Monday, May 1, 2017

True Freedom - Romans 6:20-23

Image result for bell x-1 and its b-29 mothership
Romans 6:20-7:3 "For when you were slaves of sin, you were free in regard to righteousness. 21 Therefore what benefit were you then deriving from the things of which you are now ashamed? For the outcome of those things is death. 22 But now having been freed from sin and enslaved to God, you derive your benefit, resulting in sanctification, and the outcome, eternal life. 23 For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. 


Paul's main section on the post-conversion Christian life begins with a preliminary statement on our union with Jesus Christ, the New Adam, in Romans 5:12-21. In Romans 6, we get introduced to the main theme of union with Christ by way of the realities of our Christian identity (a.k.a "Gospel Indicatives") and the responsibilities that follow (a.k.a "Gospel Imperatives"). Paul lays out our Christian identity, our position in Christ, by building up the firm foundation of Gospel indicatives. He uses the language of "in Christ", "through Christ", "into Christ" and so forth to reinforce to his readers who they are and Whose they are. The imperatives (such as "reckon yourselves dead to sin and alive unto God" in Romans 6:11) follow from the indicatives to build our growing experience in Jesus Christ. All of this is Paul's supreme case for the process of sanctification which he will further expound in Romans 7 and 8. 

In today's post, we want to see how Paul layers on another key theme and contrast in his exposition on the post-conversion Christian life - namely "freedom" in Christ as having rescued the Christian from "enslavement" to sin. Paul will develop this key theme by three ways: illustrating such from the world of 1st century Roman slavery (Romans 7:20-22); illustrating the contrast between spiritual freedom and sin's tyranny by way of the world of employment and wages (Romans 6:23) and then thirdly, by how a spouse is freed to marry again once her first husband has passed away (Romans 7:1-6). We will focus upon the first two of these illustrations of true spiritual freedom in contrast to sin's tyranny.
Today's post will consider what it means to have true freedom in Christ, and why being tied to Jesus is the greatest form of freedom there is. 

True Freedom is found under the Lordship of Jesus Christ

It has been said that: "the one who is a slave to the compass will become lord of the seas; but the one who abandons the compass will become a slave to the shoreline." How many of us, if we're truly honest, like being told what to do? None of us do. However, one of the counter-intuitive truths of Christianity is that the more I'm under the Lordship of Jesus Christ, the greater amount of spiritual freedom I will have. When we talk of spiritual freedom, I liken it to the amount of enjoyment one has of being a follow of Jesus. 

Jesus Himself talked early on about spiritual freedom in John 8:32 "and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.” In Paul's other letters, we find this wonderful theme of spiritual freedom in 2 Corinthians 3:17 "Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty." Or again in Galatians 5:13 "For you were called to freedom, brethren; only do not turn your freedom into an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another." Again, spiritual freedom has to do with one's level of enjoyment in being a follower of Jesus Christ. Matthew 11:28-29 records Jesus talking about this in the following command: “Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. 29 Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls." 

Now these passages speak of the interrelationship between Christ's Lordship and spiritual freedom. The more bound I am to Jesus Christ's Lordship, the more enjoyment of the Christian life I will have. To illustrate, lets consider the first-time a man broke the sound barrier.

Chuck Yeager - The first man to break the sound barrier

On October 14, 1947, Chuck Yeager flew an aircraft named "Bell X-1" to break the sound barrier at a velocity of 700 m.p.h. To achieve this feat, Yeager's aircraft was drop launched from the belly of a modified B-29 Superfortress plane, pictured below:

Image result for bell x-1 and its b-29 mothership

What would had happened if Yeager's plane had not been attached to the much larger one? Yeager's range of freedom in breaking the sound-barrier would had been hindered. 

In the Christian life, the follower of Jesus must be bound-over to the authority of Jesus and His Word if he or she is to ever break the barriers of growth and progress in Christian faith. The gravity of sin and the old life will attempt to drag on us. This is why we read in Romans 6:22-23 "But now having been freed from sin and enslaved to God, you derive your benefit, resulting in sanctification, and the outcome, eternal life. 23 For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord."

We must be aware of the enticement and false-advertisements of sin

Paul repeatedly warns us not to give into the beckoning call to the old way of life from whence we were redeemed. The world, the flesh and the devil promise all sorts of freedom. After all, the unbelieving world is convinced that if we would but sever ourselves from the authority of God, we would be free indeed. Psalm 2:1-4 perfectly captures this attitude of sinful man, and God's response to it: "Why are the nations in an uproar And the peoples devising a vain thing? 2 The kings of the earth take their stand and the rulers take counsel together against the Lord and against His Anointed, saying, 3 “Let us tear their fetters apart and cast away their cords from us!” 4 He who sits in the heavens laughs, The Lord scoffs at them." In the prophetic tapestry of the Bible, Psalm 2 functions as a so-called "Messianic Psalm", meaning that even though the term "anointed" speaks in the immediate context to King David, the ultimate referent is "The Anointed One", i.e - The Lord Jesus Christ. What unbelievers find most objectionable is the claim Christ has on everything. 

However, Paul utilizes the simple imagery of earning wages at a job. We've already seen his use of this in Romans 6:22-23. The Bible Exposition Commentary on Romans 6:20-23 notes the following: 

"If you serve a master, you can expect to receive wages. Sin pays wages—death! God also pays wages—holiness and everlasting life. In the old life, we produced fruit that made us ashamed. In the new life in Christ, we produce fruit that glorifies God and brings joy to our lives. We usually apply Romans 6:23 to the lost, and certainly it does apply; but it also has a warning for the saved. (After all, it was written to Christians.) “There is a sin unto death” (1 John 5:17). “For this reason many among you are weak and sick, and a number sleep” (1 Cor. 11:30, NASB). Samson, for example, would not yield himself to God, but preferred to yield to the lusts of the flesh, and the result was death (Jud. 16). If the believer refuses to surrender his body to the Lord, but uses its members for sinful purposes, then he is in danger of being disciplined by the Father, and this could mean death. (See Heb. 12:5–11, and note the end of v. 9 in particular.)"

Years ago I heard the following saying: "sin will keep longer than you intended to stay and it will cost you more than you intended to pay". Righteousness in Jesus Christ has its wages, its payment, its outcome; and sin has its payday too. In Christ, there is eternal life; when we sin as Christians, a little part of us dies. Only the grace of the Gospel and genuine repentance can rescue us from the snares of sin (see 2 Timothy 2:24-25; 1 John 1:9). 

True spiritual freedom comes by staying lashed to the mast of Christ's Lordship and keeping one's eye on the compass of His Word. As the great commentator John Gill notes in his commentary:

"....a life of the utmost perfection and pleasure, and which will last for ever: and as the grace of God, which justifies and sanctifies them, is through Christ, so is the eternal life itself which it brings unto: this is in Christ, comes through his righteousness, sufferings, and death; is bestowed by him, and will greatly consist in the enjoyment of him."

Indeed, to be bound to the compass of the Master and His authority will afford me the ability to truly enjoy the Christian life, no matter how hard it may get.