What then are we to say? Should we continue in sin in order that grace may abound? By no means! How can we who died to sin go on living in it? Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? Therefore we have been buried with him by baptism into death, so that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life.
For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we will certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his. We know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body of sin might be destroyed, and we might no longer be enslaved to sin. For whoever has died is freed from sin. But if we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. We know that Christ, being raised from the dead, will never die again; death no longer has dominion over him. The death he died, he died to sin, once for all; but the life he lives, he lives to God. So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus.
Therefore, do not let sin exercise dominion in your mortal bodies, to make you obey their passions. No longer present your members to sin as instruments of wickedness, but present yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life, and present your members to God as instruments of righteousness. For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace.
The Greek phrase translated here as “By no means” has, in my opinion rather more force than the translation gives it. It means “ No way! Not ever! “ It has the force of “ How could you ever think that?!” Indeed that is the vein in which Paul carries on his thoughts here. Here is complex theology, truly Paul, condensing many deep and difficult thoughts into a few sentences. He is countering those in the church who are saying “ Well then, if God’s loves us we can behave as we like – it won’t matter! Indeed when we behave badly, it will show God’s grace more fully”. Of course we never think like that.. or do we? Do we ever think “ It won’t matter if I just do this or that God will forgive me?” Sometimes I see behaviour in our churches that makes me wonder if some brothers and sisters even think at all about their behaviour. And what about those wrong things I keep doing? Paul, here, is lifting our thinking higher. He recounts all that God in Christ has done for us and he recounts our baptism too. In his usual logical style he goes on to say that for a Christian to keep on sinning wilfully makes no sense whatsoever. In doing as we please we are living in denial of God’s grace, not promoting it. Instead, let us allow God’s love to be our motive to better being and doing. Let us desire with all our hearts to please God who loves us, precisely because God loves us. And we know that for sure because of Jesus who is the Christ. We are set free, not to sin but to love and do good!
Holy God, have mercy on us when our thinking about you and ourselves gets screwed up. Thank you for reminding us of the lengths you have gone to for us and for your world. May we always show your love in our lives. May we always treat one another with deep respect and care. Forgive us the times when we have failed. In the name of our saviour Jesus. Amen.
The Rev’d Peter Meek, East Midlands Synod Moderator.