(from a transcript of a sermon preached on 6/9/02 at Sovereign Redeemer Assembly)
Please turn in your Bibles to Romans chapter 5. I'll be reading Romans 5:20 and 21 and then the entire chapter of Romans 6:
Romans 5: (20) But Law came in besides, that the deviation might abound. But where sin abounded, grace much more abounded, (21) that as sin ruled in death, so also grace might rule through righteousness to everlasting life, through Jesus Christ our Lord. (6:1) What then shall we say? Shall we continue in sin that grace may abound? (2) Let it not be! We who died to sin, how shall we still live in it? (3) Or are you ignorant that all who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death? (4) Therefore, we were buried with Him through baptism into death, that as Christ was raised up from [the] dead by the glory of the Father, so also we should walk in newness of life. (5) For if we have been joined together in the likeness of His death, so also shall we be in the resurrection, (6) knowing this, that our old man was crucified with [Him], that the body of sin might be nullified, so that we no longer serve sin. (7) For the [one] that died has been justified from sin. (8) But if we died with Christ, we believe that also we shall live with Him, (9) knowing that Christ being raised from [the] dead dies no more; death no longer lords it over Him. (10) For in that He died, He died to sin once for all; but in that He lives, He lives to God. (11) So also you count yourselves to be truly dead to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus our Lord. (12) Then do not let sin reign in your mortal body, to obey it in its lusts. (13) Neither present your members [as] instruments of unrighteousness to sin, but present yourselves to God as [one] living from [the] dead, and your members instruments of righteousness to God. (14) For your sin shall not lord it over you, for you are not under Law, but under grace. (15) What then? Shall we sin because we are not under Law, but under grace? Let it not be! (16) Do you not know that to whom you present yourselves [as] slaves for obedience, you are slaves to whom you obey, whether of sin to death, or obedience to righteousness? (17) But thanks [be] to God that you were slaves of sin, but you obeyed from [the] heart the form of doctrine to which you were delivered. (18) And having been set free from sin, you were enslaved to righteousness. (19) I speak as a man on account of the weakness of your flesh. For as you presented your members [as] slaves to uncleanness and to lawless act unto lawless act, so now yield your members as slaves to righteousness unto sanctification. (20) For when you were slaves of sin, you were free as to righteousness. (21) Therefore what fruit did you have then [in the things] over which you are now ashamed? For the end of those things [is] death. (22) But now having been set free from sin, and having been enslaved to God, you have your fruit unto sanctification, and the end everlasting life. (23) For the wages of sin [is] death, but the gift of God [is] everlasting life in Christ Jesus our Lord.
From Romans 3:19 through Romans 5:21, we have seen salvation by free, unmerited grace. We have seen that no part of salvation, including our justification, our acceptance with God, or our entitlement to heaven, is based on our law-keeping. We have seen that our salvation, from start to finish, is based on the finished, accomplished work of Jesus Christ. Our own works make absolutely no difference between salvation and damnation. Our works aren't even in the salvation equation. Our works don't save us or keep us saved or make us fit for heaven or assure us a place in heaven. It is ALL of God's free, sovereign grace, based on a unilateral, unconditional promise of salvation conditioned on the atoning blood and imputed righteousness of Jesus Christ alone. Our works are totally excluded. I can't emphasize that enough. OUR WORKS ARE TOTALLY EXCLUDED. All of our good deeds, our efforts to please God, our praying, our studying, our zeal, our diligence, our doing what God says to do and our not doing what God says not to do, form NO PART of the ground of our acceptance before God or our entitlement to heaven. NO PART. Not even a hundredth of a thousandth of a millionth part. When I say it's ALL of God, I really mean it's ALL of God. There are many people who SAY that it's ALL of God, but when you really get into what they believe, they show that they believe that the work of Christ did not do ALL that was necessary to ensure the salvation of ALL for whom He died. Or, if they do claim to believe in effectual redemption, they'll say that there's a condition that the sinner must meet and God enables us to meet that condition. That makes salvation conditioned on the sinner in some way to some degree, and that is deadly. Romans 3:20 says that by the works of the Law, NO ONE will be justified. Romans 3:21 says that a righteousness of God has been revealed APART from Law. Romans 3:27 says that there is NO ROOM for boasting in self. Romans 3:28 says that a man is justified WITHOUT works of Law. Romans 4:2 says that if Abraham was justified by works, he would have a boast, but not with God. Romans 4:4 says that if one is working for his salvation, the reward is not counted according to grace but according to debt. Romans 4:6 says that the blessed ones are those to whom God counts righteousness APART FROM works. Romans 4:13 says that God's promise to Abraham was not through Law. Romans 4:14 says that if those who strive to obey the law to gain acceptance before God are the heirs, then the promise is annulled. Romans 5:5 says that Christ died for the UNgodly. Romans 5:18 says that the righteousness of Jesus Christ is given to all whom He represented. Romans 5:19 says that all whom Christ represented shall be constituted righteous. Romans 5:20 says that where sin abounded, grace much more abounded. Do we get the point here? God counts His people RIGHTEOUS not based on their WORKS! He counts His people RIGHTEOUS based on the work of ANOTHER, who is Jesus Christ. The sins of all of God's elect were imputed to Christ, and Christ suffered the just penalty that these sins deserved. And Christ's righteousness, His sinless perfection, that He worked out when He was on the earth, is imputed to all of God's people in time. We are declared RIGHTEOUS based on CHRIST'S WORK. Our works have NOTHING to do with our being declared RIGHTEOUS and being seen as RIGHTEOUS in the sight of God. My works DO NOT make me a righteous man. My works DO NOT make me accepted by God. My works DO NOT give me the right to go to heaven. And I WILL NOT plead my works on Judgment Day. When I sin in my everyday life, my sin DOES NOT bring me back under the wrath of God. My sin DOES NOT make me any less righteous. My sin DOES NOT make me any less acceptable or less entitled to heaven or less of a saint. Where sin abounds, grace much more abounds.
"But wait a minute!" somebody's going to say. "If somebody's law-keeping or law-breaking has NOTHING to do with his standing before God, and if God's grace overabounds where sin abounds, then why not just pay no attention to God's Law and live in sin? After all, if it's ALL CHRIST, then as long as you have Christ's righteousness, you can go and live in sin, and it doesn't matter, because all God sees is Christ's righteousness." There are two groups of people who would say such a thing. One group would say such a thing in a sarcastic way, saying that it's ridiculous to say that Law-keeping has nothing to do with our standing before God, because if it were ALL Christ, then that gives a license for Christians to go live in sin with impunity. Thus, they say that the gospel that salvation is conditioned SOLELY on Christ gives a license for sin. The second group of people would say this very seriously and say that since law-keeping has nothing to do with the ground of salvation, Christians can and do live in sin, and some would even go so far as to say that it is PERMISSIBLE for Christians to live in sin, because they are covered with the righteousness of Christ. They would say things like, "Yes, I admit he's an adulterer, but his sin has been paid for, and he's been clothed with the righteousness of Christ."
Let's read Romans 6:1 again:
Romans 6: (1) What then shall we say? Shall we continue in sin that grace may abound?
After all of what Paul has said up to this point about salvation being conditioned on Christ alone and not on the sinner, Paul confronts this very thing. Now consider this: If Paul did not mean that salvation was 100% of God and 0% of me, if Paul did not mean that we are considered righteous TOTALLY APART from our deeds, and I mean TOTALLY, then this question would not have to have been raised. If what Paul REALLY meant in the previous chapters was that Christ did some of the work and made it possible for everybody without exception to be saved, and now it's up to the efforts of the sinner to recommend himself to God or to make himself pleasing to God or entitle him to God's favor and blessings and heaven - if that's what Paul REALLY meant, then this question in Romans 6:1 would make no sense. But because Paul clearly laid out FREE, UNCONDITIONAL, UNILATERAL GRACE, the question is raised, "Well then, shall we continue in sin that grace may abound?"
So what is Paul's answer? Does Paul give in and say, "Well, you do have a point. Salvation really isn't ALL of Christ; Christians still need to live holy lives in order to maintain their acceptance before God." Is that how he answered that? Let's see how Paul answers such a question.
In verse 2, Paul begins his answer with the strongest of negations: LET IT NOT BE! MAY IT NEVER BE! Paul is saying that there is NO WAY that Christians will use the doctrine of free grace as a license to continue in sin. And the next sentence is a very important one, as it is the summation of what he is about to say. It's the summarized version that is followed by the expanded version. Let's take a look at it: "We who died to sin, how shall we still live in it?" Now Paul says this in the form of a question, but it's obviously a rhetorical question to make a point. The way he puts this question really gives it emphasis. It's like saying, "How in the world shall we Christians LIVE in sin, since we already DIED to sin?" The answer to this rhetorical question is, "THERE'S NO WAY!" So Paul is saying here that THERE IS NO WAY that those who died to sin shall live in it. Whereas the legalist objected to free grace, the antinomian will now reject the fact that Christians will not live in sin. The Holy Spirit through the Apostle Paul confounds them both. Let's take the rest of our time here today to look into this sentence.
Let's first look at the phrase "We who died to sin." Now there's a controversy among commentators as to whether or not this means the objective dying to the GUILT and CONDEMNATION of sin or the subjective REIGN and BONDAGE of sin. I've gone back and forth with this one and have seen the reasoning from both sides and have actually concluded something different than anything I've seen in any of the commentaries. Since Romans 6:2 is a TRANSITION from the OBJECTIVE imputed righteousness of Christ in the previous chapter to the SUBJECTIVE holy walk of Christians in the current chapter, I see this sentence as a TRANSITIVE sentence. It's easier to picture in my mind rather than explain, but I'll try to explain it. "We who died to sin" is a CONNECTOR between the objective and subjective. Objectively, dying to sin is equivalent to justification, since when we died to sin, we died to its guilt and its condemnation. A necessary consequence, or fruit, if you will, of justification is being freed from the REIGN of sin and the BONDAGE of sin in our own persons, which makes us FREE to serve God. And since we are free from the REIGN and BONDAGE of sin, which are consequences of being in a STATE of sin, we can no longer LIVE in sin. So I see the phrase "We who died to sin" as being first objective and then, as a consequence, subjective, leading to the phrase "how shall we still live in it" as totally subjective. This explanation fits with the transitive nature of the context that links what came BEFORE to what is ABOUT to be said. And I think this explanation is borne out by the verses that follow.
So let's first go into the phrase "died to sin" as an objective reality. How have we who are believers died to sin as to our state before God? Well, since this is the part of the transition that deals with what has gone before, we can see the objective reality in previous verses in Romans. Let's turn to Romans 3:19:
Romans 3: (19) But we know that whatever the Law says, it speaks to those within the Law, so that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world be under judgment to God.
When we were alive to sin, we were under God's judgment. We were void of a righteousness that answered the demands of God's Law. We were guilty. Now to verse 24:
Romans 3: (24) being justified freely by His grace through the redemption in Christ Jesus,
When we died to sin, we were justified, or declared NOT guilty. Now over to chapter 4, verses 5 through 8:
Romans 4: (5) But to the [one] not working, but believing on Him justifying the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness. (6) Even as also David says of the blessedness of the man to whom God counts righteousness apart from works: (7) "Blessed [are those] whose lawlessnesses are forgiven, and whose sins are covered; (8) blessed [the] man to whom [the] Lord will in no way charge sin."
When we died to sin, our lawlessnesses were forgiven, our sins were covered, our sin was not charged to us, and God counted righteousness to us apart from works. Now to verse 15:
Romans 4: (15) For the Law works out wrath; for where no law is, neither [is] transgression.
When we were alive to sin, we were under the wrath of God. Now over to chapter 5, verse 9:
Romans 5: (9) Much more then, being justified now by His blood, we shall be saved from the wrath through Him.
When we died to sin, we were justified by His blood and shall be saved from the wrath to come. Now to verse 17:
Romans 5: (17) For if by the deviation of the one death reigned through the one, much more those who are receiving the abundance of grace and the gift of righteousness shall rule in life by the One, Jesus Christ.
Death, as the consequence of sin, reigns in the offspring of Adam, while life, as the consequence of righteousness, reigns in the offspring of Christ. Now as we go further into chapter 6, the Lord willing, we'll go into more detail regarding death in Christ and life in Christ.
Now let us go over the phrase "died to sin" as a SUBJECTIVE reality. Before we died TO sin, we were dead IN sin. So, subjectively, we were under the reign and bondage of sin, and thus we were living in sin. Our lives were characterized by sin. I'll go into some verses on this when we get to the second phrase. But for now, let us see what subjectively dying to sin is. Let's first turn to 2 Corinthians 5:17:
2 Corinthians 5: (17) So that if anyone [is] in Christ, [he] is a new creation; the old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new!
The Christian is not an improvement on the old person; he is a COMPLETELY NEW person! His heart hasn't just been upgraded; it has been REPLACED! Ezekiel 36 shows this. Let's go over there:
Ezekiel 36: (26) And I will also give you a new heart, and I will put a new spirit within you. And I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give to you a heart of flesh. (27) And I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes, and you shall keep My judgments and do [them].
Is the stony heart re-formed to make an improved heart? No! The stony heart is REMOVED and a new heart, made of COMPLETELY DIFFERENT MATERIAL, is implanted. Is the old spirit upgraded? No! The old spirit, which is an evil spirit, is COMPLETELY REMOVED, and a NEW SPIRIT indwells the Christian upon regeneration. And not only this, but what does this new creation, this person with a brand new heart and a brand new spirit, do? How does he walk? Verse 27 confounds the antinomians, doesn't it? God, the Holy Spirit, through the Prophet Ezekiel, says these inerrant words: "and cause you to walk in My statutes, and you shall keep My judgments and do them." So this brand new creation who has a brand new heart and a brand new spirit walks in obedience. Let's go to Deuteronomy 30:6:
Deuteronomy 30: (6) And Jehovah your God will circumcise your heart, and the heart of your seed, to love Jehovah your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, that you may live.
This talks of a CIRCUMCISED heart. Now this isn't in opposition to the BRAND NEW heart of Ezekiel, because a CIRCUMCISED heart is a DIFFERENT heart. When the heart is CIRCUMCISED, it means that the wickedness and hardness of their hearts will be taken away. And what does a circumcised heart do? It loves God with all his heart and soul. There are a ton of other verses I've looked up on this, including ones further down in Romans 6, but I want us to turn to just two more.
2 Corinthians 4:6:
2 Corinthians 4: (6) Because [it is] God who said, "Out of darkness Light shall shine," who shone in our hearts to [give the] brightness of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.
The new creation is given the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.
2 John 1:9:
2 John 1: (9) Everyone transgressing and not abiding in the doctrine of Christ does not have God. The [one] abiding in the doctrine of Christ, this one has the Father and the Son.
The new creation abides in the doctrine of Christ. So we have seen from these verses that a person who has died to sin is a new person who has a new heart and a new spirit who walks in obedience and believes the gospel. He no longer has a heart of stone and an evil spirit, and he no longer walks in disobedience and he no longer believes a false gospel.
Now let's go back to Romans 6:2 and go into the last phrase, which is "how shall we still live in it?" Because this is a rhetorical question, we see the truth of the passage as being "we shall not still live in it." A person who has died to sin, one who has been freed from the guilt and condemnation of sin and has been freed from the reign and bondage of sin, who has been given a new heart to walk in love and obedience, WILL NOT live in sin. It's an impossibility. Being a new creature and being given a new heart is totally incompatible with living in sin. Now an antinomian might say, "That means you're a legalist. You're basing salvation on your not living in sin." That's not what I'm doing, or the Bible is doing, at all. What I am saying, and what I say comes from what the Bible says, is that there are certain FRUITS of regeneration that are not PREREQUISITES or CONDITIONS. One of these fruits is belief of the gospel, as we have seen many times in this series. Another of these fruits is living in obedience. The Bible is totally clear on this. Turn over to 1 John 2:3-5:
1 John 2: (3) And by this we know that we have known Him, if we keep His commands. (4) The [one] saying, I have known Him, and not keeping His commands is a liar, and the truth is not in that one. (5) But whoever keeps His Word, truly in this one the love of God has been perfected. By this we know that we are in Him.
Now let's see the antinomians chew on that one for a while. I take what this passage says on face value. But before people start misunderstanding me, let me explain what I mean by "living in sin" and "living in obedience." "Living in sin" means a life that is characterized by a disregard for God's Law. "Living in obedience" means a life that is characterized by a regard for and a striving to keep God's Law. The truth is that although a Christian may fall into sin, his life is not characterized by a disregard of God's law. Christians do have a way of conduct that is DIFFERENT than the way of conduct of the immoral. But this needs to be made very clear as well: true Christians DO NOT say that everyone whose life is characterized by morality is regenerate. In fact, MOST whose lives are characterized by morality, even those who profess to be Christians, are unregenerate. A professing Christian who is morally upright, sincere, and dedicated, but who believes that Jesus Christ died for everyone without exception, is just as unregenerate as the most vile pervert on the face of the earth. This is important to remember. All Christians live lives that are characterized by morality, but not all whose lives are characterized by morality are Christians. Muslims and Mormons are, in general, very moral people, but they believe in a false gospel.
Let's turn over to 1 Corinthians 6:9-10 for examples of living in sin:
1 Corinthians 6: (9) Or do you not know that unjust ones will not inherit [the] kingdom of God? Do not be led astray, neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor male prostitutes, nor homosexuals, (10) nor thieves, nor covetous ones, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor plunderers shall inherit [the] kingdom of God.
Oh, the antinomians love to twist this one all up to let these people into the kingdom. They'll say things like, "All Christians are adulterers and idolaters and thieves. The only difference between us and the unregenerate adulterers and idolaters and thieves is that we have the imputed righteousness of Christ and they do not." But that's not what this passage says. It says that adulterers WILL NOT INHERIT THE KINGDOM OF HEAVEN. It says that idolaters WILL NOT INHERIT THE KINGDOM OF HEAVEN. It says that thieves WILL NOT INHERIT THE KINGDOM OF HEAVEN. There is NO SUCH THING as an adulterer or an idolater or a thief who has the imputed righteousness of Christ. And if the antinomians want to call themselves adulterers and idolaters and thieves, then they're saying, according to this passage, that they will not inherit the kingdom of heaven. The nut that the antinomians can't crack is verse 11: "And some WERE these things"! They are NO LONGER these things! Now if Paul were in agreement with the antinomians, this would have been the perfect time for him to say, "And some ARE these things, but you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified." And that's exactly what the antinomians say. They say, "I AM an adulterer, but I am washed, I am sanctified, I am justified." Well, God says that this is an IMPOSSIBILITY. It is IMPOSSIBLE for you to be a washed, sanctified, justified adulterer. Adulterers WILL NOT inherit the kingdom of heaven, and when God regenerates an adulterer, he will STOP being an adulterer, no question about it. I'm using the example of adultery here, but it goes for any of the types of people listed here. And that's key when I said "types of people." 1 Corinthians 6:9-10 is not talking about individual sins; it is talking about PEOPLE WHOSE LIVES ARE CHARACTERIZED BY SUCH SIN. Can a Christian fall into thievery? He sure can. But his life will not be characterized by thievery, and thus he can never be a thief. Christians can sin many sins. But their life is characterized by repentance from sin and obedience to God's commands. When they see a command in the Bible, they strive to obey it. They do not have a disregard for God's law. Are you getting the distinction here? So how can we who DIED to sin LIVE in sin? We can't. Christians will not use free grace as a license to live a life characterized by a disregard for God's law.
Let's turn to three verses to close.
Ephesians 2: (8) For by grace you are saved, through faith, and this not of yourselves; [it is] the gift of God; (9) not of works, that not anyone should boast; (10) for we are [His] workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God before prepared that we should walk in them.
Our salvation was and is TOTALLY APART from our works. Our works have ABSOLUTELY NOTHING to do with our ground of salvation, from regeneration to final glory. It is all of grace, our works TOTALLY EXCLUDED. We are also created in Christ TO DO good works; in fact, God already determined that His people WILL do good works. Thus, someone who DOES NOT do good works is not of God.
2 Timothy 2:19:
2 Timothy 2: (19) However, the foundation of God stands firm, having this seal, "[The] Lord knew the [ones] being His;" also, Let everyone naming the name of Christ depart from unrighteousness.
All whom God knows in Christ are sure and certain for heaven, based on the work of Christ alone. Our works form no part of our salvation. And those who confess that Christ is the only ground of their salvation are to flee wickedness.
1 John 2:6:
1 John 2: (6) The [one] claiming to rest in Him ought so to walk himself as that [One] walked.
Here is both RESTING and WALKING. We are to rest in the atoning blood and imputed righteousness of Jesus Christ alone as our only ground of acceptance before God, and we are to strive to walk as Jesus walked, not to be accepted before God, but to show our love for the God who has secured our salvation. Amen.