Monday, March 12, 2007

Romans 6

It's interesting that while Ch 5 talks a lot about "justification" Ch 6 seems to focus much more on our "sanctification" (vs 1, 4, 6, 12, 19, 22). The flow of thought follows naturally from 5:20 "where sin increased, grace increased all the more". And this leads to a very natural question - well if more sin leads to even more grace, then why not sin? Conversely, we often tend to think that more grace will thus 'cause' more sin - that grace is essentially license.

Donald Miller, Blue Like Jazz puts it well:
I used to get really ticked about preachers who talked too much about grace, because they tempted me to not be disciplined. I figured what people needed was a kick in the butt, and if I failed at godliness it was because those around me weren't trying hard enough. I believed if word got out about grace, the whole church would turn into a brothel.
Paul of course, says, "No way!" That raises an interesting question - well why not? And the answer of course, is that grace is not some passive thing - rather its an active thing that unites us to Christ. See this clearly in vs 3-4 - our baptism unites us to Christ, and to the extent that we are united to him, we are enabled to walk in newness of life.

Union w/ X cannot help but change us, because X himself has been changed, and what's ours becomes his and what's his becomes ours. We MUST live if we are united to X because he himself MUST live - he has died and been raised imperishable - death no longer has any dominion over him (9).

What's so interesting about this is that even though this reality for him is definite and accomplished (and thus its guaranteed for us), its still not experienced as definite and complete for us - we're still in the already-not-yet. Hence the need to "consider" ourselves dead to sin (11) - we are to live in light of what X has already accomplished, which in turn is what accomplishes life in us. But this living of ours is active, not passive.

We work, because X has worked - it's his work that accomplishes change in us, but his work is always accompanied by our own working - never as a means or end in itself, but always out of gratitude at what he has done and our own emulation of his work.

vs 14 - law vs. grace - really presented here as something of two different epochs - the period of law (under the OT) vs. the newly inaugurated period of grace (under X). Actually, we know from Rom 4 that even the OT economy was one of grace individually (4:3 - "Abraham believed, and God credited it to him as righteousness"), but as a nation, Israel was charged to live up to the law, and they simply could not do it. And so now, X does this for us - we are no longer under the "law" because he was "under law" for us. This new epoch is gracious for us precisely because it was not gracious for X.

And it's this "being under X" that is so incredibly freeing - not because we no longer need to obey, but because we are in X we are now capable _of_ obeying - we are freed from sin. Important to note this - Scripture does not portray sin as "liberty" (being able to do what I want) but rather as "bondage" (not being able to not want it). This is why the latter part of this chapter (15-23) uses the metaphor of slavery - we're either slaves to sin or to righteousness, but we are never slaves to nothing. We are human, and thus we are meant to serve (even as kinds of all creation).

vs 17 - worth pointing out that real obedience is heart obedience - it's not just what you do, but why you do it (motive, goal).




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