I Earned This! Romans 6
Carrying on through the whole Bible, it’s back to the New Testament and Romans 6. Paul continues to expound on the glory of salvation and the grace of God in this chapter. Romans 5 ended with the idea that grace increases to match the amount of sin present. Romans 6, then, starts with a very clear statement:
Do not sin just to experience grace.
That really should not have to be said, but it did then and it does now. True, we live in the freedom of the Spirit and are not obligated to the Law, but there is a difference in living freely under the Holy Spirit and living like God has no standards whatsoever. The Word guides us in living, and Believers in Christ cannot live in violation of God’s holiness without the Spirit moving in their lives to convict and change them.
And we certainly do not sin just to see what it is to be forgiven. Doing so shows a poor understanding of sin: sin affects far more than just your personal situation. It impacts across your entire circle of influence, and that cannot be taken lightly.
This is not the focus of Romans 6, though, merely the opening statement. There’s something to be learned from Paul here in terms of rhetorical methods and teaching styles:
Be aware of the likely misunderstandings of what you say and take time to correct them.
Diverting into modern blogdom, especially, we need to see how Paul does this. He does not wait until the end of his letter and then say, “Keep in mind, I didn’t mean (reference to misinterpretation).” He does not wait for the Second Epistle to the Romans to fix the misunderstandings. Neither does he say that people should no better than to think he would ever mean such a thing—he simply sees the pitfall and corrects. Immediately.
Do the same thing in your writing, teaching, and preaching.
Paul, though, is not writing to provide an example of rhetorical styles. We can learn that, but he’s got bigger fish to fry. His focus throughout this chapter is on what we people manage to earn with our efforts.
His point is right at the end of the chapter where he highlights that the wages of sin are death. (Or that the wages of sin is death, depending on your translation.)
Wages. What are wages? Quite frankly, we all know what wages are. Wages are what we earn for doing things. Sin earns death. It is not that we as people are naturally good and only a few people are so bad as to deserve death.
It is that we all, when we sin, earn death. We deserve it. Humanity, even when we see people come together and care for one another at crisis times, consistently earns death through our actions.
This runs counter to the common cultural critique that many preachers are always condemning people and being judgmental. Actually, we’re not. We are expressing that all of us are in the same boat, and that’s a boat that is not just going down, but going down fast.
Paul spends Romans 6, though, not on how bad the situation is. Instead, his focus is on the solution. His focus is where ours ought to be:
The gift of God.
Grace. Mercy. New life. Freedom from sin.
This is who Christ has made His followers: alive in Him, never to be mastered by death again. This is Paul’s focus, and so it should be ours: not what we were, rather
Focused on the One who has made us what we are and what we will be.
The call of the Christian is just that: to acknowledge that everyone of us were pulled from the same death, brought to the same life, and all by the same Savior. Since this is true, we go forward and seek Him and those He brings across our path to share the same message with: life, grace, and hope.
Let this be our push: most people already feel dead and hopeless. Proclaim the new life bought by the death of Jesus to them, and let Him work in their lives. It will be worth it.
Live your Christian life as if you were alive in Christ, not still dead, or at least mostly dead, in your sins. You are not waiting for full potency: get to it!
Today’s Nerd Note: Consider the all-encompassing nature of Romans 6:10. The death that He died, He died to sin once for all.
That “for all” is nicely vague in the Greek, and I think that’s actually what is intended. Was the death “for all” the redeemed? Certainly. Was the death “for all” the power of sin to end? Absolutely. Was His death “for all” time, without needing repetition? Without a doubt.
One thing to be wary of in Biblical translation and interpretation is this: At times, Biblical writers were vague or ambiguous on purpose. They wanted to economize on words and say as much as possible in as few words as possible. After all, it was a time of hand-written, hand-copied, and orally delivered messages. You wanted that.
So do not make something finite on only one side of a meaning, even if it does seem to add clarity. It’s just not always the right decision.