Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Victory in Christ Revisited - Romans 6

A few weeks ago I wrote several blog articles about what I called Victory in Christ. This was a series on Romans 6-8. Since then I have done a lot of thinking about the topic and have given considerable thought to Romans 7 especially and how it fits in considering the struggle all of us face as Christians in our efforts to live a life that is pleasing to God and is victorious.

In preparation for a deeper look at Romans 7, here are the main truths that I believe Romans 5-6 are teaching us.

First, Adam's sin was imputed to all of us and thus we are guilty from the moment we're born. Actual sin was not imputed to people when there was no law against those sins and thus God tells us that the law was added so that sin would increase (Romans 5:20), and so that sin might become exceedingly sinful (Romans 7:13).

Second, where sin increased, grace increased more (Romans 5:20). We should look at grace not only as God's gracious forgiveness of our sin, but the motivation and strength to do right (Titus 2:11, 12; 2 Cor 9:8; 2 Cor 8:7; 2 Cor 12:9). So as sin increases, God gives more grace to be able to fight it and overcome victoriously. His grace never lags behind.

But that raises the question as to whether we should sin more so that there will be more grace. The answer, of course, is “no”. It's interesting then that Paul appeals to what we should know and that what we know should help us. We should know that we have been united with Christ in his death, burial, resurrection and ascension. Since we've been united with Christ, we died with him on the cross and we were raised with him and are seated with him in heavenly places (Ephesians 2:5-6). Since this is so, our old man was crucified with Christ so that the body of sin might be rendered inoperative. We are therefore no longer slaves of sin because we have been freed from it (Romans 6:5-11). Sin's right to rule us has ceased. In light of these truths, we are to count ourselves to be dead to sin and alive to God because we are united with Christ. We are to see ourselves as having died already and as living on the resurrection side. The bottom line of this section then is that we should not offer ourselves as weapons to sin, but we should present ourselves to God as those who are alive from the dead.

Next we discover that we are not under law but under grace (Romans 6:14), and this results in the understanding that sin shall not have dominion over us. (He's going to explain how sin and law interact in Chapter 7.) This is a promise not a command. But should we sin, since we are not under law but under grace? Paul's argument here beginning at verse 15 is very strong. He says, “Don't you know?” Again he brings up the importance of knowing something. What is it that we are to know? Besides knowing that we are united with Christ, we should know that when we yield ourselves to obey someone, we are in effect a slave of the one who we obey. Regardless of how the law applies, we are defacto slaves if we obey someone else's every command. Even though sin doesn't have legal dominion over us and its power over us has been broken, if we yield to it, we are as good as slaves even if perhaps we are not legally slaves. So he gives two scenarios. We can either yield ourselves to sin which leads to death or we can yield ourselves to obedience which leads to righteousness (Romans 6:16-23). These two masters have two completely opposite results. Yielding to sin leads to further lawlessness and wickedness and ultimately death. Yielding to obedience leads to righteousness, then to holiness (v. 19), which leads ultimately to eternal life (v.22). He summarizes this truth in the familiar verse 23: For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Does this mean that ultimately salvation is based on our works? If I give in to obedience and to greater righteousness I ultimately work my way to the end which is eternal life? I don't think so because in verse 23 as in many other places of Scripture we learn that eternal life is a gift of God. But what I think this is telling us is that the entire path is a gift of God. The entire gift of salvation includes the desire and motivation to please God. I think this is a warning to those who would claim that they have eternal life and yet live on the disobedience leads to further disobedience leads to death path. You can't follow that path and expect to end up with eternal life. If God has given you the gift of eternal life by regenerating your spirit, he has also given you a new heart, a new spirit, his Holy Spirit and the motivation to live for him (Ezekiel 36:26-27). A Christian will spend less and less time on the death path because he knows it doesn't fit who he is in Christ.

See next post here.

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