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Author:Pastor Keith Davis
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Congregation:Bethel United Reformed Church
 Calgary, Alberta
 www.bethelurc.org
 
Title:Living the Good Life
Text:LD 32 Romans 6:1-14 (View)
Occasion:Regular Sunday
Topic:Obedience
 
Preached:2023-02-26
Added:2023-03-02
 

Order Of Worship (Liturgy)

Service of Praise & Profession

* Song of Praise: “To God Be the Glory” # 236
* Profession of Faith - Apostles’ Creed (recite in unison) p. 851 TPH
* Gloria Patri: “Holy, Holy, Holy!” # 230:4

* Song of Preparation: “Love Divine, All Loves Excelling” # 465

Service of God’s Holy Word

Scripture Reading: Romans 6:1-14 LD 32
Sermon: “Living the Good Life”
Prayer of Application
* Song of Response: “Lord, Speak to Me, That I May Speak” # 501

* As a matter of courtesy please advise Pastor Keith Davis, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.


Living the Good Life

Romans 6:-14; Lord’s Day 32

Beloved congregation of our Lord Jesus Christ, in his book the Cost of Discipleship, Dietrich Bonhoeffer explains the difference between cheap grace and costly grace. Cheap grace, he explains, is the preaching of forgiveness without requiring repentance; baptism without church discipline; communion without confession; grace without discipleship; grace without the cross.

 

Cheap grace is essentially a Gospel that proclaims to sinners that all your sins are forgiven, but you can stay as you are and still enjoy all the consolations of Christ’s forgiveness. When you think about it, isn’t that strikingly similar to the question raised in Romans 6.1, Shall we sin that grace may abound?

 

If Christ has died for my sins, so that my election and salvation are secure, then what’s to prevent me from having the best of both worlds: to (in this life) indulge my sinful passions, to satisfy my every sinful longing, to pursue every form of decadence and pleasure and sensuality imaginable, yet all the while thinking it’s okay because God will forgive me. So we can have one foot in this world and like the devil, but have the other foot in heaven believing that Christ has forgiven us.

 

I hope you can see that there’s something terribly wrong with that understanding of grace. That’s a warped and twisted view of God’s grace, which is really no grace at all. It is a perversion of grace. It is a theological misunderstanding and misapplication of the Gospel of grace. It is a false deduction, a wrong conclusion drawn from the teaching of the doctrine of justification.

 

We know it is, because it fails to take into account what the Apostle Paul says again and again in these opening verses of Romans 6. If we died with Christ, then we died to sin. And if we died to sin, then we are freed from sin and set free to live for Christ. And someone who is free, someone who is truly free, does not desire to go back and live under the slavery, and tyranny, and oppression of sin. No. He desires to live a new life in Christ, for the glory of Christ.

 

And Bonhoeffer calls that costly grace – it is costly because it came at the great cost of God giving up His only begotten Son, Jesus Christ. And it is grace because Christ’s blood has justified us sinners and set us free from the condemnation of sin. Such grace is costly also because it calls us to give up our lives in this world, and to follow closely after Christ.

 

Lord’s Day’s 32-33 are devoted to teaching us what this means. These two Lord’s Days serve as an introduction to the section of the catechism that deals with the Law of God, the Ten Commandments. Here we are taught how the law functions in the life of the believer who is saved by grace.

 

Tonight, we consider Lord’s Day 32, where we confess that “We who are Saved by grace are called to live a life of Gratitude.

 

1) Paul’s Reasonable Question

2) The Only Right Answer 

 

1) Paul’s Reasonable Question

We begin with the question raised by the Apostle Paul in Romans 6:1. What shall we say then? Shall we go on sinning that grace may abound?    

 

We ask first: what would lead Paul to ask such a question. Granted, there are those who think this is not a serious or real question. They believe that Paul uses this question merely as a rhetorical device, to show the absurdity of it; because surely no one actually thinks like this.

 

But the truth is, this is an entirely valid question. In fact, in his sermon on these opening verses of Romans 6, Dr. Martin Lloyd Jones argues that this is a question that will almost certainly be raised if we are preaching the Gospel properly. If we are preaching the true Gospel of free grace – that is, the doctrine of justification by grace alone, through faith in Jesus Christ and his finished work alone, and that we sinners are saved not by our works, not by our own righteousness or faithfulness, then this is an objection that will logically and naturally follow.

 

So let’s look at a few passages to see how we got here. First, Romans 3: 21-25. “But now a righteousness from God, apart from the law (which means apart from our obedience to the law), has been made known, to which the law and the prophets testify. This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.”

 

Then in Romans 5, Paul begins with those beautiful words: therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand.  then later in verse 8, But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.

 

Then, right at the end of chapter 5 Paul addresses the purpose of the law. The law was added so that the trespass might increase.  In other words the law teaches us, it shows us our sin. But then comes this wonderful comforting truth but: as the law exposes our sin, as the law shows us the true nature of our sin and misery and depravity GRACE increases all the more. God’s grace is all sufficient grace! A never ending reservoir of grace!

 

I think of the beautiful song written and sung by Matt Papa: Our sins they are many, his mercy is more! He based that song on the words of John Newton who wrote:  Our sins are many, but His mercies are more: our sins are great, but His righteousness is greater: we are weak, but He is power.

 

This is the only right and reasonable conclusion that can be drawn from what Paul has written thus far in the book of Romans – highlighted by what he says in the final verse of chapter 5: that we sinners are saved by grace and we are no longer under the reign and rule of sin and the law, but we now under the reign and rule of Christ’s grace and His righteousness!

 

But for many, this is a dangerous teaching. For many, this is a great heresy. It is an unsettling thought that anyone would ever preach or believe such a doctrine. The accusations are made that such teaching will lead God’s people astray, it will invite them and incite them to live wicked and licentious lifestyles.

 

This was the accusation the Roman Catholic church brought against Martin Luther and his preaching on the doctrine of justification. They called him a heretic. The fact is, the Roman Catholic teaching on the doctrine of justification would never raise the question or the concern that Paul raises in Romans 6:1.

 

That’s because their gospel is not a Gospel of free grace, but it is a gospel of works, of earned grace --that we must still do our part, that we must still work, that must be obtain God’s grace for ourselves by partaking of the Mass, by saying our Hail Mary’s and by making sure we have done enough good.

 

And to the Jews, of course, their theology, their doctrines would never raise this question or concern because to them the law is their salvation! When Jesus preached the Gospel of grace, it was the Jews who protested and raised this objection. They accused Jesus of seeking to do away with the law and the temple and the sacrifices.

 

So it is important that we see this for what it is: a natural question that rises from the right and proper teaching and preaching of justification. Martin Lloyd Jones even went so far as to say to any pastors who may have been in attendance, that if no one in your church ever comes up to you and asks this question, then you have not been preaching this doctrine correctly.

 

2) The Only Right Answer 

But now, we go on to consider the answer. There can be only one conclusion, only one answer to Paul’s question: What shall we say then? Shall we go on sinning that grace may abound? By no means, We died to sin; how can we live in it any longer?

 

The foundation upon which Paul rests his answer is the believer’s union with Christ. That is what is assumed here all along. That is the basis and ground of our justification. We believers are united with Christ. If we have been baptized into Christ, it signifies that we have been joined to Christ by faith. It means that all that Christ did, and all that Christ accomplished, is now true of me in Christ. The death he died was our death – for the wages of sin is death and Christ paid those wages for me and you!  And if we died with Christ, then we are also raised with Christ to a new life (all of which is seen in the language and imagery of baptism).

 

To be united to Christ means that our old selves, our sinful human nature in Adam was crucified with Christ, and now we are dead to sin – so that we are no longer controlled by its evil desires, so that we are no longer slaves to sin, so that we no longer offer the parts of our bodies (our hands, our hearts, our minds, our imaginations, our sexual appetites and desires), we no longer offer the parts of our bodies to sin, so as to be instruments of unrighteousness; but instead, we now offer those parts of our body to be instruments of righteousness, serving God, loving, God, showing gratitude to God for the free gift of salvation that is ours in Christ Jesus our Lord.

 

Now, this is not to say that those who are dead to sin and united to Christ are suddenly no longer sinners. If that were the case, then there would be no need for Paul to write anything else. Then he would certainly have no need to call us to holiness, and to fight the good fight, and to put sin to death, and to no longer let sin have mastery over us.

 

The truth about us is that we who are justified freely by grace, we who are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, are by God’s holy Spirit, still being sanctified and made holy by God; in this life, God is preparing us for life in glory by more and more shaping us and fashioning us after the image of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

 

As Hebrews 10:14 says: For by one sacrifice he has made perfect forever those who are being made holy. Those who are justified, whose sins are completely forgiven in Christ, are yet being sanctified in this life, called to holiness, called to die to sin and follow hard after Christ.  

 

And that’s why Question 87 asks what it does. Can those be saved who do not turn to God from their ungrateful and unrepentant ways? The answer: By no means. Scripture tells us that no unchaste person, no idolater, adulterer, thief, no covetous person, no drunkard, slanderer, robber, or the like will inherit the kingdom of God.

 

In Herman Velkamp’s commentary on this Lord’s Day he writes: “this is not an uncharitable verdict on the part of Ursinus and Olevianus” (who were the authors of the Heidelberg Catechism). Rather he emphasizes that this answer points us to the Scriptures. It is the Holy Scripture that tells us this. It is the inspired and authoritative Word of God that tells us this.

 

Notice two Footnotes from A 87:  

 

1 Corinthians 6:9-10 says  Or do you not know that wrongdoers will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor men who have sex with men nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God.

 

Galatians 5:19-21 says: The acts of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God.

 

Herman Veldkamp goes on so say: they can in no way be saved. They may attempt that by all kinds of means, and deceive themselves that they can very well serve two masters, but this is pure self deception.

 

Here he’s talking about hypocrites in the church, members of the church who lay claim to believing in Christ, who have been baptized into the name the Triune Name of God, the Father Son and Holy Spirit, but they make clear by their lives, that they have no part of Christ, that they have not been joined and united to them by faith?  

 

How do we know this? We know this by the fact that when we are saved by grace, through faith in Jesus Christ, the faith that Christ gives us is not a dead faith, but it is a living faith. It is not a faith that is content to remain in sin and indulge in sin. But it is a thankful and grateful and living faith that seeks to serve but one master – Jesus Christ our Savior.

And yes, I realize that when we read this answer, it brings accusation against every single one of us. Who among us here tonight can say that we have not committed these sins? Who among us can say that we are free from all such desires. Who among us can say that I have such perfect and living faith that I never have such thoughts and desires or that I have never committed any such sins since my conversion to Christ. 

 

We would all be lying. For we are all sinners, and we are all guilty of all these sins. And no where does Scripture teach that once we are saved, we never sin or fall again. On the contrary, we are assured that as long as we live in these earthly bodies, as long as we live and breathe, we will have the stain of sin upon us, that even the very best of our good works will still be stained with sin.

 

So that is an unescapable fact. Christ did not die for the righteous but for sinners; and heaven will be filled not with perfect people who carefully obeyed every jot and tittle of the law, but it will be filled with undeserving sinners like you and me who have been unfaithful, unloving, unkind, and proud and arrogant and foolish.

 

But here’s a very important distinction that must be made. The difference between believers and unbelievers when they sin, between believers and hypocrites when they sin. Unbelievers and hypocrites continue in their sins; who do not and cannot resist their sinful urges, who in the end, cannot truly see their sin and thus they refuse to repent and turn away.

 

Whereas believing sinners are those whose sin remains in them against their will; who sometimes through weakness fall into sin, or who at times (like David and Peter, fall into deep and grievous sins), but then by God’s grace and inner working of the holy Spirit, they are broken and humbled to the dust, and they cry out to God and they confess their sins, and then the Face of God shines on them once more, and they once again experience the saving grace and forgiveness of God.

 

And beloved, if we are in Christ, united to Christ by faith, then this is our story. This is our experience of God’s grace and forgiveness. And so, when we sin, when we are unfaithful and we turn our back on God, we don’t despair of God’s mercy as if God will suddenly turn His back on us; or will immediately disown us or cast us off.

But rather, because we are in Christ, because we died with Him and he has redeemed us and loves us, we know for a certainty that God will not let us go. God cannot let us go! However, it also means that we will not continue in sin, we will not sin so that grace can abound, for that is not possible for the child of God.

 

For we are in Christ, and as Answer 86 confirms: we have been redeemed by his blood, and are being renewed by His Spirit into His image, and now our whole life – what we say, and think and do, we – do unto Christ, we do for his glory, we do as sign of gratitude for all the benefits and blessings that God has bestowed on us in Christ.

 

So, what type of grace do you prefer beloved? What type of grace appeals to you more? Do you like cheap grace -- grace without discipleship, grace without the cross? A grace that invites you to come to Christ but never to change, to believe in a Gospel that is void and empty of any real power – that never calls you to be transformed, that never calls you to holiness, to be holy as God is holy?

 

Or do you prefer a costly grace – a costly grace that cost the Feather His own beloved Son, a costly grace where God’s Son Jesus Christ willingly died for the ungodly -- the righteous for the unrighteous, to forgive us of all our sins and set us free. A costly grace that now calls us to follow, to follow in Christ’s footsteps, to resist sin, to die unto sin, and to be holy as God is holy?

 

But know this: only one of these graces can truly set you free. Only one of these graces is truly grace. And only one of these grace will lead us to sing: our sins they are many – his mercy is more. Amen.




* As a matter of courtesy please advise Pastor Keith Davis, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.
(c) Copyright 2023, Pastor Keith Davis

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