In part 5, we saw how faith in the Lord justifies those that believe; as we are guilty under the Law and have no excuse, trusting in Christ and his sacrifice on Calvary washes us in his precious blood and fulfills the demands of the Law. God's justice is satisfied, and we are now free to enter into a new life with God, reunited with him as our father instead of our judge.
Now in part 6, The Lord explains via his chosen writer, Paul, how we should walk in regards to sin:
"What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin so that grace may increase? May it never be! How shall we who died to sin still live in it? Or do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus have been baptized into His death?"(Romans 6:1-3, NASB)
God, through Paul, has to address the fact that after reading chapter 5, there would be those reading it that would think that because grace abounded because of sin, it was alright to sin. After all, if we sin more, then that means more grace can be bestowed, and that we were doing God a tremendous favor by doing so.
The Lord informs us that we are now dead to sin, and that because of that, we cannot live in it any longer. Upon trusting in him, we join Christ in death; we are crucified with him and baptism is symbolic of our burial with Christ:
"Therefore we have been buried with Him through baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life. For if we have become united with Him in the likeness of His death, certainly we shall also be in the likeness of His resurrection, knowing this, that our old self was crucified with Him, in order that our body of sin might be done away with, so that we would no longer be slaves to sin; for he who has died is freed from sin" (Romans 6:4-7, NASB)
But as much as we die with him, so we shall live with Him as well, as scriptures tell us. But this world, guilty under the law and rife with sin, reasons that if grace abounded because of sin, then more sin would be good. More sin equals more grace according to its' twisted logic. This is a tragic misunderstanding of what the Law's purpose was: to make sin more apparent to us. And because we are no longer of this world, nor living under sin, we cannot walk in the ways of either anymore. This is why God has to stop for a chapter to explain all of this: there are those who would equate freedom in Christ with the 'freedom to sin' of which no such thing exists.
"Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with Him, knowing that Christ, having been raised from the dead, is never to die again; death no longer is master over Him. For the death that He died, He died to sin once for all; but the life that He lives, He lives to God. Even so consider yourselves to be dead to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus." (Romans 6:8-1, NASB)
To drive the point home even further, the Lord points out that though we are dead to sin here, we have life with Him. Sin got what was due to it when Christ died on the cross; after that, Jesus lived to God. And it was never at any point that he didn't live to God, but that at one point he bore sin for all of us, in our place. As the sacrifice, he bore the punishment meant for us, and died as though he were guilty. But when he arose, sin had no bearing on him any further; Christ's work was finished and sin's power was smashed to pieces. As he lives, so too do we that trust in Him; our old selves are crucified with him, we are buried with him in baptism, and we live again in Him to God, no longer bearing the stain of guilt.
"Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its lusts, and do not go on presenting the members of your body 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. For sin shall not be master over you, for you are not under law but under grace." (Romans 6:12-14, NASB)
The Lord recognizes that though we are His, our bodies are still fallen and therefore susceptible to sin. His solution is that we do not even give sin one inch of ground, let alone the opportunity to fester: we don't yield our bodies nor any part of them to sin for a moment. Unlike the unsaved, who are imprisoned in sin, those who name the name of Christ have a choice, and do not have to obey sin, PERIOD. Because we are no longer under the law, sin has no hold on us and not only do we NOT have to listen, but we do not have even listen to its' calls to us. God is our master now, and sin is effectively told to "hit the skids".
But it is up to us to live unto God; God cannot do it for us.
"What then? Shall we sin because we are not under law but under grace? May it never be! Do you not know that when you present yourselves to someone as slaves for obedience, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin resulting in death, or of obedience resulting in righteousness? But thanks be to God that though you were slaves of sin, you became obedient from the heart to that form of teaching to which you were committed, and having been freed from sin, you became slaves of righteousness. " (Romans 6:15-17, NASB)
God knows the hearts of the Roman believers, but He still has to answer the question that was surely posed not only in their minds, but in the minds of future believers who would read this book as well: is grace a license to sin? And the Lord's answer is "NO", but God reveals divine wisdom here instead of using a sterner stance; He reveals that whatever you choose to serve becomes your master. Paul then writes that he knows that the believers at Rome have take to the teaching of the Gospel, and that they have chosen to serve righteousness and not sin. And through Paul's pen, God acknowledges this as well to both them and the generations who would read the letter.
"I am speaking in human terms because of the weakness of your flesh. For just as you presented your members as slaves to impurity and to lawlessness, resulting in further lawlessness, so now present your members as slaves to righteousness, resulting in sanctification. For when you were slaves of sin, you were free in regard to righteousness. Therefore what benefit were you then deriving from the things of which you are now ashamed? For the outcome of those things is death. But now having been freed from sin and enslaved to God, you derive your benefit, resulting in sanctification, and the outcome, eternal life. For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord." (Romans 6:18-23, NASB)
Having spoken in terms that would easily be understood and applied because of the flesh's predilection towards sin, God then continues on to reinforce that serving sin would only produce more sin and misery would be the result. But to serve God, who is righteous, would result in righteousness and eternal life. These things could not be earned by merit, but given by the Grace of God, and this is what the Lord directs them to do; God never pushes towards death, but life. He encourages the sinner to repent, the guilty to become washed by the blood of the lamb at the foot of the Cross, and encourages the weary to continue in well-doing. This is capped off by the reminder that the wages of sin is death, but the gift that God offers freely is eternal life through Jesus. The Lord ends this chapter with yet another invitation for those who have not yet received to partake of this incredible offer of merciful grace.
This chapter serves to underscore that salvation then is not so that we may sin freely in any capacity, but that we are indeed free FROM sin. We do NOT have to commit sin, and that our desire should be to the Lord rather than to our own fleshly desires. Salvation is to reunite us WITH the Lord, not as a permission slip so that we may have room on our plates to pile a fresh, steaming heap of even MORE sin. As soon as a believer learns that Salvation is not "cheap grace" for the purpose of soteriological gluttony, they will be able to truly serve the Lord.
It is the difference between selfish Adam, who chose to eat the fruit, and Jesus Christ, who chose to do the Father's will, no matter the cost. Obedience is costly in this world, but far costlier in eternity is rebellion.
In part 7, we will look at the conflict between the flesh and the spirit. Until then, I bid all of you peace.