“What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound? God forbid. How shall we, that are dead to sin, live any longer therein? Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into his death?” (Romans 6:1-3)
If you’ve never been accused of preaching license, then, chances are, you’ve never preached grace. As the first century’s foremost preacher of grace, the Apostle Paul knew the inevitability of being accused by his detractors of preaching license. Thus, in Romans 6:1-3, he preemptively answers this inevitable accusation by explaining to his accusers that grace is not manifested in the lives of its recipients by their continuance in sin, but by their death to sin.
According to the Apostle Paul, it is only those who have identified with Christ in His death, burial and resurrection who are recipients of God’s grace. Furthermore, it is this identification with the Savior that is symbolized by believer’s baptism. As Christ died for us, we’ve died for and with Christ. We’ve died to our old man, our old life and our old ways. We’ve died to Satan, sin and self. Consequently, we’ve been raised with Christ into newness of life. No longer enslaved by our former taskmasters, we are now free to live a new life of service to Christ, with whom we’ve identified and by whom we’ve been sanctified.
It is impossible to remain in the gutter of sin after grace has snatched us out. While our rescue by grace is totally unmerited, it is not inconsequential. Once captured as its trophy, grace shines us up for God’s glory. Since salvation by grace is a miraculous work of God, it is impossible for us to “continue in sin”; that is, to live out our lives as though nothing phenomenal has occurred. As His handiwork, the fingerprints of God are all over those saved by His grace.
Where God’s fingerprints are not found, His work has not occurred. Anyone failing to exhibit evidence of God’s amazing handiwork cannot possibly have experienced God’s amazing grace. Once God’s grace has brought about your death to sin, you cannot “live any longer therein.” So you see, grace doesn’t provide us with a license to practice sin, as some erroneously conclude, but it actually liberates us from the power of sin, as the Bible clearly teaches.
“Grace is not simply leniency when we have sinned. Grace is the enabling gift of God not to sin. Grace is power, not just pardon.” (John Piper)