“Wrestling With Romans”
Giving Glory Back to Him (Chapter 6 Verses 15-23)
Again that does not give us licence to sin, says Paul (vv15-17), no way. Some will say the law will keep me from sinning, and others will fly the other way, saying that, well, grace freely pardons sin so it does not matter how I live. Neither is right. Not by any means. A heart set free by God has choices to make (Joshua 24.15), whosoever or whatsoever you yield your life to, that is your master, you are its slave (v16). Whether sin or obedience to the Lord. Your standard of obedience, the yardstick of your sanctification is God’s holy law, but the power to obey comes not from the law itself, but rather from grace. Now great care is required here, because you can be led astray at this point. Folk will say, wait a minute, we are not under law anymore we are under grace. That means we are not under the law’s condemnation, but have been set free, justified, not by law-keeping, but by grace. True, surely we need grace, we operate by grace, we are always motivated primarily by a love that responds to the unmerited favour God has bestowed upon us in Christ. The first and greatest commandment is to love God with the totality of our being (Deuteronomy 6.4-6), reflecting back to him something of what he has given to us in Christ (1John 4.19), a loving gratitude (Psalm 116.1), a love of wonderment, amazement, admiration at the glorious being our God is. It is from that springboard of love to God, what he is and what he has done in Christ for us that we gladly become slaves to righteous living (v18), and our rule for that righteous living is God’s holy law.
This is the course of the Christian life, from the beginning (v17). The change that takes place, the bondage of sin being fundamentally broken, wholehearted obedience to gospel teaching, resulting in a deep thankfulness, gratitude to God. When some of us think of the powerful grip sin had on us in the past, well things may be hard just now, but we would not want to be back there. Then everything was darkness (Ephesians 5.8a), but now we are light in the Lord (Ephesians 5.8b), then we were slaves to darkness, but now we have obeyed the light, come to it (John 8.12), and we live by it. The form of teaching (v17b), is of course biblical teaching, many of Paul’s readers were ex-Jews, who before conversion would have considered themselves obedient to God’s word, including the Pharisees. No, under the old system, they did not believe in regeneration, being born again (Nicodemus i.e., John 3.4), and they kept Rabbinical rules which had nothing to do with God’s holy law, Jesus accused them of that very thing, by following the traditions of men they made the law of God totally void (Mark 7.9). What Paul specifies here as teaching would include the Old Testament, most definitely, but with the added fulfilment which came through Jesus Christ. It was this teaching which they obeyed resulting in faith leading to new life, new hope, new peace, new joy, new freedom, all became new (2Corinthians 5.17).
(© James R Hamilton, written September, 1997)