[Romans 6:15-18] What then? Are we to sin because we are not under law but under grace? By no means! 16 Do you not know that if you present yourselves to anyone as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin, which leads to death, or of obedience, which leads to righteousness? 17 But thanks be to God, that you who were once slaves of sin have become obedient from the heart to the standard of teaching to which you were committed, 18 and, having been set free from sin, have become slaves of righteousness.
Slaves to Righteousness – Being What You’ve Been Made
“What then? Are we to sin because we are not under law but under grace? By no means!”
Did you hear that? It is true: You are “not under law”. You are “under grace”. Now, what does it mean to be “not under law but under grace”, and what’s the result?
The Law and grace are two different ways. The way of the Law says, “Whoever does the Law shall live. Whoever does not abide by all things written in the law is under the sentence of the Law – is under the curse, or condemnation of the Law.” [Galatians 3:10-12] Whoever does the Law shall live. Whoever fails to keep it is under its sentence. That’s being “under the Law”.
The way of the Gospel says, “The one who is counted righteous by faith shall live – just as Abraham believed God and it was counted to him as righteousness”. [Galatians 3:6,10-14; Romans 4:3-8]
The way of the Gospel is that Christ on the Cross has suffered the Law’s curse, the Law’s sentence against us, for us, and has fulfilled all the Law’s righteous requirement. By doing so Christ has freed us from the sentence of the Law and from the way of the Law.
Now it is no longer “Whoever does the Law will live”, but “whoever is counted righteous by faith in Christ lives forgiven.” By faith in Christ – by faith in what He has done on the Cross for you, instead of faith in what you can do – by faith in Christ you are no longer “under law” but are “under grace” – under God’s unmerited love and favor.
As a comparison, we can say it like this: When a governor pardons a criminal – when he declares that man’s crime to be pardoned – that criminal is now no longer under the sentence of the law. He lives as a free man under the grace of the governor’s pardon. He is no longer under Law regarding his crime but lives free under grace.
So then, since you are no longer under Law, what will you do? Shall you go on sinning all the more freely, since you’ve been freely forgiven? “By no means!”
The truth is totally backwards from our human way of thinking. Our merely human way of thinking says that under grace – under unconditional forgiveness – a person will take advantage and their sinning will abound more and more. This isn’t so.
Instead, Scripture teaches us that it’s under the Law – under the way of the Law – that sinning abounds more and more. The Law is good, but it has no power to make good [Romans 8:3] – its power is to accuse and coerce [Romans 3:20].
The sinful nature in man is stirred up by the Law – the sinful nature is stirred up to rebel against the Law more and more the more the Law is applied to it. Scripture says, in this way, that the Law causes sin to increase [Romans 7:5; 5:20]. So, under Law, you can only be enslaved to sin more and more.
You are not under Law but under grace.
Under grace, the Law loses its sting [1 Corinthians 15:56]. Under grace – under God’s free forgiveness – instead of sinning more and more, a new heart is formed. God’s grace – the Gospel – forms a new heart and new mind that is also a slave – a slave to righteousness.
Under grace, you are no longer enslaved to sin, but instead your new heart is freely enslaved – freely bound – to doing good, to thankfulness for God’s love, and to love for God because of His love. The new heart under grace is a slave to righteousness, to all which is pleasing to God. This is a slavery which is really true freedom.
“Are you to sin because you are not under Law but under grace?” No, under the Law you were a slave to sin. Under grace, not under Law, you have been made a free slave to righteousness.
But now you love with this tension, this battle: In you is a new heart that lives under Grace, believing in God’s love for you, and desiring only to do what is good to God. But also living in you still is that old man, the unbeliever, the sinful flesh that still clings in your heart, which does not believe in God’s love for you but only believes in the way of the Law.
This old man in you is still a slave to sin because it still only hears the Law’s death sentence and lives inside you always rebelling against that righteous Law.
The Apostle Paul is warning us in today’s Scripture not to let that old man make slaves out of us once again. It works like this: If I make it my habit to think in the way of the Law for my righteousness, I will actually stir up my sinful nature against the Law more and more. Sin will abound in me even as I gain a more self-righteous opinion of myself.
And, conversely, if I walk in the sins of my flesh and go on living in them, I strengthen that old unbeliever in me and I begin to disbelieve God’s grace and forgiveness.
Sanctification – walking in God’s true holiness – is the work of the Holy Spirit (the Sanctifier) and is accomplished, not by the way of the Law, but by the way of the Gospel. Under grace, sanctification increases. Free slavery to righteousness and true obedience to the Law from the heart abound where God’s free forgiveness and grace abound.
In the same way, when we walk in righteousness – when we do what is God-pleasing – we begin to desire that righteousness more and more. As we do good we grow in our slavery to the good.
So, “Are we to sin because we are not under law but under grace?”. Of course not. Since you are under grace and not under Law, be what you’ve been made by grace: Be a willing slave to righteousness. Walk as the freed and pardoned criminal who loves and lives and obeys with a free and thankful heart under the grace of the Judge who freed him. Amen.