Yesterday by Grace, But Today by Labor?
Romans 6:16 Do you not know that if you present yourselves to anyone as obedient slaves,you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin, which leads to death, or of obedience, which leads to righteousness? 17 But thanks be to God, that you who were once slaves of sin have become obedient from the heart to the standard of teaching to which you were committed, 18 and, HAVING BEEN set free from sin, HAVE BECOME slaves of righteousness.
19 I am speaking in human terms, because of your natural limitations. For just as you ONCE presented your members as slaves to impurity and to lawlessness leading to more lawlessness, so NOW present your members as slaves to righteousness leading to sanctification. 20 For when you were slaves of sin, you were free in regard to righteousness.
21 What fruit were you getting at that time from the things of which you are now ashamed? For the end of those things is death. 22 But now that you have been set free from sin and HAVE BECOME slaves of God, the fruit you get leads to sanctification and its end, eternal life.
The context is Romans 5: we are not first condemned for our sinful conduct but by imputation of Adam’s sin. Even so, in Romans 6, we are not saved by OUR BETTER LIVING. We are not saved BY BELIEVING. We are saved by imputed DEATH: the elect for whom Christ died also died with Him, and we must COUNT on that death (and resurrection) as the only condition of salvation. We do not count on our faith or our labor.
You cannot use labor to get assurance because labor done without assurance does not please God, but is instead an “abomination” to God. Pharisees like Nicodemus got assurance from their labor. But the light of the gospel exposes even our “good” labor as sin.
Romans 8:13. “Put to death the deeds” includes putting to death assurance by works and blessing by works. Before I was converted, I had read this text only in terms of morality. Certainly we are to be moral. But morality can be done in the flesh: I can no longer use Romans 8:13 to create doubt and legal fears. Nor James and I John.
To doubt that you are saved because of what you did or didn’t do is to take the focus off of what Christ did. Living by the gospel is having confidence in the gospel of Christ’s doing and dying. Even though I agree that Christians have both sinful doubts and degrees of assurance, I do not agree that we should attempt to gain assurance ALSO by our labor.
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