Law and Grace - Part 5

Theme: Alive to God

This week’s lessons teach that God’s grace, rather than leading to sin or even an indifferent attitude about it, actually leads to a holy life because we are now dead to sin and have been made alive in Jesus Christ.

Scripture: Romans 6:1-14

Yesterday we saw two changes that have occurred from our being made alive to God in Jesus Christ. Here are three more.

We are freed from sin's bondage. Before we died to sin and were made alive to God, we were slaves of our sinful natures. Sin was ruining us. But even when we could see that clearly and acknowledge it, which was not often, we were still unable to do anything about it. We said, “I’ve got to stop drinking; it's killing me.” Or, “I am going to ruin my reputation if I don't stop these sexual indulgences.” Or, “I’ve got to get control of my temper,” or “I must curb my spending,” or whatever. But we were unable to do it. And even if we did get control of some important area of our lives, perhaps with the help of a good therapist or friends or a supportive family, the general downward drift was unchanged. We really were non posse non peccare (“not able not to sin”), as Saint Augustine described it.

Being made alive to God, we discover that we are now freed from that destructive bondage. We still sin, but not always and not as often. And we know that we do not have to. We are now posse non peccare (“able not to sin”). We can achieve a real victory.

We are pressing forward to a sure destiny and new goals. Before we were not. We were trapped by the world and by its time-bound, evil horizons. Being saved, we know that we are now destined for an eternity of fellowship and bliss with God. We have not reached it yet. We are not perfect. But we echo within what Paul said, describing his new life in Christ to the Philippians: “Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do. Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus” (Phil. 3:12-14).

We can no longer be satisfied with this world's weak offerings. To be sure, the world never did really satisfy us. The world, which is finite, can never adequately fill beings who are made with an infinite capacity for fellowship with and enjoyment of God. But we thought the world and its values were satisfying. We expected to be filled.

Now we know that it will never work and that all we see about us, though it sometimes has value in a limited, earthly sense, is nevertheless passing away and will one day be completely forgotten. Our houses will be gone; our televisions will be gone; our beautiful furniture and cars and bank accounts (even our IRAs and Keoghs) will have passed away. So these tangible things no longer have any real hold on us. We have died to them, and in their place we have been made alive to God, who is intangible, invisible, and eternal, and of greater reality and substance than anything else we can imagine.

Therefore, we know ourselves to be only pilgrims here. We are passing through. Like Abraham, we are “looking forward to the city with foundations, whose architect and builder is God” (Heb. 11:10).

Where do we go from here? Do we continue in a life of sin so that, as we might piously choose to put it, grace may increase? Or do we choose the other path, the path of God-like conduct? By now we should be able to see that there is no true alternative. The life of sin is what we have died to. There is no going back for us, any more than Jesus could go back to suffer and die for sin again. But if there is no going back—if that possibility has been eliminated—there is no direction for us to go but forward.

Some people try to find the key in an intense emotional experience, thinking that if only they can make themselves feel close to God they will become holy. Others try to find sanctification through a special formula or methodology. They think that if they do certain things or follow a certain prescribed ritual they will become holy. But godliness does not come in that way, and, in fact, approaches like these are deceiving. A holy life comes from knowing—I stress that word—knowing that you can't go back, that you have died to sin and been made alive to God. You are no more able to go back to your old life than an adult to his childhood.

Can an adult become a child or infant again? I suppose, if he wants to hard enough, he can act childish. But he can't actually become a child again. No more can a true Christian become a non-Christian, and that is the reason grace does not lead to lawless conduct. We cannot go back to sin or even continue in it. There is no way to go but forward.

Study Questions:

  1. Why and in what way are we now “able not to sin”?
  2. Why does godliness not come either through an emotional experience or through following a special formula?

Application: In your own life, what are some ways you can specifically apply the biblical truth that we are pilgrims passing through this life?

Key Point: A holy life comes from knowing—I stress that word—knowing that you can't go back, that you have died to sin and been made alive to God. You are no more able to go back to your old life than an adult to his childhood.

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