GRACE: A LICENSE TO SIN? PART 2 (PAUL’S APPROACH)
After laying the foundation in the previous article, we now explore Paul’s follow up to the statement to his most iconic question “Shall we continue in sin?”. He answers this question in the negative for two reasons
“How shall we who died to sin live any longer in it?”. (Romans 6:2). The first reason the believer does not sin according to Paul is that it negates the very essence of the gospel. Remember Christ died for sin and as many as believe in Him are deemed to have died to sin as well (2Cor 5:14–15). How can a gospel that emphasizes death to sin promote sin? He goes ahead to inform believers that sin has no dominion over them because they are under the grace of Christ and not under the law. Mind you, this would mean that as many as are under the law would find themselves being dominated by sin but that is a whole other conversation.
The second reason Paul gives as to why believers ought not to sin is this, “What then? Shall we sin because we are not under law but under grace? Certainly not! Do you not know that to whom you present yourselves slaves to obey, you are that one’s slaves whom you obey, whether of sin leading to death, or of obedience leading to righteousness?” (Romans 15:16). A believer becomes a slave to whatever he chooses to yield himself to, whether sin (which at the end of the day produces death) or righteousness which produces life. If a believer continues in sin, he ends up being consumed by sin. Sin becomes easier and easier until it drives him to utter ruin but if a believer continually yields to righteousness, this becomes easier and easier and produces fruit worthy of eternal life. These are the two options Paul places before the believer. He then advises them to yield themselves to righteousness just as they used to yield themselves to sin (Rom 6:19). He reminds them of how fruitless their former sinful behaviour was and how ashamed they currently are of them (Romans 6:21). The chapter concludes with a summary of the result of both options. “The wages of sin is death but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus". Remember He had earlier called righteousness a gift (Romans 5:17)
However in the midst of all this, Paul never shifted stance on the believer’s identity. He told them “But God be thanked that though you were slaves of sin, yet you obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine to which you were delivered. And having been set free from sin, you became slaves of righteousness” (Romans 6:17–18). He was clear that they were set free from sin but they needed to act like it. They were slaves of righteousness but they needed to act like it. They were told to present members of their body (their bodily parts) as instruments of the righteousness they were already slaves to.
This is the grace message Paul preached. Do not sin, because you are dead to sin and because you are not a slave to sin. Despite the massive sins going on in the Corinthian church, Paul’s approach was to remind them of who they were in Christ. How their bodies were the temple of God, how they were bought with a price and ought to glorify God with their bodies, how they were washed, justified and made holy in Christ (1Cor 6:9–11). He did not quote the law even once in response to their sin. It is thus safe to conclude on this note that a knowledge of Christ, what He has done for the believer and who the believer is in Him is the antidote for sin. No one truly understands the gospel and takes it as a license to sin. Rather, it makes us appreciate Jesus Christ and want to honour Him with our lives as much as we can.