Romans 6:1-2 –“Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase? By no means! We are those who have died to sin; how can we live in it any longer?”
Sometimes we may hear that “freedom in Christ” means we are free from specific ceremonial practices of the Mosaic Law; that is, we don’t have to keep the rituals to be connected to God. However, real Christian freedom is more than just freedom from laws. It is freedom to choose life; freedom from fear, guilt and condemnation when we make a wrong choice; freedom to choose love.
By nature, we are not free. We are slaves to the law of sin and death (see Romans 7:14 – 15; 8:1 – 2). As long as we are under the law, we will fail—as much as we try not to and as good as our intentions may be.
If we trust Christ as our Savior, we are out from under the law of condemnation. When God looks at us, he sees the righteousness of Jesus (see 2 Corinthians 5:21). Legally, we are not guilty (see Romans 8:1). Through God’s grace, the consequence of sin for the Christian is never condemnation or punishment from God. Yet many of us have a hard time believing that grace is free and complete and we can’t do anything to add to it in any way (see Ephesians 2:8–9). We just cannot believe that God accepts us even in our failures.
Under the Law
In God’s grace, the law is intended to be a standard by which to evaluate ourselves. It helps us to see where we need to change. There are at least five major consequences when we put ourselves under the law:
- Wrath. God is angry at offenses against him; it is part of his legal system, the law. That is why we need Jesus, the one who takes his wrath away (see Romans 4:15). But if we put ourselves under the law, we will be angry at God and ourselves.
Condemnation. We feel guilty and condemned if we do not do what we should. Yet we have been cleansed “once for all by [Christ’s] own blood” (Hebrews 9:12).
- Separation from love. If we feel unloved when we do not do as we should, we are still under the law. God loved us while we were his “enemies” (Romans 5:10), before we were interested in doing as we should. Nothing we do can separate us from the love of Christ (see Romans 8:35 – 39). If we feel separated from God after trusting Jesus, we have put our selves back under the law.
- Sin increases. If we feel we should do certain things because punishment awaits us if we don’t, we have not “died to the law” (Romans 7:4)—and the law will have power over us. “The law was brought in so that the trespass might increase” (Romans 5:20). In other words, the very method by which we are trying to change will produce failure. The more condemning voices we have inside, the harder it is to change a problem. Ask any addict.
- No benefit. Whenever we do something because we feel we should or because we think we have to, it is of no benefit because our motivation is not love (see 1 Corinthians 13:1 – 3; 2 Corinthians 9:7). Only when we are free can we love freely.
A Life of Freedom If we are not condemned for what we do or who we are, why not do whatever we want to do? “Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase? By no means! We are those who have died to sin; how can we live in it any longer?” (Romans 6:1 – 2).
The Bible’s response to total freedom is a refusal to continue to live in destructive ways (see Romans 6:1 – 4). “By dying to what once bound us, we have been released from the law” and can now live “in the new way of the Spirit” (Romans 7:6). The Bible teaches that there are two paths — one that works and one that doesn’t. Both are reality: “The mind governed by the flesh is death, but the mind governed by the Spirit is life and peace” (Romans 8:6).
In salvation, we are reconciled to God through Christ (see Romans 5:10; 2 Corinthians 5:18 – 21). We are free to love and choose healthy ways of living. We do not have to love God or anyone else (see Joshua 24:15). But by looking in the mirror of God’s law, we realize that if we do not choose love, our lives will be empty. We begin to see that a life without fulfilling relationships has little meaning or fulfillment.
In relation to others, when we love them we give them total freedom as God gives us. We accept others, “just as Christ accepted [us]” (Romans 15:7). When they fail to love us or choose not to love us, we do not withdraw our love from them. We may confront them or express our sadness about their choice, but we do not condemn them.
And when we fail, we own our failure. With grace, we do not need to be defensive, for we are not condemned. Guilt says, “I should be different and if I’m not, then I’m bad,” so we get defensive. Grace says, “I see the standard and I’m not measuring up. I need help and love to change so that I can live.” We begin to seek God’s help to change. In a phrase, we “hunger and thirst for righteousness” (Matthew 5:6).