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Freed From Sin

"You shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free." That saying is well known throughout the world even among those who know very little about its origin. People apply that saying to all kinds of issues -- history, science, politics, etc. Their meaning is that truth in any area has a liberating effect on the mind and frees its owner from ignorance so that he may make informed choices about his conduct, his words, and his beliefs.

All of that may be true, but when Jesus Christ spoke this saying in John 8:31-32, He had a very specific meaning. He said to some Jews who had believed Him, "If you continue in My word, then you are truly disciples of Mine; and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free." These words puzzled the Jews, for they did not consider themselves to be in bondage in any way. Therefore, Jesus explained to them in John 8:36, "Truly, truly, I say to you, everyone who commits sin is the slave of sin." The freedom of which Jesus spoke was in relation to sin. He had not promised freedom from civil or political oppression or from physical restraint. Instead, He had promised that if they would abide in His word, then they would obtain knowledge of specific truth that would make them free of sin's slavery.

The truth that Jesus promised through His word is His blessed gospel. The apostle Paul summarized this good news in 1Corinthians 15:1-4:

Now I make known to you, brethren, the gospel which I preached to you, which also you received, in which also you stand, by which also you are saved, if you hold fast the word which I preached to you, unless you believed in vain. For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received, that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures...

These historical facts comprise the gospel by which we are saved if we hold fast to the truth of these words. If we do not hold fast to this truth, then we believe in vain. This is exactly what Jesus was indicating to those Jews who believed in Him in John 8:31-32. Indeed, the gospel is the truth that sets free believers in Christ who continue in His word.

From these two passages of Scripture (John 8:31-32; 1Cor. 15:1-4), it is apparent that freedom from sin is available to us conditionally. Christ has already fulfilled His part of the conditions, which is that He "died for our sins according to the Scriptures." For our part, it is evident that we must first believe in Him, yet mere mental assent is not enough by itself. Jesus told the believing Jews that they had to continue in His word, and Paul likewise said that Christians must hold fast the word of the gospel or else believe in vain. What exactly does this mean?

The conditions by which the gospel sets us free from sin are stated clearly are beautifully in Romans 6:1-23. This passage first shows how the historical facts of the gospel (Christ's death, burial, and resurrection) are recreated in a believer's baptism (vv. 3-11). Just as Christ died in the flesh on the cross, a believer in Christ must die in spirit to sin. Specifically, verses 6 and 7 say that "we would no longer be slaves to sin; for he who has died is freed from sin." Just as Christ was buried in the tomb, so also believers in Him are buried in the water of baptism (lit. immersion). Likewise, just as Christ was raised from the dead to live again, so also believers in Him rise up from baptism to walk in newness of life that is free from sin.

To be even more specific about the meaning of freedom from sin, Romans 6 explains the matter in terms of obedience. Verse 12 says, "Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its lusts." Verse 16 explains, "Do you not know that when you present yourselves to someone as slaves for obedience, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin resulting in death, or of obedience resulting in righteousness?" By these verses, we can understand that slavery to sin is a matter of one choosing to obey the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eye, and the pride of life (1John 2:16) and committing acts of sin that give sin mastery over him. Jesus sets us free from this slavery by giving us an alternative to obey, which is His gospel. Verses 17 and 18 declare, "But thanks be to God that though you were slaves of sin, you became obedient from the heart to that form of teaching to which you were committed, and having been freed from sin, you became slaves of righteousness." Thus, we have two choices, which are slavery to sin or slavery to righteousness. The outcome of sin's slavery is death (v. 21), and the outcome of righteousness's slavery is eternal life (v. 22).

Which do you choose? Is it slavery to sin with the outcome of death? Or is it freedom from sin, slavery to righteousness, and the outcome of eternal life. "For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord" (Rom. 6:23). If you choose freedom from sin, then you must not allow sin to reign in your mortal body. This does not mean that you will be flawless (1John 1:8-2:2), but it does mean that sin will no longer be a habitual practice in your life (1John 3:9). This is possible only through Jesus Christ, the Son of God. "So if the Son makes you free, you will be free indeed" (John 8:36).

Stacey E. Durham



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