Free from Sin?

Proverbs 20:9 asks the question “Who can say, ‘I have cleansed my heart; I am pure and free from sin’?” (NLT). We can all identify with that. If we are honest with ourselves, we know we still sin. So why does Romans 6:18 say, “You have been set free from sin and have become slaves to righteousness”? Is this a contradiction?

Sin can be defined as “any thought, action, or attitude that falls short of God’s holiness” (Romans 3:23). Sin has many layers. There are specific actions or thoughts which are sinful. Murder, adultery, and theft are sins (Exodus 20:1–17). Even the desire to commit murder, adultery, and theft are sins (Matthew 5:21, 28). But sin goes deeper than that. Mankind commits sins because they were born sinners. Let me explain, first, sin is a nature. Adam was not created with a sin nature. Sin entered when he ate of the tree of knowledge of good and evil. This was his “transgression” through “disobedience”. Every descendant of Adam was born with the sin nature. Paul said in Romans 5:19, “for as by one man’s (Adam’s) disobedience many were made sinners, so by the obedience of one (Jesus’ obedience to the death of the cross) shall many be made righteous.” The way that  “many are made righteous” through the obedience of Jesus is found in Romans 6:6-7; “ knowing this, that our old man is crucified with Him (Christ), that the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin. For he that is dead is freed from sin.” At the Cross of Christ, the sin nature (body of sin) is destroyed. We are no longer “slaves” to sin, because our “old man” is dead, crucified with Christ. It is not “we” that died, but the sin that was in us died. We are “born again” by the resurrection of Jesus from the dead, quickened together with Him in newness of life. Now, it is not “we” that live, but Christ that lives in us. The child of God is both “dead to sin, but alive to God” at the same time.

We were not created to be sinful. We were designed by God in His own image (Genesis 1:27). Humanity is His masterpiece (Ephesians 2:10; Psalm 8:4–6). We were designed to live in fellowship with our Creator. But because of sin, we cannot enter His presence (Habakkuk 1:13). When Jesus died on the cross, He took upon Himself all the sin of the world (2 Corinthians 5:21; 1 John 2:2). By taking the punishment for our sin, He cancelled the debt that each of us owes God (Colossians 2:14). He also reversed the curse of our old natures, which keeps us enslaved to sinful passions and desires (Galatians 3:10, 13). Before a person meets Christ, he or she is enslaved by that sin nature (Romans 7:25; 2 Peter 2:19). At the moment of conversion, we are given a new nature that has been freed from sin (Romans 6:18; 8:2). The entire chapter of Romans 6 explains this in detail. Verse 14 says, “For sin shall no longer be your master, because you are not under the law, but under grace.”

To be free from sin means that those who have made Jesus the Lord of their lives are no longer enslaved by sin. We have the power, through the Holy Spirit, to live victoriously over sin (1 Corinthians 15:56–67; Romans 8:37). Just like we once followed fleshly desires, those who are “in Christ Jesus” now follow the Holy Spirit (Romans 8:14; Galatians 5:24). Because we live in a fallen world and are still fleshly, natural creatures,  we will still occasionally sin (1 John 1:9; 2:1; Romans 7:21–22). But those who follow Christ do not make sin a lifestyle choice (1 John 2:1–6; 3:6–10; Romans 6:2).  If we do sin, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ! (I John 1:9)

Those who have been born again (John 3:3) have received a new nature. Whereas the old nature drew us toward self-pleasure, the new nature petitions us toward holiness (2 Corinthians 5:17). To be free from sin means that it no longer wields the power it once did. The stranglehold of selfishness, greed, and lust has been broken. Freedom from sin allows us to offer ourselves as willing slaves of the Lord Jesus Christ, Who continues to work in us to make us more like Him (Romans 6:18; 8:29; Philippians 2:13).

The phrase “dead to sin” comes from Romans 6:11: “In the same way, count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus.” Here, the contrast is made that to be “dead to sin” is to be “alive to God in Christ Jesus. Those who have come to faith in Jesus are no longer to allow sin to control their lives. Instead, we offer ourselves to God to serve His purposes.

Paul expands on this concept in Romans 12:1-2: “Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.” The phrase “living sacrifice” is a paradox—sacrifices do not “live”; they die. But it is a good summation of the Christian life, as we are dead to sin and alive to God. The emphasis here is on living a different life as a result of God’s salvation. We no longer follow the pattern of the world but live according to God’s will.

To be dead to sin does not mean we are sinless or that we will never sin again. If I do sin, it goes against my nature in Christ!  Paul made it clear that he continued to struggle with temptation and sin: If Paul could call himself the “worst of sinners” (1 Timothy 1:16), then we should certainly expect to continue our conflict and struggle with the temptation to sin until we reach heaven.

To be dead to sin means we no longer need to be controlled by the influences of our old nature.  Romans 6:17 teaches that “though you used to be slaves to sin, you have come to obey from your heart the pattern of teaching that has now claimed your allegiance.” Before Christ, we are “slaves” to sin. Now we have a new Master. Sin continues to exist, but we are no longer dominated or slaves to it!

As Christians, we have God’s Spirit within us to empower us. However, we still face temptation and must strive to stand against sin. We can live “dead to sin” as we follow Christ, knowing that our Lord will one day remove the curse of sin altogether (Revelation 22:3).

Stay Blessed!


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