Wednesday, March 04, 2015

A Read-along of Romans, Chapter 6: Oh, sweet, sweet sin! That grace may abound!

Did you know that during the early days of the Reformation, there is a legend that several reformers in Geneva used to gather on Fridays in order to hold "sausage parties?" Their intent was to subvert the day of obligatory fasting and abstention from eating meat as it was promulgated in the Church at that time...and so with a skillet and some pork products they committed themselves to breaking the rules. Their point was that these codes were superfluous to the life of Christ, and had no strong basis in holy scripture as they chose to interpret it.

Into that image, often times Martin Luther is credited with opining in a paraphrase of Ch. 6, verses 1-2 of the Letter to the Romans that we should, "Sin boldly, that grace may abound."

Go dig out your frying pans...or whatever chariot of temptation you choose to ride as you act in conflict with the will of the Divine....yes?


Paul uses this chapter to clarify any misconceptions that might have developed in his audience that if Christ dies for us, and thus our sins before God are now expunged, then there is no need to discipline ourselves. It's like the best "get out of jail free card" one could possibly hope for, right? Yeah, I didn't think you would go for that idea...and neither did Paul, or Martin Luther, or any of the sausage-eating reformers back in the day.

What Paul is asserting is that our life in Christ is NOT about our sinful nature and ultimate redemption from that path. It is about allowing that God's redeeming act in the Incarnation was to ultimately subvert our sinful nature and place us instead into a grace-filled life of mission in service to the Gospel of Jesus the Christ. What matters more is the redemption we experience in the resurrection. What matters least is our sinful nature. God has overcome the latter in favor of the former, and thus grace does abound.

And here is the final caveat....Just because we are forgiven does not get us off the hook in our new practice as recovering sinners. In fact, that is our daily summons to a new, sober and holy existence. Don't worry about the past, or fret about the future....Paul is pushing us to be mindful that what matters is how we choose to live the life of Christ, TODAY!

From there, we build our practice.

I think you can join me in agreement that whether we eat sausage or cod...or choose to fast...on a Friday has little to do with the great truth that while in Adam we were lost to sin and death, so in Christ was are saved and given new life.


  1. Basically even though Jesus died for us to be forgiven does not mean that our life on earth should be a free for all. We need to live life the best we can, reach out to others, and not to worry if we stumble now and then.

    1. Luther's position is that sin, though great (magnitude), cannot overcome the greater grace of God's love for us. I believe that has less to do with atonement (Jesus' death on the Cross as a ransom for us) as much as it has to do with our response to grace, to God's overwhelming love for us. Yes, we still stumble, but the idea is not to focus on the sin, but on the way of life offered to us that takes us into recovery from sinful choices.

  2. When Paul calls the Romans to a sober and holy existence, is he referring to simply following the commandments: Love God with all your heart, Love your neighbor as yourself, Don't murder, steal, covet, etc? He seems to be asserting that righteousness comes from being good, rather than James' proclaiming the need to do good. Or is there more to it? Laura B

    1. There alway seems to be a bit more to it, with Paul. He seems to be attempting to get those under the Law to remain steadfast while admitting grace...and to those who are not under the Law to see that sin still abides and that by God's grace in Christ we are able to overcome that baseness and accept a calling that is apart from all that passed for religious practice before. Really, I think it means that finding faith through justification by grace means embracing a new pattern of leads to illustrative works. IF we have faith, well then, we can't just sit there and enjoy it as we would a is a call instead to radical service and mission directed toward the neighbor (in whom we see the face of Christ, revealed).