That as sin hath reigned unto death, even so might grace reign through righteousness unto eternal life by Jesus Christ our Lord. (Romans 5:21)
There is a strong tendency in the Christian church to look at the Bible as a book that simply tells us how “to go to heaven.” However, thanks to many wonderful teachers of the Word of God I have learned that the majority of the New Testament is talking to believers. These passages do not tell us how to be spiritually saved. They tell us how to live after we are saved.
The book of Romans is a case in point. Most of us have heard about the “Roman Road.” It involves a number of verses that are used to tell people how to be eternally saved. The majority of these verses come from the book of Romans.
However, at least some of the verses used do not deal with that theme at all. Recently GES put out a commentary on Romans by Zane Hodges that makes that case. The website also has another commentary on Romans by Rene Lopez that points out the same thing. I would recommend those interested in an understanding of the book of Romans to look at these two fine books.
A major thrust of the book of Romans is that the world in which we live is currently under the wrath of God. Man’s sin results in that wrath. The believer, who has been declared righteous by God through faith in Christ, can avoid that wrath by living by the power of the Spirit.
Part of the problem with understanding the book of Romans is that Paul uses terminology that we often do not use in our Christian circles. When we hear the words “wrath of God” we often think of hell. Paul does not use them that way, however.
Paul also points out that the world in which we live is one that is ruled by the power of sin and death. Sin and death permeate everything around us. The Apostle discusses this in Romans 5, as the first part of the verse cited above indicates.
For those of us who were born and raised in the United States, it is often the case that we forget these things. We have generally lived lives of ease and our experience is not one where we would describe it as being ruled by sin and death. When we understand what Paul is saying, we might have a tendency to conclude that it is not as bad as Paul makes it sound.
But if we observe the things that are in our world, even in our sheltered experiences, we can see that Paul is correct in his assessment. In this regard I have a confession to make. As most people my age, I have seen enough images of death and the effects of sin in my life and the world in which I live. But most of the times, for whatever reason, it is easy to forget and not dwell on the reality that Paul is speaking about.
But for me, there is one thing in particular that always brings this reality home. When I hear accounts of partial birth abortions and the horrors associated with it, I agree that the power of sin and death is operating in our world. Recently, I went to a library. I checked out two books. When I got home, in each book there was a postcard with photos of dismembered babies from the procedure. No doubt they were placed there to raise awareness of what is going on.
Such things are like a slap in the face. To me they are the most graphic reminders of what Paul is talking about. However, if we look at the world we live in we can see the evidence all around us. Even though we don’t like to admit it, we see the reign of death in the very bodies in which we live. As we get older, the evidence becomes more and more evident!
But the great news is found the second part of the verse cited above. After believing in Jesus Christ and being declared righteous by God, grace can reign in our lives. We can have an experience of eternal life even while living in these dead bodies. Even in the midst of sin and death, we can have victory through Jesus Christ who lives within us in the Person of His Spirit.