Living Under Grace
“Are we to sin because we are not under law but under grace? By no means!”- Romans 6:15
Justification, God’s legal declaration that we are righteous in His sight by the imputation of the merit of Christ to our records, establishes our heavenly citizenship and guarantees eternal life. We are granted peace with God and are secure in salvation by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone, and we are confident that the Lord will preserve His justified people forever (Rom. 3:21–5:21). In justification, we look only to what Jesus has done in our behalf. However, justification is not the entirety of our salvation, which also encompasses the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives. In other words, those who have been justified begin to serve God truly, but this service is never the basis for our right standing with our Creator.
Theologians refer to this transformation by the Spirit as sanctification, which includes a definitive aspect and an ongoing aspect. When we first trust Christ, we are set apart as holy unto Christ once and for all. Thus, Paul can refer to even the notoriously sinful Corinthian church as “sanctified in Christ Jesus” (1 Cor. 1:2). However, there is also the ongoing process of sanctification by which the Spirit conforms us in practice to the holiness we enjoy in our Savior. Romans 6–8 focuses on the process of sanctification, and today’s passage continues Paul’s clarification as to what it means for grace to reign in the new covenant era. His question in 6:15 is similar to the question in 6:1, except that while verse 1 dealt with whether we should sin to increase grace, verse 15 addresses whether we should sin because of grace. In other words, does the fact that we are not under law but under grace give us license to sin?
Paul’s answer in verse 15 is as emphatic as his answer in verse 1: “By no means!” As the rest of the chapter indicates, the Apostle affirms that grace not only liberates us from the law but also has a constraining power unto obedience. Paul likely has the contemporary Jewish understanding of the Mosaic law in his mind as he writes these verses. According to standard Jewish interpretations of the Old Testament, those who did not have the old covenant law had nothing to hold back their sin, and it is likely that some Jews accused Paul of promoting sinful libertinism by saying that in Christ we are “not under law but under grace” (v. 14). The Apostle will turn their interpretation of the Old Testament on its head in Romans 7, indicating that on the contrary, those in whom sin is excited the most are those who are under law. Grace alone, not more law, gives us the willingness to serve God.
We will discuss what it means to not be under law in the days ahead. Today, Dr. R.C. Sproul’s commentary Romans will help us understand Paul’s point: “We are no longer under the law in the sense of being underneath the awesome, weighty burden of the law… . We are no longer in the condition of being crushed under the weight of the law, no longer oppressed by its burden of guilt and judgment.” We are no longer under the law as guilty people, for we are righteous in Christ.
Passages for Further Study
2 Corinthians 9:8