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New Wine for the End Times
Law vs. Grace in Romans
When we are filled with the Holy Spirit, we can’t sin. This was seen in the previous chapter. However, in the Old Testament, the Holy Spirit could leave and not return. Not all believers were filled with the Holy Spirit. All this changed at Pentecost.
Today, under the new covenant, in our struggle to overcome sin, we seek to be filled with the Holy Spirit. We can go into and out of that complete filling. Over time, we learn to stay filled more and more. When we get to the point of being filled all the time, we are entirely sanctified.
Being under the law is struggling with sin under our own power. Being under grace is being filled with the Holy Spirit. Paul speaks of law vs. grace as he describes the struggle of going back and forth between law and grace.
But how can we stay filled with the Holy Spirit more and more? If staying filled with the Holy Spirit is pursued simply through the struggle with sin, then we fall right back into being under the law. The answer goes back to the teaching of Jesus about Lordship and discipleship. The answer lies in that debate between those who preach salvation by free-grace alone, and those who preach lordship salvation.
We stay filled with the Holy Spirit by the power of the cross. The power of the cross is being willing to deny self and take up our cross to follow Christ. In other words, our purpose is no longer motivated by self-interest. Our purpose in living is solely for Christ's kingdom. Thus, we are crucified with Christ. We become dead to sin and alive in Christ. We no longer live, but Christ lives in us.
This is not to say that Christ's Spirit is inside us. It's true that the Holy Spirit is in us. And in that respect, Christ's Spirit is in us. But that's not the point that is being made. It is no longer we who live, but Christ who lives in us (Galatians 2:20). This is simply a way of saying that our very purpose in living is not for self, but for Christ. As we live and work for Christ, doing Christ's righteous works, the Holy Spirit fills us. Over time, we become fully sanctified.
All sins have something to do with self. Lust is for self. Covetousness is for self. Profanity is for self. Anger is for self. Lying to benefit ourselves is for self. False witness is for self. When sin is gone, we love God and our neighbor in a way that self is no longer a part of the motivation for love. We are willing to die for Christ. This is denying self and taking up our cross to follow Christ. This makes the very purpose of our lives be solely for Christ and his kingdom. As all self-oriented motivations disappear, all sins disappear, because all sins are for self. So we become filled with the Holy Spirit all the time, and we completely overcome all sinful habits that are in our lives.
Under traditional Christian theology, election is equivalent to salvation. Therefore grace becomes equivalent to salvation. Only the elect receive God's grace. If you believe that salvation results in a single "decision for Christ," then it becomes natural to assume that you are constantly living under God's grace after that point of decision. But when salvation involves a journey of righteousness, and when it's recognized that grace means favor and not election, then grace can easily be seen as being favored by God to be filled with the Holy Spirit even if it's for a short period of time. This is much more in line with the Old Testament view of God's grace/favor.
In my opinion, the traditional Christian theologian completely misses the New Covenant aspect of Scripture. I think this comes about as a result of not really understanding the meaning of the law and grace. Law and grace are dogmatically seen as opposite. But in some respects, they are not opposite. Before the coming of the Holy Spirit, the overcoming of sin was mostly self-discipline and self-effort. That’s what Paul was talking about when he referred to being under the law and not grace. Being under grace is having help from the Holy Spirit to overcome sin. But both have the same goal. Both are to overcome sinful habits and thus be under God’s true law. Thus grace is not totally the opposite of law. But grace, driven in love for God and love for neighbors, is far more successful than self-effort. Yet even with grace, some amount of self-effort is needed. The Holy Spirit is a Helper. Helpers help. They don’t do it all for us. It’s a new Help that was not available before the New Covenant. Law and grace are not total opposites.
It really does come down to not knowing how to interpret the New Testament in the context of the Old Testament. And that dates back to at least the second century when the church deliberately tried to divorce themselves from the Old Testament. They interpreted the New Testament like a Greek because Pagan culture was their background.
Understanding of the Law is as follows:
Jesus said that not one iota of the Law will be abolished until all is accomplished and the heavens and earth pass away. That means the purpose of the Law continues through the millennium, and then its purpose is finished. Then Jesus goes on to say that anyone who teaches others to disobey any of the commandments will be least in the kingdom. Notice that the kingdom is being spoken of as being in the future. The misunderstood aspect is that you can’t have the law without a King and a Kingdom. Jesus fulfills the law by being the King of Israel. Israel is the Kingdom and Jesus is the King. That’s what was always missing from Israel - the Messiah - the King.
Before the Messiah came, Israel was only a promise (a shadow) of a holy nation. That’s why not all Israel is Israel. That’s why not all of Abraham’s children are Abraham’s descendants. The Law of Moses was a stand-in for that promise. The promise (covenant) of Abraham was for land and descendants. Land and descendants adds up to a kingdom. And Abraham was promised that this future kingdom will bless all the other nations.
Old Testament Israel was just a shadow (promise) of the true Israel with the true King. True Israel, the fulfillment of that promise, had to wait on the true King. And with Jesus as the King, certain rules and regulations of the kingdom can change or be abolished now that the King is present. The law does not change, but rules and regulations, that are no longer needed, can and will change. That’s true in every kingdom. And it matters not if some changes occur even to regulations that pre-dated Moses, such as dietary laws. The Law of Moses was simply a further revelation of what the promised Kingdom of Israel will be in the future. That revelation of a future theocracy did not start with Moses. It started with Abraham.
Understanding of Grace is as follows:
In order to have a kingdom that rules the world under a truly righteous King, you must have people in that kingdom who are truly righteous. From a practical sense, Jesus does not rule the world by himself. He must have firstfruits who will rule with Him. In order for that to happen, they must also become truly righteous and overcome all sinful habits. Otherwise, even with new rulers, the world of suffering would continue because all suffering is due to sin, and sinful rulers are the primary reason for all suffering in the world. This is especially true since the purpose of that rule is to bring the same level of righteousness to the nations. All the nations must eventually become perfect as the Father is perfect if they are to inherit eternal life. It’s all part of saving the world from sin and death.
Jesus died for the world, so that everyone is reconciled with God. But his death also brought the Helper (Holy Spirit) for those who believe in Christ personally. This was not possible before our sins were atoned for. The Helper helps us to overcome sinful habits. When God is in us, we cannot sin because God cannot sin. But when we decide to sin, the Helper backs off. However, because of the cross, because sins have been atoned for, the Helper can come back again and again as we seek forgiveness. Over time, with the Helper in us, we learn to completely overcome all our sinful habits. Thus, we become ready to reign with Christ in the kingdom (age) that is to come. This view of Grace is not only in harmony with the teaching of Jesus, it’s also in harmony with the teaching of Paul. And with God in us, we no longer need shadows of the kingdom.
When law and grace are misunderstood, when law and grace are considered to be complete opposites, some are going adopt misunderstood aspects of the law, and others are going to adopt misunderstood aspects of grace. Dispensationalists and especially hyper-dispensationalists tend to adopt a misunderstood aspects of grace. There are other groups who get into observing the Old Testament shadows and often become very legalistic. They adopt misunderstand aspects of the law.
Romans reads very differently, and is much easier to understand, when one understands that grace is not a constant state for the believer. The believer moves back and forth between being under the law and being under grace. We are under grace when our total purpose for living is to further the kingdom and to do the will of the Father. This only happens while we are filled with the Holy Spirit and thus cannot sin. When under the law we strive to obey God's law under our own efforts. Self-effort can lead to selfish motives, which is fundamental to sin. When under grace, we naturally obey the law because our total motivation is not self-oriented, and thus we cannot sin because all sin is about self. When we are under grace, our total purpose for living is to serve Christ and to do the will of the Father. When that is pure and originating from the Holy Spirit, there can be no sin.
In chapter 10 of this book, we covered beginning of Romans up to verse 2:16. Paul was talking about the Gentiles who are justified because they do God's good works, even though they don't know about the law. So now let's go through Romans 2-8, reading it from this perspective. We will pick back up with Romans 2:13, to get back into the context.
Romans 2:13-15 For it isn't the hearers of the law who are righteous before God, but the doers of the law will be justified (14) (for when Gentiles who don't have the law do by nature the things of the law, these, not having the law, are a law to themselves, (15) in that they show the work of the law written in their hearts, their conscience testifying with them, and their thoughts among themselves accusing or else excusing them)
Romans 2:28-29 For he is not a Jew who is one outwardly, neither is that circumcision which is outward in the flesh; (29) but he is a Jew who is one inwardly, and circumcision is that of the heart, in the spirit not in the letter; whose praise is not from men, but from God.
The law teaches us that stealing, adultery, and idol worship is sin. But those who simply learn the law without obeying the law are not justified by the law. And we must obey the law on the inside as well as the outside. Paul views circumcision as an outward sign. But he considers true circumcision as one who inwardly fulfills the law.
What is the distinction between outward and inward obedience to the law? Outward obedience is self-motivated. Outward obedience is to make others believe you obey the law, which becomes all about self. All sins are for self. So the outward obedience of the law actually cultivates sin, which is all about self-motivation.
But the true Jew, according to Paul, is one who obeys the law inwardly. Paul sees the Gentile who obeys the law as one who does so for righteous motivations, because they do so without having learned the law. They obey the law having no motivation for showing others out of pride that they are obeying the law. Their obedience to the law must be coming out of love, because they have not been taught the law. Gentiles who obey the law must be doing so out of true love for God and for their neighbors.
Thus having the law can be a curse that causes us to obey the law in order to show others, in a prideful way, that we are righteous. Obedience of the law becomes all about self, and so it becomes impossible to fully obey the law.
Romans 3:1-2 Then what advantage does the Jew have? Or what is the profit of circumcision? (2) Much in every way! Because first of all, they were entrusted with the oracles of God.
The law caused the Jews to become prideful as we strive to overcome sin in hopes that others will see us as righteous. And many Gentiles of that day were righteous because they had love but didn't have the law to become a stumbling block. Does this mean that God should have not given law to the Jews?
No, because God himself is righteous, and it's only right that the Jews were given God's words. God entrusted the Jews with the Scripture because ultimately we need God's word to become justified and forgiven of our sins. It's unfortunate that having God's word can lead to pride, and having God's word can lead to self-motivation, which is the very nature of sin. But that does not mean that God made a mistake, or that God himself is unrighteous. Without love and self-denial, God's word can be problematic. But even the Old Testament included the commands to love God and to love our neighbors. It's simply man's nature to sin which finds ways to distort God's message.
Christians today can have the exact same problem. We have the Scripture. Just like the Jews, we have God's word in the Scripture and we know what is good and what is evil. So we have the law. We go to church. We want others to believe that we are good Christians, and that we are not involved in the sins of the world, such as adultery and pornography. But inwardly we lust. That lust leads to pornography. And that pornography leads to sex outside of marriage and adultery. But outwardly we try to maintain the illusion of being a good Christian. We are caught in the same trap that the Jews had, because most Christians still live under the law instead of under grace. Most Christians, including many pastors, have not found the power of the cross.
Thus, we can be caught in the same trap that Paul taught about the law. The Jews thought they were righteous simply because they obeyed the rules on the outside, and were Abraham's descendants. Christians are in the same trap because they obey the rules on the outside, and have professed faith in Christ as Savior.
Matthew 23:25 ESV "Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you clean the outside of the cup and the plate, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence.
Romans 3:10-12 As it is written, "There is no one righteous; no, not one. (11) There is no one who understands. There is no one who seeks after God. (12) They have all turned aside. They have together become unprofitable. There is no one who does good, no, not, so much as one."
Paul says that nobody understands the real problem. Seeking righteousness is all about seeking God in selfless love. That alone brings God's peace, which even those who have the Scripture have not known. The true fear of God is a fear that forgets about self and seeks after God in humility. All attempts to overcome sin through self-effort is not the fear of what God might think. It's the fear of what others might think.
Romans 3:20-12 Because by the works of the law, no flesh will be justified in his sight. For through the law comes the knowledge of sin. (21) But now apart from the law, a righteousness of God has been revealed, being testified by the law and the prophets; (22) even the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ to all and on all those who believe. For there is no distinction, (23) for all have sinned, and fall short of the glory of God; (24) being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus; (25) whom God set forth to be an atoning sacrifice, through faith in his blood, for a demonstration of his righteousness through the passing over of prior sins, in God's forbearance; (26) to demonstrate his righteousness at this present time; that he might himself be just, and the justifier of him who has faith in Jesus.
No flesh is justified (declared righteous) by the works of the law. This is true because works of the law is self-righteousness. Therefore, we have a redemption that is in Christ Jesus. Redemption means to be made right with God.
Those who have faith in Christ are not only made justified. Faith in Christ credits us with righteousness. We are credited with righteousness because faith to be like Christ means faith to deny self and follow Christ's example. Christ's example was the denial of self and the love for the Father and others. As we follow Christ's example, we become like Christ. As we follow Christ's example, we forget about self without forgetting about God's will for us. We forget about self without forgetting about the law. God's law becomes fulfilled inside us, in our hearts, instead of outwardly.
Faith in the Creator can put one on the path of righteousness. But faith in the Creator can never bring complete righteousness. One needs faith in Jesus Christ, to become a true disciple of Jesus Christ, in order to complete the journey of righteousness. Only by completing the journey of righteousness can we inherit eternal life.
Romans 3:27-31 Where then is the boasting? It is excluded. By what manner of law? Of works? No, but by a law of faith. (28) We maintain therefore that a man is justified by faith apart from the works of the law. (29) Or is God the God of Jews only? Isn't he the God of Gentiles also? Yes, of Gentiles also, (30) since indeed there is one God who will justify the circumcised by faith, and the uncircumcised through faith. (31) Do we then nullify the law through faith? May it never be! No, we establish the law.
Under this system, there can be no boasting. We do not boast about our own holiness, because (1) that would be self-righteousness, and (2) we did nothing to gain that righteousness. All of our work is for God and for others, not for ourselves. So there is no boasting about ourselves. We are not saved by works. Everyone is already reconciled because Christ did all the work for everyone on the cross.
Not even my belief in Christ brings me salvation, because if it did, then I could boast about it. On the other hand, if someone seems to be on the path of forfeiting their own salvation, I don't boast that I haven't forfeited my own salvation. Instead I mourn their actions and I seek to turn them back to the path of righteousness in any way that I can.
We must have faith to continue believing that God will save us. We must have faith in God if we are going to overcome self and sin. It's faith in seeing God in the Creation, or in the Scripture. It's faith that causes us to love God and to love others. It's faith that causes us to want others to find God, just as we have found God. And it's faith that causes us to be obedient to God and to do God's works of righteousness because of that love.
Romans 4:1-5 What then will we say that Abraham, our forefather, has found according to the flesh? (2) For if Abraham was justified by works, he has something to boast about, but not toward God. (3) For what does the Scripture say? "Abraham believed God, and it was accounted [credited] to him for righteousness." (4) Now to him who works, the reward is not counted as grace, but as debt. (5) But to him who doesn't work, but believes in him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is accounted [credited] for righteousness.
Paul is saying works that are done not involving grace are all about debt. In other words, if a person is saying that the works make up for one's own short-comings, then they are paying a debt. Thus, it's all about making yourself righteous. But when you know your sins have been forgiven by faith, and thus you do works out of love, then your faith is credited as righteousness. In other words, you will become righteous because you have this faith. And that type of faith cannot be separated from doing the Father's works. These works are good works of righteousness. This faith is credited as righteousness because your sinful habits are overcome as you become consumed in your work for the Father.
Romans 4:10-12 How then was it counted? When he was in circumcision, or in uncircumcision? Not in circumcision, but in uncircumcision. (11) He received the sign of circumcision, a seal of the righteousness of the faith which he had while he was in uncircumcision, that he might be the father of all those who believe, though they be in uncircumcision, that righteousness might also be accounted to them. (12) The father of circumcision to those who not only are of the circumcision, but who also walk in the steps of that faith of our father Abraham, which he had in uncircumcision.
Then, Paul relates faith back to circumcision. Circumcision is about showing that you are righteous outwardly, in the flesh. Thus, circumcision is related to the law. Uncircumcision is about being righteous on the inside, in the Spirit. Paul argues that Abraham was justified before he was circumcised. Paul is saying this is grace, which is to live by faith. Abraham's justification was because of faith, acted out by the work of obeying God and leaving his home to go to the promised land.
Romans 4:13-18 For the promise to Abraham and to his seed that he should be heir of the world wasn't through the law, but through the righteousness of faith. (14) For if those who are of the law are heirs, faith is made void, and the promise is made of no effect. (15) For the law works wrath, for where there is no law, neither is there disobedience. (16) For this cause it is of faith, that it may be according to grace, to the end that the promise may be sure to all the seed, not to that only which is of the law, but to that also which is of the faith of Abraham, who is the father of us all. (17) As it is written, "I have made you a father of many nations." This is in the presence of him whom he believed: God, who gives life to the dead, and calls the things that are not, as though they were. (18) Who in hope believed against hope, to the end that he might become a father of many nations, according to that which had been spoken, "So will your seed be."
Abraham obeyed God because he loved God. It was not because of the Ten Commandments, which had not as yet been given. Obedience and love go hand-in-hand. We obey God, and do the things God wants us to do, because we love God. Abraham was not trying to show others that he was righteous. Abraham's actions were not self-motivated.
Over time, God revealed much of his planned purpose to Abraham, after he had demonstrated his faith by being obedient to what little God had revealed to him. Abraham was credited with righteousness as he demonstrated his faith. Likewise, the Gentiles can be credited with righteousness, apart from the law and apart from knowledge about Jesus Christ, by demonstrating their faith in what little they know about God. Such faith and obedience is entirely motivated by love, and not out of self-motivation.
As Abraham followed God's purpose for his life, God began to give Abraham an idea of God's far-reaching reasons for that purpose. Abraham was given a promise. God promised that his seed would be blessing to all the nations. That seed would someday rule the world and righteousness would be brought to all the nations through that seed. Of course that seed is Christ. But Abraham was given a task to perform. Abraham would become the father of many nations. Abraham continued to believe God and knew that God would work out his purposes in Abraham's life.
Romans 4:19-25 Without being weakened in faith, he didn't consider his own body, already having been worn out, (he being about a hundred years old), and the deadness of Sarah's womb. (20) Yet, looking to the promise of God, he didn't waver through unbelief, but grew strong through faith, giving glory to God, (21) and being fully assured that what he had promised, he was able also to perform. (22) Therefore it also was "reckoned to him for righteousness." (23) Now it was not written that it was accounted to him for his sake alone, (24) but for our sake also, to whom it will be accounted, who believe in him who raised Jesus, our Lord, from the dead, (25) who was delivered up for our trespasses, and was raised for our justification.
The need for faith cannot be understated. The Jews would have considered faith and works to go hand-in-hand. In the Greek, the word for "faith" also means "belief." You act upon that which you believe. If you believe in yourself, you will work for yourself. If you believe in God, you will work for God and for others. If you have faith in God, you will work for God and for others. If you have faith in yourself, you will work for yourself.
Jesus told us to watch for false prophets, and that we would know them by their fruit (Mat. 7:15-19). In other words, if you believe in God, having faith in God, your works will bring fruit that benefits the kingdom and others. But if you believe in yourself your works will benefit yourself. Then, Jesus goes on to say:
Matthew 7:20-22 Therefore, by their fruits you will know them. (21) Not everyone who says to me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter into the Kingdom of Heaven ; but he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. (22) Many will tell me in that day, 'Lord, Lord, didn't we prophesy in your name, in your name cast out demons, and in your name do many mighty works?'
Again, the false prophet is judged by his works. If his works produce fruit that benefits God, the kingdom, and righteousness in others, then it is good fruit. Jesus will say that he knows them when he returns. If the works of the prophet benefit themselves, as in works of the law instead of works of grace, then Jesus will say "I never knew you." They are like the foolish who build their houses on the sand. They work to build their houses that benefit themselves instead of working to build houses that benefit the kingdom and others.
Romans 5:1-11 Being therefore justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ; (2) through whom we also have our access by faith into this grace in which we stand. We rejoice in hope of the glory of God. (3) Not only this, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering works perseverance; (4) and perseverance, proven character; and proven character, hope: (5) and hope doesn't disappoint us, because God's love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us. (6) For while we were yet weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. (7) For one will hardly die for a righteous man. Yet perhaps for a righteous person someone would even dare to die. (8) But God commends his own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. (9) Much more then, being now justified by his blood, we will be saved from God's wrath through him. (10) For if, while we were enemies, we were reconciled to God through the death of his Son, much more, being reconciled, we will be saved by his life. (11) Not only so, but we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received the reconciliation.
Paul brings up three points here: (1) the peace of God, (2) rejoicing in suffering, and (3) the fact that we were reconciled with God while still enemies of God.
When do we have the peace of God? One person wrote me asking how they would know when they had overcome all their sinful habits. How do you know when you are ready for Christ to return? It's when the Holy Spirit gives you peace. It's entering God's rest. It's the Holy Spirit's work to help you overcome the sinful habits. Ask the Holy Spirit to not give you rest until all your sinful habits have been overcome. And always be open to the possibility that the Holy Spirit may show you something later on that was hidden from you in the past.
I never say that no sinful habits will crop up again. But I can and do have a peace that as far as I know, I'm ready for Christ to return. As long as you have peace from the Holy Spirit, you can be confident that you are ready for Christ to return. And you can be confident that the Holy Spirit will complete this work in your life as long as you truly seek God's rest through Jesus Christ.
Philippians 1:6 ESV And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.
Secondly, Paul says that we should rejoice in our sufferings. Our sufferings produces character. Paul received comfort from the Lord in his own suffering, because he knew that his own suffering lead to the comfort and salvation of others (2 Corinthians 1:3-10). In other words, our very purpose for living is not for our self, but for Christ. To that end, we will suffer. All of Christ's true disciples suffered. John was the only disciple who was not martyred. To be a disciple of Christ will generally lead to suffering. But it's through that suffering that God can bring maturity in us, even to the point of overcoming every sinful habit.
Then Paul talks about the suffering that Christ endured. Christ died for us on the cross. We must take up that cross and follow him.
Matthew 16:24-27 Then Jesus said to his disciples, "If anyone desires to come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me. (25) For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, and whoever will lose his life for my sake will find it. (26) For what will it profit a man, if he gains the whole world, and forfeits his life? Or what will a man give in exchange for his life? (27) For the Son of Man will come in the glory of his Father with his angels, and then he will render to everyone according to his deeds.
Thirdly, in verse 10, Paul makes an important point. "While we were enemies, we were reconciled to God through the death of his Son." We were reconciled with God before we became believers. And this was accomplished through the suffering of Christ. Therefore, our salvation began at the cross, before we were even born.
Over time, God reveals himself to us just as God revealed himself to Abraham. If we respond to that revelation with faith, it's credited to us as righteousness. When we become believers, God credits us with righteousness. Over time, we really do become righteous as all our sinful habits are overcome. But this must be a process through living a life that is solely for Christ. All motivations of self in our purpose, and in what we do, must disappear. All motivations must be to do the will of the Father.
Romans 5:12-16 Therefore, as sin entered into the world through one man, and death through sin; and so death passed to all men, because all sinned. (13) For until the law, sin was in the world; but sin is not charged when there is no law. (14) Nevertheless death reigned from Adam until Moses, even over those whose sins weren't like Adam's disobedience, who is a foreshadowing of him who was to come. (15) But the free gift isn't like the trespass. For if by the trespass of the onethe many died , much more did the grace of God, and the gift by the grace of the one man, Jesus Christ, abound to the many. (16) The gift is not as through one who sinned: for the judgment came by one to condemnation, but the free gift came of many trespasses to justification.
Paul has a much shorter version of this in 1 Corinthians 15, which is the chapter on the resurrection:
1 Corinthians 15:20-22 But now Christ has been raised from the dead. He became the first fruits of those who are asleep. (21) For since death came by man, the resurrection of the dead also came by man. (22) For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ all will be made alive .
Adam sinned, causing all his descendants to be under the bondage of sin. But Christ had no sin. Christ was raised from the dead. Because of this, all of Adam's descendants will be resurrected. Of course this excludes the exceptions of those who harden their hearts against Christ and forfeit their salvation. The world "all" means at least the high majority of all people who die because of Adam's sin will be resurrected. It's not just the believers who will be resurrected. And this is solely because of Christ's sacrifice and resurrection.
So now let's look at Paul's longer version of this doctrine at this place in Romans. Verse 12 states that all have sinned because of Adam's sin. Verse 13 says that sin was in the world, but sin was not charged against us until the law came through Moses. What does this mean? Before Moses, people knew about sin. The very sin of Adam gave Adam the knowledge of good and evil (Genesis 3:4-7). Nevertheless, even at that time, God had a plan to redeem man. In this same chapter of Genesis we have the first hint of that plan:
Genesis 3:15 I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring. He will bruise your head, and you will bruise his heel."
In other words, God planned on sending his Son to die in our place, and thus defeat Satan. The payment for all the world's sins was made so that all could be resurrected and given life again. But sins become habits. We were in bondage (slavery) to sin. Sinful habits must be overcome before we can finally be given eternal life. So God had to lay down the law. He did so through Moses. Before the law, men knew they were sinning. But all these sins are forgiven. With the introduction of the law, it became possible for men to refuse the law, and thus refuse God's plan of redemption.
When Moses first brought the Ten Commandments down from the mountain, many of the people of Israel, who had been given direct revelation about God, refused God's law and turned back to idol worship. They built the golden calf. For the first time, those who had sinned in this way were blotted from the book of life (resurrection) that God had written (Exodus 32:32).
Sin is not counted where there is no law. This is a direct connection back to chapter 2, especially verses 12-16, where Paul says, “When Gentiles who don't have the law do by nature the things of the law, these, not having the law, are a law to themselves.” In other words, Paul connects the fact of everyone being reconciled at the cross with the fact that faith in the Creation counts for salvation where further direct revelation from God has not been given. We are all saved by faith.
The last part of verse 14 says that Adam is a foreshadowing of him who was to come. The ESV says Adam was a "type" of him who was to come. As Paul said in his resurrection chapter, quoted earlier, "For in Adam all die, so also in Christ all will be made alive." Adam brought death to all. Christ brought the resurrection to all. But because of the law, and because of God's revelations of himself, it's possible for man to reject Christ's salvation just as Adam rejected God. And when this is done, it's impossible to come back into repentance because it would require the crucifixion of Christ all over again (Hebrews 6:4-6).
This is why Paul considers Christ to be the last Adam. "Thus it is written, The first man Adam became a living being; the last Adam became a life-giving spirit" (1 Corinthians 15:45). One man brought death to everybody. Another man brought the free gift of the resurrection to everybody.
Romans 5:17 - 6:3 (17) For if by the trespass of the one, death reigned through the one; so much more will those who receive the abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousnessreign in life through the one, Jesus Christ. (18) So then as through one trespass, all men were condemned; even so through one act of righteousness, all men were justified to life. (19) For as through the one man's disobediencemany were made sinners, even so through the obedience of the one, many will be made righteous. (20) The law came in besides, that the trespass might abound; but where sin abounded, grace abounded more exceedingly; (21) that as sin reigned in death, even so grace might reign through righteousness to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord . (1) What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound? (2) May it never be! We who died to sin, how could we live in it any longer? (3) Or don't you know that all we who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death?
What is the gift of righteousness (verse 17)? Does this righteousness mean sins are to be covered, overcome, or both? Is Paul saying that we could be living as we have always lived? Or is the free gift of righteousness spoken of in this verse, a gift wherein God works inside us to change us and overcome sin? Everyone received the gift of “justification to life” (verse 18), when Jesus died on the cross. The gift in verse 17 is another gift. This gift is one that “reigns in life,” according to verse 17. For those who trust in Jesus Christ, God gives us a special gift that brings about true changes in our lives. This is the process of sanctification, and we must work to not resist these changes in our lives. Eventually we will become mature in Christ through this gift. It’s the gift of the Holy Spirit.
What is the difference here between the free gift of righteousness (verse 17) and the “justification to life” for all men (verse 18)? In the case of the gift of justification, the gift is associated with “one act of righteousness.” That one act was Christ’s sacrifice on the cross. The death of Jesus on the cross, therefore, is reconciliation for all men so that everyone can be resurrected. Compare the “all” of verse 18 with the “many” of verse 19. This draws a clear distinction between the reconciliation for “all” men and the fact that “many” (but not all) will be made righteous. Being made righteous is the process of sanctification. Everybody was reconciled. However, not all who are reconciled will be entirely sanctified. Sanctification is the process of becoming righteous.
All men are reconciled. But not all men mature in Christ, allowing the Holy Spirit to work in their lives to overcome sin through Jesus Christ. Not all men learn to walk as Jesus walked (1 John 2:9).
Verse 21 says that "grace might reign through righteousness to eternal life." For grace to "reign" means it's an on-going process. And that process "might," or might not, be happening. If grace reigns, meaning it rules over our lives, then it leads to eternal life. But for grace to reign, we must forget about self and take up our cross and follow Christ. We must do the will of the Father.
Now look at chapter 6, verses 1 and 2. This verse says we have died to sin. If we have died to sin, can we still live in sin? Does this mean that we can no longer sin? If we have died to sin, we don’t sin. While grace reigns, we are not sinning. But then we can turn around and sin again because of its addictive nature. When we do, grace is no longer "reigning" (or ruling) over our lives. The Father is no longer ruling. We are ruling ourselves.
Paul says, "What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin, that grace my abound? May it never be!" Look at Paul's words this way: If we do continue in sin grace is not abounding. That's not the way you interpret the meaning of grace. We have died to sin. So we cannot sin. That's the true meaning of grace.
Romans 6:4-7 We were buried therefore with him through baptism to death, that just like Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we also might walk in newness of life. (5) For if we have become united with him in the likeness of his death, we will also be part of his resurrection; (6) knowing this, that our old man was crucified with him, that the body of sin might be done away with, so that we would no longer be in bondage to sin. (7) For he who has died has been freed from sin.
Being dead to sin (verse 11 below) is not sinning. Is Paul equating the resurrection body that we will receive with our not sinning now (verse 5)? Verse 6 says that sin in us, “might be brought to nothing.” This same verse speaks of the addictive nature of sin, which is slavery to sin. When there is continual sin, it’s because we are addicted to that sin. If one is addicted to a sinful habit, is he free from sin? Or is he a slave to that sin?
Romans 6:8-14 But if we died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him; (9) knowing that Christ, being raised from the dead, dies no more. Death no more has dominion over him! (10) For the death that he died, he died to sin one time; but the life that he lives, he lives to God. (11) Thus consider yourselves also to be dead to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus our Lord. (12) Therefore don't let sin reign in your mortal body, that you should obey it in its lusts. (13) Neither present your members to sin as instruments of unrighteousness, but present yourselves to God, as alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness to God. (14) For sin will not have dominion over you. For you are not under law, but under grace.
Like Christ, when we receive our spiritual bodies, death will no longer have dominion over us (verse 9). (Dominion means to have power over or rule over). What is the difference between considering ourselves dead to sin (verse 11), and continuing to sin just a little bit? If we are dead to sin, then we are “alive to God in Christ Jesus.”
What does Paul mean by sin not having dominion over us (verse 14)? Compare this with verse 9, where Paul tells us that death will not have dominion over us. The time when death will not have dominion over us waits for our spiritual bodies. However, does the time that sin will not have dominion over us wait for our spiritual bodies? No, because Paul says it’s because we are under grace and not the law (verse 14).
Why is this true, that being under grace but not under the law causes sin to not have dominion over us? In the context of these verses, does Paul mean that sin has a little dominion over us? No, Paul seems to be comparing the lack of dominion of sin right now with the lack of dominion of death in the future. The key to breaking the enslavement of sin, therefore, is in the difference between being under grace and being under the law.
If this is true, then one may ask, “Are not we all under grace today? Then why do Christians still sin?” Could it be that we are not always under grace? The two big differences between the Old Testament and the New Testament is the cross and Pentecost. The cross, however, was for people of all generations, even generations of the Old Testament.
Romans 6:15-23 What then? Shall we sin, because we are not under law, but under grace? May it never be! (16) Don't you know that to whom you present yourselves as servants to obedience, his servants you are whom you obey; whether of sin to death, or of obedience to righteousness? (17) But thanks be to God, that, whereas you were bondservants of sin, you became obedient from the heart to that form of teaching whereunto you were delivered. (18) Being made free from sin, you became bondservants of righteousness. (19) I speak in human terms because of the weakness of your flesh, for as you presented your members as servants to uncleanness and to wickedness upon wickedness, even so now present your members as servants to righteousness for sanctification. (20)For when you were servants of sin, you were free in regard to righteousness. (21) What fruit then did you have at that time in the things of which you are now ashamed? For the end of those things is death. (22) But now, being made free from sin, and having become servants of God, you have your fruit of sanctification, and the result of eternal life. (23) For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Can we sin while under grace? Yes, we can slide out of grace by sinning. But we do not have to choose sin. We no longer need to be a slave to sin. However, if we continue sinful habits, we continue to be slaves to the sin. Paul speaks very much in a black-and-white way. We are either slaves to sin, or we are slaves to righteousness. We cannot be slaves to both sin and righteousness. Being slaves to righteousness leads us to sanctification (verse 19).
What does Paul mean by "the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord?" (verse 23) I've been saying that we cannot inherit eternal life until we mature in Christ to the point where we no longer sin. Salvation and eternal life are both free gifts from God. But notice the context of the verse. We must be "slaves to righteousness for sanctification." In other words, we will receive the free gift from God as a result of our discipleship relationship with Christ Jesus. We cannot serve two masters. If we are still slaves to sin, then we are not in that discipleship relationship with Jesus Christ as Lord of our lives. Verse 22 says that because we are servants that our works, as servants, leads to sanctification. Then sanctification leads to eternal life. Verse 23 is usually quoted out of this context.
Romans 7:1-6 Or don't you know, brothers (for I speak to men who know the law), that the law has dominion over a man for as long as he lives? (2) For the woman that has a husband is bound by law to the husband while he lives, but if the husband dies, she is discharged from the law of the husband. (3) So then if, while the husband lives, she is joined to another man, she would be called an adulteress. But if the husband dies, she is free from the law, so that she is no adulteress, though she is joined to another man. (4) Therefore, my brothers, you also were made dead to the law through the body of Christ, that you would be joined to another, to him who was raised from the dead, that we might bring forth fruit to God. (5) For when we were in the flesh, the sinful passions which were through the law, worked in our members to bring forth fruit to death. (6) But now we have been discharged from the law, having died to that in which we were held; so that we serve in newness of the spirit, and not in oldness of the letter.
Paul uses the analogy of being married until death. Marriage is a covenant. We are married to the law (old covenant) until death. Christ had to die, and we die with Christ. With this death, we are released from our marriage to the law. When we give up our self, there is no longer a struggle between our desire to please ourselves and wanting to obey the law. God replaces this with desire to please Christ. And this can only happen when it’s not our self living, but Christ living in us. The Holy Spirit living in us is the same as Christ living in us.
But does this happen all at once? No, because we still have the free will to sin and temptations tend to draw us back to sin. Sin causes the Holy Spirit to back off. But He will come back when we repent. It is by God’s grace that He has given us the Holy Spirit. When we live dead to self and sin, it’s only by God’s grace. Our old selves are dead because Christ died. But we can still sin. Temptation awakens our old desires. Therefore, we go back and forth between being under the law, and being under grace. We must overcome sin by the power of God; by asking the Holy Spirit to come when temptations comes.
Romans 7:7-13 What shall we say then? Is the law sin? May it never be! However, I wouldn't have known sin, except through the law. For I wouldn't have known coveting, unless the law had said, "You shall not covet." (8) But sin, finding occasion through the commandment, produced in me all kinds of coveting. For apart from the law, sin is dead. (9) I was alive apart from the law once, but when the commandment came, sin revived, and I died. (10) The commandment, which was for life, this I found to be for death; (11) for sin, finding occasion through the commandment, deceived me, and through it killed me. (12) Therefore the law indeed is holy, and the commandment holy, and righteous, and good. (13) Did then that which is good become death to me? May it never be! But sin, that it might be shown to be sin, by working death to me through that which is good; that through the commandment sin might become exceeding sinful.
Notice that Paul is not just talking about God’s laws that were nailed to the cross. “You shall not covet” is one of the Ten Commandments. To covet is to desire things that others have in order to satisfy self. To covet does not consider the desires or even the needs of others. Under grace, we no longer covet because we are completely consumed with the desire to please Christ instead of ourselves.
We were sinning all along. The commandments showed the sin. But in the flesh, our attempts to overcome sin made sin even stronger. Apart from the Spirit, we can do nothing.
In the following verses, is Paul talking about his experiences under law or his experiences under grace?
Romans 7:14-23 For we know that the law is spiritual, but I am fleshly, sold under sin. (15) For I don't know what I am doing. For I don't practice what I desire to do; but what I hate, that I do. (16) But if what I don't desire, that I do, I consent to the law that it is good. (17) So now it is no more I that do it, but sin which dwells in me. (18) For I know that in me, that is, in my flesh, dwells no good thing. For desire is present with me, but I don't find it doing that which is good. (19) For the good which I desire, I don't do; but the evil which I don't desire, that I practice. (20) But if what I don't desire, that I do, it is no more I that do it, but sin which dwells in me. (21) I find then the law, that, to me, while I desire to do good, evil is present. (22) For I delight in God's law after the inward man, (23) but I see a different law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity under the law of sin which is in my members.
Is Paul talking about this struggle under the law, or under grace?
Paul says the law is spiritual. But we are of flesh. Notice verse 18, where Paul says that he has the desire to do good (under the flesh) but does not have the ability to carry it out. The Holy Spirit is required to change our nature, so that our desire is to please Christ instead of ourselves.
These verses are often taken out of context, under Reformed theology, to say that we cannot overcome sin, even under grace. When you consider the overall context, Paul is taking about the struggle to live under grace instead of trying to overcome sin in our own power, which is to live under the law. It’s a comparison and contrast between the two. These verses describe Paul’s experiences at struggling with sin without relying on grace. These verses are about living under the law. These verses should not be used to say that it’s impossible to live without sin under grace. Doing so is taking them out of context.
Romans 7:24-25 What a wretched man I am! Who will deliver me out of the body of this death? (25) I thank God through Jesus Christ, our Lord! So then with the mind, I myself serve God's law, but with the flesh, the sin's law. (1) There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who don't walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit. (2) For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus made me free from the law of sin and of death. (3) For what the law couldn't do, in that it was weak through the flesh, God did, sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh; (4) that the ordinance of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.
Those who do not walk after the flesh do not sin. Thus, if you continue to sin, you are not in Christ Jesus.
Romans 8:1-4 There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who don't walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit. (2) For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus made me free from the law of sin and of death. (3) For what the law couldn't do, in that it was weak through the flesh, God did, sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh; (4) that the ordinance of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.
Therefore, there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. Being in Christ Jesus is the same as being filled with the Spirit.
Romans 8:5-14 For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit, the things of the Spirit. (6) For the mind of the flesh is death, but the mind of the Spirit is life and peace; (7) because the mind of the flesh is hostile towards God; for it is not subject to God's law, neither indeed can it be. (8) Those who are in the flesh can't please God. (9) But you are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if it is so that the Spirit of God dwells in you. But if any man doesn't have the Spirit of Christ, he is not his. (10) If Christ is in you, the body is dead because of sin, but the spirit is alive because of righteousness. (11) But if the Spirit of him who raised up Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised up Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit who dwells in you. (12) So then, brothers, we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live after the flesh. (13) For if you live after the flesh, you must die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live. (14) For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, these are children of God.
Only those who are led by the Holy Spirit are to be sons of God. We can be considered sons of God now. But the reality is when we receive our spiritual bodies. Then we will be literally “born again,” by the Holy Spirit, into spiritual bodies.
Romans 8:15-18 For you didn't receive the spirit of bondage again to fear, but you received the Spirit of adoption, by whom we cry, "Abba! Father!" (16) The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are children of God; (17) and if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint heirs with Christ; if indeed we suffer with him, that we may also be glorified with him. (18) For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which will be revealed toward us.
The Holy Spirit in us bears witness (shows us) that we are being led by the Spirit.
We are not promised good times as we follow the Holy Spirit. On the contrary, we are fellow heirs with Christ provided that we suffer with Christ. This leads to our being glorified with Christ. That is to say, our suffering leads to sanctification, which leads to glorification, the receiving of our spiritual bodies like Christ.
We are heirs of God. This is the same as being heirs of God’s promises to Abraham, because in Galatians 3:16-18, Paul explains that the promises given to Abraham were given to Christ, the one seed, as well as all who are in Christ.
Galatians 3:16-18 Now the promises were spoken to Abraham and to his seed. He doesn't say, "To seeds," as of many, but as of one, "To your seed," which is Christ. (17) Now I say this. A covenant confirmed beforehand by God in Christ, the law, which came four hundred thirty years after, does not annul, so as to make the promise of no effect. (18) For if the inheritance is of the law, it is no more of promise; but God has granted it to Abraham by promise.
Romans 8:19-25 For the creation waits with eager expectation for the children of God to be revealed. (20) For the creation was subjected to vanity, not of its own will, but because of him who subjected it, in hope (21) that the creation itself also will be delivered from the bondage of decay into the liberty of the glory of the children of God. (22) For we know that the whole creation groans and travails in pain together until now. (23) Not only so, but ourselves also, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting for adoption, the redemption of our body. (24) For we were saved in hope, but hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for that which he sees? (25) But if we hope for that which we don't see, we wait for it with patience.
The symbol of the pains of childbirth comes from the metaphor of the pregnant woman, about to give birth. This metaphor is used throughout Scripture in reference to the resurrection.
We wait for the adoption as sons. In other words, we consider ourselves as sons of God. But it’s literally fulfilled at the resurrection.
Romans 8:26-28 In the same way, the Spirit also helps our weaknesses, for we don't know how to pray as we ought. But the Spirit himself makes intercession for us with groanings which can't be uttered. (27) He who searches the hearts knows what is on the Spirit's mind, because he makes intercession for the saints according to God. (28) We know that all things work together for good for those who love God, to those who are called according to his purpose.
All things work for the good of those who are called according to His purpose. This does not mean that we won’t suffer. As it said in verses 15-19, we will suffer with Christ. But this suffering, if nothing else, leads us to righteousness.
Romans 8:29-30 For whom he foreknew, he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. (30) Whom he predestined, those he also called. Whom he called, those he also justified. Whom he justified, those he also glorified.
Notice the progression of sanctification. The glorification is in the future, when we will receive our gloried bodies. This is an example of the use of past-tense verbs for unquestionable future-tense events. This practice comes from thinking in Hebrew.
Romans 8:31-39 What then shall we say about these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? (32) He who didn't spare his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, how would he not also with him freely give us all things? (33) Who could bring a charge against God's chosen ones? It is God who justifies. (34) Who is he who condemns? It is Christ who died, yes rather, who was raised from the dead, who is at the right hand of God, who also makes intercession for us. (35) Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Could oppression, or anguish, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? (36) Even as it is written, "For your sake we are killed all day long. We were accounted as sheep for the slaughter." (37) No, in all these things, we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. (38) For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, (39) nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Are “all things” material things or spiritual things? When it says that God will give us all things, does that mean now? Or does it mean when we are glorified? What does Paul mean by “more than conquerors? What do we conquer? If we overcome (conquer) sin, then giving us “all things”, would be more along the lines of spiritual things. Under grace, we more than conquer sin and death.
Salvation is a free gift. But inheriting the Kingdom requires lots of work. Solving the friction between grace and holiness verses. This historically included the friction between the Wesleyan view of "complete sanctification," "the second blessing," and "Christian perfection," against the older Whitefield and Reformed positions that perfection cannot be obtained this side of the grave. Solved by applying Old Testament Jewish eschatology to the New Testament Church.