When my first child was born, I joined a support group for parents of children ages birth to 3, hoping to find friends with newborns (and to learn something about parenting, since they neglected to give me a manual when I left the hospital).
At my first meeting a guest speaker — a psychologist straight of out psych school with no children of her own –spoke on teaching toddlers “healthy attitudes toward food.” She maintained that children covet dessert rather than vegetables because we teach them dessert is special. Her premise was that using dessert as a reward teaches children to value dessert over meat and vegetables.
Her advice to us eager new moms was serve dessert during the meal right along side the green beans. AND, like magic, our children would naturally choose some of each when they were old enough to eat at the table.
While I never tried this advice with my children, I always wondered what happened when she had kids of her own.
“Choosing dessert first” is the central question Romans 6:15-7:6.
If I am no longer under the threat of the law, then I have no incentive not to sin? So, if I have no threat of punishment, why can’t I “eat dessert first?”
There may no longer be eternal punishment for eating dessert first, but you will still get fat.
Romans 6 is part of the “Q&A” following the Paul’s presentation of the gospel in Romans 1-5.
In Romans 6:1-11, Paul answered the first question: Should we pursue sin so that God has more to forgive and God will be more glorified? Paul says no because grace includes more than forgiveness. Grace includes breaking the power of sin in our lives and giving us the hope of the glory of God (holiness). To pursue sin would make a mockery of God’s grace.
Romans 6:15 asks the second challenge to the gospel. “All right, Paul, we will grant you that we should not pursue sin. But your gospel does not provide any incentive to avoid sin. Your gospel eliminates the one effective incentive we have: punishment. The law clearly spells how ‘do this & live, don’t do this and die.’ This incentive is explicit in the Law but removed by your gospel. Thus your gospel is a license to sin.”
Paul’s answer: Under the gospel, there is still an incentive to avoid sin: death. When we sin, we experience death (Romans 6:16-23). For most of us, our weariness of the death in our lives drove us to God in the first place and it still provides the incentive not to sin.
Furthermore, the Law was never an effective deterrent to sin, because under Law, we had no resources (other than our own broken sinfulness) to fulfill the Law. Thus, rather than eliminating our sin, it promoted our sinfulness (Romans 7:1-6).
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