Today, I am reading and commenting on Romans 4-7.
Paul tells us that Abraham’s faith never wavered, even when he was 100 years old and still had no son by Sarah. Yet, we know that he accepted Sarah’s suggestion and had a son with Hagar. So, despite the fact that Abraham had doubts, and even occasionally acted on those doubts, God considered that his faith never wavered. What we learn from Paul’s exposition is that it is natural that we some times doubt God’s promises. As we experience suffering, and the doubt that comes from it, we can learn to persevere. As we persevere in our faith through suffering and doubt our character will be built up. The building of our character will inspire us to ever greater hope in what the future holds. That hope is not in coming worldly good, but in doing God’s will and that hope will be fulfilled, and grow ever greater, by the Holy Spirit channeling God’s love through us.
Paul tells us in this passage, and yesterday’s, that we are saved through faith by God’s grace, that no action or good work on our part contributes to our salvation, and that no sin we have committed impedes that salvation. Many people interpret this to mean that they can go on sinning with impudence. However, Paul addresses that very idea in this passage. Paul tells us that our salvation has freed us from sin and that if we choose to continue sinning we are allowing ourselves to become re-enslaved by sin. We are slaves to that which we do, if we do righteous deeds we will be slaves to righteousness, if we do sinful deeds we will be slaves to sin. Towards the end of this passage Paul explains how this works. We have been saved to desire not to sin. If we sin despite our desire not to do so, it shows us that we need more of God’s grace and we should seek for the Holy Spirit to enter us more fully. As the Holy Spirit fills us it will inspire us to undertake more acts which are righteous. The result will be that, as we allow the Holy Spirit to guide us, our time will be filled with doing things which serve God and we will have no time left to succumb to sin. This is easier said than done. I want to reiterate a point which Paul made earlier and makes again later. The degree to which our time is filled doing good, and thus not sinning, is not to our credit. It is a product of the Holy Spirit filling us and does not make us better than those who find themselves more controlled by sin. I will state that some of my greatest victories over sin have been inspired by those who are just taking the first steps in overcoming sin in their lives.