King Grace Vs. King Sin

“Let not sin reign in your mortal bodies to obey its desires” (Rom 6.12). 

How? Within the exhortation itself, Paul seems to have given ground to the power of sin over us. We have, after all, “mortal bodies.” We live in bodies of death; bodies that still bear the effects of Adam’s sin. Yes, they have been buried with Christ in baptism and raised with him (Rom 6.4), but by Paul’s own admission they are still “mortal.” If they are still mortal bodies, if I am still plagued with the effects of Adam’s sin, how can I not obey its passions? It would seem that being trapped in mortality condemns me to slavery to the reign of sin and the desires of a mortal body. How could Paul be so cruel as to tell us that we shouldn’t be letting sin reign in these bodies where it appears sin still reigns?

If Paul’s exhortation cannot be obeyed, it would certainly be discouraging to exhort us to do something that we cannot do. However, Paul really believes that it can be obeyed. The foundations for our obedience have been laid in Romans 5 and the beginning of Romans 6. 

The sin of one man, Adam, brought with it a death into the world. That death spread to all men with the result that all sinned (Rom 5.12). The nefarious royalty of sin and death have certainly set up their kingdom in the world through Adam’s sin. But the grace of God demonstrated in and through Christ Jesus has conquered sin and death. The kingdom of righteousness and life has overcome the kingdom of sin and death. God’s grace overcomes sin and its death. That is why Paul can give this exhortation. 

We live in bodies of death where sin’s effects are still a reality. But our bodies of death have been transferred into a kingdom of righteousness and life, being united with the body of Jesus that has died unto sin and risen to new life in righteousness. Because of our union with him, the grace that God grants us in him gives us the power to resist the reign of sin in our mortal bodies. God’s grace and life in Christ overcomes the reign of sin and death.

The grace of God that gives us the power to overcome the reign of sin in our bodies is found in our union with Christ’s body. This union is not some abstract principle. God grants us his grace to overcome sin in the body of Christ, the church. Grace is not some fog that we enter or some ooze that fills up our bodies. Grace is God’s kind, empowering actions given to us within our relationships within the church. God meets us in grace through his Word read and taught, through sharing his Table with the rest of church, through the encouragement of other Christians, and through prayer. Separating yourself from the fellowship of the body of Christ separates you from where God has promised the power of his overcoming grace. God works in us through others. Separating yourself from the fellowship of the church is to flirt with the kingdom of sin and death. There is more than a good chance of the remaining sin in you to begin to hold sway over your desires once again. This is why the writer of Hebrews encourages Christians, “Take care, brothers, lest there be in any of you an evil, unbelieving heart, leading you to fall away from the living God. But exhort one another every day, as long as it is called ‘today,’ that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin” (Heb 3.12-13). We cannot obey the exhortation of Paul not to let sin reign in our mortal bodies if we cut our bodies off from the body of Christ. 

God grants us his grace in the body. Let us avail ourselves of the grace of God and not succumb to the reign of sin.