Are we to continue in sin so that grace may increase?
― Romans 6:1 NASB
Those who were once dead in Adam and now alive in Christ — no longer objects of God’s wrath, but now objects of his grace and love — are they to view grace as a license to continue to live in rebellion, yet without consequence? In Romans 6:2, the apostle Paul responds to this question with an emphatic “May it never be!”
Most people focus on this question: Should the Christian continue to live in sin so that grace my increase?
This is an important question, but answering it question alone is not enough. This question only focuses on the believer’s actions and fails to take into account God’s sovereign and supernatural work of sanctification in the believer’s life.
We should also ask this: Can the Christian continue to sin so that grace may increase? Or, put another way: Will God allow the Christian to continue to sin so that grace may increase?
The reason the apostle Paul responds with such a strong negative to the question of whether we are to continue in sin so that grace my increase is that he truly understands God’s sovereign and supernatural work of sanctification in the believer’s life. He knows well both the God of salvation and the nature of salvation. And when a person truly understands salvation, they know the answer is an emphatic “No, a Christian cannot and will not continue to sin so that grace may increase!”
Some of you may be thinking, “How can you say that a Christian cannot and will not continue to live in rebellion after they are saved? Just look around. Take a look at any Christian and you will see that you are wrong!”
Well, I’m not the one saying that. I am only trying to convey to you what I have seen in God’s word.
First of all, let’s look at what God says through the prophet Ezekiel. In the following passage, we have God revealing what his promised salvation will look like:
Then I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean; I will cleanse you from all your filthiness and from all your idols. Moreover, I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; and I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes, and you will be careful to observe My ordinances.
— Ezekiel 36:25–27 NASB
Here we see God revealing the nature of both our regeneration and sanctification.
Notice God’s use of “I will” when he describes our regeneration:/p>
- I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean.
- I will cleanse you from all your filthiness and from all your idols.
- I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you.
- I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh.
- I will put My Spirit within you.
Now notice God’s use of “I will” when he describes our sanctification:
- I will… cause you to walk in My statutes.
According to God, who is the one behind the believer’s regeneration? God. But I’m sure most of you knew that already. But what I really want you to understand is the answer to the next question: Who is behind the believer’s sanctification? Although this passage does not elaborate on the issue, we can still see that the answer is God. God says that he will cause believers to walk in his statutes. He will be the one to cause them to repent of their rebellious ways and walk in obedience. He says in the passage that believers “will be careful to observe My ordinances.”
for it is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure.
— Philippians 2:13 NASB
In Romans, the apostle Paul writes:
For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, so that He would be the firstborn among many brethren; and these whom He predestined, He also called; and these whom He called, He also justified; and these whom He justified, He also glorified.
— Romans 8:29–30 NASB
God foreknows believers, predestines them, calls them, justifies them and glorifies them. Paul may not mention sanctification by name, but it is implied. He says that God predestines us to become conformed to the image of his Son. This process of conforming us to the image of his Son is sanctification.
God is the “author and perfecter” of our salvation. Salvation is a sovereign and supernatural work of God by which he graciously saves us, from beginning to end. And when, like the apostle Paul, you understand both the God of salvation and the nature of salvation, you will not ask if a Christian should or can continue in sin so that grace may increase. For you will know that a Christian should not and cannot do so, for their God and Savior has cleansed them, given them a new heart, placed his Spirit within them, and he works in them to produce both the will and the ability to turn from their sin and obey his statutes.
God’s children may periodically stumble and fall into sin, but they do not walk in sin so that grace may abound, because they are new creations with new hearts and the indwelling Spirit, and they love Christ, hate sin and pursue holiness.