A Christian cannot live in sin!

9 10 2013

Joy“Did you know that you cannot live in sin? Well that’s exactly what Paul says in the first two verses of chapter six! He anticipates the objection that grace encourages people to sin in order to get more grace. Apparently, some had accused Paul of encouraging sin in just this way (Rom.3:8), and he replies with a claim that will knock your socks off! He asks, “How shall we who died to sin still live in it?”(6:2). Do not attempt to dilute this radical statement with theological qualifications. He said you can’t live in sin. I know exactly what your response is (so did he), but hold on and let him finish this entire section of the letter (chapter 6-8). But before we move on to what Paul says next, let John reinforce this truth in his own incredible words.

First of all, John says of Christ, “in Him there is no sin” (1 John 3:5). But we are “in Him.” Doesn’t that mean there is no sin in us, either? Keep reading. “No one who lives in Him sins; no one who sins has seen Him or knows Him” (v.6). If this is not enough, read this one last arresting statement: “No one who is born of God practices sin, because His seed lives in him; indeed he cannot sin, because he is born of God” (v.9). How does that declaration strike you?

What we are beginning to see is that we are merely vessels, either of wrath or of mercy (Rom.9:22-23). Just as a branch can only produce the fruit of whatever tree it belongs to, so a vessel does not have an identity of its own. It receives its identity and purpose from whatever it contains. Because we are vessels, we have always received our identity from someone else. But sin has deceived us into thinking that we have an independent identity which we constitute by our actions. This is the great lie, and it continues to deceive both unbelievers and believers to this day. For the rest of chapter six (v. 12-23), Paul uses the metaphor of slavery to describe our condition. A slave has no life of his own, but must do whatever his master tells him. That is all we have ever been! But sin deceived us into thinking we were free men (and women) while all along we were “slaves to sin” (v.17,20). This deepens our problem because, now that we are believers, we still believe we are free men and thus capable of going back under sin’s mastery. Therefore, whenever we act like sinners we are sinners, and we’ve gone back to our old selves. But what we do not see is that we are now slaves of righteousness!

When we were ruled by sin, we desired what was contrary to God’s will, although occasionally influenced towards righteousness. But the temporary visits to righteousness did not change our sinful nature—we were still slaves to sin, because our actions do not constitute our nature. Righteousness was merely an outside influence upon us. But now God has changed our nature by freeing us from our former slavery to sin and binding us to righteousness. Now we are ruled by righteousness, and we desire what God desires. Sin still influences us from the outside, but these are temporary visits which do not change who we are. We simply go back to affirm what God has done for us and in us.

Our problem is that we did not know that we were slaves then, so we fail to see that we are slaves even now. When we were ruled by sin before, we “felt” free to do whatever we wished. But even our desires came from our indwelling master. And since we occasionally did good things too, we were convinced that we must be free. This deception continues to trip us up now, because if we are free, then we must be careful not to “fall into sin” and thereby become sinners again. If we are free, then we will have to work hard to keep in line with righteousness. What we are failing to see is that we are not our own (we never were) because humans do not determine their own natures (see Rom.9:21-23).

If you are not careful, you will read Romans 6:12-23 as saying that if you go back to sinning, you will become a slave to sin again. But in verses 17 and 18, Paul makes it clear that that is impossible! The rest of this chapter is not something you must do, it is telling you what you are. Do not be misled by all the “if’s” in this passage. Paul uses rhetorical statements like these to illustrate the principle of slavery. Lest you conclude that you fall into the category of “slave to sin” (6:17-18), he clarifies the matter for you. “But now having been freed from sin and enslaved to God, you derive your benefit, resulting in sanctification, and the outcome is eternal life” (6:22).

You are not an independent self, and you derive your nature from the one who indwells you (1 John 4:4, John 8:44). We have trouble seeing ourselves as “dependents” in Christ because we were deceived for so long into thinking we were “independents” while we were in sin.”


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