Today’s Chapters 5 & 6 of Romans contain a great abundance of food for thought. We could not fail to pick up the continuing message of the wonder of God’s grace, God’s readiness to be merciful – and that the gift of grace was continually there. Believers cannot earn salvation – as the Jewish Priests thought they were doing, and were blind to the sin of pride in the process.
But then arises the most important question – we know we are justified by grace, and as a result accepted as in a right position before God because of our faith, so does it really matter if we keep on sinning? Sadly, some who claim to follow Christ claim it does not matter, ‘Once saved, always saved’ is their slogan – but that is not what the Scripture says.
Paul answers the question we have used in our heading today (which is from the first verse of Ch. 6) by stating, “By no means! How can we who have died to sin still live in it?” [v.2]. He writes, we “walk in newness of life” after we have been “buried with him by baptism” [v.4]. In this “newness of life” there will be times when we stumble and we will see in chapter 7 that Paul at times wrestled unsuccessfully with his human weaknesses (v.18-25).
This causes him to declare, “wretched man that I am” [v.24] but note the marvellous climax to his thoughts he develops in Chapter 8, it is a mistake to read one chapter without the other.
There is a fascinating parallel to our thoughts in our Psalms reading (51) which is David’s incredible Psalm of contrition after his sin with Bathsheba and murder of Uriah. This shows that genuine contrition from the heart will be recognised by God, and the prophet told David – “The LORD also has put away your sin” [2 Sam. 12 v.13].
But that does not mean that there are no consequences to be suffered: this was certainly so in David’s case. But there was a good consequence too! David came closer to God, and the words that he then wrote (and this is not the only Psalm treating this matter) have been an encouragement to countless God-fearing men and women in the 2,900 years since then.
However, note the blunt warning in Hebrews 10 about the consequences “if we go on sinning deliberately” (v.26) after coming to know God and accepting his salvation. A return to a godless way of life means we have “outraged the spirit of grace” [v.29] . Reading and meditating on God’s word every day lays a firm foundation to “continue … in newness of life.”