The Apostle Paul has been contrasting the life and legacy of the two most important men in history, Adam and Jesus, in Romans 5, and as Stephen wraps up his his study of that passage with this message, he'll cause us to question which of these men we're following: Adam, who disobeyed God, or Jesus, who obeyed God even to death?
A young man called a pastor late at night and asked if he would meet with him the next morning. They made arrangements to have breakfast at a nearby restaurant.
The next morning they settled into a restaurant booth and the young man told his pastor the bad news. A recent business trip he had taken with a female co-worker had led to a sinful liaison. He had seen it coming, but had failed to protect himself from what could happen . . . and now it had happened. The man asked the pastor, “What do I do now?”
Before the pastor spoke, he couldn’t help but think about the young wife and small children whose lives would be so terribly affected by this man’s sin. To lead the young man to think biblically about what he had done, and what he must do, the pastor asked him to listen to a series of questions and then respond. The pastor asked him, “Would he pray and asked God’s forgiveness? Would he confess his sin to the woman involved and tell her that nothing more would ever happen again? Would he confess his sin to his wife and ask her forgiveness? And, finally, would he be willing to have an HIV test before jeopardizing the health of his wife and the child she was expecting?”
The businessman listened to each of the questions without any expression or comment. When the pastor finished, the young man pushed his breakfast plate away from him, leaned back in his seat and said, “I didn’t come to be asked all these questions . . . I came to you for grace . . .you really disappoint me.”
Citation: Bryan Chapell, Holiness By Grace (Crossway Books, 2001)
I am convinced that if you called that businessman an antinomian – he’d bristle and say, “What is that?” Then when you explained an antinomian is someone who believes sin isn’t all that bad because the grace of God is so big, he’d say, well, maybe I am one of those things, after all.
While few of us would never want to fall into that category – we don’t know much about antinomianism, but it doesn’t even sound good – the truth is, the church in every generation included in its ranks, antinomians faster than it cared to acknowledge.
Antinomianism, or the belief that sin doesn’t matter because the grace of God is available, is perhaps one of the greatest threats facing the Christian today.
These are people who join churches, sing in choirs, help in Sunday schools. But their lives are no different from the world. They dress; they talk, they purchase; they joke; they work and they play with the same impulse and motive of the unbeliever. The greater the influence they have in church, the more like the world the church becomes.
These are people who believe that grace is an excuse for their sin. The mainline churches of America, are, as one author noted recently, rampant with antinomianism.
Jude wrote a stern warning about them in his little letter, 4. For certain people have crept into the church unnoticed, those who were long beforehand marked out for condemnation, ungodly people who have turned the grace of God into a license to sin.
Have you had the thought – in the past week or month, “I know that what I’m doing is sinful, and if it wasn’t for the grace of God, I’d be in real trouble.”
In one way, you would be exactly right. We are sinful and if it wasn’t for the grace of God, we’d all be in big trouble.
But in another way, you are dangerously wrong. And I’ll show you why.
What I want to do today is ask and answer one question; and then I am praying that God’s spirit will ambush your heart with the reality of your answer – if needed, removing the mask from your mind and heart and revealing to you who you really are.
Here’s the question: Is the presence of grace an excuse for the practice of sin?
This happens to be the same question asked nearly 2000 years ago . . . because the church in every generation has had to confront this question.
The question is recorded in Romans chapter 6 and verse 1.
What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin so that grace may increase?
“What shall we say then?” You could paraphrase that to read, “So what are gonna say about this?” Obviously this draws us back into chapter 5 where Paul made the shocking statement in verse 20, “. . .but where sin increased, grace abounded all the more.”
“Where sin piled up, one upon another . . . grace overwhelmed it still!” Sin grew higher, grace mounted higher still.
More sin . . . more grace. Great sin . . . greater grace!
So, whaddya gonna say about that?
Paul knew exactly what they were gonna say. He puts it in writing – “Oh, I guess we can continue in sin so that grace may continue to increase.”
That, Ladies and Gentlemen, is antinomianism. Since God is glorified by the expression of His attributes – and since His attributes include grace – and since His grace is demonstrated when we sin – then let’s sin like maniacs – so that the grace of God will be revealed and God’s attributes will truly be magnified!
Let’s give God an opportunity to show us how gracious He really is!
You say, I don’t think like that! Oh . . .what about that thought – “I know this is sinful, but God will forgive me, because God is so forgiving!”
Probably the most famous antinomian in world history – that everyone ought to know something about – was a man named Rasputin.
His real name was Grigory. The local villagers gave him the nickname Rasputin which meant, debauchery/immorality. When he was 22 he made a spiritual pilgrimage to Greece. There he came under the influence of an antinomian sect known as the Flagelents. They believed sinning was necessary to salvation – the more you sinned the more secure your salvation. Two years later, Rasputin reappeared in his Russian village as a mysterious holy man – with a penchant for immorality and an unusual ability to cure the sick. By then he had developed his own brand of antinomianism – he believed that a person should become physically exhausted by immorality and debauchery and drunkeness – and in that state of physical exhaustion, that person became a recipient of God’s grace.
Eventually, Rasputin traveled to Petersburg and gained an audience with the imperial family – Csar Nicholas and his wife Alexandra – they were struggling with the incurable condition of their son who suffered from hemophilia. It seemed that his presence helped their son’s health to improve. He was welcomed into the family circle as a close and trusted friend.
Even after the royal family was confronted with Rasputin’s immoral and financial scandals, it was Alexandra who defended him and strangly refused to do anything about it . . . it was no surprise that rumors had begun to circulate that they were involved immorally.
When World War 1 broke out, Csar Nicholas took personal command of the army, leaaving Alexandra and Rasputin alone. They were given even greater power than ever before. Key leaders were exhiled at Rasputin’s wish; evil men were brought to power under Rasputin – the economy and public morale reached the bottom. Rioting erupted in the capital city. Government officials secretly conspired to assassinate Rasputin, which they finally did as they poisoned his wine and then threw him into the river where he drowned.
But the damage to the Russian nation had already been done. The Csar had lost all credibility, along with the Queen, Alexandra. The time was ripe for revolution.
Just three months later, Csar Nicholas and his family were brutally murdered by the Russian rebels called Bolshiveks. The royal vacumn was filled by the leader whose nickname was Lenin and he brought with him his new ideas of communism.
One historian wrote, if there had been no Rasputin, there would never have been a Lenin – no Lenin and there would never have been the propogation of atheistic communism through the empire.
Ladies and Gentelemen, false theology which had decieved one man and then one royal family and then a society of mystics, ultimately opened the way for nearly 100 years of atheistic communism to dominate nearly 1 billion people.
Biblical theology has already been abandoned by the mainline church in America. And evil men are in it’s highest positions of power.
My friend, if antinomianism can deceive one man and then influence a government, and deceive so many people – perhaps it is a danger to you too!
Have you had the thought – I know I’m sinning, but I’m sure God will forgive me . . . isn’t God great?! I know I shouldn’t be seeing this or saying that or doing this or planning that . . . but, hey, God is a God of grace . . . isn’t His grace amazing?!
I ask you again, does the presence of grace, excuse the practice of sin?
Do you believe that you have freedom from sin or freedom to sin.
Isn’t that what Paul implied – sin grows great but grace grows greater than all our sin . . . man, we sing those words! Are we singing hymns of heresy?
What are you gonna say about this, Paul asks in Romans 6:1. Are we to continue in sin – the verb means to practice, to abide, to stay in sin – that grace might increase – that grace might be seen to be the magnificent attribute of God that it is?!
And his response. . .verse 2. May it never be! Verse 15. What then? Shall we sin because we are not under law but under grace? May it never be!
You could render it, “Perish the thought!” “God forbid”(KJV); “Certainly not” (REB); “By no means” (NIV); “What a ghastly thought,” John Phillips translated it. “Don’t you even think about it.” (that’s the way my mother translated it).
Paul goes on in verse 2, “How shall we who died to sin still live in it?”
I believe that Paul is effectively asking three questions in this one phrase. Three questions that he believed would stop us in our tracks from ever going down the path that destroys the true meaning of grace and perverts a true desire for holy living.
# 1) Have you forgotten what’s happened to you?
# 2) Have you forgotten who you are?
# 3) Have you forgotten where you belong?
Paul asks, “Have you forgotten what’s happened to you? Notice verse 2 again, “How shall we who died to sin still live in it.
Have you forgotten you’ve died to sin!
You don’t want to go around sinning every chance you get – you’ve died to sin!
He uses that expression over and over again in this chapter:
v. 3; we were baptized into his death
v. 4; we were buried with Him through baptism into death
v. 5; we became united with Him in the likeness of His death
v. 7; for he who has died is free from sin
v. 8; we died with Christ
v. 11; reckon yourselves to be dead indeed to sin
Over and over again . . . we can’t get much deader than this.
But what does he mean, we died to sin . . . we still struggle with sin – how can we struggle with something that’s not alive?!
There are 4 interpretive errors that are common today – we’ve been affected by some of them, if not all of them.
- We died to the allurement of sin – this is easy to prove wrong – all you have to do is read Paul’s letters to believers who were both converted to Christ and tempted to sin.
Paul himself will say in the next chapter – the things I
don’t want to do, I do; and the things I want to do, I
don’t do . . . who shall deliver me from this body of
death. Oh, we’re dead to sin, but that dead body still
gives us trouble . . . we haven’t died to the allurement of
- We are supposed to die on a daily basis.
While someone could find room for this argument, and certainly the holiness movement has, as one of its distinctives, the idea of crucifying their old selves, which is the secret to a victorious Christian life. The problem is that the starting point is wrong – it begins with man’s effort rather than with God. In addition to that, the image is wrong – the one thing someone cannot do is crucify themselves. Finally, the tense of Paul’s verb is wrong for their view to fly. Paul is not saying that we ought to die every day, in this text he is saying that we have already died.
Just as we all sinned in Adam – past tense; so also we have died in Christ – past tense. When Adam sinned, as the head of our race, we sinned in him; when Christ died on the cross, as the head of our new race, we died in Him.
- Another view is that the believer’s sin nature has been eradicated. This view teaches that a person becomes perfected in righteousness.
The tragedy of this view is that it confuses the perfection of Christ with our perfection.
It also ignores the many promises that if a Christian confesses his sin, God is faithful and just to forgive his sin and cleanse him from all unrighteousness. That verse in 1 John 1:9 was not written too unbelievers but believers.
- Another view is that the Christian dies to sin by renouncing it.
He simply reaches a special point in his spiritual journey where he renounces sin. While it is true that a believer renounces his involvement with sin and seeks to flee every temptation, the view, again, starts with something man does, rather than something that God has done.
Every believer has died in Christ . . . God put us there. Every Christian sinned in Adam . . . God also put us there! God put us in Christ as He arose from the grave too – He joined us to Christ – He baptized us by His Spirit into the Body of Christ – none of these things were things we could do. They are all part of God’s work on our behalf, and we discover them to be His gifts to us when we received the gift of everlasting life.
The 5th view, which I believe is consistent with Paul’s letter, is that the believer died to the reign of sin.
Go back to verse 21 of chapter 5 – that as sin reigned in death, even so grace might reign through righteousness to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.
In other words, we died to the reign of sin, in Christ, the head of our new race.
The word “reign” means, “power, control.”
These views adapted from James Montgomery Boice, Romans Vol. 2, p. 651
The reign of sin is what controls every person before they come to Christ. The reign of grace is what takes over in their livers once they believe in Christ.
You could imagine these two reigns like this; Suppose you are on a pirate ship – the captain is a wicked man who captured you and others during one of his raids. He orders you about like you are an animal. But then, your government comes against that pirate ship in battle and takes control of the ship, liberating you and the other captives. The commanding officer chains the evil captain below deck and you sail for home. On the way there, the captain is shouting out orders to you from below – barking out commands, threatening you and telling you what to do. You can obey him if you want to – but you don’t have to – he’s not your captain anymore. You don’t have to follow his orders any longer.
Paul wrote in Colossians 1:13, “He has delivered us from the power of darkness and conveyed us into the kingdom of the Son of His love.”
Something permanent happened to you in the past. Just as you sinned, in Adam, the head of your race, so you died to sin in Christ, on the cross, as the head of the new race you’ve joined by faith through grace.
To say that you must sin denies the truth of grace;
To say that you will never sin denies the need for grace;
To say that you don’t have to sin is to understand the power of grace.
Don’t forget what’s happened to you, Paul says – sin once reigned, but now you’ve died to sin’s power and you’re now under the reign of grace.
Have you forgotten what’s happened to you? Paul goes on to ask # 2) Have you forgotten who you are?
Verse 2 again, “How shall we who died to sin still live in it?
The English reader misses the emphasis of Paul – “How shall we, being who we are, still live in sin?”
You belong to the King – why see how much of the gutter you can grovel in!
In other words, the true believer can no longer live in sin because he no longer feels at home therein.
The growing believer understands the vileness of sin and hates the very taste and smell and touch of sin.
A pastor sent in to a ministers journal I read a rather interesting article on a problem they were having in a middle school in Oregon. A number of girls were beginning to use lipstick and would put it on in the girls bathroom. After they put on their lipstick, they had started the tradition of pressing their lips to the mirrors leaving dozens of messy lip prints all over the glass. Finally the principal decided that something had to be done. She came up with a rather ingenious plan and told her custodian exactly what to do. She called the girls to the bathroom and met them there along with the school custodian. She then explained that all these lip prints were causing a major problem for the custodian, who had to clean the mirrors every day. It took a lot of time for him and it was unnecessary and wasted time. She demanded that they stop. Of course, the girls remained unconcerned – their faces barely hid their irritation at this forced meeting. At that time, the principle told the girls that she wanted them to know just how much time it took to clean the mirrors; she then asked the custodian to show the girls how he had been cleaning them. He took out a long-handled brush, dipped it into one of the nearby commodes and the scrubbed the mirrors. Since then the lip prints have disappeared.
It’s easy to forget what we press to our lips and our hearts.
You ever said to your kids, like I have, “Don’t let that dog lick you on your face . . . you have no idea where its been.”
Kids don’t seem to connect the dots.
Our dog loves filthy, yucky stuff! It got loose in the pasture just beyond our back yard fence where horses grace throughout the day, and sure enough, she found the first pile of horse manure and rolled all in it . . . she was having a great time . . . my dog has a serious problem . . . somebody asked me a few weeks ago if our pets are going to heaven; I said I sure hope mine isn’t . . . she’ll stink the whole place up. I don’t believe my dog is a Christian.
She’s a dog! Dog’s love to do stuff like that!
The antinomian lives in sin, not because he wants to display God’s grace as a son of God, but because he truly loves the filth of sin and reveals, in his love and defense of sin, that he is not a believer.
Have you forgotten who you are?
Have you forgotten what happened to you?
Have you forgotten who you are?
The third question bound up in this verse:
# 3) Have you forgotten where you belong?
How shall we who died to sin still live in it?!
Eugene Peterson paraphrased this verse in The Message, by writing, “If we’ve left the country where sin is sovereign, how can we still live in our old house there? Or did not you realize we packed up and left there for good?”
You are redeemed by the Lamb of God who suffered to pay the penalty of your sin.
We so often think that we will keep from sinning as long as we remember what it will do to us – how about keeping from sin because of what it did to Christ. It isn’t just a matter of what sin will cost you – it is a matter of what sin cost our Savior.
The true believer will not ask,, “How much sin can I get by with, but, “Oh, what my sin cost the Savior.”
John Piper addressed this perspective when he wrote, We must not give selfish or lustful any other sinful images or impulses more than five seconds before we mount a violent counterattack with the mind. I mean that! Five seconds! In the first 2 seconds we shout, “No! Get out of my head!” Then the real battle begins. This is a mind war. The absolute necessity is to get the image and the impulse out of our mind. How?
Get a counter image into your mind. It must be an image that is so powerful that the other image cannot survive.
For example, have you ever in the first five seconds of temptation, focused on the scene of the crucifixion of Jesus Christ. Picture this. Men, you have just seen a woman dressed in a way that invites further looking . . . and fantasy. You have five seconds. “No! Get out of my mind!” Now, immediately, demand of your mind that you fix its gaze on Christ, dying for you on the cross. Use all your mental power to see his lacerated back. Thirty-nine lashes left little flesh intact. He heaves with his breath up and down against the rough vertical beam of the cross. Each breath puts splinters into the lacerated flesh. The Lord gasps. From time to time he screams out with intolerable pain. He tries to pull away from the wood and the massive spikes through his wrist rip into the nerve endings and he screams again with agony and pushes up with his feet to give some relief to his wrists. But the bones and nerves in his pierced feet crush against each other with anguish and he cries out again. There is no relief. His throat is raw from screaming in pain and with his deep thirst. He loses his breath and thinks he is suffocating, and suddenly his body involuntarily gasps for air and all the injuries unite in pain. In torment, he throws his head back in desperation, only to hit one of the thorns perpendicular against the cross beam and drive it half an inch into his skull. His voice reaches a soprano pitch of pain and sobs break over his pain-wracked body as every cry brings more and more pain.
Now, I am not thinking that sinful though any more . . . I am at Calvary.
2003 Preaching Tody.com; Citation: John Piper, from the sermon “A Passion for Purity”
Understanding grace doesn’t mean you go out and sin all you want. Understanding grace means you never want to sin again.
It is the goodness of God that motivates us to repentance and holy living.
His grace is marvelous.
Recently I read about an unusual accountability partnership that demonstrated the effects of what understanding grace had on a sinning believer. In an effort to break his habit of using profanity, Paul started meeting with another guy from church, and they set up an aggressive plan for holy speech. Each Sunday, Paul would report to Bill how many times he used profanity during the week, and he’d put $5 in the offering plate for each incident. The first week cost Paul $100. Although following weeks improved somewhat, he wasn’t having he success he wanted and was giving more than he could afford to the offering. After the fourth week, Bill told Paul he had changed the deal for the coming week, but he wouldn’t tell Paul how. Paul wanted to know, but all Bill would say was, “Trust me. It will cost you less and challenge you more.” The following Sunday before worship, Paul was lookin a bit down, obviously having failed again. Bill put a hand on his shoulder and said, “Paul, this will cost you less and more . . . it’s called grace.” At that moment, Bill took out his checkbook, made out a check to the church, dated it and signed it. Only the amount was blank. Then he handed it to Paul and said, “You sin still costs me something, but you can go free on my account . . . just fill in the numbers. Oh and by the way, next week, there will be more grace.” That first week of grace cost Bill $55, but the second week only cost him $20. There was no third week. He was just so overwhelmed by the grace of Paul, that his heart broke to think that he’d have to use another check . . . it was only then, that Paul was able to stop a life-long, sinful habit of swearing.
Preaching Today.com; Citation: Bill White, Paramount California, 2003
There is nothing more powerful in holy living, than the amazing power of grace.
What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace might increase? May it never be! How shall we who died to sin still live in it.”
Don’t forget what happened to you, in Christ,
Don’t forget who you are, in Christ.
And don’t forget where you belong, in Christ.
The second Adam . . .the Sovereign Lord the redeemed race.