Give Me Liberty

Romans 6:14-23

On July 2, 1776, thirteen North American British colonies from Great Britain, “unanimously” by the votes of 12 colonies (with New York abstaining) had resolved that “these United Colonies are, and of right ought to be Free and Independent States. On July 4, the Declaration of Independence was adopted and signed. Their case for freedom was predicated on the fact that the King of England was a tyrant. This Declaration in part reads—

The history of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States . . .A Prince, whose character is thus marked by every act which may define a Tyrant, is unfit to be the ruler of a free people.

We, therefore, the Representatives of the United States of America, in General Congress, Assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions, do, in the Name, and by Authority of the good People of these Colonies, solemnly publish and declare, That these United Colonies are, and of Right ought to be Free and Independent States; that they are Absolved from all Allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain, is and ought to be totally dissolved.

Those powerful words set the stage for THE WAR OF INDEPENDENCE, in which many shed their blood for the cause of freedom. In A.D. 33, One shed His blood on one of the mountains of Moriah for our freedom. On Mount Calvary, Christ Jesus died FOR our sins and TO sin that we might be saved FROM sin. As the song proclaims, “the Cross is our Statute of Liberty.”

Today, we celebrate our freedom as a nation. But as citizens of the kingdom of God, there is a far greater freedom to celebrate. Look at the Bible’s promise of liberty in Romans 6:14—

For sin shall not be your master, because you are not under law, but under grace.

What a promise! SIN SHALL NOT BE YOUR MASTER. Sin must be able to exercise control in our bodies or Paul’s admonition becomes unnecessary. But sin does not have to reign there; so the apostle expresses his confidence that those who are Christ’s will not allow sin to be their master—under grace, they have been set free from its tyranny.

Chapter 6 of Romans uses five great words to summarize the secret of making practical in our life Christ’s victory over the tyranny of sin. These five words are key to the VICTORIOUS LIFE: KNOW, COUNT, REFUSE, OFFER and OBEY.

If we do exactly what these five words teach, God will deliver us from the dominion of sin; and if we again become subject to it, it will be the effect of our own choice or negligence.

Paul’s rationalization of why sin should not have dominion over you is BECAUSE YOU ARE NOT UNDER LAW, BUT GRACE. As the American colonists were set free from the tyranny of the King of England, so we have been set free from the tyranny of sin. The battle was won at Calvary!

Some misunderstand the Law; it is not the tyrant! God has not voided His moral law. Jesus taught in Matthew 5:17-19—

Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. I tell you the truth, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished. Anyone who breaks one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever practices and teaches these commands will be called great in the kingdom of heaven.

The Christian life is not following certain rules; you can follow rules and regulations and still not be living the Christian life. Jesus told the Pharisees and teachers of the Law in Mark 7:8-9—

You have let go of the commands of God and are holding on to the traditions of men . . . You have a fine way of setting aside the commands of God in order to observe your own traditions!

We are never to let go of the commands of God for the laws of God are never an oppressor. Paul diagnoses of the Law is absolutely correct. He writes in Romans 7:12—

So then, the law is holy, and the commandment is holy, righteous and good.

The Law is holy, righteous, and good because it enables us to recognize the sins that produce death in us. It defines love and holiness. It was given to control or restrain the old nature we inherited from Adam, but failed to so because of man’s weakness.

Hence, the Ten Commandments are powerless to make us love or be holy, we need grace. So “God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us” (Romans 5:5). The Christian life is loving God and our neighbor as our self. It is loving Christ. How do we love Him? Jesus said, “If you love me, you will obey what I command” (John 14:15). That’s the important thing!

Identified or Baptized into Christ Jesus is positional sanctification, as we have seen. That is basic. But obedience to Christ is the experience of sanctification. Practical holiness is only possible because of grace.

The term GRACE is used many ways in the Scripture:

  1. GRACE is God’s Righteousness At Christ’s
  2.  GRACE is  an  undeserved  as  well  as  unmerited  love,  compassion,  mercy,  goodness  and kindness that God showers on sinful and unworthy man.
  3.  GRACE is  the  divine operation  of reconciling  God  and  man  through  Christ’s death  and resurrection.
  4.  GRACE is the sphere of the believer’s life of privilege.
  5.  GRACE is the disciplinary power of God in our life.
  6.  GRACE is the enabling power of God that allows us to be holy as seen in this chapter and in Titus 2:11-12—

For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men. It teaches us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age.

The enabling power of the Holy Spirit to say “NO” to sin and “YES” to God was promised by the LORD in Ezekiel 36:26-27—

I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws.

Do you understand? GRACE does not set us free from God’s Law, but the enables us to obey it. We are set free from mastery of sin by His indwelling Spirit. So then, the law is holy, and the commandment is holy, righteous and good.

When Patrick Henry said, “GIVE ME LIBERTY OR GIVE ME DEATH,” he was crying for independence from England! In effect, Adam said, “Give me liberty AND give me death” when he rebelled by breaking God’s command.

To Paul and the Christian, LIBERTY is not INDEPENDENCE.  It’s dependence on God.  It’s submitting in humble obedience to His Spirit and His will. Throughout Romans 5:15-8:9, we find that LIBERTY is freedom from sin and death, not from God’s Law. Romans 8:1-2 condenses this truth—

Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death.

The LAW without the Holy Spirit is death! The LAW with the Spirit is life. LIBERTY is found in the higher law of the Spirit, which sets us free from the lower law of sin and death.

In light of what he has already said about Grace, Paul now asks with Romans 6:15—

What then? Shall we sin because we are not under law but under grace? By no means!

The question in verse 1 was, “Shall we continue in sin?”  The question in verse 15 is, “Shall we continue to sin?” Horrified by such thinking—Paul answers both questions—BY NO MEANS! His answer contains a sense of outrage that anyone would ever think such things. Opting to sin is never a choice for one who has been saved by grace.

Verse 16—

Don’t you know that when you offer yourselves to someone to obey him as slaves, you are slaves to the one whom you obey—whether you are slaves to sin, which leads to death, or to obedience, which leads to righteousness?

Every member of the whole human race is enslaved to a master—either we serve sin or obedience, which leads to righteousness! The contrast between SIN and OBEDIENCE indicates that sin is by nature disobedience to God. We know this is true since sin entered the world by Adam’s one act of disobedience to God.  Disobedience is always a willful act of rebellion.

Enslavement to sin produces death. On the other hand, being a slave to obedience (that is to God and His Word) leads to righteousness and life.

The natural state of every poor, miserable sinner is that he is a slave of Satan as well as his own evil lusts and appetites, and they are his most cruel task-masters.

In contrast to this bondage of sin, Christ is infinitely good and benevolent, therefore, service to Him must be perfect freedom. So the apostle beings this letter, “Paul, a SERVANT of Christ Jesus.” SERVANT and SLAVE are the same Greek word DOULOS. This term indicates one who gives himself up to another’s mastery and will. At the moment of salvation, there is a change of masters. Verse 17—

But thanks be to God that, though you used to be slaves to sin, you wholeheartedly obeyed the form of teaching to which you were entrusted.

Notice that obedience comes out of the heart. In one of His parables the Lord Jesus told of a father who ordered his two sons to perform a certain duty. One son replied, “I go,” but he did not.  The other refused but later changed his mind and did what the father asked. Jesus asked which one of these sons obeyed the father; the answer was that the truly obedient one was he who actually performed his father’s command.

This parable describes two types of conduct, but there is a third type of conduct which is much better.  It is the son who says, “I go,” and immediately does his father’s will. That’s the kind of obedience the Roman saints were displaying. This was remarkable since these people once were slaves of sin. When Paul considered this change of heart, he burst forth with praise— THANKS BE TO GOD!

The preaching of John the Baptist, Jesus, and the apostles had one command in common—“REPENT.” That is, to change one’s heart and mind. 2 Corinthians 7:10 states—

Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret, but worldly sorrow brings death.

GODLY SORROW is the REGRET of having offended a holy and loving God by our sin. It is a true sense of our own guilt and sinfulness that leads to an actual hatred of sin and turning from it to God. Therefore, repentance is the persistent endeavor after a holy life in a walking with God in the way of His commandments.

How intimately our duties are interwoven with our privileges! Because we are alive unto God, we are to renounce sin, since that corrupt thing belongs to our estate of death. Once saved from a life of sin, we are no longer slaves to it because we have repented.  Let me illustrate.

Years ago in Scotland there was a fisherman called Old John who was bound by strong drink. He took the money earned from his catch and spent it on liquor while his wife and children suffered in extreme poverty. But Old John came to know the Lord Jesus Christ as his personal Lord and Savior. He worked steadily, and soon there were new clothes, plenty of food and coal for the fire. After a few weeks of this transformed existence the wife said, “John if you are going to keep on like this we should move into a better house.”

“Right,” said John. “I shall go and see the landlord at once.” He made his way through the town and asked to rent a certain house. The landlord said, “I would never rent a good house to you, Old John.”

“Why do you say that?” asked John. “You don’t know me at all.” “Of course I know you,” said the landlord. “You are drunken Old John the fisherman.” “You are mistaken,” said John. “You have never seen me before. Old John is dead; I am New John, a new creature in Christ Jesus.” And he poured out a handful of coins before the astonished landlord. Soon New John was living in a new house.

Old John repented and commenced to be New John. His heart, mind and purpose for living had changed. That’s the bottom line of verse 17. Jesus taught that “No man can serve two masters.”  We either serve sin or the teaching entrusted to us from God’s Word.

The Christian passes from death to life. Passing from death to life is like changing employers. Verse 18—

You have been set free from sin and have become slaves to righteousness.

We have been liberated from sin. Every born again believer has changed masters. Yet, no one is absolutely free.  We are born into this world in the bondage of sin and when we are born again, we are set free from sin to become slaves to righteousness.

This changing of masters includes a total change in living conditions.  Verse 19—

I put this in human terms because you are weak in your natural selves. Just as you used to offer the parts of your body in slavery to impurity and to ever-increasing wickedness, so now offer them in slavery to righteousness leading to holiness.

Since a large portion of the Roman Empire was enslaved in Paul’s day, he was able to express the change that occurs when one repents in human terms that everyone could understand. Yet, Paul is almost apologetic for using the the word SLAVERY in connection with God, Christ and righteousness. It doesn’t exactly explain our relationship to the Lord. We are NOT His slaves in the sense in which the Romans understood the word. In Paul’s day, servitude was not by choice. However, Christians are servants by choice—we are LOVE SLAVES in the OT sense of Exodus 21:5-7—

“But if the servant declares, `I love my master and my wife and children and do not want to go free,’ then his master must take him before the judges. He shall take him to the door or the door- post and pierce his ear with an awl. Then he will be his servant for life.

We either voluntarily offer our the parts of our body to impurity or to righteousness. According to Romans 12:1, we are to offer our bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God. In the Bible, sacrifice requires death. So Paul exhorts us in Colossians 3:5—

Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry.

If we don’t put to death these things, we will offer the parts of our body in slavery to impurity and our actions will lead to ever-increasing wickedness since sin never stops with one sin—it always keeps compounding. 1 John 3:7-10 maintains that true Christians cannot be mastered by sin—

Dear children, do not let anyone lead you astray. He who does what is right is righteous, just as he is righteous. He who does what is sinful is of the devil, because the devil has been sinning from the beginning. The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the devil’s work.

No one who is born of God will continue to sin, because God’s seed remains in him; he cannot go on sinning, because he has been born of God. This is how we know who the children of God are and who the children of the devil are: Anyone who does not do what is right is not a child of God; nor is anyone who does not love his brother.

Those truly born again replace the habit of sin with the habit of righteous living. They reflect the divine nature of the Son. They behave like Him, manifesting the power of His life in them according to Galatians 3:27—

For all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ.

Paul reminds us in Ephesians 4:22-24—

You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.

When a man wishes to become a member of the great Benedictine order of monks he is accepted for a year on probation. During all that time the clothes which he wore in the world hang in his cell. At any time he can put off his monk’s apparel, and walk out, and no one will think any worse of him. Only at the end of the year are his clothes finally taken away.  It is with open eyes and a full appreciation of what he is doing that he must enter the order.

It is so with Christianity. Jesus does not want followers who have not stopped to count the cost. His invitation was to REPENT and BELIEVE the Good News.

Jesus does not want a man to express an impermanent loyalty on the crest of a wave of emotion. The Church has a duty to present the faith in all the riches of its offer and heights of its demands to those who wish to be members.

The old life must be put off and the new life put on! Anyone who is not willing to do this is not fit for the kingdom of God—for sin leads to death.  Verses 20-21—

When you were slaves to sin, you were free from the control of righteousness. What benefit did you reap at that time from the things you are now ashamed of? Those things result in death!

To be a slave of sin is to be free from the control of righteousness. Under those circumstances, this is a MOST UNDESIRABLE FREEDOM!

The sinner has no obligation to righteousness. To understand this, we must understand what it meant to be a slave in Paul’s day. Slaves belonged to their masters. They didn’t work so many hours a day as a servant does today and then say, “I am free to do what I want to do.” No! They were under the control of their master twenty-four hours a day!

Likewise, the sinner is obligated to his master—SIN!—it controls him twenty-four hours a day. Righteousness has no control over the sinner. But when a sinner is born again, the control of sin ends and righteousness takes over according Romans 6:22—

But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves to God, the benefit you reap leads to holiness, and the result is eternal life.

Emancipation from the old master of sin brings more than a new liberty; it bring a new loyalty—we become slaves to God. And besides new liberty and a new loyalty, a new longevity of eternal life results from holiness.

Now we come to one of the better known verses of the Bible. Romans 6:23—

For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Patrick Henry said, “GIVE ME LIBERTY, OR GIVE ME DEATH!”  From God’s perspective, DEATH is never given, it is earned—it is the wages of sin. On the other hand, eternal life is a gift that is unmerited and undeserved.

Grace is God acting freely according to His own love. There is absolutely nothing within a person warrants God’s grace. Romans 9:15 reminds us that grace is a sovereign act of God—

For [the LORD] says to Moses, “I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.”

God is a debtor to no one! Not having debts to pay or obligations to fulfill, God can save anyone He pleases. He doesn’t have to wait for man to make himself good enough so He can place His highest favor on the worst deserving. Case in point. The LORD took Saul of Tarsus, threatening to slaughter against the people of God, and saved him, equipped him and sent him forth to be the leader of the very people he had been persecuting.

The apostle never forgot the grace of God. Nearing the end of his life, Paul wrote in 1 Timothy 1:15-16—

Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners—of whom I am the worst. But for that very reason I was shown mercy so that in me, the worst of sinners, Christ Jesus might display his unlimited patience as an example for those who would believe on him and receive eternal life.

Why did God save the persecutor Saul and turn him into Paul the preacher? To demonstrate that His grace is available to every dirty rotten sinner— anyone is eligible!

This is why God could reveal Himself to a fugitive and murderer, and put in his hand the staff of power and authority. Despite Moses’ dark past, unbelief, pride, argumentative nature, and unwillingness, he became God’s lawgiver and most faithful servant.

God chose David to be King of Israel. In spite of David’s lust and cruelty, God made him the founder of the true kingdom and the progenitor of Jesus Christ the Messiah. The highest psalms of praise were given to us through a man who was and adulterer and murderer!

Think of it! Three murderers—Moses, David and Saul of Tarsus—beneficiaries of God’s mercy, compassion and grace!  That’s the GOOD NEWS of Romans 5:8—

But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

Even the enemies of Jesus (the Pharisees and the teachers of the law) muttered, “This man welcomes sinners, and eats with them.”


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