We have now completed the first two main sections of Romans, and so far we have discovered that no one can be saved by the law, for the law condemns us all (1:18-3:20). In the second section, we discovered that grace takes our sin away, thus bringing about our justification before God (3:21 – 5:21). Both of the first two sections relate to our outward problem of sin, but there is much more to grace than the simple removal of sin; it has an inward aspect as well.
Once our sin has been removed and we are justified before God through grace, there is much work to be done for forgiveness of sin is not the end of the story but rather it is the beginning. In fact, it is entirely possible for a reasonable man or woman to read our discussions about grace and in all seriousness to ask if it matters what we do from this point forward, after all our sins are forgiven anyway. Why should we obey the teachings of Jesus? Does it make any difference how we live? Can’t I just do my own thing? If my sins are forgiven, who cares?
Paul answers to these questions are found in the third section of Romans, which covers chapters 6-8, and as we will see, grace is a double cure.
To put this another way, in the last section, Paul demonstrated that grace provided justification for sins, in this section Paul will demonstrate that grace provides total victory over sin. Once again, there are three main points in the argument: First in 6:1 – 7:13 he will show that grace does not render sin irrelevant. The second point in 7:14 – 8:13, shows us that grace gives us victory in our struggle against sin, and finally in 8:14-39 we will see that grace’s total and complete victory over sin is assured.
What shall we say, then? Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase? By no means! We are those who have died to sin; how can we live in it any longer? Or don’t you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life.
With these words, Paul launches his argument that sin is not irrelevant because of grace. No, we don’t keep on sinning so that we might receive even more grace, how can we do such a thing?
What exactly and precisely, does it mean for us to be “born again”?
The answer is in these verses: We are baptized into Jesus’ death; this is where the “old me” died with Him. When Jesus was placed into the tomb, He was most assuredly dead, but then a curious thing happened: He rose from the dead. When I was baptized, they put me under the water and then a curious thing happened to me also: I came up out of the water a new man: I was born again. I was a new creation because I went under without the Holy Spirit, and I rose up with the Holy Spirit within me; “sin” remained behind. (see also Acts 2:38) You see, when I was baptized, not only was my sin stricken from my “permanent record” I became a new person. As a new person, why would I want to run back to the old way? That would be stupid!
Paul expands on this thought in verses 5-14, so we aren’t finished with this quite yet, but I think I’ll end for now and let you have a little time to ponder this. We’ll pick up with verse 5 next time…