Through the letter to the Romans – Part 9 Exercising our freedom

Jesus said that whoever sins enslaves himself to sin. That means that we enslave ourselves by our own choice, a choice we make using our free will. But how free were we in the first place, if the choice we make is to be enslaved? Sounds like a paradox, doesn’t it?

The answer from the Gospel is that while we are in bondage to sin, we are blind. What good is free will if the choices you see as being available to you have been truncated? It is like us agreeing to this deal: “Heads I win, Tails you lose.” This is why Paul says in the second letter to the Corinthians:

2 Corinthians 4:3-4 But if also our gospel is veiled, it is veiled in those that are lost; in whom the god of this world has blinded the thoughts of the unbelieving, so that the radiancy of the glad tidings of the glory of the Christ, who is [the] image of God, should not shine forth [for them].

And this is why Jesus said that if the Son sets you free, you are free indeed. When we repent and give our lives to Jesus, our eyes are opened. Now we really see all the options available to us.

Ephesians 1:15-19 … I do not cease giving thanks for you, making mention [of you] at my prayers, that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, would give you [the] spirit of wisdom and revelation in the full knowledge of him, being enlightened in the eyes of your heart, so that ye should know what is the hope of his calling, [and] what the riches of the glory of his inheritance in the saints, and what the surpassing greatness of his power towards us who believe, according to the working of the might of his strength…

Now, on this side of salvation, free will makes sense. And not only can we choose to do right, the Holy Spirit gives us the power to do so. Remember Deuteronomy 30:6, God promised to change our hearts. We are no longer helpless like Adam before the knowledge of evil. We can, through Christ, say no to sin.

Salvation sets us free to choose to serve God

If all this is true, then choosing to sin is almost unthinkable. Why would we? We do not have to. Yes, temptation is still there, but the Holy Spirt convinces us of sin, righteousness, and judgment (John 16:8). We know the truth. We cannot be lied to anymore. We do not have to be slaves. When Jesus says “Go, and sin no more” (John 8:11) He means it.

It is important to understand the “If and only if” that He guaranteed for us in John 14:15 and John 15:9-10: “If ye love me, keep my commandments.… As the Father has loved me, I also have loved you: abide in my love. If ye shall keep my commandments, ye shall abide in my love, as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love.”

Love is manifested in obedience, obedience strengthens our love. It is in light of these truths that Paul now returns to the subject of sin in the lives of believers:

6:1-4 What then shall we say? Should we continue in sin that grace may abound? Far be the thought. We who have died to sin, how shall we still live in it? Are you ignorant that we, as many as have been baptised unto Christ Jesus, have been baptised unto his death? We have been buried therefore with him by baptism unto death, in order that, even as Christ has been raised up from among [the] dead by the glory of the Father, so *we* also should walk in newness of life.

Here Paul has introduced a concept that I believe is part of that logical analysis I alluded to in Spoiler Alert #2.

Death and sin are inextricably connected. As long as we are under the power of sin, we will die. And the fact that we all die proves that we all sin. So, how did Jesus deal a deathblow to sin? He took it all and died with it. That’s the brilliant twist in the plan of salvation, the twist that Satan did not see coming.

Once a person dies, sin has no longer any power over that person. Go ahead and try to tempt or seduce a cadaver.  But dying to destroy sin, kind of sounds like the proverbial cure that is worse than the sickness. Yes, it works, but I am not alive anymore.

Ah, but the One that did this is the Messiah who had no sin of his own, the One who was infinitely good and infinitely alive, and who gave up His life willingly. Sin had no legal hold on Him. Instead of Sin trapping Him, He trapped Sin. Instead of He being nailed on that cross as punishment, He remained on that cross willingly and let those nails be driven into Him so that they would pin Sin to that cross forever. And to prove that this Death finally dealt the deathblow to Sin, He rose from the dead.

He didn’t just come back to human life, He came back as the first fruits of the resurrection, He came back with eternal life to prove that this plan was enough to usher in God’s Promise of the resurrection. Sin, as the power of death, is dead.

As The writer of Hebrews puts it:

Hebrews 2:14-15 Since therefore the children partake of blood and flesh, he also, in like manner, took part in the same, that through death he might annul him who has the might of death, that is, the devil; and might set free all those who through fear of death through the whole of their life were subject to bondage.

person being baptised

Therefore, in the same way that the rites of the Law, the sacrifices of the Old Testament, tell us the story of how sin needs to be dealt with, we, the reborn children of God, also have a story to tell. It is told through Baptism.

In the Old Testament, the story is about an animal taking our place and dying to cover our sin. That way, we can live another day, another year… Because, after all, if we continue to keep the Law we can keep on living… until we sin again.

In the New Covenant the story is that we ourselves can slip beyond the grip of sin by dying with Jesus so that, with Jesus, we rise again to a new life over which sin no longer has power. It is called eternal life. There is no longer a fear of death because, in this new life, sin cannot enslave us and therefore sin cannot kill us.

Romans 6:5-11 For if we are become identified with [him] in the likeness of his death, so also we shall be of [his] resurrection; knowing this, that our old man has been crucified with [him], that the body of sin might be annulled, that we should no longer serve sin. For he that has died is justified from sin. Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with him, knowing that Christ having been raised up from among [the] dead dies no more: death has dominion over him no more. For in that he has died, he has died to sin once for all; but in that he lives, he lives to God.

So also *ye*, reckon yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus.

So, choose!

That last line is the triumphal “ergo” of this logical progression. Paul is saying now that sin has no power to enslave you, you have the power to choose right. Therefore, do it. Remember, a cadaver cannot be seduced or tempted. The old life you used to have, the old man you used to be, is dead. You can choose. And that freedom to exercise your free will goes way beyond choosing to say No to sin. It goes to the core of why you were made in the image of God, why he wanted you to be His children.  You can choose to do the work of the Kingdom in Love.

Romans 6:12-14 Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body to obey its lusts. Neither yield your members instruments {weapons} of unrighteousness to sin, but yield yourselves to God as alive from among [the] dead, and your members instruments {weapons} of righteousness to God. For sin shall not have dominion over *you*, for ye are not under law but under grace.

Grasping this reality is such a paradigm shift for most people that Paul needs to repeat it. Specially because with our newly re-energized free will we could still choose to sin. But if we do, we are doubly condemned because we don’t have to. Paul is going to tell us: Leave it in the past, and live to the future. Live to bear the fruit that Jesus talked about. If you need to think about it this way, do: Choose to be enslaved to God:

Romans 6:15-23 What then? should we sin because we are not under law but under grace? Far be the thought. Know ye not that to whom ye yield yourselves bondmen for obedience, ye are bondmen to him whom ye obey, whether of sin unto death, or of obedience unto righteousness? But thanks [be] to God, that ye were bondmen of sin, but have obeyed from the heart the form of teaching into which ye were instructed.

Now, having got your freedom from sin, ye have become bondmen to righteousness. I speak humanly on account of the weakness of your flesh. For even as ye have yielded your members in bondage to uncleanness and to lawlessness unto lawlessness, so now yield your members in bondage to righteousness unto holiness. For when ye were bondmen of sin ye were free from righteousness. What fruit therefore had ye *then* in the things of which ye are *now* ashamed? for the end of *them* [is] death. But *now*, having got your freedom from sin, and having become bondmen to God, ye have your fruit unto holiness, and the end eternal life.

For the wages of sin [is] death; but the act of favour of God, eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.

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