If all Christians struggle.
If we are saved by what Jesus did.
Then why even talk about pursuing holiness?
If we are justified. Already. By Jesus. Why talk about being sanctified?
To use Paul’s words.
Romans chapter 6, verse 1.
“What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound?”
Which personally, I think is a pretty good question. A great question. In fact. And it is one people ask in a million different ways.
If we just take a step back and look at it.
Like, for example, if we aren’t saved by going to church, why go to church? If we aren’t saved by saying no to sexual lust, why say no to sexual lust?
In other words, what is the reason we as Christians are so serious about sin?
If God can take our sin and use it as a means of showing His grace, why not just keep on sinning?
And you know, there are people who actually think that.
This isn’t just imaginary or hypothetical.
If you talk to them about sin, their sin, they are like.
Hey. Slow down. I am saved by grace. Why are you even talking to me about this?
Maybe they’ll say.
If God wants me to change, He’ll give me the grace to do it, and if He doesn’t give me the grace to do it, why does it even matter, anyway? I am not saved by being a good person.
There are others, who kind of think, maybe not about themselves but about others. If someone says they are a Christian. Then that’s pretty much it. It’s over. They are Christians. And even if their whole life, is pretty much denying the gospel, I mean, they are abusing their wife, and they are getting drunk and they are sleeping around, they never question whether or not they are a Christian, because after all, they say they are.
And so how we could ever wonder.
Isn’t salvation by grace? And if it is by grace. Doesn’t that mean that how a person lives doesn’t matter?
Which of course.
The question Paul’s asking.
In verse 1.
That’s the question.
And Paul’s answer in verse 2 is so strong, it might surprise us.
He says. “By no means!”
Some have even translated that, God forbid, because they are trying to express the passion in his response.
May it never be!
This is like Paul shouting, because in Paul’s mind, there’s just absolutely no way we should ever think, continuing on in sin, as people who really are Christians, is an option.
Paul would say.
People who have been justified by grace, don’t keep on sinning, that grace may abound.
It’s something that was impossible to Paul. So impossible. That it makes even asking the question seem, ridiculous.
As we talk about the process of change, I want to make sure we understand why, because this is key to you changing and overcoming sin. I want us to understand why it’s so obvious to Paul that real Christians aren’t going to live their lives dominated by sin.
Because it’s not obvious to a lot of people we meet. It might not even feel obvious to us sometimes. And I think that’s because sometimes people don’t understand and sometimes we even forget, what it means to be a Christian. When you are talking to people about the Christian life, one of the biggest problems you face, is that there are so many people who don’t really understand what it means to be a Christian in the first place.
“How can we…”
It’s like Paul’s saying.
Let’s slow down and go back to the basics, which really, is what you so often have to do when you are struggling with sin, you have to slow down go back and think carefully about what you absolutely know to be true and one thing Paul says, we absolutely know to be true, is that as believers, we have died to sin.
He writes, “How can we who died to sin still live in it?”
Which is kind of a question. But at the same time, it’s not a question, really.
It’s not like Paul is wondering here.
“Oh I wonder how it is possible for people who died to sin to still live in it.”
And, really. This is the essence of Paul’s explanation. It’s not possible for people who have died to sin. To keep living in it.
I mean,if you asked Paul, can someone who is a Christian keep on sinning and sinning and sinning and living under the power and authority of sin without ever moving forward and changing?
He’d be like.
I am confused.
I don’t really understand the question.
Because, I thought you said, Christian.
According to Paul.
It’s not possible.
Because to be a Christian is to be the kind of person who has died to sin. And apparently, in the original, it’s actually even, stronger than, that.
It’s like, we? Really? Us?
I mean, you are talking about us? How could we? Ever live in sin?
We’ve died to it.
Which is Paul’s basic answer, and there’s a sense in which it is very simple, and yet, it’s possible we are still a little confused by it.
What does he mean when he says, we have died to sin.
To begin, you should notice, this is past tense, and that’s important. You died to sin.
He’s not talking about something we are doing here, we who are dying to sin, or something we should be doing, we who should die to sin. Instead he’s pointing us back to something that has happened, in the past, an event that took place, for those of us, who are Christians.
How shall we that died to sin?
And this is like, I am trying to find a way to say it, a moment in our lives where everything changed.
If you are a Christian, there’s a moment in your life, where everything changed.
It’s an event.
We look back on.
In the past.
How we live in the present.
Happens, in life, you know.
This is a concept we can understand, if we slow down and think about it, because there are things that happen to you, in life, that completely change you, from that point on.
It’s like if you get married, I suppose. That’s a moment where everything changes. You go down the aisle, and stand in front of the preacher, while, you are kind of the same person when you come back down the aisle afterwards, you are also not the same person at all, really.
Your whole life is different from that point on.
Or maybe we should stick with the idea Paul uses, and that is dying. Dying, changes things. You obviously, don’t live the same way you did before, after you die and this is actually such an important image, for Paul, when it comes to understanding what it means to become a Christian that you’ll see he keeps returning to it throughout the rest of this passage.
He says, it is a death.
We were baptized into Jesus’ death.
And a burial.
We were buried.
And verse 6.
We know that our old self was crucified.
One who has died.
Now if we have died with Christ.
And then verse 11.
You must consider yourselves dead to sin.
Which means, this is pretty much the theme of this whole section. The key to Paul’s whole argument for fighting against and overcoming sin is that something essential that happened to us.
When we became Christians.
We can’t keep on living in sin, for the simple reason.
We are the kind of people who have died to it.
Verse 2 again.
“How can we who died to sin still live in it?”
Let’s make sure we are clear, about what Paul’s saying happened in this moment.
Something changed. But what changed, when Paul says we died to sin.
Obviously, he’s not talking about absolute perfection, in terms of Christian practice.
I don’t think the question he’s asking is, can Christians ever sin?
Christians can sin.
Otherwise why would Paul have to write all the commands he did and why would there have to be church discipline and things like that, we know Christians can sin.
Died to sin doesn’t mean we don’t sin or we can’t be tempted by sin.
Paul’s talking instead about living under sin’s authority as a lifestyle.
You can see how he works this out.
Even in this text.
He talks about continuing on sin. Or abiding in sin really.
In other words, remaining in sin without caring. And here he talks about living in sin. Not just sinning, but living in it. And, we’ll see later on in verse 6, he talks about being enslaved to sin and then in verse 14, he says sin will have no dominion or authority over you. And so I think the apostle Paul is dealing with the whole question of continuing on in a pattern of sin here.
And he’s saying that kind of lifestyle doesn’t make sense for a person who has become a Christian, because, that kind of lifestyle doesn’t match up, with what’s happened, in his life.
Sin’s rule over the believer’s life has been broken.
Which is important.
And I keep saying.
This is important.
But this is important.
Because, I want you to think about Paul’s answer to this question. It’s different than the one sometimes people give.
Even the one we might give.
If someone’s not seeming to care about being holy, we might try to motivate them, by toning down grace.
Or God’s not going to bless you.
You better stop doing that.
Or God’s not going to like you.
It’s like we think we have to protect people from God’s grace.
It’s like we think if they know God loves them completely on the basis of what Jesus has done and if they think that they are not somehow more loved by God or more right with God, because they go to church or read their Bibles or give or do these things then they are not going to do them.
They are just going to live on in sin.
And that’s where, Paul’s like.
Wait a second.
By no means!
That’s not the way God’s grace actually works. If you are hearing all this talk about being saved by grace, and thinking it means you can keep on living in sin because of God’s grace.
You don’t actually understand how big God’s grace is.
That’s the problem.
It’s not that you have too big a view of grace, it’s that you have too small a view of grace, because this grace that justified you.
Sanctified you, as well.
There was this point in time.
Your relationship with sin.
Which is where you have to start when it comes to living the Christian life out, as believers we are not trying somehow to achieve victory over sin, Jesus has achieved victory over sin, and we are living that victory out.
That’s what it means to have died to sin.
If you think of sin like a king.
A terrible tyrant.
There’s no dictator who has ever lived who is worse than sin, and before you were a Christian, sin absolutely owned you.
That was your relationship to it.
It’s kind of like you were born into this land ruled by sin and so when sin called, you obeyed, and you didn’t actually really have much of a choice about it, whether you knew it or not.
You were a slave to sin.
You were living your life, you might say, in the realm of sin, in the land where sin was king, but when you became a Christian, Paul’s saying, your relationship to that king changed.
He lost his power over you.
You left that realm where sin ruled, and entered into another, and not just by running away and moving to another country or something.
That wouldn’t have produced the freedom you needed, sin’s reach was to big for that.
Your only escape was dying.
And that’s what happened.
At a point in time in your life, you died to sin.
Which, I know.
This is a little deep.
And I know, sometimes we are like, but that’s not how it feels.
I don’t know how else to interpret what Paul’s saying here.
This is what he says happened.
If you are a Christian there has a radical break in your relationship to sin.
Which doesn’t mean.
You never sin or you never struggle with sin but it does mean you’re not under sin’s authority any longer.
Which is how Paul explains it, if you look throughout the rest of this text.
Like verse 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.”
Which is a little confusing, there are some things in that verse that are confusing to us, like the part about the old self being crucified and the part about body of sin being brought to nothing, but the main thought is not confusing which is what that all that means for us now, is that, we are no longer enslaved to sin.
Having died to sin, means not being enslaved by sin and in case we missed that, Paul says in verse 7,
“For the one who has died to sin has been set free from sin.
Then, if any of us, are still wondering.
In verse 14.
“For sin will have no dominion over you.”
Which is obviously, where we have to start, coming back to it, when we are thinking about sin and holiness, and change, if we are talking with someone who is not a Christian, they are enslaved to sin, they are under the dominion of sin, they need the gospel, but if we are talking to someone who is a Christian, they need to understand what the gospel means for them.
In other words, they need to understand what it means to be a Christian.
This is what it means.
To be a Christian is to be someone who has died to sin. .