The reason sin shall not be our master is because we are under grace and not under the law (Romans 6:14). If we were under law, sin would be our master. But since we are not under the law, but under grace, sin cannot be our master.
You would think that if we were not under the law then sin would most surely be our master. But that is not how it works, according to Paul. Only grace frees us from sin; the law does not. The law only perpetuates the problem by keeping us enslaved to sin. Sin is overthrown only by grace.
“So you’re saying we can just sin all we want!” someone wants to say.
But I didn’t come up with this stuff—Paul did, and Christ made him do it.
And yes, we sin all we want. We always have, and always will. And that is just the point. The grace of God changes what we are inside so that we no longer want to sin. At least not in the same way we did before. We might still succumb to temptation, but we don’t want to, we don’t like it, and we fight against it. If we do succumb, we don’t pretend it is OK, and we don’t make excuses for it.
We see our sins as sins, we confess them to God, we trust him for the forgiveness he says we have in Christ, we thank him for his indescribable grace, and we get up and get back in the fight against our sinful nature and keep on striving to live godly in Christ.
We can do that because we trust God to never stop loving us. John tells us in 1 John 4:16, “We know and rely on the love God has for us.” In verse 19, he continues, “We love because God first loved us.”
Think about that. It is God at work in us—God who makes us into a new creation in the perfect humanity of his Son—who turns us into the kind of people who love. This is not something we bring into being by our will, by setting our mind to it. We do not bring it about through our own reason and effort.
We love because God did something for us through Christ that we could never do for ourselves. He became human for us, and he was perfect—he loved and kept the law for us—so that when we are attached to him through faith (which is the only way we can be attached to him), we become something new, a new creation in him.
His atoning reconciliation on our behalf is what makes us into something different from what we are, not our actions, attitudes, emotions or willpower. Through faith, through trusting him, we participate in his perfect love. Don’t ever think that we actually love with perfect love ourselves, because we don’t. Our salvation from sin and death and our new selves, our new lives in Christ, come only from him and by him and of him, and he gives all this simply because he loves us.
Christ, and Christ alone, is our righteousness (Romans 3:22; 1 Corinthians 1:30; Philippians 3:9; etc.). It is his humanity that God accepts as righteous on our behalf. All religious ideas of human “measuring up” are worthless, because such a thing is impossible. Humanity is saved only because Christ became the perfect human for us, and we partake of that salvation and become a new creation only in him and only through faith in him. There is no other way.
Paul wrote: “For it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose” (Philippians 2:13). We cannot trust ourselves to do that, but we can trust him to do it.