Romans 6:14. For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace.
Searching for something to be grateful for today? How about this: you are not under law but under grace?
Romans 6 is a chapter all about our relationship to sin. Do you remember the question we started with? “Are we to continue in sin so that grace may abound?” And then of course Paul begins to explain to us how our union with Christ unites us to his death to sin and his resurrection to God.
We must KNOW that we are dead to sin, we must CONSIDER ourselves dead to sin and alive to God, and we must PRESENT ourselves to God for righteousness.
In the first 13 verses of chapter 6 there is no mention of the law. Which we might consider strange. Isn’t the law how we overcome sin? Doesn’t law show us what is right and how to be good?
But what’s even stranger (actually extremely controversial) is Paul’s statement here in Romans 6:14. He says that sin won’t rule over us BECAUSE we are not under law. In other words law causes sin.
And that teaching is what made many Jews want to kill Paul. And that phrase is what makes many Christians today shake their heads and try to explain it away – “Paul doesn’t mean the moral law, only the civil laws and ceremonial laws,” they say. “There can’t be too much talk about grace or Christians will just sin all the time.”
But actually Paul isn’t even talking here about the Jewish Law (Old Testament or 10 Commandments). He’s talking about law as a principle. Any law. Jewish laws or Greek laws, or church laws, or social laws, or American laws, or Thanksgiving laws, or family laws, or work laws. Law is all around us. And they all reveal sin at best and increase sin at worst.
Law says if you do your duty you will receive reward or blessing. Be better. Do more. Earn. Compare. Cook the best turkey. Have the nicest table setting. Buy the best gifts. Be related to Pilgrims. Please your family. Be nice. Be thankful…more thankful. More giving. More helpful. Keep everyone happy.
But grace says be blessed. Period. Then enjoy life as a blessed person.
Here’s the truth for those of us who think we still need law to keep us out of trouble. The law never kept anyone out of trouble. In the Old Testament, the nation of Israel had the perfect law and yet sinned all the time, in horrendous ways. In the New Testament, the Pharisees decided to try and actually obey the Law and guess what? They sinned all the time in horrendous ways. The first was immoral sinning and the second was moral sinning, but (like Penelope above) they all missed out on the point of the Law – LOVE.
Love transcends the law. True love is a law to itself that paradoxically doesn’t need a law. Think about the lovers in Song of Songs. They love without law. They love, not from obligation but from delight. Love and grace nullify the need for law. Why? Because God wants believing way more than he wants behaving. God wants our faith more than he even wants our obedience. He knows that faith will follow grace and obedience will follow faith. It just will. God knows that if he gives grace you will progressively trust him and eventually obey him. The law cannot accomplish any of this.
This is what Romans 6 is all about. Faith. Believing in the grace of our union with Christ. His death to sin and his life to God. It is this faith in grace that will destroy the reign of sin over our lives. Not law.
And so on this Thanksgiving day consider your place in Christ. Consider your union with his death. Your full forgiveness. Your freedom from the power and consequence of sin. Your resurrection unto eternal life. Your freedom from having to be better than everyone else. And rest in this love. Then sit back and watch how the gratitude naturally comes. How obedience becomes not just the effort but the impulse of your life. This is “to live is Christ.”
And now your Thanksgiving playlist: