The word of the cross is the power of God

The Power of Death to Sin

How shall we, that are dead to sin, live any longer therein? Rom. 6:2 t is the power of the cross!   


Shall we continue in sin that grace may abound? ….

On this aspect of the power of the cross we concentrated our attention in the preceding chapters of the book. The Word of the cross is the power of God unto salvation; by its power we are redeemed from the curse of the law, reconciled to God, delivered from the dominion and fear of death, and our conscience is purged from dead works. Sinners though we be in ourselves, we are righteous before God; dimmable though our state may be, in Christ we are justified; the handwriting of God through the blood of Christ, inscribed in our conscience, declares us as righteous as if we never had commented any sin, yea, as if we personally had paid the penalty for our sins, and kept all God’s commandments ever since!   

But does not this doctrine make men careless and profane?

Is there no room, then, for the question: “What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound?”

The question, it would seem, follows very normally, and, what is more, it would appear as if the answer suggested is the only possible and logical conclusion from the doctrine of free justification: let us continue in sin, that grace may abound. The more e sin, the more we create the situation in which grace may truly shine forth in all its glory. By continuing in sin, it would seem, we serve the cause of grace. Let us, then, fathom the depth of sin, that we may taste the fullness of grace. 

The opponents of the truth of sovereign grace, and of free justification through grace in Christ, without works, often claim that this is only possible inference that follows logically from this doctrine. It makes men careless and profane. It offers them an indulgence to sin. Nay, what is worse, it changes sin into a virtue, since it becomes a means to extol the grace of God. You teach, they say, that we are justified before God without works. No matter how deeply and grossly we sin, we are righteous before God. Righteousness is simply imputed to us. God works are not its ground: they cannot add to our righteousness. Sin cannot change it: though our sins are as scarlet, though they cry to heaven, in the judgment of God we are declared righteous. Well, then say they, lust us continue in sin: that is the only possible conclusion you can draw from such a doctrine. If it does not make a particle of difference in the judgment of God whether we sin or do good works, by all means let us sin, for this has, at least the advantage that it brings into bright relief the glory of God’s forgiving mercy.

Thus the opponents of Paul’s day, and the enemies of the so-called “blood theology” of modern times argue against the Scriptural truth of free justification through the blood of the cross, in order to demonstrate the absurdity and pernicious nature of this doctrine. Nor need we deny that, if their argument were correct, and their conclusion true, if it were the tendency of the cross of Christ to render men secure in their sin, to make men careless and profane, the truth of free justification could no longer be a cause for glorying. In that case, it would indeed be a dangerous doctrine. Then the cross of Christ would be made of none effect.   

But they that thus oppose the truth only speak in their ignorance. They have not experienced, neither do they understand the marvellous power of the cross.

For rather than causing men to rest secure in their sin, seeing they are justified without works, so that they become careless and profane in their walk and conversation, the power of the cross has the effect that it causes men deeply to abhor sin, to repent in dust and ashes, and to walk as children of light in the midst of the world.  To verify this, just ask, not the enemies of the cross of Christ, but those that have experienced the power of the blood of Jesus unto their justification, and that know what it means to be justified freely by His grace.  Ask them, if they have any confidence in their own works as a ground of their righteousness before God, and they will assure you that all their boasting is in the cross of Christ, and in the atoning power of His blood. To them, all other ground is sinking sand. They utterly repudiate it. But again, ask them whether this exclusive confidence in the cross as the ground of their righteousness, does not have the effect upon them that now they become careless and profane, induces them to draw the conclusion that it is profitable to continue in sin that grace may abound, and they will reply with holy indignation and abhorrence: God forbid! They will assure you that the power of the cross, as they experienced it, bore the very opposite fruit: it caused them to abhor sin, to eschew it, to flee from it, to fight it with all their might. And for nothing they long more fervently than to be delivered from the defilement of sin finally and completely. “Live in sin?” they will say, rather amazed that you could approach them with such a proposition, “continue in sin? How could we, that have tested the power of redemption in the cross of Jesus, consider such a possibility, or do such a thing? God forbid!”

This is also the answer of the Scriptures, by the apostle Paul, in the sixth chapter of the Romans. Shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound? God forbid! Such a proposition cannot be entertained seriously, even for a moment. …. 

It is plain, therefore, that, according to Scripture, the redeemed in Christ have died with Him, and that now they are dead unto sin, so that sin no longer has the power to reign over them.

It belongs to the power of the cross to render men dead unto sin.

Two questions arise in this connection: 1. What does it mean to be dead unto sin? 

In answer to the first question, we should carefully observe that the Bible does not say that sin is dead in the believer, but on the contrary, that he is dead to sin. The difference is evident. It would be a grievous error to change this expression, or to understand it as meaning the same as the statement that, as long as the believer is in the world, sin is dead in him. …. Fact is, that when we are engrafted into Christ, and the power of the cross is realized in us, sin is not dead, but remains very much alive. …. Not until we breathe our last are we delivered from it. …. In fact, it often seems that, according as we grow in grace and in the knowledge of Christ Jesus, the motions of sin in our members also increase their activity, always attempting to bring us again into bondage. We must therefore, till the day of our death, heed the exhortation of the Word of God to put off the old man, and to put on the new.

Yet, although sin is not dead in the believer, he is surely dead to sin.

The natural man, the sinner apart from Christ, is alive unto sin. Sin is his lord. The power of sin is enthroned in his heart.  It is his rightful Lord, it has the right to exercise dominion over him, and he is its legal slave. God’s sentence is that the sinner shall die. …. This dominion of sin, however, is not contrary to the will and desire of the sinner, so that he ever longs to be delivered from its bondage. On the contrary, he agrees with it. He is well pleased with the reign of sin. He delights in the service of his evil lord. He is a willing servant. He loves the darkness rather than the light.  …. The paths of sin are his delight. He is alive unto sin.

To be dead unto sin is the opposite of this.

It is the state in which we are no longer under the legal dominion of sin. Sin is no longer our lord. It has no longer the right to reign over us. Just as a slave for whom the price is paid, or that has been declared free by the law, is no longer legally bound to serve his former master, so he that is dead to sin is liberated from the legal dominion of sin by God’s own verdict of liberation. Sin shall not have dominion over him, because he is not under the law but under grace. …. O sin is still present with him. And it operates in his members. Ever it attempts to reign its former lordship over him. But all that is within him, according to his inner man, hates and abhors the service of iniquity. Sin is not dead, but he is dead to sin. His entire attitude over against his former lord has radically changed. He is converted. And for the sin that still operates in his members, and ever attempts to divert the vehicle of his life and walk in to the old ruts of unrighteousness, he humbles himself before God daily, repents in dust and ashes, and confessing his sins before God, he has no rest till he has found forgiveness in the blood of the Lamb.

He that is in Christ is a new creature: old things have passed away, behold all things have become new! (II Cor. 5:17)   

How, then, would it be possible that the believer in Christ should live according to the slogan: “Let us continue in sin, that grace may abound”? ….

That is the power of the cross.

When the Spirit of Christ enters into our hearts, and establishes the living fellowship of faith between us and the Christ that died and rose again, and calls us through the gospel, we know that we are free, that we are not under the law but under grace, and that sin shall have no dominion over us. Then we reckon ourselves dead unto sin, and alive unto righteousness. Then we reveal our having died unto sin by a hearty repentance and sorrow after God, by our eschewing and  abhorring sin and fleeing from its lusts, and by a positive delight in righteousness to serve the living God.

That is the power of the cross.

What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin that grace may abound?

How absurd!

The power of the cross is our death unto sin.

The power of His resurrection is our quickening unto a new life of righteousness.

With Him we died; with Him we are raised that unto Him we might live!

O, glorious power of Calvary’s tree!  

Herman Hoeksema

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“For the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men,” Titus 2:11