Romans 6:1–23, Lesson 10. Shall We Continue in Sin?
Key Notes: Where grace abounds. Our members. Slaves of God or slaves of sin. Consider yourself dead.
Paul asks this question again, indicating how important sin continues to be in the life of the believer. He will continue to work on this topic through chapter 7.
“Shall we continue in sin that grace may abound?” (6:1)
“Are we to sin because we are not under law but under grace?” (6:15)
Notice that in each question the word “grace” appears. The first question asks if we wish to take advantage of the patience of God, the favor of not reckoning us guilty, and not prosecuting us for our sins. It is an obnoxious idea. The second question points out that laws do not apply to those who are not under law, so we should be able to sin freely. That is equally obnoxious. We will take the questions separately.
First we will try to find illustrations of modern day situations in which the problem may occur. Then we will answer the questions in our own way. Finally, we will look at Paul’s answers and see how differently they are—and how much more advanced, more spiritual—than our own thinking.
An illustration of continuing in sin that grace may abound comes from the clinic.
A patient with diabetes and kidney failure required dialysis three times a week—four hours each visit—in order to stay reasonably healthy. He refused to come into the hospital for scheduled dialysis three times a week. He also refused to stay on a diet. He refused to limit his fluids to 700 ml. per day. He ate and drank freely. He knew he did not have long to live and was going to ‘live it up.’ So he came in on the weekends in distress with gross fluid overload and had to be given 24 hours of continuous dialysis in order to restore his equilibrium. After he repeated this pattern four or five times, the medical staff rebelled. The nurses were required to work on the weekend and take extra care of a patient who refused to follow directions. They wanted him discharged from the clinic. He was continuing in sin. Would grace abound?
The hospital Ethics Committee met to discuss the problem. The administrator refused to limit funding for special care. The doctors realized that they had no rules to deal with non-compliance, a problem they had to deal with every day. The hospital lawyer sided with the patient to avoid a suit. The Ethics Committee heard the evidence and decided in favor of the patient.
Grace did abound. The nurses arranged new shifts. The patient depended on the mercies of the hospital until he died.
Another illustration is the chronic alcoholic who gets roaring drunk any time the weather is bad in order to assure himself a bath, a good meal, and a warm bed—even if it is in jail.
A third illustration is the AIDS patient who finds out that high intensity five-drug therapy has been reported to extend life so he can go back to fornicating freely. And the County will pay for his medicine.
Question one: Shall we continue in sin that grace may abound? How do we respond? How did the class respond? They said
* There are physical consequences of sin that may be irreparable. God may forgive us but our liver, our brain, and our memory will not.
These are basically pragmatic responses. Paul would be impatient.
He would of course acknowledge the physical and the pragmatic, but his response goes far beyond.
“What return did you get from the things of which you are now ashamed? The end of those things is death.” (6:21) “The wages of sin is death….” (6:23)
He says we have been united with Christ in multiple ways, chiefly in a death to the old ways and a resurrection to new life. How can we who have died to sin with Christ still live in sin? That is the subject of the previous week’s lesson.
Question two: Shall we continue in sin because we are not under law?
There are many ways of excusing ourselves for sins that are not expressly forbidden in Scripture, as well as those that are.
Sexual sins are not really sins…. “It’s just the way I am —God made me this way.”
Divorce is OK…. “God is greater than His Laws.”
The Bible says nothing about bulimia. Smoking pot, dancing the tango, poker and black-jack, or drinking vodka, is not forbidden in Scripture. Jesus drank.
The Bible doesn’t say I can’t watch a dirty movie or pornography on the Internet.
How did the class respond to the question about not being under Law? They said
*Paul discusses doubtful practices in I Cor. 8–10 and warns us against them.
* We have to look out for our weak brothers and sisters. We are responsible for what other people see in us.
These responses are at least Biblical. But in Rom. 6:12–23, Paul goes far beyond.
6:12–14 We are not to yield our members as instruments (Gr. "implements of war") of unrighteousness, but to yield ourselves to God and our members as instruments of righteousness.
Our members are the obvious parts of our anatomy. In Greek culture, they were thought of in functional terms: the eye is for seeing, the ear for hearing, heart for emotion, feet for walking, hands for work, the head for leading, the tongue for speech, the sexual organs for copulation and the stomach for nourishment. Scripture uses the concept of our physical members often.
“If your right eye causes you to sin, pluck it out and throw it away; it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body be thrown into hell.” (Matt. 5:29)
“Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ? Shall I therefore take the members of Christ and make them the members of a prostitute?” (I Cor. 6:15)
“Mortify therefore your members which are upon the earth, fornication, uncleanness, passion, evil desire and covetousness, which is idolatry.” (Col. 3:5 KJV) In this passage, Paul associates the members not with their normal functions, but with the evils they may perform.
“So the tongue is a little member and boasts of great things. How great a forest is set ablaze by a small fire.” (James 3:5)
“And whether one member suffers, all the members suffer with it; or if one member be honored, all the members rejoice.” (I Cor. 12:26) Here Paul likens the church to a human body with its many parts and functions.
6:15–19 We are either slaves of God→obedience→righteousness→sanctification→life eternal.
or slaves of sin→impurity→free from righteousness→gross iniquity→death.
“You’re gonna have to serve somebody—the Devil or the Lord--” and no one can serve two masters.
Take your pick. 6:20–23 Was it worth it to be a sinner? What did you get out of it?
The wages of sin is death.
The gift of God is eternal life.
Take your pick.
But I thought we were free. Are we to be slaves of God? I don’t want to be a slave.
Paul considers it his high privilege and uses the word slave / servant of himself at least five times. Peter, James, John and Jude also speak of themselves as servants. Think of the One who has given us all things. Would we not want to give Him back something, even if it is only our feeble service?
A final question is "how shall I break the sin pattern"?
Paul says, “Reckon yourselves to be dead indeed unto sin but alive unto God through Jesus Christ our Lord.” (6:11). Have you ever been to a funeral? Have you seen the behavior of a dead person? Aunt Minnie lying in her coffin does not worry about her dress, does not smell the flowers, pays not attention to the gossip or the jokes, and does not listen to the organ softly playing. She does not worry about who got her jewelry. Practice being dead to your old life.
The word "reckon" is the same one Paul uses of God reckoning righteousness to Abraham (4:3). What God did with Abraham was not off-handed but deliberate. Paul uses it of himself (II Cor. 3:5) as he considers his relationship to the Corinthians. The word "reckon" entails sober thought:
When we reckon ourselves dead to sin, we are to carry out a similar thought process. One preaching pastor says that he has contingency plans for temptation. He can envision the setting, what he will say and do to get away from it. Fire drills are performed in public buildings because we do not act rationally in a crisis. We must think it through ahead of time and practice. Where is the fire extinguisher, and how long would it take me to get to the fire?
Reckon yourself dead to sin. When a porn site comes on my Internet screen, what will I do? When that office worker meets me at the water cooler, what do I say? When my spouse pushes my hot button, how shall I respond? Reckon yourself dead to sin. When they knock on your door, nobody's home.
Reckoning ourselves alive to God involves the same kind of thorough analysis and plan. He is alive and He is active in our lives. He is the Leader, the Boss, the Master. If God gave me my heart’s desire, would I know enough to thank Him ? If I were given a challenging church office, would I accept or refuse? If God were to put me in a health crisis and I was in pain, what would I think? If God gives me a gift, will I use it wisely? If I were in Job’s situation, would I be angry at God? If God asked me to give up my children to His service, would I wholeheartedly agree? If I have a chance to speak to my neighbor, what would I say?
Plan on it--dead to sin, alive to God.