Romans 6 Recap

Last night, we discussed Session 9 of Tommy Nelson’s Romans: The Letter that Changed the World, which covers Romans 6:1-12.

When we talked about Romans 5, we all agreed that we can’t lose our salvation. We have eternal security, according to Romans 5:1-5 and John 10:28-29. But last night, we began with two key questions:

  1. What theological problems does the fact that we cannot lose our salvation cause?
  2. Does this truth scare the church?

The 2nd century church father Tertullian said,

Just as our Lord was crucified between two thieves, so this great doctrine of justification is continually crucified between two heresies.

The first heresy is legalism. We’ll talk about that in a minute. The second is liberalism, or, to use the five-dollar theological term Nelson uses, antinomianism.

51s30wtxs4l-_sx351_bo1204203200_In his book Stop Asking Jesus Into Your Heart, J.D. Greaar recounts the conversation he had with a young man he tried to witness to on the basketball court. The young man stopped him, and told him that he used to be a “super Christian”– going to youth camp, doing the True Love Waits thing, even leading other people to Jesus. But when he discovered sex, he decided he no longer wanted God telling him what to do:

So I decided to put God on hold for a while, and after a while just quit believing in Him altogether. I’m a happy atheist now.” He then added: “But here’s what’s awesome: the church I grew up in was Southern Baptist, and they taught eternal security—that means ‘once saved, always saved.’ . . .That means that my salvation at age thirteen still holds, even if I don’t believe in God anymore now. ‘Once saved, always saved,’ right? That means that even if you’re right, and God exists and Jesus is the only way, I’m safe! So either way, works out great for me. . . . If I’m right, then I haven’t wasted my life curbing my lifestyle because of a fairy tale. OK, it’s your shot.”

How would you respond to this young man? The Bible says you will know whether someone is saved by their fruit, right? But clearly this kid bore fruit in his earlier life. So now that he claims to be “a happy atheist,” is he still secure in his salvation? Can he fall back on his “get out of hell free” card and live how we wants the rest of his life?

Paul’s answer, in verse 2, is another of his famous me genoito  statements, which has been translated as everything from “May it never be” to “perish the thought,” to “hell, no.” “How shall we who have died to sin still live in it?”

If we are dead to sin, it cheapens grace to still chase after it, and it is a denial of who we are in Christ. Martyn Lloyd Jones compared it to the salves following the Civil War who, though they were legally released from slavery, they still quaked with fear whenever they saw their old master again, petrified that they would be sold into bondage again. Or the scene in the Shawshank Redemption, where Brooks, the released convict, can’t cope with how big the world has gotten on the outside. He longs for the comfort and familiarity of his prison bars. Eventually, he takes his life.

When we have died to sin, we are truly free. Before our conversion, we are not free to not sin. It cheapens grace to think that our freedom in Christ means we are now free to sin. What it really means is that we are now free to not sin.

Tim Keller details what Paul doesn’t mean by “We died to sin” in verse 2. It doesn’t mean…5117z9zxxul-_sx312_bo1204203200_

  1. That we no longer want to sin (duh). If this were true, there would be no need for verses 12-14.
  2. That we no longer ought to sin. Paul doesn’t say, “We ought to die,” but “we died.”
  3. That we are slowly moving away from sin. Again, we aren’t dying a slow death. The aorist tense of the verb refers to a single, past, once-and-done action.
  4. That at the moment of our baptism, we renounced sin. According to verses 3-5, our death to sin is not the result of something we have done, but something that is done to us.
  5. That we aren’t guilty of sin. Keller acknowledges that while this is true, it isn’t what Paul means here. He is trying to teach about why we seek to live without sin. “Simply restating the truth that we are pardoned in Christ is not the answer” (Keller, pp. 138-139).

We still struggle with sin, and we will until the day we die. This is part of our sanctification process. When Paul says, in verse 12, “Do not let sin rule over your mortal bodies,” he challenges us to continue to fight sin the way we would fight a guerrilla army, who keeps on waging a battle even after it knows the war is lost.

How do we do that? Tommy Nelson talked about several “nifty tricks” (his phrase) that people throughout history have used to aid in the sanctification process:

Asceticism (more sacrifice ): Through rigorous self-denial one can conquer the desires of the flesh

Mechanics (more ritual): Through habits of holiness and spiritual discipline one can master one’s fleshly desires

Scholasticism (more study): Through focused Bible study and Scripture memorization, I can hide God’s Word in my heart that I might now sin against God (Psalm 119:11).

Experientialism (more emotions): Through emotionally uplifting experiences such as worship services and retreats I can keep my heart turned toward God and away from the flesh.

Legalism (more rules): Through strict obedience to the law I can conquer sin.

The trick is to keep these in perspective. Tommy is right to call them “nifty tricks.” All of these can help in our struggle against sin. But we commit the other heresy Tertullian talked about when we add any of these to the gospel.

Next week: Session 10: We Must Obey (Romans 6:13-23)

Job: Some Nerve!

Who did Job think he was, telling God he would “cling to his righteousness and never let it go”?

 

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One of the most rewarding parts of my work week happens on Monday nights from 8:30-10:00, when a group of men gather together for a deep dive into the book of Romans. Some of us are trying to memorize the entire book. Others are memorizing the two or three verses that go along with each session. But all of us are benefiting from the intense, focused study on the book that launched the Reformation and is the foundation for arguably the most well-known gospel presentation, the Romans Road.

The dominant theme of the first three chapters of Romans is that none of us are righteous. Not one of us–no, not one–can stand before God with any shred of righteousness that comes from ourselves.

Which makes the book of Job such an enigma. You know the story. God and the devil make a wager over the life of Job. God gives Satan permission to mess with Job, taking away everything from Job except his life. Job’s friends come to console him, and wind up arguing with him for about 25 chapters. Basically, they all tell him that he is being punished because of some unconfessed sin. But Job’s not buying it. Which leads us to Job 27:3-6:

3 as long as my breath is still in me and the breath from God remains in my nostrils, 4 my lips will not speak unjustly, and my tongue will not utter deceit. 5 I will never affirm that you are right. I will maintain my integrity until I die. 6 I will cling to my righteousness and never let it go. My conscience will not accuse me as long as I live! [Job 27:3-6 HCSB]

Does anyone else look at this and think that Job sounds really full of himself? Humility is a Christian virtue. All of us have to admit we are sinners before we can trust Christ for our salvation, right?

So where does Job get off saying things like, “I will maintain my righteousness and never let go of it?” Is this arrogance? Does it fly in the face of Paul’s teaching that “there is none righteous, no, not one?” (Romans 3:10) I don’t think so.

Job’s confidence is not in himself, but in the trustworthiness of God. Job believed in a God whose will and ways could be known. Other gods from other religions were fickle and capricious. You never knew what you might have done to displease the god of the rain when there was drought, so you danced and sacrificed and cut yourself until the blood flowed in an effort to get his attention (remember the prophets of Baal in 1 Kings 18?) A king wouldn’t know how to gain the favor of the gods so his army would prevail in battle, so he might sacrifice one of his own sons to Molech by throwing him in the flames (Jeremiah 32:35). Or think about the Greek gods we studied in high school. Mortals were constantly subject to the whims and jealousies of the gods. When Zeus and Hades were angry at each other, humans paid the price.

But Yahweh is different. He can be known. He has given us His laws and decrees. We know what pleases Him and what doesn’t. And this is the confidence Job was clinging to. No matter how many times his so-called friends argued, “well, you must have done something wrong to be suffering in this way,” Job stubbornly and steadfastly held on to the idea that he knew what it took to walk with God, and that he had done it. When Job says things like “I will maintain my righteousness and never let go of it; my conscience will not reproach me as long as I live,” he was not expressing confidence in his own goodness, but in God’s justice.

I am so thankful that our God is predictable. He is not capricious, punishing humans on a whim or a lark (I admit, some would argue that’s the whole storyline of Job. I encourage you to watch this excellent animated walk-through of the book of Job from the fine folks at the Bible Project, and then let’s talk.). Don’t get me wrong. There is still none righteous. But Job teaches me that we can trust in God’s unchanging character. In every situation. In every place. For all time. Praise Him!

One of These Things Is Not Like the Other

Romans 5:14 says that Adam was “a pattern of the One who is to come.” How, exactly?

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Every Monday night, I meet with a group of men for Bible study. We are in Week 8, and just21o6pacdujl-_ac_ul320_sr284320_ finished up Romans 5. We are using Tommy Nelson’s Romans: The Letter that Changed the World as our starting point. If you are anywhere near Prattville, AL, we’d love you to join us.

Romans 5:14 says that Adam was “a pattern of the One who is to come.” But it’s almost as if Paul realizes that he’s just compared someone to Jesus–the One with Whom there is no comparison. Tommy Nelson makes the point that Jesus is a far, far better Savior than Adam was a sinner. So no sooner does Paul say that Adam is a pattern, or type, of the one to come, that Paul starts walking back the statement.

“The gift is not like the trespass”–How they are different

5117z9zxxul-_sx312_bo1204203200_Tim Keller, in his Romans 1-7 For You commentary, identifies three primary ways what Jesus did to save us is different (read: “greater”) than what Adam did to condemn us:

The Motivation was different: 

Adam made a conscious decision to sin. The word “transgression” implies a deliberate decision to do what you know is wrong. So in Genesis 3, Adam bought in to the lie that the fruit from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil would make him like God (Genesis 3:5-7). In other words, he bought in to the lie before he bit in to the fruit! His motivation was that he wanted to be like God.

Like Adam, Jesus made a conscious decision–not to sin, but to obey. Verse 18 calls this the “one act of righteousness.” In the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus deliberately bent His will to the will of the Heavenly Father when He accepted the cross (Luke 22:42). What was His motivation? Well, first and foremost it was to bring glory to the Father. But through His obedience, we have access to the Father (Eph. 2:18). And ultimately, we will be like God, when we see Him as He is (1 John 3:2). So at the risk of oversimplification for the sake of a great Tweet, Adam bit the fruit so He could be like God. Jesus bore the Cross so we could be like God.

Adam bit the fruit so He could be like God. Jesus bore the Cross so we could be like God.

The Results were different: 

Tommy Nelson walks through four areas in which the gift of grace through Christ is different (and far better!) than the transgression of Adam:

  1. Our salvation is more certain than Adam’s sin. Verse 15: For if by the one man’s trespass the many died, how much more have the grace of God and the gift overflowed to the many by the grace of the one man, Jesus Christ.
  2. Our forgiveness is more broad than Adam’s judgment. Verse 16: from one sin came the judgment, resulting in condemnation, but from many trespasses came the gift, resulting in justification.
  3. Our reward is more glorious than Adam’s punishment. Verse 17: Since by the one man’s trespass, death reigned through that one man, how much more will those who receive the overflow of grace and the gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man, Jesus Christ.
  4. The obedience (of Christ) was more redemptive than the disobedience (of Adam) was destructive. Verse 19:  For just as through one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners, so also through the one man’s obedience the many will be made righteous.

Adam’s sin kicked him out of the Garden. Christ’s righteousness ushers us into Heaven. Adam’s transgression made us slaves. Christ’s righteousness makes us heirs.

The Power was different:

Finally, the power of grace is so much greater than the power of sin. Not for nothing do we sing, “Grace that is greater than all our sin.” How does Paul show that the power of grace trumps the power of sin?

  1. Reigning in life is greater than the reign of death. Paul says in verse 17, “Since by the one man’s trespass, death reigned through that one man, how much more will those who receive the overflow of grace and the gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man, Jesus Christ.” Don’t miss the change from “reign in life” to “reign of death.” The first is active: We who have been raised with Christ will reign with Christ. But the reign of death is passive. As Billy Crystal’s character says in The Princess Bride“with all dead there’s only one thing you can do–go through his pockets and look for loose change.”
  2. The abundance of grace is greater than the increase of sin. In verse 20, we read, “Where sin increased, grace increased all the more.” The power of sin to kill is limited. When you are dead, you are dead. More sin doesn’t make you more dead, and less sin doesn’t make you less dead. But when Jesus makes us alive through His abundance of grace,
  • We can grow in His grace and knowledge (2 Peter 3:18).
  • We can have life, and have it more abundantly (John 10:10).
  • We can grow in our faithfulness, and thus be given more responsibility (Matthew 25:21).
  • We can “add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, mutual affection; and to mutual affection, love (2 Peter 1:5-8)

“For Just As…” How They are Similar

Even though it seems like Paul spends more time talking about how Adam and Christ are not alike, don’t lose sight of his original thesis in verse 14: Adam served as a pattern, or type, of the one to come. So let’s end this post by looking at how the two are alike:

  1. Both the gift and the trespass bring something (v. 16): The gift of grace brings justification. The transgression brings condemnation.
  2. Both the gift and the trespass cause something (v. 18): The result of Adam’s one transgression is condemnation for all men. The result of Christ’s one act of righteousness is the possibility of righteousness for all men (hold that thought– I’ll get back to that).
  3. Both the gift and the trespass make us  something (v. 19): The human race was made sinful by Adam’s disobedience. But the many will be made righteous through Christ’s obedience.

Conclusion: Is there any way the Trespass is Superior than the Gift?

Paul is clear. Grace is greater than sin. Christ is a far, far greater Savior than Adam is a sinner. Good triumphs over evil. The paradise we gain with Christ (see Revelation 22:1-5) is infinitely greater than the paradise we lost with Adam. At every turn, the power of what Jesus did is far superior to the power of what Adam did.

Well… at almost every turn. You may have already noticed it, but look again at verse 18:

18 Consequently, just as one trespass resulted in condemnation for all people, so also one righteous act resulted in justification and life for all people.

Does that mean that all will be justified? It does not. The condemnation of the human race through Adam is universal. But the justification through Jesus Christ is limited. It is available only to “as many as receive Him” (John 1:12). Romans 5:18 shows us that justification is available to all, but John 1:12 emphasizes that it is limited to the ones who will receive Jesus.

Next week: Antinomianism and Sanctification