Helpless Under The Law, Hopeful In Grace

Romans 6 : 14
For sin shall not be master over you,
for you are not under law but under grace.

Have you ever felt enslaved to a behavior that you know is destructive, but you just can’t figure out how to change it?

Me too. Or maybe you see someone you love caught up in a habit they can’t seem to break. Both situations can feel so helpless. Hopeless, even. 

Whenever I feel desperate to change a behavior (in myself or someone else), my knee-jerk response is usually to lay down the law.

Here’s a fairly innocuous real-life example: Dieting. I want to lose weight, I see that I have trouble with self-control, so I set stricter limits for myself. No cake! What if I like sugar in my coffee? No coffee allowed! Or learn to drink it black! Who cares of it makes you gag?

This is the law approach to behavior change. If we’ve ever tried this approach (and I’m sure we all have), we know it doesn’t work. At least, not long-term. 

When we’re feeling hopeless, helpless, and trapped in a sin, Romans 6:14 is beautifully good news:

Romans 6 : 14
For sin shall not be master over you,
for you are not under law but under grace.

Grace is what sets us free from the power of sin. Ahhh, can you feel the relief washing over you yet?

Interestingly, if you read between the lines, this verse also seems to say that living under the law puts us under the control of sin. Haven’t we all experienced this being true? 

The sin nature is flared up by rules. What, you say I can’t have chocolate? Suddenly chocolate is the only thing I have ever wanted. Paul illustrates this principle in Romans 7:7–8.

In Romans 7:5, he says that our sinful passions are “aroused” by the law. Again, our experience bears witness to this truth. Real change never comes from observing rules.

So how does grace free us from the power of sin in our lives? In Romans, Paul teaches that under grace, we are no longer under the law. We are dead to the law (Romans 7:4) and we are dead to sin (Romans 6:2).

Paul says that, in Christ, my relationship with the law that stirs up my sinful nature and arouses my desire to sin has been severed completely. This frees me from the control of those sinful desires!

Grace is God’s radical acceptance of us who, because of our sin, deserve His wrath. Grace is God giving us Christ’s righteousness, dressing us in it like a robe, and lavishing on us an extravagant love that we cannot earn. This truth, when allowed to penetrate our hearts, is life-changing. It takes our focus off of ourselves, off of our behavior, and puts it where it belongs—on the God who loves us. 

“Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and of death. For what the Law could not do, weak as it was through the flesh, God did: sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and as an offering for sin, He condemned sin in the flesh, so that the requirement of the Law might be fulfilled in us, who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.”
–Romans 8:1–4

The more we experience this freedom from the control of sin, the more we are free to love and serve others. And in a backward way, through the power of the Spirit in our lives, we find the freedom to obey God out of love, not out of obligation. This is freedom!

So if you are feeling the pull of sin in your life, even maybe feeling completely defeated in an area that you just can’t seem to get under control, take heart. I have been there, and I can tell you that there is hope. Freedom is found in grace, and I can honestly say that the more I have learned on a deeper level what grace really means, the more I have experienced freedom from the control of sin in my life. 


Scripture quotations taken from the New American Standard Bible (NASB), Copyright © 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation