When I was young I secretly wanted to be able to turn invisible. I would then be able to do all sorts of naughty things and no one would know. I didn’t really think that much about God so wasn’t that bothered and my conscience was not that well developed so I thought the only thing holding me back was getting caught or what people would think of me if I stole someone’s train set, or broke in the sweet shop.
I have been looking at Jesus’ criticism of the church in Pergamum and how they were mixing up cocktails from God’s word and man’s ideas. Somehow it seems they had bred some sort of chimera of Christianity and paganism that meant they could follow Jesus but indulge in sexual immorality. They were toying with the teaching of Balaam which is an allusion to an OT guy who persuaded God’s people to mix sexual immorality with God’s instructions. A group called the Nicolaitans was also involved who according to Irenaeus writing in the second century “lead lives of unrestrained indulgence” (Against heresies, Book 1 Chapter 26:3).
There is not enough information to know exactly why some in Pergamum were doing what they were doing but a similar mixing still happens today. Sometimes the thinking creeps in that the grace of God, the blood of Jesus, is an invisibly cloak so that we can sin and not be seen by God. The gospel of grace becomes in effect a licence to sin and do evil without God getting angry and punishing us. It is a get out of hell free card.
After explaining that through faith in Jesus we are declared innocent of everything we have ever or will ever do wrong, and what a glorious thing that is, Paul asks the obvious question “shall we carry on sinning so that grace may increase?” (Rom 6:1) It’s insightful to think about our answer to that question. What is my answer and why? What was I saved from? How did my thinking change when I responded to the gospel? Why did God save me? The following verses help me articulate my answers:
For you know that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your forefathers 1 Peter 1:18
Repent, then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out, that times of refreshing may come from the Lord Acts 3:19
For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men. It teaches us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age, while we wait for the blessed hope-the glorious appearing of our great God and Saviour, Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for himself a people that are his very own, eager to do what is good. Titus 2:11-14
Shall we carry on sinning? Paul’s answer is “Yuck! No way“. We changed our mind about all that stuff when we accepted Christ. We realised how empty it was. We are now eager to live a different way. God’s way. Sure, that is hard at times, our thinking may be muddled or subject to bad influences. We may have internal councils and struggles as we face temptation but we emerge from them saying “I want to live God’s way”. I did not become a Christian to go deeper in to the darkness and do evil but walk in the light and live right!