Romans 6:1-2
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"You can be sure, the Holy Spirit never enters a man and lets him live like the world." - A. W. Tozer


What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin so that grace may increase? - Romans 6:1


Paul, having ended Romans 5 with the wonderful truth that is required for salvation (See studies on chapters 4 & 5) being where sin increases grace abounds all the more (Rom. 5:20) is now anticipating the objection of his readers after making such a statement, an objection that Paul likely faced regularly in the early days of the church, especially from the Jews (Acts 15:5, Gal. 2:4). Those with a focus on works are scared of grace; grace makes them uncomfortable. When you tell someone who puts great emphasis on works about grace they are often concerned you are preaching licentiousness (Jude 6), they fear abusing grace. Or because they feel they don't deserve grace they often reject it, like Peter, the idea of Jesus washing their feet is repulsive to them. Because Peter felt unworthy of Jesus washing his feet he rebuked the Lord. (John 13:6) We would do well to take to heart Jesus reply to Peter's objection when He said "If I do not wash you, you have no part with Me." (John 13:8). One one hand, as a legalist, we are disgusted by taking the cop-out from our responsibilities, on the other, there is no other solution than to sit back and let Jesus wash your feet as we are helpless to make ourselves clean. While the Jews may have struggled with the notion of accepting the cop-out from the law's requirements in their day, Christians struggle with the same invitation to grace today. Maybe they aren't so entrenched in the law of Moses but they are entrenched in the rules of churches, the rules of their upbringing, the rules of their own minds. Like the Jews, modern day Christians struggle with traditions that are worldly based and not God based or scriptural based. As we discussed last chapter, the law was not given to impart life but to lead us to Christ who does. Yet Christians today view rules with high regard and the idea of taking any cop-out is difficult, the ultimate cop-out of the cross of Christ that much more. Accepting and therefore relying entirely on the work of the Holy Spirit for sanctification bothers them (and me at times being a recovering legalist) quite a bit. In the traditions of the world we look down on the lazy and good-for-nothings and we honor the hard working and the go-getters. Yet in terms of the cross, this mindset is counter productive as it's those who are poor in spirit, not strong in spirit who inherit the kingdom of heaven (Matt. 5:3). (I've often wanted a bumper sticker that says "only free-loaders get to heaven." After all, as written in Romans, it is a "free gift" [Rom. 6:23]) On the contrary, those who are strong in this age actually have that strength working against them as proven by the Rich Young Ruler (Matt. 19:16-26) because it makes them less likely to accept something they cannot earn, buy, or in some way merit for themselves.


24 Again I say to you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.” - Matthew 19:24


Unfortunately the world's mindset that uplifts the go-getters has carried over into the church. This should be no surprise, even the Apostles struggled with Jesus statement above having this mindset "If the rich, young, and powerful can't make it, then who can?!" (Matt. 19:25). I've been rebuked by close, dear brothers in Christ who were well meaning but when I brought the message of the cross, that is, righteousness that is achieved ENTIRELY by God's grace through faith, I was rebuked for potentially inciting licentiousness. Such people hear me share the verses such as Romans 5:20 and before I'm finished they are already mentally preparing their rebuke. Such men are those that Paul describes who "spy out our liberty which we have in Christ Jesus, in order to bring us into bondage (Gal. 2:4). Such men also struggle with verses like 1 Corinthians 6:12 & 10:23 which state all things are lawful for me in Christ. They continue to point out the 2nd half of those verses, that not all things are profitable nor do all things edify which are the parts of those verses legalist are happy to latch onto, but legalist quickly dodge Past the fact that Paul just started with "All things are lawful for me" meaning in Christ we can literally do anything and not be condemned by the law (if you're a struggling legalist like me, such a statement probably made you squirm, but it's true!) nor condemned by Christ. Romans 8:1 makes very clear that "there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus" with no other disclaimers added. Colossians 2:14 make it very clear that the law, which was the only thing to condemn us (John 5:45), Christ has taken out of the way having nailed it to the cross. This is the gospel. This is what's good about the good news! This is the truth Jesus is referring to in John 8:32 that sets us free! Jesus came to proclaim release to the captives and set free those who are oppressed (Luke 4:18). On the contrary to the message of the gospel, Galatians 2:4 refers to those who once again try to get you in bondage by trying to get you to view God's favor of you as though it were contingent on your merit, on your rule keeping. This is the very bondage that Jesus referred to as the leaven of the Pharisees (Matt. 16:6-12) which if we're not mindful to be on guard for may leaven the whole lump of dough (Gal. 5:4).


5 It was for freedom that Christ set us free; therefore keep standing firm and do not be subject again to a yoke of slavery. Behold I, Paul, say to you that if you receive circumcision, Christ will be of no benefit to you. And I testify again to every man who receives circumcision, that he is under obligation to keep the whole Law. You have been severed from Christ, you who are seeking to be justified by law; you have fallen from grace. For we through the Spirit, by faith, are waiting for the hope of righteousness. For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision means anything, but faith working through love. You were running well; who hindered you from obeying the truth? This persuasion did not come from Him who calls you. A little leaven leavens the whole lump of dough. - Galatians 5:1-9


Legalism is viewed as a noble thing among those in the world, unfortunately it is also viewed as a noble things among those in the church yet such persuasion, as Paul mentioned above did not come from God. But rather it was the "false brethren" who introduced such teaching (Gal. 2:4). Notice the stark warning Paul gives in verses 4-6 of Galatians 5, that those who are legalist who desire their acceptance to be based on their works of the law (i.e. their performance and not Christ's performance) have been "severed from Christ" (Gal. 5:4). Paul is so upset about this idea of works contaminating the purity of the gospel that he wishes such men who are preaching the need to be circumcised (i.e. follow and observe the law of Moses, Acts 15:5) in order to be saved will go so far as it lop 'it' off altogether (Gal. 5:12). In Galatians 1:6-9, in reference to those who embrace legalism and for those who would try and steer you away from the riches of grace in Christ to legalism, Paul writes this:


I am amazed that you are so quickly deserting Him who called you by the grace of Christ, for a different gospel; which is really not another; only there are some who are disturbing you and want to distort the gospel of Christ. But even if we, or an angel from heaven, should preach to you a gospel contrary to what we have preached to you, he is to be accursed! As we have said before, so I say again now, if any man is preaching to you a gospel contrary to what you received, he is to be accursed! - Galatians 1:6-9


In his letter to the Colossians who embraced the "elementary principles of the world" (legalism) Paul exposes legalism and it's futility. He shows how legalism has the appearance of wisdom (as we in the church think such men are more noble) but is worthless to accomplish what only Christ in us can. This is why there is such a stark rebuke of legalism in the bible such as the verses above. In fact, the entire book of Galatians combats legalism in an attempt to uproot this leaven of the Pharisees that even the early church dealt with and most definitely the modern day church deals with because it leads people away from the only true solution, that is God's grace (Rom. 4:16) through faith (Eph. 2:8-9).


20 If you have died with Christ to the elementary principles of the world, why, as if you were living in the world, do you submit yourself to decrees, such as, 21 “Do not handle, do not taste, do not touch!” 22 (which all refer to things destined to perish with use)—in accordance with the commandments and teachings of men? 23 These are matters which have, to be sure, the appearance of wisdom in self-made religion and self-abasement and severe treatment of the body, but are of no value against fleshly indulgence. - Colossians 2:20-23


These matters have the "appearance of wisdom" and this is where the world and more so we in the church stumble. We latch onto it because it feels right and because it feels right our hearts embrace it and we start into self-made religion, self-abasement, and severe treatment of the body, things which the bible declares are of "no value" (Col. 2:23). When your heart embraces something as righteous... (right or wrong) it makes it near impossible to convince someone otherwise. Especially if what the heart has embraced has had time to flourish. This is where I relate with Peter so well. When Jesus tried to wash Peter's feet, Peter had in his heart that it was wrong for Jesus who holds the high standing of "Lord" to take such a lowly, servant position (John 13:8). Peter similarly struggled again later when he again refused God who in a direct vision commanded Peter to "kill and eat" (Acts 10:13). The saga continues with Peter rebuking Jesus when the Lord told them what they could expect to happen to Him in Jerusalem (Matt. 16:21-23) And again when Peter denies that he will deny Jesus (Matt. 26:34)... and on it goes (I love Peter). What I am getting at is this. It's very, very difficult to separate a legalistic man from legalistic tendencies because legalism has the "appearance of wisdom" as Paul said and it's "a way which seems right to a man, but its end is the way of death" as is written in Proverbs (Prov. 14:12, 16:25). Separating legalism from a legalist who's fully convinced such ways are right is as as difficult as separating wheat from the chaff.


31 “Simon, Simon, behold, Satan has demanded permission to sift you like wheat; 32 but I have prayed for you, that your faith may not fail; and you, when once you have turned again, strengthen your brothers.” - Luke 22:31-23


The process of wheat sifting consists of separating the undesired chaff from the edible grain of wheat. Needless to say, as you can see in the picture such a process of separating something so closely joined together is quite difficult and for a time left Peter weeping bitterly (Luke 22:62). However, it was only after Peter had undergone this process did Jesus then commission him (John 21:15-17). It's interesting and wonderful that on the other side of this sifting of Peter, of all people, it's Peter that rebuked those, who once like him, desired to incorporate legalism into the gospel.


But some of the sect of the Pharisees who had believed stood up, saying, “It is necessary to circumcise them and to direct them to observe the Law of Moses.” The apostles and the elders came together to look into this matter. After there had been much debate, Peter stood up and said to them, “Brethren, you know that in the early days God made a choice among you, that by my mouth the Gentiles would hear the word of the gospel and believe. And God, who knows the heart, testified to them giving them the Holy Spirit, just as He also did to us; and He made no distinction between us and them, cleansing their hearts by faith. 10 Now therefore why do you put God to the test by placing upon the neck of the disciples a yoke which neither our fathers nor we have been able to bear? 11 But we believe that we are saved through the grace of the Lord Jesus, in the same way as they also are.” - Acts 15:5-11


I thank God for the change Peter went through and as a recovering legalist, I thank God deeply for the change I went through, a battle that lasted years (as my friends and family will testify) but through that battle came the uprooting of legalism which was so firmly rooted and was flourishing in me. It's not that I don't struggle with it, I still do and Peter did afterwards too (Galatians 2:11-14). But it's a way that no longer seems right to me (Prov. 14:12, 16:25) and no longer has the appearance of wisdom to me (Col. 2:23), a change God has made in my inner-man!


It's interesting in church circles who people say they relate to most in the bible. It's been my experience that Peter is the forerunner among men by a long shot. For women I often hear how they relate to Martha but rarely her sister Mary (Luke 10:39). Why do you suppose this is? Some might say because they understand what it means to try hard and fail repeatedly (Peter), or to be so focused on works that you start getting snippy with those that aren't (Martha and Mary). May I take a stab at why we relate with these more? I would say it's because of the legalism, unbeknownst to us, has spread from the world (Gal. 4:3) through the church like cancer leavening the whole lump of us (Matt 16:6-12, Gal. 5:4). Struggling with legalism we relate with those who struggled with legalism. We read about Mary who was merely seated at the feet of Jesus listening to all He had to say and we share with her no anecdote. We think to ourselves, "yeah... that'd be nice" and like Martha, we hold her in contempt as we return to our list of things to do and through our legalistic lens (because it's a way that seems right to us) we're upset that Jesus isn't getting on Mary (Luke 10:40) for not getting busy. After a few days of this we'd start viewing Mary as a free-loader wouldn't we? Yet it was Mary who Jesus declared "has chosen the good part" (Matt. 5:17) because she didn't focus on the list but rather focused on Christ who completes the list.


Question: If I told you that in Christ you are free to do anything you want, that you have the right to do anything (1 Cor. 6:12, 10:23) how does that make you feel? To those struggling with legalism we squirm. Such a notion makes us uncomfortable. As someone dear to me said "I'm worried if I adopted that view that my sin would get out of hand". Well the good news is Paul saw us squirm and now, having firmly established the gospel of the grace of God in the first 5 chapters of Romans, Paul points to address our concern as if reading our mind.


"What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin so that grace may increase?" Paul, who thus far in Romans has made a solid argument for grace that withstands anything we could throw at it (and it's Giver), having concluded in the last chapter "where sin increases grace abounds all the more" now anticipates the objections that would arise from him preaching such a liberty and freedom that's found in Christ and now asks the question on behalf of the objector, that is, should we keep sinning since we are free, should we keep sinning since it brings more of God's grace (God's unmerited favor)?


May it never be! How shall we who died to sin still live in it? - Romans 6:2


Yes when we sin we are always covered by the grace of God found in Christ (Always!), that is a true statement and it is why salvation is a guarantee (see our study on Romans 4:16-25) but since when we sin we receive grace should we purposely sin to receive more grace? "May it never be!" There is that same rebuke Paul used earlier in Romans which is the strongest form of rebuke, that such a notion should be wiped from your mind, in modern day English we might say "That's ridiculous!" Yes that is what happens when we sin (God's grace covers us) but Paul says how could a person who has died to sin still be motivated to live to sin?


17 Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come. - 2 Corinthians 5:17


You cannot be both a new creation in Christ Jesus and not a new creation in Christ Jesus. If you are in Christ then you have been made new (Rom. 8:9, 1 John 5:12). If you have been made new than your soul, that is, your inner man has been renewed and you no longer concur with the flesh as to desire to follow it's lusts with hearty approval (Rom. 1:32) but you concur with the law of God in your inner man (Rom. 7:20). A feat only accomplished by the Holy Spirit (Rom. 8:7). Paul is saying you cannot be in Christ and therefore dead to sin and still be alive to sin. Even Paul's very words "how shall we..." begs this conclusion. Yes grace increases when we sin but by God's doing we hate sin. We're free to do anything we want but a person dead to sin doesn't want sin. Paul is saying if someone merely views the beautiful, wonderful, holy grace of God as an opportunity, or a license to freely sin, then lovingly he suggest that you better check yourself to see if you are in Christ and have in fact died to sin, otherwise you don't belong to the Lord. If you belong to the Lord then you have the Spirit (Rom. 8:9). If you have the Son then you have the life (1 John 5:12), guaranteed (Rom. 4:16). Therefore you are dead to sin and alive to God (Rom. 6:11). This is a work only accomplished by God, but it very really is accomplished by God on your behalf. He did not, will not come up short! Isn't it wonderful that God's grace out performs our sins! (Rom. 5:20) Isn't it wonderful that we can rely on the Holy Spirit to bring about all the necessary inward changes that come with salvation in Christ! This is why in Christ we can rest (Matt. 11:28) God does it all! (1 Thess. 5:23) This is how deathbed conversions are possible; this is how the thief on the cross joined Jesus in paradise that very day (Luke 23:42-43). Legalist say get to work! Followers of Christ rely on God who works!


13 for it is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure. - Philippians 2:13


There is no condition on behalf of man for the this verse to be effective. If you have received Christ, it simply is. If you've received Christ, trust in His work in you to present you blameless come the day of the Lord (1 Cor. 1:8, Col. 1:22, 1 Thess. 5:23 below) and let your soul rest! (Matt. 11:29, Psa. 46:10). But Ryan, surely we must participate in some work toward our sanctification right? Or are you telling me that God is going to do it entirely?


23 Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you entirely; and may your spirit and soul and body be preserved complete, without blame at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. - 1 Thessalonians 5:23


If we trust God's Word that we are dead to sin (Rom. 6:2) and that we are a new creation in Christ Jesus (2 Cor. 5:21) and that the Holy Spirit is at work in us both to will and to work for His good pleasure (Phil. 2:13). If we trust 1 Thessalonians 5:23 that God Himself will sanctify us entirely, then we no longer need concern ourselves with accomplishing all these things. This is the essence of God's grace working on our behalf! Unfortunately those not fully trusting in the work of God and who have a diminished view of His love of which His grace stems from are prone to worry about things like sin and are prone to worry about things like sanctification. Things that we were never equipped and are helpless to deal with in the first place (Matt. 5:3). How freeing it is to realize you are helpless to either save or sanctify yourself because it's when we realize our helplessness that we cease striving for these things and begin to turn to God, to be still and know that He is God! (Psa. 46:10a) And we begin to look to Him to be true to His word (since there is no other option, John 6:68). This is the essence of faith. One of the worst and most damaging lies we tell in church is the cry of legalism that says "You need to get to work". This undermines the grace of God and it gives people the illusion that they need to work to complete a task that only God can complete. Such a mindset makes one very weary and heavy laden, always working yet never arriving, always trying yet never being able to accomplish a task only God can accomplish (Matt. 5:17, Rom. 3:31), a task that legalism has convinced them is in their court to accomplish. Such a person under this deception is easily identified. They are stressed out, weary, if they aren't working for their salvation they are working to pay God back for it (they know they can't, but oddly they still try). They are always sizing themselves up, looking over the list of requirements and measuring their merits. Guilt and shame are their guides and accompany them to every event. Enjoyment to them is merely a reminder that there are better things they should be doing with their time. Like Martha was to Mary they are troubled when someone isn't working for the kingdom (Luke 10:40). They are troubled when Christians sit idly by at the feet of Jesus when they could at least be washing His feet while they are there (Luke 10:41, John 13:6). Their motto is: "What God demands is my business" When it should be "What God does is my business".


Such Christians are trying to live free from a prison cell. Why? Because freedom scares them. To step out of the cell which has been their home since they were born, terrifies them. "What if?" they say. What if I step out into that freedom and sin gets out of control? Jesus stands at the entrance and says "Come forth!" (John 11:43, Matt. 14:29) and they reply, "but Lord, if I step out from these binds I'll get worse!" Jesus, looking with love says, "what binds?" "Lord, my sin is like ivy, if I don't keep a close watch on it every day it will spread". "That's not yours to deal with, it's Mine" (Isa. 53:4, 2 Cor. 5:21).


Question: Do we take God at His word when He says we are dead to sin or do we listen to the lie that we are not? Do we believe Him that He dealt with our sin (2 Cor. 5:21) or do we feel the need to keep working, every day we are pruning that Ivy. What we fail to realize is, our sin, which Jesus bore (Isa. 53:4) was not Ivy but rather an all consuming wildfire which we have not the means to deal with. The enemy not only has us deceived in regards to God's gracious all-sufficient work accomplished on our behalf but he's deceived us into thinking we have the power to combat this sin in our own strength... and we're heading into a blazing wildfire armed with nothing more than shears. We are branches on the vine that are focusing on bearing fruit when we should be branches on the vine who are focused on Jesus Christ which consequently results in bearing fruit.


You are already clean because of the word which I have spoken to you. Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself unless it abides in the vine, so neither can you unless you abide in Me. I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing. - John 15:3-5


It's interesting when you read the phrase "weak in faith" in the bible. As a legalist I often equated this with an underperforming Christian but it's just the opposite. One who is weak in faith is one who is likely an overperforming Christian, or who's trying very hard (Matt. 11:28). Faith in Christ means a trust in Him, His accomplishments (John 19:30, Matt. 5:17), His working in us via the Holy Spirit (Phil. 2:13), and His intercession before the Father (Rom. 8:34, Heb. 7:25). Weak in faith simply means weak in trusting the reality of these things.


Now accept the one who is weak in faith, but not for the purpose of passing judgment on his opinions. One person has faith that he may eat all things, but he who is weak eats vegetables only. - Romans 14:1-2


When we are weak in trusting in Christ's works then we feel compelled that we should work, making up the difference. But when we trust in Christ's accomplishments we begin to rest (Matt. 11:28-30) and enjoy our freedom and liberty.


But take care that this liberty of yours does not somehow become a stumbling block to the weak. 10 For if someone sees you, who have knowledge, dining in an idol’s temple, will not his conscience, if he is weak, be strengthened to eat things sacrificed to idols?- 1 Corinthians 8:9-10


"who have knowledge" Referring to those who more fully know the liberty that comes with being in Christ. Also notice the care derived from those verses toward those who would be weak in their knowing such liberty. If you feel you are one who is weak in faith, know that this doesn't make God weak in His faithfulness toward you. As with Peter God cares about you deeply. Continuing in Romans 14 look at what Paul writes regarding the position before God of one who is weak in faith.


The one who eats is not to regard with contempt the one who does not eat, and the one who does not eat is not to judge the one who eats, for God has accepted him. - Romans 14:3 (emphasis mine)


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