Paul’s response to the question as to whether his doctrine of justification permits a man to continue in sin because of the abundance of God’s grace is a horrified, “God forbid!”  We grant that the name of God is not present in the original Greek, yet I have no quarrel with this rendering by our Authorized Version translators.  Paul’s words indicate an absolute detestation of the very insinuation that he would ever preach a doctrine that would give any person an excuse for sin.  In the 17th century, the best phrase our translators had available in the English tongue to convey the strength of feeling asserted by the apostle was, “God forbid.”  It certainly does entire justice to his meaning.  We should not tolerate the suggestion for a moment that the blessed truth of free justification through the merits of Christ alone leads to loose living, but should detest it and contend most warmly against it.

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“How,” Paul asks, “shall we that are dead to sin, live any longer therein?”  Here I think we may safely assume that the concepts of both justification and regeneration are concerned.  We are certainly dead to sin in the judicial sense, in that Christ has slain our sin, or executed it, by bearing it in His own body on the tree.  Sin no longer has any claim over us, and cannot condemn us, because its penalty was exacted to the fullest extent upon our Lord Jesus Christ.  We could certainly argue along the line, and rightly so, that we ought not to continue in sin, because we have died to it in that we were judicially with Christ when He died on the cross for our sins, and that it would be the highest inconsistency and ingratitude for us to wallow in the very thing which nailed Him to the cross.

While I believe this is part of the apostle’s meaning, I do not think we can leave the reality of regeneration out of the picture.  We are dead to sin, not only because we are justified and cleared from its damning power, but also because its power has been broken in us by the creation of new life within us.  When the Holy Spirit regenerates a man, he breaks the dominion of sin in him, and creates a new life within that hungers and thirsts after righteousness.  It is true that in the strictest sense sin is not dead within us, because it still exercises a fearful power through the passions and desires of the body.  Nevertheless, we are through regeneration new creatures in Christ, and sin’s power to control and rule us has been broken.  This is true of every Christian, without the first exception.  If sin’s power has not been broken, so that we are dead to its dominating power over our minds and actions, then we are obviously still dead in trespasses and sins.  The man who has been regenerated is dead, not only to the condemning power of sin, but also to its ruling power, and therefore he cannot any longer live in sin.

 

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