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AUTHENTIC FREEDOM1

(Romans 6: 1-23)

We are persons who continually seek for genuine freedom. Phrases such as “Freedom of
choice,” “Freedom to suffrage,” “Freedom of the press,” “Freedom of speech,” “Freedom of
religion,” etc. are manifestations of our search for it. This pursuit is as ancient as our first
parents, Adam and Eve. We are familiar with the story in Genesis three where Adam and Eve’s
desire for complete independence resulted to the ‘Fall’ and since then people everywhere have
been wanting to experience authentic freedom. How can we attain it? Religions have varied
answers. For Hinduism, it comes when you achieve self-realization. For Buddhism, it can be
attained through the Noble Eightfold Path. For Islam, authentic freedom comes through
surrender to the Most High. Tonight, let’s check how the apostle Paul presents to us authentic
freedom. This is the Christian perspective. Let us pray…
Paul’s argument in this chapter is centered on the defense that justification by grace
through faith does not, in any way, produce licentious-sinful living. On the other hand, it should
result to pure, holy and peaceful living.2 In other words, salvation leads to sanctification. He
begins this chapter with another rhetorical question in anticipation to his recipients’ possible
objection, 1What then are we to say? Should we continue in sin in order that grace may
abound?2By no means! How can we who died to sin go on living in it?(vv.1-2) Verses one and
two is a specific answer to what Paul said in chapter five verse twenty, “But where sin
increased, grace increased all the more…” Paul states that the Mosaic Law made sin more
evident in the lives of people and yet God’s grace is much more abounding making God’s
mercy triumph over sin.3 Paul’s critics twisted his declaration of God’s amazing grace into a
doctrine of antinomianism.4 This is a doctrine that promotes licentious living because it teaches
that Christians are not obligated to preach and obey the moral law of the Old Testament.5 To
counter this misconception, Paul in chapter six to eight has to emphasize that when we are

1
Ptr. Jun Hernani, EXPO 6 for Berean Fellowship August 13, 2010 (UCCP Davao City).
2
“Romans” in Barne’s Notes on the O.T. and N.T. in Theophilus, CD-ROM.
3
Ibid.
4
“Romans” in The Living Word Commentary Series in Theophilos 3, CD-ROM.
5
“Antinomianism” in Elwell’s Evangelical Dictionary in The Bible Library, CD-ROM.
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justified by grace through faith we ‘die to the old (the flesh/sinful nature and the law) and live
in the new (Christ and the Spirit).6 When we are saved by grace through faith, unrestricted
sinful acts must be totally abandoned. In these chapters (6-8), Paul specifically talks about the
process of sanctification.
Let me suggest two related pictures of authentic freedom. First, Leaving the Old Country
Behind, vv.1-11 and; Second, Living as New Citizens Onward, vv.12-23. I find this as a fitting
analogy for our sixth exposition entitled ‘Authentic Freedom’ based on the sixth chapter of
Paul’s letter to the Romans.
I. Leaving the Old Country Behind, vv.1-11
When God said to Abraham in Genesis twelve, “Leave your country, your people and your
father’s household…”(Gen.12:1a, NIV) it involved leaving behind everything that was familiar
to him. I believe, it was not an easy task because leaving one’s comfort zone means going to
unchartered and unfamiliar places, “…and go to the land I will show you.” (Gen.12:1b, NIV) It
took Abraham a bold step of faith in God to be able to leave his country and go to that Land
God has promised to him.
In the same vein, when God called us from darkness to light, first, it represents leaving
the Old Familiar Country Behind. In verses one to eleven Paul uses the word ‘baptism’ to
capture the complete departure from the old to the new. Baptism is identification with the
Lord’s death and resurrection. 3Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into
Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? 4Therefore we have been buried with him by baptism
into death, so that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, so we too
might walk in newness of life. 5For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we will
certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his. It means burying the old-sinful life and
rising into new-righteous life in Christ. Paul, particularly in verse five, talks of the resurrection
in a dialectical manner in which the new life beginning in the present has its final
consummation in the future.7

6
Gordon D. Fee and Douglas Stuart, How to Read the Bible Book by Book: A Guided Tour (Manila: OMF Literature Inc, 2002), 321.
7
“Romans” in The Living Word Commentary Series in Theophilos 3, CD-ROM.
2
In Christianity, baptism is the sacrament of initiation into the Christian life which marks
the beginning of the journey of faith and discipleship which will last throughout one’s life.8 The
New Testament has many pictures of baptism. In our text it is burying and rising with Christ, it
is also the washing of a sin-stained life (1 Cor.6:11), it is further portrayed as a rebirth by the
Holy Spirit and a receiving of the Spirit’s empowerment (John 3:5; Acts 2:38).9 In verses three
to five Paul shows us the concrete relationship of Christians to Christ. Through faith, we fully
participate in Christ’s death and resurrection. Our departure from the Old Country that is ruled
by sin is made possible by the death of our Lord Jesus Christ. In this way, baptism symbolizes
our passage from the Old to the New Country.
What is our guarantee that we can leave the Old Country behind? Paul declares in verses
six to eleven, “6We know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body of sin might
be destroyed, and we might no longer be enslaved to sin.7For whoever has died is freed from
sin.8But if we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him.9We know that
Christ, being raised from the dead, will never die again; death no longer has dominion over
him.10The death he died, he died to sin, once for all; but the life he lives, he lives to God.11So
you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus.” In these verses
Paul clarifies that the power of God that resurrected Jesus Christ from the dead is the same
power that will free us from the bondage of sin. Our passport to this new life is God’s
redemptive act in Jesus Christ. A passport is an authentic means of identification and protection
of people while they are travelling overseas. Together with a visa it gives one a formal
permission to enter a certain country for a period of time. 10 Friends, we have been provided
with a passport and a visa to depart from the Old Country and enter into a new horizon. But
unlike our earthly passport and visa that expire, there is no turning back. Our leaving the Old
Country of sin is a permanent departure. Why? Because through Christ’s death, the old self was
crucified so that the body of sin might be destroyed, and we might no longer be enslaved to sin,
v.6. Let us always remember that in baptism, we are re-enacting the death and resurrection of
Jesus Christ. By it, we declare departure from the Old Country where sin rules permanently. Sin
8
Daniel L. Migliore, Faith Seeking Understanding: An Introduction to Christian Theology (Michigan: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company,
1991), 214.
9
Ibid, 215.
10
“Why do we need passports?” from http://www.blurtit.com/q816697.html (Cited: August 13, 2010 10:52am).

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no longer holds us. We have been freed from sin through our identification with Christ’s death.
We are dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus. This process is beautifully captured in these
words:
As a seed appears to die in order to attain a productive growth, as a
pupa yields its imprisoned life to the butterfly's freedom, as the
mythical Phoenix rises in youthful freshness from its own ashes, so
the Christian rises from the watery grave of baptism freed from sin's
thralldom. Death or separation from the old Adamic nature makes
one free for the new life in Christ (Rom. 7:4).11

Friends, our complete departure from the Old Country of sin is made possible through the
redemptive work of Christ on the cross. Salvation by grace through faith gave us the access and
our passport is our identification with Christ’s death and resurrection through baptism.

II. Living as New Citizens Onward, vv.12-23


Knowing this truth brings us to the second point. As we leave the Old Country behind we
must prepare to live as New Citizens onward. Having been justified by grace through faith we
are now citizens of righteousness. This is Paul’s emphasis in verses twelve to twenty three.
12
Therefore, do not let sin exercise dominion in your mortal bodies, to make you obey their
passions.13No longer present your members to sin as instruments or weapons of wickedness, but
present yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life, and present your
members to God as instruments or weapons of righteousness.14For sin will have no dominion
over you, since you are not under law but under grace.
These verses remind me of the history of the emancipation of the slaves in the US. Let
me quote an insightful remark on the 19th century slavery:
No condition is worse than that of a slave. It is by far the worst social
injustice ever endured by man. A slave is taken from his home by
force, shipped off to a foreign land and made to obey another person
who speaks a different language, practices a different religion and
follows a dissimilar culture. The only reason a slave complies is to
preserve his life, which is no longer truly his own. This is because
another man controls every facet of the slaves life, another man
determines whether the slave lives or dies and works or rests. No one

11
“Romans” in The Living Word Commentary Series in Theophilos 3, CD-ROM.
4
else has lived in such menial conditions, or has been subjected to
fewer rights, clearly this is why the emancipation of slavery is the
most important emancipation effort in history, and furthermore it was
simply a problem that could not be ignored or avoided.12

Friends, Paul has aptly described in the first three chapters of this epistle our slavery to
sin. Being slaves to sin puts us in the worst condition ever. God’s perfect intention is for
humanity to live in harmony with Him and with one another. Humans are originally created in
God’s image and therefore reflect God’s glory. But sin enslaved humanity and distorted God’s
image in us. It took paradise away from us. It shipped us to a foreign land where wickedness
rules and sin dominates. Sin controlled every facet of our lives and determined its course. It
brought pain, suffering and death. It alienated us from our Creator, from ourselves, and from
one another. But God emancipated us from the slavery of sin through the redemptive work of
Christ and the sanctifying work of the Holy Spirit. We are now freedmen. But it seems that our
struggle with sin continues. There are many Christians who are still living as if they are still
dominated with sin. Just like what happened to the African-Americans in the 19th century who
did not know how to live as freedmen. Here’s an important observation after the declaration of
the emancipation of the slaves: “The position of the freed slave did not change much from that
of the true slave however he was free and the opportunity and conditions that were conducive to
change were in place.”13 This is certainly the case because slaves were used for centuries to
obey their masters and didn’t have an identity of their own. As a result they had difficulty in
exercising their newfound freedom. In the same sense, people who put their faith in the
redemptive work of Christ don’t change overnight. When we accepted Christ as our personal
Lord and Savior, salvation happens in an instant but the process of sanctification is gradual and
sometimes a slow process. That’s why Paul invites us to live as freed people; as new citizens in
the country of righteousness. And so he says, “12Do not let sin control your puny body any
longer; do not give in to its sinful desires. 13Do not let any part of your bodies become tools of
wickedness, to be used for sinning; but give yourselves completely to God--every part of you--
for you are back from death and you want to be tools in the hands of God, to be used for his

12
“Importance of the emancipation of the slaves” from http://www.echeat.com/essay.php?t=26553 (Cited: August 13, 2010 11:30am).
13
Ibid.
5
14
good purposes. Sin need never again be your master, for now you are no longer tied to the
law where sin enslaves you, but you are free under God's favor and mercy.(LVB)
At the cross God has broken the power of sin. If the Emancipation Proclamation which
was issued by the United States president, Abraham Lincoln in 1862 and 1863 and became
complete in 1865 paved the way to the liberation of the African slaves, Christ’s death on the
cross and His resurrection from the dead assured us of complete break from sin’s domination.
The moment we are saved we have the choice to live in righteousness. Even if we are not yet
completely freed from this mortal body which is subject to decay, weakness and death, we are
free to choose everyday who to obey and follow. Paul commands, “Do not let sin control your
body…do not give in to its sinful desires…do not let any parts of your bodies become tools of
wickedness.” In other words, Paul is saying to Christians, “Be what you are. God has made you
free; live as free men -- responsibly. God has accepted you as sons; therefore, act like sons of
God.”14 One author says, “If justification by grace through faith is the foundation of the
Christian life, sanctification is the process of growth in Christian love.”15 Sanctification is both
God’s gift and a human task. If one is missing, sanctification will not happen. We are enabled to
walk in righteousness through the power of the Holy Spirit while we intentionally choose to live
in righteousness. This is a lifetime process. Our confidence is that we are no longer under the
dominion of sin but under God’s grace. In the church context, discipleship is a constant
invitation to actively participate in the sanctifying activity of God in the individual and
community life. If we are serious with the business of sanctification, we will not be contented
with just attending worship and fellowship. We will continually pursue discipleship whereby
we are changed gradually into the likeness of Christ. Just a note of warning: Sanctification does
not mean perfection. It does not mean moral flawlessness or religious otherworldliness. It
means a constant conforming to the image of Christ by the working of the Holy Spirit in our
lives.16 To live as new citizens onward in God’s kingdom is to be sanctified daily throughout
our lifetime. It doesn’t mean sinless perfection here and now. It only means that we are enabled
to walk in righteousness through the grace and mercy of God.

14
“Romans” in The Living Word Commentary Series in Theophilos 3, CD-ROM.
15
Daniel L. Migliore, Faith Seeking Understanding: An Introduction to Christian Theology (Michigan: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company,
1991), 177.
16
Ibid., 178.
6
In verses fifteen to twenty three, Paul reiterates that “to accept God's grace should not
lead to selfish indulgence but to responsible action before God and neighbor.”17 He repeats in
verse fifteen his argument in the beginning. Should we sin to make grace abound? The answer
is a resounding no! As beneficiaries of God’s grace and mercy we must constantly choose to
live in righteousness. Paul, in these verses, also outlines authentic freedom using the very
common analogy of his time: slavery. Before Paul was converted to Christianity, he was a
zealous disciple of Judaism. His life was controlled by the requirements of the law and the
Jewish institutions based on it. He was a slave to the religious legal system and a conformist to
the objective rules of piety (Phil. 3:6).18 His selfish motives and personal attempts to gain the
rewards promised by the Law reveals the same failure that Adam and Eve committed: Trust in
one’s own capacity leads to separation – death. But Paul found a new loyalty and so he told the
Roman believers, “17But thanks be to God that you, having once been slaves of sin, have
become obedient from the heart to the form of teaching to which you were entrusted,18and that
you, having been set free from sin, have become slaves of righteousness.” Slaves to
righteousness by virtue of Christ’s redemptive work on the Cross: this is authentic freedom. We
are now free to live as God intended us to be. In verse eighteen Paul explains that there is a
transfer of loyalty from being slaves to sin to becoming slaves to righteousness. The result is
evident, being obedient to sin leads to greater iniquity and eventually death but obedience to
righteousness leads to a sanctified life, vv.19-22. Paul presents a contrast and cause and effect.
Sin brings death but righteousness brings sanctified life. And so he challenged the Roman
believers to offer their bodies as slaves to righteousness because it will lead them to
sanctification and eventually eternal life.
Paul concludes this chapter with these words, “23For the wages of sin is death, but the
free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” “For the wages of sin is death…” Paul
used the word ‘wages’ to picture a Roman soldier being paid for his service. In other words, sin
deserves death: The second death which is separation from the presence of God forever. “The
free gift of God is eternal life…” emphasizes that it is solely God’s grace and favor that we

17
“Romans” in The Living Word Commentary Series in Theophilos 3, CD-ROM.
18
Ibid.

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have eternal life in Jesus Christ. “For it is by grace that you are saved through faith, not by
works so that no one can boast.” (Ephesians 2:8-9)
What then is authentic freedom according to Paul?
 It is not complete independence or irresponsible lifestyle but intentional
submission to walk in righteousness.
 It is choosing to be dependent on God’s Spirit so that we can be empowered to live
righteous lives even in the midst of wickedness and godlessness.
 It is living a life in constant obedience to God’s will like the Lord Jesus Christ who
said, “Not my will but Yours be done.”
 It results to God’s glory and service to fellow human beings.
 It frees us from the dominion of sin to serve the true and living God.

Let me end with this story:

In the summer of 386, after having read an account of the life of


Saint Anthony of the Desert which greatly inspired him, Augustine
underwent a profound personal crisis, which led him to convert to
Christianity, abandon his career in rhetoric, quit his teaching position
in Milan, give up any ideas of marriage, and devote himself entirely to
serving God and to the practices of priesthood, which included
celibacy. Key to this conversion was a childlike voice he heard telling
him in a sing-song voice, tolle, lege ("take up and read")…Augustine
had heard a childlike voice singing from a nearby house. He paused to
give thought to how and why such a child would sing those words and
then left his garden and returned to his house. At his house he picked
up a book written by the Apostle Paul Epistle to the Romans, and
opened it and instantly read : (Romans 13: 13-14) "Let us walk
honestly, as in the day; not in rioting and drunkenness, not in
chambering and wantonness, not in strife and envying; but put on the
Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, in
concupiscence."[23] He would detail his spiritual journey in his famous
Confessions, which became a classic of both Christian theology and
world literature.19

Friends, just like St. Augustine’s experience, encounter with Christ should lead to
sanctification. This is authentic freedom. Amen.

19
“Augustine of Hippo” from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Augustine_of_Hippo#Christian_conversion (Cited: August 13, 2010 3:25pm).