Dec 02

Being then made free from sin, ye became the servants of righteousness… But now being made free from sin, and become servants to God, ye have your fruit unto holiness, and the end everlasting life. — Rom 6:18, 22

In chapter six of Romans, Paul deals with the sin question and makes two statements about Christians being made free from sin: “then made free from sin” (Rom 6:18) and “being made free from sin” (Rom 6:22). In both cases the Greek verb ἐλευθερωθέντες (eleutherōthentes) that is translated “then make free” and “being made free” is in the Aorist tense. The simply explanation of the Aorist tense is that it is a past tense.

The Resurgence Greek Project shows the parsing of ἐλευθερωθέντες (eleutherōthentes) in Rom 6:18 and ἐλευθερωθέντες (eleutherōthentes) in Rom 6:22 in detail, and you can see that both Greek words are in the Aorist tense.

When you present these scriptures to those who maintain that sin in the life of a Christians is unavoidable, they will reply that we are only made free from sin positionally, but not experientially. So in other words, they hold that God counts Christians positionally free from sin while they continue to sin intermittently.

This idea leads us to a question: What did Paul mean when he said that Christians were, past tense, free from sin? Is he here stating that the normal experience of the new birth is that we are given power over temptation so that we are free from sin experientially, or is he meaning we are free from sin positionally?

In dealing with this question, I am using the standard Wesleyan definition of sin, which is “an actual, voluntary transgression of the law; of the revealed, written law of God” (John Wesley: The Great Privilege of Those That Are Born of God).

The Bible is also very clear that Christians can live below the standard of what God requires, and that there is a way back if they fail the grace of God (1Jn 2:1) and go back to the vomit and excrement of sin (2Pet 2:22).

While the Greek tense of the verbs in both these scriptures is past tense, we do not want to go just by Greek grammar.

In between these two declarations that at salvation we were made (Greek Aorist past tense) “free from sin” (verse 18 and 22), Paul brings out a very clear concept. When we were “servants of sin”, we were “free from righteousness” (Rom 6:20); and now that we are “servants of righteousness”, we are “free from sin” (Rom 6:18).

Jesus tells us that “whosoever committeth sin is the servant of sin” (Joh 8:34), and Paul said ” for of whom a man is overcome, of the same is he brought in bondage” (2Pet 2:19).

If you commit sin, you are its servant and if you are overcome by sin, you are in bondage to sin. The concept that you can commit sin and not be a servant to it, or that ,you can be overcome by sin and not be in bondage to it, is a concept the New Testament flatly rejects.

When you commit sin and become its servant, you are in bondage to sin and hence Paul states you are free from righteousness. You do not have to practice sin to be in bondage and to be its servant; all you have to do is yield yourself to sin. Paul states clearly “that to whom ye yield yourselves servants to obey, his servants ye are to whom ye obey; whether of sin unto death, or of obedience unto righteousness” (Rom 6:16).

The Christian is free from sin experientially and holds to God who “is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it” (1Cor 10:13).

Professing Christians plead that “free from sin” is positionally because they have not experienced “free from sin” experimentally. True Christians plead that “free from sin” is experientially, as they have found God faithful to save and keep them from sinning.

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6 Responses to “Free from Sin Positionally or Experientially”

  1. 1. brad dickey Says:

    Do you mean Experientially not Experimentally?

    And how does 1 john 3:6 factor into your conclusion here?

  2. 2. Bob Mutch Says:

    Hi Brad,

    Experimentally — “1. pertaining to, derived from, or founded on experiment: an experimental science. 2. of the nature of an experiment; tentative: The new program is still in an experimental stage. 3. functioning as an experiment or used for experimentation: an experimental airplane. 4. based on or derived from experience; empirical: experimental knowledge”

    Experientially — “pertaining to or derived from experience.”

    Both definitions allow for “derived from experience”, but I think experimentally is more seen as “pertaining to, derived from, or founded on experiment” where experientially is solely “pertaining to or derived from experience”.

    Wesley used “experimentally” — Wesley’s New Testament Notes Comments on 1Jn 3:6 “Whosoever sinneth certainly seeth him not - The loving eye of his soul is not then fixed upon God; neither doth he then experimentally know him - Whatever he did in time past.”

    I am still not clear which is right but thanks for bringing up this issue. I changed this article from “experimentally” to “experientially” and I also changed my You Can’t Serve Two Masters post.

    As far as 1Jo 3:6 let me take it in two parts. The first part is quite easy for the Wesleyan Arminian and difficult for the Calvinistic or Eternal Security advocates. The second part is quite easy for Calvinistic or Eternal Security advocates but difficult for Wesleyan Arminian advocates.

    “Whosoever [continuously] abideth in him sinneth not [punctilearly]” (1Jn 3:6a). The Greek word μένων (menōn) translated here “abideth” is Present Active Participle which indicates continuous action. The Greek word ἁμαρτάνει (amartanei) translated here “sinneth” is Present Active Indicative which indicates punctilear action.

    If you continuously abide in Christ you will not knowingly or willfully commit one sin. “If ye keep my commandments, ye shall abide in my love; even as I have kept my Father’s commandments, and abide in his love” (Joh 15:10). When you knowingly or willfully sin you are no longer abiding in him. “If a man abide not in me, he is cast forth as a branch, and is withered; and men gather them, and cast them into the fire, and they are burned” (Joh 15:6).

    The second part is more difficult for those who take the Wesleyan Arminian position of conditional security. “Whosoever [continuously] sinneth hath not seen him, neither known him” (1Jn 3:6b).

    Below I have posted Wesley, Clarke, Barnes, and Robertson on 1Jn 3:6. I disagree with Barnes “three insuperable objections” to what he calls the “doctrine of perfection”, but I copied his short comment on “hath not seen him, neither known him” as I feel it has merit. I also disagree with Robertson on 1Jn 3:6a but have copied his comments on 1Jn 3:6b as I feel they also have merit.

    I have nothing better to say then what these scholars have to and I think they can say it better and with more authority that I can. There for I will leave their comments with you for my answer.

    Wesley’s New Testament Notes on 1Jn 3:6 “Whosoever abideth in communion with him, by loving faith, sinneth not - While he so abideth. Whosoever sinneth certainly seeth him not - The loving eye of his soul is not then fixed upon God; neither doth he then experimentally know him - Whatever he did in time past. ”

    Adam Clarke’s Commentary on 1Jn 3:6 — “It is no unusual thing with this apostle, both in his gospel and in his epistles, to put occasionally the past for the present, and the present for the past tense.

    It is very likely that here he puts, after the manner of the Hebrew, the preterite for the present: He who sins against God doth not see him, neither doth he know him-the eye of his faith is darkened, so that he cannot see him as he formerly did; and he has no longer the experimental knowledge of God as his Father and portion.”

    Barnes’ Notes on 1Jn 3:6 — “Hath not seen him, nor known him. Has had no just views of the Saviour, or of the nature of true religion. In other words, cannot be a true Christian.”

    Robertson’s Word Pictures of the New Testament on 1Jn 3:6 — “Hath not seen him (oux ewraken auton). Perfect active indicative of oraw. The habit of sin is proof that one has not the vision or the knowledge (egnwken, perfect active also) of Christ. He means, of course, spiritual vision and spiritual knowledge, not the literal sense of oraw in John 1:18; 20:29.”

  3. 3. brad dickey Says:

    You reference 1 john 2:1 to show that if you do sin you have a way to get back to grace. But don’t forget that the verse itself says that John wrote this epistle so they will not sin. OU HAMARTIA in greek. Meaning very simply can’t sin, not sin, do not sin. etc… John wrote that epistle to a group so they could be in fellowship with HIM which was with God and the Son, and said clearly that the people writing the letter are not there now!

    It implies that NOT sinning is a part of being in fellowship with God. Would you agree?

  4. 4. Bob Mutch Says:

    Hi Brad,

    I would agree that NOT sinning is what it takes to be in fellowship with God. However I am not sure of the meaning of your statement “meaning very simply can’t sin, not sin, do not sin”. I do not hold that Christians can’t knowingly or willfully sin or never knowingly or willfully sin.

    I do hold that knowingly or willfully sin in the life is a believer is below the Bible standard and those who knowingly or willfully sin are no longer in a right standing with God and would be lost if they die in that condition.

    Rom 11:22 Behold therefore the goodness and severity of God: on them which fell, severity; but toward thee, goodness, if thou continue in his goodness: otherwise thou also shalt be cut off.

  5. 5. brad dickey Says:

    If you go read Rom 6:22 you’ll find that:

    First you are freed from sin. Grace saved from the penalty of sin. (Something you don’t talk about much here as a possibility but should be on the radar screen anyway.)

    Second then you become a slave to Christ. (It seems that means you are obedient to him.)

    Third you receive a benefit. (Ambiguous what the benefit is, but it seems to be Love, read 1 Tim 1:22 it sounds like the same topic but “simpler” which is a standard diff in Paul and Peter.)

    Fourth the BENEFIT leads ultimately to eternal life.

    That benefit, is what leads you, not obedience. But it shows how one can be freed from sin I think.

    It teaches that the benefit of obedience is not the fact you are obedient but that you are taught love.

    Love like Christ talked about in Mathew 5:40-48. Love like that is perfect/complete like the Father in heaven’s was.

    If you Love, which is an action, not a feeling, then you can not sin. If you keep the commandment of LOVE because you have been changed in mind and heart by HIM to love like HIM, than what COULD you do that was a sin?

    1 John 4:16 sort of backs this up. If you were that person, you would do acts like Paul discusses in Gal 5:6 acts of faith expressing themselves through love. That is ALL that is important according to Paul.

    And then the verses John wrote, in 1 John 2:1, 3:6, 3:9, 5:18 might start to make sense.


    [Bob: Edited for correction in scripture references, spelling, and punctuation.]

  6. 6. Bob Mutch Says:

    Hi Brad,

    Thank you for reminding me that grace saves from the penalty of sin and noting that I have not pointed this out much in my posts on this blog.

    I hold that we are saved from the power, penalty, and love of sin here in this present world by grace through faith in the merits of the death, resurrection, and shed blood of Jesus.

    We may be saved by faith from the pollution of sin (Act 15:9) in the experience of the baptism of the Holy Spirit (Wesleyan Entire Sanctification) but if we don’t gain this experience Jesus will entirely sanctify the Christian from the pollution of the Adamic sin nature at death.

    Also if we remain faithful to the end we will be saved from the presence of sin.

    Do you have a “P” word for the “love of sin”. I couldn’t find anything at

    Also did I get everything in power, penalty, love, pollution, and presence?

    I would see the “fruit unto holiness” as the life of Christ in us and the fruit of the Spirit. I understand the present aspect of eternal life to be justification/conversion. So when you referring to “fruit unto holiness” and state “third you receive a benefit” and that this “BENEFIT leads ultimately to eternal life” I would disagree unless you are referring to the future aspect of eternal life and allowing for a present aspect of eternal life (Joh 17:3).

    The life of Christ in us and the fruit of the Spirit is required to experience the future aspect of eternal life (Rom 6:22). I would hold that the Christian now has the present aspect of eternal life which is knowing God through a personal relationship with Jesus. “And this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent” (Joh 17:3).

    You seem to be saying that the “fruit unto holiness” (which I hold to be the life of Christ in us and the fruit of the Spirit) and not obedience leads us to endure to the end and to experience the future aspect of being saved (Mat 10:22). If this is the case, I hold you can’t have one with out the other.

    So to divide them and say it is one and not the other that leads us to the future aspect of being saved or the future aspect of eternal life, is semantics in my view. In my view this position, if I am understanding you right, doesn’t clarify the plan of salvation but makes a simple thing complicated. I am still trying to follow your train of thought and wrap my mind around position.

    Love is the fruit of the Spirit. It comes in a measure with salvation and we are to perfect it and add more of it to our Christian experience — its called growing in grace. Love is defined well in 1Co 13:1-13.

    As for as not sinning, you don’t sin if you “[continuously] abide in him”. While having love, a fruit of the Spirit, is part of being saved or “free from sin” (Rom 6:18), it is abiding in Christ the vine and receiving the sap of the Holy Spirit which will cause you to bring forth much fruit (Joh 15:5). Part of this “much fruit” is love.

    The key is abiding in Christ and having the life of Christ abide in us (Joh 15:5). Obedience and free from sin are by-products of abiding in Christ and Christ abiding is us. Conversation puts us in Christ, abiding in the vine and receiving the empowering life changing sap from the vine is the key to everything in the Christian life.

    The empowering life changing sap from the vine is faith and it is appropriated through reading of and meditation on the Word (Rom 10:17) and prayer (Jud 1:20).

    An increase in faith provides us with an increase in the following.

    2Co 1:24b For by faith ye stand.
    Eph 6:16 Above all, taking the shield of faith, wherewith ye shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked.
    1Pe 1:5 Who are kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.
    1Jn 5:4b And this is the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith.

    1Jn 2:1, 3:6, 9, 5:18 already make sense to me.

    Whosoever abideth in him sinneth not: — 1Jn 3:6a

    Joh 15:1-11 I am the true vine, and my Father is the husbandman. Every branch in me that beareth not fruit he taketh away: and every branch that beareth fruit, he purgeth it, that it may bring forth more fruit. Now ye are clean through the word which I have spoken unto you.

    Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine; no more can ye, except ye abide in me. I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing.

    If a man abide not in me, he is cast forth as a branch, and is withered; and men gather them, and cast them into the fire, and they are burned. If ye abide in me, and my words abide in you, ye shall ask what ye will, and it shall be done unto you.

    Herein is my Father glorified, that ye bear much fruit; so shall ye be my disciples. As the Father hath loved me, so have I loved you: continue ye in my love. If ye keep my commandments, ye shall abide in my love; even as I have kept my Father’s commandments, and abide in his love. These things have I spoken unto you, that my joy might remain in you, and that your joy might be full.

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