On Sin – First Enslaved, Then Freed

Previously, I touched on how sin scars the conscience and makes us heavy with guilt. Today, I wish to look at man in two states in relation to sin: before Christ and after Christ. And knowing where we were before Christ is very important, for how can you be truly grateful for God’s mercy and love in salvation if you don’t know what you were saved from? Thus, knowledge of man’s state pre-regeneration is important, and does play into you’re Christian walk.

So, what was man like in relation to sin before Christ?

Now many verses speak to the all encompassing depravity of man (also know as Total Depravity/Radical Depravity), such as the following: ‘as it is written: “None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks for God. All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one.” ‘ (Romans 3:10-12); “And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil. For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his works should be exposed.” (John 3:19-20) but why cannot man simply by his will shake off sin and live righteously? Why not?

Well, the harsh reality is simply this:

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Man is in bondage to sin, as our Lord says:

Jesus answered them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, everyone who practices sin is a slave to sin.”     – John 8:32

     But what does Jesus mean when he says “a slave to sin”? Is he signifying that even as slaves we are able to revolt against sin and overthrow it’s hold over us? No, rather quite the opposite: in the Greek the word for ‘slave’ is δοῦλός (doúlos) which means: someone who belongs to another; a bond-slave, without any ownership rights of their own;completely controlled. This is not speaking of a person who’s will is on fire for freedom, but a person whose will is completely subjected, and even enjoys it’s subjection as Christ Himself says, “”And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil.” (John 3:19). Man kind loves sin; he does not love darkness more than light, but “rather than light” meaning “instead of” or “in place of”. Man’s love of darkness is not simply more than his love of light, but rather his love is wholly for darkness, for Christ again says, “For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his works should be exposed.” (John 3:20). Jesus doesn’t say “everyone who does wicked things loves the darkness more than the light”; no, He says “everyone who does wicked things hates the light”! So not only is man totally, completely, and entirely controlled by sin, but he also loves what he is controlled by – that being sin. 

     Paul also declares this:

For when you were slaves of sin, you were free in regard to righteousness.
– Romans 6:20

     Here Paul is inferring that the believers who he is writing to were at one time “slaves of sin”, and when they were slaves they were  “free in regard to righteousness”. Truly, it is universal truth that we all were slaves to sin before we came – or really were drawn by the Father (John 6:44) – to Christ.

     Again Paul boldly points out:

But the Scripture declares that the whole world is a prisoner of sin…   – Galatians 3:22a

     Here Paul declares that scripture declares that “the whole world is a prisoner of sin”! Sin, according to this verse, is our jailer and we are in the jail cell that is tightly locked and secured. We have no hope of escaping by any might, will, or determination that we posses; and furthermore, not only is our jail cell tightly locked and in every way secured so that it is inescapable, but it is furnished! It is comfortable and enjoyable for us; we, by nature, love our jail cell and our jailer.

     So then, what are we, in relation to sin, after Christ? Still enslaved or free? Scripture declares us free!

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But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God, the fruit you get leads to sanctification and its end, eternal life.  – Romans 6:22

     Here the Apostle insists that we have been “set free from sin” and are now “slaves of God”. One may scoff and say, “For what good is it to trade one slavery for another?” But I answer him, “For which is better, to be a slave to sin and the fruits of that slavery to be death or to be a slave to God and the fruits of that slavery is eternal life? Furthermore, if one is a slave to sin, he is also, by logical implication, a slave to the devil, who is wholly evil and wicked to no end. I would rather be a slave to a kind Master, who gave His own Son that I might be set free from my former master.” This being “slaves of God” is not a bad thing, for we have a kind, merciful, and loving Master, who cares for us, and wants whats best for us, despite the many times we have wronged Him. We have a Master who loves us unconditionally.

     And Christ Himself, in the reading of the prophet Isaiah says thus:

“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”    – Luke 4:18

     Notice the phrases such as “to set at liberty those who are oppressed” or “to proclaim liberty to the captives” or “recovering of sight to the blind”, who is the oppressed or the captives, or the blind in these instances? Us! Here Christ is saying that He has come to set us at liberty from our oppression! Truly that is the greatest promise of Christ: that through Him we are freed!

     But, our freedom is not an excuse to sin, for Paul writes:

What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it? Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.
For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his. We know that our old self was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin. For one who has died has been set free from sin. Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. We know that Christ, being raised from the dead, will never die again; death no longer has dominion over him. For the death he died he died to sin, once for all, but the life he lives he lives to God. So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus.
Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, to make you obey its passions. Do not present your members to sin as instruments for unrighteousness, but present yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life, and your members to God as instruments for righteousness. For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace.      – Romans 6:1-14

Here Paul is urging to get it through our thick skulls that we have died to sin, and therefore cannot continue to live in it! The whole point of Christ death, in relation to our enslavement to sin, was that “we would no longer be enslaved to sin”. Because our “old self was crucified with him” we are free from the enslavement to sin “for one who has died has been set free from sin”. Christ himself died a death so that he has “died to sin” and “the life he lives he lives to God”. And we too “must consider [ourselves] dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus”. Paul also says that we should not let sin reign in our mortal body, nor let it make us obey its passions. For we are to present ourselves to God, not in spiritual death, but rather in spiritual life and thus in righteousness and dead to sin.

Thus it is to be understood that we do have liberty in Christ, and apart from Him we can do nothing (John 15:5 – I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.) but this liberty in Christ, this freedom from sin because we are not under the law but under grace is not an excuse to live in sin nor to practice it, for Paul writes, For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. For the whole law is fulfilled in one word: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” ‘ (Galatians 5:13-14) and Peter also says concerning this, “Live as people who are free, not using your freedom as a cover-up for evil, but living as servants of God.” (1 Peter 2:16).

In closing I shall leave you some of the most comforting words of Christ I have ever read:

So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.

                          – John 8:36

On Sin – First Enslaved, Then Freed

On Guilt of Sin & The Conscience

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     For me, I find the sins that I commit to be a literal scar upon my conscience, and the more I study God’s Word, the more I feel the damnation in sin itself, but yet I continue to do what I hate. And at times, it depresses me; at others, it infuriates me; but at the end of the day, I feel the weight of condemnation on my conscience by my sinful acts. For me there is no greater comfort than God’s Word so let us turn there together, my brothers and sisters in the faith.

For I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate. – Romans 7:15

     This perfectly describes my feelings about my sin. I do not understand why I do what I do, I hate these things I do with a righteous hatred (not that I am righteous in and of myself, but that my hatred is not a malicious hatred but a hatred of sin, a just hate, a righteous hatred), but yet I still do them, as if I desire to do them. But yet that desire is only momentary, lasting as long as the act, and after the act all I feel is shame and damnation, and yet another slash across my conscience; just as the Psalmist declares: “For my iniquities have gone over my head; like a heavy burden, they are too heavy for me.” (Psalm 38:4) and again: “For I am ready to fall, and my pain is ever before me. I confess my iniquity; I am sorry for my sin.” (Psalm 38:17-18). And that feeling of condemnation only increases when the cross is brought to the forefront of my mind’s eye. I don’t believe that anything can be more convicting than when one sins to have the cross immediately put before their eyes after their deed of wickedness is done.

     Let us see more of what Paul has to say:

So now it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me. For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out. For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me. – Romans 7:17-20

     Here Paul exemplifies the struggle that I, and many, if not all, of my brothers and sisters in the faith are continually going through, this warring of two natures within us: the flesh, in which “nothing good dwells” and the reborn nature in which we have “the desire to do what is right”, but yet our flesh removes our “ability to carry it out” (“it” being the desire of the reborn nature). For what we wish is not what we do but the evil that we do not want to do. But here the comfort comes in verse twenty: “Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me”. Here the comfort is in a few things: firstly, that Paul, an Apostle of Christ Jesus, fought this same battle before us; secondly, that it is not us who do these things but our flesh, in which sin dwells. Not that we are not responsible for our sin – I assure you that we are accountable for every deed and word – but rather that the work that God has done in us [(making us alive in Christ Jesus and giving us a new heart and a new desire (Ephesians 2:1-10)] is not defective or somehow not true. The issue, as it appears to me in my life, is that we do not “work out your own salvation with fear and trembling,” enough, because we often forget that “it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure”.

     And as for the conscience of the believer whose sin is ever before him, Paul says to you:

Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised— who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us. – Romans 8:33-34

     Who is to accuse us? If Christ has paid for our sin, then God “will be merciful toward [our] iniquities, and [He] will remember[our] sins no more” (Hebrews 8:12). And who is to condemn? Did not Christ bear our griefs and carried out sorrows? Was He not pierced for our transgressions and crushed for our iniquities? And hasn’t the Lord laid on Him the iniquity of us all? (Isaiah 53:4-6). If Christ has not only died but risen that we might be made righteous in the eyes of God, then how shall our sin make us any less His children? Not that we ought to live however we please, on the contrary, we are to live “in a manner worthy of the calling to which [we] have been called” (Ephesians 4:1), but Christ Himself declares that “no one will snatch [us] out of [His] hand” (John 10:28). And John also declares, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” (1 John 1:9). Let not our weaknesses make the cleansing work of Christ any less effective, but rather strive to live “worthy of the calling” but yet, at the same time, do not think that God will cast you out for your sin, for Christ Himself says, “All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out.” (John 6:37); the work of God will be done, and Christ will never cast out whoever that comes to Him.

And so, in closing I shall leave you all with this quote from the movie ‘Luther’, in which the actor that plays Martin Luther says these words which I find comfort in:

“So when the devil throws your sins in you face and declares that you deserve death and hell, tell him this: I admit that I deserve death and hell. What of it? For I know One who suffered and made satisfaction in my behalf. His name is Jesus Christ, Son of God. Where He is, there I shall be also.”
– Martin Luther

Blessings to you, and remember the words of Christ: “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.” (John 14:27).

Michael Hall

On Guilt of Sin & The Conscience