Does being free from the law mean that we are free to sin? -a reader
The apostle Paul’s emphatic answer: “God forbid” (Rom. 6:2).
That means no! Christians are not free to sin. You will not find a verse to this effect anywhere in the Christian Bible. What Paul does say is this: “For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death” (Rom. 8:2). We are not free to sin; we are free from the law of sin and death. In other words, we are free from the consequence of sin, which is the destruction of our souls in the eternal death of hell.
Being free from the law means that we no longer have to bear the responsibility of keeping the law in order to earn our salvation. The reason Paul stresses this to the Jews (and to the Gentiles who were misinformed by some Jews) is because the Jewish tradition focused on good works (adherence to the law) in order to earn salvation. Today, the Jews who deny that Jesus Christ was the Messiah practise good works in an attempt to earn their salvation still, not acknowledging that Christ’s death and subsequent resurrection 2,000 years ago had (and continues to have) the power to save them by His grace, not by their works.
Keep in mind that freedom from the consequence of sin is a conditional promise. Only a Christian who has believed on the Lord Jesus Christ for salvation, repented from her sins, and surrendered her life to God has been saved from eternal destruction. The unsaved that have refused God’s gift of grace by denying the Son remain under the onus of the Law (“the wages of sin is death”). Since all except Christ have violated the law, if one dies without being redeemed by the blood of the Lamb, she will be condemned to hell. This tragic fact is the sole reason behind our evangelical efforts. The good news of the gospel is "eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord" (Rom. 6:23). God’s gift of grace is on offer to us all, but only those who repent and put their trust in “the way, the truth, and the life,” Jesus Christ, will receive it.
The following question of protest invariably arises, which David Platt has answered so well. People say, but what about the poor, innocent person in the remotest part of the world who hasn’t heard the gospel? Will he or she go to hell for her sin?
His answer is yes, she will, because a) there is no such thing as an innocent person (Lk. 18:19), and b) the existence of God is proven by creation (the things that are seen), so ignorance is an invalid excuse (Rom. 1:20).
We are all guilty of sinning against God. But only the true Christian has faithfully received the blood of Christ as a covering, so that on the Day of Judgment, when she stands before the holy and just God of the Universe, her sins will have been washed away, and she will embody the righteousness of Jesus Christ. This is the “blessed assurance” of her salvation, which can never be nullified. She is saved from hell and counted worthy to enter the kingdom of Heaven.
How do we respond to this? “Know ye not that to whom ye yield yourselves servants to obey, his servants ye are to whom ye obey; whether of sin unto death, or obedience unto righteousness?” (Rom. 6:16). We respond in one of two ways. We either run with our “freedom” to serve the lusts of our flesh, which results in eternal death; or in humility we fall on our knees in subservience to the Lord God, which results in eternal life. The calamitous truth of it is this: if you follow after the former, and yet call yourself a Christian, you are sorely mistaken and in danger of hellfire.
“For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God’s” (1 Cor. 6:20). She who is not her own cannot serve her Self. She must serve the One she follows.
There is a difference between a self-serving "Christian" and a true Christian who makes mistakes. The true Christian who sins mourns. She feels the searing pain of having failed to prove her love for God, who said, “If ye love me, keep my commandments” (John 14:15). With a contrite spirit and a broken heart, she confesses her sin to God, asking for and receiving His forgiveness. Then she stands up with gratitude and joy, believing herself forgiven and encouraged to “go and sin no more” (Jn. 8:11). She does not say with defiance and condescension, “Don’t judge me; I can do what I want” (Col. 2:16)!
In Colossians 2:16, Paul says, “Let no man therefore judge you in meat, or in drink, or in respect of an holyday, or of the new moon, or of the sabbath days”. Then he asks “why, as though living in the world, are ye subject to ordinances… after the commandments and doctrines of men?” (Col. 2:20b, 21b). Too often, this verse is misapplied by the self-serving “Christian”. Paul is not talking about rejecting the commandments of God. He is talking about rejecting the (uninspired) commandments of men because the worldly traditions that are added to the law are not inspired by a God of grace. They do not earn salvation. They are the snares of men, which arise from false humility, self-righteousness, and vanity.
For example, consider the current humanist virtue, “Thou shalt not offend”. Peter and I recently watched a Youtube clip of an American street preacher getting arrested in London, England, for offending bystanders. He was not yelling insults, nor was he threatening damnation on people. He was calmly preaching the gospel of salvation. Upstarts on the street called the police and complained because they were “offended”. They weren't "offended" in the Biblical sense of the word (in the Bible, the word means "to sin against"). The preacher wasn't sinning against them; he was blessing them with the truth of the gospel! They were "offended" because they felt judged.
Today, to "judge" someone is to make them feel bad for their sin. I suggest that "feeling bad" isn't something to be avoided at all! It is absolutely necessary for us all to feel the conviction of sin. The Bible says, "Sacrifice to God is a broken spirit: a broken and humbled heart God will not despise" (Ps. 51:17). Where in the Bible does it say, “Thou shalt not tell the truth if it hurts someone's feelings?” If we take care for someone's feelings too much, we have elevated Ego over Truth. Such deceitful communication is an impotent and superfluous gas.
“The truth shall make you free” (Jn. 8:32). Tell it. Too many Christians shackle themselves by the false virtue of being "non-judgmental". If the truth didn’t hurt, who would know that their soul was suffering from the impending doom of hell, and who would seek to assuage it?
By all means, tell the truth gently and calmly, with meekness and love, but tell it.
So, is the law irrelevant?
Let’s see. In the Old Testament (past), before the death and resurrection of Jesus, God commanded His people to obey His commandments. If they obeyed, they would be blessed and if they disobeyed, they would be cursed. In the New Testament (present), Jesus said, “If ye love me, keep my commandments” (John 14:15). Do you love God? Then do what He says. In Revelation (future), we are told exactly who will dwell in the kingdom of heaven: “here are they that keep the commandments of God, and the faith of Jesus” (Rev. 14:12b).
Does it matter, therefore, if we obey the commandments? Absolutely, it does. It is proof of whom we serve. It is proof that we have the fruit of the Spirit. It is proof of the power of God in our lives. It is proof, when we fail, that we are wretched sinners saved by grace.
“For, brethren, ye have been called unto liberty; only use not liberty for an occasion to the flesh, but by love serve one another” (Gal. 5:13). The denial of our flesh is a sacrifice of Self for the love of God. It is not performed because we can earn salvation by it; it is performed because of our love for the God who saved us from hell.
Are you a slave to sin or a slave to obedience? Do you do what you want to do; or do you do what God wants you to do?
Please understand: there is no in-between. You either serve the Lord Jesus Christ, who died to save you from your sin, or you serve the devil, who lives to deceive you into thinking that you are free. “While they promise them liberty, they themselves are the servants of corruption: for of whom a man is overcome, of the same is he brought in bondage” (2 Pet. 2:19).