Paul's letter to the Romans
Law and grace
A problem which seems to keep returning is the temptation for Christians to excuse themselves in wrongdoing, on the grounds that Christ's sacrifice has in itself radically dealt with that problem. This is a 'mystification' of religious faith that Paul has no patience with.
Should we argue, then, that we may continue in sin so that there may be all the more grace? Never! We died to sin - how can we go on living in it? Remember that when we were baptized in Christ Jesus we identified ourselves with his death. We were, as it were, buried with him, in order that, as Christ was raised from the dead by God's glory, we too might live a new life. Joining him in his death, we shall join him in resurrection. Our old self has been crucified with Christ to destroy that sinful nature. It means that we cannot continue as slaves of sin: once dead you are clear of sin!
Having died with Christ we believe we shall enter life with him. Once raised from death Christ will never die again. Death has no more power over him. Dying as he did he died to sin: living as he does he lives to God. Think of yourselves as dead to sin and alive to God, united with Christ Jesus.
Don't let sin control your mortal bodies to put you at the mercy of
bodily wants. Don't let any part of yourself become the
instrument of sin. Offer yourselves to God
instead, as people raised to life. Give your bodies to him
as instruments for good. Sin shall no longer rule you,
because you are no longer under law but under the grace of God.
As Paul sees it, if you are 'under law' you are caught up in slavery to sin. That is not to criticize the law, which is in itself good, an essential feature of God's dealing with us. (Paul clarifies this and tidies it all up in 13:10 where he says that the whole law is summed up in love.) What the law asks for is what God wants. And yet focussing on obedience to the law-as-a-system-of-laws leaves us in the realm where sin dominates proceedings. Sin, expressed in transgression of the law, becomes the power we have to contend with, and to which we may well capitulate. So God has provided a completely different possibility. Being 'under grace' achieves the purpose of the law, but under the dominion of righteousness.Does being under grace, and not under the law, mean we are free to sin? Of course not. You know that if you give yourselves to the service of a master you become his slaves, at his beck and call. That's true whether you serve sin, which leads to death, or obedience, which brings righteousness. Thank God, though you were at one time slaves to sin, you have wholeheartedly given yourselves to the teaching you have received. You have been delivered from slavery to sin and become slaves to righteousness (to continue a metaphor that helps understanding). As once you yielded yourselves to the service of vice and iniquity, with evil consequences, your new obligation is to yield yourselves to the service of righteousness, with consequences in holy living.
As slaves to sin you were not subject to any claim for
righteousness, but what did you gain by that? Only things
you are now ashamed of, things that end in death. But
now, freed from servitude to sin and bound in service to God,
you have gained what brings holiness and, ultimately, eternal
life. Sin pays a wage and the wage is death. God
makes a free gift: eternal life in union with Christ Jesus our
paraphrase and notes by Evan Lewis