“Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it?…So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus.
- Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body to make you obey its passions.
- Do not present your members to sin as instruments for unrighteousness, but;
- Present yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life and your members to God as instruments for righteousness.
For sin will have no dominion over you since you are not under law but under grace.” (Excerpts from Rom 6: 1b-2; 11b-14)
God’s Sovereignty and Human Responsibility: an essential concept to understand and, more importantly, embrace. If it is not embraced, then “walking in a manner worthy of the Gospel” is extremely hindered, if not made impossible.
Remember that Paul is a theological lawyer by training—but not an ivory tower academic. Before Paul, there was Saul—and Saul put his theological training into his conviction and went tearing off after the followers of Jesus, petitioning (pleading) for an opportunity to persecute them.
This training comes through clearly in Romans. Paul is systematic in laying out the Kingdom as it is now found in Jesus: All the facts, all the clear reasoning, all the declarations, all the commands, all the implications, etc.
Step by step, point by point, Paul lays it out for us. We are at that point where the Old Man meets the New Man; where Sin meets Grace, and I have choices to make.
Jesus conquered Sin. Because of that, Sin does not have dominion over me, I am set free. We sing songs celebrating that freedom because we have been chained to sin for so long—it is nice to know freedom through His Grace.
But (I reason), I can celebrate freedom while reveling in Sin. Not so: I try to have it both ways: A clean conscience and playing in sinful (let me call it Not Honoring God) behavior. I may try to explain it away by saying “I am not under law, but under Grace”, that is; don’t evaluate me by any shred of standard that I don’t agree with—I am not under oppressive LAW. An attitude like that renders the Word of God useless and impotent.
Jesus said it best: “If a tree does not bear fruit, it is worthless.”
Human Responsibility is that portion where I engage with the Holy Spirit to wrangle and subdue that sinful side of me. I “consider myself dead to sin” now I must “present my (body, thoughts, mind, etc.) to God as instruments of righteousness”.
How am I to do that? The easy stuff is self-evident: Don’t hang out in sinful situations; avoid temptations or tempting locations; be very aware that if you are in Christ your life focus will need to change.
Another mental picture is the Fruit of the Spirit list in Galatians 5. Take one point of this list (Patience for example) and bear down on yourself to bring patience as a reflex in your body.
Bearing fruit isn’t what you do on the outside; Jesus is working in our insides first. Humble yourself under the mighty Hand of God.
Father, I want to bear fruit—big, fat, juicy fruit. Fruit that satisfies, fruit that honors You, fruit that is useful to You. Help me stay on the tree a long time and not pick myself off too soon thinking that I have become ripe—I can never become ripe enough. AMEN