This has always been the argument of those who reject the doctrine of free grace, as set forth in the previous chapters by the apostle Paul.  It was so then, and it is now.  Scarcely a Christian anywhere who has been given eyes to see what Paul is arguing beginning in 3:20 down through the end of chapter 5, and has sought to explain it to others, has not been confronted with this very question.  What does this show us?  Besides the fact that it presents very clear evidence of man’s corrupt inclination to either pursue sin with wild abandon, even upon a religious pretext, or else to seek to justify himself by his own works, it also proves beyond the shadow of a doubt that those who teach the doctrines commonly called Calvinistic have correctly interpreted the apostle’s meaning.

How so?  Think of it along these lines: can anybody imagine a Roman Catholic theologian explaining Rome’s way of justification; through baptism, works of supererogation, careful avoidance of mortal sins, confession, penance, prayers, the assistance of saints, the Mass, and the daily struggle to maintain a state of justification, and then saying, “Shall I continue in sin that grace may abound?”  The thing itself is unthinkable.  If one hears the Roman doctrine of justification, he would do well to break out in a cold sweat, and say to himself, “I must strive as hard as I can, and pray most earnestly that I chance to die while in a state of grace.”  The same argument may be used against any and all denominations, preachers, doctrines, or individuals, who contend for anything at all besides Christ’s blood and righteousness as the ground of our justification before God.  No person would ever ask a follower of Alexander Campbell, having heard his doctrine, “Shall we continue in sin that grace may abound?”  For their very doctrine teaches that a man must be baptized and strive to keep the law in order to gain salvation.  The same may be said of many other heretics claiming the name of Christian, which tell their devotees that there is something they must do in order to compel God to accept them.  None of these will be accused of teaching a doctrine which leads to licentiousness, because their very system of salvation is based upon the works and merits of men.  It is only because Paul’s doctrine of justification entirely casts out the works and merits of man that he has to deal with this question, “Shall we continue in sin that grace may abound?”

Incidentally, the same argument in favor of the Calvinistic understanding of Pauline doctrine may be found in the 9th chapter.  Having proven in the most forceful terms possible the truth of God’s sovereign, discriminating election, Paul says, “Thou wilt say then unto me, Why doth He yet find fault?  For who hath resisted His will?”  Just as those who desire a place for man’s will and labor in salvation accuse our doctrine of justification of leading to antinomianism, so they accuse our doctrine of election of making God unjust in His condemnation of sinners.  The very same arguments are being made today, and we may be thankful to a justifying and electing God if we are found on the side of the inspired apostle Paul, and being asked the same hard questions with which he had to deal.

 

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