[Marcus Rainsford was a well-known British preacher and pastor in the 1800's who partook in the Moody/Sankey evangelistic campaigns in the British Isles. He is the author of "Our Lord Prays for His Own: Thoughts on John 17," which is still published by Kregel Publications. This article is part of a series of 20 lectures given in 1870 to help believers in the Lord Jesus Christ to understand and appreciate our positional and practical relationship with our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.]
"What shall we say, then? Shall we continue in sin that grace may abound? God forbid. How shall we, that are dead to sin, live any longer therein?" (Romans 6:1-2)
This chapter, which we now commence, is eminently practical. It teaches us an all-important matterthe inseparable connection which exists between justification before God in Christ Jesus, and sanctification before God in Christ Jesus.
In the preceding chapter (Romans 5) God is set forth as a Saviour from sin, as to the penalty of it, and as to the guilt and condemnation attaching to it.
In the chapter before us (Romans 6) God is set forth as a Saviour from the power of sin, and the connection is very interesting and all important.
Chapter 5 gives us God as a Saviour commending His love towards us, as we read in verse 8, "in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us." In verse 9 we read, "He justifies us freely through His blood." Brethren, the blood is the life, and the penalty for sin is death. The Lord God meets the penalty of sindeath, by the substitution of the blood, that is, the life, of the Lord Jesus Christ, His dear Son, our Saviour. There is no salvation but by the substituted life of the Lord Jesus Christ. "The soul that sinneth, it shall die," but in the wondrous way which Divine wisdom devised, Almighty love suggested, and Almighty power accomplished, the Lord God brought it to pass that justice should be satisfied without the death of the sinner, and that the Lord Jesus should take human nature in order that He might die, the just for the unjust; to bring sinners unto God He did diedied as the surety, the representative, the substituted sacrifice, for every sinner that hath or shall have union with Himself. My friends, this union is enjoyed the moment faith lays its hand on the head of Jesus (see John 17:20). The moment our hearts receive Him as God's gift to sinners, that moment we become practically identified with Him. His death instead of our death, His righteousness the portion of our souls; and Jesus never afterwards stands before God apart from us, and we never stand before God apart from Jesus; we are one with Him, "accepted in the Beloved," "justified by His blood," "justified from all things." This is the foundation truth of the Gospel. There can be no peace but as it is realized; there can be no salvation but as it is possessed. "We are justified by his blood."
Then, in chapter 5, verse 2, we have God giving us "access by faith to this great grace," the grace of pardon, the grace of justification, the grace of boundless and bottomless love; and there "we stand," all-sufficient standing-ground for time and for eternity. Judgment cannot assail us there. The sentence of death cannot pass upon us on that standing-ground, but from it we look out for glory, and, as the text goes on to say, "rejoice in hope of the glory of God"; there, also the "love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost"we have new motives for service, new principles for conduct, new themes for conversation, new subjects for hope"All things have passed away and all things have become new."
Thus the victory of free grace over sin is demonstrated, for we read in verse 10, "If when we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of His Son, much more being reconciled we shall be saved by His life."
Thus God is set before us in chapter 5 as our salvation, saving to the uttermost all that come to Him by the way He himself has provided, the Lord Jesus Christ.
In the latter portion of the chapter we have an analogy instituted between Adam, the natural head of the human family, and Christ the spiritual head of God's family. Now we are all of us in the one headship or the other. Every one on the face of God's earth this moment, and every man that ever lived, from the day that Adam was created to the last of his race, is headed up in, represented by, and identified with, either the Adam that fell in Eden, or the second Adam, the Lord Jesus Christ from heaven; and is ruined in the one or saved in the other, lost in the one or crowned with everlasting grace in the otherthere is no third position.
The Apostle asserts that all connected with Adam by nature inherit his ruindeath and condemnation belong to them by virtue of that connection. "Sin came into the world by Adam, and death by sin, and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned." Then there is a second headshipthe headship of the Lord Jesus Christ; no man is connected with the Lord Jesus Christ naturally. It is an act of God's grace which connects any poor sinner with the Lord Jesus Christ, and the means by which he is so connected are: first, the Lord Jesus Christ took our nature, and, having become man, and by His own substituted death satisfied justice and put away sin, He went up to Heaven, from thence He sent down the Holy Ghost to every soul that believes on him here. Thus there is a double link; Jesus lives in human nature in heaven, and the Believer, by the indwelling of the Holy Ghost, has Christ's nature indwelling in him here. And the consequence is, we are in union with Jesus and are accepted before God there. Standing in union with Jesus, it is no more we that live (in the sight of God) but Christ that liveth in us. Standing in union with Jesus, our sins have passed to His head, and His righteousness has passed to us. Standing in union with Jesus, God never looks at us apart from Jesus and never looks at Jesus apart from us. This is one of the most precious as it is one of the most fundamental and most comforting truths on which our souls can meditate.
Beloved friends, salvation is complete. Christ saves to the uttermost all that come unto God by Him. There is no other way of salvation, no other peace which will endure eternally, no other righteousness which will bear the gaze of God, no other strength, no other fullness that can satisfy the immortal desires, affections, and necessities of our souls.
What a wondrous, wondrous salvation is this that God has revealed! All we want is sufficient faith to apprehend it. How few apprehend it as they might! Instead of taking Christ for everything, instead of making mention of His righteousness only, instead of resting on the Lord as made, by free grace to every poor sinner that doth rest on Him, wisdom, righteousness, sanctification, and redemption, we go here and there, in order to find some matter in ourselves pleasing and acceptable to God, wasting time, labour, and strength, and "spending our money for that which is not bread." God accepts no man who is not in Christ Jesus, and God accepts every man who is in Christ Jesus, sees no spot, fault, or stain in him, sees him "much more" complete by virtue of his union with the Lord Jesus Christ than He did see him ruined and lost by virtue of his union with Adam.
This is absolutely true. Oh! that our hearts did take it in! The moment I believe the Word of God concerning the Lord Jesus Christ, the moment I take Him as the gift of God to poor sinners such as I am, the moment the record of the Divine mind, which tells me the "Lord has laid help upon one that is mighty," and that He has made Him to be righteousness and salvation for sinnersthe moment that record commends itself to my judgment and heart, the moment I take God at His word, that moment God's honour is pledged for my salvation, Christ's fullness and merit are pledged for my supply; and I say it solemnly, I say it reverentiallyif the soul that trusts in Jesus Christ perish, Jesus Christ must perish too.
Dear friends, we want strong, solid truth to rest upon in these days, when so little of it is taught or believed. Out of Christ I am wrecked, ruined, lost and "condemned already." I have nothing to do in order to be lost. I am lost and condemned. But because I am lost, because I am condemned, God sent forth His Son for salvation work, and the moment, I as a lost sinner, lay my hand on Christ, and take Him as God's gift, my condemnation, and the ground of my condemnation, is gone forever. My sin is blotted out, drowned in the ocean of Christ's blood, to rise no more; and by and bye, when I stand before the great white throne and him that sits on it, from whose face the earth and the heaven flee away, neither the eye of the all-searching God, nor the eyes of all Heaven's hosts, nor mine own, will be able to discern one spot or stain. This is truth, and it is peace and happiness to those who know it; but, alas there are many who do not know this truth. Either from neglect of God's Word they don't know it, or, knowing it, they don't believe it.
The Apostle having closed chapter 5 with this most glorious statement, "where sin abounded, grace did much more abound," and "as sin hath reigned unto death," death spiritual, temporal, and eternal, so grace doth reign through righteousness, and that not ours, for we have none, but through His righteousness unto life eternal; the life of justification, the life of holiness, the life of glorythen he asks "What shall we say, then, to these things?"
I know what we ought to say. I know what every man who believes them to be true will and must say"Bless the Lord, O my soul, and all that is within me, bless His holy name; bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all His benefits." And I know what the hierarchies of heaven do say when contemplating this wondrous salvation even" Blessing, and honour, and glory, and majesty, and dominion be to Him that sitteth upon the throne, and unto the Lamb for ever." But, alas! alas! there are men and women in the world who, though they need free grace, and free salvation, though they need free justification from sin and death, through the substitution of another, yet do not like free grace. Strange to say, the sinners who most need it are most offended when it is presented to them. It cuts at the root of their pridethey do not like to be thought so poor, so very poor before God, that they can do nothing for their salvation. They do not like to be esteemed so vile, so very vile, that their best is nothing worth. They need grace as free as God can make it, they need salvation as full as God can give it, they need a pardon as vast as God for Christ's sake can bestow it (and God has made it as vast, and full, and as free as the air we breathe); but they do not like free grace, and accordingly they object to it. The Apostle notes the objection in the passage we have read, it is no new objection; one often hears it now-a-days; when free grace is preached men say, "Oh, if we believed that sort of thing, men might live as they like, if salvation is altogether free, and the love of God actually bestowed on the unworthy, and vile, and guilty, then we need not care about being unworthy, vile, and guilty. Truly a strange sort of morality is taught by you ministers."
Now this objection the Apostle meets. What shall we say to this full, free, great salvation? "Shall we continue in sin that grace may abound?" It is the common objection in the minds of many who hear of free graceungodly men turning the grace of God into lasciviousness, not so much wishing to justify and commend lasciviousness, as to disparage free grace. They say: "If free grace is proclaimed in this way, it will lead to all kinds of carelessness, ungodliness, thoughtlessness, and inconsistent living." The objectors repudiate free grace, because forsooth, they say, "your free grace leads to immorality."
"Shall we continue in sin that grace may abound?" It is a very plausible objection. I have never yet in all my experience spoken of free grace to an unconverted man who did not make some objection of this kind: "Oh, then a man may live as he likes." No. The ground we take is thisGod finds a man as bad as he can be, admit for argument sake he cannot be worse, he cannot be worse in heart, he cannot be worse in thought, he cannot be worse in his ways, he cannot be worse in his habits, and as he is there, in all his filth, and guilt, and ruin, God forgives him for Christ's sake. Yes, the moment the poor lost soul hears the salvation of God, and claims that salvation for the sake of what Christ has suffered, if all the sins that all the world had ever committed were laid on that soul, God would blot them out for ever. This is our position; and this is God's truth. And God will never leave that man. He may wander, but God will go after him, He may grieve God, but God will never be grieved away from him; he may fall into strange and fearful inconsistencies; but one thing is certain, for God is pledged to it, never from any cause, never under any circumstances, never at any time will He leave him nor forsake him. "Oh," say these guardians of holiness, "a strange sort of teaching that!" If it be so, a man may say, "it is all right with me, I may indulge my bestial passions, I may follow the course most dishonouring to God, I may think as I like, I may do as I like, I shall be all right, there is no difference between me and the greatest saint in the sight of God, I shall be in heaven and glory as surely as heall will be right in the end; I will follow my own pursuits, my own enjoyments, my own habits." And thus, say they, "truly, free grace is a premium for carelessness, and ungodliness, and all that sort of thing, for the more vile, and sinful, and unworthy we are, the more we magnify the grace of God, the more God will have the opportunity of shewing how good He is, in blotting out our transgressions, that His grace may abound over our abounding sin." I have put the objection as strongly as I believe it need be put.
How does the Apostle meet this objection? Oh, it is very remarkable. I cannot tell you how I have enjoyed searching into the teaching of this verse, and the way the Apostle meets this argument. He does not say (though he might have said), it is hardly in human nature, bad as it is, to treat God in that wayWhat! Has God taught you that by the sacrifice of His Son He has put away your sin, and will you take occasion from this to indulge in sin, and that in the very face of him who, rather than have you in the blackness of darkness for ever, and rather than not have you with Himself in glory, gave His Son to die for you? Do you take that as a ground for grieving Him, as the motive for carelessness? No; none but devils could do thatit is not in human nature. Let anyone find you in misery and bankruptcy, cast out, neglected, ignored, forsaken, and forgotten, and let him come to you at great cost to himself, and great personal suffering, and let hint seek you in your ruin, raise you out of it, love you, comfort you, and carry you on through life tenderly and graciouslyI believe you must be an incarnate devil, if you would take occasion from his kindness to dishonour and wound him, and because he takes you to his bosom, take occasion to sting him there! No! bad as human nature is, there are not many examples like that.
But the Apostle does not argue thus, though I believe the argument might be used, for what is to win us to God if love will not? To know I am a child, to know I have a place in heaven, and that through all the storms of time He will be my shelter, through all the assaults of time He will be my protectorwhat is to take my heart, and win my hopes, and to fix my affections on Himself and on His service, if not this? This is an argument the Apostle might have used, but, I say, he did nothis argument is something deeper. There is not a word about love or gratitude, as the ground of the Apostle's answer to the objection; he gives a stupendous and overwhelming answer, he says, "God forbid. How shall we that are dead to sin live any longer therein?" People do not know what they are talking about when they speak of believers continuing to live in sin. If I have been saved from the guilt and penalty of sin, what is the state of the case? I died out of God's sight when Christ was crucified on Calvary; when He bowed His head and gave up the ghost as a sacrifice for sin, I died in the view of law and judgmentthere, according to God's own unspeakable plan and arrangement, I suffered the penalty of sin as much as the Lord Jesus Christ did. God looks at me there and sees no more sin in me than if sin did not exist, and He lays no more sin to my charge than He did to Christ when He raised Him from the dead. I fear that what I say may sound strange to many, but it is God's own truth. If not, then you are shut up to thisGod does see sin on you, believer! God does charge sin on you, child of God! and, if so, then He cannot help condemning you. Now, if we be members of Christ (and that is the real question), have we come to Christ? Have we taken Him for our Saviour? Is He ours?that may be an open questionI cannot answer that for you, but supposing I have come to the Lord Jesus Christ and taken Him to be my Saviour, and by faith accepted the blessed gift of God for life, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption, then, I say, when Christ died, my sinful self, and the tendencies to sin in me, died in the sight of God, and according to his plan of salvation actually ceased from His view forever. This is absolutely the case; and whether I die tonight, or live for fifty years to come, God Almighty will never, as my Judge, look again at anything in me; but He looks at Christ, sees me complete in Him and sees no spot in me. As to my sin, then, where has it gone? "The Lord Jesus hath appeared once in the end of the world to put away sin." Whose sin? Not His own sin, but all the sin that was laid upon Himmy sin and your sin, if we have taken Him for our Saviour; and when He comes again He shall appear "the second time without sin unto salvation." There was sin on Him when he came first. What became of it? Where is it? Buried in His tomb. The living justified Christ rose again, but the sin did not rise, God never quickened that, and He never will. The moment as a believer in Jesus Christ you charge yourself with sin in the sight of God, so as to fear condemnation on account of it, you are endeavouring to quicken the body of sin which was buried in the tomb of Christ, and burdening yourself with the carriage of it. This is a blessed, and glorious, and important fact for you to realize, believer; but it is also perfectly true for all sinners whatsoever, for the moment they come to the Lord Jesus Christ as God's gift, they become united to Him and are interested in Him. Oh, for faith to realize that when the Lord Jesus died on Calvary, our sinful selves died in God's sight. God never looks at you who are in Christ as in your sinful selves. He only sees you in Christ.
Now you understand the force of the statement, "Ye are dead to sin," viz., you are dead in the sight of God as to sin; you have ceased to exist as regards sinful self before Him. "How shall we that are dead to sin live any longer therein?"
But some poor soul may say, "I am not dead to sin." "Why do you say so?" "Because I feel its power."
My dear friends, we never find the expression "dead to sin" used in Scripture in reference to the feeling and sense of its presence; but always in reference to its penalty and the consequent putting away of the guilt and condemnation due to sin, No man ever lived on earth who was dead to the sense of the presence of sin. "If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us." But it is God's truth that every soul who believes on Christ is dead to sin, as far as the guilt of sin and the condemnation due to sin is concerned. In his death the sentence has been executed, the guilt atoned for, the charge is gone: and as you realize this truth you will have strength to battle with its power, and to put its temptations, influence, and attractions, under your feet. The same grace which has (by giving you union with Christ in His death) put away all condemnation, continues to be union with Christ in His life, that you may have the living power of a living Saviour to draw upon, in order to battle with the corruptions you feel, and the sin that worries you. It is a very different thingthe sins you feel and that worry you never can condemn you, for Christ died to put away condemnation from you; and the sins that worry and grieve you, ought to throw you upon God for strength, and keep you constantly coming to Him for His fellowship and help, for He has promised to "make His strength perfect in our weakness," and that, not lest you should be condemned for sin, but because all condemnation has entirely passed away, exhausted by the death of Christ; for if we, being enemies, were reconciled to God (corruption notwithstanding, ruin notwithstanding) by the death of His Son, how much more the living Christ, will give you supplies from the fountain of life, which will enable you to overcome the sins that grieve and worry you, and which shall never separate you from the love of God, for "neither life, nor death, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, can separate you from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord."
Ah friends, these considerations are potentand the faith which realizes them cannot say, "Shall we continue in sin that grace may abound?" We are delivered from sinsin is not our master. We are dead, we have been delivered in Christ Jesus from all charge, all guilt. We will live for Him who died for us, we must, for we are united to Him, and evermore we will bless Him "who though He was rich, yet for our sakes became poor, that we through His poverty might be rich;" and never(it cannot be, it could not be, it is impossible)will we continue in sin, that grace may abound.
May the Great Teacher Himself teach you!