Discipleship Project


Lesson #1

Lesson #3

Lesson #5

Lesson #7

Lesson #9

Lesson #8

Lesson #2

Lesson #4

Lesson #6

Lesson 4

In Lesson 3, we learned what sanctification is not. It is not the absence of tribulation. Indeed, tribulation is what God uses to propel forward your sanctification. (Press this link to review that lesson) I went on to point out that tribulation can be likened to a weight program that God has designed to build up your spiritual muscles. I encouraged you to change your mind about tribulation - to begin seeing it from a wholly different perspective: that while tribulation does indeed subject you to stress and on occasion even anxiety, without it you will never acquire the wherewithall to overcome the power of sin. I also explained that God has not designed a "weight program" for you that is beyond your capacity, but has instead carefully calibrated each weight to challenge you, but not destroy you (1 Cor. 10:13).

No trial has overtaken you except such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tried beyond what you are able ...

~1 Cor. 10:13

The question is: Do you believe 1 Cor. 10:13? If you're having trouble doing so, don't despair. The answer is not to try harder believing it, but to draw up closer to Christ - to spend more time in his presence - to cultivate a closer personal relationship with him.

Remember ...

  • Christ himself is the ground of your faith,
  • his promise - for example, 1 Cor. 10:13 - is the ground of your hope. Let's return now to the Book of Romans.

Press this link to review that lesson.

Continuing now with the metaphor I've been using - that the tribulations you face are weights that God has made a part of his work-out program for you - I want you to think of reading the Bible each and every day, attending Bible studies, belonging to a church, listening to Christian music, memorizing scripture - that's the nourishment you need to keep you "fueled up" so that your work-outs at the gym are effective. Keep in mind that a good work-out program designed to build you up physically includes not just working out in a gym, but eating right. The two go hand-in-hand.

  • Just eating nourishing meals will not build up your muscles; and
  • just working out at the gym will only break down your muscles and leave you emaciated.

You need both. Go back to Lesson 1 and review what you were admonished to do there.


Let's now return to the Book of Romans. Chapter Five spells out not only the vast difference between Adam on the one hand and Christ on the other, but also their one point of similarity ...

  • Both Adam and Christ are fathers of a human race: two fathers, two humanities. That’s their one point of similarity.
  • The human race fathered by Adam is inherently corrupt and condemned. Death reigns over it. The human race fathered by Christ, on the other hand, is inherently righteous. Life reigns over it. That’s their difference.

Screenshot20130625at43428PMTherefore, to be in Adam is to be in a state of sin - always under the threat of death - living in guilt and fear. To be in Christ, on the other hand, is to be in a state of grace, justified and free from all condemnation - leading to joy and peace.

Salvation, then, consists of transferring us from Adam to Christ - which, of course, is exactly what Jesus means when he tells us in John 3:3-6 that we must “be born again” ...

Jesus answered and said unto him, Truly, truly, I say unto you, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.
Nicodemus said unto him, How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter the second time into his mother’s womb, and be born?
Jesus answered, Truly, truly, I say unto you, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.
That which is born of the flesh (meaning born in Adam) is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit (meaning born in Christ) is spirit.
~John 3:3-6

Chapter Six builds upon this truth - that we have been “born again,” meaning we have been regenerated. But what exactly does that mean? And how does knowing what it means help me to overcome the power of sin my life? That’s what Chapter Six is all about.

Paul begins Romans Six with a rhetorical question ...

What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin that grace may abound?

~Romans 6:1

The obvious answer is given in verse 2 ...

Certainly not!
~Romans 6:2

The reason prompting both the question in verse 1 and the answer he so emphatically gives in verse 2 should, with just a little thought, be quite obvious. Paul has so decisively insisted ...

  • that we now live in a state of grace,
  • free from all condemnation, and
  • no longer in any danger of God’s wrath,

... that we might be tempted to think our sins don’t really matter anymore - either to us or to God; that they’re little more than a foil God uses to reveal his grace. And that’s totally false ...

  • Though we don’t stand in jeopardy of God’s wrath, our sins will indeed prompt him to chasten us - often quite severely.
  • And not only that, but, once again, continuing, chronic sinfulness on our part will thwart our spiritual growth, keep us from cultivating an intimate relationship with Christ, and will disqualify us from ruling and reigning with Christ in the coming Kingdom.

That our sins are a trifling matter of little consequence - that’s not at all the conclusion Paul wants us to infer from Chapter Five. What he’s really after is radically altering ...

  • the way we handle sin;
  • how we think about sin;
  • indeed, our whole approach to sin;

... that’s what’s at issue. And that’s exactly the issue he takes up in Romans Chapters Six through Eight. There Paul tells us ...

  • that our regeneration makes it possible for us to now resist the power of sin; that we’re no longer its slaves and can actually overcome it;
  • that our resistance to sin must no longer revolve around the law; that the law speaks only to the “old man” - and using it in our struggle against sin serves only to arouse sin, strengthen the “flesh,” and stir up condemnation - which, once again, always aborts the whole process of sanctification;
  • that our resistance to sin must now revolve around an altogether new governing principle: not the law, but grace ministered through faith.

For sin shall not have dominion over you, for you are not under law but under grace.

~Romans 6:14

We Don’t Get It

It might seem readily apparent that Paul has made his case here in Chapter Five, leading into Chapter Six; specifically, that sanctification is built around the truth that God has put us in a state of grace; that we now actually “live” there and draw our being from it. After all, he has been so pointed, so unbending, so intractable, so uncompromising in elucidating this new principle that he tells us in Romans 6:1-2 ...

What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin that grace may bound?

... he’s a bit worried we’ll misunderstand him - that we’ll think our sins serve only to cast God’s grace in ever bolder relief.

Still, the history of the Christian church indicates otherwise ...

  • that, in point of fact, we don’t readily catch on to the principle of grace Paul summarizes in Chapter Five, verses 1-11; that it somehow continues to elude us;
  • that, consequently, the truths he spells out in Chapters Six and Seven, because they’re based so utterly on that principle, fall on deaf ears;
  • that, therefore, instead of using grace to direct our struggle against sin, we continue to use the law.

Whatever the besetting sin might be - alcoholism, drug addiction, homosexuality, pornography, gambling, poor work habits, isolation - we all too frequently bear down on it with a mega dose of the law - forcing believers into corners where there’s no wiggle room - locking them into “safe-houses” and all but putting ankle bracelets on them to track their “comings and goings.”

Too often what passes as a Biblically based “sanctification therapy” is little more than a relentless, heavy-handed, double-down use of the law. And that’s exactly what Paul wants to steer us away from.