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A Prayer and Fasting Devotional

“What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it?” - Romans 6:1-2

Prior to this point in the book of Romans, Paul has been preoccupied with setting forth an accurate view of the Gospel. In chapters 1-4, Paul labors to show that justification before God is based solely upon God’s grace and is accessed only through faith in Christ.

After unpacking the way we receive that grace, Paul spends chapter 5 illustrating and exalting grace.  He writes in Romans 5:20 that the law was added to them “that trespass might increase,” but where sin increased grace abounded (or increased) all the more. The point of this is to show that God’s grace triumphed over Israel’s sin. Paul picks up this point in chapter 6. “What shall we to say then?” In other words, what are we to conclude about this? “Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound?” Meaning, in light of what we have just learned, should we go on sinning in order that God’s grace and greatness would be shown and known to a greater extent?

Paul’s answer is emphatic: Absolutely not! “By no means!” Literally, “may it never be!” From there he goes on to say, “How can we who died to sin still live in it?” Which brings us to the question we will be dealing with this morning. Why is it morally unacceptable for you, as a Christian, to persist in a life of sin? Paul answers: because you have been baptized into Christ’s death. In verse 2, Paul explains the answer to his question with another question. He asks, “how can we who died to sin still live in it?” This is not a question of possibility, rather this statement questions the morality of such a course.

Imagine for a moment you are a mother raising young boys, one is 5-years old, and the other is 7. Now, we all know that, at these ages, sometimes fights break out. Imagine for a moment that your older, bigger son pushes his younger, weaker brother into the dirt. After seeing this, you bolt out into the backyard and confront your older son, saying, “How could you push your brother like that?” At that moment you are not expecting him to answer with the anatomical details of how he got his weight behind him before he lunged forward to thrust his arms into his brother. Rather, you are asking him a moral question. You want to know how it is possible that he could do such a thing. This is the same kind of question Paul poses here.

In essence, Paul is saying, “Something has happened to you that makes continuing in sin incongruous with your current position.” The event he is referring to is your death to sin. When Paul talks about “continuing in sin,” or “still living in sin,” he is not referring to sinless perfection. He is talking about continuing to live as though you are still under sin’s dominion and tyranny. To do this would be to live as though nothing had changed in your relationship to sin. It would be to act as though you are in your former state, enslaved to your sinful passions (Romans 6:6-7; Titus 3:3).

For Paul it is inconceivable that a healthy Christian would continue to live this way. In his mind, if you live and think this way, then you’ve missed something. You’ve missed the significance of your conversion. Thus, he appeals to the significance of that conversion experience, asking, "do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death?"

To put it plainly, Paul is saying that by being baptized we have been united with Christ in His death. That union allows us to benefit from what our Lord accomplished in His death. We become participants with Christ in His death to sin in order that we might be raised to a new kind of Christ-honoring life (Romans 6:4).

Although Christ has done all of the work, this does not mean that we do not have to labor and fight to resist sin’s enticement. Verse 12 says that though sin’s power and dominion has been broken (Romans 6:6-7), sin still seeks to rule and conform us to its will. Prayer, Christian community, and the Scriptures all are able to provide grace and help in times of temptation, trouble, and testing (Psalm 119:11; Matthew 6:13; Matthew 26:41; Hebrews 10:25;). Let’s endeavor to seek our God through these gifts, in order that we might know Him more deeply and walk with Him more faithfully.

Branden Brooks
Ministry Fellow at Harvard