Real Freedom

Posted: July 4, 2010 in Romans

Romans 6:15-23, “Real Freedom”

So what is “freedom”? We might think of all different sorts of freedoms we have: freedom of free speech, free exercise of religion, freedom of the press, freedom to assemble, etc. Those are all wonderful freedoms we’re blessed as a nation to have – but those are all rather specific to our country. Those aren’t freedoms we can carry with us…if we moved to another part of the world, we’d leave those freedoms behind. True freedom is freedom independent of location or worldly citizenship – it’s freedom that goes with you no matter where you are. Yet in Christ Jesus, that’s exactly what we’re offered: true freedom! Freedom from sin, freedom from death, freedom to serve God as He created us to serve Him!

Paul looks at some of this in what we’re looking at today from Romans. It’s no exaggeration to say that the book of Romans is a masterpiece of theology. Argument is systematically placed upon argument, and truth layered upon truth, as the apostle Paul shows over & over again how we are justified by faith alone in Jesus Christ. To bring us up to speed, let’s just get a quick overview:

In Ch 1-3, Paul launches into a sobering overview of humanity, showing the vast numbers of ways in which people have consistently rebelled against our Creator God, and find ourselves in dire need of salvation. Whether Jew or Gentile, there is NONE righteous. Gentiles show the law of God written on their hearts, and Jews had been given the Law so they are without excuse. ALL have sinned against Almighty God & ALL are in need of His grace & forgiveness. There is no work we can do that can save us; we are saved solely by trusting the work of Christ by faith. We were justified by faith apart from the deeds of the Law.

Ch 4 is the illustration of all this in Abraham. In the Scripture, we find Abraham justified PRIOR to his great act of obedient faith in placing Isaac upon the altar. Before Isaac was ever born in Gen 21, Abraham had believed God in Genesis 15 & God accounted him as righteous [imputed righteousness – justification]. Ch 5 then shows the results of our being justified in Christ alone by faith. We have peace with God, access to God, hope of glory, the Holy Spirit poured into our hearts & much more…primarily the reversal of the fall of Adam! Whereas Adam’s sin brought death, Jesus’ resurrection brings life!

That takes us to Ch 6. With all of this theological foundation showing that we are justified by faith alone in Christ alone by His grace alone, it brings us an obvious question: since we’re forgiven because of Jesus’ work, does that give us license to sin as much as we want to sin? What would stop someone from abusing the grace of God to live in sin all day long & still attempt to claim Jesus’ forgiveness at the end of it? Good question. Paul answers it in two ways.

In the 1st half of Ch 6, he shows how the true Christian is identified with Christ (symbolized through baptism). The one who has truly been justified by faith has died with Christ & been raised with Christ. IOW, living in sin is simply not something that a true Christian does. True Christians reckon themselves dead to sin & alive in Christ, because that is what Jesus has done for us!

In the 2nd half of Ch 6, Paul looks at virtually the same question from a different angle. True Christians are not just dead to sin; we’re FREE from sin. We’re not just dead to a lifestyle characterized by sin, but Christians are free from the servitude of sin to even spend a little time in it. We have a grand FREEDOM in Jesus Christ that simply cannot be had any other way – and that’s a freedom in which we can rejoice!

Romans 6:15-23 (NKJV)
15 What then? Shall we sin because we are not under law but under grace? Certainly not! 16 Do you not know that to whom you present yourselves slaves to obey, you are that one’s slaves whom you obey, whether of sin leading to death, or of obedience leading to righteousness?

A. The charge here is one of “antinomianism.” “anti” = “against” + “nomos” = law. The fear is that if people are saved completely by grace, then we have open reign to sin as much as we want all day long. (Which is exactly how some people treat their supposed-salvation! As if we could turn our Christianity on/off… ) … Paul puts the lie to this idea…true born-again Christians have ZERO reason to go on living in sin & ZERO reason to think we can even engage in it occasionally – it’s completely the opposite of the idea of what it means to be forgiven! We’ve been saved FROM that sin; we ought not engage in it any longer. Whether occasional sin or ongoing sin, Christians have zero excuse to willingly engage in it. “Certainly not!” = “May it never be!” ~ “Perish the thought!”

B. There’s a simple reasoning behind Paul’s thought here. Why not continue sinning? Because if we continue sinning (thinking we can sin as much as we want & still ask for forgiveness later), then we’re continuing in slavery. Some say: “Wait a second! When was I ever enslaved?” You may not have realized it, but outside of Jesus Christ, you were a slave of sin. Everyone serves someone/something…that’s simply a fact of life. Even if we believe (falsely) that we’re serving only ourselves, we’re still serving something. And we cannot have 2 masters – we’ll love one & hate the other (Mt 6:24). That’s no different with mammon/money as it is with sin!

a. Note what it is that those who sin are enslaved to: sin itself. “sin leading to death…” Sin always masters the sinner; not the other way around. People often think that they are the ones in control of their own sin, but it’s never the case. Sin is always that one in control, because we’re always the one bending our will to the temptation of the moment. At that point, it has mastered us. Jesus said the same thing: John 8:34-36 (34) Jesus answered them, “Most assuredly, I say to you, whoever commits sin is a slave of sin. (35) And a slave does not abide in the house forever, but a son abides forever. (36) Therefore if the Son makes you free, you shall be free indeed. [] Amen for true freedom! That’s the kind of freedom that never goes away!

b. There’s a sobering idea here that we need to understand: the one who claims Christ as Savior & Lord yet still continually crawls back to their sin is still enslaved. [] If that’s you, you need to examine yourself to see if you are truly in the faith – to go before Jesus Christ in faith to see if you’re truly saved! If you’re a Christian, you ought to have a new master; sin ought not be ruling over you any longer.

17 But 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. 18 And having been set free from sin, you became slaves of righteousness.

A. Praise God for the tense here! “Slaves of sin” are what we WERE; in Christ, “slaves of righteousness” are what we ARE. For the Christian, the slavery of sin is in the past – it’s not something that ought to dominate the life of the believer today! Today, we have a new & better master: the righteousness of God! That’s our new reality…

B. Underscores the work of Christ in all of this. Jesus is our “Deliverer” – He is the One that rescues us, pays the ransom for our freedom & justifies us in the sight of God. His work in deliverance is two-fold: (1) Jesus delivers us from sin, and (2) Jesus delivers us to righteousness (“that form of doctrine”). It’s not that He did a partial work & just dropped us off in no-man’s-land; Jesus’ work is absolutely complete! There is no half-way with Him!

a. This is wonderfully good news! Some people might read these words here & think, “Oh great. So I’m supposed to ‘get saved’ & then I’ve got all these expectations & guilt trips laid on me.” Not at all! (If that’s what you’re thinking, you’ve missed the point!) The one who has placed their faith & trust in Jesus Christ has been forgiven – we’ve been “delivered!” We’ve been set free! There was a time in which we had no choice over sin – zero power in which to resist it. But NOW we do! In Jesus, not only are our past sins forgiven, but we’ve been given power over our present sins as well. It’s not that we live lives of perfection, but we’re certainly not powerless over the various temptations we face. We’ve been delivered from the power sin had over us & delivered to righteousness. Every Christian has the power through the Holy Spirit to live life victoriously over sin!

C. BTW – what exactly is “that form of doctrine”? What teaching is Paul referring to? It’s the teaching he’s been discussing all the way from Ch 1-6 – the doctrine of justification by faith in the work of God on our behalf. … I.e. the gospel!

a. The gospel is the power of God unto salvation for those who believe! Never be ashamed of the gospel… … We live in a country in which we’re privileged with the freedom to be able to proclaim the gospel without fear of death. … Use that freedom!

D. Question: “If Jesus sets us free, then why are we still slaves? Even as a slave of righteousness, we’re still slaves.” Good question – in Christ we are indeed free from sin, but now we are slaves of God. Again, everyone serves something/someone – that simply cannot be avoided. Even if we think we’re not going to serve God nor sin, we’re still serving our own lusts of the flesh…which takes us back to the place of serving sin. [] The fact of the matter is that this universe has a Creator God – and the rightful place of that Creator God is to be King. To say we are “slaves of righteousness” is to say we’re doing exactly the thing that God intended for us since time began. And there is NOTHING that brings more freedom than that! [square peg in round hole – terribly constricting… Freedom in where it fits…] To force a bird to try to “fly” underwater would quickly kill it; but to allow it to soar in the sky where it belongs brings freedom & life. … God created us to ‘soar’ in His presence & to give Him glory! The only way that happens is when we humble ourselves before Jesus Christ & serve Him as Lord…

19 I speak in human terms because of the weakness of your flesh. For just as you presented your members as slaves of uncleanness, and of lawlessness leading to more lawlessness, so now present your members as slaves of righteousness for holiness.

A. Acknowledges where the analogy falls short. Physical language can only describe just “so much” of eternal, spiritual truths. The idea of slavery when it comes to serving God may not be perfect, but it works.

B. So now we know the information (we were once slaves of righteousness; now we are slaves of holiness); now we get the application: just do it. At one point we presented our bodies to our old master (sin); now we are to present our bodies to our new master (God). IOW, in Christ, we ARE free; now act like it. Live as how Jesus calls us to live – give God glory as we live holy lives in dedication to Him…

a. We all need to know that God expects us to live holy lives – but at some point we’ve got to move past that point of only “knowing” about it & actually doing it. As a born-again Christian, you have the privilege & calling to live for the glory of God. Now go & DO it!

20 For when you were slaves of sin, you were free in regard to righteousness.

A. We didn’t always have the power to live for the glory of God. Prior to our salvation, when we were enslaved to sin, we “were free in regard to righteousness.” IOW, we had to access to it – we were completely separated from righteousness with no way of achieving it. It wasn’t that we could sin one day & live for God the next…outside of Jesus, we were just able to choose how much we would sin from day to day. Either a little sin or a lot was irrelevant; we were still going to sin because we were completely free & isolated from righteousness.

21 What fruit did you have then in the things of which you are now ashamed? For the end of those things is death.

A. And because we were free from righteousness, all we had in our foolish sin was death. Nothing good came out of it. Whether we’re talking about eternal death, or just the stink of death on our earthly lives, there’s nothing worthwhile that comes as a result of our sin.

a. Especially for Christians! Those of us who asked Jesus for forgiveness of sin ought to be even more acutely aware of the stench of death upon our rebellion. There’s a reason that Christians fall quickly to their knees in confession to God when our sin is made known: we can’t stand the thought of continuing in something that brings death when we know the joy of life in Christ!

B. Sometimes people forget this & tend to look back on their former sins with fond memories. “Remember the time we used to get drunk & tear up the town? Remember all the people we used to hook up with? Boy, those were the days!” No they weren’t! There may have been some temporary pleasures that came out of them, but we’ve got to look beyond the temporary to the eternal. What is the eternal fruit of sin? The same fruit it is for the devil: death.

a. But that’s not the way it is for a Christian! See vs. 22…

22 But now having been set free from sin, and having become slaves of God, you have your fruit to holiness, and the end, everlasting life.

A. Sin may have brought us nothing but death, but what did God bring? Life! Life in the now & life in the later! Life in the now, in that we have “fruit to holiness.” IOW, we live as we’ve been created to live: separated away from sin, and giving glory to God. [Sanctification] When a born-again Christian is living in holiness, that’s when we experience the abundant life that Jesus promised us (John 10:10).

a. Be careful not to confuse “abundant life” with “no-problems-life.” In this life we WILL have problems, trials, and tribulations. In this life we will experience sickness, sadness, hardship, persecution, and physical death. (Jesus promised as much!) But for the Christian, we have the promise of experiencing abundant life through it all! …

B. Not only do we have abundant life, we have “everlasting life.” Gk for everlasting or eternal = αἰώνιος (~ eon). What a glorious promise! In setting us free from sin, not only did Jesus forgive us from the sins of the past – not only does He equip us to live for His glory in the present – but on top of it all, He gives us life everlasting with God in the future. For eon upon eon we will always be with the Lord Jesus! Death is completely swallowed up victory & has no sting at all for the believer. We look forward to eternal life with our Lord & King, freely worshipping God in glory!

a. Sometimes we mention eternal life so often (just in passing language) that we perhaps tend to forget what an incredible promise this actually is. Years and decades lose all their meaning when talking of life everlasting. In our minds now, we tend to think of “eternal life” in terms of “what’s beyond the grave.” Once we’re beyond the grave, we’re in it! There is no more looking forward to it – that will be the reality forever & ever & ever! Death will never again loom on the horizon. Sickness will never be an issue. We won’t be longing for heaven with hope & faith – we’ll BE there. We will ALWAYS be with our Lord, and there’s not a thing either Satan or death can do to stop it!

23 For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.

A. Huge difference between death & life: death is earned; life is a gift. Death is a wage – something owed to the sinner because of our sin. It is our rightful compensation. The word used for “wages” referred to a soldier’s payment. Sometimes a soldier would be paid in cash; other times in food, materials, etc. This word was specific to the non-cash items. That’s what death is for the sinner; it’s not a literal paycheck, but it is the rightful equivalent for what we earned through our sin.

a. The bottom line: no one is in Hell because they’re innocent. There’s no one who doesn’t absolutely deserve to be there. No one can shake their fist at God & rightly claim “This isn’t fair!!” because at the most basic level it IS. What is NOT fair is the repeated invitation by God to forgive us our sin through Jesus Christ. That is something we most certainly do not deserve! Yet God in His great love gives it to us anyway.

B. God gives life! The abundant, eternal life that only He can give…

C. God gives eternal life in Christ! The only place eternal life is found is in Christ Jesus. There’s no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved (Acts 4:12). Eternal life is not found in all the good things we do (because as Rom 1-3 showed, there is no truly good thing outside of Jesus). Eternal life is only found in Christ & Christ alone! To receive the gift of God, you must go through Jesus.

D. God gives eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord! He’s not just any Joe Schmoe off the street – Jesus is the King, the Lord, God the Son Himself in the flesh. To believe that Jesus Christ is the Savior given by God is to receive Jesus as Lord. … Note this is personal: “our Lord.” If Jesus is not YOUR Lord, then He’s not YOUR Savior. But to those who have personally received Jesus as Lord, God has granted us the gift of eternal life & the right to be called the children of God.

So do you want to talk about freedom this Independence Day? Talk about REAL freedom! Real freedom is the freedom to serve God through the work of Jesus Christ. Real freedom is being freed from the slavery of sin. Real freedom is the freedom to live as God created us to live: giving Him glory through our lives & in our worship. … And it only comes through Christ.

The problem is that we too often forget that we’re free. Supposedly circus elephants are kept confined by a mere rope (which could easily be broken) because they are conditioned to do so. As baby elephants, they can’t break the rope & as they grow up, they find struggling against the rope is useless. By the time they’re big enough to rip it to shreds, they’ve just given up trying. That seems to be the way some Christians act regarding sin. Christian: you are not powerless over sin; you’ve been freed by the most powerful Being in the entire universe! Never forget you’ve been freed & you have a new glorious Master now, the Lord Jesus Christ! Rejoice in your freedom & live for His glory!

Have you experienced this real freedom yet? Today can be your independence day! Surrender your life to Jesus Christ & receive Him as Lord!


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