“What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin that grace may abound?” Romans 6:1
On the surface it seems strange that anyone, especially Christians, would think that it would be okay to continue to sin so that God’s grace may abound toward us. Yet, it seems that was the attitude of some Christians who thought, “where sin abounded, grace abounded much more” (Romans 5:20).
There’s a danger in this sort of thinking (that we can continue to sin because of God’s grace and forgiveness), because it leads to a life becoming more and more entrenched in the ways of sin. Paul uses terms such as, “slaves of sin” (6:6) and “instruments of unrighteousness” (6:13) to describe our lives when under sins sway.
What was Paul’s answer then to his original question, “Shall we continue in sin that grace may abound? Certainly not!” (6:1-2a) Paul gives three compelling reasons why we, as Christians, can overcome sin’s temptations and do not to continue in sin:
We Have Died to Sin (6:2b-11a) – Paul doesn’t want us to continue in sin since we have died to sin (6:2, 11a), we have been freed from sin, it no longer has dominion (influence or power) over us (6:7).
To illustrate that we’ve died to sin, Paul uses to Jesus’ death and resurrection to prove his point. When Jesus died and was raised from the dead to life he broke the bonds that death held over humanity, death no longer had dominion over Him in that He will die no more (6:9).
When we were baptized we were “buried…with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life” (6:4). Freedom from sin is the new life that we live. Paul continues, “For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like His” (6:5). Jesus’ resurrection broke the bonds of death and sin; they no longer had dominion over man (6:9-10). When we are resurrected from the tomb of baptism the dominion of sin over our lives has been broken, we are free, we no longer have to obey it as slaves.
How does this help us overcome temptations to continue to sin? We know that we don’t have to obey sin. Praise God that he has set us free and has given us an avenue of escape (1 Cor 10:13). Does that mean that we want sin? No, but what it does mean is that we don’t have to powerlessly obey sin because it is no longer our master.
We Are Alive to God (6:11b-14) – Just because we are to consider ourselves dead to sin, that doesn’t mean we are act dead, rather, Paul wants us to consider ourselves “alive to God in Christ Jesus” (6:11).
Since we are alive to God, we present our bodies to God as “instruments for righteousness” (6:13). In just the same way we were once “instruments for unrighteousness” in perpetuating sins desires, we are to seek to perpetuate the desires of our God who raised us from death to life. We can do this because God has promised that sin no longer has dominion over us since His grace rules in our lives (6:14).
How does this help us to overcome the temptation to continue to sin? God fills the void sin left in our lives. By giving us purpose through Jesus Christ (being alive to God and instruments of righteousness), we don’t have to obey sin and allow it to once again reign in our lives.
We Are Slaves of Righteousness (6:15-23) – Here Paul again anticipates another question, this time it appears to be from the perspective of an adversary saying, “Are we to sin because we are not under law but under grace?” Again, Paul answers with a resounding, “Certainly not!” (6:15)
Even though we are not under law but grace, we are not free to live our lives as we please and sin at will as if there are no commandments to live by. As humans, we are going to be slaves by way of obedience to either sin or to righteousness. By being obedient to sin, we become its slave, the wages that sin pays its slaves is death (6:23). By being obedient to righteousness, we become God’s slave, to His slaves He gives the free gift of eternal life (cf. 6:16, 22-23).
When we live in sin we are bound up in sins lies. One of those lies is that if we follow God, He will cramp our style, because His ways are restrictive. Nothing could be farther from the truth. We’re truly free when we’re slaves of righteousness (6:18). If we’ve been set free from sin then it was a life of bondage. If we’re slaves of righteousness, which is the opposite of being slaves of sin, then we are truly free.
How does this help us overcome the temptation to continue to sin? We don’t have to obey sin because as slaves of righteousness we are free from sin’s control and influence, we no longer have to please sin, instead we seek to please God by being obedient to Him (cf. 6:20).
Is God’s grace a license to sin? Certainly not! Paul has shown us that since we, as Christians, have died to sin, are alive to God and are slaves of righteousness sin no longer has control over us so that we should obey it. When we’re tempted to sin and become entangled in its web once again let us hold fast our faith and remember the lessons that Paul has taught us.