We want to do what we want to do. We don’t like to be told what to do. We like to be thought of as being right, all the time. We like to think of ourselves as on the side of what is right and good…even when we ourselves do wrong. We want to do what we want to do, and we want God to approve of it. At the very least, we want to think of ourselves as okay in the sight of God.
So what we do sometimes when it comes to what the Bible says is sin is this:
1) We will go ahead and commit the sin, but we will justify it in our minds and justify it to others.
2) We will say, “It’s okay that I do this, because God’s grace will cover me.” In other words, the Bible says that Christians sin and yet are still forgiven by God, so that means I can commit this sin and it’ll be okay because God will forgive me. God’s grace will cover me.
Is that how grace works? Let’s go to the Bible and see…
Paul talks a lot about sin in Romans. He brings out that all have sinned (Rom. 3:23). He also shows how we can be justified by faith and obtain access by faith into grace, in spite of our sin (Rom. 5:1-2).
And then at the end of chapter 5 of Romans, he says something interesting. “…but where sin increased, grace abounded all the more, so that, as sin reigned in death, grace also might reign through righteousness leading to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord” (vs. 20-21).
“Where sin increased, grace abounded all the more.” The more that sin occurs, the more God gives his grace.
That’s pretty great. In fact, it’s so great that, if I’m the type of Christian who is very prideful and self-centered and really, really want to do what I want to do and doesn’t like to be told what to do by anyone, then this seems like a pretty good deal. I can do what I want, even if it’s sin…and God’s grace will cover me because the more I sin, the more grace I will get.
Apparently, some in the early church thought the same thing. That’s why the very next thing Paul writes, in anticipation of what they were thinking, is this: “What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound?” (Rom. 6:1).
He then answers his own question: “By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it?” (Rom. 6:2). That’s a very good question.
Because we did die to sin, you know. If you’re a Christian as the New Testament defines them, then this is true. When did this happen? Paul tells us it happened when we were baptized (Rom. 6:3-4). He says we were baptized into the death of Christ. When we were baptized, we died to sin. When we were baptized, we were in a spiritual sense crucified with Christ. In baptism, we were buried with Christ too, and then we were spiritually resurrected just like Christ was physically resurrected. Now we have a new life.
Our old self, the old me who let sin rule over me, died. The old me was crucified so that I would no longer be sin’s slave (Rom. 6:6).
That means that “it is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me” (Gal. 2:20). It’s no longer about what I want. It’s about what Christ wants. If the old me was crucified with Christ and put to death, then that will have a major impact on how I live my life now as a Christian.
That’s why Paul said we now walk “in newness of life” (Rom. 6:4-5). When we went under the water of baptism, our old self died and we were buried. When we came up out of the water, we were raised to a brand new life. Our lives must now be different, changed, brand new. We must now live in a way completely different from the life we had before in which we were slaves of sin. We are now “in Christ,” and as such we are “a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come” (2 Cor. 5:17).
Christians, we must no longer be slaves of sin. The whole reason we died to sin when we were baptized was to be set free from sin, not to continue letting it rule over us! As Paul put it, “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. For one who has died has been set free from sin” (Rom. 6:6-7). Now we can live, and live with Christ (Rom. 6:8-10). He was resurrected from the dead and now lives with God in newness of life, never to die again.
And here’s the good news. “But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ — by grace you have been saved — and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus” (Eph. 2:4-6).
Jesus died and was raised and now lives with God in heaven. Because we died with Christ, the same thing has happened with us! So what does this mean? We are dead to sin and alive to God (Rom. 6:11).
Now, you might be thinking, “Hold on. I’m a Christian, but I still sin. I don’t want to, but I give in to temptation. I sin in moments of weakness. How can I do that if I’m supposed to be dead to sin?”
Here’s the difference. Now you are walking with God in his light, which means that you will repent when you sin…and thus be forgiven by the grace of God (1 John 1:7-9). THAT’S how God’s grace “covers” you. Not when you sin unrepentantly and rebelliously. Not when you have the “It’s all about me and what I want” attitude. Rather, grace covers you when you sin penitently and work hard to live for Jesus instead of yourself.
Now you don’t let sin reign in you (Rom. 6:12). Why? Because you are no longer indebted to sin (Rom. 8:12-13). You don’t owe sin anything. You have no obligation to sin. You’re not supposed to sin. Instead, your body is an instrument of righteousness (Rom. 6:13; cf. 1 Cor. 6:19-20).
And it’s all because of God’s grace. Grace freed you from sin’s dominion (Rom. 6:14). Grace set you free. Sin no longer rules over you.
How did God’s grace do this? Well, grace not only saves us. Read Titus 2:11-12. Grace also teaches us not to sin. Grace also teaches us how to live righteously.
Because God’s grace does this, we are now slaves of righteousness instead of sin’s slaves (Rom. 6:19). Yes, we like to think of ourselves as free and our own boss, but the reality is that we are slaves no matter what. We are slaves to whatever we obey (Rom. 6:15-16). If we give into the temptation to sin and revel in it, we are sin’s slaves. If we decide to serve God instead, we are slaves of righteousness.
So, “are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it?” (Rom. 6:1-2). You don’t want to become sin’s slave again, do you? If we fall back into letting sin rule over us, we will be in a worse state than we were in before we became Christians (2 Pet. 2:20-22). In the end, nothing comes from serving sin except death, eternal separation from God in hell (Rom. 6:20-21, 23a; cf. Rev. 21:8). I would rather have the holiness and eternal life that comes from serving God (Rom. 6:22, 23b).
That eternal life? Being set free from sin? Being able to serve God now? Being continually forgiven when we sin and repent? Becoming holy?
We owe it all to the grace of God.
So let’s not insult the Spirit of grace by sinning willfully and rebelliously (Heb. 10:26-31).