“You’re free to drive away”

So how can we be “dead to sin,” Romans 6:11, and “freed from sin,” verse 7, but then be told in verse 12 to “not let sin reign” in us or “obey its evil desires?” If sin no longer has mastery over us, why the worry about falling victim to it again? But if we can still fall victim, is Paul now saying it’s up to us to resist it? Is this the part we now play, then?

No, Paul is saying it’s now possible for us to not obey sin’s evil desires “because you are not under law, but under grace,” verse 14. This is why sin no longer has mastery over us, because we’re under the rule of grace now. When we’re under law, that’s when sin has power over us, because the law simply reveals how much we sin. That’s why the law was created in the first place: “Through the law we become conscious of sin” (3:20). From Adam to Moses there was no law defining sin (5:14), and “sin is not taken into account when there is no law (5:13).” but with the law, sin suddenly becomes obvious (5:20).

It’s like putting iron filings on a piece of paper over a magnet – suddenly, the invisible magnetic field appears. And the law serves the same purpose. The sins we can’t see become obvious when defined. We then see how much sin has mastery over us – and how easily we fall victim to it, too. It’s like driving for years, picking up all kinds of bad driving habits, and one day the police pull you over. For the life of you you can’t think why. “Yes, Officer,” you say, ever so humbly, “what may I do for you?” Well, he’s seen it all before so he ignores your drooling charm and lists off the eight flagrant violations of the law he’s seen you perform after following you for the last mile or two. 

What can you say? The law not only defines your sins, it also reveals how easily bad habits creep up on you, without you even realizing. Eight violations? You couldn’t even think of one! But then he says to you, “Not to worry, you’re not under law, you’re under grace, and as such your eight violations have been rendered powerless. You’re free to drive away.”

But free to do what? To live what our access to grace has opened up to us, the chance at last to live in a world where sin doesn’t creep up on us unawares, because Christ is now saving us by his life. 

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