We have obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand – Romans 5:2.
- We saw last week what this grace is.
(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.
We noted that everything the believer does is within the context of this “grace in which we stand”, this extravagant grace – even our sin.
- But we obscure much of the joy, hope and freedom this grace brings.
- The obscuring coming from things like bad “legalistic-too-much-law” teaching, and personal or cultural baggage – like performance equals approval.
This baggage has unfortunate consequences in the believer’s life.
- We pull back on the reins of God’s extravagant grace, as if afraid to let it run wild in our lives.
Barbara Duguid describes the consequences this way:
“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 picture of the Christian life is not the one Paul describes in Romans and elsewhere.
- When God’s grace runs wild – even in our sin – the joy, hope and freedom it brings is ours for the taking.
- We never sin outside of God’s extravagant grace!
- “Where the Spirit of the Lord is there is freedom” – 2 Cor. 3:17.
All of this raises two important questions.
(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?
- Jesus tells the women at the well to “go and sin no more”.
- And Paul says things like, “the old self was crucified” that we might be “no longer enslaved to sin”.
- And that we “have become slaves of righteousness” and are not longer slaves to sin.
(2) How can we grow in “the grace in which we stand” – to let it run wild – even in the midst of our sin?
- For as we saw, even our sin is within the context of God’s extravagant grace.
- “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.
Today I want to provide the background to answer question number one.
Framing Question One:
It is hard to let God’s grace run wild when we misunderstand our sin and God’s grace.
- We need to Biblically understand our relationship to sin.
- We need to cast off some “works” baggage.
- We need to dispel any notion that we can stop sinning (before our glorification).
- In contrast to holiness denominations like Nazarenes.
- We need to take grace as far as Paul does – where he asks, “are we to continue in sin that grace may abound?”
- This is the grace that runs wild!
So question one…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?
- These questions highlight an apparent disconnect between who we are and what we do.
- They do so in at least two ways.
(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.
So to answer our question, we need to address both of these problems.
- The way to answer our question and address both of these problems is to…
- Understand Paul in Romans 5-7 through the lens of God’s extravagant grace
- And thereby cast off the works/performance baggage that obscures it.
Indicative vs. Imperative – Casting off Works Baggage:
Let’s expose our “works” baggage.
- 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?
- Romans 6:6–7 (ESV) — 6 We know that our old self was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin. 7 For one who has died has been set free from sin.
How do we typically apply the above verses?
- What do they appear to teach?
- Especially in light of what Jesus said to the women at the well – “go and sin no more”.
- It looks like he is saying grace calls us to works – to not sin.
Paul goes on to apply his verses for us:
- Romans 6:12–15 (ESV) — 12 Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, to make you obey its passions. 13 Do not present your members to sin as instruments for unrighteousness, but present yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life, and your members to God as instruments for righteousness.
What do we make of his application?
- What does he seem to be saying?
- Is he agreeing with our “works” baggage or overturning it?
- Again, it looks like he is saying that those standing in grace are called to works – to not sin.
In order to make sure we don’t misinterpret these verses…
- We need to consider a distinction Paul makes throughout Romans.
Paul is teaching the outworking and implications of the Gospel for believers.
- He is telling us what has been “done” – the indicative – by Christ’s work (death, burial, resurrection).
- And he is telling us what this “done” work of Christ means for us.
- He is not giving us a Christian version of the law to follow!
- He is not giving us a to do list.
We need to unpack this just a bit.
N.T. Wright frames it this way:
- He says Paul is taking the story of the Exodus from the bondage of Egypt…
- Israel’s receiving of the law at Sinai in the Mosaic covenant…
- Their passing through the waters of the Red Sea and Jordan to the Promised Land.
- And is retelling the story around the new Moses – Jesus Christ!
He says the new story is this:
“Romans 6 describes how Christians come through the water of baptism [the Red Sea and Jordan River] and thus leave behind the land of slavery and enter upon a new freedom (like leaving Egypt and setting off for the promised land)” – N.T. Wright.
This is the grace in which we now walk.
- It is a total change in the realm in which we live!
- In Christ we have left the wilderness and come back into the Garden – back into the Promised Land.
- We are there and remain there whether we sin or not.
- It is not a conditional covenant!
So Romans 6 is not about Paul giving us marching orders; it is about the new realm of grace in which we stand.
- Romans 5:2 (ESV) — 2 Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand [Eden and the Promised Land in Christ], and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God.
- Romans 5:17 (ESV) — 17 For if, because of one man’s trespass, death reigned through that one man, much more will those who receive the abundance of grace and the free gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man Jesus Christ.
- “For sin will have no dominion over you [the wilderness], since you are not under law but under grace” – Romans 6:14.
Romans scholars put it like this:
“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.
- “…In becoming a Christian you move from one type of humanity to the other [law/wilderness to grace/promised land], and you should never think of yourself in the original mode again” – N.T. Wright.
- “Grace does not simply involve forgiveness of sins; it also involves a transfer of lordship, so that believers are no longer under the tyranny of sin [the law and the wilderness]” – Tom Schreiner.
- “What has been shattered is not the presence of sin but the mastery of sin over believers” – Tom Schreiner.
We have been planted in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ and have a new status in Christ so we are no longer growing in religion, the law, sin and works but in Christ – N.T. Wright.
- And importantly, “It is impossible to go back to Egypt” – N.T. Wright.
- Even in our sin!
So sin is really dead in us.
- Because we are not in ourselves anymore, but in Christ, in the new realm, in the Promised Land, in God’s extravagant grace.
- In this place, sin’s dominion is dead.
- With respect to sin we, “are free from its power, tyranny, mastery, and dominion” – Tom Schreiner.
This is why salvation is not by works.
- This is why the Gospel is good news!
- This is why the Gospel is so scandalous.
This is why when the Gospel is rightly taught people think we are casting off moral restraint and that we are antinomian (against the law).
“This is, once more, a charge he must have met quite often, not least from Jews and Jewish Christians who, on hearing that he regarded Christians as free from the law [works/Sinai/wilderness], worried quite naturally that they would cast off all moral restraint” – N.T. Wright.
As James Boice points out, this fear is “the argument of religious people”.
- It is the argument brought by those who are carrying works/law baggage.
- It is not the argument of from those basking in God’s extravagant grace.
Next week we will answer the two questions we raised and address the disconnects we observed.