Should We Sin? – Romans 6:1-4

In the first five chapters of Romans, Paul has shown that no one is able to merit salvation by their good works. Even Abraham failed to merit salvation, so God credited him with righteousness” (Romans 4:3). In Romans 5:12-21 Paul makes the case that God has declared righteous those who have believed in Jesus,

In Romans 6:1–4 Paul describes the believer as united with Christ in his death, burial and resurrection. If it is true grace increases where sin abounds, should we sin so that grace will about all the more? (6:1-2). Paul asks this rhetorical question to expose a potential problem with his view of grace and justification. As he did earlier in the book, he answers his question with a strong negative, “by no means!”

The question concerns remaining or abiding in sin (a present subjunctive, ἐπιμένω). It is possible Paul is not talking about sin in general, but a specific sin in which the Christian continues to commit despite their understanding it as a sin. For example, a Roman man might decide that because they are saved by God’s grace through faith, going to a prostitute at a pagan temple does not “count” as a sin. Since that is a conscious choice and a regular practice, the person is choosing to remain in a sin. The question is not, “should we ever sin?” but should be persistently sin.

Where there people actually sinning so that grace might abound? It is always possible Paul is raising a hypothetical objection to his argument up through chapter 5. “Someone might say” may mean Paul could imagine this objection, so he answers it before it arises.

However, there seem to have been at least some early Christians who did in fact “sin that grace may abound.” In Jude 4, for example, there were people who used the grace of God as a license to sin. Revelation 2:20 implies some Christians in Thyatira were teaching people they could participate in banquets at pagan temples (cf. Rev 2:14-15). Certainly the congregation in Corinth struggled with how Christianity affects how the believer lives in a Gentile world.

With respect to the modern church, it seems strange someone might think they could consciously break a clear principle of God and think they were not offending God with their rebellion. It is possible the issue is breaking the Jewish boundary markers. A Gentile Christian could break Sabbath or food laws without any fear of it being a sin before God.

But there are some behaviors which clearly offend the general revelation of God so that no one, Jew or Gentile, could do them and not consider them sin!

  • As an extreme example, someone could not say, “the Law says do not murder, I am not under the Law, so I am going to kill people for fun.” No one in the Jewish or Greek world think murder is ever permissible.
  • A less absurd example is adultery. The Law does forbid adultery, but a Gentile might not consider than command applicable to going to a prostitute or using a slave for sexual pleasure.
  • More troublesome would be eating meat sacrificed to idols. This may not be expressly forbidden in the Law, but it was certainly Jewish practice in the first century. Could a Gentile eat meat purchased from the temples, with the full knowledge this meat was sacrificed to a God and not have that “count” as sin?

Whether this is a real or potential objection, Paul’s response is one of the most important elements of Pauline theology: our total identification with Jesus the death, burial and resurrection has serious ethical implications. If we are in Christ, we are no longer what we were. If that is true, can no longer live the same way because everything has changed in Christ.

7 thoughts on “Should We Sin? – Romans 6:1-4

  1. I really think it is pretty impossible to chose not to sin, there will always be sin but at the same time we need to reduce as much as we can. I don’t think it would be wise to sin more to see more grace because it is like purposely doing wrong so that we can get personal gain from it. It would be like if I chose to sin because at the end of the day I know I am saved and will be blessed, which is morally incorrect. It seems that every possible scenario where they might think committing a sin to abound grace just doesn’t make much sense to any modern era church goer.

  2. I think there is definitely a difference between sinning out of ignorance and practicing habitual sin. Before knowing Christ we did not realize our condition of sin. Didn’t know what we were doing was wrong and selfish. When we come to know Christ His Spirit bears witness without spirit and the Holy Spirit convicts us of sin. When we become convicted of sin and yet still practice it that is a big red flag and would agree with your assessment of Romans 6. Why Paul raised this concern is not because they were constantly being convicted of sin, but that they were willingly remaining in a sin they were convicted of.

    Put simply, Longenecker states, “When people die, the power of Sin no longer has a foothold in their lives; since Jesus-followers have died with Christ (in baptism), the power of Sin thereby been hoodwinked” (TTP 183)

    After Paul’s rhetorical question, he mentions, “Therefore we were buried with Him through baptism into death, that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life” (Romans 6:4 NKJV).

    The main point is that believers are dead to sin and walk in the newness of life they have received from Christ. Maybe these Roman believers were indeed struggling with what was actually sin in their lives. They were exposed to their culture a majority of their lives so it could get twisted fast. If we live life according to the flesh we will die, but if by the Spirit then we have life. For it is only by the Spirit can we even please God. (Romans 8:8,13).

  3. I do not think the question is whether or not we should sin or if it is ok for us but rather the full knowledge that it is inevitable. While Paul says should we sin so grace is abound is not at all what we are meant to do. While obviously grace is going to be more prevalent in sinful nature because of the love of God; the author of hebrews says in Hebrews 10:26, “If we deliberately keep on sinning after we have received the knowledge of the truth, no sacrifice for sins is left.” We are inevitably going to wind up sinning because this world is fallen and we are humans and truly we cannot keep from sinning because we are not perfect but there also should be some sort of change that we encounter when we are saved and once we start following Christ. There should be some element of us changing within ourselves. If we continue to sin intentionally that is much different than the fact that we are going to make mistakes and mess up. Therefore, essentially we should not intentionally sin, but neither ourselves, nor God should expect perfection from us because that is just completely unattainable.

  4. I think that we need to consider that before we come to Christ, we do not necessarily realize we are living in sin. However, it is after we come to Christ that we realize this sin. We live in a newness of life where we are free from sin, but we still struggle with the sinful nature. There’s a difference, though, between trying to not sin, and giving into every temptation we are faced with. Romans 7:15-20 even talks about this struggle with sin nature when Paul talks about not knowing why he does the things he hates. I think this reminds us that we do have that sinful nature, but we are able to understand the grace and newness of life in Christ. Just because we live under grace does not mean we can freely sin because we are forgiven. Instead, we should be trying to live the best we can for Christ. We just also need to understand that sometimes we do sin and do not understand why we do it.

  5. It would be typical and sadly true for human’s to want to continue living the sinful life they did before Christ. There is so much temptation in the world that humans can be so easily influenced. But Paul argues that once you are “baptized” in Christ your old self is dead and a new creation in Christ has begun. “For Paul, the point is simple and the key is baptism. Followers of Jesus have been baptized into Christ Jesus and have been united with him in death; as a consequence, the power of sin is duped, since it gets no inevitable” (TTP, 183). Paul is trying to get the point across that there is no excuse to continue sinning. Yes, we are saved by grace through God and he has already given forgiveness but we should still want to be pleasing in the eyes of God. Living as Christians we should want to follow God and that includes trying to live like him.

  6. “However, there seem to have been at least some early Christians who did in fact “sin that grace may abound.” (P. Long, Blog). This statement is still true in our society today. There are many who know that no matter what they do or how they do it that God will forgive them. People live out their lives in the manner of doing then asking for forgiveness over asking for permission prior to doing. Just as changing one’s life was hard back then after deciding to live for God it is still hard now for those in our culture to do so. Even more so I notice for those who have grown up in the church. Those who have always had the Grace of God as their foundation in life. Some think in that way. Whereas, I have noticed that those who have had a rough life and have gone through some crap are more apt to trust God with their lives. They are more likely to live their lives to praise and worship God because of the hard things that God has brought them through. I do believe that once you have given your life to God you need to do your best and live that for Him and all that He stands for. Yes, we are all going to fail at times but we all need to at least try to live a life out of sin. “If that is true, can no longer live the same way because everything has changed in Christ” (P. Long, Blog).

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