12 Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, to make you obey its passions. 13 Do not present your members to sin as instruments for unrighteousness, but present yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life, and your members to God as instruments for righteousness. 14 For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace. (Romans 6:11-14 (ESV)
“Since you are not under law but under grace.”
We are, you are under grace. As long as we are under law sin reigns. It isn’t the law itself that is bad. The law is holy, good, and divine. It is God’s word. It is our relationship to it as sinners that is bad. And it is bad because the law works in relation to sinners in a way that is contrary to the will of God, it condemns the men that God desires be saved and come to the knowledge of truth. Our problem as Christians is that though we are saints, that is under grace, we are still sinners and so we often return, like a dog to its vomit, to the old relationship to the law even though it is no longer valid for us.
We do this when we approach the law for the selfish purposes of our own salvation, our own sanctification, or with our concern for our own reputation and well-being in this world. As long as we relate to the law in this manner we fail, because we do not do it out of love that fulfils the law, but from selfish narcissism. It’s the catch 22 of the sinner in relation to the law, the Gordian knot that we are unable to untie. The law accuses us, and it doesn’t lie, it flat out tells the truth and it condemns us with this truth, we have broken the law. In turn, the sinful man’s response is to try go above and beyond what the law requires, but we never actually do what the law requires itself. Really, there is nothing we can do that the law doesn’t actually already require us to do. And furthermore, when we do it to save our own bacon, love is the missing ingredient.
This is the Gordian knot that Jesus chops in half with his death and resurrection that he applies to us in baptism. This puts us under grace, it frees us from the law. When the Son sets you free you are free indeed. That is we are under grace not the law. The law can no longer accuse us, because the Son has set us free. So Paul bids us to celebrate our freedom in love for our neighbor, in love for God. We don’t do this by sinning, love doesn’t sin. It doesn’t sin because it isn’t selfish, boastful, or rude. Love is forgiving, patient and kind, bearing with all things. Love issues from a pure heart and a good conscience, a sincere faith. These are things the law cannot deliver. But these are the things the Holy Spirit delivers when he washes us clean, sanctifying us with the water and the word. For in baptism we were placed under grace, and under grace we walk in the newness of life, we walk in the joy of a pure heart and a good conscience in the steps of a sincere faith the hope given to us in the resurrection of Christ.