Is Salvation by Grace from Sin Permission to Sin?
This is my summary of the question, “are we to continue in sin that grace may abound?” (Romans 6:1) Paul is not making this question up. It was either the active approach of Christians in the early church or the charge against Paul for preaching salvation by grace through faith. Probably both.
There is a word used to describe people who take the position that the Christian has no responsibility to obedience yet remains under the grace of God.
Antinomian = Anti (No) Nomos (Law)
Nobody thinks they are antinomian. There are no antinomian societies. Nobody introduces themselves as an antinomian: Hi, I’m Bob, I’m an antinomian. Everybody presents themselves as champions of grace. Their books have grace in the name. They sing Amazing Grace with gusto. The issue is whether obedience or sanctification are necessary byproducts of genuine saving faith. Does justification change anything in us? Antinomians dismiss any role God’s commands play in salvation by grace.
A few years ago, we did a series on The Ten Commandments. We talked about the role of the law of God in the life of the believer. We said it is a muzzle, a mirror, and a map. God’s law restrains sin in this world through conscience, like a muzzle. It is a mirror that shows our sin. It is a map to guide us in how to live in a manner pleasing to God.
It is this third role, primarily, that antinomians dismiss. What’s the need and what’s the point? Is grace grace or not? Paul couldn’t say it any stronger than he did. See his response.
“By no means!” (Romans 6:2) Paul uses this phrase 14 times in his letters and it is reserved for his strongest outrage. Its sense is, never, never, never! I remember professors in seminary talking about this little phrase with amazement at how strong it is. Paul wants to make it clear that God’s grace is NOT permission to sin. He follows with the question, “How can we who died to sin still live in it?” (Romans 6:2)
The “we” refers to Christians. We died to sin. What’s that? How exactly did we die to sin? And aren’t we all nervous reading that knowing that, we continue to sin? How can I die to something that seems to still be present in my life?
We Died to Our Sin When Jesus Died for Our Sin
Think with me brothers and sisters. When Jesus died on the cross, he died as a substitute. For who? Us. What exactly did Jesus die for? He died for the moral guilt of our sin and paid the moral price for our redemption. All of this relates to sin and our moral and spiritual failure to love God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength. Our falling short of God’s glory. Romans 3:23. Our rebellion against God.
Most Christians say, I get it. He died for my sin. But what many people don’t get is that when Christ died for our sin we died to our sin. We died to sin as our master. We died to sin as the leading power and purpose of our life. Now Paul’s question makes sense: how can we who died to King Sin go on living with King Sin as our master? “It is not the literal impossibility of sin in believers which Paul is declaring, but the moral incongruity of it.” (John Stott)
I often get the question, so what’s it like being married? By this they think that because I was a bachelor for so long that getting married was a big change. Indeed, it was. What if I said, nothing’s really changed? I sleep and get up when I want. I golf when I want. I’m away from home whenever I want. I spend my time and money in whatever way I want. I watch the TV shows I want when I want. So, nothing’s really changed.
And they’re going to respond, Did you really get married or just pretend to? Because I was at the wedding and I thought you actually did get married, but it sure doesn’t look like you did. Friends, sin is a kingdom. Sin is a Darth Lord. Sin is a Caesar to whom sinners bow. If Christ is our Savior, then can we live as if Darth Sin is our Lord?
Me genetoi. Never! Never! Never!
Scripture quotations are taken from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.
© 2018 by Steve DeWitt. You are permitted and encouraged to reproduce and distribute this material in any format provided that: (1) you credit the author, (2) any modifications are clearly marked, (3) you do not charge a fee beyond the cost of reproduction, (4) you include Bethel’s website address (www.bethelweb.org) on the copied resource.
 Colin G. Kruse, Paul’s Letter to the Romans, p. 259.
 John Stott, The Message of Romans: God’s Good News for the World, p. 169.
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