God of Justice and Grace (Romans 6:20-23)

The God of the Bible is a just God. He does not give people punishments that they have not earned. If you have ever used a version of the “Romans Road” for explaining the gospel, then you know that Romans 6:23 is the next step after Romans 3:23. After the verse that tells us we have all sinned and “fallen short” of God’s perfect standard of holiness and obedience (Romans 3:23), the next logical verse is Romans 6:23, which tells us the natural consequence of our sin – “the wages of sin is death.” Wages are a payment for work or service; we often use the word to describe income from a job. You work for a certain period of time, and your employer pays you the wages that you have earned. It is just. Well, the “just” payment that we deserve for our sin is death; this was what God told Adam would happen if he ever disobeyed and ate from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil (Genesis 3). In the day that Adam and Eve ate the forbidden fruit, they died spiritually and were then cursed to eventually die physically, too. And because of all of our many willing choices to sin, we deserve the same just payment for our sins. The physical death we must all face is what we have earned. At the same time, the negative spiritual effects of sin that we feel in this life – guilt, strained and broken relationships, worry, conflict, and separation from God – they are the bitter fruits that God warns us about throughout the whole Bible (Romans 6:21). Without Christ, we were in a sense “free” from the desire to be holy and live rightly, but what did that get us? Only death (Romans 6:20), the just payment for being the slave to the cruelest of masters, sin.

But praise God for the second half of Romans 6:23! While justice gives us the death we have earned, grace gives us the life we have not earned through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. As another really important step in the Romans Road tells us, “God demonstrates His love for us in this, we were still sinners” – dead in our trespasses and their consequences – “Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8). Eternal life is not like eternal death – life does not and cannot be earned nor does it have to be; it is the free gift of God’s marvelous kindness and love that we simply receive by faith. The “end” or result of our faith is a new life serving God, which is a life marked by “holiness” as God remakes us into His own image (Romans 6:22). But that eternal life, that growing relationship with Jesus that we are blessed to enjoy, is not a wage we have earned. It is the greatest of all possible gifts from the greatest Giver of all. You see, the God of the Bible is just, but He is also full of mercy and love. To experience God’s grace, we must only be willing to reject the life of sin that earned us death and instead receive the gift of life in Jesus Christ. What a deal! How can we ever refuse it?

The Text (Romans 6:20-23)

20 For when you were slaves of sin, you were free in regard to righteousness. 21 What fruit did you have then in the things of which you are now ashamed? For the end of those things is death. 22 But now having been set free from sin, and having become slaves of God, you have your fruit to holiness, and the end, everlasting life. 23 For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Questions to Think About

  1. Do you truly believe that you deserve hell and death for your sins? If so, when do you first remember accepting that truth? If not, what do you really believe that you deserve for the life you have lived so far?
  2. Have you ever heard someone object to biblical Christianity based on their belief that “a loving God would never send someone to hell”? How could today’s passage help you respond to that objection?
  3. Can you think of some specific negative consequences that you have experienced because of your sin? Give a few examples.
  4. Why do you think that God made salvation a gift to be received rather than a wage to be earned? Why is it important that we understand holiness and obedience to be the results of our salvation rather than its cause?

In Christ,

Mr. Reel

Who is Your Master? (Romans 6:15-19)

Everyone is a slave to something. With our thoughts and words and actions, we either serve sin or we serve the Lord Jesus Christ. According to Scripture, the idea of being totally free to do whatever we want is a delusion. We are born slaves to our sinful desires and behaviors, but Jesus can break our bondage when we allow Him to become our new master.

In Romans 6:15, Paul repeats the same objection to the gospel of grace that he first raised in Romans 6:1, and He gives the same solid answer again. If God’s grace has forgiven Christians of all their sins through our faith in Jesus’ death and resurrection, then does that mean that we are free to sin as much as we want? Can we who are now saved by Christ’s blood freely break God’s commandments or laws as much as we please? Not at all! As we saw in the last post, no true Christian would ask that question. Why? Because to be a Christian is to be someone who hates sin and does not want to serve it any longer.

Christians believe that sin leads to death; to serve sin is to serve our own murderer (Romans 6:16). Because of Adam’s first sin, we all must die physically one day. And because of our continual sins that came from our sinful hearts, we were all dead spiritually before Jesus came into our lives. When we first trusted in Jesus as Savior, He delivered us from the penalty and power of sin’s cruel chains (Romans 6:17-18). We still choose to sin at times, but we do not have to. We have the power of the Holy Spirit within us to enable us to serve “righteousness” and “holiness” (Romans 6:19). We know that God has given us new hearts that both can and want to love Jesus and do what He says.

All of us have a master. Whom will you serve – Sin or Jesus?

The Text (Romans 6:15-19)

15 What then? Shall we sin because we are not under law but under grace? Certainly not! 16 Do you not know that to whom you present yourselves slaves to obey, you are that one’s slaves whom you obey, whether of sin leading to death, or of obedience leading to righteousness? 17 But God be thanked that though you were slaves of sin, yet you obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine to which you were delivered. 18 And having been set free from sin, you became slaves of righteousness. 19 I speak in human terms because of the weakness of your flesh. For just as you presented your members as slaves of uncleanness, and of lawlessness leading to more lawlessness, so now present your members as slaves of righteousness for holiness.

Questions to Think About

  1. What are some specific sins that you were once a slave to but now find that they are no longer your master? Are you glad to be free of their control?
  2. Does the idea of serving Jesus bring you joy? Why or why not?
  3. Take some time to thank God for your salvation. Thank Him both for what He has saved you from (sin) and what He has saved you to (holiness). Be as specific as you can so that you can really appreciate all that He has done in and for you through Christ.

In Christ,

Mr. Reel

Dead to Sin, Alive to God (Romans 6:1-14)

Note: This will be the only post for this week. We will resume the Romans study after the Thanksgiving break.

If Christians have been forgiven of every sin they ever have or ever will commit, then does that mean that they can live any way they want? Should Christians sin as much as possible so that God can have even more to forgive them of and His grace will then be magnified in their lives (Romans 6:1)? No! Not at all, says God through the Apostle Paul in today’s passage from Romans. The question may seem logical to an outsider, but not to a person who has tasted of the grace of God through Christ. Why? Because Christians do not see sin as something “fun that they don’t get to do” now that they are saved. Instead, Christians know that sin is a terrible disease of the soul that Jesus died to rescue them from. We struggle with temptation and sometimes our old nature wins. Christians still sin, saying and doing what we have already agreed with God to be wrong. But afterwards, the Holy Spirit inside us convicts us and leads us to confession and repentance. Sin is still our enemy, but it is no longer our master. We sin, but we no longer have to sin, and deep down, we no longer want to sin like we did before we met Jesus.

You see, the big, eternally important difference between unbelievers and Christians is in our attitude towards sin and God. When Christians sin, it is a painful defeat for us. We do not glory in doing what we know God hates. Why? Because as Paul says, we “died to sin” when we accepted Jesus as our Lord and Savior (Romans 6:2). Our baptism is a public symbol of the spiritual reality that happened when we were born again and came to faith in Christ. In a very real way, when we trusted in Jesus to save us from our sins, we died with Him and were raised to walk in a new life by the power of the Holy Spirit (Romans 6:3-4). We are now alive to God and His ways and should consider ourselves dead to sin (Romans 6:11). Sin no longer has dominance over us; we are no longer slaves to our evil desires but can choose to do what glorifies God (Romans 6:6).

The key to winning our daily battles against sin is to remember that through Christ, the war has already been won. We have already died to sin and we can keep dying to sin each day, choosing to put on the new self created in righteousness (Romans 6:12-13). The opening question of this post is a common objection to the Christian concept of grace that seems troubling when you first hear it. But it is an unfair question because the asker is assuming that sin is a good thing that Christians must lose. Instead, sin is actually an awful spiritual disease that Christians know they must kill to enjoy the blessings of life with God. That’s what Paul means in verse 14 when he says that sin no longer has to rule over us. Before our salvation, we willingly sinned against God’s law and were then condemned by both our sin and God’s righteous expectations for us. But after receiving God’s mercy and grace, sin’s penalty and power were broken by the greater love for Jesus that God put in our hearts by faith, enabling us to keep the law not out of obligation but out of gratitude.

My prayer is that we can all say with Paul this Thanksgiving that sin will not have dominion over us. Rather, may we count our old love for sin to be destroyed by the far better pleasures of worshiping our kind and gracious God forever.

The Text (Romans 6:1-14)

6 What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin that grace may abound? 2 Certainly not! How shall we who died to sin live any longer in it? 3 Or do you not know that as many of us as were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death? 4 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.

5 For if we have been united together in the likeness of His death, certainly we also shall be in the likeness of His resurrection, 6 knowing this, that our old man was crucified with Him, that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves of sin. 7 For he who has died has been freed from sin. 8 Now if we died with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with Him, 9 knowing that Christ, having been raised from the dead, dies no more. Death no longer has dominion over Him. 10 For the death that He died, He died to sin once for all; but the life that He lives, He lives to God. 11 Likewise you also, reckon yourselves to be dead indeed to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

12 Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body, that you should obey it in its lusts. 13 And do not present your members as instruments of unrighteousness to sin, but present yourselves to God as being alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness to God. 14 For sin shall not have dominion over you, for you are not under law but under grace.

Questions to Think About

  1. Have you ever heard an objection to Christian grace like the one raised at the beginning of this post? How did you respond to it?
  2. Do you think about sin differently now than you did when you were younger? Why or why not?
  3. If Christians have already died to sin when they accepted Christ as Savior, then why would we still need to be told to consider ourselves “dead indeed to sin”? How can being reminded of what has already happened to us spiritually at salvation help us in our present and future spiritual battles for holiness?
  4. What do you think it means to be “alive to God in Christ Jesus our Lord”? What evidences of being to alive to God have you noticed in your own life?

In Christ,

Mr. Reel

In Christ We Live (Romans 5:15-21)

Adam’s sin was powerful enough to condemn us all to death and judgment. But Jesus is more powerful than Adam! Jesus is strong enough to deliver us from hell and give us back the eternal life that Adam lost for us in the Garden of Eden. Adam stands as our representative in sin and disobedience. If we stay as his children only, we die forever. But if we receive the gift of God’s grace by accepting Christ’s sacrifice for us, then we get to live forever instead. Christ becomes our new head or leader, and we become children of God the Father by faith.

Adam’s “offense” or sin brought death to many (i.e all people because we all die), but in Christ many (a small percentage of all people, but across thousands of years it adds up to millions) are saved by grace through faith (Romans 5:15). While our offenses were many, the one gift that Christ gave us by laying down His perfect life was strong enough to cancel the penalty and power of every sin His followers committed or will commit (Romans 5:16). Death reigns or rules over the lost because of Adam, but we will reign or rule through eternal life with Jesus, both now and in heaven (Romans 5:17). Christ’s righteous sacrifice for us ended a life of perfect obedience on our behalf, and His obedience was strong enough to defeat the disobedience of Adam in all those who know Him as Lord and Savior (Romans 5:18-19). The law of God could not save us – it could only show us how bad our sin problem truly was. But no matter how bad our sin, God’s grace is better and can forgive us and make us new through what Jesus did for us with His life, death, and resurrection (Romans 5:20-21).

So that’s what Romans 5:12-21 is all about. We all must die because of Adam. We are all born with the first man as our leader. But in Christ we can live. We can break away from the line of death and join the team of the last man, Jesus, the team of life! The question is: Who is your leader? Which group do you belong to? Do you follow Adam and your sin nature, or do you follow Jesus and the new life He gives?

The Text (Romans 5:15-21)

15 But the free gift is not like the offense. For if by the one man’s offense many died, much more the grace of God and the gift by the grace of the one Man, Jesus Christ, abounded to many. 16 And the gift is not like that which came through the one who sinned. For the judgment which came from one offense resulted in condemnation, but the free gift which came from many offenses resulted in justification. 17 For if by the one man’s offense death reigned through the one, much more those who receive abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness will reign in life through the One, Jesus Christ.)

18 Therefore, as through one man’s offense judgment came to all men, resulting in condemnation, even so through one Man’s righteous act the free gift came to all men, resulting in justification of life. 19 For as by one man’s disobedience many were made sinners, so also by one Man’s obedience many will be made righteous.

20 Moreover the law entered that the offense might abound. But where sin abounded, grace abounded much more, 21 so that as sin reigned in death, even so grace might reign through righteousness to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Questions to Think About

  1. In what ways are Adam and Jesus similar? In what ways are they different?
  2. Why do you think that Paul chose to compare the lives of Adam and Jesus to teach us about salvation?
  3. Why is important to believe that Adam was a literal person and that all people are descended from him instead of from monkeys and slime?
  4. Why is it important for Christians to see Jesus as their leader and to see themselves as spiritually represented by Him instead of by Adam?

In Christ,

Mr. Reel

In Adam We Die (Romans 5:12-14)

When Adam sinned, we all sinned. When he fell from grace in the Garden of Eden, we all fell. When Adam disobeyed God and brought sin and death into the world, he represented us, his natural descendants. From Adam, we all inherit a sin nature; from the first man we get our selfish bents and disobedient postures towards God and others. Young children do not have to be taught to say, “No” and refuse to do what their parents and other caregivers tell them – that response comes naturally to them because of their fallen states. When they sin, they are simply acting out from the corrupted natures already within them.

This sad truth of humanity’s universal fallenness is why all people since Adam have been born with a death sentence hanging over their heads. God’s just punishment for Adam’s choice to eat the forbidden fruit was that he would die spiritually immediately and then die physically later after growing old and weak. We inherit that same fate. We are born separated from God, spiritually dead because of our sin nature. And one day, every one of us will face physical death, too, just like Adam, followed by God’s judgment of the life we have lived on this earth.

This somber reality is explained for us today in Romans 5:12-14. Good news is coming in the next passage and post. But before the blessed hope of eternal life with Jesus can mean something to us, we must first come to grips with the awful burden of sin and death that Adam’s fall brought into our world and lives (Romans 5:12). Even in the time before God gave the Ten Commandments to Moses, all people everywhere were guilty of sinning against the laws of God written on the conscience of their hearts (Romans 2:15) and so justly died as the penalty for their acts (Romans 5:13-14). So we even more so, who have sinned against both our consciences and the commandments of God that have been taught us in His Word, are deserving of death and hell. In Adam we all die. Have you ever dealt with that great truth? If not, I pray God’s Holy Spirit will work in your heart to show you your need for the Jesus we will find in Romans 5:15-21.

The Text (Romans 5:12-14)

12 Therefore, just as through one man sin entered the world, and death through sin, and thus death spread to all men, because all sinned— 13 (For until the law sin was in the world, but sin is not imputed when there is no law. 14 Nevertheless death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over those who had not sinned according to the likeness of the transgression of Adam, who is a type of Him who was to come.

Questions to Think About

  1. Do you think it is fair for us to die for the sin that Adam committed? Why or why not?
  2. When do you first remember disobeying your parents or doing something else wrong? Did anyone have to teach you to sin?
  3. If you could live forever in this present world, would you want to? Why or why not?

In Christ,

Mr. Reel