Most of my study time lately has been taken up preparing for a Latin placement test. But I have also been working on a review of Kevin DeYoung’s helpful new book on holiness, which has had me thinking about how the gospel and the pursuit of holiness relate. In thinking about this, I’ve been lead me to a deeper understanding of Paul’s flow of argument in Romans 6. First of all, its significant that the first objection Paul anticipates after his proclamation of scandalously free grace for sinners in 3:21-5:21 is the charge of antinomianism. This means that Paul’s gospel, right here in its most systematic presentation in Romans, could readily be misunderstood as antinomianism. So extravagant was his emphasis on the abundance of grace in Christ that he had to face this threat immediately. I am left wondering: do I preach grace like this? To my heart, and others? Could my preaching of the gospel misunderstood along these lines?
Second, I am struck by the way Paul rebuts this objection. His argument comes into two phases: first, a death/life metaphor to show we should not sin to multiply grace (6:1-14); and second, a slavery/freedom metaphor to show we should not sin because we are under grace. In each section, his answer climaxes with an assertion of further grace for his readers. So in 6:14, his readers are freed from the dominion of sin because they are “not under law but under grace;” and in 6:23, his readers are slaves to righteousness according to “the free gift of God” in Christ Jesus. In other words, Paul directs his readers away from idleness in grace by drilling down further into their grace-established identity. What stops the abuse of grace is … more grace. Grace is the equally the solution to antinomianism as it is to legalism. I’d not seen this so clearly before. The pastoral and personal implications are massive. I’d like to keep wrestling with Romans 6. Its such a deep and knotty passage.
My brother Dane’s article on Bavinck and Berkouwer on how justification feeds sanctification is quite helpful on these issues. If you haven’t read it yet, it deserves a careful read. As he puts it: “it is deliberate, self-conscious focus on justification, in all its startling freeness, by which one experiences spiritual progress.”