Romans 6, Part 4
Nov 06, 2010
Romans 5:12-14 says,
(12) Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body, that you should obey its lusts, (13) and do not go on presenting the members of your body [body parts] to sin as instruments of unrighteousness; but present yourselves to God as those alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness to God. (14) For sin shall not be master over you, for you are not under the law, but under grace.
This passage must be one of the most abused in all of Scripture--particularly verse 14. Christians use it to justify sin, when, in fact, Paul meant the exact opposite. 1 John 3:4 says that sin is lawlessness, that is, spiritual anarchy--living as if the Law has been put away. So every time we read the word "sin," we ought to think of its biblical definition.
Hence, Paul was saying, "do not let lawlessness reign in your mortal body" (vs. 12), "for lawlessness shall not be master over you" (vs. 14). Why? On what grounds? It is because "you are not under the law, but under grace."
Because Christians have not understood what it means to be "under the law," they have defined it to suit their own lawless tendency and have made it say the opposite of Paul's intent. Paul was teaching men NOT to sin (violate the Law). He was not allowing men the right to sin if they happened to disagree with some of the laws of God.
The term "under the law" is the condition that sinners find themselves. They are under arrest and being prosecuted because of their sin. As long as they are subject to prosecution for lawless acts, they are said to be "under the law." If a thief is sentenced to repay his victim a million dollars, and if he cannot pay, the Law says he is to be "sold for his theft" (Ex. 22:3), and he is said to be "under the law" for as long as it takes to work off his debt to sin. When the debt is paid, he is said to be "under grace."
Because Jesus Christ has paid our debt to the Law, we are no longer "under the law, but under grace." So can grace be used to justify sin? Shall we sin that grace may increase? Shall we claim the right to sin, saying, "Jesus is willing to pay whatever debt I incur, so this is my license to steal some more"??
God forbid! It is not that the Law was put away, but that the Law was upheld and its demands fully met. Once its demand was satisfied, this did not change the righteous character of God as expressed in the Law. We were redeemed, not so that we could be free to sin further, but so that we would change masters according to the laws of redemption.
We have been redeemed, and the righteousness of Christ has been imputed to our accounts, so that we are declared legally righteous during our training period as sons of God. But we ought not to abuse our position as sons, for if we do, we will find that God has some disciplinary tactics of His own and will not hesitate to use them to train us as sons.
I speak from personal experience.
Those disciplines, I discovered, did not mean that God had rejected me, but rather that I was a son. We know this from Hebrews 12:5-8,
(5) and you have forgotten the exhortation which is addressed to you as sons, "My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord, nor faint when you are reproved by Him; (6) For those whom the Lord loves He disciplines, and He scourges every son whom He receives. (7) It is for discipline that you endure; God deals with you as with sons; for what son is there whom his father does not discipline? (8) But if you are without discipline, of which all have become partakers, then you are illegitimate children and not sons.
There is no discipline apart from the Law, for it is the lawlessness in those disobedient sons that the Father seeks to eradicate. Anything God tells us to do is a Commandment and is a Law to us, whether it was written by Moses or spoken to us directly by the Spirit.
For example, through Moses I received the command not to steal, but by the Spirit I learned how to apply it in more subtle ways in my life and ministry. For example, I learned not to defraud people of tithes and offerings by carnal tactics of fear and greed. The Holy Spirit taught me how to apply the Law properly in my dealings with other people.
Paul says that the reason sin is no longer master over us is because we "are not under the law, but under grace." Having been redeemed from the mastery of sin, we now serve a new Master, whose commands are holy, just, and good. Because all of His commands and instructions come out of His good character, He will never command us to sin (though some might think His commands to be sinful by their own carnal standards).
(15) What then? Shall we sin because we are not under law but under grace? May it never be!
Some have said that we are now free to violate the law if we wish, but that we do not choose to do so. I am thankful that such people do not choose to violate the law, but the fact that they want to retain the right to sin portrays the attitude of lawlessness. Invariably, this desire to retain the right to sin does not come out of a right spirit. At times, it will be used to justify sin when the person happens to disagree with God or if he wants to indulge in his favorite sin.
Having said that, it is true that we ought to go beyond obedience and into agreement. The example above pretends to be in agreement with God, but in fact it is rebellion. God is pleased when we think and act in accordance with the mind of Christ (character of God) and do not need to be told what to do--because we already know His will as expressed in His Law.
Being in agreement with God is the goal of obedience. We are obedient as long as we need to be told what to do, for that is how we are trained as sons. The goal of such training and discipline is NOT to arrive at a place where we are allowed to violate the Law. The goal is complete conformity to the righteous character of God as expressed in the Law.
For example, when I was a child, I was told (commanded) not to fight with other children. This was something I had to learn by discipline (believe it or not), because it did not come naturally to me. What if, when I grew up and left home--what if I had said, "I am now no longer under the law, so I am free to return to the dictates of my carnal nature and fight with whomsoever I please"? Does not God expect me to remain in conformity to His Laws after I grow up? Or am I now independent and am able to choose for myself which laws to obey and which to disobey? Do I retain such a right?
This is the fourth part of a series titled "Romans 6." To view all parts, click the link below.
Dr. Stephen Jones