The Paradox of Grace: Notes

Discussion Guide
ONE gospel
Romans 6:13 – 7:6
The Paradox of Grace

“We have been released from the law so that we serve in the new way of the Spirit” (Rom 7:6b).

When someone is baptized into Christ, it is as radical an event as moving from one country to another,
Israel crossing the Red Sea with Moses, or becoming best friends with someone who has been your
enemy. At least, that is what Paul thought! Consider a baptism event that you have witnessed (perhaps
even your own). What did you understand to be happening in that moment? What new insight might
Romans 6 offer about what baptism represents for a person?

Paul uses several human experiences to illustrate the difference made by being “in Christ.” N.T. Wright
points to an underlying motif that seems to run through the section in terms of Israel’s deliverance from
Egypt into the sovereign care of God in their trek to a Promised Land. Do you see why he would speak of
our experience with Christ as a “second exodus”? Does that image resonate with you?

Pay attention to the language of 6:13-14. In particular, explain the challenge to “offer every part of
yourself to [God] as an instrument of righteousness.” The biblical view of a human being is very much
tied to our embodied experience. Compare Paul’s language here with texts such as Proverbs 4:23,
Matthew7:17-20, Luke 6:43-44, and Romans 12:1-2. What is the primary truth you see in these texts?

The first “paradox” of God’s grace revealed in Christ is illustrated by a reference to slavery. The majority
of slaves in Paul’s time had been made slaves by Roman conquest of their territories. A very different
type of slavery is envisioned in Leviticus 25:39-43 – a type of “voluntary servitude” by a destitute person
who trusted his master to house, feed, and otherwise care for him during his service. Which type of
slavery corresponds to being a “slave of sin”? Which corresponds to being a “slave of righteousness”?

Please notice that Paul essentially apologizes for using slavery as an illustration – for everything about
Christianity is opposed to the dehumanizing institution of human bondage. Since so many of the people
who were Christians in Rome likely were slaves, why would he use such an illustration? How does the
language of “slavery” challenge our idea of freedom? What, according to Romans, does it mean for a
person to be “free?” Free to do what?

Paul’s second “paradox” of grace is built around marriage. For a married person to be intimate with a
third person is “adultery,” for it breaks his or her covenant pledge. But death ends a marriage covenant,
and the living party is free to marry again. Paul argues that someone in solidarity with Adam (i.e., flesh)
is free to be united with Christ (i.e., grace) if he or she has died to the old life.

Romans 7:6 insists that serving God “in the new way of the Spirit” is a marked contrast to the “old way”
that produced chaos in our lives and ends in death. How does the Holy Spirit give Christians a new heart
and a new way of viewing our obedience to the will of God?

The ultimate “paradox” of grace is that God’s love motivates us to pursue holiness and to become Christ imitating people. What pain, fear, and pending death could not produce in us – a type of “liberated and voluntary slavery” to holiness – has been embraced because we see in Christ how much God loves us. Close by praying to sense and live within the transforming power of divine love.

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