duguid.
This feature of the Christian life can wreak havoc.
- It can lead to a doubting of the truth of the Gospel.
- And this cycle of failure can lead to more and more sin.
- We sin; we fail to overcome; we feel shame; we punish ourselves with more sin – J. Budziszewski.
Given that this sin seems to contradict the Christian life…
- She asks what we all have asked.
- “So why do real Christians still sin so much, even after they have been saved for decades?”
- She rhetorically says, “If sanctification is all about us sinning less and less, then we would have to conclude that the Holy Spirit isn’t doing his job very well” – Barbara Duguid.
- Not a good place to be!
BTW – She is talking just as much about our “secret inward” sin as she is about our outward sin.
- Christians are expert illusionists.
- We can look great on the outside.
- But the inside is a mess – lust, porn, covetousness, envy, hate, worry, dissatisfaction, pride, etc.
- “Perhaps our greatest problem is not the reality of our sin, but our unbiblical expectations of what Christian growth should look like [the baggage]. What if growing in grace is more about humility, dependence, and exalting Christ than it is about defeating sin?” – Barbara Duguid.
“It is a radical and almost frightening thought to see that God is actually as much at work in our worst moments of sin and defeat as he is in our best moments of shining obedience” – Barbara Duguid.
We need to get this right because…
- I think a lot of us are very confused by our sin.
- Though this is true – Romans 6:1–2 (ESV) — 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?
- This is also true – Romans 7:19 (ESV) — 19 For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing.
There is a profound relationship between God’s grace and a believer’s sin that, when rightly understood, has an awesome power to redeem our sin and point us to Christ – and ultimately lead to sin killing.
So both as a “kind of” intro to Romans (Romans is filled with grace), and as effort to renew our minds (Romans) and hearts, we are going to spend a few weeks challenging our views of God’s grace.
- Specifically, its implications for our sin and identity in Christ – the two are inseparable.
- Sin always effects who we think we are.
The first thing we need to do is understand what we are talking about when we speak of “this grace in which we stand”.
- Obviously, Paul is talking about the special grace in which the believer lives, not the common grace in which all humanity lives.
What is common grace?
- Most well known from Matthew 5.
- Matthew 5:45 (ESV) — 45 so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.
It is “responsible for a variety of benefits to all people indiscriminatingly” – Michael Horton.
- “It is a restraint on sin” – Michael Horton.
- It is “a restraint on God’s own wrath” – Michael Horton.
- It is an inherent motivation for “the practice of virtues” and “worthy tasks” – John Murray.
What is special grace – Romans 5:2 grace?
- Importantly, it is not a substance – Michael Horton.
- It is not eaten or drank – something akin to Catholic belief.
- Far from it.
What it is:
This grace contains at least the following five truths:
(1) Grace is God turning.
Grace “is always God’s turning to those who not only do not deserve this favour, but have deserved the very opposite” – Karl Barth.
- Romans 5:9 (ESV) — 9 Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God.
- The wrath is what we deserve.
(2) Grace is God giving.
- And it is God giving “nothing less than himself” – Michael Horton.
- John 3:16 (ESV) — 16 “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.
(3) Grace is God acting.
- It is “Jesus Christ in redeeming action” – Michael Horton.
- Matthew 26:38–39 (ESV) — 38 Then he said to them, “My soul is very sorrowful, even to death; remain here, and watch with me.” 39 And going a little farther he fell on his face and prayed, saying, “My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will.”
It is the “unconstrained manner in which God acts toward his creatures” – Douglas Moo.
- Drinking the cup of wrath is a “redeeming action” of Jesus Christ.
- As well as just about everything from His incarnation, to His crucifixion, to His Resurrection.
(4) Grace is God placing.
- It is God placing us in “the realm in which grace reigns” – Douglas Moo.
- This realm has eschatological implications.
- Acts 20:32 (ESV) — 32 And now I commend you to God and to the word of his grace, which is able to build you up and to give you the inheritance among all those who are sanctified.
(5) Grace is God’s disposition.
- It is God’s beneficent disposition to the elect – BDAG.
- Beneficent – “conferring benefits” upon.
- Romans 8:29–30 (ESV) — 29 For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. 30 And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified.
Paul hits on all of these in Titus.
- Titus 3:4–7 (ESV) — 4 But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, 5 he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, 6 whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, 7 so that being justified by his grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life.
How does this text contain all the aspects of grace we just described?
- God’s turning is found in his “goodness and loving kindness” – mercy.
- God’s giving is found when “our Savior appeared”.
- God’s acting is found in the “regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit” and the “poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior”.
- God’s placing is found in that we are now “heirs”.
- God disposition, His “conferring benefits”, is found in all of it, but especially in that we are now “justified by his grace” and have the “hope of eternal life”.
So where does this leave us?
- We have to remember that everything the believer thinks or does is in context of God’s grace.
As believers, as those in Union with Christ, as those who have been placed into God’s inheritance as heirs, nothing we do is outside of this context – God’s grace.
This means that even our sin is in the context of God’s turning, God’s giving, God’s acting, God’s placing and God’s disposition – God’s grace.
- This theological truth has profound consequences for the Christian life.
- I want us to come to grips with these consequences.
- I want us to come to grips with God’s “Extravagant Grace” – Duguid.