Freedom From Sin Part IV
Scripture: Romans 6:1-23
“But now being made free from sin, and become servants to God, ye have your fruit unto holiness, and the end everlasting life.” (Romans 6:22)
Romans 6 is Paul’s clarification of his statement in Romans 5:20 about the power of God’s saving grace, “But where sin abounded, grace did much more abound.”
To prevent anyone from misunderstanding his emphasis on God’s forgiving grace (as some already had; see Rom. 3:8), Paul asked the rhetorical question, “Shall we continue in sin that grace may abound?” (6:1).
In the strongest, most emphatic terms possible, Paul denies that God’s grace permits—let alone encourages—further sinning. At the moment of his new birth, the believer is united with Christ in His death to sin, His burial, and His resurrection (Rom. 6:3–5).
The person he was before he was saved is crucified with Christ (Rom. 6:6) and he is declared to be both “dead to sin” (Rom. 6:2) and freed from its enslaving power (Rom. 6:7).
The believer now has full access to Christ’s resurrection power which enables him to please God in every aspect of his life (Rom. 6:4; Eph. 1:19–22; Col. 1:9–10).
Subsequent to the new birth, God expects every believer to take two action steps:
- appropriate experientially this reality by “reckoning ourselves to be dead indeed unto sin” (6:11) and fully yielding ourselves and the members of our body to God as people who are now alive from the dead, and
- use the members of our body as instruments of righteousness unto God (Rom. 6:13).
Paul’s transitional statement, “sin shall not have dominion over you: for you are not under the law, but under grace” (6:14), introduces the first of two illustrations which stress the liberating power of God’s grace over sin.
The first illustration (Romans 6:15–23) further explains what happened to believers at the moment of their union with Christ in His death to sin.
When we died with Christ to sin, we were freed from the slavery of sin (6:18, 22) and voluntarily became slaves to a new master, Jesus Christ. Prior to our union with Christ, we were “slaves to sin” (6:17, 20).
Now in Christ we are “slaves to righteousness” (6:18) and “slaves to God” (6:22).
The believer must no longer use the members of his body as instruments of sin or unrighteousness. To do so would nullify one’s relationship with Christ, for He emphatically declared “no man can serve two masters” (Mat. 6:24; Luk. 16:13).
To continue in sin would be proof positive that the professed believer was not saved. Paul asserts, “Know ye not, that to whom ye yield yourselves servants to obey, his servants ye are to whom ye obey; whether of sin unto death, or of obedience unto righteousness” (6:16)?
He continues, “But God be thanked, that ye were the servants of sin, but ye have obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine which was delivered you. Being then made free from sin, ye became the servants of righteousness” (6:17–18).
Again and again Paul stresses that the believer is set free from sin and must not return to its slavery. He emphatically declares,
“For when ye were the servants of sin, ye were free from righteousness.
What fruit had ye then in those things whereof ye are now ashamed?
For the end of those things is death.
But now being made free from sin, and become servants to God, ye have your fruit unto holiness, and the end everlasting life.
For the wages of sin is death;
but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord” (6:20–23).
One modern application should become immediately apparent. Paul would deny the possibility of a Christian continuing in sin. The Christian is not a saved sinner! Through the grace of God he has become an ex-sinner. The Bible speaks of the Christian as a transformed saint—a holy person.
The term “holy one” or “saint” is used over 60 times in the New Testament to identify the true believer. Paul never writes to the “saved sinners” at Corinth or Rome, or any other place; it is always to the “saints.” The reason for this is because the fruit of a Christian’s life is holiness (not sin!), and the end everlasting life (Rom. 6:22).
The second illustration, Romans 7:1–6, is actually an explanation of what Paul meant when he said, “Sin shall not have dominion over you: for you are not under the law, but under grace” (Rom. 6:14).
It is also an answer to his rhetorical question, “What then? Shall we sin, because we are not under the law, but under grace?” (Rom. 6:15).
Paul responds to his own question with an emphatic, “God forbid,” which is equivalent to a modern day “absolutely not!” The believer’s relationship to the law is analogous to the relationship a married person has to his or her dead spouse. The death of a spouse frees the living partner from the legal bonds of marriage.
In the case of the believer and the law, it is the believer who has died. Just as a believer “died to sin” (6:2) and so is “set free from sin” (6:18, 22), so he also died to the Law and is separated and set free from it (6:14; cf. Gal. 2:19).
This separation was accomplished “by the body of Christ” (Rom. 7:4), that is, through Christ’s death on the cross. As a result, the believer now is joined to the Lord Jesus Christ in order that he might bear fruit to God (Rom. 7:5).
What are the implications of the fact that believers are not under the law, but under grace? We know that Paul did not mean that the law as a revelation of God’s character and desires was abolished for Christians. In Romans 3:31 he said,
“Do we then nullify the law through faith? May it never be! On the contrary, we establish the law.”
Further, Paul taught that the law still has much to say to New Testament Christians if they use it properly (1 Tim. 1:8). And because the law was given by inspiration of God, it is still profitable for doctrinal teaching (2 Tim. 3:16–17) in this New Testament dispensation.
Although Paul tells us that Jesus brought to an end the Old Testament law as a binding covenant when He inaugurated His new covenant (Rom. 10:4), he did not nullify all of the Old Testament law, for the Hebrew writer said that in the New Covenant Jesus places “the law” in our hearts and minds (Heb. 8:10; Jer. 31:33).
And we know that the law continues its God-appointed role as a revealer of sin in this New Testament dispensation (Rom. 3:19–20; 5:13, 20; 7:7, 8). Paul means at least two things, therefore, by his statement that believers are “not under law but under grace.”
First, the Mosaic law’s claim upon them for the sins they committed while living “in the flesh” (before salvation, Rom. 7:5) is nullified by their union with Christ in His death to sin. The believer is no longer under the condemnation of the law (Rom. 8:1).
The law can make no claims upon a dead person. But, being dead to the law does not give the believer the right to violate the law through sin. Instead, the believer is empowered through His union with Christ to walk according to the Spirit and produce spiritual fruit (Rom 8:4; 7:4).
Second, believers’ salvation is not based upon law-keeping, as the Judaizers insisted (cf. Rom. 9:31–32), but their salvation is based upon the free grace of God available through faith in Christ.
We have seen that it is our blood-bought privilege to have complete freedom from the controlling power of sin. Through our union with Christ in His death to sin, His burial, and His resurrection, we are set free from the bondage and slavery to sin.
We must therefore appropriate by faith what God says is true about us—that we are dead to sin and freed from it—and we must use the members of our body only as instruments of righteousness so that we may produce for God’s glory fruit unto holiness.
It is not only God’s will that His children experience freedom from sin, but it is God’s command that we cease from sin.
Dr. Allan P. Brown teaches such courses as Christian Beliefs, Doctrine of Holiness, Wisdom Literature, Hebrew, Preaching Holiness, Romans and Galatians, and Letters to the Hebrews.
He has been on faculty at GBSC since 1996 and is the author of several books and articles.
Dr. Brown also speaks at churches, camp meetings, revivals and more.