Don’t Be Stupid!   3 comments

This is Part 2 of the What If Character Went Viral Series. Read Part 1 here.

The Bible makes a clear case that all human beings are born into slavery. Either you’re a slave of sin or you’re a slave to God.

Non-Christians mistakenly think they are free when they chose to reject God to follow their own lusts, but the apostle Peter said they are “slaves of of corruption” (2 Peter 2:19). God has freed Christians (with our permission) from sin (Romans 6:18), but we are not free to live as we please. He freed us from sin to make us “slaves of righteousness.”

The question is not “Should I give up my freedom to submit to God?” but “Should I serve sin or serve God?”

In Romans, the apostle Paul spent a good deal of time explaining the human condition and it all boils down to the paraphrase “you are either a slave to sin, resulting in death, or you are a slave of obedience, resulting in righteousness.”

The words slave or enslaved appear eight times in Romans 6:15-23. The words obedience, obedient, and obey occur four times.

Whose slave are you?

If you believe that being under grace means you are free to sin, you do not understand God’s grace (Romans 6:15-20)

What then? Shall we sin because we are not under law but under grace?

Absolutely not!

Do you not know that if you present yourselves as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one you obey, either of sin resulting in death, or obedience resulting in righteousness? But thanks be to God that though you were slaves to sin, you obeyed from the heart that pattern of teaching you were entrusted to, and having been freed from sin, you became enslaved to righteousness. (I am speaking in human terms because of the weakness of your flesh.) For just as you once presented your members as slaves to impurity and lawlessness leading to more lawlessness, so now present your members as slaves to righteousness leading to sanctification. For when you were slaves of sin, you were free with regard to righteousness.

There are scholars who believe that Paul was responding to a hypothetical here, but I don’t think he was. Paul wrote the letter to the church at Rome from Corinth, which was the Las Vegas of the 1st century — the original Sin City. I’m pretty sure as Paul talked with people, perhaps even Christians, as he mended tents in the Corinthian marketplace, that he had heard this argument before:

Since Christians are under God’s grace and not under the law, we are free to sin, no problem because our sins are forgiven.

Paul’s answer: DON’T BE STUPID!

Really, the emphatic statement here is so strong that we do not have an English equivalent. It’s important to realize that Paul wrote Romans as a letter, not as a series of disconnected verses as we have it today. In Romans 5:20, he made the statement that “when sin increased, grace abounded all the more.” Paul wanted to assure that nobody could weasel around and say “So, let’s sin a lot so that we get a lot of grace.” That would be abuse of his statement in 6:14 that “you are not under the law, but under grace.” Being under grace does not mean you are free to sin. That would be an utterly specious argument.

Law and grace are difficult theological concepts and people who like their theology simple tend to take them to extremes one way or another. Some have feared that if we emphasize God’s grace too much, people will gravitate toward sin and licentiousness and think their lifestyles don’t matter to salvation. This extreme leads to emphasizing the rules for what they consider to be holy living, but more often than not is really manmade rules propped up by Bible verses taken out of context. Good examples of that are Baptists I know who say the Bible doesn’t allow drinking alcohol or dancing, when the reality is that the Bible cautions against drinking alcohol to excess and dancing in lustful ways. Legalists do not focus on sins of the heart such as pride or lack of love for God, but rather on outward sins that can more easily be judged. Pharisees and Judaizers were leading examples of this false, superficial religiosity (Matthew 23; Galatians 6:13).

At the other end of the extreme are those who say “If we’re under grace, then sin doesn’t matter.” These folks view God is the loving, tolerant, sugar daddy in the sky who would never judge anyone. They mistake grace to mean God doesn’t care about our sin and there are certainly nominally Christian religions that represent that extreme.

Now here’s the think to understand — God’s true grace is not the balance between legalism and licentiousness. These are actually two parts of the same flesh. The legalist, acting in the flesh, takes pride in his religious practices and condemns those who do not live up to his standards while congratulating himself on his performance. He views the law as his pathway to reaching God — rather like those more ancient sinners viewed the Tower of Babel. He’s not examining his heart before God. He’s trusting in his good works to not stink like filthy rags.

The licentious person is clearly operating in the flesh, embracing the lusts of the flesh and justifying it by equating grace with tolerance for sin.

Both ends of the extreme are firmly rooted in our human nature … our flesh. God’s grace opposes both extremes, NOT as the fulcrum of a balancing act, but as a completely different way of relating to God. Jesus was called a sinner by the legalists of His day (Luke 5:29-32; Matthew 11:19) and so was Paul (Romans 3:9). Any Christians who emphasizes God’s grace risks that charge. Those making the charge do not understand grace at all, hence Paul’s powerful reaction of “Under no circumstances! EVER!”

Sin put our Savior on the cross. Christians know this. Our sins have been nailed to the cross and we bear them no more because He took the burden on Himself. We now are identified with Him in His death to sin and resurrection to new life, which manifests itself in obedience to God (1 John 3:9). Lawlessness is the mark of the slave of sin (Romans 6:19). Righteousness (right living according to the Bible) is the mark of the one who has received God’s grace.

And you are tested on this. If you think that being under grace leaves you free to sin as if it was no big deal, you don’t understand God’s grace. If, motivated by God’s love and grace in giving His Son, you now hate and fight your sin, striving to be more obedience, then you understand grace. God’s grace trains us “to deny ungodliness and worldly desires and to live sensibly, righteously and godly in the present age” (Titus 2:11-12).

Your lifestyle reveals who you are a slave of. If you obey sin, it shows that you’re a slave of sin, headed toward eternal death. If you obey God, it shows that you’re His slave, resulting in righteousness (Romans 6:22). Salvation is your choosing who your master will be. If there is a change of masters, you obey your new master. The master you obey shows whose slave you now are.

Paul contrasted being a slave of sin with being a slave of obedience rather than of God, because he wanted to make it clear that not being under the law does not in any way imply that we are free to sin. Being under grace means that we present ourselves as slaves for obedience to God. This obedience is not the means to salvation. It’s the result of it. Slavery to sin leads to death, while slavery to obedience leads to righteousness (not life). We are not saved by our obedience, but rather we are saved by faith that results in a life of obedience (Ephesians 2:8-10).

A lot of professing Christians like to obey God when it is convenient, but dabble in sin when the mood strikes them. Paul doesn’t give us that option. Either Christ is your master and you obey Him or sin is your master and you obey it. There is no middle ground. There’s no keeping one foot on the dock and the other foot in the boat. You can’t have both Christ and sin as your master.

If that sounds extreme, keep in mind that Paul is echoing the teaching of Jesus. Matthew 6:24: “No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth.” Matthew 7:13-14 Jesus said that there are two and only two gates: the narrow gate that leads to life and the broad gate that leads to destruction. There are two types of trees: the good tree that bears good fruit and the bad tree that bears bad fruit (Matthew 7:17-19). There are two kinds of builders who build two kinds of houses: Wise builders build on the rock; foolish builders build on the sand (Matthew 7:24-27). The wise builders represent those who hear Jesus’ words and obey them. The foolish builders hear Jesus’ words but do not obey.

Everybody serves somebody or something and our behavior and actions are evidence of that servitude. Those who live in sin are the slaves of sin. Those who live in obedience are the slaves of Jesus Christ. Those who are the slaves of sin are not under grace and are heading for eternal death. Those who are slaves of Christ have already tasted His grace, are growing in righteousness, and are heading for eternal life.

Are you a slave of sin or a slave of Christ?

Posted May 29, 2015 by aurorawatcherak in Uncategorized

3 responses to “Don’t Be Stupid!

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  1. Pingback: Changing Your Allegiance | aurorawatcherak

  2. Pingback: Commitment to the Good | aurorawatcherak

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