Over the past few weeks we have learned about God’s grace…
- And how our works baggage obscures the peace, joy and freedom it can bring.
Specifically, we saw God’s grace as five things.
- (1) Grace is God turning.
- (2) Grace is God giving.
- (3) Grace is God acting.
- (4) Grace is God placing.
- (5) Grace is God’s specific disposition toward those in Christ.
We noted that everything the believer does is within the context of this “grace in which we stand”, this extravagant grace – even our sin.
- This fact has massive implications for the Christian life.
In an attempt to reveal the peace, joy and freedom…
- As well as unearth the massive implications of living – and even sinning – within God’s grace…
- We raised two questions concerning our sin and God’s grace.
(1) If the Spirit indwells us, and we are new creations being sanctified in Christ, why do we sin?
- Is our sin outside God’s sovereignty and purposes?
(2) How can we grow in “the grace in which we stand” – to let it run wild – even in the midst of our sin?
Leaving question two for next week, we began to tackle question one.
- We saw that question one revealed a couple of apparent disconnects between God and our sin.
- Specifically, two disconnects that come with a “religious” view of sin.
The disconnects were:
(1) The presence of sin in the believer seems to be problematic in a similar way that the presence of evil in God’s good creation is problematic.
- In other words, how does sin live in us if we are dead to sin and alive to Christ.
- Paul says of us, “…we who died to sin” – Romans 6:2.
- Something dead – in this case sin – has no life.
- Yet we know full well that sin is alive in us.
- How then is sin really dead in us?
(2) Moreover, if God is a good and holy, and resides in us through the Spirit, how does sin still reside in us?
- So like the problem of evil, sin in the believer seems to discount the power and sovereignty of God.
- We are indwelled and sealed by the Holy Spirit.
- We are in Christ.
- We participate in the fellowship of the Trinity.
- So not only are we dead to sin, but we are new creatures with new hearts.
- And yet, none of this seems powerful enough to rid us of the presence of sin.
To answer question one and address the disconnects…
- We had to reveal and begin to cast off our works baggage.
- Our natural inclination to be religious.
- Our desire to “works” our way to God’s approval.
- And to do this we had to understand Paul’s view of sin and take God’s grace as far as he does.
We bring misconceptions – religious/“works” based ones – to Paul and to our view of our sin.
- Paul, in romans 6:1-11, speaks in the indicative vs. the imperative.
- He is telling us what has been done for us, not what we are to do.
- He is not giving us a grace contingent upon works.
The done work is that sin’s dominion is defeated for those in Christ.
- We are now slaves to righteousness, not to sin.
- Yet, sin’s presence in us is not yet vanquished – (see Romans 7).
- We cannot not sin this side of glorification.
As Thomas Schreiner says:
“When Paul says we have died to sin, he is not exhorting believers to cease from sin (a command in the imperative mood); he is proclaiming to them the good news that they have died to sin (a statement of fact in the indicative mood” – Tom Schreiner.
Having exposed our works baggage…
- Our natural inclinations to be religious…
- Our resistance to let grace run wild…
- And taken grace as far as Paul…
We can finally answer number 1 – why we still sin – and address the two disconnects – sin is dead but we still sin & God’s sovereignty over our sin.
Now and Not Yet Saints Who Sin:
So why do those in Christ still sin?
- It has to do with the nature of God’s kingdom.
We live in a kingdom that is both now and not yet.
- “The kingdom has come according to Matthew 12:28 and Luke 17:21; and the coming of the kingdom is still future according to Luke 19:11–12 and many other texts” – John Piper.
- “The kingdom has been inaugurated, but not yet consummated” – Trevin Wax.
- “The Kingdom is a present reality (Matt. 12: 28), and yet it is a future blessing (I Cor. 15: 50)” – George Ladd.
Quite simply, the inaugurated kingdom contains things the not yet consummated kingdom will not contain.
- One of those things is the presence of sin in believers.
- In the “now” kingdom, we will continue to sin.
Romans scholars put it as follows:
“When believers contemplate their own capacities, it is clear that they do not have the resources to do what God demands. In encountering God’s demands, we are still conscious of our wretchedness and inherent inability. The struggle with sin continues for believers because we live in the tension between the already and the not yet” – Tom Schreiner.
- “What we were ‘in Adam’ is no more; but, until heaven, the temptation to live in Adam always remains” – Doug Moo.
- “Complete deliverance from sin is not available for Christians until the day of redemption. Christians, precisely because they have not yet experienced full liberation from sin, are conscious of the continuing presence of sin in their lives” – Tom Schreiner.
- “Since believers have not yet experienced the consummation of their redemption, they are keenly aware of their inherent inability to keep God’s law” – Thomas Schreiner.
This is why Paul says we will struggle against the temptation to “gratify the desires of the flesh” (Galatians 5).
- This is why Paul says the following:
- Romans 7:17–18 (ESV) — 17 So now it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me. 18 For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out.
- And John says, 1 John 2:1 (ESV) — 1 My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous.
And Jesus spoke of a future delivery from the presence of sin.
- Matthew 13:41 (ESV) — 41 The Son of Man will send his angels, and they will gather out of his kingdom all causes of sin and all law-breakers,
This explains why we still sin even though we live in a new realm of Grace, in Union with Christ, and have a new nature.
- We are free from sin’s dominion (the “now” kingdom), but not free from its presence (yet to come kingdom).
George Ladd sums it up beautifully:
“The old age is going on, yet men may already enjoy the powers of The Age to Come. The kingdom of Satan still stands, but the Kingdom of God has invaded the kingdom of Satan. Men and women may now be delivered from this power, delivered from this bondage, delivered from the mastery of sin and death [Paul’s indicatives of Romans 6]. This deliverance is accomplished because the power of the future Kingdom of glory [Paul’s indicatives of Romans 6] has come among men in a secret, quiet form to work in their midst” – George Ladd.
We will give Paul the last word:
- 2 Corinthians 5:4 (ESV) — 4 For while we are still in this tent [non-resurrection body], we groan, being burdened—not that we would be unclothed, but that we would be further clothed [resurrection body], so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life.
- Sin and death will be swallowed up forever in the age to come!
God’s Sovereignty – Our Sin:
Now, having understood the reasons why believers still sin…
- We can address the issue of God’s sovereignty over our sin.
- Does God lack the ability to purge us from the presence of sin in the “now” Kingdom of God?
- Is our sin outside of God’s purposes?
- Certainly not.
It is here, therefore, that the scandal of the Gospel and the extravagance of God’s grace are glaring.
- God’s sovereignty demands that we admit that He allows the presence of sin to remain in us.
- Yet, understand that He gives us the grace to kill specific sin as He sees fit.
- More on this next week.
Barbara Duguid explains:
Though we are delivered from the power of sin, God leaves us “with a sinful nature that will wage war against our new nature for the remainder of our lives” – Barbara Duguid.
And here is the kicker:
“In the sovereign will of God, the Christian life is supposed to be this way. God is capable, when he pleases and for his own purposes, of giving me the grace to stand and resist temptation. But often he chooses instead, for his own good purposes, to show me grace through my falls, humbling me and teaching me my desperate need of him” – Barbara Duguid.
That God chooses to permit sin to accomplish His purposes can be seen in at least two examples.
(1) Paul speaks of one such example:
- Romans 5:20 (ESV) — 20 Now the law came in to increase the trespass, but where sin increased, grace abounded all the more,
N.T. Wright teases Paul’s point out for us.
“What was God up to, giving the law not simply knowing that it would give sin the chance to grow to its full height, but actually in order that it might do so?” – N.T. Wright.
- “God wanted sin to be brought to its full height in order that he might then deal with it, condemn it, punish it once and for all” – N.T. Wright.
Why would God do this?
- “In order that in the person of Israel’s representative, the Messiah, sin might be drawn onto one spot and condemned once and for all” – N.T. Wright.
- Romans 8:3 (ESV) — 3 For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh,
- Galatians 3:22 (ESV) — 22 But the Scripture imprisoned everything under sin, so that the promise by faith in Jesus Christ might be given to those who believe.
God allowed sin so He could kill its power in Jesus’ death and subsequent resurrection.
- And shower “those who believe” with the promise of faith in Jesus Christ!
- This is grace – God acting!
- 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.
- We now live in God’s extravagant grace – even when we sin.
(2) Jesus speaks of another example of permitting sin for His glory.
- Luke 22:31–32a (ESV) — 31 “Simon, Simon, behold, Satan demanded to have you, that he might sift you like wheat, 32a but I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail.
Jesus has made it clear that, at the request of Satan, Peter will be tempted and fall into sin.
- Incredibly, Satan’s request was to whom?
- God allowed this to happen.
And notice something remarkable.
“Notice too that when Jesus prayed for Peter, he did not pray that he wouldn’t sin. Instead Jesus prayed that after Peter had sinned, his faith would not fail him…” – Barbara Duguid.
There is something significant going on here.
- Why would Jesus allow this to happen?
- Why wouldn’t he protect Peter from the presence of sin?
Peter had a pride and humility problem.
- Problems that had to be addressed that Peter might be able to accomplish what God had in store for him.
When confronted with Jesus’ warning, Peter was full of himself.
- “Lord, I am ready to go with you both to prison and to death” (Luke 22:33).
Yet, this declaration fell flat as soon as the servant girl at the gate questioned him.
- John 18:17 (ESV) — 17 The servant girl at the door said to Peter, “You also are not one of this man’s disciples, are you?” He said, “I am not.”
- “It was certainly a terrible sin for Peter to lie and abandon the precious Lamb of God in his hour of greatest suffering, yet God would once again use something that he hated to accomplish something that he loved” – Barbara Duguid.
Jesus had a use for Peter that apparently required that he be humbled and broken by his sin.
- Jesus says as much at the end of verse 32.
- Luke 22:32b (ESV) — 32b And when you have turned again [because Peter’s faith won’t fail him], strengthen your brothers.”
Barbara Duguid spells it our for us:
“God had big plans to use Peter in a dramatic way to build his church, but Peter wasn’t yet ready. He was too proud, too rash, too sure of himself, and far too abrasive and arrogant to minister gently and lovingly to weak and sinful sheep. He thought he was better than the rest of the disciples, declaring, “Lord, even if everyone else leaves you, I will never leave you!” (see Matt. 26:33). Peter needed to know his own sinfulness and need before he could care for God’s flock with gentleness and humility” – Barbara Duguid.
BTW – Importantly, there was one other incredibly important thing Peter needed to learn.
- And it was this…
- Though Peter denied Christ and sinned, Christ never rejected him in his sin!
- This truth (along with the Holy Spirit) empowers the Christian walk beyond measure.
How do we know Peter grasped this important truth?
- 1 Peter 1:3–7 (ESV) — 3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, 4 to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, 5 who by God’s power are being guarded through faith [even when we deny Christ in a courtyard] for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. 6 In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials [including being turned over to Satan], 7 so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.
So believers still sin and God is sovereign over our sin.
- These two truths are inseparable.
- In fact God’s sovereignty over our sin demonstrates that the question “why do we sin” is the wrong question to ask.
- The better question may be, “what is the purpose of our God ordained sin?”.
- The story of Jesus and Peter has given us a clue.
Barbara Duguid sets up the answer and next week’s lesson.
“If you believe that God is completely sovereign over your sin and is always using it for your own good to teach you more about yourself and more of his grace, then you are free to hate your sin but love what God is doing through it” – Barbara Duguid.
Next week we should finish up and will deal with…
- How we live in and embrace “the grace in which we stand”.
- How we let God’s extravagant grace run wild…
- Especially in the midst of our sin.