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Christian Freedom

Extract from Gospel Magazine 1836

Added: Jul 06, 2022 | Category: Theology


He that is dead is freed from sin

(Romans 6:7).

In the above text there is some ambiguity; and it has been the cause of anxiety to some tender minds. The ambiguity lies in the word ‘freed’. It may be taken to mean absolute deliverance from all connection with sin, by its total extinction within us; and when so understood the poor perplexed soul comes to the unhappy conclusion, that he is not crucified with Christ and dead to sin, because he feels to his daily sorrow that sin still dwells in him. And hatred to hypocrisy, and false pretences, as well as love of truth, constrains me to say, that all those professors who persuade themselves that they are growing progressively holier as they advance in years, no less than they who say they live without sin, are deluded self-deceivers, going down to the grave with a lie in their right hand (Isaiah 44:20). They are in that state in which Paul describes himself to have been before his conversion. ‘I was alive without the law once: but when the commandment came, sin revived and I died’ (Romans 7:9). And this same Apostle says, ‘by the law is the knowledge of sin’, (Romans 3:20). This is the only rule of rectitude. When a sinner is brought by the Lord’s teaching to measure himself by the law, condemnation and death are sure to follow. From henceforth there is no hope of being saved by the deeds of the law, and then the only object of spiritual desire is Jesus, who has delivered us from the curse of the law, having been made a curse for us (Galatians 3:13). But I am wandering from the text:

‘He that is dead is freed from sin.’ Now if we had here ‘justified’ instead of ‘freed’, there would then be no ambiguity, because the word would bear but one meaning; and justified, is the original word. I love this text thus translated—He that is dead is justified from sin. And this is in strict accordance with what is written elsewhere—‘Be it known unto you therefore, men and brethren, that through this Man is preached unto you the forgiveness of sins: and by Him all that believe are justified from all things, from which they could not be justified by the law of Moses’ (Acts 13:38, 39).

‘It is God that justifieth’ (Romans 8:30), and He justifieth ungodly sinners: it is God that pardons and remits sins, the sins of the very worst of sinners, if one sinner can be worse in His sight than another; and He does it on the sole ground that Jesus shed His blood and died a sacrifice for sin. The pardon and reconciliation of sinners comes by the grace of God and the suretyship of Jesus. What could poor miserable sinners do but for Jesus? He is the one and only Friend of sinners: He loves and saves none but sinners, and it is because of this that the Pharisees of all ages have hated Him. They will be saved, but then it must be upon their own terms, not Jesus’ terms, freely, for nothing, without money and without price (Isaiah 55:1), terms only welcome to the destitute who feel their lost and desolate condition, and long for deliverance from the bondage of sin,—the worst of all masters, paying the worst of all wages (Romans 6:23). 

Throughout this sixth chapter to the Romans the Apostle, by a bold figure, assigns personality as it were to sin, and represents it as a tyrannical master exercising cruel dominion over his slaves. Where there is no law there is no transgression or sin (Romans 4:5). The strength of sin is in the broken law; by this it reigns unto death. Take law from sin, and it has no more power. This Jesus did, doing and suffering the just for the unjust (1 Peter 3:18). He magnified the law and honoured it, by actively fulfilling its demands; and then passively suffering death, the penalty due to transgression. He died unto sin once, and rose again, and death has no more dominion over Him, (Romans 6:10; 14:9). He has redeemed His people. He has taken captivity captive (Psalm 68:18). Redeemed and believing sinners are the Lord’s free men: they are more than conquerors through Him that loved them. They can look their most terrific enemies in the face, and say, ‘O death, where is thy sting?’ ‘O grave where is thy victory?’ Christ’s death is the ground of our justification from sin. ‘Who is he that condemneth?’ Does law, sin, Satan, man, conscience? Here is the answer—‘It is Christ that died’, and is risen again. Whatever accusation may be brought against a sinner that believes in Jesus, the only answer of a good conscience is, Jesus died for me: this, as was said before, is the sole ground of a sinner’s justification. He is not justified by anything done in him or by him. His being buried with Jesus by baptism into death, his old man being crucified with Him, and his walking in newness of life in Jesus, are not causes either in whole or in part of his justification, but fruits and effects thereof. Paul, and indeed all the sacred writers, make Christ all in the matter of justification; and so must we if we enjoy peace with God, and emancipation from the slavery of sin.

But do not a deliverance from the power and dominion of sin, and being brought under the reign of grace, give a person licence to live in sin? The Apostle indignantly spurns the thing as impossible, and asks—‘How shall we who are dead unto sin live any longer therein’? The enthronement of Jesus in a sinner’s heart, is the dethronement of sin; it still keeps a footing there, but in a state of subjection. Every sinner whom Jesus justifies from sin, is forced from its dominion: ‘Being then made free from sin ye are become servants to righteousness’. Here the original word rendered, ‘being made free’, means freedom from slavery, free from the slavery of sin, whose wages is death; but the other word rendered ‘freed’, in the seventh verse, means justified from all guilt and condemnation, so that no accusation can be sustained against a believer in Jesus. And this is no new doctrine; it runs through the Bible from beginning to end, and is expressed in very clear terms, for example, Isaiah 54:17, ‘No weapon that is formed against thee shall prosper; and every tongue that shall rise against thee in judgment thou shalt condemn. This is the heritage of the servants of the Lord, and their righteousness is of me, saith the Lord.’

The Apostle’s argument, in this sixth chapter of Romans, is almost peculiar to the Scriptures: it is thought lightly of, and therefore little used among ministers in general. It is this. You are justified from sin and dead to it; you are not under the law but under grace; the wages of sin, which is death, you shall never receive; therefore cease to serve sin, and let it not reign in your mortal bodies. He knew, for he had been taught it by his Divine Master, that forgiveness of sins destroys the reign and power of sin in the heart. But this is not known to all men because all men have not faith (2 Thessalonians 3:2). And every unbeliever loves sin in one form or the other, and hates God, because He has decreed to punish for it whenever it is found. If he restrains himself from sinning, it is because he dreads punishment. If he could be assured of justification and heaven at last, he would gladly give up the reins to his depraved passions and lusts, and be the willing slave to sin all his days. By such persons the gospel of grace is evil spoken of. They know not the love of God to His elect in Christ Jesus, and therefore they are neither constrained nor influenced by it. Upon such, no argument drawn from free grace will have any good effect. ‘By their fruits ye shall know them,’ (Matthew 7:16, 20,) said our Lord; and it is only by a man’s walk and conversation that his character can be truly ascertained. ‘Know ye not,’ says Paul, and with these words I shall conclude; ‘that to whom ye yield yourselves servants to obey, his servants you are to whom ye obey; whether of sin unto death, or of obedience unto righteousness? 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.’

A. Layman

Sept. 21st,1836