The Red Light district in Amsterdam is one of the most depressing places I’ve ever been. Abby and I had just moved to the city. We loved walking through it. Amsterdam is more like a large village than a city, filled with beautiful architecture, canals, and shops. But it has some ugly parts, too.
We were admiring the town when we turned down a street and began to see crowds of foreign sailors, college students, and scantily clad women serving in bars. We took another turn near the Oude Kerk (the Old Church) and found ourselves in the middle of the infamous window brothels of the Red Light District. Human flesh was on miserable display.
What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin that grace may abound? Certainly not! How shall we who died to sin live any longer in it? (Romans 6:1-2).
Paul is absolutely clear here: believers should not continue in sin. The “Shall we continue” translates epimenōmen te hamartia. The verb can refer to “tarrying in a place,” such as when Paul stayed in Syracuse:
After we put in at Syracuse, we stayed there [epemeinamen] for three days (Acts 28:12).
Or when he intended to remain in Ephesus:
But I will remain [epimeno] in Ephesus until Pentecost (1 Cor 16:8).
When combined with te hamartia the verb gives the sense of abiding as if you were a captive in a domain—in this case, the domain of sin. It’s like remaining in a kind of “Sin City.”
Think about those prostitutes in Amsterdam, trapped behind the windows, enduring that degrading existence in the Red Light District. Why would they want to stay in that horrible place if they could leave?
That’s the question Paul asked the Romans. Why would believers want to stay in Sin City? Why wouldn’t they leave it, if they could?
They should want to leave. So should you.
You don’t belong in Sin City, you don’t need to stay, and you shouldn’t stay. You don’t need to be trapped in the domain of sin. Why not? As Paul explains in Romans 6-8, God has made an exit and you should take it.