Shall we Sin, so Grace May Abound? (Romans 6)

After arguing from scripture that the one who is in Christ has been declared righteous by faith apart from works of Law, Paul must responding to a potential objection.  Someone might ask, “If we are saved by God’s grace alone and not by our works, why live a moral life?” If you already have all the righteousness of Jesus and there is no question that you are “right with God,” why not live our lives as sinfully as possible so that God’s grace is even greater?

License to SinPaul’s response is to state that this is not a possibility. Paul used the phrase μὴ γένοιτο, “may it never be,” in Romans to deny as strongly as possible a rhetorical question. Paul’s logical answer to a possible object to his view of justification is to demonstrate that the one who is “in Christ” has been identified in the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ in such a way as to be considered dead to sin.  Three statements follow to make this point.

First, the believer is identified with Christ in his death through baptism. In his excellent commentary on Romans, C. E. B. Cranfield (Romans 2:299) lists four possible interpretations of this idea of being “baptized in Christ’s death.” 

  • A Juridical Sense. Believer’s dies to sin in God’s sight.  By this it is meant that God makes a decision not to consider sins against a believer in the light of Christ’s sacrifice.
  • A Baptismal Sense. The believer dies and is raised at the believer’s baptism into Christ.  Murray is one of the few modern commentaries to take this view, although he denies that there is any “mode of baptism” in view” (Murray, Romans, 215).
  • A Moral Sense. The believer is given his freedom to die to sin daily, and be raised to new life daily as he struggles with the sin in his life.  Cranfield 300 says “The man who has learned through the gospel message the truth of God’s gracious decision on his behalf is now to strive with all his heart to approximate more and more in his actual concrete daily living to that which in God’s decision of justification he already is.”
  • An Eschatological Sense. The death to sin occurs when the believer finally dies and is raised again to life.

Paul may move between these four senses in chapter 6, but based on the courtroom metaphor of justification from Romans 5, he primarily has the first option in mind. The believer was not literally nailed to the cross, but on a metaphoric level that is exactly what happened.  Jesus Christ was a substitute for every man, and after than substitutionary death took place, God is now able to justly declare all men righteous who believe, those that accept the free gift of salvation.

 Second, since the connection to Christ’s death has been very clearly made, it is quite logical for Paul to extend the argument to include Christ’s resurrection in verses 5-8.  To be “united” is to be assimilated into something. Paul’s point is simple: our association with Christ in his death (the means of our justification) implies our association with him in his resurrection to new life. If you are in Christ, you are dead to the old life and naturally live a new life.

Third, in verses 9-14 Paul makes an additional logical inference from the idea that we are united with Christ in his death and resurrection.  If it is true that our justification and sanctification are implied in the death and resurrection of Christ, then our glorification is implied by his own glorification. This observation points to the eschatological aspect of salvation when the one who is “in Christ” is resurrected to eternal life.

In summary, Paul considers it impossible that anyone that is truly “in Christ” to “sin that grace may abound.”  The fact of our justification implies we are being sanctified, and will eventually be glorified.  To live in sin is not consistent with new life in Christ.


5 thoughts on “Shall we Sin, so Grace May Abound? (Romans 6)

  1. For people to think that because they are sinning, “God can show us more and more of his wonderful grace” (Rom 6:1), that is ridiculous. As Paul says, we should “be dead to the power of sin and alive to God through Christ Jesus” (Rom 6:11). If we are to sin more, it is almost like taking advantage of the gift Jesus gave to us. Christian means “little Christ,” so if Christians are to be like Christ, they need to have the “mind of Christ” which means knowing “whom to listen to and follow after and whom not” (TTP 202). We are supposed to model other Christians, ones who we know are good examples, and also “resist emulating those who are not worthy of imitation” (Phil 3:17, TTP 202).

  2. Paul’s gospel was challenged for encouraging the idea that we should sin even more in order to bring God glory. In Romans 3:8 Paul identifies that his gospel has been misrepresented as promoting immoral “libertinism”; where one lives without any kind of restraint and claims this gives God more glory by revealing his graciousness (TTP, 183). That trail of thinking claims that because we are “apart from the law” (and it is the law that contains moral constraint) then the “followers of Jesus can do just about anything they want to do without worrying about being condemned as sinners” (TTP, 183). Paul states that for those who believe this, condemnation is just (Romans 3:8). Paul addresses this issue further in Romans 6, stating that we are not to sin with the idea that this gives God glory (6:1), and though we are no longer under the law, it does not nullify morality and righteousness (6:15-20).

  3. It always astounded me that people would think it is okay to purposely live out a sinful life after receiving the cleansing gift of salvation, presented through Christ’s death and resurrection. The Roman converts being addressed, should have at least heard about being expected to try and imitate Christ’s way of life and action. He had said before in Ephesians 2:8-9, “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast,” yet Paul goes on to tell them that just because they don’t have to work, doesn’t mean they shouldn’t. In the next verse, Eph. 2:10, “For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.” These verses teach us that we are saved by our faith in Christ, and do not need to do good works, but that is the desire God has for us. When addressing the Romans, Paul said this, “For the death he died he died to sin, once for all, but the life he lives to God. So you also must consider yourself dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus,” (Rom. 6:10-11). This address to the Romans is telling them specifically, that the redemption and cleansing that Christ offers us, means being reborn as a new person who is aimed away from following their old sinful nature. Paul wanted to impress the fact that being cleansed of past and future sins does not give people the right to live sinfully, that they have been given a free pass to live without consequences. Once saved, they were expected to live out their lives in a way that reflects Christ.

  4. Paul’s gospel seemed to be something that seemed like challenging the right to sin or not. There is a passage in Romans 3:8 that talks about how Paul feels like his gospel is being misrepresented, and telling people they can sin and be immoral. People think they were allowed to live outside the law as long as they repented and showed graciousness towards God, but that is not the case. We need to have a mind in Christ and know who we should listen to a follow. We are supposed to be people to that non-Christians will look to for faith, so we should live life like that.

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