We Are Free from Sin (Romans 6:22)

Then Jesus said to those Jews who believed Him, “If you abide in My word, you are My disciples indeed. And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.”

They answered Him, “We are Abraham’s descendants, and have never been in bondage to anyone. How can You say, ‘You will be made free’?”

Jesus answered them, “Most assuredly, I say to you, whoever commits sin is a slave of sin. And a slave does not abide in the house forever, but a son abides forever. Therefore if the Son makes you free, you shall be free indeed.

“I know that you are Abraham’s descendants, but you seek to kill Me, because My word has no place in you. I speak what I have seen with My Father, and you do what you have seen with your father.” (John 8:31–38)

Then, as they continued to object to Jesus’ line of reasoning, Jesus went on to explain that their slavery to sin was rooted in the fact that the devil was their father:

Jesus said to them, “If God were your Father, you would love Me, for I proceeded forth and came from God; nor have I come of Myself, but He sent Me. Why do you not understand My speech? Because you are not able to listen to My word. You are of your father the devil, and the desires of your father you want to do. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaks a lie, he speaks from his own resources, for he is a liar and the father of it. But because I tell the truth, you do not believe Me. Which of you convicts Me of sin? And if I tell the truth, why do you not believe Me? He who is of God hears God’s words; therefore you do not hear, because you are not of God.” (John 8:42–47)

He told them that by nature they carried out the devil’s will (John 8:44). Their lying and murderous disposition and their refusal to hear and accept the truths of God were not the causes of their slavery to sin, but the symptoms of it. They were slaves of sin because they were children of the devil. And because they were children of the devil, their place in eternity was well established. They would be with their father in hell forever (John 8:35)—unless, of course, they would turn to Jesus and be saved. That’s why the declarative statement of Jesus has such dramatic impact, “Therefore if the Son makes you free, you shall be free indeed” (John 8:36).

When Jesus sets people free from sin, He sets them free from sin completely. He does it by giving them holy and righteous new lives that are sin-free. That is why it is said, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new(2 Cor. 5:17). The new lives we have from Christ are “created according to God, in true righteousness and holiness” (Eph. 4:24). By receiving these new lives, we have become “partakers of the divine nature” and have “escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust” (2 Peter 1:4). In giving us these new lives, God “has qualified us to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in the light. He has delivered us from the power of darkness and conveyed us into the kingdom of the Son of His love” (Col. 1:12–13).

[And] God be thanked that though you were slaves of sin, yet you obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine to which you were delivered. And having been set free from sin, you became slaves of righteousness. (Rom. 6:17–18)

Our freedom from sin does not manifest itself in the form of our flesh no longer committing sins, but in the form of us having divine natures that are without sin. Paul couches this fact in terms of us having become “slaves of righteousness” (Rom. 6:18).

To the legalistically minded among us, this may seem to be a call to conform ourselves to the demands of God’s laws. But in reality, this is a simple way of explaining that our divine natures are wired to God and conform to His will just as perfectly as our human natures are wired to the devil and conform to his will. It points out the fact that, in regards to the righteousness of the new man, we have no choice in the matter of whether or not to sin. We have become slaves of God (and gladly so) because it is impossible for our divine natures to do anything contrary to God’s will.

While it may seem to be a cop-out and an excuse for sin to say our freedom from sin does not have anything to do with making our flesh conform to the requirements of the law, it is not a cop-out because our rightness with God is not a function of our actions. It is a function of who we have become in Christ. Our lives have become “hidden with Christ in God” (Col. 3:3). We have been made one with God in the inner man (John 17:21–23). And the result of our union with God, which may be stated in terms of complete freedom from sin or in terms of slavery to God, is that we now enjoy the fruit of the transformation—which is holiness. In the end, on the other side of physical death, we will fully enjoy its other fruit which is everlasting life (Rom. 6:22). “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Rom. 6:23).

But it is not as though the granting of new life in Christ exempts us from personal responsibility for our sins. We are still responsible for our sins, because they are still our sins. God is not blind to that fact. And neither are we. We take personal responsibility for our sins, and we admit that we deserve punishment because of them. But when we put our trust in Christ, we put our trust in the sufficiency of His payment for our sins, and we receive His forgiveness. And because we trust in Jesus to save us from our sins, we are confident that we will never face God’s judgment, even though we know we deserve it.

This is the whole point of grace. We need God’s grace even after we are saved because the freedom from sin that we enjoy in the Spirit does not extend to the flesh. Our flesh is as corrupt now as it always has been, and it will never be made right with God (but thankfully, it will cease to exist when we die—see 1 Corinthians 15:35–49 for details). By its very nature, our flesh is not subject to the laws of God, and it cannot be made to conform to them (Rom. 8:7). That is why it is such a great blessing that God took us out from under the law and exempted us from its requirements:

For sin shall not have dominion over you, for you are not under law but under grace. (Rom. 6:14)

This verse does not speak of the complete freedom from sin that we enjoy because of our divine nature’s complete lack of sin. It speaks of our freedom from judgment and condemnation because of God’s forgiveness of our sins. Its clear message is that God does not hold us up to the requirements of the law, but instead, He has chosen to let us be the recipients of His grace. It does not deny that we are sinners, but concedes that the sinfulness of our human nature still exists. It says that the sins of our flesh do not dictate the terms and conditions of our relationship with God. And it gives the reason: God’s laws do not rule over us but His grace does.

Therefore, we see in Romans 6:14 that saying that we are not under law but under grace is roughly equivalent to saying that God forgives us of our sins. This is so because sin simply means, “to miss the mark.” And the law clearly defines the mark we have missed (Rom. 7:7).

Therefore, when He forgives us of our sins, He forgives us for missing the mark painted by the law. In other words, His forgiveness is for us not living up to the requirements of the law. And because our forgiveness is present (Rom. 5:1–2) and forward-looking (Rom. 6:14), it means that the demands of the law are not held against us now, and they will not be held against us in the future—because we are not under law but under grace.

If we properly understand what it means that God has taken the requirements of His law out of the way (Col. 2:13–14) and that He no longer holds our inability in the flesh to obey the law against us (Rom. 6:14), we are tempted to walk in the flesh and say as Paul wrote next, “What then? Shall we sin because we are not under law but under grace?” (Rom. 6:15). And Paul gives the answer: “Certainly not!” (Rom. 6:15).

But what we should be doing with the knowledge that God has exempted us from the law is to see His grace as the enabling force that allows us to look past the sins and sinfulness of our flesh to the righteousness we have in Christ (Rom. 6:1–11, especially verse 11). We should count our flesh as dead and worthless (but forgiven) because of our sin, but we should also count our spirits as alive and valuable (even perfect) because of our inherent righteousness in Christ (Rom. 6:11; 8:10).

Based on all these things, we should see our freedom from sin in two different contexts. On one hand, we are free from sin because our new lives in Christ are holy, righteous, and completely free from sin. On the other hand, we are free from sin because the sins of our flesh are forgiven. Even though our corrupt flesh remains as a vestige of our human nature, sin does not bring us under judgment or condemnation because God has exempted us from the requirements of the law.

Armed with the mindset that we are “dead indeed to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Rom. 6:11), we may present ourselves to God “as being alive from the dead” (Rom. 6:13) and “as slaves of righteousness for holiness” (Rom. 6:19). If and when we present ourselves to God as forgiven in the flesh, but perfect in the Spirit—completely aligned with His will, and eager to walk in the light that He shines into our hearts (Rom. 6:11–14)—then we fulfill the great hope of Scripture that we may “walk in newness of life” (Rom. 6:4).

Romans 6:11–14 says:

Likewise you also, reckon yourselves to be dead indeed to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body, that you should obey it in its lusts. And do not present your members as instruments of unrighteousness to sin, but present yourselves to God as being alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness to God. For sin shall not have dominion over you, for you are not under law but under grace.

Jesus’ death on the cross paid for our sins, and His resurrection from the dead gave us new life. We are at this very moment alive from among the dead. Every spiritual thing we lacked prior to our salvation, we now have in Christ. We have these things completely, totally, and perfectly. We are complete in Christ (Col. 2:10).

We are full-fledged citizens in His kingdom. We know Him personally; we cherish Him; we worship Him; we belong to Him; and we will be with Him forever. We have passed from death to life; we have been set free from sin; we have become His children; we are partakers of the divine nature; we are new creatures; and He has written His law in our hearts.

Romans 6:11–14 does not ask us to fake ourselves out by thinking of ourselves as something we are not. Romans 6:11–14 tells us that we should be ever mindful of our new identity in Christ, and it tells us that we should present ourselves to God for service to Him with our new identity in mind. We are alive from the dead, and we should present ourselves to God as such. When we do, it is then that we serve Him “in the newness of the Spirit and not in the oldness of the letter” (Rom. 7:6). And it is then that the joy of new life in Christ abounds.

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