Author: Ron Graham
When Paul writes to the Romans, he is dealing with the problem of sin. Paul discusses sin from two aspects: (1) The source of sin is Satan's lies. (2) The solution to sin is Christ's death. In which will you choose to live? Choose well! In this lesson we consider the Solution to sin.
Paul "willed" to do the good law his mind delighted in. Yet he did not do what he "willed" to do. On the other hand, he did things which he "willed" not to do! (Romans 7:18-25). This is not an argument against willing to obey God's law. We ought to will to do good and shun evil. But that, on its own, is not the solution, as Paul discovered.
Asceticism is abstinence from various comforts and pleasures. Abstinence from sin is required of course, but we are thinking rather of abstinence from things which are not sin in themselves. The sin would be in excessive or perverted use. The sin would be not in use, but in abuse.
Paul is persuaded that "there is nothing unclean of itself" (Romans 14:14). He does not, for example, approve of fornication. But there is nothing unclean about sexual intercourse in itself. To engage in sexual intercourse in wedlock may be a better solution to sin than abstaining from it in celibacy.
Vegetarianism is another example. Paul describes the vegetarian as "weak in faith" (Romans 14:1-2). It is good, of course, to refrain from things which cause the weak to stumble (Romans 14:21). We do not argue against abstinence from things which people commonly abuse. We commend it. But we should not mistake it as the solution to sin.
Don't misunderstand this! Paul was thankful for people's obedience (Romans 6:17).
Paul said it was our reasonable service to offer our bodies as a living sacrifice to God (Romans 12:1). He exhorted Christians not to be lagging in diligence (Romans 12:11).
Good works are a good and essential thing. But in themselves they are not a solution, for all have sinned and fall short (Romans 3:23). No amount of good works can cover that up. That is no reason to neglect good works, but it is a reason to look beyond them for the solution to sin.
We will not be forgiven of our sins on the basis that we piled up enough good works to cancel out our sins. We will be forgiven because Christ died for us (Romans 3:24).
God set Jesus forth to be an atonement by his blood (Romans 3:24). There is "no condemnation" to those who are "in Christ" (Romans 8:1). We are saved from wrath through him and his shed blood (Romans 5:8). There's your solution to sin.