Editors note: The purpose of this series is to help our readers understand what sin is, how serious sin is, and how great the grace of God, who offers redemption to sinners from sin and new life in Christ.
- David Dunham opened our series on sin with a look at sin and biochecmical brokenness.
- Zach wrote on overcoming a sinful theology of Lent and Fasting.
- Nick Batzig wrote on two dangers and three duties in confessing sin to one another.
- Dave wrote on indwelling sin, positional sanctification, and progressive sanctification.
- Today Dave writes on living however you want a look at Romans 6:1-2.
Many people today think they can live however they want to. This whole idea of living however one wants may seem like a good one, but it’s not really. In fact, it’s an abuse of the gospel. This view that we can live however we want to is so popular in the Christian church, especially in North America today, that to even speak out against it is to invite ridicule to oneself. Even speaking out against sin in the Christian life today (in some circles) seems to invite scorn. We live in a culture, after all, that minimizes sin and that enjoys living contrary to God’s revealed law/will. So living however we want to, whether it’s outside of marriage and cohabitating, seems okay; after all, “nobody can ‘judge me’ because if they do, I’ll point out that Jesus teaches that such judgment is wrong”.
The problems with the above statement are so numerous I don’t have enough time and space to get into them all in one article. In this article I merely want to point out that we’ve been saved for a purpose, and that purpose is for God’s glory alone. After all, we’ve been saved by grace through faith, not of ourselves lest we should boast (Ephesians 2:8-9). But, boast we do—we boast of our own work, our own accomplishment, and more. Sadly, all this boasting robs God of glory that He alone deserves. The natural propensity of our hearts is to reject God and not walk in His ways. Yet, as Christians we’ve been transferred from the Kingdom of darkness to the Kingdom of the Lord Jesus. As a result of this, we have a new nature since we’re new creations in Christ (2 Corinthians 5:17-21). The problem is we often go back to living under the old man instead of in the new man. This means that, whether consciously or unconsciously, we choose to live contrary to God’s revealed will—we fail to obey God’s Word.
This is all compounded by several factors. We live in a Christian culture now that overemphasizes the indicative (what Christ has done), which results in people saying, “I’m saved by God’s grace – it’s all by the merits of Christ I stand.” But when you tell people they need to obey, you have to qualify that sentence with “by God’s grace” or you’re charged with espousing legalism. The sad thing is the people condemning others of legalism are the ones guilty of legalism. For them even Jesus or the Apostle Paul aren’t nuanced enough. The Apostle Paul grounds his statements about what Christ has done in what Christ demands.
When Jesus told the disciples to count the cost and follow Him in all of life (Luke 9:23), many people stopped following Him. These were His hardest words for people to hear, and they couldn’t handle it. The same is true today; when people are told that they must obey the commands of God, they demand to hear it qualified with “by His grace”. Yet nowhere in the New Testament do we see this qualification.
We are told that the reason we can obey is because of what Christ has done, which is true, but adding “by His grace” to every command is not a biblical requirement. Don’t get me wrong here, I’m not against doctrinal and theological nuance. I’m for doctrinal and theological nuance, but not moreso than the Bible itself uses. While the Church in the United States of America is experiencing a revival of sorts in regards to doctrinal and theological studies, what is needed now is for people to hear and heed what Paul says in Romans 6:1-2. Those who think they can go get drunk, look at pornography, cohabit with the member of the opposite sex (or even with members of the same sex as homosexual partners), and then just “repent and confess” their sin have failed to understand not only what confession is, but what 1 John 1:9 (and Romans 6:1-2) is all about. John’s whole point in 1 John is to argue against the idea that we can live however we want. The Apostle John would call people of this mindset “deceived”, because that’s what they are! So we need to hear Paul’s statement in Romans 6:1 with its full force, “May it never be!”
Paul’s exhortation in Romans 6:1-2 goes back to his previous teaching on sin, the depravity of man, and justification. Despite the fact that his point is that salvation is all by grace alone (and not of anything we can do), Paul understands the sin nature, and therefore anticipates the thought that people can live however they want. Paul emphasizes this because, later in the same chapter, he teaches that God’s people are no longer under the dominion of sin since they have a new identity in Christ (as I mentioned previously). The reason we don’t live however we want is because Christ gave each of us a new heart—one with new desires and affections for Himself.
This means that we don’t cohabit before marriage, we don’t get drunk, and we don’t continue living in our other sins because we’ve been changed by God! Our hearts of stone have been replaced with a new hearts—with new desires and affections. God has given us the power of the gospel, through which the fruits of the Spirit are to be displayed increasingly in our lives (Galatians 5:21-23). This is why we can never again live according to the sinful desires of our flesh. When we live how we want we are showing that we would rather live under the penalty and domain of sin, rather than under the power of the Spirit (Romans 8:5, Romans 8:13). Paul’s response to this, later on in Romans 8, is that we are to live by the Spirit (Romans 8:13). Paul’s point is that if we desire to live a holy life—a life that pleases and honors God—we will live under the power of the Holy Spirit. This life, however, is possible only because of Christ and the present work of the Holy Spirit.
What should do you in light of the biblical teaching we’ve examined? Understand that you’ve been saved for a purpose. That purpose isn’t for you, it’s for God’s glory. The life that you’ve been called to as a Christian is a life of sacrifice. When the first followers of Jesus heard Him say that they were to count the cost and follow Him in all of life, many people left His side forever. The Puritans called this dividing the audience. Jesus called it “separating the wheat from the chaff”. Those who are Christ’s will obey Him (John 14:15). Those who refuse to obey Him give evidence that they are not His. While all of our obedience to God is only partial in scope—any obedience is better than none. As J.C. Ryle said in his famous book, Holiness, we should see evidence, year by year, that we’re being sanctified—that we’re changing by the power of God.
If there’s no evidence at all in your life that you are being conformed into the image of Christ, you have great reason to be concerned and should examine your salvation (2 Corinthians 13:5). If there is even the tiniest bit of evidence that you’re changing and conforming to the image of Christ, then give glory to God. Such evidence is a means by which God is encouraging you in your faith. The true Christian goes back to his/her identity in Christ, because it is therein that they can find true assurance and confidence before God. The fruit of our lives will testify to whether our profession is true. This is why the profession of our faith must be matched by His possession of our lives. The two—profession and possession work together to give God’s people assurance and increasing confidence in Christ. If you’re lacking confidence before God, examine your life in light of Christ. See where you’re lacking; repent and return to your first love—Jesus Christ—He is ready and waiting. His throne of grace bids you come, and His rule as your Intercessor and High Priest beckons you. So come all you who are heavy laden to the throne of grace. Christ is in the business of unshackling our lives and giving us true repentance that honors God, since He is the Giver of Life.