I cannot remember exactly when I realized as a kid that every movie I watched followed the same general script, but I distinctly remember thinking, what if they made a movie where the ending was the bad guy winning, the hero dying, chaos abounding, and then cut to the end-credits? Something in me knew I would not like it! I would feel unsettled, cheated, and frustrated. Turns out I was right, thank you Avengers: Infinity War. It’s no wonder we love a happy ending. We want to see good triumph over evil - right?
After digging into Romans chapters 5-7 this past week, I am not sure. In chapter five, we see Paul explaining that the war we have been in with God is over - He won, which seems like the happy ending until we stop and realize we are not the story’s hero. God’s victory is accomplished not by killing us but by dying for us. The hero dies for the villain.
Rarely will someone choose to die for an unrighteous person; I know I would struggle to make that choice. Yet Jesus did so while we were still sinners. His love for us was greater than our transgressions against Him.
Chapter 5 also tells us that we are offered peace through His death. The Greek word for peace (irene) used in this passage means binding together what had been separated. His death mends the separation caused by sin.
The reign of sin is over. Hallelujah, we are now in the era of GRACE! The can’t earn it, don’t deserve it, gift of grace. Paul is trying to encourage the people of Rome that this news is so good, and yet he knows that those who have been a slave to the law will not understand. He knew they would have questions, so he addressed them.
Romans 6:15 ESV
“Are we to sin because we are not under law but under grace?”
Meaning, if grace rules, how do we make sure people don’t sin?
Well, if keeping sin illegal could have created perfect people, Jesus’s sacrifice would not have been necessary. Yet, we have nearly 1,600 years of old testament history that prove that a set of rules will not change the hearts of humanity. There is not a code of ethics out there that could reconcile people to a holy God. On our own, even with a perfect prescription, we cannot be healed without death.
Romans 6:1 ESV
“Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound?”
Meaning, if we have grace, why can’t we live in sin so grace can be glorified?
That is called cheap grace. I don’t know about you, but the grace I received was too expensive to trample on. We are to respect and honor it. We avoid sin because the cost to us is too great, and the price paid for us was too high to prefer sin. We honor grace through sanctification, which is a translation of the Greek word hagiasmos meaning “holiness” or “a separation” from sin.
Christians obey from the heart. When we choose death over life through sin, we aren’t just rebelling against God; we are rebelling against our own choice to surrender. We are, as Paul says, doing the very thing we claim to hate.
In the same way grace was born through the death of Christ, it is also born unto us with the death of our former self. God never lowered the standard for eternity. Instead, he raised the dead. He raised Jesus from the dead, and through Him, we are also raised.
Instead of focusing on condemning the sinners, we are to focus instead on raising the dead among us through expensive, unmerited, and lavish grace. When we remember that we received that same level of grace, it is easier to desire the same for others. Only those fooled by pride think they deserve grace more than their neighbor.
Finally, Paul addresses those who would struggle to let go of the comfort and control offered by the law. “What shall we say, then? Is the law sinful?” Romans 7:7 ESV
In the rest of that verse, he tells them, “By no means! If it had not been for the law, I would have not known sin.”
The law is like a watch. It doesn’t make us late, it just tells us when we are late. Much like you can’t cure a disease with a lab test, you must heal illness with treatment; the law itself is not sinful, it just isn’t a means to salvation. The law highlights our need for a Savior and justifies the punishment set forth - death.
The good news is that for those of us who have found our hope in Jesus, we get to exchange our death for His. We don’t have to earn salvation through works and being a slave to the law; that’s a trade, not a gift. He paid the heavy price so that we may live with Him!