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In this blog, there will be a variety of material: thoughts on Bible books, book reviews, historical characters, aspects of Scottish church history and other things.

Saturday, 16 January 2016

Romans 6:1-14 – What do you mean?

In this chapter of Romans, Paul moves from a focus on the doctrine of justification to concentrate on the doctrine of sanctification. As he does so he seems first to be answering an objection that was made by some people to his gospel message.
The objection was connected to what Paul said about the freeness of full forgiveness and the failure of the law to contribute to a person’s salvation. Some people, probably those with a Jewish background, deduced from his message that he was saying that the more sinful a person was the better for him or her and that it did not matter how a person lived. After all, if grace was bestowed on sinful people, it means that it was good for them to be very sinful because they would receive more grace.
Now, we know that Paul did not teach such a distortion. His writings make it obvious that he insisted upon holy living in the lives of believers. Yet it was clearly the case that some understood his words to say the opposite. We also know that Paul was not a careless speaker, which means that he knew what he was saying whenever he spoke or wrote about the gospel.
I would say that this situation has a couple of important lessons for us. The first is that the same criticism should be made of our preaching or witnessing; otherwise it might mean that we are putting constraints round the gospel message. It is very easy for us to place additions and qualifications on our presentation of the gospel. If a religious person, who imagines that somehow his good living commends him to God, does not object to the freeness of forgiveness after we have spoken about the gospel, it would suggest that we have not stressed the full nature of divine forgiveness.

The second is that we should be ready to deal with any false deductions that are made regarding our message. We should ask ourselves about the objections that some are liable to raise and be ready with the answers that they need to hear. After all, most of the objections that we are likely to hear will not be new. So it is not difficult for us to know what we believe and it should not be difficult to explain it to those needing more information.

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