In Romans 6:15, Paul had raised a question pertaining to the apparent relative weakness of grace for keeping people in line as opposed to the law.
“Shall we sin because we are not under the law but under grace?”
This is an important question to ask, especially to an audience in the Roman church – at least partly, and perhaps largely – composed of Jewish believers in Jesus Christ. But the question also redounds across the centuries to the modern church, where the same sort of thoughts may apply.
For the Jewish believer, who has always been constrained by the Law of Moses in every way, what happens when the Law is removed in the grace of Jesus Christ? After all, it’s one thing to be saved by grace, but quite another to be reformed by it. How can a person know what sin is when/if they are apart from the Law?
For the modern church audience, how can a Christian expect to hold the line without a list of rules to follow?
You can feel the necessity of the question being raised because it is where people in the church live – after their salvation experience. Who will constrain our flesh, as we continue to wrestle against the body of sin which remains post-conversion?
A list of rules – a law – must be applied so we can know what is right for the believer, and what is wrong. (We tend to emphasize what is wrong.)
This is what Paul argues against.
The Law, Paul argues, (across the pages of the New Testament, I might add,) was provided to show us our great need for a Savior. That was the purpose of the Law. But when you have come to the Savior, and received Jesus Christ as Lord, there is no longer a need for an external law which constrains. The Christian experience is life lived from the inside out, based upon a new covenant which is written upon the heart.
Grace, we learn by experience, has MUCH MORE power to constrain us, because grace is based upon God’s love, and not upon a list of rules. This places an emphasis on learning of the love of God which the Holy Spirit puts Himself in charge of through His Word.
In Christ Jesus, we now have the opportunity to listen to the voice of the Law-giver, rather than a human interpreter of it.