Monday, January 3, 2011

In Search Of Truth, Romans 5:20-6:7

In previous verses, Paul compared the effect of Adam's sin on humanity to the effect of Christ's sacrifice on humanity. The perfect life that Christ lived was offered in payment for our sins. Those who trust in Christ for this are made righteous in the eyes of God. They are considered by him to have met his perfect standard in every way.

This leaves a question hanging in the air. If trusting in Christ makes us righteous in the eyes of God, then what in the world were all of the laws in the Old Testament for? Paul seems to anticipate this question as he continues his letter.

The Law was given to humanity, not to make us good people, but to make it more obvious that we are not. The Law actually makes our sin problem worse! We tend to be more tempted to do things that we are told are wrong, and the Law told us what was wrong. Sin is also more rebellious and evil when it is done knowingly, rather than out of ignorance. The Law made it clear what actions and thoughts displeased God. Even with this knowledge, we knowingly rebel against him. The Law has never been a method for making us better people.

Thankfully, to the degree that the Law made our sin problem worse, God extended grace (undeserved favor) to us in order to rescue us from the physical and eternal death that sin results in. By contrast, God's favor takes a hold of our lives in the form of the righteousness we are given because of Christ's sacrifice. Through Jesus, believers are able to have eternal, immensely fulfilling life. (v. 20-21)

This "get out of jail free card" makes some people uncomfortable. They see it as having great potential for abuse and so begin to emphasize or create rules that wrongfully add to God's plan to "justify" us (clean our "slate"). But God himself addressed this issue through Paul's writing.

Even though our sin showcases God's grace, that doesn't mean we should sin more in order to "give God glory". (A pretty ridiculous idea, but you can bet somebody would have tried this one if Paul hadn't said something.) (6:1)

Paul says that we as believers have "died to sin", and so shouldn't live in sinful patterns anymore. (6:2) Believers have been "baptized" into Jesus and his death.(6:3) The Greek word for "baptized" here is used in its most general sense, which means "to be identified with". Just as we are identified with Christ's righteousness when we trust in him, we are also identified with his death. When someone chooses to trust in Christ, they "die" and are "buried" in that moment as far as God is concerned, just like Christ died and was buried. And just like Christ was raised from the dead in a way that pointed to God's character and power, believers are raised out of the death of their old life and given new lives that serve as examples of God's power and love. (6:4)

Paul says that if we have become united with Christ in his death, we will reflect his resurrection through the new lives we live, understanding that the life we had without him is dead and gone and we are not slaves to our sin habits anymore because we have been made righteous before God. (6:5-7)

Genuine faith brings about genuine change. The Bible never gives us a "checklist" of changes that indicate when faith is genuine. So we shouldn't assume we can tell who is truly justified and who isn't. But if we don't see any change whatsoever in our own lives over an extended period of time, it may be good to self-evaluate the nature of our faith.

Next Week- What our new life means for the way we live.

Coffee House Question- Why is it hard for us to trust that we can't "earn" our justification? How might trust in our free justification bring about change in our lives that reflect God's character?

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