Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Romans 6 - We who died to sin cannot still live in it.

Paul wrote in Romans 6:1-7, "What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin so that grace may abound? 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? 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 live a new 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."

Most people reference only the first verse which says, "What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin so that grace may abound? May it never be!" This context is not about "trying hard not to sin because we are under grace." It is about how we died to sin and are totally free from it! Paul uses the same language in Romans 7:7, "What shall we say then? Is the Law sin? May it never be!" That doesn't mean "the law should try hard to not be sin," nor does it mean "the law does not want to be sin," it means the law is not sin, it cannot be. "May it never be" does not mean, as it is so often taught, "Don't do it!" It literally means that it may never be, it is impossible. Here are some even more obvious examples.
    Is the faithfulness of God nullified by the unbelief of men? May it never be! (Romans 3:3-4)   
    Is God unrighteous? May it never be! (Romans 3:5-6)
    Has God rejected His people, has He? May it never be! (Romans 11:1)

The dominant interpretation of Romans 6:1 is "You better not sin just because you are under grace!" But continuing on in the chapter we see that is not the meaning. Paul asks, "How shall we who died to sin still live in it?" Most take the meaning as "Don't sin!" but in fact it means you cannot live in sin because you died to it. You are now in Christ! "How shall we who died to sin still live in it?" We shall not because He cannot! We cannot live in sin & in Christ at the same time. We are forever in Christ! "Our old self was crucified with Him (it died to sin), in order that our body of sin might be done away with." Our body of sin is done away with. How shall we who are full grown men go back to having the bodies of children? It is not possible. Your young body is gone. Likewise your body of sin is done away with.

We can never continue in sin, it can never be because we died to it and are now alive in Christ. God does not see us as sin stained flesh but as His children. Our identity is our spirit. Our spirit has been born of God, our flesh has not. A spirit that has been born of God cannot sin (1 John 3:9; 5:18). You as a child of God cannot sin.

Romans 6:1 is about spiritual identity, not about behavior. When the bible says "in sin" it does not mean what our religion has taught us "in sin" means. It does not mean "continuing to manifest similar sinful actions." It should be obvious to anyone that a Christian's flesh can "continue in sin" in that sense. People have used this scripture & others to measure people's morality claiming it is impossible for a true Christian to "continue in sin" by which they mean sin with the flesh "too much." But how far is far enough to "continue" & how much is "too much" is never definable & it makes people judge others by their own knowledge of good & evil.

The phrase "In sin" in the bible means the locality of your identity being "in sin." Our identity is now "in Christ." We cannot be in both, we cannot be sinner & saint at the same time. We "cannot continue to live in Sin Town" while living in Christ Town at the same time because we have permanently moved into Christ Town. It may never be, it is impossible.

I am not saying we cannot behave unlovingly. That is why Romans 8:13 says, "By the Spirit we put to death the deeds of the flesh." The deeds of the flesh are destructive, harmful, & unloving but we must understand that we are not the flesh. We are identified by God as His perfect and holy children. May we see ourselves as He sees us!

"We are not in the flesh but in the spirit because the Spirit of God lives in us. We belong to God. Christ is in us. Our flesh is dead because of sin, yet our spirit is alive because of righteousness" (Romans 8:9-10). "Because Christ died for all we no longer identify anyone, including ourselves, according to the flesh" (2 Corinthians 5:16).

Romans 6 doesn't concern our behavior under grace but our identity in Christ because of grace. We are the sinless children of God. We cannot continue in sin. Our old sinful self was crucified with Christ and because of that our sin was done away with. We died and are freed from sin. We cannot produce sin. Our spirits are in Christ and in Him there is no sin (1 John 3:5). We are in Him! He has exchanged our life for His (Colossians 3:3-4).

Another interpretation of Romans 6:1 by grace teachers is that "grace is not a license to sin" or "it is still not ok to sin just because you are under grace." But that is not what this context is about. They also teach from this scripture that when you are saved your desire to sin decreases so you won't continue in sin. While it is true that grace lessens our desire to do harmful & destructive things that is still not what Romans 6:1 is saying. If you want a scripture that teaches us this refer instead to Titus 2:12 which says, "It is the grace of God that trains us to reject godless ways and worldly desires and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives. The grace of God makes us eager to do what is good."

Allow your mind to be renewed by the truth of your identity in Christ and the deeds of your flesh will dwindle. Marvel at how much He loves you and you will marvel at how much He can love through you. "Set your minds on the things of the spirit and you will walk in the spirit. The mind set on the flesh is death, but the mind set on the spirit is life and peace" (Romans 8:5-6).

"Your new spirit has been created in the likeness of God. You truly are right with God. You were made righteous, pure, guiltless, innocent, faultless, and holy" (Ephesians 4:24).

For Related Posts see my Sin? Forgetaboutit! Page
See also my explanation of why the law is not sin

1 comment:

  1. I love how you said " marvel at how much He loves you and you will marvel at how much He can love through you." Thank God the pressure is off. Also when grace teachers teach "grace is not a license to sin", I always feel like that message goes back to preaching law. It just feels like your behavior better be in line with the law when they say things like that but I see too many characters in the Bible that didn't live that way. For example Peter wasn't sharing the gospel with Gentiles for who knows how long until God sent him a vision and corrected him. And not only that but he didn't seem to be worried about his holiness in his own words when the man got healed in Acts chapter 3. In other words it wasn't about his behavior anymore. Anyway thanks for the post.