"What shall we say, then? Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase?" By no means! We died to sin; how can we live in it any longer?" (Romans 6:1-2)
This is a valid question if you have ever heard the true gospel as Paul preached it. Throughout the book of Romans, Paul makes it abundantly clear, that we are completely justified by faith in Jesus. Justification means, that you are returned to a state that is just as if you had never sinned. God's grace completely covers each and every sin you have ever committed or will ever commit. The writer of Hebrews concurs with this amazing statement when he said, "But when this priest [Jesus] had offered for all time one sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God. Since that time he waits for his enemies to be made his footstool, because by one sacrifice has made perfect forever those who are being made holy." ( Hebrews 10:12-14 ) So if Jesus only made one sacrifice for all sins, for all humankind, for all time, then every sin, past, present and future has been paid for and forgiven. In other words, sin cannot keep you out of heaven, that barrier was bridged two thousand years ago. Sin is not an issue with God. Since God has provided the means and the way to him through his son Jesus, the only thing that can keep you out of heaven is unbelief. According to the gospel, The only thing required of us, is that we must accept this free gift of grace by faith in order to be translated into the kingdom of heaven. At that time, God puts his born again spirit inside of us and this is where the transformation of righteousness takes place. (for more reading on this, please visit these blog posts: Romans 2:12-13 - Being Declared Righteous Before God, Romans 3:21 - A Righteousness Apart From the Law, Romans 3:25 - The Sacrifice of Atonement, Through Faith in His Blood)
This righteousness through trusting in Jesus as your personal savior has been the theme of the entire book of Romans up until this point. That is the gospel, the true gospel, the gospel in which Paul preached. So if you know that the sins of the entire world have been eradicated by Jesus, then the question naturally arises...does that mean, it is okay for me to continue on in sin? Unless you ask this question, chances are you haven't heard the entire gospel as Paul preached it.
Paul's answer... an emphatic NO! Paul's logic? We can't continue in something that we have died to. We were dead under the law by the accusation and guilt that permeated us. However, Christ made us alive through faith. ( Colossians 2:13-15, Ephesians 2:5 ) Christ defeated and triumphed over the sin nature and because of it, when we were born again, he replaced our default nature with his nature... pure, holy and righteous. ( II Corinthians 5:21, Ephesians 4:24 ) Since we died to the old nature, we have no obligation to it to continue operating as if we belonged to it. ( Romans 6:11, II Corinthians 5:21, Colossians 2:20 ) Therefore, we cannot continue in sin because it is completely foreign to our new nature which is the nature of Christ.
Our born again spirit is where we have the nature of Christ. Trouble arises if we look to the natural realm for Paul's statement to make sense instead of the spiritual realm. We may look around and see the effects of sin and the daily struggle with sin, then question the validity of Paul's statement. If the sin nature is still so apparent in our lives, how can Paul's statement be true? To understand this concept we have to understand the what part of our make up Paul is talking about. Paul is talking about our born again spirit. That is the part of us that has been completely sanctified, sealed and redeemed at the time we accepted Christ as our savior. If we see evidence of the old nature or sin nature, then we are looking into our soulish realm and focusing on the flesh instead of what is in our born again spirit. This difference between our spirit, our soul and our body is a key factor to understanding this passage.
To defeat sin in our natural realm we must overcome it by living by the spirit. The Bible stresses the difference between living in the flesh rather than living according to the spirit. Paul says that we have died to sin, and since is no longer our nature, we cannot continue in it. He is talking about our born again spirit. Even though we see in the natural realm our struggles with sin, the spiritual side trumps the physical side of our being. Reality is not our struggle with sin, reality is that we have victory over sin and that victory exists in our born again spirit. To bring further clarity to this, lets look at Romans 8 says, "Those who live according to the sinful nature have their minds set on what that nature desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires. The mind of sinful man is death, but the mind controlled by the Spirit is life and peace; the sinful mind is hostile to God. It does not submit to God's law, nor can it do so. Those controlled by the sinful nature cannot please God. You, however, are controlled not by the sinful nature but by the Spirit, if the Spirit of God lives in you. And if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Christ" ( Romans 8:5-9 ) So if we are struggling with sin instead of experiencing life and peace, then we are not living according to the spirit or living out of our new nature.
How do we live by the spirit? By works? By resisting sin? By controlling your desire to sin? Absolutely not. Colossians 2:6 says, "So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live in him..." ( Colossians 2:6 ) How did you receive the Lord? By works? By resisting sin? By controlling your desire to sin? No, you received the Lord by faith. So living by the spirit is living by faith. Another important key to living by the spirit is fellowshipping with the Lord and reading his word. Romans 12:2 says, "Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind." ( Romans 12:2 ). Which means that renewing your mind in the Word brings effortless change causing the remnant of the sin nature upon your natural self to disappear. That is how you continue in faith and that is how you live by the spirit, and that is how you see the physical manifestation of the death of your old sin nature.
Today it is my prayer that "he who began a good work in you will carry it onto completion" ( Philippians 1:6 ) and that journey encompasses faith in the Son. May you be blessed as you recognize grace to which you were called and the complete victory that is yours through Christ.
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Original article published October 13, 2009.