Imagine if you could drive however fast you wanted without any consequence. No speed limits. No radar traps. And no speeding fines.
Of course a few people would use our freeways as their personal race tracks: treating other drivers, especially slower ones, as if they were competitors to be beaten, even run off the road. And others would drive so slowly as to become hazards, rolling barricades that without any warning suddenly choke traffic to squeeze around them if not to an inexplicable standstill.
In Paul’s letter to the Romans he supposes his opponents might ask: Since believers are free from the law, why not take full advantage of the freedom Christ won for us and enjoy life to the fullest as we understand it?
Should we sin because we are not under law but under grace?
— from Romans 6:15
In Paul’s time people believed everyone was a slave to some person or to some principal. If not a literal slave, owned by someone, one might be a family member obedient to the head of the household who was in turn obedient to both to the principle of efficiently managing that household and to the local government. Thus to be freed from slavery to the law, might mean freedom from all owners.
In our time, instead of slavery, we might talk about being signed by a particular team, for example the Tampa Bay Rays of the New York Yankees. In Paul’s mind there are only two teams: Sin or God. One cannot be truly loyal to both.
If then we are freed from the law, can we consider ourselves free agents, able to discern for ourselves how we should act? Most certainly not, for to do so would make us equals to God, who alone sets the limits of good and evil.
Instead Paul challenges us to ask: What we have been freed for?
Consider the speeding example above again. Since we have been freed from the law we are thus freed for the kingdom of heaven. The speed we drive would consider the impact of our driving on every other driver on the road, on those living near the road, on the environmental impact of fuel consumed, and so forth. If traffic laws were perfectly efficient, speed limits would balance all of those factors with our personal needs to efficiently get from one place to the next to transact business. In such an ideal community, speed limits and traffic fines would control drivers by fear to drive at the same rate as those motivated by living for one another, that is living to advance the Kingdom of Heaven.
No longer present your members to sin as armaments of unrighteousness, but present yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life, and present your members to God as armaments of righteousness.
— from Romans 6:13
I will have more to say about Romans 6:12-23 on Sunday, June 26th at Temple Terrace Presbyterian Church.
Robert Shaw, Pastor