Many years ago, a respected church planter dictated words to his scribe: “What will we say then? ‘We shall live in sin in order that grace might multiply’? Not even possible!”
Paul is explaining to the Roman believers that we need grace, but that isn’t the end of the story—that’s obvious from the structure of the letter as a whole: it begins with the desperate state of humanity, moves on to the grace of God, but the grace has the hope of cosmic peace restored in chapter 8, and! grace produces obedience, worship, and humility in chapters 12-15. It’s not the end of the story in Romans, and it’s not the end of the story in this world. What say you: will there be grace in the new creation: the new heaven and new earth?
If you want, you can define grace as anything that is unmerited good (e.g. breath and movement). By that definition I believe there will be grace in the new creation, but that is not the grace that Paul has in mind in Romans 6.1,2a (which we quoted above). The grace that Paul has in mind in Romans 6 is a grace directly proportional to the amount of sin—it is the reversal of wrong or supplement of lack. He has in mind an ideal world that will remove all need of this type of grace. “Whoever among us died to sin, how will we still live in it?” The grace which forgives must have an offense to forgive. But perhaps this is unsatisfactory. I ask you a different question then.
Is God gracious in his essence—his very being? Recognize that whatever God is in his essence is something that he is eternally since God is eternal in essence. Is God gracious in his essence (i.e. is God gracious eternally)? And if so, and graciousness/grace is unmerited good particularly in forgiving sin, then to whom was God gracious before the creation of the heavens and the earth and everything in them? The other persons of the Trinity? But are they not perfect? Do they not deserve all good al-ways? Then it is not grace he shows them, but simply goodness which is fully deserved. Therefore, there was a time when grace was not… at the time when nothing ‘other’ was. At the time when all which existed was God himself and only God in perfect loving Trinity, there was no grace because grace had no opportunity to be shown. Grace, then, is a temporal/dynamic application of something which exists eternally in the being of God.
Grace is an application (expression) of love which is eternal. God in Trinity has always perfectly loved because love does not need occasion (only object): love can be shown to the most lovely and most unlovely of things. God who is absolutely, essentially lovely has loved and received love intratrinitarianly eternally. Love is greater than grace. Love is eternal, grace is temporal. Love has existed always, grace has existed only after creation has fallen. When creation is restored, there will once again be no need for grace because God in love is making us into something lovely.
And that is Paul’s point: we cannot continue on in sin… we could not even want to continue on in sin because sin is a lack of righteousness. Righteousness is lovely. Righteousness deserves to be loved. Righteousness loves the lovely. Grace is amazing because the love of God has overcome our sin through dealing with it in the incarnation of Jesus, his death, and his resurrection. The righteousness of God has been vindicated on the cross—the judgment which Luther feared was a true judgment but one exacted upon
Love Incarnate. And Love Himself desires something greater than grace for you
and me; Love desires us to be absolutely lovely; love desires us to be righteous because in living in righteousness we reveal
something of the eternal character of God since God has eternally been
righteous in his essence; righteousness is love, love is righteousness.
Righteousness~Love is greater than grace.
Long for the day when you no longer need the forgiving grace of God. Long for the day when you can say, “I am good” and have it be both true and grammatically correct. Love God because he is lovely.