“Not Under Law, But Under Grace”

By Bill Cavender

“For sin shall not have dominion over you: for ye are not under the law, but under grace” (Rom. 6:14, KJV ). “For sin shall not have dominion over you: for ye are not under law, but under grace” (Rom. 6:14, ASV ).

There are three clauses in our text:

(1) “For sin shall not have dominion over you”:

(2) “for you are not under law,”

(3) “but under grace.” It is these three clauses which will form the divisions of our lesson.

1. “For sin shall not have dominion over you.”Men and women, boys and girls — all accountable, responsible persons are guilty of committing sin(s) against the God of heaven by virtue of disobeying him, violating his holy, just, and good law (Rom. 7:11-12). “For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God” . . . “there is none righteous, no, not one” . . . “there is none that doeth good, no, not one” . . . “for that all have sinned”     . . . “we have before proved both Jews and Gentiles, that they are all under sin” . . . “For God hath concluded them all in unbelief (“disobedience,” ASV ), that he might have mercy upon all”     . . . “But the scripture hath concluded all under sin” . . . “For there is not a just man upon earth, that doeth good, and sinneth not” . . . “for there is no man that sinneth not” (Rom. 3:23, 10, 12; 5:12; 3:9; 11:32; Gal. 3:22; Eccl. 7:20; 1 Kings 8:46).

Only Jesus the Christ, the only begotten Son of God, our Saviour, Immanuel, God manifested in the flesh, truly God (Deity) and truly man (humanity), did not sin. He knew no sin (1 Pet. 2:21-25; 2 Cor. 5:21). He was “holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners, and made higher than the heavens” (Heb. 7:25-26). Never in thought, word and deed, during his sojourn in his world among men, did he violate the holy laws of his Father in heaven or the laws of human rulers on earth. He left nothing undone and unsaid that he should have done and said. No sin(s) of commission or omission ever tainted his holy life or sullied his sinless soul.

For we have not a high priest that cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but one that has been in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin (Heb. 4:15).

All of us are sinners. Who and where is that one who will say he is not guilty? We are the objects of God’s mercy and grace in Christ. He came to seek and to save the lost, to give his life as a ransom for many (Luke 19:10; Matt. 20:28).

“Faithful is the saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners; of whom I am chief,” so said Paul, the apostle to the Gentiles (1 Tim. 1:15). He is the Lamb of God who “taketh away the sin of the world” (John 1:19).

Why are we sinners? Not because we are born sinners; not because we inherit the guilt of Adam’s sin; not because our parents were (or are) sinners; not because we are inherently evil, etc. These and many other theories are taught in the world of religions. Scriptures are perverted and misinterpreted to sustain these false doctrines.

We are sinners because: (1) We go astray from God (Isa. 53:6; 1 Pet. 2:25; 2 Pet. 2:15); (2) We disobey and violate the law(s) of God (1 John 3:4; 5:17); (3) We fail to do that which is our duty to do (Jas. 4:17; Matt. 25:1- 13, 24-30, 41-46); (4) We cultivate an evil heart of unbelief in departing from the living God (Heb. 3:12; Rom. 11:32); (5) We become the children of the prince of the powers of the air, the devil, children of disobedience, dead in trespasses and sins, walking in the sinful practices of this sinful world, deserving of punishment (Eph. 2:1-10).

Sin has dominion over us when we live in sin and the guilt of sin abides upon us (Col. 3:5-7). We are “servants of sin unto death” when we obey sin, when sin is our master (Rom. 6:15-23). Cain was warned by God that “sin coucheth at the door; and unto thee shall be its desire; but do thou rule over it” (Gen. 4:18).

Men and women can rule over sin through faith and by resisting its overtures, or it will rule over us. We can master sin or sin will master us. “Be subject therefore unto God; but resist the devil, and he will flee from you” . . . “Be sober, be watchful: your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour: whom resist steadfast in the faith . . .” (Jas. 4:7; 1 Pet. 5:8-9).

Let no man say when he is tempted, I am tempted of God: for God cannot be tempted with evil, neither tempteth he any man: But every man is tempted, when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed. Then when lust hath conceived, it bringeth forth sin: and, sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth death. Do not err, my beloved brethren (Jas. 1:13-16).

The dominion and rule of sin in our lives is broken and overcome when we become “dead to sin,” when “we walk in newness of life,” when “he that is dead is freed from sin,” when “we be dead with Christ we believe that we shall also live with him,” when “reckon ye also yourselves to be dead indeed unto sin, but alive unto God through Jesus Christ our Lord,” when “sin (does not) reign in your mortal body,” when “your members (are) instruments of righteousness unto God,” when “now being made free from sin, and become servants to God, ye have fruit unto holiness, and the end everlasting life” (Rom. 6:2, 4, 7-8, 11-13, 18, 22).

Romans 6 tells us how and when we “become dead to sin” and “alive unto righteousness;” how and when we cease to be “the servants of sin” and become “the servants of righteousness”; how and when we are no longer under “the dominion of sin unto death” but “alive unto God through Jesus Christ our Lord.”

This dominion of sin is broken and overcome when we are: (1) baptized into Jesus Christ; (2) baptized into his death; (3) buried with him by baptism into death (i.e., our own death to sin); (4) raised up from baptism to walk in newness of life, which is a likeness of his resurrection; (5) when the sinful body is crucified and destroyed; (6) when we are dead to sin and freed from sin (Rom. 6:3-7). The inspired apostle further writes: “Ye were servants of sin, but ye have (1) obeyed (2) from the heart, (3) that form of doctrine which was delivered you. (4) Being then made free from sin, ye became the servants of righteousness” (Rom. 6:16-18). Thus the Saviour said, “He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned” (Mark 16:15-16). The inspired apostle Peter said, “Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit” (Acts 2:37-41). “Baptism doth also now save us,” as water saved Noah, when baptism is an act of trust in God, sincere belief in Jesus who died for our sins, repentance and true sorrow for the sins we have committed, and is the response of a good conscience toward God (1 Pet. 3:20-22; Acts 8:26- 40; 2:37-41; 2 Cor. 7:10).

2. “For you are not under law,” is an ellipsis (“Gram. Omission of one or more words, obviously under- stood, but necessary to make the expression grammatically complete” — Webster . . . “For you are not under law only, but also under grace.”)

We are “under law.” There could be no such thing as “sin” if there was no law. “Every one that doeth sin doeth also lawlessness; and sin is lawlessness. And ye know that he was manifested to take away sins; and in him is no sin” (1 John 3:4-5, ASV ). “Whosoever committeth sin trans- gresseth also the law: for sin is the transgression of the law. And ye know that he was manifested to take away our sins; and in him is no sin” (1 John 3:4-5, KJV ). “For the law worketh wrath; but where there is no law, neither is there transgression” . . . “for until the law (the law of Moses, bc) sin was in the world; but sin is not imputed (reckoned, counted) when there is no law” (Rom. 4:15; 5:13).

Adam and Eve were the first lawbreakers — sinners. She was beguiled by Satan but Adam was not beguiled (1 Tim. 2:13-14; Gen. 3:1-13). He entered into sin “with his eyes wide open,” knowing he was disobeying God when he did it. Jehovah had commanded Adam, saying, “Of every tree of the garden thou mayest freely eat: but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die” (literally, “dying thou shalt die,” i.e., dying every way a man can die) (Gen. 2:16-17). Adam died spiritually at the time he ate of the forbidden fruit; the sentence of spiritual death, separation from God, came upon him immediately (Isa. 59:1-2; Ezek. 18:20). The sentence of physical death, separation of spirit and body, came upon him

930 years after his exclusion from the Garden of Eden and his inability to any longer eat of the fruit of the tree of life (Jas. 2:28; Eccl. 12:7; Gen.3:22-24; 5:5).

By the Holy Spirit the apostle Paul said, “Therefore, as through one man sin entered into the world, and death through sin; and so death passed unto all men, for that all have sinned: for until the law sin was in the world; but sin is not imputed when there is no law. Nevertheless death reigned from Adam until Moses, even over them that had not sinned after the likeness of Adam’s transgression, who is a figure of him that was to come” (Rom. 5:12-14, ASV ). Adam was the first sinner. He was the first to experience the consequence and penalty of sin, spiritual death, separation from God (Isa. 59:1-2). He was under the law of God and he disobeyed. He walked by sight, not by faith (2 Cor. 5:7). Sin the master, spiritual death the result, entered into the world of men and women through him.

Sin and death passed upon all of Adam’s descendants for they have all done what Adam did — they have sinned! They did not commit the same sin, eating the forbidden fruit, that Adam did.

They committed all manner of sin(s) and all came un- der the same sentence, death, first imposed upon Adam. The consequence and penalty for violation(s) of God’s laws have always been the same. The same penalty and curse of the law comes upon each one when we sin. It has been so since Adam!

Men from Adam to Moses, about twenty-five hundred years or so, sinned and were guilty, under sentence of death (Rom. 5:14). They violated God’s laws. Abel recognized his guilt and offered the sin offering (Gen. 4:4; Heb. 11:4). Faithful men in the lineage of Seth “began to call upon the name of Jehovah,” preaching righteousness and condemning sins of the people (Gen. 4:26). Enoch, the seventh from Adam through Seth, condemned the ungodliness of ungodly people (Gen. 5:24; Jude 14-15). Noah was a preacher of righteousness, upholding God’s laws and condemning transgressors (Gen. 6:1-13, 22; 7:1; Heb. 11:7; 1 Pet. 3:20-21; 2 Pet. 2:5). Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, and other great men and “patriarchs” of faith lived during this period from Adam to Moses (Rom. 5:12-14). They were sinners for they disobeyed God. One disobeys God by violating his will. But they knew God’s will and obeyed, though imperfectly, and offered the sacrifices in admission and remembrance of sin(s). The entire fourth chapter of Romans deals with Abraham who was a sinner, but who was saved by God’s grace through his (Abraham’s) faith. There has never been a human being who has not been subject to God’s will and commandments.

In Moses’ eighty-first year, the law from Jehovah God which bears Moses’ name (“the law of Moses”), was given to the Hebrew people at Sinai. Moses was the mediator of this law and covenant (Gal. 3:17-29). This law was “added because of transgressions, till the seed (Jesus Christ, the promised seed of Abraham, bc) should come to whom the promise was made” (v. 19); the law of Moses could not give life (v. 21); they who “are under the works of law are under the curse,” i.e., the curse and condemnation which the law pronounces upon those who disobey it (v.10); “no man is justified by the law in the sight of God” (v. 11), for if a man could be justified by the law, he would have to live perfectly, never sinning (vv. 12-13; Rom. 10:5). Law condemns the sinner; Jehovah God, in his grace, mercy, love and kindness through Jesus Christ, forgives the sinner (Tit. 3:3-7).

“Moreover the law entered, that the offence might abound: But where sin abounded, grace did much more abound: That as sin hath reigned unto death, even so might grace reign through righteousness unto eternal life by Jesus Christ our Lord” (Rom. 5:20-21). The law of Moses entered and the offence abounded because: (1) it revealed and defined the offence. The light shined in the darkness and sin was manifested and discerned (Rom. 7:1-25). What man thought little about and dismissed as trivial now becomes matters of magnitude and gravity; (2) the sinner could see himself without excuse (Rom. 2:2). Sin is exceedingly sinful when committed against light and knowledge; (3) sin abounded by causing the sinner to see himself in presumptuous rebellion against God, as his spirit rises up in opposition to God and to his good and pure law. God commands and man refuses.

God forbids and man desires. In the hearts of sinful men the law provokes to rebellion. The vicious self-will of wicked, disobedient people is at enmity against God. Trespassers try to show the Almighty that he cannot rule over them; (4) God’s law compels us to look in the mirror, the perfect law of liberty (Jas. 1:22-25), and see that sin is a powerful master and tyrant over us, that sin dwelleth in us through our unbelief and disobedience to our Lord’s will.

3. “But under grace.” “But God, who is rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us, even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ, (by grace ye are saved;) and hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus: That in the ages to come he might show the exceeding riches of his grace in his kindness toward us through Christ Jesus. For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God; not of works, lest any man should boast” (Eph. 2:3-9).

No one will seek for mercy and forgiveness until and unless one pleads guilty to the indictment of God’s law which pronounces us as sinners, violators of his law. The condemnation of the law should prepare us with heart- felt desire for the cleansing of the blood of Jesus and the forgiveness and pardon which our Heavenly Father offers us in the good news, the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ (Isa. 55:6-7; Rom. 1:16-17; 3:19-28; 4:20-25; 5:9-10). Grace abounds by forgiving us of all sins — all as to kind(s) and all as to number(s). There is no sin too great to be forgiven where there is true assurance of faith in Jesus and his shed blood, where there is penitence, sorrow, and regret for our sins, and where there is obedience from the heart to the gospel of our Lord in baptism for the remission of our sins (Acts 2:37-41; 8:26-39).

And He said unto them, Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature. He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned (Mark 16:15-16). Through grace, God our Father has made us partakers of his divine grace, children of God through faith (2 Pet. 1:3-4; Gal. 3:26-29). Through God’s grace we are heirs of God and joint-heirs with Jesus (Gal. 3:28-29; 4:1-7; Rom. 8:16-17). Through grace we who are sinners are born again, of water and the Spirit, in obeying the truth, and granted citizenship in his heavenly kingdom, to live for- ever with him, and with our Saviour who died for us, and with the elect angels, and with the redeemed of all the ages (John 3:3-5; 1 Pet. 1:22- 25; Phil. 3:20-21; 2 Pet. 1:3-11; Matt. 8:11; Luke 13:28-30). Through God’s grace the Lord of glory was crucified for our sins and he willingly gave his life as a ransom for as many who would believe on him and obey him (John 1:11-12; 1 Cor. 2:8; Matt. 26:20, 28; Heb. 5:8-9). Grace, mercy and peace abides with God’s redeemed children now through our lives here and into eternity.

Marvelous grace of our loving Lord, Grace that exceeds our sin and our guilt; Yonder on Calvary’s mount out-poured, There where the blood of the Lamb was spilt . . . Dark is the stain that we can- not hide, What can avail to wash it away? Look! there is flowing a crimson tide; Whiter than snow you may be today . . . Marvelous, infinite, matchless grace, Freely bestowed on all who believe; You that are longing to see His face, Will you obey and His grace receive? . . . Grace, Grace, Infinite Grace, Grace that will pardon and cleanse within; Marvelous Grace, Infinite Grace, Grace that is greater than all our sin” (D.B. Towner, Julia H. Johnston). 

Amazing grace, how sweet the sound; That saved a wretch like me! I once was lost, but now I’m found, Was blind, but now I see  . . .’Twas grace that taught my heart to fear, And grace my fears allayed; How precious did that grace appear, When I His word obeyed . . . Thru many dangers, toils and snares, I have already come; ’Twas grace that bro’t me safe thus far, And grace will lead me home . . . The Lord has promised good to me, His word my hope secures; He will my shield and portion be,