Have You been Freed from Sin?
“We know that our old self was crucified with Him so that the sinful body might be destroyed, and we might no longer be enslaved to sin. For he who has died is freed from sin.” Romans 6: 6 & 7
Bob Dylan, who recently won the Nobel Prize for Literature, went through a “Gospel phase” back in the late 1970’s and early 1980’s putting out a few albums of Gospel songs that he had written. One of his songs, that won him a Grammy award, was entitled “Gotta Serve Somebody” and the chorus went like this:
“But you’re gonna have to serve somebody, yes
Indeed you’re gonna have to serve somebody
Well, it may be the devil or it may be the Lord
But you’re gonna have to serve somebody” Bob Dylan
In other words, Dylan is pointing out that there is no neutral position, you are either serving the Lord or you are serving the devil. Interestingly, in response to this song, John Lennon put out a song entitled “Serve Yourself” suggesting that this was the better alternative. I think that this was Dylan’s point, that when you think you are serving yourself, you are deceived and are actually serving the devil.
I would like to look closer, from a Biblical perspective, at this idea of “serving somebody” and the implications. As we will see, it is directly related to our freedom from sin.
Paul’s letter to the Romans was a treatise, or a formal exposition of the principals of the Gospel. In chapter 6 of Romans, when discussing freedom from sin, Paul says this:
“Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal bodies, to make you obey their passions. Do not yield your members to sin as instruments of wickedness, but yield yourselves to God as men who have been brought from death to life, and your members to God as instruments of righteousness. For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace.” Romans 6: 12-14
…and then this:
“Do you not know that if you yield yourselves to any one as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin, which leads to death, or of obedience, which leads to righteousness? But thanks be to God, that you who were once slaves of sin have become obedient from the heart to the standard of teaching to which you were committed, and, having been set free from sin, have become slaves of righteousness.” Romans 6: 16-18
“For just as you once yielded your members to impurity and to greater and greater iniquity, so now yield your members to righteousness for sanctification.” Romans 6: 19b
The word “yield” used in these verses is “paristemi” in the original Greek and is defined as “to stand by or near, to place a person or thing at one’s disposal, to stand by to help, to stand ready”.
These verses were obviously the source of Dylan’s lyrics. It appears that he simply extrapolated from “yield to sin” to “serve the devil”, much as Paul interchanges “yield to righteousness” with “yield to God”, and Dylan also changed “yield to God” to “serve the Lord”.
Here’s what important: if you make the transition from yielding or presenting yourself to sin to presenting yourself to righteousness you will be free from sin. But what does this really mean? And how does one make this transition? We need to drill even deeper.
Perhaps at the core of this is the understanding of what it means to “yield your members to sin”. We looked at the original Greek word for “yield”, essentially meaning to put oneself at another’s disposal to help or serve, let’s now look at the original Greek word for “sin” – “hamartia” which generally means to “miss the mark, wander from the path of righteousness, or to violate God’s law”. In this usage, the meaning is a bit different as noted in Thayer’s Greek Lexicon:
“In this sense [hamartia] as a power exercising dominion over men (sin as a principle and power) is rhetorically represented as an imperial (domineering) personage.”
Paul is saying that to “yield our members to sin” is to be positioned and in a mindset that enables the principle of sin to exist and have power over our life. Furthermore, Paul is saying that we should not make ourselves available to, or present ourselves to, this powerful principle of sin. The principle of sin that he is referring to is explained in chapters 7 and 8 of Romans. The principle is this: when we have our minds and focus set on our flesh, that is, on pleasing our earthly physical desires and passions, it will result in the fruit (or works) of the flesh, that is, sin.
“Now the works of the flesh are plain: immorality, impurity, licentiousness, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, anger, selfishness, dissension, party spirit, envy, drunkenness, carousing, and the like. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God.” Galatians 5: 19-21
Paul describes in chapter 7 of Romans how when we see the truth of God’s laws and agree with them, but are still focused on the flesh, we are trapped in a cycle of sin and death (the principle of sin).
“We know that the law is spiritual, but I am carnal, sold under sin. I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate.” Roman 7: 15 & 16
In chapter 8, Paul more explicitly defines the principle of sin and the condition of being focused on the flesh:
“For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit. To set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace. For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God; it does not submit to God’s law, indeed it cannot; and those who are in the flesh cannot please God.” Romans 8: 5-8
Please note that when Paul said in Romans 7:15 that “I am carnal” he was not saying that he was currently following the flesh or living to please the flesh. No, he was saying that apart from Christ, we all are born as carnal beings and sold under sin, but when we are in Christ Jesus, we are no longer under the influence of this carnal part of us. This is clear from the follow on verse in Roman’s chapter 8:
“But you are not in the flesh, you are in the Spirit, if the Spirit of God really dwells in you. Any one who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him.” Romans 8: 9
Now we come to the most important question: How do we make the transition from being yielded to the principle of sin, over to being yielded to the principle of righteousness?
The answer: death!
Let me interject here that I am aware that only a very small amount of people will read this article simply because the word “sin” is in the title. And now that I mention death, I wonder if even these few will now turn away. I hope that your hunger for the truth will cause you to recognize that the only way to true life is by death, I don’t mean a literal death, but to die with Christ!
Paul begins his discussion of freedom from sin with the truth that we have died with Christ in baptism.
“How can we who died to sin still live in it? Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.” Romans 6: 2-4
We were born into this world and lived much of lives with our focus on improving our physical condition, pleasing our physical desires, with our hopes set on the things that this world offers, with an attitude of eat, drink and be merry for tomorrow we die. This was our mindset. This was our lifestyle. Whether we knew it or not we had yielded ourselves to this sin principle, what the Bible calls the principle of sin and death. We didn’t know any different because it was the world that we were brought into and what we were programmed to do by our surroundings. The result was entrapment to sin, to some extent, some deeper and more serious than others. This was our old self, and we are instructed by the Scriptures to put the old self to death:
“We know that our old self was crucified with Him so that the sinful body might be destroyed, and we might no longer be enslaved to sin.” Romans 6: 6
The old way of thinking and living needs to die! We must change our attitude and our focus. We must now yield ourselves to doing what is right and good. We must shift our focus to pleasing God and not ourselves. We must now consider ourselves as being removed from this world system, and that we are now children of God and citizens of heaven and part of a spiritual, not physical, system. The things of this world should not hold a grasp on our hearts anymore. We now walk in newness of life with a spiritual focus. We walk now not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.
“So then, brethren, we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live according the flesh – for if you live according to the flesh you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body you will live.” Romans 8: 12-13
It should be noted that considering yourself as having died with Christ is an act of faith. Putting to death your old self is an act of faith. Unfortunately, it doesn’t seem like modern western Christianity emphasizes the focus of our faith on these things, but rather emphasizes putting the focus of our faith on being forgiven of our sins and on making requests of God. It would seem that the fruit of this neglect is that many are not truly set free from sin.
Remember too that we must continue to walk in this newness of life with the old self dead. Why else would Paul have written these instructions if it was not needed by the brethren to remind them to continue in this mindset. Our old self wants to come back to life and again take control of our lives leading us to being yielded to sin and again back into bondage. The way out is always the same: put the old self to death.
True faith combined with the truth that we must die with Christ and that we must shift our hope to heaven and to our resurrected body leading to eternal life, will cause us to be spiritual being, having our minds set on the things of the spirit. Being spiritual is the key to walking in love! It produces the fruit of the spirit in us!
Please read for yourself these chapters in Romans and prayerfully request that the Spirit would reveal the truth even deeper to you for your Christian walk. These truths are extremely valuable and will profit you in the next life!
Remain in Christ Jesus and remember this:
“There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit. For the law (principle) of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has made me free from the law (principle) of sin and death.” Romans 8:1-2