Paul knew what it was like to be a sinner. When he wrote about the enslaving power of sin and the joy of being forgiven, he wrote from his own experience. In his religious arrogance and spiritual blindness, Paul had harassed the church of Jesus Christ, imprisoned her members, and had many of them put to death. But on the way to Damascus Paul met Jesus, and Jesus extended His grace to the sinner. Acts 9:18 says that when Paul was saved, his first act as a new believer was to allow Ananias to baptize him.
As he penned the words of Romans chapter 6 he must have thought back to that day in Damascus when he said “good-bye” to the old Paul and “hello” to a new life. As he was plunged under the waters of baptism and then came up out of the water, he considered that baptism to be a picture of his death to sin and his resurrection to a new life (v.3-4). He was “dead to sin and alive to God” (v.11). Grace had released him from the power of sin (v.14)! And the same is true for every believer.
Before you were saved you had no power to resist sin. You were sin’s slave, obeying every sinful craving and urge, following every desire of your sinful nature — and sin was a cruel master, always promising happiness but only delivering pain. But when God saved you, He set you free from sin and brought you under His righteous rule (v.22). Unlike sin, He is a loving master. Sin takes, but God gives; sin destroys life, but God gives life (v.23).
With that liberating truth established, Paul’s two questions in verses 1 and 15 should hit us like a ton of bricks: “Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound?…Are we to sin because we are not under law but under grace?” His answer should be ours: “By no means!” We are not enslaved by sin anymore! That old life is gone! Sure, we believe the grace of God is available and abundant to cover any sin we might commit — but why would we want to go back to that which caused us so much pain? Having tasted freedom in Christ, why would we want to return to the sin that enslaved us? Why would we want to uncover and repeat those sins that grace has covered?
Paul’s inspired counsel is simple: don’t let sin control the way you live (v.12), let God take control (v.22). And that new life He gave you in Christ — live it!