by Darrel Cline (darrelcline biblical-thinking.org)
Chapter # 6 Paragraph # 1 Study # 10 September 19, 2006 Lincolnton, N.C.
7 For he that is dead is freed from sin.
1901 ASV Translation:
7 for he that hath died is justified from sin.
I. Man's Relationship to Sin.
A. Paul's concept of "service to sin" involves multiple issues.
1. Foremost in Paul's mind is that "serving sin" means "committing sins".
2. However, there exists under that umbrella the issues of "why?".
a. Fundamental to this question is our identification with Adam (5:12-21). In this regard, we sinned when he sinned and, once the deed was completed, we were dead in regard to righteousness and incapable of anything but sin. In this scenario, we were "enemies of God" (5:10) who did not understand His love (5:6-8). In this scenario, the Law also began to play a part. Before the Law, sin was present in us and dominating our attitudes and behavior, but it was not being "imputed" (reckoned to one so that both the guilt and the consequences rested upon him) because "sin is not imputed when there is no law" (5:13). So, in order that it might be "imputed", the Law was brought in (5:20). There is a good reason for this. Whether there is Law, or not, sin's presence and impact is destructive to Life. Something had to be done to address this destruction. There were only two options. The destruction could be addressed by the destruction of the destroyers (as at the flood), or the destruction could be addressed by altering the essential character of those destroyers so that they become life-givers. The entrance of the Law did not alter that essential character because there was no law given that could impart life (Galatians 3:21). But, the entrance of the Law did bring the essential character of sin to greater clarity. As long as men are sinful, they are dying. But, if they do not know their sinfulness, they cannot know why they are dying. And, if they do not know why they are dying, how can that huge problem be addressed? The Law came in to bring man to the knowledge of his sinfulness so that he might give some thought as to whether he wished to be free of sin and death. If there entered a desire to be free, the foundation for the alteration of his essential character was laid. In other words, the Law brought on a realization of the "O wretched man that I am" reality and that could produce the "Who shall deliver me from the body of this death?" (7:24) desire. If that desire came into being, the answer to the question ("Jesus Christ our Lord") could actually lead to regeneration as the alteration of the essential character.
b. Also fundamental to this question is the degree to which sin has developed in each individual as the offspring of Adam. Clearly, sin is a progressively developing reality. It does not exist as a fully developed, final state at the beginning. Thus, though it exists at a sufficient level to enslave its host, it does not exist at a sufficient level to initiallysquash its host's desires and rationality. If the Gospel reaches a man before the progression of Sin has turned him into a "brute beast" (2 Peter 2:12 and Jude 10); if the Gospel reaches a man while he is in the "Who shall deliver me?" stage, redemption can occur. If, however, the progression has reached the stage of the death of desire and rationality, the Gospel makes no good impact. This does not mean that man is saved by desire and rationality; it only means that the possibility of salvation exists as long as desire and rationality can be brought into play -- which seems to be the function of the Spirit of God. Heit is Who creates the "wretched man that I am" reality (He convicts the world of sin and righteousness -- John 16:8) in the heart and sponsors the "who shall deliver me?" quest (He also convicts the world of judgment -- John 16:8). Man is not, and cannot be, saved by desire or rationality, but those do seem to be the foundations of salvation in that God never saves anyone who does not wish it (Philippians 2:12), nor does He save those who do not understand the Gospel (Romans 10:14).
B. Paul's concept of "freedom from sin" also involves multiple issues.
1. Chief among these issues is the concept of "doing righteousness".
2. However, under this umbrella is the question of "How?".
a. The first part of the answer is Paul's concept of our "death to sin": "he that is dead is freed from sin." (Romans 6:7).
1) Here, Paul's word "freed" (a flawed translation) gives significant insight.
a) The New Testament contains this word in at least 40 texts. The Authorized Version translators used "free" in only one of those texts (the one before us) and translated it "justify" in 38 of the remaining 39 and "be righteous" in the remaining reference. This sets off warning bells. Any time a translator "reaches", we must ask ourselves whether the translation represents the true meaning or whether the translator simply didn't really grasp the meaning in the text.
b) That Paul uses "justified" instead of "freed" indicates that he was thinking of the "mechanics" of freedom, not just the "freedom". In other words, the chief question of the text is "how are we to live above the compulsions of sin from within?" and at least part of the answer is rooted in our justification. This answers to the overall issue in the paragraph which surfaces most plainly in the last comment Paul makes in the paragraph: "Sin shall not have dominion over you because you are not under the Law" (6:14). The reason that we are not under the Law is that we have been "justified" in the face of the Law and it cannot exercise any authority over us since it can no longer accuse us, or condemn us.
2) It is here that we see at least part of Paul's answer to our quest for freedom.
a) Justification before the Law means that we cannot be accused or condemned -- even when we are truly guilty in the sense that sin has erupted out of our bodies.
b) Thus, though "justification" is not the "be-all", "end-all" of the "dominion of sin" issue, it is the "be-all", "end-all" of the "judicialconsequences of sin" issue.
c) Paul is not arguing that the bondage to sin issue is completely resolved by justification; but, he is arguing that justification is a majorcontributor to the resolution. If justification completely solved the problem, there would be no need for a new body of Scripture (known to us as the New Testament) that did any more than teach the means to justification.
b. There is a bit of a problem here: justification does not stop the eruption of sins out of the bodies of believers.
1) This seems, at least superficially, to undercut the thesis of Paul's paragraph. He has gone to significant lengths to tell us that we are "free" from slavery to sin because we have been identified with Jesus' death to sin to the degree that His death is considered ours. But, this fact stands: believers sin after that identification has been accomplished by faith and divine imputation. So, the question remains: in what sense are we not in bondage to sin?
2) There are at least two "contributors to freedom" in Paul's doctrine. First, we are absolutely and completely free from the "judicial" consequences of sin. There is no "double jeopardy" in the Gospel: if Jesus died for my sins, then I do not have to die for them. And second, though this doctrine does nothing to my body, wherein a major element of my bondage arises, it does do a significant thing to my soul and to my spirit: it demolishes "fear", which is a major "bondage/sin producer". My soul does not have to deal with the "fear" of estrangement from God, nor does my spirit have to deal with the "fear" of divine rejection. If I am rejected, then the consequences of estrangement roll down upon me like an avalanche, but if I am "justified" those are non-issues. Thus, the doctrine of "justification" is a significant contributor to my freedom from sin.
c. So what does block that eruption?
1) "Justification" is first an "out-there", "beyond-me", "in the attitude of God toward me" reality that is fundamentally rooted in Christ and secondarily, though effectually, rooted in faith.
2) Freedom comes when that "out-there" reality is internalized. That I am free from divine hostility does me little good until I believe it. Faith is the effectual internalization of reality as it is in God. And, that I am free from divine hostility because He loves me puts a significant element of proper motivation within me so that I am less inclined to accept the delusions of Sin and acquiesce to the demands of my body of sin and death and more inclined to "by the Spirit, put to death the deeds of the body" (Romans 8:13).
3) Thus, it boils down to the fact that love is what really sets me free, and justification is that undergirding fact that brings love into the mix. Love is an objective "out-there" reality and faith is the "in-here" subjective reality that moves love into the "in-here" setting. Because He loves me, I love Him; and because I love Him, I do not wish to sin against Him.