Todays readings… 2 Samuel 16, Jeremiah 20, Romans 5, 6
“THAT GRACE MAY ABOUND”
What is grace? Simple question, but the answer is not exactly simple, especially when we try to be sure we understand the means by which ‘grace’ works. The word ‘grace’ was a special word for Paul! He had been persecuting believers, he had put them in prison, had been complicit in the death of the first martyr, Stephen. But the Lord Jesus had picked him out as a ‘chosen instrument’ [Acts 9 v.15] as he told Ananias in a vision.
It is evident from the words Paul heard him speak on the Damascus Road, “It is hard for you to kick against the goads” [Acts 26 v.14], that Paul had been having a battle with his conscience. Now the 4 words in our heading, “that grace may abound” taken from today’s reading in Romans 6 v.1; they have to be put in their context. Sadly, in many cases, such as popular Christian songs, they are not. Twice in Chapter 5, which is also our reading today, Paul makes the point that those who sin, who follow the example of Adam (and this is everybody) can experience the “free gift” [v.15,16, 17] of grace, which means unmerited forgiveness; their sins are blotted out of God’s sight.
Wonderful! What then? Paul writes, “where sin increased, grace abounded all the more” [v.20]. Some read this and think it is saying that it does not matter how much you sin, grace always abounds more and more! If they, or you, think that, they (and you) are completely missing Paul’s point. Yet, tragically, some do think that. There is a misleading slogan, ‘Once saved, always saved’ used in some circles, but it is a distortion of the words of Scripture.
Paul asks, “What shall we say then? Are we to continue to sin that grace may abound? By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it?” [6 v.1,2] The statement immediately causes us to ask, how can we ‘die to sin’ when we are surrounded by it; the world has become so godless, it constantly bombards us with temptations in many different ways!?
Consider what Paul goes on to write, he says the result of having “died to sin” was “in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin” [v.6]
Paul had previously known of Christ, but what he knew he completely misunderstood. But all that changed with his conversion, outwardly demonstrated by baptism (Acts 9 v.18). He now belonged to Christ.
As Paul moves toward the climax of his most challenging epistle, he writes, “put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires.” [Ch. 13 v.14]
There are more texts that will challenge our thinking on this as we come to Chapters 7 and 8 tomorrow.