Now the law came in to increase the trespass, but where sin increased, grace abounded all the more, so that, as sin reigned in death, grace also might reign through righteousness leading to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord. What shall we say then? Are we to continue to sin that grace may abound? – Romans 5:20-6:1
Today’s rhetorical flourish is a series of “What shall we say then?” questions. The first is above: “Are we to continue to sin that grace may abound?” This is followed later with “Are we to sin because we are not under law but under grace?” and “What then shall we say? That the law is sin?” Each of these expects an emphatically negative response: “By no means!” which Paul explains.
The flourish of asking a question whose answer is intuitively obvious is one of the oldest Biblical traditions. The LORD’s confrontation of the man and woman in the Garden of Eden was just a series of four questions: “Where are you? Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten of the tree…?” and “What is this that you have done?” Both characters and readers already know the answers; the questions move the plot, more than the conversation.
So it is with Romans 6 and 7. It’s possible that Paul is responding to questions or concerns that have been directly raised by the Roman church. The early believers who converted out of Judaism certainly wrestled with the question of what to do with the Law. We’ve already seen how this impacted evangelization efforts with Gentiles in Acts, and it was that very question that drove some to reject Jesus, who claimed He came not to abolish the Law or the prophets, but to fulfill them (Matthew 5:17).
It’s also possible that Paul is building toward the crescendo at the end of chapter 7. I’ll not stand in the way of his responses, but encourage you to listen to how the argument builds toward a personal conclusion.
Our verse for this week is Genesis 1:1: In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.
Romans 6 and 7. Now let’s read it!
1:1 In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.