“But if our unrighteousness serves to show the righteousness of God, what shall we say? That God is unrighteous to inflict wrath on us? (I speak in a human way.) 6 By no means! For then how could God judge the world? 7 But if through my lie God's truth abounds to his glory, why am I still being condemned as a sinner? 8 And why not do evil that good may come?—as some people slanderously charge us with saying. Their condemnation is just.” (Romans 3:5-8 (ESV)
People are afraid of the gospel, of forgiveness. The early church was persecuted for believing in the forgiveness of sins. It would be awesome to see that happen again, rather than so-called Christians being “persecuted” for political stunts. They were persecuted for the forgiveness of sins, because people thought that by forgiving sins a person was giving people a license to sin, that if sins could be forgiven others might do those things I really want to do, but don’t do for fear of the law. It’s futile. People see the law as restraining sin, and to a certain extent within the civil realm it does that. But it does a very poor job of that. Paul understood that the law, holy and good as it was, awakened sin within us. It isn’t that the law is bad, but we as sinners have a bad relationship with it, we have a perverted reaction to it. When we are told not to do something, we are half tempted to tell they guy thank you for the suggestion, for the good idea. We are sinners, this is the reaction of sin to the law.
So the law, despite all intuition, does not curb but increases sin. This is why the “Just Say No” campaign was so ill fated in the 80’s. Studies actually show the program was like free advertising for drugs, that drug use actually increased because of the campaign. I tend to think this is why tobacco companies pay for anti smoking ads on T.V. It isn’t a court order that compels them to do it, they understand that no publicity is bad publicity, that even an add telling you not to do something, is an add for their product. I never wanted to smoke more when I was quitting than after seeing a public service announcement asking me to quit.
But Paul understood something about the gospel. It frees us. It frees us from the law. Far from giving us an excuse to sin, it frees us from sin. It’s like putting a bowl of candy in the middle of the room and letting your kids have however much they want. Sure they might binge on it at first, especially if they have been deprived from it for a long time. And sometimes you see this with people as the gospel first washes over them. Calvinists call it cage stage, because they really think a person ought to be caged at that point in their gospel walk to keep them from harming themselves and others. But after a while that bowl will sit without need of refill for weeks on end. Tell them they can’t have it, and you will be constantly refilling it. The gospel frees a person in much the same way. Rather than becoming an excuse for sin, it becomes strength from which to resist sin.