A Bottomless Well of Love
The beauty of the Gospel resides in the perfection of His love which sustains a salvific power in redeeming sin-wrought rebels to a holy and infinite God. The heights of God’s mighty power cannot be peaked, nor can the depth of His vast sustenance be plumbed (cf. Rom. 8:39). His loving kindness is inexhaustible, and His tender mercy is never-ending. He in Himself is sufficient, and His patience does not wane. The covenantal Lord is not like man that He would grow weary, nor is He fatigued in bringing about His purposes within the economy of redemptive history (cf. Isa. 40:28-31; Num. 23:19). In all that God wills and decrees He does through the perfection that is He Himself (for an analysis on the doctrine of divine simplicity click here, here, and here). Thus, the means and source by which His covenantal people find redemption cannot be drained nor exhausted. As the Apostle Paul asserts, “the forgiveness of our trespasses [is] according to the riches of His grace” (Eph. 1:7b; Gk. kata to ploutos tes charitos autou).
However, some would look at this paradigm and seek to take advantage of the so-called loophole found within this redemptive pedigree; that is, one would ask, “Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound?” (Rom. 6:1). The logic, it is argued, would seem to conclude that since God is infinite in His mercy and boundless in His grace, His people should and must advance the wander of His great love by basking in the sinfulness of this world. In doing so, they would reason, God’s immeasurable kindness is magnified. Yet is this the way Scripture conveys the relationship between the believer and sin? Are saints called to continue in their sin in order to make much of Christ? Or a little less extreme, is it appropriate to sin now and repent later?
We will argue in this blog, then, that though God’s mercy cannot be exhausted, our relationship to sin has fundamentally changed through our union with Christ. No longer are we to have an intimate (covenantal) relationship with sin, but rather, conversely, we are called to mortify sin; that is, we are to kill it. This is accomplished (though this approach is not exhaustive) by understanding the believer’s allegiance, affection, and assurance in Christ Jesus our Lord.
A Newfound Allegiance. A believer’s relationship with sin fundamentally changes when she is united with Christ through faith (cf. Rom. 5:1; 6:17-18). The Apostle depicts the believer’s relationship with sin as one which is disowned or forsaken; that is, Paul uses the term “dead to sin” (cf. Rom. 6:2; Gk. apethanomen te hamartia). This verbiage paints a picture of the persuasion of sin being loosened or disarmed by a newfound allegiance in Christ. Paul goes on to say, “For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace” (Rom. 6:14). This does not mean that believers cease in their struggle with sin. Rather, it means that the certainty of sin is weakened; sin has lost its lordship over the saint because of Christ. “[You] who were once slaves of sin have become obedient from the heart to the standard of teaching to which you were committed,” writes Paul, “and having been set free from sin, have become slaves of righteousness” (Rom. 6:17-18). Thomas R. Schreiner captures the imagery well when he writes, “To be a slave of sin means that one is under its lordship and dominion and thus unable to extricate oneself from its tyranny. God in His grace broke the shackles of sin so that glad-hearted obedience became a reality for the Roman Christian.” Covenantal allegiance through Christ, then, shifts within the believer a commitment from sin to Christ. If this is true, why would a believer return to the dead corpse of sin? Why would believers, like dogs, return to their vomit (cf. Prov. 26:11; 2 Pet. 2:22)? To this end, the Apostle uses the imagery of baptism to assure his kinsmen in the faith that their allegiance has been secured in the Savior; that is, they have a newfound allegiance and, thus, must leave the way of sinful repute (cf. Rom. 6:3-4).
A Newfound Affection. Not only does our union with Christ provide a newfound (covenantal) allegiance, but it furnishes newfound affection for the things of God. The faith that unites rebel sinners to the covenantal Lord also produces within them an obedience of faith (Rom. 1:5; Gk. hypakoen pisteos; cf. 3:31; 6:19). This obedience is not begrudging nor resentful. Rather, this obedience is coupled with a renewed heart and mind to love and enjoy the things of God (cf. Rom. 12:1-2; 1 Jn. 5:1-3). On this side of salvation, the Law of God becomes a pleasurable menu of edible delight (cf. Rom. 7:12). Therefore, spiritual rebirth transforms the believer’s palate to desire righteousness rather than sinfulness; love rather than hate; forgiveness rather than bitterness; truthfulness rather than deceit. The believer’s volition, then, is transformed to seek the truths of God in light of the design of God. The Law of God, in turn, is not merely an intellectual endeavor honed for the enterprise of academic persuasion. Rather, the Law of God is emotive and affective. That is, joyful obedience to Christ is saturated in the confines of truthful delight. To this end, the Psalmist writes, “Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers; but his delight is in the Law of the Lord, and on His Law he meditates day and night. He is like a tree planted by streams of water that yields its fruit in its season, and its leaf does not wither. In all that he does, he prospers.” (Ps. 1:1-13; italics mine).
A Newfound Assurance. This newfound allegiance coupled with its affection, in turn, administers an assurance of salvation (cf. 1 Jn. 1:5-10). If believers walk in accordance with Christ’s covenantal appeal and share in the affection of joyful obedience, saints can be assured that the Spirit dwells within them and empowers them to glorify God in life and death. Jesus says upon His departure, “Whoever has my commandments and keeps them, he it is who loves Me” (Jn. 14:21a). D. A. Carson follows this passage by asserting, “The idea, rather, is that the ongoing relationship between Jesus and His disciples is characterized by obedience on their part, and thus is logically conditioned by it. They love and obey Jesus, and He loves them, in exactly the same way that He loves and obeys His Father, and the Father loves Him (cf. 3:35; 5:20; 8:29; 14:31).” Faithfulness, then, is a sign of fruitfulness which is tied to union with Christ and the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit. Newfound allegiance produces newfound affections which affirms newfound assurance in Christ.
A Grace Toward Righteousness
A grace that is manipulated for sinful gain is a grace that is misrepresented and, thus, rightfully loses its lure in being understood as properly exemplifying grace (cf. Rom. 11:6). Biblical grace, then, is the power of God to assists His covenantal people toward joyful obedience to Christ. It is, first, delighting in the Gospel of Christ which redeems and reconciles sinful men back to a right relationship with their Creator. And secondly, from that outflow of truth, it empowers followers of Christ to take heed of the commandments of Christ for the good of their hearts, the mission of the church, and the glory of God. Thus, biblical grace must not be wielded as an instrument to propagate forth sinful dealings. Rather, biblical grace must produce joyful obedience to Christ. If the product or end goal of grace ceases to magnify Christ, we no longer have grace, but rather a distortion of it. To this end, may the triune God of the universe grant us the grace to walk in righteousness and, in turn, protect us from deception. Soli Deo Gloria!
 Thomas R. Schreiner, Romans, 2nd edition, BECNT (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2018), 333.
 D. A. Carson, The Gospel According to John, PNTC (Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1991), 503.
McYoung Y. Yang (MDiv, SBTS; ThM, MBTS) is the husband to Debbie and father to McCayden (13), McCoy (12), McColsen (10), and DeYoung (7). He is a Pastor of Preaching/Teaching at Covenant City Church in St. Paul, MN. Along with his ministerial duties, he is a homeschool dad. In addition, McYoung is continuing his doctoral studies at Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Kansas City, MO. His ambition is to use his training as a means to serve the local church in living life through the Gospel lens.