Should a Christian fight sin? Why should we fight sin? How should we fight sin? As Paul answers the opening question, “Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound?,” he goes along way towards answering these questions.
To start with, its worth observing how Paul doesn’t answer this question. On the one hand he doesn’t answer by back-pedaling and adding our works as some kind of condition for our salvation. He doesn’t tell us we need to work really hard to ensure our status as God’s children. On the other hand, nor does he answer the question affirmatively and encourage his readers to run headlong into a life of sin. He doesn’t tell them that sin doesn’t matter or that somehow its a good thing.
Instead, Paul turns to how the gospel doesn’t just change our status (unrighteous to righteous), but also our nature and our relationships/allegiance. In verses 1-11 he addresses how it changes our nature and in verses 12-23 he addresses how it changes our relationships/allegiance.
In verses 1-11 we’re told that the reason that believers don’t go chasing after sin is because their very nature and selves have changed. Something dramatic has happened at the core of their being:
1. They have been united with Christ- spiritually, truly made one with him- vv. 3, 5
2. They have been crucified with Christ- their old sinful self was crucified and died with/in Christ- vv. 3-6
3. They have been raised to new life with Christ- they were spiritually resurrected and given a new heart- vv. 4-5, 11
This reality means that sin isn’t natural to them anymore. It doesn’t make sense in light of who they are now. It’s not the realm they live in. It doesn’t fit with their new design. It doesn’t satisfy their new appetites.
In verses 12-23 Paul turns and addresses how this reality then changes our relationship to sin and our relationship with God. In the old nature our relationship with sin was one of slavery. We obeyed sin and did what it said. It had control over us and we served its purposes. But when we died with Christ, our status and relationship to sin as its slave ended. You can’t be someone’s slave if you’ve died. That relationship naturally ends. Instead, being made alive in Christ, we have been raised into the realm in which God reigns. We now have a relationship with him as our Master. We have been re-created to be his, under his dominion and rule.
The result of all this is that it doesn’t make sense for us to obey or listen to sin anymore. It’s not our master. We aren’t under its control and we shouldn’t be listening to its commands. Instead, we live under God’s good rule and we are meant to spend our lives listening to and obeying him as our Master.
As we think about how to apply all this, it’s clear that we don’t resist sin by telling ourselves that we better say no or we won’t be accepted by God. We don’t fight sin with a belief that we might lose our salvation. We don’t add a little law to make sure no one takes advantage of free grace.
Instead, we fight sin by remembering what God has done in us and for us. Sin isn’t our nature anymore. Sin isn’t our master any more. Righteousness is our new nature. God is our new Master. If you want to fight sin believe and live out of these glorious realities.