If we know we are going to heaven, a new problem arises. What prevents us from sinning all we want? What keeps people from running out and killing themselves because they know they are going to heaven? Once when I told a Catholic college student that God’s free gift of grace guarantees heaven and you cannot earn it, she said, “Then why be good?”
I will let the Bible answer these questions. The primary text I will use comes from the writing of the Apostle Paul to the Church of Rome chapters 6 and 8.
In the Book of Romans Paul spent the first 5 chapters establishing the fact that we are saved by grace through faith and not by doing good works. A believer’s past, present and future sins are forever forgiven once we place our trust in Jesus Christ.
You can imagine the Apostle Paul traveling the countryside and preaching we are justified (forgiven) by faith alone, found not guilty before a holy God. This message must have run counter to just about everyone he encountered; especially the Jewish people. I’ll bet each and every synagogue he entered he was met with strong resistance. He must have heard it over and over again; if we are saved by simply believing then what stops us from sinning all we want. Why live a holy life? Being good is just a waste of time because I am already headed for heaven. Paul is going to deal with this issue.
We begin reading in Romans 5:20-21 “The Law came in so that the transgression would increase; but where sin increased, grace abounded all the more, 21 so that, as sin reigned in death, even so grace would reign through righteousness to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.”
When Paul says “The Law,” he is talking about the law delivered by Moses and the prophets given by God to the Jews. It is also called the Mosaic Law. This law did not show the Jews how they could obey and earn heaven, but instead demonstrated how much they fell short of God’s standard. The Jews failed repeatedly in their efforts to obey the law. It was to lead them to belief in God’s grace.
The moral aspects of this law apply to us today. Paul says as we break the law sin becomes more evident. And because of our amplified awareness of God’s standard, sin abounded or increased. Where sin increased God’s grace increased even more. What Paul established was the more we sin, the more we need God’s forgiveness.
If you have ever visually hung a mirror or a picture you might have thought you got it right. However, once you apply a standard, say a level, to the top of the frame you usually find your mistake was far greater. The amount you are off seems to have increased because now you are using a standard. The same goes for the law and sin. What Paul was saying was we don’t sin more; the standard just makes our sins more evident. We see how far off we are to measuring up to God’s standard. And the grace sufficient to make us right with God, to make the picture level Paul says, is not through works or living by the law but through God’s Son Jesus Christ.
Now the Jewish listeners were going to challenge Paul. They fully understood this grace he was preaching and knew it went against what they believed. We read in Romans 6:1 “What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin so that grace may increase?” This was a logical conclusion based on his listeners understanding that grace is all God’s work and is not supported by our good works. Therefore, if good works don’t earn heaven, then why do them. And if our sin allows God to demonstrate more grace, more forgiveness then let’s go out and sin more. The Apostle Paul was going to confront this false belief.