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Thursday, November 5, 2015

Law and Grace - Romans 6:15


Romans 6:14-15 KJV  For sin shall not have dominion over you: for ye are not under the law, but under grace.  (15)  What then? shall we sin, because we are not under the law, but under grace? God forbid.

Romans 6:14-15 NET  For sin will have no mastery over you, because you are not under law but under grace.  (15)  What then? Shall we sin because we are not under law but under grace? Absolutely not!

Romans 6:14-15 is one of the most discussed, misunderstood, and misrepresented scripture in the Bible.  The context of these two verses concerns Paul’s exegesis about Christian members considered lawless.  Like many throughout the Church age these people believed themselves separated from the Law and therefore had a license to commit the sins of their choice.

Has the law been put away?  Paul states:  “sin is lawlessness” and earlier in Romans 3:20 he states, “through the law comes the knowledge of sin”.  Therefore, how does Romans 6:14-15 put away the law and free individuals from obeying the law?

Paying the Debt
How did the law work in the Old Testament?  I will attempt to explain.  If a person stole a goat.  He was required to repay his debt with two goats.  If unable to pay the debt of two goats the thief’s property was to be sold until the cost of two goats was fulfilled.  If his property could not match the amount of the debt then he was to be sold as a bond servant for the length of time needed to pay the debt in full. 

If the thief could pay his debt then he was released and put under grace.  Being under grace did not mean he was no longer under the law and could then steal more goats without punishment.  It merely meant that his debt had been paid but the thief was still responsible for obeying the law.

Some sin debts could not be redeemed by repaying double the amount.  In these cases the debtor received stripes with a whip and then released under grace as the thief.  Some more severe sins such as rape, adultery, or murder could not be redeemed either by repaying double or with stripes.  In these instances the debtor was put to death with the actual judgment taking place at the great White Throne Judgment of Jesus Christ.  Although not everyone agrees, it is my belief that everyone will be redeemed at the great White Throne Judgment.  Some debtors may require many years of bond servant duty.  It is my thought (not doctrine) there will be another 1000 years of possible judgment after the Millennium as described in the Revelation.

Returning to the goat thief, he was under the law for the length of time it took to repay the debt.  The law of God had dominion over him.  The sin of the thief empowered the law to keep him enslaved until the debt had been paid.  Again, when the debt was paid the debtor was no longer under the law but under grace.

The goat thief could also be redeemed by a near kinsman (or close relative such as a father, an uncle, or a brother).  A stranger or a person of no relation would not qualify to be a redeemer.  The near kinsman would be required to post money, livestock, or property equal to double the value of the stolen item(s).  When payment was made the thief or debtor was no longer under the jurisdiction of the law but under grace.  To my knowledge prior records were not kept or maintained which is an element of grace.  There is also no mention of a jail or prison system for debtors or law breakers.

The law has no power to judge a man whose sin has been paid in full.

Stripes and Death
Remember that only when the debt has been paid is the sinner under grace and not under the judgment of the law.  The Son of God, Jesus Christ, paid the price for all sin.  Prior to His crucifixion He was scourged with a whip.  The limit of stripes according to the Law was forty.  It is not known the number of stripes Jesus received.

An Internet Account of Roman Scourging
Scourging was a brutal punishment, but it was standard practice before a crucifixion. The whip, the flagellum, had several thongs, each one of which had pieces of bone or metal attached. It made a bloody pulp of a man's body. The person to be whipped was stripped of his clothing, tied to a post or pillar, and beaten until his flesh hung in shreds.

There was no maximum number of strokes: the whipping could go on as long as the soldier administering it wished. Men frequently collapsed and died as the result of a flogging. The Jewish historian Josephus says with some pride that he had whipped rebels in Galilee until their entrails showed.

After the scourging, beating, thorns pushed into His head, beard ripped out, Jesus was led away carrying a heavy post.  He was then nailed to a cross which was then set upright.  His legs were not broken but He was pierced with a sword.  The One who committed no sin, fulfilled all the payment debts for a sinner.  Jesus was the ultimate living sacrifice in the manner of a sacrifice for sin as performed in the Tabernacle or Temple.  The law has no power to judge a man whose sin has been paid in full.

If the believer commits a sin - that debt has already been paid for by Jesus Christ and therefore we are not under the authority of the law but under the grace of God.  Like the goat thief we are still required to obey the Law while under grace.  Romans 3:23 states that “all have sinned”, therefore, every person is a debtor in the eyes of the Law, and we are a bond servant (or slave) due to our sin.  However, our complete sin debt has been paid by our Redeemer, Jesus Christ.

Jesus could have freed us by putting away His law and legalizing all sin, but instead He upheld the law and paid the complete debt (full price).  This eliminated our conviction as a bond servant to the law and allowed us to be a bond servant to Jesus Christ.

Paul reminds believers in Romans 6, that by the law of redemption, they were now free to stop sinning, because they were purchased with a price. They were now to serve their new Master, rather than continue in sin. The law of redemption makes this clear in Lev. 25: 53, saying of the redeemed debtor, “Like a man hired year by year shall he be with him,” that is, the redeemer. The law of redemption does not set the debtor free, but rather it gives him a new master. In other words, because Jesus has redeemed us, we are now to serve Him and have no right to continue in sin that grace may abound. We have only been set free from the dictates (or laws) of Sin, which is here personified as our former master.

Jesus came as our near kinsman with the right of redemption, having come both of the seed of Abraham and as flesh and blood to establish kinship with Adam (Heb. 2: 14). The price of redemption was His life, His blood on the cross, which, admittedly, was worth far more than the entire debt that mankind has ever incurred for sin. Yet He was willing to pay that price to redeem mankind and His creation.

Romans 3:31 states, “Do we then nullify the law through faith?  May it never be! On the contrary, we establish the law”.  If Romans 3:31 and later 6:14 appear to be contradictory, it is because we do not understand Paul’s writing.

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