Grace and Sin, Part 2: Death and Resurrection (Romans 6.5-10)

In Romans 6.1, the Apostle Paul asks, “Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase?” His answer is an emphatic, “No!” Jesus Christ died and rose again so that we might progressively eradicate sin from our lives.As I explained in yesterday’s comments on Romans 6.1-4, baptism symbolizes the dividing line between sin and salvation in a Christian’s life. Romans 6.5-10 moves from symbol to reality. If baptism provides a powerful reason to stop sinning, then our actual union with Christ provides an even more powerful reason.

Consider what Paul writes in Romans 6.5-10:

If we have been united with him like this in his death, we will certainly also be united with him in his resurrection. For we know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin-because anyone who has died has been freed from sin.

Now if we died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. For we know that since Christ was raised from the dead, he cannot die again; death no longer has mastery over him. The death he died, he died to sin once for all; but the life he lives, he lives to God.

According to verse 6, “we know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin.” Christ died for the purpose of doing away with sin in us. Sin is the “old self.” It is that part of us that is enslaved to immoral passions and out-of-control addictions. God does not want us to live that way, so when Christ died, our “old self” died with him. Why in the world would anyone want to resurrect the “dirty old man” in our souls?

Now pay attention to verses 8 and 10: “if we died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him” and “the life he lives, he lives to God.” If we are united with Christ in his resurrection, we will live “to God.” In other words, we will live for God’s glory, according to God’s standards, and in God’s presence. Sin does not redound to God’s glory. It does not measure up to God’s standards. And it cannot be found in God’s presence. Consequently, if we are united with Christ in his resurrection, sin can be no part of our lives.

But obviously, sin continues to be a part of our lives. Our “old self” died on Christ’s cross. We “know” this, as Paul puts it in verse 6. But our final triumph over sin awaits our future resurrection from the dead, which will put us beyond the reach of sin. We “believe” this will happen, according to verse 8. It is a matter of faith.

Not just faith, however! As we will see in tomorrow’s devotional, there are practical steps we can take right now to progressively eradicate sin from our lives.


Grace and Sin, Part 1: Baptism (Romans 6.1-4)

In Romans 6.1-4, the Apostle Paul asks a thought-provoking question about the relationship between grace and sin.Here’s what Paul writes:

What shall we say, then? Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase? By no means! We died to sin; how can we live in it any longer? Or don’t you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life.

Paul’s thought-provoking question follows hard on the heels of what he writes in chapter 5. In verse 2, he argues that we have access to grace because of faith, not works. In verse 8, he reminds us that Christ demonstrated God’s love by dying for us when we are still sinners. In verse 16, he writes, “the gift [of grace] followed many trespasses and brought justification. In verse 17 he speaks of “God’s abundant provision of grace.” And in verse 20, he concludes, “where sin increased, grace increased all the more.” No wonder Paul asks in Romans 6.1, “Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase?” If grace increases whenever and wherever sin increases, maybe we should sin more to receive more grace.

There’s a kind of logic at work in this idea, but it’s a faulty logic. As Paul points out, such a conclusion misinterprets what grace accomplishes. Grace not only covers our past with divine forgiveness, it empowers us in the present so that we can live holy lives. Paul highlights the transforming power of grace in two ways. First, he highlights the role of baptism in the Christian life in Romans 6.1-4. Then, he highlights the purpose of Christ’s death and resurrection in Romans 6.5-10.

Today, we’ll look at baptism. Tomorrow, we’ll look at Christ’s death and resurrection.

For Paul and the early Christians, water baptism symbolizes the most important dividing line in a person’s life: the dividing line between sin and salvation. When the pastor puts someone under the water, it’s as if that person dies with Christ on the cross. His or her old life is over. When the pastor pulls someone up out of the water, it is as if he or she rises from the dead in order, Paul writes, to “live a new life.”

Think of baptism like a wedding ring. You can be a Christian without being baptized, just like you can be married without a wedding ring. But like a wedding ring, baptism is a powerful symbol of your union with Christ. When you wear a wedding ring, you no longer go looking for dates with other people. You’ve found your lifelong mate. And the ring signals to others that you’re off the marriage market. Similarly, baptism symbolizes to you and to everyone else that you belong heart and soul to Jesus. You’re off the sin market, so to speak.

So, as I said earlier, the logic of continuing to sin to get more grace is faulty logic. You’ve been baptized into Christ’s death and resurrection. Grace changes you. It makes you desire sin less and holiness more. When you’re baptized, you don’t sin to get more grace any more than you wear a wedding ring to get more spouses.

But Is It Fair? (Romans 5.18-21)

â..In Adamâ..s Fall, we sinned all.â. Thatâ..s the doctrine of original sin according to The New England Primer. But is the doctrine fair?

Consider what Paul writes in Romans 5.18-21:

Consequently, just as the result of one trespass was condemnation for all men, so also the result of one act of righteousness was justification that brings life for all men. For just as through the disobedience of the one man the many were made sinners, so also through the obedience of the one man the many will be made righteous.

The law was added so that the trespass might increase. But where sin increased, grace increased all the more, so that, just as sin reigned in death, so also grace might reign through righteousness to bring eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.

To be perfectly honest, the doctrine of original sin seems unfair. Why should we experience the negative consequences of Adamâ..s sinful choice? To borrow Paulâ..s words, why should Adamâ..s trespass result in our condemnation? Why should his disobedience make us sinners? Why should his sin usher in the reign of death over us?

In lieu of a decisive answer to the question of fairnessâ..which I donâ..t haveâ..let me offer three questions of my own.

First, have you acted any better than Adam? We think the doctrine of original sin is unfair because we seem to get punished for Adamâ..s sin. Or at least we suffer the consequences of it. But itâ..s not as if weâ all that innocent ourselves. Itâ..s not as if, in other words, we hadnâ..t sinned ourselves. Adamâ..s sinful choice had consequences for all of us, but weâ pretty good at making sinful choices all on our own.

Second, do you realize that your choices affect others, for better or worse? If parents choose to work hard, live frugally, and spend wisely, their children reap the benefits. But if they choose to slack off, live beyond their means, and spend their money on booze, their children suffer. Is that fair? Perhaps not. But thatâ..s the way the world works. What our parents did affects our lives to this day. What we do affects our children in the days to come.

Third, is it fair that we receive the benefits of Christâ..s death? We criticize the doctrine of original sin because we seem to be punished for Adamâ..s sin. The argument seems to be that we should receive only what we deserve. Oddly, however, we donâ..t make that argument when it comes to salvation. We certainly donâ..t deserve salvation. We havenâ..t earned it through sinlessness. So why donâ..t we stand on our rights when it comes to grace?

As I said, I donâ..t have decisive answers to the question of the fairness of original sin. I can only tell you how I think about the matter. When I consider my own sinfulness and the consequences of my actions on others, I can see how Adamâ..s sin might affect my life today. But when I go on to consider the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, I realize that fairness is not the only thing in life, or even the most important thing. Grace is. And â..where sin increased, grace increased all the more.â.

The Gift and the Trespass (Romans 5.15-17)

In Romans 5.15-17, Paul compares and contrasts the trespass of Adam and the gift of Jesus Christ.Here’s what he writes:

But the gift is not like the trespass. For if the many died by the trespass of the one man, how much more did God’s grace and the gift that came by the grace of the one man, Jesus Christ, overflow to the many! Again, the gift of God is not like the result of the one man’s sin: The judgment followed one sin and brought condemnation, but the gift followed many trespasses and brought justification. For if, by the trespass of the one man, death reigned through that one man, how much more will those who receive God’s abundant provision of grace and of the gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man, Jesus Christ.

Paul compares Adam and Jesus at one point. For both, the action of “the one man” affects “the many.” Adam and Jesus are representative men. Their actions uniquely affect us.

But Paul quickly overwhelms this single point of comparison with several strong contrasts. The first contrast he draws is between the nature of Adam’s and Jesus’ respective actions. Paul describes Adam’s act as a “trespass,” but Jesus’ act as a “gift.” A trespass is an illegal border crossing. Adam crossed the boundary between permitted and prohibited when he ate the forbidden fruit. He deserved to be judged. By contrast, a gift has nothing to do with what a person deserves. It is “grace,” that is, an undeserved favor.

The second contrast Paul draws is between the result of Adam’s and Jesus’ actions. Adam’s action is a trespass. It deserves judgment. And so, Paul writes, “the judgment followed one sin and brought condemnation.” The condemnation Paul speaks of is not merely Adam’s condemnation. It is ours too. In various ways, we also are trespassers of the boundary between permitted and prohibited. Thankfully, however, “the gift followed many trespasses and brought justification.” Despite the fact that we have sinned again and again, Jesus’ death and resurrection makes it possible for us to experience God’s grace, again and again.

The final contrast Paul draws is between how Adam’s and Jesus’ actions affect our lives in the here and now. The choice before us is between life and death. For those stuck in Adam, “death reigned through the one man.” But those who have responded to faith in Jesus “reign in life.” Pay attention to the grammar here. For unbelievers, death reigns. It is the subject of the verb. It is in control. But by contrast, believers “reign in life through…Jesus Christ.” By the grace of God, we become the subjects of the verb. We are in control. We might say that sin makes us victims, but salvation makes us victors.

When you set Adam and Jesus side by side and contrast their respective actions, you see how much damage Adam’s trespass did to humanity, especially when we repeat his mistake. But you can also see how much more powerful Jesus’ gift of salvation is. And that gift is only the beginning of “God’s abundant provision of grace.”