FREE FROM SIN
St Paul’s Cathedral, London
R. Shutte, M.A.
11th December, 1853
“But now being made free from sin, and become servants to God, ye have your fruit into holiness, and the end everlasting life.”Â— Rom. 6. 22.
The apostle Paul, having finished in the five previous chapters the great subject he was upon, and having proved, with the clearest evidence, that justification before God is wholly in Christ, without any regard to the merit of the creature, goes on in this chapter to set before the Church in Rome the blessed effects which flow from so glorious a doctrine. But, being well aware that the great truth he had propounded would be cavilled against and would be evil spoken of by the self-righteous Pharisee, having felt in his own heart a rebellion against it in his natural state, and also well knowing that the Antinomian would attempt to cast obloquy upon a righteousness without works, he puts a question in the mouths of such persons in the first verse, such as he knew none but such characters would ever propose:
“What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin that grace may abound? Shall we not live as we list, that God’s grace may abound,” as Paul says, “where sins have abounded?” But notice the Apostle’s holy indignation at the hideous doctrine, that men should sin that God’s grace might abound. It is a blessed truth, that “where sin abounded, grace did much more abound,” but the apostle, with that holy indignation with which every true disciple of Christ would always meet such a question, answers it in the second and the following verses of this chapter. “Even as we also should walk in newness of life”. It is not the aboundings of God’s grace that produce sin; it is the want, the absolute want of that grace that produces sin in every creature under heaven. And therefore, the apostle says, “How shall we that are dead to sin, live any longer therein? For if Christ be in you, the body is dead because of sin; but the Spirit is life because of righteousness”.
Now be careful, my friends to note the phraseology of the apostle: “Dead to sin”.
Not dead in sin, or dead for sin, but dead to sin. “Dead in sin” is the state of every creature born into this world by nature. It is the fault and corruption of the nature of every man that naturally is engendered of the offspring of Adam; and therefore, (as the 9th Article of the Church of England most clearly and Scripturally
continues), in every person born into this world, it deserves “God’s wrath and damnation”.
Neither is the language dead for sin, because that could only be predicated of Christ. He “died, the just for the unjust, to bring us to God. He has put away sin by the sacrifice of himselfÂ”. But the language is “dead to sin”; the meaning of the term being that every believer is freed from the powers of sin, that every believer is dead to the law as a covenant of works:
“Sin shall not have dominion over you; for ye are not under the law, but under grace”. Therefore the phraseology of the apostle is full of consolation to the child of God. He knows that in himself he is full of sin; that his very thoughts are sin; that all his tendencies are to sin; but he knows that he has been delivered from the guilt and stain of sin and is no longer subject to its penalty; for he that is dead is freed from sin.
Now then my friends having made these few preliminary remarks, let us proceed to consider, from the words before us, the three natural divisions.
1. “Free from sin, and become servants to God”;
2. The “fruit unto holiness”;
3. “The end everlasting life”.
1. “Free from sin”. We must be very cautious we do not push this too far. In one sense we are not “free from sin”; though it is a great truth:
“If any man sin, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous, and he is the propitiation for our sins”. Still we must not forget that other passage: “If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us”. How are we to reconcile these two doctrines?
Why, by the language of the Established Church in the 9th Article, wherein it is said that “this infection of nature doth remain, yet in them that are regenerated.” But to take you to a greater than merely human authority, although that which we have quoted be in consonance with the Word of God, let us look at what the Apostle Paul says in the following chapter on this important point, Rom. 7. 18, 22-25:
“For I know that in me, that is in my flesh, dwelleth no good thing; for to will is present with me; but how to perform that which is good I find not,” etc.
Surely there is not a man alive, truly born of God and savingly called by the Holy Ghost, but must be conscious of these two distinct and opposite principles in himself. Some vainly and un-scripturally maintain that this statement of the apostle’s intended to refer to the days of his unregeneracy, but until he was “born again”, “created anew in Christ Jesus”, he had no consciousness of any warfare; neither has any unawakened sinner. “I was alive” says Paul “without the law once; but when the commandment came, sin revived, and I died”. It was then only when brought under the teaching of God the Holy Ghost that the commandment came, and all Paul’s self-righteousness fell to the ground.
It is abundantly clear that in the soul of every truly regenerated child of God, “who is enlightened with the light of the living”, sin still dwelleth; and it will dwell until we drop into the grave, and have finished that warfare which Paul speaks of in his Epistle to the Galatians, that “lusting of the Spirit against the flesh, and the flesh against the Spirit and these are contrary the one to the other; so that we cannot do the things that we would.” But there is a blessed sense in which it may be predicated, of every child of God, that he is “free from sin”, Christ the Head and the Representative of his people was delivered, for their offences and raised again for their justification.
“I have blotted out as a thick cloud, thy transgressions and as a cloud, thy sins”. “I even, I, am he that blotteth out thy transgressions, for my own sake, and will not remember thy sins”.
“For this purpose the Son of God was manifested that he might destroy the works of the devil.”
A thousand years before his incarnation, it was predicted of Christ by the prophet Daniel that he should “finish the transgression”, make an “end of sin, make reconciliation for iniquity, and bring in everlasting righteousness”; which the apostle says, is “unto all and upon all them that believe”. You will observe that this is not a righteousness inherent in the sinner, but it is a righteousness put upon him”, it is “unto all and upon all”. Therefore says the psalmist “Blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered. Blessed is the man unto whom the Lord imputeth not iniquity”.
Now, though God be a holy God, though he be a just God, though his law be inflexible in its demands, not permitting a single deviation, either in thought, word, or deed, still he can never demand from the Surety and the Sinner the fulfilment of the law.
The sinner being utterly incapable of fulfilling it, Christ, the sinner’s Friend, has “magnified and made it honourable”, and is the “end of the law for righteousness to everyone that believeth”. He has paid the penalty, he has let the captive go free without price or reward, he has delivered his people from all their sins by his obedience unto death, and by his Divine righteousness they are justified before God. This is not the language of man, and I am not speaking to you a vision out of my own heart; but, placing before you the language of “the Oracles of Truth”. Paul, in dwelling on this glorious doctrine, the entire freedom from sin in every child of God concludes thus: For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him”. (2 Cor. 5. 21.) And this becomes the sole cause of the sinners justification before God; not to procure favour to his people by any of their laboured attempts after righteousness; but to be the very righteousness of his Church. Christ is himself their righteousness, and they are accepted as righteous in him. O the unspeakable blessedness of viewing Christ as the “Lord our righteousness”;
Sweetly Paul speaks of the church made righteous in his
righteousness when he saith “Who of God is made unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification and redemption.” (1 Cor. 1. 30) And so in like manner Isaiah hath taught the people of God under the Holy Ghost, to feel all the comfort and confidence of the Lord’s provision, when putting those words into the mouth of the Lord’s redeemed! “Surely shall one say. In the Lord have I righteousness and strength;” etc. (Isa. 14. 24, 25). In this way, then, we are “free from sin, delivered from the penalty of sin, delivered from the power of sin, delivered from the guilt of sin, delivered from the charge of sin”. “Who shall lay anything to the charge of God’s elect? It is God that justifieth, etc. (Rom. 8. 33, 34.)
I cannot implore a greater mercy both for myself and you than that the blessedness of this Scripture may be a living principle of constant joy and peace in our hearts from the power of the Holy Ghost. There is no guilt left upon the conscience while manifestively delivered from the curse of the law by Christ upon the cross, acting as our Surety and Representative. And there can be no condemnation to his people when sin is done away in that Christ rose again from the dead for the justification of the church. So that both in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, the safety of the Lord’s people is secured. There can be no separation from Christ, and consequently, no interruption to a perpetual justification in him. Hence, as the apostle elsewhere observes “There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit”.
The apostle concludes the chapter before us by adding, “The wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life, through Jesus Christ our Lord”.
The end of sin he calls wages and declares those wages to be death; for a servant covenants with his master to receive wages at the end of his labour; so the sinner as truly covenants to receive death his just wages, when at death he stands before the judgment seat of Christ. But the apostle varies the expression with respect to the Lord’s faithful servants, when describing that eternal life which shall succeed the present life.
He does not call it wages, but a gift; because it is not earned or purchased by man but given of God. Not the demand of merit, but the blessing of grace; the Lord’s free, sovereign, and voluntary gift: “The gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord”. “Thanks be unto God for his unspeakable Gift”, which can be none other than Christ; and this Gift once bestowed will never be taken away.
This doctrine is most clearly set forth in Romans 9. 14-16: “I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion”, etc. (Again if you look at the 30th and following verses, you will find the same truth set forth).
But there is one peculiar distinction with regard to the wording of the text, which we cannot pass over without a word of comment. The apostle says, “Now being made free from sin”. This implies there was a time when we were not sensibly “free from sin”.
This is the state, as we said at the outset, of every person born into the world; and I was very much struck this morning on hearing a portion of the psalms, which most fully corroborates this view of our subject. “The wicked are estranged from the womb; they go astray as soon as they are born speaking lies.” (Psalm 58) Is not this a true picture of every sinner by nature? Their very thoughts are sin. “We are tied and bound with the chain of our sins” and “nothing but the pitifulness of God’s mercy can loose us”. Again we cannot even think aright. We have “left undone those things which we ought to have done; and we have done those things which we ought not to have done; and there is no spiritual health in us.” All then, the church as well as the world, are hopeless, helpless, and friendless without an eye to Christ: cast out to the loathing of their person in the day in which they were born”.
Consider for a moment, that the church is not only “free from sin”, but become the servants to God. Christ was the righteous Servant of Jehovah the Father. He did his will and did it freely and entirely.
Paul dilates at large on this language in Heb. 10, and shows how completely the Lord Jesus, as God’s “righteous Servant” fulfilled the whole law; and at the same time sets before the church the vast difference between the priests under the law standing daily to minister and Christ for ever sitting down on the right hand of God, “having obtained eternal redemption for his people”. Now as God views his church in Christ the name and title of servant belongs to them. Thus we read of “Moses the servant of God”. Again: “Hast thou considered my servant Job?” And David: “O Lord I am thy servant”. The very similitude of the text: “Free from sin and become servants to God”. Paul is called a servant; James is also called a servant; Peter, and indeed, all God’s people, are the Lord’s servants and his free men; made free by the finished work of Christ; brought out of the prisonÂ—house of nature, full of wounds and sores; once in darkness, now light in the Lord. (There is a precious Scripture to this effect in Isa. 35. 5, 6.)
2. “Fruit unto holiness”. We must never forget that the child of God is holy; not in his own holiness, for he has none, but in the holiness which is in the Lord Jesus Christ: “Be ye holy for I am holy”. Therefore, “fruit unto holiness” is an effect of Christ’s redemption unto holiness, even the holiness of God our saviour; and this holiness belongs to the people of God by virtue of their union and communion with their head. When the Lord is pleased to empty his people of their own creature-confidence when he is pleased to deliver them by his grace from themselves, they will be led to see more of his ways, and to think less of their own; they will be continually going down in their own estimation of creature-excellence and creature-attainments, until at length, with Job, they “abhor themselves and repent in dust and ashes”.
When the Lord leads his people through the chambers of imagery as he did the prophet, they will hear his words like the prophet: “Hast thou seen this, O son man? Turn thee yet again,
and thou shalt see greater abominations than these.” This is the mode the Lord takes with his children to teach them their own nothingness, and that something of their own fallen and sinful nature is mingled with all they say and do. Even in the most solemn seasons, when engaged beseiging the mercy-seat, who shall say how oft he offendeth?”
“If I pray,” says Bishop Beveridge, “my very prayers would be my condemnation, did not Jesus, the Almighty High Priest, as Aaron, his type shadowed, bear away the iniquity even of my holy things”. If the salvation of a sinner depended upon one action of his own, or even upon one good thought, he hath it not to render unto God, for in himself he is entirely hopeless and helpless.
Is not this true my hearers? Is it not the experience of every child of God that in himself he is nothing, but in Christ he is “perfect and complete”?
The hope and assurance of any child of God is founded, not from righteousness wrought by himself, but from a righteousness wrought for him, and this is solely accomplished by our glorious Christ. Here is an experience which Paul says, “worketh hope; and hope maketh not ashamed; because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us”.
This brings us to the point in hand. If the “fruit unto holiness” be from Christ’s holiness and not from our own, it is a certain, a sure holiness, and the doctrine of a free-grace salvation can never lead to licentiousness.
The people of God are “created unto good works which God hath before ordained that they should walk in them”. “He that is born of God sinneth not; for his seed remaineth in him, and he cannot sin because he is born of God.” Now by this new birth of the Spirit, it “hath all things given to it according to the Divine power of God which pertain to life and godliness;” it is made a “partaker of the Divine nature having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust”. Away, then, with that dishonouring and hideous doctrine, “Let us sin that grace may abound!” The people of God are “a holy people”, “a peculiar people”, “a chosen generation”, “a royal priesthood”, showing forth the praises of him who hath called them out of darkness into his marvellous light. They are “working out” their “salvation” before men from a living principle; at the same time they know that it is God that worketh in them, both to will and to do of his good pleasure.” “The grace of God which bringeth salvation hath appeared unto all men teaching us that denying ungodliness and worldly lust we should live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present evil world.”
The man who says he knows God but in works denies him; who calls Christ Lord, and yet lives in opposition to his direct commands; whose voice is indeed Jacob’s voice but whose hands are the hands of Esau, resembles our Lord’s persecutors and murderers, who bowed the knee and said “Hail King of the Jews!” while they spit upon him and mocked him.
The hyprocrite’s profession is dark and opaque, but that of
a servant of Christ is pellucid and clear; the rays of grace pervade the whole life. Though every moral man is not necessarily a Christian, still every Christian is of necessity a moral man.
3. The endÂ—”Everlasting life”. Having set before you the glorious truths contained in the former part of the text, it seems self-evident that the “end” must be everlasting life”.
The believer is “kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation”; “Being born again not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible by the word of God which liveth and abideth for ever.” (1 Peter 1. 23). The church of God, constitutes one grand house of mercy, erected to display and perpetuate the riches of God’s grace. Their language is peculiar; their manners are peculiar. Their affections are set not on things of the earth but on things which are above. They are in a waiting position, looking for the Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ, when he shall be “glorified in his saints and admired in them that believed”, and make the final presentation of the church to his Father, saying, “Behold, I, and the children whom thou hast given me”. This house of mercy is erected, not like earthly buildings which fall and decay, but by God himself. God is the preserver of the church. He is the upholder of the church, and it is alone by his grace that they are enabled to maintain their position; looking forward to that blessed period when they shall be emancipated from everything which draws them down to the earth, and mount up to that brighter world which they are continually seeking. Their language is “Our conversation (or citizenship) is in heaven, from whence also we look for the Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ, who shall change our vile body, that it may fashioned like his glorious body, according to the working whereby he is able even to subdue all things unto himself”. (Phil. 3. 20, 21.)
As surely, then as Christ died for his church; as surely as Christ obeyed for his people; as surely as Christ rose again, as “the first-fruits of them that slept”; as surely as he is in heaven interceding at the right hand of God, so surely shall they be with him there in glory after they have passed the time of sojourning here. He is their High Priest, and he has enabled them to seek the things which are above, “where Christ sitteth at the right hand of God”.
Their lives are hid with Christ in God, and when he who is their life shall appear, they shall also appear with him in glory. (Col, 3. 4; 1 John 3. 2). Is it not certain, then is it not an absolute fact, confirmed by the Scriptures of the living God and written in the experience of the hearts of his people, that as is Christ so are they in this world, that loving him, because he first loved them, “they shall live with him for ever in that kingdom which he hath prepared for them from the beginning of the world?”
What, then, in one word, is the security of the children of God? Their security is alone in the Lord himself. They have none other they need no other. He is said by the prophet to be “a hiding place from the wind, and a covert from the tempest; as rivers of water in a dry place, as the shadow of a great rock in a
weary land.” And when under Divine teaching the church is enabled to realize this truth as to what Christ is and what they are in him, they live above all sublimary things and enjoy on earth a foretaste of “that rest that remaineth to the people of God”; a rest where with Christ “causeth the weary to rest”.
Under such a view, the child of grace can look calmly upon all his time-state trials, all the contumely and scorn and scoffings of a world “lying in the wicked one”; all the persecutions and afflictions which are the lot and inheritance of every faithful servant of Christ, because he knows that these things spring not from the dust but are sent by a Father’s hand, to wean him from the things of time and sense, to empty him of creature confidence and teach him that blessed truth, that “all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his divine purpose.”
O what gracious tenderness is there in Christ for his people! There is not a blessing procured, nor a blessing designed nor a blessing revealed, nor a blessing applied, but he is the “all and in all” we want. If we want life he is life really and essentially; if we want food, he is the meat that endureth to life everlasting; if we want health, he is the “balm of Gilead”, the “plant of renown”; the tree whose “leaves are for the healing of the nations”; if we want clothing, he is the “garment of salvation” and the “robe of righteousness”; if we want cleansing his blood obliterates all stains and removes all guilt; if we want strength he is the “strength of Israel”; if we want grace, he is its Fountain and Source; if we want comfort, he is the “Consolation of Israel;Â” if we want mercy he is the promised mercy; if we want victory, he is the Captain of our salvation through whom we shall be more than conquerors through him that loved us. How eternally secure are the Lord’s people “Free from sin, and become the servants to God, to ye who have your fruit unto holiness, and the end everlasting life”.
If there are any here this morning, who have been brought together in the providence of God to listen to His preached word, and to have the bread of life broken unto them, if Christ hath manifested himself unto such as he doth not unto the world, let them “lift up their heads, for their redemption draweth nigh”. A few more headaches, a few more heartaches, a few more trials, a few more scoffings from the world and from the unawakened and ungodly, and the warfare shall cease; the “children shall be made pillars in the house of God, from whence they shall go no more out”. As surely as you are united to Christ by a living faith; as surely as you are walking through this “waste howling wilderness”, as pilgrims Zionwards, so surely shall your Glorified Head come again and receive you to himself, that “where he is there you may be also”. His word has gone forth and that word shall never fail: “Because I live, ye shall live also” May God be pleased to bless the word spoken this morning, for the sake of his dear Son, Jesus Christ.