Regarding my search for God's total grace in Jesus Christ, I sure don't remember thinking it was okay to sin. Did you? And if it's not what you or I have believed, then why are we wasting so much time and energy trying to convince each other that we don't believe it? It just seems to me that too many who talk about the grace of God get stuck in the same old rut of fear as they discuss what grace is not, rather than simply jumping in to grace itself. Could this be yet another in the continuing series of deceptions we feel obligated to defend? And if it is, what are we being side-tracked from?
Too Much Jesus?
If a little bit is good, is too much not good? Well, let's consider. Did you know that the human body actually needs cholesterol to operate? Maybe not in the great big gobs that we inhale, but it is necessary. How about arsenic? It'll kill ya! But guess what? That's right ... we need a little bit of that, too, but just a trace! Water, too! We can drink glasses of the stuff and shower or swim in it, but many have died from too much of it. Now, the unbelieving world says too much Jesus turns you into a freak ... but what do we say about it?
So ... how much Jesus is too much? What do you think? Now, it's often said that too much grace will lead to sin, but what in the heck does that mean? Oh, we have adopted this cute little word called, licentiousness, which reminds us that too much of a good thing is bad for you ... but do we really know what we're talking about? Don't we know that we have demanded that too much Jesus is bad? I don't know about you, but that don't sound right!! Yeah, yeah, we can play the word games, but the too much grace we refer to is the same that comes through Jesus.
Licentiousness ... license to sin ... living as you please. How quickly we have assumed that this is caused by the over-abundance of the stuff that sets us free. But there is no such thing as too much Jesus any more than there is too much grace!
What if there was another, more legitimate way to perceive the whole concept known as License to Sin? What if it turned out to be the exact opposite of what we have assumed it was? It really shouldn't surprise us, knowing that God's thoughts and ways are not our thoughts and ways.
Okay, then, I'm going to hit you with this right up front: LICENSE TO SIN IS NOTHING MORE THAN LEGALISM IN DISGUISE! Whoah! Do you have any idea what I'm suggesting by that? But then again, do you have any idea what is suggested by the alternative?
My roof has a leak. Correction: my roof has HAD a leak. There is a large bowl in the middle of the dresser that catches the drip. The roof over my bedroom is a flat roof. And the lake that is formed seeks out ANY and EVERY weakness. With even a semi-regular rainy season the thing stays wet forever! The actual source of the leak can be far away from where the drip comes out, and can be difficult to detect (even if part of the ceiling is open). I've had to chuck a few pair of old sneakers, some old jeans and t-shirts that came between me and the tar.
But after each rain the ploink, ploink, ploink! reminds me that I missed the spot again.
And this was despite the fact that I was SURE I got it this time. But you don't really know until the next rain ... hey I DID fix two spots already! And this has been a long, wet season! I await the upcoming dry season where I will once again tackle my elusive foe!
The roof dripped its way right into a dream I was having about the concept of too much grace. The intrusion was as welcome as a sticker in my underwear, but the connection was made. My losing battle with the roof is exactly like our attempts to control sin!
Take a look at the essential elements. First, there's the actual leak, which results in the eventual drip. My reaction has moved me to action! I got up on that blasted roof with roof-fixing materials. There is definite desire AND response coupled with the right stuff. And it's hard work. When I fixed it I felt good about my accomplishment ... until the rain undermined all my work. The frustration and subsequent cycle of determination and apathy has taken it's toll on me. The damage keeps building up ... it doesn't go away! The KEY element in this whole scenario is this: I DON'T KNOW WHERE THE LEAK REALLY IS ... I have had to ASSUME. The fact is that it still leaks and I was patching the WRONG spots! Is it important to determine the source? Duh! The bowl on the dresser tells me YES!
Have you discovered the source of your sin? Forget your theological answers and ask yourself this simple question: DOES YOUR ROOF STILL LEAK? ARE YOU STILL WORKING ON THE SAME SIN PROBLEMS? Yes? If you know where the problem is WHY CAN'T YOU FIX IT? Is it possible your theology has caused you to miss something obvious? Or are you still looking for a new and better way to try again? It won't work ... and I think you know it. But you'll still try.
Who is really trying to get away with sin? Who are the licentious ones? Believer, haven't you grown weary in your struggle to be free by being treated as if you are looking for any excuse to sin? Don't your continual attempts to stop sinning tell you how wrong that assumption is?
There is an obvious reason a believer comes to the false conclusion that forgiveness makes it OK to sin. The reason? Because he/she has failed enough times to temporarily give up and try a new approach! If you've been there you KNOW it's only a concession, because the guilt feelings don't go away.
Then some Pharisees and scribes came to Jesus from Jerusalem, saying, 'Why do Your disciples transgress the tradition of the elders? For they do not wash their hands when they eat bread.' And He answered and said to them, 'And why do you yourselves transgress the commandments of God for the sake of your tradition? For God said, "Honor your father and mother," and "He who speaks evil of father or mother, let him be put to death." But you say, "Whoever shall say to his father or mother, 'Anything of mine you might have been helped by has been given to God, he is not to honor his father or mother.' And thus you INVALIDATED the word of God for the sake of your tradition.'Matthew 15:1-6
You just read a description of religious folks living as they please (Notice, I did not call them believers). Can't see through the disguise? Jesus called them a brood of vipers, and those who practice LAWLESSNESS. Miss the connection? When we imagine a person who lives as they please we think in terms of those who claim to do so. However, the warnings in the Bible are concerning those who claim to be living godly
"For certain persons have crept in unnoticed, those who were long beforehand marked out for this condemnation, ungodly persons who turn the grace of our God into licentiousness and deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ." (Jude 4). "But it was because of false brethren who had sneaked in to spy out our liberty which we have in Christ Jesus, in order to bring us into bondage."Galatians 2:4
How do you suppose an ungodly person could have crept in unnoticed? Isn't it obvious that this describes an unbeliever who infiltrates a group of believers by pretending to be one? The verse in Galatians plainly states that they were false brethren who sneaked in. There is no hidden meaning there. Sure, this goes against the usual interpretations, but who do you think came up with such a twisted meaning in the first place? WHO doesn't want YOU to know what THEY are up to? WHO were called lawless? WHO invalidated the Word of God by their attempts to get around it? Isn't it interesting that the morality preachers were called LAWLESS? It is unbelieving religious people who annul the law.
... the things that proceed out of the mouth come from the heart, and those defile the man. For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, slanders. These are the things which defile the man; but to eat with unwashed hands does not defile the man.Matthew 15:18-19
Who do YOU think He was talking about? The natural heart of man? Clearly. But do we usually connect this to the prime targets of the indictment? These men had not fooled Jesus by their cunning use of words. He said this so that His disciples would understand the deception of APPEARANCES in these supposedly righteous men known as Pharisees. Please don't think I'm suggesting that the Pharisees were worse than any others. They were what ANY person would be who had to learn how to live as they please while keeping the illusion that they were serving God!
So ... how does one break the law and get away with it? It's called creating LOOPHOLES. Yeah, these guys created a system that worked so well our American legal system uses it all the time to get away with murder!
Being a Pharisee made you financially secure. But Law #5 implied you would have to support your parents in their old age. How do you get around such a money pit? Of course, a loophole! Now, it's not enough to keep mom and dad away from your money, you have to create the illusion that you are, in fact, doing the right thing. If you gave your parents share to GOD (i.e. create a fund you can dip into) you could appear very righteous!
Don't miss this: Legalism is a system by which the human heart seeks to justify itself, and the flesh (being very adaptable) finds loopholes by which it can do what it wants!
Those who DON'T have the Spirit of God have slipped in among those who DO have the Spirit. I'm not talking about those who are being drawn by God and have come to see if this thing is for real. No, these guys I refer to have one motive. They have come to spy on you because they can't stand the idea that you might be FREE! And they will use any means to make you doubt it. They suggest that GRACE can lead to sin! They rise to positions of teacher, counseloror pastor because they APPEAR so devoted to the cause of righteousness!
Why have we been so deceived? And why have we let Satan take advantage of us? The work of Christ did away with the power of sin. GRACE doesn't lead to sin, the LAW does (1 Cor. 15:56)! But we have given in to a false premise. We have structured a balanced approach to the Christian life because we have listened to their false interpretations of the Bible. Why do we let the Deceiver call the shots and herd us into this structure by which grace is brought into question?
There's an illustration of a winding path with both sides dropping off in a steep incline creating a plateau on which the path sits. It's supposed to represent the Christian life. On the one side, is the pull of the law and legalism; the other side is where grace goes too far and becomes license to sin. So, the moral of the story is that GRACE is as bad as LAW! Actually, grace would be worse because while LAW is a known factor GRACE is not. And believers find themselves a little safer on the law side! The illustration came from the mind of a deceiver. You can't get too much Christ, but law will make you think you can.
The drip still falls in our bowl even though we've been patching it. We've even named the act of emptying the container: First-John-1-9-it. We have suffered long over the leak and the damage it's caused and we find ourselves caught between determination and apathy ... laboring and giving up. We've had successes, but then failures when we discover it still leaks. What if you were fixing the wrong spot because your assumptions keep you from even considering another spot?
For you were called to freedom, brethren; only do not turn your freedom into an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. Galatians 5:13
Looks like Paul is cautioning us against taking grace too far, doesn't it? You know, freedom in Christ sounded too good to be true! And after all the truth he gave us about living by faith this puts a damper on it, huh? But the simple fact is that this verse is not suggesting any kind of caution or limits on freedom at all. I don't care WHO says it does! The interpretation doesn't hold water.
When you see the simplicity of it you will realize the masterful trickery that has taken place in order to fool so many believers for so long. It's like one of those pictures that when viewed differently reveals another image altogether. Only we have gotten so used to seeing the hidden picture that we can't even see the original one anymore. And in this case, the obvious meaning is hidden from us by the repetitive teaching that reinforces the delusion.
Not too many will question that believers have been called to freedom Why question it when it's easier to change the meaning? The real question is: HOW DOES ONE GO ABOUT TURNING FREEDOM INTO AN OPPORTUNITY FOR THE FLESH? The real answer defines FREEDOM even more, while the wrong answer takes the free out of freedom ... and that only leaves dom (don't strain too hard on that one, okay?)!
Any consideration of this verse apart from the letter as a whole is misleading. So, what I will do is to give an overview of the letter leading up to the verse in question. I will examine verse 5:13 more in depth, giving attention to the horribly misunderstood word that is translated OPPORTUNITY. By bringing the flow of Paul's thinking to bear upon this verse allows the immediate context to clarify and direct our thoughts. So, if you are up to it, take a look at Galatians with me ...
- In the first chapter and a half Paul put his message of freedom on the line. Summary: My ministry, as well as my message, is DIRECTLY from God. Man's approval means NOTHING to me. Anyone who preaches ANYTHING other than what I have preached is WRONG and should be considered as bringing death! If this was Paul's OPINION then he was one of the most arrogant men to have ever lived. I don't think it was arrogance, do you?
- In chapter 2, he recounts his confrontation with the APOSTLE Peter. Peter acted like a messenger of death. It was not in what he said, but through fear, his actions made it clear to the Gentiles that they were not as good as the Jews! Paul saw that Peter was "not straightforward about the TRUTH OF THE GOSPEL", and he tells him so ... in front of EVERYBODY! What is his basic message? God declares these Gentiles righteous in the same manner that He declares us righteous ... through FAITH IN CHRIST JESUS and the life that we now live is found in the reality that WE NOT ONLY HAVE BEEN CRUCIFIED WITH CHRIST, BUT THAT HE ALSO LIVES IN US! Looking to the Law for righteousness (in any form) actually nullifies the grace of God.
- Chapter 3 opens with Paul asking something like "Just how foolish are you people, anyhow?". It was an obvious reality among them that Christ, and Him crucified was the reality of their new lives. How did those who KNEW they began by the Spirit come to think that the flesh could perfect them? Abraham stands as confirmation that righteousness is by faith. The adding of law 430 years later could not change the promise given to Abraham.
The law served to keep the people of God under CUSTODIAL CARE until Christ came, and in chapter 4, Paul describes these underage heirs as differing not a bit from slaves. Christ came to release these children not only from sins, but from the slavery they were kept under by the law. Paul asked them if they actually heard what the law said. Those under the law are slave children; those by faith are free.
It was for freedom that Christ set us free; therefore, keep standing firm and do not be subject again to a yoke of slavery. Galatians 5:1
What spiritual thing have you considered doing that might improve your relationship with Christ? This was the Galatians' dilemma. But Paul said it would only take them AWAY from Christ! Fallen from grace didn't describe slipping into an obviously WRONG deed. No, it described the Galatians' attempt to do the SPIRITUAL thing! It was just like Abraham giving into Sarah's plea to impregnate her slavegirl to produce the child God promised. In hindsight, you may wonder how he ever thought it was an acceptable alternative. But at the time, Sarah's suggestion SEEMED to be the only way. You may be at that place right now. And the right thing you are considering is no different than an old man deciding whether he should rape a young girl to produce something for God. [Far fetched? Read the story for yourself in Genesis 16; and then ask yourself: why did God wait so long to fulfill the promise? why did He make sure this story got recorded? why did Paul use it to lead into Galatians 5?]
So, what did Paul tell the Galatians to DO? He didn't tell them to do anything! Instead, he told them of the REALITY of those who are born of God: "For we through the Spirit, by faith, are waiting for the hope of righteousness" What's the hope of righteousness? It's not referring to some far off thing that happens when you die, it is the fruit of the Spirit as recorded in Galatians 5:22-23. It is the real stuff of God working itself out in a human being.
The distinction of waiting as opposed to attempting is what the story of Abraham and the promise was showing. God made Abraham wait all that time so that the contrast would be unmistakable. It takes a lot of manipulation for us not to see it. Somebody has been very busy creating an illusion for believers to have fallen so hard. "but faith work(s) through love" (5:6). Duty will never produce love. And you haven't been able to muster it up no matter how hard you have tried. Attempts at obedience have only hindered it (6:7)! Abraham proved that! But true obedience is what you have been called into ... it is what you are in Christ. Somebody wants to pull you from that freedom.
This persuasion is subtle, for Paul says,
A little leaven leavens the whole lump of doughGalatians 5:9
Why have we let the natural, legalistic mind interpret Paul's use of the picture of leaven? Leaven is yeast. Only a little is needed for a whole loaf. It has been used as a picture ... or type ... of SIN. That is actually true. But here's the deception: with one little stroke the focus has been shifted from Christ to sin!
By the work of Jesus we have been rescued FROM a life that has no option BUT sin in one form or another. This little bit of leaven desires to pull us back into that realm. No, it is not that specific sin you struggle with that is calling your name. The leaven is a formula or a rule or a law or a principle you fall back on by which you attempt to overpower it. Whatever that thing is you reach for has only one focus, and that is sin, itself. That right thing you lean on to help you overcome the sin is the thing that replaces Christ. And it will work its way through every area of your life until the life of Christ becomes your last consideration for anything. The mention of His name will only be to create the illusion that your alternative lifestyle is godly.
...the one who is disturbing you shall bear his judgment, whoever he is ... would that those who are troubling you would even mutilate themselves Galatians 5:10-12
Remember how, from the first chapter, Paul spoke of "some who are disturbing you, and want to distort the gospel of Christ (1:6)"? These people were even suggesting that PAUL was in support of the token requirement of circumcision, but he goes on record here as refuting any such claim for even this little leaven abolishes the stumbling block of the cross! The little bit requires the whole so where do we stop? The stumbling block of the cross is that anything of the flesh ... especially the righteousness of the law CANNOT go beyond death. For ONLY Christ has passed through, and ONLY through Him, by faith, is there ANY entrance into the life of God. Paul's attitude toward these men is harsh. The mutilation spoken of (or cutting off) is suggesting that those who preach circumsicion should go all the way and castrate themselves! Are you so moved for Christ that you would react as strongly against those who want to distort His whole purpose of hanging on the most humiliating form of condemnation?
For you were called to freedom, brethren; only do not turn your freedom into an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. Galatians 5:13
We are at the verse in question. Now, the traditional explanation would have Paul suddenly come to his senses with the realization that all this grace and freedom might have the believers using it as an excuse to fulfill their sinful desires. After all, isn't that what our new life wants more than anything else? Give us an excuse ... any excuse!
My brothers and sisters, we have been called to freedom through the grace of Christ ... it is time we stop blaming our being in bondage to sin on that which has brought us out!!!!
At the risk of sounding redundant, I will repeat my basic premise:
License to sin is nothing more than legalism in disguise. Furthermore, I believe legalism is best defined as a system by which the heart seeks to justify itself, and the flesh (being very adaptable) finds loopholes by which it can do what it wants.
Please don't miss the simplicity of this! For it is too easy to look any place other than in the mirror when the specter of legalism raises its head. We point to a denomination or hold up a doctrine and say, there it is! (which may be true), but we have missed it; for we have removed ourselves from consideration even though we may be wallowing in it!
The real question is: How do you turn freedom into an opportunity for the flesh? Exactly what is it that can turn freedom into something other than what it is? The way I see it, the flesh is so busy making adjustments in our thinking that this SOUNDS reasonable!
Look at the statement, called to freedom. Paul just spent four and a half chapters describing this freedom and yet I can almost guarantee that your concept of it is formed more by the philosophy of the sixties. No wonder we we are afraid of freedom! We understand the natural mind which says, I know what I would do if given the chance!
In the world we learned that freedom meant being released from bondage. But outside of Christ we only traded one form of slavery for another. It is only in Christ that we can see why we could not escape, for we were in bondage to our own selves! We were dragging our chains around with us. And the law made that chain exceedingly heavy. Freedom in Christ is unlike anything known in the history of man. It is freedom from the very stuff of our prison. We have been removed from one realm into another. It is a different reality altogether. We were brought into CHRIST, the new man! And we have taken on HIS life.
Take a look at the word opportunity. In the original language it is "aphorme". Yeah, it's Greek to both of us. A Bible dictionary called Vine's, has the meaning: properly, a starting point, was used to denote a base of operations in war. A base of operations! A starting point! Maybe this doesn't do much for you, but consider the following ...
But sin taking opportunity through the commandment, produced in me coveting of every kind; for apart from the Law sin is dead. Romans 7:8
Paul used the same word here to say that sin gets its starting point or establishes its base of operations through the law! Why does this sound so familiar? Gee ... let me think! Hey, if apart from the law sin is dead, then freedom in Christ is the safest place to stand.
Please tell me you get the connection. These Christians were about to buy into a lie that would obligate them to keep the whole law. Today, circumcision is no longer an issue, but there are a whole slew of replacements claiming to bring godliness into your life. A question: If you were to grab a tiger by the tail ... how much of the tiger do you have to deal with? The tail looks so soft and furry, but the claws at the other end are directly connected. To protect yourself you would have to hold on tight and swing that tiger by the tail. I wonder how many would be damaged in the attempt.
Somebody wants you to turn your freedom into a different freedom. Somebody wants you to turn this grace into a different grace. Somebody wants you to turn the gospel into a different gospel. There is no other ... but somebody wants to convince you there is. You have been freed from sin, don't throw out a welcome mat for it. Welcome mat? It's the opportunity that sin needs in order to get back at you. It comes to you looking like the right thing.
...but through love serve one another. For the whole law is fulfilled in one word, in the statement, 'You shall love your neighbor as yourself.'Galatians 5:13-14
Did he just tell us to keep the most impossible part of the law?
On the contrary, this shows the shortcoming, weakness, or ineffectiveness of the law. For what is produced in freedom fulfills the whole law! Listen. The law brings bondage because it is the opportunity - that is, the welcome mat - for sin. The freedom of Christ has put the love of God in us (for love is not the natural outflow of man). Rules - God's or man's - cannot produce it. The life of God fulfills the requirements of God ... requirements the law could only point out as being unfullfilled.
My weary friends, haven't you found that trying to keep the commands only makes you more aware of your own failure, which makes you work harder to avoid exposure? Hasn't that put you in a position to gain a victory in your life over certain sins to prove that you are growing and not backsliding? But how do you measure such victory? By comparing yourself to those who have not achieved your success. Don't be surprised when you don't meet up to their achievement.
But if you bite and devour one another, take care lest you be consumed by one anotherGalatians 5:15
This is not freedom, this is not liberty, this is not Christ! This is what happens when we have raised the banner of Freedom and yet operate under laws and principles, rules and regulations. The common denominator is that some form of righteousness has replaced the reality that Christ in you is the only basis by which you live in this world!
But I say, walk by the Spirit (in freedom), and you will not carry out the desire of the flesh.Galatians 5:16
License to sin is not the result of too much liberty. It is the distortion of liberty ... which is not liberty at all! It happens when you turn to the law (a principle, a rule, aka. the right thing) in the attempt to produce godliness. It comes from the consideration that some other good news can exist along side of the ONLY good news. Freedom is turned into an opportunity for the flesh when freedom becomes just another word for the concept of getting closer to God by something that you do. The words are there, but they have been changed to mean something else. What the heck ... maybe it's just semantics.
What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace might increase?Romans 6:1
If ever there was a question that provoked controversy about freedom, if ever there was a question that stirred up fear regarding grace, this is it! I have seen Christians react to this verse as if it was anathema to the very concept of grace, a wet blanket thrown on the fire of freedom! And, of course, there are those who make it their ministry to stifle these live-as-you-please Christians by quoting this verse with its negative answer. Why do you think Paul would interject a question such as this in the middle of his presentation of the good news of Jesus Christ? Didn't he know how destructive many would regard it to the very grace that he proclaimed?
First of all, I challenge the thinking that a simple NO is a good answer to his question. After all, it is not how he answered it. Why do we? I wonder if we even understand the QUESTION. I doubt we even know WHY he asked it.
This is not the first time Paul presented a question like this in the letter. This is the fourth (with 4 MORE after it) that is answered by the same Greek phrase, me genoito, translated, "God forbid" (KJV), "May it never be" (NASB), "Not at all", "By no means", or "Certainly not" (NIV).
What then? If some did not believe, their unbelief will not nullify the faithfulness of God, will it? May it never be! Rather, let God be found true, though every man be found a liar, as it is written, "That Thou mightest be justified in Thy words, and mightest prevail when Thou art judged. Romans 3:3-4
But if our unrighteousness demonstrates the righteousness of God, what shall we say? The God who inflicts wrath is not unrighteous, is He? (I am speaking in human terms.) May it never be! For otherwise how will God judge the world? Romans 3:5-6
Do we then nullify the Law through faith? May it never be! On the contrary, we establish the Law. Romans 3:31
What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace might increase? May it never be! How shall we who died to sin still live in it? Romans 6:1-2
What then? Shall we sin because we are not under law but under grace? May it never be! Do you not know ... Romans 6:15
What shall we say then? There is no injustice with God, is there? May it never be! For He says to Moses ... Romans 9:14
I say then, God has not rejected His people, has He? May it never be! For I too am an Israelite, a descendant of Abraham, of the tribe of Benjamin. Romans 11:1
I say then, they did not stumble so as to fall, did they? May it never be! But by their transgression salvation has come to the Gentiles, to make them jealous.Romans 11:11
Okay, so what? Well, Paul was a master of human logic and reasoning (Pharisees were really good at that). Add to this that God gave Paul more revelation of Christ than anyone else. Logic and revelation? Screeech! Crash! Bang! If there was ever a man to have debated his own deep-seated logic against the revelation of Christ it was Paul. And Romans reflects the predictable arguments of the natural mind. The questions represent our own objections very well.
Are we to continue in sin that grace might increase?Romans 6:1
What's behind the question? A look at Romans 5:20-21 provides a pretty good idea.
And the Law came in that the transgression might increase; but where sin increased, grace abounded all the more, that, as sin reigned in death, even so grace might reign through righteousness to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.Romans 5:20-21
Hold the phone ... is he saying that the law was designed to bring more sin? Don't miss this, for there was only one transgression before the Law was given to Moses as far as God was concerned: the disobedience of Adam. Remember? He broke the only specific command God gave. But later - through the insertion of the Law - the one transgression became many transgressions, because there were many laws to break!
The flesh quivers in reaction. More laws = more sins? And then, contrary to popular religious belief that more obedience brings more grace, Paul shocks us again. Because he said God gives more grace where there is more sin! No wonder people often denounced Paul as teaching "Let us do evil that good may come! (Rom. 3:8)" But what else can the natural mind make of such an idea?
Are we to continue in sin that grace might increase?Romans 6:1
The question exposes the natural mind's inability to understand God's grace. It expresses man's collective Yeah, BUT... to that which is incompatible to its own logic. For it flies in the face of every reasonable expectation or assumption of fairness and rightness - especially that written by the finger of God. Whether asked in fear or with an attitude of smugness the question rests upon the basic demand that God could not possibly give more grace where there is more sin ... at least not without violating one of his own virtues or leaving us exposed to the dangers of living under such a grace.
Call it what you will it is a fleshly question, but there is immense value in considering it. For it is the same one that pops up again and again in our minds as we are hit with another insight into the good news. As God exposes this reasoning we either own it and see it afresh ... or we fight it and spin our wheels in the fleshly wisdom.
With the skill of a professional, Paul had his hearers where he wanted them. But he was ready to take them beyond the logic that will never understand what really happened when Christ died.
More law = more sin? More sin = more grace? Does more grace = more sin? Then sin more = more grace? That's logical. That's rational. That's natural reasoning! Are you ready to go beyond the reasoning you were born with?
Rick Benevides ... my IHOP buddy! I think we supported the place (my favorite breakfast was their International Omlette). We must have looked like Laurel and Hardy -- I'm tall, he's wide. We were a pair. And he was an excellent friend. I knew him as "Bene" (emphasis on the second syllable). I miss him. But the life of Christ never dies ... even though the body gives out.
One morning I asked him, Should we sin that grace may abound? Of course, he said No. I don't think he wanted to pursue it, but I continued with, Why not? Conditioned responses. That's what they were. Each time he gave me a reason I said, Are you sure?. You know what bothered him the most? They were lousy answers and he knew it! So, I handed him my pocket Bible and excused myself (the coffee was calling me). Five minutes later he couldn't wait to tell me what he found.
So how do you answer it? Now, everybody says no. But what comes after that? You DID know that something came after the No ... didn't you?
Hold that thought.
Have you ever had an idea prejudged and dismissed before it was even heard? That's how straw men are created. You talk. The other guy reinterprets. Then he disproves his version of your thought! Your idea may have been pure genius, or it may have been wacko, but the argument against it was irrelevant!
Irrelevant. Now, there's a concept I understand all too well. You know, it's like asking someone "How are you doing?" when you aren't expecting a real answer. And this is exactly how most of us were taught to approach the question that Paul had asked the Roman believers. And don't assume you had to learn this in a church setting, the irrelevance came from the world you grew up in! That means if your answer doesn't line up with what Paul wrote after the God forbid!, then you have learned a philosophy that conforms with the world. What do you think about them apples?
Unbelievers have always considered the grace of God to be absurd. Don't you remember? I can recall how logical the concept of Christian living sounded. "If He gave His life for me, then the least I should do is to live for Him!" There was nothing shocking about it. Don't get me wrong, the idea of going to heaven, being forgiven, being saved, whatever, as the free gift of God is reassuring, but my logic had pretty much remained intact. I may have discarded the Santa Claus god as the way to heaven, but he still affected how I thought and lived.
You know, that's the part of my life that I deal with each and every day ... all day long grace where there is ! And that part tells me that it doesn't make any sense for God to give more sin. And it doesn't make any sense to you, either. And so every time this ridiculous idea of grace offends our logic, we react: So, you're saying it's OK to sin?
And Paul's answer of NO is his jumping up and down reaction to our irrelevant logic: Don't you know ... Don't you get it? For he goes on to ask:
How shall we who have died to sin still live in it?Romans 6:2
"How shall we who died to sin still live in it?" ? ! ? That's an answer?
Not exactly what we're used to hearing, is it? We demand practical answers. And here Paul gives us something that sounds more theory than real. I mean, who is he talking about? Who died to sin? Me? You? If it's true, I sure don't remember it, do you? But the question is based on an assumption. The assumption is that we have died to sin.
Sound too irrelevant? Have we settled for practical applications because raw truth seems too far-fetched? But, my friends, this is what Christ is all about. It's not true because it seems true. It's not true because you believe it to be true. It's true for one reason ... and only one reason: God sent Jesus to do what was needed to make it true.
Now, if Jesus did something so that we have actually died to sin, then that would change everything ... don't you think? And if so, aren't most of our practical applications just irrelevant blab? Why do you listen to it?
Don't you understand that the mind of Christ is totally irrelevant to the religious mind? And, you guessed it, the religious mind is not relevant to the mind of Christ, either. If you are trying to balance the conflicts that keep surfacing from this incompatibility you are going to be one frustrated puppy! Here are some options I can suggest to you:
- Adopt a solid system of theology to make it fit
- Ignore it, go have an emotional experience instead
- Join a local cult, learn some chants, go insane
- Quit while you are not so far behind
- Save time, check into a mental institution right now
The only real option is on the other side of death. And according to Paul that is exactly where you live. You have died to sin; how is it possible for you to live there anymore? The real question is: WHO ARE YOU? Or don't you know what had been accomplished when Jesus died and rose again?