Chapter # 6 Paragraph # 4 Study # 4
Thesis: Being made free from sin means that its bonds are breakable.
Introduction: Last week we looked at the three realities of Romans 6:16-17. First, there is no escape from the bondage to sin except by knowledge. Second, there is no escape from the bondage to sin without the personal exercise of will and choice. And, third, there is no escape from the bondage to sin without a clear intervention by God in grace. Paul clearly declares that this is the way it is and there is no way around it. Because it is, however, a rather large problem for Paul to simultaneously speak of "bondage" and "the breaking of the bonds" (how is a man "enslaved" if he can "get free"?), we are going to give some more consideration to Paul's declarations regarding "being free from sin" as we find them in this context. One of the more difficult issues is the harmony between the grace of God and the volitional responsibility of man. If a man's will is not "free", what good does it do to insist upon the exercise of it?
November 14, 2006
- I. Understanding Freedom.
- A. Begins by understanding bondage.
- 1. It is Paul's warning in this paragraph that we cannot take a light attitude toward sin because it still has the power to enslave us.
- 2. There are, however, two major questions.
- a. How big of a problem is bondage if one can obtain freedom from it?
- 1) The "problem" is relative to the degree of difficulty involved in obtaining the "solution".
- 2) The "degree of difficulty" involves the balance between God's extension of grace and man's responsible appropriation of it.
- a) God has never eliminated the interplay: even Philippians 2:12-13 makes it very clear that both are involved absolutely.
- b) This is a "sliding affair" in which two distinct persons each determine how much of a part they will play.
- i. God decides if, and how much, He will extend grace.
- ii. Man decides if, and how much, he will respond to that grace.
- c) From God's side, there is always a sufficient grace extended to make the solution possible and, sometimes, there is a sufficient grace extended to ensure the solution.
- d) From man's side, there is the serious question of whether he will "believe" in the sufficiency of the grace or "whine" because "it's too hard" [Moses at the burning bush is a classic example of this interplay; Isaiah 6 is a classic example of an enthusiastic absence of whining; and Paul's conversion on the road to Damascus is a classic example of the overwhelming grace of the God Who is going to do what He is going to do].
- 3) The ultimate issue of "difficulty" is lodged within two realities.
- a) First, there is God's Plan and His recognition of what must be done and what can be allowed to fail.
- b) Second, there is man's arrogance and what he does about it.
- i. If man is arrogantly careless, God becomes "severely gracious".
- ii. If man is sensitively careful, God becomes "mercifully gracious".
- b. Of how much value is a promise of freedom if one can be re-enslaved?
- 1) Freedom beyond the possibility of re-enslavement is a necessary foundation, but it cannot be granted without a certain understanding.
- a) We see this in our deliverance from Law and the impossibility of its reimposition upon us upon the condition of our understanding of the basic Gospel of redemption and regeneration.
- b) We also see this in our deliverance from this phase of our training by means of resurrection after a life of learning (both relative issues: life for how long; learning to what degree).
- 2) Freedom with the possibility of re-enslavement is a necessary aspect of the beyond-the-foundation process because of the interplay between depravity and true spiritual growth.
- a) When men get cocky because they are "free", their depravity takes over.
- b) Re-enslavement is the method of humiliation unto a return to grace.
- B. Grows by understanding which issues are on the table.
- 1. The promise of freedom is not a promise of freedom from the creation-order-consequences of actions taken: what one tolerates becomes one's master. This is true in the present as well as in the future kingdom.
- 2. The promise of freedom is a promise of freedom from the Judicial consequences of sin.
- 3. The promise of freedom is not a promise of an inability to sin.
- 4. The promise of freedom is a promise of freedom from any "necessity" to sin -- i.e., an inescapable compulsion.
- a. This, however, is a thorny issue because it is Paul's thesis that one will become enslaved to that to which one submits, yet he holds out the hope that the slavery does not have to be permanent.
- b. On the other hand, what is "bondage" if it is "escapable"?
- 5. The promise of freedom is not a promise of "easy" living in the sense that former "habits of sin" will simply disappear and there will be no "struggle" to surmount the problem(s).
- 6. The promise of freedom is a promise of sufficient divine provision for success. There is a very large Old Testament illustration of "life by faith" in Israel's history. It consists of "redemption" as at the Exodus and "sanctification" as in the struggle against the giants in the land. There is no "victory" without "struggle", but the "struggle" must be seen as a divinely empowered effort and not a humanly produced basis for boasting. The issue that commands a very large part of the landscape here is a fundamental commitment to the current divine agenda.
- 1. Just as unbelievers begin to hedge and pull back from the "decision" to repent and turn to God, believers hedge and pull back from the "decision" to commit to God's agenda as they understand it. The reason is the same on both counts: the unwillingness to turn loose of their own control over their lives. In other words, the sinful insistence that God permit them to be the dominant personality in their own experiences.
- 2. The current divine agenda has to do with being conformed to the image of Christ at all levels in all areas of interest. This means a clear-eyed commitment to being "godly" in every way and to being sufficiently humble to confess each failure as it occurs. When we maintain/regain a "clear conscience" before God, the Spirit of God is free to produce the life of Christ in us. This "procedure" is not "difficult", but it does require "persistence" and "consistency". I cannot afford to slide through my days without responding to God's Truth as it applies to me, when it applies to me.