I love Paul’s letter to the Romans. It is by far my favorite book of the Bible. Sometimes I’m tempted to turn the blog into my commentary on Romans, but then I remember I’m not a professionally trained theologian, so I settle for finding sports analogies to give me an excuse to write about Romans. But not this week! My church is preaching through Romans, and this week’s post is my response to a friend’s question on the sermon. The question went something like this:
Paul asserts that we are saved through faith alone, but in this week’s passage (Romans Chapter 6), Paul tells us to stop sinning. It seems like the points contradict each other. How do they coexist within Romans?
This is a fair question, but not one that Paul leaves unanswered. Before I get into my answer, I want to clarify one thing.
It may feel like nitpicking, but I wouldn’t say faith is what saves us (stay with me here), but grace saves us through faith. Faith is what gives us access to God’s grace, but it is God’s grace that saves us. This is important because, by definition, grace is an unmerited gift, something we cannot earn.
With that said, Paul answers the question, and admittedly, his logic can feel circular:
- We are all sinful and unrighteous and God’s wrath is poured out against all unrighteousness (Romans chapters 1-3a)
- We are made righteous by grace through faith in Jesus (Romans chapter 3b-4)
- Just because we are justified by God’s grace doesn’t mean we are to continue sinning (Romans chapter 6)
- But we are all still sinful (Romans chapter 7)
- God’s grace still covers our sin (Romans 8: 1-11)
If Paul stopped here, we would naturally revert to chapter 6 and we would be stuck in a loop with no way of addressing our sins. But Paul doesn’t stop.
“So then, brothers, we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh. For if you live according to the flesh you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live. For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!” The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him” Romans 8:12-17
The only way we can stop sinning is if we are led by the Spirit of God. This Spirit is not a spirit of fear which would tell us we need to stop sinning out of fear of punishment . No, the Spirit God gives us is one of adoption. When we place our faith in Jesus, we become God’s children. No amount of sin can remove us from God’s family. This security then motivates us to want to remove sin from our life.
We are motivated to remove sin not out of fear but out of the security that comes from being a child of God, and this security was purchased by the blood of Jesus. This is God’s gift of grace.