What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound?…
1. What shall we say then? Say to what? To the great affirmation that man is justified freely by God's grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus. Shall it be this: Let us persist in sin that grace may multiply? How sharply Paul turns upon the immoral suggestion! It is a corruption not to be endured.
2. But why did the apostle submit a conclusion like that to his readers? He knew that his doctrine did not contain it, but he knew that a corrupt human heart and a perverted understanding could put it in. That the conclusion, or its equivalent, has been asserted, and that often, where if submitted as a proposition it would be rejected with loathing, it is not without a subtle influence, is matter of observation.
I. THERE ARE THOSE WHO THINK THAT IT IS POSSIBLE TO CONTINUE IN SIN AND BE SAVED.
1. How often one is forced to notice that men may combine a love of evangelical doctrine with love of money and a shrewdness that makes men who are not evangelical shrug their shoulders. We have known men, great wrestlers in prayer, whose lives, and the whisperings of whose doings, have made us ashamed. Moral confusion is at the bottom of these inconsistencies. Our evangelical doctrines are not to blame. The fault and the failure is in those who profess them while only half-perceiving them, and ignore their moral issues.
2. Paul shows us that grace comprises not only a gracious act of pardon done by God in the believer's interest, but also an active principle of sanctification in the believer's soul. The abounding of grace is only manifested in the breaking of sin's power and the destruction of sin's principle. Grace is the enemy of sin, not its covering. He who is saved by grace is not a leper clad in white raiment, but a leper healed. Grace is not beauty thrown over the deformity of some foul sickness; it is health. It is life counter-working death, and no man can continue in sin and yet be saved by grace.
3. But still, Is not grace a gift? Certainly. But God gives life. Yet life is not something external to the creature to whom it is given. It is not like a string of beads round the neck or a ring on the finger. The gift of life to a dead stick after that manner would leave it a dead stick still. Hear a parable. Early one summer morning I came upon an orchard. The trees were beautiful, and fruit was abundant. I wandered on until I came upon a tree having neither bloom nor fruit. I said, "You poor, lost tree, what can you be doing here? I marvel you are not removed." Upon which this tree replied, tartly, "You are in a great mistake. I am neither poor nor lost." "Well," I said, "you have neither leaves nor fruit, and, I should judge, no sap." "What has that to do with it?" it broke out. "You seem not to know that a great saviour of trees has been down here, and I have believed his gospel, and am saved by grace. I have accepted salvation as a free gift, and, though I have neither leaves nor fruit, I am saved all the same." I looked at it with pity and said, "You are a poor deluded tree; you are not saved at all. You are dead and good-for-nothing, despite all your talk about grace and redemption. Life, that is salvation. When I see you laden with fruit, I shall say, 'Ah! that poor tree is saved at last; it has received the gospel and is saved by grace.'" As I turned away, I heard it saying, "You are not sound; you do not understand the gospel." And I thought, so it is, as with trees so with men.
II. ANOTHER FORM OF THIS ANTINOMIANISM OF THE HEART CONNECTS ITSELF IMMEDIATELY WITH THE DEATH OF CHRIST. Men talk and act frequently as if in Christ's shed blood there was a shelter from the consequence of their sins, even though they remain in their sins. They harbour covetousness, envy, hate, and pride; they stain their hands with dishonesty, and then, with their stained hands uplifted in the face of God, aver that they believe in the death of Christ for their sins, and are saved. This is not the gospel Paul preached. He asks, "How shall we who died to sin live any longer therein?" He who has by faith appropriated the expiatory death of Jesus, in and by that act died to sin. In the apostle's day, baptism was the open signification of the death. It was as the burial of one who had died. It would be a new thing to see a dead man going on as if nothing had happened. So the saved man does not persevere in sin; how should he? He has died to it. Sin has no further claim. Who can claim anything of the dead? He is not sinless. Sin, alas! is not dead, but lie is dead to it. He has not got beyond its trouble, but he has got beyond its bondage. Faith in Christ's death as our means of pardon, includes also His life as the principle of our sanctification. As one delightfully said, "The Cross condemns me to be holy."
Parallel VersesKJV: What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound?