Should We Sin? Romans 6:1-4

In Romans 5 Paul has concluded that those who are in Christ are declared righteous by the faithful act of Jesus, the second Adam. Although the Law caused sin to increase, those who are in Christ experience an abundance of grace in Christ Jesus. We are freed from the power of sin and death, and are free from the law which brought death (5:20-21). Richard Longenecker argues structures Romans 6:1-7:13 is structured around three potential objections to Paul’s argument so far (Longenecker, Romans, 604-5).

License to SinFirst, if we are in fact saved by grace without obedience to ritual or law, then why should we not “sin that grace may abound”? This appears to have been a problem for Paul since he addresses in in several of his letters. Paul did not teach his followers they were free from all moral restraint. In fact, Paul will include several chapters in Romans on what the Christian life ought to look like. Although someone might accuse Paul’s followers of living as though they had no moral boundaries, this was not the point of his Gospel.

Second, can Christians do things formerly considered “sin” because they are no longer under the law? A Gentile Christian may have thought that since they were free from the Law, they could behave in ways that violate the Law and not consider that behavior a sin. By way of analogy, if a person travels to another country. Some practices might be legal that were illegal in their home country. It would not be illegal for an American teenager to drink alcohol in Germany because the legal drinking age is sixteen. But if the same teenager was in Michigan, they would be breaking the law since the drinking age is 21. Perhaps there are some things the Jewish Law considered sin that are now, in the present age, no longer sinful. Paul argues that one of the functions of the Law was to make sin so clear that the need for salvation is obvious.

Third, if this is the case, someone might object that the Law itself is sin since it causes people to sin. If I make a rule that causes people to sin, am I not responsible for their sin? Paul treats this objection in 7:7-13 by anticipating his conclusion in chapter 8; those who are in Christ are in fact free from the law so that we can serve in the new way of the Spirit.

The natural inclination of most people is to abuse freedom. Think of those “pay what you want” snack boxes at work. At least in my experience, even in Christian organizations they always come up short. This seems to be another problem which cropped up for Paul regularly, especially when former pagan Gentiles became part of the church. Some behaviors in the Roman world were out of step with the ethical mandates of Judaism, so Paul’s gospel could be taken as a “license to sin.”

How do these potential objections to Paul’s Gospel of grace come up in contemporary discussions of what it means to be a Christian?

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

  1. I know some people may say that now my sins have been paid for by Jesus; I am no longer accountable for them so I can keep on sinning if I want to, because Jesus already paid for it. Paul explains later on in chapter 7 that our bodies have not been saved but our inner man or soul has been saved (21-22). This means the inner man desires to follow the law of God, but the flesh sometimes keeps us from doing so by sinning (23-24). This is why Paul emphasizes in chapter 8 the Helper or the Holy Spirit to assist us in living holy lives even though we may still sin, but our relationship with God will not be made distant from our sins.

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  2. Paul emphasizes many times in his letters that we must not abuse God’s grace (3:5, 8, 6:1-2, 15-16, Gal. 5:13). In the New Testament, I can see why the Jews in Paul’s day probably thought he did not have any morals. His ideas were very radically different then the Jews that followed the Torah. But obviously, we cannot sin just “because we can”, that completely erases the concept of sin and God’s judgement. Col. 3:5-6 tells us to “put to death whatever belongs to your earthly nature…because of these the wrath of God is coming.” Nowadays, I think people are ignorant of what sin is. They have turned it into something subjective. In contemporary culture, the focus is only on God’s love and grace, while completely disregarding his wrath and justice. You cannot choose one over the other though. Rom. 5:9 says that “since we have been justified by his blood, how much more will we be saved from God’s wrath through him.” People listen only to what they want to hear. Sin is still sin even though we are under grace. It is true that once sin becomes known as Paul talks about, such as the law, it becomes transgression (4:15).

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  3. The fact that we are no longer under the Law in the modern world of Christianity today is by no means a free pass to sin. Many writings in the New Testament speak that there is still a punishment for sin if we do not repent (Romans 6:23). God is a holy God and has no desire for us to sin, but since we do, He desires for us to see that sin and ask forgiveness of these sins. James 4:7 tells us that if we know what is right and refuse to do it, then that in itself is sin. If sin simply brought more glory to God for His grace to show, then all those who do not believe in God would bring glory to God, which is certainly incorrect. 1 John 3:8 says that those who sin are of the devil and that Christ was sent to crush the devil which should therefore crush sin. If we are in Christ, then our sin is despicable to God all the same, but we find grace and redemption that we do not deserve because of the perfection of our God and the standards that He desires for us to follow in order for us to be made more like Him.

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  4. Some people, in today’s time, will be full of grace, but lack discipline, so they continue in their sin and don’t feel any conviction to change. Others are extremely legalistic and have no problems pointing out other’s flaws, judging, and holding themselves on a higher level. As if there is some kind of righteous scale.

    In some of today’s mega churches, I see a hyper-grace message being preached. In some of today’s smaller churches, I see more of a legalistic message. I believe that the Christian should find a healthy balance between grace and truth. We need grace to realize how blessed we are to have a Father that has forgiven us of our wrongdoings. But we also need truth to recognize that we, as human beings, are idiots, and that we need a Father to follow.

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  5. I think that when we are looking at Paul’s view of grace and how it fits into contemporary discussions of what it means to be a Christian. I think when discussing sin and grace we must first recognize that we are all sinners (Romans 3:23). We are under the law of grace because of what Christ did for us on the cross and I think when thinking about this we can recognize that even though we sin, unintentionally much of the time due to our human nature and the fall that Christ is always going to be there and accept us. His grace does not run out and as modern Christians I think that our grace for others should not run out often. Being a Christian means trying to be like Jesus everyday and sometimes that is going to be harder to do than other days but recognizing the grace we have received can helps us when discussing this is modern days. We all fall short but grace does not.

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  6. “A famous one is Deut. 29:11.” I assume you meant Jeremiah 29:11, since Deuteronomy 29:11 says “your little ones, your wives, and the sojourner who is in your camp, from the one who chops your wood to the one who draws your water…”

    Although I would find comfort in having a little one or two who could chop my wood and carry my water.

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  7. Sin is an interesting topic, with varying ideas and opinions about why the Law was in place to begin with. Grace is something people talk for granted, especially when they continue to live a lifestyle that is not honoring to God. Longenecker states that when someone dies, the power of Sin is no longer a foothold anymore (183). Contemporary Christianity can sometimes be complacent because people want to act as the victim of sin that has overtaken their life, when in reality they aren’t grasping the full freedom they have from the power of Sin, and they don’t understand the power they have in Christ Jesus. Many legalistic church systems will drill the law into the body’s heads, but they do not show the grace and faith behind it all. When a believer is walking closely with God, they will be drawn away from sin, and towards law-like guidelines because that is what holy and righteous may look like. God has to implement a standard, or else what would holy and blameless look like? Just as it states in Romans 6:4, those buried with Christ are now raised from death, being set free and alive in His name. Longenecker describes Romans as a book to bring Jesus’ death to the center stage, helping the believers see that there is not more bondage to carry (185). We must not get caught up in the checking off of lists to righteousness, but to start living in a way that is of no compromise and the most honoring to God as people of sinful nature.

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  8. Jesus died on the cross for our sins. So that makes us free from sin because he washed them all away. But this does not mean that we are able to do things that would violate sin. Even though Jesus gives us an abundant amount of grace and we are free from sin and death if we believe in Christ we still cannot just go out and act like we can do whatever we want because he will forgive and give us grace all the time. In the article it talks about how paul struggled with this issue that they had then. His followers also his followers were not taught moral resistance. They were shown what the Christian life should look like in the eyes of the Lord. \

    Another thing that was talked about was the fact of how laws are broken in different countries. Since the law is the law and breaking the law is technically sinning, the article says even though in America drinking alcohol as a teen would be illegal it would not be in Germany because their laws are different. In this case it would not be a sin if you were to move into legal drinking country for teens.

    The third part talks about how if a certain person makes a rule/law and someone breaks it are they responsible for their sin. So in this case since they have Christ in them they are free from sin and the law they are technically free to serve and either new way or in any way they feel. In the end we should never sin or at least try not to. Because sin inevitable the only thing we can do is do the best we can to be Christ like with all our actions.

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  9. The freedom that we have in Christ is certainly a marvelous gift, but it is also easily abused. The first part of Paul’s argument deals with abusing this freedom by using it as a license to sin. After all, if we are already saved by the grace of God, then what penalty is there if we do sin and why not sin if there is no penalty? First of all, Paul explains that we are either slaves of sin or slaves of righteousness. We cannot simply “enjoy” the sins that we can get away with and still be faithful followers of Christ, the two are incompatible and opposed masters. Moreover, once we put our faith in Christ, Paul explains that we are baptized into Christ’s death. Because we were buried with Christ through baptism and given new life, the core of our new identity in Christ does not mesh with this license to sin view. Now this is, of course, not to say that we will never sin again, as Paul goes on to say in chapter 7 (also 1 John 2:1, Phil. 3:12), but our lives should no longer be dominated by sin. Furthermore, we need to be careful that we do not more subconsciously let sin enter our lives either. Because of this freedom, it might be easy to be too lax in our guarding against “minor” sins compared to the more open or apparent ones.

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    • I like the point that you bring up about how we cannot enjoy the sins that we can get away with and be faithful Christians. Your right these are two things that can not come from the same source. It reminds me of James 3:9-12, James is saying that we cannot curse our brothers and praise the Lord with the same tongue, similar to saltwater and fresh water coming from the same spring. I believe this same passage can be applied to our lives of sin. Its not to say that we will never sin again, but how can we be okay with living a life purposely sinning and then hypocritically praising our Father. Something we often do not think about is that if we are living this way that it is going to affect more than just our lives. People are always watching how we act, and if they see us living for Christ and then the next day we are living a life enslaved to sin, then we might be steering them away from Christ, or giving them a false idea of what it is like to live for Him. I like how you follow up your original statement with the importance of baptism, and how this is supposed to represent us leaving that life where we were controlled by sin, and stepping into a new life that is free from sin.

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  10. I think that for most of us on this earth, it is a natural desire to test the limits of anything we are up against. An example of this is when we are doing things that we know our parents will be upset with, so we may alter what we do just enough to see if that will pass the “test”. If the end result is something that is wrong, doesn’t that make them both wrong? I believe this is the same concept we use when we think about the Grace God gives us. We all sin, and we are all going to sin in the future, and because Jesus died for our sins, they are forgiven. But this does not mean that we have full access to sin all we want, as this Grace is not intended to be taken advantage of. I think that this idea to continue to sin because we have grace to cover our mistakes is a way of hiding how we are still slave to sin. Longenecker p183 says that “those who follow Jesus are no longer “slaves” to the power of sin. When we decide to accept Jesus into our lives, we are not only accepting the love and caring nature of Jesus, we are also accepting His past, His crucifixion. Knowing what Jesus went through for our sins should not make us want to sin more just because we know they are already paid for and God has grace for us, it should do the opposite and make us want to change our lives so that sin does not control our lives.

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  11. The part of this that interested me is when it says that a natural inclination of humans is to abuse freedom. Even though I understand the point this is making I don’t think we are more inclined to sin and abuse freedom. I feel like we are inclined to do what is right, make the right decision, and avoid sin with freedom. With freedom The odds of sinning and abusing freedom go up, but I don’t think you are more likely too. I think we are good people especially as Christians just have glimpses of sin and abusing freedom.
    Another point of interest that caught my attention was is it still a sin even though we are no longer under the law. The way of drinking alcohol in another country although it is illegal in the United States really puts it in your perspective. I think the power is with the government and culture. You respect the rules and this would make it no longer a sin. This is a really tough one because I can see both arguments and their points on it.

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  12. Hey Preston, I liked how you mentioned that we are free from sin, but this does not allow us to violate it. I agree with you with the laws of drinking in a different country. I feel like this one is tricky. Its very easy to see both sides of this argument. I agree with you, but it also makes sense if God makes a law and you break it that that is sin.

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  13. Professor Long outlined three objections to Paul’s Gospel of grace that Paul addressed in his letter to the Romans. These objections have practical application to modern Christianity. First, Paul taught that Christians should not “sin that grace may increase” (Romans 6:1). …(TTP?). One modern example of this applies to the younger generation who have grown up in the church. A common perception is that while they are young they are not required to live out their faith. When they graduate college or start a “real” job then they will get serious about their faith. However, Paul would rebuke such complacency. Second, Paul claims that Christians should not sin because they are not under the law anymore. Those who do so are “willfully misrepresenting his gospel” (TTP, 183). For example, in the past playing games with a standard 52 card deck was considered a sin because it was associated with gambling. However, today Christians have no problem playing a game of Hearts. Third, Paul teaches that the law reveals sin, it does not cause people to sin (TTP, 184). This recalls the image of a three-year-old, who does something just because their parents told them not to. As Christians, we should not be thinking about how close we can get to the invisible line of sin and start thinking about how we can display the characteristics of Christ.

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  14. These issues came up quite a bit in Paul’s letters and they still come up today in church discussions. Yes, God’s grace abounds, and will never fail, but it is our job to live out our lives modeling Christ. Romans 12 is a big passage for living a godly life, we are to be transformed instead of conformed. James 1:22-27, we are to be doers of the word, to live out our faith in order to spread the good news of Christ. 1 Peter 1:16, we must be holy because God is holy. When we become children of God our lives should change, we should see the world differently and as children of God, we should work to live in a pleasing way. It is impossible for us to be perfect here on earth but through Christ’s wisdom, we can live with his hope and reflect his love through our actions. Sin is what keeps us apart from God, and as his children we need to live a life trying to get closer to our good and Heavenly Father.

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  15. These three questions or objections to Paul’s gospel of grace have come up in daily life and conversations with people. Both with believers and unbelievers. First, should we sin that grace may abound? Paul vehemently responds: “By no means!” which can be translated “may it never be” (Moo, 111). Obviously intentionally sinning is not what our freedom was given to us for. I have even heard some people say that since our sin brings God more glory because he is forgiving us even more, then our sin benefits God. People who use this logic are forgetting what sin is. Sin is things that are contrary to the desire of God. Sin does not benefit God, nor does it help him in any way. People also forget the price that God paid to forgive our sins: his only son Jesus. If God paid such a high price to atone for sin, why would God want us to keep on sinning!? Instead, God knows that we are sinful humans and will by nature continue to sin until we are raised from the dead, and therefore his grace shines all the more.

    The second objection about things that are no longer considered sin. I believe this is a slippery slope and most areas or things that were considered sin under the law should be studied in the dispensation of Grace to see if they are still regarded as sin. There are multiple “sin lists” that Paul gives. Each lists numerous things that are still considered to be sin. Some examples are murder, lying, adultery, debauchery, dissensions, and such (Rom. 1:29-31). With that being said, there are things that were considered ‘sin’ under the law that are no longer sinful for christians today. Consider food laws. The Israelites that specific ‘clean’ animals for eating, and ‘unclean’ animals not for eating. However, God revealed to Peter that no animal is unclean anymore (Acts 10, also that gentiles are no longer ‘unclean’ as well). Paul also makes it clear that any food can be eaten now, even food sacrificed to idols as long as you do it with a pure conscience and with thankfulness to God (Romans 14:1-6). In regard to drinking age and other countries, I have a friend who grew up in a country with a drinking age of 16, and he came here and is only 19 now and he believes that he should be able to drink, but I believe that the Biblical principle that applies here, is the one to obey your governing authorities (Rom. 13:1-7), and that would mean he isn’t legally allowed to drink until he is 21.

    Thirdly, the law may make people realize they are committing sins, but it is not a sin itself. Just like how God gives humans laws to follow and tells them they are committing sins, God is not the one sinning here by pointing out what humans are doing wrong. Just like how lawmakers or police have to enact laws, and then enforce them. They are not the ones breaking the laws, simply the ones enforcing them.

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  16. Paul asks the question in Rom. 6:1, What shall we say, then? Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase? Here he is asking his audience since we are forgiven for all sins, because of Christ’s death on the cross. Is it okay to continue sinning? We were given grace by God, so should we sin even more because we are forgiven? And by sinning God’s grace can increase to bring him glory. Paul answers this question in the next verse. “By no means! We died to sin; how can we live in it any longer? Paul comes out and says absolutely not we already died to sin how can we live in something that we have been made free from? “Paul speaks of dying to sin, not sins. And in fact, this language mirrors the pattern of Romans 5-8, where Paul uses the word “sin” twenty-two times, all of them in the singular (Moo pg. 94).” Its interesting to see how Paul talks about dying to sin as a whole rather than listing each individual sin.

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  17. I think the idea that a Gentile Christian had about being free from the law is sometimes very similar to how modern Christians act towards a lot of the laws of scripture. It seems that many modern Christians believe that they can do whatever they please because grace will fix it or we bend the “rules” that we know are wrong, but we can justify them to fit our wants and desires.
    We can’t live like that if we truly accepted Christ because when we do that, we die to our old selves and are made a new (Romans 6:6). This does not mean that we won’t struggle, but we can’t live life like we used to. I think a lot of times, if there is a specific sin that we struggle with, we say we will never do it again, but we don’t do anything to change the path that leads to that behavior. When we accept Christ, we do become new, but that doesn’t mean that the old self doesn’t attempt to come back in, so we have to be diligent to make that change to fix it. Moo says that “we also must be vigilant against the insidious influence of the old realm, with its non-Christian ways of thinking and behaving” (Moo, 99). One thing, I think we need to remember is that God didn’t have to give us this gift of freedom because we didn’t deserve it so why would we even want to consider abusing that grace. That grace should be available for when we fall short, not because we want to.

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  18. There are a few popular objections to Paul’s Gospel of grace that currently play a role in contemporary Christian discussion today. Richard Longenecker argues with his first objection, that if we are actually saved by Grace and not obedience to the law (works), then why shouldn’t we sin that grace may abound? In other words, Longenecker is saying that if we are saved by the act of accepting Christ alone, then we can still technically be saved and inherit eternal life whilst sinning as much as possible, then why not do it? I think you make a great point that Paul says that just because we are free from the law does not mean that we are free from moral restraint. Several of the chapters in the book of Romans outline what Christian living should look like and how we can act it out. The second objection to salvation by Grace is the idea that Christians can do the things that were formerly considered “sin” because they no longer have to adhere to the law. I see many Christians walk down a path of ignorance because they think that just because they know the Lord, that they don’t have to follow the things in the bible that Paul lays out for us and the teachings of Jesus. While yes, we don’t necessarily have to follow the strict laws of the past, it doesn’t mean that some of those laws, when broken today, could possibly still be sinful. The third objection by Longenecker states that the law itself is sin because it causes other people to sin. The law caused people to sin, this is a fact. Does something that causes people sin make that thing a sin as well? You mentioned that those who are in Christ are free from the law. This means that people might refuse the law strictly because they believe that the law is already inherently sinful.
    I believe that each of these objections do have valid points. I think the first objection makes the most valid point because if Paul says we are saved by Faith alone, then “technically” you can sin a lot and still inherit the kingdom. (In fact, none of us are without sin yet we still can be saved) Paul tells us as well though, that we do have moral boundaries that need to be followed.

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  19. The point of the gospel and Jesus dying for our sins was not so we can have a get out of hell or bondage of sin free card, it was a choice given to us by God something we need to have faith with in order to be saved. we have to realize that the law is still there Jesus just came to finalize it and let people know he is God and he is truly the way to heaven. we cant just go on willfully sinning and expact to change or grow in our relationship with Christ that wiill just pull us away, we need to hold firm to what s good and the law can be seen as a compass on how to do that and of course follow Jesus foot steps on fighting sin and our old nature.

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