9 minute read
My previous article attempted to show theology is not just head knowledge. Theology is practical because knowing God is practical. Theology always intends to show how to live in God’s world. You can find theological truth in everyday events. This article is an example of seeing the culture, its trends, and how a Christian could think through how to live in accordance to God’s word.
There is a disturbing trend that has appeared in online Christian communities. I fear that this is just as true in real life as it is online. Christian doctrine is the standard that measures and guides Christians to be in line with what scripture is teaching. Christian communities have this tendency to fall over on one side or the other in relation to doctrine. Though there are many theological balance beams to walk across, the one that I wish to focus on today is legalism and free grace.
“Antinomians” (people who are against the law, using God’s grace as a license to sin) and “legalists” (those who believe following the law saves you) both make crucial errors of missing what is commanded in scripture. Where legalists err in taking commands in scripture as a litmus test for salvation, antinomians err by totally ignoring the law because they have been given grace through Christ. It is true that all who have put their faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, have been given grace, but this goes against the teaching Paul gives in Romans 6.
To best understand Romans 6, we must look at Romans 5 (and the other chapters as well: Context always matters). Paul explains that all men have sinned. “Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned” (Romans 5:12 ESV). All were born through Adam’s lineage and have been infected with the disease of sin. Sin is the demise that separated us from God. In this sense, a legalist would proclaim: “See! If you do not sin, you will be saved.” Though this is true, everyone has sinned (See Isaiah 53:6, and Romans 3:23 for just two of many examples of fallenness) and we cannot save ourselves no matter how hard we try. Legalists tend to fail to see their own sin and need for Jesus, their saviour. Paul then explains that Christ is a greater solution to the big problem we had created for ourselves. “Therefore, as one trespass led to condemnation for all men, so one act of righteousness leads to justification and life for all men. For as by the one man's disobedience the many were made sinners, so by the one man's obedience the many will be made righteous” (Romans 5: 18-19 ESV).
This is when those against the Law start to pipe up; the next few verses say, “Now the law came in to increase the trespass, but where sin increased, grace abounded all the more, so that, as sin reigned in death, grace also might reign through righteousness leading to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.” (Romans 5:20-21 ESV). It seems pretty obvious at that point that sinful lives give even more glory to Jesus for his atoning death. He, at the cross, experienced the most excruciating torture imaginable, and the sins have been paid for. So why not sin? So then, where the legalists tend to err too far on the side of law, this camp tends to err too far the other way into excessive freedom. This question has been asked in the past, but Christians should be careful not to start thinking this way.
The apostle, Paul, had no intention of teaching this. In fact, that is exactly what he says in Romans 6: “By no means” (vv. 2, 16 ESV). Paul first goes on in verses 1-14 to say that we are not to willfully commit sins. Sin is slavery. Romans 6:2 even says, “How can we who died to sin still live in it?” Why would any Christian desire to be bound to sin again? Christians have been baptized into his death. Christians also “shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his.” (Romans 6:5 ESV). Verses 15-23 again echo this fact that we are no longer slaves to sin if we place our faith in Christ for our salvation.
If we cannot be legalists, and we cannot be antinomians, what can we be? We can be Christians. Those who have been given the good news (gospel) of Christ crucified, buried, and resurrected will indeed have a transformed heart to follow the law as Paul states. Though works do not save you, we are to follow the laws God has given us out of love for him and what he has done. Grace is more than we can ever know. To believe we have a license to sin or to believe that we are saved by our deeds tread on dangerous grounds that no one should dare go. Believe the gospel; do good works. It’s a tension that we should walk and live in. Works do not save you, but your love for Christ should compel you to do them for his sake.
As a Bible college student, I have a passion for people to take theology seriously. I see a trend towards apathy in the church culturally, but a deep passion growing in the lives of young believers. My desire is to help inform all believers, young, old, and in-between, to think through why they believe what they believe. I believe a faith founded on reason is a faith rarely shaken.
Though I’m going to Bible college right now, doesn’t make me a super-believer. I like playing games with friends, chatting around the table, cooking, and wasting time when I could do something more productive. If someone like me can view the world as God tells me to, so can anyone.
I’m passionate, and really hope you are too. Like everyone, I have topics that get me excited. How do we navigate Christianity in this post-modern era? How do we engage gender issues both inside and outside of the church? How do the songs we sing effect how we think? I love and encourage people to get excited and talk about what they love. Conversations are much more engaging when you talk about these things rather than the weather.
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