Romans 6:14 – “For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace.”
This verse is often interpreted to mean that God’s law no longer applies to Christians because of grace. I propose this is a misunderstanding of the English phrase ‘under the law’.
Being under the law is contrasted with being under grace. If being under grace means *not* giving us the penalty we deserve, then the opposite of grace is *giving* us the penalty we deserve. The phrase used to describe the opposite of under grace is under the law. Therefore, being under the law means to be subject to the deserved penalty. Not being under the law means to be pardoned from the death penalty.
Paul had just described the condition of being forgiven of lawless deeds a few pages earlier.
“Blessed are those whose lawless deeds are forgiven, and whose sins [transgressions of the law according to 1 John 3:4] are covered; blessed is the man against whom the Lord will not count his sin.” (Romans 4:7-8)
Before we look at the immediate context, I recommend reviewing the earlier section on Paul’s statements in favor of obeying God’s law. It would also be beneficial to review the section called ‘Meaning #6 of “Law”: The just consequence of rule-breaking’.
Now for the immediate context of the verse we are examining. The question at hand is asked in Romans 6 verse 1. “What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin [transgression of the law] that grace may abound?” (Romans 6:1) Paul answers right away. “By no means! How can we who died to sin [transgression of the law] still live in it [live in a state of transgressing the law]?” (Romans 6:2)
One of Paul’s arguments is that sin no longer has dominion over one who has been brought from death to life through Christ.
“Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life. For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his. We know that our old self was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin. For one who has died has been set free from sin. Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. We know that Christ, being raised from the dead, will never die again; death no longer has dominion over him. For the death he died he died to sin, once for all, but the life he lives he lives to God. So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus. Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, to make you obey its passions. Do not present your members to sin as instruments for unrighteousness, but present yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life, and your members to God as instruments for righteousness. For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law [subject to the penalty for violating the law] but under grace [no longer subject to the penalty for violating the law].” (Romans 6:3-14)
Notice what happens when one stops being a slave to sin.
“Do you not know that if you present yourselves to anyone as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin, which leads to death, or of obedience, which leads to righteousness? But thanks be to God, that you who were once slaves of sin have become obedient from the heart to the standard of teaching to which you were committed, and, having been set free from sin, have become slaves of righteousness.” (Romans 6:17-18)
Those no longer slaves to sin become “obedient from the heart” to “the standard…”.
“For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares the Lord: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts. And I will be their God, and they shall be my people.” (Jeremiah 31:33)
“And I will give them one heart, and a new spirit I will put within them. I will remove the heart of stone from their flesh and give them a heart of flesh, that they may walk in my statutes and keep my rules and obey them. And they shall be my people, and I will be their God.” (Ezekiel 11:19-20)
“I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules.” (Ezekiel 36:26-27)
“This is the covenant that I will make with them after those days, declares the Lord: I will put my laws on their hearts, and write them on their minds,” then he adds, “I will remember their sins and their lawless deeds no more.”” (Hebrews 10:16-17)
In this chapter, Paul makes it clear that lawlessness [disobeying God’s law] is the opposite of righteousness [obeying God’s law].
“I am speaking in human terms, because of your natural limitations. For just as you once presented your members as slaves to impurity and to lawlessness leading to more lawlessness, so now present your members as slaves to righteousness leading to sanctification.” (Romans 6:19)