There scarcely could be anything more gloomy to dwell upon than the subject of "Sin." Neither is anything so calculated to humble us, if our hearts are at all honest, as the fact of our having inherited a nature from Adam which in every way is opposed to God. But deliverance from sin is that with which the glory of redemption is connected; and the knowledge of this dispels the gloom, and it gladdens the hearts of the children of God through the application of His word to our souls. The apostle thus writes: "But now having got your freedom from sin, and having become bondsmen to God, ye have your fruit unto holiness, and the end everlasting life." (Rom. 6: 22, New Translation.)
Every unconverted person is characterized and controlled by an evil nature, which Scripture calls "sin," and which is nothing less than "a will with a way," ever acting contrary to God.
"Sin" in its nature, and the "sins" which we practise, are clearly distinguished in the Word of God. Forgiveness of sins is obtained as soon as the heart gives reception by faith to the blessed truth that Christ "was delivered for our offences, and was raised again for our justification," and freedom from sin is obtained by seeing our identification with Christ in His death, and entering into what is taught in the following verses: "Knowing this, that our old man is crucified with Him, that the body of sin might be annulled, that henceforth we should not serve sin. For he that is dead is justified from sin." (Rom. 6:6, 7.)
Scripture frequently speaks of pardon for sins, but sin is neither pardonable nor improvable. It is folly to excuse sin when God has exposed it, or to seek to improve it now that He has condemned it. Both the exposure and condemnation of sin are seen in the cross - exposed in all its hatefulness in the light of God's holiness, and condemned in the sacrifice of His own Son. "God sending His Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh." (Rom. 8:3.)
When a person has been born again the knowledge of deliverance from sin becomes a necessity for the soul's enjoyment of settled peace with God, and in order to grow in grace and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ; and besides this, the Spirit of God leads us to see the infinite value of the sacrifice of Christ by assuring us from the Word of God that not only have our sins been atoned for, but that sin in the flesh has been condemned.
No man can form a true estimate of what he is in himself without first seeing what sin is in the sight of God, and nothing so clearly declares it as the cross of Christ. If I accept the judgment of God according to His Word, I shall be forced to say, like Job, "I abhor myself," and if on the other hand I reject His judgment and form one of my own, instead of saying, "I am vile," I shall think I am as good as other people. Where is the man that naturally cares to condemn himself? If he were to do so it would only be in part, for the worst man living likes to boast of his good qualities; and even when we appear to be "crying ourselves down," as we say, we may be puffed up with pride at the very time without being conscious of it. A fallen creature with a deceitful heart and sinful nature is not capable of forming a judgment as to what he is in the sight of God; but the prayer of the upright is, "Let my sentence come forth from Thy presence," and the language of faith is, "Let God be true, but every man a liar." (Ps. 17:2; Rom. 3:4.)
King Saul, let us remember, formed a judgment with respect to the Amalekites, and when the prophet demanded of Saul an explanation, he excused himself by saying the people had spared the best of the cattle to offer in sacrifice unto God. Everything in connection with Amalek was under condemnation, according to God's estimation, and therefore Saul's choicest selection from that source if offered to God would be an abomination to Him. (1 Sam. 15)
Each heart has its own reserve, and every one of us more or less of self-esteem, which will never allow us to give up that which we pride ourselves in most until we see death and condemnation written thereon at the cross, where the end of all flesh for faith came before God.
Job was a pattern man in his day, but he never was really at rest until he learned what a mass of moral corruption he was in the sight of God. Satan was used to bring out the boils on his body with which he was covered from head to foot, so that his moral condition might be clearly depicted and that he might appear outwardly in the sight of man what he was inwardly in the sight of God. Great as was his disappointment as he complained of God's treatment towards him, "stripping him of his glory" and taking away his crown, having once accepted God's estimate of himself he no longer defended himself, but judged himself as one that had deceived himself in the past; and afterwards he received abundant tokens of God's favour in the form of earthly prosperity. It is a mercy, then, to be saved from self-deception in regard to sin - disclaiming any right or title whatever to anything that is good in the sight of God as those that have inherited a nature which is alienated from God. We were all slaves of sin until its dominion over us was broken by a deliverance in divine power, that "brought us out of darkness into His marvellous light."
The Jews were quite indignant when the Lord Jesus said to them, "If ye continue in My word, then are ye My disciples indeed; and ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free." "We are Abraham's seed," they replied, "and never were in bondage to any man: how sayest Thou, Ye shall be free?" And Jesus said, "Verily, verily, I say unto you, Whosoever committeth sin is the servant of sin. And the servant abideth not in the house for ever: but the Son abideth ever. If the Son therefore shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed." (John 8:31-36.)
There are just the two positions brought before us in this scripture - that of the slaves of sin, and that of the sons of God. The former we occupy by nature, and the latter we get through grace, and on the ground of redemption; and the Holy Spirit gives us the consciousness of our new relationship with God as Father, as we read, "And because ye are sons, God hath sent forth the Spirit of His Son into your hearts, crying, Abba, Father." (Gal. 4:6.)
In reading the Old Testament it is most interesting to see the outflow of God's compassion towards the poor and oppressed among His people. Take for instance the case of the runaway slave, towards whom His mercy was so blessedly extended in the responsibility put upon the person to whom he might appeal, after making his escape, for protection, and with whom also he was to dwell, without danger of being sent back to his master. (Deut. 23:15, 16.) Think of an ill-treated slave fleeing from a place of bondage now at liberty in the house of his newly-found protector! The escape, however, had to be effected before the slave could enjoy his deliverance and freedom.
In Romans 6 sin is viewed as a "master," to whom the whole of Adam's race are in bondage, and whose dominion extends to the end of the earth. Dungeons have been silently and suddenly deserted, prison walls have been scaled, and escapes have been effected, but where is the person that ever made his escape from the captivity of sin by his own efforts? The slave of whom we have spoken was made free by running away. But the captive of sin needs to be taken out of his lost and forlorn condition and placed in a new one. The two things which have been effected through the death and resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ, for those that know their identification with Him, are: He died to take them out of the service of sin, that they might live in association with Him, and bring forth fruit unto God. "For in that He died, He died unto sin once: but in that He liveth, He liveth unto God. Likewise reckon ye also yourselves to be dead indeed unto sin, but alive unto God through Jesus Christ our Lord." (Romans 6:10, 11.)
If the slave referred to had died suddenly in his master's house, instead of running away, it might have been termed "a happy release," for by his death his master would have been deprived of the power to control. him any longer, and the freed slave would never again have dreaded the approach of his master. As Job has described it, "The prisoners together are at ease, they hear not the voice of their taskmasters; the small and the great are there, and the bondman freed from his master." (Chap. 3:18, 19, New Trans.)
It is the privilege of the believer to view himself as having died to sin in the death of Christ; and as being no longer in the flesh and under condemnation as a child of Adam, but as dead to sin and alive unto God, he is exhorted to present his body a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, as his reasonable service.* H. H.
*The reader cannot be too earnestly reminded that deliverance from sin can only be reached through an experience analogous to that described in Rom. 7. ED.
God has saved us, not by works - nor by means of anything that we are, but by His mercy. But then He has acted towards us according to the riches of His own grace, according to the thoughts of His own heart.