Having talked about the doctrine of justification, it is interesting how Paul went on to explain the way Christians ought to conduct their lives.
If justification makes us righteous in God’s eyes, if God forgives every sin and if by His grace He continues to forgive, then why should we ever attempt to stop sinning? Someone might say the way to really experience God’s grace is to go on sinning. The more a person sins, the more grace that person is going to receive, they would reason.
Paul tells us this is by no means what he is saying about forgiveness and grace. A Christian is supposed to be dead to sin, Paul said, and if this is the case it makes no sense that a person would continue in sin.
To illustrate this, he used baptism as a way of explaining in a visual and physical way what is supposed to occur spiritually in a person when he is saved. In baptism by immersion, we are “buried” with Christ. When we are brought up out of the water, we are “raised” with Him to “walk in newness of life.”
By baptism, we identify with Christ Jesus and it is an awful thing for a person to treat God’s mercy lightly.
In Romans 6:12-14 the apostle makes us aware of the constant conflict in which a Christian lives. God wants to use us in so many ways, and if we are obedient to Him we will live, speak and act for His glory. God can and will use us to witness for Christ. Sometimes He wants us to encourage other people, and He wants us to feed the hungry. There are any number of tasks God calls people to perform.
On the other hand, sin is always calling us to obey its leading. “Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body,” Paul said. If we follow sin’s leadership, it only stands to reason we will not honor God.
If Christians live in this constant conflict, how are we to ever succeed in pleasing God? Can a person really do this? Paul’s answer is that we can because “sin shall not have dominion over you: for ye are not under the law, but under grace.”
Why does this matter to us? The answer lies in our hearts, and it makes us understand our motive for obedience. Do I want to obey God’s law so I will be able to say I satisfied the requirements of the law? Or, do I want to be obedient to God because He has loved me and I want to strive to be worthy of His love? I do not deserve His love, but I should want to try to be worthy of it. This is why sin does not have dominion over us.
In verses 17-23 Paul is thankful that because of their belief, Christians are no longer servants of sin. Instead, we are servants of righteousness. Before our rebirth in Christ, we enthusiastically served sin with all our heart. Now that we are born to new life in Christ, there ought to be equal enthusiasm in serving righteousness.
Think about what it was before your walk with Christ. What kind of fruit resulted from a life without the Savior? We are ashamed not only of our sins but because of the time we lost serving sin instead of righteousness.
In the end, said Paul, sin’s payoff is death. If we got what we deserved, it would be death but God’s gift is “eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.” May our lives be expressions of gratitude to God for “his unspeakable gift.”
The Sunday school lesson is written by Ed Wilcox, pastor of Centerville Baptist Church. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.