by Russell Young
Jesus said, “Very truly I tell you, everyone who sins is a slave to sin.” (Jn 8:34 NIV) This proclamation is very convicting and many would argue that although they might sin, they are not a slave to sin. What did the Lord mean?
Understanding his wording and condemnation rests in understanding the fullness of his provision for those whom he has redeemed. A slave is a person who has a master. In this case he is teaching that all who sin have sin as their master. Proclaiming that a saved person can be a slave to sin may cause great affront to those who have been saved. Perhaps this is because those who consider themselves in the family of believers find it difficult to appreciate what is meant by sin. Perhaps it is that we see ourselves as being righteous Christians and are not ready to accept that sin can exist in our lives, and when it does, it is accepted as a minor issue. However, sin is a serious matter! The Lord went on to say, “Now a slave [to sin] has no permanent place in the family.” (Jn 8:35 NIV) He also taught, “The Son of Man will send out his angels, and they will weed out of his kingdom everything that causes sin and all who do evil.” (Mt 13:41 NIV)
Do you sin? Are you a slave to sin? Some would argue that as mere mortals all people sin and for this reason accept its practice as something that God would find tolerable in their lives. They excuse themselves. This is a grave mistake. It is common to hear of God’s unconditional love and many accept that his grace and his love will cover their unrighteous practices. They might accept that some sinning is okay as long as it is not a serious sin like murder. However, the Lord taught that everyone who sins is a slave to sin.
The believer must not be allowed to find escape in the human propensity to sin and expect God to tolerate his or her disobedience. Peter taught that “His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness.” (2 Pet 1:3 NIV) The reality of his teaching needs to be examined because if it is true, humankind has no excuse in the sight of God for establishing peace with any sinful practice.
God’s divine power is the Holy Spirit. He is the power that raised Jesus from the grave. He is the power that kept Jesus from sinning while in the body that the Father had prepared for him. He is the same power that resides in all (Col 1:27; 2 Cor 3: 17, 18) who have humbled themselves before God and have declared that Jesus is Lord. No one can make the claim that they are incapable of not sinning; at judgment day their confession will have to be that they didn’t use the power and authority given them, and not using all that has been provided will not be found as an acceptable excuse before the Lord for sinning .
A person who has recognized God’s requirement for righteousness and has turned his back on all that has been provided for its defeat must admit that rather than the Spirit of holiness being his master, sin remains so. The one who sins is still a slave to sin and to the interests of the flesh and will be judged accordingly.
The redeemed need to establish in their hearts and minds an understanding of the effect that sin has on God and the measure of his or her willingness to allow excuses for their behaviour. The Word is clear, the evil imaginations and practices of people bring pain to the heart of God, (Gen 6:6) and he gave his Son to defeat its practice. No matter what excuses the redeemed are prepared to make for unlawful behaviour those excuses will not be accepted. It is time that teaching proclaims God’s holiness. It is well past time that the deceptive teaching of God’s “unconditional love” be stopped and replaced with the more correct presentation of the expansiveness of his love—his provision of freedom from past sins and of the provision of his divine power so that the believer need not be a slave to sin. Believers need to understand that the Father had given his Son to be tortured on the cross and provided him to live in them so that the power of sin might be defeated.
Do those who call Jesus their Lord sin? Yes! Does that mean that they are slaves to sin? In the moment of their sinning, they have let sin dominate the Spirit and have allowed it to become their master. If sin is their master, they have become its slave. Christ did not sin and will not sin so when it happens the sinner has abandoned the power and leadership of Christ who would have given them victory. They did not retain him as master or lord.
Release from sin’s draw on a person’s life is not instantaneous but freedom from its slavery must be gained. The righteous life is a struggle and striving to defeat the enemy becomes impossible when the flesh, the evil one or the permissions of the world are allowed to dominate the Spirit. The Lord knows our weaknesses and does not give up when we fail until we quench or deny the Spirit. Slavery to sin might prevail in our weakness but committedly engaging the enemy with the power of Christ will result in winning the battle for righteousness in the end. All of mankind enter this world as slaves to sin; their need is to allow Christ to become their master.
It is unnatural to deny the flesh and to live for righteousness and for Christ, that is why the Spirit is the only solution for victory. The battle for freedom from sin is not won without a contest. Some battles are won and others lost. However, John taught that if we confess our sin we will be forgiven and purified from all unrighteousness. (1 Jn 1:9) The person who is actively engaged in the fight for victory has not accepted sin as his or her master and will yet gain their freedom from it.
Has your own indifference prevented your struggle for victory? Has deceptive teaching allowed you to rest in a false hope? Are you determined to master sin rather than have sin master you? Christ revealed,” He who overcomes [the issues raised to the seven churches in Revelation, which includes sinning] will inherit all of this [the blessings of the New Jerusalem], and I will be his God and he will be my son.” (Rev 21:7 NIV)