Too much freedom, it has been said, can be dangerous. In fact, in the debates over the abolishment of slavery in the 13th amendment to the Constitution, some leaders who hated slavery were unsure of granting freedom to African-Americans because they weren’t sure what freedom would mean for them. They believed freedom could bring with it more problems than they were ready to handle. Sin is so blinding.
Similar questions could be posed to God, “Isn’t it dangerous to offer grace to rebels? Isn’t it dangerous to set spiritual slaves free? Won’t they only sin more if they know you will forgive them?” Is the freedom of grace dangerous to a person who has been ruled by sin for so long? Should we sin because we are not under law, but under grace?
Paul’s answer is simple and clear enough: “By no means!” Being set free from the power of sin doesn’t mean you have been granted power and privilege to freely sin. By the power of God’s grace in the gospel, you have been set free from the tyranny of sin and its stranglehold on your life. This doesn’t mean you have been set free to openly walk in sin. You have been set free from one kind of slavery into another kind of slavery. We have been set free from slavery to sin and set free to slavery to righteousness (Rom. 6:17-18). And we cannot serve two masters. Either sin or righteousness. Not both. Nothing but lawlessness (more sin) flows from slavery to sin. But sanctification (more righteousness) flows from slavery to God.
How do you know if your master is sin or righteousness? Ask yourself, “Who do I obey?” Paul says, “you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin, which leads to death, or of obedience, which leads to righteousness?” For the believer, the power of sin is broken, which means we are now free to obey God. Obedience to sin for the Christian is a return to an old kind of slavery that maims, steals, and kills. Sin robs God’s people of joy in him. But Christians are not under the yoke of slavery to sin any longer. So, who do you obey? Sin, which leads to death. Or righteousness, which leads to life.
Christian, God has freely provided his grace in Christ to release you from the tyranny of sin. He has pardoned you from the guilt of sin and he has unshackled you from the power of sin. Rather than trampling over God’s grace through willful or neglectful disobedience, resolve yourself today to trample over sin through concerted and intentional acts of obedience. Growing in grace means learning to live as a free man or woman. Your relationship with your former master will feel strange. He’s still there. He still tries to assert control over your life. For so long it was just natural to give in to him. But now, his commands are null and void. They are empty orders from a trounced tyrant.
One day God’s people will fully reign in power with Christ the King for all eternity. But that reign has already begun. By your divinely declared righteousness on the merit of Christ’s work on your behalf, your coronation over sin and death has begun. Don’t lay your crown at the feet of a dethroned dictator. Sin will never stop demanding your allegiance, but so long as you are connected to Christ, you will never have to bow at its feet.
Walk in the liberating power of God’s grace today. Conquer sin and obey Christ.
Mathew Gilbert (B.A. Boyce College) is Associate Pastor for Children and Preschool at The Church at Trace Crossing in Tupelo, MS. He is the author of Come to the Well: 50 Meditations to Fuel Your Joy in God (Westbow Press, 2016). He is an M.Div student at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. Mathew is married to his high school sweetheart, Erica. Mathew and Erica live in Tupelo with their sons, Jude and Jack. You can follow him on Twitter @mat_gilbert.