Grace to Not Give Up (Romans 6)
- When Ashley and I bought a new foam mattress last fall, it came with a little card telling us how to use our mattress in a way that helps us get the best use out of it.
- Air it out,
- Put it on a good foundation,
- Rotate it every 6 months,
- Consider using a mattress protector.
- They have done all this work to make a great mattress and I’ve spent good money to get it; but, even if its the best mattress in the world, if I don’t take care of it or if I use it as a trampoline, that mattress isn’t going to do me much good.
- In Romans 1-5 Paul has convinced us that the whole world is under God’s wrath. Human strength cannot earn God’s inheritance. But, for those who believe, God promises to give all things to us through grace. No matter how big sin is, grace always abounds more.
- Yet, no matter how powerful and precious God’s grace is, it doesn’t mean we will find any joy in it. So, in Romans 6, Paul gives us that little card: here’s how to think about your grace and freedom, here’s how to use your grace and freedom as God intended so you get the most joy and fruit out of it.
Don’t Voluntarily Sin
- Paul’s main exhortation in this chapter is this: don’t give up and voluntarily sin. Notice this in verses 1, 13a, 15-16a. Don’t think God’s grace and your freedom means you should stop fighting against sin.
- Why would we ever do something like that? There could be a number of reasons.
- I could misunderstand God’s grace and think this means sin is not a big deal. And then I don’t end up protecting or enjoying the life God has given me because I treat sin casually. I don’t understand grace is meant to transform me.
- Or, I might give up because I’m discouraged. Isaiah speaks of Jerusalem’s sin as a sick disease that has overtaken the whole body (cf. Isa. 1:5-6). Paul speaks of sin as this thing that controls us, (ESV) “For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing,” (Rom. 7:19). After you were saved, have you ever felt at times like you were still sick? It can be so frustrating and embarrassing. And we know the wages of sin is death, so we may feel like there’s no point in fighting.
- Jeremiah characterizes Judah in Jeremiah 2:25 as saying, (NIV-11) “It’s no use! I love foreign gods, and I must go after them.”
- Whether we are at risk of abusing grace because we don’t see how precious it is or becoming discouraged because we don’t appreciate how powerful it is - Paul wants to guard us against this “give up” attitude.
- In Romans 6, Paul helps us get the most out of grace. We will look at three reasons why we shouldn’t give up and voluntarily sin. The first reason to not get up in verses 1-11 is…
1. God Can Raise and Transform Us (vs. 1-11)
- There’s a lyric from Disney’s Frozen song, “Fixer-Upper” that my family has appreciated. When the rock creatures are trying to pair up this odd couple - Anna and Christoff - they sing, “We’re not saying you can change her, ‘cuz people don’t really change…”
- From one perspective, those rock creatures are pretty smart, aren’t they? Don’t get married thinking you will change someone.
- And yet: people don’t really change? Is that really true?
- Paul argues here that Christ died, was buried, and God raised him from the dead. So, sin and death no longer have dominion over Christ.
- In the same way, in baptism we have been buried and God has raised us with him so we can walk in newness of life.
- His whole point is this: if God raised Jesus, he can raise us too.
- In our baptisms we are expressing our faith in this very fact. Otherwise, why are people baptized if spiritually dead people cannot be transformed? Why are people baptized if the spiritually dead can’t stop volunteering themselves to wickedness?
- We must not give up on God’s power to transform us. Sin is so discouraging. But it’s because of that sentiment that Paul tells us to not give up. Raising us from the dead seems impossible, but it was impossible for God to raise Jesus too. If we give up, we aren’t giving up on ourselves or on others, we are giving up on God.
- Remember, Jesus said in the parable of the sower that even good ground only bears fruit with patience (cf. Luke 8:15).
- The second encouragement to not give up is seen in verses 12-14 and it is this…
2. Sin Cannot Have Dominion on People Under Grace (vs. 12-14)
- We can also lack confidence that God considers us righteous, innocent. We can start thinking, “There is no chance righteousness will win. I will never be declared innocent/righteous in God’s sight. I’m like Joshua in Zechariah 3 — dirty all over.”
- But do you know what this is? This is the mindset of someone who is under a law system - someone who thinks God’s expectation is that we will make ourselves innocent through law-keeping. Paul says in verse 14, “you are not under law but under grace.”
- Now, some do abuse grace and they don’t use it to grow. Because of this, appreciating grace is hard for some of us. We may feel more comfortable adding an asterisk to this sentence. But, think about it: if we think our fellowship with God is based on perfect law-keeping, how much does that encourage me to do well? If we are in a marriage where we think one mistake will lead to our spouse divorcing us, does that help us do well? No way. This discouragement can actually lead to more sin. “I have already messed up and lost my fellowship with God. Who cares what I do next?”
- When we find sin in ourselves, we need to mourn and take it seriously. We need to confess to God and confess to those we’ve wronged. We need to consider the counsel Scripture gives to help us overcome. And then we need to remember: sin can’t have dominion over you any more since “you are not under law but under grace.”
- For true believers, the thought, “Because of this sin I am now condemned, I’ve lost life with God, so I should give up” should not cross our minds. If we start sinning deliberately, with a high hand, saying, “Forget you God, I’m doing what I want” that’s different. Sin hardens plenty of churchgoers to that point, so we must take care. But if we hate sin, are tempted by it, we battle it, and we fail… we can turn and then rejoice in God because being under grace means our failure to keep the law is no longer counted against us.
- Trusting that God will be faithful to give us the free gift of life is not perverting the grace of God, it’s called faith. And that kind of faith is tough. Some decide to pursue righteousness as if it were based on human strength - and they won’t make it (cf. Romans 9:32). If that were possible, why did Christ die at all? But for those with faith, God declares, “remove the filthy garments from him.”
- Don’t give up because sin cannot defeat people under grace.
- The third encouragement to not give up is seen in verses 15-19 and it is…
3. If We Give Up, We Becomes Slaves of Sin (vs. 15-23)
- (vs. 15-19) Paul is trying to help us win a mental argument against sin. Here’s his argument: if we willfully give ourselves to sin, we will become slaves of sin.
- That’s not the way Satan wants us to think about voluntarily deciding to sin - choosing to follow our fleshly impulses - is it? No. He wants us to think about that as freedom. “Break free from the chains of God and his king!” (cf. Psalm 2)
- But is that really freedom? Paul says that it’s actually slavery. How so? Satan wants us to think that with sin, just one time will satisfy us. But notice verse 19: that’s not how it worked before. When we presented our members to as slaves to impurity and lawlessness, all it lead to was more and more lawlessness. Satan makes it sound like freedom, but he’s putting cuffs on us.
- (vs. 20-23) But Satan has a counter argument. Notice verse 20. “But you were free from righteousness. You had no internal burden. The chains of doing right were released!” When we are weak, that can sound pretty good, right? I don’t have to think, speak, live, worship, give right any more. I can just do what I feel like.
- But how good is that, really? Notice verses 21-23. What fruit were we getting from these things? What did it all lead to? The end is death, and in the meantime, it is shame and not good stuff (NGS).
- Go back to the Garden of Eden in your mind. There, God said, “Eat everything. But don’t eat that one tree.” I like to think about life there and life now as a big white box. There is all this clean space to explore and enjoy with God. But there are these black areas in the corners where God has said, “Don’t go there.” Satan convinces us to leave the white space to check out life in the corners. But once we get there, we get stuck on repeat. We can’t think about anything but being in the corners. We lose real living with God. Satan promises freedom, but when we are with him, he warps our mind and traps us in a destructive cycle of misery and death.
- Titus 3:3–7 is a fitting description of the contrast we see here. (ESV) “For we ourselves were once foolish, disobedient, led astray, slaves to various passions and pleasures, passing our days in malice and envy, hated by others and hating one another. But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that being justified by his grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life.”
- Keep going because if we willfully choose sin - we are going down a miserable path of slavery. How fun is it to wake up full of envy? How fun is it to go to bed hating others and being hated by others? How satisfying is it to always think, “What’s best for me?”
- God, according to his great mercy and kindness, has shown us a new way. We are God’s slaves, but we are even more - we are his children and his heirs. He is promising us eternal life in a world that only has white space left. How good is that? How good is our God?
- Let’s start enjoying life in the white space now. Let’s give ourselves to righteousness like we used to give ourselves to sin. Life is so much better that way.
- But, it is important to know that we will sin. Anyone who says otherwise is a liar. But, in those situations, John’s encouragement in 1 John 2:1–2 is perfect. (ESV) “My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous. He is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world.”