In my wallet I possess a driver's license. That license is issued by the state in which I live to indicate my competency to drive a motor vehicle. Even though I have a driver's license, it doesn't mean I can drive anyway I please. If I were to be pulled over by a police officer for speeding - that officer would ask for my license and registration. Now it would be absurd for me to say to that officer: "Mr. Officer, as you can see, I have a driver's license here. I'm not sure what the problem is, since this license gives me the freedom to drive anyway I want". I'm sure that officer would remind me that the license does issue its holder freedom - the freedom to drive lawfully.
Do you realize that the Christian has been issued a license that gives them the freedom to live for God? Romans 3:21-5:12 deals with Paul's treatment on justification by faith alone. Throughout history, critics of justification by faith have accused proponents of giving Christians the "license to sin". Put plainly, they claim that since God justifies the sinner at salvation, all sins are paid for and thus - the Christian is free to live anyway they please. This gross error is what theologians call "antinomianism" - meaning "without law" or "without morals".
The error of antinominianism is in that it not only perverts the Law of God - but more so the grace of God. The Gospel proclaims we are saved by grace through faith alone apart from the law to a Christian life that is not lawless. In Romans 6:1-3 we are being introduced to the license or freedom the Christian has in Christ - the license not to sin. Three questions are raised by Paul to begin his formal treatment of sanctification. To grasp the fact that Christians have the freedom to live for God or the license not to sin, we can summarize the three questions as follows:
1. Do I have the right to sin? No
Romans 6:1 "What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin so that grace may increase? 2 May it never be!" When one becomes a Christian, they are brought into a new life, united to Christ, with new rights. We have the right to live for God. The right to love God. The right to hate sin. Whenever we compare those rights to the one right don't have - the right to sin, we discover that in all reality, nothing is lost. Whenever you think about it, a "right" in the moral and spiritual sense is something granted by God. The sinner's claim on having the "right to sin" is a deception of the fallen nature. So, the Christian has the license to live for God and does not have the right to sin.
2. Do I have to sin? No
Romans 6:2b "How shall we who died to sin still live in it?" This second question deals with the issue of no longer having the necessity to sin. Before Christ, the sinner could say: "I couldn't help my self" because they not only sinner out of willingness, but also necessity. Necessity has to do with the overall disposition of one's moral and spiritual nature.
What happens when the nature is changed to a new one in Christ? The human will now has options! Fallen man's freedom of the will is limited to only doing what pleases himself. He is free to whatever he wants and yet, no matter how religious or moral he may be, unless the Holy Spirit is acting upon and in the heart - that person will refuse God 100% of the time. At saving faith, the will is "freed" to do the one thing it refused to do - truly and freely love God.
In post-conversion, Christians will still sin - however, the Christian cannot claim they "had to sin", since the necessity to sin is removed. Even though I may sin post-conversion, I don't have to. One's growth in sanctification ought to see a lessening frequency and severity of sins relative to what they would had been pre-conversion.
3. Can I have victory over sins? Yes
Romans 6:3 "Or do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus have been baptized into His death?" Let us suppose one has a dead mouse in a mouse trap. If you were to put a piece of cheese up to his nose - would he grab for it? Clearly not. Why? The mouse is "dead". No amount cheese, even the finest cut, will entice a dead mouse. Paul describes the Christian's relationship to the power of sin as being "dead". By one's union in Christ - sin - in effect - is "dead to them". This is Paul's way of saying that in Christ, grounds is given to the Christian to have victory. Victory over particular sins requires a daily giving of oneself to God's Word, pray and putting on the shield of faith (see Ephesians 6:1-11). Our flesh may very well "flare-up" in such instances - since the "power of sin" is cancelled in sanctification - rather than the presence thereof.
We must remember that in justification - the penalty of sin is removed. In sanctification - the power of sin is removed. Only when I am in heaven with Jesus - or glorification - will the presence of sin be removed. With that distinction made, since my relationship with Christ is defined - that means my relationship to sin ought to change. The more I grow deeper in love with Jesus, the higher will be my hatred of sin. In sanctification - I am becoming in experience whom God declared me to be by position in justification.
Today we considered how Christians possess a "license not to sin" or, stated positively - "license to live for God". We explored this truth by way of the three questions raised by Paul in Romans 6:1-3, and phrased them as follows:
1. Does the Christian have the right to sin? No
2. Does the Christian have to sin? No
3. Can the Christian have victory over sins? Yes
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